Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Roman Holiday

So for Frenchy's birthday I decided it might be nice to take him to Rome, a city neither of us had ever visited and had both always wanted to see. And always in search of adventure, I figured we'd probably have a good story or two to finish off the weekend. We weren't disappointed.

I had heard plenty about Roman taxi drivers and their cheating ways and insane driving habits, but hey, I've spent time in Lima and in Bucharest... how much worse can these drivers really be? I was more concerned about losing my euros than losing my life. What I will say is that Lima and Bucharest left me well-prepared for the wild ride we went on upon from the airport to the hotel.

I have a feeling that the drivers that wait for you at the airport are like Disneyland hosts. They are there to make sure tourists are welcomed with a true Roman experience. In the 30 minutes we drove from the airport to our hotel, we had several near death experiences and heard every bad word in the Italian language, and probably a few invented ones as well. I thought it was hilarious. As we got out of the taxi in the middle of our street, I asked the driver in my "Italian" which way to our hotel. Shocked, he said (in Italian), "BUT YOU SPEAK ITALIAN! I'M SO SORRY!" He apologized for his language for a few minutes and threw in a few "ciao bella"s and we were off in the direction of our hotel. We thought.

See, the next thing we learned about Rome is that they don't count from one to ten like the rest of us. As we went down the street toward the hotel (we thought) we noticed that the numbers went 27, 25, 23, 30, 32... Then a dead end. Huh? So we went back up the other direction in search of number 5. Completely opposite end of the street. Frenchy said, "I think in Rome they teach the kids to count like this: 2, 5, 4, 7, 9, 1, 13... Just to screw up the tourists."

Finally checked in to our hotel, and all was well. We headed out to wander around and take in the sights. Quick note: if you have the opportunity to be in Rome on a Friday evening, I highly suggest you take advantage of the fact that there are FAR fewer tourists around at 5pm on Friday than ANYTIME on Saturday or Sunday.

As we wandered around, we got caught in a massive anti-car bike rally.

Then caught up with Valerio for the first of many gelato expeditions and some birthday spumante for Quentin.
The following day we had breakfast in the hotel... and while we were outside of the room something happened with the electrical system JUST ON OUR DOOR and we were locked out. The manager was mortified. He had just made an elaborate show, offering to take care of anything we needed on Frenchy's birthday and hoping Frenchy had the best birthday ever. And then we couldn't get back into our room. Which meant no showers, no wallets, no sunglasses, no money, no cameras... nothing.

So we waited there for a while as the electrician risked his life to short circuit the system and spring the door open. I, personally, couldn't imagine that there wasn't any way to bypass the key card system. And finally, 40 minutes or so later, the guy unscrewed the door handle (I mean, I watched a lot of MacGyver... I knew this was possible) and we were in the room and able to head out into the city shortly after. Frenchy's birthday got off to a slightly late start, but we more than made up for it in sightseeing, gelato, mozzarella, and beer!

Birthday boy

The Spanish Steps. Or, if you're actually Spanish... The Espanish Esteps.

Don't you love it when people do this?

Trevi Fountain. To me, this looks like Sea World. But IT'S JUST A FOUNTAIN! No Shamu! No dolphins! What are all those people crammed in there for? There's no light show!

In the middle of Circus Maximus, these dudes appeared. They are a group of Roman history "enthusiasts" which basically means they dress up and parade around town on Sundays and stage mock fights. Oh, and they also do parties and corporate events.

Even warriors get wedgies.

As gladiators go, they were awfully polite, obeying all pedestrian sign and making proper use of the crosswalk.

Figuring out where to go next

How to park a Smart. (Diagonal option not shown.)

This picture is not just worth a thousand words, but also maybe 1000 euros. Moments after taking this and beginning to wander off to the next site, the police officer inside the car walked up to Frenchy and said, "Documento." Frenchy pretended not to understand at first, but finally we produced our passports. The police officer was NOT happy with us for taking a picture that he felt ridiculed La Polizia. I discussed with him in my finest Italian but he kept insisting that I delete all the pictures. I did so, one by one, saving this one - the money shot - for last.

Just before I was about to delete it, another officer walked up, wondering what we were discussing. Officer #1 said that I had taken a picture of him in the car. And I said, No, it's a picture of me! SEE? And I showed it to him. He couldn't help himself and started laughing and said to the first guy, "Did you SEE this? It's so funny!" At which point, number one had a hard time keeping a straight face and pretending to be angry with us. I announced: "This is art! You can't make me delete it!" The good cop said, "It's garbage. Okay get out of here." And we were off.

Fortunately Frenchy didn't dump me right there on the spot. He's so nice. :)

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