Thursday, April 30, 2015

when in... a dreary city during finals prep

Sorry for not being super present lately but there hasn't been a lot to write about. The weather has been major BLAH which has honestly been great because it's given me an excuse to not wander and get my work done which has honestly been pretty successful. I've said it before but I really don't find the workload here that rough. So, I've also been spending a ton of time planning my post-semester trips. So as of right now I both have transportation and accomodations in Florence, Bologna, and Venice AND a train ride to Vienna. Now I just got to make plans for 8 more days. Haha.

There were a few notable moments in the last couple days that are not exactly highlights but they are stories. On Monday I had my last history walking class. I've mentioned these before, Cathy carts us around the city and tells us historical facts pertinent to our class. Actually, these classes-- while not always the most exciting or fun- times are actually helpful in knowing what I've been seeing (and then telling other people about it like I've always known). It's a shame though, I recently realized my La Salle tour facts are leaving me, replaced by Rome facts. But something tells me that families on tour this summer will not be interested in the the three major corsos from Piazza del Popolo. Huh...
The Sass Queen herself- CC 
Anyhow. Monday was the last such class and the walk was going to be a long one anyway. From Largo Argentina to Piazza del Popolo. I'm putting the names mainly for my mom and Nicole (If they read it) because it's a sizable walk. And... oh... 10000 percent chance of rain. So, we hop on the bus, we get to Argentina and wouldn't you know it starts to rain. No... POUR. And we're all thinking, Cathy is reasonable. She's just call this off. NO. WRONG. She did not. We get to the Pantheon. Literally everyone is SOAKING wet. I was walking with water in my shoes. So, the rain gets horrendous (we got inside to see the Rain come through the dome, v. cool) and we're waiting for her to be like, "Oh, heck- we can't be sure- but this probably isn't going to let up- go home and make some dinner." NO. NO. NO. WE FINISHED THE WALK TO THE MAUSOLEUM OF AUGUSTUS. MILES in the RAIN. And it was so miserable that it was beyond even the funny/this is so ridiculous rain. Because it was like I had gone wading in the Tiber. And if you've seen the Tiber, that's not something you EVER want to do. And at the end, in Piazza Navona, she was like- "Well- at least you can say you did it." And I was just like- I NEVER wanted to be able to say I trudged through Rome in the pouring rain and couldn't leave because I've already used up my free absences in the class. So that was a fun day.
Kasey's thumbs up is a lie-
It was not even slightly OKAY
Tuesday, I had my Italian Oral exam which I actually think went pretty well. I was the last one to go out of my group and it was kind of unnerving waiting in the hall as everyone files in one by one until it was just little old me. But I was proud of myself. I managed not to stress too much and I think my stress was unneccessary. Always a good thing. I also had training for American University of Rome Ambassadors. Because I was hired as an ambassador thanks to a faculty recommendation from Daria AND Cathy. V. Thrilled. Basically, all I have to do is go to the Study Abroad fair (which I think I'd have to do anyway) and I get paid 50 bucks. Sounds alright with me. And I got a free bag and hat which is DEFINITELY all good with me.

But, like I said, I've been plugging away at planning and at working and writing. This weekend I have a couple rough ideas planned. Maybe I'll go to the beach (Maybe not). Maybe I'll go to Orvietto. I think on Sunday I want to go to the Lateran and see the Museum of the Liberation, a free museum that was closed both times I've been past. Or maybe I'll just sit and read in the Protestant Cemetary. I found a big Italian bookstore that has an English book section so I think today I'll run some errands (for a few things) including some books for myself for my trips. Exciting stuff.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

when in greece for 48 hours (part 2, last 24 hours)

I hope you don't mind that I split up the post, I just thought it would be easier to read in different parts. BUT MAKE SURE YOU READ BOTH. Greece is worth your time. It was only the birthplace of all western civilization.

I went to Athens with Bridget who is a classics major which means she was geeking out probably more than me about going to the Acropolis. So between the three of us it wasn't difficult to decide to get up relativley early to enjoy the INCREDIBLE complimentary breakfast that had great coffee and FREE water (which is such a luxury in Italy) before catching the sub to the Acropolis. And then we were there.

Wow. The pictures don't capture how long the walk to the top is. Or the dust (my sperrys are going to need a good clapping out). Or just how drop-dead amazing it is. Like, how your mind is almost blown almost five seconds. It was just like- I can't believe I saw it. It gets to the point where it's almost unreal-- and that's just climbing up. Actually getting to the top and seeing the Ladies on the columns (I know it's actually called the Erechtheion, but I referred to them as "the Ladies" the whole trip long") and the PARTHENON. I mean- I made a scale model in freshman year at LC. (I think I did a pretty good job).

So, the acropolis was just one of those things that I felt was completely worth all the hype because it just blew your mind by its size, by just how impressive the ruins were, and the incredible views of the city from the top. You understand why people loved the ancient greeks (even if I prefer the Romans) because it was amazing.

The other amazing thing about the Acropolis (and Greece in general) was that using my Italian, I was able to get EU discounts on the tickets. Which means I got my tickets for free. FREE. I went to the temple of Poseidon and the Acropolis and the Museum for FREE. Really helped the budget out. ANd this amazingly free ticket to the Acropolis included a bunch of sites/ruins that were smaller/less famous but equally amazing. We walked the agora which was HUGE and saw more temples. It was truly a day of antiquity. Which was fine by me.

Also, you can't have a trip without a museum and we went to the Acropolis museum (did I tell you I got in for free). It was one of the best museums I've been to. It's a very modern building and part of the ground floor has glass ceilings which meant that you could see excavations beneath and there were glass walls around most which meant that you had surronding views of Athens and the Acropolis all around you. AND SO MUCH incredible ancient art. It was like living in an art history textbook. I kept being like, OH MY GOD, I saw that in Art History. OH  MY GOD, I know what that is. After a while it almost becomes redondant.

Of course, Athens isn't just ruins and reminsences on the ancients. I hate when people treat Rome that way so I would never do it to the Greeks, even if I don't like them as much as the Romans. They did give me discounts after all. We walked this incredible flea market and had lunch right off of it after being drawn in by a guy who did the street sell extremely well (better than the Italian guys). The lamb I had was to die for (I did order it for my big fat greek wedding reasons). We also spent some time in the National Gardens near the Parliament building. This was a really NICE park and it was also just nice to sit and talk and have access to a WC since everyone had been hydrating all day (cause we were all a little/a little more sick). When nature calls, I answer. So chilling on some ruins of a column in the park- that was pretty awesome.

For dinner we headed back to the Acropolis so we could have dinner by the Acropolis and see it by night. (They lit it up minus the fanfare, did you hear that, FORUM?) Maybe it wasn't the cheapest place (still cheap) but there was great view and for pretty cheap we got a meat platter that was ridiculous in both size and goodness. And that view. Wow.

So, it was a short trip but the weather was great, the people were nice, the food was great and cheap, and the sites were amazing. So I think it was a success.

when in... greece for 48 hours (part 1, the first 24 hours)

I would love to greet you in Greek but unfortunately in 48 hours I wasn't able to catch any Greek. It's hard enough trying to catch Italian but through in a completely foreign sounding langauge and a new alphabet-- well, sometimes that's asking just a little TOO much.

But yes, I did spend the weekend in Greece. It was actually one of my very few weekend trips that I planned during the semester. Because travel... it's sooo exhausting. But I wanted to see Athens. Well, actually, the Acropolis. And I thought "Why not" and now I can say I went to Greece. (By the way, I don't get stamps for any European countries I go to becasue I'm traveling in the Eurozone which is convenient but not always super aesthetically nice). 

So Friday morning we left at 4 in the AM. YES the middle of the night. But that's what you have to do if you don't want to sleep overnight in the airport, right Nicole? So, a cab it was. But everything goes off without a hitch, I sleep through my NPR podcast on the plane (I'm on a huge podcast kick right now-- my favorite-- Invisibilia (a new NPR one) and This American Life (a classic one)). Athens wins the prize as the most rachet of all European cities. I mean, boy did that city have character. It was a CITY with all the dirt and grit and aimless groups of people who made you acutely nervous walking the street with all your posessions in a backpack. But it also had DINERS (okay, it had dinerish type places. I mean, most diners in America are run by Greeks, right?) Okay, I superimposed diner meaning on this restaurant we went to- but it really FELT like a diner (and boy did it's bathroom look like one, if you know what I mean). 

As an aside here's a basic generalization about Greece. You can tell its a nation in economic depression. I mentioned aimless groups of men. You can guess why they're aimless. There's a lot of neglet. A ton of grafitti. And some things just looked just run down and old. Trash piled up in the streets. Do you get the picture? It's not ridiculous things but it was almost like the usual city "problems" are amplified by the fact that like everyone is out of work. I mean, everything is cheap which is AWESOME but, if you'll excuse the language, it comes at a price. 

So, we fly into Athens. We go to our hostel and check in-- we were on the fifth floor of a decent hotel (NOT HOSTEL- we were in a public dorm in a hotel, so that was nice). It was kind of weird because we had to go up a ratchet flight of stairs into this tiny hallway into this room that was a mix of attic/basement (there were no windows). Also the shower had no curtain. It just SAT there. It made a huge mess. Hence, I'm un-showered right now because ONE shower mess was enough. But then we did lunch at Joy's (my diner with the food that was SO cheap it was almost funny and GOOD- Joy made me an amazing gyro) and then we decided that we wanted to go to the Temple of Poseiden. 

Turns out, while the pictures looked really amazing online they did NOT show that it was a TWO hour bus ride. Which was fine- more shuteye time and it was COMPLETELY worth it. Completely. Oh- I should mention, the bustop was across from this park which looked interesting. Beware of Greeks in parks. That park made me fear my safety. There were way too many questionable characters at the park for 2 in the afternoon. So, there's my Rick Steves advice for you. But, soon we were on this bus and going and going and going and soon we were on the southernmost point of the Attic peninsula. SO COOL. 

This place was just incredibly beautiful. Mountainous, on the sea, just majestic. The ruins of the temple rise on this hill and look over the sea and you're just struck by how magnificent and grand but ALONE it is. After walking around the ruins it was great to just sit on the cliffs and look at the landscape and take in the sounds of the seashore. Just sublimely beautiful. 

But then... back on the bus. Back to Athens. To dinner. To attic/basement and to Bed. Because it was EXHAUSTING. And because yesterday was the centerpiece/cause of the trip: THE ACROPOLIS. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

when in... rome's bday party

The last few days weren't particularly exciting but they had their highlights. And besides, Rome in the spring is just fantastic so every day is pretty great. Weather-wise alone it is just beautiful. I'm about to give up my attempts at assimilation because I haven't worn shorts in Rome yet and I think it's high time to give up assimilation for comfort. I'm pretty sure NO ONE is comfortable by how much I am sweating when I go outside.

Of course, just as the weather gets beautiful things begin winding down. There's only one more week of classes which is just BLAH. I can't believe it and I'm definitely not ready for the semester to come to a close, even if I will be traveling for the two weeks after the semester (speaking of which-- I've got to start locking all my plans down).

On Monday was my LAST on-site art history class with Daria Borghese. So sad. It was such a great lesson to, all about Michelangelo and Bernini. And we weren't freezing our butts off like the first few weeks of class. But so it goes. Just when there's nothing I want more than to walk around Rome in the morning learning about history and art while Daria lectures, BOOM it's done.

Monday was also my double presentation day. Because I had a total of 3 hours of presentation (or at least 3 hours of class that were filled with presentation) I wore my teacher clothes in honor of the event. When you look good, you feel good, and you'll do good. Right? And I think I did GREAT. But I'm pretty sure you don't want to hear about religious discrimination and religious freedom on the Indian subcontinent OR about the public image of the Emperor Hadrian. The kind of bummer was that BOTH my presentations were for my girl, Cathy who I have for TWO classes on Mondays and Wednesdays. So Cath got a lot of ME presenting time. I hope she liked it. I, at least, like that my days of group projects are done… at least here in Rome. 

Yesterday was Rome's birthday party. She turned 2768 years old. Exciting stuff right? Actually they were hosting a birthday party for her at the forum so Bridget Paige and I went to see what was up. Daria had promised FANTASTIC music and a lightshow from the GREATEST lighting artist in the world. Turns out there must have been a translation issue. 

Don't get me wrong, the weather was gorgeous and it was nice to have an excuse to walk the Foro Imperali on a beautiful spring evening-- but the music turned out to be an actually fantastic orchestra composed of what seemed to be middle school students. They were GREAT. But we weren't sure if we were missing a somewhat… BIGGER show… so we walked down to the Colosseum. Eventually we found the area of the Forum that looked like there was going to be a "light show." And there were bleachers and cameras and newsmen so I was getting pretty excited. 

Turns out it was a pretty anticlimactic "show." It was basically turning on all the lights on the forum in a really slow manner. Which is actually different because all winter long the forum is just in the dark at night- there ARE no lights. And it was super nice but it was NO show. I was expecting a disney quality performance of lights and music and there were just basic lights and NO music and actually NO hurry. A pretty big crowd had gathered and everyone got PRETTY restless when we realized that was IT.

But, like I said, it gave us an excuse to go downtown and OF COURSE to get gelato (I tried a simply lovely rose-flavored gelato- amazing). But still, I was sorry that Rome's party was so lame. I hate to compare Italy to America but I think I can say that we celebrate America's birthday with a little more pizazz. And fireworks. Some fireworks would have gone a long way.

Also, I got my haircut before the party. It was another experience. I got it cut by an old Italian guy, Dino. There was a major language barrier though I held my own for a while. And Dino did a super nice job. I assumed that that's what getting your hair cut from Mommom's dad would have been like in his barber shop. So I had a nostalgic moment... THINKING OF YOU MOMMOM!

Monday, April 20, 2015

when in...sorrento and the nearest thing to heaven

So I just got back from a lovely trip along the Naples Bay. I stopped off at Sorrento to have a holiday. Which explains my (relative silence) because I'm pretty sure internet goes spottier as you go further south. Which is no matter because when you've got views of the sea, you really don't need much of anything else.

The Sorrento trip was run through the school (the last of the school trips I signed up for-- a little bittersweet) but it was the trip I was looking forward to the most. Partially because I'd get to check off a couple sites that I really wanted to see off my list (Vesuvius, Pompeii, etc) but mostly because there were promises of the beach, of the sea... i.e of VACATION. Which I'll never say no to.

So Friday we set off bright and early (SO EARLY) for Mount Vesuvius. What is there to say of an early morning busride? Not much except that (thanks to the NPR podcast murmuring in my ear), I slept almost the whole ride. Which was alright with me. Because our first "event" was to climb to the summit of Mt. Vesuvius which was pretty exciting. I mean, the views were simply spectacular-- just stunning to see the bay and Naples and everything. But, it's also pretty crazy to think that the mountain you're climbing on is a volcano. A VOLCANO. I'm not going to lie, there was a moment when I wished I had paid greater attention in 5th grade science when we did volcanoes so I could know all the science of the thing... but alas.

Still, it was a very nice hike and the weather was nice enough and the views were spectacular and it was a great place to have a picnic lunch (even if there were no trashcans on the path-- a lie perpetrated by every person in the huts selling overpriced cheapo goods-- I KNOW YOU HAVE A TRASHCAN IN THERE). We left the volcano just as it started to drizzle which seemed like a good omen. Hiking in the rain can't be fun, even with everything Vesuvius has going for it.

But it was great because we were heading to Sorrento- a place which I wish I could have spent days. Our hotel was SUPER nice-- a rooftop deck with a view of the harbor and everything. How great is that? And Sorrento was beautiful- with gorgeous views of the sea, beautiful trees and flowers, and lemons everywhere. It was a good place to be a limoncello lover. We had some time to wander around town and see what the town had to offer before enjoying some pre-dinner chill time on the roof.

Saturday was an early day but it was all worth it because we were going to the isle of Capri. So at 8:30 we had trekked down to the ferry and we were on our way to perhaps the most beautiful place I've ever been in my life. It's just hard to describe how incredible this place, with its cute houses perched on the hill and the dramatic peaks of the sea.

I succumbed to seeing the Blue Grotto and taking a boat ride around the island. Those guys are true pirates-- the prices were highway robbery-- but it was worth the pain to the wallet because it was just a constant ow-aw around the whole island. Our tour guide was really hard to hear over the roar of the motor but the incredible grottos and sights didn't really need a description (though I did catch him point out Sophia Loren's villa which got me very excited).

When we finally got to the Blue Grotto we had to shell out more dough to actually go into the grotto. But when in Capri... right. And it was beyond description how gorgeous and surreal it was. In case you haven't heard it, the best way I can describe it is that its this little cave/grotto that just emits this stunning blue reflection from the water that reflects over everything in the most beautiful blue color. And the guys rowing the boat (the modern day Italian pirates) sang "volare" and let us all listen to the echo. When I tell you it was surreal--- well... haha... it was.

After the boat ride we had a nice little lunch before checking out one of the public stone beaches. It was beautiful but stones are bare feet don't cause the most beautiful emotions from me at least. Neither did the ice cold water- but it didn't stop me from dipping my toes in or perching on a rock to take in the sun. Until the sun went behind the clouds. Which was a huge bummer.

So, we trekked up to the town (we didn't take the bus out of cheapness) and it was so worth it. The town was super amazing. VERY bougie-- so basically all those cutsie shops were definitely outside of my price range. But I like a good window-shop as much as the next guy. But unfortunately before we knew it-- it was time to start the climb back down from the town to the ferry.

While I was bummed to leave Capri, the rest of my afternoon wasn't too shabby. A group of us went straight to the beach in Sorrento and enjoyed the sun which finally came out. And it was amazing to just sit on the beach and take in the rays. I did go for a dip because I had to and besides I packed my bathing suit for a reason. I want you to imagine the coldest water ever. Now add some ice cubes and that was what the med was like when I jumped in. BUT I DID IT. Besides, the sun made everything better.

Of course... no rest for the weary because we were up again bright and early for our trip to Pompeii Italia to see the ruins. I'll be honest, I was VERY excited for Pompeii. All my years of high school Latin sometimes seem like a waste-- but after years of seeing pictures of Pompeii and reading about the soldiers and farmers in Pompeii, I thought it was high time I got there.

And it exceeded expectations. It really is incredible to think that it was a living, breathing town until boom the mountain blew its top. The casts of the bodies (which are throughout the excavation) are creepy to say to the least but great reminders. And walking among the villas and seeing real live impluvium and frescoes... that was amazing. Just truly mind-blowing. I could have spent days there. But not too many days... I wouldn't wanted to have given Mount V. the chance to blow again. Thinking of you Miss Wibes. Also Pat-- because he alone could have understood my excitement about Pompeii though I'm sure that Nicky could come for a close second.

Not to mention that we were basically caught in a windstorm in Pompeii. That was a little bummer that it was kinda cold (and I underdressed in hopes of getting some more sun) and that dust was blowing everywhere. Nothing like an early morning contact emergency in a volcanic-destroyed town to remind you of the small and large tragedies of life.

AND because we had ONE last stop to make (If this trip sounds exhausting... it WAS)... PIZZA in Naples, the birthplace of Pizza with a capital P. I was really excited and it was worth it. Naples was the most different city in Europe I've been to. A lot of people don't like Naples for the same reason I thought it had some real character-- it's kinda gritty, a little dirty-- but it felt like a city. And throw a good canoli and some amazing pizza my way-- and city, you've found the way to my heart. And that pizza was SO good. I went classic and simple and regretted nothing. We went to a little place-- a real family joint and I wasn't disappointed. Plus we got some calamaretti (which were like mini-squids) but they were delish if you didn't think about them too much. And did I mention that the pizza was great! 

A little wander around Pompeii- one last look at the sea, some granitta- and then back on the bus for an exhausting bus ride back and some prep for my two presentations today. (I think I did pretty good). But I won't bore you with that. Because let's be honest-- my work-filled Monday can't really hold a candle to that weekend!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

when in... bougie oscar winning reception

Currently I'm in the middle of my trip to Sorrento and Capri. But those posts will come later. For now I want to FINALLY publish this post that I wrote a few days ago. 

Yesterday was a fairly average day in Rome which means that it was pretty incredible. Sure I have a group project—no three group projects—and two presentations on Monday. But heck- I’m going to Sorrento and Capri this weekend (actually I’m on the bus) so I can’t really complain.
There was a really big highlight of the day though. Because yesterday AUR presented their honorary degree and had a little ceremony. The honorary doctorate went to Paolo Sorrentino, an Oscar-winning director. Which not to sound stupid, but until I saw the poster for the event, I didn’t really know who he was either. But last year he won best foreign film for this movie (that actually takes place in Rome) called “The Great Beauty” so now you know. So, because I had no plans at the time and there were promises of free food, I went to the ceremony. \
And it was what it was. I think it’s pretty cool that I was in spitting distance of an Oscar winner and his speech was short enough- I was really there for the food. So when he’s sitting up there with his agent/translator talking about how “Obsession is the key to movie-making” I was thinking how I was obsessed with the idea of the reception.

And let me tell you. AUR knows how to cater an event. Of course, like all Roman events, there was prosecco. But they had tons of amazingly bougie finger food. THERE WAS SHRIMP. I was like George Costanza next to that food table and open bar. My sophisticated small talk with prosecco in hand was probably a nice image except it was probably ruined by my eyeing up of that AMAZING dessert table. I always say that I want my shirts to be my legacy at La Salle (and I’m working on a new Pope Francis one… get ready for some sample designs coming your ways soon) but I think I should start aiming to improve La Salle catering. I don’t think I can return to a life of old fruit and bad cookies. I need shrimp. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

when in... intellectual procrastination

I've been joking recently that I'm at the point in my work that I'm actively seeking procrastination in every place in order to avoid confronting the mountain of work that's jut in my line of view and getting nearer with every passing day. BUT- you know me- all will be well in the end. And since, I KNOW that will be the case, why not catch you up on my day- albeit an unexciting one.

That's not entirely true because the day was marked with a few high points. First, on a personal note, I managed to end up in a pretty good place in my one presentation. So, yay me. Second, I'm in the process of designing a commemorative shirt for Pope Francis' visit to Philly in the fall. So get your sizes at the ready and your checkbooks out. However, they'll be more on that later. But, it was another gorgeous day so I tried to enjoy it as much as humanly possible (which wasn't much, haha) before class. God, I love my English class. Even when I don't like the reading-- and I'll be honest-- I'm not a huge D.H. Lawrence fan-- I still love my professor so much and I just enjoy the topics and themes we pick up on in the travel literature.

But, after Italian I managed to have a nice one and half hour skype chat with Nik and we were able to catch up. With all my visitors I fell off the face of the communicating earth for a two week period (so, sorry y'all) but I'm back now and it was just great basically just laughing away the time with Nik (or gossiping about Game of Thrones).

I had to cut our conversation "short" because at 7, the English department was hosting a faculty reading. I've mentioned before how the AUR faculty really draws from all over and the breadth of their talent and expertise is quite impressive. And (at least all the profs who read tonight) they are award winning in their fields. So one prof read an abbreviated version of a "short" story she published last year, another read his incredibly entertaining poetry-- including some amazing "facebook poems" which were SO spot on, and another had some students act out a scene from one of her plays. And in typical Italian fashion, the event was followed by food and prosecco. TAKE THE HINT LA SALLE.

Granted, I initially went in a bout of what I called "intellectual procrastination" but it was actually really nice and my English professor talked to me for a little after class and said it was so nice that I was actually attending AUR events and the like which apparently study abroad students don't DO. Which is a shame-- I've mentioned the food. But she was like-- Oh, you should say in Rome. To which I responded, I wish I could but I already put down my housing deposit.

And I'll be glad to be home eventually but that little evening and the little conversation made me realize how much I'll miss the little things about Rome. Obviously, I'll miss the grand churches and monuments but there are times, I'll admit, that I visualize an alter-life here in Rome and think where life would have taken me. And doubtless there's a reason why I won't stay. But talking to such nice people reminds me of what I'll miss.

But now even my nostalgia and reflections are turning into procrastinated jibber jabber. So back to the google docs.

Monday, April 13, 2015

when in... mamma mia

Again- another bout of visitors (or at least one very special visitor, mamma mia!) means that I was exhausted for the last couple days, in the best possible way of course. Though—as a sad consequence, blogging was left by the wayside in favor of sleep. I hate when that happens—though probably not as much as you hate it.

Unfortunately my mom was only here for a couple of days but I was determined to revenge her (and my dad) for the flurry of activities that have always colored our family vacations. Just kidding (kind of). Because, in actuality, my itineraries definitely could stand equal with theirs. Because, I definitely wanted to make her time in Rome as fruitful as possible. BUT I also wanted her to be able to relax and enjoy the Italian lifestyle, albeit for a very short time. And, all modesty aside, I think I did a pretty fantastic job. People might think she was in Rome for two weeks based on what she did. But of course, I know and now YOU know that wasn’t the case.

I guess it was a curse and a blessing that she was only here for the limited time because it really gave me a decent excuse to kind of keep her moving the whole day which IS the most important thing when you are switching time-zones. Or, at least, that’s what I’ve been told. So we took it fairly slow at first—lunch in Testaccio in a restaurant built into the mountain so you could see all the amphora pots that make up Mount Testaccio, a small jaunt to the Protestant Cemetery after it went over so big with Nicole. Then, following actually that day a little bit, we took the walk up the Aventine so she could get a really amazing view of Rome near the church of San Sabina.

Probably one of the highlights of that day was at 4, my friends had organized a little gelato-making lesson at one of the gelaterias and I took Mom along. And I found it very informative (I wish I had gone the first week, I could be a better judge of gelato) and, not to mention, it was delish. I will be BACK. And it was one of those places I probably passed a hundred times and just never noticed. Or more likely, was not craving gelato looking desperately for one of the scores of gelato stores that populate Roma. Before dinner at Dar Poeta, we did some church hopping because it’s like my favorite thing to do. Besides, I love the initial reactions to say- the fake dome in Sant’Ignazio because it’s a throwback to my complete shock in awe when I first walked into these churches (usually by mistake). Though, let’s be honest, I’m still usually blown away by the art and majesty in most of them still. That’s why I’m still going.

So, the next day, I took her to see the Forum and the Palatine Hill and the Colosseum (it’s all one ticket). And the day was absolutely gorgeous and it was nice to be back and really spend some time there, especially on the Palatine because the weather wasn’t half as nice as when I went early on in the semester. And I mean, how can you not be impressed by the Colosseum. I mean- it’s just incredible. I may joke about not being phased about passing the Colosseum on the way to class but that’s only a little accurate (I’m only not phased if I’m in a rush, which is, admittedly, often). We even did a lunch (albeit not the best) with a gorgeous view of the amphitheater which made up for the subpar food.

But I also know my audience, so we took a bus to the Lateran so she could see the mother of all Catholic churches (literally). I should also mention that I think my mom rode every mode of public transportation offered by the city of Rome which was probably pretty different for her. But, heck, beats walking. She also really wanted to climb the Holy Steps (see old post) which were actually pretty crowded. And she did it (so did I). But man, I don’t think either of us were expecting it to hurt the knees as much as it did. But I guess we’re the better for it. We had to take a nice sit afterwards to make up for it.

I had been saving a few things to go back with for my mom’s trip knowing that she would also want to see them and one of my favorites was going back to San Clemente and going to the underground church. She was a little creeped out by it but I remembered why I thought it was so amazing. Because being underground in an ancient building like that is amazing. And anything that makes me feel like Indiana Jones is alright with me.

For dinner that night we probably did one of the best dinners in Rome. It was a Biba recommendation which AGAIN I’d been saving for her visit though AGAIN I’ll be going back. It was a nice little enoteca and our service was great, the food and drink was amazing, and it was nice just to relax and sit for a few hours with no rush at all. Which I did really enjoy about our time in Rome. I mean, at home, everyone’s on the go so it’s hard to get any one on one time with my ma but here, not only did I have her all day, but we were able to just sit and relax and eat which is so rare. It’s nice with anyone, but its especially nice with the fam.

Saturday, I was silly and forgot that OF COURSE she’d want to see the Vatican Museums because the Sistine Chapel is in them. WELL, I definitely underestimated that wait which was lengthy. But, I mean, what can you do. The Sistine Chapel is definitely worth the wait. But needless to say it was a pretty long trek to the entrance let alone through the museums which are NOT for the faint of heart. But, in my mind, it was all justified because she HAD to see the Sistine Chapel and I really wanted to get back to the Museums because I had missed a few of the best things when I went the first time and was stuck in the mob of people lumbering towards the Sistine Chapel (the frustration was real).

A little bit of air outside and I was refreshed enough to take her on another little walk from Piazza del Popolo to Santa Maria Maggiore where we had another nice sit. I like sitting in the church because the mosaics and ceiling are so much to take in you can just sit and think or not thinking and its cool and its peaceful and I find it VERY nice. For dinner we went to a little pizzeria that BrEd suggested Est Est Est and it was pretty good. I’m not going to say it beat my favorite pizza at Dar Poeta but I’m also not going to say that I didn’t enjoy it.

And then yesterday I took her to the English mass near the Vatican (after all these church visits, I knew she was going to have to go to mass). And it was very nice. A lot of nuns having fun which is always well… fun. And then we got a quick coffee a few blocks from the Vatican where the prices were not four times their usual cost (really nice restaurants, ripping off all the pilgrims who want to see Papa) and then we went to the Square and got a supreme view of Papa Francesco which was AMAZING as usual. The square was packed full of people and the energy was there again and Papa Francesco was looking good and seemed pretty happy so I was pretty happy.
Of course, we had to go to St. Peters which unfortunately meant another pretty lengthy line but you GOTTA do it. And it was really exacerbated by the fact that for the first half hour the security wasn’t letting anybody through so nobody was moving. But I was prepared this time with jellybeans and pretzels and crosswords and I got to catch up on all the St. Jude and Chalfont gossip which is always needed. And then, another nice dinner in Trastevere before packing up.

Taking her to the airport was very sad (and the terminal wasn’t half as nice as the one I slept in with Nicole- I’m becoming a Fiumocino expert now) so that made saying goodbyes worse. BUT before I put down this post and start catching up on work (getting back to reality will be TOUGH) I should mention that our airbnb host Luigi was the greatest guy in the world and that I would advise anyone in Rome to get the apartment from him because it was beautiful and he was just so nice and friendly. I was so glad that he was the first Italian my mom met because he embodied everything great about the Italian people. For God’s sakes, he and his wife ordered us and everyone in their store caffe when we were signing the final paperwork. How great is that??? So, I’m a big fan. Hopefully, it’s not the last I’ve seen of Luigi.

But, like I said, no more visitors. But lots more work. So reality, here I come. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

when in...bizarro rome

So, I'm in a very sober mood because Nicole left me to finish her doubtlessly amazing semester in South Africa. (Also, I'm kind of sleep deprived, but we'll get there, haha). It was such an incredible, busy week- just fantastically fun and so unexpected and delightful- and I'm so sorry to see that time end. But- yesterday wasn't all goodbyes- classic me- I took Rome by storm- leave no stone unturned.

I guess a more accurate term would be to leave no ruin unturned because yesterday- Easter Monday (which is a national holiday here in Italy and most of Europe, actually)- Nicole wanted to go to Ostia Antica. Which was one of those places that I was trying to get to- but THANK GOD for Nicole (for so many reasons) because I would have been SO disappointed in myself if I never got there. Here's why-

Ostia Antica is the ruins of the port city of Ancient Rome. In olden days, the sea came right up to it (it doesn't anymore), but almost the whole city is wonderfully preserved. So it's just this hugely impressive excavation site that you can wander all around and climb on the ruins and really explore the history (I mean, you really can never stop exploring here in Roma). But, it was one of those places that I heard was nice but I never really looked into it- so finding, say, a preserved amphitheater may have been expected by some people but for me it was just a huge incredible surprise. So I was kind of geeking out secretly the whole time because it was just so amazing (AND HUGE- I mean, it was a city). 

Nic and I had a nice lunch at the museum restaurant and had a nice long chat, which I really haven't done with anyone from home since well... home. So that was really nice. It's funny how much you miss just talking with people. BUT before I get too weepy- the day wasn't done at that. When we got back, she packed up and then I took her to dinner to my favorite pizzeria in Rome, Dar Poeta which was delish. 

And that sounds like a full day, right? All day day-tripping at Ostia, a nice dinner- bed seems like the natural progression.Well, actually no. Because, Nicole's flight left this morning at 6:20 and the first train doesn't come into the station until around 6. Which meant that you have to take the last train into the airport which comes in at 10:30. Are you doing the math? Perhaps you're hearing it- basically you have to spend the night shift at the airport. 

Which is why I called this post "bizarro Rome." Because Ostia was so incredible but the ruins of a city are also a little bit bizarre- but in a good way- as you wander into peoples houses and such, right. But the airport was a little weird bizarre. People literally sleeping everywhere which was kind of strange. Because Nicole made this week so great for me, I thought I owed her the companion in misery. And actually I think it worked divinely. I took a half hour cat nap (it was ended when the one terminal closed) but I was able to catch up on my reading and Nicole was able to sleep for a few hours- so I think we both lucked out. Though I'm not allowing her to use exhaustion as an excuse why I schooled her in rummy. I guess no one's perfect. 

So- I'd like to thank the Academy, the exhausted employees of the only cafe open, and all the people who kept texting me after my laptop died. I really appreciated that in particular. Though I think last night- I was in another bizarro experience when I was up later than the people on the East Coast. 

So, after biting back tears after she left, I made it back to the apartment and here I am- three hours later- dressed to impress (to make up for my undoubtedly tired appearance) and ready to do more work. Because the thing that's keeping me going is that my ma is coming in a few days! So, it's gong to be work work work and then a great time playing tour guide again in Roma. 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

when in... weather that makes you want to kill (or easter sunday)

The benefit of having Nicole be here for the whole week is that after our whirlwind days we really could start taking it slow and seeing Rome the way I like to see it. Which we did on Friday and which we also did on Saturday. So after grocery shopping at Dem (which I haven't done a full shop at in a while- and I remembered why) we headed up the Lateran way to see the church (and actually to church hop for a while). I really wanted to see the Liberation Museum up there because Stevie J recommended it and also mostly because it was free but I forgot to check the hours so no luck. Still, we got some great gelato and my favorite gelato place- so it was all worth it.

I told you before that Br. Pat invited us to dinner on Saturday night so we headed up in that part of Rome- the Quirinale neighborhood- which is actually one of my favorites. So, up there (more churches) because come on, everyone's gotta see the ceiling of the Maggiore. AND I've been dying to see the mosaics of this church, Santa Praessade for a while, because I'm such a mosaic lover and so I dragged Nicole along there to just marvel at mosaics for a while. I'm easily pleased.

But then, after churching, we basically window-shopped up the road which is one of my fav things to do anyway wherever I am, and in Rome- with its myriad of tiny stores and fun shops- makes it a lot of fun. So that was nice and before we knew it it was time to meet Br. Pat.

Thank you Br. Pat's sister who send him a very generous Easter gift which allowed us to have that wonderful meal. We went and had a nice little aperitivo before going to Ristorante Giuseppe for a traditional Roman Easter meal. Great bread. Great wine. Great pasta with clams. Great lamb. Great after dinner salad. Great amaro. Great conversation. It was really so nice and it was completely authentic. I loved it. I can't wait to go back (I WILL be going back shortly).

But TODAY is Easter Sunday. AND WE HAD TICKETS TO MASS in the SQUARE> Which was SOOOO exciting. I was SOOOO excited. But Br. Pat put some fear of God into us. SO- for mass at 10:15 we left at around 7:30. YUP. That happened. And of course, as soon as we got there- and got our AMAZING seats. It started to rain.

No actually, it started to pour because as the hours went by the rain got progressively worse. Like miserably terrible and cold. Like I didn't feel my feet until about a half hour after I got back to the apartment. SO- that happened. About fifteen minutes before mass, they started praying the rosary in Latin. THANK GOD for Miss Wibes because having something to do actually made the time go faster even if it was just mumble in Italian.

BUT THEN- it started. And it was amazing. The music. THE POPE. The singing. The Latin. THE RAIN. But- it's a once in a lifetime experience. And that's the thing. It was such an experience. The liturgy was primarily in Latin but you could follow along in your book very easily. But other parts were in tons of languages. So one reading was in Spanish, one in English, the psalm in Italian, the gospel in Latin and in Greek, the prayer of the faithful in everything from Arabic to Chinese. And it was just kind of incredible to be able to follow along and take part. And not everyone did- but I think it made it worthwhile.

AND the best news was- I don't know if this was divine intervention or not, but people starting leaving after the first reading- the rain at that point was pretty horrendous. But around the gospel it started to slow down and by the Eucharist it had STOPPED. So I was on a chair with a great view and it was just incredible. So after communion, we're waiting around (and by this point Nicole and I are the only ones who stuck it out) and don't we see the POPEMOBILE whizzing by and before we know it- the POPE is driving around and waving and we were like TEN ROWS back and it was so great and I almost cried. And people were cheering and clapping and waving, And the atmosphere was amazing.

After that incredible experience, Papa came out on the balcony and everyone clapped and went wild again. Which was amazing to be part of. Then he gave his speech which was so beautiful about peace. And then the crowd started roaring "FRANCESCO, FRANCESCO" or things like "VIVA IL PAPA!" and then he made a funny remark about the weather which had at that point cleared up and wished us a happy Easter and a good lunch and it was over.

And I can see- despite feeling- um- KINDA sick right now- it was worth shivering and being rained on for hours. Because Pope Francis is the best and that experience will stick with me for a very long time.

I'm in charge of Easter dinner tonight which'll be very nice and afterwards I'll skype the fam whom I miss very much during Easter. What will Easter be like without my Easter bread?? But for now- I'm still in after-Pope glowing phase. Probably will be for days.

when to kill for

So- I'm sorry for not posting in a couple days- it's been a whirlwind and I haven't had a second to just reflect for a little bit- but since it's EASTER (Happy Easter) I'm going to write down some of the highlights for you in two posts.

So- let's go back to Thursday- the beginning of Holy Week. Rome- by the way- was and IS still packed with pilgrims for the Easter season which made visiting some things not always as easy as I remembered because... well... there's more people here and bigger lines. But, heck, it's all a learning experience. So Thursday, Nicole and I went to my favorite cafe for a little breakfast (and I mean little- like I said, maybe my most egregious problem with the Italians is their lack of a big breakfast) but it was just very nice and relaxing. Since it was right in Trastevere I brought her to Santa Maria in Trastevere which is probably one of my favorite churches (and Nicole can now attest to just how many churches in Rome I've been to). But Santa Maria in Trastevere is just so beautiful and the mosaics are just so gorgeous, I've never lost that original feeling of awe.

So, a tram ride later, I brought her up to the Capitoline and showed her (you guess it) another Church, the Aracoeli, another one of my favorites that has never lost its allure even though I've been there multiple times on my own and with other people and with class. It actually helps because I've discovered amazing things to point out and show and I get to play tour guide again (quite well too, may I add- Mom and Maggie and Elise- you've got a real treat in store, hahaha).

But- the tragedy was I couldn't show her more because class got in the way (and I skipped all day Thursday). Besides, I'm in a group project and I hate those people who don't show up to the initial meet and did NOT want to be one of them. So, I trudged to class and left Nicole to explore the Forum and the Colosseum. So class actually went pretty well- I still love my English class to death and talking about Forster is the best- but then it was back to the Colosseum to pick Nic up. AND the biggest news was, thanks to me going to class I was able to get TICKETS TO ST. PETERS EASTER MASS which AUR was giving out. Beyond thrilled.

Because, I'm a holy roller I volunteered to read before I (obviously) knew Nic was coming. Besides- I'm such a Catholic nerd- Holy Thursday is my favorite mass of the year- though of course, I usually enjoy celebrating it at St. Jude. But no worries- my streak for getting my feet washed (four years and counting) was not broken because at Caravita they did it on a volunteer basis that after one person got their foot washed, they would wash anothers. It was actually really really nice. And I got my feet washed. No prosecco after mass though- boo.

Thursday night was a lot of fun- yada yada yada- we took it slow on Friday. Or actually, we more went at my usual wandering speed which was nice. Friday was drop dead gorgeous- so it was nice to visit the Pyramid of Cestius and the Protestant Cemetery. Also, we climbed up the Aventine Hill to peek through the keyhole of the Knights of Malta's headquarters which leaves you with this stunner view of St. Peters. Well worth the walk. But we found a nice little orange grove and relaxed and chatted there for a while before walking down to the Temple of Hercules, where we had lunch. Really a very nice and relaxing day.

But Friday- it is holy week in Rome- the thing to do was to go to the Colosseum to see the Stations of the Cross. We got there kind of early but after being cordoned through this terrible line, we decided to leave where we were because food. So a nice aperitivo later we tried to find a good spot- and we kind of failed miserably. I mean, it was REALLY hard to find a good spot. It was a really neat view at least. But I think the moral of the story is that Stations of the Cross are never fun. Even Pope Francis can't do that. So, halfway through of straining to hear in Italian the stations, we decided we had done our due diligence and back we went- promising ourselves that Easter Sunday would be different (to be continued...)