Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Rome, Part 3

sunday morning, 9/23, mike and i had made plans with peter and tony to see the pantheon, and check out open markets.  naturally, we needed to stop off for some cappucinos before going too far:

our waitress was very chatty, telling us about the things she'd seen while about town the night before, and teasing us for going to bed rather than going out to enjoy the night life.  she also kindly took a picture of us all:

outside of the pantheon - it is amazing how wonderfully preserved it was!!

love these guys!

the next several shots, sadly, do not begin to capture how awe-inspiring the pantheon was.

standing as close to the center of the room as we could, looking up - it was hard believe the sky wasn't a picture.
apparently, the pantheon is PACKED when it snows in rome.  can you imagine standing in that giant done, watching snow come through the room to land in the center of the room?  wow.  seeing the daylight come down was enough to keep us pretty captivated.

there were small "rooms" (i'm sure there's an official word to describe them) along the outer edges.  here are some pictures:

a better shot of the roof - i hope that you can feel how the center pulls your eyes towards it.  if not for the unavoidable cricks in our necks, it would have been easy to just stare up all day.

after leaving the pantheon, we wandering off in search of street markets.  mike and i had planned to get each other leather jackets for christmas, bought in rome.  however, after doing more research, we found that florence is really the place to get leather.  mike's sister jennifer, and her husband, ivan, have artwork they have purchased all over the world - hearing their stories with each piece conveys the way they treasure them.  we hoped to find something similar that we could bring back with us, that we would have in our house to remind us of this trip.

below is a lovely square - it felt like a surprise to see the grass below the intricate building walls.

i love the picture below.  the light was like a highlighter, draw across just the building, leaving the sky and street in darkened gray.  here was piazza navona.

we could see vendors on the other end of the square, selling paintings and artwork - yes, please!

as when we had looked at pictures friday night, we didn't see anything we loved.  i was disappointed, but not surprised.  then, i saw an oil painting propped up against a table, of the spanish steps.  we appreciated the way it was painted, and, sentimentalists that we are, loved that it was of the place in rome our feet kept us returning to.

because it was a street market, we assumed we should try to haggle down the price - right??  based on prior discussions, mike and i had decided that i could be the "emotional face" while he would be the unconvinced spouse.  however, it was quickly clear that this wasn't a haggling situation.  the artist explained that he usually sold his work in galleries, and that the last price he had quoted on the painting i loved was 300 euros!  his asking price was less than a third of that.  he pointed us to his less expensive works, but said that he really could not drop his price lower than quoted.

of course we bought it.  ;-)  it is now hanging, framed, in our living room - arguably our most priced possession.

one last shot to end with.  after this, we hurried back to the hotel to say good-bye to rome, and say hello to the mediterranean!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Rome, Part 2

it's already been a month since we got home!  time FLIES.

back in time, 11 a.m. rome time, on 9/22, the rest of our crew finally arrived - muv waltzed straight up to the front desk, and i flew across the room to hug her......we were HERE, in ROME!!!!

after lots of discussion and confusion, peter, mike and i left for the afternoon tour we had booked beforehand to view the colosseum and forum.  

we met with our guide above the colosseum metro stop; i was tense and excited about being a part of the group - after wandering around rome unguided, i could hardly wait to hear the history of what we were looking at.  peter stalked shade (we pale faces have learned that if you burn early into vacation, the rest of a trip can be pretty ruined!), and mike snapped picture after picture.  i was very surprised by how quickly mike slipped into the tourist role - he's usually not thrilled to do anything that draws attention, but 24 hours after arriving in a different country, he seemed to feel that he had a cloak of invisibility.  i loved seeing that side of him!

with that being said, below are many shots of the coloseum:

since we chose a tour that included our entrance tickets, we got to skip the extremely long line into the colosseum.  if you've ever ordered chipotle online, and walked past a spilling-out-the-door line when going to pick it up, you have an inkling of the ungracious stares we received while going in.  mike snapped these pictures of the entrance way - it was pretty incredible.

poor non-tour people.  :-(

and then, we were inside!  one of the things our guide explained to us was that the colosseum wasn't primarily a violent place - it was first and foremost a political tool.  the violence shown was brief (only during the lunch hour), and showed executions.  our guide said that no Christians were matyred there.  knowing that lightened my experience of viewing the site.

our guide said that the closer you were to the stage, the more important you were.  sadly, women were ranked the lowest in society, and were seated in the very highest level of the colosseum (top right part of the picture above).  a husband had the option of inviting his wife to sit with him in his own closer seat; if he did not, however, she was in the highest "bleachers."  

naturally, i interrogated mike on whether he would invite me to join him down in his seats if we lived back then.  just another one of those unfair questions my husband gets hit with sometimes (akin to, do you think this dress makes me look fat from behind??).  mike rose nobly to the occasion and assured me there was no friend he would rather than next to him, on any occasion, in any time.  awww.  :-)

views from inside the colosseum, looking out.

our guide told us that elevators were used to "toss" props, men, and animals onto the stage - i believe there were ~60 elevators used!  it sounded similar to cirque soleil - being in those ruins, i could almost envision it.  seats filled, people chattering and gossiping, and then the show beginning with things unexpectedly appearing on stage.  it must have been so exciting!

our guide also told us about the comforts given to attendees in the colosseum - food, water, convenient "bathrooms".  a recurring theme we saw in the ruins throughout our trip is that there seems to have been a drastic flip between how the sexes view bathroom time.  back then, men would socialize without shame - now, it's the ladies who have couches in their bathrooms and never go alone!

after leaving the colosseum, we walked down to the forum, with mike again doing a marvelous job of catching images as we walked:

the forum!!  i saw the spot where, back in january 2004, my professors stopped us while they gave their lecture.  i remembered how cold it was then....the cold would seep up through the stone into your bones.  it was awe-inspiring then, and was just wonderful to be back.

these are our views before entry, as you can probably tell from the angle.

sadly, the sewage smelled strongly here.....i'm amazed mike got as many pictures of this area as he did because i was walking past as quickly as possible!!

we didn't go over to this arch, but i remember walking under it before, and feeling amazed that 2,000 years ago, others had walked under it during their daily business.

the ruins were so far below the rest of rome.  

water break!

we eventually left the tour, and headed back to have dinner with the group.  everyone was tired, but happy to be there.  my top "to do" in rome was to see the forum at night; however, as dinner ended, everyone headed off to bed - going to the forum was brought up, but then discarded.  we were just so tired!  and we made plans to rise early the next morning, to maximize our time before leaving for the ship.

lying in bed, going to sleep, mike and i talked about all we'd seen.  mike remembered the coloseum, and i remembered the forum.  i told him how a group of us at students had gone to see it our last night in rome, and how much that memory meant to me.  i thought we were going to drift off to sleep at that point, but instead, mike sat up and turned on the light.  we were going to go down there, right now, to see the forum!  if it meant that much to me, we were going to do it.  i protested that he was tired, and that i was content with not going - but my wonderful husband insisted.  so we pulled ourselves together, and headed down.  it was as beautiful as i remembered - we don't have pictures, but i'm so happy that i have that memory tucked away.  thank you, mike!!!