June 23, 2007

Rome Part II

I didn't reach my hostel til 1am, thanks to the riot caused by Bush's arrival in Rome. I could actually see the riot going on from the bus as we drove into town. Several exits were blocked as the hundreds of police officers decked out in full riot gear tried to control the crowd. I walked to my hostel and checked in, then asked if Charlie and Clay had arrived. The front desk had no record of their reservation, so we had apparently booked two different hostels. I was staying at the Hostel Beautiful, and the receptionist informed me that there was also a Hotel Beautiful just a few blocks away.

In the morning, I had to find the guys. I woke up early in hopes that I could find their hostel before they left for the day. I know Charlie wanted to try to catch mass at the Vatican, so I had to be quick. I first walked down the street that their hotel was on, but I couldn't find it. I did discover an internet cafe however, so I sent them an email stating that I would wait at a specific place in the train station until noon. I waited near track one at Rome's Termini station for about an hour before I decided I should look for the hotel again. It was only a block or two from the station, so I could make it back quickly if I couldn't find it. This time around, I was more successful.

I finally found their hotel, which was on the fourth floor of the building. The exterior sign was quite small and completely overshadowed by another hotel in the same building. I ran up the stairs, still concerned that I might miss them at the train station. When I got to the reception desk, I asked the clerk if they had booked Charlie and Clay. Before he could answer, a young woman who was also standing at the desk, but was a guest, looked at me and asked "Are you Tyler?" She told me that she went out to a bar with the guys the night before and that they waited for me until 2am near the train station. She also said that Charlie and Clay had already left for the day. I asked if they had internet access at that hotel, to which they replied "yes." With that, I thanked the young woman, whom I never saw again, and took off down the stairs. I started back toward the station when I caught what looked to be a familiar face down the street. I yelled out to Charlie, who was standing outside an internet cafe, looking in to where Clay was checking his email.

I was pretty relieved to find them, and it turned out not to be as difficult as my initial fears. They had gone out drinking the night before, so they were in no shape to go to early mass. Charlie told me later that he tried to think of what I would do if I was trying to find them, and sending them an email (virtually the only telecommunication tool we had) would probably be on the list.


We walked many miles the rest of the day, starting at the Colosseum and working our way through the forum. We saw the Pantheon, the Piazza Navona, and the Trevi Fountain before finishing our evening with some traditional Italian pasta and a bottle of wine.

The next day we went to the Vatican, which required a two hour line outside the building, followed by being herded through the actual museum and Sistine Chapel. At some point this day we decided that when people at home asked us about our trip, we'd reply, "Well, it's hot, there's a ton of stairs, and you have to wait in line for everything." Really though, sometimes we walked up stairs, sometimes we waited in line. Sometimes we stood in lines on stairs, or walked up stairs to get in a line. There was a gazillion people most everywhere we went in Rome. Frankly, with the climate of Italy, I'd recommend traveling there in the spring or fall and skipping the summer rush.

On our third day in Rome, we had to fly back to Paris later that evening. We were really tired from the previous two days of walking and line standing, so we went to the fortress that sits in front of the Vatican on the Tiber river. Our intentions were to go inside, but that quickly changed when we realized it would cost 8 euros. That's about $10. I was on a budget as is, and paying a bunch of money for the privilege of climbing a bunch of stairs didn't sound to appealing. Instead we sat in park area near the fort and relaxed for a few hours. Sometimes it's nice just to enjoy the fact that you're on vacation.

The flight back went without incident. On the flight, I met two guys from Notre Dame who were traveling a bit before starting their summer study abroad program. They were a couple years younger than me and were clearly traveling around Europe for the first time. More on them when we get back to Paris.

June 11, 2007

Rome: Part I

After my last post, Charlie and I went to the airport to pick up Clay. His flight arrived after noon so we easily made it to the customs area of the airport that he would have to come through. Charlie and I held up signs for him- mine simply said "Samsonite". Getting back to the city was easy enough, and Charlie couldnt resist but pull a trick on Clay. We gave him an already used Metro ticket. When he tried to put it in the machine, it would read it as invalid and not allow the turnstile to move. We kept telling him to keep trying, saying that he already "broke France" within hours of arrival.

The rest of that afternoon was spent seeing some Paris sights such as Sacre Cour and the Eiffel Tower. This time however, we went to the top. We went right at dusk, so we were able to see from the tower with and without the daylight. At 10 oclock and every hour afterward, the tower sparkles with strobe lights. We watched from the grassy park below.

The next day, we took the RER out to Versailles, which is the famous palace just outside the city. We took the standard tour that included the king and queens living quarters, the rooms and rooms of art and riches, as well as the hall of mirrors. We had to fly to Rome that evening too, so we didnt stay too long.

Charlie and Clay flew separately from me, because I opted for a cheaper flight from a farther airport. The two of them left a little earlier, then I found my way to thebus stop that would take me an hour away to the Beauvais airport. While it was cheaper, taking this alternate flight proved more difficult than I hoped. On top of it being a late flight, the plane was also delayed. I didnt get to the city of Rome until 1 am, at which point I realized that I was booked at a different hostel than the other guys. I found it just fine, but I needed to find a way to catch up to them in the morning. We didnt have cell phones or any other way to quickly get ahold of one another.

Were going to get some food, so ill finish this story later. By the way, this keyboard apparently doesnt have an apostrophe button.

June 07, 2007

First Days in Paris

I arrived in Paris yesterday morning. I was tired from flying, but it wasn't as bad as it was in previous trips. With some help from a walmart brand sleep aid, I managed to get myself to sleep instead of watching the movie. From the Paris airport, which looks like it was built in 1957 and not touched since, i took the RER into the city. Charlie told me to meet him at the St Michael Fountaine so I navigated the metro to that stop. I got there an hour and a half or so before he would be in town from Bordeaux, so I took the time to walk around the neighborhood. From there, I could walk to Notre Dame and the nearby Latin Quarter. Around 11ish, Charlie showed up at the fountain. It was good to see him- he's been in france since january.

From there we took our things to the hostel so we wouldn't have to carry them. We found our hostel near the train station and went inside. I had a booking confirmation page I had printed from the internet booking service. The woman at the desk was completely confused. She had no record of our booking whatsoever. Charlie conversed with her in French and she looked all over for any indication of our reservation. Everything seemed to be done on paper, which made it a bit mystifiying that the hotel would be listed on the internet at all. That hotel was full, so we left and were able to find elsewhere to stay for only a bit more money. I wrote an email to the hostel booking service and they said they'd refund my money.

After getting settled, Charlie took me on a brief tour of the city. We rode the Metro to the Latin Quarter and walked around the island in the middle of the Seine. From there we walked to the Louvre, which is enormous. It was a gorgeous day so we did a lot of walking. We didn't go inside the Louvre because we weren't ready to dedicate the time necessary to really take it in.

We did go to the Arch d Triumph though, which requires an aggressive stair climb. The arch is gigantic. It really stands out along the skyline, and from the top you can look down all nine roads that lead to the circle in which it stands. You can also see down the Champs Elysee.

For dinner, we went to a local grocery store and bought some cheese and ham to make sandwiches with a baguette. Not the most gratifying dinner, but for the price it was a great choice. We also had a couple beers, which was a nice way to relax after a long day. Somehow I stayed awake til 11pm, which was very helpful to adjust to local time.

Today we went first to the Catacombs, which is where the French put a whole bunch of dead bodies that were causing health problems because they were originally put in a mass grave near the city. After walking through hundreds of yards of tunnels, you get to a section of tunnels that are lined with bones. Lots and lots of bones. Thousands of skeletons worth. There are human skulls, femurs and other parts in rows and rows. Many of them are arranged in patterns of crosses or hearts. The tunnels go on and on, with intermittent plaques with french philosophy on death. It's a really strange place, and by far the creepiest place I've ever been.

After grabbing some lunch (chinese), we walked to the eiffel tower. Which is also bigger than I thought... I'm sensing a theme here. We walked below it and through the nearby park. We didn't go up to the top because it's somewhat expensive and requires a long wait in line. We also toured some of the surrounding area. That brings me pretty much up to the moment.

We got a message from Clay saying his flight has been pushed back an hour or two, so instead of him arriving at 1030 as we previously thought, it could be as late as 1230. Even after checking with Air India, his chosen airline, we're still not sure of his arrival time. Him getting in later might hamper our chances of going to Normandy that day as we previously planned. Hopefully we can move some plans around and still get out there before coming back to the states. We'll see.

In other news, I was offered a job at Southeast. I'll need to call them. Hope everything is going well at home. Feel free to email me, I've been able to check it the past two days.