I finished my last work meeting on Wednesday afternoon and went back to the office to finish up. Getting out of town for this trip was difficult. My workload has been very heavy this year, and there were a ton of loose ends to tie up. I got some of it done, and the rest I dumped on the poor young lawyers I left behind. They've got my back, and that's a good feeling.
I spent all morning Thursday packing and finally felt as if I had it under control by about 3:00 pm and was able to relax a bit and wait on our car to arrive. We like to hire a driver to take us to the airport. It's not that much more expensive than paying for parking, and it is just so relaxing to let them fight the Houston rush hour traffic while I stare out the window and dream of Rome.
We arrived at George Bush Intercontinental and got through security with tons of time to spare, so we ate dinner in the airport. Our flight was 20 minutes delayed, which was slightly worrisome to us, as we had a very tight connection to make. We planned this trip months in advance, but one thing I had not thought about was the London Olympics. We had managed to book a flight with a 1 hour 15 minute connection time in Heathrow in London. We had read, no so comfortingly, that Heathrow's busiest day EVER was Thursday, the day we were leaving. Somehow, I always manage to get us into the thick of things.
Our flight from Houston to London was uneventful. British Airways is very friendly and efficient. Their people seem genuinely interested in your comfort. The food was not great but was serviceable. I did find it odd that one of their choices was a chicken curry. Don't get me wrong–I love curry, but it seems a strange choice for an enclosed space like a plane. It stunk the place up pretty good, but it did drown out the smell of some man's rancid feet. I ate my meal, took a sleeping pill and abandoned Genene and Greg to the fates.
Our pilot took advantage of the tailwinds and had us to Heathrow back on schedule. Unfortunately he had no place to land so we circled around London for 15 minutes while he got cleared to land. Our connection was going be challenging! We had about 40 minutes to find our gate AND clear security again. Heathrow was quite crowded but they had plenty of personnel on hand pushing the crowds in the right direction. When we got to main terminal 5, I showed our boarding passes to the first security person I saw and told him we had a short time to connect. He directed us to the “fast track” area and said, “Run, Madame.” And so we did. We raced through the terminal, which always makes me think of O. J. Simpson, made it through security without a hitch, and got to our gate to find that our Rome flight was 15 minutes delayed. Whew! That gave us time to gather our gear and our senses. Greg had a momentary panic when he couldn't find his passport, but it was only hiding in a backpack pocket. As we get older, it seems that we spend a lot of time looking for things we just had in our hands a second ago. I swear, I think they shift back and forth into other dimensions. The other day I couldn't find the can opener in the kitchen, and it was right in front of me….or was it?
We made it to Rome a little bit late, and there was a surge of humanity getting off the plane and onto the transport trains to go to baggage pickup. I think it was worse than Heathrow. We taught Genene how to say “good afternoon, madame” in Italian and gave her the passports. She got us through immigration with only those three words. She's pretty handy. We got our bags and headed for the exit, where our driver was supposed to be waiting for us. The doors opened, and it was wall-to-wall people staring at us, each one waiting to pick up his or her own family member. I despaired of ever seeing our driver in that mass of people. I told Greg, “It will be blind luck if we ever see him” and as the words came out of my mouth, Greg said, “There he is!” Our driver was friendly and greeted us in English. He grabbed my bags and Genene's and led the way to the car. He had been recommended to us by our apartment owner, and he was worth every penny. He called the apartment greeter so that she would be waiting for us and then navigated through the Roman streets like a champion. I could NEVER have driven that car down those streets. The streets are extremely narrow, and people walk in them. He barely missed at least half a dozen people, and they all took it in stride. I guess we will be out there walking those streets tomorrow.
He drove us right by the Colosseum. I wonder if he needed to do that, or if he just wanted to be the first one to show it to us. I didn't get any pictures because we will be going back, but the tears welled up in my eyes, just to see it. I always feel so blessed to be able to see the world's wonders. I'm still just that little ole girl from Arkansas.
Our apartment greeter, Elvi, was very kind. She had already stocked the refrigerator with water, juice, coffee, breakfast biscuits, etc. We were told that she spoke English, and she did, after a fashion. We caught most of it, but I am sure that some of the fine details of the apartment were lost on us. We are a two minute walk from the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps, so we will go there shortly.
Greg just went out to get pizzas and wine. We are going to eat in and unpack and get on Roman time.
I leave you with three pictures. The first one is the view from our balcony.
We also have a rooftop terrace. The steps up to it are narrow and scary. As Elvi led us up, she kept saying, “Mamma Mia!” Genene loves it.
Finally, this photo shows the small table on the rooftop. You can see the dome of St. Peter's Basilica on the left. We are going to love sitting up here in the morning and in the late evening, drinking wine and watching the Roman world go around.
Ciao for now!