International flights in coach … need I say more? Apparently, I will. When the seats in a plane you’re traveling on for any amount of time are not contoured to fit anyone you know, it can be a huge challenge. When you’re a prisoner of that seat for over 8 hours, it’s a threat to your cheerfulness and excitement. Accordingly, when inconveniences accumulate, time tables are jostled, tours cascaded upon by pouring rain, crowds, heat, humidity … well, you get the picture, one predictable feature of travel is that anything can happen; everything is unpredictable. My mantra becomes, “It’s all part of the adventure.”
I was a tour guide for a season, taking 5th graders to our state capitol, Sacramento, and various places like the train museum and Sutter’s Mill, where the California gold rush began. Talk about unpredictable!! The thing here is that all of life can be unreliable, some parts more than others. The heat was sometimes a culprit and it was important to hydrate these 10 year olds from the time we left southern California and to know where we could replenish our supply of water. Sometimes, the Capitol Building was overcrowded and I’d need to adjust the tour without missing the important parts. There were kids who would wander, or refuse to participate, and sometimes parents who forgot this wasn’t about them. Just as in any job, I was trained to handle all of these circumstances and get our time and excitement back on track promptly.
Back On Track
Chuck Swindoll says, “Life is 10% of what happens to me and 90% of how I respond to it”. The best thing we can do is prepare ourselves to live in a peaceful state in such a way that our ability to handle it isn’t blindsided by the fickle, uncertain parts of life. It’s an inside job: attitude, thoughts, words and actions, and it begins before we’re faced with instability that throws us off our game.
We arrived in Roma!! My lovely cousin, Manu picked us up from Fiumicino Airport and took us to her home just outside the bustle of the city. Driving, or watching all the drivers navigate the absurd roads of this city is a great adventure. Julie, my travel mate, was amused at how Manu drove through the mazes of tiny cars with her left arm out the window, directing traffic to make our way easier through the chaos.
The evening was magical! After a delicious dinner in her apartment, Manu took us into the city on the Tube, the subway connecting the Romans to their destinations. It was dusk, the lighting on buildings and streets couldn’t have been more perfect. Everything had a luminescent glow as we walked past the Spanish Steps, stopping at the Piazza della Rotunda, to visit the Pantheon and its interesting grotesque style fountain. The main objective was the Trevi Fountain, the largest Baroque fountain in the city and most beautiful in the world. Here, the legend is that when a visitor throws a coin into the fountain facing away from it, they’re sure to return again to Roma.
Enjoying the Path You’re On
Sightseeing is such an adventure in itself, however, the path along the way may hold unexpected treasures. Ancient doors, sculptures in alcoves or on corner buildings, nooks and crannies hiding colorful bonuses appear for your enjoyment when you have an attitude of wonderment. People watching is another aspect that adds character to anywhere you might be. However, the real star of the show in Italy, is finding the best gelato shop. If you have time, you can try different places. Knowing a local, or even asking local residents, is like discovering a prized jewel. Fortunately, Manu had this down and we followed her into the unassuming gelati shop and left with most delectable frozen treats.
The night ended with our trip back to the apartment and plans for the next two days. We went back into the city, saw many more sites, including the Colosseum, Arch of Triumph, other ruins, monuments, and serene areas to relax. The last day, we headed out on a tour of Emperor Hadrian’s estate in the hills, but the second half of that tour was lost in a sudden torrential rainfall. We missed the Tivoli Gardens, however, with the promise of a coin tossed into the Trevi Fountain, we will return to Rome again!
Next … Trains, Cities, more Trains!