November 18, 2016 Chris Saenz

When in Rome

Quick story; when Wendy and I first got married we had planned to go to Europe for our honeymoon. 10 years and 3 kids later, we still had not made it out of the country. So our 10 year anniversary would be the occasion which would finally allow us to see Europe. Our voyage would take us to 3 different countries that we tried to make the most of in 6 days.

We started off with lots of energy; sad to leave the kids, but excited to be on our own for a while.

We were in for a 10 hour flight. To that point, the longest flight we had been on was 4.5 hours, so doubling that would be tough. But we looked forward to spending a few hours on a layover in London.

London, England

We landed in London around noon local time, so the airport and adjoining train station were busy. We landed at Gatwick Airport, which is about 30 miles away from downtown London. But thank the Queen for their speedy Gatwick Express train that made that distance in roughly 20 minutes.

We only had about 6 hours until our flight to Rome would leave, so we immediately hit the streets. It was cold and grey in downtown, like most movies I’ve seen portray London. And those double-decker buses were everywhere.

Our only destination in England was to see Buckingham Palace. And they made it very easy for us to find out way.

We made it to the royal residence with plenty of time for a few pictures and a few minutes to yell “London, baby!!” several times out loud.

And with that, we left England and had a 2 hour plane ride to Rome.

Rome, Italy

We landed in Italy at about 11pm local time. Perhaps its an American way of living, but I half expected everything to be open and the city to be busy. The city is 2000 years old, they should have perfected tourism by now. But the streets were empty, dark, and cold, so we hurried our way to our hotel. But since it was roughly 1pm our time, we were ready for lunch, and our first taste of Italy.

Lucky for us, we found a pizzeria that seemed to be with the times and open late. After being in airplanes and trains for 17 hours, we were very happy folks.

We spent the first full day in Rome wandering and essentially getting lost. That was okay, because it wasn’t like there was a lack of things to see while we wandered. Our hotel was a bridge crossing away from the Piazza del Popolo (Plaza of the People), the plaza at the gateway of the city.

Here is Wendy wandering the Via del Corso, which starts at the Piazza del Popolo and is the central street linking the north and south part of the ancient city.

It was clear that much of the American ways of living were not imported into Rome, particularly around food. Each of our meals were eaten sitting at a table, without even the option of taking food to go. It was a nice change of pace to not feel rushed to eat your food and to allow ample time to enjoy your company.

Our simple breakfasts looked like this. Small, but delicious.

But even in the heart of a 2000 year old city, you are never far away from a McDonald’s.

The McItaly Chianina…

I must say that many of the souvenirs were very tempting, but just seemed impractical.

Signs of the history of the city were everywhere. The ancient Roman phrase Senatus Populus  que Romanus (the Senate and the People of Rome) is still used as a symbol of city and is a hark back to ancient times.

We had many a good meals, most of which included some sort of pizza. Here Wendy and I just finished some pizza and pasta carbonara and were consulting the map to find our next destination.

Italian Coke (tasted the same).


We took a myriad of transportation vehicles and learned a thing or two about those methods in Europe. Like, the subways were very popular, crowded, and vandalized…

And we learned that the streets are busy and hectic, so the best way to move around quickly is on two wheels.

But it is quite the treacherous ride.

The Landmarks

But of course, the reason we traveled thousands of miles was to see the unique landmarks.

The Colosseum

My favorite site was the Colosseum. The site that united the city with exotic games and violent spectacles was a wonder to see. Comparable to today’s stadiums, the Colosseumwas just as grand and had just as much architectural feats. To think that it was constructed without a single computer or hydraulic is astounding.

The stairway to the upper levels.

Wendy sitting on a two-thousand year old artifact.

The Roman Forum

The Roman Forum was the cultural epicenter of Rome where political, commercial, religious, and civil life all converged. Think about it like Time Square before Christ.

We easily could have spent all day just at the Roman Forum (at least I could have), but I’ll just leave you with a few pictures. The above picture is us in the middle corridor of the Roman Forum (like Broadway St.) where parts of pillars still stand. This is the corridor that emperors would travel down with crowds showering them with praise after a victorious battle or political victory.

Below is a view from Capitoline Hill overlooking the main corridor of the forum. Capitoline Hill is where the emperors and the senators lived and did much of their work (we still call Washington D.C. “Capitol Hill”, pointing back to this hill). You can see the remnants of the temples and religious buildings.

Here’s Wendy chilling underneath the Roman sun and looking like the goddess Venus.

Here we are in the imperial garden on Capitoline Hill. Surrounding the garden were the homes of the emperors and senators, some of which still stood.

Trevi Fountain

The 300 year old fountain said to be the location of the source of water for the ancient Roman aqueducts is a massive spectacle that is beautiful night or day.

Via Borghese

Wendy loves to visit landscapes lush with greenery and flowers. North of the old city was a large Central Park-like area called Via Borghese.

St. Peter’s Square

While we didn’t go in the Sistine Chapel or the Vatican (those lines were ridiculous), we stopped by St. Peter’s Square. It was pretty amazing to see that many people devoted to the Christian faith on a normal Thursday.

The Market of Trajan

The last major landmark we visited while in Rome was the Market of Trajan. While not as big as the Roman Forum, the 2000 year old marketplace is believed to be the first “mall”.

Many of the arcades and vendor areas could still be seen. Here is Wendy checking out the prime commercial real estate.

Locking eyes in the middle of the marketplace…

Last Night in Rome

The ancient city at night was fairly busy, so it was neat to explore and wander around. Our last night, I had wanted to see the Colosseum more time at night.

We had one more meal at a nice little “Ristorante” and our time in Rome was done. We were ready to leave around 5am the next day.

Sweden and Stockholm

Our flight home was early, but that meant we could see everything mid-flight; including a spectacular view of the Swiss Alps.

When we arrived in Sweden, it was a quick 25 minute train ride to the capitol, Stockholm. (European trains are pretty awesome).

Its hard to tell, but at this point its roughly 40 degrees and occasionally frozen rainfall.

In front of the 800 year old Riddarholm Church in downtown Stockholm.

Here we are in Galma Stan (the Old Town), which is the historic area of downtown Stockholm.

So we stopped for some Swedish Meatballs at a place on the Stora Nygatan, an old cobble-stone street with a bunch of shops and restaurants.

And like a true Californian, I was strolling around the entire time in shorts.

Grand Central Station in Stockholm….

and it has a McDonalds. God Bless America.

Then, we were ready to go home (in 10 hours).


After all of our travels, thousands of miles halfway across the world…

we were created by a most welcomed welcoming party…

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About the Author

Chris Saenz Chris is the leader of the Saenz Family. He is husband to Wendy, father to Haley, Liana and Thomas, and occassionally updates this site with some neat stuff.