Saturday, May 8, 2010

We Leave the Boat and Head for Rome

We had to put our luggage out in front of our cabin door by 4:00 am so we put ours out the night before. We were up at 6:00 am to get ready for departure. All during our stay on the ship, whatever we needed was charged to our room card which we received when we boarded. It was like plastic money but now the day of reckoning arrived. In exchange for paying our bill, we received our passports back. All throughout the cruise, whenever we went ashore, we just showed our cabin card to pass through customs which only consisted of one person - we were always just waved through as long as we had that card. As far as I can tell, we never actually exited Spain formally and coming into Italy we were just waved through (no baggage check either).

We chose to brave the trains to reach Rome instead of taking a shuttle bus, much cheaper using the trains. However, we had to roll our luggage to the train station about 0.3 miles and up and down several ramps. Leathem had some knowledge of Italian which helped greatly. He finally sorted through the confusion and got our tickets for a train to Rome. On the way there, I clocked the speed at 100 mph using my iQue with its embedded GPS.

We made it off the train at the right stop (no mean feat) and was then faced with figuring out the Italian subway system to reach a point near our hotel in Rome. After several more ups and downs stairs with all our luggage (ugh!) we boarded the subway. The subway car was covered inside and out with graffiti! How disappointing. As a matter of fact, we saw graffiti everywhere on our way to Rome. The inside of the subway terminal was also covered with graffiti and it's all over Rome too with the exception of the monuments, which at least are kept clean of it.

Exiting the subway station, we had planned on finding the nearest taxi stand (per the guide book) and getting a taxi to our hotel - but that was not to be. We could see no taxi stands (we later found out that there aren't any, you're supposed to just hail a taxi, strike one for the guide book) and the taxis we did see were way too small for the four of us with luggage. With that we decided to roll along to our hotel, but in what direction? The streets of Rome are not laid out at right angles to each other like New York City. It's a very confusing array of streets at all angles, much worse than Paris. We finally gave up on using the map and I got out the iQue,  plugged in the location of the hotel and walked along the street holding the iQue out in front of me, following the purple line on the displayed map and finally reached the hotel (clickly-clack on the cobblestones!)
The hotel did not have an elevator but it did have a very helpful clerk who hauled our bags up the two flights of stairs. Our rooms are very nice and I would recommend the hotel to others, it's Hotel Giardino and it's centrally located,  close to the antiquities of Rome. It also has free WiFi! It's pictured in the photo above, the door is at the far right in the photo.

The first order of business was a ride on a two story bus around Rome just to get a quick overview of the sights. Tomorrow we'll do a walking tour and take lots of  pictures. We had a nice meal at a very small restaurant recommended by our helpful clerk and collapsed in bed. What a tiring day. I wish you guys in the states would take care of the stock market while we're gone!! We leave and everything falls apart!