London and Dublin Part 2 with a Final Goodbye to Europe

I left Rome early Saturday morning having to say goodbye to 29 new best friends the night before. The night before, I went to get old bridge gelato, walk down via del corso to see the pretty rainbow Christmas lights an see the trevi fountain and Spanish steps one last time before I left. I then came back all ready to depart Rome and make my way slowly back to America by stopping at London and Dublin along the way. It is hard to think that my study abroad experience is over with. No way has it been 4 months! I feel like I am on the plane ride to start my amazing study abroad trip not on the plane home. I am really going to miss everyone but at the same time I can’t wait for this flight to be over with and for me to be reunited with my friends and family back at home.

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While in London, my pretravel group and I saw all of the main tourists sites the first day. We saw the London Eye, Big Ben, Parliament, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, London Tower, the Monument and Tower Bridge. For the longest time, I always thought that the Tower Bridge was London Bridge but it is not. Also, there were a lot of Santas out this day. Apparently, this happens every year. We also ran across a Christmas market along the way. We ended up concluding our day by having a couple beers at the bar attached to our hostel, Walrus Bar and Hostel.

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On Sunday in London, we toured inside the Tower of London which was really cool. We saw the jewels and crowns of royalty. We then just walked around and explored. We saw the Shakespeare’s globe and the famous lion statues. I wanted to get a picture on the lion statue because everyone does and last time I was in London I got one. I struggled a little bit getting to the front of the lion from the back so I just stayed on the side, not wanting to fall. As I was getting down, a security guard came up to me out of everyone climbing the four lion statues. There were also people on the same statue as me just in the front. Anyways, I thought he was joking with me because I was afraid to jump down so I was just sitting there. I eventually jump down and he comes up to me and yells at me. He said that it is illegal to climb on the statues an that he could hit me with something. I was so surprised that I wasn’t sure if this was real and why he chose to yell at me over everyone. Well, I just stood there and apologized. He yelled at me to leave quickly or I could be in trouble so I quickly ran away. It was the weirdest thing ever, but I got my picture.

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Monday was my last day in London. We started it off my seeing the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace. We then went to the Parent Trap House. The Parent Trap is one of my favorite movies and I really wanted to see it. We then went to Piccadilly Circus and up to the British Museum. In ancient history and art history classes, we have heard so much about things being in the British Museum so we had to check it out. We only the saw the Ancient Greek and Ancient Roman things while there. After this we went to platform 9 and 3/4. Although I am not a huge fan of Harry Potter, the friends I was traveling with were. So we went to Kings Cross and got some pictures. I have to admit it was pretty fun.

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Tuesday morning, we headed to Dublin for our last day in Europe. We already saw everything our first day in Dublin so we really had nothing to do because our flight came in too late to go to Cliffs of Moher. So, we just walked around and had a late lunch at Trinity Pub. I had a nice burger and my last legal drink for four months. That is going to be weird and a challenge when I get home.
Today is Wednesday, December 18th and I am on the long plane ride home to America. Yea sue, ciao, arriverderchi and goodbye Europe! You have provided me with so many grey memories, experiences and friends to last me a lifetime. I am very thankful! I will miss you!

Last Post from Roma

 I have been really busy this last week with studying for finals and wrapping up every class. Last Thursday, we had our last field trip to Ostia Antica. We learned about the ruins and the architecture that used to be there. Ostia Antica is actually really preserved because it was just deserted abruptly. The weekend consisted of studying, studying and some more studying for both the history and art history final. These are the hardest classes and everyone tends to do bad on them; therefore, I am hoping that I did well. We had our last Italian class where Mario took us to the bar and we had some champagne and snacks. Our last Theology class was a debate about the Lumnei Fidei and then Lori gave us all crosses with our names ingrained in them. They symbolize us as being peace givers. In Steve’s class, we learned about Christmas plants. I figured out that the idea of Santa Clause comes from mushrooms. My whole life is a lie! Also, we had the premiere of our Roman adventure movie, done my the wonderful Jenna. After class on Wednesday, the deacons at our school gave us cookies. We then had a wonderful pizza dinner followed up with desert and a Christmas party at the Saupes. At the Christmas dinner, we decorated our own gingerbread cookies and sang carols. We ended the night with going to Scholars, the Irish Pub, for the last time. They had karaoke again! It was a great way to end the night.

Tonight, we have our final farewell dinner. All of the professors are invited to it. I am excited to see what tonight entails. There was some news about a Christmas gathering after the dinner; I will have to see. It is really sad thinking that this is our last time together and that some people leave tomorrow to go home. I do not leave until Saturday, but I am stopping in London for 3 days and Ireland for a day before I go home. I really have loved Rome and everything that it has. Tomorrow, I am hoping to do a few tourist stuff before I leave. I want to go to the Trevi Fountain, Spanish steps and walk down Via del Corso to see all the pretty Christmas lights at night. I also am going to go to the really good gelato shop, Old Bridge. 

Florence and Pisa

2 weekends ago we went on a 4 day trip to Florence. It was an art history field trip where we went to the Academia to see David statue by Michelangelo and the Bargello Museum to see other famous painting and statues. We also saw the Dome of Santa Maria de Fiore and other churches. It consisted of taking a lot of notes but it was worth the trip to Florence because we had a lot of free time to ourselves.

We arrived Thanksgiving morning. We had a few hours to explore the leather market and then we went to see David. We then ended the day with walking around the leather market some more where i bought a scarf immediately. We had a nice Thanksgiving dinner that consisted of lunch meat, bread, pasta, turkey (i think), mashed potatoes, lettuce and cake. At dinner, we went around and saw what we were all thankful for. After dinner, we had a family game night where we played some catch phrase and the writing/drawing game where you pace around paper.

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On Friday and Saturday, we went to the art museums we needed to and then spent the rest of the days exploring Florence. I went to the leather market several times. One of the girls on my trip, Sarah O, went to Florence with her mom before and met a guy who gave them a great discount. He remembered her and we all bought everything from “discount” guy. He most of made a ton of money that weekend. I ended up buying myself 2 purses, one for leisure and one for work, a wallet and some souvenirs (Picture Below). My only question with buying all of this is how am I suppose to fit it all in my suitcase and weight. I’m having trouble right now with all of it. All I can say is I hate Easy Jet for only allowing one carryon and no purse! Anyways, Florence was super fun and we went and explore the night life a couple of times while we were there.

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On Sunday, I went to Pisa. It was really fun and we got to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Cathedral right next to it. We got back to Rome late Sunday night. I would say Florence is one of the top places I have been to. Not too crowded and not too city; it was just perfect!

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Subiaco, Tivoli and Rome

Sorry, I have not posted on here for awhile. It has been really busy. These last weeks have consisted going to Subiaco, Tivoli and hanging out in Rome. First, two weekends ago, my class and I took a day trip to Subiaco. Subiaco is the place where Saint Benedict lived his monastic life. I have learned a lot about Saint Benedict and his life through my FYS and Theology class. Therefore, it was really cool to see the cave Saint Benedict lived in and see the frescos of all his miracles. We also saw Saint Scholastica monastery. The church at the monastery was really pretty and looked like a church you would use for a wedding. In Subiaco, we had an Italian lunch and some of climbed up on a rooftop to see the spectacular view of Subiaco.

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During the week, we had a pizza and gelato crawl! Finally! This kept getting cancelled because all we have been having is rain after rain. The crawl was super good and filling. I tried pumpkin pizza which is probably the best pizza I have had in Rome. For gelato, we went to a place that has 150 different flavors. I was in heaven. I tried peanut butter, kit-kat and lion gelato. It was delicious! This week also consisted of some of going to visit the North American Seminary which has the best view of Rome and we also did the Saint Peter’s dome crawl. Both of these views were fantastic!

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During this week, we also took a theology field trip to Saint John Latern. This is the place where the Pope actually presides. The church was very beautiful inside. This trip also consisted of us visiting the Basilica of the Holy Cross of Jerusalem where there were relics of the cross of Jesus, the thorns from his crown, a nail that was used to crucify Jesus and the shroud that laid over Jesus’s body. The shroud was breathtaking. You could see the outline of Jesus’s face and his hands that were crossed over. This was very moving and humbling. Some of us also crawled the stairs that Jesus took to Pontius Pilate. There were 27 steps that we had to climb up on our knees. It was hard, but the whole time I was thinking that Jesus died on the cross for us, the least I can do is climb up on my knees. I was very inspired and blessed my this opportunity.

This past weekend, five of us took a day trip to Tivoli. Story behind I found Tivoli: I was watching the Lizzie McGuire movie. When Palo takes Lizzie around Rome, I was so excited that I have been everywhere they have been. However, Palo takes Lizzie to the gardens of Tivoli. I looked it up and saw that it was really cheap to visit and only an hour away by train. So, we planned a day trip and went. It happened to be very cold and rainy the day we planned, but we still had fun. We got to enjoy the true fun of being a poor college student when we ate our packed lunch under an outing on the streets and then took shelter at a grocery store.

Campania

This weekend I went to Campania. Campania consists of the cities of Naples, Sorrento and Pompeii. My class and I only attended Sorrento and Pompeii. We decided against Naples because it is not very safe. We instead went to. Versavius. We climbed Mount Versavius to see the volcano crater on top. However, the weather was really foggy and gross, so we could not actually see the crater. Nonetheless, climbing the mountain was still cool because we were in the middle of a cloud. Who can say they were in  a cloud!

After we climbed the mountain, we came back down and had lunch at a pizzeria. We were served real Naples style pizza, french fries and a nutella pastry for dessert. It was delicious! When we were done eating, we headed to Sorrento to check into our hotel.. We then had the rest of the day to do whatever we wanted. A group of us went and explored the city of Sorrento. Sorrento has a lot of cute stores and lemon stores. They are known for their lemons! The streets of Sorrento had Christmas decorations up and a little market full of a bunch of random stuff. I did not get anything from the market, but I did get a scarf from one of the stores. At 7pm, we had dinner back at the hotel and I ended the night by getting Twix and Mint gelato. Yumm!
The next day, we went to a Mozzarella Cheese Making Farm in Sorrento. We were shown how cheese is made and tied. We then had a full meal that consisted of tomatoes, cheese, bread, wine and limonella. It was delicious! From here, we were off to Pompeii. Pompeii was very fascinating. It is amazing to think how intact everything was and how people used to live. Pompeii was way bigger than I thought it would be. It was so cool!
Next, we headed home. 
On Monday night, I decided to go to praise and adoration with brothers from Saint John’s University in Rome. There were a lot of people there from Steubenville. I really enjoyed the singing. It reminded me of Praise in the Pub back at school. Unfortunately, this only occurs once a month or I would definitely go back there. So far, I am really enjoying Rome! Crazy to think I have only about a month left here!

Classes and Assisi

The first two weeks of classes are going well in Rome. They are way harder than Greece that’s for sure. I really like my theology and Italian professor. My history professor walks super fast and doesn’t give us enough time to take notes at each site which is a little hard. My art professor has interesting stories… In Rome, the classes are all almost field trips. We have been to several churches for theology. We went to San Clemente church which is 3 different churches on top of each other. I found it very interesting. We also went to the Catacombs of San Calisto. The catacombs were super cool. The way they buried the bodies is really unique. Besides theology field trips, we have been going to the Roman Forum for history class. Although, we have not actually gone inside the forum. We will do this later on.
 
In addition to my classes, I have been slowly exploring Rome. The 45 minute walk to school doesn’t give me that much time, but I only have class Monday through Wednesday! I have been walking around our neighborhood and shopping for boots a lot. They don’t have my size here because I have come to the conclusion that Europeans are short. However, I have the best mom and I am getting boots from Macy’s shipped to Italy. So that solves my big problem! 
 
This past Thursday we went to the Necropolis. I wasn’t feeling the greatest during this tour and it was super hot, humid and claustrophobic in the Necropolis. I really liked seeing everything, but I was not enjoying it. Although, the experience was worth it and we got to see where famous saints and popes are buried.
 
On Friday, we all took a day field trip to Assisi. We met my theology professor there. She lives in Rome half the week and the Assisi the other half of the week. Side note, we had a picnic with her at a park and she told us her whole life story which is fascinating. Anyways in Assisi, we went to the basilica of St. Francis first. We saw the tomb of Saint Francis and the church was gorgeous. A Franscian monk gave us a tour of each of the frescos. He also told us about the three virtues they live by chastity, obedience and poverty. That is what Saint Francis lived by and what they now live by. We then walked to the castle and had lunch and explored the castle. The view from the top was absolutely breathtaking. The sun was coming through the clouds which reminded me of God shining his light on us and the town of Assisi. It was nice to be in such a holy town that is not in the city. 

Just Rome-ing Around

I arrived into Rome late Thursday night. We were looking for a taxi and an airport guy called for a taxi for us. It ended up being a black shuttle where 4 other Americans were in. We were hesitant to get into this shuttle because it was unmarked, but they insured us it was a legal airport service and there were others in there too. Three of the Americans ended up being from the Minnesota and one actually went to St. Thomas. Crazy who you will run into across the world. Anyways, our taxi driver got a little lost and frustrated trying to get us to where we needed to go. Lucky for us we only had to pay a flat rate and so the meter was not running constantly. When we finally arrived at our place, we were late and the last ones to check in. It wasn’t bad and I just ended up unpacking and going to bed right away.
 
The next day was the start of orientation. We started the day with breakfast at a real Italian bakery. There I had a chocolate croissant and a cappuccino. We were then showed our school, St. John’s, and CEA. They are both about a 45 minute walk from our apartments. This will take getting use to since in Greece, it was a 5 minute walk to school. We then were treated to a nice lunch where we got to try pizza, rice balls and pasta. Orientation ended with an Italian lesson. At night, everyone caught up with everyone’s week break.
 
The second day of orientation consisted of two walks. The first walk we went on was a neighborhood walk where we were shown god places to eat and how to grocery shop like a real Italian. The second walk was a longer walk. We were given little headsets like true tourist in which our history professor would talk to us in. We walked all around ancient Rome. We saw the Pantheon, Parliament, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps and many other famous places. At night, we all went to bed early because we had to get up super early to get a good spot to see the Pope.
The following day, Sunday, I got up at 4:30am and we left our apartment at 5:30am to walk to the Vatican. It was around a 30 minute walk where we waited in line for the gates to open at 7am and then mass to start at 10:30am. It was a long wait, but it was worth it to see the Pope. The Vatican was super cool and the mass was very unique. It is a normal Catholic mass, but I could not understand what they were saying because it was all in Latin or Italian. Communion time was very interesting. There were around 100 priests that gave out communion. They each had their own security guard with an umbrella. We had to crowd to the side to receive communion and at the Vatican there is no receiving on your hands just tongue. This was my first time receiving communion on my tongue. When mass was over, Pope Francis came around on his Popemoblie. I was in the third row next to the center aisle; therefore, I got to see the Pope twice and he was very close to me both times. It was amazing! We didn’t leave the Vatican until around 1 pm, which resulted in a very long day. I came back to the apartment and took a nap and caught up on everything. Tomorrow is my first day of classes in Rome. I have three classes and will be staying at the school the whole day because of the far walk. The day is going to be very long ranging from 8:30am to 8pm. Internet has been very slow in Rome, so we will see how often/on time my posts will actually be. Sorry!

Switzerland: Land of Chocolate

We arrived in Zurich early Monday morning. We checked into our hostel and then went exploring the city. There was a river that ran through the city so we ended up just walking along that. We also went exploring the old town and went to many chocolate shops. 
On Tuesday morning, we took a train to Lucerne. Lucerne was the prettiest out of the three cities in Switzerland. Lake lucerne was gorgeous and we got to see all of the mountains and green grass! We were going to climb a mountain but it ended up being super expensive so we decided to just take a ferry ride instead to see the beautiful scenery Switzerland had to offer. We later walked around the old town, went across the walking bridge and visited the Franciscan church. The Franciscan church has a pulpit with my last name on it. All of my sisters have visited it but when I walked into the church a service was going on. I tried to look around for it but I could not find it. However, the church was very pretty. Also in Lucerne, we went to more chocolate shops and tried different, good quality Switzerland chocolate.
On Wednesday morning, we took a train to Basel. Our last destination! It was raining all day but we still managed to go to the point where Germany, France and Switzerland meet! I got to see three countries at once! We then went back to the hostel and waited for the rain to stop. It stopped and we went to the old, medieval town and explored. In Switzerland, the main grocery store is called coop and this is where we got cheap meals every night. We got spaghetti for a night for only 2 franc a person and we had plenty of pasta for like 6 people! At the end of the night, I went to take off my nice leather boots and the bottom detached. It was very sad because I has to throw them away but it worked for easy jet to make the weight limit. Also, now I am on the hunt for a new pair of cute black military boots in Rome!
Thursday was our last day in Basel. We spent the morning and afternoon at a free basel zoo where they had monkeys! We then walked around a park and down the river. Shortly after, we had to get on our flight to Roma!