Monday, November 30, 2009


I first fell in love with Italy in 1993 when I spent a summer outside of Venice with some incredible host families. Venice was a magical city that has since become the standard by which I judge every other city by. That's pretty tough to live up to...

So, returning there with our students 16 years later was, as they say so often, epic. I wasn't sure if Venice would hold the same wonder, magic for me that it did while I was there in high school. I wasn't sure if I'd simply fallen so deeply in love with it because it was the first place I'd been where I was kind of on my own, away from mom and dad. And I will admit that I was fearful that my memories of Venice would be so overinflated that I would be disappointed in the real city.

I am happy to say...Venice remains my favorite city in the world. (Outside of Burlington/Brown's Lake, WI that is....)

It is still a city of wonder, of beauty, of romance, of magic. There's just something about it that can't be put into's just something you have to experience. It has that certain je ne sais quoi to it...

We spent quite a bit of time wandering the back streets of Venice and I'll admit that we got lost. Again, sorry guys!!! I still lost my breath as we turned a corner and there was Piazza San Marco. The church still takes my breath away and the view looking out into the lagoon is still my favorite in the world.

We toured San Marco and for the first time ever I went out onto the overlook on the second floor that overlooks the piazza...and that's where I almost killed myself in Venice. I was out there admiring the view when I stepped backwards as I was turning, missed a step, and went flying forward. If not for the railing, I would have gone over the edge and landed SPLAT on the very piazza I was admiring. My camera skidded to a stop just before going over the edge. Thankfully, I didn't kill myself, but I did jack up my ankle pretty bad and spent the rest of the weekend hobbling about.

While in Venice we explored Doges' Palace, Burano, and Murano. When I was in Venice before I didn't make it to any of these places and it was great to see them finally.

All in all, my return to Venice was everything I'd hoped and some things that I'd rather forget ever happened. My love affair with Venezia continues and what really excites me is that even though I will be away for my birthday this April I will be spending it in Venice...can't ask for anything better for my big day!

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Monday, November 23, 2009

A little piece of heaven called Cinque Terre

Last weekend a group of students, myself, and Lynda made our way to the Italian Riviera region known as Cinque Terre. A national park system, Cinque Terre is five small towns connected by hiking trails along the Mediterranean Ocean. For years I've heard how amazing Cinque Terre is and how for many it's their favorite part of Italy. Quite honestly, I concur!

While we went in November and the weather wasn't the greatest, it was spectacular! Just imagine sharp cliffs falling down into rolling waves of aqua water. Hills covered in lush green vegetation and vineyards. Stunning! We stayed in the town of Vernazza and I am so glad we did! Most of the other towns shut down during the "low season" so we were blessed to be in a town that had more than one restaurant open. We arrived on Friday evening and Lynda and I set out to grab some dinner. We had a nice evening and even got a little adventurous with our fish selections! Saturday we took the train to the first town, Riomaggiore, and the walked along the Via dell' Amore to Corneligia, the next town. The walk was lovely and the view was at times breathtaking. Just when you thought it couldn't get any did! From there, we took the train to Monterosso and explored the little beach community.

Arriving back at Vernazza, Lynda and I had an incredible pesto dinner. Cinque Terre is known for its pesto and let me tell you...that little green sauce is a little piece of heaven here on Earth. Delizioso!!! Love it! ;0

On Sunday Lynda, myself, and some of the students grabbed a quick breakfast at a Sicilian bakery and oh my stars! the pastries were to die for. So good!

All in all, it was a great weekend and just a nice time to relax before we headed for Venice and the last 3 weeks of school. Eek! Where has the time gone?!

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

When in....London

Cheerio Rome...hello London!

Two weekends ago I headed to jolly ol' London. All. By. Myself. Woo hoo! I boarded the plane super excited with a lot of plans for the weekend. I couldn't wait to visit a city that I'd been dying to see for a long time. There was so much I wanted to see and do. Imagine my surprise (and fear) when I was almost derailed at customs.

I just happened to choose the line with the grouchiest customs agent who scrutinized my passport for a ridiculously long time. She asked me a million questions and basically what ended up happening was she questioned my reasons for entering the UK. After all was said and done--I am not allowed to enter the UK for 6 months. Ugh!

Needless to say this wasn't exactly how I imagined my London adventure starting. Still, I was determined not to let it put a damper on my trip. After all...I was in LONDON!!!! I spoke the language and didn't have to think before I spoke...people were polite...nothing could spoil my time!

I made my way to the B&B I was staying in and was so pleased to find that it was very nice and in a neighborhood that I felt safe in. I stayed at a little place near Victoria Station that was run by the nicest British couple. My room was lovely! And!! There was a queen-sized bed! Ah! I didn't have to sleep in a narrow twin bed. I plopped down upon it and it was as if I was drifting upon a cloud in heaven. So nice!

But! I hadn't traveled to London merely to enjoy a nice I made myself get up and head out to explore. First stop, Starbucks! I was forewarned that they probably wouldn't have the Pumpkin Spice Latte that I'd been craving, so I wasn't too disappointed when I discovered that they didn't have it. Instead, I ordered my favorite standby: Toffee Nut Latte. Sooooo goooodddd!!!!

I took my latte (in a red Starbucks Christmas cup nonetheless!) and walked down Buckingham Palace Road. I soaked in the sights and was pleasantly surprised as I went to cross the street to see that painted on the road was a sign telling me which way to look. Gotta love the thoroughness of the Brits! Finally, I happened upon Buckingham Palace. Sadly, the queen was not in so I couldn't pop in for a spot of tea! Still, it was a pretty impressive sight. I spent some time wandering around the palace and then headed back to my hotel so I could get ready to go and see...WICKED!!!!!

I have been dying to see Wicked for forever, but every time it came through Phoenix it either sold out quickly or I wasn't in town. Well, The Wizard of Oz is my favorite movie so it was only natural that I should be anxious to see Wicked. I had amazing seats and am very pleased to say that I was not disappointed at all. It was one of the most incredible musicals I've ever seen. I want to see it again right now!!

On Saturday, after enjoying a lovely English breakfast and a chat with the hotel owner, I boarded a double decker tour bus to see the sights of London. I figured that since I'd never been there before and I was alone the bus would be the best way to see the sights. And I was right! I saw Westminster Abbey, the parliament building, Big Ben, the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Harrods, Harvey Nichols, the replica of the Globe Theatre, and so many other great sights. Such fun! Halfway thru the day I hopped off the bus and popped into a pub for a pint and some fish and chips. So good!! Plus! They had Heinz ketchup on the table...yuuuuummm..

On Sunday I boarded the bus again and saw a lot more of the city. I got off the bus and explored the British Museum where I saw some of the world's best antiquities. I saw the Rosetta Stone! So cool! From there, I made my way to the British Library where I saw original manuscripts of Beowulf, Shakespeare, and Jane Austen's Persuasion. I even saw her writing desk!! Then, I walked over to King's Cross Station and found Platform 9 and 3/4 just for a student who is a big Harry Potter fan. I must admit, it was kind of cool!

Over all, it was a fabulous trip. I really love London. It's such a great city and I look forward to getting back there someday (or at least after my 6 month ban has been lifted!) so that I can explore more and get to know the city a little better.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Playing catch up...

Again, life has been so crazy busy that I haven't had a moment to update the world, and you all know you've been waiting on bated breath, as to what I've been up to. Sorry that again you have to settle for a run down....what can I say? Life in Rome moves at breakneck speed...

--Justine's visit: after we returned from Siena we spent the next couple of days doing the whirlwind tour of Rome. In 2 days we managed to see the Colosseum, Pantheon, Piazza di Spagna, Fontana di Trevi, St. Peter's, the Vatican museum, Piazza Navona, and Trastevere. Of course we also managed to get several trips for gelato and cappuccino in there as well. Her trip out here was short, but sweet. It was such a blessing to have her here.

--Jeff and Nancy's visit: My boss and another colleague spent a week with us here in Rome. It was great to have them here. They brought goodies with them: post-it notes, construction paper, peanut butter, and more. They're great fun to be around and it was an encouragement to have them here.

--Halloween: The students were away for Halloween, but that didn't stop us from having a post-Halloween costume party here at the convent. Considering that they didn't have a store to go to to buy costumes, they did an amazing job coming up with creative costumes. It was such fun!
--Tiramisu lesson: Sister Marie Cruz makes the best tiramisu and she graciously taught myself and several of my students how to make it as well. It was fun watching her cook and the students interacting with her despite the language barrier.

And somewhere in between all of that I managed to get to London for a weekend. That trip, though, deserves its own post. So, I will end with this: we are now exactly one month away from the student's departure to the States. Where in the world did this semester go???

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Sunday, November 1, 2009

Another countdown...

3 weeks from today my mom, dad, and sister come!!!!

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