Sunday, December 18, 2011

Day 5 part II- the Vatican

Now in the afternoon of our day in Rome, we went to an entirely different country, the Vatican.  The Vatican is the 7th country Declan has visited.  I'm not really convinced that the whole independent country thing isn't just a way to try and boost sales of souvenir stamps, because apart from the post office with an extraordinarily long lineup, there was no sign of independent statehood.  Maybe the Pope doesn't like paying Italian taxes.  The Vatican is the smallest and richest country in the world, but I'd rather live in Monaco myself.  Not much of a nightlife in the Vatican City.

Now we had arranged for a private tour guide to take us through the Vatican museum and St. Peter's, which turned out to be a stroke of genius, because she allowed us to cut to the front of a 6.5 hour lineup to enter.  Her name was something like Brenda, but I can't remember what, just that I kept accidentally calling her Brenda and she kept correcting me.  Let's call her Brenda.  She also had incredible prowess when it came to muscling through the crowds in the Vatican museum.   She was Moses and the Vatican throngs were her Red Sea.  She got us and Declan's stroller through seemingly impenetrable crowds, and for that I am grateful, but otherwise she drove. me. nuts.

Brenda had the lowest self-esteem of any tour guide I've ever met.  She was a graduate of McGill University (maybe that was her problem *snerk*) with a Master's Degree in Fine Arts.  After every bit of exposition, she would apologize "I'm boring you, I'm so sorry".  We kept saying over and over again, "no really, we are interested in learning, that's why we hired you" but, as Oprah would say, she just couldn't receive it.  "I'm talking too much, I'm going to put you to sleep".  "I bet you think I'm really boring, don't you?"  She. drove. me. nuts, I tell you.

Anyway, the Vatican Museum is in fact very interesting. There was a lot of Michelangelo sculptures scattered about, Raphael decorated a few of the rooms, Botticelli, Caravaggio, all the heavy Renaissance hitters.
This is Laocoon- or the top of him anyway.  It is one of the most important statues in the Vatican's collection, and was the very first acquisition of its collection back in 1500 something.  Obviously not quite important enough for me to bother looking through the viewfinder to make sure I was photographing the actual statue and not the wall behind it.  So I guess if you would like to see the very interesting bottom of this statue, you had better get yourself over to the Vatican. Or, you know, google it. 

This statue I got a whole picture of - now I just can't remember what it was.

My favourite part of the Vatican Museum was the Hall of Maps.  What can I say, I like maps.
After the museum, we headed into the Sistine Chapel.  It was truly impressive.   There is no photography allowed in the Sistine Chapel. 

Nothing to see here!

Thought about trying to line up the finger, but Pisa taught me that could take awhile. 

Brenda was very excited that this window was open- it is not supposed to be open- it allowed us to take an illicit picture of the Pope's back yard- his personal grounds.  It wasn't like Pope Benedict was out there playing Bocce in his underwear or anything, but Brenda insisted that this is something that not many people get to lay eyes on this, so I'm sharing it with you.  One thing that was palpable in everyone we met in the Vatican, is that Pope Benedict is generally regarded as just an "okay" Pope, a B-lister at best. 
He's no Pope John Paul, that's for sure.
 The next stop in the Vatican was St. Peter's Basilica.  It is the largest Christian church in the world.  It is so big, you can't even really tell how big it is.  Brenda would point out a dove in a stained glass window and it would have a wingspan of 33 feet, but from our vanguard on the floor it would look regular dove-size. 

This was Pope John 23.  He is regarded as a Tier One Pope.  When they exhumed him (not sure why) it turned out that he was miraculously preserved.   So now he is displayed in a glass case, where as the other dead Popes are kept under wraps.  John 23 is buried in a Santa Hat, but you can't see it very well in this picture. 

Declan doing his impression of Michelangelo's Pieta and Shane telling me with his eyes "I can't believe you are making me do this.'
Strollers weren't allowed in St. Peter's, so Declan was not strapped down for the first time in our trip to the Vatican.  He went a little nuts, running crazy in circles on the floor.  They had a big basin of holy water out so I sprinkled a little on him, just in case, and he ran even faster in circles and thrashed about until a small crowd gathered, watching him with great amusement.  I took a video of it, and the footage seems to have disappeared, but I think the tourists at St. Peter's that day enjoyed seeing the exorcism free of charge.

Shane ready to fight for his place in line. 
 Here, Shane is outside the Holy Door to St. Peter's Basilica.  This door is opened every 25 years, and whoever passes through it, receives a papal indulgence.  That's a guaranteed entrance into heaven irrespective of what heinous sins you might have committed before or after passing through that door.  Brenda said that the lineup to go through the door gets very unruly because the stakes are so high, and fisticuffs often break out.  Brenda said that you could stab your way to the front of the line and still get the indulgence as you passed through the door, but keep in mind, Brenda's no theologian, so take that into consideration when formulating your 2025 Holy Door strategy.

One more stop in the Vatican, and it was a highlight for me- the official gift shop staffed by nuns.  This place was hopping, jampacked with tourists trying to get official papal merch.  I had to wait in line a long time and the nun that helped me seemed quite harried. I really felt for her.  I myself would have been quite cheesed off if I renounced all wordly possessions to devote myself to a religious life as a Bride of Christ only to get assigned to work retail.  Nonetheless, this is where I got my only souvenir of this holiday.  My parents had given me 100 Euros for my birthday to get myself a nice souvenir, and in the 5 countries we visited this is the only thing that caught my fancy: 

It's a bottle opener emblazoned with the image of Pope John Paul II, or as I call it, my "Popener".  You'll notice Benedict XVI hasn't made it on to any official Vatican barware yet. 

Our driver then took us back to the ship, and we boarded in time for kids' club/pub trivia/keychain acquisition, and another round of Bingo, and then Dinner with Wendy.
Enthralled watching Wendy play video games.

First cheesecake.  Plamen let the kids draw right on the linen tablecloths.


  1. Popener. Santa burial hats. Now I've seen it all.

  2. I am so happy I found your blog! I can't remember how I "linked" some sort of Disney Cruise site, but I am so glad I did. Your sense of humor is great! I'd really love to take our family on a Mediterranean cruise someday, I'm working on my husband, that and we have just booked an Eastern Caribbean on the Fantasy for May 2013. I can't wait until he reads your blog, he's gonna love it!!! Thanks!