Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Tried to Get to Appian Way - Toured Around Instead

We are up earlier today!  Yeah!

A quick breakfast, shower and we are out of here.  Oh happy Halloween Everyone.  Although I see some signs of Halloween around Rome it is not like it is in North America.  But it also was Bernie Dad's Birthday.  

So our first stop was Santa Maria in Trastevere Church.  We have been here before and wanted to stop in again. It is so quiet this time.  We sit and reflect and light some candles for our family, but especially in honour of Bernie Senior.  I know he is watching us and is very proud of us.

Next stop - you guessed it -- espresso.  Oh my I love how easy it is to get a shot here and how inexpensive it is.  Takes no time and we are off for our next adventure.

There are a few spots we want to visit that we never got to on previous trips and the first one is Appia Antica or Appian Way.

Google Maps provides detailed information on bus routes and that is how we get there.  Don't forget to buy your transit ticket from a kiosk or tobacco stand prior to board.  Buses don't sell tickets here.  Also buy a return ticket.  

We bought four tickets at 1.50 E each.  When you get on the bus make sure to validate your ticket.  It provides 90 minutes of travel.

Bus 118 takes you right to the start of Appian Way.  

When we get off we are a little confused.  Not sure where to go.  Finally after a bit of wandering we figured it out.  But darn it is closed.  How can it be closed.  

Well apparently there were quite a few trees that toppled over.  Lots of branches that are down and a bit of flooding that caused a mess from the storms on Sunday and Monday.


So back out to the street to catch the bus going back.  Thankfully it is not too far out of the city center.

We get off to see the Mouth of Truth.  Do you remember that scene in Roman Holiday?  Well I do...  

It is free to visit, and the line is not that long, but I am guessing it is at least a half hour to wait and I don't feel like waiting just to get a picture with my hand in the mouth.  You can take pictures from the side of it and that is just what I did.

Back on a bus to the Victor Emanuelle Monument.  We decided to head back to a restaurant we fell in love with the last time we were here.  

See all the added security

La Cabana is within walking distance of the monument and a lot of locals come here.

We enjoy an amazing meal and walk away stuffed.  I can get use to having the big meal mid day.  Two days in a row and I am enjoying it.

From here we have more exploring to do.

We walk to the Trevi Fountain - man what a zoo.  Always is.  I quickly take a picture and leave.  I really do not like these high tourist spots but feel it is necessary to visit.

Also watch out for the pick pockets at places like this.  Tons of people, shoulder to shoulder with little place to move.

Oh I want to add that the last time we were in Rome all those selfie sticks were a nuisance.  I am happy to report that I see fewer and fewer of them now.  Now I find people walking while staring at their phones a nuisance.  But this happens everywhere and I have to have some kind of gripe.  Do people on their phones bother you?  Or is it just me?  Stop and move over people if you need to check your phone, not in the middle of the sidewalk.  Okay I will get off my soapbox.

Next stop the Pantheon.  The crowds are minimal and it is nice to find a quiet spot to really enjoy the church and it's beauty.  I had heard that they were looking at charging a minimal entrance fee.  I am happy to say that no they are still not charging - not sure how they can as churches are suppose to be free.  But also remember you need to dress appropriately, no hats, no shorts, no talking on the phone etc.

Off to Piazza Navona.  Again it is quieter here that on past visits.  

Campo de Fiori is a miss for us.  It is a touristy area that sells mainly to tourist only.  I would rather visit a local market than this square.  But it is quite interesting to watch the people. 

We cross the Tiber and get some sundry items for the apartment.  Soap, cereal, milk, wine, sparkling water and a chocolate bar (priorities).  

Back at the apartment for 4 pm and we will relax here until later tonight when we will go out for our evening stroll and maybe a small bite to eat.  Oh and I feel gelato may be in the plans too.


Rome and a Pizza Making Class

I wish I could say we woke up bright and early and we were out the door early.  But nope. However, we did wake up early around 7 am because of the noise outside.  We read for a bit and closed the window and we fell back asleep.  

The next time we opened our eyes it was 10 am!  WHAT.  Oh well - we get up and shower and have some brunch.

Out the door just prior to 11 and our first stop is to get some cappuccino.  Again do like the locals, enjoy it at the bar and pay half the price.  No need to sit and linger when all you need is a hit of caffeine.  1.10E each, double if you sit.

We start walking along the Tiber river.  You can see a lot of remnants from the storm the other night.  Tons of leaves, a lot of branches are on the ground.  Even some trees have blown down.  Some of the river bank is even closed due to damage.  But Rome got off easy compared to the coastal northern parts.

Soon we are at the Vatican and all things religion.  Bernie points out that all the vendors that are here are selling plastic items made in China.  

We can not go five feet without someone asking us if we want a tour, a ticket, a guide, to buy something.  It is bad - feels like I am back in Acapulco (where it is really bothersome).  But just goes to show that street vendors/guides/hawkers are all over the world.  Even within the Vatican.

Our goal this morning was to get up early and head to St. Peter's Basilica.  But obviously we did not get up early and we are having to pay the price now. The queues to get through security and into the church is LONG - at least a thousand people.  We knew this would be the case and we end up moving on - we hope to get up early one day and come early.  It opens at 7 am during this winter season.  Well maybe we won't be there at that hour, but hopefully by 8.

Also wanted to add that we see a much larger presence of security.  Large armored vehicles block high tourist areas.  Armed guards watch the crowds.  It is sad to see that we have come to this but it is understandable (or is it) after recent terrorism attacks.

Note for those that are newly following my blog.  We have visited the Vatican Museum and the Basilica before so this is a second visit so if we miss it, that is okay.

We walk all around the area of Via Candia and stop for a glass of wine at Secondo Tradizione.  It wasn't cheap but it sure was lovely.  

There are some nice shops around here and we window shop.  You can see this is a less touristy area, lots of locals live here.  

I booked an Airbnb Experience the other day for today.  It was a pizza cooking class where you make six different kinds of pizza and enjoy them with wine along with the hosts.  You can find this tour by clicking here.

Make sure that if you have not signed with an Airbnb account that you do so by clicking this link and saving money off your first booking.  

Max our host meets us at the Cipro Metro station and we are waiting for one more person to come - a single woman from the US.  After waiting 15 minutes after the arranged time Max finally hears from her that she will not be coming.  So sad that others are rude and did not even have the decency to inform Max that they would not make it.  I do have to say Max handled it very well and even arranged for her to come a different day.  A sign of a good host.

A short drive away we arrive at his home where we meet his partner and we start making pizza.

Now I make pizza at home but I find the crust to be too doughy and thick.  Max provided us with a recipie and we each made our own dough.

We even rolled it out and topped off our pizza before baking it.  Max made the four other types of pizza.

Soon we were sitting at a lovely table with some nice music and enjoying some wine and the pizzas we made.

Six different pizzas.  I only had a slice of five of them and I was full - thankfully they were not huge slices.  But you do get your money's worth.

Overall it was a fun activity and something different.  It would be a great thing to do with kids I think.

Max dropped us off close to the Vatican museum and we started trekking back to the apartment which was about 30 minutes walk away.  Sure we could of taken transit but the roads were jammed with rush hour traffic.  

By the time we got home we had logged 17,000 steps. Bernie is exhausted and feeling drunk.  He does not feel like going out again tonight so at 7:30 we are relaxing in the apartment watching shows we downloaded on our tablet. 

It was a great first day in Rome.

Travelling to Rome Equals a Bumpy Ride

After a good breakfast at the hotel, we checked out and made our way to the tube.

In the end we enjoyed the hotel.  It was basic, but met all our needs. The staff were wonderful and very attentive.  Not sure if I would go back.  Just a bit too basic and the sound of the hall way door slamming every time someone came in from the elevator did get to us after a while.

We stopped at the Pound Store (Dollar store UK style) and bought some pipe cleaners.  Well actually I was looking for anything that I could put on Bernie's new suitcase to help identify it but was having no luck with the normal type of bag tag so I bought a package of pipe cleaners.  We put a one on each of his zippers and twisted them and hey it worked.

The tube was busy.  Normal I guess for a weekday but we managed to get on and stay at the side.  Also we had no issues at all with getting to where we needed to go.  We have mastered the London Underground.

Once at London Bridge we transferred to the train and a half hour later we were at Gatwick.

I am always impress at how Europe handles security clearance.  Airports in North America could learn a thing or two from airports here.   

You scan your boarding pass at a turnstile and that lets you into security.  At security there are numerous stations at the security belt. You place all your items in the bin to be scanned and then once thru the scanner you take your bin to a table where you can reorganize yourself.  Very civilized.

Also here at Gatwick at least -- once you clear security it is a bill hall with shops, restaurants, bars, sitting area, washrooms etc.  You wait here until your flight has been assigned a gate.  Then you proceed to that gate.  There are no seats at the gates, just the gate.  Once at the gate you board the plane.  No large mass of people at the gates, no long queues to get on the plane.  Again very civilized.

Our flight to Rome was with Easyjet.  A real discount airline.  We paid 150 Canadian for our flight including our bags for both of us.  But it is a snug flight.  Not a lot of leg room.  I felt like a sardine.  Thankfully it is a short flight.

We knew Italy was experiencing a big storm and the Captain did warn us it would be a bumpy ride, and it was.

We later found out that strong winds, heavy rain has caused five deaths and lots of damage.  For us we barely were affected.

We had arranged for a shuttle with Civitavecchia cab service prior and our driver was there as soon as we exited.

Quite a bit of heavy traffic due to two accidents.  Driver says that the rains and winds have caused havoc, but it sure looks nice now.  Warm too.

We arrive at our Airbnb and are greet by Gabriella who does not speak English but we manage to communicate with signals. 

The place will work for us.  It is in Trastevere area and close to everything.  It is a basic one bedroom apartment that will work.  Just so happy to not be stuck in a small hotel room anymore.  Here is a link to our Airbnb.  Remember if you are thinking about using Airbnb, click on this link and you will save money off your first booking. 

We head out for some supper - lots to choose from in the area.

Just a block away we spot a cute spot where we are sat at a nice table and we breath in and realize yeah we are back in Italy.

We order a salad and a main entree with some sides and share it all.  It was just enough.  Of course we also got a litre of house red wine.  Definitely choose the house wine to save money.  

Oh and while I am talking about restaurants.  Take note, most areas of Italy have some added fee that will be added onto your bill.  Sometimes it says service charge, sometimes it will be a fee for bread (even if you did not order the bread).  It is usually a nominal fee.  No use arguing with them about it, just pay.  But take note that you do not normally tip here.  So we just accept that the fee is the what we would of paid as a tip.  Note this fee is probably not charged to locals.  Oh well cost of travel I say.

Of course we had to stop for some gelato on the way back home.  Also bought cereal and milk but that was not picture worthy.

Back at the apartment we crash.  Woke to a few thundershowers and some street noise and not sure where the heck I was. 

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Sunday in London

For some reason I am having trouble sleeping, or more exact, getting rid of this jet lag.

I did not actually sleep until 3 am.  So when I woke up at 10 I was really annoyed.  But I have to take my own advice "let things happen the way they are suppose to".  

Bernie was up very early (but he fell asleep around midnight) and has been reading for the past few hours.

I get moving and we are up and dressed and downstairs for breakfast to get the day going.

We get on the tube and head to Leicester Square as per the great advice from fans on my facebook page.  Our goal is to get some tickets for a play this afternoon.

You have to make sure you get tickets from the authentic ticket booth in the square. There are many booths that do sell tickets but they don't always have the real discounted price and not as big a selection.  Here is their website.

We bought tickets for The Comedy About a Bank Robbery. 

But the show is not until 3 pm and we have a few hours till it starts.

We wander around the square.  Check out the Lego square and Big Ben made of Lego blocks.

Thought of my sister here

Walk thru China Town. Loved the names of the stores/restaurants.

So cool to be at Piccadilly Square - feels like Times Square.  Lots of people, shops, electric signs. Kind of sad that a huge billboard is put up over a stunning facade of a building.

The shops along Regent Street are very nice but neither of us are really shoppers. But I did want to stop in at Crabtree and Evelyn but the store that Google says is here is not.  Closed permanently I guess.

The next nearest location is Covent Gardens so we head there.  Of course when we arrive we immediately recognize that this is the place we came the last time we were in London.  

Live street performers are all over and we watch two guys perform - too funny.  But damn it is cold!   And there is a large cloud overhead.  It soon opens up and the rain comes down.  But it passes quickly as we take cover in the market.

Oh and I did get to buy my favorite La Source lotion at Crabtree and Evelyn.

The show starts at 3 pm and it is a beautiful venue.  We have good seats but unfortunately the seats are not offset enough so you have to constantly sway side to side to see the stage. 

We laughed our heads off.  Lots of physical humor too.  But it could of been done a half hour earlier, it seemed to go on for a long time.  We are glad we did it though and both commented that if we spend more time here we would definitely see a lot more shows.

We walk up to Oxford Circus to catch the Central line back to Stratford. 

For supper we head to a Thai restaurant at Stratford Shopping Center called Busaba Westfield.  I wish I could say it was great, but it was not, it was just okay.  Service was really lacking.  We had to keep calling someone over for service.  Then our starters came with our entrees.  The rice was ice cold.  The other dishes were good though.  Really enjoyed the pot stickers, and phad thai.  The bill included a 15% service charge that we actually told them to remove - they did - and we tipped accordingly.  Being Canadian I felt bad about that, but it was justified to us.

A short walk back to the hotel and we hope to have a restful night tonight.

We really loved London.  Wish we could be here a few more days.  But we know we will be back.  I especially loved the diversity of the people, the languages, the cultures. The architecture, the history, the gardens, the monuments, and the parks were all highlights.  

I found it very easy to get around with the Metro.  There were lots of taxis and Uber is an option - but we did not use either. We walked a lot.  Yesterday we walked over 17,000 steps, today 12,000 steps.

I won't miss the traffic, the crowds on the sidewalks. I am really over everyone on their cell phones while walking, and all over the noise.  But I have a feeling it is just the beginning.

Tomorrow we are off to Rome.