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Tag Archive: Rome

11/2023 Rome and Home

Nepal is exactly halfway around the world from CO (12 time zones) so we could go east or west to get home. We found a repositioning cruise from Rome to NYC for cheap; that made the decision. We finished the Nepal tour and headed to Rome for 5 days before boarding the cruise and setting sail for NYC with planned stops in Naples, Livorno, Cannes, Barcelona, Cadiz, Lisbon, the Azores, Bermuda before finally disembarking in NYC.

We awoke to news of an earthquake in western Nepal around midnight. Mark and Susan slept thru it but Jutta felt it, heard the building creaking, and couldn’t go back to sleep. We headed out at 7 AM to beat the early morning Kathmandu traffic. Kathmandu International Terminal might win for the most chaotic airport we’ve been in.

The airport – where to begin?? Bhaskar dropped the three of us off and we couldn’t even figure out where the lines were to get thru security to get into the terminal building to check-in. We finally found the screen to tell us we needed the B line but Jutta needed to go to the A line. The line was huge! We figured it would take forever but only took 15 minutes. The one long B line broke into 2 security lines just to get into the terminal. After we showed our tickets to prove we were flying, we went through security. The mass chaos is partly caused by people seeing their friends off at the terminal.

After #1 security line, we were in the terminal and had to find the correct Qatar line – flight 649 or flight 653? Thank heavens Mark is tall enough to see signs over everyone’s head! We found the correct Business class line, checked in, got boarding passes, wound our way through the other lines and gaggles of people following the “Immigration” signs and rode our first escalator in 2 weeks after showing our boarding pass at the bottom of the escalator. The disorganized Immigration line at the top of the escalator took 13 minutes.

No gate yet but we went to security #2 which took 16 minutes in a very illogical set up. This one was belts and shoes off, computers, etc. After we cleared security #2 and put our shoes back on, we had our boarding pass stamped to prove we’d been through security #2 and then showed it to some guy 10 feet away in order to get into the gate area. Full employment! 4 people in front of us missed the stamp and had to return to the stamp guy.

Still no gate. We hung out by the TV monitor and met an American woman who was also looking for the gate. She’s from Fort Collins – Police department in Homeless Intervention. She’d done a trek to Everest base camp for 14 days.

We finally had a gate right where we were standing. When the boarding process began (no microphones, just loud voices that were not loud enough), no busses showed up to take us to the plane. We finally got to the plane and even that wasn’t organized. Told us all to line up at the steps at the back door but when we got to the bottom of the steps, that guy saw our Business Class seat and sent us to the front door. Then the flight left about an hour late because of heavy traffic. Huh?? Only one runway at this airport made for a short taxi to takeoff.

The flight landed at Doha about 45 minutes late. We went through security again to move from the A gates to the C gates but only belts taken off. They didn’t care about computers or phones. BTW … there is no one in Doha airport at 2 PM in the afternoon. Rome … here we come in search of a laundromat!

What did we do in Rome? Visited 8 different churches, ate gelato at least 5 times, bought Mark new tennis shoes after he tore the soles on the Nepal hike (Finding large sizes is hard.), did the laundry, bought toothpaste and visited the Italian version of the dollar store. John O and Sue from FC joined us in Rome before we all set sail on the Norwegian Cruise Line Breakaway.

We had perfect weather for the port visits until we got to the Azores. The wind was too bad for the ship to dock. This resulted in 6 sea days in a row from Lisbon to Bermuda.

Mount Vesuvius looming over Naples
Italian vineyards in the Fall
Sue H. and Mark in the hill town
Cafe lattes are a great way to use a cafe toilet and get a caffeine fix at the same time.
Cannes was ready for Christmas
Cadiz, Spain waterfront. I was enjoying the sun on our walk.
Another spot to enjoy the sun.
Monkfish! I have no idea how to cook one.
Cadiz fish market shrimp
More fish in Cadiz
On our stop in Lisbon we took the city bus to Belem just to buy Pasteis de Belem – custard tarts. The cafe has redecorated and gotten way more organized since 2002.
La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona
La Sagrada Familia might be completed by 2030.
Watching the port activity was almost as much fun as seeing the cities. This crane pulled up containers about every 3 minutes.
Port tasting in Lisbon. We didn’t know we enjoyed good port until we lived in Potugal for 3 months.

Our port of disembarkation was New York City. We crawled out of bed at 3:50 AM after the captain said we’d sail past the Statue of Liberty about 4 and joined other passengers whose cabins were also on the wrong side of the ship. It was COLD and WINDY!

First, the ship passed under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge in New York harbor at 4:30 AM.
Lady Liberty at 4:45 AM. We can only imagine what immigrants felt when they finally saw her after a long, uncomfortable trip.
New York City

Everyone asks – How was the cruise? Our answer: This was the first large ship we’ve sailed on (4000 passengers) and it is the last large ship we’ll sail on, voluntarily. Too many people, not enough space to find a quiet place. This particular sailing for NCL was understaffed, food was average at best, the buffet coffee was undrinkable, but it was cheap for 16 days at sea with unlimited drinks (part of the package through Costco). The port stop in Barcelona was long enough to figure out we want to return for a week or so, we tasted port in Lisbon, and we arrived back in the U.S. safely. One of the day tours reminded us that we really don’t enjoy touring with groups of people.

Summary – great 2.5 month trip with only 1 severely delayed flight, good friends, fun places, and a few stories to tell.

More Rome 10/16

I forgot to add a story about not paying attention when you’re walking – no, not me!  At the street corner near our apartment in Rome, the city was repainting the cross walks on the very narrow streets.  A few barricades were set up, an orange truck was parked, 2 guys were painting .. you get the idea.  Everyone was walking around the wet crosswalk, the guys and the truck except for one man, clearly an Italian.  He was about to saunter right into the wet white paint when the Italian workers started yelling at him and waving an arm.  Did this get his attention? Not at first but ,finally, and he managed to avoid the wet paint and paint buckets and sprayers.  I would love to understand the Italian that came out of the painters’ mouths at that point as they shook their heads and looked dumbfounded that the guy was so clueless.

Then I forgot to put this panorama of the line around St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday of the audience.  It’s a bit hard to see but the lines were on both sides of the square – one for individuals and one for tour groups.

panorama line at St. peters

Lines on both sides of St. Peter’s Square for admission to the audience area

5 days in Rome

Rome … the eternal city or so the saying goes.  I’ll preface this posting by saying we’ve been to Rome four or five times at various times of the year – May, June, January and now October.  January was definitely the least busy as far as visitors go.  We thought May and June were busy but this visit tops them all.  Rome was crammed with visitors from all over the world.  We heard people speaking every language we can identify and a few we can’t.

The prior visits also mean we’ve been to all the “must see” locations – Coliseum, Forum, Vatican Museum, St. Peter’s, Pantheon – and didn’t HAVE to see them again.  Now on to our stories …

We both love seeing St. Peter’s Basilica. The size is awe inspiring, both inside and out, and the sculptures and altars are amazing. I always stop and consider how much time and money went into building it.

rome st peters at night

St. Peter’s Square is nice and quiet at night

One night we walked up to St. Peter’s Square at night and enjoyed the quiet.

The next afternoon we wandered past about 1:30 PM on the way back to our apartment and the line to get in was the longest we’ve ever seen – wrapped around the square clockwise.  We can’t figure out where all the people are coming from!  I would have been upset if that day was my only chance to see St. Peter’s and I had to stand in line for an hour or more.

Part of the problem is that everyone has to go through a metal detector and at any one time they may only have 4 or 5 open. The line moves pretty fast but we had no intention of standing in that line.

We looked on the Vatican website to find out that St. Peter’s opens at 7 AM. It seemed like such a good idea – be at St. Peter’s when it opened at 7 AM Wednesday morning.  To be fair to the Vatican, their website did say the Pope has an audience on Wednesday at 10 but no mention of any restrictions to St. Peter’s.

St. Peter's Square empty

The square was completely empty except for security before the Pope’s audience. Check out the little truck going down the steps of St. Peter’s.

We woke up at 6:30 AM, dressed, walked over to the Vatican just to see a long line, lots of Carabinieri, seats set up, bomb sniffing dogs, etc. We joined the line on the right side of the square, believing the Vatican website that says St. Peter’s opens at 7 AM. After standing in line for a bit, we noticed that the line wasn’t moving and no one was going into the church. And did I mention the tour groups showing up? As in lots of tour groups who were all funneled to their own line on the left side of the square.

The vendors were out in force selling rosaries, medals, whatever. They trolled the lines selling their goods. We checked the boundaries of the Vatican and they are clearly selling in Rome – no restrictions, it appears!

When the line moved at 7:40, we all were sent to a line a metal detectors (8 or 9 of them lined up) and saw people running to the chairs after they cleared security.  We went through the metal detectors, slowly sauntering our way nearer to the church. We finally asked some nice Italian police what was going on? Turns out the Pope was saying Mass or having his audience (a bit lost in translation) outside at 10 AM (it’s now about 8 AM) and St. Peter’s will not open until after the audience – about noon or 1 PM.  Since we had no intention of sitting for 2 hours to wait for the audience to even start, we bailed out. It explained why everyone was running – they wanted seats up front!

rome crowd Wed for audience

This was the line along the side of St. Peter’s that we went against to NOT go to the audience.

Getting OUT of St. Peter’s was just as hard as getting in – even following the EXIT signs. They led us to a long line of people who wanted in while we wanted out.  We finally made it out – lots of “Excuse me’s” -and stopped at McDonald’s for coffee and an Egg McMuffin. That McDonald’s may be the safest place in Rome – across the street from a Polizia station and the police all get their coffee and sweets in McDonald’s!

One idea for the Vatican – assign someone to keep the website updated with a few more details about opening and closing times!

St. Peter's Square at 7 AM is quiet when it's not audience day.

St. Peter’s Square at 7 AM is quiet when it’s not audience day.

This was the line at 9 AM when we came out of St. Peter’s.

The next day we tried the St. Peter’s thing all over again. This time, the line was just 20 minutes long to get through the metal detector at 7 AM.  One disadvantage of coming early is many priests saying Mass all over the church so some sections were blocked off. The basilica is still impressive, especially at 7:00 A.M.  when not many tour groups are around.

Again, we had coffee at McDonald’s and this time we sat by three American seminarians and eavesdropped on their conversations about coffee/espresso/café Americano and the seminars and shadowing they needed to do. I wonder what they would have done if I asked them what they are studying in Rome?

Keep reading … There’s more to come!