Roma, The Eternal City: My First Solo Trip Pt. I

As you guys have probably already guessed, this latest outing of mine was my first one by myself. Now, I (or you) could argue that I flew to France by myself–which I did–but this time I was really on my own. Coming here, to France, I had a lot of help. Mom helped me pack and took care of buying all the tickets not to mention that she and Dad saw me off and Aurelie was waiting on the other side in Paris. This time I worked out the timestable, bought the train tickets, talked with my friends in Rome about times, lodging etc., and did almost everything myself. I did Skype with Mom and Dad when I bought the tickets but that was more because I wanted to make sure I had things worked out right. So not only was this my first real trip by myself but I also traveled to a completely different COUNTRY. I do have to admit that I’m fairly proud of myself for getting there and back.

Okay, so the trip itself. Going there, it took me three trains and two metros to get from Angers, France to Rome, Italy. Coming back it was four trains and two metros. Why didn’t I just fly? I know that’s what some of y’all must be thinking. And you guys would have a valid point, flying would have been faster and given me more time in Rome sightseeing and with friends. BUT I didn’t want to fly. From the beginning, I’d been planning on going by train. Crazy right? Why would I willingly want to take a 15 hour trip there and back? Well, I’ll tell you. First of all, I don’t mind the train, I kind of like it. It lets you get a good look at the countryside. I also didn’t want to fly because I wasn’t sure what passport/customs might be like since I was hopping countries as well as the fact that I wasn’t a fan of RyanAir (I don’t think I looked at Easy Jet). Not that there’s anything wrong with either of those airlines, they’re great for traveling on a budget but I know that RyanAir has a strict weight limit and I just didn’t want to have to worry about that this time. Well, that and the fact that RyanAir flies out of Paris Beauvais. I’d never even heard of that airport before September. I have some friends who flew out there for the September break and it sounded like it was a tad annoying to get to. So, I just decided I’d take the train which is what I’d planned originally and it would let me see the countryside of not only France but also Italy.

And it was good. I’m used to long trips anyway so that wasn’t anything new to me. Passing through the countryside in France you see a lot of cows and fields, of course, and little towns but then every once in a while you’ll get a surprise. Example, we passed by the remnants of an aqueduct that was just chilling a little ways off from the tracks. I say remnants because contrary to what everyone thinks, aqueducts included more than just the bridges that we see today. They actually went across land as well, it’s just those parts didn’t usually survive. (This fun fact has been brought to you courtesy of my histoire de l’art class.) Or, as another example, near the moutains you could just be looking out the window and see the remnants of a wall or a castle or a fort. I wish I had gotten a chance to take a picture of some of the ones we passed BUT I did, however, get some shots of the snow-capped mountains near the France-Italy border.

pretty right?

It was about 10pm by the time I got into Termini (the train station in Rome). Luckily finding Julia and Claire wasn’t a problem. Which was good because my phone didn’t want to send or receieve messages as I found out. Obviously, since it was so late by the time that I arrived, no sightseeing was done Thursday. I checked in with the hotel (I was able to stay at the hotel with my friends for about the same price as a hostel would cost) before we hit up an Irish pub called Abbey Theater where I met their R.A. She was really funny. If you’re in Rome, specifically near the Pantheon or Largo Argentina area, I recommend this trying out this pub. Great atmosphere, good drinks, and, of course, awesome Irish accents! We didn’t stay out too late (or drink too much) since we knew that we had to get up early the next day. A small group of the SMC girls studying in Rome had asked for a tour of Saint Peter’s Basilica because they would all be traveling when the actual tour was scheduled (starting in November they don’t have class on Fridays so many of them will be traveling on the weekends between now and Christmas). I was able to tag along.

We met outside the hotel at 8am and walked over to the Basilica where we met our tour guide. It was great. We were there early so all the big tour groups hadn’t started showing up yet and it was a clear day. We learned a bit about the history of the church and some of the popes. Fun Fact: Do you know where the pope lives? You can apparently see his bedroom and his office from the square.

It might be kind of hard to tell but the last two windows on the right in the corner belong to the pope. The second to last window is his bedroom and the last one is his office.

Fun Fact: Did you know that someone attempted to assassinate Pope John Paul the II in Saint Peter’s Square in 1981? Yep. He was shot 4 times (twice in the lower intestine, once in his left hand, and once in his right arm) as he entered the square and for while they weren’t sure that he was going to make it. Today there is a marble square in the ground where he was shot that bears Pope John Paul II’s papal coat of arms and the date in roman numberals.

Saint Peter’s itself is pretty amazing. The building has statues everywhere and inside it’s HUGE. Michaelangelo’s Pieta also resides in the Basilica. Fun Fact: Did you know that Michaelangelo actually wanted to scrap the Pieta? You heard me. He wanted to chuck it and start over. Why? Michaelangelo carved the Pieta when he was onyl 25 years old but because of his age not many people believed that he actually carved it. There was another artist, who was much older, who tried to take credit for the piece which made Michaelangelo mad. So, one night he carved his name into the sash of the Virgin Mary so that no one else could claim the piece as their own. But afterwards he felt so bad about–he thought that he’d ruined it–that he asked the pope at the time (who’d commissioned it) if he could start over. Thankfully the pope refused but from them on Michaelangelo never put his name on his work again. Hence, why historians sometimes have trouble distinguishing his work from his students’.

Another Fun Fact on the Pieta: Do you know why the Pieta is on display behind glass? It didn’t used to be but in 1972 a man called Laszlo Toth attacked the scuplture with a hammer shouting that he was Jesus Christ. The Pieta was restored (he managed to break off one of her fingers) but now sits behind bullet-proof glass in the Basilica.

view of Saint Peter’s Basilica from the square
Michaelangelo’s Pieta

The place is pretty cool. And big. Unfortunately, I only made it about halfway through the tour before I suddenly began to feel nauseous. And this is where Life Lesson Learned #1 of the weekend comes in. Dehydration+alcohol=bad idea. If you are going to drink, please make sure that you are not already dehydrated beforehand. I don’t usually eat or drink a ton on days that I travel so I hadn’t had much all day Thursday. The irony in this is that I’d actually thought about it, but in terms of don’t drink on an empty stomach. Now I’m going to stop your train of thought right there–I DID NOT get sick in the middle of the basilica. I just told Julia and we went back to the hotel where I drank a ton of water, ate a sandwich, and laid down for a bit. And then I was fine. BUT hopefully the lesson has been learned, do not drink when dehydrated.

Alright, I’m going to end part 1 here before this post gets any longer. But before I do, I would like to draw attention to the fact that today is November 11th, Veteran’s Day. To anyone reading this who has or is currently serving and to their families, thank you. You guys are the true heros. The sacrifices that you guys make, as well as those of your families, is incredible.

“Heros don’t wear capes, they wear dog tags.”

God Bless.

❤ Rachel



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