16th Aug 2016 - Eastern European Express
Rushed Rome and Home
Today was a jam packed day!
We woke up at 2am to get ready to go to the airport. Ilir kindly arranged a ride for us and we were on our way at 2:30am. The drive to Tirana airport was traffic free at that time and took about an hour. We passed so many gas stations along the way that dad thinks they might have the highest number of gas stations per capita. I am not sure if these types of facts are recorded, but I might have to research that.
We arrived at the airport and we're ready to check in with three hours to spare. It was a good thing too because AlItalia Airlines was quite slow. We couldn't believe how slow their check in was. It made me miss the Easy Jet check in debacle from England. Three workers for the whole flight is a good number, but only if they actually work. The lady running our line processed one person in half an hour. The manager was there and he was watching the other lady. Therefore, I presume that she didn't have a technical issue or he would have been called. Regardless, British Airways personnel were forced to the I in passengers otherwise we wouldn't have made the flight. Gross incompetence.
Regardless of how we started, we boarded the plane and landed in Rome for our day your. The line at customs was long and not moving very well. This didn't help ease our frustrations from the morning. I lamented that booth was for "All Passports" but they seemed to only be taking EU people. As I said that an airport worker came and opened the barrier for a large section of people and the line moved a bit. It happened again and I was thinking we were in the perfect spot to get the third round for number five (who processed more people than anyone else there). I hovered at the area where you get taken to five, when I really should have moved on when (dad and mom had) and he waved us over. I crawled under the rope and we were next in line. Success! Our moods greatly improved at skipping an hour long line.
We were met at the gate for our tour by an older gentleman holding a sign with mom's name. It was really cool. I have always wanted to have that happen. It makes you feel quite special. We hopped in his car and headed for Vatican City. It was important to me to get there first as many blogs talk of the insane number of people there. Vatican City is a separate country, but try as you might you can't get a passport stamp there. Instead, I got a couple of pictures in front of St. Peter's Basilica. We drove past the line for the Vatican Tour which was already a kilometre long and he told me that from that point it is a four hour wait to get in! Wow!
We headed back to Rome and went to many sights. The thing about our driver was that since we were just in a car, he pulled up to many great places and his by other vehicles and parked illegally where your buses can't fit. We got up close to so many monuments and parked. It really was quite impressive as many other cars weren't able to go where we went. Our first main stop was Trevi Fountain. I couldn't believe how few people were there. It was early in the morning, so only a handful of people were there, which made photographs quite easy to do. There were workers cleaning the fountain in the corner (didn't appear in any photos) which meant that the fountains were off. I was okay with that, but I think my parents were slightly disappointed. Our next main stop was the Spanish Steps. I didn't know this, but they have operating hours! Again, because we were early they were empty. There was plexi glass that kept people at bay and helped make photos easy to take. The last main stop was the Colosseum. What a sight! It is beautiful. I was expecting it to be hard to photograph with other holdings in the way and being less than what I expected. This was not the case. I enjoyed walking around the outside and taking pictures. It really is quite impressive to see. We ended our tour after seeing all of the places we wanted (I only mentioned a few) and were dropped back off at the airport.
At the airport we needed lunch...the gelato a we had at Teevi Fountain weren't enough to be our breakfast and lunch for the day. We sat at a cafe and had lunch. What a production! It was one of the most inefficient systems I have ever seen. Two lines. Different purposes. I went to the wrong line initially (but no sign to indicate their respective purposes). Went to the right line and ordered sandwiches for two of us, croissant, coffee, and water. They all had to come from different areas. I had to get the sandwich around the corner where you hand in your receipt (only after a local informed me on how to work the system). I finally got the sandwiches and I had to go back in and get water. Then I had to line up for coffee and even though the croissant was right in front of the coffee man, I had to go line up and get someone else to get it. There has to be a better way.
We headed off to our gate in the G section of gates after being disappointed that I couldn't find any good stores for a ring to discover that G Gates are where it is at. I found some lovely shops and got my final ring (13 countries 11 rings - none from Bosnia/Herzogovina or Vatican City). Here they have smoking rooms in the terminal. The ventilation must be quite good in there as I never smelled it when the doors opened.
We boarded the plane and found two girls sitting in our seats. I ask d if their tickets said row 37 and they said yes. They pulled them out and their seats were D and E, not J and K. They asked if they could just stay because they were settled. No! These princesses were obviously not used to the word no and huffed about it for quite some time. However, they then sat in seats F and G while trying to locate other window seats to steal. They attempted two more times and then just stayed where they were, in the wrong seats. The importance of me explaining this is that these two girls then complained that they didn't get their kosher meal...which was delivered to their correct seats D and E. Karma. Haha. These divas weren't having it and let everyone know they were starving and it was the airlines fault. Ugh. Someone found a couple extra kosher meals and they finally stopped making noise. I felt so badly for the airline attendants. We were happy to be off the plane and away from them after a nine hour flight. Customs and baggage were a breeze and my sister picked us up right as we stepped out of the terminal doors.
It truly was an amazing trip and I appreciate how lucky I am to see so many wonderful places. Thank you to everyone who followed along my journey and I hoped you enjoyed it.
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