Monday, June 3, 2013

Finding Cassie

Yesterday was finally the day that Cassie was able to come and meet me in Europe so we could begin the long awaited Eurotrip. Her first impression of Italy was off to a rocky start: her phone wasn’t working and she couldn’t reach me…or anyone. When she finally got to the train station, she couldn’t find the tram, still couldn’t reach me, and ended up getting a taxi to our couch surfing location.

By this point, it had been a few hours since her plane landed and I still hadn’t heard from her. I was getting seriously worried. I tried calling and it went straight to voicemail, so I literally had no way of contacting her. I headed off to the train station (which is gigantic) to see if I could somehow locate a lost American among the sea of people flooding the Termini station.

I finally got a call—she had made it to the apartment! As it turns out, we were unknowingly at the train station for the same time…just in different areas. But not to worry, we eventually got to the same place at the same time and were able to begin our adventure together in Rome!

First pic in Europe with this amazing gal!
Ancient statues collide with modern art in the Roman Forum.
Filling up my new water bottle from Cassie at a water fountain outside of Vatican City.
The Vatican!
Cassie's first Italian meal! Complete with Tuscan wine and pizza.

Our view from the outdoor cafe.
Outdoor cafes are adorable when it's sunny, but slightly problematic once the rain starts to pour.
Our strange, bad luck streak continued in the form of unfavorable weather (despite the forecast of clear skies and sunshine). We visited the Coliseum, the Vatican, the Castle of Angels, and went on to Piazza Navona. There, we saw Bernini’s Four Rivers fountain. It was mesmerizing. After strolling through the piazza, we found a little outdoor cafĂ© and got Cassie her first taste of Italian wine and pizza! Right after I got the waiter’s attention to get the check, the skies began to darken and we heard the low rumble of thunder began off in the distance. It began to rain. Then pour. Our cute little outdoor table with the gorgeous view quickly became soaked. We finished off our diluted wine and ran for shelter.

After waiting under cover for a good, long time (and meeting a fellow traveler, visiting from the Netherlands), it became clear that the rain was not about to let up. We considered found the first bus stop, and hopped on a bus that looked like it would take us back to the station. It was headed in the wrong direction. We stayed on till the end of the route, then back tracked until we FINALLY reached Termini station, all the way at the other end of the bus route.
At least we found a rainbow in the middle of the downpour :)
After an hour and a half wasted sitting on the bus, the rain had subsided temporarily and we were able to race back to the apartment to layer up. Up till this point, I had been running around in the thunder, rain and lightning wearing only a T-shirt, jeans and vans.

My highlight of our trip in Rome (for me, at least) was supposed to be this gorgeous night walk through all the highlights of the city. Cassie could take pictures; we could people watch, get gelato, and wander through Rome.

As our luck would have it, the rain was constant and the metro closed earlier than expected. Nevertheless, we made the best of everything and even stumbled upon some amazing, unexpected sights along the way.

We took the metro to the Trevi Fountain, made our wishes, and headed back only to find a closed metro station. Not wanting to miss a thing on our adventures in Rome, we continued on by foot to the Spanish Steps. The yellow streetlights reflecting on the rainy, abandoned steps was really quite beautiful. Incredible different from the first time I was there with my family, on a balmy July afternoon, enjoying gelato and people watching. (And secretly wondering why the Spanish Steps were so special.) Tonight, we had the sights all to ourselves, it seemed.

After consulting our now-soggy map, we plotted out a path to the Ponte Sant’Angelo. Somewhere along the way we missed a turn and went to far, ending up in Piazza del Popolo by a happy mistake. I had never been here before and was overcome with awe looking up at the giant, hieroglyph-covered obelisk. There were fountains and statues of ancient, mythic creatures lining the piazza. Although my worn boots had filled with rain and it was nearly 1 am, I ran to the fountain in my sloshing boots to take pictures by the fountain. 

Trevi Fountain
The Bridge of Angels
By the time we finally reached the bridge, it was 2 am, we were soaked through and exhausted. We had absolutely no clue how we were going to get back. The metro had long since stopped running, as had the tram that took us to Elisa’s apartment. There was an empty taxi stand near-by with no taxi in sight. Not that it mattered. After consulting the map, we realized that we had trekked to the exact opposite end of Rome from the apartment. If we took a taxi now, we figured it would be around 50 euro. Out of the question. It was at this point that I began to question my adventurous, it-will-all-work-out attitude. What had I been thinking, walking late at night, through the pouring rain, in the exact opposite direction of where we needed to end up?

There wasn’t anything left to do but start to walk. I figured if we could keep to touristy, well-lit areas until we got to the main station, we could take a much cheaper taxi to the apartment and save some money while avoiding the darker alleys.

Thankfully, at our darkest (literally) moment, some luck started to kick in. We found a bus stop! There were some helpful people who told us where to go and what bus to take to get to the station. From there, it was a breeze. We followed the directions and got to the stop right as our bus pulled up. There was a taxi waiting at the station and we got dropped off right at the apartment, arriving just before our lovely host went to sleep. I was filled with relief at finally running into some desperately needed transportation luck on our final night in Italy.

Now, we’re on a train to Milan, before heading off to France. I can’t believe that tonight I’ll be in Lyon (foodie mecca). Hopefully just in time to get a delicious dinner!
We attempted to create this picture of the happy travelers on the front of our Eurail passes...
Cassie and I off on our first train using our Eurail passes!

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