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And Now For The Unexpected

Well, I guess adventure is fun. In the future, when we talk of this, I will refer to this as an opportunity to spend another day in Roma.

I got everything packed up last night and thought I was doing pretty darn well. All I had to do was get ready and head out the door to meet Brandy. I had both my watch alarm and cell phone alarm on the bed beside me. Since I was alone, it wasn’t like all that noise would annoy anyone. Took me awhile to drift off but I finally did.

About 5am, I wake up and I pick up the cell phone to see what time it is… missed call?? Sinking feeling… I look and it’s Brandy and the call was at 2am local time. I do the math… she should have been on the plane to Rome at that point… oy… No way the flight was THAT early…

I try to call back… no luck… I’ve been spotty even getting text messages out. And I haven’t even tried to place a call in Rome. Try to call Brandy… no dice. Then as if by telepathic vibe, the phone rings in my hand.

It’s Brandy… In Atlanta… at her wits end… Fog caused her to miss her connecting flight from there. She was #15 on standby for an Air France flight bound for Rome via Paris…. It’s a midnight flight, what are the odds?? The only other option Delta will give her is a flight out tomorrow at the same time, but of course no offer of putting her up or anything, just be back at 5pm tomorrow… right… She’s not sure if she’ll come if she misses the Air France flight, which will put her nearly 12 hours later. Missing a full day is a big kink in our plans and pushes everything off.

I just told her I understood. I’m semi-proud that the “oh god, I booked a room based on us splitting the cost” thought didn’t occur until later. I just told her to call me back when she knows if she’s making the preferred flight or not.

And I sit by the phone… for an hour… She had said that it would be 20 to 30 minutes and I figure that if there was good news it would have come. Obviously, she’s missing the flight and is working out the details to get home before calling. tick… tock… And she calls, literally as she’s boarding the flight!!! YAAYYY!!!

I tried calling my parents, again, I just get a message that I can’t complete the call – delivered in broken english. I’ve tried twice since today when my phone roamed on to a different network. Each time failure but the last message claimed that those calls are barred?? Huh?? I pay for international calls I receive, why would placing them be any different?? So, a question for cingular when I get back…

At any rate, I checked out this morning. Had hoped to leave bags at the hostel but they said they no longer hold luggage. Seemed kind of weird since they held my bags prior to check-in last week. But the good news was that they pointed me to a place down the street that not only holds luggage but does laundry and has internet hook-up. I was going to need to do launrdy by tomorrow anyway. So, I dropped by, paid the equivalent of $8 for laundry (not self-service), bags being held, and they threw in 15 minutes of net. That was just enough to e-mail home with the update.

Afterward, breakfast – I won’t say where as I’ve had two people comment on all the fast food. But following that, I went to a grocery and got some fruit and water. The fruit was an experience. I saw a scale, but I figured, like home it was just if you wanted to know what it would cost before you got to the counter. Who cares? So, I get to the check-out and the clerk looks over the bags… I couldn’t understand her but she said something close to scale and label and I got the gist. Went back and figured out that I had to key in the number on the sign BY the fruit (not the little codes were used to on the sticker, despite the fact there is a sticker). And it weighs it and puts the appropriate price and barcode on there… Okay… lesson learned.

Afterward, hopped a bus to San Pietro. I figured that I might as well get to the Vaticani Musei if I have the free day rather than sit somewhere and wait. So, got there, found the line… and first thought was… not so bad… I was worried, the kids here are still on Holidays. They don’t go back until after the Epiphany (which is Friday). Then someone pointed out how long the line really was. Where I thought it ended was actually just a sharp turn in the road… oh… and there were two more blocks at least beyond that. Then, an angel appeared selling three hour guided tours of the Museum and Sistine Chapel, admission included, 42 euro. And you can skip the line. That part alone would have been worth it. So, I got to pass the whole line with about 20 other people on my particular tour. The guide was great. It really is my preference to have a live guide when possiple and I would not have gotten nearly so much out of the experience otherwise.

The tour basically ended at the Sistine Chapel. You are supposed to be silent in there so the guide described everything you’d see, what to look for, etc. and bid us adieu at that point. One of the other perks, tho, was as part of the tour, we could take a different exit from the Sistine Chapel and head straight into the Basillica – skipping that line which I had done once already (i.e. stood it).

Before I go on, the Sistine Chapel really is something you have to see to fully appreciate. The size, scale, etc. Just unbelievable and the wall behind the alter and the majority of the ceiling was done by one man, Michelangelo. Just beyond my imagination. A true master. And since there’s no photography allowed (and there were enforcers in there for that), you’ll have to take my word for how incredible it is.

Leaving there I got in line for the climb to the top of the dome on the Basilica… Oh well…. one line won’t kill me… I guess… the line lasted at least an hour. I had to choose between that line and another. The other day I thought it was the necropolis, which I had understood was by advance ticket only (I tried and didn’t get one). Today I realized it was actually the tomb of John Paul II. The funny thing is, that line was MOVING. They must have had those people on roller skates.

The line to the dome, by contrast was full of false starts. They’d hold the line back and only let x number of people go. Each time, you thought, ah, the ticket window must be around the corner.. nope… So, finally, I decided I’d believe the line was over only when we got to climb. I have no idea how tall St. Peter’s is, and I’m too lazy to look it up right now. But you have an option of taking the elevator up to the roof or hoofing it all the way. The difference is only 3 euro, but I figured I’d have a larger sense of accomplishment climbing the whole thing.

I made the first part in front of a crowd of children who were in a mad run. And I somehow fell in with the idea. Fool! By the roof, I felt like there wasn’t enough oxygen left on earth for my lungs. Even the kids were red-faced. For the next climb, I fell in with a crowd more in my age-range and the running ended… And the stairs got smaller and smaller… The first stop was something akin to the whispering gallery at St. Paul’s, and this was when I realized how large this place is. If the people in the church at St. Paul’s from this vangtage at the bottom of the dome looked like ants, then the ones at St. Peter’s might qualify as fleas, if that. Unfortunately the fencing in place to keep people safe spoils much of the view.

Up more stairs after that. Supposedly in total from the roof to the very top is 350 steps (plus those steps they don’t give you a count for to get to the roof). So, it was quite a hike. When everyone hit the top, jackets, hats, scarves – all went flying. I knew once my body’s furnace died down I’d realize it really isn’t that warm. Still, it took nearly 5 minutes to hit that reality. I only made it halfway around the top. The crowd was just unreal. Movement was near impossible, but I got pictures of the parts of the city that I know from my visit so far, which all likes before not behind the Vatican.

From there, it was all downhill. There was one more stop on the roof where there’s a gift shop and a restaurant and you get to see how big Jesus and the apostles on the front of the church really are! The gift shop was mildly disappointing. I can’t believe the nuns weren’t selling t-shirts emblazoned with “I climbed all the way to the top of this dome and all I got was this lousy shirt!”

From there, back to the square in front of St. Peters for a couple of photos without the gray skies. Oh yeh, it’s dry today!!

Now, time to figure out what I’ll do with myself for another 2 to 3 hours…

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