Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Roman Underground

I only have one more chapter to read in my textbook; we're past Gorbachev and on to Yeltsin now, but these last few chapters are longer than most of the earlier chapters.  I already read the penultimate (I should get bonus points for using that word) chapter today so I'll just save the last one for tomorrow.  Then next week I'll start on essay #2.

But for now, let us leave dismal, rainy England (it is a stereotypically English day today, rainy and a bit chilly...lucky for me I got the dogs walked before it started pouring, unlike yesterday when we walked in the rain!) anyway, leave dismal, rainy England for sunny Italy!  I don't remember if I posted this pic already or not since I started looking through our small camera pics today:

There we are in Pompeii.  And here's beautiful Sarah:

Part of the reason (most of the reason) we walked all the way from our hotel to the Colosseum was that we were trying to find four Roma passes, which get you unlimited public transportation for three days and also free admission to two selected attractions (the Colosseum being one of them, and you get to skip the long line if you have a Roma pass) and reduced admission after the first two freebies.  We got three passes without too much trouble but it took us forever to find the fourth one.

Lee and Scott at the cafe where I discovered the lever-on-the-floor thing to make the bathroom sinks work.

Ok, so after the Colosseum and the Forum, we made our way over to the Church of San Clemente to start a Roman underground tour.  Unlike the Pompeii trip, this tour was *awesome* though it was all on foot, so lots of walking and of course lots of stairs.  We went to several churches that were built on top of older churches that were built on top of old manor houses--Rome is basically a giant stack of archaeological pancakes.  Really, really OLD pancakes.

This is one of the bell towers that were built by two guys I think were brothers or something and they built towers all over Rome and they all look alike.  (Yeah, I took great notes during the tour.  I promise the tour guide was phenomenal.)

The discs are plates from Muslim countries.  The Italian architects liked the colors, and they had lots of them, so they used them in building the bell towers everywhere.

I was excited to see SPQR lots of different places, mostly because I learned what it meant (the senate and people of Rome) from Rick Riordan's Heroes of Olympus books (Son of Neptune to be exact).  I just thought it was cool.

This is a courtyard of one of those churches built on top of another church; they excavated a lot of the building but the previous church's courtyard is right under the current courtyard so they elected to leave that bit alone.  I think this might be the church that had an aquifer running through its underground bits and they're still not sure where the water comes from, but the 2000-plus-year-old Roman plumbing still drains it properly, which is pretty impressive.

Archway across from one of the churches and I think this might actually be part of an old Roman aqueduct.  Every time we see a series of arches, I say to Lee, "Look, a Roman aqueduct!" even when it's like a bridge for a train or something (have I shared that anecdote before?).  This time it might actually BE an aqueduct.  I know we passed one, but my memory is getting fuzzy since it's been a couple months since our trip.  Need to go back and verify what we took pictures of, hehe.

Roman recycling.

During the tour, we passed by several weddings, including one in this church.  The chandeliers look a little incongruous, don't you think?  They used to be in a hotel (or a series of hotels?) in New York, and through some weird connection when the hotels were demolished, the chandeliers got sent here to this church, which kind of makes for an interesting addition to the decor.

Check out that lady's dress, would you?  Click on the picture to enlarge.  This must be that Italian high fashion or something...she was a guest at one of the weddings we went past.  (Sarah laughed very hard that I took her picture.  Surreptitiously, but I still took her picture.)

See, there's the wedding, but despite our attempt to dawdle we didn't get to see the bride.  As the only two girls in a 7-person tour group, Sarah and I got overruled.

This, believe it or not, is HALF of the Circus Maximus, which could seat about a gabillion people for chariot races.

We asked why it wasn't being excavated, and partially it's because it would be expensive, and also the area is still used for free public events like concerts so the government isn't too interested in digging it up.

Another SPQR on a bridge leading towards the Trastavere area.  There's a modern legend that if you and your sweetheart put a lock on the bridge and throw the key into the river, then your love will last forever.  Of course, the government comes through about once a month and takes off all the locks, so mostly it just means wasted metal and a riverbed full of random keys.  I think there's one like this in Paris too.

That was the end of our tour and I wish I had been able to take notes as we went because a.) I'm a nerd that way and b.) I can't remember all the churches we went to.  Sarah is now convinced I have an unhealthy obsession with dead people because I kind of enjoyed going into the crypts and such; lucky for her she wasn't with us in Paris when we went to the catacombs in Paris.  I could have sworn I did a post on those but it seems to have disappeared?  Wonder how many of my past posts may have been eaten by the Internet...hmm.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


If you watch NCIS, you know how Tony likes to give McGee all kinds of nicknames that start with "Mc", and it's a habit I've kinda picked up a bit here and there (my dogs are often called McMuffins).  I've also caught myself saying "On your six!" when I'm behind someone.  But anyway, today I'm McStampy!  I finished up another scrapbook layout yesterday, woohoo:

Dude, I think I'm almost kind of a little bit obsessed with those seashells from SU's By the Seashore, I can't stop using them.  For this, I stamped them in VersaMark onto Very Vanilla cardstock, heat embossed with clear embossing powder, and then used sponge daubers to color them with Pool Party and Island Indigo ink to help them stand out against the background paper.  The patterns are kinda busy but the layout itself is fairly simple so I think it kinda works, though I wonder if I just squished too many different colors on here.  Still happy that I've got another layout done.

Made this to send to my brother, the Oklahoma State Cowboy, along with some cookies which are going in the mail tomorrow.  Still love that cowboy stamp, I've used it tons of times.  One of these days we'll do a Friday Flashback with Bronc Buster.

And here's something bright and cheery for today's SCS color challenge.  It's been forever and a day since I last played with any Ketto stamps so it was fun to kinda get reacquainted a bit.  I already know who will be getting this little girl in the mail too, gonna be sending off several things tomorrow!  (As always, more details over in my SCS gallery if you're interested.)

The doctors here are literally out for my blood.  I had blood drawn earlier this month for an annual thyroid check, and then again because my doctor said she wanted to check my cholesterol just because I'd never had it checked before.  I called to get the results today and turns out she only ordered a lab for the HDL, not the entire cholesterol panel, so now they want me to have blood drawn AGAIN.  Not my favorite thing to do, especially three times in one month.  Ack!  I kinda want to tell them hahahaNO but I'm sure I'll be seeing the vampires again tomorrow.

As Emily would say, I'm off like a prom dress (made me laugh so hard when she said it on her blog last week) 'cause I need to make dinner.  Maybe I'll be back soon with more Italy pictures...been spending so much time reading about Soviet history and politics lately that I haven't been getting around to other stuff as much as I'd like (she said, right after posting three crafty pictures).  Well, almost done with the textbook and then just three teensy tiny little essays to write.  Tata for now, peeps!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Rome: Colosseum & Forum

I turned in my first essay for my class yesterday, and I got full marks on it even though I forgot to incorporate the word "abrogate".  (I'm a word nerd, and just thought it sounded like a fun word to use when writing about the Russian Revolution.)  I did use "inception", "depredations", "culminated", and "onerous", as well as using "peasant" or "peasantry" a LOT.  Next paper will probably have lots about Stalin, who I'm pretty convinced was the basis for Emperor Palpatine in Star Wars.

Want a Sadie update?  She had an appointment on Tuesday and won't need another checkup until late next month.  She's still doing fine, and now cleared for 15-minute walks every day.  After a couple weeks we'll up that to two walks per day (well, at least I'll be getting some exercise too...) before trying a longer route.  She sometimes barely limps and other times she still looks a bit pathetic, and when she stands she doesn't put much weight on the injured leg, so she looks kinda lopsided in the back.

As for Vader, Lee and I decided this week that he has doggy Tourette's.  He'll be laying on the floor, snoozing peacefully, and randomly bark.  Even HE looks surprised sometimes when he barks.  Other times I think it's because he hears something but it gets a little annoying sometimes.  At least he doesn't bark nearly as much as the annoying mop dog next door.

Anyway, Rome.  We walked a really long way to get to the Forum and the Colosseum.

Unfortunately, we didn't take a tour or anything of either site, so I kind of have no idea what we're looking at.

That at least, I can tell you with 98% certainty is the Colosseum.  Alas, we did not get to approach it riding a Vespa a la Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday, but it was still pretty cool.  Before we went in, we decided to get lunch at a cafe nearby, which was yummy.  The one thing that confused me was when I went to the restroom and tried to wash my hands:  no handle on the faucet.  It took me 10 minutes of looking around before I figured out you step on a lever on the floor to make the water flow!

This place is mind-bogglingly massive.  And just thinking of how many animals and people met their end here makes me feel sick to my stomach.

Originally this was all covered over by the floor of the arena, and this was underground where they kept animals or gladiators or something.  It's like the backstage area.  And if I remember right, at one point I think they filled the Colosseum with water and staged mock naval battles.  That's one emperor-sized bathtub to play with boats.

Lee took this of us, and then I took some pictures of him goofing off:

Isn't he adorable?!  He should know better than to goof off in front of the camera if he doesn't want it posted all over the Internet for both of you readers to see.

One more 'cause he's just that cute.

They had some exhibits set up inside the Colosseum to show different bits of stonework and some historical schtuff.

We spent 20 minutes trying to figure out how to get down to that semicircle where the people are, only to conclude that it must have been some kind of special access for a tour group.  Rats.

Once outside the Colosseum, we moseyed towards the Forum and saw this proof that Napoleon got the idea for a triumphal arch from the Romans.  This is the Arch of Constantine.  I think.  And this thing is almost 1700 years old.

View of the Colosseum from across the street.

I love my sweetie pie!

And Sarah loves hers too : )

I think this picture is cuuuuuuuuuuuute.

Right after this we saw the first of several bridal photo shoots and/or weddings of the day:

I think it's funny that I got the other people in the shot taking pictures of the bride.  Lee would have tried to take one without them but I think it's funnier this way.

I must have taken this one too, it leans to the left.

And that's it for the forum and Colosseum.  Kinda wish I'd gotten to go on a tour like Vicki did with her family, but what can ya do.  We did do a tour right after this...

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Like riding a bike!

So after spending a lot of time this morning reading about Lenin and Stalin (did I mention my current class is Russia & Eastern Europe in World Affairs?  I'm gonna just call it REEWA now), I needed to do something else for a while.  Last week, my friend Carrie asked to see a picture of my mom so I showed her the scrapbook I'd started from when my parental units visited us in Okinawa in 2008, and so today I thought I'd work on a new layout for that because at some point I'd love to actually have some *finished* scrapbooks to show off.  Behold!

Yeah, sorry for the glare on the center photos, but I was just so excited that I'd gotten a layout started *and* completed in a single afternoon that I didn't stop to take a better pic of the layout.  These are the professional pictures we had done at White River photo studio (see the original blog post here).  What took the longest was trying to figure out what colors and papers I wanted to use...Mom and I are wearing two very different bold colors, Dad and Lee are basically in black, but all of us had some gold on our outfits, which gave me the So Saffron background color.  I really loved that floral pattern on the top of the layout (it's a stripe from a sheet that has stripes of a bunch of different patterns) and then I thought the Old Olive was a good complimentary color for both the teal and red without competing with them.  Kept it really simple since these were kind of formal portraits, but I'm pretty pleased with it.

So now I've done a grand total of TWO scrapbook pages this year.  Yay me!

And now I need to go finish reading my chapter about Stalin.  Things I can mark off my list of things to do today:
-- read chapter 5 (working on chapter 6 now)
-- make a scrapbook layout (yay!)
-- email Dad about next summer's trip itinerary
-- clean toilets
I'm about to melt what with 85-degree temps and no AC, so I think I'll go find myself a fan and something cool to drink.  Ta!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Rome: St. Peter's Square & the Pantheon

Lookie here, I've got the first of the Rome pictures to share today.  First up is our hotel, the B & B Il Passetto, which was pretty awesome:

I think they only have like four or five rooms and this one was ours; you can see the little balcony there on the left.  The lady who runs it was super nice, very helpful, and spoke very good English; she had lots of recommendations for walking routes and restaurants in the area.  This was Lee's favorite of the three hotels we stayed in, and I think Rome was our favorite city in Italy.

View from our balcony to the left; right under where the sun flare is in the upper left corner is the wall of Vatican City.  Yep, that's how close we were.  We were also only maybe three blocks from St. Peter's Square.

We arrived in Rome a day before Scott and Sarah did, which is why we did the Pompeii tour the first full day we were there--Sarah had already been and Scott wasn't all that interested in seeing it, so we just met up with them at the hotel when we got back from Pompeii (super late, tired, and totally hungry...we had to make do with Pop-Tarts for dinner).  But anyway we got up the next day and walked out to St. Peter's Square, which Sarah kept calling St. Petersburg and Scott kept telling her that it would be a reeeeeallly long walk to get there from Italy.

Big fountain in the square...when we got there apparently there was some big hooferah going on 'cause lots of people.  But we never really found out what it was all about since we only learned a few scattered words and phrases in Italian, plus none of us are Catholic.  Well, Adam and I like to say we're 1/4 Catholic, but I doubt that counts.

There's somebody who's probably important in the Catholic church saying something in Italian.

This square is pretty huge; tons of people and still lots of space.  Of course, the first thing any of us thought of was the movie Angels & Demons and the helicopter blowing up above the square.

My first picture with Sarah, yaaaaaaaaayyyyy!  You know there will be lots more : )

The front of the church itself; pretty impressive.  We never did go inside it though.

Statues up on top of one of the wingy thingies on the sides of the square.

We walked down the street a ways from the square and Lee got this super-cool picture of the river.  Nice reflection.

And there's the church again, also a nice shot.  Way to go, Lee.

We walked by Castel Sant'Angelo and talked about touring it, but we figured we had limited time in Rome and we had to prioritize so we didn't end up seeing this one.  Instead, we walked and walked until we got to the Pantheon.

Another cool Lee picture.  I think I'm jealous.  Actually, he took all the pics inside the Pantheon too, which was fine by me because it's low-light and he's a lot better at taking pictures under those conditions than I am.

There's the dome as seen from the inside; it lets in the only light.  And rain, I'm sure.

And there you can see more of the inside; pretty impressive in pictures and much more so in person, though I do have to admit a twinge of disappointment.  Knowing this was built as a temple to all the Roman gods, I was hoping for more Roman mythology and less Roman Catholic, know what I mean?  But it's a Roman Catholic church now; Jupiter and Minerva and all their friends are nowhere to be seen.

Lee took pictures; I listened to Rick Steves' Pantheon podcast.  I actually downloaded a whole bunch of podcasts for the trip, but unfortunately my iPod will not hold a charge for very long and I didn't have a way to recharge it because we forgot to bring a cord to hook it up to the laptop.  Yep, it pretty much died after this second day of our 10-day trip.

The Roman gods may have been no-shows, but there was one Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles namesake:  this is the grave of Raphael, who was pretty much tied with Michelangelo for my favorite Turtle...maybe.  Aw dang, I don't know if I could pick a favorite.  We'll get to see Mikey-related stuff later.  And I might have to watch TMNT again soon.

Outside the Pantheon were these dudes, who charge money for you to have a picture taken with them, so I was sneaky and took this with a zoom lens and I didn't pay them at all.  Teehee.

Front of the Pantheon.  They really have some most excellent architecture in Italy.

We left the Pantheon and continued our walk towards the Colosseum and on the way saw a couple of obelisks.  Actually, now that I look in my guidebook, this one was in the piazza right in front of the Pantheon.

And this one was in the Piazza della Minerva, just about a block away.  I like the elephant : )

It took me a ridiculously long time to figure out this is the Victor Emmanuel Monument, also known as "the wedding cake" or "the typewriter".  It houses the Italian Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, so I've now seen where those are in Rome, Paris, and Washington, D.C.

One last very cool shot courtesy of Lee.  Wonderful composition with the statues and the flag.  I realize I haven't been doing a whole lot of the history thing with these pictures, but Vicki has so you can read all about it on her blog.  She's already posted a whole bunch of Italy photos (seriously, kinda putting me to shame here since we went in May and her family went in July) with very much more historical commentary.  So I'm working smarter, not harder, by directing you there so I don't have to write all that over here too : D

Totally unrelated to the rest of this post, but I totally want this shirt which I just found online.  That is all.