Monday, October 25, 2004

Rome, Italy—Day 268

This morning it was back to the Bioparco di Roma—the Rome Zoo. I got up and had breakfast at the hotel. Oh, speaking of which, I must tell you all about the ridiculousness that is called the Hotel Rivoli. Whatever you do, if you are coming to Rome, DON’T stay here. It all started when Mo and I checked in and were greeted by an older man who seemed more like the head-honcho-but-doesn’t-know-what-he-is-doing type. The guy who likes to be in charge. Anyways, we showed up and checked in and he gave us quite an attitude when we checked in, telling me that I hadn’t requested a non-smoking room (I am sure that I did) and snatched away our passports and stapled my best western card to a piece of paper. You can’t STAPLE the card to anything because it has a magnetic strip on it but he just took it and punctured two holes right through it.

Whatever. We hauled our stuff up to the room which wasn’t incredibly smoky but wasn’t the nicest. Oh, this all was just after our cab driver tried to rip us off by charging us 50 Euros to take us to the hotel. We arrived at the train station and hopped in a cab. When he figured out where we were going he said, “oh, this is a nice hotel—I must charge you 45-50 Euros—a set price.” Hmm, 45-50 Euros doesn’t sound like a “set price” to me. I told him no, use the meter. He said no and so I told him to let us out. We got back out and went down back to the taxi line and got into another taxi. We got in and told him to use the meter, and he happily obliged. Our fare when we reached the hotel? 10 Euros. TEN!

Anyways, back at the hotel, I wasn’t in the mood to be messed with. I didn’t want a smoking room and I wanted to be treated with respect. This is coming from someone who has spent the last 200 odd nights in a hotel room, I know what service is supposed to be like. And I am not complaining in a “oooh, look at me, poor me” type, we’re just talking basic customer respect here.

So we drop off our stuff and go downstairs. Ask for a map, he doesn’t have one. Ask for directions to the subway, he doesn’t know them. Says that the subways don’t have names (of course they do—we confirmed this later) and sort of dismissed us. Anyways, the hotel was in the boondocks (after claiming it was “conveniently located to all tourist attractions” which meant that every morning we had to hike down a huge hill and through the streets with a crappy map (he finally scrounged up a photocopied blur of a map).

Anyways, back at breakfast. Every morning there was a man (again with the head honcho attitude but a different guy) would sort of show you where you had to sit even though there were several tables open. He would point you in a direction but there seemed to be no reason in it. He should just let people seat themselves. Anyways, it made it pretty awkward (heaven forbid I take a table set for FOUR! Gasp! Horror!) and everyone would sort of look confused the whole time when trying to find somewhere to sit. Not to mention that the chairs were these awkward big round things that made it hard to negotiate around or move out of the way to let someone passed.

Now on to the food—bits of cheese, watery orange juice, a bowl of broken eggs sitting in front of the bread. Even though I can’t speak German, it seems that “salmonella” is a universal term because and entire table of people were talking about the bowl of eggs. It was disgusting. Almost as disgusting as our bathroom in the room which not only lacked a complete shower curtain (it was like a fourth of one which meant you had to be careful about spraying the floor), the shower head didn’t really work so you had to stand up and use the second sprayer set at bath level (meaning that you had to put it down every time you needed to pick something else up), the sink got clogged and was clogged for two days straight which is utterly disgusting AND there were bugs.

This hotel claims itself to be a 4-star hotel and calls itself Hotel Rivoli. More like Hotel Revolting to me!

Ok, enough about the hotel. Where was I? Oh yeah, having breakfast (eww) and then heading outside on my hike to the taxi stand. I got a taxi and he took me to the zoo entrance (after complaining that it was “too close”—suggesting that I could walk it—it was like a 30 minute walk) and I got in line to buy my ticket.

Once again I headed to the hippos and found Carlo sitting in the water. Where was Mimi? Hellooo? I took pictures of Carlo for a while (he got out again which was nice and walked around a bit) and finally went and found some zookeepers who sort of spoke English. They told me that Mimi would be out at 11am so I had just about an hour to wait.


I sat down on the bench near the hippo enclosure and read my book as time passed. I watched the zoo train go around three times passing the hippos (each time they went around the drivers kept looking at me funny—oh, you’re STILL here?) and finally the keeper came and called Carlo inside. I got up and got ready with my camera but then two keepers came out. Oh, they were going to clean up the enclosure a bit. So I sat back down wait some more when one of the keepers came over to talk to me. She spoke English and asked me with a big smile on her face, are you waiting for Mimi?

I smiled and told her yes and tried to explain why but then decided just to tell her that I was doing a “project on hippos.” She told me that they were going to clean up the enclosure a bit and then bring both Mimi and Carlo back out, and that they could feed them for me if I wanted to get some pictures with their mouths open.


So I sat and waited and finally the keepers were done. Mimi came waddling out and went straight to the food (as I clicked away) and then Carlo came out just after Mimi (click click click). They munched and I clicked and time passed. Luckily they didn’t have too much to devour and I didn’t have to wait that long for them to finish up (Carlo first) and settle down in the water. Carlo headed into the water while Mimi finished up the remnants of the hay and I clicked away.

Once both hippos were settled in the water I waited a good while for the keeper to come back out as promised but after a while it seemed like she wasn’t going to come back. I waited and waited (and waved to the keeper who recognized me from when I was here on Saturday) but eventually decided to head out of the zoo since I had some great pictures anyways.

I left the zoo after getting a bite to eat at the zoo café and spent the rest of the day wandering around Rome, this time heading to the Trastevere area via the Isola Tiberina where I visited the Chiesa di Santa Maria in Trastevere (a church built in the 4th century). I then wandered up a huge hill to see a great view over Rome. I didn’t know that that is what I was really in search of however, I just sort of happened upon it. I was looking for the botanical gardens (which I eventually gave up in finding) and started hiking up this hill until I found a great lookout point and a café that had sold bottled water, and a nice bench nearby. I decided that I had had enough walking at that point (at least going at steep inclines) and sat down to drink my water overlooking Rome. I finally headed back down and wandered around some more until it was close to dinner time, where I waited out the extra quarter of an hour until most restaurants began serving dinner (it was 6:45—dinner is usually served after 7:30 in the non-touristy places) in the Piazza Navona. I then walked back over to the Via del Coronari where I ate at a fantastic restaurant that had been recommended to me by my mom’s husband Peter. It was great and I left feeling like I had finally found the nicer places in Rome and now have to leave again. I guess that can be said about everywhere I go really!

Tomorrow it is off to Portugal.