Friday, September 21, 2007

2007 Vacation in Rome

Just like I did last year for our trip to Greece I’m gonna write a short diary about our vacation in Rome. Don’t expect any high class literary attempts, just brief ideas, routes and points of interest, and of course my comments on the side.

Sunday, September 9

- it’s not a surprise that we weren’t ready to leave in the morning, it always happens like that with us
- dad still had some things to take care of and had said he’d be home at noon, but we all know he’s never on time whenever he needs to be somewhere and mom didn’t hurry with the packing so when he showed up around 1 PM all the stuff was still spread all around the living room
- two carry on suitcases, from which one was packed with food, and one backpack with two cameras and all sorts of chargers for them and the cell phones – for once we managed to travel light
- at the sight of the suitcases the cat became very upset and glared at us knowing she was going to be left alone and then she climbed into my lap and refused to leave
- with a little effort we managed to leave the house at 3 PM.
- shoved the luggage into the truck from the inside of the car because the truck can’t be opened since the accident last summer, yep, we still haven’t fixed it, shrug, dad hasn’t had time to take it to the garage
- although there is an airport in our town and also another one two hours away we have decided so late on our vacation dates that we only found plane tickets from Bucharest
- the first part of the ride was fine cause it’s the same route we use to go to my grandma but the rest was long and boring, there are four lines and the road goes through less villages but all you see around for hours it’s just empty fields, not interesting at all
- we arrived at my cousin a bit after 9 PM, spent about an hour crossing Bucharest and in spite of the late hour there weren’t many lights on in many parts of the town
- she and her family were expecting us with a big and yummy dinner, must remember to ask her the recipe for that wonderful cake, and then we watched some of the photos they took during their vacation in Croatia before going to bed at midnight

Monday, September 10

- our flight was leaving at 6 AM, groan, so we had to wake up at 3:30 AM, my stomach was still processing the dinner from the previous evening
- little brother, Alex, hadn’t slept at all but spent those hours playing on the PC with my cousin’s daughter and he was very much awake while we were more like sleepwalking
- my cousin took us to the airport where we, or at least I, froze to death as we waited to go to the plane
- inside the waiting room we met with Alex’s piano teacher who was leaving on honeymoon to Barcelona, my parents had been to her wedding the previous weekend
- the flight was okay, my ears didn’t hurt, yey!, and for once it wasn’t constantly clouded and I could see something other than whipped cream outside the window, saw my first sunrise there
- getting out of the plane was a bit more complicated but the driver sent by the agency was still waiting for us when we retrieved our luggage at the Ciampino airport
- it didn’t matter that he looked like a bad combination of Charlie Chaplin and a scarecrow and he spoke almost no English he took us to the right address and he was driving a Mercedes which I liked
- on the way to the apartment I had to call the owner, thanks to my cousin who had opened the roaming system for us that morning cause dad had forgotten about it and when he remembered it was too late in the evening to do it, and I told the owned we were on our way cause someone, not me, forgot to read the papers sent by the agency which stated we had to contact the owner before arriving and once we entered the country
- the apartment was situated in Via del Cardello, we could see the Colosseum up the street, inside an interior yard that had an old not working fountain on a wall
- it had one big room with a kitchen corner and a small bathroom on the groundfloor and a bedroom and another bathroom upstairs; minor problem, we couldn’t walk barefoot inside the living room because we got black feet from the stuff the floor was painted with
- the owner was there still arranging things, she’s a nice lady with a poor English but who likes to speak a lot, luckily for us Italian is similar to Romanian so we understood most of it
- after she gave us the keys and left we ate a nice breakfast made with the food we had brought with us, mind you we arrived at the apartment around 9 AM, and then being very tired we slept for a couple of hours, me included even if I never sleep during the day unless I am sick and I mean really sick
- at 2 PM we went out to inspect the surroundings
- we had barely passed around the corner and we already heard a couple of girls speaking Romanian
- we had only intended to be a slow walk but until evening we managed to visit about a quarter of the interest points from the old city
- the route was something like this: out on Via Cavour, to the back of Santa Maria Maggiore church, to Piazza della Repubblica, Santa Maria degl Angeli ei Martiri (really liked this one), San Carlo Quattro Fontane (the four fountains in the corners of the streets were kinda dirty), by Quirinal Palace, seen the parade, to Fontana di Trevi, and then to the Fontane dei Tritone, and to the Spanish Steps and to Piazza d’Espagna (both places were very crowded)
- finally made it home close to midnight, ate and fell dead tired into bed, all three of them actually cause we unfolded both couches from the living room
- forgot to mention the TV wasn’t working, which wasn’t such a bad thing, and little brother had a small problem with the faucets upstairs and as a result water started to drip from the living room’s ceiling; the event didn’t repeat after that, but we soon discovered there was hot water only for one person to shower
- high fever at night caused by the morning cold and relfux due to the change of the bed

Tuesday, September 11

- my parents woke up early and left the ‘kids’ to sleep while they went to the market to get some vegetables and juices; I like their tomatoes better than ours but the fruit juices all taste like chemicals
- then it was time for cooking, we couldn’t figure out how the big oven worked and had to settle for the small one and the stove; what was important was that the fridge worked, though I’ve never seen ice cubs so big, they wouldn’t fit inside the glass if you can imagine something like that
- it was the day for historic discoveries, we went to Victor Emanuel Mausoleum and the Roman Forums
- the boys went to take some more photos in the ruins while mom and I explored Piazza Venezzia and the surroundings while cursing them for taking them so long
- we went to Area Sacra where we ate ice cream on sticks from a box on the borders of the ruins
- we arrived at the Pantheon along with the sunset, just in time when they were turning on the lights; I wonder what they do with the rain and snow that fall inside through that huge hole in the ceiling
- the evening ended in Piazza Navona, I was disappointed to see the Fontane dei Quatro Fiumi was covered being in the process of being renovated
- back home with a stop to Alberto Sordi Galleries, eat and sleep

Wednesday, September 12

- mom cooked in the morning so once again it was late when in the day when we went back to Victor Emanuel Mausoleum and from there to Piazza Campidoglio to see the Capitoliu
- to Marcelus Theatre and from there to Campo di Fiori but when we arrived there it was late, the market was closed and only the flower stands were left
- just like last year when I had left my sweater at home and it was cold one evening when we were far from the hotel and I had to go buy a sweater now I had to enter a drugstore and get painkillers for my tummy when I had all the pills I needed at the apartment
- walked around to see Farnesse Palace, on to Via Giulia which I didn’t like, to Spada Palace, back to Villa Farnessina, on to Ponte Sant’ Angelo, seen Sant’ Angelo Castle and walked to the Vatican entrance then back to the bridge and on to the Coronari street to Piazza Navona
- seen Trevi Fountain by night, lovely, and the Spanish Steps
- back to Campo di Fiori where mom treated us with pizza because it was her birthday
- returned home on Via dei Fori Imperiali and sleeep

Thursday, September 13

- cooking in the morning, more fried turkey and baked potatoes
- this day was reserved to see the Vatican
- we started on the wrong street and ended up in Piazza del Popolo instead
- visited one of the twin churches, the other one was closed, then went on Via Rippeta, to Ara Pacis to get to the bridge
- made it to the Vatican and although we had been warned it could take hours to get in the line moved rather quickly
- the boys wanted to see the cupola so we separated and went straight into St. Peter Church, where we got to visit the inside museum too which they missed; lovely angel statue in there and the first pair of elephant tusks I’ve ever seen; the entire square and church are huge but so well proportioned that you don’t really realise just how big they are; wasn’t too impressed by the interior of the church, the gray marble made it look old and dirty, I would have expected given the fact that it’s such a symbol for the Catholic church and considering how much money they have to have the building all bright and shiny
- when we got out it was too late to visit the Vatican museum so we ate our sandwiches on the Vatican steps and then returned into the city
- after crossing the bridge we entered St. Giovanni dei Fiorentini Church and then walked on the streets some more, Piazza Navona, Piazza d’Espagna, etc. and back home on Via dei Fiori Imperiali
- on the way back we ran into several street vendors who sold handbags and mom got herself a small white purse, not leather and definitely not Prada like it says on the label
- yummy turkey for dinner

Friday, September 14

- mom and dad went to the market again for grocery shopping; they also got me a sweater, not ugly but I already have one the same color
- I called the agency to remind them about our trip to airport on Monday morning and they said everything was arranged
- made it to Campo di Fiori in time to visit the market, wasn’t too impressed, obviously targeting tourists and apparently more expensive than the one where my parents did their shopping
- for the second time to the Vatican to visit the museum this time
- once again split from the boys and did our own tour of the museum and seen more than they did since they wasted a lot of time with their photos, seen the statues gallery, the Sistine Chapel, Raphael’s stamps, the maps gallery, Borgia apartment and Raphael’s painting
- the Sistine Chapel was horribly crowded with people and paintings on the walls too; I found the museum much more interesting than St. Peter Church, my favorite from all the things I’ve seen would be the gallery corridors with their painter ceilings
- returned on Viale Giulio Cesare which looked good on the map but not so good in reality, there were no stores and that was the last day for sales
- went through Piazza dei Popoli again
- I wanted to see Villa Medici and started to it but ended in Piazza d’Espagna instead
- went to see Piazza dei Republica, it looks fabulous with all the lights on, and visited Termini Station

Saturday, September 15

- time to see the things we’ve missed
- started on the wrong foot because St. Pietro in Vincoli was already closed when we got there
- went to Santa Maria Maggiore, San Giovanni in Laterano, seen the interior yard too, Arco di Dolabella, Santi Giovanni e Paolo, there was a wedding taking place and we had to wait for the people to leave the church, too bad the lights were already off when we entered as there were over 30 chandeliers inside, I’ve counted 17 on just one side
- went along Circus Maximus, which is only an empty field now covered with empty plastic bottles, wanted to go to Santa Maria in Cosmedin but it had just closed when we arrived there so we saw Bocca dela Verita through the fence and then ate our sandwiches in the piazza out front looking at Fontana dei Tritoni, Portunus Temple, Hercule Temple and Janus Arch
- the evening we spent on the other side of the river in Trastevere
- we entered Santa Maria in Trastevere Church in the middle of the Catholic mass, loved the singing, it’s not like that in our orthodox churches at all
- bought one kilo of ice cream, walked some more on the streets and then went home

Sunday, September 16

- we sent the boys out alone to finish with their damn photos and we waited for the apartment’s owner to give her back one set of keys
- mom and I went on our own route: to San Pietro in Vincoli to see Michelangelo’s Moise statue because we knew the boys must have been there that morning, then mom saw a sign for another church so we started that way but didn’t see it anywhere so we went back through Domus Aurea to get to the Colosseum, got lost for a bit inside Fiori Imperiali among the ruins until we made it back to Piazza Venezzia; from there we had another bit of trouble finding Via Nationale at Traianus Column but eventually arrived to Piazza Republica, visited Santa Maria dei Angeli e Martiri, to the Quattro Fontane and the Spanish Steps only that we ended on top in stead of the bottom, to Trevi Fountain, and finally to Piazza Rotonda where we met with the boys at the Pantheon
- heard so many people speaking Romanian and those weren’t tourist, they were working there and had the day off
- we ate our regular cheese and meat sandwiches, then got an ice cream and went to say goodbye to the bridges planning to go out by the Justice Palace and return by the Sant’ Angelo Castle only that outside the castle there was an outdoors concert which was supposed to be followed by black and white mute movies accompanied by piano improvisations
- it was taking too long for the whole thing to start so after listening to some Italian rap we went on the other side of the bridge to eat a pizza; the waitress forgot to bring us an extra dish that was part of the order and therefor got no tip
- on our way back once again across the bridge we stopped to look at some purses someone was selling and the guy who was from Senegal took a liking at me that practicing my French I managed to get mom a dark red purse at less than half a price
- one Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy and one Charlie Chaplin movie later we went back to the apartment where we finished the ice cream, did a bit of cleaning and packing and we went to bed at 1 AM

Monday, September 17

- our flight was scheduled for 8 AM and with the taxi arriving at 5:30 AM mom’s cell phone alarm went off at 4:30
- we got up and got dressed moving like sleepwalkers
- some time later dad’s alarm went off too, he didn’t get up right away and after he was ready and settled on the couch to drink his coffee we heard him asking ‘Hey, why is my watch 4:40?’
- it turned out that Alex had indeed set mom’s phone to ring at 4:30 but he’d forgotten she hadn’t switched it to the Italian time which is one hour behind Romania’s, so in fact we had woken up at 3:30 again, groan
- dad went back to sleep while we kept giggling sleepily downstairs waiting for the time to pass
- at 6 AM there was no sign of the taxi
- we took our luggage, closed the door behind us and went to find a taxi
- we did find one five minutes later, it was even cheaper than the one provided by the agency, and we arrived at Ciampino airport on time
- another quiet though less satisfying flight, once again without food, and we were landing in Bucharest
- my cousin was waiting there for us and she’d even brought our car, my mom doesn’t dare to drive that one but my cousin had no problem with it
- she didn’t forget our cooler we left at her house which of course not knowing it was broken she had put in the trunk; so now one year later we are finally able to use the truck normally and not fear it won’t close after opening it. Stop laughing! Actually we did too.
- we left the capital at noon but we made a long stop at 4 PM to eat and rest cause our eyes were closing by themselves
- we arrived at home around 9 o’clock in the evening without getting any speeding ticket and all would have been just great if I hadn’t twisted my ankle just before entering our building
- the cat was happy to see us and I guess she was even happier when we turned the central heating on; we were coming from 26 C in the evening to 19 C inside the apartment and that just wasn’t right
- we ate, our friend who cat and house sit in our absence had also left us some cooked food, and then fell like a log straight to bed
- the cat slept all night either on my feet or my arm and in the morning she caught a pigeon and brought it under my bed to show us what a great hunter she is

Random comments about Rome:

- the old city is a great place for a vacation, there’s a bit of history wherever you look
- unfortunately many of the important monuments are covered being in the process of restoration
- wish we’ve had time to visit a bit of the modern Rome too, but we would have needed an extra day for that
- all streets are paved with small stones so don’t even think about wearing heels
- it seems that just about any crossways it’s called a piazza (square) and most of them manage to have a fountain inside
- almost all old buildings have an interior yard including their own fountain, and with a few exceptions their colors follow one of these three patterns: yellow walls with gray blinds, light orange walls with green blinds, dark orange walls with brown blinds
- no need to spend money on buying water, the water running from the fountains is good for drinking
- ice creams though are rather small and don’t have an outstanding taste
- forget about ordering pizza, it has nothing to do with what we, or at least here, usually call pizza
- Italian men have a good taste in clothes, you can often see them wearing suits in the street, Italian women though…
- black is in again, all big name fashion stores showed only mannequins dressed in black in the windows
- there seems to be a flip flop mania going on, I’ll never understand what people see in those ugly shoes
- we’ve heard more of other languages than Italian
- there had to be at least three tourists for one local, the place was crowded with people carrying maps
- those maps get lost very easily, we lost one and found two
- more than 80% of tourists are overweight and not just a little but going to the extreme
- American tourists dress the worst and there’s lots of them
- local Asian young women are usually dressed up and pretty, while Asian tourists can often be seen carrying an umbrella to protect themselves from the sun
- access to the bathroom at McDonald’s is still free, but the smell of repeatedly fried cancer causing oil makes you wanna throw up
- stray dogs and cats are rarely seen
- the souvenir offer ranges from postcards, small statue replica of the Colosseo, calendars with the Pope, rosaries, Morano glass in various shapes, amateur paintings representing famous places in Rome, crayon portraits of celebrities like Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Brad Pitt and Russell Crowe as Maximus, cheap and in the same time expensive jewelry and also fake Prada purses
- of course there are tons of other things worth being mentioned but I just don’t remember them at the moment.

And now I’m off to bed to sleep for a month.

See you all in Barcelona next year!

Who wants to read about our adventures in Greece last year you can find the story here:

Friday, September 7, 2007

Movie Review: Rescue Dawn


Featuring: Christian Bale, Steve Zahn

Genre: action, war

Plot: American pilot struggles to escape after being shot down and captured in Laos

Acting: brilliant, there’s no other word to describe it

Drama: captured by enemies, forced to eat maggots and snakes, determined to stay alive and go back to his job, fighting in the war

Action: plane fighting, crash, shooting guards, burning down village, journey through the jungle

Funny: the dialog was extremely funny in places as well as Dieter’s behavior

Visuals: stunning, in spite of the starving bodies of the prisoners

Soundtrack: too focused on the movie to pay attention to it

Comments: It’s a war movie. Still it’s a funny was movie. In the same time it’s touching, and moving and so realistic especially since the public knows by now that it was inspired from a true story, that you can’t possible be left senseless when it ends. True there are moments when it makes you wonder if this is exactly how things happened and whether Dieter wasn’t a bit crazy to begin with but Christian Bale does a fantastic job portraying him. So even if Bale seems to be a little masochistic with the length he goes when acting in his movies, as long as he doesn’t harm himself too much, cause we do want to see more of him in the future, we can only be happy with his performance.

Rating: 4/5

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Movie Review: I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry


Featuring: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Jessica Biel, Dan Aykroyd, Ving Rhames, Steve Buscemi
Genre: comedy

Plot: straight men become a couple on paper to save one of their pensions

Acting: not entirely believable but exaggerated on purpose

Drama: being straight when pretending to be gay

Action: during the fire some

Funny: more than expected

Visuals: some disgusting ones I’m afraid

Soundtrack: was surprised to hear some of Queen’s tracks

Comments: Not being a fan of Adam Sandler I wasn’t expecting much of this movie. Still I found it funny at least in the first half. Sandler is his usual self, with the added touch of hot stud that doesn’t quite fit, James is fun though less than he was in Hitch, Biel is not exactly credible, why would a lawyer hang out with one of her clients?, Rhames was great and Buscemi didn’t disappoint much. In a way it was a low more developed version of Three to Tango, okay as long as you don’t have better things to do.

Rating: 3/5