Tag Archives: research

You don’t look a day over 2,600.

Just after Paige left, Rome celebrated its 2763rd birthday. What better excuse to have a festa?

April 21, 2010 is regarded as the anniversary of Rome’s legendary founding by Romulus, remembered as the pudgy baby suckling a she-wolf’s teat, victorious over his poor brother Remus. Here’s a teaser photo of the famous she-wolf sculpture projected in Piazza del Popolo.

Can you see baby Romulus and Remus suckling?

So, what does Rome do to celebrate its birthday, you ask? I think a better question would be what doesn’t Rome do. There were over thirty events for the birthday week including (but not limited to) tours at archeological sites, marching bands and choir performances, seminars, conferences, exhibition openings at museums all over Rome, free entrance to said museums and archeological sites and a grand finale that recalled the history of the city with lights, sound and fireworks. But more on that later.

The event that kicked it all off was a parade that Ryan and I barely made it to in time. We stood outside the Vittorio Emanuele II monument and watched groups of people dressed up in ancient costumes. There were groups recreating famous legions, groups representing different areas of Ancient Rome, different religious sects (think Vestal Virgins) and even captive barbarians! I think I saw a Dacian or two being mistreated. Yay! (For those of you who don’t already know, I am researching a sculpture that supposedly features a Dacian.)

Over the next few days I took advantage of free admission to museums during what is called Settimana della Cultura or Culture Week. One of my favorites was Palazzo Altemps. I could not believe that I had never been here before. I was able to get quite a bit of research done looking at ancient sculptures restored by Ippolito Buzzi (also written as Buzio), but the highlight was definitely seeing the sculpture known as the Suicidal Gaul. By now everyone knows I love barbarians. The sculpture is absolutely gorgeous and I’ve written about it on a few different occasions. This time I scrutinized the work in terms of its restoration. Hmm, that barbarian seems to wield a Roman sword… How odd.

Suicidal Gaul at Palazzo Altemps

Ryan and I also took advantage of free admission at the Palatine hill, a place I shamefully haven’t visited since 2007. We took a picnic lunch that we ate near the Palatine museum, from which Ryan fed a few pigeons before we headed on our merry way about the hill top. We traveled down through the forum before decided that although our ticket included admission to the Colosseum, we were just too exhausted to carry on. We did have fun walking amongst the ruins though. It’s a shame that it costs money to go to the forum. It used to be open to the public back in 2007. Drat.

Me in the forum next to the Temple of Deified Antoninus Pius and Faustina

Anyway, the next big birthday week event was ROMAGNIFICAT, which is a play on the Italian words for Rome and magnificent. Shayna and I trekked it out to Piazza del Popolo with the rest of the Romans to see the light and sound show that was to chronicle Rome’s history. It was cheesy, but also very cool. They projected images of the Sistine ceiling and last judgement on random buildings in the piazza, little snip-its of famous Italian films were shown, there was an interpretive dance and reenactment of Rome’s founding (think she-wolf and Remus getting clobbered). The finale consisted of fireworks in Italian colors and the lighting of the olympic torch; Rome has been nominated to host the 2020 olympics. So, all together something magnificent indeed. Here’s a look:

Michelangelo's Last Judgement projected in Piazza del Popolo

Other things I got up to in late April were meeting the director Francesca Archibugi, teaching the Italian studies students how to make Spaghetti alla Carbonara (see recipe below) and having drinks with Mia and friends. It was certainly a great month. 🙂

Spaghetti alla Carbonara Recipe

  • 1 pound dry spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 ounces pancetta (You americani can also use cut up strips of bacon if you can’t find the cubed pancetta version.)
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • Half a small onion, minced
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup grated parmesan
  • pepper
  • Optional table spoon of dry white wine
  • Optional bits of parsley for garnish

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and add spaghetti noodles.

While the noodles are cooking, heat the olive oil in a pan. Add the pancetta (or bacon) and saute for about 3 minutes on medium heat. Remove the pancetta, leaving that lovely oil/fat mix in the pan.  Toss the garlic and onion into the fat and saute for less than 1 minute to soften. Turn the heat down to low and add the pancetta back in as soon as the noodles are done and strained.

Add the hot, drained spaghetti to the pan and toss for 2 minutes to coat the strands in the yummy oil/fat/garlic/onion mix. Beat the eggs and Parmesan together in a mixing bowl, stirring well to prevent lumps. Some Italians also add a tablespoon of dry white wine to the egg mix. I recommend it! Make sure you the heat is low, low, low before you move to the next step.

Pour the egg/cheese mix on top of the pasta, whisking quickly so that the mix covers all of the noodles. You want the eggs to thicken, but not scramble. Tricky, tricky. You can take the pan off the heat entirely if you want as long as your noodles are hot enough to partially cook the eggs. You can also thin out the sauce with a bit of reserved pasta water, but it won’t fix the scramble issue. So, don’t let it scramble!

Season the carbonara with salt and pepper and parsley, if you like. Then EAT!

What your pasta will hopefully look like.

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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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If I never go to Naples again, I will die happy.

At Play in Pompeii

So sorry that this post is so late! I have been a busy girl.

A few weeks ago I was invited to the Communications day trip down to Pompeii. Damon and I decided to make a weekend of it and stay in Naples until Sunday. We all jumped on a train early Friday morning and arrived at Pompeii while it was still sunny. Unfortunately, Josh got his camera stolen on the Circumvesuviana, which connects Naples to Pompeii. 😦 So, I took plenty of pictures all day! We walked through the forum, the basilica, a few domus and of course, the Villa of the Mysteries. We even stopped at my favorite place in Pompeii, the Temple of Isis. I think this trip to Pompeii was much more pleasant than when I went three years ago. March is the perfect time of year to visit Pompeii. It’s not too hot and not too crowded. We bought tickets that would also get us into Herculaneum, another archeological site nearby, but by the time the whole group got there, they were no longer admitting visitors. Luckily for Damon and I, the tickets were good for three days. That’s exactly how long we would be in the area! So, instead of going inside Herculaneum, we read Pliny the Younger’s account of the eruption of Vesuvius while overlooking the ruins. How nerdy. I loved it. This is where Damon and I said goodbye to everyone else. We stayed at Herculaneum for a bit, sitting on a bench under a tree while it poured rain all around us.

Damon and I at the Temple of Isis in Pompeii

That night we checked into our lovely little hotel room in Naples and went out to dinner at the nearest restaurant, where we would become regulars for the next three nights. The next day I found out that I was allergic to our lovely little hotel room. I was covered in hives and itchy, itchy, itchy. After showering and eating a little breakfast, I started feeling better, so we went out into the city. Damon and I got our leather boots shined on the streets of Naples and were feeling pretty good about it.

Our next stop was Pizzeria da Michele, a restaurant recommended by, well, everyone. We were so confused at first because there was a huge crowd of people just standing around outside the front door. I went in and tried to ask for a table, but the guy at the cash register just ignored me. As it turns out, you have to go inside, get a number from the waiter and then wait outside until your number is called. And wait is exactly what we did. We waited so long that I was beginning to think we should just eat elsewhere. Damon and I suspected, however, that it would be worth the wait as we assessed the huge crowd outside, which consisted mainly of Italians. “It must be good,” we thought. In fact, it was the best pizza I’ve ever had. Yes, it probably had something to do with me feeling starved, but I think it has more to do with the perfect combination of chaos and simplicity. You only have two options for pizza: with cheese or without. I could wax poetic about this pizza forever, but I’ll just let these photos do the talking:Yum. After our bellies were full, we took a little walk down sketchy lane to the National Archeological Museum of Naples. I had a little research to do there and it’s probably the only thing worth seeing in Naples. Second only to Pizzeria da Michele, that is. Damon and I were bummed that the “secret room” was closed, but it was nice to see the sculptures and frescoes taken from Pompeii. People that visit the ruins and not this museum only get half the story. On the walk home from the museum we saw an attempted purse snatching in a street full of trash. Yay Naples. After that scary episode, we decided to go to our favorite restaurant 30 seconds walk from our room. Where I ate dinner covered in hives.

Damon and the Farnese Hercules in the National Archeological Museum

The next morning, surprise, surprise, the hives were back. But I powered through it and we hopped on the Circumvesuviana. This time we made it early enough to be admitted to Herculanuem. I have been dying to go to this site since Professor Laird told us about it three years ago. It is preserved differently than Pompeii because of its vicinity to Vesuvius. Pompeii was first hit with pyroclastic materials falling from the sky. So, roofs and second stories were all destroyed. In contrast, Herculaneum met its fate from lava flow, so the lava filled buildings from the bottom up. In many cases, the roofs, second and even third stories are still intact in Herculaneum. It was so amazing to see!

Frescoes at Herculaneum

Back in the day, Herculaneum was a port town right on the beach. They even had a boat and fishing supplies on display. I took some pictures for dad. Damon and I spent most of the day goofing around at the ruins. Here we are at a thermopolium, which is like an ancient fast food restaurant. Damon, my customer, is ordering some gravel with a side of gravel.

Customer and Employee at a Thermopolium

Here we are being amazed at how short Ancient Romans were:

After our long day at Herculauem, we got lunch/dinner, realized we missed the Villa dei Papiri, ran back, saw it was closed, I got a migraine and Damon had to lead a blind leper back to the train station. 😦 So, now you know why I don’t need to go back to Naples. It hates me. Evidence: Stolen Camera, Closed Archeological Site, Pouring Rain, Rash, Closed Secret Room, Trash, Purse-Snatching, Rash, Rash, Closed Villa, Migraine. I get it, Naples. I get it.

Despite all those negative things, I still had a wonderful weekend with the man I love.

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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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The Land of Balisto

I arrived late Thursday night in Paris and so I didn’t do much. My first full day consisted of sleeping in (something that would characterize the majority of my recent trip to Paris) and then headed out into the city. First I went to Saint Denis to buy some slacks for my upcoming appointment at the Louvre, but after that was taken care of, I took a long walk along the Seine. There are a bunch of vendors set up along the river selling old books and it was fun to leaf through their moth-eaten pages. I ended up at Notre Dame as the sun came out and I sat in the gardens around the back on a bench in the sunshine. I walked to the other end of the island to have an early dinner at a restaurant recommended by my guidebook. I sat next to the window sipping French onion soup and watching the sunset behind the cathedral. It was so beautiful. As I left I heard a clarinet/guitar duo playing on the bridge that really hit the spot. I wish you had been there.

When I got home, Elyse and Hugo took me out to a bar that the local preteens frequent. I made a friend on the bus ride home and interviewed him using a twix candy bar as a microphone. (Don’t worry. He was not a preteen.) The next day, I was feeling a little under the weather and slept in again. However, I was determined to see the Musée d’Orsay. So, I turned on my iPod, tuned out the other visitors, and gazed at paintings I have only seen on flash cards. A dream come true!

Me with Manet's Luncheon on the Grass at Musee d'Orsay

Five hours later it was back to Asnieres where I met up with Hugo and Elyse. We then headed back into the city for some much-needed greasy food. Cuisine of choice? Chinese, of course. Hugo led us to the best Chinese restaurant in Paris, Chez Shen. It’s located at 39 Rue au Maire near the Arts et Metiers metro station and it’s absolutely imperative that you dine at this fine establishment when in Paris. I ate there nearly everyday and have no regrets. After dinner we walked to Hotel de Ville, which is where the mayor lives. There is currently an ice skating rink set up in front of his modest home. Elyse, Hugo and I watched wide-eyed as the most talented ice-skaters I have ever seen in person (this includes many years of attending Disney on Ice at Arco Arena) engage in a game of sharks and minnows. It was insane. We found ourselves rooting for strangers and pointing out close calls. We left as soon as there was blood on the ice. Ick.

The next day, we failed to wake up early enough to go to Versailles, so I headed out to the Pompidou instead, which is a modern art museum. Sadly, the 1905-1960 section was closed, which was really what I came for. That means no Matisse, no Picasso, no Rauschenburg. The disappointment goes on and on. I was pleasantly surprised to find an entire floor full of works by women artists. This featured Eva Hesse, the Guerilla Girls, Cindy Sherman, Barbara Krueger, Louise Nevelson, etc., etc. Needless to say, I spent hours at this museum as well. One memory ingrained in my mind: a video of a nude woman hula hooping with a hoop made of barbed wire. She was a damned good hula hooper, that poor girl.

Elyse and I at Chartres Cathedral

The next day consisted of another failed attempt to go to Versailles, but this is because it is closed on Mondays. Soooo not our fault. Still feeling the itch to get out of the city, we took the train one hour to Chartres, home of Chartres cathedral. I read in my guidebook that as you get closer and closer to Chartres, all the eye can see for miles and miles is wheat fields and the cathedral poking out over the top of them. Apparently, you’re not even supposed to notice the rest of the town until you’re practically in it. Lies, lies, lies. I saw no wheat fields. I saw town and lots of it! Stupid guidebook. Aside from the disappointing lack of wheat fields, however, Chartres was amazing. I’m a much bigger fan of small-town France than I am of Paris. The cathedral, which is the town’s main attraction, was our first stop. It was actually really creepy. Most churches have added a lot of artificial light, which really modernizes the viewer’s experience with a church. Chartres cathedral had just a few very dim lights added, which made it seem very close to what you would have experienced at the time it was built. It was dark and dusty inside. It smelt like old, if you know what I mean. Even the chandeliers and pulpit were covered in plastic gathering dust. It was eerie to say the least. It felt like an authentic gothic encounter to me.

After exploring the church, Hugo grabbed a map from the tourist office and took us on a walk throughout the town. Chartres looks a lot like the town that Beauty and the Beast takes place in. I had “Look, there she goes. That girl is strange-no question.” stuck in my head the whole time. We crossed the cute little river a few hundred times before it started to rain. We found a pub for shelter and played cards before hopping on the train back to Paris.

Ready to research!

The next day I had to wake up before noon because I had an appointment at the Louvre for special research. I met my escort, a cute, short old woman with glasses, frizzy hair and clogs, at Pavillion Mollien where the Department of Greek, Roman and Etruscan Antiquities is housed. I started out by apologizing that I don’t speak French and she said that she didn’t speak English……. As it turned out, she did speak a little English. We weren’t having serious, deep conversations or anything, but we were able to communicate when necessary. She first took me to the storage facilities where MA 412 has been sitting in a crate awaiting the reorganization of the Greek, Roman and Etruscan wing. I saw so many famous sculptures boxed up and plastic-wrapped. It was like an artwork graveyard.

MA 412 all boxed up

The next stop was the Wounded Gaul, but wait! I’m sorry, Rick Steves is filming in that room. You’ll have to come back later. So, it was on to visit the Venus Pallas of Velletri which now stands across from the Venus de Milo in a long corridor. Since they are remodeling the antiquities, these were the only two sculptures in the room save for a headless togate figure. I think few people have ever found themselves alone in a room with the Venus de Milo. Okay, so I wasn’t really alone. Agnes, my escort, was there and so were some men fixing light bulbs, but it still made my heart skip a beat.

Way back there is the Venus de Milo

I next visited the Captive Barbarian duo taken from the Forum of Trajan before heading back to the Wounded Gaul. Ahhh, Rick Steves has vacated the building. Another empty room at the Louvre. Incredible. It’s an experience I will never forget.

The Wounded Gaul and company

After finishing up the research, I popped by the opera house before heading back to Elyse’s place. That evening Elyse and I took the metro to Moulin Rouge and then went on a walk to the Arc de Triomphe, which is pretty damn far. Then we forced our tired legs to take us up many flights of stairs to the top of the Arc for a 360 degree view of Paris. It was beautiful, but windy and it was soon time to head back to Asnieres for our homemade fiesta–fajitas, guacamole, salsa made from Uncle Sil’s recipe and mojitos a la Hugo.

View of the Eiffel Tower from the Arc de Triomphe

The next morning I was able to drag Elyse and Hugo to my fourth and final museum of the trip, the Pinacotheque de Paris, for the Edvard Munch exhibition. I’m getting very tired of writing and you’re probably tired of reading, so suffice it to say that it was great. They had the Madonnas Julia and I so loved freshman year.

Pinacotheque de Paris

After the exhibition, we did a little tourist shopping and I came out with a beret. Then we sat together in front of Notre Dame watching children scare the pigeons. My trip had come to an end.

Beret + Notre Dame

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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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Ce n’est pas comme ça.

Disclaimer: Prepare yourself for art dorkiness. I apologize if some of my ramblings don’t make sense to you.

After months of waiting, weeks of worrying and days of preparing myself with movies set in Paris, I finally arrived last Wednesday night! Elyse and her Parisian boyfriend Hugo met us at the bus station and escorted us all the way to Asnieres, the suburb where Elyse lives as an au pair for an adorable family with triplet 5-year-old boys. Since it was a late flight, we had a little wine and cheese, pulled out the futon and called it a night. The next morning Leisha and I met up with Mia at St. Denis. An amazing little church that spring boarded some of the Gothic architectural style’s claims to fame, namely ribbed vaulting. After exploring the church, we walked through the flea market and nearby stores where I purchased my first set of heels that aren’t attached to some kind of event, such as prom. We decided to continue our heavenly theme and headed towards Notre Dame. We met up with Elyse here for some lunch before exploring the depths of the church. It was so beautiful. I hope to go to the top next time I am in Paris.

Notre Dame

Mia and I at Notre Dame

On a tip from Mia’s dad, we headed over to Shakespeare and Co. bookstore, which is where they filmed a scene from Before Sunset. The walls were stacked floor to ceiling with books and the entire store was a labyrinth of literature. My favorite part was the small reading room on the second floor where there were books to be borrowed, not bought. After downing some crepes we walked up to the Pompidou and then to the shopping center…

The next day Leish and I met up with Mia at the Louvre. Wow, a full day at the Louvre for an art historian is like heavenly torture. It is ecstasy seeing things you’ve written about and studied for years. Okay, maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration, but imagine only having seen something on a 3×5 flashcard suddenly blown up to 20 feet wide on the wall before you. It’s so surreal. Anyway, we spent hours looking at art. I made some progress on my research and in general filled my heart with happiness.

louvre

Mia, Leisha and I at the Louvre

After the Louvre, we mustered up enough energy to walk the Champs Elysees, seeing the Vogue cover sidewalk and doing some shopping before ending up at the Arc de Triomph, which is way larger than necessary, in case you were wondering. That evening when Leisha and I returned to Asnieres, Elyse had prepared a wine, cheese, bread and fruit spread for our dinner. Yum! Later that night Elyse took us to meet another one of her friends who attends the most prestigious school in Paris. There was a bit of a party at the school, so Hugo, Elyse, Leisha and spent the evening meeting Parisians.

I spent the next day getting some well-deserved rest. In the evening we went to Belleville, which is like the international district of Paris. We ate at this Chinese restaurant called Salon de The Wen Zhou, which I read about in a magazine article. Afterwards, Liesha, Mia and I went to see the light show at the Eiffel Tower. Then we met up with Hugo and Elyse again and went to a bar with some of Hugo’s friends.

On Sunday Leisha, Elyse, Hugo and I visited Pere Lachaise, the famous cemetery where Jim Morrison is buried. His grave is actually not very impressive. My favorite gravestone was that of Oscar Wilde. Going against tradition, I did not kiss the grave, because being an art nerd, I know that lipstick is destructive towards stone.

Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde's kiss-covered gravestone

After Pere Lachaise, Leish and I headed to Sacre Coeur. A scene from Amelie, the one with the carousel, was filmed here. We also went inside the church where booming organ music was playing. I sat and ate roasted chestnuts and we watched some street performers. We ended the evening at KFC (for you, Mom!).

Monday morning was my dress-like-a-professional-and-pretend-you-know-what-you’re-doing day. In other words, I headed to the Louvre with the intention of visiting the research center. When I reached the offices, the receptionist did not speak English and I do not speak French. After a few minutes of confusion, he called my Louvre contact, but she didn’t answer. I waited for an hour and a half, but she never showed. So, I decided to visit the galleries again to catch all the things I missed. Yes, one day in the Louvre is not enough. I also learned that two days are not enough. I still haven’t seen the Egyptian collection, which is about a quarter of the museum! There’s always next time I guess. After lunch I met up with Leisha and she took me on a surprise trip to the park where Before Sunset was filmed. We walked through the park and then caught a bus back to the Notre Dame neighborhood for dinner. We had a three-course meal in a rustic-lodge themed restaurant that began with French onion soup and ended with creme brulee. I still think Momma Skeers makes the best creme brulee!

Fun Eiffel Photo

Elyse and I goofing off at the Eiffel Tower

On Tuesday, it was finally time. Elyse and I headed to the Eiffel Tower. It was a gorgeous, warm, sunny day. Dare I say, the perfect day to visit the Eiffel Tower. We had fun goofing around with our cameras and making jokes about other visitors and the city below. Leisha met up with us afterwards and we visited the bridge from the opening scene of Last Tango in Paris. We ended our half day in Paris with a crepe and then said our goodbyes as we headed toward the airport. It was a wonderful week away from Rome, but I was also very grateful to be back in my beautiful city.

Eiffel Tower

At the Eiffel Tower

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