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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 GĂĽell, 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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Dada, Jazz and Snowstorms

On Friday I woke up early (gasp!) and Damon, Bailey and I walked over to the Vittore Emanuele II monument. Bailey headed onto the Colosseum, but Damon and I went to an exhibition on Dada and Surrealism at the Museo di Risogimento inside the monument. Initially I was outraged at some of the things they included. There was a list of artists underneath the heading “Dada e Surrealismo” and many of them had nothing to do with either movement. In any case, the exhibition was huge. One of my favorite pieces was a work by Francis Picabia entitled L’Ombre. It’s much more impressive in person because of the opposing textures. The entire painting was matte save for the glossy blue figure. I like the idea of a shadow preceding its figure.

Francis Picabia, L'Ombre, 1927.

I also really enjoyed this woodcut by Alberto Martini. This is the only photo I could find of it online. It’s a shame that the top is cut off.

Alberto Martini, La Venere Dissepolta (Venus Disinterred), 1902.

After the special exhibition, I climbed up to the terrace on top of the monument to look out over the city. I’ve never seen the forum of Trajan from this perspective. There’s another thing I can mark off my list of things to do! Progress, that’s what I’m making.

Vittore Emanuele II Monument

A few days later Damon and I were off to Tuscany for the weekend. We spent one day in Florence and one day in Viareggio for the Carnevale festivities, but you can read about that in my next post.

I was surprised by the weather a few days after our return to Rome. I awoke one morning to a snowstorm! The last substantial snowfall in Rome was in 1986, before I was even born! I don’t think this counts as a substantial amount, but it was fun for a few hours before the sun came out and melted the wonderland away.

Snow in my backyard/Campo de' Fiori

Damon and I spent the following weekend in Monti, a rione of Rome. On Saturday we walked to Santa Maria Maggiore, checked out the under-whelming Arch of Gallienus, and purchased some goodies at an Asian grocery store. We were back in Monti on Sunday for a jazz concert with aperitivo and buffet. Yum to both the music and the food. We saw Marta Capponi sing and, since it was San Valentino and all, she only sang songs about love. What a perfect way to spend Valentine’s Day. It’s possible that I will spend every Sunday at Charity Cafe soaking up aperitivo jazz for only 10 euro.

Now I just have to get myself ready to go to Paris! Piece of cake… not.

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A Movie-Concert-Concert-Movie Sandwich

Well, it has been a pretty busy week and a half now that I have begun checking things off my to do (in Rome) list. Perhaps one of the most important things on that list should be research. So, last Saturday I woke up bright and early and headed out to Villa Borghese to visit Galleria Borghese and its sculpture from the Great Trajanic Frieze. Unfortunately, there was a horrible exhibition on Caravaggio and Bacon. (I know it seems hard to believe, but, yes, it was horrible!) The paintings were hung on faux walls that stood in front of many of the sculptures I wanted to see. *Sigh* Perhaps I will do some research another time.

Birdwatchers at Villa Borghese

After a disappointing visit to the gallery, I took a walk through the villa. It was the first time in a long time that I have been awake before the rest of Rome. It was a crisp, sunny winter morning and I followed a cute couple who spent their Saturday morning bird watching. Later that day I met Jennifer and Lisa in Piazza Barberini and we walked to the church above the Spanish Steps. It’s not a very impressive church, but it has some beautiful frescoes in its cloisters that are only open once a week. So, look for a post about them if I happen to get up off my lazy ass and make it over there at exactly 11:00 on a Tuesday. After some questionably necessary shopping, we went to the movie theater to see Avatar in 3D. Why did I ever pay to see it in two dimensions?!

That evening Damon and I got dressed up to go to the opening of the doorman’s art show at a book store not too far from home. The book store had this wonderful series of cookbooks. Each one held ten recipes focusing on one main ingredient. Damon surprised me with the one on basil a few days later.

On Wednesday Damon dragged me out to a concert in a cute, young neighborhood of Rome called Pigneto. I did a little research before we left and got a list of the best restaurants there. We tried Primo, which apparently has local moms take over the kitchen to make their specialties on certain nights. This wasn’t one of those nights. We finally arrived at the venue to catch the tail end of opening band. It was this cute, pop-punk Italian girl band. I wish I had caught their name. The headliner was the Buzzcocks, or the “Buzzcoks” as our tickets indicated. They were really wonderful in concert. If you don’t know who they are, you might recognize this cover by Nouvelle Vague performed at Bumbershoot:

The following Tuesday I was back in Pigneto and back at Circolo degli Artisti for yet another concert. This time Julie (the Honors Professor) and I had dinner at Necci dal 1924, a restaurant made famous by its frequent patron Pier Paolo Pasolini, an Italian director. This time the food was exceptional and the atmosphere was more my style. I’ll probably head back there soon. The band I saw this time was Joan as Policewoman and she was amazing in concert, much better, in fact, than any of the recorded tracks I’ve heard. Unfortunately, everyone in Rome is sick right now. I had kleenex in my pocket at the show, Julie had to leave for a minute due to a coughing fit and Joan blew her nose between songs. Ahhh, illness. It was fun nonetheless and I hope to spend more time in the Pigneto neighborhood. Perhaps during the day sometime.

Joan as Policewoman at Circolo degli Artisti

Last night was actually quite exciting as well. We screened the movie Nuovomondo (Golden Door) in the conference room and the director, Emanuele Crialese came for an informal discussion session afterwards. Last week we watched his film Respiro, which, to be honest, I did not particularly like. At all. However, Nuovomondo was wonderful! It’s a story Crialese wrote highlighting the journey of a Sicilian family from the old world to the new world. It also falls within the category of magical realism, which really attracts me. As icing on the cake, he was a wonderful guest speaker. He was very honest and humorous and answered all questions thoroughly. Now I get to listen to the entire talk again so that I can prepare the transcript!

A scene from Nuovomondo

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Turning 22 Internationally

Ah, turning twenty two in another country has its ups and downs. It offers  cool, unique birthday experiences, but it inherently lacks some of your favorite people. You know who you are and I want to start out by saying, I miss you and I wish you could have been there!

“I’ve got the golden ticket.” Because Mia had to work on my actual birthday, we started the celebration on the 23rd. Mia, Leisha and I had a girls-only outing to the dance floor. I’d like to say that we danced out hearts out. After all the dancing we headed to Anthony’s apartment to hang out for a bit.

We put the birth in birthday. When I got to the office the next day, I found out that my boss, Jennifer had taken the day off because her friend went into labor and she wanted to be there for the birth. Unfortunately, the baby wasn’t born until the 25th. How lame. I was hoping we could share a birthday. So, Jennifer missed our little office party complete with cake, juice and other snacks.

How to create a tradition from Schramme. Last year for my 21st birthday, we all went to dinner at Schultzy’s, the German restaurant on the Ave, which was very fitting because my birthday falls on Oktoberfest. This year, Leisha found an Austrian restaurant in Rome. When I told Sheryl, one of my coworkers, where we were going for dinner, she said, “Oh, haha, that place is… fun.” Understandably, that worried me. After Leisha, Anthony, Dominique, Rain and I rushed to meet Ben there for our reservation, we understood what Sheryl meant. The place is decorated like a traditional Heurige with a Nouveau/Mod twist. For example, the walls are decorated with antlers painted white. It was so wonderful to be eating Weisswurst, Sauerkraut and Wiener Schnitzel again. YUM! I think I will have to make a tradition out of eating German/Austrian food on my birthday.

After dinner we walked towards the Trevi Fountain to have dessert at San Crispino gelateria. I never get to eat here because Leisha likes Giolitti’s gelato better. After the typical birthday photo shoot at the Trevi (as a shout out to Hallie, of course) it was time to move on to phase two of the birthday celebrations.

Ben, Leisha, Dominique, Anthony, Rain and I at the Trevi Fountain

Ben, Leisha, Dominique, Anthony, Rain and I at the Trevi Fountain

Sharing my birthday with Ireland’s pride and joy. Next we headed to Scholar’s lounge, an Irish pub near home to have the “beer of the week” where we met up with Lauren and Lucas. Due to the fact that it was Guiness’s 250th birthday, the place was packed. They were handing out free tee shirts and you had the chance to win a free key chain every time you ordered a Guiness. The best part, however, was the Irish band, which started to play the happy birthday song to Guiness while my friends filled in the blank with “Rae” instead. We finished up the night chatting at the students’ apartment. It was a lovely birthday indeed.

Lily let me down. As an extended part of my birthday (or really just because it was free) Leisha, Mia and I went to Piazza del Popolo for MTV’s Summer Song concert. The top 15 artists of the summer sing one song each and at the end everyone votes for the best song of the summer. I was really excited because Lily Allen was supposed to be there and her song Not Fair got stuck in my head all summer. Unfortunately, Lily decided that she wanted to focus on her acting career and would not be performing anymore. Bummer. It was still quite entertaining though. We felt kind of old next to the teeny-boppers yelling “Ti amo!” at the boy bands and “Ciao” at the camera. Nevertheless, it was still a good (and free) time. Here’s a medley of clips from our favorite songs of the night:

And that is the end of my 22nd birthday.

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Home Sweet Rome

Monday was the 40 year anniversary of man walking on the moon, so Rome had a festival called “La luna ha quaranta anni” (The moon is 40 years old). In Piazzo del Popolo they set up a huge stage and there was a big sphere in the center of it that they lit up to look like the moon. When Leisha and I first got there, a group of scientists were on stage discussing something… the moon probably. (My Italian skills are sub-par when it comes to scientific discussion.) They also played some of the original footage from Apollo 11.

Scientists playing footage from Apollo 11 at La Luna festival

Scientists playing footage from Apollo 11 at La Luna festival

After that Moby, yes the real Moby, gave a concert for free! It was amazing. The next day Leisha and I told our dads about it and they were both appalled that Italy would have a bigger anniversary celebration for Apollo 11 than the U.S. I guess Italians will use any excuse to have a party.

Here is a video I took during the concert:

And because the sound is absolutely horrible, here is the real music video for the same song:

Tuesday was my first day being the intern all alone. No more training. It went smoothly, of course. That afternoon I was able to move into my new apartment and I spent the whole day unpacking in the heat. One of my favorite things about the apartment: My dishwasher.

Since then, Leisha and I have been exploring Rome in the evenings when it’s cool out. I’ve visited the Colosseum, Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, etc. We also visited the street-fair-type festival down on the banks of the river and started watching La Dolce Vita. I also happened upon a photo shoot, which was cool.

A photoshoot for something...

A photoshoot for something...

For right now I’m just settling in to the job, to my apartment, to Rome. I’m also planning a trip back to Vienna to sort out some visa things and visit Paige who is studying there right now.

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