Thursday, October 28, 2010

Rome Again Rome Again

After 2 1/2 months in Italy and lots of life-changing and cultural experiences, I’m back again.  This time is going to be a completely different experience because A: I have much more freedom and a limited amount of time to see everything, and B: The greatest world traveler and best friend around (Connie Hoover) is joining me in this adventure.  The plan is to meet up in Rome and take the train straight down to Naples and Pompeii for the start of our trip, and then work our way back up the country and over into France.
For those of you that know me, I like to wait for the last minute for everything, and I rarely plan out details in advance.  I know it drives some people crazy, but it’s just the way I am.  Everything generally works itself out anyways, so why waste time planning the nitty gritty details??  Welllll...sometimes this habit of mine comes back to bite me in the butt.  Connie practically had to force me to sit on the computer a month before this trip and purchase our plane tickets home together.  No easy feat, seeing as how she was halfway around the world and a full 12 hour time difference away.  But, alas, it all worked out.  Finally, few weeks ago I decided to start looking for a plane ticket TO Italy.  A flight home from Paris was great, but I needed to get there somehow.  Being the obsessive internet ticket searcher that I am, purchasing a plane ticket generally takes anywhere from 4-24 hours.  No joke.  Maybe that’s why I put everything off for the last minute...because I know its going to consume me for the greater part of the day.  So I work my magic and find a single plane ticket to Newark, and then another ticket to London Heathrow, and then on to Rome.  Seriously, I don’t know how British Airways didn’t lose money on me.  I sent Connie my itinerary, and she wrote back a day later something along the lines of ‘Don’t freak out, but I don’t fly in until the next day.’  Umm....Oopsies!! 
After a little panic attack from mom, and reviewing all my options, I decided (as we all should about everything in life) to make the most of it and find something super cool to do on Tuesday when I arrive.  Before we get to that, though, lets recap the trip over here.
I flew from Orlando to Newark, which I thought was in New Jersey, but everything on the plane tickets said New York, so now I’m not really sure.  Since this was a single ticket not attached to my British Airways flight, I had to check my bag, claim it at the Newark airport, and then re-check it with British Airways.  With that being said, I have now officially become a master plane traveler.  By the time we got to the airport in Orlando I had less than 30 minutes to check my bag, go through security, and make it to the gate before they started boarding, and I’m proud to say I made it there with 15 minutes to spare.  I lugged my 11kg backpack around the Newark airport until I found British Airways (they’re doing construction so it was a little hard to find) and then went off in search of some lunch.  When I was riding the train between terminals, I caught a glimpse of the New York City skyline, complete with the Statue of Liberty.  A little bittersweet for me, because on November 1st of last year I ran my very first marathon through the streets of New York, and it was one of the greatest experiences of my life.  I didn’t get in on lottery this year, but on the bright side, that meant I was able to go on this trip!  I made it to the Newark gate with about 15 minutes to spare...just enough time to load a new book on my Kindle and call home.  The flight from Newark to London was from 6pm to 1am according to our time in Florida, but by the time we landed in London it was 7am...just in time to see the sun rise.  The flight really felt like it was 2 hours long because I slept practically the entire much so that the lady I sat next to complemented me on my sleeping abilities.  I started watching Sex and the City 2 (I know, terrible choice), but apparently one of the in-flight entertainment systems had some electrical issues and started smoking while we were flying, so they had to shut down the entire thing.  But, because of this, everyone received $25 British Airways vouchers for our next flight.  Again, I don’t know how they made money off of me.  And, anyone looking to travel to Europe, I am completely a fan of British Airways.  Much more so than Lufthansa.  The seats are bigger and more comfortable, you have more foot room, nicer blankets, pillows, eye masks, socks, nicer flight attendants, and an overall more relaxed experience.  The Lufthansa planes seem nicer/newer, but the overall flying experience is uptight and a bit stressful.  So we land in London and I head out in search of breakfast, since I slept through it on the plane.  The London airport is by far the nicest airport I’ve ever been in.  You can tell it is brand new or newly remodeled, but there are also other little things that make it a pleasant airport.  For instance, in order to keep the noise down and the terminals more quiet, they only announce final calls for flights over the speaker.  No gate numbers, changes, or other useless information that nobody listens to anyways.  To make up for this, they have strategically placed computer stations where you can check your flight status, gate, time, etc.  The airport also had a wide range of healthy food choices, which I greatly appreciated.  Organic soy latte and all natural fruit salad for breakfast is a major win in my books.  Oh yeah, and I watched the sunrise while eating.

The plane from London to Rome was only about 2 hours, and I, again, slept the whole way.  I swear I’ve found the cure for jet lag, and I’m here to share it with you:
  1. Dress comfortably for a long flight. (I wore jeans, sports bra, tank top, and a sweatshirt, but changed into sweatpants on the plane)
  2. Bring a small blanket if you tend to get cold.  It can also double as a pillow since the airplane pillows are worthless.
  3. BRING A WATER BOTTLE!!!!  Probably the most important remedy to jet lag is your amount of water consumption.  You can empty it out before going through security (or, if you’re like me, chug it while waiting in line), and they won’t give you any hassle.  If you don’t have your own water bottle, chances are, you’re not going to be very likely to drink water.  I refilled mine multiple times in every airport.  The water fountains are generally located somewhere near the bathrooms...don’t be afraid to look for one.
  4. Try to sleep as much as you can on the plane, and then stay away for as long as possible, or until normal sleeping time in your destination city.  I take a “Mid-Nite” when I get on the plane of a long flight...all natural, and you don’t get that horrible feeling from other PM medications when you wake up.
  5. And this doesn’t have anything to do with jet lag, but try to only eat when you’re hungry when flying.  We tend to eat on the plane, and then again when we get off in-between flights, and we just end up over-consuming and feeling full/bloated.  Listen to your body and only eat when you’re hungry.

Now that I’ve given you my jet lag remedy, believe me when I say that it’s 8:00 pm here on my first night in Italy, and I am still feeling fine.  I left Orlando at 10:30 am on Monday, watched the sun set over New York city, watched the sun rise over London, and then watch it set again over Rome, and I’m still feeling great.

I managed to find my way to my bed and breakfast, but it was NOT easy.  Through e-mail communication with the owners, they didn't know how to tell me what bus or bus stop to take, but they did assure me there was a bus from the airport to the bed and breakfast.  Or I could just take a taxi for 28 euro.  I get off the plane, get my bag, and head out for the busses.  After what seemed like an hour of wandering around, and a few nice people who spoke English, I found my bus.  Ticket for the bus?  Definitely forgot that.  After all the reading and research I've done, where every single guidebook tells you to not forget to purchase your ticket inside, and I forgot it.  So I had one very mad bus driver, lots of dirty looks, and ended up paying 7 Euro for a 1 Euro bus fare.  C'est la vie.  So once on the bus, it occurs to me that I have no map, no direction, and no clue where to get off for this hotel.  The only thing I know is that it's near the Ostia Antica ruins.  Cue silent foreign country freak out mode.  Not good.  The bus ride seemed like four hours because we were driving during "peak hours," aka, rush hour, which basically equates to 1-4 during rush hour, times 3.  No joke.  People were walking by faster than we were driving.  So we drive along and I suddenly see the Ostia Antica ruins out the window...and we keep driving.  Freak out mode again.  I decide to get off at the next big stop, where there were waiting taxis, who, I knew, could take me to the address.  I didn't want to be stuck on a bus driving around and around in rush hour traffic, and never actually hitting my stop.  So I get the taxi, pay 10 Euro for the 5 minute ride to the hotel, and breathe a huge sigh of relief when I get off in front of my destination.  Lesson learned?  When in doubt, and in absence of a map, pay for the taxi.

So I checked in to the hotel, dropped my stuff, grabbed my camera, and headed out again, to see the famed Ostia Antica ruins.  These ancient ruins from the Roman and Greek period were buried and then uncovered during building, much like Pompeii, but minus the volcano.  They are extremely well preserved, and you can walk through the entire city, standing in what used to be bathtubs, homes, sports complexes, etc.

Talk about a brick workout...these things were steep!!

It was a beautiful day, and I was so glad I had time to actually explore this ancient city.  We were allowed to walk all over the buildings, the tile work, and everything, which, I've got to admit, I felt a bit guilty about.  My Simple Shoes may be eco-friendly, but I'm sure they still leave a footprint on structures like these.

Potato chips, Diet Coke, and bed.  I will blog more about the day, evening, and today tomorrow.  Up next on our tour?  Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii.

5 Favorite Moments of the Day: (in no particular order)

1.  Woman in Orlando airport waiting in line for the bathroom (clearly from a southern state, as evidenced in her accent): "Are we not allowed to use the Handicap stalls in Flor-ee-da??
2.  Meeting a friendly English speaking Italian on the bus from the airport to the hotel.  He said, and I think he was just trying to be nice, "I like meeting Americans so I can practice my English."
3.  Watching the sun rise in London.
4. Getting to wear my jacket!!!
5. Ostia Antica.  Beautiful city, and super cool history.

1 comment:

  1. ahh, sweet blog, love to read about your adventures...the sunset pictures are incredible. Keep the daily writings going, and both of you young ladies, stay safe. thinking of you.;-)