Friday, February 25, 2011

Flashback Friday: Roman Holiday

Thank goodness it's Friday! If you read my post earlier this week you know that I have been counting down the days waiting for the weekend to start. I am getting ready to head to Barcelona in a few hours and am looking forward to checking off another country on my list of places to visit. For today's flashback Friday post, I decided to write about one of my first solo trips I took back in 2006.  I was spending the summer studying and travelling abroad, and was based in Vienna, Austria.  Two weeks into my summer I knew it was time to head out on my first weekend backpacking adventure. My grandma's family are originally from Italy, so I thought what why not start my backpacking adventure with a Roman Holiday.  I had never been on a night train prior to that trip, and I remember boarding the 12 hour train at 21 years old thinking how am I going to survive this. The road less travelled was starring at me right right in front of my face. 

For those of you who don't regularly travel by train through Europe here is a little insight to what the journey on a 12 hour night train is like, when you're doing it the cheap way. You book your ticket and then hope for a space in a shared 6 person cabin. You get to spend 12 hours with total strangers, and travellers come on and off through all times of the night. I think I met 20 different people from various countries in my cabin that night. Your seat somewhat reclines, and if you were on the Italian train I was on, there were no clean bathrooms or real food. It was to say the least, an adventure, but I loved every minute of it! At 26 I prefer a more comfortable journey, but I have a true appreciation for those who backpack the way I did back in the day. 

Around 7am in the morning I remember waking up to an old man and his wife in my cabin. They were originally from Rome, and gave me great insight to what I should do during my time in the city. We were scheduled to arrive to the station at 8am and they mentioned the Pope would be giving a public mass at the Vatican at 9am. So they offered to give me a lift to Vatican City and I took them up on their offer. It was the closest thing to hitch hiking I had ever come to, and I remember them weaving through the streets of Rome like in the movie The Italian Job. Italians are insane drivers, but as promised they got me to the  Vatican just in time. There was only 1 problem- you had to have a ticket to get into the centre where the mass was being held. Now, do you really think that not having a ticket was going to keep me from getting into the Vatican to see the Pope? This American Girl has a lot of gumption. Pulling a true kosamwe (sorry for those of you who don't get the meaning of that term, you'll just have to ask me in person what it means) I ducked into the middle of a giant tour group and sneaked my way past the security and made my way into the mass.  It was a very moving experience and I remember the Pope in his little Pope Mobile driving past me and blessing the crowd. I had just survived my first 12 hour night train, somewhat hitch hiked with total strangers, snuck into the Vatican and was just blessed by the Pope- and it's only been 1 day. The adventure continued to get better and better....

Next it was time to find my hostel. This was my first time ever staying in a hostel, and I wasn't sure what to expect, but it was actually a great experience. One of the better hostels I have stayed in. After checking in I met a few backpackers from the States who invited me to tag along with them for a few days to check out some sights around Rome. The city was amazing- and the food and wine were delizioso. 
We checked out the Colosseum...

The Roman Forum...

and at night....

The Pantheon...

Vatican Guards 

 Since I was in Rome at the start of June, it was hot, hot, hot! Those of you who know me best understand my passion for UV rays, so this sun goddess decided to take the metro outside of the city to Ostia beach. It was so nice to just sit and relax on the beach, although forgetting my sunscreen was not a good idea. I looked a little bit like a lobster when I returned to my hostel, and that's when my trip took an interesting turn.

As I was walking up the stairs to my hostel, a guy stopped me and said, ''You look a little sunburned.'' I answered back- ''I know, forgetting sunscreen is not a good thing when at the beach in Rome.'' After a few minutes of chit chat I was invited out for a night of clubbing with the mystery man and his international circle of friends.  I rushed upstairs for a quick shower and then headed back out for a crazy night out. I never realized at that moment I would be spending the summer travelling around Europe with this guy, and 6 years later we would still be friends, but looking back now I am so glad I decided to travel to Rome where fate brought me to meet Luis

The night was full of cute boys, fun music, and memories I will never forget!

My last day in Rome was spent meandering through the city and shopping with my new friends. I love, love, love the city and am proud to be part Italian. Italians really know how to live, and I try to live the good life as much as I can! 

 From what I have been told the people in Spain are also great living the good life. It's time for me to head to the airport to catch my flight to Barcelona. Until next time, I'll see you on the internet. 

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