The Blair Honeymoon Adventures – Chapter 1: ROMA, ITALIA!
Honeymooning – the time you finally get to relax after a hectic year of planning and crafting a wedding! When Scott and I started to decide where we wanted to go, we quickly realized that the “down south beach thing” was not for us. I hate the hot weather, and Scott has to keep himself busy 24/7 or he will go crazy! We started looking into a European trip – maybe Italy? Maybe Spain? – but trying to plan a self guided tour through a European country was going to be way too much work on top of planning our wedding. How can you see a European country without planning for even one day? A Mediterranean cruise of course! After doing a lot of searching, we found the perfect one offered by Princess Cruises – “12 Day Greek Island Cruise from Rome to Venice”! Oh the places we had the chance to see:
I have been asked by tons of people to tell them about our trip, so what better way to do so than by blogging it? I will be posting a day-by-day recap of our honeymoon from time to time, so please keep checking back for the continuation of the Blair Adventures in Europe!
We flew out of the Pearson International Airport with the Alitalia airline. What a blast from the past! The plane was equipped with ceiling mounted televisions and ash trays in our arm rests. It is rather funny to think how accustomed one can become to having your own personal television on planes these days. Alitalia played two movies on our trip across the pond– an Italian movie which we slept through and Terminators 3 (oh boy… Let’s read my book!).
After 10 hours of flying, 2.5 horrible meals, and 2 bad movies we landed in Rome. We quickly found our luggage and headed to the train which took us into the center of town. From there we decided to have a taxi take us to our hotel to save lugging our bags around the cobblestone streets. 25 Euros later (ugh, what a rip-off!), we walked into the Grand Palatino Hotel which was booked via hotwire. Great job Hotwire! We later found out that we could have taken the metro from the train station, right to our hotel for less than 1 euro each! Anyway, back to the hotel. Not only was the room complete with a king sized bed, great view, AND a bidet, we were only 3 blocks from the world famous Colosseum (however Scott was more amazed by the marble trim)!
It took us no time to head out to find some breakfast and then to see the sites. We came across a little café just around the corner from us. I ordered a cappuccino and pistachio croissant. I instantly started to feel European. Scott, on the other hand, was feeling way too European. He ordered a coffee and vanilla croissant, only to get an espresso! He quickly learned that if he wanted coffee in Europe he had to order a Café Americano!
On to the Colosseum we headed. After a very short walk we approached the Colosseum from above. As we came closer, the daunting line slowly started to appear. We quickly learned that to skip the line, you could pay a few extra Euros per person and get a guided tour of not only the Colosseum, but Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum. After standing in line for 15 minutes and being asked by 25 different tour guides, we decided to go for it (and were shunned shortly after by all the other tour guides who we turned down before!) Even though we paid a little extra, this was the best decision we made. The tour guide was great; we learned tons about the 80 AD construction, and the events that were held within the Colosseum throughout the years.
After the tour we were given the chance to explore before heading over the Palatine Hill. I then took way too many pictures out of excitement of being there. It was overwhelming standing there imaging Gladiator vs. Gladiator, or better yet, Gladiator vs. Beast. The years of history and entertaining, wins and loses (I mean, real life loses), and the story of how the overall structure has evolved over the years was absolutely amazing! Next we were on to Palatine Hill, where Rome was founded, and the Roman Forum. Finally seeing these places in person made me wish I could have been there when the buildings were still standing and when the Forum wasn’t just a tourist attraction.
Later that day we found out that the Italians had a National holiday the following day. That meant that my plans to visit the Vatican were quickly diminishing. Around 3:45pm we decided to head over to the Vatican knowing full well that we would only be able to see St. Peter’s Basilica from the outside, but as luck would have it when we stepped into St. Peter’s Square another tour guide approached us and said we could get in if we hurried! We ran with him around what seemed like the entire perimeter of the Vatican and then entered the museum. They closed the doors behind us.
Most people experience the Vatican in shoulder-to-shoulder conditions, where it is so hard to walk around that you just don’t want to be there. We, however, had the place to ourselves! We were free to walk around without bumping in to anyone, which made the experience so much more special. We first walked through the collection of statues that Popes had collected over the years, and then onto paintings and tapestries. I had to keep reminding myself to close my mouth, because I was in awe the whole time. What an amazing collection.
Next we walked through the Hall of Maps. Pictures cannot capture the beauty of this hall. It was the perfect segway to the Sistine Chapel.
Words cannot describe the feeling I felt when I walked into the chapel. You are not allowed to talk, or take pictures. I walked the length of the chapel looking up, just imagining Michelangelo painting. The silence in the room seemed loud when you looked at the faces of others viewing it for the first time. I found a bench at the back of the chapel, so I sat down to take it all in. For about 30 minutes I sat there, trying to choke back tears. In that moment I felt so many emotions run through me, and I cannot describe why. Just being there, and seeing this painting that you have heard about your whole life makes you body tingle. The unfortunate thing about this masterpiece is that the Italians do not believe it will survive the next big earthquake. If you have dreams of being there, standing under this work of art in awe like I did, do not wait. You will regret it someday when it is no longer there. Thirty minutes later, Scott and I were “politely” kicked out by the Swiss guards because it was closing time. When they want to close, they let you know!
We then headed over to St. Peter’s Basilica, where we narrowly made it in time to go in. St. Peter’s Basilica is the most expensive church in the world – and I can see why. There is a wide band of gold which circles around the entire inner perimeter of the building. The ceilings go on as far as you can see, and the altar is magnificent. We even had a chance to “meet” some past Popes – well, actually we had the chance to see their bodies that were dipped in bronze and wax. Wowzers! All-in-all, for a visit that I thought wasn’t going to happen because of the National holiday, the Vatican was by far one of my favourite stops along the entire trip.
The next day I had planned a little visit to a lesser known location in Rome – Aqueduct Park. This park is one of the most incredible, but rarely visited sites in Rome. The park actually hosts seven Roman aqueducts: Marcio, Anio Novus, Tepula, Mariana, Claudio, Iulia and Felice. These aqueducts took advantage of the natural hills of the area to bring water into the city. When we entered the park, through an arch in the Aqueduct Felice, we were greeted by the sites of many Italian families enjoying the National holiday. Picnics, soccer and hiking seemed to be the activities of choice! We continued to walk along the length of the Felice, until we saw the Aqueduct Claudio! I instantly fell in love! Claudio reached a height of 28 meters and was built around 52 AD. Emperor Claudio inaugurated it, hence the name. I could have stood there in awe all day long as I watched the aqueduct stretch off into the distance. I was amazed by the size, but more so over how they would have constructed this massive structure in 52 AD!
We spent a little more time walking in and out of the arches before heading back into the city to have our first taste of Italian pizza – a margarita pizza for me and sausage pizza for Scott. Can you say YUMMY???
We spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the streets of Rome, getting lost in the culture, eating gelato, and passing by the Pantheon (closed for the holiday…), Navona Square and the Trevi Fountain. We were able to hit up all the major sites in Rome in just two busy days!
The next morning we hopped on the metro back to the Vatican with our luggage in tow. We were on our way to the meeting point to catch our bus for our cruise – but not before my suitcase became a victim of the cobblestones…