View Rome Photography
I’ve done many strange things in the last 8 months, had some great adventures, met some wonderful people, but I think I have reached the apex of unusual last week. I actually crashed a honeymoon. I’ve always said that I dislike attending weddings…but maybe I should give the honeymoon a shot. If I skip the wedding and attend the honeymoon, I don’t have to dress up and go to church, nor do I have to listen to a DJ play wedding music, nor do I have to catch a bouquet – instead – I can just enjoy the best part of the process of getting married…the TRAVEL! (get your mind out of the gutter) Of course I’m not ignoring the fact that the sex is/should be the best part – but that’s only if it’s your own honeymoon. If you are crashing a honeymoon, then you had better make sure that your friends are going to a great location. When Mike and Marcy said that they were going to honeymoon in Italy, I decided to skip the wedding and go straight for attending the honeymoon.
Photo: The newlyweds…touring Rome – I was their personal photographer!
Mike and Marcy are some more great friends from New York. In fact, I had the pleasure of being there when they met for the first time in a NYC bar. The funny thing is that Marcy, Alicia and I were all out together and we all met men that night, but the only one that worked out was Marcy’s! I was with her when they first started dating and she was freaking out about him…wondering if he was too good to be true…or just plain weird. They are a great couple…one that even I can respect…they belong together. I was upset that I wasn’t going to be able to attend their wedding, but it just so happened that I was planning on being in Italy during the same timeframe as their honeymoon, so I sent my parents to their wedding in California and I made sure that I was in Rome when they arrived for their honeymoon. Mind you, I did stay at my own little hostel in Rome and left them to their upscale honeymoon suite on their own…I do have a few morals after all. I arrived in Rome and settled into my little hostel near the train station. I quickly threw my stuff on my dorm room bunk and got cleaned up as I was very excited to see my friends after 8 months! Marcy was actually the last person I saw when I left NYC. She sent me off at Penn Station with tears in my eyes telling me not to cry as I was just going on vacation…this whole episode seems like years ago now!
I made my way over to their lovely honeymoon suite near Piazza Narvona and was elated to see their familiar faces! The first thing Marcy did was kiss me on the cheek and tell me that was from my Dad (who was at the wedding the weekend before). It was touching – I haven’t seen my parents for a long time, so this gesture from them meant a lot to me, and gave me a tinge of homesickness. Marcy, Mikey and I sat in their room for the first hour and simply caught up. I was a sponge that wanted to hear all about the wedding and what I had missed. We wandered out into Rome and found a cute little place to eat dinner and continued our conversation over wine, antipasta, primi piati, and secondi…while it poured rain in Rome that night.
Photo: Mike and Marcy at the Pantheon
The next day we all went site-seeing together. Marcy and I had actually been in Rome together 3 years prior – right after she met Mike. So we had fun re-living that fun trip together. However, this was Mike’s first trip out of the country…his first passport stamp! I was really excited to see Rome again through a newbie’s eyes!
First off, Mike is a guy’s guy…he drinks beer, eats pizza, lives for Gator football and basketball, hates eating things that are green, will travel anywhere for a major sporting event, and he loves history. Mike announced that he had decided that while in Italy, he would start drinking wine. Mike normally never drinks wine, he’s a beer man, or a mixed drink man at the very least…but wine…no way. However, when in Rome…. [Ok – I was just looking for a reason to throw that in…I couldn’t resist]
There’s only one problem when a beer drinker starts drinking wine for the first time, he drinks it as if it is beer…guzzles it. Marcy and I would barely be done with our first glass of wine and he was filling up his glass again…all the way to the top…just as if he were pouring a beer! I told him he had a very heavy handed pour…it didn’t seem to phase him! He said that a mug of beer and a glass of wine had the same alcohol content…yet I reminded him that a mug of beer is normally 12 ounces and a glass of wine is 6 ounces….deadly!
I loved traveling with Mike; he embraced Rome to the fullest. He tried everything, he walked all over, he really looked at the sites, reading each signboard, and he loved going in churches. We went to the pantheon together, then on to the coliseum, and to the Baths of Caracala. I had never been to the baths before as they were a little off the normal tourist track in Rome – but they were pretty fascinating. They are the largest and best preserved ruins in one of the three large public bathhouses of ancient Rome.
Photo: Ancient tilework at the Caracala Baths
As we were walking to the Baths of Caracala, we had our map out and were trying to figure out how to get the entrance – when all of a sudden…we were targets for one of the scams that you read about in the travel books. I took this excerpt from the travel book word for word…and this is exactly what happened!
Your walking down the street and a man in a car with a map on the front seat pulls up next to you and says he is lost. He will say he works for Armani or Gucci. He will ask if you can help him with gas money and will trade you one of the sample leather jackets he has in his car for the small priced of 20 or 50 Euro. The Leather jacket turns out to be an extremely cheap, smelly PVC jacket not worth 2Euro.
Sure enough – the guy pulls up all frantic telling us that he’s from France here on business and he’s frantic because he needs gas and his credit card isn’t working here for some reason. Before we know it he’s asking us what size clothes we wear and asking us for gas money…amazing. He obviously didn’t know that he was dealing with New Yorkers. Marcy took one look at his gold bracelet he was wearing and said – “I think you can buy your own gas”. It was rather funny though as we hadn’t actually read about this common scam until after it happened. So – it just goes to show…it’s always good to be on guard when traveling – when something seems to good to be true…it normally is.
That night we met again to go to dinner in the Trastevere area. We had heard of a local restaurant named Le Mani in Pasta which literally means “to have one’s fingers in the pie”. We found our way through the little allies of Trastevere and came across this small, welcoming restaurant. There was only one table available, and we took it. The restaurant was lively, loud and bright. It appeared that the other patrons in the restaurant were local to Rome – or at least they all spoke Italian – which is normally a good sign.
Rome can be rather frustrating at times, you have to work a bit to find places that aren’t overrun by tourists. Its kind of like trying to get out of Times Square in NYC, you need to get off the beaten path to find what the city is really all about. Trust me, no New Yorker is eating at Bubba Gump’s. The food was amazing, and I swear that they made the mozzarella di buffalo that morning…it was the freshest that I had ever tasted. During dinner Marcy pointed out that as people finished eating and left the restaurant, everyone went back and kissed the cook. We weren’t really sure if everyone knew him personally or not, or if that was just the tradition. After Mike finished his primi piati, he announced to us, “I may go tongue kiss the cook.” OK – that may be taking it a bit too far! Then again, Mike had a liter of wine that he was working on as if it were Bud Light. The dinner was delicious and when we left we did go back and acknowledge the cook and shake all of the waiter’s hands…we’ll save the kissing for the next visit…when they know us a little better!
We walked around the Piazza Narvona a bit and had another beer, and met some other tourists. Mike and Marcy were leaving for Florence the next morning so this was the last I would see them until I return to NY…not really sure when that will be. So I enjoyed my time with them and as we parted I felt like I had to apologize for crashing their honeymoon. Marcy’s parting words were “Thanks for being around otherwise we’d be tired of each other by now!” Amare!
I had a few more days in Rome on my own and used the time to simply walk around the neighborhoods, do laundry, see some photography exhibits and exercise. I was on a quest to find new running shoes as the ones I left NY with were more than a little smelly! The only problem is that Nike owns Europe…and I hate Nike running shoes. Even Footlocker only carried Nike and Puma, and they were mainly ‘fashion’ tennis shoes…nothing for any type of serious runner. OK – I may not be doing any real serious running these days…but I still refuse to wear gold metalic running shoes – no matter how slow I am. I decided to search for a Rome running club and ask them where I could buy shoes. I thankfully found the Rome Hash House Harriers email group and they were extremely helpful! I bought my new obnoxiously orange Asics running/trail shoes and happily retired my old shoes. I found it a bit sad to abandon them – as those shoes had been to Kilimanjaro, hiking in Thailand and Vietnam, and to Borneo…oh…they stories they could tell. See – this is what happens when you travel alone with one bag for 8 months – you become attached to things…and slowly lose your mind.
Photo: The thousands of tourists descending upon the Trevi Fountain…and this isn’t even the busy season!
For the first time in 3 months I was back to staying in dorm rooms within hostels. Europe is expensive for a solo long term traveler…there’s no getting around it. Top bunk, shared bathroom, no where to unpack your suitcase…at least this time I made the adjustment rather easily – mainly because from the moment I set foot in the Bee Hive Hostel I met people. I was immediately comforted by being surrounded by other solo travelers of all ages and backgrounds. I felt like I was back with ‘my people’ – the long term travelers. Yet my journey was much longer than anyone else’s in the room. I met Americans, Aussies, Koreans, and Canadians – some were couples, some were solo travelers, and they represented all ages – and we all occupied a little 8 bed mixed dorm. I honestly forgot how fun dorm living could be. To add to the fun, the Bee Hive wasn’t an ordinary cheap hostel – it was an oasis among the hostel desert. They had a little on-site organic café that was open for breakfast and dinner and they would even pack you a little sack lunch for you – all super healthy food. Throw in free wireless access, a garden, and a fat lazy cat named Ingmar…it was home for 4 days.
My favorite thing about the whole place was the café. It was small and cozy with just one cook who also served as the waiter, bus boy, and cleaning crew. The kitchen was simply like an apartment kitchen with a small room housing 6 tables…probably no bigger than my kitchen and dining room in NY. Plus, they had the best happy hour deal in town – 4 Euro for 2 glasses of wine and a plate of bruschetta! It was a popular place as each night the hostel was booked full and everyone staying there was constantly trying to add more days to their stay with no luck.
I was amazed and happy that the other people in the dorm thought that I was much younger than my real age. Oh youth…it’s amazing how sleeping in a bunk bed and months of aimless travel can make you appear younger – more effective than surgery any day! I enjoyed my time in Rome as I didn’t feel the pressure to have to go see the sites, instead – I just enjoyed at a slow, local pace – feeling as if I was becoming part of it, instead of just visiting it. I became acquainted with the bus system and road it with the locals. To my surprise, those Rome buses at rush hour are just as packed as the A,C,E subway at rush hour. My honeymoon in Rome had to come to an end though; I had to hop a train to Sorrento to attend school for the next month. I would certainly recommend honeymooning in Rome to anyone, but it’s probably good to find a husband first!
Lodging – Bee Hive Hostel near Termini
Food – Le Mani in Pasta – Trastevere