Archive for April 28th, 2010

(12.58 miles walked)

Despite going to bed at about 2:00 a.m., after such an awesome night on the town, my internal clock woke me up at 7:00 a.m. on the dot, and I decided I better quickly hop through the shower, since there were only two located on this floor of the hostel for the 20 beds.  I ate the free hostel breakfast in the restaurant next door, and then figured that I better get my bicycle packed so that I could spend the rest of my time in Rome without worrying about it.  I headed back to the Mailboxes, Etc. store where I purchased the cardboard box and packing tape, and tried to ask for something I could use to fill in the spaces around parts in the box.  I was hoping to find some old newspapers, or a roll of butcher paper that I could crumple up to fill up some volume, but the store only had a large roll of bubble-wrap at a price of seven euros per meter, which would have been way too expensive for my needs. Outside the store though, there was a little stand with free real-estate magazines, so I grabbed a stack and headed back to the hostel.

I was able to cut down the sides of the box and re-tape the corners to make the box a little smaller, and then I crumpled the paper until little balls filled all the open spaces. I also wrapped some of my dirty laundry around the bike, since my panniers had been right at the weight limit on the way over, but the bike box had had some extra weight allowance. I put the bike box back in luggage storage, and grabbed my camera to head out for the day of sightseeing.

Roman Column of Light, The Pantheon

Roman Column of Light, The Pantheon

The previous night, I had forgotten to bring my GPS data-logger to geotag my photos, so I brought it with me today, and started the day by retracing my steps to see the same sights in the daylight.  I quickly realized that Rome does not seem to have any public restroom facilities, or at least they were too hidden for my discriminating eyes during the at least fifteen hours I spent wandering the streets. At the height of my need, I stumbled into a McDonald’s but one of their restrooms was out of order, and there were 10 grade-school kids waiting in line ahead of me for the remaining one. I’m not sure what they were doing in there, but after ten minutes of waiting, there were still at least 7 ahead of me, and I decided to give up and keep looking. My search brought me to the metro station across from the Colosseum which also didn’t have any facilities. I will refrain from providing details, but what happened next, we, in science, like to call a “soil percolation test”.

The sun was high in the sky by this time, and beating down with such intensity that I started to worry about having forgotten to put on sunscreen before leaving the hostel in the morning. Despite the heat, which was easily in the mid-70s, I kept my jacket on, to at least protect my arms and to allow the collar to give partial neck protection. I found a great spot in the shade on a grassy ledge over-looking the Colosseum and decided to take an hour break for some people watching, and to listen to the Rick Steves Colosseum walking-tour podcast. I was also able to capture time-lapse photos of the activity in the plaza below, to use for making a pseudo-tilt-shift video.

When I decided to move on, I walked around the Palatino to the Circus Maximus, which was little more than a circular grass field surrounded on all sides by hills and being used by various natives and tourists for a little walking, jogging, and group aerobics. I followed the river north, until I crossed a bridge and made my way to the Vatican, although by this time in the afternoon my feet and legs were starting to get really tired from all of the walking I had been doing, and the sky was starting to get pretty dark. I took a single photo of Vatican square, but just couldn’t get up the motivation to do any more exploring.  I grabbed a cup of gelato while leaving the Vatican and started the two mile walk back towards my hostel. About halfway there, the rain hit, but it wasn’t too bad, and I quickly made my way through the streets to the dry shelter of my hostel’s common room.

Before leaving the hostel in the morning, I had talked to some of the roommates about getting dinner together that evening, and I arrived back at the hostel with about an hour to spare, before our appointed meeting time. When everyone showed up, we walked down the street, checking out restaurant menus and stumbled upon an internet cafe, which was perfect, because I needed to print my boarding pass for the next morning’s flight.  Despite not needing to access the internet at all, since I had my boarding pass saved as a PDF on a usb thumb-drive, the place required that I give them my passport so they could copy down all of my information, which seemed strange and a little disconcerting to me, but there wasn’t any way around it from my questioning, and I had to give in, since my friends were waiting. We ended up choosing a restaurant almost directly across from our hostel.

We wanted to sit at a table outside, on the sidewalk, and they ended up seating the six of us with a man and woman who were closer to finishing their meal. Our table was basically attached to their table, and I felt a little sorry for them that this (comparatively) loud group of people was intruding on their meal and space.  But they seemed nice enough, making jokes with the waiter and members of our party, so hopefully we didn’t disrupt their evening too much.  Although I was eyeing the omelet on the menu, I ended up choosing a pizza with ham and pineapple. This restaurant, like many in Italy, brought us a small basket of bread when we sat down, and we saw in the menu that they were going to charge us a 1.30 euros per person for bread, plus a 12% gratuity, whether we ate the bread of not, so we made sure to eat and enjoy every last scrap of it.

Dinner was all about the sharing of ideas on an international scale, and everyone in our little group was so willing to listen and be respectful even when it was clear that they did not necessarily agree with what was being said. Once again I was amazed at how fluently everyone was communicating in English, despite it not being the primary language for anyone but myself. And yet, I was also lamenting the fact that most people in this world will never get the opportunity to travel and experience cultures other than their own. Our group had been lucky– blessed with enough money and personal freedoms to widen our horizons, and in doing so, we were connecting and sharing in a way that would negate stereotypes.  It was the perfect way to spend my last night of an epic journey.