Day 1: We're Off!
We're somewhere over the United States heading toward the Atlantic and eventually Frankfurt. Dinner is done (surprisingly good Indian food as my vegetarian meal), and we got a free glass of wine which I chugged from the bottle (so much easier to manage with a flailing toddler sitting next to me). I miss the days when an international flight automatically meant free drinks, but I digress.
Yesterday I had a mini-heart attack. Jole announced to me out of the blue that our flight was at 2pm, not the 7pm we'd booked and planned for. Somehow United moved his trip only to a completely new time and didn't inform him until the day before, even though we booked everything at the same time by phone. WTF United? I went into the bathroom to steel myself for a 10+ hour flight with Mia solo, but he jumped on the phone and was able to get it fixed, no charge. Still, why give us the stress? Reason #36 why we're done with United after this trip (traveling with the last of our miles).
Arrival at SFO was smooth thanks to a short Uber ride, fast moving ticket lines and priority security access. Seriously, I love SFO.
It's a few hours after dinner now and Mia is clearly tired and has no interest in sleeping. More tomorrow from Frankfurt!
Day 2: OMG Are We There Yet?
We're in Frankfurt! After a seriously rough night Mia finally slept for the second half of the flight. She looked so uncomfortable but she was knocked out mostly, and woke up in good spirits.
The Frankfurt airport is what you'd expect. Modern, bustling, and full of warnings about Ebola. No matter. We're going to drink a huge beer. We are in Germany after all!
Post huge beer (which was awesome BTW) Another United snafu. Somehow Mia's ticket never got to Lufthansa from United for our final leg to Rome! Luckily we had an extremely helpful gate agent who worked some magic to get her a seat so we wouldn't have to buy her another one. But seriously United, WTF. Reason #37.
As expected the Lufthansa plane is MUCH nicer than our flight from San Francisco. Just excited to be here and heading to the final stop on the first leg of the trip. Also, Mia's holding up like a champ. She's such a trooper!
We're in Rome! The flight from Frankfurt was smooth and once we things went pretty smoothly save a short time when I couldn't find Mia and Jole after retreiving our bags. Turns out they were playing on one of several small playgrounds—way to be kid friendly Roman airport! Even the gate checked stroller came out to the special baggage area. Our Airbnb host arranged for a driver to pick us up and he was waiting with our names on a sign just as we stepped out into the cool Italian evening air. About 30 minute later (just enough time for Mia to take a nap) we pulled up to our temporary home near Piazza del Popolo. The apartment is awesome, but more on that later. Now, food!
We totally scored with a great first meal at Pizza Re on Via di Ripetti about two minutes away. Our hunger and desire to get out into the city won out over keeping a potentially fussy Mia at home, and although she did have her moments she was also a hit with the staff—our waiter sang "Elmo Song" to her and the chef came out to meet her. They even had high chairs, which I hear aren't common in Europe. It was nothing like the plastic and straps we use at home and it barely contained her, but I appreciated them bringing it out!
The food was wonderful—we both had pizzas which were AMAZING of course—Jole had the salsiccia and I had prosciutto and mushrooms. Delicioso! Mia had the kids portion of pasta which was far better than many fancy "adult" pastas I've had back home. What a way to start our first night in Rome!
Day 3: What Time Is It?
Even with us going out and trying to get on Roman time we all woke up around 3:30 am unable to sleep. It was kind of like when Mia was a newborn! We chitchatted, I nursed and eventually we all went back to bed and woke up at 10am! Not what we had in mind, but it was nice to ease into our trip and I intentionally didn't plan anything for today so we wouldn't be stressy.
Once we got out of the house we grabbed coffee around the corner-turns out we are staying right of a street with lots of popular restaurants from sandwich joints to high end cuisine. We'll be eating our way through all of them :) Just one block over is Via del Corso, a main pedestrian street in the heart of Rome with tons of shops that leads to the major sites. We ended up at the Spanish Steps, took a ton of pictures and kept moving without any real destination. A few blocks away we found one—the champagneria! I mean, how could I NOT stop there?
This is already one of my favorite trip memories, because it ended up being a popular local hangout and we were very warmly welcomed. They also do brisk coffee business (don't think everyone here is drinking champagne all day) and it was cool to just watch people come and go about their daily lives. Mia got lots of "bellissimas" and a few sweet treats, while we sipped our champagne.
And then a few blocks later, the Pantheon! I knew what to expect but I really had no idea. Even despite the crowds (which are relatively light this time of year), the scale is impressive and the feeling of history is tangible. Just the columns outside are worthy of a close inspection.
Even with all our walking and sightseeing we were only about 15 minutes from home, so we came back to regroup and let Mia nap (she's still holding up well). We ventured back out again for dinner and a trip to Trevi Fountain but it was way colder than we dressed for, so we grabbed sandwiches from a stand around the corner and came home. Jole went back out to grab some light groceries and our first gelatos. Bedtime!
Day 4: Oh It's Not That Far
Today's post will be in list form because so much insanity happened I can't do it justice any other way and I'm far too tired to be creative. Photos tomorrow.
1. Got up early to get family to Colosseum at good time. Two hours later leave for breakfast. (Note, not a good time).
2. Hubby researches what bus to take-finds it around the corner from our apartment-yay! Unfortunately we have to buy tickets and events and don't know what to do that. Boo.
3. Spend 30 minutes circling our neighborhood to find bus ticket stand, which was 1 min from our apt. Ugh.
4. Pop in store to buy snacks for Mia, who's refused most food and drink since we've been here.
5. Jole gives Mia applesauce pouch, which she immediately squeezes all over her face, hair and jacket (imagine a Phantom Of The Opera mask made of applesauce). Mommy meltdown begins. Daddy remembers wipes in pack, saves moment.
6. Arrive at Colosseum by bus and pay for upgraded English tour there and at Roman Forum across the street afterwards. The Colosseum was great, but lack of snacks and water due to poor parental planning makes everyone fussy. Mia is so unimpressed with the Colosseum.
7. We exit and immediately get overpriced snacks and drinks outside. Mia eats a few Pringles and discovers a new love: Nutella. Everyone rallies.
8. Hydrated and slightly less hungry we head to Roman Forum to catch up with our group. The white stickers on our clothes are not enough to convince cranky gate girl that we've paid. We haggle and just as Jole says lets go, her colleague cajoles her in Italian to let us in. She's pissed but does it.
9. Mia sleeps on Daddy's back while we stroll the Forum and emerge on the other side at the Altare della Patria memorial, which we really wanted to see. Great outcome.
10. Random bus strike forces us to walk, but we eventually get a cab and head home. Wonderful dinner at Pizza Re, where we ate the first night.
11. Regroup and grab taxi for night tour of the Vatican Museums. Amazing and incredible, although Mia did have an epic meltdown exactly as we entered the Sistine Chapel. A quick detour and some booby fixed that (more on this later).
12. Finish tour and head to cab stand. Taxis announce they are going to ignore the meter and charge us double because we're going to the city center. JERKS. We pass and walk to another cab stand.
13. On the way realize we are just off St. Peters Square, walk over to find hundreds of people singing, with candles. Amazing. Bucket list moment. Resume walking.
14. Find restaurant with porchetta, Jole's obsession. I have my first spaghetti ala carbonara. Yum.
15. Resume walking, realize the bus we took to Colosseum is coming. Board and get home in 5 mins for 3 euros. Bus is full of Vatican revelers, all sweet Italian teens.
16. Lay down and start writing this list, fall asleep three times before number 3, save it for morning and go to bed!
Day 5: Mia Takes A Break
After last night's adventures and shenanigans, we all needed a break this morning. Mia in particular was not herself—my normally all-over-the-place baby had no energy and no appetite, which was totally heartbreaking. She also hasn't pooped since we got here (parents of toddlers feel me on the kiddie poop tracking). Once I confirmed she was mostly just in need of some rest, she and Jole took a mid-morning nap and I took some time to explore the streets around our apartment.
Rome is such an amazing city. It was never incredibly high on my list of places to visit, but now that we are here I'm in awe of how Romans live and work around such history every day. Even in our small section of the city there are incredible churches, obelisks, statues and carvings everywhere. The people are also so inviting. Traveling with a baby opens people up to you in a way adults alone don't always experience, but even being out for a brief walk alone people greeted me warmly as we passed on the small sidewalks.
If there is a downside, I'd have to say its the mosquitoes. I've already killed three of them in our apartment and we all have a few bites since I keep forgetting to put repellent on. And the street vendors can be a little agro. No worse than in Las Vegas or other places, but a few of them have tried to hand things directly to Mia, which does NOT sit well with me.
Our apartment is lovely. We're on the fourth floor (no elevator-ugh with the stroller!) of a typical Roman building we found via Airbnb. It took me a while to pick a place and I'm really happy with it—tons of space, a huge bathroom and soaking tub and a cute little kitchen including an orange refrigerator! We had plans to cook to save money, but so far I've reheated some pizza (in a skillet, try it because it is the BOMB) and that's it. Too much good food out there to try!
Once everyone woke up Mia was back in business, ready to eat and see the city! We're staying close to the Borghese Gardens so we walked over with no real plans and discovered a precious playground and a rec center. Mia climbed, colored, fell, cried and climbed again, just like all the other kids. When in Rome... On the way home we walked joined hundreds of other Romans starting their evening stroll through the park back toward Piazza del Popolo when we discovered another huge play area complete with carousel.
Our walk continued to an overlook with incredible views of the Via Del Corso, Piazza del Popolo and rooftops all across the city. For our last night in Rome getting to take in this view was an awesome treat. Dinner was more porchetta, a great chianti and early to bed. We're going to Florence tomorrow!