Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Holiday – Day 4: Rome (final day)

It’s our final full-day here. On the plus side that means there’s only another two juices to try out at breakfast! On the down-side , we’ll be sad to leave Rome, because of its people, manic drivers and architecture!

So, breakfast beckons, and having drunk (and survived) yesterday’s juice-of-the-day, ‘Tropical’ (aka Domestos Forest-Fresh), it’s time to live on-the-edge and try the remaining two: ‘Grapefruit’ or ‘Pineapple’ – the result? Well, the pineapple tasted more ‘pine’ than ‘pineapple’ (presumably to retain the ‘bleach’ theme), but the grapefruit was a revelation, as  it tasted like grapefruit!!! However, to avoid complacency setting-in, yesterday’s custard-filled croissants had been replaced with plain ones, but looked the same from the outside – nice and confusing!!!

09.30: We’re ready to continue our cultural mission to find any relics older than me, although not as well preserved... Ann had worked out today’s route-march, so armed with our M&S brollies (standard military issue out here in November), we set off to dodge the puddles.

We headed for the Republicca Metro station, and travelled a couple of stops down the line to Spagna. We headed for the Spanish Steps – so named because there are a load of steps in... err Rome. What felt like 500 steps and a mini cardiac arrest, found us at the top of the steps and the need to sit down in the famous church. From here, we then sauntered elegantly down the Via Conditti, their fashion equivalent of ‘Bond Street’ . Nothing had any prices in the windows and some of the size 6 fashions would not have kept a well-fed flea warm. We knew we had gone upmarket because the cobble-stones had been replaced with pavements – that were level... amazing!!!

The Spanish Steps
When we first came to Rome some 15 years ago, one of its treasures was out in the open, at the mercy of all that roman pigeons. The famous “Ara Pacis” or the altar of peace, is now enclosed in the first modern building in Rome for 70 years – progress indeed! Julius Caesar decided to celebrate with his mates after winning some blood-thirsty military campaign, and in true United Nations style, spent a load of money on a ‘trophy’ building, but  still went on killing and murdering anyone who stood up to the might of the roman empire.

The Ara Pacis

10.45: We’re now heading for St Peter’s Square, walking past the famous Castello Angelo, built by the Emperor Hadrian (another paranoid maniac, who also build a non-Facebook wall back home). The weather’s brightened up and it’s dry and warmish, but the prophets of doom, the local north-African street-sellers are trying to flog umbrellas to all and sundry. The irony is that yesterday most of these guys were flogging brollies in the rain, with broken brollies over their heads – not the best quality standard to inspire confidence in your potential customers. Any refunds squire?

Castello Angelo Bridge
11.30: We’ve been to Rome on three previous occasions, but never managed to gird our loins to brave the dreadful queues to get in.  Apart from the usual dopey pigeons, nuns, monks and other holy folk), St Peter’s Square wasn’t too busy, so we joined the queue and were inside within 10 minutes. The Pope’s pad is pretty spectacular - Lots of marble, Latin and amazing ceilings.

Scenes inside the Basilica


12.45: As yesterday, we’re in sensory-overload and in need of a pit-stop. Guinness Book of Records alert!!! as we discovered a cafe with the most expensive coffees ever – 5 Euros each. Add to that a couple of desserts and – kerrchingggg – we’re studying a bill for almost 35 Euros. They must have seen us coming!

13.00: Nice! We found a small restaurant - Cantina Del Vecchio - http://bit.ly/eB4yW  in Piazzetta di St Simeone with a fixed-price lunch menu for 15 Euros. A nice pasta starter followed by chicken and roast potatoes set us up for the rest of our voyage of discovery.

14.00: We headed for The Pantheon by way of the Piazza Navonna, possibly the best square in Rome. The Pantheon is over 2000 years old and is quite unique, a round building with a 27 foot wide hole in the ceiling at the top of the curved roof.  On arriving, we were disappointed to find part of the front covered in scaffolding, but the inside was as stunning as ever! Wow!! One of the most interesting buildings in the world to visit.

Scenes inside The Pantheon
The stunning interior temporarily disabled our sense of direction, and we took a slightly longer route back to the Metro (Ann had the map upside down). Our feet were telling us that it was time to call it a day and luckily we didn’t have long to wait for a train. Ten minutes later were back at Republicca station where we stopped for a quick coffee (any excuse!!!). As we sat watching the world (and many entrepreneurial Africans and Asians selling their umbrellas and wooden ornaments) go by, the weather suddenly deteriorated and it got colder and started to rain. A brisk walk back to the hotel followed.

15.45: I think we’ve now covered every cobblestone of Rome and our feet will vouch for that. The more physical part of the holiday is now over as we leave tomorrow to pick-up the cruise-ship, Queen Victoria and meander our way back to Ol’ Blighty... accompanied by a range of proper fruit juices and clearly labelled croissants!!!

Bye-bye Rome!