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Day 12 - May 10, 2005 - Rome, Italy and Vatican City

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I woke up at 7:00 am to be at breakfast on time at 7:30.  I ate with Neil, Steve, Sally, Aussie Justin and Vanessa.  Everyone was complaining how terrible the food was that morning, but I didn't find it to be that bad.  It was certainly not the worst food of the trip.
 
Before the trip, and before arriving in Italy, I expected the weather to be scorching.  It was, however, probably the least scorching day in Rome's history.  In other words, it was pretty comfortable.  This was a good thing because we would be going to the Vatican, which meant we couldn't wear shorts.  I wore my pants which zipped down into shorts.  These saved valuable space in my luggage and now they served another very useful purpose.  While the temperature was comfortable, I couldn't imagine walking around Rome all day in pants.
 
Like the previous day, we took the coach to the train, and then transferred onto the Metro (subway).  Our first stop was the Vatican museum, in Vatican City of course, the smallest country in the world.  The whole country is entirely situated within the city of Rome.  The line wrapping around the walls of the museum, and essentially the country, was huge.  We thought it would take forever to get inside.  However, despite the lengthy line, it moved very quickly.  It probably only took 20 minutes to get in.  As usual, I tagged along with Vince, James, Yoon (at some point, we began calling Myungsoo by his last name, Yoon, because people kept mispronouncing his first name), Kim, Yvonne, Freddy, Olivia, and Kent.  We wound our way through the corridors, which began with Egyptian art, something I would never expect to see at the Vatican.  There was some really interesting art and artifacts there though.

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ENTRANCE TO THE VATICAN MUSEUM

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IN THE COURTYARD OF THE VATICAN MUSEUM

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ARTIFACTS IN THE MUSEUM

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EGYPTIAN ART AT THE VATICAN? STRANGE BUT AWESOME

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MORE GREATNESS

After the sections containing the Egyptian art, Vince and I seemed to have lost everyone else.  We continued to browse somewhat aimlessly, although we generally kept in the direction of the Sistine Chapel, one of my most anticipated sites of the whole entire tour.  Eventually, Vince and I found the rest of the group.
 
Due to the signs overhead, we sensed we were in the near proximity of the Sistine Chapel.  We entered the most incredible hallway I've ever seen.  For a brief moment, I thought it was the Sistine Chapel.  However, I realized it was just the hallway leading up to it.  The hallway alone was more incredible than most of the art in the museum.  It was several hundred feet long, with gold accentuated paintings on the ceiling.  I can't go on explaining as it truly is a must see.

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MORE OF THE MUSEUM

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HALLWAY LEADING TO THE SISTINE CHAPEL

We then entered the Sistine Chapel.  As if the hallway wasn't amazing in itself, this completely surpassed it and everything else for that matter.  This might have been my favorite place of the whole trip.  It was incredible.  I've never experienced such a strong atmosphere in a single place, ever.  I stared at the ceiling first, then the wall opposite me.  I realized I had been separated from my group but I didn't care.  After probably 20 minutes, I went to the other side and stared at the side that I was initially standing underneath.  I was lucky to find a seat and I probably spent a total of close to an hour in there.  I believe everyone should see this once in their life.  All of the cliche reviews about how horrible the pictures are in comparison to the actual place cannot be more accurate.  Please do yourself a favor and go there during your lifetime.  I promise I will make it back there again.
 
After escaping the ambience of the Sistine Chapel, I realized that losing my group was a notable problem.  I wasn't extremely confident with navigating the city or the Italian language.  I looked everywhere and couldn't find them in the sea of people.  While entering the Sistine Chapel, that would be the last time I would see anyone from my whole tour until I met back at the train later that day.
 
I was hungry and so I shrugged off the fact of being alone.  I hadn't been alone at all since London, so part of me enjoyed the solitude.  Again, I wasn't confident with the layout of the city or the Italian language, but I was confident I would learn what I needed to make it through.  After the initial thoughts, it was of little to no concern to me.  I ate in the cafeteria of the museum.  I knew I should have waited until I left the museum, so I could eat some good food on the streets, but I didn't want to prematurely leave the museum due to hunger.  I ate some decent pasta for a ridiculous price, almost comparable to a finger or a toe.
 
For the second time of the trip, I was out of memory in my camera.  I bought a disposable camera to use in the meantime until I found a camera shop.  The disposable camera didn't have a flash.  I unexpectedly found a camera shop inside the museum and had a CD made.
 
Before leaving the museum, I found a section downstairs which was comprised of Chinese art.  Like the Egyptian art section, I found this to be out of place.  Nevertheless, some of it was really unique stuff.  It was hidden in the corner of what was essentially the basement of the museum.  I found it by accident while looking for a bathroom and I was one of only a couple people in the entire section.
 
Next, I left the museum to conclude what was definitely a memorable experience.  Again I must stress that the Sistine Chapel is a must see in everyone's lifetime.  I proceeded around the wall that I initially thought surrounded the whole country of Vatican City.  In fact, it only surrounds the perimeter of the museum.  I walked around to St. Peter's Square.  It was a very interesting place to say the least.  There was a relatively small crowd there, seeing as how the new pope was sworn in a few weeks prior.  I expected to have to deal with an ungodly (no pun intended) amount of people.  I did the trick where you stand in the middle of the square and all the columns line up.  Some people on my tour voiced their opinion of how anti climatic it was.  I thought it was pretty neat to do however.  While it takes all of ten seconds, it's definitely worth trying.

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ST. PETER'S SQUARE

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A FOUNTAIN IN ST. PETER'S SQUARE

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ST. PETER'S BASILICA

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ANOTHER ANGLE

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VIEW OF THE SQUARE FROM THE BASILICA

After spending some time in the square, I made my way towards St. Peter's Basilica.  I think the general consensus is that this place is the greatest basilica of them all.  While it was most definitely impressive (and massive), I found it to be inferior the Parisian Notre Dame.  There was a line to see John Paul II's tomb, but it was very lengthy.  I decided to forgo it and I don't regret doing so.  I also decided to forgo going up to the dome, something I do regret today.  I didn't think I'd have enough time to do everything.  Plus I wanted to avoid paying the fee.  Perhaps next time.

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INSIDE ST. PETER'S BASILICA

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ANOTHER SHOT

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THE INTERIOR OF ST. PETER'S BASILICA'S DOME

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ANOTHER VIEW

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AND ONE MORE

After exiting the basilica, I had to buy a postcard for my grandparents.  They were the ones I thought of the most while in the Vatican, so it seemed fitting.  I also sat down and just relaxed for a while in the square.  On the way out, I bought some souvenirs for people back home.
 
Next, I took the Metro to the Spanish Steps.  Yes, the subway was again entirely submerged in graffiti and no, I wasn't going to the Spanish Steps to pick up the locals.  I went to the American Express that I noticed the day before. It felt strange being congregated with all Americans.  Similar to how the British or the Australian accent sticks out to me, for the first time in my life, the American accent stuck out like a sore thumb.  It's amazing how much of an effect ten days can have on your general senses.  In the American Express I exchanged only half of my travelers cheques, which was a mistake.  I really should have just exchanged all of them, since finding another American Express wouldn't be very easy or convenient.
 
Next, I went to the meeting place.  I couldn't, for the life of me, remember if we were supposed to meet at the stop before we took the train, or at the stop after the train, where the coach would pick us up.  I got on the train and my instinct told me to turn around and go back to the other stop, in the city.  So I did and by the time I got back there, some of my tour mates were there.
 
I chatted with Aussie Justin and Vanessa about New York City.  They stated that after the trip, they were going to continue their travels and eventually make it to New York, probably sometime in the late summer.  Remember guys, let me know when you're here.  We took the train to the coach and arrived back at the campsite at 5 pm.  I took a nap until around 7:00 before dinner.  That night, we had roast chicken with pasta and I had three gelatis for dessert.  Did I mention how heavenly the Roman gelati was?
 
After dinner, I played volleyball with Vince, Kim, Yvonne, Naomi and Kat.  Kat bought a cheap ball that lost air with each hit.  By the end of the two or three games we played, the ball was significantly deflating.  Maybe Kat will buy a decent ball next time (just kidding; thanks Kat).  The sand in the volleyball court contained lots of small, sharp rocks.  It didn't look very clean and I was afraid of broken bottles in it.  For this reason, I think we were all apprehensive about running around barefoot.  It was definitely loads of fun and a great way to wind down from our day in Rome.

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DURING OUR ROMAN VOLLEYBALL GAME

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AFTER OUR ROMAN VOLLEYBALL GAME

After what was my only athletic activity of the whole trip (unless you count foosball or the Osama Bin Games), I took a shower and noticed that there were four tours there that night.  I hoped that would make for a good night at the campsite. 
 
After my shower, I congregated with about ten people from my group, in one of the small areas in between the cabins.  I remember Matt, Nelson, Leoni, and Kale being there, but I know there were several others.  Matt and I drank our Faux beers that we bought at the rest stop the other night.  They weren't bad for the price we paid, but they were definitely inferior to the massive amounts of Kronenburg we had been drinking. 
 
After a while, we all headed up to the bar.  On the way up, I passed Tegan, whom I met in Florence.  We talked for a bit and we still didn't remember each others' names.  While arriving at the bar, it was closed.  However, it was due to open in fifteen minutes.  Matt, Neil, Steve, and I actually waited in, what we like to call, a line, for the opening of a bar.  Similar to the previous night, they had happy hour from 10 to 11, and I indulged in two Becks for the price of one for an hour.
 
The seats were arranged in an unorganized fashion, so Nelson and I created a huge oval, using up more than half the couches in the whole area.  I couldn't possibly imagine that enough people would come to utilize all the couches.  Nelson assured me however that, "If we build it, they will come."  He was right.  The majority of our tour came and filled up the entire oval of couches.
 
Some noteworthy antics occurred that night.  Nelson took full advantage of happy hour and, at one point, came back with six bottles of Heineken.  I asked who they were for and he looked at me like I asked him how many eyes he had.  He then pointed out the obvious, that they were all for him.  As the night progressed, the 30 of us made a "snake" with our empty beer bottles.  At the end of the night, the snake was over 100 bottles long, and it was complete with a head, an eye, and a tongue. 
 
I participated in countless conversations that night.  I remember talking most extensively with Tegan, Nelson, Kerrie, James, and the kid who gave me Absinthe in Florence.  It was sometime during those conversations that Tegan finally remembered my name.
 
Like the night before, they had free pasta.  While trying to convince Kim and Yvonne to join us that night, I used the fact that they had free pasta as a main point in my pitch.  They refused to believe me and I think, to this day, they think that I was joking about the free pasta.  I really wasn't though.  Also like the night before, I missed out on the free pasta.  I can't tell you how in the mood for pasta I was.  I remember begging Matt for just one noodle of his pasta.  After some tormenting, he gave me one noodle.  I was pathetically happy.  I think I made it to bed at two, again missing out on getting to sleep early, even though I really wasn't planning on even attempting that night.

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CROWD SHOT IN THE ROMAN CAMPSITE'S BAR

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NELSON'S ORDER OF SIX HEINEKENS

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STEVE, KALE, ME, JAIME AND STEPHANIE

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OUR "SNAKE" OF BOTTLES

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THE GUY FROM FLORENCE WHO GAVE ABSINTHE