Thursday, August 4, 2016

Day 1 - August 3rd-4th

Today was the day our bucket-list trip began.  We left for the airport at around 8:30am.  We said goodbye to our newest roommates, Stacy, Caleb, Allana and Pepper, and of course our super squishy kitty named Sir Shadow Kitsington.  Thankfully Stacy was kind enough to take car of the cat so we could go on vacation.

After coming back to the house twice, I think, we were finally on our way.  We got to the International Terminal, waited our requisite 3 hours to board our flight, and made some new friends.  We met two older women, likely in their 70's who's names I can't quite remember.  They were German, not surprising since we flew out of Lufthansa Airlines.  We talked about nationality, where I was informed that I do not look Italian at all, rather German or Polish.  This comes as no surprise as my sister got her 23 and Me results back and our ancestry is approximately a million percent northern European.  Somewhere along the lines someone lied about *actually* being Italian.  So even though we identify most with our Italian side, we have nearly no Italian in us.  Whatever, long live pasta!

Once we boarded our flight we figured out that we were sitting next to the most frazzled Latvian man who's name I also can't remember.  He smelled distinctly of onions and a mixture of musk and body odor.  I will never forget his scent, especially because I was sitting in the aisle seat, Shawn was in the middle seat, and Mr. Latvia sat at the window, and he insisted on crawling over us while we were still seated....over and over again.  The dude got up constantly, and finally at one point, simply gave up coming back and stood in the middle of the airplane chatting up the folks walking by engaging everyone he could.  The gentleman was one of the nicest people we have ever met. 
We learned that he lost his beloved wife 5 months earlier and was taking a trip to visit family and friends.  But what had him frazzled was the fact that he left his newly purchased phone in the airport somewhere and was not able to retrieve it.  He asked us many times what time it was, which we kindly obliged.

The flight was long, especially since there were a number of babies who decided to have an epic screaming match.  No lie - I've never heard babies scream so loud for so long.  In short, no sleep was to be had.  Leg #1 was over 11 hours, and we did not sleep.  We decided it was ok because Europe, y'all.  We were headed to Europe, so sleep was an afterthought.  It was an afterthought until it wasn't anymore and we could barely keep our eyes open after our connecting flight in Germany.

Thankfully the second leg of the flight was short, and the plane only half full.  However, this flight also had more babies who liked to scream, and scream loudly they did.  We quickly gave up on trying to sleep.

After we arrived in Rome we needed to get to our hotel.  We booked a room at the Waldorf Astoria which was approximately a half hour away.  As soon as we retrieved our luggage, a nice Italian man decided he was going to transport us to the hotel.  He grabbed our bags and helped us to the garage.  Except this man was from a private transport company, and not 5 minutes earlier I had read a notice in the airport that only white cabs should be taken.  All other 'cabs' were not regulated and should be avoided.  So while this man was wheeling our bags, I turned to Shawn and said, "if he does not have a white cab, we're not getting in".  Sure enough it was a black car.  I looked at the man and politely said without skipping a beat "I'm sorry, we can't take this car - it has to be a white taxi.  We will not get reimbursed unless it's a white taxi".  With that, we turned on our heels and headed back to the taxi station.

I internally applauded my ability to handle foreign situations with ease.  Having traveled to Kazakhstan, Peru, Russia, Mexico, Canada, Central America, and most recently, Beijing, I have a weird ability to take notice of my surroundings and handle foreign travel with ease.  Shawn simply stayed silent and went with it - that's all I could ask for.

Before we left the airport we made sure to ask if Visa and Mastercard were accepted.  The driver assured us it was, thankfully, since we had no Euros.  Once safely to the hotel we had to settle the cab fare. The driver tried to run our credit card but his reception was bad.  We tried to exchange dollars for Euros, but the hotel wouldn't do it.  The driver tried to run the card again to no avail.  The ranting and arm waving then began........  I'll spare you the details, but he paced, ranted and made sure to let everyone around know that he was unhappy.  I heard to the word "work" in Italian a number of times, and a few other choice words.  Thankfully the hotel had an ATM machine where we were able to get Euros and sent the nice cab driver on his way.

The hotel was amazing, and the pictures online don't lie.

We settled in, but only to shower and head back out. The hotel provided a shuttle to the downtown area, which we happily partook.  We were famished and needed to eat, so we sought out pizza and bottles of water.  That's really all we had the energy for after such a long day.

After dinner we caught the shuttle back to the hotel and settled in for the night, but not before the hotel delivered us a bottle of champagne and truffles.  It was awesome, but we were too tired to drink alcohol, so we saved it for another day.

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