I didn't skip Wednesday, it was airplane travel all day.
Travel was smooth sailing the whole way. TYJ. My flight left and landed on time. Jennie's flight left and landed on time. Airport food sucks. We left NJ right on schedule.
When we finished Vaso was there with her "Run Italy" sign. A few other people in the group arrived and she escorted us to the shuttle. The hot Italian driver carried my bags. Thank you Stephano.
When we arrived at the hotel our room was ready. Grand Hotel del Gianicolo is a really beautiful property on top of a hill. We couldn’t figure out how to turn on the lights. There was plenty of natural light in the room so we unpacked and tracked down Jay and asked him to show us how to use our bidet! You have to put the room key in the slot by the door and that turns on the electricity. Who knew? Then he helped us figure out our converter/adaptor gizmos and checked out our electronics to see which ones needed just the adapter and which ones also needed the converter. EVERYTHING needs the adapter. It adapts our flat/square plugs to Euro plugs (round pegs). My laptop and camera both can handle 220v so they only need the adapter by my flat iron also needed the converter which converts the 220v to a lower voltage so things don't blow up. Grateful Jay was there or we’d probably still be trying to decipher the code. Enough of that but I really wanted to get it in for reference when someone else is traveling across the pond.
We went downstairs into the grotto where the Popes are buried. We wondered through the gift shop and then back out to the plaza. We walked back to the Passeggiatta Del Gianicolo which overlooks Rome. It was a beautiful view.
Love the Vespas.
We stopped at Bar Gianicolo for an espresso. Espresso in Italy is completely different than the American version. I don't think I'll ever be able to look at coffee the same way again at home. We went back to the hotel in time for the Meet and Greet with Jeff Galloway. They had really good appetizers. Lots of cheesy things (cheesy as made with cheese, not cheesy as in tacky). I thought the stuffed squash blossoms were fantastic. We also had Prosecco with O.J. We mingled around there for a while and then went to Ristorante Carpe Diem Al Gianicolo. Jay had arrived a couple of days before us and had been there both nights for dinner. I understand why. It’s a little neighborhood restaurant just like you see in the movies. Family owned and very friendly. Jay ordered a big pitcher of wine aka un litro vino rosso de la casa. Very good. We shared fantastic antipasto.
We spent quite a bit of time there and then we went to the Sistine Chapel. Whew. So much to take in. No photos allowed. You aren’t allowed to speak inside the Chapel so Liala gave us the low-down before we went in. Wow, if those walls could talk! I have to admit that I was a wee tad disappointed. I was expecting a chapel with pews and people praying. I wasn't expecting a big empty room. After we left there we walked over to the Vatican. Since we had spent quite a bit of time at the Vatican the day before, Jennie and I decided to sit and wait while the rest of the group got the tour. Great place for people watching. We left there and went back to the hotel about 3. We had about 15 minutes until lunch was ready so we went to the room and relaxed a bit. Lunch was at the hotel. Pasta, bread and fruit for me. Carbs much Italy? They had a few other items that I don't eat like a frittata with peppers and cooked greens of some sort. After lunch they handed out race bibs, t-shirts and goodie bags. Jay was going to go for his run and Jennie had wanted to go in the morning but there wasn’t enough time. I said I would go with them and walk. We all changed into workout clothes and went to the hotel entrance. Jeff Galloway was there and said he heard there had been some significant weight loss between us and asked how much. I said about 80 and Jennie said she had just hit the 100 mark. Jay arrived and said about 38. Jeff was in ah/awe. We talked about that for a while and he also started talking about how the brain works. "Keep it in the front lobe." (Positive*Happy*Thoughts live in the front lobe!)
Jay found us. Jennie took off running and Jay and I walked and walk/jogged a bit.
It was really good. Jay had a dinner salad with mixed seafood and his entrée was red shrimp in cognac sauce. Jennie had a mixed veggie platter. We skipped dessert because we were going to get gelato on the way back but the Gelateria was closed. Bummer. We snagged a cookie at the hotel instead before turning in.
I guess I should close for now and get some rest.
Liala, our tour guide, should be a history teacher. She is certainly a fountain of information. Sometimes it’s a little too much history for me. I want to know how it was built and what went on there but I don’t really need to know the history of how concrete was made. :hi: Jennie. Sorry Liala. I just soaked in the beauty and took pictures and tuned out until I heard “Follow Liala” which is Italian for “moving on”. Standing 'inside' the Coliseum felt a little weird. I mean you're standing someplace that was once soaked in human blood where people were killed for sport. Kind of a buzz kill. After we left the Coliseum we walked thru the Forum on the way to Capitolino Hill, one of the Seven Hills of Rome. I just can’t find any other words for amazingly beautiful.
Sunday March 22, 2014
She said she tried to go back and find me to finish with me but they wouldn’t let her back out after she crossed the finish line. We waited for Rotimi who had already finished but wondered off a bit. His friend Gin Gin was running in the marathon. The three of us stood there trying to figure out which way to go. We knew the meeting spot but what direction was it in? Thank goodness Jennie had her phone with GPS so she mapped it. We still were going in the wrong direction so she mapped it again. We finally were on the right course when we ran into Germana who was Vaso’s assistant at the airport. She confirmed we were going the right way so we "followed Germana" the rest of the way. We got back and had to wait a while until the first shuttle arrived. The weather kept changing from rain to sunshine and back to rain. I looked at Jennie and said “this is not my favorite day in Rome”. She said “me neither”. The wind had picked up so it was cold. I finally asked Germana if the shuttle had arrived and if we could just sit in the vehicle to get warm and wait there until the designated time. She said yes and while we were walking she contacted Vaso and asked if we could just go back to the hotel instead of waiting for others. YES! Hello Stephano! When we got to the hotel Jennie took a nap while I showered, fluffed and puffed. She was still sleeping when I was done so I decided to go to Bar Gianicolo where we go for the best espresso I’ve ever had. I sent Jay a message and left Jennie a note. It was about 3 p.m. I got downstairs and Jay was sitting in the Parlor. We walked down and sat there chit-chatting until 5:30. That hour and a half flew by. We talked about everything from premonitions to relationships to the price of cigarettes although neither of us are smokers. I was curious as to the comparison. They were 4.5 euro (about $7-8) per pack. BTW, gas here is sold by the liter but converts to $9.98 per gallon! No wonder they drive teeny tiny cars and scooters and ride bikes. We walked back to the hotel and when I got to our room Jennie was about to take a shower. We talked for a while and then I went back downstairs. Jay was in the Parlor and so was Jeff Galloway with his family. Jeff came over and talked to us for quite a while. We talked about everything from German laws (Jay lives in Germany) to Jeff’s life before his marathon business to what kind of running shoes to buy. I finally pulled myself away to change clothes for dinner. They had a post-marathon gala in the hotel restaurant. Menu at the place settings as follows:
At the conclusion Jeff asked if everyone wanted to go for a walk/run in the morning. The majority of the group said yes and decided on 8 a.m. When that was over we walked down to get an espresso but Bar Gianicolo was already closed. We walked around the corner to Ristorante Carpe Diem Al Gianicolo, the restaurant we at ate with Jay the first night. We asked if we could just get espresso and the owner said of course. He’s so nice and so engaging. He told us about the cultural differences between Rome and where his family lives in Milan. Rome is very friendly, Milan, not so much.
^Me with Marcello^ I'm pretty sure he's a descendant of Roman Gods. Probably a gladiator in his spare time. :hi: Jay ~ :hi: Jennie.
We decided we must go back there for dinner Monday night.
Monday March 23, 2014
It's got mountains
^Boys eating gelato~ random, I know^
We wondered thru there soaking it all in, bought a couple of souvenirs and then headed to the Pantheon.
Snapped a few pictures and went into a shop or two. We left there and headed to Campo De’ Fiori which is like a farmer’s market. We found a Blue Ice (gelato shop) which Jay had recommended. They have Bailys gelato made with actual Bailys Irish Cream, not just flavoring. De-lish.
It was raining and the vendors at Campo De’ Fiori had already closed up and moved on. The street sweepers were cleaning up the debris. I snatched this photo off the internet of what it should have looked like:
We hopped into a cab and back to the hotel. Travel Tip: before getting in a cab, tell the driver your destination and ask how much the fare will be. That will help avoid surprises and rip offs.
~ “Stick a pin in it” ~
Gotta turn off the laptop and pack it up. Our shuttle will be here in a couple of minutes.
Jay had pizza and Jennie had pasta. Our new found friends Gin Gin and Rotimi came in when we were done eating. She finally got her chance to try tiramisu. Oh*Happy*Taste*Buds. He had a few shots of Limoncello. I had the tiramisu again and Jennie tried the panna cotta. Jennie’s definition of tiramisu is “wet boozy cake” and panna cotta is “vanilla pudding”. I love me some wet boozy cake. We left there with big hugs and kisses from Marcello.
All good things must come to an end.
I must admit I was kind of weepy on the drive to the airport. Rome is amazing and was a dream come true for me. Upon arrival at the airport we zipped right thru immigration (passport check) and found our way to our gate. You have to arrive three hours before your flight but the time flew by (no pun intended). We talked to a lady who’s flight was cancelled the day before due to the plane being struck by lightning! Yikes! They put them up in a hotel but her and her friend were booked out on separate flights this morning. Her friend’s flight had already been cancelled. Travel Tip: Always pack an extra day’s worth of clothes and meds. Luckily our flight departed only a smidgeon late and landed right on time. It was snowing like crazy at Dulles. We once again zipped right thru immigration and customs. We only had to show them our customs form and passport and didn’t have to go thru the bag check line. Good thing because I would have missed my connecting flight. By the time we got to the point to check to see what gates we were departing from my flight was boarding in 15 minutes. Being from a sunshine state I was concerned our flights would be delayed due to the snow but my plane boarded right on time. We got out a little bit late because we had to stop by and have the wings de-iced. Scary-Mary to me but routine SOP for them. Up-Up-And-Away. We landed in Phoenix right on time. Luggage was waiting when I got to the carrousel and my car was still there so yeah for that.
Our drivers Mario, Stephano, Paulo, etc. were top notch.
There are pros and cons to being in a tour group.
Rome was everything I expected and more.
The entire experience could have only been better if my sister would have been able to join us.
ETA, Again - Fraud Alert, both cards, cancelled and awaiting replacements. Be careful peeps.