started in Istanbul with another great breakfast and then a steep stroll to the Grand Bazaar. I hate markets and was not looking forward to this bazaar. But I must say it was not as manic, dirty or pushy as I expected. Quite the opposite and the stalls were majority clean and well presented...most had fixed prices and wouldn't even barter. After this, we wondered to the Egyptian Spice Market and the New Mosque (built in the 1600’s but still known as the NEW mosque!). Mum severely doubted my navigation skills many times, but I’m a pro at this and I think I have her almost convinced to trust me; plus I have almost broken her in to wrestle the European streets on her own...almost. We caught a tram to the new city side of town and did an enormous amount of walking around Taksim Square and the seemingly neverending mall
. Very very hot walking this strip, but ended with a climb to the top of a tower overlooking the city and the view was worth it.
It was now time to depart the city where the Roman Empire fell, to where it all began. We didn’t fly out of Istanbul until 230pm 12th
July, but had a slow morning and then caught an organised shuttle to the Asian-side airport arriving about 2.5 hrs before our flight. The check-in counter wasn’t even open. I’ve never been more organised or early for a flight in my life. That’s the difference a Mother makes I guess. I’d still rather be late/on time and maximise touring time. The flight to Rome was short and all according to plan. Our Rome hotel is tiny and cosy, but close to train station and subway stop. Once checked-in, we quickly left for the Spanish Steps and then the Trevi Fountain before sunset. Fortunately it does not get dark here til 9/930pm and so we were able to make the most of it. I have seen these before, but good to return (although I never thought much of the Spanish Steps the first time around and still don’t). Heaps more people crowding Rome this time tho. Last time I was here was Oct, so being here in July is peak season and packed.
On Friday the 13th
what better place to spend the entire day than the Vatican
. I’ve also seen this before, but am really fascinated by it and I’ve learned more this trip that adds to the interest and fascination. We had an organised tour starting at 730am and it was a struggle for the 2 of us to hustle, get sorted and get there on time. No tea, no coffee, no breakfast. Big mistake. We didn’t get any sustenance until about 6pm and the afternoon was a struggle. I don’t like organised tours that much, but this Vatican tour got us into the Sistine Chapel early before mega crowds and then a great overview of the artwork. But we thought we could stay or go back into the Vatican Museums, but we couldn’t. Rushed and missed a few things that I would’ve liked to do that I didn’t do in 2009 e.g. Egypt hall. I didn’t like the tour guide either. A non-Catholic tour guide of the Vatican is not appropriate in my view and she failed to evoke the symbolism and power of this Church, irrelevant of your beliefs. Once the tour was done at 12pm, we went on our own and did the Treasury (exorbitant wealth), climbed the dome (incredible), and then the Scavi Tour to St Peter’s tomb beneath the Papal Altar (very fascinating). A full day, but maximised the time we had and we’ll look back on it and recall things over time as it unfolds from our memory space. No photos in the Scavi Tour, but just incredible to see ancient Rome Mausoleums and then fragment bones of St Peter, the 1st
Pope and Apostle of Jesus. The tombs from most of the other Popes are here too. I couldn’t do this tour in 2009, and we were lucky to get a spot on the tightly booked tour. Everything is so well preserved and the Vatican sure has a lot of money to put into this part of history.
With an aching back and a head swirling with history, it was hard to believe that this was the end of only the first full day in Rome. Two more to come!
I must be one of the very few who wake up the day after a significant birthday without a hangover! Success! I was determined not to waste the last day in Istanbul with self-induced pain and my notorious post booze blues. So, Wed 11