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.