Posted tagged ‘Rome’

Take a Breather

April 14, 2009

By Steve Marshall, Senior Business Student

We had set a pretty detailed plan before leaving, and it packed a lot into the first few days of our break.

Rome was a weeklong whirlwind already, and even though we had two days in Venice and two in Milan, it still felt like we were rushing (notice: a pun could be made here about being American, not Russian). As we were coming in to Nice, that feeling changed.

I had never heard of it, but apparently Nice is a pretty famous European beach town. It’s right on the shores of the Mediterranean, and is full of tourists from around the EU, especially during the summer. That made finding lodging easy, because of just how many little hotels there were to support the summer crowds. Since we showed up in the off season, plenty of rooms were empty, and some places were willing to drop their prices in order to get our business.

We did a bit of looking, and found a couple really nice places that would give us a room for inside our budget. We ended up settling on the one that wasn’t across from a sex shop (there were actually a lot of these in France, I was highly disappointed). The guy at the desk was named ‘Bader’ (bah-der), and was super nice. We came in later on with chicken from the grocery store, and just so we didn’t have to eat it cold, he let use the staff microwave in the hotel employee’s break room to warm it up. Great hospitality.

Since we were stuck here for the next couple days, we rescheduled our hotel in Lourdes, and canceled the one in Barcelona. A lot like what I did as a producer for the school, I had prepared a logistics document for our trip with all the information we could possibly need, and it really paid off. It was a little sad that we wouldn’t be able to see Barcelona, but since we were in a French beach town instead of a Spanish beach town, it wasn’t too disappointing overall.

It was an interesting city. The center of town was very much designed for people to congregate, there were huge, stone-paved streets set aside purely for pedestrians, gardens, and in the town square, there was a set of 8 huge columns in the middle of the street, with sculptures of naked men in athletic poses, which lit up at night and changed colors. I don’t know what they represented, but they were kinda cool to look at. It was either really classy or just kinda funky. I never really decided which…

We walked around the city a lot. Walking to the beach, then to the grocery store, then back to the beach for a picnic… we also collected some ‘souvenir water.’

It’s somewhat of a peculiar habit, but a few years ago I started collecting water from far off, adventury places. We have some friends that live on an island off the coast of Alabama, and on one visit, we found an old bottle washed up on the beach with its cover completely intact. I used it to gather some ocean water from the Gulf of Mexico, and then put it on the shelf of my library when I got home. After that a friend brought me back some water from Hawaii, my sister got me some in Canada on her honeymoon, and the collection has continued to grow. I like having it because of how unique it is, easy to tell stories about, and you can also get it at a fairly low cost.

Of course, with all the fantastic places we were going on this trip, I HAD to get water from some key spots in Europe. The trick was getting it into containers that were small enough to be easily transportable, and wouldn’t make our luggage impossible to check at the airport. In Venice, we emptied a little bottle of mouthwash to get water from the canals, and I had also filled a water bottle at the Trevi Fountain in Rome. When we finished our picnic on the shores of the Mediterranean, we had an empty jelly jar. It was small, it was round enough to be quaint (kinda a pot-bellied little thing), so into the surf we go, and came out with the jar of water, and some pebbles and sea glass to sit in the bottom. Looking at these three containers of water, it was decided that the Trevi bottle was far too big. Luckily, a couple of the stores we had visited sold these teeny little wine bottles for really cheap, so the Trevi water was relocated to a much classier container.

We had also found a church in our explorations, so in the evening we wandered down that way and ended up at mass for the feast of St. Joseph.

I tell ya, French is such a cool language. They use a lot of sounds and mouth-shapes that Americans never even dream of! The prayers of the mass sounded so strange, I almost burst into a laugh at the beginning of mass. I definitely would like to learn French at some point, just so I can have an excuse to say words like that.

Adventure City!

March 31, 2009
Photography by Jacob Kelly, junior media student

Photography by Jacob Kelly, junior media student

So much is happening right now, I wanted to make sure and capture it for you before it escapes me. We just left Rome. Up until now, we’ve been traveling as part of the school’s group and on the school’s time. Now myself, Tasha, and her best friend Ann Marie are striking off into the great beyond. 🙂 Yesterday was our last meal prepared by Roman nuns. Spring break had officially started, and there was a 9:00 train to Florence with our name on it. We would spend the day exploring Dante’s city and be in Venice by the end of the night.

Our first act as independent explorers was to take the wrong bus. Then we took the wrong trolley. After a couple circles on the awesome public transportation system in Rome, we got to the train station and discovered how much bigger it is than a bus station. It’s like a shopping mall! There’s also a special amount of red tape involved in getting our Eurail passes activated. Not a real problem, though, there are plenty of trains, and we got on one by 11. I’m really glad we got a chance to go to Florence. The atmosphere is much more laid back than Rome. It was another famous and historic Italian city, but here’s an illustration of the difference in culture: 90% of the churches in Florence charge admission. Also, the shops and street vendors sell handmade belts and purses instead of rosaries and holy cards.

Funny story that connects with this: A couple days earlier, we had gone to the laundromat, and took our tour guide along, so we could show him where it was (there’s something ironic in that… 😀 ). His laundry finished drying before he got back from dinner, and so we pulled out his clothes and folded them right along with our own. He was so thrilled when he got them back that he helped us plan the rest of the Italian branch of our adventure. Armed with that knowledge, we had a pretty good handle on what to go see. We had 2 hours before our train left for Venice, so we toured the major churches, the gelato shops, and saw the famous “Hall of the Renaissance” (Salon de Cinquecento.) In art class, we learned about the difference between the emphatic Baroque style and the more restrained, serene Renaissance. In Rome, everything is baroque (basically. If it wasn’t originally, it’s been restored sometime in the 18th century, so it looks baroque).

Photography by Jacob Kelly, sophomore media student

Photography by Jacob Kelly, sophomore media student

In Florence, we got to see our first real Gothic cathedral. It was really amazing how much of a contrast it was to the older basilicas in Rome, decorated with the newer Baroque style. Three major differences: 1- the outside of Florence’s gothic cathedral is beautifully decorated in multiple colors of marble. We didn’t see any of that in Rome. 2- inside the cathedral, there were only 4 small frescoes. In Rome, it seemed like they were trying to plaster religious art across every posible flat surface. 3- the gothic cathedral is so tall! The columns are so slender, and the ceilings are so high! After going into 23 churches in Rome, all built in or before the 14th century, you kinda get used to the proportions: the higher the ceiling, the bulkier the colums. Somehow, the gothic cathedral changed that. You walk in and your eyes are drawn up into this huge open space that extends faaar above your head, BUT THERE AREN’T 10 FT SQUARE COLUMNS HOLDING THEM UP!! It felt like a miracle. We didn’t get to see too much more in Florence. We did end up going shopping there, but it wasn’t recreational spending. Tasha brought a cavernous backpack that she got about 4 years ago. In the Dublin airport, one of the straps had broken, now the other one followed suit. It was also bursting a seam (or three). In addition to that, Annie had brought a rolling suitcase, but had taken it down enough bumpy stairs (heavy as it was), that the wheels were bent out of shape and no longer rolled. With all the running from train to train that we were already doing, we couldn’t travel very long in that condition, so we found a street vendor that sold luggage. Surprisingly, we were able to grab replacements for only 23 euro dollars, total (it involved just a liiittle bit of haggling). The only other interesting thing that happened was that I got a compliment on my hat. I wear a black fedora whenever I travel, I call it my “adventure hat.” It’s a great feeling to, after a long journey, take off your hat and hang it up. Try it some time, you’ll see what I mean. So here I am, walking through an incredibly fashion-conscious city in Italy, where everyone seems to be dressed up in some way or another (most of them in something “outside-the-box”). We walked up to a crosswalk, and this guy leaning up against the building says “hey, nice hat.” then the light turned green and we were gone. I thought it was hilarious.

The Human Experience

February 28, 2009

At JP Catholic, we often discuss culture and how to impact it. Our mission is to Impact the Culture for Christ, so you can see we are a little obsessed by it. The sophomores and juniors are leaving for Europe in March (actually tomorrow). We are taking a class in Global Cultures and the purpose of the class is to better understand other cultures, especially in comparison with our own. I was reflecting on the culture of Ireland, and the similarities we have with the Irish. I was reminded of a movie that JP Catholic screened called The Human Experience. It was made by Grassroots Films and here is the trailer below:

The Human Experience did an excellent job of highlighting the sameness of the human family. They highlighted different aspects of the human experience through different continents and different cultures, but they showed how they were the same across the human family. The showed the unity of the human family in a very powerful and convincing fashion. The sameness of the human family cannot be discounted. We are all the same, we have brains, toes, thoughts, fingerprints, dreams, ideas, hair, desires, and fears.

As I prepare for our trip to Europe and more importantly Rome, I am overjoyed to share in this experience with our human family. What better place than Rome, the Capital of our Catholic Faith to experience the greater human family. Every race of people will be gathered to celebrate our faith, with Jesus Christ as One Body, one human family.

P.S. If you haven’t seen The Human Experience you should. JP Catholic gets to watch cool movies like that all the time.

When in Rome…

February 13, 2009

Just 2 weeks left until we leave for our Study Abroad trip in Ireland and Rome. While I am very excited about leaving soon, I have to keep my mind focused on the tasks at hand as there is much to get done before getting on the plane 2 weeks from now. As the saying goes it is “so close but yet so far.” There are really only 4 things standing between me and St. Peters Basilica:

-10 page art paper on The Punishment on Korah (Sistine Chapel)

-8 minute sales presentation

-Launching a trial business idea

-Finally, a very long plane ride

Given the tasks I have in front of me, it is probably starting to make sense how 2 weeks could feel like an eternity. The one thing that keeps me going is, no matter how hard these last 2 weeks will be, I know it will all be worth it when I kiss the ground in St. Peters square once again.

Chris Lane