Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Roman Holiday Part 6 - Via Borghese, Travel provided by Nilor

In honor of Rafael Nadal's bid this week to claim his fifth Rome Tennis Masters championship, I've decided to finally transcribe the remaining stories of my adventures in Rome last October from my notebooks into my blog. I had been working on them months ago, but never completed them until now. By finishing, I'm keeping a new year's resolution I made to myself to finish the projects I start, so even if it's just for the sake of finishing, and no one reads it, I'm glad I'm doing it. Enjoy! (hopefully!)

So... we're up to Sunday (links to parts 1-5 are at the bottom)! I woke up in my hotel room and realized that the room was too bright for what time I think it ought to be. I overslept?!! Where was my wake up alarm that I set on my TV the night before? Hmph. Not good. I got up and checked and saw The TV was not working at all. Curiouser and curiouser. I tried the lights and they weren’t working either. Hmm… Luckily there was a decent amount of sunlight coming in the room. I got myself ready, and as I turn on my camera I note the battery is very nearly dead. This is of much concern because it’s a rechargeable battery and as I noted earlier, I don’t have a working outlet converter for any of my electronic gizmos. Once the battery died, it’d be dead til I got home. I felt like if I just turned it on, took pictures quickly and turned it off again, I could make it though the day. I had high hopes! High delusional hopes!

I made my way downstairs and asked the desk clerk about the TV on my way out. “Ah yes,” we have had a power outage. It should be back shortly.” She said without concern. I don’t really know how she’s checking people in or out in this condition, but okay, if she’s not gonna worry, I’m not gonna worry.

I headed out from the hotel toward the metro (Hi Colosseo! You’re looking well today!) heading for today's first destination: Via Borghese. I was very excited to explore this area of Rome. It’s a large park area to the north of the Ancient Stuff. I got off the train at the Spagna station. The station here is very interesting. It’s kind of inside the hill (a very very tall steep hill and there are many stairs and escalators that take you from the bottom to the top. It’s a longer process than you’d think and it eventually lets you out into this overrun area that looks like a secret batmobile entrance the batcave on the 60's Batman TV show. You come out and you’re on the side of the highway… it’s weird. It felt unsafe. But that was the entrance to the metro! I walked about 200 yards north and came to the proper intersection leading into Via Borghese. It’s very pretty. I was excited because once again the weather was gorgeous and the sky was beautiful. Before heading in, I decided to take a walk down the street and find a place to grab some delicious pastry for breakfast. Not a lot was open yet because it was still early on a Sunday morning. But I found a nice coffee bar and got myself a croissant and a banana and headed back toward the parks.

Via Borghese is LARGE. There are several museums, picnic areas, ponds, and attractions throughout the many many roads and paths within its borders. There’s even a zoo! I walked a little ways in and saw a bike rental area. It was 10 euros to rent a bike for three hours. I decided to invest in the bike figuring I'd be able to cover much more ground on a bike in 3 hours than I would on my feet. I went with a traditional bike instead of a mountain bike. I’m not sure why, maybe it was a little cheaper, but it was fate that I did so, as I was introduced to my BBFF (bicycle best friend forever) Nilor. I didn’t know it right away but Nilor (that was the word written on the frame of the bike and thusly it became my name for him) and I would bond quite deeply over then next few hours.

When I got on Nilor, it was like I had been riding with him for ages. He was very comfortable to my height and body frame and we just took off. I tested the brakes as we went downhill and they were solid. Oh, how nice it was to feel the breeze against my skin as we whooshed through the crowds! It was not a steep hill, but the incline was enough that I didn’t even need to pedal and we were passing long distances in no time. Oh it was definitely the right call to rent the bike.

(Nilor and I posing with big smiles outside Galleria Borghese. It's the last picture taken by my digital camera in Rome. At least it's a good one!)

I stopped outside the Galleria Borghese by a lovely fountain and had a nice tourist take my picture with Nilor. Then, disaster happened. As I was trying to look at the picture he took, my thumb accidentally switched to movie mode. Movie mode drains the battery like nobody’s business. So right after I got my picture with Nilor, the camera died. Nooo! This was so sad. No more pictures? Everything is so beautiful! Well, I resigned myself to a camera-less existence. I took off on Nilor, and headed across the park. On my way I pass this rentable four person bike that looks a bit like the Flintstone mobile. This contraption looks fun to drive in theory, but lots of the paths in Borghese have restrictive poles coming out of the ground so that cars can’t mistakenly go on them, but they also are not wide enough apart for the four person bikes to get through. So the flintstonemobikes turn out to be kind of a pain in the ass. Also? They don’t go that fast. When I was traveling down a main thru-way where cars CAN get through the park, I witnessed an unfortunate/hilarious incident when a Flintstonemobike got stuck in front of a tour bus that was barreling down on them. The bus honked and honked and the riders screamed as they attempted to pedal fast enough to get out of the way, but they couldn't. There wasn't even enough of a shoulder on the road for the pedalers to veer out of the way and let the bus pass. I zoomed ahead on Nilor and I honestly don’t know what happened them, but I’m sure it probably all turned out okay.

Leaving the possible tragedy of the Flinstonemobike behind me, I went to look at another museum and then it dawned on me that they might have disposable cameras for sale inside! I went and take a look and the guy working there told me they didn't sell them but suggests I go look outside the park in the neighborhood of Flaminio. Take Nilor outside the park? Was I allowed? I had paid for his usage by the hour and it didn’t seem like there was an area restriction on where I could take him. But was it understood that he was strictly a park bike? Well, whatever. I wanted a new camera and taking Nilor around was gonna make my search much much faster. So I headed out of the park towards Flaminio.

When I got out, I biked around a few streets but everything was closed. That’s when I remembered it was still Sunday morning. I was screwed! This heavily Catholic city residents were all at effing church! I locked up Nilor at a bike stand and I headed into some of the side streets to see if I could find a store with disposable cameras. How can this city have no equivalent to Duane Reade or CVS? It just doesn’t. It's odd. You'd think people would need pharmacies. The whole are of Flaminio turned out to be a total ghost town this AM. I went back to Nilor and head back into the park, but then I remembered that the place around where I initially entered the park after having breakfast had some life to it. So I biked all the way back across and exit Burghese from the other side in Via Veneto. This side of the neighborhood was all downhill. I started checking newsstands and while they were open, nobody had cameras. Finally (after about a total 45 minutes of search time, I found a place with disposable cameras! Hooray! I headed back uphill into the park, which was not so easy since Nilor was a regular bike, not a mountain bike, so there were no gears to shift. But when I got back I once again could take pictures. I take pictures of Porta Pinciana, The Temple of Diana and the Orologio ad Acqua.

(The Orologio ad Acqua is a clock that runs on water in the middle of the park. It may or may not count down to Doomsday. I'll guess that it does.)

Finally I tried to go find Pincio, which I’m told is a beautiful park area, except it was all borded up! But at the very top of Pincio Hill there was a beautiful outlook that was not boarded up and as I gazed over this area I realized I had been in this area before… yesterday I had inadvertently climbed all the way up here from Piazza del Popolo! Oh, it’s nice to wander around a city and not really know where you are!

(One of the beautiful views of Rome from Pincio. Such beautiful skies! Quite a sight to see.)

After a few more loops around the park, including one around Galoppatoio which took me totally off road so I had to carry Nilor back to solid ground… and over a couple barricades (there MIGHT have been a sign that said no bicycles in that area, but it's hard to remember EVERY detail from that morning), it was time for me to return Nilor to the rental place. I was not ready to part ways, but the three-hour-mark was up. Sometimes people or bikes come into our lives for a reason. Nilor helped me so much beauty in Borghese, and without him so much picture taking would not have been possible. He'll be in my heart. Yes, he'll be in my heart. He'll be here in my heart. Always...

Up Next: Part 7 where there's lots of climbing up and down steps, lots of beautiful views of Rome and the quest for the Mouth Of Truth.

For the rest of trip: My Flight There, Emperor Palpatine's Hill, Good Times at the Colosseo & Vatican, SPB & The 39 Steps, and The Pantheon, Gays and Dining Out.

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