Caroline in Roma!

For Caroline’s 21st birthday, she and her mom came to Rome!  It’s amazing that we have been friends since the first day of second grade and now we are both 21 and in Europe together.  If anyone is reading this who doesn’t know, Caroline is studying in Grenada, Spain.  Her birthday wish?  An eating tour around Italy.  Wish granted.

Friday night, I went to meet them at their hostel, and after dealing with the sassy, flippy-haired man at the front desk, found them!  Starving, we headed out to Caroline’s birthday dinner at Tony’s.  There was a huge wait, but it was totally worth it.  We had wine and bread.  Then we ordered dinner… Mrs. Locke got pizza, Caroline got funghi pizza and I got truffle ravioli.  Insanely delicious!  After dinner, we had a berry custard thing and a few other desserts.  At some point during dinner, two men were across the street playing the accordion and other instruments.  It was literally a scene out of a movie.  Caroline, Mrs. Locke and I laughed the whole time and were easily the loudest people eating outside.  Caroline told me about the food she gets, her host family, her roommate, the 40-year old woman on her program, dogs on escalators at the airport and her birthday.  After dinner, they went home to sleep because we were in food comas.  Also, cool side story, Caroline forgot her contacts and they happened to have a place around the corner from the hotel where she could get them.

Saturday morning, I met them at 10:30 a.m. at Ponte Sisto.  We began walking to Piazza Navona and made our way to the Pantheon, Trevvi Fountain and Spanish Steps.  We took a lunch break at a highly recommended restaurant by the Pantheon.  Pizzas all around.  And wine.

We ate lots of other places, including a new one across the river from the Vatican and through some random cobblestone roads.  It was crowded so we decided all systems were a go for eating there.  While we waited, we sipped some complimentary wine and enjoyed the lovely day.  On this day, we also went back to their hotel, where Caroline and I promptly fell asleep on the bed and slept for two hours.  Mrs. Locke and my mom laughed because it was just like what we used to do.  Some things never change, no matter how old we are or what continent we are on.

All of my friends who met Caroline loved her (per usual).  It was crazy introducing her to everyone and showing her around my apartment.  The first time I brought her there, it was around dinner time, so my seven roommates were running around cooking.  Also, later that night, we got scolded by the security guard for leaving the apartment ten minutes late.  She definitely got the true feel of where I live.

Touring with her and Mrs. Locke was wonderful, as well.  We strolled slowly, no where to be in a hurry, with our arms linked together.  We enjoyed the lack of sense of time in Rome.  We watched rowers in the Tiber, commented on the terrible cobblestones and wove in and out of bakeries and gelato shops.

The best food surprise came on a lazy Sunday night.  Looking for somewhere to split a pizza (very un-Roman of us, but we were still stuffed from lunch), we found a place that the locals outside told us was fantastic.  The fact that there was no menu should have tipped us off.  We stumbled our way into a four-course meal.  The enclosed outdoor area was smoky.  A small, elderly Italian woman greeted us and sat us at a table under a heat lamp.   After a long while, the first course arrived: bread, olives, a delicious bean concoction, veggies, salami and some sort of patty thing.  We braced ourselves for course two, not knowing how many there would eventually be.  Course two included two kinds of pastas: one white sauce with bacon and one with red sauce.  Both were incredible, but I think the white one was better.  By course three, we were starting to doubt ourselves, seeing as how we wanted to split a meal among the three of us.  It was homemade potato chips, pork brisket, a bitter green vegetable, and some other stuff.  Finally, course four was dessert: apple tart and a juice drink in a shot glass.  Phew.  Finally done.

On the last night, we went to a place I never remember the name of but fondly refer to as the “Three Euro Pizza Place” because of the three euro margarita pizza (Oh hello, study abroad budget).  Prices don’t determine the quality there, though.  We feasted, appetizers, wine and main courses.  It was their last night, so naturally I had to take them to Old Bridge, my favorite gelato place.  It is over past the Vatican, about a 20-30 minute walk from where we were, plenty of time to digest.  So Old Bridge is the best bang for your euro, so to speak, and has cute Italian working there.  We were in heaven!  We got our gelato (three flavors piled high on a cone with whipped cream), and sat outside of St. Peter’s at night just enjoying the view and the ice cream.  It was really the perfect end to the night and the visit.

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Weird things that happened to me in the last few days

1. On Monday, my photojournalism class left on assignment to take pictures.  As I wandered out, wondering where I should go to get a good feature photo, a man started calling me over to his restaurant.  When I pretended to ignore him, he asked if I spoke English and, not wanting to be rude, came over.  He looked incredibly excited.  Another woman, his wife, I assume, was also standing outside.  He asked me if I knew who a certain person was and when I said no, invited me into the doorway of his restaurant to show me a portrait of a woman.  “You look just like her!” he exclaimed.  The wife agreed. While I failed to see the difference, I smiled and thanked him, because this was clearly a compliment.  He then asked if he could take my picture next to another portrait of her and brought me into the restaurant.  Apparently, his place is hosting a gallery of portraits of this woman.  I took two awkward pictures, one looking at the camera and one looking away (it was his artistic idea), met the rest of the extended family and then politely declined a tour of the restaurant because I was on assignment for class (and partially because I didn’t understand why this man was so eager to meet me).  Strange.

2. Also, a week ago, Milly, Alyssa and I went to lunch in the Jewish Ghetto.  My first meal there!  We ordered the famous fried artichoke (highly recommended).  Our waiter was a very outgoing person.  He loved calling at all the girls, especially the American ones.  He was chatty and flirty with us from the getgo, but we had each other and the food looked amazing and cheaper than some of the other places in the area.  We came to find out later that the television show “No Reservations” filmed there about 9 months ago.  Sidenote: Alyssa got lasagna, Milly got the Seven Sins pasta (strange dish for being in the Jewish Ghetto, but my favorite of the three!) and I got capriccosa pizza (per usual — so good).  Anyways, the other waiters are laughing at us as we go along with this waiter’s shenanigans throughout lunch.  Finally, when we ask for the bill, he brings out paper to our table and the table next to ours, draws a picture, and says if we can draw it without lifting up our pencil or retracing over lines, we wouldn’t have to pay for our meal.  The girls next to us were recent Engineering graduates from Michigan.  The five of us took on the challenge and began drawing and drawing.  Nothing was working.  We had two engineers, two business majors, and a journalism major trying to figure the puzzle out.  No luck.  The other waiters were laughing at our frustration and promised that it was possible.  After 30 minutes, we finally gave up and paid for our lunch, came home, and learned that the puzzle isn’t possible.  Silly, ignorant Americans.

Ok, I was just killing time for a while.  Ciao!

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Just in case you guys were super curious about my photojournalism class, here are some of the better pictures I’ve taken.  Enjoy (or don’t… your call).

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Mac and Danielle Visit!

Last weekend, Mac and Danielle visited!  For those who don’t know, Mac was one of my first friend at Madison and Danielle is one of my roommates at Madison!  It was so good to see them and have familiar faces in Rome.  To summarize how excited I was to see them, my friend James asked if he could take a picture of the four of us because he could tell how happy we were to see each other.

Danielle got in first.  I was in class when she landed and unable to get ahold of her.  After class, I panicked when my texts and calls wouldn’t go through, so luckily Kate was online to get ahold of her for me.  I began the 45 minute trek to their hostel, not knowing that it was a 10 minute bus ride away.  Oops.  (The walk was really good for me, actually, because it better helped me orient myself in the city.  We all know how terrible I am at directions.)  Once I finally found her, we began the trek back to my apartment.  Along the way, I was able to point out some monuments to her and then we stopped for pizza (when in Rome).  Sam was in class still, so she napped briefly while I pumped out some homework for my class later that night.  When I left for class, I dropped her off at my favorite cafe Bar della Malva for Sam to come pick her up.  I went to one class and then my second ended up getting cancelled last minute, so I was able to head up to Sam’s apartment to hang out with them.  Then we hopped on a bus to go pick up Mac and his travel partner Rachel.  Because we couldn’t get ahold of them either, we just went to the hostel and knocked on the door.  Mac answered and the four of us literally jumped on each other.  Such a great reunion!  Then we left to go grab dinner at Tony’s (yum yum yum yum).  We got wine, bread with oil and balsamic, flatbread, dinner (pizzas, pastas, lasagnas, raviolis, gnocchi…), dessert (chocolate mousse covered creme puffs and a berry-topped custard) and limoncello.  We laughed, stuffed our faces and took pictures with Tony himself.  After dinner, we stopped for a chocolate shot, ICB, and wine before heading back to Sam’s apartment to grab his roommates and go out.

The next day was tourism day galore, since neither Sam nor I have class on Thursdays.  We started out at Piazza Navona and then went to the Pantheon, Via del Corso, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps and Jewish Ghetto.  The street vendors loved Danielle and were incredibly persistent with her.  When we were trying to take a group pic in front of the Spanish Steps, one approached her and she kicked him away.  He became very flustered and scolded her with, “Stop your leg!”  I died laughing.  We took a much needed nap when we got back to the apartment.

Friday and Saturday were very unusual days, as it snowed again in Rome.  This put quite the damper on our touring plans and we ended up staying in for parts of the days because it was so cold.  We were soaked because the rain was so slushy.  Obviously, the street vendors descended on Danielle again, trying to persuade her to buy umbrellas and whatnot.  Despite the fact that we were already wet, she bargained with one and got a 2 euro umbrella.  As Sam would say, spicy discount!

Sunday it was finally nice out again!  More touring, walking around and hanging out.  We hit up the Vatican (it was my first time inside) and ended up at Bar della Malva for some tea with Megan.  During this time, we also planned our trip to Germany for Mac’s 21st!  It’s the first weekend of my spring break, so perfecto timing on that one!  I am so excited to see them again!

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Classes So Far

Since I’m supposed to be here “studying,” here’s the rundown of what’s happening on the academic front.

Photojournalism I like the concept of this class, but my professor is a super hard grader.  We are learning about things like aperture (controlling the hole in the camera that lets light in), shutter speed and ISO settings.  It’s taking a while for me to grasp all of those and knowing what setting each should be on for certain kinds of pictures.  When we had to photograph pictures of the snow, I was miserable because I was cold, wet and unstable.  I’m glad I’m going to know how to do this, but I’m not sure if it’s something I’ll want to keep up with.

Energy and the Environment This is easily my least favorite class I’m taking.  The professor does not teach anything, but rather bounces from idea to idea, writing equations on the board and then talking about coal then showing a graph of America’s energy consumption.  Then the homework has nothing to do with any of it.  All I want is to finish my science credits so I can be done with them for forever, dangit!

Feature Writing So the point of this class is to pick a neighborhood in Rome and profile it for the semester.  I am doing the Jewish Ghetto, which is awesome.  However, we had class today for the first time in three weeks because my teacher seems kind of like a spazz.  She cancelled a few times and then on Monday when we showed up, she gave us an on-site assignment and that was it.  I like her a lot, but it’s so weird not knowing when we’re really going to have class.

Ancient Rome and its Monuments I like to call this class “Museum Visiting Class.”  It meets once per week for three hours where, as a group, we visit and learn about the monument or museum.  The class moves chronologically, beginning with the people who contributed ideas about and helped to build Rome.  One of the things that blows my mind about this class is the fact that while walking down one of the busiest streets in Rome, there are still preserved ruins from Ancient Rome.  They’re just there, on the side of the street.  My professor is a middle aged man who is more passionate about archeology and his job than anyone I’ve ever met.  He is also incredibly scatterbrained.

Rome Sketchbook I am getting upper-level credit at Madison for this one.  Incredible.  However, I am also getting better at sketching (there was no where to go but up for me, anyways).  It’s cool watching something form on the page in front of me.  My professor is exactly how I pictured he’d be.  Younger, blonde pony tail and tons of silver rings.  He is also brutally honest.  On the first day he informed me that I was one of the few left-handed students in the class (he is left-handed as well) and that lefties were bad at math and usually good at drawing.  Ouch.  At least I have the bad at math thing going for me.  I’m improving though, so hopefully by the end of the semester I can prove him wrong.

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In between Florence and this weekend…

Major things that happened in the last two weeks:

1.  Roman “Snowpocalypse”

On February 2, a “huge” snowstorm hit Rome.  It was the first recordable snowfall since 1986.  Because the city is not equipped to handle extreme weather, it literally just shut down.  We didn’t have class on Friday (which was supposed to be a makeup day for Easter weekend) or the following Monday.  This seems laughable that a few inches of snow shuts a city down for five days, but public transportation didn’t work and trekking around on frozen cobblestones was among the most dangerous things I’ve done.  I fell so many times, as I didn’t have good shoes or anything for this.  The snow was really pretty.  It doesn’t turn black and slushy like in America and it’s really neat to say that I am one of the few people who has seen monuments in Rome covered in snow.   The local kids loved it, as they have never really seen it before.  There were snowmen randomly around and kids were constantly sliding on the ice and throwing snowballs.

This was the email sent to the students: “The exceptional, severe weather conditions of the past three days in Rome, have created serious problems for the circulation in the city.  True chaos was seen on Friday, and yesterday and today Rome has pratically come to a halt. There is a very good chance that tonight we will have  freezing temperatures, with very treacherous  icy conditions in the morning, and the Mayor has ordered all schools, public universities and offices to remain closed on Monday. Some private universities like LUISS have also chosen to remain closed. In light of the above, the Administration has decided to cancel classes at JCU on Monday.”

So funny!  No one could believe it, especially since most people I’ve met come from or go to school in snowy places.  Naturally, after reading this, I went up to the boys’ apartment and we started drinking wine and playing cards.  Perfect snow day 🙂

Later that weekend, after the snow stopped falling, Megan, Jackie, Kelsey and me went exploring around our neighborhood to observe/ get food since none of us had any and the grocery stores were all closed.  We ended up at a place called Tony’s, which quickly became one of my favorite restaurants.  It is well-known locally and the owner is really nice.  He does things like, if there are four people at a table and the bill is 44 euros, he takes of four euros so that each person pays an even ten.  The menu is huge and the food is delicious.  That day, we also got free dessert — cream puffs covered in chocolate mousse.

Later that night, we celebrated my roommate Milly’s 21st birthday. We started by going to an Indian restaurant for dinner.  There were three of my roommates and a bunch of guys who were super adorable because they all wore collared shirts and ties for the event.  After dinner,  in true birthday fashion, we all got dressed up and ready to go out, despite the horrible snow.  Megan did Milly’s hair and Jackie did her make-up.  Nothing but VIP treatment for the birthday girl.  First we went to our friends’ apartment.  The plan was to go dancing, but the club we were planning on going to was a cab ride away — not feasible because of the snow.  So we made due and headed to a bar/club called Anima.  There wasn’t a whole lot of dancing going on, but our group was big enough that once we got going, everyone else joined us.  When we got back home in the wee hours of the morning, we stayed up laughing and making food.  The next morning, Alyssa made banana bread and french toast for a birthday breakfast.  Nutella and french toast?  SO GOOD!  Definitely the best way to start the day and much tastier than my usual cereal or yogurt.

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3. Super Bowl

So based on the time difference, the Super Bowl began at 12:30 in Rome.  A bunch of us went to a smaller bar to watch.  We got there four hours early (yes, that means I spent eight hours in the same bar) to ensure that we got a spot big enough for all of us.  For the first time since arriving in Europe, I ordered a cheeseburger and french fries.  Hey, what Super Bowl is complete without food like that?  While it didn’t quite live up to American standards, it hit the spot.  (Also, they’re super stingy about ketchup here.  We kept asking for more because of how much we were using.)  By the time the game aired, the basement was packed full of people ready to watch.  The biggest bummer of the night was no Super Bowl commercials.  The game was on a channel called ESPN America and the only commercials were for ESPN.  By the time the game ended, it was 4:30.  Talk about dedication on our part.

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I should have written this post two weeks ago when I got home from Florence, but here we go.

Six of my friends left on Friday morning.  Mary and I didn’t leave until Saturday morning.  We met in the lobby of our apartment at 4:30 a.m. to trek to the bus stop, not even knowing if the busses were running.  Luckily, they were.  So we hopped on a bus and ended up at the train station an hour early and sat out in the cold for an hour waiting for our train.  Once we got to Florence (and paid one euro to use the bathroom), we began looking for where to go and somehow ended up finding our hostel very easily.  After that, we met up with our other friends who were in a hotel a few blocks away.

The first stop was the Duomo, which is a gorgeous old and centrally located church.  We paid eight euro to climb the steep, narrow, twisty stairs to the top.  The hike was hard but very worth it.  We could see the whole city (photo op!) and it was actually a great way to start the trip.  Then we went walking to the bridge with all of the gold, where a bird almost swooped into my head.  Then we went to a grocery store and bought wine (cheap, sparkly, girly, delicious wine) and crackers and hiked up a hill that overlooks all of Florence.  There was live music and lots of other people doing the same thing as us.  It was really nice to just kick back and relax up there.  Mike kept clapping before the end of songs.  Then we went and ate dinner, rested, and I met up with Sal at the Duomo.  He came back to the hotel with everyone to hang out.  Kevin chiseled away at the corks with a pen because no one had a bottle opener.  Then we went out to experience Florence night life.  Crowded bars?  Check.  Dance clubs?  Check.  On the way home, Sal took Mary and I to get kabobs, which aren’t really kabobs, but more like burritos.  They were so spicy and good.

The next morning, Mary and I woke up and found a place to eat breakfast.  Yeah, real breakfast.  It’s the one thing Florence has on Rome.  We had breakfast sandwiches with eggs and cheese and veggies and meat.  Also cappuccinos, duh.  SO YUMMY!  Ready to take on the day, we met up with the other six people.  We wandered a bit and went to see the David.  Holy moley is it amazing!  It is so smooth and the details are so cool.  I’ve never stood and looked at one statue for so long.  In the museum there are also unfinished sculptures from Michelangelo and other sculptures from other artists.  I can’t imagine taking a huge block of marble and creating something like that!  Afterwards, we walked around some more, ate dinner and got on the train home.  Florence really made me appreciate Rome.  As much as I loved it, I was so happy to be back after just 36 hours.


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