A Travellerspoint blog

Day 15

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What a perfect day! They weather was wonderful and everyone was commenting on it because they have been having so much rain and today was sunny and clear skies a lot of the day. Anyway our day started early with breakfast and walking. We walked over 3 miles to get to our 9:40 tour of the Coliseum. We were both very glad that we bought a guided tour that took us on 3 different levels. You can't go in the bottom or the top without a guide. So we went first on the level where the wooden platform would have been where all the action would have taken place. Our guide is an archeologist so she knew what she was talking about. She explained how it all would have work. When they had festival days they started early with hunts where they would bring in wild animals not native to the area and set up the ground area with trees and such scenery to make it look natural for the hunts. They used a pulley and trap door system to get the things up to the performance level.

After seeing that level we went down to the bottom level where the 600 slaves would have been working to set things up and operate all the elevators and such to make everything work. It was way cool down in the bottom and we got to see things others couldn't. I would have loved to walk freely around there but they don't let anyone do that. The bottom area was extremely well preserved because until the 1830's it was totally buried by rubble from earth quakes and soil and such so that it had not been pillaged during the crusades. They lower level had over 60 elevators that the slaves operated with pulleys. There was no natural light down there because it was completely covered by the wooden platform. They had to use torches and oil lamps which with a wooden ceiling was hazardous. With everything written about what happened in the Coliseum there is a lot known about it but there are no writings about what happened in the underground part so most of it is supposition.

Next we toured the middle part where people of importance would have sat. Seating totally reflected your station in life. The most important people had the best seats up close but everyone had a seat. It was all free and the reason they had the festive days was to help bring popularity to the ruler. The place would have held 70,000 people!

Next we climbed some really steep stairs to reach the upper level. It was a real climb but the view was fantastic. We could see the surrounding areas plus a great overview of the Coliseum. We stayed up there and took lots of pictures. Then we were aloud to just roam around the grounds as long as we wanted.

After taking a few more pictures and walking back down lots of steps, we left the Coliseum and went to Palatine hill where there are ruins of Nero's castle and other archeological areas. We walked around there for quite awhile and then walk to the Roman Forum ruins. After awhile they all started looking the same and I was getting hungry! So we walked and took pictures while looking for some place to eat. We found a little place and had prosciutto pizzas and wine for lunch. We had decided to eat a big late lunch and then just snack for dinner again. It was nice so we sat outside-ish. It was an open wall and we sat at the edge. The food was good and it felt very good to rest our legs.

On our way back to our B&B we went back by the Trevi fountain, the Pantheon, and the Piazza Navona. At the piazza there were artists all over the place. When we had gone by the day before yesterday there had been a few but it had been raining so today with beautiful skies they were everywhere. It was fun walking through. We had more gelato as we walked. We both had strawberry and mango. It was so yummy. We passed through St. Peter's square again and walked back along the Vatican wall.

By the time we got back to our B&B it was after 4:30 and we were pooped! We rested and Glenn worked on pictures. We had to get stuff packed up again for our final leg tomorrow. We already have our boarding passes to London so we don't have to leave here quite as early. We are both ready to be home but this has been a wonderful trip!!!!!

Posted by MaryDavis 09:03 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Day 14

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Today was Vatican day! We started out by taking cold showers. The place we are staying doesn’t have someone here 24/7. The family can be called if you need them but they come and fix breakfast and clean up your room and then they are not around. We didn’t call because we knew they would be coming for breakfast so we just showered and then when she got here told her about the water. She said sometimes a breaker gets blown when they have rainy weather like it has been. So tomorrow we will have hot water. We had a good breakfast of a cinnamon croissant, hot tea, cappuccino and fruit juice. I had blood orange juice and it was very yummy!

After breakfast we hurried over to the Vatican for our audience with the Pope. We found the Bronze door where we were to pick up our passes by asking the Vatican Gendarme. Only one could go up and pick them up so I waited while Glenn went and got them. He said there was much pomp and formality to just picking up the passes. After he came back we went and found seats in Sat. Peter’s Square. There were lots of seats but they filled up. We people watched while waiting for the Pope. It was fun as there were some very interesting people! A little before 10:00 the Pope came out in his Popemobile and came around the crowds. We were close but not right up where he came. Glenn still got some awesome pictures. The thing about this Pope is he just looks so friendly and genuine. He smiled the whole time. When he finally made his way up to the front everyone sat down, we had been standing on our chairs to get a closer look. Everything that was said was said in 8 different languages. When the Pope did his talk then it was repeated 7 more times. It took about an hour for it all. He blessed everyone there and all the religious objects that were brought by people. He also blessed everyone’s family and especially anyone who was sick. A group from the Czech Republic was there and their choir sang and it was beautiful. After it was all over we walked around the square a bit and then headed to get something to eat.

We ended up in this little place near the Vatican since we had 1:00 reservations for the Vatican museum and the Sistine Chapel. We shared a small pepperoni pizza and a large Peroni beer. It was all good. Our waiter was funny. He commented on Glenn’s Grand Canyon shirt. When we told him we were from Oklahoma he quoted Geronimo. We talked to him briefly about Native Americans which he is very fascinated about. He said he owned several books about them.

After lunch we headed the short walk to the Vatican Museum. It was an amazing place. Statues galore and the walls and ceilings were amazing! We walked and walked both inside and outside. There was an entire section dedicated to the art of Raphael. There were some Chagall’s, huge Matisse’s, some Dali’, and others in the Modern Art section. As we entered the Sistine Chapel we were told no pictures. I know Glenn was dying to take pictures but he refrained and we just enjoyed the beauty. It is a relatively small chapel but the ceiling is very, very high so you have to really crane your neck to see the pictures. We stood directly under God and Adam for a while. It was so cool but I really wanted to get closer to the ceiling! After we left there we went through the rest of the museum and then headed out. It was nice to not be too far from our B&B and to not have anything more scheduled.

We walked back and rested and relaxed for a bit before dinner. We realized that we missed having in down time in Israel except for our day we left. It was nice to not be over scheduled! For dinner we walked to a little place close by that the girl who picked us up from the airport told us about. It was a small place but very good. I had rigatoni with sauce and a small amount of meat and Glenn had pork rolls in a tomato sauce. We also had bread and a liter of the red wine on tap. It was all very yummy but it is nice to eat and not feel completely stuffed like we were the whole time in Israel. After we ate and watched a game show on the TV there (we actually could answer a few of the questions even thought it was all in Italian) we went across the walkway and had gelato. Glenn had lemon and I had coffee. They were also very yummy! We walked back up a bunch of stairs to our B&B and planned on making it an early night again. Tomorrow we will be off early to walk to the Coliseum! I am very excited about it too.

Posted by MaryDavis 10:55 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Day 13

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Our day started very early, alarm set for 4:20, and cool and damp in London. It was drizzling and of course still dark when we caught the shuttle bus back to the airport. We already had our boarding passes so we were able to sleep in a bit more than if we had had to check in. But at least we both got sleep at the hotel even if we weren't exactly rested. Out flight was uneventful and short, only 2 1/2 hours. We landed in Rome to over cast skies but not near as cold or damp. We had no trouble through immigration but they didn't stamp our passports! What is up with that? I wanted a passport stamp! Oh well. The daughter of the owner of our B&B picked us up at the airport. All the cars here are small so we crammed our stuff in her little Fiat and off we went. She works at the airport part time in security and had just gotten off work. We had a nice visit with her on our drive in. It takes about 30 minutes to get into Rome proper from the airport.

Our B&B is right across the street from the Vatican wall. It is a nice little place and the room is comfy. They gave us a map and we set off to explore. We walked and walked and walked! It was wonderful. We first walked to a place to exchange some money so we could buy lunch. We ate at a nice little restaurant and I had a caprese pizza (sp?) and Glenn had a calzone. They were both yummy and we ate almost all since it was almost 2:00 by the time we had lunch.

We walked along the streets and Glenn took pictures as we went. The first place we went to was the Piazza Popolo which is a huge plaza with big sculptures and a fountain. There were some street performers there and lots of people. It was really nice and was the first glimpse of things to come. We walked on to the Spanish steps. They were neat and we walked up and then back down. There were a lot of people so Glenn couldn't get the pictures he wanted but he still got some good ones. We headed to the Trevi fountain from there but stopped along the way at several other sights. I love the architecture here. The Trevi fountain was breath taking. It was so huge and yes, there were a lot of people there but nothing like during peak season. We were able to get some good pictures and I really enjoyed taking it all in.

Next we headed towards the Pantheon but again came across things to stop and see. One of the things were these really old stone pillars at the Palazzo Ferrini Cini. I heard a tour guide talking to her group about this being typical Roman work , taking something really old and building new stuff incorporating it. After that we got to the Pantheon. It was once again a breath taking sight. We went inside and Glenn got some beautiful pictures. Inside is Raphael's tomb. It has a large hole in the ceiling and the floor underneath it is concave rock with drainage places in it. It was very peaceful inside. While we were inside it started raining some. It was more of a heavy mist and it didn't bother us at all. We headed toward home but stopped once again along the way. We went to the Piazza Navona where there were more fountains and statues. There was a large Neptune fighting an octopus and we thought of Gary and his great fight with an octopus. There was also the fountain where Tom Hanks pulls out the last priest in Angels and Demons. It was a beautiful and very large piazza.

We walked back to our B&B going past Corte Di Cassaazione, past a bridge with angels, past the Castle St. Angelo and looking down the street at St. Peter's Basilica all lit up since by this time it was getting dark. We made it back to our B&B and feel like we have done well for the day. Since we ate lunch so late we are snacking for dinner. It is very quiet here with nice sounds of the traffic going by since we have our balcony door open. We are planning on getting to bed early since tomorrow is a big day and we want to look our best for the Pope!

Posted by MaryDavis 09:39 Archived in Italy Comments (1)

Day 12

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Today was a good day of relaxing and travel. We started the day by sleeping in and having breakfast. The breakfast at the hotel was a little weird with several kinds of raw fish slices and not American coffee or a place to toast bread. So I had a croissant and yogurt and made coffee when we got back to our room. We got all packed up and took our backpacks down to leave behind the desk. Then we went out and walked along the beach and in the water some too. It was so beautiful out and the sun was warm. We saw some interesting people. One older and larger woman in black thong swimsuit. It was not a pretty sight and she kept leaning over too! All in all we had a relaxing morning. We ate lunch at a little place on the beach and just had hummus and falafel. Then we walked back to our hotel, wiped the sand off our feet, put our shoes on and loaded up.

Our cab ride to the airport was uneventful and going through security was uneventful. After all the warnings of things that have happened to others who have been through the Israel airport we were prepared for some questioning but nothing. We went and sat in the waiting area. It is a very large central area that has shopping and restaurants all around. Maggie, our friend from the UK, met up with us. We laughed again about how we are on the same flight and staying in London at the same hotel. I had commented to Glenn that it would be funny if she was sitting with us and he said that the chances of that were slim to none but low and behold she was sitting right next to Glenn on the plane! We laughed about that too.

It was an uneventful flight and not terrible long, 5 1/2 hours. We were a few minutes late getting off but not bad. Very little turbulence and dinner wasn't bad especially with little bottles of wine they give you. I read for most of the trip and then when I started getting tired I started a movie.

When we got to Heathrow we made it through immigration and customs in record time and took the shuttle bus to our hotel. As we checked in I joked about Maggie getting the room right next to us and believe it or not she did! We could not have planned it any better. I told her that if she shows up in Rome I am going to think she is stalking us!

Didn't really take time to reflect because I was too busy enjoying the beauty and the sunshine. Am getting ready for bed since we get up early to catch our flight to Rome.

Posted by MaryDavis 13:54 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

Day 11

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(Sorry this is more abbreviated than my entry was just 20 minutes ago but it didn't save and when I tried to post only a small part was saved so I am now re-doing my blog so it is not as complete.)

It was weird thinking as we got up this morning that this was our last day as a group. After being together for so long and experiencing so much together it was just weird to think about separating. It was kind of like summer camp where you go and meet new people and share experiences and then everyone hugs and goes home. We have made some lasting friendships and have some wonderful places to visit with friends living there now! There was even a new Phillips Seminary student on the trip and she lives in Colorado so we offered her our upstairs for when she has to take classes here. She was thrilled as were we! Luckily the internet makes keeping in touch so much easier so we hopefully won't loose touch. Anyway back to the day...

After breakfast we had a very nice church service down in the basement of our hotel. We have had some very meaningful worship services this trip. This one was bitter sweet knowing it was our last. After the service we had another speaker but this time we heard from a conservative Jew. This man was born in America but came to Israel as a child. He is a colonel in the Israeli army and if I understood it right it is a volunteer position. He gave us a lot of historical, political background to conflict in the middle east but didn't really touch on the Israeli/Palestinian issues. When we asked questions he skirted around the issue and didn't really answer our questions. He seemed to blame the situation on the Palestinians and excused many things in the name of security which we have heard repeatedly this past week. We had to leave which was probably a good thing since we were all getting frustrated with him.

We got on the bus with all of our luggage and headed to B'tselem which is a Jewish organization that monitors the human rights violations in the occupied areas. They write up reports which are actually looked at and used. One of the other things that they do is arm the Palestinians with cameras to use to record injustices. The cameras work two fold, one when the Israeli forces see the cameras they back off the use of violence and two the cameras give the Palestinian youth a way to fight back without using violence. She explained the situation very well and it was good to hear it from an Israeli point of view. We got a great map and some hand outs too.

After finishing with our last speaker of the trip, we loaded back into the bus and headed to the Armenian quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem for lunch. We ate at an Armenian restaurant and the food was very good and very plentiful. We had so much we hardly made a dent. We even had fresh squeezed lemonade to drink. After lunch we had free time and got to walk around the bazaar area of the Old City. One of the first stalls/stores we stopped in had old coins, figurines and vessels from ancient times. They had things dating back to King David's time and before. It was like walking in a museum. I would have loved to have been able to afford something but it was fun to look. The were stalls that sold spices of all kinds heaped and even pyramided (Glenn got a picture), a bead stall that had more beads than imaginable, toys, scarves, socks and underwear, clothes, and every other thing imaginable. It was crowded but a lot of fun. Most of the people we have met have been very nice. But one of the women in our little group was berated for touching his scarves because she wouldn't go into his stores. He called her a liar and was very ugly. So needless to say he didn't get any of our business! After walking around and to the Damascus gate we went back to the hotel to meet the bus.

We got back on the bus and drove to Beit Sahour, the Shepherd's fields area, again for dinner. Yes, we really weren't hungry yet but we had to eat earlier than usual since most were heading to the airport afterwards. The dinner was sponsored and paid for by the tour company. It was very good and plentiful! They had some young adults doing traditional dances. It was neat because the first dance they did was the exact same dance that the kids did yesterday for us at the school. It was neat to see how it is done by older kids. They were very good and even got our tour guide out dancing with them at one point. After dinner we loaded back up for the last time for the ride to the airport. It was over an hour ride and most talked and shared.

At the airport we all hugged and said our good byes. We have made some good friends and have some neat places to visit when we visit them! One of the women in a seminary student at Phillips but lives in Colorado. We offered out upstairs when she needs a place to stay. We were both thrilled with the prospect of seeing each other again soonish. As they headed into the terminal we caught a cab to our hotel.

It was quite a drive into Tel Aviv and our hotel. We are staying right on the Mediterranean and have a great room. Our room is on the second floor on the corner so we have one window and a sliding glass door. We have a huge wraparound porch with a view of a large fountain in the middle of a roundabout and the beach. Couldn't ask for a better room. We were tired so we got settled and I did my blog (twice!). Tomorrow I am looking forward to no alarm and no schedule! We are going to relax and recoup before the next leg. Tomorrow I hope to take some time to try to begin processing all I have heard and seen this past week. So either by blog will be short because I am still processing or it make be longer if my brain is cooperating. We shall see!

Posted by MaryDavis 11:58 Archived in Israel Comments (0)

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