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Funny Cars, Cool Bikes & Last Sights–Barton European Tour Final Stage

It’s hard to believe I’ve been back to work for two days already.  The weekend FLEW by.  So here’s the final wrap-up to the Barton European tour.

Friday wrapped up our final, full day as part of the Barton European Tour.  We headed out onto the streets of Rome again to see a few final sites and do some last minute shopping for the family.  I had looked into the areas we still wanted to hit and routed out a trip using a combination of train, subway and bus routes.  I had it all figured out.  We’d walk from our hotel in Fiumicino to the train station.  From there, we’d take the train to a stop near a bus stop.  From there, we’d take a bus to the Piazza Navona.  I’d read that there was some pretty good eats there.  After some grubbage, we’d head out to see the Pantheon (circa year 110 AD) and the Trevi Fountain (circa 18th century).  From there, we’d head down to the Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II and City Center.  Right behind City Center, there was a GREAT area of ruins called the Roman Forum that dates back to the 10th century BC.  That would wrap up our sightseeing and would allow another hour or two before the shops started closing down.  That should have been plenty of time to pick up something for my Dad and Brother who was the only one’s left on the shopping list.

It was a grand plan indeed…  until…

Apparently, in my mapping snafu, I used the Rome public transit mapping tool.  When I plugged in the address for our hotel, I put in Roma for the city instead of Fiumicino .  It gave me directions to where we should walk about 1300 meters to the train station.  Unfortunately, the street name we were on also mapped to a street name in Rome.  The street layout, would I had zoomed out on the map, would have made my mistake apparent.  However, since it didn’t, Aaron and I found ourselves walking around the quaint town of Fiumicino for close to an hour before we realized that something was afoul with our directions.  We headed back to the hotel to figure it out.  Once back on track, a good hour and half had been wasted.  Bummer.  Wait, it gets better.

We had to catch the airport shuttle from our hotel to the airport where we could pick up the train.  No big deal other than having to wait for the shuttle to depart.  We got to the train station, purchased a couple of tickets and headed out.  The first stop was to board a bus at Trastevere.  We hopped off the train and realized that we’d have more fun if we just walked to the Piazza di Romana.  On our way, we saw many beautiful streets and old-school shops.

The trees lining the streets were larger than the buildings. The area kind of reminded me a little of the Queens Road area back in Charlotte.

(As always, click on the pictures to see larger versions)

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We even came across some great bikes.  Here’s one that is ready to race.  It may roll a little wobbly and the one handlebar is a little bent, but the basket totally makes racing triathlons easier.  Just put all your triathlon gear in there.

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Some of the cobblestone streets were magnificent.  Check out some of the old-school shops.

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We finally found what we *thought* was the Piazza de Romona.  I’d have to admit that I wasn’t that impressed, the restaurants were just so-so and the Piazza itself wasn’t that scenic.  I decided to give it the benefit of doubt and stuck it out.  We did have some WONDERFUL bruschetta.  The pizza we ordered was ok, but nothing special (compared to others). 

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After lunch, we decided to head to the Pantheon.  Along the way, we figured out that the map just wasn’t jiving with where we were at.  Upon further inspection, we hadn’t even made it to the Pizza de Romona yet.  In our hunger stupor, we just goofed it up.  Once we DID arrive at the Piazza de Romona, we now see why it was a highlight on the map.  It was huge and just absolutely stunning.

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The entire Piazza was crawling with artists of all types selling their wares.  Some of them were very, very talented. 

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You also had the typical salesmen walking around trying to sell you fake, expensive handbags and watches.  You, too, can own a Louis Vuitton bag for only 32,95 (in Euros of course).  Wanna buy a watch?

On our way to the Pantheon, we saw some cool little vehicles.  Some new; some old.  I’d love to put a 1300cc motorcycle engine in either of them.  Wouldn’t that be a blast to do donuts?

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Again, we found ourselves way off course.  It was difficult to judge distances on the map.  We kept walking too far or missing the street we needed to turn on.  It didn’t help that there are very few street signs.  If you were lucky, you could spot a street name carved into the side of a building.  On our way to the Pantheon, we saw many other cool sighs on the way.  Amazing architecture everywhere.  Don’t remember the name of the one church below, but was amazed by the fact they put designs UNDER the ledge.

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We headed down to the fountain. Sticking to tradition, we tossed a couple of coins over our shoulder into the fountain

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Arriving at the Pantheon, we walked from around the corner down a narrow alley that opened majestically up to this:

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Like the Coliseum, this place was overwhelming.  Originally built in 27 BC and rebuilt due to fires in 80 AD and 110 AD, it is one of the last, fully standing buildings of the original architecture.  The closer we got, the bigger and bolder it seemed.  I cannot begin to describe how the pictures don’t do it justice.  I was so overwhelmed that I didn’t even take a good picture of the dome ceiling that towered some 142 feet above me which is still the worlds largest, unsupported concrete dome.

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I came across another gem of a bike on our way to our next stop.  It was an old Bianchi with a shock absorber front suspension.  Sorry the pics are kinda blurry, but it was getting late and was in kind of a dark alley.  It looks from the new brake pads and cables that this thing is actually ridden and not just sitting here.If we wouldn’t have been in a time-crunch, I think I would have attempted to hunt down the owner.  I was willing to toss some Euros his way for a quick spin.  Alas, we had to keep moving.

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We grabbed some gelato and headed to the Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II and City Center.  We had a chance to see it a couple of nights ago, but it was dark.  I was eager to see it again, but this time in the daylight.  I was not disappointed.

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City Center was somewhere we hadn’t really planned on visiting, but it worked out that way since we wanted to see the Roman Forum.  Again, this was something we wanted to see during daylight.  In the process, we got some great pictures of City Center as the sun was starting to set.  Not too shabby for a phone camera, huh?

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The Roman Forum was just as awe-inspiring in the sunset hours.  Many of these ruins date back to the turning of our modern-day calendar.  People lived, worked and walked these streets around 10 BC.

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As we made it near the shopping area that I wanted to hit, they were all beginning to close.  A bit disappointed, I vowed that as a minimum, I could pick up a few things in the airport.  We hopped on our graffiti covered train and headed back to the hotel.

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The morning we left, at about 3am local time, I received a phone call from US Airways.  Apparently, our flight had been canceled.  Long-story short, instead of a nice little non-stop flight from Rome to Charlotte, we had to go through Philly.  Furthermore, it would make us late for our flight from Charlotte to Birmingham for my father’s birthday.  Instead of getting into Birmingham at 6pm, we’d be getting there at 9pm.  Bah.  It ended up panning out ok other than a big debacle of a string of problems that almost caused us to almost miss our flight.  If it could go wrong, it did.  With a final sprint to the gate, we made it out of Rome safely.  Huge shout-out goes to the US Airways employees in Rome for going above and beyond in making sure we got on our flight.  At any point they could have just said, “Sorry” and we would have been in Rome another night.  Instead, they were more than accommodating. 

As we took off, we were both looking out the window and saw that, unbeknownst to us, our hotel was within walking distance to the beach.  We could have had a nice swim in the Mediterranean.  How the heck did we goof up on that one?  MAJOR FAIL. 

On the way home we got to see what we think was the Swiss Alps.  Beautiful.  What a way to end the Barton European Tour.

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I had a wonderful time in Spain and Italy.  There were hectic moments, frustrating moments (losing a Nikon camera and my Garmin), but there were even more times of smiles, laughter and happiness.  I’m super-greatful that I could experience it with my son, Aaron.  We kept each other in stiches and he was an awesome travel companion.  It just wouldn’t have been as fun without him.  I wish the whole family could have come along.

 

Be a Warrior!

Marcus

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