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My journal entries for my March 2008 trip ended with the last one. On the 9th I spent it in and around the Vatican. I arrived early for the Pope’s blessing. I was unable to find out exactly where I was suppose to go to watch it. I wandered around for a while before standing front row center by the baracades staring at Saint Peter’s Basilca thinking that is where it would be as a stage was set up and all the television screens were set up around that area. At noon still standing looking at the Basilica I hear cheers arrupt from behind me. I turn around and seeing everyone facing the building to the right of me. I look up and from a window a flag/banner was rolled out from the window. A few moments later the Pope steps into the window and begins. He says pretty much the same thing every time but in a different language, giving special notice to groups and countries being repersented in the square. I am not particularly religious nor Catholic. I was actually baptised Protasant, raised with Catholic teaching by my Irish protasant mother and Irish Catholic father and given the freedom to discover and enjoy religous teachings that was right for me.

Afterwards I walked down the street to Castle Sant’Angelo and explored it. I have been a fan of Dan Brown especially his book Angels and Demons since The Davinci Code came out. So It was important that I went and see at least some of things he mention in the book. Walking through the Castle I  could not find where this supposed tunnel that links the Vatican and the Castle was. But I suppose that area wouldn’t really be open the the public.

Afterwards I made my way back to the Vatican and explored Saint Peter’s bascilica and the Pope’s catacombs. It amazes me how unsenstive tourist can be. Taking pictures inside the catacombs. Getting in the way of religious pilgrims. I remember seeing one gentleman stand in the way of a nun on her knees praying in front of a tomb so he could take pictures despite just being told by a Swiss guard not to take pictures. People seem to forget that while they are on holidays and visiting places like this that they are in a sacred place first, tourist attraction second. A certin level of respect is required, even if it’s not a religious site for you.

My last day in Rome I went back to Vatican to see the Vatican musume. I inteded to go the day before, but failed to realised that just about everything was closed on Sundays like most things in Italy. I should haved learned that the week before. Once again it was raining. I got in line that even that early in the morning streched all the way to where the Swiss guards were before the entry into Saint Peter’s Square.

On my way to the metro stop that morning I caved in and bought a pink umbrella from the man selling them in the metro station. It cost me 5 euros and only lasted one day (barely). I stood in line for 2 hours to get into the musume. By then I was cold, extremely wet and tired!

The security at the museum is funny. I found it harder to get through then any security check point I’ve ever beenat  in airports and even border crossings. In the book Angles and Demons by Dan Brown the character Robert Langdon made a comment that in the Vatican museum all the statues had there male anatomy snapped off and wonder if there is a box in the basement of the museum full of stone penises. This part of the book always amuse me and stuck with me while I wandered through the museum looking at statues that yes indeed had no penises.

I later followed the crowd to the Sistine Chapel. I may be the only person in the world, but I was seriously disappointed in the Sistine Chapel. I thought it would be bigger, more colorful, more awing and less crowding. I was Shepard into the chapel, shoulder to shoulder, and constantly reminded by a loud speaker system that visitors are to be quite.

After the museum I made my way to the Spanish Step metro stop. I went and bought some gelato and reenacted a scene from another of my favorite movie – Roman Holiday. I sat on the steps watching people go by. I even had a conversation with a gentleman on whether or not in Italy they observe Day Light Savings times as early as we do in North America (they don’t)

By now I had one more thing to see: Piazza of Navona. The night before I plotted my path out and highlighted it on my map. I got as far as the plaza I needed to find before none of the names on the street signs on the building matched the names on my map. I turn around and asked the first person I see. Lucky for me it had stopped raining.

He was a handsome young man, my age. Perhaps a little younger even. He spoke very little English and I spoke even less Italian. After a moment of trying to understand each other he waved me to follow him. I walked a few steps behind him nervously. I recognized none of the street names, nor was I really sure if he meant for me to follow him. He kept looking over his shoulders at me. I stopped walking and looked at my map. He stopped, looked at me confused. “Piazza Novona, si?”, “Si” I replied. “This way” He pointed. We walked a little more and he stopped and held out his hand “Beroni” he said. Hearing something else I looked at him confused. “I’m sorry?” “I Beroni.” He stuck out his hand again. I took his hand and shook it. “I’m Jo.” We walk some more in silence and he turns and smiles and me and makes a grand gesture with his hand. “Piazza Navona” He gave me the thumbs up and I copied his gestured. He walked me the rest of the way into the plaza. He said Ciao, waves and walked back the way we came.

I had just taken out my camera when it started to rain again. I quickly took a picture of the fountians that were boarded up for restoration work. And started to run the way we came desperately trying to remember the way back. The umbrella that I had bought that morning quickly broke underneath the blowing wind and down pouring rain. I hopped on the metro at the Spanish steps and made my way back to Termini Station.

I called my parents from a payphone at the Station. Staying in a hostel with no phone had really became a nuisance. I later grabbed dinner to go from McDonald’s. I know, I know, I know, I came all this way to Italy and I eat McDonald’s? So much for experiencing culture.

I took the metro back to my hotel and settle in. I pack the rest of my luggage getting it down to one checked bag and one carry on bag. I planned on leaving very early.

I wake up the next morning, shower and get ready and I am checked out of my hostel even earlier then I had planed. Which wasn’t bad considering how sick I woke up. I take a cab to  Tremini station to make things easier as it still was dark out. The cab ride over cost just as much as it did when I took a cab from my first Rome hotel to my hostel.

I bought my train ticket for the Leonardo Express train, and sat in a booth. An American couple in about their 50’s joined me in the booth and we chatted all the way. I arrived too early at the airport and was unable to check in for my flight. I went up stairs to the lounge area at FCO airport, called home once again. When the time came I went back down, checked in for my flight. Hearing rumors that the flight was delayed. I waited my turn, stressing in line thinking about the 70 minute connection time I had waiting for me at London Heathrow. The women assured me that flight was not delayed and I would not miss my flight, nor would their be any issues with my luggage.

That satisified me enough. I made it through security and customs and went for my gate. It was boarding time and nothing was happening. The customer service reps did not tell us anything. After awhile we were told the plane was late and we should be able to bored in about 20 minutes. 20 minutes had gone and pass and we had still not bored. About 30 minutes after we were suppose to take off we finally started to bored. However shortly after we are told we missed out take off spot because of the previous delays.

The flight attendant assured me again I would not miss my connecting flight in London. When we got to London, it appeared to be that I would make my flight but it would be close. The pilot announced that we would have to circle the airport a while waiting for atime to land. 40 or so minutes later we land. The pilots made announcement asking passengers to allow those with connecting flights off first. No one listens. I push my way through only to have the pilot again announce that the person who puts the sky walk on is no where to be found and we would have to wait until someone comes.

By the time I finally get off the plane my second plane had just taken off. I am directed to go to the flight connection desk. I get there to be face with a line to rivals the line at the Vatican museum. Finally it is my turn. The gentleman rebook me on an Air Canada flight for 6 o’clock. he gives me a 5 pound food voucher to get dinner. I make my way over to the right terminal, exchange some of my money into pounds.

I had little time before my flight. Once again I was left searching for a working pay phone to call home to have my ground transportation sorted out and so my parents would no worry when I did not show up as plan. I go to use my voucher only the find out that they do not take it. I end up buying my food out of pocket.

Both gate areas at Heathrow I’ve seen were quite run down. I bored my flight and was pleasantly surprised that the flight was practically empty and I had an entire row of seats to stretch out across. The flight home was with out event.

Once we landed I navigated customs and made my way to baggage. To be honest I was haft expecting my bag to not be there but I still hope it would be though. I waited until all the bags were gone, and was right my bags did not make the flight. I walked my way to the air canada desk. Filled out my report and then walked down the arrival desk.

My driver shows up and takes me outside to an unmarked car. Airlink, a local company I’ve always used to take me to airports, usually used giant white vans that had Airlink written on them in blue. “No way” I said. The way my trip has gone so far, this could be some kidnapping situation. At least in my sick and tired mind at after midnight and 14 hours of flying I reason that way. I refused to get into the car that had another man sitting in the back seat. “Show me some Id, Please” He looked at me confused and he laughed open his wallet showed me his drive licenses, pointed to his uniform and made me realise that the clerk at the counter knew him and wouldn’t have let some random stranger take me. Fine, I agreed to get in to the car. I arrived home by 2 am. Tired as can be, I loaded my pictures on to my camera and went to bed.

I arrived home on Tuesday but would not see my luggage again until Thursday night at around 11:30pm.
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