A Roman Saturday

Every once and a while it’s nice to stay in Rome, sleep in my own bed, and do some exploring.

This morning, I woke up 10 minutes before I was supposed to meet my friends at the 24-Hour bakery (croissants are only $0.30 there and it’s great), after mindlessly pressing my snooze button several times. Anyhow, I got dressed, got in contact with them, and they told me how to get where we were going. They were one metro stop west of me, so by some miracle, by the time I got on the Metro (20 minutes after waking up), I saw them pass in a car and I was able to travel with them. Woohoo.

We then continued on to a cemetery, where the Master of the Dominican Order was giving mass outside. It was a beautiful day- no jacket needed yet in Rome (knock on wood)! I believe he came to talk to PC a few weeks ago, but as PC Friars, it’s definitely cool to hear mass said by the Head of the Order. It’s kinda a big deal.

Afterwards, we met him and shook his hand, and told them that we went to Providence College. After, three nuns approached us and said, “Did you say you went to Providence College?” They spoke perfect English, which I didn’t expect, since the mass was in Italian. But alas, they were from the US and knew some of “our people,” and we talked to them for a while about our stay in Rome. They then invited us to get cappuccinos across the street, so we continued talking to them and a priest who was originally from Houston (who was bragging about his Texas Citizenship if and when they secede from the union).

From there, half of the group went to look at the church, while I went with my friends who are visiting back to town. They were visiting the Vatican and Vatican Museums today and Coliseum tomorrow, which disappointed me because it’s supposed to rain tomorrow and I still hadn’t been inside the Coliseum. On a whim while on the metro back, I decided that I was going to go the one metro stop over to get a sandwich. This then turned into the idea that I would get a sandwich, then stop by our PC guy friends’ apartment and see if anyone wanted to explore with me (2 of them didn’t come this morning). I decided to skip out on the sandwich, and with no phone service, I surprised the boys by showing up at their door. I asked my friend Zach, who also hadn’t visited the Coliseum, if he would like to join me because it was such a nice day. By some miracle (second of the day here), he had just gotten ready and was about to go do some free things by exploring some things on his own, because he didn’t have enough money on him to go to the Coliseum. So I caught him just at the right time, told him I’d spot him, and right then and there he was willing to come with me. Good timing, Lauren.

We went on our way and got the ticket that let us into the Coliseum, Palatine Hill, and Roman Forum. After waiting in a decent line, we finally got inside. It was actually smaller than I expected, but it was very cool. Him and I attempted to figure out where the original flooring was, and how they used to flood it for naval battles, how it was a church,  how it was a stadium, where the seats would be, etc. We saw some ancient stairways that would have lead up, had people not stolen parts of the building. For those who don’t know, the Coliseum isn’t deteriorating because it’s ancient, it looks like it’s falling apart because people used to recycle materials in ancient Rome to build new buildings. Several columns in many buildings were originally part of another, and I heard that the marble circles in the floor of the Vatican are sliced columns from, well, older columns. This is extremely common among Roman buildings. The only reason why the Pantheon is still standing is because it was converted into a church, and the Roman fellows weren’t allowed to play with it then. That’s why the front of it looks different than the discolored, somewhat unaesthetic back.

I had a dream last week that I was on my way home from the airport and started crying because I missed Rome, but I also forgot to visit the Coliseum, so at least that situation can’t (fully) happen now.

From there, we went onto the Palatine Hill. Not only did it have great views in places, but it was set up like a park almost with walkways and benches just casually around some ruins. Some of the coolest ones we saw were the Romulean Huts. This is what Rick Steves, renowned travel book writer and father of my boss for my internship, had to say about it:

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From there, we went to the Forum, which was attached behind the Arch of Titus. I’ve already been there with class, but it was nice to re-see everything not being pressed for time or trying to take notes, while listening to someone lecture, while trying to sightsee. Once, again, we saw where Caesar was cremated (flowers were once again left on the place), and obviously so many other ruins. Like Pompeii, there were spots on the ground that we could make out indents from chariots in the ground.

So my day was pretty spontaneous, but it all worked out very nicely. I then went home, made a sandwich, and I’m headed out to dinner with some visiting friends in an hour.

Last night, I took one of them out, and I forget that they know nothing about the location of things in Rome. They had been here for about 3 hours at this time. So we hopped on a bus, and he asked what some building was and I was like, “Oh, that’s Castel San Angelo… oh yeah, and if you look to your right, you’ll see the Vatican.” He turned his head and declared that he’s never leaving Rome. The road that lead to the Vatican is on our bus route, and it never ceases to amaze me how casually we pass by it. I’m not too casual about it, trying to snap a picture every time before the bus turns, but for Romans, it’s so normal.

Cheers to wine and the bruschetta I’m about to stuff my face with! Ciao!

Pictures from today are to follow, once I get my act together and upload them to my computer.

That Time I Met the Pope…

Hey guys,

It’s me again.

I am still in awe, and I just found this on Youtube. I’m so grateful that this moment of my life was captured on video (and on camera, as you can see I am quite the paparazzi). So here’s a taste of my morning before classes on 10/16/13.

I hope you enjoy!

“He who travels has stories to tell.” – Corcoran’s Sacre Cœur, Paris, France

I absolutely loved Paris. Let’s just say that Mom and Dad would have trouble keeping me in the states if I spoke French. So be prepared for a long post…

I booked the trip through the company I am interning for, and I’m so glad I did. There were 12 of us the first day and 16 the second, so we all got pretty close. We actually almost visited 3 of the kids we met who are studying in Perugia, Italy this weekend because there is a chocolate festival there, but we didn’t get around to it. 

I arrived Thursday night and met a friend who graduated PC in the spring and stayed at her apartment. In the morning, she took me to a bakery near her that has won awards for having the best croissants in Paris (or France?)… so it was delicious. 

Upon beginning the program Friday morning, we first went to Sacre Cœur, a church that is on top of a hill that has a great view of Paris. It was such a hike up the stairs! It was foggy, but it would have been a nice view. It was built at a time where the town around it was huge for partying, and it was built to remind people to behave, pretty much. Ironically, we went to a bar on top of that hill every night. 

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We then went on to see Moulin Rouge, but only the facade. We toured around Paris a lot that day, seeing little things here and there, like the Jewish/Gay neighborhood (where we got the “world’s best falafel”) and the location of the (former) barbershop that inspired Sweeney Todd. 

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We went to Notre Dame, where we also went to mass on Sunday, but didn’t go up to the top (we didn’t know we could), but the architecture was amazing. The gargoils are not only a way to “scare off evil spirits” (an element of gothic architecture because of the dark time it was associated with), but was also a draining system. Water actually flows out of their mouth when it rains. 

On the way back, we crossed over one of the 3 “lock bridges.” Lovers (or maybe friends? I’m not sure) put locks all over the bridge, because they cannot be removed [easily]. There’s thousands. It’s really cool. 

We went to the Pantheon, which houses the tombs of many famous French men (and Madame Curie). We didn’t go in, but men such as Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Voltare, Marat, and Monnet are buried there. 

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At 5, we skipped the line for the Eiffel Tower and got to go up to the 2nd floor. By then, it was sunny and clear- but definitely windy up that high! Our guide pointed out several landmarks: Sacre Cœur, the Arch of Triumph, the building where Napoleon is buried, Notre Dame, the “Statue of Liberty” that America gave France as a “thank you,” and a few other buildings. It was a great time to go, because the sun was still up, but it was setting.

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Arch of Triumph:

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Sacre Cœur:

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Where Napoleon is buried (yes, that is real gold):

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We then went to dinner with a pretty set prefixed menu (we had a few options for the main course) with the deal we were getting. We all got to try escargot, and we had bread with melted goat cheese over it, duck with mashed potatoes (delicious- tasted like chicken but fell right off the bone), and chocolate cake.

After dinner we wrapped up the day with the tour. We walked back past the Eiffel Tower, now lit up, and it was amazing. One thing I really appreciated about it was that it was dimly lit. Staring at it, much unlike a skyscraper, didn’t hurt your eyes. It wasn’t fluorescent lighting. It had a nice ambience about it. As we started walking towards, it started sparkling. Lights were flashing like a bunch of photos were being taken in a dark arena. Apparently it does so every hour (or half hour?), and it’s been doing that since the year 2000. 

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One of our friends we were with left a few pieces of jewelry at the hotel her and my other two friends stayed at the night before, so we headed there to go get it. Why were they in a hotel? Funny you should ask… the night before, they were supposed to stay in a hostel attached to a convent that was really cheap- the catch was that they had to do a prayer hour in the middle of the night. No big deal. Apparently the other catch was that they had to check in by 9:45, which they knew, but they didn’t get in until 10:20. So the hostel said it was too late and they couldn’t check in. Oops. 

So being the brilliant PC kids that they are, they figured that the Irish Pub that was right there must have people who spoke English. Alas, they did. One bartender was born in France, grew up in Jersey, went to JWU Providence, and then moved back to Paris. Another was half Irish, half English. They let the girls use their computers, they called hotels for them, walked them there, etc. 

So in order to repay them, we went back every night. So naturally we stopped on the way back to the hotel to get the jewelry. We made friends with the bartenders, and they loved us and gave us deals, so we promised to go back the next night, too. 

We met up with another friend who is from PC studying in Paris, and one friend and I went with her while the other two went to the hotel. The three of us wandered around a bit and had wine on a bench near the Arch of Triumph, before making our way back to our hostel (that was booked through my program… but it was really nice!). 

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The next morning we woke up, took advantage of the free hostel breakfast, and ate with our new friends from the day before. We met our tour guide there. He had a pedometer on his phone, and told us that we had walked about 13 miles the previous day- and that didn’t include the wandering that we did after the tour… So figure 15 miles of walking in one day. Needless to say I was already exhausted by Saturday. But I am a college student and I run on empty like it’s my job. 

We then headed towards the Louvre. We only were able to spend about 2 hours here, so it may have been rushed a little, but we did get to see a lot.. Obviously, including Mona. We also saw some Jacques Louis David, which was cool because I did a paper on him my sophomore year, and we saw Napoleon III’s apartment. I’m not sure if it was originally located in the Louvre or if it was just recreated there with his stuff, but either way. The Louvre used to be a palace before it was a museum, and before Versailles. It was massive. We also saw the Ancient Egypt exhibit. And a mummy.

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From there we went to the Arch of Triumph again, but only spent a few minutes there before having a few hours of free time, which, of course, we spent wanting to shop and eat. France’s food is just so good. So we went to a place that our guide suggested, stopped and got some macaroons on the way, and got some grub. 

We met back at the hostel at 5:30 to head towards our bike tour. This may have been my favorite part of the trip, just because it’s so different than anything I have done and/or would have done on my own. My bike’s name was Yvonne, which was funny, because there’s a youtube video that mentions it, and I kept thinking that I wanted to meet someone named Yvonne there so I could quote the video (Awful quality video, but this is the clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JpQXhjll7MM). Our guide was from New York, and he was really cool. We went several places, and his accounts were fun to listen to. He would point out buildings and explain the history, but tell it like, “So Napoleon was like, ‘Hey guys, I’m going to take over this now, and the French were like ‘Okay, but that’s not cool.’ So they excommunicated him.” He also told us how in the building with the gold dome where Napoleon is buried, Napoleon’s tomb is located down from the viewer, so rumor has it that when you look down at the tomb, it’s like you’re bowing down to him. Now when Hitler came to visit Paris, this building was noted to be his favorite part, as Napoleon was one of his idols. However, he had someone put in mirrors before looking at the tomb, so he could see it without bowing down to him. We learned some cool stuff along the tour. We then rode on to a bridge that had the Eiffel Tower in the distance, and it was located right next to the tunnel where Princess Diana was killed (I didn’t even know she was killed in Paris till that second). We saw a statue/memorial for her, and rode on. We then parked our bikes, and boarded a boat for a night river cruise, which was also awesome. We passed several people having picnics/drinks alongside the river, which was cool to see, just because life seems so much simpler in Paris. We passed Notre Dame, some lock bridges, the Eiffel Tower, and some other historically significant places. There was a voice recording that played when we passed things, but that was boring, so we listened to our guide when we would pass something interesting. He also provided us all with a few cups of wine and an Eiffel Tower keychain. We then docked and rode back, stopping at the Eiffel Tower and learning a few more things. It was originally built for the World’s Fair, and was also originally supposed to be temporary. People hated that it was there- the French don’t like skyscrapers. So houses that had a view of it were worth less, because it blocked their view of Paris. Could you imagine? Also, there was a man who invented some type of winged suit and wanted to prove that it could work, so he told the press to come and watch him jump off in his suit. You can imagine what happened next (spoiler alert: the suit didn’t work as well as he thought it would). 

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After finishing the tour, we had our first crapes. We mostly all got banana nutella crapes, which was delicious. Then a group of us headed back to see our friends at Sacre Cœur. At closing, I walked up to the bar and our friends told us we could stay, so we did. 2 hours past closing, just talking, joking around, and hanging with our new friends. They were fun. It was a great time and a friendly welcome to Paris. One of the bartenders even walked us all back to our hostel, then split a cab with our friends who are studying in Paris, and then paid for the cab. 

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Sunday morning, we went to mass at Notre Dame. We didn’t understand much, but it was cool. 

Afterwards, we went to Sainte Chapelle, a former church with amazing stained glass work. One website notes: “The most visually beautiful aspects of the chapel, considered the best of their type in the world, are its 6,458 square feet of stained glass windows of the upper chapel, surrounded by delicate painted stonework.”

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Finally, we met up with our PC friend again and wandered the city, with intents to shop, but everything is closed on Sundays. So we just saw cool things instead. In Rome, it is currently 77 degrees, so it’s not quite “fall” here. It was amazing to see everyone enjoying the outdoors and colored leaves around Paris. It’s fall there, and their parks are beautiful. Since everything is closed on Sundays, families just head to parks or just walk around, and again, I appreciated the simpleness of that. There was just a certain charm that Paris had. People would be roller blading or biking to get around, and people stopped and spent time with their entire family outside. It was cute. I loved it. And I didn’t really witness the French-Hate-Americans stereotype. 

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It was nice to experience fall with the leaves and everything. It wasn’t too cold (certainly colder than Rome), but it was nice. Paris was so different than cities like Rome and New York- I haven’t seen so many [cute] children running around in a really long time! The pace of life seemed a little slower, which was nice for such a cute, simple city. I think I also enjoyed this trip so much because of the tour group I was with; they really did a great job and we got to see everything. The metro was easy to use, but it was nice that we had someone else navigating for us, plus he was cool. 

So that’s basically my weekend in Paris. Everything there was just perfect for us; I loved it. 

 

That Time I Met Pope Francis…

So, many of you who have access to my Facebook or parents know by now that I pretty much met Pope Francis last week.

It was surreal.

There are several articles written about the whole thing, which is great because the whole moment is a big emotional blur for me, but I want to include the best article I’ve read about it so far, if you are interested: http://thericatholic.com/news/detail.html?sub_id=6144 

On Tuesday, I made sure I was prepared for the Papal Audience that I would be attending the next morning. I went to a religious store on the Borgo Pio, which is right by Vatican City and is notable for their religious stores. Probably spending the most I have at a store since being here, I purchased rosary beads and prayer cards, because the Pope always says a blessing over any objects we have with us at the end of the audience. My friend, Joe Day, came a little more prepared the next day, with a zuchetto (the white scull cap that the Pontiff wears). But I’ll get into that.

I woke up at 4:30am last Wednesday (the 17th), walked to the 24 hour bakery because the metro was still closed, and was at the front of the line to St. Peter’s Square by 6am with my friends. It was still dark. Soon, the line was long, but we assured that we would get the seats we wanted by showing up that early. We’re a little neurotic, but it’s okay. We also all made sure to wear our PC gear :).

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Doors opened at 7:30, and we ran into the square. Literally. It’s amazing how many people will push and shove and yell at you for getting in the way to attend a religious event… kinda ironic. We actually didn’t want to be in the front section, but a more middle one, so that we could hopefully increase our chances of the Pope passing by multiple times. So we actually let people pass by us until the first section was almost filled and they would open up the second one. Soon, the Swiss Guards placed people in wheel chairs along our barrier, so we knew the Pope would definitely make a trip down our aisle.

We saved a seat for our teacher, who called us and met up with us, and that was definitely a good decision on her part. She also brought us “cornetti,” which translates to croissants.

During the 3 hours that we were waiting in the square, our friend, Lauren, said, “We should write him a note.” “I have a bright pink post-it note,” I replied. “What size?” “Post-it note sized.” “That will do!”

I opened up my backpack, gave her the note, and she wrote, “Providence College LOVES Papa Francesco!” She passed it around with the pen, and we all signed our names. There were 8 of us.

Soon, and by soon I mean at 10:15, the Pope came out on his Popemobile. He rode around, and came down our aisle last- so there was much anticipation built up there. We were all shaking as we yelled, “Papa! Papa!” and pointed to Joe’s zuchetto that he brought with him.

There’s a tradition where if you present a zuchetto to the Pope, he’ll exchange his with yours. In our case, our zuchetto was too big, or so the Pope told us directly in Italian.

The Pope came closer, and we yelled louder. Now, in front of us, he signaled his driver to stop. Joe, who is already around 6 feet tall, was standing on a chair, reaching over the barrier, handing Pope Francis his zuchetto. Francis took the hat, humbly took off his own, placed ours in his to measure it, at which time he declared that it was too big, but read the note that we placed in there and smiled. He placed ours on his head for a second, closed his eyes and said a quick prayer, and handed ours back.

This was all a blur, but luckily, one of our friends took an amazing video of the exchange, which can only be seen on Facebook, until I can convince him to upload it to Youtube.

I was shaking. This just happened. Our teacher was crying. I couldn’t take a steady picture. Joe was holding a hat that the Pope just wore and had a moment with.

We heard stories from other classmates who were there that saw us on the Jumbotron and were yelling, “That’s Joe Day!” These classmates shook hands with the pope when he came by them, but they were still in shock.

For the rest of the audience, we were also in a state of shock. I don’t know how to describe it. We were stuck in the moment, constantly re-looking at our pictures to reassure that we really just experienced what we experienced.

At the end of the ceremony, several pictures were taken, and several strangers wanted to see the zuchetto. It was touching. They just wanted to kiss it, or hold it, or take a picture of it, but they were all in a state of shock as well.

There is now an image of Joe on the PC homepage, as well as several newspapers, blogs, Facebook pages, etc. My head can be seen in a lot of them, but obviously, I wasn’t looking for the camera.

I don’t even know what happened that day, but it was amazing. Uploading these pictures and reliving the moment from my camera’s prospective again makes me want to cry. Enjoy living vicariously through me!

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Venice Pictures

 

 

The Palace:

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The Gondola Ride:

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The meal:

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The relics/church:

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The Bell Tower:

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Venice

Ok, sorry I haven’t posted in forever. You’ll soon know all that I have been doing that have kept me super busy. If I wasn’t traveling, it was school work, or getting ready for the next trip. But I’m okay with that. But everything I do here has been overshadowed by the next awesome thing, so this blog will be mostly pictures, because I’m too excited about the next two posts to talk a lot on this one.

So… Venice!

Upon arrival, we checked into our hotel with a little hiccup, but that’s another story for a different day. It all worked out, and we headed to the main island. By this time, after our 6 hour train ride, it was dark, so there wasn’t too much we could do. Of course, eating and wandering was always an option. We went to a place recommended in my friend Dan’s guidebook, and got a three course fixed price meal that was delicious. We wandered the island for a few hours past that, stopping in marvelous mask stores, that were for the “Carnivale” festival on Mardi Gras. I couldn’t help but buy a cheap one… they were all so beautiful, and most were custom made.

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The next day, we got up early and had a jam packed day. We started with a boat taxi ride to San Marco, the main part of the island. We took a tour of the Doge’s palace, which was amazing. Art lined the walls and ceiling, and it was huge. ImageImage

After touring the palace, we did what we absolutely had to do… be tourists and go on a gondola ride. I’ll add pictures on my next post, because my blog isn’t letting me add any more on here for now. From the water, we were able to see the buildings of an old prison, Marco Polo’s house, and a few other gems around San Marco.

We then made it a point to go into the Basilica of San Marco, where we saw awesome gold mosaics, and the “treasure room” from the sack of Constantinople years ago, that had many gold objects and also some relics of Saint Peter of the venice region (I forget where exactly). I felt like Abu in Aladdin when he wasn’t allowed to touch anything in the cave… Everything was so beautiful.

From there, we had a delicious meal- probably my best since being in Italy. I had a seafood pasta, then a steak with potatoes and delicious spinach, and then the best tiramisu I’ve ever had.

Finally, we went up to the San Marco tower. We were able to see the whole island from there, or what seemed to be. It was an amazing view of the rooftops and of the water. The “streets” weren’t really visible, but seeing Venice from a bird’s eye view was really cool.

Venice was really cool and had a beautiful charm to it, but it was very touristy. We did a lot, though, which was cool. I’m sure many others haven’t toured the basilica or the tower, so we definitely made the most of our trip.

Pictures are to come!

Oktoberfest 2013

So this post is a little delayed, but this man was definitely the champ of the weekend, especially because his timing was spot on. Maybe some things do get better with age…

Anyhow, we saw him on Day 1, maybe 15 minutes after we got situated. Definitely a great way to kick off the weekend.