We spent the better part of today exploring Mount Lassen National Volcanic Park. Brendan is feeling much better. He had himself quite a large breakfast — biscuts & gravy, eggs, toast, bacon, potatoes — that is, once breakfast actually came. It was so slow that I got fed up with waiting and went back to the room to pack.
The park is quite large. We decided to take the 30 mile road that cuts through the western part of it and stopped along the way to see various things. The volcano itself isn’t all that active. It last erupted in 1914 – 1921, but it’s still got “all the elements” for another eruption. Whatever that means.
The big thing that Brendan wanted to see were the fumeroles and mudpots. We saw some at our first stop at the sulfur springs, but then hiked to what’s called Bumpass Hell to see even more. It was actually quite pretty (although smelly). It wasn’t too hot of a day either, we were at a decent elevation (7,000 – 8,000 feet) so it was only about 75/80 max at any given point.
We gave some thought initially to hiking to the peak of the volcano, but it’s a 5 hour hike round trip, so we decided to skip it. On the way out of the park we stopped to see the rocks thrown and created by the 1914 eruptions.
Then it was back to Sacramento and the airport for our 11pm flight home. We were ahead of schedule by quite a bit so we decided to stop at a casino off the highway. Brendan now thinks that slot machines are my new calling. As soon as we got there, I sat down with $20 and made us $200. Of course, once I do that I’m ready to leave. We stayed around for a while, I spent some of my winnings, and Brendan played BlackJack until it was time to go. We had another small stop back at the Sonic next to the first hotel, “borrowed” their internet access and had Cherry Limeades until it was time to leave for the airport.
Yesterday we started with the changing of the guard. It doesn’t officially start until 11:30, but we were there early — maybe 10 o’clock, to get a good spot. It was actually cold yesterday, so we stood freezing for half an hour and then the ceremony started. There were a lot of people — they only do it every other day in the winter. As we were standing, some Brits wandered into the crowd and wondered aloud what what going on. I thought only Americans stood around with other people not quite knowing what they were waiting for. When we first arrived, we had a spot right on the fence on the left hand side. I had the bright idea to move back towards the fountain, so that we could see the whole width of the palace. If we had stayed there, he would have gotten some good video. Oops.
In the front of the palace there’s a circle fountain and a statue of Queen Victoria. There are three gates to the palace. The old guard lines up at one gate, and a pipe band comes through that gate. Then, on the other side, the new guard and a marching band march in. Then two guys stand at the center and exchange keys.
Next, the band forms a horseshoe and played several tunes — a march a burlesque-ish one and something else… then at the end, the old guard and the piped and the band all march out.
I’d say, you don’t go to London to see the changing of the guard, but when in London, it is something to see.
Then we had lunch at some pub. Any pub. They’re all the same. They have the exact same menu. The same.
The next stop, and the last stop, really, was the British Museum. The best thing there was the
Rosetta stone. So amazing.
There were a lot of very cool, very old, things. And we were allowed to take video and photos of everything. Everything (can you do that at the Smithsonian?). Things from the very start of civilization. There were so many people from all over the world there. When I thought about it, it made sense. There were relics from Egypt, Persia, Asia, Africa…Things that aren’t in their “home” countries, so people have to travel to see them.
The very, very last thing we did was to go to a bar and watch the Steelers game. Yes, that’s right. We watched the Steelers. Brendan packed his shirt and his hat and everything. We met another fan or two — some Americans and a British Pats fan. He was nice. A bit shy and a little odd, but nice.
On the plane now. Since it’s January, they switched up the movies a little. The guy in front of me is ruining my viewing experience. He keeps throwing himself backwards and pulling the seat up and just being a fidgety pain in my ass. I was a little disappointed to find out that i (heart) huckabees was showing on US to London flights and not the other way around, but there was a problem with one they were meant to be showing (Alfie) so we’re getting to watch it. (Garden State, too, but my TV doesn’t like it.) I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about huckabees, but I like it. I like it a lot. I’m watching it for a second time.
At the airport now; we have a special room to wait in since we’re flying into National. They wil search our carry-ons and everything. It’s not open yet. It’s a little bit strange, I think — since there was hardle that much security going out of National. What is nice is that we were able to go through customs on this side of things.
Now that we have all the necessary souvenirs, Brendan, Geoff and I head off to Rome in the BMW. Keith and his mom, Gail are staying an extra week and are traveling to Rome by train since there’s not enough room for all of our stuff in the car. (Ask Keith how the Tower of Pisa was…)
Bren and I have made reservations in advance at a hotel right near the airport. Geoff hasn’t got any, but figures he can probably get a room at the same hotel. He can, but it’s in the hostel room, which has three beds, a shared bathroom and no AC. Our room though has air conditioning so we crank it up and lounge around for a few minutes.
We don’t really have a whole lot of time, but since we’re so close to Rome, we have to go in. We first decide to wait for the bus that stops at the corner, but it doesn’t seem to be coming that often and it’s really really hot out. So, we decide to drive to the airport (since we have to figure out how to do that anyway), and take the train into the city. This train is easy enough to figure out, it’s the metro that gives us all sorts of problems. The machines that dispense fare cards are finicky. Extreme pain in the ass. Then you take the card, and put it through another machine and it stamps the time and date on it. Then you get on the metro. I take the DC metro every day, so it’s not like it’s terribly complex, but the doors on the metro car don’t automatically open, you’ve got to press a button. Well, we can’t get the one to work at the Coliseum stop, so we end up getting off at the next one and then trying to find our way.
It’s not all that difficult, the Coliseum is an easy thing to spot.
The whole thing amazes me. You see something on TV all the time, and then once you get there it’s just breathtaking. The rocks and the stone are what really impress me. Just thinking about how centuries of people have walked on them and worn them down is just awe inspiring. I’m walking up the same stairs as some of history’s most important people. It just blows my mind.
And the sheer engineering that had to go into everything!
The forum which is down the old Roman road from the Coliseum is pretty fascinating as well.
Old buildings and stones are everywhere. I can’t help but think about how young the US is at times like this.
We try and hook up with Keith and Gail who should be in their hotel by now, but are unsuccessful, so we have a late lunch and take the metro (without getting new tickets, just hoping we don’t get caught with invalid passes) and the train back to the car and then to the hotel.
The next day is pretty uneventful, except that Bren and I almost missed our connection in Heathrow. The line through customs was painfully long, and then there was a shuttle bus ride to the other terminal, a run to the ticket counter where we were told that they just made a last call for our seats and we’ve just made it, another run to the gate all the way at the end of the hall, and then being seated in the very back of the plane. So, always, always leave at least two hours for transfers at Heathrow. An hour is not nearly enough.
I’m splitting day 8 into two posts since there’s two separate stories to tell. What happened before we left Praiano, and then our afternoon in Rome.
It’s just about time to leave Praiano. Take one last look of those views…
While Keith and Brendan pack the car, Geoff, Gail and I go to the market for one last time to get some water and snacks for the ride to Rome. The old man at the market makes sure to say goodbye. In retrospect, he is very thurough in his check that we are really leaving town for good.
Then once I get back to the car, I realize that I forgot the lemoncello. We cannot leave without that. So I go back to the store (alone) to pick up a few bottles. “Bella,” the old man says. “You’re back!”
“Lemoncello,” I say.
“Come,” he says looking at me waving his arms, like he wants to give me a hug. No big deal I think, we was a helpful guy this week. He was nice to all of us. So I go over, bottles in hand to give him a little hug. Next thing I know I’m getting kissed on the mouth, he’s got one hand on my ass and the other on my right boob. Blech. I still get grossed out and can still feel it, in all it’s whiskery hideousness every single time I tell the story. He was such a sweet old man, and now, forever in my memory he’s a stereotypical Italian perv.
As I pushed him off of me I realize, the whole town is in the store seeing all of this happen. And then, I’ve got to wait in line to pay for the lemoncello, because I’ll be damned if this stops me from taking some home. So I stand in line for what seems like and eternity to pay old man’s wife. She gives me this mean look like I was the one who did something wrong. I just wanted to yell at her and say, “Listen, it was your husband who did that, not me!”
So when I got back to the car I said, “Don’t ever make me go back there. Ever.” Then I proceeded to tell everyone what just happened and they laughed and laughed. I just kept drinking water and occasionally getting disgusted…
September 16, 2001
We leave terribly early. We are anticipating and get super long lines. It’s the first day of international flights back to the US. We’re a little nervous, but mostly just anxious to get home.
I haven’t flown a lot, so I don’t really have a lot of reference, but the crowds are just amazing. There’s a guy behind us in line, who we ended up calling Crazy Harry trying to butt in line. He’s running his cart full of his family’s luggage into my ankles. Eventually, we figure he’s not quite right and give him a little break, but it’s still frustrationg.
Once we finally almost get to the ticket counter, the girl in front of us is trying frantically to get a seat and being a general pain in the ass to the workers. Yes, we all understand that you want to get home, but so do all of these other people. Then, she has the gall to ask if she’s getting a window seat! You guessed it, she sits next to me.