Sunday, July 23, 2017

Back to Rome; I Will Give It One More Try!

Since our hotel room wasn't ready, unless we paid an extra 55 euros, of course, there was little choice of what our options were; sit in the hotel lobby for hours, OR go into the city of Rome, for one more look around.

Cindy and Joe only had one day, at the front of the cruise to see the city, and since one of our Rome days was spent dealing with the transportation strike in Italy, there were certainly sites  we had yet,to see; such as the Colosseum.

Knowing that my tank was running on fumes, my sweet friends suggested a cab from the hotel to the Colosseum, in lieu of the train. We also looked on the Colosseum's website to see whether or not there was a handicap entrance, as I knew I was not up for a long wait in line, in the sun; I figured if there was not, then I would just find a shady spot, it and wait  and people watch.

Luckily there was a handicap line and entrance, so I decided to pick up my boot straps and head out to Rome; ONE more time! lol The cab ride in was quite pleasant, allowing us to view the lay of the land between Fiumicino and Rome, and to see other ruins and old buildings all along the way.

Once we got to the Colosseum, which was quite impressive from the outside, Cindy took it upon herself to find out just how we could enter the ruins through the handicap line, without waiting in the big, long line that surround the amphitheater. She went straight up to one of the "worker-bees" and they told us to come through there, to a special window to purchase tickets, and then over to an elevator, and into the Colosseum.

Not only did she eliminate the line, and the climb, she received complimentary tickets for me, AND for Joe, as a companion. I know that most places in Europe offer free access to handicapped people and a companion, but I feel funny using the services, and have just paid my way, everywhere, but in Versailles, where they insisted on comping our tickets, although they were included in a pass that we had previously paid for. (LONG STORY!LOL)

It is funny how I don't necessarily consider myself "handicapped", but if any one was to watch me literally hobble to my room, at the end of a short day, they may think otherwise, and seeing how my legs reacted to the heat and over-exertion, and the dizziness and fatigue I get from standing in long lines, especially in the sun, I have to remind myself to take the small gestures when offered, as these small things may allow me to add one more thing on my sightseeing plate. I thank God for the adrenaline that gets me through the day, but I certainly pay for my over-exuberance, every night!

Anyway, we arrived at the top of the Colosseum, walked out and looked into the expanse of the amphitheater; it was massive in size and very impressive  in style, architecture and full of history. I was shocked at how much of the theater remained and at the workmanship that must have gone into building such a place out of sand, concrete and rocks. Seeing all of the different openings, hallways, tombs and cage-like areas caused my imaginative juices to start flowing, and inspired me to learn more about this remarkable structure, once I got home.

Joe and I did not venture far into the the Colosseum, yet we enjoyed everything that we did see, from where we sat and waited for Joe and Cindy to peruse around, and take photos to show us,  what we had missed; which was plenty! They were able to view many pieces of discovered architecture and statues, that had been recovered from the site. Interestingly enough, many of the stones and rocks had been removed from the Colosseum, to build other structures, in other parts of Rome.

Right outside of the Colosseum was a HUGE archway; the Arch of Constantine, which had so many different facets of artwork, that I could not take enough photos. It of course reminded me of the Acr de Triumph, in Paris and the Marble Arch, in London. The relics that surround the cities in Europe never get old to my eyes!

Since we did little standing, or walking in the Colosseum, we decided to brave, and extend our "tour",  and headed to the Metro, which was just across the street, and head to the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain. The day was not too hot, and I had my cool cloth, so I was up for the challenge.

One of the best parts of that day were the guys singing and playing reggae music in the street, just outside the Metro stop, on our way to the Spanish steps; Joe M. couldn't help but bust a few moves, while I couldn't stop  swaying to the sounds of joy; music always brightens my day and quickens my step and I will never tire of all of the street musicians, on the streets in Europe. I always had change in my bag for them!

Once we got to the "Spanish Steps", I looked up them, took the obligatory photos and continued to wonder what the big deal was! lol I guess the fact that they are travertine and connected the French city area,  to the lower lying Spanish area, was a big deal at the time; if I was a little more on my game, I would have run up those steps, to the church at the top, but instead, I enjoyed the buildings, fountains and statues down below; one that was hard to miss was the Column of the Immaculate Conception; the sculptures were exquisite.

After walking around that area for awhile, we decided to head over to the Trevi Fountain, which we had previously seen, but our friends had not. After seeing it the first time, I had read a little about it; I believe that I would have enjoyed it more, before the last restoration; completed in 2015. I knew it looked to perfect, to clean,  to commercial; to be old, authentic and true. I like the cracks, the deterioration, the discoloration and the history and authenticity, of what something has become, as opposed to what modern procedures can produce. I understand preserving and restoring, but this seemed as though it was just "too" cleany and shiny!

While Cindy and Joe were photo-opping, Joe and I were Gelato shopping! We found a great little shop that not only had Gelato, but cannolies, as well. We took two to go, and ate them later that night in the hotel, and I can honestly say that they were the best cannolies I have ever, ever eaten!
Of course, the gelato was eaten immediately, and was nice and refreshing, but it did remind us that we were actually hungry, and ready to eat; we opted for a little pizzeria and had two delicious pizzas, a few beers and some pretty darn good air-conditioning; just enough to re-energize us enough, to find our way back to the hotel.

We easily found a cab willing to take us back out to our hotel for only 45 euros, a little more than the train would have cost the four of us, with a pit stop at a liquor store for beer. He took us the scenic way out of the city and told us about all of the things we were seeing as we passed by.

By the time we got to the hotel and checked in, I was DONE! I took a bath and put on my jammies ad crawled in bed. I did not even have the energy to go to dinner with our friends, so in keeping the tradition going, Joe , Joe and Cindy had dinner without me, just like the first night of our "together" vacation. My heart wanted to be there in the biggest way, as I knew it was our last night together, and that we wouldn't see them in the morning, but my body just said NO! And I did not have the energy to argue!

After dinner they came up to say good-bye, and it was bittersweet watching them leave; we had enjoyed a trip that Cindy and I had envisioned for over 35 years, and I was sad to seem them leave.
They were headed to Paris for a few days and we were headed to London for a week and I was happy to scratch Rome off of my bucket list.

Arrevederci, dear friends........until next time; buon viaggio! (safe journey)

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Last Day on the Ship; Off to Rome AGAIN!

Well, after a very, very busy itinerary, we were all looking forward to a relaxing sea day; sleeping in, playing cards, hanging out on the deck and watching the water go by. I was also looking forward to exploring the ship a bit more, before departing, since I had seen so little of my "home" for the past ten days.

It was shortly after lunch, as we were sitting in our quiet corner on the deck playing cards, that the captain spoke to us over the loud speaker; apparently they were expecting bad weather, up ahead in Civitavecchia, so to avoid rough sailing and the possibility of not being able to dock the ship in the port, they were going to pick up speed and get there earlier than anticipated; and I am talking A LOT earlier, like a whole night!

Now I don't know about you, but for me, I LOVE sleeping on a ship that is gently rocking, and I enjoy watching the water go by, and the feeling of being out in the middle of the sea, with no one else around, so this did not bring joy to me! lol We were all looking forward to the last "sailing" day, as we only had two, the entire eleven days on board, but it didn't look as though that was going to happen.

Favorite Secret Chicken Wing Diner!!
Despite the fact that it did not seem as though the ship was moving very fast, we arrived in port while we were eating dinner; this meant no shopping and no casino, which wasn't a huge deal, but since it was my first night of real exploration, I might have enjoyed those things; and to mention, there is something magical about walking around the deck of a ship, as it is moving through the water. It is just not quite the same, when parked!

They told passengers that they could leave the ship, with a 2 am curfew, if they wished to get off and explore. Since we were an hour from Rome, and there didn't appear to be a whole lot to see in Civitavechia,  we stayed put. I, for one, had done ENOUGH exploring during the past ten days.

So we carried on, as if we were still sailing....

It seemed appropriate that we were having dinner at Cagney's Steak House, on our last night, as we started out our journey the first night, also at Cagney's. I have never paid extra for the specialty restaurants on cruise ships before, but since we got in on a promotion that included four specialty dinners, we of course indulged!

What I can tell you is that there really and truly is a difference! The meals at Cagneys, and Le Bistro (the French restaurant) were amazing! Not that the food wasn't excellent at the "regular" dining rooms, because it was, but the food at the specialty dining rooms was top notch; I am talking Ruth's Chris, Chandler's, Morton's, Flemings and Mastro's good!

Dining in these specialty dining rooms was an experience and we all made the most of it; leaving stuffed to the gills, with dessert as take out, for later. It was an extra special way to spend our last night on the ship, together.

After dinner, we all went for a stroll around the ship, eventually finding ourselves in the lobby area, which as it turns out, was a great place for photos. We took a few photos, and then I took the opportunity to have the "obligatory" gratuity charged removed from our bill, so that we could properly tip our own personal room steward, and the waiters that frequently waited on us, that gave us excellent service.

I hate when they try to force you to pay gratuities that you have no control over; I much prefer "tipping" directly. Oddly enough, we saw that even after they removed those gratuities, we had a credit on our account; a bit confused, as we had no idea what it could be for, we wondered what would happen to the credit. (When we got home, we found that they had sent us a check, in the amount of $92.73. We have no idea what it was for, but heck, we deposited it! Thank you Norwegian!)

We didn't stay up too late, as we once again had an early morning. We had to get off the ship and to our hotel; and then we were going to into Rome....AGAIN!

Thank you Norwegian Cruise Line for an amazing cruise!

Somewhere along the line, I realized that I had made travel booking error; I booked our hotel, at the same hotel as Cindy and Joe, but didn't realize at the time that we were flying out of Ciampino, NOT Fiumicino; not that it was a huge deal, as there is little in Ciampino, but it did mean a 30-45 minutes taxi ride, the next morning; thank goodness our flight was not too early!

So, we got off of the ship and onto a shuttle, then we got onto a bus, which took us to a train station, which took us to the Fiumicino airport, where we were to get a shuttle to the Hilton Hotel.

When we got off the train, we started following the signs toward transportation and hotels. Eventually there were only hotel signs, so we kept on walking, and walking and walking......eventually we saw a hotel!! A HILTON hotel....the WRONG Hilton hotel.

Since we were staying at a different Hilton, a few miles away, you would have thought that they would have just taken us over to their other property, right? The guys went and asked the girls at the desk, and they told us that we had to go BACK through the airport the the hotel shuttle area to get the Hilton GARDEN shuttle, to the correct hotel; I was NOT a happy camper, not to mention, I was already pooped and the day had barely begun.

The guys went to the bathroom, and I looked out and saw TWO shuttle vehicles just SITTING there!! I was more than annoyed and went to talk to a group of older men, yacking behind a different counter; I told them of my plight and three of them said "sorry".....but the fourth one took pity!!!
He said, "Come on, I'll take you over there right now!" Needless to say, I was more than overjoyed and you should have seen how quickly Cindy and I slammed ALL of our luggage into the back of that shuttle!

Just as we finished putting the last suitcase in the van, we realized that the boys weren't back yet! Afraid to screw up our ride, I went as fast as I could down the hall yelling, "COME ON!!! We have to go NOW!!" It was hysterical, but we got there in record time and tipped the driver handsomely!
Now, checking into the Hilton Garden was also NOT a treat! They took FOREVER and then told us we could not check in because we were two hours ealry, and our rooms were not ready. However, for $55 euros, our rooms would magically become available and we could check in.

HAHAHAHHA...who did they think they were fooling??

We asked them to store our bags, which they agreed to, and headed to the city for the day.

Talk about planes, trains, cabs, shuttles, metros, buses and boats! I now consider us professional travelers.

Bricks for the Brave!!