Saturday, 30 November 2013

The gift shop is at the end...

The plan: visit the Vatican with a view to seeing the Basilica and the Museum. Simple, elegant, what could possibly go wrong?

Well, first off was the "helpful" beggars at Termini, I really don't need help. Or appreciate it being forced upon me. And then having a begging cup thrust in my general direction for a few coins.

Not. Going. To. Happen.

Honestly. So I somehow managed to negotiate the machine and bought two shiny tickets so we could head off to Ottaviano en route to the Vatican. Still going well.

Until we reached the touts. These reminded me very much of the punt touts in Cambridge, or as we called them the punt c*****. Except that this lot made the Cambridge boys and girls look lax on the harassment front.


So cue conversation:

Tout: Are you going to the Basilica?
Me: We are...
Tout: Oh everyone makes that mistake, goes there first and I can see the queue from here, at least three hours. You'd be much better going to the museum first on a tour and get in more quickly...

I should have pointed out that he made a fatal error. I can smell his bullshit.

Me:  Really *arched eybrow*
Tout: Oh it'll be much better...

At which point I cut him off and asked the elder offspring if he wanted to do a tour and then go to the Basilica, it is, after all, his trip. Bless him, he was as irritated as I was so we said no, argued for a bit and then marched off.

And then met another one.

This one went in to more detail. The museum tickets were €20 and he could book them online for us now to save us time. Or better still, have a tour for €35 each! And the guide speaks english as well as him!

Bless him.

We declined. He went on. I simply explained that if we found it all to horrid we'd come and see him.

When pigs fly, obvs.

On we went. It's true there was a huge queue but as it turned out we were happy just to see the outside, observe the queue and then do a little independant exploring.

Which was how we ended up taking a pleasant walk down to the Castel Sant'Angelo. Which was fabulous. And as the elder is under 18 and an EU citizen we only had to pay for me. Well worth €7 I thought. Really, we were there for hours, saw amazing views, enjoyed a drink on the terrace and avoided big crowds. This was more like it.

Eventually we wandered back to the museum, via a cafe, and found...

It was €16 and...
There were no queues.

The only issue was the tour groups marching and blocking the way. I felt sorry for them, they couldn't linger, it was all at someone elses pace. I did get a feeling for how horrible things could be when we ended up in the Sistine Chapel. Don't get me wrong, it was impressive, but I was more impressed with the breadth and depth of material elsewhere in the building.

I was also surprised at the range of things on show, including items from ancient Egypt. This really fascinated me, just what was the Vatican's interest in this?

And then there was the gift shops. Or should that be gift stops. They are everywhere, it seems every 40 yards or so. I did suggest to the elder offspring that maybe it was so they could catch you in the mood and before you were exhausted at the end. Or perhaps, like the endless beggars, touts and purveyors of tat they hope to catch you at a moment of weakness after wearing you down.

Or am I just a cynical old harpy?

When in Rome...

Arriving at a place in the dark and late at night is never going to give the best first impression. Especially when you're staying in a hotel near the Stazione di Roma Termini, a place that a cursory glance at the guide books suggested is best avoided at night.


It was all a bit familiar. Not that I tend to hang around dodgy railway stations at night. The garish lights. The dodgy hotel touts. The even dodgier kebab places.

And a McDonald's.

No. Sorry, make that two. One in the station, one on Via Giovanni Giolitti. Outside of the station. Opposite the entrance. I fear Rome has changed since my last visit.

Not to worry.

With our best colonial pluck we marched in to the night for the short walk to the hotel, only being accosted once by said dodgy hotel tout. Further contact being avoided by my steely glare.

As we walked and took in the typically neglected buildings the elder offspring commented that it looks just like it does in Assassin's Creed.

I'm not really sure that's a good thing.

Anyway, hotel was found and it seems perfectly adequate. Even if the rooms are ORANGE, yes, ORANGE. As in you've been Tangoed ORANGE. I didn't bring my sunglasses, I know, schoolgirl error, but fortunately I have Neurofen if it all gets too much.

As an army matches on its stomach, or at least teenagers do, next stop was the restaurant opposite the hotel on the ground that it was... opposite the hotel. It was disturbingly empty but then I imagine any around there would have been at nearly 11pm. Food was okay which is infinitely better than bad.

And so today I sit writing this as I finish my breakfast. Rather annoyingly the elder offspring decided against food and went back to the room. So yet again I'm the only person alone in a room full of couples. I think this means I won't be making any trips alone. Being alone sucks when it's the status quo.

Anyway, next stop the Vatican. The perfect place for a confirmed atheist to spend a Saturday.

One final thought... A good friend of mine suggested last night:

"When in Rome... do a Roman"

I can assure you dear reader, it's not going to happen ;-)