Sunday, April 29, 2018

Day 5 Athens

Day 5: Athens -- what to do when you arrive at noon, and have to kick around a while until check in, and you are zonked out from no sleep?  Go on a foodie tour! Athen's has an amazing street food scene -- so I started my crawl at 12 noon, with a bacon chicken club from the local authentic bistro.  The sandwich was very tasty, with thick cut bacon and homemade french fries -- it was so much I could barely get through half of it.   I was able to check in and after unloading my stuff, decided to head up to the rooftop pool and go for a dip.  There were a few groups of German tourists up there, drinking beer and eating copious amounts of potato chips -- but I didn't mind.  I enjoyed their banter.  What I did mind was diving into what felt like Arctic temperature waters and almost having a heart attack haha -- the German kids in the pool, who were watching intently, liked the reaction too -- they wanted someone to suffer with them, with their purple lips and shivering with their goggles and flippers still on!

After freezing my butt off for no more than two minutes in the pool, I decided to give up that masochism, and go run a hot bath in my room -- and after snoozing in there a bit, went out prowling, and saw so many great little street restaurants, I decided to go for a real authentic and "cheap eats" dinner -- the GYRO.  This was the best gyro ever.  Now, initially, I was kind of torn.  The pork gyro was made from a premium succulent piglet -- on a spit -- with his head still on -- and that kind of put me off, but I decided to give it a try.  The vendor took his long carving knife and was cutting nice pieces off the back end of this piglet, and made up this amazing Gyro.  All pity went out the window after the first bite.  And the dessert from the bakery?  So good it's not fair and they are literally across the street from me 😂 lucky thing I have like 100 miles to walk tomorrow after this food marathon 😂

So, being that I slept, oh, about 3 hours last night, I have decided to turn in extra early for tomorrow's festivities.  Good night all!

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Day 4 Naples and Pompeii

I was always intrigued and amazed by the story of Pompeii, and also, I had heard how beautiful Naples is, and how the food kicks butt, so off I went.  It is almost 4 hours from Rome via shuttle, or an hour and a half on the high speed train.  I decided to do the high speed there, the shuttle back (to see the countryside).  

Pompeii was an overwhelming site -- it is very large, as it was a large town/city (with amazing walls!) and it was just so interesting, fascinating, and sad. The city was very lavish, with their own sporting arena, a drama/arts amphitheater, coffee shops, wine bars, even a gym and spa that boasted hot and cold plunge pools as well as a weight training area.  The homes layouts were gorgeous, with many of the frescoes still intact.  It's just amazing to me that it was all instantly covered when Vesuvius blew -- and now, two thousand years later, we can walk through and envision it.  As I was wandering through the streets of Pompeii -- a very handsome (and very YOUNG) Dane named "Henry" began chatting with me, and he accompanied me along for a good portion of the afternoon as a sort of guide.  He was on his own, and I think he was a bit overwhelmed.  He invited me to lunch, but I declined.  He was literally my son's age -- that was amusing, but also kind of horrifying LOL.

Naples is beautiful with the dramatic Mediterranean coast line, the pastel earthen colored homes and buildings, and of course, the amazing food.  I found an amazing restaurant (on recommendation) that not only boasted wonderful food, it was so cool and refreshing under an arbor of beautiful flowers.  It was very hot, hazy, and humid, so I ordered a plate of melone, prosciutto, y mozzarella -- honeydew, "ham", and a fresh mozzerella ball, served on a fresh bed of greens.  Couple that with the most amazingly fresh olive oil, crusty local bread, and sparkling mineral water with a wedge of lemon -- and I was in absolute heaven.  The service was excellent, and it was a long meal of almost an hour and a half, and finished with the best tasting dish of chocolate and vanilla gelati I have yet to taste.  I was literally in Nirvana.

After, I headed to the shops to buy a couple of very nice little  "take away" gifts for my special peeps, and then went to the bus meet up to head back to Rome.  It was a nearly four hour trip (air conditioned thank goodness) and the countryside of Italy was spectacular -- in full bloom.  The country is very well maintained -- clean, and not a lot of strip malls and ugly BS.  I was very impressed.

After I disembarked at Via Cavour, I took the metro back to Cipro where I was staying (outside the walls of Vatican City).  I wanted to kick around a bit, but I realized i had to pack up and do some last minute things, and my cab to the airport would be picking my up at 345 am -- to make my 6 am flight to Athens -- and I should probably squeeze a few hours in of sleep.  So, that's what I did.  

And Ciao for now, Roma!! 

Friday, April 27, 2018

Day 3 - Rome - Vatican City

I spent the day in Vatican City, and although it was immensely crowded -- it was well worth braving the hoarde of humanity.  I started the day meeting up with a tour group going in -- I decided to invest in one of the "skip the line" tours, since the wait to get in as an individual was hours long.  If you forked up some dough, you bypassed all that, and got a guide to boot -- so, I decided to pony it up.  

"Pino" was our guide -- he was very charming and very knowledgeable.  He took us all the way through the entire Vatican for a nearly 5 hour tour.  We started by going through metal detectors and screening of our purses/packs like in the airport, minus the plastic basket, so my purse got destroyed by one of the straps getting ripped off by the conveyor belt rollers -- leaving me to carry it around for the rest of the day like a baby.  Not a good way to start the day haha. 

But, things got considerable better as we toured through the Vatican -- the history of it is amazing.  Hall after hall of tapestry and amazing artwork, by Leonardo, Raphael, and many other great artists of the past.  They even had a modern art section with the likes of Matisse and Chagall contributing to it. It was very impressive.  

We made our way through the various antechambers for the Pope, with much backhistory and a lot of formalities, until we reached the Sistine chapel -- which is just one huge room with all of the amazing Leonardo paintings decorating it.  We sat in there, hundreds of us, while a voice would yell "Silencio" at us every few minutes. It was actually kind of funny. But, the art was amazing, as was all of the symbolism, as explained thoroughly by Pino, who knows more about the Vatican history and intrigue probably than any person on the planet.  It seems to be his life's work, and so, we were treated to a very thorough history.

Once we reached St. Peter's basilica, it was the end of the tour -- but I was able to see the "Pieta", and most importantly, get a glimpse of the Apostle Peter's tomb.  To be honest, this was literally the most important part of the entire trip.  It was overwhelming to know that the Apostle Peter was there.  I was so humbled to be in the presence of his tomb.  Peter -- the Apostle who walked with Jesus.  It still is amazing to me I was able to see his tomb.  There was many tapestries and carvings about his fate of being crucified upside down, and all of the circumstances surrounding his martyrdom, as well as Paul's -- but Paul was not there -- his tomb is more sketchy -- I read somewhere they recently confirmed he is also buried in Rome -- but not with nearly the "pomp" that Peter is buried with.  There were many references to Paul in the Vatican -- both he and Peter had many narratives and paintings and artworks dedicated to their service.

After I left the Vatican, I had a light lunch of tomato and mozzarella salad, and then headed back to change bags and do some painting by the Tiber.  I managed to get a quick painting done that was not to my liking so rather than sending it floating down the river, I just headed back to do some prep work for tomorrow's outing -- confirming my passage to Pompeii.  <3 

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Day Two - Rome

Day Two - Rome

I started off the day rather miserably, with no sleep, which was a drag.  I had left the one outdoor balcony door of my room open for air the day before, and I was pretty much attacked by mosquitoes the night before, making for a sleepless frustration.  But, that would not dampen my enthusiasm, so rather than wrestle with sleep that wouldn't arrive, I showered and headed out extra early.  

First, a delicious cappuccino and an apricot roll and then I headed to Spanish stairs area.  Even early, it was mobbed, so I went by it and admired all the local architecture, and just roamed about the area, enjoying the atmosphere, sketching the local architecture, and soaking up the morning breezes.  I was able to hop a bus and see some really nice architecture in Jewish quarter, and around the City Hall areas as well.

I wandered the city until about 1 pm, then headed over to Colosseo stop on the Metro, as I had scheduled to join a 3 hour tour of the Colosseum and Palantine grounds.  I made a quick stop in a cafe for some iced tea and a light lunch of a small antipasto dish with some salami, olives, interesting cheeses and headed to the Colosseum.  It was now close to 2 pm, and it was a nearly a mob scene of vendors, and thousands of selfie taking tourists in every direction.  Not one to be left out, I decided to take my biannual selfie in front of the Coliseum too! 

The sun was blazing hot and I could see the discomfort on many faces -- and even though I had prepped for it, with sunblock, glasses, hat, and my shoulders covered, the light was nearly blinding, and so intense, it was making my sunglasses fog with moisture behind the lenses.  I dipped into one of the shady spots along the long walls of the grounds, and waited to meet up with my group.  The guide arrived promptly, and was a very thorough and entertaining older gentlemen, who spoke in great detail of the history of the Colisseum and the origins of Rome itself.  He navigated us through searches and metal dectectors almost as thorough as the airport to enter the Coliseum (and again at Palantine) and then we were able to enjoy the grounds.  There were many schools there  that day, and the kids, initially boisterous and happy, became quiet and drained after a while, all sitting flushed in the alcoves of shade the porticos of the ancient ruins offered. 

By 5 pm I was also ready to keel over, and joined the groups of quiet kids sitting about snoozing in the shade, or sipping at bottles of ice water sold for a Euro by the numerous vendors.  I was more than ready to start heading back to the Vaticano area, as much as I enjoyed the tour, just to escape the heat.  I headed into the Metro, and back toward Vaticano.  The Metro system is excellent here, one of the better ones I've ridden in a while, and is surprisingly clean, not overly crowded, and very affordable at 1.5 Euro for.a single ride, or 7 Euro for a an unlimited 24 hour pass. 

Dinner time was approaching and I hadn't made a decision so I stopped off at a local cafe and enjoyed an chicken "insalata" because after the brutal heat, the idea of putting anything warm inside my mouth was shudder inducing.  I had a nice homebrewed iced tea limon and I began to meander my way back to my pensione.  I was flushed, and decided to head in early to shower off the heat of the day.  After I did that, I had some plans to head back out and wander a bit -- which never happened, because the heat and sunburn and no sleep of the night before caught me, and I basically passed out cold haha waking up 7 hours later, which brings me to now :-) -- 4 a.m. In Roma.  A new day :-)

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Day One - Rome

Day One: Rome.

The "Eternal City" certainly lives up to its name.  The amount of preserved antiquities here is overwhelming!  It is just fantastic.

I started the day off early, with some cappucino and a sweet roll, and off I went, armed with nothing but my little map and my good luck charm from Noelle and Michaela --not even any wifi, as my phone was useless at this point except as a camera.  But, that didn't deter me.  I had a good plan and felt confident I could pull it off.

I took the metro at Cipro (right by the Vatican where I'm staying) and took it into the main Termini of the city, where I changed lines and headed to the Coliseum and the surrounding area.  The first thing that greeted me when I exited the subway was the Coliseum, and it was so huge in the bright sunlight -- it was very impressive.  I just stood there for a moment, amazed by it, while teems of people swirled by me.  It was stunning.  The surrounding area is just a marvel of beauty and history.  Palantine Hill, and then to the Circus Maximus -- a la Ben Hur.  Just amazing.  From that area, I hopped an open bus for a tour around the city, to see all of the major landmarks within 2 hours.  It was a great way to catch a glimpse of them all, and you can hop off at any point, explore, then hop back on, as these buses arrive every 15 minutes.  Pretty cool and not too costly either.  I was able to see so much, and the weather today was fantastic.

After hopping on and off and exploring in different parts of the city, I decided to hit the view of the city from the river, with a cruise on the Tiber.  It was very beautiful and relaxing, with stunning views and gentle cool breezes, until I ended up next to the PERVERT.  Yes, no trip is complete until I have this fun experience.  So, this older gentlemen keeps smiling and moving closer to me, taking photos, all seems innocent.  He bumps me a few times, and keeps creepily brushing his arm down my leg (he is now seated next to me). This is starting to irritate me, so I move away from him.  He inches his chair closer, and then starts taking some photos, and then I hear the shutter going on his camera, and notice he has it tucked under his arm, aimed straight at my BOOBS.  He is taking photos of my boobs.  Now, mind you, I have a tank top and a sweater on.  Like, really???  I catch him and give him a stone cold stare.  He smiles and shrugs like that's not it.  I move down to the end of the boat, and he starts following me, but I give him a nasty look and he stops.  I decided that disembarking at the next stop is probably the best thing to do, and I notice him trailing me -- so I pick up the pace, and go up a set of treacherous stairs, and hop on the first bus waiting, and leave him in the dust.  You never can really avoid these types of weirdos, but you can NOT let them ruin your day.

After ditching the weirdo. I continued on to the Trevi Fountain, which was absolutely gorgeous.  The Spanish stairs were completely mobbed so I decided to just admire them then to get caught in the throng, and then also decided it was time to find an late lunch/earlier dinner.  I headed back to the Vatican area, wandering around, hit the supermarket for a few essentials I forgot to pack, and then settled down with a delicious pasta Parmigiana with ground porciata (pork).  It was delicious, the bread fresh and crusty, and the views from the cafe were nice as well.  I had macchiato and decided to wrap it up as I had some work to get finished too -- so after I take care of that now, I can relax, and maybe head down the 108 steps to the Gelateria for some happiness later on.  It's been an amazing first day and I'm looking forward to tomorrow's adventures! 

Carry on- Beginning Life in Lockdown

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