Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Roman Holiday

We're back from European Trip #2 of 2006. Such jet-setters we are! We spent the week of Christmas in Rome with stop overs in London on either end. I've been nursing a cold for the last few days so I haven't felt up to sifting through the 1000 or so photos we took (digital, of course). But I'll give you a good/bad summary of random thoughts until I do.

The good
  • The late afternoon sun on the Colosseum
  • Roman streets carved with grooves from horse-drawn carts
  • The vastness of treasures in the Vatican museum
  • The Sistine Chapel
  • Joining thousands of people in St Peter's square to hear and see the Pope deliver his Christmas message
  • Italian pizza
  • The Christmas lights on Oxford and Regent Streets in London
  • Fish and chips in a London pub
  • British Airways managing to get us rebooked on our flight to Rome after it was canceled due to the intense fog. We got on an earlier flight and managed to get there around the time we originally planned.
  • Not having to spend our holiday at Heathrow like other travelers did
  • Spending the holiday with my husband
  • Breakfast included (it would have been £ 16 each, or about $32 a person at our London hotel)
  • Big Ben and Westminster Abbey lit up at night
  • Beautiful weather in Rome
  • Nice hotels in both cities: Victoria Park Plaza in London and Victoria Hotel in Rome (coincidence they were both named "Victoria"). Thanks hotels.com and travelzoo!
  • The tube. The prices have gone up but when it's rainy and cold, it's great to have it to get around the city.
  • Learning my room number in Italian
  • La Mia Boutique - I found the January issue in Rome and the December issue in London. I also picked up the Italian version of Diana Moda.
  • Seeing a thick stack of Burdas at the newstand in London - I don't know why, it just made me smile to see so many in one place.
  • Italian coffee
  • Getting a laugh out of "Versace-Man" and not falling for his con. I'll have to tell the story later. It deserves its own blog entry.
  • Viewing the nativity scenes or "Il Presepe" in Rome.
  • Having knitting to keep me occupied on the long flights.
  • A quick tour around a fabric store in Rome. I had firmly decided not to buy any so I just took in the sights, smell and touch of the fabric.
  • Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinners in the hotel restaurant in Rome. They had pre-planned menus that looked very good and they were, so we decided to eat there. The service was wonderful too.

The bad
  • Arriving at Heathrow to hear our flight to Rome had been canceled even though we had the concierge check twice on the internet before we checked out of the hotel.
  • British Airways not being able to get our bags to Rome along with us - they showed up at our hotel 30 and 36 hours later (mine and my husband's, respectively)
  • My suitcase is now missing a "foot" - but at least the wheels work and it's not among the tens of thousands of "lost" luggage at Heathrow that will take weeks to get sorted out.
  • Getting an urgent message from our cat sitter about a problem with her alarm code and stressing about it until I could find a way to send an email message (it was 2:00 in the morning PST when we got the message). For some reason our alarm system wiped out the visitor codes. Lesson learned: check them periodically and definitely before we go on vacation.
  • One morning in London, the fire alarm went off at our hotel shortly after I got out of the shower. I pulled on clothes, grabbed my coat and a towel for my wet hair and we filed outside into the freezing cold. The staff were pretty useless and made no effort to instruct the hotel guests. The fire department responded quickly and fortunately there was no fire. Apparently a guest had "accidentally" broken the glass on a fire alarm.
  • Lack of wireless - we found lots of free wireless last summer during our trip to Iceland and our moderately-priced hotel in Paris had free wireless. But on this trip our luxury London hotel wanted $12/hour and the Rome hotel was still on wired internet.
  • Coming down with a cold on our last day - at least it was the end of the trip but an 11-hour flight with a sore throat was not fun.
  • Not able to get seats when we booked our flight, we were assigned the "butt seats" - the last row next to the lavatory and galley. Not a pleasant way to spend 11 hours on an airplane. We ponied up the $200 extortion upgrade fee to Economy Plus and snagged the last remaining aisle seat and the one next to it. On our return flight we had separate, middle seats assigned. We again ponied up the bucks and upgraded to Economy Plus to get the last two seats together (aisle and adjacent - yay!).
  • Cold, cold, cold in London
  • Annoying street vendors in Rome. No, I don't want to buy your fake Gucci bag or Dolce and Gabbana belt. No!
  • Beggars in Rome. There were quite a few dressed up like fake statues to "entertain" the tourists. The non-entertaining ones sat hunched over on the ground with an empty Pringles can before them, covered with layers of clothing so they appeared old, but their hands gave them away. Then there were the gypsies with pieces of cardboard they use to shield their hands as they slice open your bag. Fortunately we knew what they were up to and stood clear of them.
  • Piazza Navona, at least the Christmas market version of it, was a disappointment.
  • Starbucks has invaded London. They are everywhere.
  • The Americanization of London is alarmingly evident: Pizza Hut, KFC, Burger King, TK Maxx (instead of TJ Maxx), Borders Books, Sunglass Hut, The Gap, and of course Coke and McDonalds. They have Coke and McDonalds in Rome and ads for an "American Diet System" on the TV.
  • They don't sell Patrones in London or Rome. Or at least not at the 356 newstands we checked (it seemed like that many at least!).
  • The exchange rate for the pound. Ouch.


  1. Hi,

    When looking for cheap air fares next time take a look next time to Trabber. It will probably help you :)

    Here is the address: www.trabber.com

  2. Hmm you make me homesick for both London and Rome, sounds like a lovely trip.