Monday, March 30, 2015

when in...on-site class all day

I didn't post yesterday- my apologies- I was chatting with Mags and PC and I lost track of time- and also not a super ton happened. But it was Palm Sunday which is fairly exciting in Rome. I've heard from people who have been here that the pilgrim traffic for Holy Week and Easter really ramps up and I'm already starting to notice it.

I did not make the trek to St. Peter's for Palm Sunday which is a good thing because apparently I was scheduled to read (oops) so it was good that I showed up to Caravita. I also got roped into reading Holy Thursday and the Easter Vigil. But you KNOW I'll be spending some time with Papa Francesco. Because I was denied my tickets to the masses, I'm going to only the "free" (i.e. packed events) but I'M GOING. So expect me to be doing Stations at the Colosseum and Easter Sunday at the Vatican. All that Catholic school was not for nothing! I will admit that this is more churching that I think I've ever done in my life BUT- because I'm planning on being the holiest of rollers (before my travel may...ahem... get in the way of my mass attendance), I feel like I'm just building up a store of good graces.

Palm Sunday mass was actually very nice. Beforehand I should mention that I finally bought some shoes at the Porta Portese flea market. I had it in the back of my mind and my resistance isn't too good when I'm presented with exactly what I want. So I have some real made-in-italy shoes which makes me very happy. But mass actually started outside which was especially nice because the Oratory of Caravita is next to Sant'Ignazio which will feature into this post later- so it was very scenic and impressive. And I think we provided some free amusement for the tourists passing by. The palms here are different- they have leaves- and mine kept shedding which made me sad. Also I couldn't make palm crosses during the homily which is my favorite zoning-off activity. Also a shame. But I guess some things have to be different.

Besides calling back home-- and adjusting to Daylight Savings- my day was not super exciting. I went out of the house briefly in the afternoon to go to a free organ and operatic concert at the baroque church of Sant'Ignazio. I only stayed for about an hour but it's an experience to just hear this beautiful music that is actually contemporary with the space. It creates quite the historical connection experience which you KNOW I'm all about. Also- I was looking to procrastinate and I have to say- it was some of the most elaborate and elegant procrastination I've ever done. So there was that.

This morning I had a presentation for Daria Borghese at Santa Maria del Popolo. Per my usual on-site class lecture it is ALWAYS a struggle. It's not as easy to get to Piazza del Popolo (even though it's so iconic) as you would think. At least not from my apartment. I had to bus to a metro stop and got shoved in with a million Romans on the subway. It was really fun to be breathed on for my couple stops. BUT- I guess it beats walking and I got there on time which is always a plus.

The class today was on Caravaggio who is one of my favorite artists so I was actually excited to give the presentation. It's interesting- she noted at the end of class- according to present day art students- Caravaggio is an artist who has greater draw that Michelangelo and I actually agree with that. I love the light and drama of his work- so it was really enjoyable to present on (and eventually we have a research project on him). (For myself- we hit Santa Maria del Popolo, the Ara Pacis, San Luigi dei Francese, and San'Agostino). What's really great in my art snobbery is that I love the Baroque- especially the work of Bernini and Caravaggio- and so much of their work is here in Rome so I can experience it as it was intended in the city it was intended for. Which is kind of fun for me at least.

After class, me and my Caravaggio group grabbed some lunch (and then some gelato) at Dar Baeffato which was amazing again. I felt like treating myself after such a great presentation anyway. However, I was running a LITTLE late to my 2 oclock class which required a little powerwalking and a LOT of sweating. So that was not the most fun. BUT I WAS NOT LATE. So it was worth it.

This evening we had an "Imperial Rome Walking Class" for my Roman history class. So basically we started near the Palatine Hill and walked past the Colosseum to the Forum and eventually to Piazza Venezia. I wasn't exactly looking forward to it but she did a really nice job and I got some great fun facts about it. ALSO- I haven't been to the Forum area for a few weeks (SAD, isn't it) so it was really nice to go back and the weather was perfect and the sun felt great so even IF class went 45 minutes over its usual time- it was still enjoyable. I'm a nerd- I will confess I enjoyed it.

So now its just work for the rest of the night which isn't super exciting but I guess in study abroad you've got to study eventually.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

when in... the channel of your peace

It was a funny thing. Earlier this week, I thought I was due for a day trip. I didn't know where but I thought that it might just be nice to get out for a day and come back. No big deal. But, lo and behold, my subconscious must be able to see the future because- lo and behold- I had signed up for a day trip to Assisi today with AUR. I impress myself occasionally.

The downside of these AUR trips is that they leave at 7 AM which means I have to leave the apartment at 6:15 which is quite early, if you ask me. But, alas no one did. So, as a result- guess who had two shots of espresso by 6:45 in the am? But, the early bird catches the worm I guess. Or at least, this early worm finished his lit reading (where angels fear to tread by E.M. Forster- LOVED it) and got a little shuteye in before we rolled into Assisi.

Assisi was so beautiful and SO different from Rome. For one it's a medieval town whose biggest claim to fame is St. Francis and the other Franciscan saints (like St. Claire) who lived in Assisi. So our tour was very church-based which was fine with me (even though our tour guide Eduardo left a little to be desired- no matter- not everyone can be ACE quality).

But it was a beautifully clear day today which made the view from the town (which is situated on a gorgeous mountain) absolutely stunning. The churches were FREEZING though. But they had some AMAZING Giotto frescoes (so amazing that there was a moment when I dreaded that the tour guide was going to narrate every one in the church- which would have been exhausting). But- it was a realy beautiful experience.

After the tour in the church, we had a few hours to roam Assisi. We chose to climb the summit to the ruined Medieval fortress at the top of the town. We didn't pay to go inside and walk along the ramparts but we walked the perimeter and just soaked in the sun and the view which was so incredible beautiful. The whole ruined castle too was just so sublime. I felt like I should be reciting Keats or Tennyson or something. I've got to learn more poetry.

I bought a medal in one of the little giftshops just because (okay, you got me- it was too cheap not too) and I thought it would be really cool to get it blessed in the Basilica of St. Francis. So I scurried back down there with the intent of tracking down a friar for a blessing. But fortunately I didn't have to because they have a blessing booth near the entrance. How crazy is that? I just went up to the booth, asked the friar for a blessing and he pulled out his holy water and prayer book and badda-bing- my medal got a blessing, I got some holy water (and maybe a blessing- he was really running through that prayer fast- I just mumbled some amens at what seemed to be appropriate times). You've got to give it to those Franciscans- they certainly mastered the convenience for us superstitious Catholics. (I don't think the Shrine has anything that easy, does it Mommom?)

But- it wasn't long before we were back on the bus and a few hours later back in Rome. The time changes tomorrow (Italy is never exactly on time with anything, even daylight savings, so it seems) so I think I'll be boring and turn in early which is alright with me!

Friday, March 27, 2015

when in... awe of those baroque jesuits

You probably have gotten the drift that I only have class from Monday to Thursday. Well, not only did I have course registration this week- but I had another taste of reality when I had an 9AM on site class with Daria Borghese on Via del Corso. She's cancelling one of our Monday classes (apparently) and this was our makeup class. Granted, I've always had 9AMs on Fridays (or at least (9AM swims, right KB??) but it was still getting myself up early. Because class on-site class, I have to leave like an hour early to get there on time to beat the rush hour. And get there, I did. In fact, I was the first person there which made me think for a while that I went to the wrong place. And since I was stranded without wifi (per the usual) there was no way to check. But fortunately, stragglers started showing up and finally Daria herself showed up. 

Class today was Counter Reformation, Mannerism, and Baroque art. It's a shame half the class decided to skip because we went through a few major periods. Our class started at San Marcello al Corso and our lecture was sitting there in the pews. It was actually kind of sublime. We're sitting in this gorgeous church in the morning with no one there and she's lecturing history in her very lyrical voice with this recorded Baroque music playing in the background. It was almost surreal. 

For myself- I'm recording that from San Marcello, we went to the Oratory of the Holy Cross, Sant'Ignazio and then the Gesu. Each church was utterly beautiful, dramatic and impressive. It's probably all this time in Rome, but I'm really growing to love the Baroque. (Plus, when it's all explained to you, it's much more impressive and makes so much more sense).

After class, I thought I'd try to hit this early Medieval church but my plans were foiled because I forgot that churches, like everything else, close for lunch. Which is my prime church-hopping time. So I missed some great mosaics and frescoes. And, to add insult to injury, when I thought I might have time to see if the scaffolding came down from Bernin's St. Theresa that door was locked in my face too. And then it started to rain. So I returned dejected to the apartment and started doing some homework.

I was planning on going to a street food festival in Rome but the weather kind of dissuaded me (and besides the reality of my workload hit me). But I treated myself to a little Baroque marvel. At the Gesu, Daria mentioned how at 5:30, this painting above the tomb of St. Ignatius of Loyola moves to reveal this jewel-encrusted statue. So, I looked at my watch and thought, what the heck and got on the tram. 

Let me tell you. It was such an experience. I got there a little early so I was able to take in the whole church for a while and then, (a little after 5:30, it is Italy after all) magnificent classical music started playing, this priest started saying these prayers (and that went on for about ten minutes) but it was still pretty incredible to just hear the music fill the space and reverberate throughout the church. But, as promised, all of a sudden, the painting started lowering down, accompanied by "glorias" and dramatic lighting, and this gem-encrusted statue of St. Ignatius was revealed in all its glory. It sounds a little anticlimactic but it was such an experience with the lights, music, and environment and I was VERY happy with it.

So happy, in fact, I ran to the grocery store and treated myself to some salmon before going to an original-language movie theater on the Corso to watch Foxcatcher. It was fun to actually go to a movie theater again and sneak some candy into the theater. I still don't know how I feel about the movie but it was nice to do something pretty easy tonight because I have to be up SUPER early because I'm going to Assisi tomorrow to commune with St. Francis on an AUR trip! Speaking of which- I should get to bed. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

when in... the best exhibit I've seen so far

You know what Wednesday means- MUSEUM DAY! (I'm really hoping I can continue this tradition back at home- I'm becoming quite the museum connoisseur- I've started making comments about exhibit layout and design and the such---- who am I??) Just to prove that I'm gaining some exhibit credibility, I'm going to call the "Matisse: Arabesque" exhibit today the best I've seen so far in terms of layout, space, and actual art. It was SO fantastic. The perfect way to begin the second half of the semester.

I wish I could have taken pictures, but unfortunately- NO. The guard politely told me that if I really wanted pictures of the art I could buy the catalog. Gotta love that Italian sense of humor. I've included a few of my favorite pics so I don't forget them- but they're from google- not from my camera. The whole exhibit was centered around Matisse and how he was influenced by Africa, Arabia, and the Far East. So the way the exhibit was laid out was one side (generally) there would be the actual art (which was INCREDIBLE- Matisse is just one of my favorites ever since Mrs. Monahan first showed my art class some of his work at St. Jude) and on the other side would be African masks or Turkish tiles or Chinese tapestries. You get the idea. So it was really great to be able to read a casual Matisse quote about how he and Picasso were marveling over an African statue at Gertrude Stein's house and then see a contemporary statue that they MIGHT have been looking at. So- in short- really incredible exhibit layout.
Moorish Screen
It was interesting- a couple pieces were from the Philadelphia Museum of Art which made me nostalgic a little bit. But probably the highlight of the exhibit (not including some of the paintings) was the fact that there was this little old Italian man who would keep going back and forth between a few paintings. And I eventually went to see what he was doing and he was telling the guard all about how there's "some magic moment" when the art almost leaves the canvas. He was really excited about this and then he told me and then he told like five other people and it was all kind of amusing. And he was actually right. When you would stand where he pointed, you really got this fantastic view of the art and you really understand Matisse's genius.
Interior with a Phonograph
The old Italian man's fav painting to show the
"magic moment" of Matisse. 
I was actually pretty proud of myself because I've committed to really trying to get much more Italian down. So the fact that I could understand most of what he was so excited about was really quite thrilling to me. (But I got out of Dodge before I had to think of some response because my Italian has not quite progressed to the vocabulary of art criticism).

When we left, the rain had slowed down so before going back to the apartment, I decided to stop in the Chiesa di Gesu, the mother church of the Jesuits. It's supposed to be one of the best churches in Rome but I always pass by the church on Sundays when there's mass going on and I feel weird doing my touristy thing while the priest is saying mass (also I'm terrified I'll get yelled at by one of the sacristans who- here in Rome- can be very territorial and like telling people to leave). And it was really worth it. Give me a Baroque church with some incredible frescoes and a stunning dome, and I'll be quite a happy camper. I lit a candle near the tomb of St. Ignatius Loyola for some people at home because I hadn't lit a candle in a while and I thought it'd be a nice thing. Plus it's just fun to light the candles. I'm not a pyro- I promise.

The rest of the day was "blah" (which is a nice way to describe that absolutely miserable weather that we're having- wind, rain, cold- it's like I'm back home). Class bored me- so I don't want to bore you. The one highlight (before the chicken marsala I made myself) was that as I was coming back into the apartment- this old lady lady started talking to me and told me I was a "bello ragazzo" (a handsome boy) and she gave me a hug and a kiss. Was it random? Completely. But you know returned the hug and the compliment and went on my way feeling much better about my day.

Because- after all- that's life- even during the rainiest, day- you might find an elderly Italian lady to cheer you up. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

when in...spring break

So, clearly I haven't blogged for a while- but don't hold it against me- between spotty wifi, lack of a computer, a distaste for typing on my phone, and a dead phone charger- it's been a technological struggle for me. Which is fair enough considering the amazing week I just had- I guess some casualties are inevitable. I would love to create a full post for every day but instead I'm just going to write down a few anecdotes from each day of the trip along with an itinerary and some pictures. If you check on the right, the albums "Gaudi Nights" and "Pretty Nice" will lead you to all my pictures from spring break- so if looking at pictures is more your thing- that's there for you.

Here are just a few stats to keep you occupied. I traveled with Bridget (my constant museum companion, for those who are pretty devoted readers) and Jaci- so we were a traveling trio. We left on Monday morning and got back on Sunday night. In between all that, we walked a total of 56 miles during the whole week. If you're wondering why I've been sleeping incredibly well- well, that's why. Still trying to wrap my head around that number. But, in 56 miles, you can imagine that we saw a lot in both Barcelona and in the Riviera.

Don't ask me which was my favorite because they were both so fantastic and so different. And each leg of the trip was different too- and it wasn't just because we were in a hostel in Spain and a house in France. France was a lot of short trips to many towns while Spain was more an in depth look at all that Barcelona had to offer. So, sorry Nicole- I refuse to say which was my favorite. But, I will say, that I am so happy I chose those specific places to travel just because it was exactly what I wanted out of a break- the ocean, nice weather, beautiful surroundings, and great food.

So...shall we delve into it, then?

Day 1: Monday in Barcelona

La Sagrada Familia

The cathedral of La Sagrada Familia is probably the most impressive site I've ever seen in my life. If you've never heard of it, it is this fantastic Modernist Catholic cathedral designed by Gaudi, who is the biggest architect in Barcelona and actually one of my new favorite people ever. His work dominates Barcelona and we were able to almost pilgrimage to his most famous buildings and parks in the city throughout the next few days. As I said in my last post, La Sagrada Familia isn't finished yet. But it's been consecrated and even unfinished it is just so spectacular. They are no straight edges and each angle delights and amazes you. If you don't watch it, you'd just sit there- dazzled by the light and the color and the size. I've committed to coming back to Barcelona when it's done just to see the finished product. If the work in progress stunned me, I can only imagine how the finished Cathedral will look.

For an additional fee, you could climb one of the towers. It was completely worth it because not only did you get a greater appreciation for the finished and in-construction building but you really got the most incredible view of Barcelona. We kind of just stumbled upon Sagrada Familia and it was the first major thing we did after dropping our bags off at the hostel, and it set the perfect tone for the trip. Beautiful, dazzling, slightly bizarre ala Gaudi, and exhausting. It was a LOT of steps, even if there was an elevator one the way up. 

Gaudi Buildings on Passeig de Gracia

Tapas in Gothic Quarter
Not surprisingly, one of my favorite parts of Barcelona was the food. Again, early on, the tone was set for the trip. Barcelona is right by the sea, so the Catalan cuisine is dominated by seafood- which is all right with me- especially a nice huge dish of paella. Food was also relatively cheap- which was very refreshing after Rome. Here's an example. For lunch, for 5 euro, you got a large starter, an entree, desert, wine, and water. I could not believe how large the Catalan sausage I got was- it alone was bigger than some meals I order in Rome for twice the price. Needless to say, I was pretty happy.

But my favorite part of Spanish cuisine is the tapas life. The Spanish eat very late- which took some getting used to. Don't even think about going to a restaurant before 10 unless you want to shout your tourist status. But, just ordering tons of tapas and sharing it with the table was exactly what you wanted after a long day. Plus, it allowed me to do my favorite thing- and try tons of food for a pretty cheap price. For the first night, we ventured into the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona which is basically like stepping back into time. Barcelona was a surprisingly modern city with wide, spacious sidewalks and streets. But in the Gothic Quarter, you were back on the winding cobblestone streets with zero sidewalk space. Fortunately- unlike Rome- there aren't motorcycles whizzing down these tiny streets, so you could really appreciate just how picturesque it was. 

Day 2: Tuesday in Barcelona

Park Guell

This was Bridget's must see for the trip and with good reason. The most famous site in Park Guell is this incredible semicircular mosaic bench with is just incredibly intricate and beautiful AND had a great view of the city. However, the park is rather large (and on a mountain), so there's lots more to see and it's dominated by beautiful plants and some bizarre kinda Gothic-gone-natural architectural structures. Of course, our new favorite architect Gaudi designed the park. I mean, how do you even have enough creativity to design a building, let alone a whole park? The whole space was just incredibly beautiful and the sun was shining. It was basically a great trip. 

We just sat on the bench for a while taking everything in- the scenery, the nature, the people, the mosaics, and Barcelona before going into an embarrassingly long photo-shoot. No regrets though, some pretty great pics were taken. One of my favorite things from this was that there was this grade school trip at the park and they had a mosaic scavenger hunt (what a great idea, Barcelona art teacher!) so they were scouring the bench for what they needed as only ten year olds can. And, of course, we were right next to one of the tiles. So basically, every couple minutes a group of kids would come over and get really excited when they would find this "13" tile which was hysterical for me. But it was also just fun helping them out along the way. It was almost the perfect whimsical touch for a space which has just that touch of natural whimsy. 

Lunch along the Marina

Beach
I love the beach. I mean, who don't know that. I just really wanted to see the ocean. And sure, it may have been windy and a little cold, but I did stick my feet in. It was freezing. I took a beach walk. It was great. I just kept thinking- it is FREEZING at home and I am on the BEACH in SPAIN. Even though Pat's maxim doesn't apply in Barcelona (because it's on the Med. Sea), I still thought of it. 

After a big lunch of paella, it was time to relax a little and what better place to relax then the ocean. It was kind of unintentional. But all three of us just laid down and slept for about an hour. Which was the perfect pick-me-up. You can't just keep going all day long, or you'll go crazy (or crazier). And nothing calms me down more than the ocean. I usually am anti-nap, but on the beach, different rules apply. 

Major walking along the sea and up a hill

Olympic Park
So, after the nap, we did a LOT of walking. Things look much closer on the map but it turns out that there was so MAJOR distance from the beach to the Olympic Park. As if by chance, a cable car appeared before us. So, obviously, unless we wanted to turn back (WHICH WAS NOT AN OPTION) we took the car up to the top of the mountain. It was pretty great until the car came to a sudden stop and for the briefest second, I thought I might be going down. Fortunately, clearly I did not die and we reached the top where there was this amazing fort with actually only sub-par views (it was onto the working port- not exactly scenic). But it was still a castle/fort with cannons. I was still impressed. 

When we were in the cable car, we saw this amazing slide so obviously we had to check it out. Turns out, it was a lot faster than it looked, at least for me. I definitely did wipe out getting off the slide. It was more hysterical than anything else (but my pride hurt a little (also my hands and hip, but no worries, that'll mend). So, hopefully, my klutziness entertained someone and was not for naught. But, that's why I carry bandaids with me at all times, right?

MNAC and Magic Fountain (no show but still great)

Walk down the long subway tunnel to transfer trains
Cheap dinner in hostel

Day 3: Wednesday in Barcelona

Picasso Museum
This was my must-see for the trip. I'm a nerd, I can't help it. I really wanted to see the Picasso Museum and- let me tell you- it did NOT disappoint. In fact, it blew my mind out of the water it was so impressive. Basically, it consisted of his artistic journey from like age 12 to his death. So, you could really see how he progressed and grew as an artist which admittedly sounds a little dry- but seeing it right there in front of you, you're like "WOW, this is great- I wish I could take pictures without the guards yelling at me."

Not going to lie, one of the best parts of it was that it was FREE for students. I love free. I mean, who doesn't love free. But, I was like "PERFECT- This is what I want to see and it's free- it is FATE." I wonder if it was also fate that I probably spent an equal amount of money in the AMAZING gift shop. So I didn't REALLY save money. In fact, if I had unlimited money, I think all my possessions would be furnished from that store- it was THAT good. I really wanted that Picasso espresso set. But alas, the tightwad in front of me, just kept directing me to the postcards and stationary. Probably for the best. 

La Boqueria

This was another must-see for everyone. The best way I can describe it is as a Spanish Reading Terminal with a lot more seafood. Does that sound amazing enough? Because I wish I could capture how incredible this place was. It was full of as much chaotic energy as incredible food. I kept just trying things (it was my lunch, I'm allowed) and had the best croquettes in the world there. And SO much candy. After ogling at some chocolate for two long, I couldn't shoo away the bag any longer and I DID end up buying and immediately eating the candy. No regrets. 

What is it about me and food? Is it my one true love? I don't know- but I was indescribably happy there. I just love the energy of markets. I wish I could always buy my food from the markets here in Europe but I need the supermarket prices most of the time and it can be hassle in the castle- but for a visit and for lunch- it's so worth it. We later ate our purchases along La Rambla, the most famous street in Barcelona. So, we were able to gorge food and people watch. What's better than that? 

H&M on La Rambla
I bought a Picasso-esqe shirt in honor of the museum here for an amazing price. I couldn't afford not to. I don't know why we all lied and said we just wanted to "see what a Spanish H&M looked like. Yeah right."

Arc de Triomf

Parc de la Ciutadella
This trip was dominated by a few themes- and one of them was PARKS. We went to SO many parks. And there were ALL amazing. This one- with the amazing Cascading Fountain and Woolly Mammoth statue was one of the best. It was just so large and spacious and beautiful- much like Barcelona, itself. I took a pretty stunning explorer pic in front of it. At this point, we were doing a LOT of exploring in Barcelona. 

"The Spanish Night"

Day 4: Thursday in Barcelona/Nice 

Brunch

After the Spanish night and an early check out, I think a real breakfast was in order. So, we scoured the beach for a brunch place. Let me tell you, there are NO brunch places right on the water. Barcelona, take my advice- you are missing out on a great opportunity. We had to go about a block in and it was still GREAT, but STILL. Actually, we had brunch outside the Mercat de La Barceloneta which was still a nice market but not as nice as the other. But, it was nice to have a relaxing brunch. And it was SUPER relaxing. We had brunch for TWO hours. And the food was great AND the guy brought us free (but really crappy) champagne because he must have liked us so much. It was a nice gesture, even if it wasn't a nice glass.

Walk along the beach in lots of wind

Flight to Nice
Traveling is exhausting. And EasyJet didn't have enough room to stow my bag, so guess whose duffel was between his legs? It was a super comfy flight, let me tell you. 

Dinner in Nice with Lindsay
So, after landing we met up with Lindsay (there was a bit of confusion at first, but it was easily resolved). Staying with Lindsay was one of the highlights of my trip, I'm not going to lie and it wasn't just because her amazing house is on the French Riviera (though that helped). The last few days spent in a real bed, in a real house, with a real family were just so needed and refreshing. It actually made me a little homesick for my OWN family after spending time with such an amazing one. Also, Lindsay reminded me a lot of people from home (because she's FROM home) and for me, that was really nice. It felt like home for me, which was very special.

The first night, Lindsay took us into Nice and we had dinner along the Cours Saleya. Again, Nice is right by the ocean- so it was SUPER nice to just see the sea. And the dinner was fantastic and relaxing, especially after a long flight. As soon as we got back to her house in Grasse, though, I think we all passed right out. 

Day 5: Friday in Antibes and Nice 

Antibes

We started our day in Antibes, a smaller town right along the sea. Right away, you can tell it is going to be great, because the ocean is just fantastic and the yachts are so impressive and the town is just gorgeous and scenic and cute. I loved it.

We wandered around the town for a while and took in the shops and the squares and the sea. It was really great to just walk along the sea for a while and just stare at the ocean. I know that sounds like a PC thing to do- but it was just really so nice. The coast was rocky and reminded me a lot of Maine, if Maine had walls and fortresses and tiny little houses along the sea. But, I guess Antibes would remind me more of Maine if there was a little old Frenchwoman who solved the inordinate amount of murders in the town. So, all's fair. 

Lunch in Antibes Square outside

Train to Nice
After lunch, we decided we wanted to see Nice while we had time and it was only a short train ride. So, we all bought our tickets and waited on the platform. Problem was, it was the WRONG platform. So, after we realized that (too late) we went to the RIGHT platform for the next train but were kind of freaking out about if the conductor caught us with the wrong ticket. So the whole time, I'm thinking of Italian phrases and idiot American expressions to get us out of it and Jaci and Bridget are practicing their French. Of course, not only was there not a problem, no one even came to check the tickets. We didn't even NEED tickets. But, isn't that always the way.

Nice

Nice was very French, very beautiful, and much larger. There were a lot of really nice parks. We walked the streets and walked along the sea (at first we walked much faster because Bridget and I were looking for a bathroom). The colors of the town were just so vibrant and incredible. That alone was great enough. But the town had some great energy to it, as well. We hit the Cathedral, the main square, the Opera House, the Flower Market, among some other things just to pass by. 

We decided to walk up to a park on a hill to get a great view. I'm sure this park has a real name, but I don't know what it was. It WAS a long way up the hill though and the wind REALLY picked up. But it was still worth it. The view from the top was primo. But you definitely EARNED that view, that is for DARN sure. 

When we climbed down the mountain, we chilled in this brand new park that looked like it had the most amazing playground ever (but after my slide escapade, I stayed FAR away) and bizarrely a statue of David. Don't ask me why. But, then we found our way to wifi (pronounced WEE-FEE in France) and got in contact with Lindsay and made our way home. 

Crazy 8s
After dinner, I taught Ella how to play crazy eights (very Mommom, of me, I know). Unfortunately, she got better than me and started beating me. So, basically, it was time for bed. 

Day 6: Saturday in Monaco and Cannes 

Hot breakfast with Ella
Never take a hot American breakfast for granted again. 

Car Time
On Saturday, Lindsay was a true champ and drove us around to Monaco and Cannes. This was GREAT because we got to see a lot, and some of it was from the comfort of the backseat listening to Riviera Radio (okay, sometimes we were really jamming to the radio, but who cares?)

Monaco

Of course I had to go to Monaco and pay my tributes to Princess Grace at the Palace. So we climbed yet another hill and made our way to the stunning square at the top where the Cathedral and the Palace are. I did really think " THIS WAS GRACE KELLY'S HOUSE." Of course, becoming a Philadelphia-born princess is not in the cards for me, but I still felt the Grace Kelly connection (you can be damn sure I've been watching Grace Kelly clips since I've gotten back to Rome). 

Monaco is small but it is still a beautiful place, especially at the top with the stunning view of the harbor and the sea. Again, super vibrant colors and dramatic cliffs and just beauty all around you. I understood why Grace gave up Hollywood for it. Monaco WAS a fairyland. AND it was another country I can check off my list. 

Ride along Grand Prix Route

Son of a Bun on harbor

Cannes

Shopping
The weather was starting to turn when we got to Cannes but we saw where the Festival happens and Lindsay regaled us with a few stories she had about the Festival. V cool. In Cannes, we went along the main shopping route and we did some shopping. Or at least some window shopping in my case. Ella really wanted to go to FNAC which was like the French child of a Barnes and Nobel and Best Buy. So it was an incredible store even if all the books were in French. I still found the Tintin and looked at the pictures. I am such a child. And I was supposed to be watching a child too. Scary. 

Fragonard
Bought some gifts here at this perfumery, located in Grasse- Lindsay's town, the perfume capital of the world. Not telling you for who, though!

Chinese Food
Don't take Chinese food for granted either. I miss it. Thank God Lindsay suggested it. 

Monopoly
I'm going to use the lateness of the hour as the excuse, but Ella did beat me and Bridget in Monopoly. In our defense, all of us had been pretty invested in Monsters University for the last hour. I thought Ella had given up on Monopoly. But she was like an elephant, she never forgot. And a promise IS a promise. 

Day 7: Grasse to Rome 

Pancakes
Another American luxury to enjoy- chocolate chip pancakes. Great start to a Sunday morning. All it needed was a little Sinatra...

Fragonard in Grasse
We spent a very short time in the actual town of Grasse. We saw the Perfume Museum which was  kind of cool (they had some ancient perfume bottles and such) and a pretty amazing store. But it was still Sunday, so lots was closed. But still, Ella took us to the main square and we saw the quiet center of Grasse.  

Drive along the Coast
I have never seen a more beautiful blue sea in my life. 

Flight back
Did I say traveling was exhausting before? But it is good to be back in Home sweet Rome.