Europe: Day 12: We wear out our welcome in Rome

The day started off on the wrong foot.  We woke up a bit late, and rushed out the door.  While we were heading out, the B&B lady came running out to get us.  She treated us like we were crazy.  She asked why we were leaving with the key when this is the last day?  Did we not understand the bargain we made the day before?  Our room must be clear and the key must be turned in by 11am.  This is how all hotels work, she reminded us. 

Although there was a small defensive side of me that wanted to point out that hotels generally have a place to keep luggage at the concierge (and AC that works), clearly we were the guests (to the country and this B&B) and needed to play the part of the guest.   We apologized and clarified that she would keep our valuables in her room, and our other bags in the hall way until we return.  Although the episode ended well, Tenille and I were both a bit affected by the contention.  We were glad to leave the B&B and start off our day.  We wanted to see an ancient Christian crypt and spend some time in Trastavere which lies on the other side of the river.

We got to the bus stop, and realized that our 3 day pass had run out.  During our stay here, it appeared as if nobody had tickets and people just rode the bus freely.  I convinced Tenille that we are foreigners here, and although it may seem as if nobody has tickets, we should try to abide by the rules.  We went into a Tobacco shop (where bus tickets are sold).  An American woman came in and spoke English to the old Italian shopkeeper asking for bus tickets.  She was getting more frustrated because of the language barrier.  The shopkeeper pointed us to a deli next door.  We followed the lady to the deli, and the lady unleashed on the workers there and screamed, “Why doesn’t anyone speak @#$@$ English?”  along with other choice words.  This is where we parted company, and I felt embarrassed by her.  She stormed off, and Tenille and I opted to walk in the opposite direction.  We walked for about a half an hour looking for another place to purchase tickets,  but no luck.  We debated whether or not we should just take the bus without tickets.  After waiting at a bus stop for another 15 minutes, we decided to just take a cab.  We finally got to the Catacombs of Priscilla at 11:45am.  We saw in the book, that they close from 12pm until 3pm, so we were cutting it close.

A nun inside greeted us.  She looked at the clock and seemed a bit irritated.   She said a lot of things in Italian as she pointed to the clock.  She started to cut us two tickets and asked for 10 Euros.  Tenille handed her a 50 Euro bill, and she shook her head indicating that she had no change.  We dug through all our pockets and were able to get 9 Euros.  She shook her head, and started to put the tickets away.  I could feel Tenille almost about to explode.  It took us several hours to get here (not to mention 20-30 Euros for the round trip cab fare), and there’s no way we can stay until 3pm to take the tour.    I gave the nun the most pathetic look I could hoping that it’d be worth 1 euro.  She muttered something in Italian and pointed at the clock.  I told Tenille that she should go see it and tell me all about it. 

Just then, an old Italian man came running through the door.  He asked the nun for a tour, and the nun continued her tirade about the time.  The man was clearly persuasive as he folded his hands and begged the nun.  She acquiesced.  He paid with a ten, and that was enough to give us change for a fifty.  What a miracle!  This angel just came into the door and gave us a chance to see these catacombs.  So I thought, until I saw that the nun had enough change to begin with.  What might have been a fun miracle story turned into a disgruntled nun story.   

We were led to a big metal door.  She unlocked it and motioned impatiently for us to enter.  We went inside, and heard a slam of the door behind us.  It was a bit unnerving, but a group of tourists greeted us from below as they finished their tour.  They told us to follow the lights down.  Another nun met us at the bottom of the catacombs and gave us a personal tour in mumbling English.  It was extremely cold.  It was probably over 90 degrees outside, but in the catacombs, I could see my breath.  The catacomb was a dark narrow dirt tunnel with bins up and down the sides of the wall where they laid people.  There was an area where you could look up and see sunlight (like a sunlight), and you could also see a hole that showed 3 more levels of catacombs below.  We saw early Christian paintings dating back to the 2nd century.    We saw signs of the fish (which is a Greek Acronym for Jesus Christ, Son of God)  We saw peacocks which represented incorruptible flesh.  We saw scenes of Moses hitting a rock.  On our tour, we befriended some people from Connecticut.  When we were done, our friends gave us a ride to the nearest bus stop (about a mile away), for which we were very thankful.  After grabbing some lunch, we decided to cancel the trip to Trastavere and check out the Train station, so we could figure out  how to get to the airport.  Tenille had booked an inexpensive flight from Rome to Paris.  The catch is that we have to take off from Ciampino, an airport that’s a bit more difficult to get to. 

At the train station, Tenille had to use the bathroom.  It cost 70 cents.  You had to put coins into a machine that looked like a turnstyle at a subway stop, and it let you through.  While I was waiting, a woman approached me and asked me in broken English how to get through.  I told her where to put the change in, and she asked me to do it for her pushing her hand full of coins toward me.  This was a bit weird.  I pointed again at the coin hole and told her that’s where the money goes, but did not take her money, as I suspected a scam.

I thought that it was too bad, that I’m afraid to help this lady because I’m on hyper-guard.  All the books and signs warn of scams and fraud against tourists.  Our Rick Steve book even tell us that some people will throw a baby at you so, you’ll catch it, and they’ll go through your pockets.  This is sad.  It makes tourists suspect other tourists.  And I feel as if it has made me into a person I would be absolutely ashamed to be, if I were at home and not so tensely on guard.  Looking back, I think it may have been better to be had by a scam than the poor behavior caused by the caution.

Tenille came out of the bathroom.  We walked for a while trying to find an information booth to see how we can get to the airport.  She found a booth, and stood in line for the booth.  When she asked how to get to Ciampino, the lady in the booth told her to get a bus on some street.  When she asked what times the buses run, she told her to go to the street.  When she asked if there was a train, the lady repeated herself and told her to get a bus on the street, but this time it was not so friendly and in a raised tone.  It was clear to me that our welcome in Rome had run out by this point.  On our way out, we found the bus which ran hourly.  My goal at this point was to get out of Rome without another person yelling at us. 

We got back to our hotel and got our bags without incident.  In fact, we exchanged some nice words with the hotel lady and said our good-byes.  I tried to convince Tenille to take a cab to the train station, but she hurried on to a bus.  The bus was massively crowded and we were squished on all sides holding our two big luggage bags.  Once at the airport, we caught our bus and got to the airport without incident.  We were a bit concerned about taking such a “budget” airline, but it was just like taking a Southwest flight.  Once we got to France, we took a bus on an hour long trip to Paris.  In Paris, we dragged our luggage around several metro (subway) stops, and several blocks to our Hotel.  On our walk, we saw that the Eiffel Tower was ablaze like a thousand cameras going off.  At last, we arrived at our hotel.  The room has A/C.  It’s pretty small, but we’ll just be sleeping here.  We even found English CNN on TV.  Ahhhh…  kicked out of one country, but feeling at home in another.  We’re a bit concerned about the language barrier in Paris.  We’ll see how much of an issue this will be.

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