We then headed to Farewell dinner with our Trafalgar tour group. It was a nice way to end the tour, where everyone gets to sit and have dinner again one last time. The meal was pretty much predictable by now, bruschetta plate, pasta amatriciana (pasta with tomato sauce and bacon), a veal plate for main, and tiramisu for dessert. And of course, red and white wine and bottled still water. And a meal without the opera singers isn't going to be complete, hahaha. We had a lady opera singer this time, and an accordion player. We also had a chance to greet my niece, who's birthday was coming up in a few hours. Live karaoke music also played and one of our tour group members stood up to sing, while the waitress and opera singer danced with some of our younger boys including my nephew.
Back at the hotel, it was time to say goodbye to our newfound friends. After 8 days of being together practically 12-14 hours a day, it was difficult to part ways. We had a good bunch of people in our group and we were very lucky. There were a lot of young people, which made us all enjoy the trip, contrary to our fear of being in a tour group that only had senior folks. No offense to them, but it's more enjoyable when you have folks of the same age group as you to enjoy the same things during the trip. We also intentionally chose to go on a group that was international versus a locally organized group from the Philippines. We wanted to expand our network and learn more of other cultures. After all, that's what traveling is all about.
We then headed to St. Peter's Basilica once again, but this time, the church was filled with chairs, ready for the New Year's Eve mass. We were only allowed to pass by the side hallways this time. And because we've been inside once, we quickly went to the front of the church, passing by the crowd of people and to our surprise, we were allowed to go to the back of the main altar, which was closed off during our first visit. Again, nothing is wasted in our trip, and we were now able to see a different part of the Basilica. I saw a glimpse of the adoration chapel with the Blessed Sacrament which was closed off, but you can see if from a small window on the side of the church. The Basilica was so huge, that we barely had time to go around the back of the altar. When I thought I would have reached the back, I will still on the right side of the church. So I just moved quickly forward and finally got to the middle, just behind the papal altar, where we were so close to the nave of the cathedral and the cathedral altar. Then on the left side, was an extension where the Sacristy and the Treasury lies. Didn't have time to go in and look though. It took me about 30-40 minutes to go around, and I was already rushing. That simply shows you how huge the Basilica was. Again, mind-boggling.
What a way to end a visit to Italy! Despite the places being visited were a duplicate of the first visit a few days ago, the tour today was a great way to summarize the key points of Rome, e.g. the Colloseum, Palatine Hill, Roman Forums, Vatican City, Sistine Chapel, St. Peter's Basilica, Piazza Navona, and Piazza Venezia.
To end the day, we had one last dinner. And to our surprise, we ended up in the same restaurant as the one we spent our Christmas Eve dinner in, La Tana del Rei. We booked the New Year's dinner back home and didn't have any idea what it was. Our Christmas Eve dinner on the other hand was a new option given to us during our first day. A funny incident, definitely, unforgettable. But this time, we did not have the pizza party, which was ok, but not really counts as a special celebration meal. Anyway, the menu was again pretty much predictable, but this time instead of the veal, we had the pork loin.
We had a very interesting experience at the restaurant though, cause the place was filled with tourists, mostly Asian, so the place was a bit noisy. It was then time for the opera singers to start the show and we heard some shooing. At first, I thought it was the tour guide of the other group shooing his group, but I later realized that it was the singers doing it. The group was not exceptionally noisy, so it was strange to see this. For me, I thought it was rude. I've never seen performers do that anywhere in the world. I gave them the benefit of the doubt at the start, but they did this for several times. It was really unpleasant in the end. Oh well, I refuse to let this ruin my night. After all, it was the end of the year. And in a few hours time, this will all be behind us and we will have a new beginning.
We then headed back to our hotel to check in. We had to move hotels. The hotel lobby was packed and we could see people all dressed up like celebrities. Apparently, they were waiting for their group. It was probably some New Year's celebration. We were just too tired, and we had to stand in the lobby with our luggages waiting to be checked in, as the front desk was extremely busy. After check-in, we managed to take our shower and then start to pack up and get ready for our trip back home the next day. It didn't feel like New Year's Eve as we were all quite tired. But we managed to stay up until midnight. Some of my nieces and nephews were with us in the room. We greeted each other and after a few minutes, they went to bed. Hahaha