Over Spring Break, I went to the Trevi Fountain and threw an extra coin in the fountain and wished to return to Rome one day. I recommend that everyone throw a coin in, because my wish had a pretty fast turn around! Only a week later, I met my best friend, Nicole Zaborek, in Rome. To say we were excited to see each other would be the understatement of the century
We met at the airport and caught up with each other as we made our way to our hotel. Our first stop in Rome was the Trevi Fountain. We took our pictures, threw our coins in, and tried to remember all of the Lizzie McGuire Movie quotes we could for our Instagram captions.
(Lizzie: “Make a wish.” Gordo: “I’m in Rome with my best friend. I’m good!”)
Next, we wandered around the streets for awhile and made our way to dinner where we both ate too much pasta, drank just enough wine, and had enough laughs to last a lifetime.
The next day, we played “Super Tourist” and spent the day touring the Vatican and The Coliseum. We started at the Vatican and followed our tour guide’s flag around with our neon green headsets.
My favorite part of the Vatican had to be the Sistine Chapel, painted by Michelangelo (and happens to be my close, personal friend Pope Francis’ favorite place to pray!). There are very strict rules in the chapel: you can’t take any pictures (although we managed to break that rule), you need to dress modestly, you can’t go back in once you’ve gone in (one way in one way out), and you can’t talk. Honestly, we thought the “no talking” rule would be tough for us, but the second you walk into the chapel it’s impossible to say anything. All you can do is look around in amazement, try to hold back tears(fail and cry anyway), and try to put what you are looking at into words. It is impossible to put into words what it is like in the Sistine Chapel. If I had to, I would say unreal, breathtaking, gorgeous, aweing, and lots-of-purple.
Our next stop in the Vatican was the Basilica. Saint Peter’s Basilica was absolutely breathtaking. We walked through the crowded rooms, and stopped to pray with Saint Pope John Paul II. While walking through, I stopped Nicole in her tracks and said, “Wait. I smell incense…” So we got separated from our group as we went off to investigate the smell. We found that there was Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the Basilica, so we let the group go and went in. Adoration has always been one of my favorite things in the world; I love the personal encounter you receive with Christ in the church. But to go to adoration in Saint Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City?? Are you kidding me?? That was like a dream!
We rejoined the group outside, who were all fed up with us holding us up (but I mean come on, how are you going to rush through the Vatican?) But we were splitting up for lunch soon after, so we needed to hurry. Just as we were leaving we saw two of the Swiss Guards. All day, I had been wandering if the Pope was home, but felt that was a stupid question, so I didn’t ask. But I thought, “the Swiss Guards wont judge me I’ll just ask them!” So we walked up to them, introduced ourselves and asked where Pope Francis was. He said he wasn’t home but would be home around 5:00, so which I responded, “Well what’s he doing? Can we hang out or something?” With a laugh he walked over to his post, looked in a folder, came back, and handed us two golden tickets for mass with Pope Francis. Needless to say, I spent the rest of the day singing, “I’ve got a golden ticket” from Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory. I have so much love and admiration for Pope Francis; he is so Christ-like and wonderful. There is no chance that I will ever forget my trip to The Vatican.
After our tour we had lunch and waited to go to the Coliseum. Once again, we were “Super Tourists” with headsets in a group (this time our guide didn’t have a flag, but wore a giant cowboy hat, and talked VERY slowly). We walked through the Roman Forum and our guide gave us a history lesson as we walked through the ancient streets.
Our next stop was Naples for some pizza! It seems like everywhere we go, we surprise people with how much time we actually spend just eating and drinking.
I’ve traveled a lot during my time abroad, and when I do travel, I do so on a budget. This usually means staying in hostels or very small, cheap apartments. So when we got to our hotel complete with fluffy white pillows, amazing restaurant and bar, and working electricity and running water, I was just about over the moon.
Most of our time spent in Naples was spent eating pizza and walking through the archeological museums.
We left Naples, laced up our sneakers, and made our way to tour the ruins of the city of Pompeii. Our tour guide was fantastic and made our time informative and fun! Once again we were playing “super Tourist” with our headsets, only this time no flag to follow.
Our tour guide told us about how the people of the time invented fast food and how they got the idea for pizza. The ruins of the city were amazing, and to think that the entire city was destroyed by the volcano and was buried is insane! Apparently the people of Pompeii had no idea that they were even living on a volcano.
On most of the tours that we went on, we were the youngest, and in my opinion the most fun, in the groups. Our favorite part of the Pompeii tour had to be when the tour guide told us about how Pompeii used to be “Sin City” and took us to see an ancient “Menu Style” (as she put it) brothel houses. The city was most illiterate so everything had to be communicated through pictures.
After pizza for lunch, we re-laced our sneakers and got ready to climb up Mount Vesuvius. We hiked up the mountain on March 18th, 2017. This was exactly 73 years since the last eruption. Our tour guide told us that apparently the next time it erupts it would be even more catastrophic than the last; so much so that Naples was in the red zone. She also made sure to tell us that it could blow any day now. Any second. Like I said, Nicole and I are usually two of the youngest (and most fun) on our tours, so after a while I think our guide was almost finished with our jokes about the volcano (“What if it
erupts? What’s our game plan?”) We decided that rather than running or getting scared of the possible eruption, we would strike a pose so that when they uncovered our bodies millions of years later, they would find two girls laughing and flashing the lava (might as well go out with a bang). About half way up the volcano, we started to realize how out of shape we’ve gotten and swore to go back to the gym when we noticed a 76-year-old man pass us. Thirty minutes later, we made it to the top, took our pictures, grabbed some volcanic rocks for souvenirs, and realized the walk down was so much worse than up.
Our sneakers would never look the same, and we were exhausted.
Nicole ended up having a 12-hour lay over in London, so I hosted her for the night and showed her my city! We got to London late at night, and headed straight for Nando’s for dinner.
We started our day bright and early, and I tried to show her the giant city in a matter of hours. We took the tube most places, so that she could experience London like a local, and headed for Westminster so she could experience London like a tourist.
Some highlights of the trip were Nicole’s fascination over the double decker red buses (she was less impressed and more terrified after riding on top one), her obsession with red telephone booths, and laughing every time she saw a sign that said “Rubbish Pickup.”
We visited Buckingham Palace and had brunch around the corner at Timmy Green’s Café. After brunch, we went to tour the British Museum for a bit. The day ended with a beer and fish and chips from a local pub.
Although it was clearly not enough time, it was great to see her! It is always awesome to see people from the States while I’m living here. PSA to everyone at home: come visit me!!