Yesterday I published a post about the most famous landmark in Germany – the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. A stone’s throw away is the Reichstag building that houses the Bundestag, Germany’s national parliament.
I find the Reichstag unique because it is crowned by a glass dome and it has Soviet graffiti inside. The glass dome is visible outside the building, but the graffiti aren’t.
I posted an article about the graffiti on November 28, 2009, when I was in Berlin. It’s not very detailed, so I’ll write a better piece in the near future, probably next week.
(September 16, 2016) I prefer exploring places on my own, but I do recognize there are times when I will need the assistance of a tour guide. The Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican are among those places. Not only are they large – they are also religious sites. I want to make sure that someone will be there to tell me what I can and can’t do, and where to go and what to look at. Because of that, I had booked a guided tour long before I came to Europe for a two-week trip.
The tour cost me 32 euros. It includes the full ticket price of 16 euros and the payment of 10.50 euros for the tour guide.
The last part of the roughly two-hour tour was the visit to the Sistine Chapel, where picture-taking is strictly prohibited. I didn’t take any; I wanted to be in my best behavior in the house of God. But of course, that prohibition didn’t prevent a few tourists from secretly taking pictures of the Sistine Chapel ceiling, particularly the iconic The Creation of Adam fresco painted by Michelangelo.
This was September 16, 2016 – the most hectic day in my two-week trip to Europe. I know each day is equal to roughly 24 hours, but that specific day felt longer than that. I couldn’t include all of my activities in just one blog post because I did so many things that day.
Anyway, enough of the talk. I began the Rome tour by visiting St. Peter’s Basilica and St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican.
Victor Emmanuel Monument:
And finally, the Colosseum – one of the Seven Wonders of the World:
I just walked from the hotel to the Vatican all the way to the Colosseum, so I got a bit hungry. Besides it was dinner time already, and my body needed some fuel for the tour of the Vatican Museums later:
More on this tomorrow. See, it was a really long day for me.
The long lines at the airport check-in counter as well as at immigration on May 14, 2017 for my Manila-Taipei flight reminded me of the stressful and nerve-wracking journey from Paris to Rome on Sept. 16, 2016.
It all started when I waited for like an hour for a taxi to arrive at the taxi stand near Sacre Coeur in Paris. Because of that, I missed the very first Beauvais-bound train.
I got to Gare du Nord just in time for the second train, which was scheduled to depart at 6:35 AM. I was so thankful to the taxi driver that I paid him 20 euros – double the approximately 10 euros shown in the meter. Besides I was also in a hurry.
As it was still early, there were no staff yet manning the ticketing counters. There were ticketing kiosks though, so I used those. One rejected my cash. So I had no other choice but to use a credit card. The “un peu Francais” that I knew came in handy as the instructions were in French.
I reached Beauvais after more than an hour. But it was just the train station, not the airport yet. So I had to take a cab. There was one waiting outside the station, but when I got in, there were two other passengers already. I paid six euros for that taxi ride.
Fortunately there was no long line at the check-in counter at Beauvais Airport when I arrived, and I had no baggage to check in. But it was a different story at immigration.
The line there was too long that I just resigned myself to the thought of actually missing the flight. A strike of French air traffic controllers had just ended, and I thought that the situation wasn’t fully normal yet.
I thought of taking a train to Luxembourg, since I would be alone in Paris. My mom and my sister were scheduled to fly to Stockholm, Sweden that same day.
Thankfully a guy approached the crowd and asked “Rome? Rome?” I raised my hand, and I was allowed to go to the front of the line immediately.
It was already boarding time when I got to the boarding area.
After roughly two hours, the plane landed in Rome’s Ciampino Airport. But the journey ain’t over yet. I had to take a bus to the Ciampino train station and ride a train that would take me to the Termini station in Rome.
I was so relieved and happy to see the welcome sign at Termini:
To summarize what I’d been through:
Taxi from taxi stand near Sacre Coeur to Gare du Nord, Paris
Train from Gare du Nord to Beauvais train station
Taxi from Beauvais train station to Beauvais Airport
Ryanair flight from Beauvais Airport to Rome’s Ciampino Aiport
Bus from Ciampino Airport to Ciampino train station
Train from Ciampino train station to Rome’s Termini station
Fortunately I had no significant activity planned for today similar to climbing a mountain and going to Taiwan’s northern coast, which I did on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively. It’s raining again.
I just played basketball and explored places near the hotel.
The guy I played basketball with at Adidas 101 court:
I usually use the part of the court seen on the left side of the pic below:
The Presidential Office Building at night. It’s walking distance from the hotel. Walking distance for me, at least:
Around lunchtime, a Taiwanese guy in the Adidas 101 basketball court asked me to play a one-on-one game with him. Immediately I realized that the rules were a bit different from the one I’m used to: the player who makes a shot keeps possession of the ball until he misses. In the rules I’m more familiar with, if a player makes a shot, his opponent gets possession next. I won, 6-2.
Right after that game, I proceeded to the Taipei Main Station to catch the Bus 1815 at M2 that will take me to Yehliu Geopark located on the outskirts of Taipei. It is home to the so-called “Queen’s Head,” a natural rock formation. The entrance fee was 80 NT Dollars for an adult.
There was a line for the Queen’s Head. There’s a precise spot where it looks like it resembles the head of a woman wearing a crown. That precise spot was what people were falling in line for.
In other spots, the Queen’s Head doesn’t look like a human head. In the pic below, the Queen’s Head is at the upper left corner:
Other views at the geopark:
A replica of the Queen’s Head:
From and to Taipei Main Station, the bus ride took a total of around three hours. The one-way fare was 96 NT Dollars. I stayed at the geopark for about an hour.
Next: shopping and dining at Shilin Night Market. I bought a denim jacket for my mom and a pair of pants for myself.
There are so many food choices at the night market. I picked the food stall that had the longest line of customers because I wanted to know what the fuzz was about. And of course, for the experience.
The line for the “blockbuster” street food stall, which is located in front of Cixian Temple:
I think the food is popular because it’s a complete meal in easy-to-eat packaging: pork placed on top of rice. I bought the lemon and honey flavors, which cost 50 NT Dollars each.