I apologize friends. It’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything. I hate starting out posts like that. No, we weren’t abducted by rabid, flying monkeys. Life happens and to be perfectly honest, I’ve been trying to figure out the best way to tackle everything that happened on our Spring Break. Per the norm, it was full of shenanigans. Some good and some that were more of the dear-sweet-baby-Jesus-what-in-the-what variety.
Let’s start with a little background. Mom and Dad (my mom and dad) wanted to come visit. Since the kiddos had a decent amount of time off for Spring Break, we all decided that April would be a good time for them to come. It worked out beautifully–Dad retired on March 30 and Mom would be having a milestone birthday while out here. After much back and forth, we all decided on three great spots to visit: Rome, Paris and Dublin. We figured we could smush two together during the week of Spring Break and then save the last one for Mom’s birthday weekend.
Trip Fail #1: Planning Rome. I don’t know if I could really count it as a fail, but Rome took a LOT of time and patience to figure out. I used Booking.com to book the apartment and Viator to set up the tours. However, I think I booked and cancelled about three different places because of the payment options. Friendly tip for you: Be careful when booking online in Rome–a lot of places only take cash. It’s usually in the fine print at the bottom.
The night before the trip, I woke up in the middle of the night. For some unknown reason, I was COMPLETELY freaked out about the airline tickets. They wouldn’t let us check-in online, so I kept waking up, afraid that the reservation hadn’t gone through, even though the credit card statement said otherwise. After making sure the confirmation numbers were good for about an hour straight, my Virgo tendencies died down a let me crash for a couple of hours.
Trip win #1: Alitalia Airlines. When I did my airline searches, Alitalia had some pretty bad reviews. However, it was the cheapest option without using Ryanair (more about them in a different post), so we ended up flying them from Frankfurt to Rome. We knew it was awesome from the moment we stepped on the plane. Karen Carpenter and Barry Manilow flowing through the inflight speakers. If that’s not considered a win, then I don’t think we can be friends. Just kidding. I’ll forgive you…maybe.
Trip win #2: The apartment.We stayed at the Vantaggio apartment, which was about two blocks away from the Vatican. It was spacious, with two bedrooms and two bathrooms. Boy Child and Girl Child had enough space on the couches and there was a nice little kitchen. Francesco, the property manager, was super helpful and accommodating. Yep. Totally a plug for them right here.
After we experienced our fantastically terrifying taxi ride from the airport to the apartment, we dropped the bags and decided to go hit up a grocery store and get some essentials (Diet Coke TOTALLY counts as an essential…have you *seen* me without caffeine???). Mom was carrying an under-shirt pouch that contained her passport and her money. We knew that Rome was bad with pickpockets and thefts, so we tried to be as inconspicuous as we could.
*Dear-sweet-baby-Jesus-what-in-the-what Alert Coming Up*
As we were walking back from our grocery run, we crossed the street when it all happened. Mom looked down, patted herself and realized that her pouch was gone. Husband, Dad and Mom retraced our steps immediately, in the event that maybe it had just fallen off. After about 20 minutes of searching, they came back empty-handed and rather shell-shocked. EVERYTHING was in that pouch. Money, passport, every piece of identification that ID’d my mother–gone in less than a second and less than two hours after landing in Rome.
When we got back to the apartment, Dad called the US Embassy to report the theft. They advised them to come in first thing the next morning and get a new passport. Dad and Mom started the arduous task of notifying banks and the DMV that everything had been stolen. They were smart and filed an alert with the major credit score companies. After talking with Mom a few days after this happened, she told me that she felt so helpless and angry. To not have any ID in a foreign country was simply overwhelming, frightening and honestly, left her feeling a bit violated. Someone was walking around with proof of her life and it wasn’t her.
For dinner that evening, none of us were really in the mood. Mom ended up falling asleep, so the 5 of us tried out Cafe Amalfi, which was located across the street. The food was just okay. The decor was nice and the servers were friendly. I ordered a sausage pasta dish that was just weird. The noodles had an odd texture and the garlic cream sauce just didn’t quite go with it. Also, the amount of peas that came with it just overwhelmed the dish. Uncle Roger probably would have flipped the table in disgust with the peas. Husband and Boy Child each had a pizza that was pretty good. Dad had a calamari dish that looked as though it should have been thrown back in the water. We decided to call it a night a little early and prayed that the tomorrow would be better.
This morning we woke up hopeful and early so that we could head to the US Embassy and get Mom a new passport. We weren’t sure how long it would take to get there, so we left around 8 am in order for her to get there when it opened at 8:30. We knew that there would be taxis near the Vatican, so we walked over and Dad flagged down the first one that he saw. Unfortunately, it couldn’t seat all 6 of us. Rather than wait, Husband jumped in with Mom and Dad and off they went. I told him that I would figure out a way to get over there and make it fun for the kids.
When we checked in to the apartment, Francesco had given us a map of the city that was from the City Sightseeing Roma (hop on-hop off) bus tour. When I looked at the map, I noticed that there was a hop off spot a couple of blocks from the embassy. I asked the kids if they were up for an adventure. After a resounding, “YES”, we were off! Only…I had to find the bus first.
Just an FYI, if you are walking anywhere near the Vatican and NOT heading towards it, you will get a lot of weird looks and comments. We were asked literally (yes, I counted) 16 times if we were headed to the Sistine Chapel or the Vatican. Before I could answer “no”, they informed me that I was going the wrong way. Luckily, after about 20 minutes, I found a news kiosk that was selling the tickets and showed us where to hop on.
Trip win #3: City Sightseeing Roma. There are always a gazillion and one bus companies that offer tours. I’m really glad that we went with this one. The price was decent (€25 for adult ticket and €12 for kiddos up to 15 y/o) and the tickets are valid for 24 hours. The commentary was very thorough and although it doesn’t stop at every major attraction, you can often get a glimpse of it and it gives you a great intro to the city.
We took the bus and hopped off at the closest stop to the US Embassy that we could. We walked up a hill and found that you couldn’t miss the compound. This thing is ginormous and heavily guarded.
Trip win #4: The US Embassy. Husband pointed this win out early on. We were very lucky to be in a city that has an embassy. I can’t imagine what we would have done had we not been Rome. According to Mom, the customer service inside was excellent and they were very helpful and reassuring. It took a total of about 2 hours for her to get the emergency passport. Just the fact that she was able to get one so quickly was fantastic.
As we waited for them to finish up inside, Husband found a hotel across the street with an outdoor cafe. Boy Child and Girl Child were getting hungry (2nd breakfast, anyone?), so we decided to take a break and sit down. I had just ordered a cappuccino and some drinks for the kiddos when Mom and Dad came across and joined us. We recharged and hit the reset button, for the day and for the rest of the trip. I have to say–I’m proud of my mom for picking herself up and dusting herself off. It would have been easy to just become a hermit for the rest of the trip, but she didn’t. She shook it off like a champ and didn’t let it get her down at all.
We all jumped back on the City Sightseeing bus and took the entire tour of Rome. Totally worth it just to get acquainted with the history and monuments. Also, it meant that we didn’t have to drive or be stuck in a taxi. The traffic in Rome is absolutely insane. Traffic signs and stop lights are basically just suggestions. Weaving in and out of lanes, driving on the other side, passing police cars while speeding through the city is perfectly normal. More often than not, my eyes were closed whenever we took a taxi somewhere. Husband laughed because he was pretty much expecting Rome to be exactly as it was. I laughed because I didn’t.
Trip win #5: Bianco’s. After the tour, we took a breather at the apartment and looked up a couple of places to have dinner. We decided on a place called Bianco’s that was just around the corner. I think this was my favorite place that we ate in Rome. We had fried dough and olives to start off the meal. I ordered the house white wine and it was excellent; slightly fruity and crisp. I ordered the ricotta and spinach ravioli and Husband ordered the pizza with ham and gorgonzola. We meant to share, but honestly, we really didn’t. Boy Child had the spaghetti bolognese and said it was really good. For dessert, Husband and I ordered a tiramisu to split and Boy Child had a Nutella panna cotta. Because it was a small, family-owned cafe, it wasn’t very big and there was really only one waitress. I would definitely recommend going early, so there isn’t much of a wait. The waitress was fantastic and the food was fresh and delicious. Total win.
–To be continued–