Thursday, November 07, 2013

The second half of the trip is really just a little crazy.
One day I said sitting in Afghanistan I thought...- Hey, while I am in Italy - I should pop over and visit my friends in Jordan before I go home.
I booked the ticket and the rest is history.

Friday 0130 - arrive Amman. I felt little nervous excitement... Jordan could not be more different than Rome - But I was so excited to explore.
It did not help that with just a week before leaving I had spoke with three people about how amazing Jordan was and how Petra would blow me away.
We drove the back roads to the Dead Sea. When I say back roads - I mean crazy Middle East roads! At one point I felt I was in the Anbar or Farah even.
But as we got closer I could actually smell the water. We joked that it was more like a combination of goats and water but you never know.
I am sure the drive during the day would have been pretty amazing but the black night was all around - very little light pollution. We checked into the resort and you could see the sea by moonlight  - the next morning was the first glimpse I had of the Dead Sea!
Since we got in late we relaxed as much as we could and head to explore Majib Wadi.  I had heard about this place a few weeks ago when my friends from Amman had posted facebook pictures. But until you are there and walking through it - it is hard to explain. It is a 45 minute hike to the end - but is filled with running water and rocks to climb over. We  caught it at the last week open for the year. It gets too dangerous. At a few points they have mounted ropes to pull yourself up and over the rocks. On the way back you slide down rocks with the rushing current. What a true highlight. The rock walls were filled with brilliant walls of red and brown, Just a true great adventure.  I lost all of the pics but trust me, an amazing experience.

We were already wet so we drove back to the resort to do the Dead Sea. To be honest those that know me  - know I do not float. I dog paddle the best that I can and even living next to Lake Erie for 17 years that is all I have. The weather was warm enough and surprisingly the sea was warm once you took the initial plunge if you will. Before you go in - you have to lather up with black mud that is scooped out and placed in these huge urns by the shore.
This combination is suppose to bring some healing principles. And since I still have messed up heels from Afghanistan it could not hurt.
Surprise of the day... I can float... This place was relaxing and slow paced and great company just what I needed.
Excellent - Excellent Turkish coffee with Cardamom. Could not stop smiling while drinking it. A little piece of heaven.
Once the sun set I was blown away that I could look across the sea to Israel.. How strange that by sight distance maybe 5km away was the worlds most contested land ever in history.  This is also the lowest point on earth - 400m below sea level.
We set the alarm early for the next morning because we had around a four hour drive to Petra. The main road took along the sea and then up and over the hills. It was desolate in most case - dry, dusty hills.. We saw the occasional herder, Bedouins.
The closer we got the Petra the more activity. It is a tourist town much like all tourist towns around the world.
I was not 100% sure what to expect - especially since everyone that I mentioned the trip to began to talk about Indiana Jones and all of the ancient civilization... Well, they were right but completely different the from the ancient places I had left in Rome just a few days before.
All I can say is wow.. I am not sure how they created all of this but pretty amazing. Inside the "park" they had  - camels, donkeys, and horse carriages.  We rode camels in the middle of the 7th Wonder of the World. How can you beat that?

Overall amazing day. I am not a huge fan of archaeology - but this is something that should not be missed.

Amman is a huge city - and I like it.
Now granted I was not doing the driving and I am thankful for that.
It has the same mixture of big city and then right smack in the middle ancient ruins.
Had an amazing hot stone massage by a man from Egypt that used to be a wrestling coach.
Great dinner with new and old friends.
Funny we went to dinner at Romero's in Amman - Excellent food and the owner was perfect. Best Gnocchi of the trip :)
Crazy we were all in the same place at the same time.
Drank more Great Turkish coffee, Ate at Hashem Restaurant for excellent falafel's, Turkish Bath...
love... love.. all of it.
Overall, this trip was not about following specific guidebooks or checking off the sites. It was just to be.

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First vacation in a long time that was not connected to work, volunteering or family.
Keep in mind -  I had flights and rooms and secured and not much else. Just following the wind.

25th Flight - perfect... as they should be.
26th Arrived in Rome in the afternoon. I had a driver pick me up. I knew that I would tackle the metro and bus transportation systems in the city - but just wanted to get to my hotel first. I spent a little time wondering around near the hotel and ended up at the - Obika Mozzarella Bar !!
First meal in Rome - Caprese Salad with Buffalo Mozzarella.

27th - Plaza Buenos Aires - Church - Attended Mass in Italian. I figured when in Rome do as the Romans.
Explored Borghese Gardens and Modern Museum of Art, Art Musuem of Etrusico.
The square by the Flamino Metro stop was beautiful. Most of the larger squares all have a beautiful fountain and churches that corner one of the anchors.
In the early evening I linked up with Ingrid and Leo - That night we took the metro to see the Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain. It is a good practice to see them both during the day and in the evening.
We had Pizza.

We walked along the streets to see the Italian Guards  at the tomb of the unknown soldier - in the evening tourists cannot  walk up the stairs. But during the day you can actually get fairly close.
Many of the Churches in the evening were open and you could stop to explore. Walked home through Borghese Garden.

28th Meet friends at The Italian Army barracks for coffee and photos.   Yes, apparently all Italian Military barracks has a place to take coffee :)

Then headed to the Vatican, St Peter Basilica. We walked up to the top to see the amazing views. It is majestic. We walked a fair amount  - but the streets can accommodate that. It is very comfortable.
Met the friends later that day for dinner - Pasta with tomato, mozzarella and basil. Explored more of old Rome at night.

The streets were not crowded but there was a fair amount of people walking around. Great atmosphere. Castle St. Angelo is not open on Mondays but you can walk along the outside walls.

29th  - Coliseum and all of Ancient Rome -  this section alone took us about five hours just to explore.  Much of it has been renovated or the process of being reserved. The coliseum is currently
being restored by private investors rather and public resources as they are scarce.

Ingrid and Leo left around 4 pm - I rested and then went to dinner  - By far the most  delicious pasta of the trip. Pasta - tomatoes and mozzarella and basil. (you see the common theme) Everyone told me that I must try the Buffalo Mozzarella that is from the lower central area of Italy.
They were correct. Very tasty... Gelato - Pistachio and a mixture bests from behind the counter. Gelato was another thing everyone mentioned I had to have at least once a day. I did have it a few times but not every day. Banana, Coconut were my favorites.

30th - Day of walking exploration  - museums, churches. I had decided not to take the bus or tram because nearly every corner has something to look at.  The embassy district was beautiful. Between the maps, guide books and well marked streets I did not have a problem navigating. I got turned around a couple of times but nothing major. Walked through a very thriving market. Fruits, vegetables, jewelry, antiques and clothing.  Even enjoyed getting in the mix of a leather purse frenzy. Probably 6 tables of leather bags with probably 50 people reaching and looking. I avoided the purchase but interesting. Also, a fair amount of cashmere booths. Tempting...
After lunch I headed towards more of the older part of Rome to see the Fountain in daylight and go over to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Behind the tomb was a two part museum of Italian Naval History and Army history. Spent a fair amount time walking through the displays and trying to grasp the complicated history of Italy.  I thought I could find a memorial to La Rosa - but I am pretty sure based on a partly cryptic conversation that was outside the city.
Continued to explore on sidewalks that followed countless blocks of ancient Roman history. So, the biggest take away is that are so many ruins in Rome. I had no idea. I have seen ruins in Morocco, Greece, Baku, Iraq, Afghanistan and Slovenia but the vast scale in Rome is amazing. More church exploration and traveled to the top of Santa Maria di Araceoli Church that had 124 steps. Also, a miraculous Santo Bambino  more details
I lit a fair amount of candles that day.
It was also a bit emotional to just be a part of that much Catholicism in just a few days.
Growing up the first 8-9 years of my life I would say that we lived all things catholic. And now seeing so many visual images in front of me made think of my past and most of all miss many of the people that were in it.

Dinner that night was probably the most disappointing but to no fault of my own - I just chose wrong. I thought I was getting calamari with prawns but ended up with baby Octopus and full-bodied beady eyed prawns. I walked for almost nine hours that day. So, I was eager to put up my feet and rest.
Visited a Museum and Crypt of the Capuchin Friars.   Crypt link
I found it haphazardly and it was well worth the entrance fee. Very interesting... BTW St. Anne supposedly taught Mary to read...
Who knew, really.

Thursday last day in Rome. My flight for Jordan left at almost three.
A friend drove across the Italy that morning to pick me up go to lunch and take me to the airport. From the outsiders viewpoint it was a simple act.
But I was completely blown away. We had lunch at Airport café and just hung out for few hours. The food was marginal but the company and people watching made up for it. We took one pic at the airport - but later during my trip I would loose all of the photos I took on my cell and contacts. So, I will just have to embed some of the memories.
I was pretty choked through security and on the plane. I guess the impact of having met so many amazing people in Farah and then to continue the friendship in Italy.  All just very humbling. But the Lufthansa agent had hooked me up with bulk head seats to Frankfurt and then again to Amman. I do not need the extra space but was happy to have some.  Just amazed really...

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