Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Exploring Rome

My plan was to take the bus to the Vatican this morning since Steve had been there a couple months ago. That worked fine except that there was no place to pay my money. You seemed to need a transit card. Except that I never saw anyone pay with a card. I never saw anyone even pretend to pay. Even the priest. I hung onto my E1,50 in case someone asked.

I wasn't surprised at the security at St. Peter's. After all, it would be a great target for anyone who hated Christianity. But when I got into the courtyard, I found it full of chairs ready for an event. This is Wednesday; the pope comes into the courtyard to bless the people. I could have gotten a great seat and undoubtedly shaken his hand, but I couldn't see sitting in the sun for an hour plus before it started, and then sitting there for another couple hours for the event. It felt disrespectful to leave, but I did.

I wandered along the river and through the Trastevere area instead.

I'm sure there is a banquet scene set in the Villa Farnesina in the book I have been editing for Henry Brooks. I was disappointed that the gardens were not open to visitors.

Henry's book is set in 1508. The building has just been constructed, and the artists are discussing what they plan to paint. One thing they are playing with is ideas of perspective. The niche over the door here is just as flat as the niche to the left. Both are simply painted into the plaster to give the illusion of depth. The garlands show fruits and vegetable from all over the world, many new to Europe in the previous decade and a half.

This upstairs room has scenes painted at each end. This is a flat wall. No columns. No statue in a niche. No city beyond the balcony rail.

Having come that far south of my return bus, I sought out the Santa Maria in Trastevere Church. The frieze under the pediment shows ten vigins with lamps coming to Christ.

The apse is gorgeous gold mosaic.

This 7th c icon is the oldest extant image of the Virgin Mary. So many of the churches here give more honor to her than to her Son. It must make her so sad.

I came home to a shower and nap. Then Steve messaged me that they were making great progress and he would come back this evening rather than tomorrow afternoon. Great news, but he wouldn't be back in time for dinner. I had this idea of where I wanted to eat near the Piazza Navona, but I kept getting turned around. I wandered the whole area without finding the piazza. I WANTED to wander the area, but I wanted to do it radiating out from a known point, namely the piazza. Very frustrating to go up and down, sometimes the same streets after asking directions. I must have looked left when I should have looked right or something. Finally found it, but the place I had been dreaming of wasn't open yet. Since Steve was going to be coming back, I found an alternative, ate my spaghetti with clams which he would not have enjoyed at all, and headed 'home.' Except I got turned around again. I finally figured out that although the map I was using showed little pictures of highlights, they weren't necessarily oriented correctly. It was 8:30 before I got 'home', only to find Steve had arrived and gone out for lasagne locally since I wasn't here. He pointed out that, although I don't have international data on my phone, the tourist app uses the phone GPS and could have told me where I was. Duh. Next time...

I'm coughing and my desire to go anywhere tomorrow is pretty slim right now.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Ancient Rome and a bit more

I am convinced one could spend a week in Rome and never scratch the surface. Steve was here recently for work so he let me choose what to do today. I chose the ancient part of the city. If we had it to do over, I would get a tour--ahead of time. As individuals we had trouble finding where the entrances were and the lines were enormous. We ended up wandering and looking from the outside. There was still a lot to see, just not the specifics I had read about in the guide book.

Imperial Forum

The crowds are pretty overwhelming. I found myself thinking of Peter and Paul here in the first century when this was already the most important city in the Western world. They must have felt as overwhelmed by the crowds as I did. And the heat. It was well into the 90s.

The Victor Emanuel II Monument is impressive--sort of like the Washington Monument in D.C. since he united Italy in the beginning of the 20th c. We didn't do it justice.

We collapsed at a table in a sidewalk cafe and ordered a big bottle of water before anything else, then wandered home after pasta dishes to cold showers and naps.

About 4 we headed out again, this time to the Piazza Navona with it's fountains, artists and sidewalk restaurants.

We stopped at the Pantheon on the way. Inside is a church. People talked despite the signs saying, "Sacred space. Silence please."

We poked into enough beautiful churches that I can't remember all their names. I may come back to this post when I have had time to label them all. The most beautiful, St. Agnes of Agones, had a sign saying no photos. Sigh. I respected that even though I saw others taking them.

Like in Portugal, I take church visits as reminders to pray for the country.

We wandered narrow streets...

...and ended up at Trevi Fountain. Have I mentioned the crowds? Or the heat?

We ate gelati for supper and returned to our hotel for another round of cold showers. Steve takes off tomorrow early for his two days of recording videos for on-line courses on theological education for ICETE. He'll be staying with his friend Marvin north of the city, so I will be on my own to explore. I'm thinking of taking the bus to the Vatican.

Coimbra to Rome

I loved sitting on the terrace on top the hotel in the evening watching the darkness come and the lights go on.

The day was exhausting. I went to the post office to mail postcards to the grandkids and then we headed to the train station around the corner. We had taxied to the hotel when we arrived since we had no idea where we were going, but on the way back we were confident to take the local train to connect to the Lisbon train. Steve had upgraded out tickets to first class. Ah, that all our travel were so comfortable! At the station we went two floors down to the metro which went directly to the airport. (The Portuguese don't seem to have figured out how much easier an escalator is with luggage than stairs. The one in the picture is coming up.) 

It took almost an hour to get through security. If there was air-conditioning, it was totally inadequate. One woman threw up, no doubt from the heat. She was clearly aiming for the waste basket, but missed. Half an hour later when we finally got to the front, the mess had still not been cleaned up. To be fair, they may not have known it was there. In the confusion over lack of bins and slow lines and everyone having to wait if someone needed to be frisked, I certainly forgot to tell them there was a mess on the floor back there. Then the bathroom floor was littered with paper towels and toilet paper and I won't say what was sticking out of the bin in the stall. That was after another long wait. When I came out, Steve still hadn't gotten in. Someone was cleaning so the men's was closed.

All that before we got on the plane.

We waited on the taxiway for 20 minutes to avoid a thunder storm in Rome. We needn't have bothered. A medical emergency forced us to land in Valencia, Spain, to take off a man who thought he was having a heart attack. Only the people Steve talked to who had been helping said they thought it was a panic attack. He had been acting weird earlier. Taking someone off the plane meant identifying all the luggage to be sure nothing had been left on that shouldn't be. Then it also involved paperwork for landing unscheduled in another country. We were two hours on the ground. Last I saw the man, he was being questioned and his luggage gone over by the police, not medical personnel.

It was nearly midnight when we got to our Rome hotel. At least we didn't have connections to make like the young woman across the aisle who was headed for Cairo, leaving about the time we landed in Rome. 

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Brazilians at Heart

We may be exploring Portugal, but it IS World Cup time. There is a plaza in the walking area just outside the old city where they have set up seating and a large-screen TV to show the World Cup. Even when there is no game on, there are pre-game festivities and analysis. The Portuguese love their "futebol", but tonight is Brazil's first game and the Brazilians are out in force. As we ate our dinner outside in another plaza (within earshot of the TV plaza), we watched the yellow and green shirts go buy. As the game started we were in front of the big TV. If there are any Swiss around, they are keeping a low profile.

Steve bought some popcorn and brought it back to the hotel room, but I expect we will be able to hear the shout when Brazil scores a goal.

Sunday in Coimbra

We've been looking at beautiful churches in Coimbra most of which have worship schedules posted indicating that they really are churches, not museums. I decided that I wanted to worship in one this morning. I had thoughts of going to the New Cathedral (18th c) since I figured it was likely to have the best music. It is located pretty close to the top of the hill. I reached the Old Cathedral three-quarters of the way up breathless about five to ten and could hear the organ, so I decided that I was high enough.

Between the Portuguese accent and the reverberation of the building I didn't catch everything, but did get the scripture readings and the apostles creed and the priest's request to be courteous to the tourists waiting outside to get in. (I later saw graffiti written on some steps saying tourists made the writer feel like he lived in a zoo, except there were other words included that I won't write here.) Can't say that I could blame the writer as I took shots of narrow streets and flowers on balconies.

I shared a pew with a woman in a suit who I'm pretty sure is a nun. I suspect she is principal of a school because several adolescent girls came up for hugs after the service asking what she thought of their singing. The music was sweet and resonant, totally fitting for the 12th c Romanesque building, although less than professional. There was a wide range of ages in the service including young people in the pew in front of us, and several worshippers of African ancestry including the priest and a couple of the young acolytes.

After the service, I explored the cloister, which dated from the thirteenth century. I could sit there all day with my thermos of tea and a book.

Steve stayed in the rooom this morning working on his presenteations to be recorded in Rome (the reason for the trip.) I brought him back in the afternoon. This time we did make it all the way to the new cathedral. I was amazed at how, after worshipping with the nun and the rest of the congregation this morning, I felt a loyalty to the Old Cathedral as "my church." The "new" gilded 18-th c baroque church felt gaudy and modern.

For lunch we went back to a little outdoor cafe where we ate nata yesterday (little warm custard pies made with filo dough) and ate quiche and salad and THEN nata and cafezinho. It is quite warm in the sun and we enjoyed the nice breeze.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Coimbra University

We took the train north this morning from Lisbon to the medieval university town of Coimbra.

This view from the terrace of Oslo Hotel where we are staying gives a good overview. The university, where we headed is at the top.

We wound up through narrow streets. There was a Renaissance-type fair going on in front of this Old Cathedral dating from the 12th century when the Moors where in control of the Iberian Peninsula.

The university is located in a former palace donated by King João III in 1537 (exactly the time period of my character Colin Hay in Wales.)

Here's a view from the balcony of the palace. The Joanina Library is the last entrance to the right. The  entrance to the Chapel of St. Michael is just out of the picture to the right. The statue is King João III.

I thought of Mom Hardy when I saw these organ pipes in the Chapel of St. Michael. The painting on the ceiling is very typical of this region.

Beneath the library is the academic prison, intended to keep unruly students separate from common criminals. Very motivating to keep university rules.

No pictures were allowed in the library itself. I'll have to look for something on the Internet. This is the old workroom.

After the library, we relaxed in the botanical gardens. We got turned around and disagreed about the way back to our hotel. We both turned out to be wrong, but we got there eventually.

Before actually returning to the hotel (to watch Copa do Mundo [World Cup]) we stopped at an outdoor coffee shop and then wandered down the street to the Monastery of the Holy Cross. 

The cloister was my favorite part.

This fountain in the corner of the cloister was where the monks washed  before dinner.

The church had another fabulous looking organ. Unfortunately no concerts scheduled this weekend.

The carved choir stalls had lots of character although most of the characters were more damaged than this one.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Cascais, Portugal

Manie took us on an outing down the coast to Cascais. The drive reminded me of going south to Cape Point from Cape Town, but the houses look more like Brazil with their pale stucco and red tile roofs.

Cascais is a tourist town of beaches...

...and narrow streets.

 We wandered along the promenade past this sand castle...

...and this fortress... this lighthouse.

Manie is a photographer, too, so we both scrambled for good shots like this Moorish-style house from under the bridge.

The house turned out to be the Condes de Castro Guimarães Museum with this beautiful courtyard.

For lunch we ended up at a local spot on a side street (not the main tourist avenue) run by this delightful woman and her husband.

I looked at the squid and shrimp, but ended up with grilled sardines since I had never eated them not from a can. I'm not sure I would order them again (at least, not with squid and shrimp as an option), but glad I did once. Mani instructed me in how to peal back the skin, eat a layer, then peal out the spine and ribs to reach the other half.

They were cooked in this grill on the varanda where we ate.

Steve did NOT eat sardines. He has a slice of beef with an egg and chips.

We ended up helping a couple couples (like the one in the background here) with translation. The arbor was full of tiny grapes that will ripen (according to our hostess) in September.

And here is Manie.