That’s how the story usually starts anyway. This time, thanks to Google and Panoramio it is more like “An Englishman, a Bulgarian, a couple of Russians, a Lithuanian, an Argentinian, a Catalonian, a Dutchman, a Ukrainian, a Turk, a Hungarian, a Norwegian, a Romanian, an Italian, a couple of Czechs, a Swiss family and a Chinese fly into Rome…” (with apologies to anyone I’ve missed, or perhaps worse – mis-located).
British Airways has a very generous policy with regards to hand luggage (at least on some flights), which meant I could use my Lowepro roller fully loaded with camera gear, and take my wash-bag and clothes in my ThinkTank Retrospective – once the clothes were hung away in the wardrobe, I was left with an empty shoulder bag for the equipment of choice.
Flying with BA meant I would be leaving from Heathrow’s Terminal 5, so I’d pre-booked a couple of days parking on a leisure special rate in their ‘business’ parking car park. This car park has a great personal rapid transit system to get you from the car park to the terminal in about 5 minutes. You have your own electrically driven ‘pod’ with comfy seating and room for probably 4 passengers. There’s a somewhat off-putting sign near the pod terminal (“Electric Vehicles Can Kill” – but mine seemed friendly enough) and a not too confident narration – “You’re going to Terminal 5… pause… any minute now” but the journey was quite fun and nothing untoward happened. It’s not often that I would describe a journey from an airport car park to the terminal as ‘fun’.
The trip was kindly provided by Google, after the Panoramio community manager (thanks, Gerard) suggested the forum moderators meet up for a weekend, with Rome the suggested destination. Just a few weeks later and I’m boarding a plane for what will be a very intense day and a half trying to soak up the sites of Rome. As it happens the inclement weather ensures it is more than just the sites that are soaked up. Why is it that sunshine and 20 plus degrees tempts you to leave a perfectly good raincoat in the hotel room, just before an almighty thunderstorm breaks as we enter the Vatican City?
On a plus side, the local umbrella pedlars must have done a roaring trade this weekend. (Lesson not learned; Saturday starts fine and bright but torrential rain reduces the photo opportunities somewhat and I reluctantly give in and admit defeat, buying a flimsy tartan brolly to try to protect my camera from the deluge. I’m wet through already, and being English I’m quite used to such lumpy summers. If it hadn’t been for the D300s swinging around my neck I’d have probably seen it through. And yes, I have a weatherproof cover for my showerproof bag. I’m sure they were both perfectly dry in the hotel room. I’d decided to travel light today, having been somewhat worn out on Friday night with the weight of a spare body and couple of alternative lenses. Another great decision.)
How many sites can you see in 18 hrs or so? The basilica at the Vatican City; the Castel Sant’ Angelo; the Pantheon (twice, night and day); the Forum; the Coliseum; assorted churches; the Forum again (night, day, dry, wet); the Spanish steps at dawn (no people) and at night (lots of people); Theatre of Marcellus; the Trevi fountain; the Piazza Navona; and so on. Think Tom Hanks in “Angels And Demons” and that would be a good approximation of the time we could spend at each site! Plus of course, plenty of time to eat and drink – the world’s best tiramisu in one cafe, apparently – certainly very good and the best (and only) one I had in Rome.
As it turns out, Rome is a fascinating city, and one I fully expect to return to but perhaps with a couple more days to ensure I can pause and enjoy the moment. A few photos here on RedBubble and a few more on Panoramio.