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.

Paris vs. New York City

The Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower

New York City

New York City

While Audrey Hepburn famously says in her title role of Sabrina, “Paris is always a good idea,” Robert DeNiro rebukes her and says, “I go to Paris, I go to London, I go to Rome, and I always say, “There’s no place like New York. It’s the most exciting city in the world now. That’s the way it is. That’s it.”

In fact, I was thinking of Robert DeNiro this weekend.  Up and down Mulberry Street, Little Italy was celebrating the Saint Gennaro festival.  You know the scene in The Godfather,  don’t you?  The young Vito Corleone kills Don Fanucci and returns to his family to celebrate the feast of Saint Gennaro with the tiny Michael in his lap…it’s an iconic moment in cinema history and it happened in NYC.

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s description of NYC is, “The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and beauty in the world.”  Did he mean it?  After all, the essence of Gatsby is illusion and falsity.  Of Paris he wrote, “The best of America drifts to Paris. The American in Paris is the best American. It is more fun for an intelligent person to live in an intelligent country. France has the only two things toward which we drift as we grow older—intelligence and good manners.”  So which is it, Scott?  Can’t we have both?  After all,  Gertrude Stein said, “America is my country, but Paris is my hometown.”

Which do you prefer?



   Paris   vs.   New York City

The Tuileries Garden and Luxembourg Gardens or Central Park

The Eiffel Tower or The  Statue of Liberty

The River Seine or The Hudson River

The Opera House or Broadway

Rive Gauche or The East Village

Croissants or Bagels and Lox

Flan or Cheesecake

The Ritz  or The Plaza and The Waldorf Astoria

Boat rides on the Seine or  Carriage rides in Central Park

 Tour First with 52 Floors or  The Freedom Tower (1776 feet high)

The Louvre or The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Tour de France or NYC Marathon

Avenue des Champs Elysees or Fifth Avenue

New Year’s Eve at Champs des Mars or New Year’s Eve in Times Square

Boulevard Montparnasse or 42nd Street

Marais or The Lower East Side

Rue Mouffetard or South Street Seaport

Le Bon Marche and Galleries LaFayette or Macy’s and Saks

Notre Dame or St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Paris St. Germain F.C. or The Yankees

Pont Neuf or The Brooklyn Bridge

Charles de Gaulle Airport or JFK

Crepe Stands or Hot dogs and knishes

Outdoor cafes or rooftop pubs

Jardin des Plantes zoo or The Central Park Zoo