On Wednesday I went to the Palasso Massimo museum with Art and Arch. None of the problems of the last trip occurred, in fact we got to the Metro station where we were to meet Marry Anne, the Student Life Secretary two hours early. Our unfailing nerd senses led the Doppelganger, Treco, Nick, and I straight to a bar for coffee, and then to Mel Bookstore, which is evidently the Italian equivalent of Barnes and Noble. We went in just seeing the store front, and surmising that it was long and then, but no bigger than any of the other stores on the street. Then I turned a corner around a bookshelf and discovered that it went much deeper into the building and there were exits on the street running parallel to the one from which we had entered, and that there were two other floors in the building. ^_^
The museum itself, one of the three National Archeology Museums, was smaller then the
So, I went to
Guerilla Tourism: lurk underground then jump out and take pictures of the monuments while their guard is down, than disappear onto the Underground.
My partners in crime were Lauren, the Doppelganger, Nick, and Treco.
Treco is a lighting rod of hate. If anything bad can happen, it will happen to him. The trick is to stand near him, so that anything bad which would have happened to you will happen to him instead, but don’t stand to close otherwise you get all of his bad karma, plus whatever was already going to happen to you.
Our flight on Friday was to leave at 11:00. So, leaving an hour for check in, security, and passport control, we needed to be at the airport by 10:00. Presupposing the existence of a bus, it takes about 15 to 20 minutes to get to the airport, which means that for comfort’s sake we deeded to be on a bus by 9:30 at the absolute latest. Now the existence of a bus is a big assumption to make, if you want a 9:30 bus, you need to be at the stop at 8:30 otherwise you won’t make it. So, we made our first mistake and stayed up late the night before, and each of us got roughly six hours of sleep. Treco is nearly impossible to wake up, and may even beat me in the World Sleeping In Championship. So, at 9:30, when despite numerous attempts to get him moving, Treco was still not fully packed, the rest of us went out to the bus stop fully prepared to leave him.
We caught a bus which was more or less on time, and made it to Chiampano without much trouble. A consultation with the departures board told us that the flight has been delayed, so my cell phone was abused to call back to campus, to Angie, one of the Student Life Coordinators, whom we had spoken to at breakfast and who knew what was going on with our trip, and asked her to try and find Treco and tell him that he might still make it. She never did talk to him, because in the intervening time since our departure, he had finished packing and caught the next bus.
The rest of us got our boarding passes and changed our money (one of my 50 dollar traveler’s checks was magically turned into 19 Pounds by a particularly obtuse clerk who insisted on changing it into Euros before giving me pounds) and were just about to go through security when Treco came dashing in. We debated killing each other and decided to go to
He got his boarding pass and we all passed through security and passport control. The maniac their decided to stamp mine on the page across from my visa, underneath the little information notice from the Italian Embassy that is stapled in there. We did this just in time for the beginning of the line to board our flight.
Let me take this moment to say that Americans pay far too much for airfare. For the flight to
Now Ryan Air is a “low fares” airline, and part of the way they achieve this is at the terminal. They have itty bitty little airplanes that are accessed by stairs on the tarmac, not a gangway attached to the building. Our flight is parked on the opposite side of the air port from where the terminal is, and we have to take a shuttle bus to the plane. They save even more money by trying to sell things to you all throughout the flight: hot and cold drinks, food (although there is nothing stopping you from bringing your own), souvenirs, fragrances, children’s toys, and bus passes from the airport into the city (we did get that last one, because we had been warned by friends who went last week that they were far cheaper onboard then at the station and there was no other way into the city).
The flight itself was without incident, and Lauren got some great shots of the some mountains (the Alps?) and the costs of Corsica and
Finding the correct bus wasn’t any trouble, and not having any other instruction we rode it all the way into Victoria Station, which is one of the bigger Tube Stations in the city, in addition to being combined with National Rail, and a coach station. Just before we got there, we spotted an STA Travel outlet, and since that is where we had all gotten our Student ID cards we went there first. Treco inquired about replacing his stolen ID, and I called directory assistance in an effort to locate our hostel. I was less than successful, as
We weren’t entirely sure where on the street our hostel was, so we took the Tube to one end of it, and started walking. The street number of the hostel was 149. We emerged from the tube at Number 8. Only the residential buildings were numbered, so the walk lasted a lot longer than it would have otherwise. It was a long walk, past another Tube station and several bus stops that we could have taken if we had bothered to try to understand the
We ate in the Earl’s Court Tavern, which had good food. We tried the appetizer nachos in homage to a favorite comedian who laments the lack of good Mexican food in
After dinner we went on a lightning tour of the monuments by night, using what I called Guerilla Tourism, see the definition above. We started at Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, then went to Westminster Abby. We walked up the street past
The hostel was the cheapest available, and we got what we paid for. It was sweltering hot, even with the window open. And the beds were tiny, although the linens were clean. Our rooms were divided: 2 in a 6 bedroom female dorm, and 3 in a 6 bed room mixed dorm. I drew the short straw and was in the mixed dorm, there was another girl my room, so it was sort of OK, we didn’t spend much time there. Anna and Lauren were in a room on, what the British called the 2nd Floor, which means the 3rd Floor to us. Nick, Treco and I were a floor above that. The stares were a continuous, orange painted, wrought iron monstrosity that started out with large good-sized steps, but got steadily narrower and steeper as it ascended, to the point that we regretted not packing climbing gear before we reached our room. The included breakfast turned out to be toast (your choice of butter and/or Apple-Plum-Rhubarb Jam) and juice. There were no smoking signs plastered all over the place, but the whole building reeked of cigarette smoke. We got what we paid for. My three other roommates were from
As we trekked down to breakfast, Lauren met Nick and me on the steps (Treco as up and
moving and swore that he was on his way down) to the basement where the kitchen was located and told us that the Doppelganger was sick. She was sick as in throwing up, but she had no temperature and was not coughing, nor was her nose stopped up. After we asked her several times if she didn’t want to stay there and I even offered to stay behind with her, the five of us got on our way. Our first stop, at the end of that block, was to a grocery store, where we got bottles of water, 7UP, and Milk of Magnesia (the only thing in the “Medicines” section that said it was good for upset stomach) and set out for a day of Guerilla Tourism. [I also found Dr. Pepper there.
One can buy a day pass for the underground for the inner two zones (we only needed the first one, but that is as small as they come) for 3 Pounds 90, which is an incredible deal considering that a single ticket costs 4 Pounds, so that is what we all got. Treco, the Doppelganger and I all had change so we were able to use the machines. Lauren and Nick stood in line and bought the tickets from a real live human being. As Nick was leaving the teller, he heard the guy turn to the other one and ask Metro, tickets “You come to a foreign country without a quid in your pocket?” Our answer is of course, yes, when the exchange rate is this bad, although he restrained the urge to answer the question. We got as far as the Monument Tube stop, before the Doppelganger threw up again, although she did move away from us, and she had a bag handy. We exited hurriedly and began a search for a public restroom and a trashcan.
We made the discovery that neither thing exists in the Underground, apparently for security reasons. We landed at a Starbucks just outside the station, where the Doppelganger was able to throw the bag away. We all sat down to wait to see how the Doppelganger felt, and Lauren and I bought coffee since we were taking up space and using their restroom. After a while, in which Treco and I wrote a few postcards, Lauren and I drank our coffee, Anna drank a little water and had a dose of the Milk of Magnesia, and we re-plotted the day to allow for our troubles getting started, we left again.
Our first stop was the
We then took the Tube to Blackfriars, and got turned around because we decided to try to reach our next location by following the posted signs instead of the map. Of course, part of the reason we got lost was because we only followed half of the directions on the map, but who am I to quibble? We doubled back and crossed the Thames via
This is me at the Globe. ^_^
All the historic Any-things in
We crossed the river on the way back to the Tube via the Millennium Bridge, which is a brand spanking new steel and glass footbridge – as wide as a two lane road, and not one of these narrow Italian roads either – that we could feel shaking beneath our feet with the weight of all the people walking on it. I didn’t like it because I’m afraid of heights. The others agreed that the shaking was disturbing and that Blackfriars was a much better bridge. On the flip side, the end of the bridge near the Globe and the Tate Modern was home to the best steel drum player I’ve ever heard. He was playing “Moonlight Sonata” and against all logic it actually sounded good. Nick recorded it, and I plan to get a copy from him. If any of us had had any change handy we would have left some.
Our next stop, just across the bridge and two streets directly north of the Globe, was
“So where’s the Tube Station?”
“Let me check the map.”
As for the map, we went through a song and dance every time we looked at it, which was often. It was a good map, but unfortunately it folded up into a continent pocket size and found a home in my purse. I had my camera, Augustine’s Confessions (which I was supposed to be reading for Theo Trad), and a growing collection of receipts in it. Every time we wanted the map we had to stop and spend a minute letting me search for it, declare I couldn’t find it, check the bag a was using for souvenirs, check my pockets, and then check the purse one last time, where I would find it tucked between two postcards. We did this EVERY TIME. In hindsight, we agree that I should have just given the map to Nick, who was my assistant navigator.
Our next stop was the
About the time we left the museum it suddenly hit us all that we had eaten a very small breakfast and has skipped lunch completely (well except for the Doppelganger, who was feeling much better but still didn’t feel like trying to eat anything). We trooped back over to Blackfriars, were the pub had been recommended to Nick by a friend. It was worth the trip, I got sausage and mash because 1.) it was not pasta and 2.) it was as about as British as it is possible for food to get and still be edible. Those mashed potatoes were at least as good as the ones I make at home. Good stuff.
A word on schedules before I continue:
Our flight back to
We went back to the hostel, collected our stuff, and checked out roughly 12 hours early. Treco wanted to get online before we left, because at the hostel it only costs 50 pence per half-hour. Unfortunately, the person before us paid for a full hour moments before he walked into the office. So we sat there and watched part of the Olympics on BBC2, which was kind of fun. We got to see the pair of skaters who came in first in whatever even was on Saturday.
We killed time in Victoria Station until it closed at 11, mostly by going to the grocery store in order to procure breakfast for Sunday, and at McDonalds. None of us wanted to go to McDonalds at any time this semester. We swore up and down that we would not be the obnoxious Americans that everyone complains about. Then we saw a billboard advertising Cadbury Crunchy McFlurries for 99 Pence, so we gave in and sacrificed a little bit of our souls to our evil corporate overlords.
When the station closed we caught the bus to the airport, there were four other passengers with us, but they got off before the airport. Anna and Treco managed to sleep a bit on the bus, the rest of us were kept wide awake by the driving. I did not know it was possible to get a bus moving so quickly, or handle it so sharply.
We arrived at the airport at a little past midnight and settled in to wait and wait and wait. Then finally the Ryan Air counter opened and we grabbed our boarding passes and went through security and waited for another hour, we were awoken by the cold wet air coming in from outside when a 6:30 flight to
We got back to campus just in time for brunch, which was grabbed before retiring to our rooms to sleep.
Quid- this is either 1.) a Pound; 2.) 20 pence (five to a pound); or 3.) a 5 Pound note. No matter what, it is defiantly money, and defiantly has something to do with the number 5, we didn’t have a dictionary handy, and certainly weren’t going to ask, but we are leaning towards number 2. Update: a consultation with a German dictionary (turns out the German for Quid is “Quid”) confirms that at Quid is, indeed, a Pound.
Underground- the subway, or Metro, sometimes called the Tube
Subway- a pedestrian underpass, sometimes connected with the Underground.
Way Out- Exit
Queue- used indiscriminately for the words line, traffic, or delay. Lauren has a picture of a road sign well outside the city with a picture of cars stopped by traffic and the sign says “Queues Likely”
Coach- a bus, not a person who leads a sports team.
Chips- French Fries
Don’t stay up late the night before you travel.
Don’t get sick.
Cheaper is not always better.
More TIME is always better.
Never ever sleep in an airport.
Always bring as many batteries as you can carry.
Always print the confirmation as soon as you make a reservation.
Know where your towel is.
P.P.S. The Doppelganger is feeling much better now, although her stomach is not happy about throwing up five times in one day, neither is she for that matter. She swares that as hard as it was to keep moving she would not have missed it for the world.