We had gotten Marcus’s passport photo taken back in December, in anticipation of exciting international travel with baby, and today we set out. We took a 3:15 Amtrak train from Boston to New York first: Robert got on at South Station, and Marcus and I got on at Back Bay. We had seats for four, around a table, and the train ride went well; we nibbled on sweet potato fries from B.Good, drank a mango smoothie, and endured the squeakiest train imaginable (“wear and tear,” said the conductor, when asked about the noise).
Once in New York, my father met us at Penn Station and we got Kyochan Korean fried chicken en route to Bayside, to meet my mother and Aunt Mary for an evening of dinner and baby-gazing.
Today we left for Rome properly, but before that there was more baby playtime, with new toys my parents had bought to keep at their house, so Marcus would have something to play with here, and in the playground in their apartment complex.
My father dropped us at JFK for our 5:20 Delta nonstop flight to Rome, and after a delay due to weather (it had suddenly gotten foggy and hazy), we finally were airborne. We had bulkhead seats, so that Marcus could stand and crawl around in front of us a little bit without running into seats ahead of us, and so that theoretically we could get a bassinet for him, to attach to the bulkhead. We never asked for the bassinet, though, because I was happy holding him in my arms when he slept. With a good headwind, we made up for lost time and had a great flight. The dinner was terrible, of course, and the fact that our armrests couldn’t be lifted up was annoying, but Marcus and I got a fair amount of sleep on the plane, while Robert remained awake next to us. When Marcus wasn’t sleeping, he was busy being adored by the many Italians sitting around us, who cooed over him regardless of their gender or age.
We landed at 8:35 in the morning, and we made it through customs very quickly, but we ran into a series of minor challenges and didn’t quite get to our hotel until very close to noon. First, all of the ATMs in the airport were broken, but we didn’t know that—we just kept trying one after another, getting peculiar, unhelpful messages from each. Robert eventually had to use a money changer, which he really dislikes. After all of this walking around and haggling, I was flagging by this point—dying of thirst, and dying of heat, because Rome was experiencing a heat wave this week, with temperatures in the upper 80s. Theoretically the airport was air-conditioned, but I couldn’t feel a thing. Next, Marcus had an extremely messy diaper, and Robert walked all over the airport until he found a men’s room that had (forget about a changing table!) a counter next to the sink so he could change him, and then I had to change his outfit entirely too. Finally we got on the train to Stazione Termini, and in half an hour we were right in Rome at last. We joined a line of other tourists from our train at the curb waiting for cabs to our hotels.
The first cab that stopped for us asked where we were going. “Al Pantheon,” I said, since our hotel was right next to it. “No,” the driver said, and moved on to the next person. Apparently we were too short of a trip for him! (Interestingly, the dispatcher wandering around this whole time said nothing.)
The next cab that stopped for us also asked us where we were going, and grumbled when I said the Pantheon, but motioned that we should put our bags in the trunk and get in. I got in, with Marcus still in the mei tai (my Mother’s Day present from Robert, not quite as comfortable for long carries as my Storch wrap, but far cooler for the 80-plus-degree temperatures of Rome), and soon Robert was sitting next to me. The driver then turned around from the front seat and announced that it would be a flat rate of 25 euros to our hotel. I told him no, that it should be about ten euros. He argued, saying it was a Sunday and that we had lots of bags (two small rolling suitcases, my pocketbook, and a backpack—so little luggage that we took it all as carry-ons with no problem, actually) and that “This is Italia, signora, not Africa.” I told him there was no way we were going to pay 25 euros. I got out, Robert got out, we unloaded our bags from the trunk, and the driver moved on to the next person in line. (Again, interestingly, the dispatcher did and said nothing.) Loudly, I told the person behind me, “You can get in if you want, but he’s trying to cheat you. He says it’s 25 euros, flat rate.” Equally loudly, the cabbie repeated, “Of course, signora! This is Italia, not Africa!” The person behind us actually got in.
The third cab that stopped for us did not complain about our destination. He turned on the meter, and we ended up paying 8.90 euros for the trip.
After all of this, however, we were pretty darn exhausted when we got to the hotel. I nursed Marcus on the bed, and then he and I fell asleep and took a four-hour nap (noon to four p.m.) while Robert remained awake next to us.
At four o’clock we wandered out of our hotel and headed toward Piazza Navona. We got a gelato cup from a random, colorful place just off the piazza and then hung out around the fountain for a little while. Marcus was essentially challenged to a duel by a slightly older Italian baby (in pink, pictured below), who could walk and pick up pennies, and who held out her hand and beckoned (in a Morpheus-like way), saying, “Bring it on, baby!” We went into a few churches around the piazza and the nearby streets, just looking at the art and architecture, and then we went to Da Baffeto for pizza (prosciutto and mushroom), which was very good, though not hugely different than Boston-style pizza.
After dinner we walked back and admired the Pantheon at sunset, and then went to Giolitti for a gelato cone. We much preferred it to the random place—we especially loved the huge slab of whipped cream which tops every cone. Marcus had a few finger-fuls of whipped cream and was also a fan—this began when I inadvertently dropped a giant section of whipped cream on his head, while he was in the wrap, and we decided just to go with it.
We headed back to the hotel and got ready for bed. Our hotel really has a lovely location—when we threw the shutters open and peered out the window, we could see the obelisk, fountain, Pantheon, and numerous cafes (and a McDonald’s, complete with cafe-like tables—with tablecloths!). We could hear the live music from the plaza below, sometimes a trio with a violin, sometimes a whole police orchestra, sometimes a tenor and accompanist, and sometimes just a surprisingly good accordionist. The music kept going until 10:00 every night, and then there were just the sounds of people and cafes and chairs. After that was the sound of cleaning up, of moving the chairs and tables, and the sound of street sweepers, and then the early-morning sounds of setting up the cafes again.
Marcus slept great, in the bed in between us, that first night in Italy; Robert and I remained wide awake until past 3:00, our bodies not having any idea what time it was.
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Created: 5/29/09. Last Modified: 5/29/09.