After a yet again freezing night, we woke up a bit late and ended up not getting into the city until noon. It was nice to sleep in, but we did limit ourselves a bit. However, we had been told that the lines for the Vatican in the afternoon were much shorter than in the morning. I guess most people think that going early will get them nearer to the front of the line, but then it just ends up that everyone is there at the same time.
We got to the metro stop for the Vatican and had a bite of lunch, since we knew we would be in there a long time. Then we walked about a mile to the entrance of St. Peter's Basilica and waited in a line for about 15-20 minutes. Unfortunately we were right in front of a group of school kids from France who were very pushy and rude. I was getting very frustrated and impatient with their line cutting (which the teachers participated in freely... even more infuriating!), but Romeo was calm and that helped me chill out a bit.
We got through the metal detector check and went inside. We didn't have a map of the area, or Rome in general, so I was a bit frustrated. We should have done our homework a bit better. We got inside the basilica, and it really was incredible. Romeo was smart and put in his headphones and listened to a podcast I had told him to download but I forgot. When we asked where the museum was, and were told it was about a kilometer away and had its own separate line, I think my patience broke.
Between the crowds (which I hate), annoying kids, not knowing exactly where I was, not having a map, having to pee, feeling like I had dropped the ball by not knowing we couldn't get into the museum in the same line, it being nearly 3pm and the last entrance to the museum only an hour away, I was thiiiiiis close to losing it.
Romeo kept calm and power-walked to the museum entrance. Amazingly, there was NO LINE. I literally have no idea how we lucked out that much. I began to feel better, knowing that we would be able to get inside. Rome was one of Romeo's must-see cities, so I felt like if we had missed this, it would have ruined Rome. However, we did get in. And even better, I was able to use my student ID card from UH (thank you, UH, for not putting dates or years on your ID cards!!!), so I entered for half price. Woo-hoo! Nothing cheers me up like saving money, so I felt much better.
I knew that last entrance was at 4pm, but I wasn't sure when they were going to herd us out of the museum, and the Sistine Chapel was my #1 must-see site, so I kind of rushed through some of the rooms. There were interesting things, but again, I hate crowds so if something had a crowd around it, I avoided it. One area that I liked a lot was the tapestry room. Some of those bad boys were absolutely massive, all of them were incredibly intricate, and I overheard a private tour guide say that the tapestries in the hall were worth 3 times more than the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Wow!
Finally, I saw a sign for the chapel pointing right, and another sign for more rooms pointing left. I headed right to the chapel, and Romeo called out he wanted to see the other rooms. I just thought, "Okay, he knows I'll be in the chapel. I'll just hang out until he comes in." Well, I had not taken into account how flipping crowded that place was! I walked in and immediately regretted leaving Romeo. I didn't know how I was going to find him again. I lucked out and got a seat on one of the benches that lined the sides of the room.
I cued up the Rick Steve's walking tour of the Sistine Chapel and listened to some descriptions and history of the ceiling. Man, Rick Steves is punny! It was interesting, though. I really liked it. My favorite was the Last Judgement. It really is incredible that Michelangelo painted all that. I sat for around 45 minutes, spending at least 20 of that monitoring the flood of people walking through the door. I was entertained by watching the photo-police confront people who thought they were sneaky at taking pictures of the ceiling. Finally, I saw someone waving across the room, and there he was. I was so relieved to see Romeo I let out a sigh of relief. Another 20 minutes to allow Romeo to listen to the Rick Steves info, and we snuck in with a tour group that was allowed through a special exit that led right to St. Peter's.
Since I was now feeling better, we spent some time outside of the Basilica taking photos that I hadn't been in the mood for earlier. After, we decided to get a snack and head toward the Pantheon before the sun completely set for the day. We finally found a map and realized that the Pantheon was a little further than we thought. But, it was our last day in Rome, so it was now or never. By the time we crossed the Tiber river, my feet were aching and we hadn't found a snack, so I was ready for a full-fledged dinner.
We found a place with decently priced wine (the only part of the meal I even looked at the price), and I ordered some pasta (fresh, home-made of course). We shared some wine and enjoyed the evening. A group of 6 Americans sat next to us and chatted with us a little. They were 3 older retired couples from the east coast somewhere. They remarked that we didn't have Texas accents, and we told them we'd been in Korea for a while. They were very kind.
We caught the subway and bus without problems, but by the time we got to the bus stop, I had to pee VERY badly. For some idiotic reason, the toilets were closed at the station, so with the 20 minutes we had before the bus was due to arrive, we walked to a deserted area of the parking lot, and I climbed behind a low railing, and, well, I left my mark in Rome. o.O haha! Sorry for TMI.
I fell asleep on the bus ride, and we walked shivering to Miguel's from the stop. He had heard the bus roll by, and knew we were coming. He had the gate open and was waiting for us. He is so nice!! We fell into bed and set alarms for the morning, as we were heading to catch our longest bus ride of the scheduled trip in the morning: 18 hours from Rome to Lyon, France. A good night's sleep was definitely needed before conquering that!