European Vacation Day 2: Ancient Rome with a Four Year Old

Here we are at the end of day two in Rome with our four year old. For many of those back home in the US, you probably are just starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel of your work day. For us, it’s past 9pm and we are exhausted. The good kind of exhausted. Today was mostly awesome.

We started our day with a guided tour of the Colosseum, the Capitoline Hill and then the Roman Forum. For me, this was outstanding. For Jodie, whose favorite subject in history is World War II, the latter part of the tour was just pretty good. For Declan, he loved the Colosseum and also chasing pigeons and seagulls away. Everybody had their takes.

Okay, down to brass tacks. The main challenge of today’s itinerary was the walking. Anybody considering doing an extended tour like this with a four year old should be prepared for them to need to be off their feet quite often. What that meant for us was a lot of me and Jodie carrying him… Up a lot of stairs. And a good distance. I ended up with just shy of 20,000 steps, probably about half of those with forty pounds of dead weight in my arms. I am exhausted.

But I had the time of my life, and I wouldn’t change anything. If we had a small stroller, that would have made parts of today easier but complicated others, namely, the stair cases. Still, something to consider if you have the opportunity.

Another thing to look out for in European cities is scam artists. We were graced by one today and he was a crafty one who targeted Declan first before I caught on what he was doing. He asked him his name, then proceeded to pull out a bracelet made in Senegal and put it on him. Then he did the same for Jodie and the moment he put it on my wrist I realized we needed to exit the situation ASAP.

Not wanting to be rude or cause a scene, I decided he had gotten us and I put a price of ten Euros on my mistake in letting him through my guard. I handed him the 10 euro bill and told him that’s all he is getting and have a nice day. When he proceeded to grab a shiny bracelet from his pocket and try to put it on Jodie’s wrist, I knew the time for being polite was over.

With a firm “No,” I told him we would not be taking any more of his bracelets and that he needed to leave. He tried pulling out a ten euro bill and a five euro bill and asked if I had a 20 euro bill to switch it out, I absolutely shut that down immediately.

For anyone unfamiliar with quick change artists, they are skilled at trying to make you think you’re getting a good deal by offering you a chance to swap bills around. Why wouldn’t I do it? Surely, getting fifteen back out of 20 when I gave him 10, that’s a better deal than just ten, right? No. Absolutely not. If I gave him another twenty, then he gave me fifteen back, he just scored another five euros off of me and I’m suddenly out more. Not going to work on this ex-Mike’s Carwash employee.

It frazzled Jodie to experience that, of course, but that’s part of the nature of many poverty-stricken people in these cities. I shut this guy down hard and told him to get out of my face, but it still soured Jodie a bit on the experience.

My point here is that if you plan to bring kids on a tour like this, keep in mind that you must simply turn down all communication from anyone trying to contact you. Accept nothing, tell them to leave you alone and firmly tell them to get lost. At no point did I feel in danger, but this still is a good lesson on one of the oldest tricks in the book in these cities.

Anyway, that small exchange and the complete tiredness of Declan were pretty much the only two hiccups along the way. Would I do today again? Absolutely. Just have to keep those things in mind.

We also hit the Pantheon and had lunch at a highly rated restaurant. Both were pretty good. The best food we had today was by far a corner deli that sold cheap delicious sandwiches. If you want to experience a city like a local, you really don’t need to spend a lot of money to eat good food. The tomato slices alone on the sandwiches were to die for. The pastries we got from another local restaurant were also delicious.

All in all, a great day. I had the time of my life walking on the same roads as the emperors and the Senate of the republic. I saw the place where Julius Caesar’s ashes were held. I walked on the legendary Palatine Hill and by the forum, where so much of Western history was decided. That’s just so cool to me, and I am more than happy I got to share it with my four year old son Declan, my wife Jodie and a few friends of ours. Declan mostly loved the Colosseum, where all the gladiator battles happened. He wished there was more gore, though… for some reason.

Tomorrow, it’s on to Vatican City. Just have to get there bright and early to avoid the lines at the major attractions.

2 thoughts on “European Vacation Day 2: Ancient Rome with a Four Year Old”

  1. I also love to think of the workers who erected all of those buildings, brick by brick. What their day was like. Their families. Their hands actually touched those buildings. With Declan’s memory, he’ll remember so much! Especially the bracelet. Haha!

  2. I love reading about your daily adventures. Did Jodie feel in danger at all? I probably would’ve been stressed after that encounter. Thank goodness it turned out ok.

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