Blurry-Eyed Beginnings

(Note: The following post describes details from a previous trip, NOT a current trip.)

Sunday, September 22.

2013-09-20 03.55.52It’s amazing how the months before a trip can seem so long, then seem to vanish in the blink of an eye.

But here we are. My mom and I, with our tour group, in Rome. Italy. Finally.

Technically, it’s “day 3” of our itinerary, having spent the first evening, then most of the following day in the air, and finally arriving at our hotel at 4:30 in the afternoon, exhausted and practically nodding off during the orientation session with our trip leader, a compact Italian man named Franco. (Well, me, anyway.)

Today, is much, much better. We sufficiently fill our tummies at breakfast and slap together some small sandwiches for lunch.

Our day starts with our tour bus passing Rome’s historic ruins before we’re let off for a closer look. Franco hands us off to our local guide Tiziana, who leads us from point to point, rattling off historic facts and waving around an antenna with black, white and red ribbons tied to it, so we can see her at all times in the sea of other tourists, and keep up.

2013-09-20 04.27.11We spot the ancient arch after which Paris’ Arc de Triomphe is modelled, and  come across some sort of military parade as we’re looking at the various remains from the old city. We follow Tiziana farther, and pass by the exterior of the Colosseum.

At this point, the group breaks up for an hour or so. Some of our fellow travellers enter the Colosseum for a more detailed tour. Mom and I opt to stay outside.

The grounds around the exterior are teeming with tourists. Men illegally selling their cheap knock-off scarves, squeeze toys, and other wares, approach us repeatedly.

At one point, while taking some shade from the sun, we see a few pedlars high-tailing on it on foot, whizzing past us. There are police officers in the area.*

The group re-assembles, and we return to our hotel on the outskirts of town, where I gladly take a nap to battle my lingering jet-lag.

2013-09-20 10.51.09We return downtown in the late afternoon for a walking tour of the various piazzas and fountains, most notably, the Trevi Fountain – the biggest and, obviously, the busiest of them all.

At the fountain, we navigate around the hordes of tourists, finding a small patch of marble long enough to sit and snap a couple pictures.

Next, we pass through a shopping galleria with ornate stained glass (and stores with expensive designer labels), pass by a couple of smaller fountains and check out Trajan’s Column.

2013-09-20 11.39.49We head to the Pantheon, whose interior is not only architecturally stunning, but simply massive.

I glance up at the hole in the roof of the dome. Because of the time of day, the sunlight casts a shadow just inside, acting like a sundial.

Remains of various individuals are buried here, including those of the artist Raphael.

Our scheduled sightseeing for the day ends at the Piazza Navona, where merchants are hawking their wares and buskers are in abundance.

We’re let loose for dinner, and Mom and I partner up with two ladies – Susan from Darwin, Australia, and a Dutch lady from Vancouver named Else. (We don’t find out her name until later, because unlike a lot of people on the tour, she’s not wearing a name tag.)

2013-09-20 13.27.42We walk away from the main drag and manage to find a restaurant who can fix something Mom can actually eat!

Our meals consist of pasta and pizza; Mom can’t finish her meal, and I’m lucky my appetite’s big enough to demolish mine.

We aren’t downtown much longer after dinner, before we’re collected, walked back to our bus and whisked back to our hotel.

Today was so-so. We’ve got another early start ahead. We’ll see what the next day’s itinerary holds.

*Seems the police don’t really arrest these guys; rather they chase them around the area.

Touchdown!

Monday, February 13.

It was a day I NEVER thought would arrive …

Or night, as it turned out.

After having our flight delayed twice, (roughly a week apart, but STILL), being called “sir” twice (once while boarding, and DEFINITELY once while being served dinner – seriously?), and an almost five-hour flight, our charter plane finally makes it to Daniel Ouduber International Airport in balmy Liberia, Costa Rica.

That’s right. My friends Jenn, Zoe and I are spending the next week in beautiful Costa Rica, playground for the young, the young-at-heart, the adventurous and sun-loving (or sun-starved, depending on your perspective).

We had hoped to catch the day’s remaining minutes of sunshine.

But since our flight left at 3 p.m. instead of 2 p.m., we have to make do with the yellowish, glaring floodlights shining down from the airport terminal. Anything not lit up by the airport is swathed in absolute darkness.

We make it off the plane, walk past the rows of grumpy passengers sitting on the other side of the glass (waiting for our plane to arrive so they can leave), grab our bags, and go to meet a representative with the car rental agency, who take us to a waiting spot for our shuttle.

We’re whisked to the Alamo down the street, where we find out – eventually – that our car isn’t ready yet.

So we’re shuttled to our hotel for the evening – A Hilton across from the airport – until we can pick up our vehicle in the morning.

I’m secretly glad we’re not setting out until early the next morning – our hotel (and especially our hotel room) is NICE. These beds (and even the cot) will likely be the best – and the firmest – we’ll see for at least 7 days.

We do a little wandering around – dropping in at the hotel convenience shop, out to the pool, where we lounge on chaises for a few minutes – before taking the futuristic-looking elevator up to our rooms for the evening.

Time to sleep while we can. Next stop: the town of La Fortuna, and the famous Arenal volcano!