I was all alone for Monday, when my cousin flew off and I was left in Rome for another 24 hours before my scheduled flight home. We actually finished walking around Rome already, but of course I would go out once again and walk some more. I wanted one more day of exploring and adventure.
First of all, I should mention that I walk so much more when I’m on my own. I don’t stop to rest very often. I do walk into stores and check out things here and there, but I can stay on my feet for hours before actually sitting down. Throughout this trip, we’ve walked a lot… but it wasn’t until I got this opportunity to walk on my own, that I realize how much more I walk when I’m solo.
On our first day in Rome, we walked all the way to the Spanish Steps, then took the subway back. On our second day, we took the subway to the Vatican, and then slowly walked back. On my third and solo day, I walked all the way out, and all the way back as well. All the scenes were the same, to be honest. I just went into a lot more stores and shopped for a bit.
You know what really grows on you when you’re in Italy? Sparkling water. This drink has gone from tasting weird to being on my preferred list of drinks. It’s also quite common in Italy – much more common here compared to other European countries. When we buy water at the supermarket, I find that it’s way too easy to accidentally grab a bottle of frizzy water rather than still water. The first few times were accidental, then after that we started buying it on purpose.
Since I was by myself, I finally got to try one of those fast food pizzerias. (I mean, I wasn’t going to eat at a restaurant by myself…) The pizza that they sell here is quite different than any of the other places I’ve been to before. It’s baked in a large square pan, and sold by weight (usually around 2-3e for 100g). The crust is a lot thicker than restaurant pizza, and the dough feels more greasy. The extra grease made it taste pretty good, but overall I still prefer pizza at the restaurant because it feels healthier (and still tastes really good).
I headed out to the airport quite early, at around 6 PM. There are buses that operate between FCO Airport and Rome Termini Station for a small cost of 4e. In other countries, some of the farther airports will cost you quite a bit just to get to the airport from the main city! I finally understand why flights can be cheaper than trains, and why trains are so preferred regardless.
FCO Airport is on the west coast of Italy, and my original intention was to go watch the sunset from there. Unfortunately, I overestimated the size of this airport. Even though it is Rome’s international airport, it’s actually a pretty small place – nothing even close to Toronto Pearson or Hong Kong International Airport. This meant that there would be no designated plane viewing deck, and I could barely find a good spot for just chilling and sitting around. I took about an hour and was able to fully explore the airport inside out, apart from the post-security areas. That was that – I started my long night at the airport; the second night crashing at an airport in two consecutive months.
For the most part, I was pretty comfortable. I had a nice neck pillow and used my suitcase as a leg rest. I washed my hair (that’s a new first) and I felt good enough to sleep. The only caviat was that the airport was freezing cold! Rome is ridiculously hot in the daytime – around 30° C, close to Hong Kong temperatures. But in the evening, it falls to 10°, and I was way too cold to sleep well. I got through the night with two hours of sleep, and finishing season 2 of Pretty Little Liars.
Continuing on with the Rome airport being tiny – we actually had to take a bus out to our plane and board from the ground. Now, this is definitely not an uncommon thing to do, but when you’re boarding a long-haul flight with a major airline, I don’t think its unreasonable to expect a jetway. Instead, we got a staircase. That’s fine though – I like being in close contact with planes.
I was surprised to learn that the flight from Rome to Toronto is actually 10 hours! Montreal to Paris took less than 7 hours. But then again, Rome is a bit farther than Paris, Toronto is a bit farther than Montreal, and the Earth’s rotation is at a disadvantage on the way back.
I saw this scene outside my window when I woke up, and realized that we were very literally at the edge of France, and about to fly over the Atlantic. It’s amazing to be able to witness such a view at this kind of scale. It’s zoomed in just enough so that you can fathom how large the body of water and the land each are, but also zoomed out just enough to let you still feel the awe. It’s different from staring at a model of the Earth from outside the atmosphere. At that point, the Earth is so small that it just feel like a toy; it’s not really relateable anymore, and in fact, it doesn’t even feel like you live on it. It’s like looking at your own baby pictures, and not being able to recall those moments – it feels like you’re looking at some random child rather than yourself.
Usually people aren’t very excited to spend more hours on the plane, but for me, I was delighted. After not getting enough sleep during my airport campout night, I had just the plane ride to catch up on my rest before arriving in Toronto and having to drive myself around. I used to be really bad at sleeping on flights, but five years of flying between Vancouver and Toronto has really trained me up to be a good plane snoozer. This time, I was fast asleep before the plane even took off!
So I guess that’s it for my trip. There’s so much I could still say about Europe. I’ve opened my eyes to so much over this trip, and it’s especially amazing to see how such a small continent with very close countries have vast differences in culture. I remember heading to Osaka 2 years ago, thinking “oh, it’s going to be just like Hong Kong”, and being completely wrong. This time, instead of imposing a thought to begin with, I’ve cleared the slate in my head, and told Europe, “hit me”. I was prepared for it, but that didn’t make the experience any less impressive.
So many people have asked me which place I like most, and that’s a very hard question to answer. It depends what you’re planning to do in Europe. For daily life, I think London and Frankfurt are the two cities I’d feel comfortable living in. London is the nicer city, but also MUCH more expensive. For places to visit, I definitely recommend Amsterdam, Interlaken, Venice, and Rome. The other cities are nice too, but these are some that you would not want to miss. Interlaken is great for outdoor activities, both in the summer and winter. Venice is gorgeous, Rome is historic, Amsterdam is just plain hipster. On the other hand, I wouldn’t mind missing out on Belgium, or the larger cities of Switzerland (Geneva, Zurich).
Ironically, a part of me feels like I’m still on vacation. Vancouver has been my favourite travel destination ever since I moved to Toronto 5 years ago… and here I am, about to fly back once again.