We had breakfast at the hotel this morning, as it was ample and, best of all, free.

Will wasn’t feeling well and missed half the day of being out and exploring Rome with us. For our part, Amanda, Stanton and I got a hop on hop off pass. The one day version of it took you to the major attractions and had a bus stop by them every five minutes, along with an audio guide you could plug headsets into.

Colisseum sunOur first stop was the Colosseum and the Forum. The line for the Colosseum was pretty long and we had a lot to see, so I was happy just walking around it. We also walked up a long path that took us to a small church, though I thought it was taking us to the Forum. The path went all through it anyway, so I got some nice pictures.

There were a bunch of guys (and a girl) dressed as centurions and gladiators that you could take pictures with.  Stanton said he heard one guy say to someone else, “Take a picture, €20… fuck your wife for free.”  Wish I’d seen the reaction on the guy’s face.

The downside to the pass we had was that sometimes the bus would be really crowded, which irritated me a bit when I couldn’t go to the top deck to take pictures while other people used iPhones, point and shoots or just sat there for the ride. Yeah, I’m a camera snob, but lets be honest, I’m not Ansel Adams, but I probably take better pictures than the vast majority of people riding those tour buses.

We rode past the Hippodrome and another stop or two and got out at a castle with the main goal of finding a bathroom and maybe a little refreshment. We ended up walking several blocks down some narrow streets that looked like they’d been built during the Renaissance. That in itself was cool to me. One thing I’ve loved about visiting these European cities is how you can set foot on an ordinary street and be steeped in history. It was most prevalent here in Rome, where you’d see random columns or chunks or marble or mosaics or paintings at every turn.

Anyway, we got a bit of refreshment at some random restaurant then got some gelato and walked into a small square to find the Pantheon. We sat on the pedestals of the columns of the portico of the Pantheon eating our gelato. There was something inherently cool about that.

We decided to go ahead and walk to the Vatican, where it took us a few minutes to figure out where the line to St. Peter’s Basilica was. We got through it quicker than expected though. Amanda had brought a sweater and a skirt to put on, as covered shoulders and knees are required. She’d been wearing shirts Nd a tank top: it was a very hot day.

St. Peter’s was very cool to walk around in. I particularly liked the crypts below where St. Peter himself along with a whole bunch of popes were buried.

Will met up with us after we got out of there. He’d taken a cab. Stanton stopped to have a beer while the rest of us went to go see the Sistine Chapel. I thought it was near the Vatican Museum, but it was actually IN the Vatican Museum. I’d just always assumed it was a free standing building, but to get to it you had to go through a bunch of halls. They were all beautifully painted and all, but to be honest it got a little tiresome walking through so many tour groups to get to what I really wanted to see.

Amanda and I heard a tour group leader say something about it being in the next room at some point, so she told me to go on ahead and we’d meet up. I guess the lady was talking about something else, because it was still a long while before I got to the Sistine Chapel. I dodged in and out of the crowd (I’m pretty good at getting through crowds) and eventually got there.

I got fussed at before I went in though. At the end of the last room before you go into it there’s a hallway leading to the right that lets you into the chapel. I was making my way through the crowd at the end of the room when a tour guide angrily told me they were waiting in line. Well, all I’d seen was crowds of people; I didn’t know there was a line. I told her that and apologized, but another tour-less family was behind me. The dad saw what was going in and didn’t move, which I took as his own FU to the tour guide. Another woman told me I needed to get in the back of the line, but I said, “Well I can’t move back.” I literally couldn’t- it was jam packed. She called me rude and that was that. Seriously though, part of the reason I wasn’t with a tour group was so I could go at my own pace.

Anyway, the Sistine Chapel. Everyone knows the famous painting, of course. It was much smaller than I expected it to be. No photography of video was allowed in the Chapel and I saw a few people get busted, but if you happened to leave your SLR camera on video mode and it happened to be pointing at the ceiling with the recording going…

Figuring that Amanda and Will were behind me, I took my time walking back out. The things that interested me the most were maps and globes that I saw. It was almost laughable how inaccurate they were. Granted, they didn’t have GPSs or airplanes or whatnot, but still, on one it looked like there were two Indias, Africa and the Middle East completely dwarfed Europe and most of North America’s north stretched out in a more easterly direction.

I was carrying a spare phone of Stanton’s and felt it vibrate. It was a text from Will saying he and Amanda were back where we’d left Stanton, so I hurried on out. It turns out that they somehow went some route after leaving the Sistine Chapel that took them by the exit of St. Peter’s, so they got back much more quickly than I did. The way we had taken to the museum wasn’t terribly far, but it was uphill and further than we’d expected it to be. It’s a good thing I went back the other way though, because I’d have had to walk back to get the backpack I had to check upon entering.

Since we’d walked to this part of Rome, we didn’t know exactly where our hop on hop off bus was going to be, and e map provided for it wasn’t very precise. We spent some time in a side street thinking that was the right spot until I saw our bus go by and figured it was on a more regular road, which it was. We found it waiting in the road leading to St. Peter’s. Will didn’t have a pass, but there weren’t many people on when we got on and I flashed our receipt, which stood for our ticket, at the couple of workers who were on the bus and pointed my thumb over my shoulder at the rest if the group and they just nodded.

We finished the bus’s tour circuit listening to the audio guide and got off at Termini, the train station where we came in and where the tour started.  It was only a couple blocks from our hotel, so we went back, rested up a bit then went to a restaurant near the Pantheon that Stanton and Sarah had been to last time they came to Rome.  It was also good, but I think I liked the one from the night before even better.

The most memorable thing about it was that each table had candles with actual candlesticks (as opposed to home where you usually have candles in jars or some such).  Our first one burned out and we were brought one with a cherub holding two candlesticks.  There were several attempts to appropriate some of the melted wax for use somewhere else on the cherub, but it never stuck, so someone, Stanton I think, used a small rolled up bit of paper instead.  It was still there when we left.

We looked around for bars after that and found an Irish pub which was more like an American bar than anything.  We started off in one room then ended up in a booth in another room.  There were a lot more people there, including a group of college chicks (I presume).  Made me feel old because I thought they were kind of silly in a curmudgeonly way.  There was also an Italian guy singing some terrible karaoke.  The fact that the girls were cheering him on so much might have been why I thought they were silly.  I’m not sure, I’d had a few drinks.

We left there and started walking back to the hotel, but ended up stopping at a cafe on the way.  We had some food and a few more drinks.  Poor Amanda, all dressed up and looking very nice, had to put up with three tipsy guys.

Stan ordered a large beer in a one litre mug.  The waiter, who was a very good sport with us, asked if he was sure he wanted that one and Stan said he was, so he got a litre of beer.  (Notice I’m spelling liter the international way out of respect for the locals.)  Stan wanted to buy the mug, but the waiter said the owner was often asked that question and had never sold one, but we could ask.  I went and asked about it and the guy said he’d take €6 for one.  Having felt he’d accomplished something by finishing it, Stanton was ready to pay €20 for it.

We all got back to the hotel where William decided to open a small bottle of champagne from the mini-fridge.  We took the party to Stan and Will’s room so we could quit annoying Amanda.  Hung out there for a bit, acted silly.  I was pretty exhausted when I got back to the room.  Amanda was well asleep.

Zach Dotsey