Saturday, 29 September 2007

Rome - it wasn't built in a day you know...

This post covers our time in the Eternal City. Friends, Romans, blog lovers, lend me your ears!

On Wednesday we tried to leave our campsite at Marina di Bibbona at 1pm but they had just closed and locked the gates and we were told we couldn’t leave until 3pm! Eventually we left just after 3pm and drove south for an hour and pitched up camp at a crappy campsite 150 metres from the beach. The place was pretty quiet and not being high season, the facilities weren’t being looked after very well.

On Thursday we drove 3 hours south to Rome, it was a slow drive at at one point we had to go back on ourselves 10km and take a toll road as flames and smoke were billowing across the free road! We don’t know what was on fire but the traffic was turning around and heading back. We needed Sarah’s Dad Tony!

Above: Colleseum
Below: What is this, a stripes convention? Mum, Dad and I in Rome

At 4pm we got to Rome and left Ace at a motorhome storage place about 20 minutes away from the city centre. We packed up our bags and got the metro into town, I don’t know how we managed with as many bags as we did! We got out of the metro at the Colleseum and walked around the corner to the street where Mum and Dad had their appartment. We walked up and down trying to find the name of the apartment but we couldn’t find it. After 45 minutes I finally found a phone and on the 4th attempt got through to Dad’s mobile. Phew!

The apartment was on the 3rd floor and accessed by either the stairs or a very skinny old lift! As they are early risers, Mum and Dad kindly gave us their room and they took the sofa bed in the kitchen / lounge area. We went out for dinner that night at a local restaurant and had some great bruschetta and pizza, not to mention a few beers!

Left: Fiat 500 and a scooter, how Italian!

We did the open top tour bus of Rome on Friday which took a couple of hours and then chilled the rest of the day. Mum and Dad went for a walk and on their travels Dad bought some ridiculous looking white hat for the bargain price of €3. We had an early dinner that night as we were off to Pompeii at 6.45am the next morning. That didn’t discourage Dad and Steve from sneaking out for a late night beer at the Irish pub across the road, Dad wore his new hat… oh the shame!

Left: Dad and Steve - a late night beer isn't a late night beer unless you're wearing a dodgy looking hat...

At 6.45am we were picked up for our tour to Pompeii and Naples. Dad and Steve were a little bit quiet… I wonder why! At 7am we arrived at the drop off point and waited for an hour before the coach finally arrived. After an hour we stopped at a restaurant for a 20 minute break which we all thought was a bit unnecessary. It was obviously a racket all the tour buses were playing along with. A rather small coffee was €2.50, twice the usual rate. We arrived at Naples a couple hours later and were shown a few places before we headed to Pompeii.

First up we had a look around the cameo jewellery showroom followed by lunch in a restaurant. First course was soup or pasta, second course was fish or pork and dessert was choc-chip ice cream. One of the waiters thought it was hilarious to pile my plate with twice as much pasta as everyone else! He must’ve thought I needed a good feed?

Next up was a 2 hour walking tour around Pompeii with Salvatore. He pointed out sights of interest around the town which had been buried in pumice stone and volcanic ash when Mt Vesuvius erupted. Some of the highlights included frescoes, mosaics, drinking fountains, a bakery, and a Roman-style fast food place.

Above: Colleseum by night
Below: Plaster cast at Pompeii

He also explained that an archaeologist excavating Pompeii in the 19th century had devised an ingenious technique of finding out how people had spent their final moments before death. When they found a hole in the ruins of stone and ash they would pour plaster into it. The hole would exist because after the citizens of Pompeii had been buried their bodies would decompose and only their bones would remain, leaving hollow sections in the layers of debris. When the plaster was dry they would remove it to reveal what position their body was in at the time of death. Plaster casts on display show people crouching and even a pregnant woman lying face down trying to shield her unborn baby.

Before setting off home people broke off to the various souvenir and jewellery stores to spend some euros. I hit the gelato stand! Mmm coffee ice cream! After 3 hours and another unnecessary stop at another restaurant, we arrived back in Rome at 8pm.

On Sunday Sarah and I had a sleep in and then stayed in the apartment until after lunch.
After Mum and Dad got back after their morning rambling, all four of us headed out. We walked to a metro station then took the train to Spagna to see the Spanish Steps. There were hundreds of tourists there so we kept on walking to the Trevi Fountain where, you guessed it, there were thousands of tourists! We wandered around then got the metro back to the Colleseum. On Sunday night we had dinner in the apartment followed by an Italian quiz I found on the internet. It was a close finish but the winner was none other than the lil chicken! I was very proud of Sarah!

Above: Pantheon
Below: After the fall of the Roman Empire even Caesar has to do his own grocery shopping...
On Monday Mum, Dad, Sarah and I headed out for a walk. We had a quick look in the huge discount clothes store Dad had bought his funky new hat from and Sarah bought a new pair of shoes. We then took the metro to the Vatican City to have a close up look at St Peters. The crowds here were incredible, September is certainly high season for Rome! Dad enquired about a horse and cart ride and the price quoted was €150! This was quickly reduced to €100 but we weren’t interested!

Dad kindly shouted us to a coffee at an outdoor café, unfortunately though it was probably the worst coffee in Rome, maybe even in the whole of Italy! Dad said his latte was like a glass of warm milk and my cappuccino was a disgrace! We got the bus half way home then jumped off to look around. We bought coffee at McCafe which was fantastic, hot, cheap and straight from an espresso machine! We wandered towards the Panthenon and had a look inside before wandering back to the apartment. Once again I was quiz master that evening, this time the subject was Paris. Once again the winner was Sarah! I kept telling her to start getting some questions wrong otherwise it would look like a fix!
Below: Dad, Mum, Jenny, Steve - Palantine Hill

On Tuesday morning we all got up early and headed to the Colliseum for the opening time of 8.30am. We wandered around listening to the audioguide commentary which was enjoyable as it was reasonably quiet. The Colliseum was plundered by Romans over the centuries for its stone and marble so you need some imagination when you step inside it. Sarah and I both thought the amphitheatre we saw in Nimes last year was better - it is still used for concerts and bullfights today and it had a great commentary about the different types of gladiators.

As we left the crowds were starting to pour in, so were the guys dressed up as gladiators or emperors charging tourists €5 a photo! Apparently these Russell Crowe wannabes are strictly regulated by the council! We wandered around the Palantine Hill then Mum, Dad, Sarah and I headed back to the apartment while Steve and Jenny continued their sight seeing. After lunch Sarah and I headed back to the clothes store where she bought yet another pair of shoes!

That evening we jumped on a small electric powered bus and got off about a kilometre from the apartment. Dad had chosen a restaurant for dinner which was great. We sat out on the pavement and enjoyed pizza, pasta and bruschetta. We then wandered home, via the gelateria of course!
Above left: Me and Sarah
Left: The gang at dinner

The next morning Dad paid for a taxi for us to get our stuff back to Ace, even with 4 people it would’ve been a struggle on the metro! We gave them a tour of Ace and then said our goodbyes until next month when we see them in Wolverhampton. Sarah and I took the SS1 north bound, after 6 nights away, it was strange to be back in Ace!

3 comments:

uncle neill said...

i could lend you my ears, but as you well know, only one of them is any good!
the russell crowe wannabees pre-date the aforesaid nz drunk/ aussie hero by quite a bit, i reckon. they arejust as effective in battle, as was his Gladiator character, too. Just try sneaking one of them into the edge of a snap, without paying the fee, and you'll see how capable the Roman short sword really can be!

when i think of you all at the 'seum, i think of how you would have been there a couple of thousan years ago, punting up a storm at the hippodromo out the back. doubtless, backing winners, and making comments such..."i'm sure he would won, if only he was used to the Roman way of going"

typing with one hand following an operation...starting to look like Lord Nelson

love to all

neill

BRIDGET & MERVYN said...

Fantastic stuff team
Loved the pics and he words

Just went back over some of the older stuff

Cheers
MervynE

BRIDGET & MERVYN said...

Great stuff team

I just went back and looked over some of the older stuff.

Loved your pictures and your words

Cheers
MervynE