Tuesday October 28 – We Depart
Originally we’re scheduled to fly Continental out of Newark to Rome today. However, about six weeks ago, I noticed that Becky’s name was spelled incorrectly on our e-ticket, so Chris called to straighten that out (we’d booked four tickets using frequent flyer miles – Chris travels an awful lot on business).
Imagine his surprise when the agent informed him we were all scheduled to depart on October 29. Now, October 29 is our anniversary and I had this issue with being in Rome on my anniversary. I wanted it! After much haggling, arguing and requests for supervisors (I wonder how far up the food chain we finally reached), Continental agreed to put us on a Delta flight out of JFK with Continental picking up the difference in the car fare between Newark and JFK. JFK requires us to travel the Belt Parkway (I believe Ruth (aka Boleskine) refers to this as the Devil’s Highway), but I’m comfortable with the fact that on a Tuesday afternoon, travel shouldn’t be too bad.
At 12:15 I pick up the girls from school. They are missing three days of school, but I always rationalize that with they’ll learn more in Italy anyway. Why only three days? Because NJ teachers have this crazy thing called Teacher’s Convention every November for two days in Atlantic City (don’t ask me why they can’t hold their convention during the summer when school’s not in session; it’s one of the mysteries of life). Couple that with the fact that Election Day falls during the same week and our schools are polling places, and therefore, must close (because we can’t have all those strangers roaming the hallways while our children are there) and our district decided, “Hey, for two more days, let’s give them the entire week off.”
I’m not complaining mind you. Having a random week in November off is good for family vacations and most of my town gets to migrate to Disney World without fear of large crowds. We though, migrate to Italy.
So I grab the kids, bring them home to pack their backpacks, and we wait impatiently for Yousef. Yousef’s our man with the car; he does all of Chris’s airport runs and when we’re going for long vacations (especially flying out of one airport and returning to another), we use him too. This is the part I hate, the waiting.
Finally, about 1:00, we’re off. Our ride is uneventful except for Yousef’s usual teasing of Sammi (he always teases with his thick Pakistani accent, that we’re going to leave Sammi with him while we go on vacation; she always just laughs). The Devil’s Highway is clear and we’re at JFK by 2:15.
Now to check-in – not so smooth. After we bring our bags to security for a search, a small line behind us grows ever longer as we try to check-in. It would be fine if we are willing to fork over $2000+ to the agent to purchase our already paid for tickets but we have a bit of an issue with that. So he leaves us for a good 15 minutes, as the line grows longer and longer, to walk all the way down to the ticket office to determine why we shouldn’t have to pay again. Finally, he returns and informs us that Continental entered our information into the system incorrectly but we’re good to go now. See, this is why you get to the airport early, not for security but in case some nameless faceless shmoe doesn’t do his job correctly the first time.
Now, we’re off to the gate to wait. And wait. And wait some more. This is the problem when you get to the airport early. Chris takes the girls to Chilis (in the airport) for some dinner while I sit by myself and stress out. I’m not a good flyer.
Finally, we board and the drill begins. Yes, I’m sure there are plenty of you parents that will shake your heads at what I’m about to tell you but tough. Just after the plane takes off, I pour out two doses of Robotussin PM one for each girl, take two Tylenol Sleepy Times myself, blow up my neck pillow, and cover us all with blankets. We’re out by the time the beverage service starts and don’t wake until just before the breakfast service. To me, that’s perfection.
After this, everything runs pretty much down hill. We get our bags, we’re through Customs and Immigration hitch free, and when we arrive outside Claudio from Roma Limo waits for us. I had hoped to see Sandro again, but Claudio’s quick and efficient loading us into the car. On the way into Rome, we talk about children and raising them in Italy, and economics (I think Claudio leans towards Communism). His English isn’t great but it’s way better than my Italian, and we have a nice chat.
We come in through a scenic route, past St. Paul Outside the Walls (San Paolo Fuori Le Mura), the Pyramid of Gaius Cestius, the Circus Maximus and onward. Cool ride and more sights to add to my ever-growing (never shrinking) list of things I want to see.
We arrive at the Del Senato pretty early; early enough for the Piazza Della Rotunda to still remain empty. Of course, our room isn’t ready but who really expected it to be. We drop our bags and that’s when I discover that the Robutussin leaked all over my healthy bag. Bummer. I run to the bathroom, and clean up as much as I can. Yes, it was in a Ziploc bag, but genius here didn’t close the bottle appropriately (stupid child resistant caps), nor did I seal the bag appropriately (the seal looked purple to me). Anyway, I fix that up, and we head across the piazza to enjoy our first cappuccino of the trip.
As usual, we stop in the Pantheon, which houses some sort of Modern Art exhibit but with two kids, we don’t get time to enjoy, and then the fountain to all partake in the water of life. After that we head over to the Piazza Navona.
I don’t have major plans for us today. I’m sure I did on our “itinerary” but now I’m content to just wander. We spend some time in the Piazza, checking out the chochtkey stands, quizzing the kids on the fountains, which they seem to enjoy, and then we move on towards the Campo Dei Fiori. Along the way, we spy a hat store, which has some beautiful items in the window. Chris admires a few but opts not to make a purchase. Next door, we find a leather store in which we also spend some time.
From the Campo, we depart along the Via Giubbonari towards the ghetto. I’ve never been to the ghetto and as we stroll in that direction, we stop in a wine store to purchase a couple of bottles of some wine Chris read about from Maremma. I’ll have to ask him if he remembers the name.
We browse some Judaica store windows, and stumble upon the ruins of the Portico Ottavia and the Teatro di Marcello, which the kids love running around. We walk around the synagogue too but do not enter.
On our return, we walk past a wonderful store. I’d equate it to a 5 and 10, a
Woolworths. What originally draws us to it, are the smart car cast iron models in the windows. Becky wants one, so we go inside and browse all the odds and ends. I love this junk. She buys her model for 3.5€ and we’re off. Oh – side note, I took a picture of the Game of Vita, which we often play at home as The Game of Life. Regret 1. Wish I’d bought that silly game.
Now we turn in our big loop and head to the Largo di Argentina where we watch the cats for a while and find one that looks just like Pinky. I should mention, that while Pinky did accompany us on this trip, she spent a good deal more time in the room than our previous trip, thank god.
Now it’s back to the hotel to get to our room and a bit of freshening up but our room is still not ready. You know what that means, time for our first gelato. Who care’s that it’s not even lunchtime yet.
Becky and Sammi have Carmello (?). Becky likes it but Sammie doesn’t, bummer. I go with banana but it doesn’t seem fresh to me. I’m a bit disappointed but not too much.
We return to the hotel, where they’d been trying to get through to Trattoria Lampada for a lunch reservation for us but without much success, so we opt for Pasquales; yeah, big sacrifice there. 1 large beer, 2 coca-colas, 2 slices plain, 1 slice funghi, 1 slice artichoke and 13 Euro later we’re feeling pretty good.
Funny though, the girls ran upstairs ahead of us and as we join them, Sammi gives me the “Mommy, look at that man” look in her not to subtle way. It turns out to be Peter Kilby, but Sammi was a bit hesitant to approach him, not sure she recognized him. He’s in Rome for the day with a family from Arizona, who’s staying in Tuscany. We catch-up briefly and comment that we’ll see him tomorrow, before we gobble down our pizza.
While we eat, it pours outside. We wait for it to let up then head back towards the hotel, but again completing a big loop by walking towards and down the Corso. Chris wants to find a store that sells soccer jerseys, which he claims to remember from our last trip. I of course have no such recollection and as predicted, we can’t find the store.
We get back to the hotel as the rain starts again. Our room’s still not ready, 10 more minutes when the girls realize, it’s pouring outside and we’re 5 seconds from the Pantheon! I’m glad we brought them along.
We dash into the piazza, without umbrellas, and head towards the Pantheon leaving Chris behind in the lobby. Every umbrella hawker in the area swarms us as we make our way through the crowds, but we ignore them.
Inside, we get to see the rain float down through hole. With the bright daylight in the background, it almost appears as if it’s snowing, which would also be pretty cool to see. Again, we run into Peter, and he quips, “Stop following me,” before we head back to the hotel and finally our room.
Our plan is to nap until about 4:00, shower, then head over to Santa Maria Della Concezione and Santa Maria Della Vittoria but at 4:00, the girls are still sleepy so we opt to let them relax more. As a compromise, after we shower and dress for dinner, we stroll over to Saint Ignazia, so I can get a church fix and see the famed “fake cupola”.
Along the way, we stop for our second gelato. The name of the place is Fiocco de Neve (I think, whatever the translation for Snowflake is – that’s the name of the place). Chris opts for, okay everyone say it with me, Limone, Becky returns to Carmello but adds some Straciatello, Sammi opts for the signature flavor, Fiocco de Neve, and I get Bacio. Though, I get the “tasting” cone, a tiny thing for 50 centissmi but the perfect size not to fill me up.
Next, we stop in a jewelry store and purchase two Coliseum charms, one for each of the girls. Finally, we head off to the church and again, I’m struck by how many unassuming churches we walk by daily here that have cool things to check out. This one’s no different and all though the girls don’t seem as impressed by the illusion of the “cupola”, I am. Though, I do concede it would probably be more impressive in bright daylight than the night sky, which we’re currently seeing it through.
We notice two other things, currently a mass is conducted in German, and on Sunday at 11:00, they have a mass in English. After the girls light candles in the chapel of St. Jerome, we head back to the hotel.
We return to the bar and Michele, who after a moment remembers us (pretty good for 16 months later and all the customers he has had…or pretty bad ;)…anyway, we start with prosecco for me, a Tuscan red for Chris and of course 2 coca colas for the kids. We toast our anniversary and Michele brings us the usual assortment of olives, chips and some mock chex party mix kind of thing.
While we sit and enjoy our drinks, I ask everyone for their best and worst parts of the day:
Becky – Teattro Marcello
Sammi – Rain in Pantheon
Kim – Teattro Marcello.
Becky – Saint Ignatus
Sammi – Waking from Nap
Kim – disappointed in the synagogue (probably should have tried to get a tour).
Chris won’t play because he says the day’s not over. He’s such a party pooper.
After drinks, we head to Ristorante Abbruzzi for dinner. It’s located at the end of Piazza di SS. Apostoli. We’d dined there our first night in Rome during our June 2002 trip and enjoyed the unpretentious, casual atmosphere as well as the unassuming food. It’s also the place Becky found a pearl in her clam.
Chris and I both start with fettucini con porcini. Becky’s bummed that they don’t have clams this evening and both girls order pasta a burro for dinner. For our secondi, Chris enjoys veal con porcini and I love my pollo arosto con patate – roast chicken and potatoes, so basic yet so good. For dessert, I have fragola (aka strawberries), Becky has a chocolate torte and Chris Tiramisu. Sammi holds out for gelato on our walk home but we don’t pass any place and she loses out, bummer. With dinner we have a bottle of house red (5.50 €) and a bottle of aqua fizzante (5.00 €) – for a grand total of 76 €. Not cheap but not too expensive either.