Posts Categorized: #blogjune

Jun 19 2012
0

A supermarket adventure and dinner… #blogjune

After our full day on the Scavi tour and at the Vatican museums, it was time for some downtime for our last night in Rome.

We just wanted to go to a nearby restaurant and have an easy dinner and an early night. Bill also thought it would be fun to go to an Italian supermarket and also pick up some snacks for our train trip the next day. So that was the plan!

The supermarket was a cute little community one like an Australian IGA or the small Associated we have in our neighbourhood. This was so much fun and we just had to share some of the photos we took in there!

The Deli –

Italian Supermarket

Italian Supermarket

Smurfs were everywhere!

Italian Supermarket

Italian Supermarket

Some familiar things –

Italian Supermarket

Italian Supermarket

Chocolate pasta anyone?

Italian Supermarket

Italian lollies –

Italian Supermarket

The refrigerated section provided some entertainment!

WUDY! What an awesome brand name –

Italian Supermarket

BIGGY!

Italian Supermarket

Italian ‘snackables’ –

Italian Supermarket

Pronti in 5 minuti!

Italian Supermarket

For Steve and Colette!

Italian Supermarket

Pasta heaven –

Italian Supermarket

Italian Supermarket

Italian Supermarket

Béchamel sauce in a tetra pack! GENIUS!

Italian Supermarket

Is it just for Big Americans?!

Italian Supermarket

I don’t think anyone paid any attention to the sign –

Italian Supermarket

The line to get to the checkout… we just hung out by the freezer for a while!

Italian Supermarket

I wanted to walk out of the door with the whole Kinder display –

Italian Supermarket

We then popped in to the restaurant around the corner for some dinner. We thought it looked touristy but all we were thinking was food and then bed. It was a FANTASTIC meal! We were so surprised – it was a great way to end our time in Rome. It may not have been the coolest place but wow – the food was great.. and cheap!

Here is our dinner at Ristorante ‘Steak House’. Now you can understand why we thought it would be an average meal.

Ristorante 'Steak House'

Ristorante 'Steak House'

This pizza was absolutely amazing –

Ristorante 'Steak House'

And so was this carbonara –

Ristorante 'Steak House'

Ristorante 'Steak House'

Ristorante 'Steak House'

Ristorante 'Steak House'

We then headed back to Domus for our last night. Some last minute packing and getting our things in order was all that was needed before we drifted off before our early morning wake up for our train to Venice.

Jun 18 2012
0

Monday in Rome #blogjune

On Monday it was another early morning as it was time for a Scavi Tour. We had to be back at St Peter’s at 8.30am! Yep – back to St Peter’s AGAIN! The Scavi Tour can be extremely difficult to get tickets to – only a small amount of people are able to tour the excavations on any day. Because we knew our dates so far in advance, this wasn’t a problem for us. Also – this is different to visiting the catacombs – a lot of people get these tours mixed up! We could not take photos so I cannot share anything but my memories with you.

We got to the St Peter’s and had to go through security in another ‘secret’ side entrance.

Going on the Scavi

Scavi Office

There, we started chatting to a couple from Ohio who had tried for their past four trips to Rome to get on a Scavi tour – it is that sought after!

I would probably say that it was one of the most amazing experiences that I’ve had travelling. We were in a small group of ten and were led through dark, narrow corridors of the necropolis under St Peters – you can view the map here.

Our tour guide was a sensitive, intelligent theologian who led us through and explained clearly what we were seeing. It then ends up, he has written a whole book on the area and was an expert on the excavation, so it was even more wonderful that he was able to explain everything to us in a way we could understand. The tour itself went for about an hour and a half. We kept going through the dark, damp underground area and then came out in a chapel area. This chapel (later found out it is called the Clementine Chapel) was entirely covered in gold with a few small kneelers and an altar.

Here is a photo from the web of the Clementine Chapel –

Our guide gave an explanation of the chapel and then led us up some metal side stairs and into a darkened stone room that had glass on one side looking at some rubble. It was here he explained if we looked closely into the rubble we would see bones and these were the bones of Saint Peter himself. It was chilling and I got goosebumps when he said it then, there was just emotion. He then asked us all to bow our heads for a prayer. Here we were, steps a way from St Peter’s remains. It is something we will always remember. I just held Bill’s hand and we were led out of the room. You do not have to be Catholic to go and do a scavi tour or anything like that but it was such a powerful experience that we were speechless. We then walked back into the Clementine Chapel and then we realized when we turned around that we were. Where were right below the cupola in the middle of the Basilica. The phrase “Upon this rock…” came to life right there.

We were led up a small staircase and up to the middle of the Basilica where our tour ended.

St Peter's Basilica

St Peter's Basilica

We walked around and tried to comprehend what we just experienced but we really couldn’t. The pangs started happening at that point where I was fretting at having to leave Rome. We needed more time but we didn’t have it.

St Peter's Basilica

After this, we went at posted some postcards at the Vatican Post Office and then made out way back into the town to have another look around.

Vatican Post

Streets of Rome

We went to the Gammarelli shop and picked up a couple of pairs of socks for our two Fr Joe’s and then we saw a church across the square from the shop.

Gammarelli

Santa Maria Sopra Minerva

As we had got into the habit of doing, we went inside for a look. The church was Santa Maria Sopra Minerva. This church was dark and gothic and there was hardly anyone in there. I walked up to the altar and saw a tomb. On closer inspection I nearly fainted. It was the tomb of St Catherine of Siena. My confirmation saint. It was too much to even comprehend when I saw her tomb was open – because it had been her feast day the day before. I was able to go in and pray over her tomb – it was just too much!

Santa Maria Sopra Minerva

Santa Maria Sopra Minerva

All of this in a little neighbourhood church!! Even just typing about it now gives me chills. We spent a long time in that church full of strange plaques and displays… here are some.

Santa Maria Sopra Minerva

Blurred –

Santa Maria Sopra Minerva

Santa Maria Sopra Minerva

Side chapel –

Santa Maria Sopra Minerva

We then went to a quick place for lunch and to rest our feet… gnocchi time! We stopped at a touristy little place called Trattoria Di Torre Argentina.

Trattoria Di Torre Argentina

Trattoria Di Torre Argentina

Trattoria Di Torre Argentina

Trattoria Di Torre Argentina

Chocolate Mousse was more like a cold fudge –

Trattoria Di Torre Argentina

As we spent longer than expected lazing around at lunch we ended up getting a cab back to the Vatican as we had a 2pm guided tour of the Vatican Museums. As we crossed the river and around the back streets alongside the Vatican walls we could see an ongoing queue of people. I think there was easily 15,000 people LINING up to get in to the museums. This is only part of the line –

Line to the Vatican

Seriously! To make it worse, it was already 1.30pm – these people had NO HOPE of getting in and yet, there they were lining up. This was most probably because it was the May Day public holiday on Tuesday and the Museums would be closed. So those who were in Rome for a short time had no other choice but to try and get in to the Vatican on that day. The thing that baffled me was there was guided tour groups lining up in this line. What kind of tour guide and/or tour company makes people who are visiting Rome spend half of their time lining up in obscene queues in hot weather? I can only feel for these people, probably on a trip of a lifetime and spending all of their timing lining up in endless queues. It is awful and tour companies should know better. We booked our place beforehand so just walked right in. It was absolute scenes of madness in the ticketing area. There were people everywhere. Bill and I found a corner and waited for our tour to start.

We had another great tour guide but the conditions were awful. There were so many people in the museum we couldn’t move through the areas easily and came to a lot of traffic jams that resulted in long waits just to move.

Vatican Museum

The hot conditions in the museum itself were awful. We were basically dripping with sweat and people were pushing to get their way through – it was difficult to enjoy the surrounds.

Vatican Museum

Vatican Museum

Vatican Museum

Vatican Museum

Vatican Museum

View through a window –

Vatican Museum

Vatican Museum

When we got to the Sistine Chapel the madness continued. Despite signs everywhere saying SILENZIO! Many people find it impossible to be silent for even five minutes and continued to chat. This resulted in the guards constantly shouting “SHHHHH!” “QUIET!” To make it worse – a lot of the offenders were TOUR GUIDES. It was infuriating and the lack of respect or care by the people in there was making my blood boil. The experience was ruined. I had already seen it before, but I was disappointed for Bill. SIGH! Our guide was actually respectful (being an actual Vatican guide) and explained aspects of the Sistine Chapel to us at the start of the tour using these boards as guides. It is a shame that the shoddy guides don’t use this method as well –

Vatican Museum

At least we can say we were both there, together but when we go back to Rome, hopefully the museums will be a little bit less stressful!

When we left we headed straight back to the hotel for a little downtime before dinner and some adventures at an Italian supermarket!

Jun 17 2012
0

The Blevins and the Pope #blogjuine

Our alarm went off at 5.30am on Sunday morning and we had no problem getting up at all! We were off to Mass at St Peter’s but this wasn’t just any Mass. Pope Benedict was presiding and the Mass included the ordinations of new priests. WHOA!

Before bed, we got all of our clothes and things ready. I checked my purse ten times to make sure we had our tickets! When we went down to the Domus Lobby, they called us a cab and gave us our packed breakfast. They even took a photo of us –

Papal Mass - St Peter's Basilica

I was actually nervous as we were in the car… but it was beautiful driving through the empty streets in the morning sun. Everything was beautifully illuminated and peaceful.

Morning sun at St Peter’s –

Papal Mass - St Peter's Basilica

Papal Mass - St Peter's Basilica

When we got to St Peter’s there was already a line of people. Mass wasn’t starting until 9am and we got in the line promptly at 7am. Then we just had to wait it out.

In the queue –

Papal Mass - St Peter's Basilica

By about 7.45 the line through security was moving. We just held hands and said “Let’s do this!” and off we went. We entered the Basilica and the sun shining from behind us was almost blinding. People moved swiftly and what surprised me most was that we could choose our own seats!

So here we were, 21 rows back from the main altar AND we were sitting on the aisle. We would get to see everything! I was in shock that we were able to sit so close and I kept thinking someone, somewhere would be coming up to tell us we would have to move but that didn’t happen. Before we left, I bought us two Italian – English missals so we could follow along but we didn’t need them as we all got beautiful Mass books just for the occasion. We will always treasure them!

Everyone getting seated –

Papal Mass - St Peter's Basilica

The pews started filling and I started chatting (as well as we could understand each other) to the lady beside me. Her brother was a priest and would be in the main procession. I was so excited for her and she was very excited to have New Yorkers beside her. The excitement in the air could be felt by anyone there and it was wonderful to see so many different people – young familes, the elderly, nuns, tourists, locals – all together in one place.

Here we are all settled and excited –

Papal Mass - St Peter's Basilica

Before Mass there was a recitation of the Rosary in Italian and then we all waited patiently. The procession was amazing. I have never seen so many priests in my life – there were hundreds of them.

Papal Mass - St Peter's Basilica

Papal Mass - St Peter's Basilica

Then, surrounded by clouds of incense, we could see Pope Benedict in the distance.

Papal Mass - St Peter's Basilica

I couldn’t even speak. As his platform moved slowly down the aisle you could hear the gasps of people – just honored to be in his presence. When he came near us, he was close enough that I could have reached out to him. It was one of those moments that you can’t really believe what you are seeing.

Papal Mass - St Peter's Basilica

A few things – he is A LOT shorter than I envisaged him. He is tiny! He is also very tanned – I didn’t expect that. He was also a lot more mobile that I expected. It is known that he suffers from severe arthritis but honestly, you couldn’t tell. He looked great. I was so transfixed on looking at him and with the shock of seeing him I didn’t even get a good picture of him arriving. I thought Bill would have but.. he had the same issue as I did!

Before we knew it, the Swiss Guards were standing in place and it was time for Mass to begin. I was able to follow along a lot easier than Bill because I have some knowledge of Italian.

Papal Mass - St Peter's Basilica

Funnily enough, mum was watching at home on EWTN online and she was getting a full explanation of everything that was going on and what he was saying in his homily! We had programmed our Tivo to record it on EWTN so we were able to come home and watch that broadcast.

For the new priests, the ordination ceremony is extremely moving. They pledge to obey, they lay on the floor, they are blessed – it was very moving but somewhat celebratory after all of their study and preparation – today was their day!

Papal Mass - St Peter's Basilica

The music was spectacular and the choir sung beautifully. On the other hand, Communion was the craziest scene I have ever witnessed in a church! A priest was assigned to distribute communion to two rows each. But, they did this while standing in the aisle facing us who were sitting and facing the altar. So first up was Bill, as he was sitting against the guard that was blocking us from the aisle. He stood up and received and I crept around him when it was my turn. We ended up having to walk back to the end of our row of seats while the others in our row went up for communtion. The problem was all of this movement was taking place in a tiny space – it was chaos! Also, with no kneelers it was strange to just sit back down straight afterwards!

The Mass went for nearly over two hours. Then it came time for the recessional. WOW. We actually managed to get a few good photos of Il Papa! It all went so quickly but the recessional was beautiful and full of joy!

And look – we got some good photos of him as he was leaving!

Papal Mass - St Peter's Basilica

Papal Mass - St Peter's Basilica

Papal Mass - St Peter's Basilica

More of the spectacular recessional –

Papal Mass - St Peter's Basilica

Papal Mass - St Peter's Basilica

Papal Mass - St Peter's Basilica

Papal Mass - St Peter's Basilica

You can actually see the whole Mass online here
Read Pope Benedict’s homily here

After a while of sitting there thinking “Whoa – what did we just experience?” it was time to go outside. When we stepped out a lot of the fellow worshippers were mingling out the front of St Peter’s – just like what normally happens at every parish on a Sunday. Then we looked out ahead and there were thousands and thousands of people in St Peter’s Square.

Papal Mass - St Peter's Basilica

Ohhhh look Vatican tape –

Papal Mass - St Peter's Basilica

And… trying to move the crowd on –

Papal Mass - St Peter's Basilica

There was the huge sitting area that was empty between us and them. They were all waiting to see the Pope appear from his apartment window for the Regina Caeli. As he normally doesn’t actually perform that many Masses, he always says the Sunday Angelus/Regina Caeli from his window. We were SO fortunate to be present for both!

Here he is –

Papal Mass - St Peter's Basilica

For the Regina Caeli, everyone prays and then also reads a message. It was a great way to finish off a very memorable morning. He read the part about to English speaking visitors in English so we could understand part of the message! It was fun to read what he said later and to know that he finished with “I wish you all a good Sunday and a good week. Thank you. Have a good Sunday!” Awww!

Here we are – still basking in the excitement of our unforgettable morning –

Papal Mass - St Peter's Basilica

See the video here
Read his message here

The crowds were so large and getting back to Domus was going to be an issue. We were lucky enough to get a cab and got back to Domus very quickly as the buses were not running frequently and the lines were so long. We were exhausted so we decided to try and have a nap to refresh ourselves before heading back out to our afternoon activity.

I had booked tickets to see Lux in Arcana – the special Vatican archives exhibition at Musei Capiolini. By the time we got there, it was PACKED. We had pre-booked tickets so we thought we would be able to just walk straight up and collect them. Unfortunately not. I asked two people and they just said “Ticket booth!” The line for the ticket booth was about 30 minutes long. I couldn’t believe I went to the trouble of booking in advance to still have to line up! One thing that made it easier was we got talking to the couple in front of us who were from Memphis. We all chatted away for the whole time and then, when we got to the ticket booth we saw a sign for pre-booked tickets. We could’ve skipped the line after all but we couldn’t get close enough to the booth to see the sign! Sheesh! Anyway, we got into the exhibition and again it was packed and again, it was hot. I couldn’t really enjoy it as I think by it being after 5pm I was now jut too tired to enjoy anything and seriously what could top the morning activities?! We ended up staying in the museum for a while but did spend a lot of time on the rooftop. It was so peaceful and it offered us such a beautiful view of the city… I could have stayed there forever!

View from Musei Capitolini

View from Musei Capitolini

View from Musei Capitolini

From where we were standing there were church bells ringing everywhere. When I get the video uploaded I will post it separately.

I wish I got to take more at the exhibition as some of the artefacts on display were absolutely amazing, but by the time we left (and Bill had heard me say a million times “I love it here – I want to stay forever!”) we were starving as we had skipped lunch. So we wandered around and ended up back at… Abruzzi!

Before we sat down for dinner, we went and spent time in Santi Apostoli. This was a very dark church inside – it was almost spooky! We went down to the crypt are and this was the view looking up –

Santi Apostoli

Santi Apostoli

The altar under the church –

Santi Apostoli

Relics of St Philip –

Santi Apostoli

The church was magnificent and there was hardly anyone there as we were visiting so late.. it was perfect!

We wandered across the square to Abruzzi. Again, everything we ordered was absolutely amazing.. my mouth is watering just thinking about it while I type this. It was the best lasagne I have ever eaten!

Abruzzi

Abruzzi

Abruzzi

Abruzzi

Abruzzi

Abruzzi

Abruzzi

Abruzzi

After dinner we went for a walk.. it was such a beautiful night and walking around the quiet back streets was a great way to end the day.

We came across the Pontifical University –

Pontifical University

Streets of Rome

Streets of Rome

Streets of Rome

Streets of Rome

We had no idea where we were going but Bill asked if we were close to the Trevi fountain. I said there was no way we could be but.. before we knew it we were there!

That REALLY is the color of the sky!

Trevi Fountain

And it was here that we took the most touristy/creepy photos EVER –

Trevi Fountain

Trevi Fountain

Then… romance!

Trevi Fountain

Now.. here I was 13 years ago. I threw a coin into the fountain and well.. I really did make it back!

At the Trevi Fountain

We walked away knowing that we really didn’t need to throw a coin into the Trevi to hope that we would be returning to Rome.. we knew that someday we would definitely be back. Without a doubt!

Jun 16 2012
0

Domus Australia #blogjune

Our accomodation in Rome was at Domus Australia.

It was the most unbelievable accomodation and an absolutelty wonderful experience to stay in such a beautiful place. It was just perfect!

I first saw mention of Domus when we dropped into St Patrick’s in Gundagai – there was a brochure on a table. I picked it up and thought nothing of it until we returned to New York and remembered the brochure. I checked out the website online and Domus wasn’t even open yet! But it would blessed by Pope Benedict and open by the time we were planning to go… so as soon as we had dates, I booked.

You don’t need to be Australian to stay there… in fact there were a fair few Italian people there at the same time as us. The location is awesome – close to Termini but far enough away to feel like a normal neighbourhood. Everything is new and spotlessly clean. The beds are comfy and the bathrooms are HUGE.

Domus Australia

Domus Australia

Domus Australia

Domus Australia

Domus Australia

View from our room –

Domus Australia

They also provide breakfast. An included breakfast is something that I really look for in accommodation as it can help save time and money and really helps to get your day started off on a good note! For Italy, an included breakfast normally means a roll and some cheese or cereal. Not at Domus… eggs, bacon, baked beans, lamingtons, cheese, cold cuts, coffee, juice, yoghurt – this is definitely not the norm!

Breakfast at Domus

Breakfast at Domus

Breakfast at Domus

Breakfast at Domus

Then there is the Chapel of Our Lady Queen of the Most Holy Rosary and Saint Peter Chanel. It was breathtaking – from the portrait of Mary McKillop to the portrait of Mary with the Southern Cross in the background. Nothing was overlooked and it offers a place of peace in such a busy city. Going to Mass there was intimate and and yet, familiar. The restoration is absolutely beautiful.

Chapel - Domus Australia

Chapel - Domus Australia

Chapel - Domus Australia

Chapel - Domus Australia

Chapel - Domus Australia

Chapel - Domus Australia

Chapel - Domus Australia

Chapel - Domus Australia

Chapel - Domus Australia

The Rector of Domus is Father Anthony from Melbourne. He is also a Pies supporter and is studying in Rome at the moment. How he gets the time to do all he does, I have absolutely no idea! But, it was like staying with family. Everyone was so nice!

This is what is looks like from the street –

Domus Australia

This is the view looking up towards our room –

Domus Australia

The beautiful al fresco dining area and water feature – beautiful chance for quiet reflection!

Domus Australia

Looking down to the dining room –

Domus Australia

The walkway to the accommodation –

Domus Australia

The attention to detail and planning of Domus has been amazing. An example was our floor was named after former Bishop for the Diocese of Sandhurst, Bishop Grech. For that connection our hallway was full of historical photos of churches from around the Bendigo region.

Domus Australia

Domus Australia

Many of the Australia dioceses have contributed to the development of Domus and there are tokens of appreciation everywhere. To tie in with this, in the foyer there are beautiful pictures and information of prominent Australian Catholics. You can see how this is unlike staying in a random hotel or apartment… Domus offers so much!

On our first morning, we were at breakfast and looked up and Cardinal Pell was there having breakfast at the next table! We told him how appreciative we were of his work to make Domus happen and how impressed we were with everything. Later on after Mass one night, he blessed all of our medals, prayer cards etc for us. It was truly humbling!

The staff at Domus were exceptional. Every question we had was answered wtih a smile and they provided a great amount of useful resources – not just stacks of touristy brochures. They are all locals but they really do ‘get’ the Australian thing. On the morning that we were going to the Papal Mass at St Peter’s the kitchen packed a to-go bag of breakfast goodies which came in very handy seeing as we were there for so long.

Apart from the Italians also staying there, there was also a group of Australian travelers who had just been to Anzac Cove and were on a bit of a pilgrimage. Cardinal Pell spent a whole evening with them all downstairs in the dining area having a great time! I am sure it will be something they will always remember!

I cannot recommend Domus highly enough. Speaking to other people we met along the way and hearing about their tiny rooms and lack of breakfast… we knew we had come across something great. It is a credit to Cardinal Pell, all of the Bishops who supported this and all of the Australian parishioners that made this happen. We know that it was part of the reason we loved Rome so much and we cannot wait to get back there. It really did feel like home!

Jun 14 2012
0

Rome – Day 2 #blogjune

Our first full day in Rome was a Saturday – we had a great breakfast, which I will post more about soon. We got out early enough to start our day. Our planned stops were the Colosseum and Galleria Borghese. Everything else was at our leisure.

To get to the Colosseum we had to get the train from the stop near our accommodation. While walking down to it, we came across a church and decided to go in. This was Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri. To show how looks can deceive in Rome, this is the church exterior –

Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri

This is the interior –

Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri

Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri

Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri

Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri

Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri

Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri

Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri

Some of the original church –

Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri

Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri

It was stunning and again, so breathtaking. Imagine this being your local parish?!

This fountain outside the church provided a lovely breeze!

Fountain

The trains were great… here is their subway!

Rome - Trains

Rome - Trains

When we got to the Colosseum it was PACKED. The line snaked around but our saving grace was in the distance we saw a sign that read ‘Roma Pass’. So we walked towards it and past all of those people! It is such a great feeling – especially since we knew the Roma Pass would get us in but I didn’t envisage us not having to line up at all. We didn’t opt to do a tour or anything like that… instead just using the time to be on our own and take it in.

Colosseum

Colosseum

Colosseum

Colosseum

We spent a while there after walking up to the top level and back down and by this time it was nearly lunchtime so from the Colosseum we jumped on a bus as we wanted to check out the San Giovanni in Laterano Basilica and also get some lunch. Across from San Giovanni in Laterano was a little pizza place that sold pizza by the pound. It was just an everyday neighbourhood place but wow the pizza was absolutely amazing… and so cheap!

Beautiful potato pizza –

Pizza!

Pizza!

I look definitely look like I am possessed by pizza –

Pizza!

Then we really, really needed some gelato… 😉

Gelato

Gelato

Tabacchi machines are everywhere –

Tabbachi

Mailbox –

Post box

So then, it was time to check out San Giovanni in Laterano. Not a lot of people realize but St Peter’s Basilica is not the ‘home church’ of the Pope. San Giovanni in Laterano is the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome and within the church it is actually ‘ranked’ higher than St Peter’s. Although it is located outside the Vatican walls, it is actually
classed as a Vatican property. This church is very, very special – this IS the mother church of the Catholic church and yet, so many people don’t think to visit it! San Giovanni in Laterano was overwhelmingly beautiful and serene and a wonderful place for contemplation. If you are in Rome, do NOT miss it!

San Giovanni in Laterano

San Giovanni in Laterano

San Giovanni in Laterano

San Giovanni in Laterano

San Giovanni in Laterano

San Giovanni in Laterano

San Giovanni in Laterano

San Giovanni in Laterano

San Giovanni in Laterano

San Giovanni in Laterano

Near San Giovanni in Laterano

San Giovanni in Laterano

Confession time!

San Giovanni in Laterano

San Giovanni in Laterano

After spending longer than we thought at San Giovanni in Laterano, we got on a tiny little bus to get to Galleria Borghese. There are normal sized buses in Rome and also mini buses that get down the tiny side streets. They are awesome and the perfect way to travel as you can see even more of the city while resting your feet!

Rome Bus

Rome Bus

Rome Bus

Bus - Ticket machine

Little streets in Rome

Little streets in Rome

Near San Giovanni in Laterano

Near San Giovanni in Laterano

On the bus I thought we missed our stop for the Villa Borghese and we ended up alighting a few stops before we should have. This meant we had a avery hilly walk to the park but we were able to sit down and relax and watch the world go buy on one of the park benches. The weather was very humid and warm but we got a spot in the shade and it was beautiful!

Villa Borghese

Villa Borghese

Villa Borghese

Galleria Borghese requires a reservation before you go and you are limited to a strict two hour time limit only. As we wanted to use our Roma Pass, I actually had to call them two months before we left to ask them to reserve a Roma Pass spot for both of us. I must say, leaving it until 5pm was not the best idea just because by this time our feet were tired and it was so warm – we were both pretty tired. I don’t think either of us fully appreciated to collection. Also, just as baffling was that a majority of the museums do not have air conditioning. So inside it was hot and stuffy and packed with people – we just couldn’t really enjoy it but, we were glad we stuck it out. After an hour, we found ourselves back outside in the garden enjoying the breeze that was coming off a fountain and provided us with some refreshing air!

Villa Borghese

I chose Galleria Borghese as our last visit for the day because it was close to our accommodation so we could walk straight back afterwards.

For dinner we wanted to go to Santopadre, a great restaurant that I had read about. Unfortunately, they were closed for a private function. We were so disappointed because when we got to see what it was like inside, we wanted to just stay there! In the end, we were so hungry, we chose the next restaurant we saw. It seemed to have a mix of tourists and locals eating there so we went for it. Il Sorrisio ended up being a great choice. In fact, I think I had the greatest gnocchi of my life here! Everyone was so nice, it is a lovely little neighbourhood restaurant and everyone there was having a great time watching soccer and drinking wine.

Untitled

Starters –

Il Sorriso, Rome

Il Sorriso, Rome

Il Sorriso, Rome

Dinner –

Il Sorriso, Rome

Il Sorriso, Rome

Dessert –

Il Sorriso, Rome

Il Sorriso, Rome

Il Sorriso, Rome

We needed to have an early night because our alarm was set to wake up at 5.30am… it was time to spend some time with Pope Benedict!

Jun 13 2012
0

Our first afternoon in Rome #blogjune

Here are some shots Bill took out of the taxi window as we were getting to to our accomodation –

On the way to Domus

On the way to Domus

As we were so fortunate to have our room ready so early, we decided to have our showers and have small nap before we headed out into the warm sun.

We only had a few things on our task list for the afternoon. We had to walk to Termini, get a Roma pass and then from there, hop on a bus and go to St Peter’s to pick up our Mass tickets. That was all!

When we got to Termini, we got our Roma Passes right away (best money we ever spent!) and grabbed a bite to eat.

The Roma Pass gave us 3 days of unlimited public transport and also you can choose two out of a whole lot of attractions to visit that have your entrance included. We used ours for the visit to the Colosseum and also Galleria Borghese. It saved us an easy 2hr+ wait time at the Colleseum – we just walked straight in! For this, the pass was worth every cent.

For lunch we got two arancini (rice balls) and some pizza to share.

Lunch at Termini

This was the only ‘expensive for what you get’ meal we had, but we didn’t mind as we were starving and had to stick to our plan! We got to look over our Roma Passes and double check our maps and plans.

It was them time to board the very hot bus to St Peter’s. The bonus of hopping on at Termini was that we got a seat and could sit back and just look out the window thinking “Oh my gosh we are HERE!” We got off the bus and walked down the narrow streets to St Peter’s Square. In our confirmation letter from the Prefecture of the Papal Household, we were instructed to go to the Bronze Doors to the right of St Peter’s so that is what we were going to be looking for.

View of St Peter's

Through some of the rooftops we could see the dome and then we were in the Square but our problem was that we had to find the ‘Bronze Doors’ and we had no idea where to find them! We then came across a security guard who pointed in the direction of a queue of people… so we jumped in the queue and went through security. We were then able to ask another security guard about the doors and he pointed us to an area where two Swiss Guards stood. I started to get nervous – we were going to have to talk to them! We crept around a barricade and up the staircase where one guard came over to us – they were so friendly and welcoming!

Here are the Bronze Doors.. it was amazing!!

The Bronze Doors

The Bronze Doors

We showed them our letter and we were ushered inside the lobby area – I wish we could have taken a photo! Then, in a box full of envelopes there was one marked Blevins. They handed it to us and we were so thankful and excited – they probably thought we were a little loony!

I then suggested to Bill as we were leaving that seeing as we were here, why don’t we go into St Peter’s for a visit?

With that we nearly ran inside with excitement.. it was everything I remembered it to be and to turn around and see Bill’s face when we made it to a darkened corner and looked up at the ceiling… it made the whole trip worthwhile. We were home! Well.. that was how it felt.

St Peter's Basilica

Being a Friday afternoon there wasn’t that many people or groups there so we got to spend some time wandering around our basilica. After a while, we made it into a far corner and through a doorway and found a gift shop and small museum dedicated to various artifacts from the church through the ages. We bought all of our rosaries, medals and cards here and also a beautiful crucifix for our bedroom. It was beautiful and so exciting and I think it was standing there, near the cupola, that we fell in love with Rome in an instant.

St Peter's Basilica

We spent a long time at St Peters and before we knew it, it was then time for dinner. We headed to Abruzzi so this meant getting back on the bus and away from the Vatican area. We had heard about Abruzzi after listening to Lino Rulli (aka the Catholic Guy) on Sirius XM radio and they would always rave about the carbonara (and green sambuca) at Abruzzi. After going around in circles and down tiny streets, we found Abruzzi right at Piazza dei Santi Apostoli.

Here are some views along the way –

Rome

Untitled

I walked up a small alley and at the bottom of some apartments there was a doorway. I walked up and there were ten people in this tiny chapel all praying the rosary. It was so small but it looked like it had been there a long time. It was just gorgeous!

Little Chapel

At Abruzzi we sat in a corner and as typical tourists we were eating way too early. We shared a starter of mozzarella and prosciutto and both ordered the carbonara and sat in this tiny restaurant, in awe of what we had just saw and full of anticipation for the coming days.

Abruzzi

Our starter –

Abruzzi

The famous Carbonara… it was even better than it looks!

Abruzzi

Woops –

Abruzzi

We tried to linger in Abruzzi after dinner, but our lack of sleep was getting the better of us. Now the lingering is something we had to work on. As visitors, you tend to eat how you are used to. In America that means sit down, order within 5 minutes, food is on your table after another 10 minutes, you eat, order dessert and as soon as you have had your last spoonful of dessert the bill is on your table and you are being ushered out the door. In Italy it is the complete opposite… sit around for one, two, three hours – the table is yours!

So after finding our way back to our bus we squeezed in and made it back to Domus just before our eyes fully closed on us. With all of our ‘have to do’ tasks completed it meant that tomorrow, the city was ours!

Jun 12 2012
0

A little flashback… #blogjune

This clip is proof that concerts in malls are totally awesome. I never did see any concerts at Northland growing up but.. how awesome was Tiffany’s concert? Especially when she had random looking guys acting as security guards. Check it out at the 1.10 mark! Also, can you imagine if we went to the airport and rode around on the baggage claim like she did? How times have changed!!

Back in the day I could not stand Tiffany. This was all because of a a poll in Smash Hits where she rated higher than Kylie. I had to stick up for Kylie so this meant I would never play Tiffany. The years have passed and lately this song has been rocking my iPod… it is great on my morning commute.

A little bit of trivia, the Ogden City Mall in Utah where a lot of this was filmed became a dead mall and was completely demolished in 2002.I have a fascination with American malls so if you are like me, you will love the Dead Malls website.

Next up.. how beautiful is Debbie Gibson’s song ‘Only in my dreams’? I have posted this so you can have it stuck in your head for weeks just like I have!

Also – another Debbie Gibson favourite of mine –

I have found that that more and more I use the shuffle function less and tend to use set playlists for morning and afternoon commutes. I think this must be only because there are certain kinds of songs that are only suitable at 7am… so 80s bubblegum pop it is!

Jun 11 2012
0

NYC – Rome #blogjune

Ahh this Europe vacation was just fabulous. It was the best vacation I have ever had. Out of all of my travels over all of the years… this trip was IT! I loved every minute! It wasn’t the longest or the most adventurous… it was just wonderful to be able to see and experience so much with Bill. I have always loved travelling on my own but this trip, OUR trip, changed all of that!

Departure day! Hooray! Our preflight routine went perfectly. Bill stayed home and I worked half a day and got in the door just after 12. We had a quick lunch and after having showers we were ready to leave by 2.30. We have a check list to work off so we are not having any ‘Home Alone’ moments on the plane where we think we have forgotten something. I am one of those people that needs to have everything spotless before we leave so the days leading up to any vacation are crazily busy. On our day of travel, Bill got a final load of laundry done, powered down anything we could, vacuumed and set our light timers. Everything felt clean and sparkly so we knew we would return to some kind of tranquility!

Our journey started on a rainy afternoon. Our car service picked us up at 3pm and we headed straight to JFK. I always have trouble with the self service check in because I am not a US Citizen but I am also not returning to the USA as a visitor – so after some back and forth we were finally checked in. I was worried Bill and I would be split up because we acutally had two separate bookings as Bill used AA points and I used Qantas points. Thank goodness, our seat request was honored and we were beside each other. We then braved the long security line and got to the Admirals Club with two hours to spare.

Here we go!

AA0236 JFK - FCO

Unfortunately, being used to flying to Australia means I always get to have lots of excess luggage. On this trip we were limited to one suitcase each so we actually bought on a small carry on case. I hate travelling with any carry on luggage and always have only minimal stuff on board. We used our carry on case for toiletries and a spare outfit in case our bags were lost. The case was essentially empty but I wanted to use this for any purchases we made.

We chowed down on pizza (it actually wasn’t bad for lounge food) and I had a lovely big Shirley Temple. We were so excited, the time seemed to fly and it was time to board. After last minute goodbye phone calls to Australia and Albany we were on our way!

They do an awesome Shirley Temple in the lounge –

Admirals Club Lounge - JFK

Our charging setup –

Admirals Club Lounge - JFK

Here was our view before leaving –

Leaving JFK -  AA0236 JFK - FCO

The plane was old with no individual in flight entertainment unit. This was a bonus as we HAD to sleep on this flight – leaving at 7.30pm, we would be arriving in Rome at 10am and it was important that we stay awake for our first day in Rome. Unforutnately, the plane was full of very annoying passengers who were going on a cruise. They made the biggest deal out of everything. But even worse was the couple in front of us. The plane had only JUST taken off… as in the wheels had JUST lifted when the guy in front of me moved his seat back.. and then the girl in front did exactly the same. WHAT PLANET ARE THESE PEOPLE ON?! I shoved the chair back but no good… it was about an hour into the flight until our dinner got served and I requested that our attendant tell them to move their seat forward. They did, but before the trays were even collected, they moved them back again. The person in front of them hadn’t reclined – they just wanted more room. In all of my flights and all of my travel experiences these seat recliners are my pet peeve. What makes it worse? HE WASN’T EVEN TRYING TO SLEEP! It is SO RUDE to not even turn around and say “Do you mind if I recline my seat?” It never ceases to amaze me how inconsiderate people are… and it only seems to be getting worse.

After dinner, we got about four hours sleep and before we knew it, we were having breakfast and prepping for landing. Here is my view when I was waking up –

En Route to Italy -  AA0236 JFK - FCO

Here is the usual.. plane food pics!

Our first snack –

Snack -  AA0236 JFK - FCO

Dinner –

Bill’s stir fry –

Dinner 2 -  AA0236 JFK - FCO

My curried tortellini –

Dinner 1 - AA0236 JFK - FCO

Breakfast… thrown on the tray.

Breakfast -  AA0236 JFK - FCO

We got off the plane and walked through the terminal and onto the train that connects the terminals so we could go through passport control. Passport control in Italy was interesting. We had to line up, get out our passports, hold them up to the man sitting behind a glass screen and walk through. SERIOUSLY. No forms, no passport swiping, no stamps – nothing. Trying to be ‘Mrs experienced traveler’ I explained to Bill how they will probably get some kind of documentation off us at customs. We collected our bags and… walked straight out of the airport. That was it. No-one knew we were there! No-one checked who we were. No-one knew where we were staying. We were in a cab within five minutes and zipping around Rome in no time and arrived at our accomodation before noon. It was so exciting… ROMA!!!!! ITALIA!!!!!

The angels were looking after us because when we checked in… our room was ready!

Molto bene!!!

Jun 10 2012
0

Lindsey Buckingham… again! #blogjune

Lindsey Buckingham has been touring again so naturally, this meant I had to go. Lucky Bill was coming along to keep me company. I just cannot miss Linds when he is in town! It had still only been less than a year since I actually met him! WHOA!

He was playing at BB Kings Blues Club in Midtown and I had never been there before so it is always good fun checking out a new venue.

Lindsey at BB Kings

For dinner, we went to Becco on 46th Street. Becco is Lidia Bastianich’s restaurant – it did not disappoint. I opted for the three dish pasta where they come around with big frying pans filled with the three pastas of the night and continually fill your dish. The pasta was fantastic (the penne with veal ragu and peas was easily on par with pasta I ate in Rome) and Bill got the main chicken dish that was in a light broth with some Israeli cous cous and vegetables – the chicken was absolutely amazing. The only downfall was it was seriously the noisiest restaurant I have ever eaten in. I am not one for shouting over the table so basically we basically didn’t talk through the whole meal.The tables are very close and we had two very loud speakers on either side of us so we didn’t stand a chance but the whole restaurant was like having five McDonald’s playgrounds inside but with adult voices.

We then made our way back down to 42nd St to get to BB Kings. Here is where the ranting starts. We got there 10 minutes after the doors opened and decided to have dessert there so we would reach the $10 per person charge that you must make for sitting down. The tables on the floor was pretty packed already but we didn’t get to choose where we sat… even though it was general admission. The guy leading us to our seats offered us one table that was behind a pillar or right down the front where Bill would have his back to the stage. We took down the front but it was awful. We were told we HAD to sit facing each other. Um ok? Luckily, no-one was sitting beside us so I mentioned to Bill that when the show starts he can come and sit next to me so he could actually see the stage.

Then, at about 8.15 (show was starting at nine) they bought down a girl and sat her beside me. Um – how does it work that you can come in late and end up with a better seat than Bill? Okkk then. But we still had the seat beside Bill where he could move and then wiggle around when the show started. Oh no we didn’t. About 20 minutes later, they sat another girl beside Bill. So we were essentially jammed beside the stage with not even an inch of room between us and the other people and Bill couldn’t see a thing as now he didn’t even have room to spin around. I went up to our waitress and asked if we could just move seats up to the back as they had great booths, with a good view of the stage and these were still empty. She said no – if we did we would have to pay another $10 charge per head AGAIN. This was on top of the $60 each ($73 including Ticketmaster charges) that we had already paid for our tickets and on top of our desserts and drinks that we had already bought. So I cracked it and said to Bill I wouldn’t care if we left because he couldn’t see, I was slammed against the side of the stage and it was just miserable.

Then, the waitress came over with our bill. Bill noted to me how the tip was already included and she wouldn’t be getting anything else as she was pretty much hopeless. She came and took our card and then came back ten minutes later with the receipt for us to sign. She pointed out to Bill that this was just a partial gratuity, basically letting us know to add more to it. Bill is a VERY good tipper so he was very much “No worries!” and was about to up the tip to his usual ‘average service’ tip of 15%. That was until he saw the amount. The included gratuity was ALREADY 15%. So he wrote that on the receipt an when she came back he pointed out to her that it wasn’t partial as it was already 15%. To which she said “Exactly – that is only a partial tip!” AHA – she thought we were tourists – understandable considering my accent but who was she kidding?! I would LOVE to know how much she is swindling other customers (especially those who were drinking) out of more money with her scam. Bill quickly pointed out to her that 15% is a partial gratuity but that is only when it comes to GOOD service. She then just walked away. Worst service EVER.

I looked up towards the back and noticed that all the decent booths and tables up there were only just filling up. Which means that people coming in last, were getting way better seats than us – it was a schmozzle of the highest order.

Lindsey came out and I tried to enjoy it being squashed against the stage and with the girl beside me basically sitting on my lap. He played REALLY well. It was just him and his many guitars… but check out the setlist. Go Insane was AWESOME and he totally rocked Come.

Cast Away Dreams
Bleed to Love Her
Not Too Late
Stephanie
Come
Shut Us Down
Go Insane
Never Going Back Again
Big Love
I’m So Afraid
Go Your Own Way
Trouble
Seeds We Sow

Here is proof that I did stay to see him –

Lindsey Buckingham

It was then time to leave… which would have been easy but President Obama was at an event across the road. EEEEKKK. We had to have the flash off for the Obama/Clinton lighting to show up but… here is Obama, Bill Clinton and me!

Across the road from President Obama

See all those huge garbage trucks? They are used as barriers while the President was there. They circled the block! Which left me a bit dismayed as that means all he sees lining the streets when he comes to New York is old garbage trucks?! You can see more pictures here of the garbage truck barricades.

When we were finally in the cab on the way home, Bill also mentioned how he saw a mouse trap under one of the booths there… so then I got visions of mice running over my bag that I had under my seat. UGH!

The worst came the next morning when I checked our online banking and somehow our credit card had been used online at the Apple Store and Anthropologie. I knew the transactions had taken place between 6am (when I first checked) and 8.30am (when I checked again)… sometimes it does pay to be OCD about banking! Bill and I also had a fair idea about who may be responsible but of course, no proof. Anyway, after all that, we contacted BB Kings and they have been STELLAR in dealing with the issues we bought up. We learnt that for a gig like Lindsey’s there should have been no issue with us moving seats and the set tip is definitely is NOT a partial gratuity. They were sad we had such a horrid time with our server and have offered us tickets to another show of our choice. Our bank has also been great dealing with the card issue so no complaints there… the only way we can find out who it was would be to file a complaint with the police and then our bank will hand over any documentation (if they even find it) to them. The Anthropologie transaction didn’t end up going through so that is a bonus but that also means there is no record of purchase or shipping address.

So there you have it. Could any more drama happen over the course of twenty four hours?! Sheesh!!