Itty Bitty Pope Francis

There’s a lot going on in the world right now, but a little bit of pizza, pasta and Pope Francis never hurts (unless you’re gluten intolerant).

Where did I leave off in part one of Rome adventures? Saturday!

I woke up early-ish again to meet another one of my seminarian friends (stop rolling your eyes), Kevin. We broke the fast with cornetti again as we caught up on a bunch of stuff. I hadn’t seen Kevin since I was in high school in New York!

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I could get used to meeting people at St. Peter’s square in the morning

What I can’t get used to is finding people in St. Peter’s square mid-morning. I didn’t agree on a specific spot in St. Peter’s to meet up with Megan and Ceara after I had breakfast with Kevin, so it was like real life “Where’s Waldo”.

Eventually, Megan and I ran into each other amidst the sea of people, and we were reunited. Ceara’s friend, Sonja, joined us for the day too! We bravely decided to tackle the long line for the Musei Vaticani. The bravery is mostly for facing all the people who harass you to buy tickets to skip the long line into the museum.

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The wait wasn’t horrible though! Maybe an hour tops? That being said, the museum was absolutely packed. I feel like the whole museum is really just one giant line to get into the Sistine Chapel.

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The art is magnificent, don’t get me wrong! I’m happy that we got to see all the great artists’ works through the centuries and millennia.

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But let’s just say… I’m glad we got student discounts on our tickets. It’s a lot of stimulation with all the people and intricate artwork, and if you’re claustrophobic, skip this museum.

After a good few hours at Musei Vaticani, we were ready for lunch. Specifically, pizza. Ceara led us to a great place called L’isola di Pizza (The Island of Pizza), which sounds cheesy (no pun intended), but their pizza crust was the BEST.

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I went with the classic combo of cheese, tomato, and basil (it was different from the margherita though?), and although I wish it had more basil, I totally demolished this. That thin, crispy crust was everything.

Then it was time to walk walk walk in the beautiful weather yet again!

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With a stop for gelato, necessarily. Frigidarium take two. This time I got the famous Frigidarium flavor (a rich caramel flavor with some chocolate swirls, chocolate biscuit pieces, and that big chocolate biscuit on top!) + saffron pistachio!!!

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This was my favorite cup of gelato of the entire trip.

We took the bus to The Basilica of St. John Lateran and La Santa Scala (the Holy Stairs on which Jesus was condemned that were somehow removed from Jerusalem and brought to Rome by command of Constantine’s wife??), where we spent some time looking around and climbing the stairs on our knees while praying in remembrance of His condemnation.

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Basilica of St. John Lateran

It’s weird that I “got used to” this kind of view whenever I entered any church in Rome.

We took our time walking back up towards dinner, stopping by the Colosseum again to chat and watch the sun set.

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It was fun chatting with the girls about faith agreements/disagreements and cartoon crushes as we strolled through ROME. Agh, that will never not be cool to me.

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Eventually, we made it to a place that Denis recommended for dinner called La Vittoria. I wasn’t crazy hungry, but I still wanted pasta. This might have been my favorite pasta that I ate in Rome (but second best pasta in all of Italy after the gnocchi in Assisi)— spaghetti with spicy tomato sauce, bacon, and hazelnuts. I think I had a salad before this, but that’s not as exciting as pasta.

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It doesn’t look that great from the photo, but I promise it was. The bacon added a lovely smokey flavor that made my heart sing (probably cry too, but…). We stayed at the restaurant until it started closing up, which was the longest we had stayed at a restaurant during our whole trip. #TheEuropeanWay

The next day, Ceara, Megan and I had a light-ish breakfast of two last cornetti per person. We basically had to, because our Airbnb host gave us vouchers for free breakfast at a nearby cafe every morning. If they insist, ya know?

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this one was filled with custard, not gonna keep any secrets here

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and this one had a touch of apricot jam on it 🙂

After a little time to digest, we walked over to a church just outside Vatican City for Sunday Mass.

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Not only was the Mass in English, but the priest who celebrated, Fr. Gino, was from New Jersey (go northeast and tristate area)! He actually came up to us right before Mass started and asked us where we were from. He then proceeded to start the Mass and gave Boston University a shoutout in front of the whole congregation! It was no papal audience, but we were still super honored and excited.

Sonja met up with us after Mass, and we all squeezed our way into St. Peter’s square to see a special someone…

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CAN YOU SEE HIM!?

It’s your boy, Papa Francesco giving a sermon on the readings of the day and praying with all the people gathered in St. Peter’s square, which he does every Sunday at 12:00 pm when he’s in town. We were so happy to see him!!

I knew he’d look small being so far away, but I didn’t think he would be that small. His voice was amplified though, so we got to hear his tender, grandfatherly voice. I just wanna give him a hug.

Afterwards, we slowly waddled our way through the crowds to get to lunch at Da Vito e Dina. Megan split a supplì (fried rice ball with cheese inside) with me because I had been hoping to have arancini at some point during our Italy travels, so the supplì was the closest match on our last day. Good choice.

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For my last pasta dish in Italy (*tear*), I had the seafood gnocchi, which was very salty but very delicious.

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For our last gelato run, we chose Old Bridge, which is what one of my other seminarian friends recommended back from the States. The quality of the gelato was just as good as Frigidarium, but I think I liked the flavor selection at Old Bridge better. HOWEVER, I still liked my second Frigidarium experience best of all.

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At the end of the day though, it’s gelato in Rome, so I couldn’t lose. I got the biscotti, arachidi (peanut), and coconut biscuit flavors. All so good! And again— €2 for three flavors. I weep coming back to Ireland/the US.img_5254

After our last meal in Rome, we walked towards a park for some last views of the grand city.

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Sonja and I also got our yoga on!

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St. Peter’s one last time. ♥︎

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Then it was time to get our bags from the Airbnb and head to the airport. It was a little stressful finding the bus from the train station to the airport, but we eventually found out what to do after some flailing and confusion.

My airport dinner was a decent vegetable sandwich.

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Our flight was filled with rowdy Irish tweens, but I made my first Irish friend! He’s super tall, well-read, and 17 or 18 years old. Haha.

Since then, we’ve been back in Dublin doing our internships and continuing some class work. I’m SO BEHIND in catching you up, but I have officially finished reviewing the most epic trip of my life.

Praise God.

Not Your Average Tour of Rome

I didn’t mean to leave you hangin’ for so long!

There were a lot of things to catch up on coming back from our mid-semester break last week, so blogging fell to the bottom of my to-do list every day. But I can’t leave Rome out of the story! (see here for Zurich, Padua, and Assisi)

We arrived on Thursday night, and this was my unnecessarily expensive (though admittedly tasty and satisfying) train station dinner

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On Friday morning, we were awaken in our Airbnb by our alarm clocks…and Top 40 playing on the radio. Our flatmates for the weekend were up at 5:45 am with us and already blasting music. Is that normal in Italy? Please inform me.

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quite an extravagant light fixture in our Airbnb

After munching on some breakfast biscuits and getting dressed, Megan, Ceara and I walked approximately 20 minutes to St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City before the sun even peeped over the horizon.

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We were meeting my uncle, who also happens to be a priest in Rome, for Mass in the papal crypts of St. Peter’s Basilica. !!!!!! He kindly invited my friends and I since I told him that I’d be in Rome, and guys…It was an incredible experience. First of all, it was like Catholic Hogwarts with all the priests in their vestments saying Mass at all the different altars, with the little altar boys following with the chalices.

Secondly, the basilica is the most spectacular building I’ve ever seen.

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The original “Pietà” by Michelangelo!

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We descended into the papal crypts for Mass at the Our Lady of Guadalupe chapel at 7:15am.

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At the beginning of Mass, my uncle said, “St. Peter’s tomb is right next to us on the other side of this wall.”

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I’M SORRY, WHO!? PETER, THE ROCK OF THE CHURCH?

Unreal.

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I’m so awkward, help.

After Mass, Fruncle Alex took us to the hip cafe where all the priests and seminarians hang out for coffee and wifi, so naturally we saw seven men with Roman collars inside upon entering. Fruncle Alex and his friend, Brother Luis, treated us to scrumptious cornetti (a variety of croissants) for breakfast.

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I learned quickly to love the cornetti-for-breakfast lifestyle of Italy ♥︎

We are so blessed and seriously lucky to have had such a cool opportunity before 8am. Thank you so dearly, Fruncle (Fr. + Uncle) Alex!

After saying goodbye to him and Brother Luis, Megan, Ceara and I took the Metro into the heart of Rome. First stop was the iconic Trevi Fountain!

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All I can think of is Lizzie McGuire, to be honest. ALSO, Madre made this cute collage of me at the Trevi in 2003 vs. now. I guess this means the legend of the fountain works! I’ll have to go back to Rome again then…bummer 😉

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I had a better sense of fashion back then.

After we did our touristy thing there, we met up with my friend Denis from Boston University, who is a seminarian studying in Rome! If you think that 25% of my friends are males who are priests/studying to be priests, you’re not entirely wrong.

Denis was also extremely kind in taking us three helpless American lassies on a full day’s tour of Rome, which undoubtedly saved us a lot of headache, hours of getting lost, and tourist traps. More so, it was such a treat to catch up with Denis and hang out with him!

We met him at his college a little past 11 and then walked toward the Spanish Steps, stopping by a cafe for some paninis for lunch.

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I got this uber cheesy sundried tomato and arugula panini. Our plan was to eat on the Spanish Steps, but two bites into my panini, a lady kicked us off the steps saying, “No food on the steps. OUT.”

*Walk of shame*

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That didn’t put a damper on our lunch al fresco in the beautiful city of Rome on such a fine day though.

Then we meandered our way through the city, popping into some basilicas occasionally. Denis was such a wealth of information about all things Rome, which made the day 10x more interesting than we could have ever expected.

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only in Rome will you find a priest goods store

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Denis took us to his favorite gelato place, Frigidarium, and I realized the hype. Not only is it high quality gelato, but it is DIRT CHEAP. €2 for a decently-sized small cup with two flavors. We went there on Friday AND Saturday.

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For round one, I got a black cherry flavor + pistachio. The pistachio was some of the best I’ve ever tasted.

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We kept walking and passed through some of the big landmarks like the Pantheon…

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…St. Peter’s again (but with more time for all of Denis’ fun facts about it!)…

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Swiss guards (who legit have to be Swiss) guarding the area where the Pope resides

…St. Angelo’s Castle…

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…the Roman Forum…

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…and this thing.

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Classic Colosseum pics.

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Plus, like, five more churches, which were all awesome.

While all the historical, quintessentially Roman landmarks were super cool, one of the highlights was actually Denis’ seminary, which he showed us at the end. The building itself was beautiful, and not gonna lie, their movie room was pretty sick. Their courtyard even has orange trees!

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The BEST part was going all the way to the top of the seminary for the most stunning view of all of Rome.

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Check. this. out.

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We were blessed all weekend with warm weather and blue skies. I cry.

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I mean, can we get sisters a convent as amazing as this??

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And so the sun set on the most perfect day in Rome.

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But that just means it’s time for food. Denis chose his favorite restaurant called Ristorante Abruzzi, which did not disappoint. He told us he wanted us to experience a “real Italian dinner”, so we went all out with a bottle of red, antipasti, primi piatti, dessert, and digestivi (after dinner drinks). I even [kind of] liked the red wine, despite saying I hate it a couple weeks ago.

For my antipasto, I got the salad with a bunch of yummy stuff on it (read: artichokes).

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For my main, I ordered the tonnarelli di cacio e pepe, which is basically thicker spaghetti in a cheese and pepper sauce. I had wanted to try a cacio e pepe pasta dish somewhere for as long as I could remember, so that night was the night.

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Mmmm. Honestly, I liked everyone else’s pasta dishes more than mine, but the cacio e pepe was still great.

I went with a new and interesting dessert to me called “Montebianco”, which our waiter explained was a vanilla cake with hazelnut paste. I would now describe it as a cream pie/cake with icing and hazelnut paste on it. It was weird but tasty!

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Speaking of our waiter, his name was Carlo, and he was hilarious. He kept teasing Megan and Ceara in a grandfatherly way. He also made our after dinner drinks on the house! I had never had digestivi, as they’re called, but I tried the green sambuca and limoncello that night.

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no, we didn’t drink all of this

The limoncello was kinda nice, but I took too big a swig of the sambuca, which made my face feel like it was burning. It also tasted pretty gross. Never again.

Ahhhhh. This dinner was the perfect end to an exceptional day. Not your average tour of Rome, I’d say. I want to thank Denis from the bottom of my heart for taking a day out of his busy life to tour us around the city and share his knowledge with us. We had such a blast!

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hence all the pasta and dessert

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” – Colossians 3:17

Part two of Rome still to come! (I know, I know, there’s so much, but…THERE’S SO MUCH.)

Spill It Sunday #2: The Most Embarrassing Travel Pictures Ever

Thank God for weekends. I slept well on Friday night, which did wonders for taking the anxiety off my back. I think it had something to do with a) not having to get up early the next morning; b) having ample time to just wind down. Although the tea didn’t do much for me (I swear it made me more energetic), I’m still grateful that I can get some Zzz’s without resorting to drugs. I did drink some more last night though, and my sleep was pretty solid. I also really like how that Sleepytime tea tastes, so it was still worth it. 🙂

Another reason to love the weekend? Spill it Sundays on Arman’s blog! Last week I talked about my Asian awesomeness and Mulan, which I thoroughly enjoyed. This week is all about travel fun facts— the good, the bad, the ugly, and the awesome. Basically, this is a collection of unflattering pictures of me in my nugget stage. With some cool landmarks in the background. Enjoy!

The Big Man's World
I’ve been quite fortunate to have traveled to a ton of awesome places around the world, but these are definitely some of the top destinations:

Hawaii 2003

I used to live in California (I was born in Los Angeles), so we went to Hawaii more often than the average person I think. I lived in Kansas during this particular vacation though, and this was also our very first cruise! We went with my grandparents and our close family friends.

Highlights: Diamond Head, the beaches, the weather, the pineapples, the luaus, fun on the cruise.

Lowlights: sea. sick. ness. Ugh.

Fun facts: 

  • I was a stubborn child who didn’t have an open mind, so I was skeptical of the whole cruise situation, but when it was time to leave, I think I cried.
  • Also, my brother, my friends, and I decided to film the most ridiculous show in our cruise cabin about a Fart Museum while our parents were out for dinner or something. Yes, we still have the video. Yes, it’s as weird, embarrassing, and hilarious as you would think.

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Celebrity smiles right there.

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I’m such a tourist.

Europe (Rome, Paris, London) 2003

This was a huge trip. The main reason we went was for my uncle’s ordination to become a priest in Rome, but we just decided to make a big European adventure out of it!

Highlights: The Coliseum, St. Peter’s Basilica, seeing Pope John Paul II, Trevi Fountain, The Eiffel Tower, Versailles, The Louvre (and seeing the Mona Lisa!), Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, The London Eye, eating Nutella on baguette with warm milk for breakfast in Rome

Lowlights: I got a terrible eye infection towards the end of our trip, and since I didn’t know how to swallow whole pills back then, it was quite a struggle. My dad would have to crush the pills into little crumbs, and the inside of those things were NASTY.

Fun facts:

  • We climbed to the top of the Eiffel Tower! I think my little cheeks almost froze off, but it was still amazing.
  • Also, don’t ever take a picture with a man dressed up as a gladiator if you’re not willing to pay for it. We learned the hard way.
  • As I previously mentioned, my uncle was ordained in Rome, and he said his first Mass in St. Peter’s! We also went to the midnight Christmas Mass there, where we saw Pope John Paul II! My mom got her paparazzo on and stood on a chair to get the awesome picture below. I think I was actually sleeping when he came out…..of course.
  • Oh, and we stayed at a convent in Rome where we happened to meet a family who lived in same town in KANSAS as us. They even attended the same church! What are the odds?! Small world, people.

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Top of the Eiffel Tower

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Garden of Versailles

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Sorry. This is just too good.

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Ben at Big Ben.

Puerto Rico 2010

When we moved to New York, we were craving some tropical weather. Since Hawaii was no longer our neighbor, we took a getaway trip to Puerto Rico for winter break!

Highlights: El Yunque Rainforest, MOFONGO (our eyes were permanently opened to a new world of flavor), the weather

Lowlights: None, really!

Fun facts:

  • Our tour guide was a super fun and kind guy named Jorge, I believe.
  • Lizards were everywhere.
  • Mofongo rocks.

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Montreal 2010

We took a road trip to the very French part of Canada that we never visit, and I totally loved it! The quaint vibe, the food, and the jazz festival were right up my alley. I actually want to go there again next summer!

Highlights: Poutine, Jazz Festival, Underground Mall, street performers

Lowlights: It was HOT (see fun facts).

Fun facts: 

  • It was the hottest summer ever in Montreal (like, 102 F!), and since that was like a whole new world for the Quebec citizens, they were all walking outside while my mom and I took weird pictures in the Underground.
  • We had lots of poutine.
  • We passed by a guy named Marc Lavigne playing piano beautifully on the side of the cobblestone streets, and we told him that Ben is also a piano player. He let Ben show his talents, and he actually got a decent audience!

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Well that’s probably enough photo overload for you all. I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed embarrassing myself sharing my experiences!

So tell me: What were your favorite travel destinations? Highlights/Lowlights/Fun facts? Where do you want to travel in the future?