one of the hallways in the Vatican on the way to the Sistine Chapel


Vatican Square

May 12, 2005 - Thursday - a very early morning. Bags were put out by 10 pm on Wednesday night. Each person disembarking is given a tag and you are called in groups according to your tag. In this case we were next to last as we had no tour scheduled and we were not rushing off to the airport. BUT all the noise of groups being called and people in the hallways - we were up at 6 am. Had a leisurely breakfast before returning to the room to pickup our "carry-ons". Of course we had extras since you are told to carry all your "breakables", and we had 6 1/2 liters of water. Bottled water was a must through out the trip and we bought in cases rather than singles.

arch of Constantine - you no longer drive through it


one of the many bridges crossing the Tibor River

Transferred via motor coach to the hotel in Rome. The port is about 1 1/2 hours from the hotel. The hotel was not downtown, but about 8 miles outside. This is a "new" section which houses the corporate businesses. It was begun in the 30's and houses the "New Colosseum" - a square building with arched windows similar to the arches on the main Colosseum.

Didn't do much in the afternoon or evening except rest up and arrange for a tour of the Vatican on Friday morning. Will had wanted one thing from Rome - to see the Sistine Chapel. The first tours after John Paul's death were May 12th. So it seemed that Will would get his wish. Other parts of the Vatican had reopened for tours earlier, but not the chapel.


one of 3 Colosseums in Rome, but this is the most famous


Piazza Venezia with the Palace in the background

May 13, 2005 - Friday - Up early to make the 8 am tour of the Vatican Museum, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter's Basilica. We needed to drive into town to pick up people at the other hotel downtown (it was booked full when we booked). Our guide gave us a wonderful tour of the major monuments on the way.

Arrived at the Vatican and were early enough to only be in line 20 or so minutes. We then wound our way on a fairly direct route to the Sistine Chapel. This tour still took us through many rooms with incredible artwork in all forms (more in the the full pages to be posted) and took about an hour. Missed seeing all the Raffaels and Tinzanos, but what we did see was incredible. I am so glad that both Will and I read about the Renaissance and its artwork as it really added to our understanding.


Vatican Square


Trevi Fountain (yes we threw in coins - they are collected and go to charity)

We had about half an hour in the Sistine Chapel itself. It is awesome in the fullest sense of that word. When I saw it in '72 I thought it was fabulous, but after the cleaning.... words are insufficient (and pictures not permitted).

We then took a set of back steps down and out and into the Basilica. The Basilica is huge. You really don't realize how huge until you begin to understand that the lettering around the upper rim is 6' tall (pic in full pages). The other really fascinating bit is that there are no paintings in the Basilica - they are all mosiacs - tiny rods of color set in a form. It was soooooo very crowded, but well worth seeing.


Piazza Venezia with the Palace in the background


one of the Bernini fountains - this one of a merman

Of course, we stopped to do some shopping. It is duty and tax free after all. When we came out we saw some crowds beginning to gather and line the street leading to Vatican Square. It turned out the Pope was expected in about 15 minutes. Our tour leader called and arranged for the coach to wait and we waited to see the Pope. It was fun watching the crowds, especially the children get all excited. Sure enough about 30 minutes later, in the sprinkling rain, his motorcade arrived. He was in an open air car with an umbrella over him. The car was going slow and he waived to the crowds. It was exciting. Yes we got pictures and we will have them on the full pages shortly.

Piazza Navona


part of Bernini's Fountain of the 4 Rivers in Piazza Navona

While we were on tour, we talked with another couple who were going on a night tour of Rome. After some discussion, they offerred to include us with another couple to do the tour of Rome by night. We met downtown and went to dinner first. Will had a "white pizza" and I had fabulous rissotto with asparagus. The tour was FABULOUS. Rome is truly the eternal city and it never sleeps. We toured around in a van for 3.5 hours, stopping whenever we wanted for pictures or just to see. Our guide was wonderful and took us down lots of narrow streets (I'm still not sure they were wide enough for the car) and right to the sights - very up close and personal. Then he drove us back to our respective hotels around midnight. It had been a long but wonderful day.
May 14, 2005 - Saturday. Slept a bit late. Then we identified one of the many museums around Rome for a short visit. The Galleria Colonna is a couple floors in a privately owned residence that houses wonderful art from the 16th-18th C. It is only open on Saturday and we managed to get there in time to see it. Think I have a permanent crick in my neck from starring up at ceilings. The Galleria was just off of Piazza Venezia. We decided to walk the streets for a bit to sightsee and really get the feel of Rome. We meandered by the Pantheon, through several Piazza's including Navona which was like an amusement park with all the street vendors and artists (but without the rides), and finally stopped for a snack at a small cafe after a couple of hours. Then back to the hotel around 5 pm to repack for the next morning.

May 15, 2005 - Sunday. The alarm went off at 4 am and our ride was ready at 4:30 to take us to the airport. They say you need to be at the airport 3 hours before your flight and we were. Of course, British Air was not open for another 45 minutes, but it did put us near the head of the line. We had gotten a bathroom scale at the hotel, so all our bags were balanced and met the weight limits of approximately 30 kilos. With our bags labeled heavy they were checked through to San Francisco. We went out to the terminal through security and passport control. We were still early. The coffee shop didn't open for another 20 minutes. Finally our flight was called for Rome to Heathrow. It was packed full. Then the captain came on and said that they needed to rebalance the luggage. We waited an hour on the ground while they did that and then took off. Fortunately we had a 3 hour layover.

At Heathrow, they process you through so that even if you are changing planes on the same airline and same terminal you STILL have to go through security again. We did a bit of shopping at the duty free shops - the pharmacy and the whiskey shops. Then onboard a 747 for the 10+ hour haul to San Francisco. It too was full. The positive was that they did indeed board special meals for me and the food was edible. The other positive was that they have the mini-screens in the seat in front of you. The major negative was that the plane was full and the people in front of us insisted on putting their chairs all the way back.

Arrived in SF. Did immigration, baggage claim and customs. This wasn't a real buying trip for us and it was Sunday, so customs was minimal fortunately. Our limo was waiting and by 4 pm were on our way home. Part of me says - it was only 12 hours from leaving to arriving, but then I remember the 9 hour time change :). So 21 hours later we were home and yes the cats were very glad to see us. Pete was his sweet self and immediately set out to do his job of depositing fur on all our clothes and items. It seems they had divested themselves of fur in the 26 days away. Pickwick has grown into his tail and paws. He still is very silly. They divided the work of watching us both so we would not be out of sight of at least one of them for the next few hours.

It is good to be home -- 2 things were immediately obvious - no one was yelling at us to do something in various languages and our time was now our own. Home is quiet - no background sound of engines. No vacuum sucking toilets. The bed is the right size, height, firmness, with the right weight blankets and pillows that don't add cricks to necks. Travel is wonderful for the experience, but it is good to be home.

Return to main webpage for Will and Robin

Return to main trip page

All text and photos copyright Robin Berry and William Ringer 2005.