During the summer of 2007, I sat around drinking wine (of course) in a hotel room in Kansas City with a group of my sorority sisters. We discussed the facts that we often took small weekend trips to visit old college friends in KC, Oklahoma City, and Dallas, and that maybe it was time for something a bit more adventurous.
Seven of us Gamma Phi gals, plus another friend, scrimped and save for over a year, and in September of 2008, the European adventure began. Four of us had decided to spend a week backpacking through Italy before meeting the rest of the group in Venice to set sail on a Mediterranean cruise. My very generous mother kindly offered to fly me there on her frequent flier miles. Even better? She let me fly first class.
This was my second experience in first class. The first was a short domestic flight, where we only given one plastic cup of wine. An international flight was a much different story. After an uneventful jaunt to Atlanta, I took off for Europe in the lap of luxury. (As luxurious as an American Airlines jet can be, that is.) The flight began with hot nuts. (This led to an endless string of inside jokes while on the trip. It was disappointing that nuts kept showing up at the various bars we frequented, and none of them were hot.)
We had a menu to choose our meals from. I couldn’t tell you what I ate, but it was hands-down the best airplane food ever. And after that, an ice cream sundae. Whoever heard of eating ice cream on a plane? Of course, the meal was followed by hot towels, and endless glasses of wine. I also had my own individual television screen, with all of the latest movies. It was a perfect chance to watch all of the chick flicks that my fiance (at the time) refused to watch. When I was ready to sleep, I had that cool little first-class kit with a sleep mask, earplugs, all kinds of goodies. I did not wear the slippers, in case you were wondering.
I arrived in Rome during the early morning hours. Now, I don’t speak a lick of Italian. I took four years of Spanish, and can’t even speak that. So I just followed the crowd, and was pumped at the sight of the stamp on my passport. (I had been to Europe before, as well as some other countries that nobody in their right minds would want to visit, but it was always on military travel. Thus, no passports required. This equals no stamps.)
The airport was hotter than the depths of hell. I guess Italians don’t believe in air conditioning. I made my way outside, with hours to kill till the rest of my crew arrived. I was immediately swarmed by a group of old men waving and gesturing while speaking lightning-fast Italian. I finally realized that they were cabbies, and I randomly followed one to his car. It did not look like any taxi I had ever seen. I must have looked young, American and terrified, because he pointed at the company logo on the back of the car to reassure me. Feeling a little better, I gave him the address of the hotel (this meant showing him the address on a piece of paper, since I couldn’t pronounce it). We drove for an eternity, but it was probably only 20 minutes. But we did pass the Coliseum, which was kind of cool. I always imagined it would be on the outskirts of the city, but is seriously smack dab in the middle. When we finally arrived at the hotel, he helped me with my luggage, and promptly asked for the equivalent of 80 American dollars. WTF? Are you serious? That was about three days worth of my spending money. But there was nothing I could do. When in Rome…
I checked in to our suite, and decided to take a walk. It was still early morning, and the streets were still quiet. I took the camera that I had borrowed from my fiance (his is better), took two photos, and the card was full. Oh, well. I had plenty of time to take pictures later.
I spent the rest of the afternoon lounging in the hotel room, eagerly awaiting the arrival of my friends. I finished my book, and watched MTV because that was the only channel in English. Angela, Allison and Gibson arrived around 4 p.m., after a frantic rerouting of Gibson’s flight through Germany. But they all arrived safely, and they got to split the 80 dollar cab ride. Lucky bitches.
After dinner, we roamed around for a while, in search of the famed Spanish Steps. When we thought we were officially lost, we stumbled upon a huge staircase crowded with people. Voila! The Spanish Steps were found!
Okay, so we’ve seen the Spanish Steps. Now…more wine! We found a cute little wine bar literally around the corner from our hotel. We ate some nuts (not hot). We drank a LOT of wine. We wrote in our official travel journal. (Many of these entries were later deemed illegible, due to the aforementioned excessive amounts of wine.) We met an insane French lady. I kissed the stuffed rat that she carried in her purse as if it were real. I mean, really, what better photo op is there?
I finally retired to our hotel room alone. I later wished I hadn’t, because the next morning, I was treated to several pictures of my crazy American friends posing suggestively on some poor local’s Vespa. I can only thank God that they weren’t chased away by the Roman owner of the vehicle. It’s unfortunate that I’m not the owner of any of those pictures, because they were pretty damn funny. However, in addition to the morning slide show, I was unlucky enough to have the worst hangover in Italian history. Needless to say, I didn’t join the girls for their city tour of fountains. And to this day, I can’t drink red PowerAde.