Saturday, September 18, 2010

When in Rome...

So, I will preface this post by stating that its not as insightful or creative as I would like it to be, but I do want to share our 3 days in Rome with you.  We just have lots of other big things going on these, getting married in two weeks!!  However, if you have 3 days to spend in Rome, I cannot really think of a better way to spend the time - we saw so much of the city and really found everything easy to navigate.

Pre-Trip Planning

We purchased our Roma Pass online in advance and picked them up at the tourist stand in Ciampino Airport - super easy and highly recommended.  The experts on helped me to plan our 3 days so that we could maximize the benefits of the Roma Pass.  We also made our reservations for the Borghese Gallery in advance, over the phone.  We did not pay for these tickets, only made reservations - our entry was free with Roma Pass.  And, we booked our reservation to the Vatican in advance as well, it wasn’t too crowded when we got there, but it was nice to not have to wait in line.  We also downloaded Rick Steve’s FREE Rome Audio guides -these saved quite a bit of money and were useful at most of the major attractions - do this.

Day 1 in Rome

We flew from London’s Stansted airport into Rome’s Ciampino airport. It was an easy flight on Ryanair AND we survived all of the carry-on luggage rules and regulations.  Upon arrival in Rome, we picked up our Roma Passes and headed to find transportation.  We had every intention of trying the shuttle bus and saving some money, but we were tired, hot, and ready to get to our hotel, so we took a taxi.  Before getting in the taxi, we confirmed that the cost to our hotel (Marriott Grand Flora) would be 40 Euro - its the standard set cost, its the law. 

We arrived at the hotel, check in, dropped our bags and quickly changed.  We grabbed a quick lunch and we were off to Vatican City!  Since the Roma Pass covers metro transportation, we took advantage of this whenever possible - we took the Metro to Vatican City and spent most of the remainder of our day there.

In Vatican City, we toured the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel, and St Peter’s Basilica.  We took the elevator ride and 320 narrow, hot, stair climb up to the top of St. Peter’s Dome for some of the most amazing view of Rome!  The stairs really weren’t that bad, but it was hot and the staircase was extremely narrow - I do not recommend this if you are claustrophobic! After leaving the dome, we spent some time in St. Peter’s Square taking in the sites and reading about the history that was surrounding us. 

After leaving St. Peter’s square, we crossed the Tiber River and grabbed a pizza and a few beers - we were pretty exhausted at this point.  We had planned to go to the Colosseum, but we were exhausted.  Instead, we used google maps on our phone and headed to Gelateria del Teatro - we had been told this was THE place to go for gelato in Rome and boy was the walk worth it!  We compared all other gelato in Rome to this place, and none of it could top it!  The pistachio gelato was our favorite - do this. 

After our pizza, beer and gelato we were pretty full and ready to relax a bit.  We took a taxi back to the Marriott and hung out for a few hours before heading to dinner.  We had dinner in Campo de’ Fiori at Ristorante la Carbonara.  The area is quite touristy, but it was nice to people watch while we enjoyed our meal.  The food was okay, I think we may have ordered the wrong items - because I hear the place is pretty good. Anyway, we saved room for dessert, because we had plans for that!

After dinner, we walked around Campo de’ Fiori for a bit and took in the sites of the square.  Then we started our way back to hotel with Rick Steve’s Night Walk Across Rome as our guide - this walk took us to the following places:  Piazza Navona and the Four Rivers Fountain, Tre Scalini Bar in the piazza for a tartufo “death by chocolate” ice cream for dessert,  a night view of the Pantheon, Piazza Capranica, Piazza Colonna, the Trevi Fountain, and the Spanish Steps - we took our time enjoying all of the sites, taking photos and really absorbing it all - it was a beautiful night.

Day 2 in Rome

Sunday morning we slept in and then grabbed a small breakfast at a cafe near the Marriott.  From there, we walked over to the Borghese Gallery through the Borghese Gardens for our 11:00am reservation to tour the Museum.  This was an easy walk from the Marriott - the gardens are just beyond the ancient wall to the right of the hotel.  The Borghese Gallery was amazing - we really enjoyed it and it was the perfect size - not too overwhelming.  The audioguide was also well worth the cost - definitely recommend this museum - but be sure to make your reservations in advance - lots of people just showed up and had to wait hours for the next available time slot. 

After the museum, we took the metro to the Colosseum - when you walk out of the metro stop the Colosseum is directly in front of you - amazing!  Getting into the Colosseum with the Roma Pass was a breeze, no line to wait in at all.  We used Rick Steve’s audio guide here also, so we were all set.  After the Colosseum, we grabbed lunch and then toured the Roman Forums (again with the RS guide) and headed up the stairs to Capitoline Hil.  We didn’t do any of the museums here because our time was limited, but we took lots of photos, sat on the steps and took it all in - again.

From here, we headed to the Pantheon - we walked a lot this day.  The weather was great and I don’t think we realized how much we were walking because of all of sites we saw along the way.  We used the audioguide again here - it took about 45 mins to really “see” the Pantheon and learn about it’s history.  There is not a line to enter and entry is free.  Easy.  After the Pantheon, we grabbed more gelato - when in Rome...

We headed back to our hotel to rest - we were tired - the sun and walking had worn us out.  We grabbed a quick nap, and then headed out to dinner in Trastevere - another touristy, lively neighborhood of Rome.  We had dinner at Ristorante Checco, outdoors in their covered dining area - this was a great meal, we really enjoyed it and the food was delicious!  The pasta was probably the highlight of our meal.  We hung out in the area some and took some pretty cool night photos of the Tiber River.

Day 3 in Rome

On our final day in Rome, we had planned to head to the Appian Way and to see the catacombs, but we thought it might be a stretch since we were flying back to London on the same day.  Instead, we decided to see some other sites in Rome that we had missed the previous two days. 

From our hotel, we walked to the Cappucin Crypt - its in the same area of the Marriott, so this was an easy walk.  The crypt, which is below the church of Santa Maria on Via Veneto houses the bones of more than 4000 monks - the bones are “artfully” arranged in various rooms - we could not take photos, but google this place - you have to see it!  After leaving here, we grabbed lunch and walked towards the Victor Emmanuel Monument, we took photos here but didn’t go in, we also took some photos at Trajan’s Column and Forum, and then headed to Mamertime Prison near the Roman Forums.  We weren’t sure what to expect with their tour, but I am glad we decided to tour the prison - this is where Saints Peter and Paul were once held.  It was also interesting to see how structures were built on top of other stuctures over the years, today, there is a church above the prison. 

After leaving the prison, we grabbed our final gelato in Rome, picked up our bags from Marriott and took a taxi back to the airport.  What a wonderful, educational three days in Rome!  The weather was great and while we didn’t se everything, we saw so much and made so many memories!  Hope this guide helps you on your visit to Rome!!

Friday, September 3, 2010

A Letter to My 19 Year Old Self

This post was inspired by a similar letter that a friend of mine wrote to her younger self.  At the time, I thought it was a great idea, but I really was not certain of what I would write to younger myself, so I decided to hold off on the letter.  And tonight at 12:00am, when I have a flight to catch in 3 hours, I was compelled to write...


You will be turning 19 next month, and there are somethings you need to know. 

On Time:

Right now, a year seems like forever to you and you are counting down for the end of each semester.  Trust me, you should cherish each of these days of your college life and make memories that will last forever.  Take time and get to know more people, don’t just stay close to your main circle of friends.  You will be surprised at the awesome group of diverse classmates you have, and you will regret not taking the time to get know them years later.

Soon, life will go by right before your eyes, and a year will seem like only a few months to you.  You will see loved ones pass away and learn that you are not invincible the way that you seem to think you are.  Protect yourself and your loved ones, because this it, its the one chance we have at life, there are no do-overs.

On Money:

While you may think that signing up for a credit card in order to receive a free t-shirt or meal on spring break makes perfect economic sense, you are so wrong.  Be smart with your money, and don’t fall for the schemes that target college students.  You will pay for them for years to come. 

Practice the importance of having irreplaceable life experiences and not having replaceable things.  In the end, you will not look back on your life and think about the shoes you wore or the purse you carried, but you will remember all of the amazing people and places that were a part of your life experience.  Never get so caught up in things that you forget to create memories. 

On Love:

You are your hardest critic, and you don’t give yourself enough credit.  You are much more strong, beautiful and worthy than you think you are.   You should try dating people who think this also.  Be careful of who you choose to let into your life and how you define love. 

Do not expect that people will always hurt you, and do not push away the people who are not hurting you.  Trust me, one day, when you have pretty much decided that relationships just aren’t for you, you’ll meet someone who will show you what you truly deserve.  True love really is worth the wait.

But don’t worry, everything you are going through, including the heartache, is helping you to learn and grow.  It will make you appreciate the real thing, when it finally does come along.   Don’t compare your love life and relationship status to everyone else’s - “forever” isn’t something you should rush or force.

On People:

Be prepared for both the good and bad in people to shock you.  You will be disappointed and pleasantly surprised by random strangers and friends and family.  Try not to judge people.  You may think you know what’s going in someone’s life or why they are a certain way, but you really have no clue.  Always strive to see the best in people, but strong enough to remove toxic people from your life. 

Don’t assume that people are not doing what you think they should or there for you the way you think they should be because they just don’t care.  Think about the amount that people have to “give” to you as a glass of water - for some people there glass is full and they have lots of time / generosity to give, they will be very present.  For others, there glass is maybe only half full of water or less - they may not have it in them to be the friend of family member that you think they should be - but this likely has nothing at all to do with you.  You have no clue what these people have gone through and you should be appreciative of every moment that anyone is capable of giving.

You don’t have to please everyone, and everyone does not have to be your friend.  Learn to choose your happiness over other people’s - because most people are choosing their happiness over your own.  Know when its time to put yourself first and don’t feel bad for doing it.  Also, its OK to say NO to people, and when you do, don’t regret it at all.

Cherish the people closest to you, and make sure that they know how much you love them.  The time is now to let them know and create memories with them.

On Career:

You really don’t belong behind a desk or in front of a computer, but you’ll choose a career that puts you exactly there.  You should learn now to take risks and follow your dreams, even if those dreams are not immediately as financially lucrative as a more practical career.  Most people who take daring risks eventually reap much larger rewards, try it some time.  And, try not to always make excuses for why you are not following your dreams - because truly, none of these are acceptable. 

You are a people person, you love to travel, you love to help others, and you love to share your story - find a way to do this.  No matter what.

On Travel:

You think that you have seen the world now?  Just wait.  You can only imagine the places that you will go and see during your lifetime!  And the best part will get to see these new places and create these new memories with your best friend.  Appreciate the opportunities that you have to travel the world, absorb the cultures and always remember that if you wanted to learn more about America, you would have stayed there instead of traveling the world.  Live among the locals,  eat with the locals, learn about the land and go home to tell the stories.  You don't know it now, but you are going to see and experience parts of the world that many people may not ever get to see.  Share what you have seen and learned, and let all of this have a positive effect on you.  You may not agree with what you see around the world, but learn from it and be moved by the goodness that you will find in people, no matter where you are.

On Health:

Take care of yourself.  Exercise and be mindful of what you eat.  Right now, you can eat anything you want, not work out, stay up late and not gain a pound.  This will all change, be prepared for hard work if you don’t make smart decisions today.

Allyson, you think you have your life all planned out, but be prepared for the twists and turns to come.  Someone one day will compare your life and adventures to a roller coaster - hold on, enjoy the ride.

Your (almost) 29 Year Old Self.