Thursday, April 16, 2009

Lazy days in Barcelona

So lazy that I've barely taken any pictures, in fact. Barcelona is a beautiful city. We arrived here on... Tuesday, maybe? Yeah, that sounds right. My days are running together. Barcelona seems so big compared to the other cities we've been to. We haven't seen much of it on account of its size and the fact that the weather wasn't very friendly today, though we did catch up with some friends from Caen and we went to the beach for a little while today (before it started hailing). It's been nice, just lounging around and doing whatever we please. I do NOT want this vacation to end!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter at the Vatican

He is Risen indeed!

I had a wonderful Easter, though I missed my family so much. My friends and I got up at a leisurely pace, had a leisurely breakfast (in part due to the extremely slow service of the restaurant where we ate), and then headed to the Vatican City for mass. We did not have very high expectations for what we would get to see as we knew that it would be so crowded, but we ended up being so grateful that we decided to go. It was an incredible experience. I may not be a Catholic, but of course Catholicism is a part of my history and culture, and the culture of Europe, so it is important to me in that way. It is always an experience to see how other cultures worship. A very emotional and stunning event indeed, even though we were a little too far to see much of what was going on.

We did see the Pope, and heard him give mass! At the end he said a blessing in tons of different languages. Here is a picture of him standing in his window saying the blessings (you can barely see him, but he's in the center of the window!):

It was definitely the highlight of my trip to Rome, and an experience I will never forget. Afterward we explored the parts of Rome we hadn't yet seen, like some fountains and the Pantheon, took a nap, then walked around town in search of gelato. I love Rome and just Italy in general! I cannot wait until I come back some day.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Rome, Days 1 & 2

That would be St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican, which I saw this morning along with the Vatican Museum, which houses the Sistine Chapel.

Rome, Day 1: It was Good Friday on our first full day in Rome so everything we wanted to see closed at around 3:00 PM so they could get the Colosseum ready for the Pope. We didn't see the Pope, but we did see the Colosseum right before closing time so there weren't very many people there. How people were able to build such things that have lasted through war and fire for all of these years, I will never be able to fathom. Two of my favorite pictures of my friends were taken there. After that we just took it easy since everything was closing.

Rome, Day 2: That'd be today. We woke up at around 7:00 to be in line at the Vatican Museum by 8 (it opens at 9:00). We got there at 8:20 and the line was already enormous, but we didn't wait longer than 20 minutes to get in. Once we did we enacted our strategic plan for getting through the museum: We dashed toward the Sistine Chapel first, which took forever as it is at the VERY end of this massive place, spent a good amount of time there (it'll leave you slack-jawed, it's so amazing), then tried to go backwards through the museum. It turned out that wasn't possible so a little of the way through we got sent BACK to the Sistine Chapel, but it turned out that a shortcut through the Vatican libraries takes you right back to the beginning. I postmarked my postcards at the post office there, then we set off through the galleries of treasures from ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, and Rome. We saw St. Peter's Basilica, but did not go inside as the line was HUGE. Oddly enough, we did see two girls that had been in our hostel in Florence in said huge line... it's a small world.

After that we saw some Roman ruins nearby the Colosseum that had been closed for Good Friday the previous day. And now we are getting up from a three hour nap. Can you blame us?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Florence Y'all

I took this picture tonight at the Piazza di Michelangelo. There was a replica of the statue of David there (that picture has Daniel posing as David... we couldn't get him to be more accurate than that, which is probably a good thing). The boys ran up the stairs to the Piazza; Daniel sprinted so quickly that he made himself sick... those are the kinds of memories that really make a trip, eh? We just walked around and looked at the skyline. I wrote a postcard, took some pictures, then we ventured back into the main town for pizza and gelato.

That's how the day ended. I suppose I'm doing things backwards tonight. This is how it began:

We ate breakfast at the open market and shopped around. Just around the corner from our hostel was the famous Baptistry with the doors designed by Ghiberti (they began the Renaissance!), and then the famous church that I can't for the life of me remember the name of but that marked the rediscovery of ancient Roman architecture... At around noon it was time to go to the Accademia. Let me tell you, Michelangelo's David is NOT AT ALL overrated. It was every bit as spectacular as every art history book says it is. The museum also has a musical instrument section which was almost as exciting as seeing the David. I was in art Heaven.

Then we just did... whatever. We napped, we walked around, we shopped (I bought a gorgeous green Italian leather wallet to console me after trying on the most GORGEOUS leather coat that was about $150 too expensive for this poor student!). Then after a nap we went to the Piazza... it was a good day. I'm exhausted. And happy. So happy.
It's been a whirlwind vacation so far! Saturday we arrived in Maidenhead, which is just outside of London. We stayed three nights with a chic assortment of British flatmates (one of them was a friend of Daniel's who let us stay in her house free of charge). They took us to see Windsor on Saturday, then gave us a tour of London the day after that. We saw Covent Garden, Buckingham Palace, the houses of Parliament & Big Ben, the London Eye, and caught a glimpse of the Globe Theater while walking across the Millennium Bridge (you can only go into the theater if you pay for a ticket). Monday we explored sans British people and saw the TOWER!!! WOW. It was amazing. Very touristy, but it doesn't take much imagination to imagine it all away and just imagine the people who actually lived there, particularly when there was a stunning temporary exhibit on Henry VIII's armor. We also explored Trafalgar's Square, Hyde Park, and Kensington Gardens (Peter Pan statue!!!).

Yeah, British history lover that I am, I was in Paradise.

(Click to get the full pic. This blog layout isn't too kind to photos)