Europe: Day 7

We woke up early for our last day in London.  We wanted to squeeze in  one good London site before Hampton
Court.  It was between the Winston
Churchill Museum and the Sherlock Holmes Museum.  It sounded like such a good idea at the
time.  Outside the museum, we were
unenthusiastically greeted by a poor man in a British Policeman’s uniform.  We bought our tickets inside the gift shop,
and went upstairs.  It was a small
home.  One of the rooms looked occupied
by a man in a smoking jacket, so we opted to check out a side room first.  The old man in the smoking jacket meandered
over awkwardly and quietly told us that pictures on the walls were all the
criminals that he had put away.  I looked
at the portraits on the walls, but returned my confused gazed back at him.  This old man was claiming to be Sherlock
Holmes.  I wish I paid more attention
when I read the books, so I could grill the poor guy and make him earn his
money, but instead, I just smiled politely recognizing the awkward situation we
were both in.   We quickly looked up and down 2 story home
fairly quickly , whizzing by most of the Sherlock Holmes paraphernalia.  We did get to dress up like Sherlock with the
hats, pipe, and magnifying glass.  At the
end of the day, it was an expensive dress up 
picture we got from this experience at 12 pounds.  Next, we made it out to the Waterloo train
station, to grab our train to Hampton Court. 
Hampton Court is a palace about 30 minutes outside Central London.  Tenille got a yogurt for lunch, and I grabbed
a chicken and steak pie.  The pie ended
up being a coincidence, because as it turns out meat pies were often made at
Hampton court.  It must be a fairly
traditional English dish (which Tenille and I both enjoyed). 

Hampton Court  ends up
being a Palace built by a priest back in the day.  Henry VIII (of 6 wives fame) took the palace
from him  and  also ended up renouncing the Pope as head of
the Church in England, and established himself as the head of the new Church of
England.  The palace was humongous.  In its hay day, it would feed on a daily
basis up to 600 courtesans.  This meant
an enormous  staff to attend to their
needs.  We  went through their maze, saw some royal teens
play “royal tennis” which is quite different from non-royal tennis, and looked
through some of the rental apts given in the 20th century to widows
and significant English people as a symbol of charity of the monarch.  Our final stop was a history exhibit, and I
got lost in reading about the sordid tale of Henry VIII’s wives.  Tenille called excitedly over to me to tell
me that we had 5 minutes to get to our train. 
The train station was about half a mile from the palace across a river.  We started jogging.  Good thing we were both in reasonable shape,
because the train closed its doors moments after we boarded.

We got back to our Hotel, collected our bags, and left for
the airport.  We were going to be
arriving late in Rome.  I was slightly
concerned, because I was told that Rome had a lot of pickpockets and
thieves.  On the plane, I thought what I
might do if pickpocketed or robbed.  It’s
fun to think that you’d be some kind of superhero, but I’d likely cooperate
with any mugger, and just try to keep myself and Tenille safe.

When we got to the airport, our Plan 1 was to catch a train
to Termini Station (which is the central train/bus station in Rome), then catch
a cab to our bed and breakfast near the Pantheon.  Our plan 2 was to catch a bus to Termini
station, then catch a cab to our B&B. 
Our 3rd and least desired plan was to catch a cab – but only
a white cab which is an official cab sanctioned by the government.  There are apparently, non-official cabs which
have been known to rob tourists and drop them off in the middle of nowhere. 

When we got to the airport, it was past midnight.  We got our bags and started for the train
station.  Half way to the station, it
occurred to us that we were the only ones there as far as the eye could
see.  We went back to the airport
assuming that the train station was closed. 
Back at the airport, there was a sign that assured us of its
closure.  Outside of the airport, an
American couple stopped us to ask us if we were interested in sharing a
cab.  They were going to pay 80 Euros,
and they needed more people to share the cab with.  Although this is much more than we were
hoping to pay, we consented and told them we were interested.  The cab driver looked at us, and told us that
there was not enough room.  He picked an
elderly couple and took them instead.  
He was not driving an “official cab”. 
Something seemed fishy.  Tenille
later told me that she suspected they were getting scammed.  Time for plan 2 – we needed to find some
buses.  Tenille started asking people
where the bus station was.  She started
leading us down a narrow roadway by the parking lot.  It was slightly unnerving as there was no
sidewalk and it was past midnight.  Now
and then, cars would pass us.  After
about a quarter mile down the road way, we emerged at the garage exit, where
cars pay for their parking and leave to get on the freeway.  It was all automated, so there were no
attendants to ask the ridiculous question, “is there a bus stop around here?”  Disheartened, we moped back to the
airport. 

At the airport, I asked some people, if they could help me
find buses.  In broken English, he told
me that the buses are probably not running any more.  He said that I should grab a taxi.  I told him thank you, and started to
return.  As I was walking away, he called
to me, and told me gravely that I should ONLY take a white official taxi.  The other ones are BAD.

With that, we decided to look for a cab.  Outside at the taxi stand, there were no
official cabs that we could see.  A gruff
looking Roman man came up to us, and asked if we needed a taxi.  Tenille asked if he had an official
taxi?  The man pointed to a white tag
around his neck and put it in Tenille’s face indicating that he was
official.  Tenille asked how much for the
fare to the Pantheon?  70 Euros.  At this point, we had no other options (aside
from sleeping at the airport).  We
agreed, and he pulled up his cab… in a non-official car.  It was just a black sedan.  We were both a bit confused, but continued to
put our luggage in his trunk and before we knew it, we were on a wild cab ride
in an unofficial cab.  The ride, as
expected was insane.  We were anywhere
between 140-180 km/h.  He would come up within 5 feet of the car ahead of
him and tail them until they moved out of the way.  About half way through the trek, we started
down a windy path that seemed like old cobblestone streets, not the huge,
modern London highways that we were used to. 
It crossed my mind that he could be taking us to his home to torture us
and extort money from us and our loved ones. 
But, it was more likely that we were just taking a short cut.  Tenille and I gripped each other’s hands,
eyes wide awake at 1 in
the morning as we wound through Rome. 
Eventually, we saw the signs for the Vatican, then moments later passed
by the Pantheon.  He wasn’t able to
actually drive up to the street where our B&B was, but he got us within a
block.  He let us out, we paid him, then
we dragged our bags on cobblestone streets for a block with restaurants still
buzzing with patrons.  The address we
were given was an unassuming door in the middle of several outdoor
restaurants.   The owner let us in.  She looked in her younger 30’s and a tad
annoyed at how late we arrived.  We
finally got to our room.  It was hotter
than an oven.  We eventually discovered
that it was hotter than outside.  They
claimed to have air conditioning, but the A/C switch was more for looks than
function.  The first night, we made the
mistake of keeping the windows closed (to keep the A/C in), and barely slept a
few hours due to the incredible heat. 

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