Trains, Planes and Blistered Feet – Part One

Trains, Planes and Blistered Feet – Part One

When you spend time reflecting on something, it makes you think. Think deep about the one thing that occupies your mind. For me that thing was the fact I had not been back to my home country in some sixteen years. It was time to rectify this feeling and go and see what had become of my green and pleasant land. I sat there with Lythia one day and out of the blue, suggested we did a cross-country trip over two weeks to my hometown, via Italy and France. The point being I really had a desire to see Venice. So, six months ago I began planning this epic trip for the two of us. Little did I realise that there were going to be so many barriers that made it more of an adventure I expected, wished for and had to endure. The first biggest issue was the five month ordeal getting Lythia a UK passport. A process I started early to avoid the hassle, and ending up finding myself pulling my hair (figuratively speaking) out right up to the week we planned to leave on this excursion. But as I found on the trip all problems work themselves out, and the day of the trip arrived.
 
A week before I left I had my eye on the weather forecast over several tv stations and weather sites. There seemed to be a large dark weather front moving over Italy, that would hit the two destinations the day before we were supposed to arrive at them. I kept optimistic, and hoped for the best. Not to put a literal damper on the five months planning, which involved getting the passport for Lythia, buying new rucksack suitcases, bumbags for security and new items to allow my camera to take loads of images. So, the trip was on, regardless! In the process I made a trip type bucket list of places I wanted to see in each of the cities we would visit. It almost seemed an impossible task due to the time we would spend in each, but we checked Google street view to familiarise ourselves with the places. Then the day arrived!

Awake at 4.30am to get to the airport for the flight down to Athens and the connecting flight to Rome. The weather in Thessaloniki was great, so we had high hopes for the flight and time in Rome. We were off! The fingering peninsulas of Chalkadiki and Mount Athos looked divine in the early morning sun, and no sooner had the air stewards delivered the much needed coffee, we were descending down to our first port of call; Athens. First little inconvenience then hit us. For some reason that day (of all days) they had closed the transfer part of the airport and we had to descend and rise into the security check area again. I have to say it’s one of my nightmare events in the travel process. For some reason, the buzzer always goes off when I pass through it, and today was no exception. Anyway, the time that we thought we had to rest a little was eaten by the check through security, so literally when we found the gate we required (which was at the far end of the terminal!) we had to board.

The closer and closer we got to the new destination, the darker and darker the clouds became, util we started to descend and the spots of water started filling the window. It looked pretty grey over the whole country, but we were on holiday, so hopefully nothing was going to defeat us. We landed, and had no clue where we were going! No clue where this metro we researched was suppose to be, and so there was a little moment when I was standing outside the airport terminal thinking that weird feeling of being ‘totally’ lost. Then I saw an icon of a train (thank you graphic designers of the world for the universal language of icons!!), so we headed in that direction, being bombarded by Italian taxi drivers looking for a fare. We found the terminal for the metro train to Rome centre, and surprisingly the process of getting the ticket was easy, though I did get the cashier who was the oldest and least fluent in English.
 
My research served well when we reached Rome Termini station, as we took a ten minute walk and took second left and we found our AirBnB location. Marco was sitting in the window and called my name, and we had arrived. At this point I wanted to say that this was going to be my first experience of AirBnB, and as we had a lot of places to stay and little money for hotels, then seemed a good option. Prior to our trip I did make a cautionary mistake of looking at the TrustPilot site for some reviews. They all seemed to slat the whole experience they had, which started to worry me, but confuse me at the same time, as my communications with all the places on my itinerary were all pleasant and helpful and punctual. Marco had no sooner showed us the room and gave us the key, and we were out to discover Rome. We had only the one afternoon there as it was really a stop over on the way to Milan. But we wanted to make the most of it.
 

I did mention to Lythia some months before thrip, that we would do a lot of walking around the cities, but I didn’t think she totally heeded my advise about getting fit for the occasion, and do some walking to prepare. But that said, I didn’t think I realised how much walking we would eventually over the two week period. So, we stood at the Colosseum (which was only ten minutes from were we stayed), being blown around a bit on one of the wildest days in European history, realising that we had two weeks ahead of us, and it had just started to rain! Anyway, we decided to venture on, and ducked under any tree we found on our path to get a respite from the ‘now’ constant downpour. After the Colosseum, we decided to make our way to the Monument to the Fatherland, which was a might impressive building. At this point, my memory of Google Maps ran thing, and we totally got lost trying to find the Trevi Fountain.

We should have gone right and not left! Anyway, we walking in the oncoming rainstorm, passing countless Irish and Scottish bars, and finally decided to take a right. Wasn’t such a bad choice, as we were shielded from the rain and found some really interesting back alleys with great architecture. At the literally moment after taking the following photograph we were deluged by a sea of over 30 Japanese tourists, all with telecommunications in theirs and following a lead guide with the customary flag raised high. We thought that if they were on a tour they would know where they were going, so we decided to follow for a while.
What we were after was the Trevi Fountain, and it seemed that more water was falling on Rome at this point than would actually be in the fountain, but we persisted, and then entered a large square. We realised that the building was important, as it had many military figures with machine guns; we had found parliament! Luckily just on the periphery of the parliamentary square there was a DHL office. Instead of getting soaked, I thought I would ask. That way they pointed, so we obliged. But ’that way, just led to more streets. A kiosk vendor was no more help, so Lythia thought Google Maps. Wishing a few minutes we were back on track and walking down this alley we started to see a large crowd forming. Forsaking the horrible thought someone had died, we knew we were there! We turned a corner and everything became bright!
As the quote says; “There are few manmade structures that can take your breath away”, but the Trevi Fountain is one of them! Even though the rain was still coming down, I could have stood there all day looking at it. It had this glow (I guess the white marble) that just mad this miserable, wet and cold October day just a lot brighter. It was way past lunch time and our excursion was getting exhausting, so we were in search of a food establishment. Luckily, just as you leave the Trevi square, there is a pizza joint, so we died in there, as you know what they say about “When in Rome”! We could believe our luck…a free table and great food at a good price, but as we sat in side, the sun came out!
 
Weren’t we even more surprised that when we left the pizzeria about one hour later, it literally started to rain again! That was our luck, but at least we were all stoked up with some energy!! Things started to get a little more dangerous as we entered the square where we should have gone right instead of left, as the wind was so strong the shutters were flapping off the buildings! We made a run over the road and up the street next to the Monument to the Fatherland, and found a great big square full of people.
Even though the time was around 4 o’clock, the weather made the city as dark as it was around 6 or 7 o’clock. We carried on as we wanted to see as much as possible, but we though that the Vatican was out! We headed in the direction of the Tiber river, but was beaten back by another down pouring of cold, wet rain. We ran across a large open arena type area, and found the road that led back to the Colosseum. We, stood under a tree, looking at the great monument before us, getting wetter by every second wondering whether to call it a day! We decided too much cold and wet was not good for us, so after picking up supplies on the way back to the AirBnB we got inside and the warmth.
 
On the way back we encountered some weird racism/sexism asn Asian store owner was shouting at a Korean couple’ “You lucky man, look at you! And you have hot woman.
The day in Rome was at an end. We had dried off, calmed down and rested. So, as the pangs of hunger started to bite we decided to venture across the road to a tavern we spotted and have a traditional Italian meal. As we walked in, the first people we heard were English! What would you have known. Anyway, in Greece you can’t order a pizza with anchovies, so it was hot on the list for me. And for Lythia…true love, as she discovered a pasta dish that she wanted to marry, it was that tasty!!
 
Tomorrow Milan, but for now we enjoyed the moments in the Rome we nearly got washed away in.
 
Today’s stats
Flight: 1,349kms Thessaloniki to Rome
Foot: 8.72kms Rome
 
Next Stop Milan!
all work copyright © Rob Art | illustration 2022

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