Thursday, December 20, 2012


Y'all. I'm home.

Chances are most of you have already heard from me, but YES I made it home! My sweet Mom and Dad greeted me at the airport along with Delilah wearing her Christmas jingle bell collar. Dallas even welcomed me back with the cloudy and rainy weather that it knows I love so much.

The travelling went well, in all it was 23 hours from doorstep to doorstep, give or take an hour. Yikes, right? I struggled a bit with my luggage, because as you can see below, I had more than a couple bags. Granted, I checked two of them, but before I could check them, I traipsed (or rather trudged) around the airport with this leaning tower of luggage. At one point I walked backwards all the way through a terminal, trying to keep all my luggage stacked up straight. Quite a funny site. But not a funny site when it's 6:30 am. But on the bright side, I flew back to the States in style, sporting a chunky sweater, and matching my beloved Lindsey. Aaaaand 10 hours later I was on US soil, with a three hour layover (most of which was spent in passport control and customs) in Philadelphia.

me and my stack of luggage in the Rome Airport

loving our sweaters

just as I met up with my parents when I arrived at DFW

The next 24 hours were filled with what my Dad calls "Team Christmas" hard at work. My Mom and I bought the tree, put up the garland, put up the stockings, put up the tree, decorated the tree, set up the manger scenes, and basically Christmas-fied the house. If you know me you know I LOVE Christmas so this was just wonderful.

got the tree!

decorating. and LOVING it.

always a favorite.

As part of my Mom's Christmas present, my Dad and I got her tickets to Michael W. Smith's Christmas concert when he was in Dallas on Tueseday. We went to a Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant Christmas concert when we were little and my Mom loved it so much. Personally, all I remember from the concert was Amy Grant wearing a big red dress and then falling asleep. But since I was a little older for this one, it was a little more fun! A good Christmas concert is always a must. And we even got to meet Santa!

Mom and I at the concert

if you don't know who this is, we need to talk. 

In other news, my sweet childhood friend, Corinn, is getting married in 8 days. Crazy, I know. I can't believe it, but I am beyond happy for her and her fiance, Micah. They're wonderful. Needless to say, it was joy filled reunion when I got to see her beautiful face at a shower on Sunday. So. Much. Joy. Mom caught us mid-hug  in the picture below. So there's been lots of wedding festivities going on and still more to come. Today I spent part of my day at her house making flowers. She's so crafty and so creative the flowers are so cute. 


aren't these adorable?

Lastly, the weather has finally turned here in Texas. On Saturday it was a high in the low 70s, but today the high was in the 50s. HALLELUJAH. After having cold weather in Rome, 70 degrees didn't exactly feel like Christmas, so I was extremely grateful for the turn for the cold. But because the weather is so odd here in Texas, the leaves are still turning and falling. Even though my beloved state is a season behind, at least I get the joys of fall, like these leaves that were in our driveway today. 

So in short, I'm safely home and celebrating Christmas in all ways possible. While I certainly miss Rome, I'm happy to be here. 


Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Last 72

72 hours. 3 days.

My last three days in Rome have been happy and sad and jam packed full of Roman things. Tuesday night we went to our favorite hangout place, Eatabli to relax and enjoy the evening. Also we had our last tiramisu of the trip. Wednesday afternoon we went to see St. Peter's one last time, and also saw St. John and the Latterans (the official papal church of the the Catholic Church). We also saw the Holy Steps. They Holy Steps were brought to Rome by Constantine's mother and are (supposedly) the steps that Jesus climbed to see Pontious Pilot and (again supposedly) some of his blood dripped onto the steps. Now, they are inside this building and Catholics come, climb the steps on their knees, and say specific prayers of repentance at each step as they make their way up to the top.

at Eatabli. Aren't they just so great?

last Italian tiramisu

Vana White-ing with the Christmas tree in St. Peter's Square

St. Peter's. Third time's the charm.

last time in St. Peter's

The Holy Steps

This morning I had my last exam and now am officially done with the semester! Yay! After the exam, Lindsey and I grabbed lunch at Simone's Pizza and then I took a walk to the Gianicolo Hill Path, which has an incredible view of Rome. After that, I spent some time back at the apartment packing and then Lindsey and I went to meet Abbie for one last visit to the Pantheon and the Trevi Fountain. We tossed our last coins in, took some pictures and skipped out just as it started to rain. We then walked through Piazza Venezia, stopped at the Forum, then walked down to the Colosseum to see the big Christmas tree - one of the best in Rome - and my personal favorite. After saying goodbye to the Colosseum, we had our last Italian dinner at La Gata Mangiare, a wonderful little pizzeria by our house. And now we're back in the apartment, finishing packing, and marveling at the fact that we actually have to leave Italy tomorrow. I can't believe it's here. I'm so happy to get to go home, yet I don't want to be torn away from this wonderful city and the friends that I've made here. Oh well, you always have to move onto the next phase of life, right?

my last cappuccino at the Danesi bar by school

view of Rome

Passeggiata del Gianicolo

all of the statues on the Gianicolo Hill

last gelato!

back at the Trevi one last time

throwing one last coin

love them

last time at the Forum (the forum at night was always a favorite)

Colosseum and its Christmas tree

loved the tree

No, really. loved the tree

again. love them.

last time on Roman public transportation. PRAISE THE LORD.

last Italian pizza

The next time you hear from me, I'll be stateside!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Facciamo Shopping - Last Weekend in Rome

--Friday, December 7th--

Today was the first day of our last weekend here in Rome. One of the directors of our program is somewhat of a fashionista. Since we had been bugging her all semester about where to find good shopping, she decided to take us on a shopping trip. She was our own personal shopper. And she has wonderful taste. There was supposed to be a group of about 5 or 6 of us, but no body else showed up so it was just Anna (the director), Abbie, Lindsey, and I. We shopped all around central Rome, Via del Corso, and lots of other little streets around there. We stopped halfway through at one of Anna's favorite cafes for hot chocolate. It was by far one of the cutest little cafes I've seen since I've been in Rome. It was sort of a mix of American and European shabby chic. So precious. And the hot chocolate was good too!

stopping by the Spanish Steps to see the Christmas tree

sitting with Santa

hot chocolate at Cafe Ginger

hot chocolate in Cafe Ginger

Cafe Ginger


one of the many trees we saw on our shopping trip with Anna

We took a break in the late afternoon since it was raining and spent some time back at the apartment. Then tonight, we went to get dinner in the Jewish Ghetto.

--Saturday, December 8th--

This morning I got to sleep in, which was a first in a while. I spent the morning chilling, getting a cappuccino, and getting some work done. Today was the day of the Immaculate Conception. It's one of the biggest holidays in Rome: businesses are closed, shops close early, and everyone starts decorating for the holidays. It's the day that officially marks the start of the Christmas season in Italy. One of the big events of the day is the Pope's blessing at Piazza del Spagna. I stood in that packed piazza for over an hour and admittedly didn't even see the Pope. But I heard him speak! It was in Italian, but I understood it! Well, most of it. The idea of the ceremony is that the Pope comes to Piazza del Spanga where there's a statue of the Virgin Mary raised up on a pillar. On the day of the Immaculate Conception and to start the Christmas season in Rome, he goes to the Piazza, gives a speech, give his blessing, and then they put a Christmas wreath on the outstreched hands of the statue of Mary. Really rather a cool tradition. Even though I couldn't see the Pope, I'm glad I went and at least got to hear him! Not to mention, while we were all waiting around for him to get to the Piazza, there was one guy who had a bullhorn and was shouting cheers in Italian. My personal favorites were "VIVA IL PAPA!" to which the crowd responded "VIVA!!" And the other one was sort of a song..."BENEDETTO! *ch ch ch ch* BENEDETTO! *ch ch ch ch*." It really added to the color of the situation, not to mention making standing squished between strangers in 40 degree weather for 20 minutes slightly entertaining. Once I figured out what the cheers were saying I jumped in with everybody else and sang along! 

if you look closely you can see the man with the loudspeaker 

the crowd in Piazza di Spagna, listening to the Pope

After the ceremony, I walked Via del Corso and then met Lindsey and Abbie near Piazza Venezia. Then we walked back up (the very crowded) Via del Corso, to go to Gusto, a restaurant that Anna had shown us on our shopping trip on Friday. Something the Italians are very well known for are their aperativos. An aperativo is where is where you pay a fixed low price to eat basically an appetizer buffet. Ideally, it's supposed to "prep" you for dinner and your night on the town, but because we're cheap college students, we made it our dinner. Gusto itself is a downright adorable little restaurant, tucked to the side of Via del Corso, away from the main hustle and bustle of the street. However, it certainly had a hustle and bustle of its own because it was packed. We had to wait about 15 minutes for a table, which might not seem that big of a deal to those of you in the States, but this was the first time, the first time, we've had to wait for a table here in Italy. Now that's saying something. The food was wonderful. Like I said, aperativo is a buffett of apetizers, so we just had these little plates and ate a bunch of different small dishes and finger foods that were all delicious! 

the tree in Piazza Venezia, the center of Rome

lights on Via del Corso

the lights and giant snowglobe in the shopping mall on Via del Corso


--Sunday, December 9th--

If you remember, my first weekend in Rome I went to the Porta Portense Sunday market. It's one of the biggest markets in Rome and it has miles of great deals, but the market starts at 7 am and only goes until about 12 or 1 pm, so on the weekends we have been in Rome, it's a little difficult to motivate ourselves to get out and about in time to make it to the market. But seeing as it's our last weekend in Rome, we figured we'd go full circle and make it to the market one last time. So we dragged ourselves out of our warm beds this morning and ventured forth. Of course we had to stop for a cappuccino, because sadly we're coming to terms that our cappuccinos are numbered and few and we will miss them dearly. We spent about an hour and a half at the market, walking, shopping, and bargaining. Always good hearty Italian fun. After the market, we went back to one of my favorite restaurants, Novacento, for lunch. I'm almost certain that their Rigatoni alla' Amatriciana is my favorite meal I've had my entire time abroad. So. Good. We spent the rest of the day in the apartment, listening to Christmas music, packing, studying, chatting, watching I'll Be Home for Christmas, and making gingerbread candy cane cookies (courtesy of my friend Beth who brought the candy canes and the cookie mix all the way from the states!) We've only got four full days left, but we've got a lot planned and we're going to try and milk those four days for all that they're worth!


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Woof. It (was) Wednesday.

I got a little busy yesterday and didn't actually manage to post this on the day that I wrote it. Whoops! So this is a day late, but here ya go!


9 days y'all. This is getting crazy. Which means only 9 more days to blog from Rome. In 10 days, this will go back to just being my unpoetic Winston-Salem/Dallas. Doesn't quite have the same ring to it.

Tomorrow is the last day of classes, which means today is the last day of Monday/Wednesday classes and I'm certainly not complaining. Finals start next week, two on Monday, two on Tuesday, one on Thursday, and sayonara to Roma at 6 on Friday morning. Before finals commence, I had three papers to write and they've gone surprisingly well. I turned one in last Thursday, one today, and will turn in the last one tomorrow.

In the meantime, I'm just trying to enjoy my time here before jumping into finals and packing. In fact, I made a new friend today. A little late in the program, I know, but oh well. I don't know his name, actually I don't know if he's even a boy or a girl. Freaky right? Actually, it's just a dog. I was in my room this afternoon and heard a dog barking and barking and barking for 5 straight minutes, so I opened my shutters and there he/she was, on the balcony right across from mine. I poked my head out the window and whistled and he/she looked at me. Then barked at me. Funny little thing.

my new friend

After school today, Lindsey, Abbie and I set aside the evening to try a new restaurant that we had heard a lot about called Dar Poeta Pizzeria. It was so good. It was in Trastevere (one of my favorite parts of town) on a deserted back street, with the doors shut tight to the cold. But when they opened, you got hit with a wall of warm, toasty, pizza filled air. If you're not drooling, you should be. We each got bruschetta and pizza. Classic Italian. After dinner we went to a gelato place Lindsey had found not far from the Pantheon that had by far the largest selection of gelato I have seen in my entire time in Italy. Very impressive and very good. Not to mention en route we walked through some adorable parts of town all decorated for Christmas. I just love this city.

decorations on the street leading to the Pantheon

Oh, and this is my new background on my phone. Let's just say I have high hopes for Christmas in Dallas.

Merry Christmas and Ciao!

Monday, December 3, 2012

A Swiss Christmas

Ok no, it's not Christmas yet, but literally every moment of this past weekend felt like it was the beloved day of December 25th. Lindsey's brother was in town to visit and his old roommate who lives in Switzerland offered for us to come stay at his house/flat in Fribourg, Switzerland. And the story of the weekend begins even before the morning of our flight.

Wednesday we had been told that on Friday, there would be a 24 hour nationwide air, rail, maritime, and local transportation strike in Italy. Needless to say, that left us with the question as to whether or not our flight would still happen, or even if we could even make it to the airport at all. After looking into it, we came to find that our flight would still take off, but the public transportation wouldn't run, so we ended up taking a taxi to the airport on Friday morning. While it cost a little extra, it really was nice to not have to stress about whether or not we would catch our train or if the tram would run on schedule, etc. When we flew in over Switzerland, you could see the tops of the Alps peeking over the tops of the clouds. So amazing. I've never seen mountains that big. We landed and met Raphael at the airport. Since we flew into Geneva but Raphael and Barbara live in Fribourg (1 1/2 hour train ride away) we spent the majority of the day seeing Geneva. The first thing we did was grab lunch. I'll give you three guesses as to what kind of food we ate. Swiss? No. French? No. German? No. Ethiopian? YES. Makes sense, right? NO. But it was so wonderful! I had never had Ethiopian food before and I wasn't entirely sure about it, but it was amazing! The food was served on a large plate and put in the middle of all of us where we were sitting on couches and lounge chairs. The food was a mix of lamb, beef, and chicken with lots of sauces, poured over crepes....or at least crepe like things. There were also other crepe (like things) that you ripped up and used to eat the food off of the big dish. It was so good and was a wonderful experience.

view of the Alps from the plane


where we ate lunch at the Ethiopian restaurant

John Calvin monument

the womping willow from Harry Potter!

Lake Geneva

After lunch, we walked around chilly Geneva for a while, seeing the sights and loving the atmosphere. As the day wound down and the light disappeared, we decided to warm up with a cup of Geneva's best hot chocolate at a little chocolate shop. SO. GOOD. Man, do the Swiss know their chocolate. After hot chocolate, we caught the train to Fribourg where we went back to Raphael's apartment. Their flat was a precious little three story design, with the den, kitchen and breakfast nook on the second floor. Abbie, Lindsey, and I slept on the third floor, a small cozy little attic-like room accessed by a spiral staircase. It had a wall of windows with an incredible view of the whole snow covered town. That night we had a traditional Swiss meal of Raclette. To make it, you melt cheese in little skillets easy-bake-oven-style then dish it out over potatoes. Ah-mazing. And of course for dessert we had some Swiss chocolate.

Swiss hot chocolate

the Raclette cheese oven

The next morning we woke up and got ready for the day and had a wonderful Swiss breakfast of cheeses, breads, yogurt, eggs, and jam. And coffee. Of course coffee. The breakfast was so good and we talked for so long that we actually didn't leave Fribourg until just after noon! We took a train to Gruyere (yes as in the cheese) which is a tiny little mountain town with a precious town square, lots of shops, and a castle/museum. Everything was covered in snow from when it had fallen a few weeks before and it was just so beautiful! Plus the town square was all decorated for Christmas! We spent some time walking around the town square, the shops and the castle grounds. Since we spent a fair amount of time in Gruyere and hiking a bit to and from it, after we finished there, we just headed back to Fribourg for the night. On our way back to the apartment, we stopped to watch a well known Christmas parade that happens in Fribourg. It was fun to see, but it was definitely different from any Christmas parade in the states! Santa sat on a donkey and threw bread into the crowd. Totally normal. That night we had a wonderful dinner of cheese fondue! I had never had fondue before (shocking, I know) and it was even better to have it for the first time in Switzerland! We spent a lot of time after dinner just sitting by the fire and talking.

view from the train on the way to Gruyere

view from the train on the way to Gruyere



view from Gruyere

Christmas tree in Gruyere

The next morning it felt like Christmas. Really and truly. If you had told me there were reindeer hoof prints on the roof, I would have believed you. The first words I heard in the morning were "IT'S SNOWING!" courtesy of a very excited Lindsey. She had woken up early and gone to every window in the apartment to watch the snow fall. I can't really blame her, it was beautiful. We had a wonderful breakfast again and then headed out to catch the train through the snow to the airport and then flew back to Rome. Of course it wasn't quite that direct...we had to take a couple pauses to play in the snow. Just a little.

view of Fribourg from our window on Sunday morning

all bundled up

LOVING the snow

saying goodbye to Fribourg

having too much fun on the train

Today marks 11 days until I return home to the States, which is crazy and wonderful and sad and absurd. Because of this, we've resolved to do big things every day and really make the most of the time we have left in Rome, because sadly it is so small. So today, after my first class ended at 10:30, Abbie and I caught the bus to the Vatican where we spent the morning shopping on one of Rome's best shopping streets, Colla di Rienzo. I may or may not have gotten a very cute pair of wedges at a very good price, but that's a story for another day. After shopping we grabbed lunch at Cacio e Pepe, a little restaurant in that part of town and I had Cacio e Pepe pasta for the first time. After lunch, we hopped over to the Spanish Steps to go to Pompi, the location of the best tiramisu in Rome. No lie. The best. We then walked down Via del Corso to Piazza Venezia and saw at least five huge outdoor Christmas trees along the way. Love that. Abbie and I were giddy. We found a spot on the steps of a church by Piazza Venezia to eat our tiramisu and then we caught the bus back to school for our afternoon class.

I can't believe I have so little time left here in Rome. While there are certainly things I'm looking forward to about being home, I'm don't really want to leave Europe. Hopefully I'll have even more stories to tell about the coming 11 days, and I'm so happy that those 11 days will all be spent here in Rome.