After finding myself unexpectedly expectant while living in Switzerland for a year, I learned quickly that harrowing roadtrips up steep mountain passes were not in a pregnant girl’s best interest. Which is why, when my husband and I sat down to plan our 4 day escape to Italy, I suggested we take the train. The Swiss transit system had treated us well on many excursions throughout our 10 mos. abroad. To save money and time (both precious to starving students) we decided an overnight train would work best. I was confident these arrangements would be suitable to my first trimester misery – I had seen “White Christmas” as a child and looked forward to the spacious coaches with fluffy bunkbeds that delivered you gently to your destination while you slept. Full of excitement, I bought cute jammies and a glamorous looking eye mask.
However, I knew I was gravely mistaken that evening as we boarded the train and found our seats. Already crammed into our tiny cabin were 4 enormous Italian men, who acted vaguely displeased to see us. I looked around for some sort of additional entrance to the luxurious sleeping quarters and when none could be found, I asked my husband. He smiled at my naivety and pointed to the walls behind and above our seats, which I realized were folded-up shelves. When the time came to sleep, we would stack ourselves 3 deep onto these shelves and bump our way towards Italy. Swell.
To make matters infinitely worse, there was no air conditioning and Europe was in the middle of a heatwave. The noise from the train was so great that the men we roomed with insisted on keeping the windows shut, virtually sealing me in a sweaty Italian sandwich (I was on the second level, with one snoring below and one snoring above me). I laid there racked with the fear that if I couldn’t keep my stomach settled, I’d make some very big, very Italian men very mad. And thus began the longest night I’ve ever spent in Europe.
(Note the bed hanging over Brett’s head. Is it just me or does he look way too chipper after our night train fiasco? I guess he’s not in HIS first trimester!)
As the sun rose, I bolted from the cabin and remained the rest of the morning in the hallway, my head hanging out the wide-open windows. The miserable nighttime ride had piqued my excitement to be out wandering the streets of Rome and I was the very first off the train when it pulled in to the station. Brett and I had found a cheap hostel 30 min. outside of the city but we couldn’t check in until the afternoon. So we headed for the Colloseum.
Nothing has ever left me quite as speechless as those first few moments when we stepped out of the subway and were confronted with the grandeur of the Colloseum. There are no words to describe the spectacular size and beauty of such an ancient building, smack in the middle of modern-day Rome. I spent our entire tour with my jaw dropped.
Next to the Colloseum are acres and acres of Roman ruins. My husband, being a serious history buff, couldn’t wait to usher me from one crumbled wall to another, telling tales of Senates and Caesars that had risen and fallen on these very grounds. However, the heat was wearing me down quickly. Any girl who’s ever found herself in the first trimester knows the insatiable exhaustion that comes with it. I began to view the 2000 yr. old artifacts as nothing but an endless expanse of dirt and rubble. To make matters worse, we were still hauling our luggage around and hadn’t eaten all morning. We decided it was time to hit a nearby bakery.
Brett’s eyes widened in excitement as the sweet smell of Italian pastries wafted towards us. He ordered 4 (that’s right, FOUR) different delicacies to try, while I eyed the selection warily. I just couldn’t work up an appetite. Not for chocolate wrapped in flaky crust, not for pretty pecaned cakes, not even for piles of fresh fruit in sugary glazed cups. I bought a roll and choked it down.
Sadly, this is one of my most vivid memories of Rome. Under the merciless sun, I dragged from one spectacular monument to the next, my enjoyment and curiousity always mingled with nausea. And when it was time to sit down to another amazing Italian meal, I watched Brett devour bowls of ravlioli laced with truffle sauce while I chewed on bread.
The Lesson: Pay the extra for privacy when you’re pregnant, or you may find yourself in an Italian sandwich. And speaking of food, it will break your heart to travel to destinations full of fabulous cuisine when your appetite is non-existent. Save those vacations for the nursing months, when you’ll be able to put away pounds of pasta in a single sitting.
However, not all my pregnancy travels have been so difficult. Soon I hope to share with you my Second Trimester adventures in Aspen and San Antonio – everything looks better when you’re finally finished puking!