Paris Pt. 2🇫🇷

My second day in France I had to wake up early, and take a train to Northern France. One of the cool things about Paris is that all long-distance trains make a stop or go through Paris. When I found out that I’d be going to Europe for the semester, I made a point to make sure I visited Vimy Ridge in Arras, France. I felt it was important for me as a Canadian to visit Vimy Ridge in Arras. The battle of Vimy Ridge was the first major battle that the Canadian army won. From April 9th to 12th of 1917 the ridge was fought over. The objective was for the Canadians to take the high ground from the Germans who were entrenched there. Whoever held the hill held the surrounding area. The French had tried to take back the ridge multiple times and failed, losing more than 150,000 soldiers in the process. I always think about that number, and it wasn’t until I visited Vimy that I finally understood.

World War 1 was fought mostly in trenches, they’d stretch for kilometres and would often become filled with human waste, dead soldiers and water. I find this terrifying but they were also apparently homes to rats the size of cats. That’s a big no for me. Soldiers fighting in the trenches suffered trench foot which is rather gross. It comes from a prolonged exposure to damp conditions, it would lead to open sores which would then lead to infections; obviously it wouldn’t adequately get treated, and the soldiers would be prone to gangrene which lead to amputations. There are still trenches at Vimy, and you can walk around in them, getting a feel for what it might have been like for a soldier. There are places between the trenches are sectioned off because there are undetonated mines. The site was covered with a fresh layer of snow, which added to the experience. I also met another Canadian on the site, and we realised that we were both Canadian because we were wearing flannel. I’ve had some really Canadian experiences abroad, and this was definitely one of them.

I walked around to the two cemeteries at the site, I’ve never seen something like that. Around Arras and the surrounding countryside there’s a lot of graves, each one seems like its bigger than the last one. A picture doesn’t encapsulate it, nor does it do it justice. I think what shocked me the most was the number of graves. Some of the cemetaries at Vimy held a few hundred, the ones in the surrounding areas had thousands of graves. The town of Arras and its neighbours share an incredible history, with outstanding views and I’ll never forget it.

After I came back to town, I had a few hours left before my train departed; naturally I explored around the town. It’s a tourist town, lots of small boutiques and restaurants. They even have poutine joint! Now I hate poutine, and if you don’t know what it is it’s fries, cheese curds and gravy, you can also get meat on it if you wanted. I opted for classic poutine with some chicken, I even got lucky and had a Canadian beer with it. I guess its safe to say by this point I was missing home. Now that I’ve been back for a while I can see that I’m coming off the high. I miss my friends, and I miss being able to hop from country to country. Arras was terrific, Vimy was incredible, and I’m so lucky that I got to see it. I can see it on tv, or it can come up in conversation, and I can say I went there. There were very few places that I went to in Europe that made me stop and take in what I was looking at. Vimy was one of them.

The next post is coming soon, I’m a tad bit busy, but I hope to get back on a regular schedule! Thank you for reading and for following.

George and the Dragon 🐉

September of last year I used to tease a friend that I’d run away to Sweden. She’d joke that she’d come with me, well I went to Sweden, she didn’t go with me, but I’m sure whenever I see her I’ll tell her to visit. The obsession with Sweden came out of a desire to experience something new and different. Well, nothing’s changed, and that’s what I’ve been doing for the last couple of months.

A few months ago my classmates and I were presented with an opportunity to go on a cruise to Sweden. We’d leave on Sunday and come home on Tuesday. We’d get a room, one night with free dinner and unlimited beer/wine and eight hours in Stockholm. Why not? Getting to Helsinki like I’ve mentioned before from Jyväskylä is a nightmare. The morning started with the group riding our bikes to the bus terminal. If you’re going to ride your bike in the winter, bring gloves. Three and a half hours later we were in Helsinki, I’ve been there before, but I’ve never really wandered around the city. Helsinki is a fantastic city, its full of life and oddly enough its full of things to see and do. Helsinki Cathedral is a great stop. It was built in the 1800’s as a tribute to Grand Duke of Finland, Tsar Nicholas I of Russia. Finland was once a part of  Russia and Sweden once upon a time. Swedish is actually the second language here. Today it’s a Lutheran church. There are four million Lutherans in Finland. IMG_2992

Anyway, after we walked around and saw some more things we headed to the ferry terminal. I waited in line for about two and a half hours. I hate the “getting there” part of travelling, it’s ass. Okay let me dial it back a notch, when I’m home in Mississauga, I’m a five-minute ride from the airport in Finland I’m three and a half hours away. So maybe it’s just Finland that makes me hate Finland. To my surprise, we were not on a ferry but on a cruise ship. I’ve never been on a cruise, I’ve heard only good things. Since I’m a student, I’ve been eating like one, not a lot of ramen but a lot of bread and eggs. On the cruise, however, well your boy ate his fat heart out. They had three different kinds of salmon, roast beef…. and all you can eat ice cream. Thinking about it makes me hungry. Dinner, however, was spoiled by an idiot who tried to wet willy me. I don’t like to be touched, I don’t fancy hugs, I don’t like having people put their hands on me, poking me, grabbing me, yes there are specific scenarios where it’s okay, but most of the time, please don’t. So this guy tried to wet willy me, and well I almost hit him until I realised that, like most times I see him he was piss drunk. Still didn’t stop me from being mad about it. After that fiasco, a friend and I went down to the duty-free shop. Twenty-four beers for ten euros, sold. I won’t lie to you I don’t remember a lot from that night, not because I drank a lot but because it wasn’t all that memorable. We drank, played cards and got hampurilainen, which is Finnish for a burger.

I woke up at the crack of dawn the next morning so I could eat, do work and take this Processed with VSCO with f2 presetThat is the sun rising over Sweden, those little islands actually have people living on them. It was a tad chilly, so I came back inside, and that’s when I heard the captain on the PA. He said that we’d been delayed due to a search and rescue that took place the night before. It wasn’t until later that day that we found out that after a night of drinking a student went out onto the deck, started running and jumped. A thirty meter fall into the November Baltic. People laughed, thought it was funny,  some made jokes in an attempt to take away from the seriousness of what had happened. Look, you never know what is going through someone’s mind, and I’ll tell you, drinking doesn’t help if anything it gives you courage. When you die in cold water your body sinks, so the person who jumped may never be found.

I stopped writing for a couple of days to think about the cruise, and while I had a good time, there were a lot of small things that happened, that I observed, or heard that made upset me. Made me think about how people could do certain things, be so selfish, be so cruel, and be so monstrous. I’m not perfect but if I ever resorted to spiking a girls drink, trying to rape someone, grabbing someone against their will, or not taking “no” for an answer I’m pretty sure I’d never be able to live with myself again. I know this post is about me going to Sweden but in light of recent events, I feel like I need to comment on this. The victims are real people that try to carry on as best as they can, and sometimes they suffer in silence or worse, alone. That’s all I want to say about this, and I think it’s the lesson I learned or experienced or saw first hand going to Sweden. I mean I already knew this, but it’s closer to home than you think.

The Storkyrkan, a gothic church in the heart of Stockholm was the only thing on my list to see. It features a sculpture of St. George vs the Dragon. It’s to commemorate the victory by Sten Sture, the Elder who was the Swedish Regent in the late 1400s over Christian I of Denmark. The dragon represents an invading army, which the Danes were. Sten Sture commissioned the sculpture, Sture prayed to St. George the night before the battle. So that’s the little history lesson and here’s the picture.
IMG_3053Due to the delay we only had four hours in Stockholm, and from the port, it took about half an hour to reach the city centre. Here is what I’ll say about Stockholm, it’s expensive, it’s small, there is an amazing mix of old and new architecture, the history is outstanding, the people are friendly, and the people are very well put together, from the way they look to the way they dress. I’d really like to go back there and stay a little longer. Each adventure has taken me to a new place, taught me a new lesson, provided me with a shot glass, fridge magnet and a new country to scratch off my list. So let’s see, Canada, United States, Trinidad, Jamacia, Barbados, Germany, Finland, Sweden, England, Ireland, Estonia, Italy, and Ukraine. Frankly, it’s a short list, and that’s a letdown.

Week By Week 📆

Somehow I’m still alive. I haven’t had a lot of time to blog or do anything other than school work in the last little while. It, however, is starting to pay off. So I’ve been thinking about staying here and doing another year and getting my masters. Then when I woke up this morning, there was an email from an internship that I applied to saying I’d been accepted. I was talking to someone and telling them about my dilemma of wanting to stay and wanting to come home. Strange how things can change in such an instance.

So what’s on the docket? Well, I’m heading to Stockholm this weekend which should be a lot of fun. I’ve always “threatened” that I’d run away to Sweden. In reality, I’ve just always wanted to visit. In December I’m heading to Paris, then Madrid and then meeting up with some friends from Barcelona in Barcelona. So more travel is coming, and I’m really looking forward to it. So Paris? Why Paris? I’m Canadian, and I’ve heard a lot about Paris, it’s almost romanticized. I understand its a beautiful city, but I’ve heard the worst things about the people there. We’ve got a lot of Parians here, and well they’re not the friendliest. I’m not going to let a few bad apples ruin the entire pie, so we’ll see what the people of Paris are like. I do plan on doing all the tourist attractions while there, but I also think it’s important for me to go and visit the Canadian war memorials in France. Vimy Ridge, Neuville-St Vaast Canadian Cemetery are the two that I have in mind and of course Juno Beach. 359 Canadians died taking that beach, they’re all buried behind the beach. I want to visit these sites because I’m a first-generation Canadian. I’m also very proud of being a Canadian and I wouldn’t be a Canadian without the sacrifice that those brave men and women gave.

Now in Spain, well the list is rather long. In all honesty, I don’t know a lot about Spain. I have a list of things to see, for example, Spain was once under Muslim rule in the medieval period. Their rule lasting in some areas more than 700 years. I think it would be amazing to see some of the old mosques. Obviously, football is on a religious level there so I hope I can get to a game while I’m there … Maybe El Classico (Real Madrid vs Barcelona) But we’ll see how much money I have if anyone wants to give me money that would be the kindest gift! I’m just kidding, I’ve actually budgeted reasonably well.

So a few more trips, a couple of things to see and do and then I’m coming home… Oh, I haven’t mentioned, my school back home is on strike, and well I don’t know what’s going to happen. There’s a potential that they lose the entire semester, I hope not, but it’s a very real possibility. It could affect my internship, that’s a little bit of a stressor but we’ll find out soon enough. Sorry for the delays in between posts, there will be photos and posts about Sweden and the upcoming adventure. I’m also working on another short story, but it requires a lot of research.

When in Rome 🇮🇹 Pt. Ⅴ

I don’t feel like writing today. I don’t feel like doing anything, but I know that’s not the behaviour that will get me what I want. What I want is to not feel like this, and what I’m feeling is a little lost. Maybe the best way to put it is that I feel like I’m on an island with all the mistakes I’ve ever made. I happened across some saved text messages that made me feel like I’d just pushed a kid with cancer down the stairs. I apologize for the visual. I will continue to write THIS post because writing makes me feel like I’m doing something productive.

I mentioned in the last post that we’d be going to the catacombs. The catacombs of Rome are extensive and stretch on for kilometres and kilometres. A group of eight of us headed out for the Catacomb of St. Domitilla (Via delle Sette Chiese, 282, 00147 Roma.) I recommend this catacomb because it’s close and for €8 you get a tour guide and admission. The hours are 9am-12pm then 2pm-5pm.  From Termini you need to get on the B-line and get off at Piramide, that’s five stops. The catacombs are a place where early Christians used to bury their dead, and there was some worship that went on down there. They didn’t hide out in there, all the large rooms in Catacombs were used for rituals like mourning meals and some prayer.  The Romans were a Pagan society believing in many gods, and they were not all that open to anything that would threaten the Roman way of life. If you read the underlined sentence back, you’ll see that not a whole lot has changed in the world. This made persecuting early Christians a focus for some Roman Emperors. It was not until Constantine the Great, the first Roman Emperor to convert to Christianity that Paganism was done away with, in the Roman Empire. Constantine accepted Christianity due to a dream he had one night during the Battle of Milivian Bridge (Rome was in civil war.)  In the dream, he saw a cross with “in hoc signo vinces” inscribed in it. That translates to “In this sign, prevail” His army marched into battle with the symbol below painted on their shields, and they won. Okay, that’s enough history.

labarum_cross I’m not very good with tight spaces, and the people from ancient Rome were far smaller than we are now. In the Catacombs, you will feel like a giant. I’m 6′ ft… I tell people I’m 6’1, but I’m a fucking lier. St. Domitilla is home to an amazing church. Unfortunately, I wasn’t feeling rebellious and didn’t take any photos. Seeing all the graves and the paints were something I don’t think I’ll ever forget. I’m fascinated with the faith of people. So these Catacombs are 30 meters underground. Tufa rock is a soft volcanic rock which made the digging of the Catacombs easy.  As mentioned before the Catacombs are small and we had about 30 people on tour with us. In one of the rooms I found myself in the corner and well I had a panic attack. It was the first one I had in about five months. Now I didn’t go running out, instead, I continued on the tour… It got worse. Two of my friends noticed and tried to calm me down. In the past, I’ve “needed” or wanted other people to do that but a few months ago my mom was in the hospital, and I had a panic attack while driving and almost crashed my car. Since then I’ve had to learn to calm myself down because no ones supposed to do it for me. When the tour was over I went over to one of the benches and sat down, it didn’t work, so I went outside. I asked my friends to wait, and they gave me some space. It wasn’t a severe attack, but I felt like everything was surrounding me, this sense of doom came over me, my hands were tingly and I felt like I couldn’t get any air. Panic attacks aren’t fun, but after about five minutes I calmed myself down. For me, this was the most significant victory of my trip. Around January of this year, I had them a lot, and a friend of mine put it in the nerdiest of ways of how to calm myself down. He said, “Think of it like Harry and the Dementors. Lupin said to think of the happiest thing and hold onto that.” I laughed, but it worked. I won’t say what I thought about, but it didn’t take long for it to work.

Now, this wasn’t my last day in Rome, but it’s where I will end this series of posts. Not because I’m tired of writing about Rome but its because the next day and a half we did nothing but walk and eat gelato. Saying goodbye to all of them was one of the harder things to do. You sort of build a bond and its tough to let go. However like I’ve said before travelling alone is the best decision I’ve ever made. I’m sorry there aren’t more photos in this post, but I promise when I go to Sweden in a couple of weeks there will be and when I eventually make it to France. ONCE again, thank you for reading. The next series of post will, I hope to be a short…ish story.

When in Rome 🇮🇹 Pt. Ⅳ

I’m beginning this post, and for the first time in a long time, my curtains are slightly open. Outside I see forest, powerlines and snow. That’s right, today October 28th, 2017 there is snow in Finland. We got about 5cm of snow the other day, I went from wearing shorts on Monday to fishing out my winter jacket on Tuesday. I like snow, I love the cold weather, just wasn’t ready for winter just quite yet. Oh, and I didn’t bring winter boots so I might end up falling and dying.

My view this morning, sorry this afternoon makes me miss Rome and the weather. I woke up a little groggy, late nights plus early mornings don’t make me very happy. The thought of going to the Vatican, however, was more than enough for me to get my ass out of bed. I’m not a Catholic, and I’m not religious but how cool is it that I get to visit one of the holiest places in the world. I’ve always had this dream of standing in St. Peter’s Square and just looking around. Going into the Sistine Chaple, visiting St. Peter’s Basilica and just observing all the art.

It isn’t a matter of debate that the early Catholic church was far from perfect.  The sale of indulgences paid for the construction of St. Peter’s Basilica and for a number of the paints and artwork that can be found in the Vatican itself. Indulgences were a way for a person who’d sinned to reduce the amount of punishment they received in the afterlife. It was pushed by the church and priests, amassing a handsome amount of money. It’s kinda cool to read about, and this is the behaviour that helped spark the Protestant Reformation. Alright before I have a history attack let me begin!

I met my friend from the night before for breakfast. She introduced me to a few other people that she’d been sitting with and we all decided that we’d go together to the Vatican. I had a tour at 2pm, and they didn’t but just being in the square was good enough for them. I’ve said to not do the tours, I stand by that, but I’ll talk about that a little later. The walk to the Vatican took about a million hours or at least that’s what it felt like. Make sure to do a lot of walking in Rome because you’ll pass an obscene amount of gelato shops, my recommendation is to stop at as many as possible. Chocolate, hazelnut, coffee, kinder, Nutella and tiramisu are all delicious. They’ve even got vegan options! Please ignore my ugly hands.

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Getting to the Vatican is simple, and when we got there, my friends decided to take a tour. This meant we had to split up. Inside I had the most unorganized tour guide and actually ended up with my friends …. until I got lost. Getting lost in the Vatican isn’t the worst thing in the world. It gives you the freedom to roam around and see everything. I liked it because I got to avoid some of the crowds. Feeling a little cramped in there is a pretty standard feeling.

The Sistine Chapel is one of the biggest draws as it should be. If I’m not mistaken, this is the sight of the papal conclave, where the new pope is chosen.   Its also home to the Last Judgment fresco painted by Michaelangelo. It’s that painting where God’s finger touches Adam’s. The Last Judgement is actually more than that, it tells the story of Jesus’ second coming and the final judgement of humanity. It truely is an amazing piece of artwork with a powerful message. When you’re in there you’re supposed to keep quiet and keep walking to the exit. You’re also not allowed to take photo’s, that didn’t stop some people, and it didn’t stop me. However with that being said, I don’t think I want to share that on the blog because it’s not the best photo. Google it, and you’ll get an incredible photo. Exiting is tricky especially if you don’t have a group or aren’t on a tour. To get to the basilica, you take the right-hand exit. You could make a left and view the Jesus Christ Museum, I took a left and then backtracked.

Once I got to the square, I ran into my friends that I thought I’d lost. We all went into St. Peter’s Basilica which is where these were taken. A lot of sins paid for that building and I’m glad they did. It is absolutely incredible, and naturally, there’s a photo of me being an ass. There are people from all over the world there. I met an elderly couple that made this visit their 50th wedding anniversary get-away. Can you believe that? 50 years with the same person that is just incredible.

IMG_2803IMG_2807They came to one of the holiest, most beautiful places on the planet to celebrate their love. So damn cool! As we got ready to leave there was one thing on my mind and that was getting my picture in the square. When you leave and get into the St. Peter’s Square it leaves you breathless. The beauty, the history, just everything about it is incredible.

Oh, this is the photo of me being an ass, I have one where I was making horns with my fingers so I could send it to my mom. She said that the devil wouldn’t be able to go to the Vatican… some of my friends said the same them. Well, I showed them!


Here (below) is the photo that I took from the entrance of the square. It’s not the greatest photo, but hey, all I’ve got is an iPhone. Sunday mass was being set up which is why there are barricades, at the very front there are chairs set up and a stage. IMG_2819That was my day at the Vatican. We’d done a lot of walking, so we took the metro back. I believed I’ve already said this but if you’re on the metro and happen to be standing near the door and you have a shoulder bag or purse, hold onto that thing. When we got onboard, a girl walked by and snatched this woman’s purse from her. Now the lady got off the train and rugby tackled the girl and hit her but I want to just tell you to hold onto your bag, so that doesn’t happen to you.

Arriving back at the hostel we all took much-deserved naps and showers. Then we convened for dinner at Mamma Angela (Via Palestro, 53, 00185 Roma)  I had lasagna again, but it was just as good as the first time I had it. We shared a bottle of wine, wine in Rome is cheaper than water (Seriously). The great thing about the restaurant we chose was that it was right across the street from the bar and the hostel I was staying at. So meeting up with some friends I made at breakfast was easy. The only problem was, they wanted to eat. Adventure time #2! Kidding, we found a place to eat, I had a drink and then walked around. I got to know some of the people a little better which was pretty cool.

At night make sure to be in a group because handling street peddlers is a lot easier in larger groups. Somehow we found an Irish bar… they’re everywhere, and we settled in for more drinks. Over drinks, we discussed our adventure for tomorrow as it would be some peoples last day. The catacombs of Rome are extensive and were on my list, so that’s what we planned for the next day. I’d later regret this, but that’s for the next post which will conclude the trip to Rome. Once again thanks for reading!

P.S forgot to mention, the Vatican, or Vatican City is technically their own country but you don’t have to bring your passport. If you’ve been let into Italy you’re allowed to visit the Vatican… after a long screening process. Have fun and safe travels!

When in Rome 🇮🇹 Pt. Ⅲ

After my little adventure around Rome, I was ready to take it easy. I had a trip to Naples booked, I was excited to see Pompeii and Mt. Vesuvius. I didn’t end up going because it’s a bit of a rough place to be alone. I’m sure I would’ve been fine, but after what happened on my first night I wasn’t really up for anything like that again. The girl in my room was from Maritime Canada, so the craziest place in Canada. She told me about the mafia influence in Naples and shared some stories of what happened while she was there. Apparently, there was a stabbing and a mugging. I was a bit disappointed, but you know what? This just means I’ll get to come back to Italy and visit Florence, Naples, Venice, Milan, Turin and even Sicily. I’m reading that sentence again to myself, and it’s apparent that I have the travel bug.

I started the day with breakfast at this lovely little cafe. Anna (Canadian girl) and I walked down to the Colosseum and talked about Canada, travelling, all kinds of things. We split up, and she did all the tours, and I decided it was a great time to get lost. I had a lot of things on my mind, things that were just bumming me out, so I was more than happy to just be by myself. I didn’t take my headphones, and I wore pants. One of those was a mistake, it was 30 degrees or 86 Fahrenheit for my American readers. I walked around for about six hours and got five cones of gelato.

Eventually, I ended up here, Piazza Navona (picture below) Its the super cool open space in the heart of Rome. The obelisk is the obelisk of the Roman emperor Domitian.

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There is also a fountain there, but there wasn’t any water in it. Right now in Rome, there is a bit of a water shortage, so many of the fountains have been turned off to conserve water. I sat around eating my gelato and people watched. There were a lot of tourists, I struck up a conversation with Tanveer, a Londoner on his honeymoon. They asked me how to get to the Trevi Fountain, I didn’t know how to direct them, so I ended up walking with them to the fountain. I felt a little off because I for the first time in a long time I wished I had someone with me. I wished I was there with my significant other, I felt sad like absolutely fucking pathetic. Its normal, I’m still working things out, but after I left the newlyweds, I walked around some more and eventually found a place for lunch. That’s not exactly hard because there are food options everywhere. When I sat down, I was the only person sitting alone. Look I’m not going to lie to you the last few months have felt like hell. I wasn’t afraid, I just didn’t want to be there alone. Guess what? I was, I was there alone, and nothing in the world was going to change that. I had seafood linguine, the most filling lunch I’ve had in a long time.

I wasn’t grateful for the alone time, I know that will happen from time to time. Yes, it’s been hard, and things come up all the time that really get to me, but I was walking around and here’s where things got better. I was in Rome, a few weeks earlier I was in Ireland, Estonia and England. What I’m going through isn’t permanent, I’m out doing the best I can, and I’m taking risks on things that scared the hell out of me. I’m doing it alone and guess what, I’m proving a lot to myself right now.

On my way back I saw crossed a bridge and took this photo. That’s the Tiber River, the 3rd longest in Italy and one of the reasons Rome was such a power in the ancient world. It eventually drains into the Tyrrhenian sea, the sea that is near the tip of the boot of Italy.

IMG_2728That night when I got back to the hostel, I went out for dinner, alone. This time I enjoyed it and had the most fantastic lasagna ever. After dinner, Anna and I went to the bar, and I met a bunch of people. Some Aussies, a Finn! Some Americans, Germans, French, Korean, Canadians and some Danes. I met a girl from Minnesota, Danni and we agreed that we’d get breakfast and head to the Vatican the next day. It’s on my list to go, some of my friends make jokes about me not being able to go because I’m the devil. Can’t make to many arguments there.

I’ve harped on this but staying at a hostel is amazing, the people you meet will surprise you. ALRIGHT, I didn’t do a whole lot this day but I promise you there are some cool things to come and some good stories!

When In Rome 🇮🇹 Pt. Ⅱ

My second day in Rome started a little early, 7 am to be precise. Why so early? Because I would be going to the Colosseum, Forum, and Pantheon for a tour. If you go to Rome, buy a book and just go without a tour, you’ll save a lot of money. I didn’t need the tour because I mean I spent so much of my life studying these buildings and the city but like a tourist, I caved and took a tour. I did this because I was afraid I’d get lost. I spent 90% of my time in Rome lost and without Wi-Fi or cell service and I’m fine. If I can do it, you can do it 100%. So back to the point, I took a tour of the Colosseum, Forum and Pantheon. From Termini its two stops to the Colosseum, the Forum is across the path, and the Pantheon is about a twenty-minute walk, follow the tourists.

I just want to comment on the metro in Rome. It’s hot, it’s cramped, and if you’re standing near the doors hold onto your god damn bag. It’ll cost you €1.50 to ride and that gives you 100 minutes, not too shabby. Anyway, I got on the metro during morning rush hour; I don’t recommend doing this if you have trouble in small spaces or if you don’t like people touching you. I had a bit of a freak out due to the number of people, but it was only two stops, and as soon as the doors opened I bolted up the stairs. That’s where everything seemed just to stop and come full circle. When you get outside the first thing you see is the most iconic building of the Roman Empire, the Flavian Amphitheater, otherwise known as the Colosseum. IMG_2584In 64 AD there was a significant fire in Rome, leaving the sight of the Colosseum inhabitable. Nero took advantage of this and built himself a massive house, the Domus Aurea or Golden House on the site. Many Romans thought that Nero started the fire, he blamed the Christians, naturally and burned them alive. I’ve always thought this was cool, but Nero constructed a lake on the property. Fun fact, no one liked Nero, well the higher classes didn’t. This was due to his luxurious lifestyle, which he paid for by raising taxes. In 68 AD Nero killed himself after a trial where he was declared an enemy of the state. Another fun fact, he was the first emperor to kill himself, and this idiot was the last of the Julio-Cludians. Civil war ensued after his death with multiple parties vying for the position of Emperor. They all sucked, I think there was 4 of them in a one year span, with Vespasian ultimately winning. In 70 AD undertook a mission to put down the Jewish Revolt. Upon his return, he brought 100,000 Jewish slaves and a massive war chest. Both were used to build the Colosseum, a gift for the people. See, now you don’t even need to buy a book if you go and I got to use my major for something.

The building itself is super impressive, and I want to talk about it more but I won’t…. The Romans used to flood it with water and have naval battles inside. Okay moving on, the steps in the building are all pretty steep, but the climb is worth it. Inside you can see the tunnels where animals were kept and where Gladiators came out. The floor is no longer intact because it was made of wood as were many of the seats and the giant awning.IMG_2604

There is a giant cross situated near one of the entrances, its to symbolize the significant loss of life that the Colosseum has seen over the years. Its to “Bless” the people who’d lost their lives due to the beliefs in and of Pagan gods. On one side of the building, there is a large chunk of wall missing, the Colosseum was used to build other things, and its old and well earthquakes.

Next was the Forum, for whatever reason I didn’t enjoy this much. Well, I didn’t enjoy it while on tour. I came back later and did it with a friend. If you’re going to go to Rome walking is going to be a big part of what you do, don’t wear uncomfortable shoes, and watch your step. I twisted my ankle multiple times. You’ll notice that most of the women are wearing heels, they’re Roman and have evolved into these magical creatures that can walk with heels on cobblestone and thousand-year-old roads. You’re not Roman, don’t try it. Oh and bring a water bottle.

The Pantheon was our last stop, and there is a bit of a funny story. So we walked from the Palatine Hill (Colosseum Area) to the Pantheon. One of the best things about Rome is the history, everywhere you go there is something to see. For example, on our way to the Pantheon, we stood in the middle of the Piazza Venezia, which is kinda chaotic so please watch where you’re going. As we stood in the square, well let me show you

 

 

At first glance, the photo on the top left is just a balcony. It’s actually where Mussolini declared war on the Allied Forces. The building with all the scaffolding is where Napoleon lived while he was in Rome. Lastly, the big building is the Altare della Patria also known as Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II. Itlay was a collection of city-states and was not unified until 1871 into the Kingdom of Itlay. Victor Emmanuel was the first king of unified Italy. I cannot stress this enough, if you stand at the gates and look up, you will feel like the smallest person alive. The building is also home to the unknown soldier. So lots of history from various points in Italy all within ten minutes.

Onwards to the Pantheon! The word Pantheon means “Temple of every god.” I believe that is Latin. I took a few Latin classes at Mac and learned Carpe Diem… Okay okay, I learned that watching Dead Poet’s Society. Its one of the cooler buildings because its still in use today. It was completed 125-126 AD and was finished by Hadrian. The route we took was cool, there are restaurants, souvenirs, and gelato shops. If you’re in Rome and you get lost, get gelato it’ll make you forget about being lost.

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I said there was a funny story, right now the Pantheon is a church, Santa Maria ad Martyres or St. Mary and the Martyrs. People walked in with shorts but this one woman got stopped, and it was the most hilarious thing I’ve ever seen. She had a low cut top, and I guess her husband told her that she’d need to cover up. At the entrance, one of the guards looked at her and said, “This is a Church. Cover please.” Her husband grabbed the shirt from around his waist and forcefully handed it to her while saying, “I told you, Jenine! Gosh” I had quite the chuckle.

 

After the tour was over, I went back to the hostel and well I’ve always heard “It’s a small world” from my mom but never paid it any mind. On my way back I ran into an old friend from a job I had as a teenager. Then on the metro, I ran into a priest I knew from my days going to Catholic school. It was the perfect way to end my day but well it was far from over. Back at the hostel, I met a flight attendant who was in Rome for just the night. So did she ever drop the bomb with the insides on being a flight attendant. Yes, I’m aware I just used the word “bomb” and “flight” in the same sentence. So I’d never do this because I’m not weird, but if you take your shoes off on a plane and go to the washroom, it’s NEVER water on the floor. Also if your kid is playing in the aisle while foods being served, you’re the problem with society. Anyway, after that wonderful conversation, we decided to do all the shit I’d already done but during the evening. It started with Pizza and beer, then off to the Cirus Maximus. Now its one of the older structures in Rome, if you can still call it a structure. The venue was home to Ludi which are games for the people. Chariot races and gladiatorial battles are great examples of Ludi. The building in the background is the back of the Palatine Hill. IMG_2658

So I promise we’re getting to the end of this post. I did almost everything on day one. I did it alone and with a friend. My friends think I’m stupid for this, but I’m really self-conscious when it comes to meeting new people. I just over think everything and the words don’t go from my brain to my mouth in one fluid motion. At least that’s the way I’ve always seen it. At the end of the night, my new friend told me she was happy that I just said hello to her. When I think about my life, I’ve been able to make friends where ever I go for whatever reason. I’m grateful for that, alone time is great and its something I’ve reclaimed for myself lately, but it’s nice to be social and out with people. So That concludes my post for today, I’ll leave you with one more photo, and it’s a good one.

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Yes, that’s me in front of the Trevi Fountain!!! Post number 3 is on the way! Thank you for reading!!!!!!!!!!!