Hours upon hours in the middle of the night were spent searching homeaway.com for the perfect apartment. One was found and booked and ready to go, and then Delta changed my mom's flight, so we had to reschedule our trip to Rome. The owner of the apartment we'd booked assured us that she had another one that would accommodate our family during our newly scheduled stay in Rome since the one we'd booked would not longer be available. We were out of time to keep searching, so we trusted her.
And here's what happened.
Uh huh. Had to sit on it sideways. The rest of the apartment was more of the same. My mom, Graham, Alaina, and I practically slept on top of each other. Double O 7 couldn't join us, because he had some important work to do in Algeria.
Fortunately, we had less than 48 hours to spend in Rome, so there was no time to spend relaxing in the room. Unfortunately, my mom was pretty sick. Okay, really sick. Like, could hardly breathe sick. Like, almost passed out at the Colosseum sick. But she pushed through. She did not back down.
With granola bars and espresso shoved in our mouths for breakfast, we rushed out of our apartment Friday morning with hopes of riding the buses to the Vatican Museum. When traveling with an infant, you must attempt to get to your next location before it is time for her to eat again, which can often be tricky when relying on public transit. Especially when public transit decides to go on strike, as was the case on this particular Friday morning. After a half an hour of waiting for a bus that was never coming, we begrudgingly walked down to St. John Lateran hoping to find a bus there. No luck. So, after feeding Alaina, begrudgingly, we phoned a taxi service advertised near the bus stops. Too flustered to remember my Italian language skills, I demanded a taxi in English, and the guy on the other end of the phone kindly replied, "Yes." So, we waited. As the rain pelted our umbrella, we sought shelter under an awning and redialed the taxi service and were put on hold until a man who could sort of speak English got on the phone.
"Why, because, why, how, because?" He asked.
"Umm, I need a taxi. I called and nobody came. No taxi."
"Why? How? Because? Why you call here?"
"I need a taxi."
"Why you call here? Because?"
"I'm under a restaurant awning and I need a taxi! Taxi, please!"
"Why? Because? How? Why you call?"
"No taxi. This fence repair."
Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, there appeared a bus. With people on it. In service. I guess not all buses were on strike? A little gap in the pounding rain allowed us to make our way to the bus stop and hop on it and hope for it to get us to the Vatican before Alaina needed to eat again. Traffic was terrible, due to the strike, of course, but we made it inside the Vatican Walls (after a terrible lunch, good gelato, and another incident of being stuck under an awning waiting for a storm to blow through).
Have ya'll ever been to the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel? If you have, you know it's a chore in and of itself to get inside the doors of the chapel. It's not a pleasant or spiritual experience. You sort of feel like you feel like cattle. At least that was my experience last time I was there. This time, we got lucky. One of the cowboys took pity on us with our big stroller and tiny baby and allowed us to sit up on the altar all by ourselves. When I took my grandparents to the Sistine Chapel, I almost hated it, because I felt so rushed and uncomfortable. I said to myself, "I would love to come here with tons of time to just sit and marvel at the thing. It would be a dream come true." On Friday, I got my wish. We got to sit there, uninterrupted or bumped or pushed or trampled, all by ourselves, and just stare in awe at Michelangelo's work.
That's when we decided it was all worth the trip. And so was St. Peter's. And the Trevi fountain. And the delicious restaurant I found using my mad map-reading skills. It was a perfect last evening in Italy for my mom.
What better way to wrap it all up than to take her on her very first subway ride? I heard a rumor that the trains were starting back up at 8 pm, so we made our way underground at the Spanish Steps. Millions of people decided taking the train on a Friday evening was a good idea, so we crowded in and waited for the train with our big stroller (remember this story about the stroller?). I had Alaina in the Bjorn, so my mom was pushing Graham in the BOB. When the train arrived, we ended up in the back of the line, so we pushed our way through until the BOB was on the train, but my mom was stuck behind it on the outside of the train. She tried pushing through, but the doors closed on her, smashing her poor, sick, body, and scaring the shit out of her and me. I screamed and pushed the button a hundred times as the man next to me pulled her in. My screaming scared Alaina, so she started screaming as if she were the one who almost died in the doors of the train. When she gets mad, she gets really mad, so she screamed and screamed on the crowded train. The whole time. Never stopping for a second.
And there I stood on the train with my sick, shocked, injured mother, my happy-go-lucky 4.5 year old who loves to ride trains, and my inconsolable newborn. I was sweating, trying not to make eye contact with the other train-riders who were gushing over my children, thinking of how I drug my family across Rome in a day, of the bad apartment, rain and hail storms, public transit strike, and near death experience we'd had, and couldn't help but look at my disheveled mom and laugh as I conjured up this scene in my head.
It wasn't the first, and nor will it be the last time I've said about the ins and outs of traveling: "It's all part of the experience, honey."