5 August 2012 Sunday | 18:52 | 2012/06 Europe
This is the twelfth and final entry in the Europe series.
A seven-hour bus ride took us from Venice to Rome. I must have slept for six hours, discounting a lunch stop and an additional pee break. The merciless wave of heat greeted us as we alighted at Piazza del Popolo (People’s Square). Armed with bottles of water, we embarked on another walking tour in the heart of Western civilisation.
The Pantheon built two thousand years ago — dedicated to all the gods of Ancient Rome.
Oculus — for light and ventilation.
Most unfriendly, refusing photo opps unless you paid for a ride.
Trevi Fountain — largest Baroque fountain in Rome.
Throw three coins and you’ll be sure to return. Uh huh. They find thousands of euros in there each day. I think it’s a fraud.
Grom — one of the most famous gelato shops in Italy.
The lady in white was engaged to bring us around on our final day in Rome. She was hilarious. “You must stick with me and not walk off on your own. Or you’ll be LOST in Vatican City FOREVER!” She noticed my look of disbelief and replied, “Well… Actually there are two exits. I’m just afraid you don’t know whether to turn left or right.”
I’m a free thinker, but I’ve watched Angels and Demons, so there was a minimal bit of familiarity as I walked into Vatican City. Yes, I knew what a papal conclave was about.
The Creation of Adam on the ceiling of Sistine Chapel. (From the internet.)
I could have sat there all morning admiring Michelangelo’s remarkable masterpieces. He must had desperately needed a physiotherapist to soothe his neck and arm muscles from looking up and painting on the ceiling all day and night.
St. Peter’s Basilica — largest church in the world.
It was really warm in Rome that day, and I spent an insane amount of money getting overpriced drinks from street vendors. To my new friends who asked if it was just as horrendously hot in Singapore, I replied, “It may shoot above 33 degrees once in a while, but I don’t walk around under the sun in Singapore for three straight hours!”
The Colosseum — largest Roman amphitheatre ever built.
This must be the iconic monument in Rome — for its sheer size and achievement in engineering and construction, and its historical usage and importance.
Footnote: I really like the tan.
From the Colosseum, we headed to the Roman Forums. The structures — or whatever’s left — were really impressive, but the sweltering heat was a major distraction. The guide claimed it was 40 degrees, though I thought 34-36 sounded more likely. Because she was so nice and I was genuinely interested in the history, I tried to give her my full attention. But I failed.
“Look at those pillars. Imagine that a temple once stood there.” Huh? I did the most touristy thing ever by purchasing a pictorial book which had overlapping pages showing the current state of things and artists’ impressions of what it should have been. There’s even a DVD.
Temple of the Divine Julius — where Caesar was cremated.
At 5 P.M. on 20.06.2012, I hugged farewell to my new friends. I had taken a cold shower upon returning to the hotel. I think they had done the same thing too.
Group photo taken in Florence.
Months before the working trip, I knew I had to extend my stay in Europe. Because of several issues — which had already been resolved, by the way — going on then, I wasn’t in the mood to do any serious planning. So I opted for the easiest way out, which is to sign up for a group tour. The thing about an international agency package was that you could meet people from around the world. I made friends from America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Lebanon, South Africa and the Philippines — all of whom I otherwise wouldn’t have met.
It was fun trading stories over meals and well, turning into a temporary tourism ambassador of sorts, for Singapore seemed to be an exotic destination for most of them. None of them — except for our Southeast Asian counterpart from Manila — could exactly point out Singapore’s location on the map, but all of them knew for sure that we weren’t in China. I did my best in debunking some myths and highlighted the fact that the vast majority of tourists return home safe and sound — without a fine or corporal punishment.
But I’m rather sure I wouldn’t do such a packaged tour in the future. I need decent hotels. Period. I can survive without bathrobes and bedroom slippers, but I can’t handle gaudy ancient rooms — which popped up half the time in Italy. The so-called four star hotel in Milan turned off my aircon at midnight, while the disastrous motel in Rome — which I complained about in a previous entry — took two hours sorting out the faulty aircon before showing me to another room.
Touchscreen controls in the elevator!
Hotel Twenty One called itself an “art hotel” — whatever that means. The comfortable room came with a bathroom decorated with sleek black tiles. I need something like that. Thanks.
Via dei Condotti — the Orchard Road of Rome, if I may so call it.
Throughout the three weeks in Europe, there was some hesitation in flashing my credit card. I had plenty of time, I thought. And I didn’t really want to lug things across various cities. The final shopping was done at Via dei Condotti. It was where I found the elusive Bottega Veneta boutique, and the Louis Vuitton was humongous — way more impressive than the one at Champs Élysées!
Dear Europe, I hope you emerge from this economic crisis unscathed. Thank you for the wonderful memories.