eating my way around the world

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” --St. Augustine

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Location: Chicago, IL, United States

Twitter @nikonjunkie

10 June 2005

6 June 2005 :: Rome to Home

What a morning. In my wine-addled stupor the night before, it seems I asked the front desk for a wakeup call at 7am. Only one problem with this - breakfast was at 7am, and the airport shuttle was leaving at 7:30am. I meant 6am. Despite my sleep mask blocking out all light, I sat bolt-upright in bed at 6:40am, blurted a few expletives and took my second-fastest shower of this tour. I managed to stagger downstairs, packed and clean, at 7:10am - just enough time to down some yogurt and a banana.

After a quick breakfast, some of our tourmates nearly assaulted Bianca as they thought Joey had left back for London without arranging their pre-paid shuttle. So, they ordered new shuttles. Just then, the pre-paid shuttles arrived. Since they had so much room, nearly everyone except the three of us leaving back to Texas got on.

The two newly arranged shuttles then arrived, ostensibly to take eight people to the airport, but now there were only three - me, and Eric & Lauren from Fort Worth. The comedy of this was, these were normal-sized sedans with normal-sized trunks, and there was no way in hell eight people and all their luggage would ever have fit. This left the three of us confirming a price with one driver as the other driver ranted into a cell phone about not having a fare. Whatever - we were off to Fiumicino Airport. Our driver had only a scant respect for lanes, changed lanes to the left when his right blinker was on and came within a paint coat's thickness of sideswiping another Mercedes, but hey, he drove fast. Thumbs up.

I parted company with Lauren and Eric as they headed for the Continental Airlines line while I headed toward the American Airlines line. After a wave to the girls from Arizona (in the United Airlines line), I was up to the counter. As much as I enjoyed my trip, it was nice to get that exit stamp on my passport and head off to the terminal. I enjoyed one final meal in Italy - an Orangina, a salmon-and-cream cheese sandwich, and a strawberry tarte. Yum.

Twelve hours later, after convincing one businessman from Ohio to take my window seat ("I apologize in advance - I pee every two hours.") I arrived at Chicago O'Hare. We spotted the Sears Tower out the window. As much as I enjoyed traveling and will miss Europe and my tourmates, I'm sure I was beaming when the immigration officer stamped my passport and (in that very American of accents - Chicagoan) said, "Welcome back, Miss Evans." Not long after I transferred my bags through Customs my globe-trotting friend Rebecca called, and we both agreed this is one phrase that is music to the ears.

A few hours later, the amber and white lights of Houston appeared in the airplane window - the boring master-planned communities, the stadiums only as ancient as the 1960's, the fast food joints, strip malls and convenience stores - beautiful. I was home.

What I Learned Today:
1. Order your wakeup call before you get drunk.
2. It's a great feeling to turn your cell on after days out of the country and have voice mails from friends.
2b. It's an even better feeling to have none from coworkers.
3. We Americans love taking up room - whether it's our cars, our homes or our bodies, everything is bigger and more spread out in America. Must be that pioneer spirit (or all that fast food).
4. Don't ever use Ampco Parking. Ever. Your trip from the airport terminal to your car will seem longer than your plane ride over the Atlantic.
5. There's no place like home. :)

Congrats! You finally made it to the end of my travel blog! Either you're (a) a true dedicated friend or (b) you got lost and clicked on this page first. Anyhoo, if you would like copies of any of these pics, you may order them from (you may need to turn off your pop-up blocker):

May your journeys be fulfilling, your friendships strong, and your luggage never lost. Happy trails!



Anonymous Tom said...

Hello there.. I thought your travelogue was truly fantastic! You have a wicked sense of humour, and you write very well.. you had me reading the whole way through. :)

I'm planning to do this exact contiki trip in June, and it looks fabulous (minus the Rome part and all the thievery and late busus).

So I really appreciate reading it, as I pretty much know exactly what to expect.

Cheerio.. Tom from South Africa.

3/05/2006 4:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice long, fun to read. Me and a couple friends are planning to do the 30 day excursion this year. I'll make sure to pack lots of Purell and keep my belongings close in Italy.

One question though, you commented numerous times on how hot it was but you guys were wearing pants and long sleeve shirts in alot of pictures. But I have that Italians don't wear shorts, is that true?

3/17/2006 11:17 AM  
Blogger Maria said...

Yep, I didn't see many shorts at all! You can't wear shorts or sleeveless tops in the Vatican. I'm from Florida so I'm used to hot - we wear thin fabrics but keep the skin covered so we don't turn into toasted marshmallows. ;)

3/17/2006 1:08 PM  
Anonymous Patricia said...

A thoroughly enjoyable travelogue. Well done. And I agree, the humour made this a great read.

3/19/2006 3:48 AM  
Anonymous Stephanie said...

I really enjoyed this read, you are funny and gave me a good idea on what to expect. I will be better prepared, thank you for taking the time to set this up!

3/24/2006 7:18 PM  
Blogger silverruby7 said...

HI, loved the blog, very fun, was wondering what type of camera you used, and how many memory cards you took with you, had a lot of pics so I was wondering, lol I'm doing the London to Athens in Sept (hopefully) and am trying to plan everything and if you don't mind how much did you spend, appreciate the help..

3/24/2006 9:57 PM  
Blogger Maria said...

Hi Ruby, from the home page: All images shot with a 5.0-megapixel Canon PowerShot SD20 Digital Elph. I just got a sweet new 6.1-megapixel Nikon D70s Digital SLR (with an 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G ED-IF AF-S DX Zoom Nikkor lens), so stay tuned! ;)

I spent about $200 USD a day. Gotta start saving for my next trip! Cheers.

3/25/2006 12:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Loving the "artsy architectural shots"! Always my faves. If that's what you have with the Canon, the digital SLR will be fantastic!

Thanks for the guide!

3/30/2006 10:03 PM  
Blogger cocoblue said...

Heylo Maria,

Was the travel in bus taking forever to get from 1 place to another?
What didn't you like about the Contiki Trip?
Would you recommend Contiki to explore Europe?
Could you give us travelling tips from your experience?
Are the tourmates nice people?

Thank you

5/09/2006 4:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great blog Maria! I have already been on one Contiki tour (European Impressions in 2002) and am now looking to take either the London to Paris like you did or the Greek Island hopping. This tour will be a little different as I'm now married and will be joined by my wife. Probably a little tamer if nothing else.

5/16/2006 12:57 PM  
Anonymous Louise said...

Hi, I'm a New Zealander who did this trip in July 2004, and loved your blog to bring back the memories! Totally agree with Rome transport - always plan for extra time.

5/26/2006 6:16 AM  
Anonymous contikimom said...

I've decided that you MUST take up writing seriously...this was such a good read!!! Thanks so much for putting this together. It must have taken a lot of work, but much appreciated.

By the way, I went on a camping Contiki trip WAY back in 1978...nearly 30 years ago!! I still correspond regularly (about every 6 weeks with three of my 'mates' who are all from different countries It was a blast way back then, too. Now, our kids are going on their own Contiki trips! LOL

Oh, yes, we had problems with theft in Rome, too. Don't carry your purse on your shoulder, but hang it across your chest. Scooters zip by and grab your purse quick as a wink.

Just a question: my son is leaving soon on a European Contiki trip and I was looking in your photos to see if the guys were wearing sports jackets, ties, etc. like Contiki suggests in their packing list. My son just wants to wear a nicer short-sleeved dress shirt and nicer pants. He figures that it will be too hot to wear a jacket. (He would probably get it super wrinkled, anyhow). Would that work? Also, they say that he needs to bring dress shoes? I can't see fitting sandals, dress shoes, and comfortable walking shoes/runners in his bag. Thanks in advance for any advice....

6/26/2006 10:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Maria,

Thanks so much for your blog - i read the whole thing and you've convinced me to make a contiki trip a part of my (near) future. Question for you - by my (not so) careful observations it seemed like you went on this trip alone - did you find there were mostly friends and couples travelling - aside from your friend nina that you met along the way? this is the one thing - solo travelling - that is keeping me from booking right now!


6/28/2006 12:59 AM  
Blogger Maria said...

Hi contikimom - For the most part, your son could go casual. He just needs to take into account the climates of the cities he'll be in and any special places he might be going (e.g., no shorts for The Vatican, nice outfit for the Moulin Rouge). If nothing else, he could shop (*gasp* I know guys hate that). :D

As for the solo travelers, I wouldn't worry about it - pretty much everyone on these trips is very sociable and open to meeting new people. There were lots of solo travelers on my tour, and we all hooked up with groups of friends, no problem. Happy travels!

7/10/2006 3:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey thanks for the blog it gave me a great idea of a contiki tour

7/27/2006 8:46 PM  
Blogger PFF said...

I love your blog! I read your entire account of your London-Paris-Rome tour. I'm doing a similar itinerary in September; I'm only doing London to Paris though. It's my first Contiki tour so I've been scouring message boards and travel sites for tips. I'm becoming a little paranoid from reading all the advice about money belts and sling bags and such. It's making Europe seem completely crime-ridden and scary -- and I'm from New York! Did you find it necessary to wear a money belt in London and Paris? Wouldn't that require pants that *gasp* rise ABOVE your belly button? You seem like a reasonably fashionable person who would be equally horrified by this prospect. You think I'd be okay without a money belt and carrying a decent sized shoulder bag not necessarily wrapped around my neck?

7/31/2006 9:13 AM  
Blogger Curtis Mohan said...

Awesome journal... Your writing skills are very illustrative! I'm doing the London/Paris/Amsterdam tour pretty soon so you've given me a good idea of what to expect. Thanks!

3/18/2007 7:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I loved your blog! Thanks for giving me an idea of what to expect. In regards to the Paris portion, did you feel that was enough time there, or should I opt for the extra two days in paris?


3/10/2008 5:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love your blog. I'm going on the same tour in about a month and just love the way you described everything about your trip.

6/18/2009 8:53 PM  
Blogger marikat said...

Hi Maria!

LOVED your blog. My hubby and I are doing exactly the same tour Oct 2009.

It was so nice to read the stuff Contiki doesnt tell you. Thankfully I booked our plane back for late the afternoon on the Monday, so IF we cant get into the Vatican museums the Saturday, we can try for Monday.

Thanks again!


6/29/2009 7:23 AM  
Anonymous Shannon said...

Hi Maria! I know I'm joining this quite a bit later than everyone else, but I just read your blog, and LOVED it! I am planning on doing the Contiki London/Paris/Amsterdam trip, and did the Italian Espresso in 2008 - I loved reading up on London & Paris, and really related to the stories about Rome. Well done! Keep traveling & writing please!

- Shannon

1/18/2011 5:33 PM  

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