Friday came and flew by fast. Apart from our Oxfam presentation, I worked most of the day on getting my luggage prepared as well as writing my 10 articles for Principles of Marketing. To give you a little more detail on the 10 articles, our major paper that was due during our time abroad consisted of breaking down in detail 10 different articles that related to international marketing. Of course, like most, I decided to procrastinate on the majority of the articles, and since I knew I wasn’t going to attempt to do them while in Rome or Dublin, I decided to finish all the remaining articles in one day. The articles really made time fly by, turning the clock from 2 to 6 in one big sweep. Once Saturday morning came, I woke up early to start getting the finishing touches on what I was taking with me before we left around 11:30 for the bus station to take us to Stansted Airport. Even with all the time we left for ourselves to get to the airport, we barely made it. Our National Express bus broke down twice and it was only supposed to be a 3 hour bus ride, but because of all the mishaps it took 6 hours. Also, talking with the driver about our situation made me even more frustrated because his motto was, “if you are late to the airport because of us the bus drivers), oh well, should have planned better.” It irritated me a little because that would be $135 down the drain, but we finally made it to the airport with 10 minutes to spare. Once we were past security, we were still in a rush and found out we had another 10 minutes before our plane was going to board, so luckily everything worked out for the best.
Once on the plane, we did make a friend with a local named Giulia Grenga that helped us tremendously with where to go in Rome and told us much needed information about the public transportation. For instance, in Rome the trains will stop running around 10:45 and when we got there they were already going to be closed. However, Giulia just came from South Africa and one of the reasons she said she loved it so much was because the people were extremely welcoming and helpful. Therefore, when we landed she called her dad who was picking her up and asked him if we could hitch a ride because her house was probably 5-10 minutes from our hostel. Now on a side note, I do not recommend you get in random cars with random people, but we were desperate in this situation and really did not want to pay a taxi fare for the 30-40 minutes of driving. So, thanks to Giulia and our extroverted personalities, we made it to Tiber Hostel. At night, it was hard to tell what it looked like but in the morning it was amazing! We had a pool, a big café, own mini market, and the atmosphere was so relaxing. I highly recommend Tiber Hostel; it is completely worth the 11 Euro’s to stay there.
Sunday rolled around and we started on our journey, of course first to the Vatican. Since it was Sunday, admission was free, but the wait was about three hours. However, since we looked like tourists, a man that worked for a touring business asked us if we would be interested in paying 25 Euros to skip the line and receive a personal tour guide of Vatican City. Once I talked him down to 20 Euros, we made our way over to a little café where they gave us stickers, then they took our group of 10 up to only a 20 minute line to get into Vatican City. I won’t be going into too much information on The Vatican because there is just too much information to type about. However, as a helpful hint, make sure you get a tour guide. The Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Church, and the rest of the Vatican would not have been the same without someone explaining all the interesting history and facts to us. Also, make sure you save at least half of a day for The Vatican and St. Peter's because it is worth taking your time.
Before our trip to Rome, I heard instead of buying tickets to each museum and attraction there is a special called the Rome City Pass for 28 Euros which will get you into a lot of different places as well as free public transportation for 3 days. So, after the Vatican we set out to find that pass and then worked our way over to St. Angelo’s Castle which was okay, but I do not recommend it if you don’t have the Rome City Pass. Following St. Angelo’s Castle and food, we walked around aimlessly for a little while near the Spanish Steps and other places until we realized we had to get back to the Hostel because Giulia was going to take us to an authentic Italian restaurant. It was such a beautiful sight! The restaurant really looked like it does in the movies, such as Letters to Juliet, with the green prairies in the background and outdoor seating with the patio over us. It gave us an excellent feel of Italy and made us feel even closer to the culture. After dinner, the five of us sat there for hours until midnight just talking about life, religion, Christianity, our struggles, and just everything. It was one of the best deepest conversations I have ever had! Then once we actually realized how late it was Giulia drove us back to the hostel where we got our much needed sleep.
On Monday morning, we hit the sites early, traveling first to the Coliseum where the Rome City Pass allowed us to skip a Long line really started out day out perfect. We walked around in amazement in the Coliseum just imagining years ago that it was completely packed of people cheering on gladiators. Right after the Coliseum, we made our way over to where Caesar used to live as well as the ruins surrounding the Coliseum area. Rome was all around just a perfect place to visit. After our morning attractions, we went to a nice, quaint, cheap restaurant down the road from the Trevi Fountain. Afterward, we went to the Trevi Fountain which has the most beautiful architecture I have ever seen. Seeing as it is “The King of the Wishing Wells”, we each had to get a coin and toss it in backwards and make a wish. However, I encountered a little problem because when I flicked the coin it decided to go straight up and fall back down to my feet, so I completely missed probably the biggest fountain in the world. I don’t know what kind of luck that brings, but the second time was the charm and I made it! The Trevi Fountain was so eye absorbing that somehow our group got separated. Even though we had Walkie Talkies, it didn’t help because the two people that had the walkies were right next to each other. It probably was not the best plan we'd made, but we all knew that the next stop on our adventure was the Pantheon, where we were going to meet up with Giulia. So, we made our way down Souvenir Road to the Pantheon where we found one another and Giulia under the most famous architectural design of its time – the hole in the top of the Pantheon. From the Pantheon, Giulia took us to the best ice cream parlor I've ever been to. It was like a Baskin Robbins on steroids with 118 different flavors of gelato ice cream. After our tasty dessert, we wandered around Rome seeing other major attractions like Foro Di Traiano, or “The Wedding Cake”, Piazza Del Popolo, and the main shopping street. We then parted ways, said our goodbyes, and thanked her for all her help. Having our own personal tour guide really delivered the best feel of Rome we could have ever received. We really didn’t know what to do with the rest of the late afternoon so we took a nice leisure stroll through Villa Borghese where we came across the FIFA fest in Rome. It happened to be the best game-viewing yet! Unlike in Paris, the structure of this consisted of, not just a huge TV and stage, but a turf soccer field with goals, the South African mascot, a peek of the Sony 3D TV’s, foosball tables galore, and other various attractions. The rest of the night was a blast! We played soccer with a few Italian guys on the soccer field and, following the game, St. Angelo’s Castle shot off fireworks! What a way to end our Rome excursion! It was depressing to leave Rome the next morning. We'd had such a fun time and saw the most amazing places. The entire feel of the culture was so unlike anything I have ever encountered. Only a couple of hours from the beach and a few hours from the Alps, Rome has like everything you would ever need/want from a city. If you ever have a chance to pick one place out of the places we have gone, I highly recommend Rome.After traveling all over Rome once we arrived at Dublin we knew that it was going to be a relaxing time. Because we left Rome on the 29th and got back in London at 11, we knew ahead of time we would only be in Dublin for a few hours, which literally ended up being 5 hours. We were not planning any huge tourist adventures. We just wanted to go to Ireland to say we went and because it was a very cheap plane ticket. Which is exactly what we did. Once in Dublin, we hopped on a bus to the center of town, stayed on the same street, and just sat down in different pubs meeting new people everywhere. After about 4 hours, we hopped back on the bus to the airport and left. I know you’re thinking that that was probably the dumbest idea ever, but it was rewarding because we were able to relax and feel as if we were blended in with the culture. It was a very short trip and, if you go to Ireland, I recommend that you do it on a short weekend and go to Cork because you can at least tour Blarney Castle, which I heard was even better than Warwick Castle in England. To wrap this up, and I am sorry for the length of this blog, Rome had the most influential impact on me that gave me the highest appreciation for history and the European culture, not to mention the finest food I have every had. And you also need to visit Ireland, even if just for a few hours, to get the feel of a completely different culture. This past week was more than I could have wished for and my next blog will be my last where I will wrap up the trip and explain our last day of the program.