Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Welcome to Travel Tuesday

A friend of mine, John Jacks has been blogging for a while now. He has been giving me some good ideas for my blog over the past couple days and I've decided to use one of them. He uses themes for different days of the week, and I thought, perfect. With that in mind, I've decided that every Tuesday will be reserved strictly for Travel blogs. Since I live here, and since it's probably my favorite country, Italy seems like a logical place to start. And since Rome is one of my alltime favorite cities, we'll start there...

The first time I came to Italy was in October 1998. I was living in Germany at the time and came down on the train to visit my friend Randy Pouliot who was living in Naples. We met up in Rome, he arrived accompanied by the aforementioned John Jacks and his girlfriend at the time. Her name was Stacey, that's all I can remember. True to my nature, the first thing I noticed in Italy were the women. Unbelievably beautiful. We spent a couple days around Rome, Randy showing me the sights. Then drove to Naples for a couple more days, then I took the train back to Rome for a few more days before heading back to Germany. Funny story - while in Rome by myself, I stayed at a little pensione near the train station. I was heading out to the pubs and an Aussie asks if he can join me. So we're walking around through the crowded streets on the way to the Druids Den, and all of a sudden, I feel something strange. I look down just in time to see a hand - not mine! - rubbing against my crotch. I turn around and see a gorgeous 6 foot Amazon black lady turned around smiling at me as she's walking away. I know what you're thinking - "prostitute!" - but I don't think so. It was too early in the evening, and she was too fine and impeccably dressed for that. But whatever she was, it was a funny moment. When I told the Aussie guy what she did, he laughed uncontrollably. Then, after a few pints, we went back to find her. Kidding!
The next day, I went to check out the Vatican City. The Vatican is actually the smallest country in the world. Yes, it is actually it's own country. Even has it's own postal service. The day I went, the Pope himself was holding court. I waited around for a while to see him - I'm not Catholic, but he IS the Pope afterall - but got tired of waiting for him, so I figured I'd check out the Vatican Museum. Wow, what an impressive place, maybe my favorite tourist attraction in all the World. Gotta see it to understand. Staring up at the Sistine Chapel was one of the greatest moments of my life, almost felt as if I finally made it. Made it where you ask? I don't know, humor me, I'm trying to be dramatic here.
I've since been back to Rome a few times. On the last trip, I took Virginia there. She loved it too of course. Her favorite things to see were the ruins and the art.
Another cool thing that Randy showed me that I've always tried to share with people is the Picture Rock. If you go to the coliseum, you'll notice that it's so big that it's impossible to get a good picture with most of it in the background. However, there is a rock not too far away that looks like it was put there on purpose, as it is the perfect set up for a picture. It's hard to find, but I've so many requests for directions over the years that I actually created a rudimentary powerpoint map showing the location. (If you'd like to see it, go to the Rome page of my website, here's the link: www.rikthib.com/rome.htm. The 4th picture down is taken on the PR; next to it, you'll see a link to click that will will give you the map. You'll need powerpoint to be able to view it however.) It's not unusual to see wedding pictures being taken on the rock as well. It's the perfect spot for it.
Another of my favorite places in Rome is the John Bull Pub. Virginia and I discovered it by accident. I saw the sign and said, oh, let's get a pint of Guinness! To my chagrin, they didn't serve Guinness. I was about to walk out in disgust, but the hand of destiny made me ask what they did have. Turned out, they had a beer called Allsop's Cream Ale. I decided to try it, and my God! It was heavenly! I took a sip and heard angels singing and the wind started blowing through my hair. It was good that I dragged Virginia back there the next day for a few more pints before we had to catch our train. To my pleasant surprise, there happened to be a Lazio match on as well. It was the perfect day.
Among my favorite things to do in Rome is to sit outside one of the cafes on the Piazza Navona, drink some wine (or beer) and just relax and watch the happenings around you. Piazza Navona is perfect for that too, plenty of artists and street performers.
Almost got ripped off by the damn gypsies too. I'd read that one of the main tricks they use is that the little kids run up and distract you with newspaper or cardboard while the older ones grab whatever is in your pockets. I remember reading that and laughing at how anyone could be so stupid as to fall for that. So one day as I'm leaving the hotel, I'm walking down a side street and there they are. A whole gaggle of them. I confidently walk towards them (they were blocking the street), thinking I know their tricks. There's NO WAY they're going to get anything out of my front pocket. How could I not feel it? Sure enough, the kids come at me flashing newspaper. I start to swat them away like gnats when suddenly I realizewhat's going on. I look down just in time to see the old gypsy woman's hand flying out of my pocket with a 50,000 lira bill. I smacked her hand and she dropped the bill. I picked it up and got thee hell outta there. I never even felt her hand, it was amazing. But that's Rome for you.

As always, here's the link to the Travel section of my website: www.rikthib.com/travel.htm

You can see pictures and read more about my trips to Rome and many other places there.


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