Our day started bright and early with a 6:30 wake up and 7:50 departure; first stop: the subway! The hotel is a mere 200 metres from a major transit station, so walking there didn't take long at all. Then began the adventuresome task of hustling a large group of students onto and off of the train-very exciting, and everyone made it through in one piece.
We arrived near Vatican city before the masses (we were by no means first, but the line was fairly short to get in). After successfully passing through the metal detectors, we began a several hour tour of the Vatican museum, full of paintings, statues, busts, intricately woven draperies, and fancy tile designs, culminating, of course, in the artwork of the Sistene Chapel. The Minnehaha students were among the most well-behaved in the room, and many watched with mouths agape at the abysmally disrespectful behavior of other foreigners (talking loudly while using flash cameras) - you can tell your student when they get home that we're (the chaperones and parents on the trip) proud of them.
After completing the museum tour we began our ascent of St Peter's Cathedral, climbing tight spiral staircases until we reached an outlook on the roof near the top of the [rather high altitude] dome. The view overlooking Rome was magnificent, unable to be described in words. For me personally, it reminded me very much of the outlook over Paris from the Eiffel Tower (in terms of awe over seeing the spralling cityscape).
After returning to ground level (some students enjoyed a race down the lower, wider staircase), we departed the Vatican and broke for a lunch. After lunch and a short bus ride, we began a walking tour of various landmarks, including a cat sanctuary (made amidst Roman ruins), the Pantheon (large enough to fit a 14-story sphere inside), various other bits of Roman walls and ruins, a public water fountain (okay, but seriously, there was a lesson here, and that is that you need not bend over under the dripping stream to drink, but can place a finger under the faucet such that the water jumps up into your mouth like a more contemporary fountain), and finally the Piasa de Navona, where the kids were given time to check out the architecture in the square, as well as shop amongst the local artisans and painters, all of whom had beatiful works of art on display. Several instrument players also seranaded the courtyard with violin, guitar, and other pleasant noises.
We had a fairly long (and *very* crowded!) bus ride to dinner (keep in mind these are public busses now-we no longer have our private coach for our time in Rome), and then a long, relaxing pasta and veal meal, during which we were serenaded by a guitaer player singing Italian (and some American) songs.
We've got an early bedtime tonight (although I believe the boys are all gathering in Mr. Kozel's room to watch the football game) and a late wake up tomorrow, which is much appreciated after a long day spent almost entirely on our feet. Tomorrow we'll visit at least one, if not two, museum[s], as well as any churches we pass on the way.
Quotes of the day:
"My plan [if we get separated in the Vatican] is to collapse into a heap of tears and call my mommy." - Mr. Nick Kozel
"Oh, he's a real person, he opened his eyes!" - Sarah, seeing a living statue of the Statue of Liberty
"No, they [boys] eat everything, like a vacuum." - Sergio