Snowed In

Well, I’m safely back in Iowa, and glad to be here!  It was quite the experience getting from Rome to Home–about a 30 hour journey with late-arriving planes, delays, and missed flights.  I only got home about 3 hours late–so not too bad considering some of the stresses the day brought (result of day’s stresses: I’m never stepping foot in the Chicago O’Hare airport again).

Heather and I, about 7am Saturday morning--or midnight home time, Starting the Rome to Zurich leg of the journey.

Heather and me starting our Rome to Zurich leg of the journey home. 7am Saturday Rome time, midnight home time

Thankfully I’m not too jet-lagged. I stayed up the night before I came home (Friday night) since we had to leave the apartment by about 3am to catch a taxi and get to the airport in plenty of time, and I didn’t sleep on the plane home much, maybe a few hours out of the total 30 hours from start to finish, so I was ready to sleep once I got home-home. My plane from Rome to Zurich was fine–left on time and arrived on time.  Then we had a layover from about 9am to 1pm in Zurich, which became 9am to 2:20pm due to previous delays in other cities due to snow around Europe (it was frigid and snowing in Zurich–a rude awakening from the 50-60 degree weather we were having in Rome).  I watched a couple movies on the plane to Chicago, read some of my book, tried to tune out a wailing two-year old, and finally we arrived in Chicago nine hours later.  Chicago was an epic failure in itself… Customs was a piece of cake, thankfully–they didn’t even look in my bags.  We got into Chicago at 5pm, and I thought I was in pretty good shape since my next flight didn’t leave until 7:15.  Boy was I wrong.  It took us an hour and a half to get our luggage.  When mine finally came down the chute one of my bags had two zip ties around it, a busted zipper, and was open two inches all the way around with my shirts dangling out the sides… I was NOT a happy camper.  I now had a broken suitcase and only 45 minutes to get from terminal 5 to terminal 1 to check in and check my bags at the United counter.  By the time I got where I needed to be, there was a huuuge line full of disgruntled holiday travelers.  I asked a rude employee about my flight and how to do everything, she scanned my passport at the machine, only to find my flight to Des Moines didn’t even exist. It had been cancelled weeks before, and the next one didn’t depart until 9:05pm. At a small fee of $75 dollars (small?) I could ensure that I’d get a seat on that plane, or I could be put on the stand-by list and hope for the best.  Well, I forked over the $75, printed my boarding pass, and got at the end of the disgruntled travelers’ line to check my bags. After not moving for an hour and fearing the slight possibility that I might not catch my new flight (the last one to Des Moines of the evening) I asked the Customer Service Manager what I should do… He sent me to the front of the line to check my bags in. Bad move. Immediately about 20 angry people started screaming at me, things like “LADY, WE’VE BEEN STANDING HERE AN HOUR AND FORTY-FIVE MINUTES AND THERE’S NO WAY IN HELL WE’RE LETTING YOU GO AHEAD OF US” and “LADY, WE’RE ALL TRYING TO GET TO MINNEAPOLIS, TOO! GET TO THE BACK OF THE LINE!” (to this one I replied, “Well, I’m not trying to get to Minneapolis.”)  At this point I just wanted to get home, and I was exhausted, and stressed, and annoyed.  I went to the back of the line swearing and sad, praying I’d make my flight.  Once I finally got to the counter to check my bags, I asked that they zip-tie my open bag shut a little better before checking it, and got a big fat No in response, “We don’t have zip ties”–right. I believe that. Idiots.  Then I was off to catch the train and find gate F in terminal 2, from which my flight would be departing.  Oh, but wait… just kidding!  Thank God I checked the departure screen while I was waiting to get on the train–my flight had been moved from gate F in terminal 2 to gate C in terminal 1, which is where I already was. So I took the chance and went back through security in terminal one, double checked the gate once I was through, treated myself to a Starbucks, then sat until it was time to board the plane at 8:45. Except it wasn’t time to board the plane at 8:45. We didn’t board the plane until 9:45 due to a mechanical problem, and finally departed at 10:15pm–3 hours later than I was originally supposed to leave Chicago. From there it was smooth flying all the way to Des Moines.  I got in at about 11, and was greeted by my parents, my best friend Abby, and her dad.  It was a great way to be welcomed home, I was so happy to see all of them after that 30 hour journey and four months apart.  After saying our hellos we went and grabbed my luggage and headed home.  It was about 11:45 by the time we got out of the airport, and I was starving, so we stopped quick at Village Inn for my first American meal (chicken sandwich, fries, and a diet coke), then home to bed.  It was a long day, but I was fortunate to make it home only 3 hours later than I was originally supposed to.

Snow at the Zurich Airport

Like I said, I love being home.  I’m not so glad, however, to be stuck at home alone, iced-in with a couple of demanding dogs to nag at/sort of entertain me.  This morning, for instance, I was awakened at 7am by Izzy whining and crying downstairs. Upon further inspection, she did not have to go outside, but reeeaallly wanted to get at a bowl of cheerios that had been left on the dining table from earlier.  Good morning to you, too, dog.  So far I’ve been filling my time at home with visits to the doctor and the dentist, a couple trips to my favorite–Target, catching up with friends, and finally getting a hair cut after 4 months!  Today I’ve had eight cups of coffee, dinked around the house, played with the dogs a few times, enjoyed the snowy scenery, and taken a few pictures.  Pretty fair day, but I’m starting to get a little cabin fever–especially after never having a dull moment in the last four months.  Getting a little Rome-sick.

Merry Christmas!

The dogs getting along so nicely...

...until Izzy decided she was no longer interested sharing her bed.

"Pleeeeeease play with me!"

Tree rat lovin' the snow.

So that’s what’s going on for me.  I think Mom and I might try and do a little Christmas baking this evening–Swedish Creme cookies, peanut clusters and puppy chow.  I’ve got a couple of weeks to sit and relax and enjoy being home before it’s time to go back to work, then school starts again on January 11.  I’m sad to say the best four months of my life have come to an end, and it’s back to the real world–school and work all day every day, an internship to prepare for, and a lot of planning and day-dreaming about what my next adventure will be. I’ve got a long bucket list going of places I wish I had had time for when I was in Europe, and where I hope to get someday when I’ve made some money and have some time… here’s what I’ve got so far. Let me know if there’s anyplace else I need to add to it!

In the U.S.– Disney World, Sequoia National Park, Seattle, Hawaii, Las Vegas, Nashville, Alaska, Boston
Tropical Islands—Bahamas, etc. Maybe a cruise?Puerta Vallarta

African Safari

English Isles

Ireland–Dublin, Galway







Germany–Munich, Berlin

Czech Republic–Prague


France–Paris, Cannes, French Riviera

Russia–St. Petersburg, Moscow




Italy–Florence, Sicily

This list is long and will continue to grow, but studying abroad has made me more adventurous and ready to explore, and I’m excited about it. (Donations to make these big dreams attainable are more than welcome! ha!)

Talk to you soon.


28 hours.

Holy cats.

I leave Italy in 28 hours.

28 hours!

I’ve been counting down the days for quite some time now, and now that it’s actually here…. I don’t wanna go! I’m not ready yet! I don’t want this chapter to end! What if I never get to come back!? What if I never have these experiences ever again!? Now I have to go to school?! In Iowa?! And work!? And can’t go do fun things like meet the Pope and sit on the steps of the Pantheon and take pictures of the Colosseum lit up at night and walk into churches and see Caravaggio paintings and Bernini sculptures and Michelangelo masterpieces!? I can’t do that anymore?!  You’ve got to be kidding me! I don’t like this at all!  The real world has responsibilities and deadlines, the Rome world has suggestions and gelato! And cobblestones! UGH.

I’m just having a minor anxiety attack, don’t worry about me.  Today I’ve been packing and re-packing everything I’ve accumulated over the last four months, and remembering where I got it all, and reminiscing of all the things I’ve done and seen and learned, and now I’m a little sad!  Last night we had our final exhibition at school where all of our semester’s work was displayed, and there was a slide show, and it made me realize how many great friends I’ve made in the last four months–people I never would have come across had I not come to live in and study in Rome.  Despite it’s many ups ad downs, this has been the best semester/best four months in general of my life.  I wish it didn’t have to end.  I wish I could pick up everyone I love back home and bring them to Europe and we could all experience it together.

I did something really cool today, though… One last hurrah, if you will.  A bunch of us students got tickets to and attended what’s called a Vespri mass at St. Peter’s Basilica, lead by none other than the Pope himself.  It was completely in Italian, but from what I gathered it was mostly for students studying in Rome–there were TONS of people there. Lots of pushy little nuns, too.  Here’s my prized photograph of the evening–I sure wish my granddad could see it–he’d be tickled pink to see how close I got to the Pope!!  I think I have him to thank for eating all that fish on Fridays in honor of the Pope, must have served as brownie points that got me this awesome picture!

The POPE himself! Blessing a little baby girl right next to me!

How cool is that!? I was close enough to touch him, and maybe would have if I didn’t think the Swiss Guard would tackle me to the ground if I tried it. Ha! Very cool way to end a very cool four months.

Jami, me, and Hayley--bubbling with excitement at the thought of seeing the Pope

So now I should continue unpacking and re-packing and throwing things away… Just wanted to share that little piece of my day with you.  Can’t believe I’m almost home!!  My flight leaves the Fiumicino airport at 6:50am Saturday, so we’ll need to leave the apartment around 3am, which means we won’t be sleeping Friday night, which means tonight is the last night I’ll be sleeping in this Italian twin sized bed! From Rome we fly to Zurich, have a four hour layover, then Zurich to Chicago (ten hour flight), and then Chicago, through customs, and on to Des Moines! I arrive in Des Moines a little after 8pm Saturday night, should the weather cooperate, so pray hard that it does!

Now the next countdown begins– 8 days until CHRISTMAS! So excited to spend it with the people I love!

Thanks for reading,


p.s.-now only 27 hours…

Eight days and counting!

I know, I know… Three posts in three days. A new personal best. Consider yourselves lucky!

Today was a big day for sight seeing in Rome! I’m trying to pack everything in that I can in my last week here, and I got to cross a lot of things off the list today!

Here’s a run down of today’s events, including pictures!


Left the apartment in Trastevere to meet group at studio to walk together to Galleria Borghese across town for the Caravaggio/Bacon exhibit.

Cut over past the Pantheon to the main drag that runs all the way through Rome (Via del Corso), then cut over to the Piazza de Spagna and the Spanish Steps (one of the items on the Rome To-Do list!), climbed to the top (138 steps), then walked to Villa Borghese.

Spanish Steps!


Toured the Galleria Borghese, which was a work of art in itself.  Viewed the Caravaggio and Bacon displays, but the best part (for me at least) were the sculptures on display by Gian Lorenzo Bernini–my favorite artist of the Baroque era.  His stuff is astounding.  I just finished a research paper for art history, and Bernini was my topic.  Seeing these things in real life were the highlight.  We weren’t allowed to take pictures in the galleria, but here are some of my favorites I found online.

Apollo and Daphne--she is being transformed into a laurel tree--see fingers=leaves, toes=roots

The Rape of Proserpina--Pluto's kiddnapping of Proserpina, taking her to the underworld. Awesome lifelike detail.

Look at the detail in Rape of Proserpina--dimpled flesh, the veins in the hands


After seeing all that the Borghese Gallery had to offer, we spent  a couple hours tromping around Villa Borghese and the Borghese gardens.  This is a HUGE area, so we didn’t see much of it, but it was a very nice, quiet place.  There were lots of places to sit and enjoy the scenery, several dog parks, a pond, countless beautiful fountains and statues, and walking paths everywhere.  Interspersed are several museums, and even a zoo!  There were lots of runners, families, young people, bikers, etc., all enjoying the parks today.  It was nice and relaxing ad quiet and beautiful.  I enjoyed it very much!

Crunchy fall leaves 🙂

I like pine cones.

Cute little bug chasing her puppies!

Enjoying the day beautiful day!

Roman skyline as seen from Villa Borghese--St. Peter's dome is visible to the right


After a few hours of exploring the parks at Borghese, we met up with some classmates and walked over to Palazzo de San Pietro.  It only took us about a half hour to walk there.  Once we got to St. Peter’s square we were greeted by the beautiful sight of a giant Christmas tree! It was very neat.  We spent some time taking pictures of the tree and the exterior of St. Peter’s Basilica.  It was the first time I had been here in the daylight hours, so I took lots of pictures of the square and the exterior, as well as the interior (much cooler during the day).  Also–the absolute highlight of my day, and maybe even of all my time in Rome–I had the opportunity to climb up to the top of the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica (551 steps!) and spend about an hour watching the sun set over the entire Eternal City!  I was very much on top of the world this afternoon–a blessing that was much needed in what has proven to be an especially tough week.

Christmas time is here 🙂

St. Peter's Basilica

The view from the top of the dome at St. Peter's!

Sunset over Rome. Definitely worth the 5euro.

The terrifying steps coming down from the dome

The Swiss Guard are just too cute.

So that was my Thursday!  Not a bad way to spend a day, I’d say.  They were working on setting up the Nativity inside St. Peter’s, and said it’d be completed and unveiled on the 15th of December, so it would probably be worth a trip back just to see that! Good day today, and I couldn’t wait to share it with you.

8 days til we’re homeward bound!

Thanks for readin’,


The things I do when I’m not gallivanting around the Italian countryside…


Two posts in two days… it’s a new personal record!

So I realized that most of my posts have been about my weekend adventures outside of Rome.  I think it’s time (or maybe past time) to tell you about some of the adventures I have here IN Rome!  Now that the semester is coming to a close, I’m doing the best to soak up all of Rome that I can before it’s time to leave… with the amount of money I’ve spent here, it could be quite some time before I’m able to make a return trip!

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to tag along with one of the other Art History groups to St. Peter’s Basilica, since our group didn’t go there in the semester.  It was HUGE and very interesting to see. Unfortunately I went after dark, so I’ll have to go again in the next few days so I’ll be able to see it better in the daylight.  I learned that St. Peter’s Basilica is a full six acres in size… that’s ENORMOUS!

Looking towards the Vatican and St. Peter's

St. Peter's Basilica

Interior of St. Peter's

Michelangelo's La Pieta

Last week we had a couple days off thanks to Thanksgiving, so Tuesday (December 1st) was the perfect opportunity for me to visit the Vatican Museums here in Rome.  I knew I had to go before I left, and I can’t believe I hadn’t been yet! Pathetic. Anyway, my friend Megan and I made our way to Vatican City bright and early.  We spent about four hours there touring all the different works of art and sculpture the Vatican has obtained over the last 500 years or so.  It was pretty neat! Probably would have been better had we paid extra for a guided tour, so we knew what we were looking at, but it was pretty cool all the same.  I got to see Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, which was cool, but nothing like I had imagined.  I thought it would take my breath away or bring a tear to my eye, but it was more of a huh-this-is-it? reaction.  Not that it wasn’t neat, it just wasn’t what I had imagined! My favorite thing that I saw that day was the Egyptian stuff–specifically this 3,000 year old mummy–it was so cool! She still had toenails and everything!

3000 year old mummy toes!

mummy: 1070-945 BC

The Christmas spirit is starting to show itself in the streets of Rome, and it’s so exciting and beautiful to see.  The other day while doing some last minute souvenir shopping I stumbled into a huge Christmas market in Piazza Navona.  It was like a Carnival!  Carousel, Santa and his sleigh, Christmas decorations for sale, games to play, entertainers to watch, stands where you could buy everything from jewelry to toys to leather to watercolor prints–everything you can imagine!  Reminded me a lot of Greater Slater on the 4th of July, plus a few Italians in Santa suits! 🙂 I went once at night, and a couple times during the day…

The carousel at the Christmas market--the kids loved it!

Hehe, Heather wanted a picture with Santa 🙂

Trying to get a picture of one of Bernini's fountains at Piazza Navona, but look at this Italian guy! Haha! It's hilarious!

A few days ago we discovered we were able to get to the rooftop terrace in our apartment, so I went up to see the sun set of the Tiber River, and got some really pretty shots.  I’m going to miss this place.

Sunset over the Tiber

A view of the courtyard at my apartment in Trastevere (Chair sculpture courtesy of CalPoly architect students from across the way)

After spending some time on the roof, my roommate and I decided to find St. Cecilia in Trastevere, a church that is embarrassingly close to our apartment–about a minute away–can’t believe I hadn’t been there before.  The story behind St. Cecilia goes like this:

Cecilia is one of the most popular of Roman saints. She lived in the 3rd century and the first legend of her life was written in the 6th century. A noblewoman from a senatorial family, Cecilia took a personal vow of virginity and pledged her life to God. Unfortunately for her, Cecilia’s parents still married her off.

On her wedding night, Cecilia told her new husband (Valerian of Trastevere) about her pledge of virginity and persuaded him to be baptized. Valerian’s brother Tibertius and another man named Maximus were converted and baptized as well, and the three men began a Christian ministry of giving alms to the poor and arranging for proper burial of martyrs. Eventually they also became martyrs for refusing to worship the Roman gods.

After burying her husband and his brother, Cecilia was persecuted as well. According to her legend, she was first locked in the caldarium of her own bathhouse for several days. This failed to suffocate her as planned; in fact, she sang throughout the ordeal (Cecilia is the patron saint of music). Next a soldier was sent to behead her, but after three hacks with an axe she was still alive. However, she died of her wounds three days later.

Interior of St. Cecilia in Trastevere

St. Cecilia, the patron saint of music--there's a mark along her throat if you look closely

Yesterday I took some time out of working on my final project to do some exploring and shopping.  I swung by Campo dei Fiori, Piazza Navona (again), the Pantheon, and made a stop at a church called St. Ignazio on my way back to studio.  St. Ignazio is probably one of the coolest works of art I’ve ever seen.  The entire ceiling is frescoed in perspective! What looks like a huge tall high ceiling with high archways and a tall dome is all an illusion! The ceiling is flat!  The dome is a stretched canvas! How neat is that??  I spent a lot of time in there, just looking up.  I like doing that.

The "dome" of St. Ignazio--a complete and total optical illusion!

The pictures can't do it justice, but here you can see that the oculus of the dome is nowhere near center--if you stand at one point in the back of the church, though, it's SO convincing.

So that’s a little taste of what’s been keeping me on my toes lately.  Tomorrow I’m going to the Caravaggio/Bacon exhibit at Galleria Borghese in the morning, then exploring the gardens at Villa Borghese.  Afterwards some friends and I are going to climb the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica–guarantee you’ll get to see some awesome panoramics of the Roman skyline (I’m just blessed that I get to see them in real life!)  In a little over nine days I’ll be home again, not that I’m counting down or anything… heck, I can’t wait to be home.  It was a little chilly in Rome today, about 60 degrees.  Don’t you love hearing that, Iowa?  My Aunt Sandy just sent me a picture of the winter wonderland (or Blizzard of 2009, as some are calling it) that’s going on at home, and it looks beautiful! Can’t wait to be there (as long as it doesn’t cause me trouble getting home on the 19th)!

Granddad's house--it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Can’t wait to see you,


October 6, 1910 – December 5, 2009

Hi Again,

Well, just eleven more days until I’m on a plane homeward.  Most of me is excited and ready, but part of me doesn’t even care to go home yet.  One of my favorite people in the world won’t be there, and I’m not ready to face the reality of it yet.  On Saturday, December 5th, my parents shared with me the very sad news that my Granddad has passed away. Loving, quiet, wise, patient, hilarious, sweet, a man of great dignity, Orrin Stephen will be greatly missed.  He set a great example for my brother and me, and I hope someday we are able to be even half the upstanding, good-hearted person he was.  I know I don’t have to be sad, he’s whole again, he and Grandma Helen are probably dancing to some Lawrence Welk music right now!  Or maye  just enjoying each others’ company again.  In Christ there are no goodbyes, and I’m very blessed to have had 21 wonderful years with my granddad, and that he had such a full and rich 99 years here on earth.  I was fortunate enough to share a phone call with him on Thanksgiving day, and hear all about the wonderful pumpkin pie and stuffing he had, and hear him laugh again. Smart as a whip all the way up until he was called Home.  It’s very hard to be so far from my family right now, I can really feel every single one of those 5,000 miles I am from home.  But I know Granddad would want me to persevere and do the best I could here at school, and make the most of my remaining time in Italy.  I was very much looking forward to coming home and sharing with him all my pictures and stories of the different adventures I’ve had here in Italy.  He loved reading this blog and I know I’d be able to get a belly-laugh out of him with some of the things I’ve experienced here.  With that in mind, I’m going to keep writing and updating, because I know he would have enjoyed reading.  He was so proud of me and I am so proud of him.  Love you, Granddad, can’t wait to see you again someday.

Christmas 2008

So as I said in a previous post, Italy doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving (if you didn’t realize this before just now, you’ve got problems–American thing only!) so we didn’t get much of a break.  In fact, I had an Art History final on Thanksgiving morning!  As you can imagine, there were plenty of grumbles from us kids over that one.  After we got that over with, we were free for the weekend!  Our teachers were even so kind as to cancel classes on Monday and Tuesday, so we ended up getting a nice little break– Friday, November 30, through Tuesday, December 1.  Earlier in the semester, a handful of us girls had decided it would be the perfect time for a weekend getaway, so we bought ourselves plane tickets to Barcelona!

Thanksgiving spread

After a ridiculously filling Thanksgiving dinner with classmates and a brief nap, we left bright and early Friday morning… actually it wasn’t bright so much as it was pitch black out, as we left at 3:45… AM… 6 of us (me, Becca, Megan, Hayley, Tina, and Laura) caught a bus to the train station, where we would then catch a shuttle bus to the Ciampino airport outside of Rome… we hunted around for that dang bus stop for probably 20-30 minutes… never found it.  Had to take a taxi for an extra 3 euro apiece (not the end of the world) but wouldn’t you know it, as soon as we pulled away from the curb in that darned taxi, we followed the elusive Ciampino shuttle bus that we couldn’t find all the way to the airport!! Ridiculous. But we got to the airport in plenty of time, around 5:30am, and caught our 7am flight no problem.  We flew RyanAir, so we were only allowed one carry-on back (which includes purse, so I had my clothes, my towel, my toiletries, AND my purse all shoved into one small backpack I borrowed from a friend), and there were no assigned seats, but it wasn’t an issue. We were all so tired from getting only 3 hours of sleep, that we slept the entire hour and a half it took to get to Spain, then we slept again the whole two hour bus ride it took to get from the  airport to Barcelona.

Once we got to Barcelona, we trekked to our hostel to drop our bags, then started walking.  And walking. And walking. We walked SO much in the 3 days we were in Barcelona!  On Friday, we saw the Arc de Triomf, we saw the city park (Parc de la Ciutadela), we saw a lifesize stone wooly mammoth (appropriately titled, Mammoth), we saw the famous La Rambla (a big long street full of performers and stands and TONS of people), we saw Mercat St. Josef (a huuuuge food market), and that was all before lunch!

Arc de Triomf

Old boys playing bocci ball in the park

some bums having a campout in the park. Looks like fun!

Parc de la Ciutadella, Beautiful row of trees

Me and the Mammoth!

Mercat Saint Josef


Mercat St. Josef was probably one of my favorite parts about Barcelona.  This huge open food market was full of mouthwatering candies and chocolates and fruit and veggies, and a ton of not-so-mouthwatering (in my opinion) meat and seafood! Of course Barcelona is right on the Mediterranean coast, so all that stuff is caught right there, or butchered  right there (for instance fresh-skinned rabbits, lovely sheeps heads, big old lamb legs dangling from awnings, fat old cow tongues flopping around) and it made for some VERY interesting sights–like the octopus! Here are a few more of my pictures in the market (I really liked the market!)



This little piggy went to market...

After exploring the market for a while, we went in search of some Barcelona’s most popular tourist destinations–architect Antoni Gaudi’s various buildings throughout the city.  There are several, and they are all very unique and interesting.  Gaudi’s work is very easy to pick out of a line up. It’s almost bizarre, most of it.  Here are a few we saw.

Casa Mila

Casa Batllo

La Sagrada Famila -- construction began in 1882 and is expected to be finished in 2020!

Unfortunately a lot of these places were pretty pricey to go into, so we weren’t able to do that in order to save some of our dwindling funds… Gotta leave something to come back for, right?  Friday night after a short nap, we met up with three other girls for dinner.  The nine of us met up at a tapas bar (like appetizers, kind of) with Hayley’s aunt’s friend’s son (did you follow that?) who is a grad student in Barcelona.  Austin helped us order the best tapas–bravas potatoes (fried with a zesty mayo sauce–yum), squid, grilled/seasoned shrimp on baguettes, and a few others.  Everything was fresh and delicious, I especially loved the shrimp, and that is not common for me!  After dinner we then trekked to a different, less touristy part of Barcelona where we got to witness more local culture in one of the town squares, or placas as they’re called there.  My favorite part of the evening? This drugged out, liquored up man with a dredded mohawk, who kept flailing around and head banging, was throwing beer cans for his dog to chase around the square… upon further inspection, he had shaved an intricate spider web into his dog’s fur, right on the flank! Seriously! I so wish I could have gotten a picture of it… never seen anything like it!

Saturday we did more walking.  We had seen about 10 Starbucks the day before, so Becca and I stopped at one for breakfast before meeting our friends.  I was so happy to get a Toffee Nut Latte–there are no Starbucks in Rome, and all the cappucinos here are tiny-size… it was delicious!  After meeting up with the rest of the crew we set out to find La Sagrada Familia (pictured above) and Parque Guell, a huge park designed by Gaudi that overlooks the city and the Mediterranean.  It took us probably about an hour of walking (uphill) to get to Parque Guell, and it was probably my other favorite part of Barcelona.  There were neat architectural piece worked into the park in the sides of hills and things, and the views were great.  There were tons of musicians and people selling things in the park–it was just a cool atmosphere.

matchies outside La Sagrada Familia! ha!

Becca, me, and Hayley enjoying Parque Guell

The main gathering area of Parque Guell

After a while at the park, we made our way back to the city center where we visited the market again (some of the girls hadn’t seen it yet) and did some shopping. Then we walked forever again, this time to see the Mediterranean! We got to walk in the sand, see the ocean, and see some really neat sand sculptures!  Then we grabbed some authentic Spanish food (paella is their specialty–kind of like a fried rice dish) and sangria.  The sangria was delicious!  It was a great end to a great day.

Betsy and the mannequin... can hardly tell which is which!

Had to take some fun ones 🙂

"Jen Barcelona 2009"

On Sunday, we packed up our stuff, hit up Starbucks again, walked around some more, ate some churros, and went to the Picasso museum. It was a fairly short day, we were back on the bus to the airport by 3 and back in Rome by 10pm.  The weekend was a success, and the two main things I learned from it were: 1-Spaniards don’t speak Spanish. They speak Catalan. Which is nothing like Spanish. Thanks so much, 4 years of high school Spanish… and B- Spanish food does not taste like Mexican food. (I had my taste buds set on nachos… not the case.)

So that was my Barcelona adventure! It was a great weekend, and it was nice to have two more days off to relax before going back to work on Wednesday.  Now we’re just finishing up final projects, had a final test yesterday in Italian Design, got a couple more floor plans due this week, going to see a Caravaggio/Bacon Exhibit at the Galleria Borghese on Thursday–should be pretty interesting.  Then next week we clean up/pack up/have our final Exhibition to display all our works of the semester, make a few last minute pit-stops, and then it’s time to come home!  Can’t believe how fast this semester’s flown by… I hope the rest of my life doesn’t go so fast!

Hopefully I’ll get a chance to update a few more times before it’s time to head back stateside… I’m going to miss sharing my adventures with you all… heck, I’m going to miss HAVING adventures!

Thanks again for reading,



Milan, Venice, Vicenza – Oh my!

Hello Again! 

Time to play catch-up… I hope you’re wearing something comfortable, and have plenty of free time, ’cause this post is looooong.

So November 4-8 I was away on a field trip for a few days, followed by some travels with my roommates.  For school we went on our North field trip to Milan Wednesday the 4th and Thursday the 5th, then Thursday night we went to Venice, and Saturday afternoon, the 7th, when our field trip technically ended, Heather, Becca, Alexa and I all went to visit one of Heather’s family friends in Vicenza!

Wednesday morning we got up around 5:30am so we could all get ready in time to be at Termini station at 7:15 to catch our 7:30am train. The ride was pretty uneventful, took about 4 hours to get there.  Once we got to Milan we took the metro to get to our hotel where we could drop our stuff before the exploring began.  After lunch at McDonald’s (how exotic) our big group split into two, and we set off to explore the streets of Milan, and more specifically, the retail shop windows (see Thanksgiving post, our job in Milan was to get inspiration for our own shop window project).  Milan is known as the fashion capital of the world, so I was walking past stores I’ve never even seen in real life before–Fendi, Chanel, Prada, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Emporio Armani, Versace–stores I don’t even feel comfortable stepping foot into (Which you can’t, by the way, should the doorman deem you unworthy)! 

An Obama purse for 802euro... approximately $1200...

We also spent some time in lighting showrooms and design showrooms, such as B&B Italia, Artemide, and Flos (the showroom I’ve modeled my lighting project for) and a few others.  That took up most of our afternoon, so after doing that we were on our own for a few hours for dinner/resting/whatever else, and later that evening we met back up at Milan’s Scala Opera House, where we saw a ballet performance of Giselle.  The ballet was a first for me, and it was really pretty neat.  We were in the cheap seats (very top row) along the sides, so I wasn’t actually able to see anything unless I stood the whole time (I may have dozed off once or twice) and I didn’t really know what was going on, but it was still fun to see!

The mall in Milan

Interior of the Scala Opera House

After the Ballet on our way home, we stumbled upon Milan’s Duomo… quite the site! Construction was started in the Baroque period of the 1600s, and finished in the 1940s…

Me and the Duomo!

On Thursday the 5th, we split into our two groups again and went to Milan’s Triennale museum, where we got to see a lot of Italian design, everything from the Fiat to furniture to household items.  Then we went to see Achille Castiglioni’s studio–a famous innovative Italian designer whose workspace is now a museum.  It was neat because everything in his studio is as he left it after he died. His widow and daughter now give tours of his workshop and tell about his life and ideas and everything–really neat to see.  The Castiglioni museum was by far my favorite part of the Milan portion of the trip.

A view of the Castiglioni studio/museum

Thursday afternoon we grabbed our bags and hopped a train and a ferry to Venice! I had been to Venice once before five years ago during a high school music trip, but had only spent one afternoon there.  I remember it being hot and muggy and miserable, and not having enough time to really do much of anything important, so I wasn’t all that enthusiastic about going back.  This go-round was a completely different experience, and I really enjoyed it!  The weather was cool and rainy, and there were platform catwalks all throughout the city squares for people to walk on, since Venice is having a major flooding/sinking problem (glad I’ve gotten to enjoy it before it’s all under water!)  We didn’t get to Venice until later in the evening, so we basically crashed, then in the morning we split into our two groups once again for a little walking tour around Venice.  We walked down to St. Mark’s Cathedral, stopped at another Italian design shop (it had been closed and deserted, so we didn’t learn a whole lot there).  Then we walked to the Biennale, Venice’s big museum that is housed in the city’s old Arsenale.  It’s a huge beautiful space formerly used for shipmaking, so it’s really a neat experience. 

A shot of one of Venice's many canals--no cars, just boats!

St. Mark's Cathedral

"Art" at the Biennale... Knotted human hair. Disgusting!

After the Biennale, we jumped on a water taxi for Murano.  You may have heard of it–it’s where pretty much all of the beautiful Venetian glass is made and has been made for centuries.  In Murano, we were lucky enough to be able to go to the glass-blowing school for a demonstration and see the Master do his work.  This guy was so good, one of my classmates drew a lamp shade on the ground with sidewalk chalk, and the Master took one look at it, and made a real-life lamp out of it!  Then, he took scraps of glass, melted them together, and in under a minute fashioned a horse figurine out of it.  One of the coolest things I’ve seen in a long time.  That oven they use gets so hot that about two minutes after the guy made the horse figurine, he took a scrap of newspaper to it and the paper caught on fire!  I got lots of pictures and video. It was definitely the highlight of the trip!

The Master of Murano Glass

He made a lamp before our very eyes! Start to finish--so cool.


After we finished ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the Master’s work, we were free to roam and shop around Murano for about an hour.  We then caught the water taxi back to the main area in Venice, cleaned up, and had a meal all together with our classmates and professors.  Dinner wasn’t my favorite thing in the entire world…. Of course being on the water, the meal consisted entirely of seafood.  Like real seafood.  Like seafood that still had its eyes.  And scales.  And legs.  And heads.  Gross!  But of course the meal was served with some great wine, and we all had a great time, despite being grossed out!

Octopus, anyone?


 After dinner we headed back to our hotel for the evening.  Saturday morning we regrouped and went back to the Biennale to an exhibit called “Making Worlds”–every nation has its own building for showcasing exhibits done by people from that nation, and it was very interesting to see.  We spent a couple hours poking around the different buildings, saw a lot of interesting/weird things, but overall it was pretty cool. Here are a couple of my favorite things I saw…

A piece by Yoko Ono

This was in the Russian exhibit

After finishing up at the Biennale, my roommates and I had to head back to our hotel to grab our bags, then catch the ferry to the train station where we departed around 3:30pm for a city called Vicenza!  I had never really heard of it, but Heather had a friend of a second cousin who lives there and invited us up, so we knew we just couldn’t turn it down!  Sita is an American woman living in Vicenza, working for the military base there as an elementary school teacher.  She is probably one of the nicest, most generous people I’ve ever encountered! She drove us around all Saturday evening and Sunday, showing us things we had never even heard of, little treasures nestled into small Italian towns.  Also, working for the military, just about everything she has is American–the military literally picked her up and moved her to Italy–they packed up all her furniture, her car, everything and moved her over here! Stepping into her condo was like walking into my own home–she had a big leather sofa, a big kitchen and dining area, closets, a dishwasher, a toaster even!  It was wonderful!  And she had American tv! And American food! (They can buy it on base–she had triscuits and post cereal and bacon and cheetos and cinnamon raisin English muffins–it was glorious!)  Vicenza was a very cute place. Sita also took us to some of her favorite nearby places–Marostica and Bassano del Grappa.  I also ate the best pasta I’ve ever had, it was called fagottini and was a ham and pear dish–it was SO good. Hoping to find the recipe when I get back home (which is in only 16 days now, by the way). 

Here are some highlights from our stay with Sita in Vicenza (since I know this post is getting rather book-ish… sometimes I just have a lot to say, ok?! 🙂 )

The Rotunda, which Thomas Jefferson's Monticello was modeled after

A human chess board in Marostica, where they play human chess every other year!

The Marostica chess board as I saw it... Still pretty cool, I'm sure even better with men and horses!

Bassano del Grappa, where we had lunch and toured a Grappa factory.

After all that exploring, we headed back for Rome around 6pm on Sunday, the 8th of November.  It was about a six hour train ride… or so we thought.  We had heard there was going to be a train strike (infamous and not uncommon here in Italy) so we got to the train station in Vicenza a little early to be safe… Luckily our train was still running, so we said our goodbyes to Sita and headed for our designated platform.  We were taking a train from Vicenza to Padova, and Padova to Rome.  Our first train was delayed about 15 minutes and moved to a different platform, but no big deal… We still caught it and had given ourselves a little extra time between trains in Padova, so we were doing just fine.  Once we got to Padova we jumped on our train to Rome at 7:35pm and settled in for the long haul (about 4.5 more hours).  All was going well until a couple hours into the trip.  All of a sudden our train came to a screeching halt, seemingly in the middle of nowhere.  We didn’t think a whole lot of it until we saw police and paramedics with spotlights board our train… then a man sitting across from us overheard one of the men working on the train say something about what was going on, so he translated for us… turns out we had hit a person. Yes, you read correctly, a PERSON.  I swear folks, you can’t make this stuff up–I think I could write a horror story with some of the experiences I’ve had over here this semester!  So we sat there for another hour and a half before we finally got going again, and wouldn’t you know it, not another hour later our train came to its second screeching halt!  Of course this freaked us a little bit, who’d we hit this time? A little while after sitting there a man came through to tell us the train was having some “technical difficulties” (I’ll say!) but they were getting it fixed promptly.  After a little more sitting and waiting, we finally made it back to Rome, only about two and a half hours later than was originally planned (finally got home about 3am).  But luckily we made it in one piece, and had an overall great time. 

So that’s the North field trip for you!  I promise (yes PROMISE this time) to update REAL soon!  Last weekend a group of us girls went to Barcelona and had a wonderful time, so I have to fill you in all that.  My time here is winding down and it’s a little bittersweet… I still have so much to see and do here!  (Unfortunately some of that might get squandered by remaining projects for school…)  But I’m so very excited to see my family and my friends and be home for Christmas… It’s time to get back I think.  Just 16 days! 🙂

Tomorrow I’m going to the Vatican museums, and maybe a few other touristy places in Rome.  You know I’ll take lots and lots of pictures to share!

Thanks for reading all this (it’s longer than the 5 page term paper I wrote last week, ha!)… Hope you enjoyed it! SEE YOU SOON!!!


In Italy there is no Thanksgiving.

Hey Gang!

I don’t have much time for a my usual book-post, but I thought I’d just catch you up on what I’ve been up to the last couple weeks!  Seems as though all our profs have conspired against us these last couple weeks, stacking on projects like it’s their job or something… I don’t have too much time to update you on the North Field Trip yet, but I can give you a little tid bit on what I’ve been doing at school!  Lately I’ve felt like I’m drowning in work…. my last Mixed Media class was today, since the teacher has to head back to the States next week (something to do with new Italian laws and Visas, something-or-other).  All we had to do today was tear down our desks and pack stuff up, we were out of there by 10am, which was wonderful, because I had to finish a lighting project for studio that’s due tomorrow! Don’t worry. You’ll see pics of all this good stuff….. riiiiiiiight now.


First project was to make a *mostly* watercolored painting using a picture we had taken ourselves.  I’d never used water color, let alone painted a darn thing in my life, but here’s what turned out :

View off of the terrace at my old apartment. Used water colors, pastels, acrylics, and graphite.

Our second assignment was to create a book documenting our time in Rome using mixed media.  This was definitely my favorite assignment and I hope to continue with it once I get home! Here’s a glance at some of my most successful pages:

A page showing my daily walking path since moving to the new apartment, got the leaves from our garden!

A map showing our walking path since moving to the new apartment. Got the leaves from our garden!

A night scene from a full moon night at the Pantheon taken from my favorite picture I've taken here in Rome.

Here's a page showing ticket stubs, pictures, and pressed flowers from our South Field Trip to Sorrento, Capri, and Mt. Vesuvius--the flowers are my favorite part!

Here's a compilation of photos I've taken during my Art History class--some of my favorite places I've been. You've seen most of these before!

Our final project was a group assignment for all 20 of us in the class.  We were to make a mosaic…. out of beans…. and Elmer’s School glue…. welcome to the 2nd grade! Ha!  All silliness aside, it turned out pretty cool once we were all finished. We had fun with it and we all got A’s! Here it is:

Mine's the 2nd square from the bottom in the 2nd row from the right... not that it matters! Kinda cool!

And the best part? Now that that class is over–no more class on Tuesdays! Wahoo! More time to explore. 🙂


So here’s what’s really been keeping me on my toes the last couple of weeks… Our assignment has been to create a visually interesting shop window for a lighting showroom.  My company is an Italian lighting store called Flos.  Retail design has proven to NOT be my favorite thing in the world, so I’ve had my struggles and frustrations with the class, as that’s all it focuses on this semester.  We had to make a model, and do two renderings of the shop window–one showing what the window would look like during daylight hours and one in the dark. I finally finished the assignment this afternoon and present it tomorrow afternoon.  I’m actually pretty pleased with the outcome! I hope my profs are, too… Here it is:

The Inspiration--we were told to create "millions" of ideas from scraps, this is what I came up with.

My model, at a 1:25 scale

View 1: in broad daylight

View 2: Night

Day and Night view, side by side.

So that’s what’s been keeping me so busy and away from the blog–I’m pretty proud of my work, and I hope you enjoy it, too! (Don’t tell me if you don’t!)

Now that I’ve successfully done some productive procrastination, I had better get busy finishing a paper for Art History (10 pages, yuck). Just wanted to let you know I’m still alive–just a little stressed! I’ve got this paper to finish, a critique in studio tomorrow for the lighting project I just showed you, and an Art History final on Thursday. Yes, Thursday. As in Thanksgiving. It means nothing here!  Then Friday morning I’m off to BARCELONA for the weekend!!!!! So excited. Hopefully next week I’ll be able to update you on my non-school adventures!

I hope you all have a WONDERFUL Thanksgiving! Eat an extra helping of turkey/stuffing/taters/punkin pie for me, then take a nice long tryptophan-enduced nap! 🙂

Thanks for readin’!