By the Way…

Did I mention that one of the guys who gave me his phone number that crazy day in Rome also asked for mine? We were on the same flight to Rome. He sat behind me. His name is Giovanni (of course it is). He’s actually American. Raised in SACRAMENTO. Now living in Texas. (Helloooo random!? Gotta love it!). He was flying to Rome that day with his business partner – they were going out to their Art Gallery in Assisi. Seriously.

Anyway, like I said, he got my phone number after giving me his card (actually made me dig through my bag to get it…) and when I got home from my trip I had both an email and a voicemail from him. Apparently he’s going to be flying out to Sacramento tomorrow…
He was cute. And nice. And funny. And I know nothing else about him! But how much do I LOVE the idea of a guy with an Art Gallery in Italy? Take a wild flipping guess.
I’m well aware how ridiculous my life sounds right now. This is crazy.

Scotland, Part Deux

Sunday night, I turned in and quickly found myself completely wound up and unable to sleep. I think it was a combination of things – the time difference, excitement and unsettlement about Ireland (Mary was unexpectedly called into work during the time we were going to go to Ireland – so I wasn’t sure what to do)… so I hopped online and started looking at the different airlines’ deals on airfare. Airfare in the UK/Europe is CHEAP. Especially if you book in advance. There are tons of low-budget airlines (kind of like Southwest) – ie: RyanAir, BMI, EasyJet, which sometime have specials on flights as killer as 5 Euro for a flight! (And sometimes you can get fares tax-free too!).
I had narrowed my choices down to Turkey, Greece, Majorca, Spain or Morocco. About that time, my friend Amy appeared online and we started chatting. She was ready to hop on a plane and come on out! LOL. (She’s a travel nurse between contracts, so had a bit of time on her hands). Well, nothing was really working out in a way either she or I was comfortable with, so we didn’t settle anything that night. We decided to wait until the next night and figure it out. No biggie. (ha!)

Monday we went into Glasgow. I was so exhausted at this point from Jetlag and from not sleeping on Sunday night (AT ALL) that I was zoned out with a stomach ache and talking babble (says Mary!)… We ate at a dive of a pub called Fat Boab’s (pronounced Fat Bobs).

My lunch at Fat Boabs – Minced Beef and Mash. Looks gross – but was pretty tasty!

Look how crazy my eyes look! That’s what sleep deprivation and jet lag does to me.

We drove around Glasgow a bit and then went back to Mary & Luis’ flat.
Gotta love Glasgow’s version of the Apple Store!
That evening, I tried to figure out an itinerary with Amy. I was back and forth between just throwing in the towel and going to Ireland on my own and trying to make Rome work (by then, I was pretty sure that I wanted to go to Rome the most, and Amy found a fantastic deal on a last-minute, round-trip ticket from SFO [$550]. By this point, I was a blathering idiot. Nothing made sense to me anymore and I was quite upset. I nearly booked a flight to Rome from London (not remembering that I was actually in Glasgow and wouldn’t have time to make it to London for that flight!) So we didn’t resolve anything again because I just couldn’t function. Sorry Amy! I had to call it a night and I completely crashed – slept for 12 hours straight!

The next morning, I felt considerably better. And I felt much calmer about the whole situation. Rome was a peaceful decision to make and I was very happy with it. So I gave Amy a call at 8am – midnight back in California. Woke Amy up (she had instructed me to!) and as soon as her head cleared, we both booked our flights to Rome and I booked a hostel. Four hours later, she was on her way to the airport and off to meet me! I LOVE having great travel friends who work the same way I do… gotta love spur of the moment things that work out.

That settled, Tuesday, Mary and I went in to Edinburgh (pronounced Edinbra, with a rolled R). We went via train – East Kilbride to Glasgow and then Glasgow to Edinburgh.

Edinburgh is a GORGEOUS old city! It’s just so… SCOTTISH!  There were statues of dudes in Kilts and castles and cold, damp, overcast weather. It was a perfect day in Scotland! 

Statue of a dude in a Kilt.

Along the Royal Mile.

Fun house mirrors! mmmm… flattering!

Mary and I took off up the hill towards the main castle, Edinburgh Castle. There are two Castles in Edinburgh – Edinburgh castle and the Queen’s Castle. One is at the top of the Royal Mile and the other at the bottom. It’s a pretty cool set-up. Both castles are at least still partially in use by Royalty and government to this day. 

A Scottish Ballerina… hehehe.

We had a blast touring Edinburgh Castle and even got to see the Crown Jewels. Mary, always so curious and congenial, struck up a great conversation with the guard in the crown jewel room and he took it upon himself to give us a great, detailed guide of the jewels, swords and stone of destiny (which is still used at every coronation of royalty – it is put in a compartment under the throne during the coronation so that the person being crowned can sit on it). Pretty cool. No crown Jewel pix, however, as you’re not allowed to photograph them!
After Edinburgh Castle, we headed down the Royal Mile towards the Queen’s Castle.

You just can’t go to Scotland without getting a photo with a bagpiper!

We stopped off for Lunch at a great little Pub! This time it was Fish and Chips, which also came with Mashed Peas. A very proper Scottish Lunch – and VERY Tasty, fresh fish. Yum!

Mary outside our Lunch Pub – The Deacon Brothers’ Tavern

And then we were off again on foot toward the Queen’s Castle.

We found this gorgeous little cemetary covered in pink blossoms. Kodak Moment!

Back on Sunday I purchased a Scottish Trust pass to get me into the Castles and Attractions we were planning on visiting. It was a better deal to buy the pass than pay for the attractions separately. Well, once we arrived at the Queen’s Castle, we found out that it wasn’t actually included in the pass I’d bought! Sad! We opted not to pay an extra 10 Pounds to see the castle and just walked around the perimeter snapping photos instead. (I don’t know about you, but Scotland’s bonny history isn’t at the top of my scintillating list of fun… for Castles I’d go to France, Ireland… places with a bit more romance!)

The Queen’s Castle

A Beautiful Bluff sits along the back of Edinburgh, covered in those Yellow flowers…
Then we made our way back to the train station and headed on home!
Went to bed at a decent hour (after watching “A Good Year” with Russell Crowe, to prep for Rome [even though it’s set in Provence… lol]) and then off to the Airport for Rome on Wednesday!

The Rest of My Glorious Day in Roma!

After arriving at the Piazza di Capidoglio, we spent a few minutes, snapped more photos and then continued on past the other side of the Forum and on to the Colosseum…
There were amazing buildings, statues, obelisks and monuments in any direction. There was so much to look at that you just couldn’t see everything! Everywhere there was another archaeological area, a ruin, etc… There were also a few people out there “Busking” – or begging/street performing for money.
Some of them were very entertaining:
Finally we made it up to the Colosseum. I have to say – it’s stunning. Simply amazing.
It’s huge and the detail awe-inspiring. Everywhere outside of the Colosseum there are people trying to sell you guided tours, food vendors and HOT Italian men dressed up like gladiators that charge you to take a photo with them. (Amy was inspired by this to want to marry an Italian and have Gladiator night…) We opted to skip the guided tour (25 Euro extra) and wait in the line. We decided to go for the audio tour (it got us through the line WAY faster and only cost an extra 4 Euro). Well, first of all, the audio tour thingy was REALLLLLLLLY dang boring. It’s kind of a buzz-kill too. The voiceover is really boring and monotonous and just conflicted with the feel of the actual Colosseum. So we shut them off and just wandered. I’m sure there was some fantastic information on those audio tours, but much of what we heard is practically common knowledge. So we spent a good chunk of time just walking around, admiring, taking photos, enjoying the sheer majesty and epic architecture/engineering that is the Colosseum. Fantastic.
Oh, FYI – before leaving the Colosseum, we used the toilet. That’s right, we peed in the Colosseum. Pretty cool.
HUNGER! That’s what happens when you haven’t eaten in a while. I’m not going to lie – we ate a couple of hours prior – a nice fruit snack, so I wasn’t ravenous, but considering we were in ITALY I decided to suck it up, take one for the team and go ahead and eat.
We took the gentleman who we ran into at the top of the Forum’s advice and found his ristorante (Cafe Le Numacchia, which means “Sea Battle”) tucked away a few blocks behind the Collosseum. We had delicious pasta again! This time I had Bucatini pasta… yummm… And then something ensued that was probably one of my favorite adventures of my entire life. Truly. An Italian man sat behind me and Amy became obsessed with the color of his eyes. Blue, but light, glassy grey-blue. Gorgeous. Eventually she took a couple of photos of him, trying to get the color. Of course he came up to us and asked to see the photos! Push came to shove and we ended up with a bottle of Italian Wine as a gift from him (see previous blog post “Adventures with a Bottle of Vino). :)
Full, fat and happy again, we decided it was definitely nap time. Headed to the nearest park and parked it overlooking the Colosseum on a grassy hill.
Now refreshed, we decided to get back to the serious business of being tourists. By this point, I was REALLLLLY ready to hop on a scooter, but alas we couldn’t find a scooter rental place, or catch a couple of hot guys with them to take us for a spin. :( Maybe I should have called the guy from the previous night? …Nah.
We had some priority sights to see: The Colosseum (Check), The Forum (Check), The Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain and Pantheon. Vatican City we’d hit up if we weren’t too pooped after those five. We’d mapped out what looked like a good route, but unfortunately the map was really not that great. So we started walking and just kept walking. We eventually ended up at the Spanish Steps (which we’d expected to see after the Trevi Fountain).
There’s not much actual ancient history to the Spanish Steps – they were built to connect the Piazza di Spagna to the church above. In the 1800’s or 1900’s, some author came along and said the steps were “THE” place to go to socialize and people-watch. They are featured in the film “Roman Holiday.” Amy and I grabbed some Gelato and sat down on the steps to read about them in our guide book.
While we were doing this, we heard a group of people below us, cheering! We stood up to see a couple in a horse-drawn carriage surrounded by a crowd. The guy had just proposed to the girl. After receiving his answer, he raised his arm with his hand curled in a fist and shook it, victorious! The crowd erupted into cheers and then everyone promptly went their way.
Another highlight was this adorable little Italian, curly-haired boy (age three-ish who kept running around us (and accidentally[?] grabbed Amy’s boob in passing. Italian men. LOL.)
Next up we looked for the Trevi Fountain… this is where we actually got lost. Plus we were exhausted and not really thinking straight. We went WAY too far and ended up at the Piazza del Popolo (Place of the People), which was also gorgeous, just not the desired target. Turned around and headed back down Via del Corso and found The Pantheon!
HOLY…. The Pantheon. Another building that shows just how incredible Roman builders were. The scale, size… Che Belleza! Astounding. It was originally built by the Romans as a temple to worship all of their gods (hence the name Pantheon), but it was taken over by Christians later and turned into another Christian church. To this very day, it’s free-standing domed roof and oculus remain an unparalleled feat of architecture.
A really cool, public fountain outside of the Pantheon

Same fountain – if you plug the bottom, the water squirts up, making a drinking fountain! Ingenious!
Three coins in the Fountain! Another great old film. It features the Trevi Fountain. Legend says that if you throw a coin into the Fountain, you will return again to Rome. Well I definitely couldn’t miss that! If I had my way, I’d never again leave Rome.
After the Pantheon, we came full circle back to the Piazza di Campidoglio. The sun was just starting to peak at Sunset. We hadn’t yet decided what do to – we were exhausted. We wanted to see Rome at night, all lit up, but didn’t know if we would make it that long, especially given that it would take an hour to get back to our Hostel and I had a flight to catch in the morning. Blast! So, not sure what to do and in a sleep-deprived stupor, we sat on the steps, laid back and took a nap with a bunch of other people in the Piazza. When in Rome!
One particularly cute little kid was having trouble sleeping:
You’d better believe I’m going back. As soon as I can! I loved London. I loved Paris. I’ve enjoyed the beauty of many cities, from San Francisco to Saint Petersburg. But Rome puts them all to shame. There’s so much more to see and do. It’s simply my niche. I could live there quite easily. Maybe I will.

Scotland! Part 1

Amidst all of the Jet-lag and being swept away by Rome, I’ve neglected to blog about my FABULOUS time in Scotland… Truly, Scotland is gorgeous and I had great adventures with Mary and Luis – Thanks so much guys! You rock!
So I know that the blogs about my vacation are now officially all wonky – completely out of order, but here goes anyway:
I arrived in London on the 25th of April, after flying all night and losing 8 hours. I went through customs, immigration, collected my fantastic backpacking pack (seriously, I love traveling with a backpack instead of a suitcase!) and then proceeded back to the airport check-in, checked in for my flight to Glasgow and was off again! Glasgow is part of the UK, so I didn’t have to go through immigration again (yay!), but I did get another lovely stamp in my passport. And off I went! Mary’s husband Luis picked me up and took me to their flat. Mary was at work for a few more hours. So I got settled in and had a chance to get to know Luis, who is just lovely! He made some dinner and then we went and picked up Mary from work. Yay! I’ve known Mary now for eight years. We first met on the MS Maasdam, where we both worked with the kids. Since then we’ve kept in touch and have even been roommates at one point in Utah. I ADORE Mary! She has the best attitude about life and is just a completely wonderful person. And to top it all off, she’s absolutely gorgeous and ridiculously photogenic. Killer combo!
We spent the evening catching up, chatting, watching british tele and just having fun!
Sunday the 26th of April, after going to church with Mary and Luis (and meeting some more fantastic people whilst enjoying a “Come to Jesus” kind of Sunday in her ward), we went to a cute little ruined castle called Bothwell Castle. It was just outside of East Kilbride, where they live. It was beautiful! After touring the inside of the castle, we took a country walk on a path down by the river. What an day!
Spring in Scotland is later than everywhere else! Bothwell Castle in the distance.
Mary & Luis

We found the Toilet

Busy doing touristy things!

Off on our Country Walk

How often do you get a chance to frolick in a field of bluebells?

Great little church we found on the way home back through East Kilbride

Adventures With a Bottle of Vino

The Italians love their wine. This is a well-known fact. For them, wine is as much a part of the day as air or water. And so it is given and received as measures of hospitality, as tokens and show of affection, appreciation – always appropriate in Italian Culture.

Yesterday in Roma, Amy (my travel companion) and I met an Italian man at lunch named Adriano (of course it is!). He stopped an chatted (flirted) with us a while and then apologized because he has to leave in order to make it home to Firenze (Florence) in time for his next appuntamento (appointment). We said goodbye and finished our lunch. Just as we exited the restaurant he pulls up in his car, rolls down the window and hands over a bottle of wine!
So although he was in a terrible rush (Italian style), before we had finished our meal and exited the restaurant, he managed to purchase a bottle of wine and drove by in his car just as we emerged to hand it to me. “It is a beautiful, light, wine, very nice. Keep it cool, drink it slowly. Enjoy your travels. Buona passegiata. Ciao.”

We thanked him, waved as he drove away in the Italian manner- tranformed from the easy going guy into the guy, who like all Italians on the road, is the sole proprietor of said road.
This morning as I rose from my very comfortable bed in my ridiculously lush hostel (oxymoron, I know, yet true!) I had a very difficult time of shaking off the sleep. It’s been a long and wonderful week filled with beautiful experiences and a lot of travel! I’m tired!

I packed up my backpacks (large frame pack and smaller day pack) and made my way to the airport via taxi. (May 1 is like labor day in Italy so as much as I would have preffered to take a bus (1,20 €) they simply were not running.) Anyhow, I arrived, checked in and shlupped myself to the security check, where a guard informed me with a smile that I had a bottle of vino in my carry-on backpack which was not allowed. Panic!
The security fellow suggested I go and get my checked bag, insert said bottle of vino in checked bag and then come back to the security checkpoint (which he would arrange or me to go through without waiting on the line again) or I would have to disopse of it. He really wanted me to keep it. In fact, he was most accommodating and encouraging – and I felt very keenly the need to keep my Italian trophy! And so I went back to the check-in-counter where, when I presented my request to the check-in Woman, I encountered the famous Italian Woman’s glare. It is a formidable thing!!

Here is how you get around it- you need a bit of gusto. Stand your ground. When said Italian woman is done glaring disdainfully at you, she will do what she can to help (despite the obviously terrible inconvenience you have caused her. Once things are shaping up, be very grateful – immediately – that she has been so gracious and accomodating.
After a few phone calls, my bag was waiting at baggage claim no. 9 – almost immediately. How’s that for service?
My next problem was getting into he bagage claim area. If you have traveled internationally, you know that the baggage claim is beyond an impenetrable wall of one way doors meant only to be exited by passengers finished with their itineraries. I knew that. But che buffo! I’m an akward Americana! I snuck in anyway. Only in Italy would they simply stop you and send you to the right place. In the states you’d be detained and interrogated! I was sent through another security check where I was explained to by two confused Italian gate guards that what I was doing was not allowed. It my best Italian-ish I explained my piccolo problema an motioned that my bag was waiting for me at baggage claim nove, 9. One fellow picked up my bottle of wine and tenderly examined it with a smile in his eyes. The guards reluctantly said ok but they needed to keep the vino with them. LOL. Whatever. Grabbed my bag, the wine, ran back up to the check in desk and re-checked the bag.
Presto. Hopped on my plane and headed back to London.
Only in Italy would everone understand the importance of a bottle of wine.
Now – If only I drank.

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