Rome – Transatlantic 2009 Days 2 and 3 – Arrival in Rome

Our vacation to Rome and Transatlantic cruise back home continued today with our departure from Dallas after a nice pre Thanksgiving dinner with the Pechuls and Jarzynkas. I have combined days 2 and 3 into a single blog entry since most of the time was spent in airports or on airplanes.

Our departure from DFW to London was scheduled for about 5 pm. Being the day before Thanksgiving and knowing how hectic DFW airport can be anyways having lived there for a dozen years, we mad plans to get to the airport about 3 hours early. In deed, there were cars and folks heading to the airport in droves. It like looked a mess. I had also hoped getting there so early might miss some of the international traveling crowd and maybe even in slip us in between the morning international departures and the evening departures. But, I couldn’t have possibly hoped for what we saw when we walked into the terminal. There was maybe a dozen folks there. We walked right up, checked in and went through security all in about 10 minutes! Talking to the American agents, they said the other terminals were absolutely bonkers with long delays to check in and get through security – somewhere between an hour and two. Off to a good start!

The flight to London wasn’t very full with quite a few empty coach seats. I did miss my business class seat that I normally get to travel in for work, but an eight hour flight is not an eternity. We left about 5 minutes late but were expected to arrive 20 minutes early. The flight was uneventful except for the drunk Brit sitting behind me. He pretty much poured himself onto the plane and then proceeded to have another 4 or 5 beers in the first couple hours. He wasn’t really that bad or loud except if you sat in front of him or across the aisle. He was a complete idiot to his girlfriend calling her just about every name in the book. I am not sure if Savannah, sitting next to me, took note of this or not – I don’t think so.

None of us got any sleep on the way over to London. Everyone but Sean tried to sleep but was unsuccessful. When we arrived in London, it was only 12:30 am our time, so tired was just starting to set in. We had a three hour layover in London and a two and a half hour flight to Rome, so we were hoping to get a couple hours there and feel refreshed enough for the day. Having done quite a few international business trips, the key is just staying awake from that point on until a slightly late bedtime and also getting some walking in after arrival.

Another uneventful flight, unless you count the pretty much horrid British sandwiches served on the flight (egg and tomato or double cheese and red onion), put us into Rome about 2 in the afternoon. It took quite a long time for our baggage to arrive (almost 40 mins) but we breezed through security/customs in about 30 seconds. The passport guys looked at our US passports covers and just waved us through.

Our prearranged driver was waiting for us right outside the security area. He quickly walked us to his van and we were off. The kids got their first taste of driving in Rome. I like to say that street signs, markings, lights and other ‘normal’ driving rules/aids are purely optional in Rome. Its always an experience. In all my trips to Rome, I have never gotten a car and don’t ever plan to. Watching the thousands of folks on their mopeds, Vespas, or motorcycles and how they dart in and out of traffic, makes you wonder how any of them every make it to retirement.

It took us about an hour and fifteen minutes to get to our apartment which could not be better located in Old Rome. The driver took us right to the door step though this meant navigating down very narrow, motor bike lined road. There were many times when there was less than an inch or two of passage on either side. At one point, his female companion even had to get out and move a moped a couple of inches. All very convenient for us!

After getting squared away in the apartment, the landlord was there waiting for us and helped get us settled, we decided to get some supplies. First stop was the grocery store (not like in America – smaller than your local 7-11). We like to make our own breakfast in the morning before setting out.

It was probably 5:30 when we headed out for touring, so darkness was settling in. The Spanish Steps were a couple blocks away, so we went their first. As usual, they were quite a few folks sitting around and enjoying the piazza area. Then we headed over to the Pantheon. Along the way, I checked out many of my favorite restaurants and Enoteca (wine bar) that I liked to frequent. They were all still there though one had at least changed names. Savannah did some serious window shopping. She has been saving up some money from her home chores and wants to buy some shoes, a purse and maybe a coat.

Suzanne had never seen the Pantheon at night before, but its my favorite time to see it. I like the way its light and how you look up into darkness through the opening in the room. When we walked in, Sean’s first words were ‘Whoa’. It is quite a marvel of engineering accomplishment.

After the Pantheon, we decided to get some dinner. It was a bit early for Rome standards at 7:00 but a bit late for us since we didn’t really have lunch (remember the Brit sandwiches?). We set off one of Suzanne’s favorite Roman local, off the beaten path restaurants. We first ate there back in 2000 time frame, but I took my business colleagues there whenever on travel. We like to say we discovered this quaint little family owned Ristorante where English isn’t spoken. A couple years later, Rick Steves actually found it too and had it on one of his Travel Europe shows, but we found it first!

Suzanne enjoyed a Scampi dish while Sean and I went the pasta route. Sean had Spaghetti Amatriciana (tomota sauce with bacon) and I had a Spaghetti Carbonara (egg and cheese sauce with bacon). Some form of Carbonara is one of my favorite Roman dishes and I have been on many quests for the best Carbonara in Rome. Savannah had lasagna and claimed it was the best she had ever had – better than what they serve in the States. We split a couple of Tiramisu for dessert. Hmmmmm….

After dinner, we headed off to the Trevi Fountain another nice tourist spot at night. It was one of the two top spots in Rome that Savannah wanted to see (the Collesium was #1 for both). The weather was very nice in Rome – cloudy but cool, somewhere in the 60s, so it was a nice night for walking. Savannah enjoyed the Trevi Fountain, but we didn’t have any coins, so we will have to go back and toss a few in the very large fountain. Local rumor has it that if you toss a coin in the fountain, you will return to Rome again. It’s worked for Suzanne and I!

From there, we headed back to the apartment, arriving there around 9:30. We had hoped to stay up until close to 11 to just to make sure the transition was complete, but we were all pretty tired, so it was lights out just after 10 – the end of a very good first day in Rome!

Be sure to follow our travel exploits on this blog as I try to make a daily update of our Rome and transatlantic cruise. Today, we are off to the Collesium, the Arches of Constantine and Titus, the Forum and Pallantine Hill plus a few other sites. Should be a fun day!