Our road trip has begun

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September 26th 2019
Published: September 26th 2019
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Hello my friends. I hope you are all well.

Noel and I were lucky enough to stay in a lovely apartment only a 5 minute walk north of the main train station in Rome which was super handy for getting out and about in the city. If anyone wants a nice clean place to stay if they visit here, let me know and I'll send details. My only complaint was the lack of a kettle and toaster, which appears to be the norm in Europe. We had a wonderful sunny day in Rome on Saturday and ventured to Saint Peter's square and basilica and it was so gorgeous. We arrived an hour after opening and the security line was already about 200 metres long. Within 15 mins it had grown to 300 metres. It must be totally horrendous standing in that massive queue in the middle of summer with no shade to protect you from the sun and heat. The basilica was so beautiful that I shed a couple of tears. I was a bit awe struck at its magnificence. After leaving we joined the queue to enter the Vatican Museum. There are these guys walking up and down spruiking that the line will take 2 hours from where we are standing and if we "only pay 35 Euro each" we can skip the line. After much research I knew that the entry fee was 14 Euro. I love spending money on holidays but I'm a bit stingy when it comes to paying an extra 42 Euro or about $70AUD just to jump the queue. That was nearly my whole daily allowance for "stuff". In any case the queue was not that long, maybe 100 metres, so I thought he was taking us for a ride. But no, I was wrong, and we finally entered one and three quarter hours later. HA!! Was NOT 2 hours mister!!

Noel and I are philistines when it comes to art and the only thing we were really interested in seeing was the Sistine Chapel. Every single person I have met who has been to the Sistine Chapel has absolutely raved about how wonderful it is. Now I don't know if it was the long queue to get in followed by the 2 hours of being funnelled through heaps of galleries to finally arrive at the chapel or maybe the fact that we were sweating in a sardine can with about 180,000 other visitors but Noel and I were a little underwhelmed when we finally got into the chapel. The one thing that did strike us was that it was a lot bigger than we had been made to believe. Now don't get me wrong, it was really lovely and we did appreciate the work involved in bringing it to life but I'd have to say that we had already seen so many other magnificent chapels and museum galleries beforehand, that were just as awesome and colourful and creative, that by the time we got to see the chapel the "oh wow" had already been said so many times.

Sunday we woke to a rainy Rome but we were not deterred. We managed to navigate the metro again even though one of the two main lines was out of action for track work. We visited the Colosseum and Roman Forum but then went through a turnstile out into the street for morning tea near Circus Maximus which is just a huge grassed rectangle where the Romans used to have chariot races. We got back into the long line (waiting in line is mandatory in Europe) to visit the Palatine Hill area which is apparently a nice garden area. Yes, you guessed right...we did not get in because the ticket is for one entry to the entire site and we had exited thinking we could re-enter the part that we had not already seen. Never mind. So we got a bit lost (again) trying to use our Google maps with no wi-fi but eventually managed to visit the Pantheon, Marcus Aurelius column, Hadrian's Temple, Piazza Navona and the surrounding area when lo and behold we bump into a couple from Vancouver that we had met a few times on our cruise! In the middle of a city of 5 million people...in the pouring rain. Can you believe it??? Crazy.

Next morning we traipse down to the main train station to collect our car for this road trip. If ever you want to hire a car in Rome do NOT, repeat do NOT, hire from this place. More waiting even though we had booked for 10am. We didn't get served for over an hour and then had to lug all our stuff another 250 metres down the road to a multistorey carpark to collect the actual car. This carpark was getting returned cars, cleaning them and re hiring them for all ten car companies. It was chaos! The 2 girls in the office handing out keys and moving cars around to let people out of parking spaces were seriously stressed.

Even though Noel was having a bit of a panic attack we managed to get out of Rome without any incidents which was amazing seeing as we’ve taken three wrong turns since then. The GPS is great (so much better than maps) but I’ve finally worked out that the car on the GPS screen is actually behind where we actually are driving so this causes problems when there are 2 turnoffs very close together. It’s cost us a few minutes here and there and some extra cash for tolls because we’d exit a toll road just to have to turn around and get back on it the other way for a short distance before getting off at the correct exit.

We have a lovely afternoon in Siena a fortress city on a hill. Really special. Yesterday we drove to La Spezia with a short stop off in Lucca for lunch. I thought the city inside the Lucca walls would be small but it is really big and if we had paid for longer street parking we could have explored a lot more in the winding streets and alleys.

We are in another nice old building here in La Spezia and have explored the local area on foot. Today we visited 4 of the 5 Cinque Terre towns and they were also very lovely. The weather was not great when we set off but the rain stayed away thankfully and the day ended in glorious sunshine. Noel and I had a great seafood and fruit lunch at Monterosso Al Mare right on the beach. We are a bit over pasta and pizza already so it was a nice change. We are now too tuckered out to even contemplate going out again for dinner so cheese and crackers in the motel room it is.

Tomorrow we are heading up to Lake Como with a stop off in Monza (near Milan) so Noel an get a race car fix.

Til next time. xxx

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27th September 2019

It makes me happy knowing you are having an amazing time.

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