Euro-Trippin’ Part.. Something. Lol

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It’s Wednesday and we’re at the top of the Rock of Gibraltar! Contrary to my fears that we would be stopped at the border, we actually drove straight to the front of the line and barely waited 10 minutes for our passports to be checked.
I also thought I’d mention that, since the tour bus picked us up straight from our hotel door, they collected our Viator vouchers and there was no need to exchange them for tickets this time. Yay!
We went from our tour bus to a minibus, which drove us up the rock, nearly 500 meters high, steep and kinda scurry due to the lack of sufficient roadside shouldering, and periodically stopped for picture-taking. At the top of the hill, we entered St. Michael’s cave and all around the cave and in the souvenir stores were the monkeys!  Their true names are Macaca somethings- I lack wifi still and can’t google.  They were everywhere… jumping on and into cars, on people’s heads, some fighting each other, some carrying babies on their backs… I gathered my courage to step close enough to this rather large one for a photo and I won’t lie; I was worried he’d park his patchy red ass on my head!
Tangier, Morocco tomorrow!

Trip Trippin’ Part III-Ciao Roma

Reflections of Roma

(black eye, sore scalp and all)
As I write this, we are on the bus direct from Paris Beauvais airport to Porte Maillot Metro station. It is 10:30 am here, and we’ve been up since 2:00 am preparing for a 6:40 am flight out of Rome. We’ve yet to eat anything, and once we reach Porte Maillot (a one hour, 15 minute-long ride) we’ll be on the metro and then the Paris RER train before we can check into our hotel on the other side of the map, near Disneyland (estimated travel time of an additional hour).  I think that’s enough “fore”ground information, so I can tell you all about our highlights of Roma.
I got teary-eyed our last afternoon thinking about leaving, and of how I’d miss all these beautiful cobblestoned streets, getting lost within them, and turning the corner to find something as spectacular as the Trevi Fountain (we ended up “finding” it at least eight times total throughout the trip), Vatican City, or the Pantheon.
The locals, few and far between in August (when they all head beach- and mountain- ward for their summer vacations) were very friendly for the most part. Dani was quite the celebrity, as she made even the sternest looking Vatican guards all goo-goo-ga-ga mouthed and making silly faces at her.
The splendours of Vatican City, the Colosseum, and the Roman Forum really need no praise from me, as I’m sure it’s been written about thousands of times and depicted way more beautifully than I can describe.  Or more than I would perhaps enjoy to, since I’ve gotten less than three hours of sleep last night.
There are definitely things I will be glad to leave behind, one very important one I had already mentioned earlier: the lack of accessibility for infants in strollers.
When riding the metro, it’s faster to take your stroller up and down the escalators to save yourself a lot of grief.  We didn’t even bother bringing it along to the Vatican, which is very stair-ridden and crowded. It was a good decision overall, as we were able to take the “fast-track” route to the Sistine Chapel quite painlessly, with Dani content in Daddy’s arms all day long.  If you are unaware, the Vatican museums are gigantic, so unless you’re travelling with a bored, fussy almost-two-year-old, it is safe to say you can spend a half or even full day sightseeing in there alone. I have great admiration for those with art history knowledge, who can stare at a painting and know exactly which fabulous representation lies behind it. That’s not for me, however. I think museums are boring.
Another thing I don’t care for is the heat. I know people enjoy summer, and kudos to you all, but I get very dizzy and tired to the point of passing out when it’s too hot.  Plus, our hotel was a good 15-20 minute walk from the metro station (bless those dear souls who advertised that it was only a “short walk” away).  Add that to a 7- or 8-hour long day already, and you can see why we headed “home” early every night. I do wish we had taken some snapshots of the mighty Colosseum by moonlight,  however.
Rome is very dirty. There is graffiti everywhere, and not even the nice-looking Beat Street kind. There are no local regulations to pick up dog doody, so guess what you should be careful of before walking into it.  And gosh darnit, people smoke a LOT.  Stinky!
All in all, Rome is beautiful and rich in history, but old and inconvenient. This is my honest opinion only.
I shall leave you with some photos of our travels within this majestic city, as well as a picture of John’s black eye. If I could capture my aching scalp in a photograph, I’d do that too. Both are care of, and thanks to, our darling Dani. Apparently, she hit Daddy in the eye, and the next day I asked him wtf that ashy black sh*t was. Poor Daddy. And poor Mommy too. If you own or have ever owned a cat, you would know how they like to claw up their bed, a blanket, whatever, in order to cozy up for a nap. Dani does the same with my hair, only she yanks it really hard, smells it, and keeps it in her kung fu grip until she falls asleep.  It feels good mostly, but in the morning when I wake up, my scalp is throbbing and aching in patches. That’s what the final picture is of, when she finally slept at 12:00 am but woke up two hours later anyway when we were getting ready to leave. She will not be sharing any beds with us and it’s back to the crib when we get back to Toronto, but I don’t even want to think about that so good night it is… 1:40 am Paris, 7:40 pm Toronto.
Next post: Our arrival and first day in Paris. And: it smells like pee.
xoxo
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Part 2-FCO

Trip Trippin’ Part 2-FCO

When in Rome… be prepared to be tired and stressed out when travelling with small children!!

Day one: arrive Leonardo da Vinci/Fiumicino airport. Baggage pickup and the Leonardo Express train to Termini (Rome’s central train station) were relatively smooth,  except for one incident in which we discovered that elevators in Rome are shoebox-small, slow, and don’t reach every floor you want or need them to.  The rest of our journey was quite stressful and tiring.
After arriving at Termini station, we headed to the TerraCafe (also in the station) to pick up our OMNIA Rome and Vatican cards, which allow unlimited use of public transportation including the hop-on, hop-off bus systems, and, most importantly, entrance to the Vatican, Colosseum, and one other main attraction without having to wait in line. If you’ve ever seen that massive Vatican lineup (I’ve stood in it once before, actually), you’ll know what value this holds.  Waiting to pay regular admission could take two hours or longer.
Back to picking up the OMNIA cards, or lack thereof. Apparently they’d run out completely, and the only other place to get them was at St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City.  After a long flight with about three hours of sleep (not to mention a 45-minute initial delay, insignificant at this point), each hauling 25-lb. backpacks, carry-on luggage, and pushing an unhappy Dani strapped into her stroller, we decided to just pick up the passes the next day.  We search for the elevator.  After a few attempts on our own and asking a local store clerk (apparently no one knows where the eff it is), a police officer finally points us in the correct direction. Too bad it’s under maintenance and appears to be the only one.  Regretfully, we end up waking up Dani, who is not pleased with us, and yells out her unhappiness as we now balance a stroller, two large backpacks, two heavy carry-ons, and a 24-lb infant down the escalator.  After purchasing two day passes for the Metro, we begin the arduous elevator journey down to Metro Line A- direction Anagnina. It is arduous because, yet again, it is shoebox-sized, and takes three of them to get down to subway level.  Apparently, it is mastermind Roman urban planning that allows such elevators to descend only a few floors each time.  In travel books and on online forums, “they” say that Rome is not child-friendly, but I wasn’t expecting this.  I’ll never complain about the Eaton Centre’s “inefficiencies” ever again.
By this time, around 2.5 hours on foot since exiting the plane, our entire bodies are drenched in sweat in yesterday’s clothes, and our shoulders are caving in and defeated.
We make it to our stop and exit, look around, ask two locals for directions to the hotel, and somehow end up walking in a gigantic extend-a-route square path in the 32+ degree Roman weather with the aforementioned baggage, until we finally find our hotel.
The rest of the day was spent walking around the city, visiting the Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, and major shopping streets Via Corso and Via Condotti, with a stop for some mango and kinder egg-flavoured gelato along the way, obvi.  I almost fell asleep two or three times while waiting for a meal or just getting a chance to sit.  However, none of those details were as exciting as even getting here, so I’ll leave it at that. ‘Til the next…
Ciao!