This year has been a big travel year for me because of my work. I have found myself in several foreign countries, usually alone, trying to see the sights in any downtime that I could muster. I don't know any language besides English and high school Spanish, so I am the epitome of the stereotypical stupid American traveler. That being said, I found myself in Rome for one day last month and, being alone, decided I would see absolutely everything I possible could in that one day. (Side note: I don't recommend this if you have any other options, you want to take your time in Rome.)
I am a big fan of history and art, so Rome is pretty much the best place on the planet for someone like me. If there was any chance of being an art major and working anywhere that doesn't end each transaction with "Would you like fries with that?", then I swear I would have bailed on Engineering and pursued Art in college. But we live in the real world here, and just like our friends with music and philosophy majors, a PHD in art is just about as lucrative as a GED. (Please, no hate mail from the 3 of you with one of the above mentioned degrees that can actually pay your mortgage.)
So, one of the biggies for me on this trip was the Vatican. I had read some things online about early entry tours and skipping the monstrous line for time savings, so I had to try it as I would be racing the clock that whole day. As with all things internet related, I was more than skeptical and trust absolutely no one. Viator had tons of excellent reviews for just such tours, but again, I was sure most of those were false and I would likely end up paying $100 to a spammer in Nepal that wouldn't know the Vatican from a vacuum.
Nonetheless, I risked it, paid my cash, and showed up on the steps of the Vatican with an internet receipt in my hand fully expecting no one to be there. I figured worst case, I would wait for the doors to open and stand in line with the rest of the people that had been swindled online. I have to say that I couldn't have been more wrong. The tour guide was there early, and was just as advertised. She spoke English perfectly and knew everything about anything that I asked. The tour, as promised, was less than 10 people in size and we were granted early access and skipped all lines. I couldn't have been more tickled with this purchase. We also saw many rooms that others without the tour hadn't seen. I didn't feel rushed and had all the time I needed. She was funny, knowledgeable, and honestly, worth every penny. It also saved me many precious hours that I spent at the other sites in Rome. I add my full endorsement to Viator tours.
Next month I will be in Shanghai, and like Rome, will only have one day off of work to see the sights. I will definitely be booking a tour with Viator and hope the tour in China will come close to the one in Rome... they have some big shoes to fill.
Monday, October 17, 2011 MeatWad