Month: February 2014

Trip Report: Christmas in Rome and New Year’s in Barcelona (Day 2)

After our first day in Rome by ourselves, my wife and I were looking forward to joining up with my family for several days. However, we were unsure if they had even arrived in Rome until after we ate breakfast at the hotel due to communication issues (As mentioned in the prior post my family had several flight issues and did not arrive in Rome until nearly midnight when they were supposed to arrive at 7:45 AM).

I do need to mention the breakfast at the Rome Cavalieri.  It was the most outstanding breakfast buffet I have ever been to.  The variety and quality were off the charts.  Unfortunately, I believe this has gone away as a benefit for Diamond members as of 1/1/14. We were lucky to be some of the last ones to get it 🙂  (I do not have pictures from breakfast because I still have not conquered my fear of  taking pictures in settings like that)

After breakfast, my wife and I hopped in a taxi to meet my family at their hotel (Hotel Lirico)(Approximately 20 Euro).  We had to take a taxi as the hotel shuttle leaves the hotel hourly and it was approaching 9:30,  we didn’t want to spend an additional 30 minutes waiting. Plus my mother likes everyone to be “On Schedule” so I didn’t want to rock the boat the first day.

Upon meeting up with my family we made our way on foot towards the Vatican.  Some pictures from the walk:

Rome
Brother and Family

Brother and Family

For some reason or another I do not have a good picture of my sister and her kids. Sorry!

Roman Ruins

Roman Ruins

Wife and me

Castel Sant'Angelo

Castel Sant’Angelo

Since this was most of my families first trip to Rome (with the exception of my mother) I was very excited to see their reactions upon the first view of St. Peter’s.  I have been to Rome 4 times now and each time you see St. Peter’s it is still amazing.  It is bigger than real life.  Here is the view after turning the final corner.

St. Peter's

St. Peter’s

Upon getting to the Vatican we toured the Vatican Museum which is always pretty cool and then took the side entrance from the Sistine Chapel to St. Peter’s Basilica.  During my previous visits to the Vatican Museum I have not hired the services of a tour guide.  This time we did as the line to get into the Basilica was quite long and time was precious.  It was 35 Euro per person, including entrance fees, but in the end it was worth it as it provided a lot of depth to the items viewed during the museum tour and it saved some time.  For example, on each of my previous visits I had skipped past the tapestries gallery in the museum, turned out to be pretty interesting.  Would I recommend a tour guide?  Honestly, I am not sure, I think it comes down to time/value proposition that is unique for each person.  Here are some pictures from inside St. Peter’s:

St. Peter's

St. Peter’s

Wanted to include one full group shot, perfect picture showing the difficulty in getting 11 people to do anything at once!

St. Peter's (Family)

St. Peter’s (Family)

The Pieta by Michelangelo

The Pieta by Michelangelo

St. Peter's

St. Peter’s

Christmas Tree in St. Peter's Square

Christmas Tree in St. Peter’s Square

After touring the Vatican we headed on foot towards Piazza Navona to have a late lunch.  Even though it is super touristy and expensive the atmosphere was hard to pass up so we ate right on the square.  Honestly, I think we were all hungry enough to not even notice whether the food was good or lot.  Although, I think the food was pretty solid.  Group picture from lunch (not sure if you can see in the picture that my sister and niece ordered Pina Colada’s…….in Rome):

Piazza Navona

Piazza Navona

After dinner we meandered on foot back towards their hotel passing by the Pantheon and Spanish Steps on the way.  Some pictures from the walk back:

Pantheon

Pantheon

Spanish Steps

Spanish Steps

After the Spanish Steps my wife and I walked most of the way back to my families hotel with them as it was in the same general direction we were headed.  We were able to catch the 8 PM shuttle returning back to the Rome Cavalieri from Piazza Barberini and promptly crashed upon returning to the room.

Stay tuned for Day 3: The Forum and Coliseum.

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Trip Report: Christmas in Rome and New Year’s in Barcelona – Rome (Day 1)

As mentioned in my introduction post, we were to spend 5 days in Rome with my family for Christmas.  Our plans didn’t exactly work out as expected though.  My wife and I live in Atlanta and were departing directly from there on Lufthansa (connecting in Frankfurt) while my family was flying Delta from Gulfport, MS – Atlanta – Rome.  We had planned to meet up with my family in the Atlanta airport as our time there was going to overlap by several hours, however, their flight was cancelled out of Gulfport due to a “slight” fog.  As there were no other flights out of Gulfport for the day it was up to Delta to find suitable rebooking options for 9 passengers.  Amazingly, they found space on a New Orleans – Atlanta flight and paid for a van to drive them to New Orleans from Gulfport (1.5 hours).  My family did not make their original Atlanta – Rome flight, but did make it onto the late-night departure from Atlanta to London with a further connection on Alitalia to Rome.

As for the flights, we redeemed United Miles for our Lufthansa flights (100,000 per ticket roundtrip in Business).  The Lufthansa flight from ATL is operated by an A340-300 and the flight from Frankfurt to Rome is operated by an A321.  Lufthansa business class was OK for the most part, the seat was infinitely more comfortable than coach but is lagging other more modern business class seats from competitors.  However, the food was pretty solid and the service was fantastic.  All-in-all I felt like we received good value for our miles.

Lufthansa ATL-FRA

Lufthansa ATL-FRA

A little planespotting from the Lufthansa lounge in Frankfurt.  ANA 787.  Sorry for the quality of the picture, it was taken with my iPad.

ANA 787 in Frankfurt

ANA 787 in Frankfurt

My wife and I arrived in Rome on schedule around noon on Sunday, 12/22, while my family did not arrive until nearly 10 PM due to the complications mentioned above.  They were supposed to arrive at 8 AM so ended up losing one day on the ground due to the flight cancellation.

Car Service

Prior to leaving for our trip I had booked a car service from the airport to our hotel based upon the reviews on Tripadvisor, I must say it did not disappoint.  I would highly recommend using www.transfersrome.com for travel to/from the airport in Rome if your hotel is not near public transportation, such as the Rome Cavalieri.  The cost is 50 euros and the driver was standing outside of customs with a sign with our name on it.  Flawless experience.

Hotel

We booked the Rome Cavalieri, a Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, in Rome for 5 nights prior to the HHonors devaluation.  I don’t have the booking confirmation with me but I believe it was 50,000 points per night for a standard King room.

Upon arrival to the hotel a bellman assisted us with our bags and guided us to the check-in desk where we were promptly assisted by the front desk associate.  The associate explained the features of the hotel, our benefits due to my Diamond HHonors status, and provided us a slight upgrade to a “City-view” room.  I must also give credit to the hotel for allowing us to check-in before the standard time.  It was quite nice to be able to get in the room and shower after a long-haul flight.

Overall, the hotel worked well for us since my wife and I had previously been to Rome.  I would not recommend it to first-time visitors due to how far outside of the city center it is (the hotel does offer a complimentary shuttle hourly to Piazza Barberini).

Exterior of Hotel

Exterior of Hotel

Our “Rome View” wasn’t quite as exciting as I had hoped.  We were only given a room on the 3rd floor.

View from Balcony

View from Balcony, Rome is just over those trees!

City view King

City view King

City view King

City view King

Bathroom

Bathroom

Rome

After getting settled into the room and cleaning up, my wife and I headed out to walk around some.  Since we had been in Rome only two years ago for our honeymoon we weren’t that interested in rushing out to see different sites.  We took the hotel shuttle down to the city and began walking from the drop off location in Piazza Barberini.  Nothing too exciting today but we did get a couple of good pictures of Rome decorated for Christmas.

Rome Christmas

Christmas Lights in Rome

Christmas Market

Christmas Market

Stay tuned for Day 2, when my family finally joins us and the madness of travelling with 11 people through Rome begins!