London, Rome, & Heart of Europe

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April 20th 2019
Published: April 21st 2019
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Yesterday was a tough day. We had to be at the airport at 7:00 am. Gatwick was an hour taxi ride from our Balmoral House Hotel. Our friend Flavio arranged transportation for us at 5:30 am so we were up at 4:15 getting ready. Shealyn is NOT a morning person, AT ALL! So this was not a favorite morning for her. We were sad to say good bye to our home for 4 days, especially when we could smell the breakfast wafting upstairs and knew what we were missing.

Security was easy to get through, though the sparkles on Shealyn's shirt got her pulled aside. It was interesting that Easy Jet is so automated that you put your ticket in a scanner and it printed all your luggage tags which you attached the yourself. Once the important details were taken care of we went in search of breakfast. Most of the restaurants were upstairs but no escalator or lift. We found a lift but it only took us to toilets or a Starbucks, so we had to drag our carryon luggage up a flight of stairs to get to breakfast. We finally made it. I must say b looking my age because I had many, many offers of help. We ordered breakfast which was delicious. For all of our breakfasts we have had eggs in some format with bacon (which is really ham), and tomatoes (one day it was baked beans). But the interesting thing is the eggs have always been placed on a piece of toast. Not really my style as I like to pick up my toast, butter it, and maybe add some jelly or jam. Now at our hotel we always received extra toast, but today we had to order it. Someone, probably Terry's daughter Alyson, introduced us to Presidents butter. It comes from France, is very difficult to find, an is undoubtedly the best butter I have ever tasted. As I was about to comment on the great tasting butter, Marsha picks up the pack, turns it over and exclaims, "They've got your butter!" Yummy, Yummy! I was happy. Now the coffee was another story! Instant! And very strong.

At Gatwick, they don't put up the gate until an hour before the flight. Once we checked our gate number we took off on a dead run. According to our boarding pass the gate closed at 8:35, according to the monitor the flight was already boarding (it was 8:12) and we were boarding at Gate 101. In my mind that was far, far away. In actuality it was just far away. We ran and encountered many runners! We made it and realized from the long line (queue) we were fine. After we got to the point when they scan your ticket the agent said, "Oh you have preferred boarding. You didn't need to stand in the queue!" No where on that ticket was any word, signs or symbols of preferred boarding. But it really didn't matter, they weren't ready to board so we were forced o wait in another line.

Once on the plane we settled in and prepared for take off. Another very easy flight. Only 2 hours to Rome. There were no complimentary drinks or snacks on this plane. It must be typical as many people were ordering from the menu. The most interesting thing to me was when they pushed a cart down the aisle selling perfume and souvenirs! That was a first on me and I have flown many, many times! Pretty neat it your forgot to buy gift!

On all the trips I have ever taken in my life I've noticed people waiting to provide transportation for others. They stand patiently, holding their sign with the person's name or group and watch anxiously for their passenger. As we are walking out of the baggage claim there stands a man holding a signs with the name Rebecca C Wilson! I knew the hotel had arranged transportation but it was the first time I saw my name on a poster board! We all got a kick out of that!

It was a short ride to the hotel, just 20 minutes or so. Now I booked this hotel based on the trip my bother Larry and I took with our mother in 2010. We stayed at the Holiday House Roma which was more like a bed and breakfast and we loved it. So when I started planning this trip I booked the same place, or so I thought. Now I've only been to Rome one other time but I knew when we pulled up that this wasn't in the same place. Marsha said the look on my face was priceless. As it turns out there as two Holiday House Roma's one is Ottavaino and the other is Vaticano. They both are a block from the Vatican but on different streets. So while this isn't the place I thought I booked it is lovely. Its more like an apartment. We have a full kitchen, dining/living room, plus a large bedroom with plenty of room for all our stuff! Once we explored, we found many places to shop and eat!

We knew, once we panned this trip, that Rome was going to be tricky as it is Easter weekend. Many people will be pouring in today to see the Pope. At first we thought we might like to do that but decided the crowds were more that we wanted to deal with. We also thought that it might make getting around to other spots around Rome much easier. We all agreed that the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel were high on our list of "not to be missed!" I knew the Sistine Chapel was going to be closed along with many other sites on Monday, so we decided to take off and head to the Vatican to try to get in. Along the way we ran into a man selling skip the line tickets. We decided to join that group as it was already 3:00 and the last group to enter was at 4:00. The woman that let us to meet up with the group took off running. I think I could have lead us around better! When all was said and done she ran us around several blocks and streets probably twice as many as needed. Our guide had laryngitis so she was difficult to hear but she was very good. She offered people an option to go early to the Sistine Chapel but I am so glad we stayed with her. We saw so many artifacts and it was good to hear her explanation. What touched me most was the tapestries. I wish I could have taken a picture of all of them. Many told the story of the activities leading up to Holy Week. For as old as they were I thought they were in great condition. I was especially touched by the resurrection seen....Jesus outside the tomb. Maybe because it is Holy Week that this touched me so much.

I must admit that the Sistine Chapel took me by surprise. I thought it would be silent and people would be more respectful. It was subdued but noisy. People were herded into a large group in the center of the room while others milled about on the outside edges. At one point a museum guard got on a bull horn and said, "In the center! Keep the walkways open!" It took away from the experience. Marsha even thought that this couldn't be the place we were supposed to be! All we had read was about being quiet, being respectful, appropriate dress, etc. etc. Now remember we were at the closing of the day and there really weren't that many people left in the museum. It really took away fro the experience. We felt we got more from the speech our guide made outside on the lawn. However we are so glad we went and are all thrilled with the experience.

Once we exited, we were starved. We hadn't eaten since breakfast. Shealyn was having pizza and gelato....when in Rome!!! We found a lovely street side restaurant. It was much like you might umbrellas, plaid table cloth, non-English speaking waiters. Our friend from the Balmoral House Hotel, Flavio, recommended we eat Pasta Carbonara when we got to Rome. Shealyn had her pizza and Marsha and I had the carbonara. It was out of this world...certainly worth the wait! I told Shealyn, before our trip, that there was gelato on every corner. I remembered that from my previous trip. I was right! It didn't take long to find gelato but even more fun was the man who waited on us. He was so much fun. Again he spoke no English but we could communicate an he was entertaining!

We were only a short walk from our apartment and we were thrilled to go there and relax for the remainder of the evening. I even suggested that we use this Easter Sunday as a day of slowing down and catching our breath. We need to catch up on our rest. Shealyn has already proclaimed that this is her favorite morning. We are getting ready to greet the day. I am catching up on my blog. We are sending out Easter Greeting to our friends and family in the States. We are looking forward to what the day will bring. Happy Easter!

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