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Skeers Family Fun

After returning from Barcelona, I had to scramble to clean my studio in time. My friend John would be there in just a few hours to photograph me in the intern apartment. He photographs people in their bedrooms (not creepy) for a series he’s working on. You can check out his work here and my photo below. Isn’t it awesome?! I will cherish it forever. The UWRC will use it to promote the internship! Thanks, John!

At Home in the Intern Apartment

Only a few days later, my apartment became a home for two. Maggie, my former roommate Chad’s sister, visited Italy for 18 days, mostly spent in Rome with a few weekends away in Pisa, Florence and Cinque Terre. More on that later. On her first evening in Rome, I took Maggie on my impress-people walk and we ended up at Castel Sant’Angelo, a frequent motif in my blog posts. The next day Maggie took a solo-trip to the Colosseum and had a run-in with a guido. She escaped by latching on to a tour guide who fed her false information about ancient Rome. Don’t worry, I cleared things up.

Maggie and Me at Castel Sant' Angelo

By the next day it was already time for our trip to Tuscany, but this is just a teaser. Look for the next post about shenanigans in Pisa and Florence. We came back from the trip loaded down with goods and ready to be home in our Roman beds. On Monday we decided to explore a different neighborhood of Rome, Trastevere. This neighborhood across the river ranks as one of the best Roman rione in my opinion. We wandered down the tiny streets stopping in boutiques and bookstores and ending up in Santa Maria in Trastevere.

Below the Pincio in Piazza del Popolo

Later that week we were yearning for some green and made plans to visit Villa Borghese. We began at the Pincio and wandered through the gardens to the gallery. I played tour guide in the museum and Maggie and I started to wonder why many of those mythological stories are so similar. There’s a whole lotta love, lust, rape, murder and suicide. Since we’re in the mood for mythology, my next post will contain a poem by Rebecca Hoogs, Creative Writing professor. It’s a modern spin on an old classic she presented during summer quarter.

Maggie in the Borghese Gardens

The next day brought us to the Spanish Steps. Finally some sun! Why was June so wintery anyway? We basked in the sun on the steps, got a little sweaty and then it was time to head home.

That night we invited our neighbors out to my favorite bar, Birreria Trilussa. You remember the giraffa, no? Me either. After we had finished TWO of those, we descended to the river where booths selling trinkets and grub are set up on the banks all summer for Estate Romana.

Giraffa!

I woke up a little fuzzy, but ready for our trip to Cinque Terre, one of the most beautiful spots in the world. So beautiful it warrants its own post. Check back later!

The day we came back from the Cinque, I spent running around arranging things for the faculty welcome dinner in the penthouse that night. Maggie cut bread and I scrounged up enough plates and glasses for all 16 attendees. Lucky us, the faculty dinner was the same day as Saints Peter and Paul holiday. That night we ran from dinner to Ponte Principe Amedeo di Savoia, which is pretty far, to catch the fireworks set off from Castel Sant’Angelo. We ran directly after eating so many courses that I thought I might puke; I managed to hold it in.

The next day Maggie and I tried to escape the heat with a trip to the beach. Not sure if it really worked. We spent the majority of our time on hot, sweaty public transportation, but we did make it to Lido di Ostia. We laid out on the black sand of the free beach and waded up to our knees in filthy water. It was then that I thought to myself, “Gee, I really need to see a nice Italian beach before I leave.” More on that later.

After we cooled off seaside, we heated back up in Ostia Antica, an ancient Roman port city. We climbed over ruins and through the grass rediscovering the empire of past days. It was a nice excursion, but it was over too soon. The site closed before we made it to the Casa di Diana. We did have fun in the amphitheater and temples though.

Fun in Ostia

The next day brought a walking tour of Rome. We made a checklist of all the things Maggie had left to see so that she wouldn’t miss anything. Our walking tour took us through the Ghetto, up to the Campidoglio, down beside the Forum and heading back towards home along Trajan’s forum. Check, check, check and check. The end of Skeers Family Fun came soon after. Maggie spent her last day buying goodies for the fam.

Us in Piazza Navona

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Buh-Buh-Buh-Buh-Barcelona!

For some reason I had the song “My Sharona” stuck in my head during the entire trip. Except the lyrics were “Buh-buh-buh-buh Barcelona” instead. I feel like I’ve heard this somewhere before, so please enlighten me if you know what I’m talking about. Perhaps it was just the genius of my subconscious. At any rate, it was such a good theme song that it also got stuck in Ryan’s head. We even made jokes that I would come up with a new song for every vacation. My next number one single? Marrakesh sung to the tune of the 80s hit “Maniac”.

On to the actual vacation….

I arrived late on a Thursday night and unfortunately didn’t have time to do anything. The next morning I was up early with a plan in mind; I made a beeline for the Chocolate Museum. As soon as I saw that the ticket was edible (a chocolate bar), I knew I had made the right decision. I learned about the history of Chocolate and saw some pretty amazing chocolate sculptures. The only other patrons in the museum were 4-year-olds on a preschool class field trip. I guess that’s what you get when you go to a chocolate museum at 9:00 am on a Friday.

A scene from Bambi made entirely of chocolate.

The rest of the day I spent wandering around the gothic quarter. I happened upon an antiques fair that only happens once a year. I wish I could have brought some things home, but these vendors really knew what their stuff was worth and that means it was out of my price range. To escape the rain, I ate lunch at a little tavern. I couldn’t understand the waitress at all, so I had no idea what I ordered. It turned out to be some kind of gazpacho soup and mystery meat with fries; I’m thinking lamb.

Tavern Mystery Soup

Tavern Mystery Meat

When the sun came out I headed to the docks and sprawled out on a bench drying my coat and flats. The water was so clear I could see big fish swimming amongst the sailboats. At this point, I was starting to wonder where Ryan was. I was pretty sure his flight arrived in the early afternoon. Back at the hostel, I still had no idea where he could be. Just as I was about to head out for the evening, he showed his face! Turns out he missed his flight out of Amsterdam. Figures. 🙂

So, Ryan and I in the company of two of our hostel-mates took some advice from a couchsurfer and made our way to JazzSi Club. The place was PACKED. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a place more packed than this. It was probably double or triple the fire code allowances (if there were any). People sitting on top of people, people standing in between chairs and tables, people sitting on the stairs and the loft. There is no way we could have made it to the bathrooms if we wanted to. But it was well worth it. We saw a live flamenco performance with a guitarist, singer and dancer. The singer embodied the ultimate stereotype. He wore a white linen suit with a red scarf in the pocket and his curly chest hair peaking out. The dancer was supreme. I wish my body would move like that. After seeing this show, I wanted nothing more than to take flamenco lessons.

Flamenco Dancer

Flamenco Singer

The next morning Ryan and I went on a hike to the top of a hill overlooking Barcelona. Although we were sweaty and getting sun burnt, we had some of the best views of the city. We rested there for a bit crawling on the graffiti and messing with our cameras.

The Destination of Hike #1

Then we climbed down the hill and back up the next one to enter Parc Güell, one of Gaudi’s magnificent creations. His art is so whimsical. Wandering around the park makes you feel as though you’re in a fantasy storybook. We listened to some acoustic reggae and watched the St. George festival parade from above. We paid our respects to the famous iguana before heading for the beach.

St. George Festival as seen from Parc Guell

Gaudiguana

Being exhausted from our hill-filled hike earlier in the day, our first stop in Barceloneta was at a restaurant. We ordered two large beers, some paella (a rice dish) and mixed seafood tapas. God, I love Spain. The beers came out first and since Ryan and I are both small people who hadn’t eaten much all day, we felt them. We laughed over how hard it is to eat paella and why “My Sharona” fits with Barcelona so well.

Then we stumbled out to the beach. Having forgotten our bathing suits, we could only admire from a far. In the heat we wandered back to the gothic quarter where the tall buildings provided a bit of shade. After a nap at the hostel, we took a passagiata (or whatever the Catalan equivalent for a leisurely stroll is) over to La Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s unfinished church. The lights around the building make it shine like a mirage and the architecture is so unusual that you begin to think you’re imagining it. To confirm its reality, we returned the next morning in the daylight. This time La Sagrada Familia reminded me of a huge sandcastle. Inside there is an explanation of Gaudi’s plans for the architecture and everything is based on principles found in nature. Amazing.

La Sagrada Familia

Our next stop was the Picasso Museum, something which Ryan and I had been looking forward to. It did not disappoint. I know Picasso was quite prolific, but I had never seen this much of his work in one place. I guess it would make sense, he did live there and all. One of the coolest things about this museum was its comparison between Velázquez’s Las Meninas and Picasso’s 58 of interpretations of it. Although I’m not a fan of Picasso’s 1950s work, the display was effective and engaging.

Velasquez

Picasso

After Picasso it was time for tapas again. Chorizo! Gazpacho! Manchego! Mussels! Mushrooms! Potatoes! YUM.

Post-Picasso Tapas!

As soon as we were well-fed, we decided it was time to take on La Rambla, but that doesn’t mean we were done eating. We found the pastisserie recommended to me by my co-worker, Laura. Apparently it is the oldest one in Barcelona! Everything was beautiful. Everything was edible. Everything was delicious. I ordered a mix of cookies and Orxata and Ryan had a fruit tart.  Aside from these goodies, La Rambla is famous for its “pet shop” stand and the sales person got me hooked on the bunnies. If only i could have taken one home! Ryan rolled his eyes and reluctantly took photos of the event. Thanks, Ry!

Rambla Rabbit

The last unexplored district of Barcelona was the Parc de Montjuic, another recommendation of Laura’s. We were hoping to get the the Mirò museum, but it closes early on Sundays. So, we settled for exploring the gardens and ordering drinks on the patio of the National Museum of Art. I can’t recall the name, but I drank a kind of lemonade slushy with beer in it. I think of it as the Spanish version of a Radler, but not nearly as good. As the night cooled off, we took the gondola up the hill to the castle overlooking the ocean. We sat next to a canon and enjoyed the view. We were back down the hill in time to see the disappointing fountain show. It was just a few lights and some water. People told us that it gets better, but we didn’t stick around to find out. I had to wake up at 4:00 am to catch my flight the following day.

The Gondola at Parc Montjuic

All in all it was jam-packed, but without a specific itinerary. It felt good to stroll the streets and soak up the city with an orxata in hand. I definitely, definitely want to come back to Spain. It was simply captivating (and delicious).

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Rae + Paige = RAGE!

Excepting my rant about hating Naples, my last post was about the end of winter quarter! Looky here, it’s already the end of spring quarter. What have I been doing with myself, you might ask. Well, hopefully this post (and the following ones) will help to answer that!

RAGE at the Trevi

Shortly after working my butt off for the CPAC convention during Spring break, my ex-classmate/ex-coworker/ex-neighbor/fellow art history-lover Paige came to Rome with her good friend/buddy/pal/fellow art history-lover Ryan. It was Ryan’s first time in Rome and he would be starting the Art History Rome program in just a few days. It was Paige’s second visit to Rome because she was on the program last year. One of the first things we did was run around the city exploring. You know, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Trajan’s Forum and the like. Just your average romp in the eternal city.

In the evening we headed to my favorite spot to watch live jazz in the Monti district of Rome, Charity Cafe. It was actually a blast because it was such a small group of people that the musicians had us all sit together, taught us the songs and had us sing along. We even made friends with some of the other people there… or so I thought. They wanted to invite us to another concert, so I gave them my email address. Turns out they are not interested in friendship and now I’m on a lame list-serve to receive spam emails in Italian. Yay. Italy, you’ve done it again.

Jazz at Charity Cafe

Paige spent the days doing research for her honors paper on the Saint Helen sculpture in the crossing at St. Peter’s. Most of the time I was working while she was researching, but I did join her to the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s (where we waited in line forever).

RAGE at St. Peter's

In the evenings we got up to no good, going dancing, finishing a whole giraffa with just the two of us… Just the two of us, we can make it if we try! Just the two of us, you and I. Sorry, I’ve run away with myself. Back to the story!

Giraffa for two!

We had some grandiose plans for Easter, which were foiled in two ways. 1. We made the mistake of buying chocolate eggs a little too early knowing full well how little will power I possess. A few days before Easter while Paige was out gallivanting about the city, I decided to tear a small hole in the packaging of my chocolate egg just so I could have a little taste to satisfy my chocolate craving. The plan was to put the egg back inside the packaging before Paige returned and she would be none the wiser. Unfortunately she returned home to find me sitting in bed with half a chocolate egg on my lap and shiny Easter packaging strewn about the bed. Whoops! So, we didn’t open our eggs on Easter, we feasted a few days early. 2. We also had plans to rent a Vespa and tour around the city while the whole town was in Piazza San Pietro. It was going to be our “Roman Holiday” re-enactment and it was going to be glorious! However, we couldn’t find a Vespa that would fit two people and it poured down rain all day, but the real reason why it didn’t work out was because Paige and I went dancing in Testaccio the night before and needed a full day to recover in bed with the aid of a few good films and the rest of our chocolate eggs.

View of St. Peter's from the Quirinal Hill

Later that week Paige and I (after one failed attempt) made it to the Caravaggio exhibition at the Quirinal hill. It is the most complete exhibition of his  paintings ever. Wow! It really was spectacular… and crowded, but we were the last people there waiting for everyone else to clear out so that we could actually see the paintings. It was a really beautiful exhibition, but the organization of the paintings could use improvement. Every floor ended on a weak point with a painting of questionable attribution. Words of wisdom: Always end with a bang when possible! Despite that, it was still a beautiful collection of works and I took home a copy of the catalog.

One of the many Caravaggio works on display!

Oh, and we had Frigidarium on the regular.

Paige's fave gelato place, Frigidarium!

After Paige left *sad face*, I had to prepare for more even more guests! Check back soon for posts about my other spring-time visitors!

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Winter Wrap

So, winter quarter has ended and it’s now starting to feel a bit like spring in Rome, which both exciting and terrifying. I love Rome when it’s sunny, but I hate Rome when it’s hot. Sadly, these things often come hand in hand. Anyway, this is how winter quarter ended!

Damon picked me up from the train station and then we took his friend Bjorn to Bar Trilussa, an establishment that has been featured in my blog many a time. (I should be getting some sort of kick-back.) I have to say, however, that Bjorn appreciated the giraffa far more than any other guest I’ve taken to Trilussa.

Damon and Bjorn at Bar Trilussa with the infamous giraffe

The next day the three of us went to Abbey Theatre (kick-back?) to see a live rockabilly band, the Da Silva Trio. To be honest, my expectations were quite low. I mean think about it: Italians playing rockabilly. Uh, yeah… To my surprise, I was completely blown away! They were amazing. i knew almost every song and the three of us were very enthusiastic throughout their entire performance. Here’s a video I recorded of a Johnny Cash cover in which you can witness some of Bjorn’s excitement:

On Friday I took Bjorn to the Capuchin crypt. That’s the one where it looks like they used the grim reaper as an interior decorator. I’ll never forget Bjorn’s face when he first walked in. I didn’t know anyone’s eyes could get that huge. I’ve sort of forgotten how creepy that place is when you first visit. I’ve taken so many people there that I seem to be desensitized to its, um, subject matter.

Anyway, Bjorn left on Saturday and it was free Sunday at the Vatican Museums the next day. So, Damon and I drug ourselves out of bed way too early and waited in line. Despite attempts at being cut in line by nuns (that’s right, NUNS!), we made it in early and Damon saw all the things he missed when he went with his class. I also did a bit of research in the Sala dei rotundi (see below). I hope to make it to another four free Sundays before I say arrivaderci to Roma!

Vatican Museums

It was a short work week after that because I was invited on the Communications program field trip to Pompeii on Friday. After the field trip, Damon and I stayed in Naples for the weekend, but you can read about that in my next blog post.

It was only a few short days after we said goodbye to Bjorn that it was time to say hello to Josh, another one of Damon’s friends. He joined us on the field trip to Pompeii on Friday. We also managed to do the obligatory trip to the Capuchin crypt and Bar Trilussa con giraffa. On Monday Josh and I accompanied Damon to Abbey Theatre to support him at open mic night. After our rockabilly experience, I only had positive feelings toward the pub. Unfortunately, this night Abbey Theatre was filled with annoying girls who would not shut up. I could barely hear Damon and he had a microphone. Argh. As frustrating as it was, Damon still put on a great show. 🙂

The weekend after our trip south, Jocelyn came to Rome to visit me. She has been living and working in southern Spain, so it wasn’t too long of a trip for her. She arrived late Thursday night and we only had time for a few drinks before bedtime. On Friday Jocelyn visited the Vatican while I was at work. We met up later for a bit of shopping mixed with sightseeing. We managed to see the Spanish Steps before meeting up with Josh and Damon at a restaurant we found while Bjorn was in town. It was very chill the first time around, but this time it was filled with a huge group of tourists celebrating someone’s birthday. They may have had a lot to drink and they were certainly enjoying the atmosphere. I think this put us in a goofy mood as we mowed down with tambourine baby watching over us.

Dinner Party with Tambourine Baby: Jocelyn, Josh, Damon and me

Saturday morning Damon and Josh left for England. (Don’t worry! Damon’s coming back to Rome tomorrow before he heads back to Seattle for good.) In the afternoon I took Jocelyn on a tour of the Campidoglio, the forum, the colosseum, Trajan’s Forum and other goodies. It was sunny, so we were in a good mood. It was a wonderful day for sightseeing.

Jocelyn and the Arch of Constantine

On Sunday night I took Jocelyn to aperitivo jazz at Charity Cafe (another kick-back, please). However, it didn’t really turn out to be jazz. The band had a singer, drummer, bassist (with both standard and upright bass) and pianist, but they played a cover of Norah Jones and Michael Jackson’s Man in the Mirror. Weird. Anyway, it was good food and drinks and there was music. I can’t really complain.

The next morning it was time to say goodbye to Jocelyn and she hopped on a plane headed back to Spain. Hopefully my mom and I will be able to visit her in Cadiz in May. Here’s hopin!

The last few days I’ve just been relaxing and getting things ready for the conference, which starts next week. After that it’s time for spring quarter to start. A fresh batch of kids (including the art history group), a fresh batch of visitors (including, but not limited to Paige and Momma) and fresh, spring weather! I have good feelings about next quarter.

In conclusion, I am fond of parenthetical statements. Thank you.

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Stress, Food, Stress, Food…

This month has really been a crazy one, full of excitement, full of stress, full of food.

After Dan and Oana left I began cramming for the GRE, which I took on Monday. It went alright. I did surprisingly well on the math part (I’m good at guessing), but not as well as I would have liked to on the verbal portion. I find out my essay score via mail sometime next week. I need to get my act together so that I can apply to grad schools in December.

Other than that, I have had three more visitors in the eternal city. Kessler Dixon (no relation) and his girlfriend Laurel were in town. Unfortunately, I was so busy with the GRE that we were only able to meet up once for beers at Bar Trilussa. We had a great time complaining about/loving art history and all things Star Trek. Really, I don’t know how any conversation at Trilussa would be complete without it. Actually, earlier that week I met up with one of Danny and Hallie’s friends, Adam, at Trilussa and we argued over which Star Trek was superior, TNG or Voyager. Is there really any contest? PATRICK STEWART.

Anyway, I’m getting off-topic. So, my third, or rather fourth visitor was Steve Bunn. He’s a doctoral student at UW and he was in Europe pretending to do research. I took him to one of the best gelato hot spots in Rome, Gelato del Teatro, and we walked along the river before having dinner in Trastevere. Yay for visitors!

However, one of my favorite things from the last month was when the ex-director of the Rome Center, Trina, took the office staff out for lunch at a place called Bleve. It is a beautiful restaurant located at the old Medici family stables with a wine cellar larger than my family home. The Medici stables were built on top of ancient Roman ruins (as is everything in the city). When the restaurant decided to expand/remodel their cellar, the construction team discovered a completely intact tufa wall beneath the restaurant. Trina asked our waiter if we could see it and he took us down into the wine cellar for a private viewing of the beautiful stones. I wish I knew something about wine because there were floor-to-ceiling racks of vintage bottles. So cool!

Moving on to the food part, Sunday night the Art program had a potluck complete with burgers and oreos. Can you tell that they’re getting a little homesick? After dinner they held a contest for the best photo from their recent field trip to Sicily. Here’s the winner submitted by Ashton:

Photo by Ashton

On Monday the Food and Culture program had their final projects due. They had to prepare an artisanal dish completely from scratch. For example, Desiree made chesnut loaves and she went to a chesnut orchard and picked, shelled and ground the chesnuts herself. Coral made olive oil and picked the olives herself as well. Some of my other favorites were lamb, polenta and a huge assortment of desserts. Puff pastries, mmmmm.

It was not the end of my over-eating, however. This whole week I have been going crazy trying to plan a Thanksgiving feast for over 70 people: all the students and faculty from three programs and their guests. It all came together last night. Dinner was both beautiful and delicious with very few mishaps. I brought Roberto, the doorman a plate complete with all your Thanksgiving classics. He then asked what stuffing was and we had an interesting five-minute conversation about that… After stuffing ourselves, the Food program and I watched National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation to get us in the holiday spirit. It was a success! Here are a few photos from the night:

Beautiful Dining Room Pre-Dinner

Desiree filling her plate buffet-style

Chaos in the "Dessert Room"

So, I only have one week left in Rome and I have tons of Christmas shopping to do. Happy holidays and see you soon!

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Turning Acquaintances into Friends

For those of you who have been dying for an update (Mom, Hallie, Liv?), I sincerely apologize! I don’t know why it has taken so long.

This update requires a little history. Rewind four years: I was inspired by an MXPX song (can’t believe I just admitted that!) and joined my friend Jon on a day trip to his hometown of Bremerton, Washington. It was there that Jon first introduced me to his friend Meghan Rowley. Afterwards, Meghan and I hung out a few times and went to a few concerts together, but unfortunately she went to Western and we didn’t keep in touch. Fast forward four years: I find out via facebook stalking that Meghan is backpacking around Europe and invite her to stay with me in Rome. This is the story of our whirlwind weekend of rekindling our acquaintanceship and feeding the fire of friendship.

meg bec

Travel Buddies: Meghan and Becca by Trajan's Forum

Meghan and her travel buddy Becca arrived on a Friday night and I met them (with a few complications) at the train station. They were very exhausted from their day of travel and after our night walk/passagiata through the neighborhood (Campo, Pantheon, gelato, Piazza Navona), we all called it an early night. On Saturday, we woke up early and made the trek out to St. Peter’s, where they were setting up for a canonizing event the following day. Apparently, the first Hawaiian ever was canonized that Sunday. (Leisha attended the festivities.) We also walked by Castel Sant’ Angelo before heading back to the market in Campo de’ Fiori for some snacks. A little siesta was in order and then the girls did a little solo sightseeing until we met up for dinner with Leisha and Mia at one of our favorite restaurants, Bar Trilussa.

fausto

One piece from Fausto delle Chiaie's sidewalk exhibition

On Sunday, we did a little shopping before sightseeing. We visited the Trevi fountain, the forum and the Colosseum. In the evening we took a walk up to Piazza del Popolo and ran into the infamous Roman street artist, Fausto delle Chiaie. He had set up a small “exhibition” of works just outside the Ara Pacis. It was so cool to see Rome’s less-ancient, less-pretentious art scene. We took a detour via the Spanish steps before our glorious five-course Chinese dinner. Yum! After dinner we dragged our mattresses into the conference room and watched the wedding episode of The Office on the big screen. Pam + Jim 4ever.

big screen

Big Screen Fun

I had to work on Monday, but Becca and Meghan tried real Italian coffee and visited the monuments from our night walk in the daytime, such as the Pantheon. Monday was the first really cold day in Rome. I’m talking coat, scarf, gloves kind of 55 degree weather. 🙂 While it was pouring down rain, we stayed inside. Leisha and I taught the girls how to play Briscola, an Italian card game. We also whipped out the Phase Ten cards and I lost miserably. When the rain died down, we headed out to Bar Trilussa again, only this time we ordered a 4.5 liter giraffa of beer and it went to our heads. The walk home was quite fun and Meghan and Becca were a little tipsy when they caught their midnight train to southern Italy.

After Meghan and Becca left, Leisha and I spent the next week trying to get pumped for our upcoming trip to Paris. We watched one movie every day that takes place in Paris (or just France in some cases). Here’s the list: Night on Earth, Paris, je t’aime, Before Sunset, Ratatouille, Two Days in Paris, Beauty and the Beast, Last Tango in Paris, Frantic and Amelie. I think it worked! We leave tomorrow for Paris and we’ll be staying with Elyse, a friend from high school. She is a nanny in a suburb called Asnieres, which is only 15 minutes from Paris.

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Dana in the Land of Pizza

The Campidoglio at sunset

The Campidoglio at sunset

Dana came to visit Leisha and me this past week. She was a nanny in Spain, but it didn’t work out, so she did a “nanny and dash” and headed to Rome. She arrived on Wednesday night and we took her to all the sights in the neighborhood: the Pantheon, Piazza Navona, and the Trevi Fountain.

On Thursday morning while Leisha and I were at work, Dana and Joey bonded while visiting the Vatican Museums together. As I suspected Joey’s favorite part was the map room. I suppose getting kicked out of the Sistine Chapel was pretty memorable as well! That night we went back to the bar in Trastevere and had another giraffa of beer together.

Day of Morbidity: Jenn, Dana, Joey and I in front of the Capuchin Crypt

Day of Morbidity: Jenn, Dana, Joey and I in front of the Capuchin Crypt

Joey designated Friday as the “Day of Morbidity” and forced us all to dress in black. Then he took us on a surprise adventure to Parrochia Sacro Cuore in Prati, a small Neo-Gothic church near Castel Sant’ Angelo. There is a small Purgatory Museum here with objects marked by people stuck in purgatory. They burn hand prints into bibles so that people will pray for their souls. The creepiest one was an altar that caught on fire and a face was charred into the frame.

Capuchin Crypt

Capuchin Crypt

That evening Joey and I escorted Dana and Jenn to yet another surprise location to bring an end to the day of creepiness. We took them to the Capuchin crypt where bones are arranged decoratively. The sign in the final room reads, “What you are now, we were once. What we are now, you will be.” To lighten up the mood a little, we visited the Spanish steps and Piazza del Popolo.

Saturday was Leisha’s last day of work so Jenn, Joey and I met Leisha and Dana down at the Colosseum. We walked along the forum and up to the Campidoglio before having dinner at the worst Irish pub ever.

Joey, Dana and Leisha at the Colosseum

Joey, Dana and Leisha at the Colosseum

On Sunday Dana and I woke up at the crack of dawn to experience St. Peter’s before mass started, before the hour of tourists dawned and before the heat set in. It was wonderful to get there so early because it seemed like the basilica was ours alone. We even saw the Pietá without having to elbow through the crowd. After seeing the church from the ground level, we climbed the hundreds of stairs up the cupola. Dana kept saying, “Slow and steady wins the race.” And sure enough, we made it. First we walked along the inside of the dome where we saw the mosaics up close and personal and heard the Sunday sermon echo through the building. After a few more stairs we were on top of the dome enjoying the view of city and examining our sweat stains. Dana won.

View of Piazza San Pietro from the top of the Dome

View of Piazza San Pietro from the top of the Dome

After the church I went with Joey and Jenn to the Porta Portese flea market. It is here that I was swindled. There was a pet store booth selling bunnies, guinea pigs, love birds and all sorts of furry friends. Being me, I naturally bought a companion for my year here in Rome. He is a miniature turtle about the size of a silver dollar. When we got back to the apartment, I was excited and began looking up information about caring for my new pet. I quickly found a website with some sobering news. “There is no such thing as a miniature turtle. If you were sold a turtle under this pretense, then you have been fooled. Your turtle is a baby and it will grow.” UH OH. In other news, my soon-to-be-gigantic turtle still has no name. Please vote below to help me choose one for my friend.

Turtle without a name

Turtle without a name


After the market, Leisha met up with us and we all watched Amelie on the big screen lying on my mattress in the middle of the conference room underneath the air conditioner. Afterwards we shared a few beers in the Campo before saying goodbye to Leisha and Dana. They will be traveling in Italy and Spain together for two weeks. Then Dana will fly home and Leisha will become my roommate.

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