Chin Up– A Season of Living

I have mixed feelings about facebook. As I go through the news feed, I am grateful to see my friends and relish in the experiences they have chosen to share. Their lives, their ambitions, their happiness, their sorrows, and the plethora of photos. A side note- why is it that I am absolutely wretched at finding good photos or even taking good photos of myself. I scoff at those people who are always posting a new picture taken with this app or that app, but lets be honest- I see that picture and run home to try and make my own. However, mine are an epic attempt at someone else’s art. They usually end up in the trash bin to be forgotten that they were had in a moment of desperation to be like everyone else.

Nature has seasons. She allows herself to shed and change- a gift that I also wish I possessed- but never the less; the ability to escape and embrace some sort of change is my current alternative. I look at my current Utah existence and I wonder if I made the best choice for myself. Part of me thinks that I could run and run far and go back to the ideas and dreams that I held for myself, but that doesn’t seem to be an alternative. I need this time of “healing” this season of being away from something I love so much so that I can remember why I did it. For some reason I grew so angry and disenchanted with the theater.  I was upset with the performances I saw- my emotions were soaring with mixtures of being short-changed and people faking what truly should have been great. So I ran. I ran and now I’m stationed upon a hill where I can watch, cheer, and heal.

Should I have gone to Harvard? Should I have gone to NYC? So many thoughts and feelings that are trying to become regrets, soar into my conscious and make me doubt myself. There comes a time when we have to push forward, pioneer if you will, and make our own place in this world. I want nothing more than to create great art. But the price wasn’t worth the sacrifice – a lesson that I had to learn on my own accord. Why is it that I feel so much older than my actual age and have all of these great lessons learned and still felt that my cup was not yet ready to be offered at the alter of graduate school? My greatest fear is that my talents will be lost to me and then what will I have. If I surrender my ability to create I’m no better than anyone else. In the words of the musical OKLAHOMA, “Im not saying im better than anyone else, but ill be damned if i’m not as good.”

I think today I gave some of my best advice to someone else. In the conversation, I completely advocated the use of running away from things for a quick change as a method of healing. But in the conversation I made a side note. I said that eventually we have to choose not to run. “You will have to stay and make it work, but you’ll know when it’s that time.” I then followed up with a promise that “ The experience will enrich your life.” So do I take my advice? Do I stand and say – “ No, Im not running, Im not hiding, Im not leaving?” I feel weak. I feel scared. I feel vulnerable. I feel alone. There- Im being honest. Before doing any show, I have to go into the bathroom and tremble. I just think about what I am about to do and I am overcome to the point of borderline paralysis- its only then that I can push forward and get on with it.  Maybe that’s where I am currently in life. I have to break out of my paralysis- and then I can push forward and flourish.

My main concern is that Im not living up to my full potential. Am I wasting something that needs to be shared by not being volitional in my attack of artistic endeavors? It feels that way in certain moments, but overall I believe this may be my escape. This is my chance to step away live my life, learn more, and return wiser and braver. Find boldness and beauty through trial and sacrifice. That’s what creates such wonderful actors, they have emotional experience from lives well lived.

So, now I guess I’ll cry and move on. I will cheer for those whom I love as they experience success and find the care within myself to bring them comfort when they taste defeat. For now I live my life and see exactly where I am supposed to be. Maybe I will become more than I ever imagined or maybe I will find happiness in simple things that don’t require any spectacle. Regardless, it’s a life that will be well lived –and when I return to the stage, Beware! I will hold experiences that will make me superior to those around me because rather than playing “Make-believe” I will open up and show truth. So much blessed assurance in that word – truth. 

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Rome: The Finale

We awoke this morning to the couple in the room next to us having sex. Apparently, the walls of our B&B are EXTREMELY thin and we heard it all. I won’t go into much more detail, but we had quite the “alarm” go off when they decided to wake us up this morning.

The plan for today was to see the last few things we had wanted to see and then to say goodbye as we departed Rome. After getting up we ate what they call a breakfast- but in reality is total crap- and began our journey back to the Vatican city, which luckily for us is only a single subway stop away.

The Vatican is a popular destination. As we arrived at what we thought would be an hour that gave us an advantage, the line was already wrapped around the building and forming down the block! We double checked to make sure that was the line for the Vatican, and sure enough it was. However, when it turned the corners to go down the block, it mixed with a cross walk and the people wanting the street. So we somehow maneuvered it so that we mingled into both and found ourselves s palace in the line for the Vatican. From that point on, the wait was about an hour. But luckily, we were in front of a tour guide leading a group and we were able to listen to her telling her group all of the history. It made waiting in line bearable, and it wasn’t to hot. Actually, later on in the day it rained. You’ll hear about that, I don’t want to get ahead of the story.

The museum and Sistine Chapel were just gorgeous. I had this notion in my head that they were two separate things, but they are all in the same building. What was interesting was that the buildings all fed into one another because ever time as the museum collection expanded and the papal use of the buildings changed the private studies and such that were painted by famous painters (such as Raphael) to be included on the public route and moved the location of the Papal apartment.

Another interesting thing I learned today was that the Vatican city is its own “country” – its in Italy but its completely separate from it. That’s so cool.

The museum was really beautiful. Morgan really want to see the Raphael room, so that was where we started, but somehow during the Greek and Roman exhibits we got separated. I was with them one moment, and the next moment they were gone. But, hey, I knew where we were headed so I kept on going knowing that either I would see them along the way, meet them there, or just wait for them until they got there. I ended up having to wait, but I did enjoy strolling through the museum getting to see all of the truly beautiful things. It seems like the entire building is a piece of art, from mosaic floors to painted ceilings, it’s just a spectacle to behold. What I really missed while we were separated was hearing all of Morgans art stories. The history behind what we were looking at, the interpretation of art, and anything else that she found interesting.

Luckily we met back in the Raphael room and I was allowed to be readmitted into “art stories,” which was a total blessing because the room we were in had all of the walls and ceilings painted and I had no clue what was going on! But, professor Morgan Thomas got me back in line. The Raphael rooms led the way into the Sistine Chapel and that was interesting. The hallways leading to the chapel were filled with the Vatican’s collection of modern art. It’s so interesting to me that the subject matter of these great painters by Raphael and Michelangelo, can also be reflected in the mediums of modern painters. Same stories, completely different interpretation- that’s art!

The Sistine Chapel was gorgeous. I stood there just soaking in the paintings and being just all encompassing of what I was seeing. The creation to the flood, mixed with other biblical stories and figures leading up to the judgement. It was all just brilliant- and having Morgan there to explain it all made it so much better! The Vatican guards were in true form while in the Sistine Chapel, you can’t take pictures in there or talk loudly- possibly because it’s a holy place- and the guards were letting us know that. They were constantly yelling to put away cameras and keep quiet. To a point where it was extremely annoying. But, hey, it’s there job so I understand. I was just elated to be in the Sistine Chapel. Standing among the greats tends to inspire others to do great things.

The Chapel is the last great thing to see in he Vatican, so we strolled along the corridor and just enjoyed what was left of it, and then exited through this GIANT spiral staircase. I’m not necessarily sure how to explain it, but it was a large double helix staircase with steps that got smaller and more frequent as you went down. I’m not sure that’s an adequate description, but hey, that’s the best I got.

As we were walking away from the Vatican we discovered this store, which I cannot remember the name of, but it was basically a medieval festivals best friend. They sold swords, armor, quills, ink, Harry potter wands and regalia, costumes, pennants, I mean you want it- they had it. We walked around in awe, just absorbing it all. It was so weird/cool. One of those things you secretly love but don’t want to openly admit. Yeah, you know what I mean…

The last two things we really wanted to do was see the Pantheon and then go see more Bernini sculptures in a museum. We only had a small window to do both, this closing early thing kills me, and so we had a plan to get it done! We would run and see the Pantheon and then grab a bus or the museum. We had an hour to get there before they allowed the last sets of patrons in, we were ready. We booked it to the Pantheon, and when we got there they were holing Mass so no one was allowed in. Great, take a few quick pictures, and off to the busses. For the life of us we could not figure out which bus we needed. We finally found the one the map said we should take- and it ended up not going there. Rather than really being upset we just laughed and enjoyed riding this bus around getting to see more of Rome. It’s sad that we didn’t get to use our passes to see the second museum we wanted to see, but it is what it is, and we enjoyed our evening – that’s what matters.

We returned to the Pantheon and got to go in. The really cool part of this building, beyond it’s age and architecture, is that the painter Raphael is hurried there. The shrine isn’t as elaborate as i imagined, but it still fitting, the rest of the building was really cool. It’s empowering to see something that that has lasted so long. It’s a testament to good craftsmanship, if it’s quality it will endure. That’s a lesson that can be applied to lots of things.

When we left the Pantheon, it was raining. It had already become overcast and cloudy, but now it was just raining. I love how at this point all of the men who sell handbags and such have now switched to selling umbrellas – always out to make that dollar. In honor of our last night, and keeping with tradition, we returned to this pizza place that we have eaten at everyday (mostly because it’s cheap and they accept cards) and got our last bit of pizza in Italy. We walked thought he rain eating as we headed to the subway. We had hi the end, it was ok to be soaking wet, it’s a victory lap.

We go home tomorrow. The flight leaves at 11:45am, and you know what, I’m ready to return. I’m ready to go back to “my life” and take the steps necessary to move on. I’ve graduated from College, I have a real job, and now it’s time to go shopping for a new apartment and get on with my life. Everyone else has, it’s time to follow suit. Time to grow up. This trip marked the end of an age, and now I’m ready to move onward.

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Rome Part 2

I wish that I could say our day began with us getting up early and attacking Rome full force, but that was not the case. Because we got in so late last night, I’m afraid we all slept in and didn’t have the urge to arise in the morning. So, today’s story begins around 1 pm.

The plan for today was to spend the entire day at the Vatican. We researched how much it would cost, if there was a student rate, and even learned that there is a dress code. Yes, you can’t get into the Vatican unless you are dressed appropriately. Both men and women must have their legs covered to the knee and have shoulders covered. If you don’t follow this- you can’t get in. Simple as that. We were dressed and ready. Time to go.

Our B&B is actually quite close to the Vatican. we are only one stop away. Because it was so late in the day, we stopped to get lunch on our way into Vatican city, and following suit, we had Pizza. We also had to deal with more really mean Italians- and as we spoke with other Americans, they echoed our sentiments that the Italians were not great- so, we felt justified in our opinions. But oh well, for a set of mean people they have a beautiful country. This seems to be the case in life, when people have something they don’t deserve. Life lessons- check!

Once we had been fed, our first stop was St. Peters Basilica. It was free and the line moved rather quickly, which was nice, leaving us time to enjoy it rather than really loathing it. Much of the sculpture is done by one of Morgans favorite sculptors (and also becoming one of mine) – Bernini. The whole thing was just incredible. The walls inclosing it, the building itself, seeing where the Popes are buried, even one of the dead Pope’s on display!!! Yeah. It was awesome. I took lots of pictures and enjoyed getting to learn so much about art history through these buildings. At the point and time of the height of the catholic church. They were the only ones able to afford to commission these artists, so they created great works for them- it’s awesome. Because w had Morgan lots of the back story and intent in each piece was revealed to us, in addition she took us around in search for her favorite pieces, so it we super fun to be able to have her show us a picture of it and then begin a massive game of “I spy.” We really enjoyed it and time just flew! Before we knew it, it was 4:30pm and the Vatican museum and the Sistine Chappell closed at 4:30…

Needless to say we didn’t make Sistine Chappell or Vatican museum today, that’s for tomorrow. However, we u we’d our time wisely, and because it was such a beautiful day. We decided to use the rest of our afternoon/ early evening and go see the remaing ruins of “Ancient Rome.” Across from the Coliseum is a section fi the city that once was the seat of power for the emperors and the Forum. It’s now in ruins, but we spent the entire rest of the afternoon, until an old Italian man chased us out with a whistle, viewing the ruins, trying to picture what it may have been like, and hiking through the remains. I could sit and list EVERYTHING we saw, but suffice it to say we saw The Forum, the Palaces of the Emperors both August and Flavian ( including the gardens), temples to various gods (when the guard wasn’t looking I hoped on a pedestal next to a statue of a Vestal Virgin and struck a pose, Morgan got the picture!), the Capitol, the baths, the market place and the via Appia! Whoo, we did a lot of walking, but it was great, and I really enjoyed it. I even bought a book on the “archaeological guide to Rome.” It helped us to figure out what was going on, and gave us more stories to discuss. By far the best part of exploring Rome with friends is having lots of discussions. I really enjoyed the ruins because it put a lot of what I had learned in High School Latin classes into perspective and really helped solidify my understanding and appreciation for the Romans.

An interesting observation today both while in the Basilica and the ruins, in Rome the drinking fountains are just that- fountains! No really, you drink from these founts they have out flowing with potable waters. No joke. It’s really cool and fun to get to drink out of a fountain that’s just flowing away. At least that’s what we were told to drink. If I get sick, know that I still enjoyed it.

The evening took us to see the final of fountain we missed last night, an d iris one was a fountain of a sinking ship. Fontana della Barcaccia (English: Fountain of the Old Boat) is a Baroque fresh-water fountain in the Piazza di Spagna in Rome, Italy, just below the Spanish Steps. It is so named because it is in the shape of a half-sunken ship with water overflowing its bows. The fountain was commissioned by Pope Urban VIII and was completed in 1627 by Pietro Bernini and his son Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The shape was chosen because, prior to the river walls being built, the Tiber often flooded and in 1598 there was a particularly bad flooding and the Piazza di Spagna was flooded up to a meter. Once the water withdrew, a boat was left behind in the square. See, drinkable Water!

After our last fountain it was off to get any last bits of art we had wanted from the gold mine art gallery we found in the square with the other fountains. When we showed up the square was in full bloom with various street artists doing their thing. By far the best to watch were the ones who created paintings out of spray paint. Their technique is interesting and mayor the make it such a “performance art” in how they do it that it’s fun to watch. However,those are not the paintings we are interested in. Sadly there are so few artists doing original art work, we like to support them because they are not selling copies, it they price themselves out of our range. Oh well, reproductions it is. Bt we ended up with some great ones, so I’m not too disappointed. Ill keep my eyes out tomorrow for anything else- maybe ill see someone on the street who’s doing originals.

Our evening could have gone on late into the night once again, the subway runs until 1:30am on weekends, but alas we have so much left to do on our last day that we cannot risk not getting up early to get it done. So, we are heading in early so that we have a fresh start for the Vatican museum and Sistine Chappell, Pantheon, and a special art collection that we are excited to see. Our flight tickets are all changed and confirmed for Sunday, so we shall be flying back then, and this time I guarantee I’ll be jet lagged, because I’m going against time and not with it. Hmmmm….but regardless it’s been a fun trip, despite its woes, and that’s what matters.

Italian observations: for some reason every time we go into a public place: a square, a relic, a fountain, etc. there are men walking around selling stuff to people. They vary their stock items from scarfs, to flowers, to laser pointers, what their selling doesn’t matter- the point I’m getting at is that they are annoying! They keep badgering you to buy things, they will put things in your hands if you are not paying attention and then ask for money, and they crowd every place and walk around making these disgusting whistling sounds because they are chewing on whistles. Which brings me to another thing. Yesterday we saw the Italian police man of the year directing car traffic at the colosseum. He had his whistle out, hand gestures perfected, and was not someone you would want to cross- I’m just saying.

My last observation today is about the roles that Vespas play in the Italian motor way. Someone must have sent out a memo that said something along the lines of:” hey, if you own a Vespa the rules of the rode don’t apply to you- yay! Feel free to weave between the cars in various lanes, cut to the front of the line and ignore traffic lights, and drive down the tiny roads that are so small and crowed that you should only be walking on them. But you have the RIGHT to make everyone stand against the wall as you drive by because you own a Vespa.” Many of the main roads in Rome are cobbled stone rather than paved, so it’s already scary enough as it is. When we rode the bus the other night, it was insane as we literally bounced up and down flying own the road. Oh, I’m glad I don’t drive here.


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Rome: The Beginning

Where to even begin this series of events? The night train! This one was a breeze compared to the last one. We were able to have a cabin to ourselves, our stop was the last stop (so we could set an alarm and get everything ready- no lost passports), and the compartment transformed into three beds. If you could only have seen us, all sprawled out in our sleeping bags. We had the window shade pulled down, the lights off, cold air on, and sleeping bags out! camping in style. I vaguely remember asking Morgan if “sleeping in my underwear would be considered indecent exposure,” and she said yes, so We each changed into a pair of Pj’s. People could still walk by and look into our compartment- so for a bit in the beginning that was distracting, but if you got past that then all was well.

The train attendants/ ticket ladies this round were super troopers. We clocked them checking our tickets 5 times. After a bit it just got annoying, and we debated just sticking them in the window so they could see. That never happened, but each time they woke us up we groggily complied. I have no clue why they needed to check so much. I Understand the one time when we crossed country borders and they crew changed, but still. Oh well, suffice it to say the ride went so much better than the first one, and I actually got a decent amount of sleep.

Arriving in Rome was a feat in itself. Note to anyone thinking of going to Rome: ” THEY ONLY ACCEPT CASH FOR THE SUBWAY/EVERYTHING IN ROME!!!” There have been some very few blessed instances where we have found places that will accept a credit card, but for the most part- if your going through Rome, pack cash. Just thought you should know. That being said, I should tell you about our subway

After departing the train,our first course of action was to find the subway. As we followed the signs for the metro, we neared the terminal and found the machines that Issue tickets. After changing the language to English, we discovered that these machines do not accept a credit card. No biggie, we will go buy on at the information desk. We could not find an information desk for the subway, we found one for the trains, but not metro. The only logical thing to do is ask the train man where the metro desk was- he sent us to the tourism information desk. At the tourism information desk, they fault out told us that in order to ride the subway, you needed cash. Great. But while we were standing there, people round us were. Buying this thing called a “Roma Pass.” the pass gave you unlimited use of ALL public transportation, and it allowed you entrance into two museums/locations for free, a discount for the others, and with it you could skip lines. The pass is good for exactly three days. And they accepted a credit card. Hallelujah. A subway pass- we bought three.

The adventure continues as we begin the search for our hostel or in this case the Bed and Breakfast. The directions to the location were not extreme,y specific. They got us as far as which metro train and take and which stop to get off of, so we knew that much. After that you were on your own. Their has been a McDonlads at almost every subway something or another, so after we hopped off the train we decided to go find the wi-fi and just map it out. The sign was there leading the way, but it merely said, “McDonalds this way- it had an arrow- five minute walk.” Wow, this place is getting great responses to being vague. After scrambling around lost for a b it- remember the lack of street signs- we decided to start asking people for help. We pulled up the address on my iPhone. Made it big so people could easily see it, and began the task of asking away. We really should have done this in the beginning because within in a few minutes we had been pointed on the right direction and were on our way.

These B&B’s are nothing special. In fact, they exist in an apartment complex that has been gutted a bit and made into a series of multiple B&B’s. How nice. They have a door man, and each floor is a separate B&B. We figured that booking this room would be like booking any other hotel or hostel. When you pay for the room, you get to do with it as you please, right? You can squeeze in more people, you can add a cot, you can have a party- not in Italy. When we arrived to check-in, the lady was crazy! And she did not speak English, but rather than trying to make her-self understood she just kept ranting on in Italian. Really? And then she was getting mad and getting furious and protesting- but I had already paid for this room, so she had to let me in. Not the case. Eventually the manager showed up, thankfully she spoke English, and we were able to talk. Ok, here is where it gets weird. The manager proceeds to cancel my booking and then book all three of us! No really. She decides that for all three of us to stay in this tiny room, it would be €25 EACH, and we would be here three days. She then goes on to collect our passports and says that in Italy they have to report each tourists. I was floored. Well, first i was NOT surrendering my passport to her. I understood that the city keeps a log and charged an additional tourism tax, ok, but YOU WILL NOT get my passport. So we argued over that. We may have been stubborn Italian, but I am my mothers son and an American, so no way am I giving up my was getting heated now.

My reservation cost just went from €130 to €225. Wow, totally screwed. Not fun. I was so frustrated. But we are here, it’s the end, I want to be done. Ugh. So we just did t and moved on. Not ideal, but what can you do? We should have probably been like, its ok, cancel the booking we can find another place, and then gone out looking. But we are in a foreign country, don’t speak their language, we are tired, the little lady who checked us in was crying, and I really didn’t want to deal with it. So there! We had a roof over our heads- extremely important.

We left our packs with them, it’s the least they could have done, and went out to explore Rome. My experience with the people was hitting a level of “less than I deal” because I felt swindled and forced into something, but regardless, we pushed on. Because even if they are not pleasant people, Rome is gorgeous! The entire housing situation took roughly 2 1/2 hours- you just received the readers digest version- we decided to go and see the colosseum. When we walked out of that subway, I was breathless. It was HUGE and just there. Standing as a symbol of whatRme used to be. It would be free with our Roma Pass, and it was also include the ruins of the ancient city square next to it, but we had not eaten at all and it was around 1:30pm. So our desire to eat and look for street art, won over the awe of going right into classical architecture.

As we roamed for a bit, we found an extremely talented artists, and decided to give him patronage and add his pieces to our now blossoming watercolor collection. That would be fun, to go around Europe hitting the major cities collecting original works for an exhibit- may not- but it was a cool idea. After wandering for a bit we found a sit down restaurant that offered us an appetizer, full entree, and drink for €11. Sweet! We were so hungry that we each ordered a full pizza and just devoured it. What’s interesting is that I thought pizza in Italy would be something unique to savor and love, but in all reality if you have Italians in your neighborhood (Three Guys and Joes Pizza Palace for my parents) then you are set. It all taste the same. However, food that would accept payment with a card was welcomed by this time. It was so good. After we ate we just sat there and soaked in being on a street cafe. So nice. It was sunny, warm, and had a beautiful breeze. THIS is the Italy I craved, not crazy people forcing things upon me.

When we were full it was time to begin our stroll of the Colosseum. I was so excited, I think at one point I was skipping towards it. I mean cut me some slack, this is something I have been leading about forever- and I love the classical period. With the Roma pass, we easily skippered the line getting right in, and then began exploring. We easily spent three hours here just going through all of the levels, taking pictures, reading through the exhibits they had set up, buying a book guide and then going through it all again, I mean it’s just magnificent. I loved all of the marble work, and the structure of it all, and reading about the construction and destruction. Did you know that after the fall of the Roman empire, they would use the marble from the Colosseum in other buildings- and when they took it, they replaced it with brick. Yup, learned that from our adventures. Honestly, it was just brilliant! We wan Ted to go see the ruins of the old city adjacent to the Colosseum, but it was late when we finished playing there and they were closing up. S we are going to go back on Saturday. Between our sightseeing, art hunting, and long lunch, it was Ayer 6 when we left the Colosseum and we still had not “properly” checked in at the B&B.

We returned to check in and met with our disgruntled Italian lady. She garnished us with a key ring boasting four keys, and in her rushed Italian told us what they did, showed us to our room, and was off. Great. We started exploring and found that our bathroom, had a bidet. Can’t say I have ever used one of those before, but I’ll keep you posted on how that goes. Everything is extremely clean, and we used the bidet to wash our feet because they hurt from walking in those Chaco sandals- but not to worry because we cleaned it out afterwards. You know, just in case someone needed it for its original purposes. If you don’t know what they are, feel free to google it…

Because everything closes so early, we decided not to use another of our museum passes because our time there would be limited. Rather, Morgan went through a book we purchased on the architecture of Rome and combined with the map, we set out on an evening walking tour of Rome with a focus on looking for all of the famous water fountains. But first, we would need more food- and when your in Italy, you just have to keep going for the pizza.

No Italian vacation would be complete with stopping in a bakery for a real Italian Cannoli. And oh my goodness they are delicious here!!! We walked into the bakery near our house, and they had just opened recently because while they did accept cards they’re machine was not up and running. But luckily I had €2, I was €.50 short, but the man still let me have the big Cannoli for what I had. It was Devine. Chase and Morgan had never had one before so this was their introduction to them, and they liked them too. I forsee more of them in our future…

Our tour began with the Fontana del Tritone. The Triton Fountain in the Piazza Barberini (1642), by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, is a masterpiece of Baroque sculpture, representing Triton, half-man and half-fish, blowing his horn to calm the waters, following a text by the Roman poet Ovid in the Metamorphoses. Following that we hit a fountain that was truly magnificent –the Trevi Fountain.

The Trevi Fountain is the largest and most spectacular of Rome’s fountains, designed to glorify the three different Popes who created it. It was built beginning in 1730 at the terminus of the reconstructed Acqua Vergine aqueduct, on the site of Renaissance fountain by Leon Battista Alberti. It was the work of architect Nicola Salvi and the successive project of Pope Clement XII, Pope Benedict XIV and Pope Clement XIII, whose emblems and inscriptions are carried on the attic story, entablature and central niche. The central figure is Oceanus, the personification of all the seas and oceans, in an oyster-shell chariot, surrounded by Tritons and Sea Nymphs.

Our last fountains were all in the same square, but the trek to get there was a it confusing. The roads are small and wind back and forth, the streets are cobble stones instead of paved, and cars and motorcycles, seem to think they can go anywhere. Wow. So, after dodging many vehicles, and taking lots of turns, and finding more things that we plan on seeing on Saturday in the day light and while they are open, we arrived at the Piazza Navona.

Piazza Navona is a grand theater of water – it has three fountains, built in a line on the site of the Stadium of Domitian. The fountains at either end are by Giacomo della Porta; the Neptune fountain to the north, (1572) shows the God of the Sea sparing an octopus, is surrounded by tritons, sea horses and mermaids. At the southern end is La Fontana del Moro, a figure either of an African (a Moor) or of Neptune wrestling with a dolphin. In the center is the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, (The Fountain of the Four Rivers) (1648–51), a highly theatrical fountain by Bernini, with statues representing rivers from the four continents; the Nile, Danube, Plate River and Ganges. Over the whole structure is a 54-foot (16 m) Egyptian obelisque, crowned by a cross with the emblem of the Pamphili family, representing Pope Innocent X, whose family palace was on the piazza.

The square was also the Mecca of street art, because it was filled with people selling paintings (both reproductions and originals), making paintings, as also showcasing photography. When we arrived at the piazza we were in heaven. Beautiful fountains combined with an active city night life was just spectacular. We stayed in the square admiring the fountains (which Morgan knew all about and continued to give us her lecture that we have labeled “art stories”) enjoying the art, and soaking in the ambience. We didn’t leave until midnight. Which proved to be its own set of problems- the metro stopped running at 11:30pm. What Is with Europe and everything ending so early?

Let’s talk about this metro system for a moment. The underground is designed as an “X.” There are only two lines and they cross at one place, the Termini or the train station. This was not good planning at all! Luckily for us, we are on a subway stop, so I’m grateful, but with the way its made the trams are packed because everyone is typically going to the one transfer point to switch trains. Great. There were multiple moments when we would have to wait for another train because the one that showed up was already packed to capacity. Not good planning at all. However, there is also a nubs and tram system that service the city- but up to this point we had no idea how they worked.

Running to a bus stop so that we don’t miss them before they stop running, we were finally able to grab one. We had no idea that the subway stopped running at 11:30- an Irish man informed us of that- but our original plan was to head back to the Termini station because we could get the subway there. So, that plan wasn’t going to work. However, the Irish man that was speaking to us, became our friend and informed us of a system of night busses that serviced the city after midnight. Thank goodness for the Roma Pass which gave us access to EVERYTHING. The lovely Irish man and his friends helped us through the bus station and told us which bus o take to get home. Yay. But when our bus ended and dropped us off, we had no clue where we were. Luckily, it was the end of the route and the driver was on a bit of a break, so we asked him, and he pointed the direction we needed to go.

After walking a bit, we realized that we were back in the area we had spent most our morning being lost in trying to find our B&B, so it was a blessing we spent do much time wandering around lost because we now knew the area. Oh the wonderful blessing of travel. When we arrived home, we all passed out, and slept like rocks.

Which brings me to today (May 25) I’m sitting at the table eating the breakfast portion of the B&B- but it’s nothing fancy just a continental breakfast hardly worth the price- writing to you about yesterday. We were extremely productive and we plan on continuing that today. We are heading soon to the Vatican….

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Onward to Italy!

It’s official, WE are staying. We will do four more days in Europe and spend those days in ROME!!!!! I’m so excited. If h ad a bucket list this would be checked off my bucket list. I still want to come back and see more of Italy, but I can now rest assure that if I died, I would have gotten to see a place I have yearned for. And I would be content knowing my stay did not end at Vienna- which lets be honest- is boring.

After we packed up or things we checked out (at 10am- the last possible moment) and headed toward the train station. Once we were able to negotiate tickets to Rome, we learned that we had quite a bit of time before our train would leave. It was currently 10:30am and our pear true wasn’t until 7:30pm. Yes, we would once agin be on the night train- oh the joy.

The plan was to head back to the hostel, ask if they w oil hold our packs during the day, and then we would head out and go see more of Vienna. The hostel agreed, and we were off. Because the train officials had been about and about checking people’s metro tickets, we decided to be honest and buy new ones. Up to this point we had be coasting around on our old ones we bought a day ago- so, we didn’t want the €100 fine that came from being caught.

Our trip through Vienna began at the cathedral. I’m happy to say that I now have pictures of that and you can now understand the “tie dye” colors I was turning to describe previously. I also took Chase and Morgan to the amazing Gelato place- so that they could appreciate it’s goodness, and I was blessed to have real Italian teresimu . It was delicious! But extremely rich, so I let Chase finish it.

Following that little side venture, we decided to kill our time just strolling through town, looking into the shops, and allowing ourselves to get completely lost. We though it would be fun to just not k now at all where you were (which is a feeling I have quite often here) and just see what you find- it was something I would do on weekends in NYC. It was a good idea, but we kept knowing where we were. We would walk a ways and then notice something or find a subway station and then be aware of how to get back to where we were staying. But, alas it killed time and made our stroll enjoyable. The shops we filled with fun things, and I’m proud to report that designer things are similar in price in both continents- so we aren’t missing any great deal here in Europe. But they don’t have Banana Republic, and that makes me sad. I’ve gotten to a point in life where I just rely on the Banana and it’s clearance rack. So, that would have to be resolved if I m over here. Just saying.

All of the wonderful smells coming from the food carts eventually led us to start looking for food of our own. Because Chase and Morgan had their cash stolen, our main means for food is going to the grocery store or finding a restaurant that will accept credit cards. Not a fun hunt when your hungry- and by now the deserts had worn off and we wanted food! Luckily we had arrived at a grocery store that sold sandwiches and such, so we divided getting what we wanted and crossed the street to have our lunch out in the lawn of the Vienna Opera House. Which is beautiful- just thought you should know.

Pigeons were everywhere. They flocked together and game in droves, if something disturbed them the mass of fluttering was borderline frightening. But, eh, what can you do? So, we ate lunch amount them shielding our heads from any “surprises.” It actually proved to be extremely enjoyable. The sun was shining, we sat on the lip of a beautifully fountain, and there was a slight breeze. But, with the pigeons running rampant you can only risk so much time among them. What do you do with free time? Surf the internet! Off to McDonalds…

This is the part of the day where we received a great revelation that made the rest of the day a bit though. When we logged online, Chase had received an email from the German train lines. They had recovered their passports and train tickets. They had just now decided to inform them- they had held them for a few days. I thought poor Chase was gonna cry. They have spent almost $1500 trying to get new passports, train travel, and detouring off of our couch surfing itinerary trying to figure this out. What makes it worse is that the Germans delayed in telling them they had recovered them. This could have been avoided – or at least made not as bad if they had told us YESTERDAY- then they would not have needed to spend the money on emergency passports. Well, now there was a damper on our day. And while we were in McDonalds the heavens had opened, clouds arrived from ow where, and it was using raining.

Lovely. As we prepared to go get wet, a mother and her daughter came up to us. They looked a bit frantic, but their question was, “do you speak English?” Finally someone asking US rather than us asking them -but, I digress. We replied in the affirmative, and they explained that the could no figure out the tram system. Well, we had I only been taking the metro, so we had no clue about the tram. But do we tell them that? No!! We must not allow for them to think we are weak and not as smart as we appear to be. So, we followed them over to the mapped placed them on what we perceived to be the right train. And even if it wasn’t, well it’s not like they are going to hunt us down and tell us. Think of it this way, we sent them on their own unique adventure.

The rest of our playing in the city was pretty much shot after we go the news from Germany. So we decided to return to he hostel, collect our things, and go wait for our train. It doesn’t help that we go tot he train station 3 house before it was scheduled to depart, but we figured we would sit in McDonalds and play on the Internet. Yeah, that Internet wasn’t working. So, I fell asleep in the chair I was sitting in, and everyone else read or did like wise. Ayer we rested a bit, we were able to “people watch” and enjoy ourselves a bit more and the time went faster. At 7pm we decided to head out to the train terminal and enjoy the evening waiting for our train. The sun had returned and it was warm. Very enjoyable.

The train we are on this time, while yes, it is another night train, isn’t like the other one we were on. This one has us placed in a Cain with 6 people, us three and three others, and it’s not as comfortable. Oh well. I also learned that you CANNOT change seats in this train because half way thought the trip during the night, the train will spilt. Half will go one way and half will go another. That’s exciting. Our other night train added trains throughout the journey, so I guess it’s only fitting we discover the other way it works.

As our train pulled out of the platform we could see a girl chasing it. Obviously this train wasn’t going to stop, it only comes once a day. And she missed it. I’m grateful that’s not us- as of yet (fingers crossed)- and I saw her mouth a four letter word. In this case, it’s fitting.

Our train ride this evening is 14 hours long! The estimated arrival time into Rome is 9:30 am- at which we will go to the Bed and Breakfast we are staying at, and see of they will hold our backpacks while we go explore before we are allowed to check in at 1pm. Should be fun. And if it isn’t, we’ll I’ll tell you all about it and you can sympathize with me. Let’s just hope it’s smooth.

In response to the question, “what will you do with the rest of your evening, ” I plan on waiting for the ticket person to come check my ticket, read a bit of my book, and wait for the sun to go down before I attempt the Dreadful act of trying to sleep. I’ll be tired tomorrow, I already know that, but I’ll be in the eternal city. ROME! it’s going to be wonderful….

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Not so much of Vienna, but a lot of The Marriott

We slept too late. Whenever we entrust Chases phone to wake us up,it fails. You would think by now that I would go ahead and enlist the help of my trusty iPhone, but that’s not the case. By the time evening comes around I’m so wiped out that I don’t think twice about it. I better work on that. Needless to say, our day stared off in a rush.

When we had woken up it was 9:22am. The embassy only has opening hours from 8-11am, so we began to rush and get ourselves gathered so that we could get there before closing. As we scrambled to figure out where the building was in relation to where we were, and the quickest way to get there- it was a few minutes after 10 that we began the trek. As we went from Subway to subway trying to figure out transfers and such (ever realize how difficult it is to think clearly when you are stressed?) we eventually hit off of the metro and just began walking the Streets. If you have ever been to Europe you can probably vouch for me when I say that it’s extremely difficult to find the street signs. But sporting that good ole American spirit, we made it – walking in at 10:50 am. Great! Not so much..

As we spoke with security, and Chase gave him the sob story, we learned that what we needed was not the embassy, but rather the American Consulate. The two are NOT connected. So, after the officer pulled out a map ( informing us that they are open until 11:30am – that gives us a mighty 40 minutes to arrive) we scrambled to figure out how to get there. This is ending up like a bad version of the amazing race. And on top of it all, it started to rain. And I was wearing white shorts…

It’s now cold again. Vienna, you are not on my good side.

Running through streets dodging form subway to subway, we made it to the consulate. It’s interesting that it’s housed in the Marriott hotel. We actually arrived there at 11:18am, the fates were on our side. While riding the elevator up to the fourth floor we had a chance to actually look at ourselves in the mirrors of the elevator. We looked rough. Chases comment was, “Good! We look horrible, that will only help our cause.” We laughed, but secretly I hoped he was right.

Arriving at the security checkpoint of the consulate is scary. If you thought TSA was bad, trying to enter the consulate. They do x-ray, pat down, and metal detector checks. Pretty intense. And the woman at he security desk is a complete bitch. ( I had debated weather or not I would voice my true opinion of her, but as I debated more “cordial” ways to describe her, I fear the only way to paint the most accurate picture is to call her what she was) Morgan took her cue, speaking German and then moving the conversation into English. She was then handed a phone and had to recap the entire story, and learned that they will need “Emergency Passports.” Ok, that’s cool I guess. Following her conversation on the phone a portly man squeezed himself through the security checkpoint handing them paper work to fill out and instructions to go down stairs and get new passport pictures taken. Luckily we were in the Marriott, so at least the lounging would be comfortable. We were told to report back at 1pm.

I guess this happens a lot, because on the ground floor of the Marriott is a shop that sells photography supplies. But in addition, they do instant passport photos. We walked in, and I guess he had been phoned ahead (or we looked so rough he just knew) but he was ready to do some pictures. The surprise from it all didn’t come until they received the bill – almost €60 for the crappiest pictures ever. Then we knew it was going to be expensive. So sad, had we known maybe we could have found some place cheaper, or maybe they just love gouging the heck out of unsuspecting people. They paid it, and we retreated to the lobby for all of the paper work- Chase in a foul mood, every one knowing it. And the rain poured on. Such a lovely day in Vienna.

1pm could not have come sooner. As the time approached we were at the point of holding a count down to get all of this done. When we arrived back on the fourth floor of the Marriott, we encountered a line. I guess the protocol is that you come and voice a complaint during work hours and then if you are lucky enough for them to accept your plea, you return at 1pm for processing. Anyway, now the front desk lady had transformed from Bitch to SUPER Bitch. Because people were now allowed to go in to the consulate, they had to go thorough the security protocol- and Leo and behold if you didn’t stay behind the sign and wait for your turn she was going to eat you. And o would not put it past her- she was a hefty lady. She yelled at me multiple times, and I was not going to be treated like crap, so I would play dumb ad speak French to her just to piss her off. The Germans do not like hearing French- probably because it’s prettier than their language. Regardless, because I still had a passport I was not allowed in, and I had to stay outside sitting on the steps, and you can guess she sat there and starred at me the ENTIRE time. Ugh. This woman. Makes me so mad.

Eventually, Chase and Morgan emerged victorious and had been approved for new passports. But, we would have to return at 3pm to pick them up. It was about 1:30pm, so we decided to go back to our hostel ( in their wait time they had found more convenient subway routes) and make our own lunch. This is where the discussion of the price of reclaiming passports came up. It was about €250 to get a new passport, and so they began debating wither or not they would have enough money to go on or would need to return home.

NO!!!!!!!! I have waited all my life for this change to come to Italy, ad we are so close, we can’t leave now. My past week has been hell in these Germanic countries, and I need something worth seeing. I NEED ITALY!!!

So, when we arrived home I began cooking lunch while they discussed finances. Their discussion had not ended when we had lunch, and then they had to return tot he consulate. Because of my disdain for a certain woman (who would be a super employee at the DMV) I decided to stay back at the hostel and take a quick nap. I was feeling overcome with it all. And when I woke up, it was pouring rain.

Then we had it out. Chase and Morgan decided that their financial situation had forced them to return home, but they wanted me to continue on exploring Europe. Alone. By myself. The arguments we along the lines of, “people do this all the time,” ” your 25- you can do this,” ” I would if we were staying,” and “you lived in NYC- you are capable of this.” Well, let me tell you, I had a retort for each of them, and after a while I had to tell them that for me it was more about being with friends in a place and that aspect of the adventure rather then being
in a place alone. I mean I figure I’m personable and can make friends but I’m not really up to figuring out a new place ( that doesn’t speak my language) right now. Anyway, we had words, and I said my peace and stormed out in righteous indignation. Thank goodness it has stopped raining, because I did not take my coat…

In my time away I went to see Vienna. I bought a subway pass and just rode through the city just looking. However, before my sightseeing began I had to indulge in a double scoop of gelato- I had earned it. It’s an interesting city, still not my favorite, but interesting in how’s it’s an old city experiencing construction to become new. It’s not my favorite place, but I have a better respect for it. I did a bit of just looking at the city as well seeing the palace and the cathedral. But in my indignation, I stormed out with my camera, but no battery in that camera…oh the joys of making a scene.

The cathedral, like all I have seen thus far, was gorgeous. But this one had a special bit of “flare” that was its own. Each cathedral has these gorgeous high stained glass windows, but this one had strips of varied pastel colored gels from theater lights attached with tape. The effect was gorgeous. As light streamed in, it made a definite impact on the picture it was creating. The lights were pouring in as very defined colors and swirling against each other as they rested on the floor and pillars. It was really gorgeous, and I had forgotten a camera battery. Curses!!! Before the cathedral I saw the palace- but it wasn’t too impressive. But he time I gotten there it was already closed. It was extremely yellow- and I liked Versailles better. Just saying.

On the subject of our street art hunts, I did get a chance to find the water color for Vienna. The I climate weather had pushed away many of the street artists, and only the ones who drew caricatures of people braved the weather. But I did find one brave soul who risked his paintings to the rain, and it was worth it. I bought a beautiful watercolor of the cathedral in green tones. Oh, it’s probably the best part of Vienna.

After that I went to a Starbucks and just sat. I had things to think through, and now had cooled down enough to process it all. I thought of how I could do the trip alone, how I could do the trip but finish it in a week, but then the conclusion I came to was that I would go with Chase and Morgan to Rome, but stay there a few days so I could enjoy Italy. One of the major points in our argument was if we would ever have this opportunity again. And you know, I may never be able to see ALL of these countries again, but I can focus on just going to see one country – and I’m positive that if I want it- I can return to Italy to explore the country. But for now, I want a taste of it. I’m so excited to be spending four days there.

When I returned, and apologized, we worked it out and figured that Chase and Morgan would stay the four days in Rome with me. Whoooo! You gotta have friends, right? You can do all these things alone, but really I believe it’s about who you do it with. A lesson learned.

Well it’s time for bed- we have another travel day ahead of us, the train to Italy is 19 hours. Another night train- I guess this time I’ll hold on to ALL the passports….

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Austria Continued

Last nights sleeping arrangements didn’t end up too bad. Chase and Morgan kept our host’s bed while our host, the other couch surfer, and myself ended up in sleeping bags on the floor. By that point we were so exhausted it really didn’t matter. Waking up in the morning felt like waking the dead because I just did not want to get up. But you have to. So I got out of bed, headed toward the kitchen and started breakfast. Luckily I had begun preparing it last night (i grated potatoes and cut up onions and cooked them all together with some meet, eggs, and cheese in a breakfast scramble invention) so getting it done wasn’t too bad. I thought that we would possibly have the company of the other couch surfer, Martin, but he had left at 3am to assist with the arrival of the Dali Lama in Salzburg. I’m glad I wasn’t up that early, but it would have been cool to see the Dali Lama.

After packing and saying our goodbyes, we left our host a. Thank you note and headed for the train station. The people that Chase and Morgan had finagled a free ride to Vienna with wanted to leave around 9:30am, so we were there around 9. The train for me to take to Vienna didn’t leave until 10:01am, so I waited with them until I had to go or their ride showed up. When I left them at 9:45am their ride had still not shown up. Weird. Not much I could do, so I went off to my train.

From what I have gathered from them, their guy was there for a good 45 minutes sitting in his car ( and this included the time I was waiting with them) but no one recognized each other. They made it to Vienna around 1:30pm, but we’re dropped off in the center of the city and have to navigate their way back and find the hostel. They didn’t arrive at the hostel until 3pm.

My train was perfectly on time and was a smooth clean ride. The night before, we had looked up the directions they posted online for getting there and compared it to google maps so I would know what I was doing. I had no problems in my travel. Everything was on time and this was one of those high speed trains that went 200 KM/H- so, we were booking it. I arrived to the station a little past quarter till, and was at the hostel by 1pm. When I arrived at the hostel, Chase and Morgan were not there- and the reservation was in Chases name. When I explained that I was waiting for them, the woman at the front desk escorted me to this little kitchen area to wait for them, and I say and read until they finally showed up. I’m gonna be honest, it was a little bit scary to be apart from each other without any means of communication. And not knowing why they were late, i think my reading was more for distracting myself than enjoyment. But fingers crossed and prayers answered- it all worked out! We arrived in Vienna safely.

The plan for today was to arrive at Vienna and the go to the embassy and sort of it passport Dilemma. However, when we went to inquire the hours of operation for the embassy we learned that the operating hours are from 8am-11 am. Wow, those work hours must be great- you get EVERY afternoon off. Ugh. Of course this isn’t going to be easy, so we are planning on getting up early to go tomorrow. Oh this is gonna be good when it’s all done.

By the time we had checked in, settled in, and figured out what we wanted to see and do in Vienna- you have to remember this city was a complete surprise to us. According to our original plan we should be in Florence, but we are adapting. I mean we have to, potentially Chase and Morgan could be denied entry into Italy. I feel like fugitives. Anyway, when we had figured it all out, it was 4pm and it had started sprinkling rain, so we asked where a grocery store was and set out.

The current struggle is always finding a place that will accept our American cards because Chase and Morgan had their cash stolen With their passports. So, we had a chance to roam around Vienna. You know, at first glance I wasn’t crazy for it. Maybe it’s the district we are in, or maybe it’s because we art staying with a host you knows where everything is and is excited to show us around, but I just don’t like it. It’s dirty and not as “old world” as the other cities we have seen- but you know, I’ll. Have to really hold my opinions until we have gone into more of the historic districts tomorrow.

We walked for quite a bit, and saw a lot, before we decided that the direction we had gone did not have a grocery store. After turing around multiple times, back tracking, and finally being humbled enough to ASk someone where one would be (novel idea), we learned that there was a huge one in the train station. Wow, it was right there the entire time. Such is life.

As we trekked back to the hostel carrying our groceries, I saw this kid carrying what I perceived to be a box full of pastries ( I know these things) and I decided to strike a conversation whit him. He was extremely cordial. He began by telling me his box contained a cake for his sites birthday, and them he unleashed a slew of questions he had about the United States. I laughed and provided as many answers as I could, and he ended up walking with me all the way to our hostel door. As we ended our conversation he said, “I wold have never known you were American until you spoke.” I smiled and dodged into the door way.

Dinner was another glorious creation brought to you by Morgan and Brock. We have mastered the concept of “take what you have and make it work!” it’s fun working in the kitchen together because we bounce off of each other well, and end up getting it all done rather quickly. And there is just something comforting about eating something you made yourself. It just makes the day end well.

We have been through a lot in the last bit, so the evening was really relax oriented. Chase and Morgan stayed in, but I went for a stroll of the district we are living in, paying special attention to where I was headed so I could make it back. The chance to just stroll through the city alone and think and enjoy was extremely welcomed. The night settled in and I enjoyed the warm air imagining what it would be like to live here. As I got further away from where we are staying the buildings and people began to change. The architecture began to shine through, old churched emerged, and the people filled the outdoor seats of cafe’s chatting and enjoying each others company. Occasionally in life we have to step back and watch so that we too can see the happiness of others. Knowing they were happy made me happy as well. I love how it’s infectious.

I returned after a while and now it’s time to get ready to do it all over again. Tomorrow we get to learn how to have a passport reissued as well as stop by and see all of the unique things that are strictly Vienna. Perhaps I was too harsh upon arrival, maybe this will turn out to be an unexpected gem.

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