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Monday, November 10, 2008

Rome Day 2 (Pt. 1) - Unforgettable sights during the half-day city tour

If you're interested, read the following posts before you read this:

Rome Day 1 (Pt. 1) - Grand hotels, real Italian pizza and Via Veneto!

Rome Day 1 (Pt. 2) - the EASY VIRTUE premiere with Jessica Biel, the bittersweet fun at the International Rome Film Fest

(This post is much delayed because I had to look through Wikipedia first to make sure I knew which places I actually visited during my half-day city tour in Rome.)

Our time in Rome was short, only two nights, so it was absolutely necessary for us to see the famous sights, otherwise we would return home in embarrassment. Thus Vijay hired a van for us to bring us around for a half-day city tour. Note that being a half-day city tour, we didn't have the time to enter any of the places, the queues were too long, so we had to make do with snapping photos and continue running to the next destination.

I can't say that I'm a hardcore fan of Roman history, because I didn't really memorize everything about it. But I remember spending hours once two years ago reading about its history on Wikipedia. Did you know that Nero, the CD burning software, is named after an ancient Roman emperor who burned his own city? See? This blog is absolutely enlightening, no?

We passed by the Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II (Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II) and I was AWED because the architecture was so awe-inducing.

Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II (Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II)

We stopped by at the Forums of Augustus and Caesar, both are sections of the Roman Forum.

I think this is the Temple of Mars Ultor, but I'm most probably wrong. But it sort of matched the photos I saw when I ran a Google Image search. Apparently, this is Trajan's Market.

Forum of Augustus and Trajan's Market

We saw the remains of the Forum of Augustus. I'm always fascinated by such sights, though not to the point of aspiring to become an archeologist. Yet it was undeniably fascinating to know that all these existed in their proper form, centuries ago.

Remains of Forum of Augustus

There was a masked old beggar lady wordlessly asking for money. I felt a little bad when a few (including myself) started snapping photos of her. I stood far away and zoomed in, trying to make myself inconspicuous

Beggar woman at the Forum

The statue on the large and tall pedestal is Trajan's Column, raised in honour of Emperor Trajan's victory in the Dacian Wars. It's one hell of a statue to elevate one's ego. I would want one like that as well.

Trajan's Column

A photo of myself at the place was necessary, of course.

At the Forum

After that, Ida, Mui and Maha went off to buy some drinks at these tiny snack stalls which could be seen outside all famous tourist destinations in Rome.

Tiny food stall that's everywhere

We continued our journey and after mere minutes, I got insanely excited when I saw the Colosseum, an iconic sight that I finally witnessed with my own eyes. There's even a QUANTUM OF SOLACE bus in front of the building too!

The Colosseum (and a Quantum of Solace bus)

Frankly, that was the place I most wanted to check out when I reached Rome.

Ida started snapping photos.

Ida Nerina at the Colosseum

And me, of course, I needed a photo of myself before the Colosseum.

In front of the Colosseum

The Colosseum was huge! And I felt a twinge of regret that I didn't have the time to enter the building. After all, this was the very place where Russell Crowe had his climatic fight with that jerk king Joaquin Phoenix in GLADIATOR.

People at the Colosseum

I wanted to stand in the middle of the Colosseum and scream something manly like "My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next!!!!".

Or something manly like that. Alas, one can only dream.

So I decided to have another photo of myself taken in front of the Colosseum, because I am beautiful. And because these photos will mark the last time I wore the black jacket. (for some weird reason, I found some holes on the jacket after I got back... sigh)

In front of the Colosseum 2

Ida and I started buying lots of souvenir at this tiny stall outside the Colosseum. She bought mostly fridge magnets, I bought mostly tiny replicas of the Colosseum.

Ida Nerina buys stuff outside the Colosseum

Then we continued our journey.

Mui and Maha, continuing the tour

And reached the Esquiline Hill.

Zahir and Ida immediately posed as if they were in a shootout scene of a Johnnie To film.

Zahir and Ida prepare to take photos of Esquiline Hill

Apparently, this field was for chariot races! I thought of Charlton Heston being a badass in Ben-Hur, then I remembered I haven't actually seen the film.

Chariot race scene in Ben-Hur

Esquiline Hill

After that, we went to the Magic Keyhole. We were all lining up for it.

Lining up before the Magic Keyhole

To catch a view through the keyhole, or to snap a photo.

Snapping photos through the Magic Keyhole

Maha looks through the Magic Keyhole

Ida peering through the Magic Keyhole

Through it, we saw women bathing.

Not really, but we saw the entire dome of Saint Peter's! (the following photo's a view through the keyhole)

The view through the Magic Keyhole

Then we drove past the Pyramid of Cestius. Which is like the Sunway Pyramid, except it's not a shopping mall, and it's an actual pyramid. Yes, that was a deliberate attempt to sound dumb.

Pyramid of Cestius

On our way to Vatican City, we stopped on top of a hill.

On a hill overlooking the scenery

Where could see the entire city of Rome. In order to welcome my presence, a rainbow materialized over the city, and I started singing SOMEWHERE OVER THE RAINBOW in a voice higher than Connie Talbot's.

Rainbow over Rome

Maha, Mui and Ida were inspired by the beauty of my singing voice. Or rather, I imagined they did. Just like how I imagined myself singing SOMEWHERE OVER THE RAINBOW in an imagined singing voice higher than Connie Talbot's.

Maha, Mui and Ida

We arrived at Vatican City, and I collapsed into my feet, sobbing in awe.

St. Peter's Basilica at Vatican City

St. Peter's Basilica at Vatican City 2

St. Peter's Square at Vatican City

I thought the Pope would pop out, but it was Tuesday, and he only appeared on Wednesdays.

Nevertheless, I was giddily joyous.

Standing before St. Peter's Basilica at Vatican City

Behind Ida is the Obelisk that marks the center of Saint Peter's Square.

Ida stands before the Obelisk at Saint Peter's Square

Regardless of personal religion or culture, when standing before a monument of such historical significance and majesty, it was impossible for me not to feel blessed by its presence. After all, the skies were gloomy during the early parts of our half-day city tour, yet when we reached Vatican City, the sky was absolutely clear and blue, and the entire place seemed as if it were bathed in this gentle sunlight.

So it was impossible for me to NOT ask another person nearby to take a photo of myself in front of St Peter's.

Standing before St. Peter's Basilica at Vatican City 2

In the next part, I will write about how we walked down the red carpet behind Colin Farrell that night during the PRIDE AND GLORY premiere at the International Rome Film Fest.