The Mediterranean Cruise (Part 8 of 13)

Episode 6 – Roma, finally

It was an early wake-up call and then rushed into the city of Rome to avoid traffic. I am an early riser and I was having my breakfast at 4 in the morning. I was not the only one in the dining room. Some people were complaining about not able to get window seats. What can you see at that hour of the morning? I do not understand the logic behind this.

Rome was congested with traffic. There was no way to get around the narrow streets with a coach. The best way was to walk, and walking we did. St. Peter’s Square was the first stop. It never fails to amaze me with all the statue and sculptures. We stood in the square, on top of the mark where one could only see a single layer of columns. It was certainly a marvel with this optical illusion.

The guide pointed out the window where white smoke would fly in the election of a new pope. Then the guide told us, there was never any chimney to burn the used ballots. It was a little heater they used on top of the roof to burn the ballots. This is devastating news since all the grandeur was destroyed with the review of the truth.

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Coliseum looked newer than before with the cleaning. There were long line-ups to get in the coliseum. Standing under the hot sun and praying for a miracle for no waiting was not the idea of having fun. The Trevi fountain was invaded by tourists. There were hordes of people everywhere and they all wanted to make the 3 wishes. I made my 3 wishes too. I wished I was never there. I wished this would not happen again. I also wished my wife would never read this column, amen.

You could not take any pictures without having a stranger by your side. Just across from the fountain was a café which sold light sandwiches and drinks. While in Europe, always ask for the price. The food places have a different price for every bit of service. This is a price for food. There is a price for food when you sit down. There is a price for coffee standing up. There is a price for food when you are served. Gratuity has all different layers of charging. You got confused no matter what. So please ask and be sure.

When we approached the famous Spanish Steps, we were all dead beyond belief. We needed washroom facilities really bad. Of course, good old MacDonald came to the rescue. MacDonald’s in Europe did tourist big favours by offering free usage of washroom. You cannot imagine how awkward it would be when you are in an emergency and yet you have to fish out 40 cents to go to the washroom. By then, your business might be done. This MacDonald is set up with an upstairs dining area and downstairs is divided into a coffee bar and a gelato shop. We were dying for a burger, so we venture upstairs. Danny went to the coffee bar to get his ice cappuccino but he ended up with hot milk. There was no use to explain. We just grin and bear.

By the time when we went back to the boat, we were exhausted, irritated, and hungry beyond belief. We felt better after we got our share of energy replenished, it was bed time. I was out on deck enjoying the breeze when the boat started to leave shore. Then there was a couple who arrived later than the embarking time. The boat was not going back to receive them. There it was, the couple with the shopping bags in hand, looking at the ship slowly leaving. The immigration officers came out and there was some negotiation. A taxi was summoned for the couple and by then, our ship was on course for smooth sailing.

You can do anything but be on time for the ship. The couple I saw was in definite trouble since they did not have any passport with them. This is the time to pray to Alah and God all at once.

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