Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Rome/ Day 2.3.4. - The rest is history.

It's 5:10AM in Houston and I suffer from severe jet leg after dropping dead last night. So here is the last part of my trip to Rome. Wrote it yesterday on the flight to Houdton. Confined spaces force you into crative moods, Haha. I'm not attaching anymore pictures cause they're all on FB already :) MWUAH

I know, I am horrible. I shouldn’t be skipping days and making a 3 into 1 kind of thing but I am way behind and more so even though it’s three days, what we did during these three days can be summed up really fast. Even if in itself they were really lot of fun. Is the kind of fun you don’t have by seeing God knows what awesome things, but it’s the kind of fun you have because you’re with the right person. And mom and enjoy the same things many times and at least Day 2 from this trip was unexpectedly fun and relaxing, against all odds.

So let’s do this.

Day 2. Villa di Medici and the Zoo

Day 2 of our journey to Rome meant a different route across Rome. Mom and I are born walkers. We walk everywhere on foot and I love t how mom is so fit at her age to keep up. We dress and shoe ourselves accordingly so that we have a good relaxing and comfy time without the pain of fancy if you know what I mean. Now that we took out of the way some of the major tourist attractions, it was time for a second route across the map. This time we went straight to Villa di Medici. Of course, straight implies a lot of walking. It may seem like a long way on the map but Rome it’s pretty straight in its ways. Has many straight forward large streets that combined with the smaller ones get you pretty much everywhere. So no needless detours and getting lost. Just follow a major artery and then sink back into the small alleys and you’ll be fine. So this is what we did. And unlike the other times, this neighborhood we got into on our way there was unlike any other part of Rome we had seen before. Not that they are the kind of people to always have a flowers on their windows like the French, but this was too much. I figured maybe because the streets were so incredibly narrow and the buildings very tall, barely letting any sunlight in, no plants really made it in there. Because basically every house, restaurant even the Intercontinental Hotel had plastic plants at every window. Combined with the darker view of the street, the rather damp morning that day and the moldy kind of walls here and there, it gave me the creepy feeling of walking through a cemetery. A graveyard with really tall monuments, narrow alleys and plastic, unnaturally colored plants coming down from the windows. Aham. Mom and I didn’t enjoy it. It was that way until we reached a small piazza with a fountain of course, before entering the park that holds Villa di Medici.

Yes, this mansion is in a huge park, that stretches for mile and includes cafés, a theater for kids, small lakes, lots of routes for bicycles and jogging. A huge thing. As you enter it, right on the sidewalk, there are some trees with fruits that I pay lots of money to get from Auchan. I was like, hot damn! These people have them growing on the side of the road and no one even bothered to pick them up as most of them were rip and falling on the sidewalk. What a waste! So people visiting the park were picking them off the lower branches, which mom also did. There were two different types, both just as good. We had our fill on spot and filled half a bag for the road. We literally fed on those throughout the day. So good!

We walked around for a little, figuring our way around the place, enjoying the silence and the scenery. And then we got to the Zoo. I told mom I wanted to visit the zoo since before getting into Rome. I know some people think this is no place to spend time while being on vacation. But let me tell you no zoo I’ve seen in Romania comes even close to this zoo. And I’m pretty sure other countries hold even more impressive locations. As far as I am concerned it was definitely worthwhile. 
So we got the ticket, went in and stopped to get some tea. The man serving us was Romanian, living there for the past 15 years. His wife had died and soon after he had left Romania and moved to Rome. He is remarried now and has a good life there. Has been working at the zoo for better than 10 years and he clearly enjoyed his job. He made sure he gave us two huge plastic cups full of tea. Yum. We left with a smile on our face from this encounter. Where do I even start to tell you about the zoo? Amazing! First the giraffes. Mom and I spent some time there trying to allure them in while finishing out tea. I have never seen a giraffe so close. Never seen one in reality either haha. Gorgeous beings. So tall and such slender necks!

Then we moved on to the animal farm. What a genius idea for kids. They had the common domestic animals there. From pugs to cows, pigeons, sheep, donkeys, chicken, ducks and geese and goats. The way it was built was also very interesting as you never got lost and always somehow ended up at the next location, with wooden bridges built on top of one location to get into a different alley. They had a small saloon where they presented the problems caused by illegal haunting and how such criminal cases are investigated. Quite interesting as they presented actual, for example, elephant tusks and then the products coming out of the ivory extracted as well as the tools these poachers use to kill the poor elephants.

Moving on, we saw at least ten different types of goats from the Himalayas down to the African planes. The Macaw monkeys. We spent like 20 minutes here. So fabulous. What caught our attention were these parents looking after their very tiny baby trying to teach and observe him climbing a stair case. It is incredible just how close in behavior these animals can be and just how loving they are with their young. I should put up the video with them at some point. Amazing.

We saw lions, leopards, tigers, bears, lamas, camels – never saw camels before, and also so close. Beautiful! I wouldn’t want to ride one of those. Haha Two elephants. What intelligent beings! Two seals having the same exact patterns when swimming. More monkeys, kangaroos, birds of all kinds and some weird ass animals that I’ve only seen on TV. I’ll put up some pictures with the explanations as well so you know what you’re looking at.

I believe the most dramatic episode of the entire zoo adventure was when we were at the kangaroo enclosure. There was a small drinking whole filled with water for them to use it obviously. A few pigeons were around drawn probably by the food fed to the birds that were living together with the kangaroos. Suddenly a seagull lands in the same yard. We’re witnessing this from outside the fence while arguing with this male goose with a green beak. Weirdest shit ever! Haha He was a feisty little mofo and mom kept challenging him! But going back to the seagull. He suddenly launches at one of the pigeons and grabs him from the bas eof his spine, righ above the tail. I’ve never seen such a powerful grasp on a bird before. And I’ve seen roosters fight. And geese, and still this was like wow. And the seagull wasn’t that much larger than the pigeon. So he keeps him in this terrible hold, and I could tell because the pigeon started bleeding and then starts dragging him into the small water whole.

I thought this stuff only happened on Discovery Channel or Animal Planet where they tell you how incredible animals are in improvising killing techniques. Come on, the seagull was trying to drown the pigeon because he didn’t know how else to kill him. Chances were that if he had let go of his tail he would have flown away. Then again I didn’t know seagulls were carnivorous!!! He tried a couple of times, literally submerging the pigeon, letting him get all exhausted with the struggle. Mom and I were like, ah, we can’t watch this! But hell people, it is nature. This is how it’s done. This wasn’t the zoo. This was wilderness. As a stand up comedian once said, we’re lucky we’re outside the food chain so we don’t worry every single day about predators chasing us around wanting to kill us. Even though we have our own predators within the specie. Eventually he did it. He drowned the pigeon. I have to confess I would not do well as a film maker of wild life. I’d try to save all the cubs a Chita would chase to kill. I grabbed some pebbles and small branches I found around and threw them at the seagull trying to make him let go. But they were too far for me to reach them. I even yelled and whistled. Hell, if any of the zoo keepers had been around out I would have made him go in there and save him. Give the poor pigeon another day. But couldn’t make it.

We moved on with that crazy image on our retina. It’s so different when you see it happen before your eyes than on TV. Anyway, to more happy thoughts we ended up with the chimpanzees. Oh God, what amazing hairy people. ‘Cause that’s what they are. I have never seen one in reality, less three of them right before me speaking to me through the large window. Their eyes are exactly like ours, their fingers, their fingernails. Gorgeous!

And then, after mom’s beauty session with the flower crown in my hair and some more fruit, we went down to meet the gorillas. One of the “girls” came close to the window for a visit. I need to put up the video so you can see for yourself just how beautiful she is. Her eyes so vivid watching mom in everything she did. Mom kissed her through the window, she kissed her back. She would imitate mom in everything she did. I will never ever understand people who drill holes in their skulls and submit these animals to sadistic treatments and tests. I guess, as unfair as it seems, that it would be easier doing it on a chicken (even though I saved so many when I was a kid!). But doing it to an animal that looks you in the eye with the clear understanding of what you’re doing to them, expressing that level of stress and pain, how can you do it?!?!

Ok, ok, enough with the negative thoughts! We loved the zoo. Mom loved the hippos. Neither of us has ever seen pigs so fat haha And then the exotic birds and crocodiles and snakes. I got scared of one and screamed like a girl. Yeah. Haha. The Tortugas, the gigantic tortoises from Madagascar, the smallest of monkeys ever seen by my curious eyes. For a moment there I said, maybe these enclosures aren’t opened yet, ‘cause I can’t see a thing. And suddenly there they were. Two fist full of hair and bones haha. Delicious little beings!

The zoo was definitely a total success! And it took us pretty much all day. We walked back to the Piazza de Collosseo and had dinner and icecream of course! One of my favorite days for sure.

Day 3. The Vaitan Museums, The Sistine Chapel and San Pietro Basilica.

First of all: people! When you visit these three places, buy a ticket online, The little money you pay extra are topping in every measure possible the absolutely horrifying long ass queue! Don’t go cheap on this because it saves precious time off your life. I bought them and scheduled our visit for Thursday at 10:30am. It was the second time we took the sub because we wanted to make it on time. When we got there we could barely walk that’s how many people were moving along with us towards the Vatican. When we got there I almost bur into a mad laughter seeing the queue We got there little before 10AM and I think the queue was a few km long. I was like no fucking way! We walked a bit cautiously not knowing if we’re supposed to be on that as well or we had some sort of fast access. By the time we reach the point where they separated the likes of us from the unfortunate one standing there for hours, we were like half way up the queue. We got to the entrance in less than 5 minutes. Someone checked the voucher, we got in, queued to get the actual tickets and then tried to make sense of which way is which.

What can I say about the Vatican. Luxury. Talent. Some things indescribable. The pictures speak by themselves. It’s one of the things like the pyramids of Egypt where you have to see it to believe it. Perhaps people back in the day didn’t have internet and television to distract them and did spend every single day at candle light and built statues and sewed breath taking tapestry. But with the rudimentary tools they possessed, the natural ink and plant based colors they were using, how long it took to prepare the fabric and the incredible vision and skill to put together a masterpiece in thread that spreads across a whole corridor, I’ll never know. It is fascinating. The paintings, the jewelry, the statues. Think we do these today with a laser beam. Back then they used a scissile most likely.

The Sistine Chappel. No pictures allowed. It doesn’t matter. No picture can capture that. That 3D vivid image Michelangelo managed to give his paintings. It literally feels like those men and women are reaching down to you from the ceiling, Every fiber in their muscle, every changing shade in the color of their clothes, visualized in perfect perfection. Yes. Perfect perfection. And that hall is huge, immensely huge. I hope I’m being illiterate enough in my childish description of just how big that chapel is and how this one man managed to place each character in perfect harmony with the entire picture, perfectly proportioned, perfectly realistic. Perfectly 21st century only 500 years ago with brushes. I bow to the ground. Things like these can’t be done anymore. Talents like that are born once in a cycle of life. We should be lucky if they are ever reborn. Amazing.

San Pietro Basilica. It’s a different feeling and experience. I’ve seen it on TV so many times. But being there is something else as it is with all things in reality. There’s a feeling of serenity, like the smell of chocolate chip cookies in the oven. A taste of sacred, of peace and calm. That’s the piazza in front of the basilica where hundreds if not thousands of people come to hear the Pope have the mass. The basilica in itself is beyond description. I thought by then that I had seen enough of churches and cathedrals in Rome. Wrong. I had not seen this one. A colossal monument carved in marble. Marble of all colors, shapes and forms, with statues twice if not triple my size. Michelangelo’s Pieta. Perfection. Again.

The altar carved of mahogany most likely, so tall with detailed hand word on each pillar. I was looking at it all with my eyes and then again through the camera and I realized the camera was useless. It could not possibly fit in that grandeur, that vast space. We were ants in a world of marble giants. When we got up the Dome we really saw the others as ants. Yet other ants, many years ago created this wonder. We are capable of great things, us, humans. Too bad we’re more interesting in building mansions and leading underground wars now than creating beauty to last.

The video I posted on my FB profile I think is self explanatory as to the adventure you have to go through to get up there. Haha. Unforgettable, like it should be because the whole thing is unforgettable. I had some crème brullee up the roof of San Pietro when we came down from the dome. Back to back with Jesus’ statue guarding over the piazza from the top center of the basilica. It was a funny feeling of acknowledgement. Even though I did not share my crème brulle. Haha. There was  fence between us.

We left the Vatican on sunny weather and with a light heart. Mom loved it. Adored it! And it always makes me happy to see her like this. It’s why we go to places. To make some of the things she believes impossible, possible. Like seeing in reality some of the things on TV. I experienced this feeling first hand so I know how wonderful it is. Now I can share it.

We past Castello d’Angelo and the Tribunal and then off to the Navona Piazza. On the way we got some magnets. I paid for them and then forgot them there haha. By the time we reached the piazza I remembered. Thank God it was really close. When we returned, the man in the shop, a really gentle old man, was so happy to see us thinking we would not come back to pick them up. He had kept them safe and kept speaking in Italian how he ran outside to look for us but we were gone Well his speed never matches our I tell you that haha. He was so happy we returned that he gave me that little heart, on the house, kissed my hand and gave mom a hug. Delicious fellow.

Lots of restaurants at Piazza Navona. We picked a smaller cute one in a corner. The Italian guy who literally picked us up from the streets swept us off our feet with his best friend is a Romanian kind of story. Well, he as cute enough so we took the challenge. In fact it proved to be true as the best friend Romanian guy was his colleague. His whole family was in Rome. It was good having some of the home spirit back in town. He made a few suggestions and we got all the special treatment we could get, jokes and hints included in the menu: “Didn’t I tell you all my Romanian girls are beautiful?” The Italian guy grinned with a nod. Haha. What else was he left to say to that? I’m cute enough haha. 
We left the restaurant to wonder down the streets of Rome until we reached the Pantheon at night fall. It had closed but at least we saw it from outside and we enjoyed the music and spectacle in the piazza in front. As we tried to find out way back to the Colosseum, we got lost on a small alley where we ran into a family business. They ran this small manufacturing shop where the father worked in bronze and his daughters, one handled painting furniture craving in marble and the other did mosaic.

Mom barged in wanting to know how everything it’s done. I mean it was pretty late at night. We’re talking past 10PM. And from the looks of it, that wasn’t a shop it was their manufacturing spot, so probably visitors weren’t allowed. But mom, who usually is very sensitive to the language barrier, just went at it with enthusiasm, touching and asking questions in Romanian, looking at me as if I held all the answers haha. Before I even started translating what she was saying, I had to tell those people what the hell we were doing invading their space. They looked like very amiable sweet people so I wasn’t all that worried.  I do understand Italian, but confuse it with Spanish when I speak it so I refrained myself from being too Latino in these situations if you know what I mean haha. One of the sisters spoke English and she explained the entire procedure of doing mosaic. Showed mom a piece of her work in different stages until it was a finished product, showed her the pieces of glass or marble she used. Mom almost stole a few haha. It was a really nice place to get lost into at night. Mom was surely very pleased.

Eventually we got home to get some sleep and get ready for our last day.

Day 4. Shopping.

We figured we needed to go take something for ourselves and get a bit the taste of the Italian markets. So we went to a mall outside Rome Took the sub for like 13 stops. Then walked for like 3 bus stops. But the mall experience was surely fun. I got something, mom got a few things. Then we both stopped at Burger King for a healthy meal haha. I’ve never had a burger king before so mom and I tried different things so we can taste from each other. Afterwards, we ran into a flea market and spent some time there. Got a pair of really nice earrings and mom got about 5 pairs haha.

Eventually we got back to the hotel where Magda, our new friend at the reception was so sweet as to keep our luggage there as we had checked out before going shopping. We got her a little something too. Why not? She is such a lovely girl. Had breakfast and a coffee with her that morning. It’s always nice to meet good people and goodness always pays back when granted to others.

We got our stuff and by 3:30PM we were on the tram to take us at the Termini station, and from there, the shuttle to the airport. Check in went uneventful and by 11PM we were back home.

The next day grandpa had a severe seizure and he remained temporarily paralyzed in the bath tub as he was taking a bath. Grandma panicked. Mom had to leave home. Yeah.

He is much better now. We took him back to the hospital for a treatment that is supposed to make him sick for a few days but then it should take the pain away for at least three weeks. Mom keeps an eye on him now to see how he’s going. I am writing this while on my last flight to Houston. I called mom when I landed in Boston and spoke to him on the phone. He seemed fine and coherent. Mom also keeps calm which highly important.

Well, to finish on a more positive note, voila Rome. Impressive in many ways, unexpectedly disappointing in others. A bit more expensive than even Paris in some ways. But still worthwhile seeing, no doubt about it. And now that I’m done with this, let the US adventure begin. Mwwuuahaha!

Sleep tight everyone. It’s 2:43AM in Romania now. It’s 6:43PM in Houston now. One more hour to go before I land. Then I will go silent for a while and enjoy. Hmmm…


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