Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Wall, Rome, Italy

Filled as it is with history both sacred and secular, Rome becomes at once an oxymoron.  No where else in the world can you encounter masterpieces of art reflecting against graffiti and vandalism.

One such place is the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Wall.  The wall? The old wall of Rome that protected the ancient city did not encompass this particular church.  Thus, the name.   In Italian, it’s called Abbazia di San Paolo Fuori Le Mura.  Just so you know, Joe.

The first time we went to Rome, we didn’t go and from the moment we planned to return, this was where we wanted to go. The fact that you are standing in front of the tomb of St. Paul is awe inspiring. I am Catholic, but for any Christian who has read and holds faith in the New Testament, this is a pilgrimage to see the tomb of the apostle to the Gentiles.

Here is what to do. We got on the Metro at the Piazza Republicca, there are ticket machines there. The Metro runs two lines, orange and blue. St. Paolo blue is the stop. You get your tickets, use a credit card it has all languages, then choose the all day pass, it was like 4 euros. At the Piazza Republicca Metro Station, you are at the orange line, don’t be scared, but you have to make a transfer.

Get on orange to Termini (Giovanni Paolo II as it’s also called)  and then you will have to switch to blue. Get on blue.  Laurentina is the final stop on the line. It is like four stops to St. Paul’s and you can’t miss it because that is the name of the station’s stop.  When you get off the train, head to the left and keep going, this station stinks to high heaven and it was gross, and there are real live gypsies hovering, but keep your eyes on the prize. They have signs in the station with arrows pointing toward the basilica. You come up out of the Metro, and then turn right. You can almost see it as you emerge.

 

Follow down about two blocks, and then you enter the church on the side door. Be sure you are dressed with covered shoulders, they will deny you access. St. Paul’s tomb is smack dab in the center. There is a map as you enter. Be sure to go out the big doors at the far end, that is where the courtyard is with the statue they show on the websites. The side entrance is kind of….scruffy, but the front is spectacular. They also have super clean restrooms on the opposite side of where you will come in. Just so you know. Really, don’t be scared of the metro. It is surreal and you will thank yourself for a lifetime for going. THEN, when you go home, read the book of Romans, it has a whole new perspective. God bless and safe journeys!

The Cross Body Bag for Travel: Yea or Nay?

 

IMG_2043It’s getting to be that time of year when we start poring over travel magazines and planning summer excursions.  By nature, I’m slightly neurotic and I like to research where I’ll be and what’s my best plan of attack…in fashion. Handbags are a huge concern.

It seems as if there are two definitive camps in the cross body debate.  Yes, your hands are free, but your boobs are segregated in that oh-so-unflattering-way.  On the one hand, you’re more protected from a pickpocket, but when you wear a cross body bag, in Europe especially, it screams, “Tourist with a passport!” You’d do well to just write that on your forehead.  It’s the same result.

The local women, especially in Paris and Rome, (where they frighten you with stories of gypsies and vagabond rouges,) leave their tote bags carelessly hanging open as they stand near the Metro.  I’ve seen it.  You know that pinched up face people get when they’re changing a poopy diaper?  That’s the look a lot of us Americans have when we’re forced into a closed quarters situation with “Them.”  We hang on tightly to our stuff and hope that we’re giving off a “va via” (go away) vibe.

While I’m all for safety and being responsible, I think that when we’re already out of our comfort zone, the worst thing to do is compound that by going out of our comfort zone with our belongings.  If you’re normally not a cross body kind of gal, you probably have a reason for it.  Personally, I find that they’re too small.  When I’m in the store stuffing the paper wrappings into other bags to see the inside, (yes, that’s me,) it always seems big enough. (I hate that look of a warped overstuffed purse banging against my hip.)    Yet, when I get home and add a wallet, sunglasses and a ridiculous stuffed dog I bring on vacation, it’s not as roomy.

I think the lure of the cross body is not in the bag, but in the strap…the strap that comes with most purses.  Huh.  While you should clean your bag out of extraneous items before you leave, you are probably better off using the one you carry every day.  I’m assuming to some degree that you’re not toting a giant bag with all the hardware; that can be heavy. You have to be reasonable in what you’re willing to carry through the course of a day. A bulky bag may be a deterrent in cafes if they have to perch on your lap.  Most of us girls manage with a medium-sized bag so it’s not a problem.

A thing you must consider, in some attractions like historical buildings and museums, if your bag is too large, you may have to check it.  Nothing renders me “deer in the headlights” like leaving my bag in a foreign closet check.  You don’t want to black out in the Sistine Chapel because you’re obsessing about your abandoned purse back in the lobby.  You never want to be separated from your gear.  You want your possessions easily accessible to you, but safe from everyone else.

What do you carry every day?  It’s funny how we think about travel bags as something we only use on a trip.  As a veteran purse carrier, you already know the drill; keep your bag zipped and your hand on the handles.  Enough said.

 

 

 

Happy Birthday to William Shakespeare: The Bard from Stratford-upon-Avon

The Infamous Curse on Shakespeare's Grave
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Birthplace of William Shakespeare: Henley Street, Stratford-upon-Avon, England

April 23rd is an important day in England.  It’s the Feast Day of Saint George, The Patron Saint of England, but it’s also a very special day for William Shakespeare.  April 23, 2015 marks the 399th anniversary of his death as well as being 451 years since his birth in Stratford-Upon-Avon.  What could be more appropriate than to have England’s favorite son tied to the Feast of Saint George?

Anne Hathaway's Cottage

Anne Hathaway’s Cottage

 

 

In honor of his birthday, here is a montage of pictures from The Bard’s hometown stomping grounds.

 

 

New Place

New Place

 

Holy Trinity Church

Holy Trinity Church

The River Avon

The River Avon

The Funerary Monument in Holy Trinity Church

The Funerary Monument in Holy Trinity Church

Prince Hal AKA Henry V

Prince Hal AKA Henry V

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Shakespeare's Baptismal Font in Holy Trinity Church

Shakespeare’s Baptismal Font in Holy Trinity Church

The Infamous Curse on Shakespeare's Grave

The Infamous Curse on Shakespeare’s Grave

Hall's Croft: Home of Susanna Shakespeare and her husband John Hall

Hall’s Croft: Home of Susannah Shakespeare and her husband John Hall

Another poet and her muse

Posing with the funerary monument

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Narcissi-stick Post: The Abomination of The Selfie-Stick

I’m writing it here first, folks.  Have you seen the Selfie Sticks?  They’re embarrassing.  I stood in line last week in Scotland waiting to go into the Palace of the Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh and I watched a woman make a fool of herself…to me at least.  She stood with her trusty selfie stick that I am officially calling the Narcissi-stick and took twenty pictures of herself, fish lips and all.  You heard it here first; I’m renaming them here officially to Narcissi-sticks.

Narcissus, in Greek Mythology was the hunter from Thespiae who was known for his beauty.  It became his downfall because when he saw his own reflection in a pool of water, he was rendered helpless.  So enchanted was he with his own reflection that he could not move and it caused him to drown.  His fixation with own reflection was his utter and complete downfall.

I would venture to say that the Narcissi-stick is the same thing.  It’s embarrassing.  Other people can see you.  It’s bad enough when you’re in your own bathroom making that face into your phone.  Later, when you’re scrolling through the plethora of pictures you took of yourself, I would like to say that I am the woman in the background of your shots, laughing her head off at your narcissistic tendencies.

Big. Sweaters.

Winter is upon us and anyone who’s anyone will notice that the trend in sweaters for winter is that bigger and bulky is better. Fashion designers embraced the big sweater look on the runway for their Fall / Winter collections, which of course look gorgeous on pencil thin models… but what’s a girl to do if she’s just a mere mortal and not a willowy runway model? Well, I’ve listed my favorite ways to keep this look current and chic.

I like to call it, “Seven Tips to Help You Get The Editorial Look Without Looking Like a Linebacker.”

1.  Dark tights are your friends. Dark tights with a bit of a textured pattern like black on black argyle or pinstripes can create a visual interest that will let the eye follow your legs down and create an elongating effect.
2.  Wear a skirt. A straight cut skirt that hits just an inch or so above your knee will give you a willowy silhouette. The slightly narrow cut of the skirt will balance the bulk of a sweater. You want opposites to pull this look off; huge sweater plays against the skirt. This is entirely true until you talk about…
3.  Shoes! Play up the heavy texture of a huge sweater with a pair of shoes with some weight to them. Patent leather brogues with a thick heel paired against a big sweater will make your legs shrink into the background.
4.  Belted: Using a wide belt with a matte finish will whittle your waist. It pulls the sweater in and accentuates your figure.
5.  Start small. If you’re overwhelmed by the idea of a large sweater, try wearing a large cowl or a snood. It will give you the luxurious look of the knit near your face. You’ll look current, especially if you pair it with a long belted cardigan.
6.  Try a lighter gauge knit. Instead of going straight for the heavy gauge cashmere, try a medium or lighter merino wool. The ruching that’s so popular this season will add that bit of texture without as much heft.
7.  Color. Darker, muted colors will not only make you looks slimmer in the sweater, but deep neutrals will make anything look more on trend. You want people to see you, not just a neon pink cat that you decided to wear.