Monday, November 19, 2007

When in Rome

I did as the Romans do this weekend. I had to attend a conference in Rome Wednesday through Friday and as I frequently do, I took advantage of the opportunity and spent the weekend being a tourist. After spending the weekend in Rome, it has now knocked Madrid out of the number one position of my favorite European city. I definitely need to come back and spend more time here as 2 days definitely wasn't enough. One odd thing I noticed was that it seemed like everywhere where I went I was surrounded by Americans. Of course a co-worker who is Russian thought the same thing about Russians, maybe it's all one's perception.

I did the majority of the touristy things The Colosseum, The Vatican, Trevi Fountain, The Pantheon, and much more. The beauty of the city was amazing - seeing all the ruins of old Roman Empire buildings that have been incorporated into modern buildings was a sight to be seen. I also stumbled across some ancient Roman cats, within some of the ruins (Look closely there's a cat on the steps). There must have been 20 or so cats wandering around or sunbathing within the ruins. I was a little surprised that all of the cats didn't scare away the birds.

I queued for about an hour at The Vatican to get into the museum to see the Sistine Chapel. The museum is only allows entry from 8:45 until 12:30 so you have to get there early. The crowds in the museum were probably the largest I've ever seen. Part of the issue was that there are tours that are offered of the museum which allows people to jump the queue, of course then you're stuck with a pack of people wandering around hearing all sorts of things. I probably would have learned a thing or two about random pieces of art within the museum but I really was only interested in the Sistine Chapel. Don't get me wrong, I spent some time admiring paintings and statues on the 45 minute walk through the rooms en route to the Chapel. Once you get into the Sistine Chapel pictures are not allowed, they also try to enforce complete silence. It was definitely a breathtaking site, of course by the time I left a had a kink in my neck for spending so much time staring at the ceiling.

A couple of random things that struck me while in Rome was the following:

It is next to impossible to find an ATM/Cash Machine near the Spanish Steps or other tourist areas.

The Metro stops running at a very early hour - tried to catch a train at 9:30 and it was closed. I've never been in a city where public transportation ends that early.

There are vendors that will try to sell you all sorts of crap - I was having a cocktail in Navonna plaza with a friend and people kept walking through the patio trying to sell dancing chickens, fluorescent spinny toys, and CDs of their operatic works. It was a bit frustrating to be bothered every 5 or 10 minutes by somebody trying to sell something of little or no use. The most inventive salesperson I saw was a guy at Trevi Fountain selling mini tripods. I of course just used the ledge of the railing to take this picture.

Monday, November 12, 2007


I learned a new phrase at work today "Gardening Leave." This is the practice of getting paid time off after serving notice that you are leaving for another job. There are mandatory notice periods or non-compete clauses in contracts that prevent you from working for a specified amount of time. Due to the circumstances of your departure many employers will have you leave immediately and take gardening leave rather than continue to work. This typically occurs when you are moving on to a competitor. Gardening leave is seen by many people as a bonus and they will strive to get it so they can take time off to travel and still be earning a salary.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Guy Fawkes Day

November 5th is Guy Fawkes Day, for those of you that don't know Guy Fawkes tried to blow up parliament in the 1600's and failed. This day is celebrated by fireworks displays and bonfires throughout the country. Last night I headed off to party and saw lots of people out celebrating. There are still fireworks going off in my neighborhood right now. I'm sure they will continue throughout the night.

It is much easier to purchase fireworks here than in the states. All grocery stores and a couple of news agents in town had large displays of fireworks for purchasing. Very different than in the states where purchasing and setting off fireworks is illegal in some states.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Trick or Treat

This week marked the occurrence of my first Halloween outside the US I wasn't sure what to expect, I didn't see the grocery stores stocking up on candy as they do in the states. I asked some co-workers and they said trick or treating has grown in popularity over the last 10 years or so here. Previously parents would only take their children to the homes of people they knew nowadays complete strangers are knocking on doors asking for candy. The overall feeling I got was people were not pleased by this. Luckily I didn't have any trick-or-treaters. I say luckily as I didn't buy any candy.