The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!


Friday, September 12, 2008

Roma!

We made it to Rome. It seemed to take forever since we flew first from Orlando to London (Gatwick) and then spent six not so interesting hours waiting there for our flight to Rome. We finally arrived at our lovely little hotel yesterday evening (Thursday), almost 18 hours after leaving Orlando.

I think I managed about two hours of sleep during the two flights (poor Diane couldn't sleep at all), so after passing through Italian customs, we were extremely happy to see our driver waiting for us. Now, I have no idea how many airport transfer drivers there are in Rome, but it seems to be a thriving business so I would guess there are several thousand. And I would also assume most carry out their responsibilities at some reasonable level of competence. These responsibilities should include such basic things as NOT RUNNING OUT OF GAS on a major highway.

That's right. Our driver ran out of gas about five miles from the airport. After a few minutes of rapid fire Italian curses, he got on his cellphone and called for help. In the meantime we're parked on the shoulder (barely) in a construction zone of a major highway at rush hour. Before our help arrived a good Samaritan stopped and apparently offered to take our driver to a service station. It would seem this transaction demanded a certain amount of negotiation on the part of both men because it took another ten minutes for them to leave. And so Diane and I spent probably another 20 to 30 minutes sitting alone in this Mercedes minivan as cars and trucks roared by us at 7o+ mph. This was scarier than it sounds because our driver had rolled to a stop on the extreme left edge of the shoulder, and these speeding vehicles were mere inches from us as they passed.

Oh, yes, to make matters a wee bit worse, there was some sort of controlled fire in a nearby field and so smoke was blowing across the highway right in front of the cars who were bearing down on us at high speed.And to top it all off, it was getting dark.

Eventually Signore No-Benzina returned with an odd little plastic bag containing a few liters of gas and we were on our way. Of course we had to stop and fill up at the service area a mile or so down the road, but that didn't take too long. All in all we spent about two hours in that van.

I will say one positive thing about our driver. I had decided to pay him up front, when we first got in the car at the airport, and had included a substantial tip under the (now obviously mistaken) belief that this would encourage our driver to get us to our hotel quickly and safely. But after he filled the tank, he tried to return the tip I had given him. I refused to accept it because he had provided us with a wonderful story that I'll be able to tell and embellish for years to come. It was well worth all those extra Euros. Anyway, the poor man probably has a family to feed and if he does this very often they'll starve.

The hotel (the Vatican Garden Inn) is a lovely little place in the Prati district of Rome, just a few blocks northeast of the Vatican. Our room is a bit small for two, but the manager offered to move us to a larger room on Sunday. We accepted the offer, mainly because the bathroom is so tiny. Indeed, the shower is the only argument one needs for going on a diet. (A dropped bar of soap is gone forever because it's impossible to bend over to pick it up.)

This morning, after our nice continental breakfast in the hotel's garden, we walked over to St. Peter's Square, took a few photos, and then made our way to the Vatican Museum in time for our guided tour of the museum and Sistine Chapel. The tour was wonderful, two hours of interesting commentary by our tour guide, Gabriella.

The weather today was hot, humid and overcast, followed by a real boomer of a thunderstorm this evening. Oops! The power just went out. I'll finish this tomorrow morning.

Blessings from beautiful Roma. Ciao!

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