Posts Tagged ‘rome’

The Queen’s Walk

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014


The novelty of a double decker bus as a regular form of transportation in London was just one of many things that made me really enjoy exploring this world city. Hopping off the train in the morning and getting on a red double decker bus I would always hurry to the second level to secure one of the highly praised ad sought after front seats with the big window looking out over the streets directly in front of it. To see the surrounding sights of London from an elevated viewpoint gives one a sense of power yet separation from the surroundings, making it somewhat of an alien way to experience a new city, but in the best way possible. So camera in hand and my face close to the window in the front seat on top of the bus I watched as London slowly passed me by with a huge smile on my face and my eyes wide open to take in everything I possibly could. I even purposely took a longer route that would wind its way all the way through Westminster into the City of London so I could see everything from my royal seat atop the mighty double decker bus.


I went into the City of London, now the financial district to meet Emily, my father’s cousin who, along with her husband where kind enough to house me during my adventures, so that we could have lunch together on her lunch break in Spitalfields. First I made a quick stop in the Leadenhall Market that has been featured in the Harry Potter movies and when I visited I could see clearly why. Despite its small size it was really wonderful to behold. Wandering with my face up turned looking at the hanging flags, colorful banners, and glass ceilings stretching like long arms of a cross above the hallways of the market. IMG_3002

Shops to shoe shiners, it was a great little place filled with all sorts of business types making it a fun place to see and I thoroughly enjoyed it. IMG_3028


I walked from LeadenHall Market to Spitalfields near where Emily works but on the way took a quick peek at a beautiful train station, the Liverpool Street Station that was a wonderful mixture of old brick buildings housing the modern train station as well as being surrounded by some of the most iconic modern architecture there is in London. Hidden amongst glass faced skyscrapers, it was an interesting juxtaposition. IMG_3035


After lunch Emily showed me around the Old Spitalfields Market area that was really interesting and full of people selling all sorts of knick knacks. IMG_3044

Leaving Spitalfields and Emily to return to her lovely place of work I wandered around and decided to return to St. Paul’s Cathedral and from there go to the South Bank and wander along the river. I made sure to enjoy every street that I wandered down on my way to St. Paul’s. IMG_3056

It was interesting to lay in a nice little field below St. Paul’s and look up at its large dome, thinking of St. Peter’s in Rome, remembering how just a few short weeks prior (that felt like years ago,) that very similar dome had been my beacon signaling me home any where in the eternal city of Rome. I could stand anywhere in Rome and look for the dome of St. Peter’s and know, if I could see the Vatican, I could see home only a few short blocks from it; knowing if it was in sight, I was never far from home. To lay by the way side of St. Paul’s, a beautiful mirage of my now distant home, and think that the dome of St. Peter’s will always mean home to me, even though I will never again be able to look at my wonderful little apartment on Via Cola di Rienzo and call it mine. It was a sad realization, realizing your home is no longer your own, realizing the place that became my safe haven when the noise and clutter of Rome became to much is no longer a place I can return to. I miss Rome dearly, even amidst the splendor of exploration and world travel, I sat in that field knowing, no other city I would encounter could ever be what Rome now is to me. But that will never impede my ability to deeply appreciate the places I visit and the things I see, but it makes it plainly apparent the difference of being a traveler adrift in the endless sea of wonders this world has to offer, and the anchored resident trying to fight the current that tries to whisk you away because you know how important this place is to you now, knowing that if you don’t fight to stay, you will never know what it was to fight for a place you love.



After letting that realization sink into my heart, I continued on, letting the current of all things new whisk me away from St. Paul’s and the memories of St. Peter’s out onto the very interesting and very modern Millennium Bridge. The dome of St. Paul’s present, but diminishing in the distance as I walked farther and farther out over the bridge surrounded by the metal wings of its structure above the Thames River, cloudy and dark below.IMG_3104



Continually looking back over my shoulder to take in the view of London as I traveled closer and closer to the South Bank, taking the occasional look out over the river to the surrounding structures, I stood between the two sides of a magnificent city. IMG_3116

On the other side the entire vibe changed, there were musicians playing by the riverside, young people lounging, tanning on green fields below towering museum buildings, and various street performers including a woman dressed in a maids outfit (and not looking particularly happy about it) serving tea on little carts, a trumpet player who teamed up with a Charlie Chaplain look a like, and some break dancers. IMG_3118



I really loved the South Bank of London and walking along it back towards Westminster, I walked the entire Queen’s Walk, a nice pathway along the river that weaves through tons of museums, wharves, food stalls, and even a skatepark. It was a place so full of relaxed joy and happy activity taking place all around me, it was hard not to walk along the path smiling ear to ear. IMG_3138

Past old boats anchored for eternity, clock towers leaning over wharves, and many a person reading scenically (which I deeply enjoyed and eventually took part in myself) I wandered down the Queen’s Walk feeling like a princess. These two readers where my favorite, the girl perched above the Queen’s Walk sign reading a red book that she had just begun and the man all in white, leaning casually on the banister with all of the City of London in the background. IMG_3183


It was a warm beautiful day which made everything even nicer and more pleasant. I wandered into a side courtyard full of adorable shops and restaurants that made me want to stop in every single one and buy something, but instead I settled with some pictures. IMG_3141


After the food stalls and cute restaurants I found the skate park and a little book market where I bought the tiniest copy of Milton I have ever seen, maybe 3 inches tall because when is it more appropriate to buy a book of Milton’s works than in England… especially when it is tiny. IMG_3178


Finally rounding the corner into Jubilee Park I began to see the super iconic images of London, but this time from the other side. The London Eye, Big Ben, and the Parliament building looming across the river with the sun shining bright behind it, casting the structures’ shadows across the bridge and water. There was even some sort of carnival going on in Jubilee Park that seemed fun but was packed with people so I moved on quietly, enjoying the peace of the river for the clutter of the festival. IMG_3198


I crossed the river again over Westminster Bridge back to the territory I had tread the previous day, but not after first taking my fair share of pictures.IMG_3207


I made sure to go back and take a few more pictures of Westminster Abbey as the sun started to descend casting the sky in a deep shade of blue.IMG_3267




I concluded my day with another scenic bus ride to a tiny little alley way with an adjoining courtyard that I had heard about called Neal’s Yard. Seeing pictures of it online I had to go find it. It was a little difficult because I didn’t know its exact location and didn’t have an iphone to look it up on, so after wandering down as many alleyways I could find, I finally found it and was not disappointed. IMG_3312

It was really quite small but full of so much color and life that it was totally worth it. filled with adorable little restaurants and people sitting under the japanese maple trees drinking wine, smoking, and laughing together. The people there seemed just as colorful and full of life as the walls reaching upward around them. IMG_3301



Soaking in the color in the fading light as I had soaked up the sun during my wonderful wanderings on the Queen’s Walk I concluded my second day in London and wearily, but happily returned to the station to catch my train home after another tiring day on my sore feet. But the soreness meant nothing knowing that my feet had tread on stones previously unturned in places all over Europe that I had always hoped to visit. IMG_3328


Saying Goodbye Part 2: Farewell Dinner

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

For the official end of the program we all had a big dinner together that was so fun but also so sad because we had to say goodbye to everyone. Luckily I will be able to see some of the people I have become friends with back in the United States but it was sad to have to say goodbye to a period in my life that was so full of adventure and new things.

We had so much fun together at the farewell dinner, we all took funny pictures and ate great Italian food in an underground restaurant.


We took a couple of pictures of our Advanced/Intermediate Italian class minus Alanna. This group of people stuck out the whole semester together in Rita’s class learning Italian together and becoming really good friends.


So many new friends, so many smiles.

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One last night of wine and fun with all of these wonderful people.

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I will probably miss Gabriele the most who was one of the Italian Interns from La Sapienza, the main Roman university. He helped us through many an Italian conversation class, took us out to Aperitivos and laughed with us (or at us) throughout the whole semester. He honestly made it such a special semester and I will miss him dearly. 10293668_10152326903682891_8050487323436207639_o 10295277_10152326893372891_603603694900085051_o

We even had little tiny tiramisu in cups 🙂


And our last couple of nights as Romies (Rome Roomies)

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And then just some good old fun goofing off together and being strange. IMG_1508 10272511_10152326896942891_6119580309194827332_o 10015118_10152326895842891_872058088323024539_o 1941618_10152326894242891_4569875708876084071_o 887149_10152326897257891_6962843838114961902_o

The whole program all together for one last time.


After the dinner ended, anyone who wanted to come went out for a night tour of Rome where we wandered the streets until 4am drinking, laughing, reminiscing, and exploring together one last time.


We stopped by the Colosseum.

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The Trevi Fountain for one last wish.

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The Pantheon.

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And we all said goodbye at Piazza Navona and at 4am parted ways one last time to return to wherever we were going next. It was pretty heartbreaking, especially waking up the next morning and realizing a majority of the people in our program where gone and headed back to America.

I on the other hand am headed off to travel around Europe for a month, going to Germany, England and the Netherlands before returning back to Rome to fly back to the United States of America.

Ciao a Tutti!


Saying Goodbye Part 1: My Last Average Day

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

Everyone knows saying goodbye is the hardest part of anything we ever do. It is the end, the point in which what seemed infinite becomes suddenly finite in the most horribly tangible way. This week was the end of my study abroad program and it was heart breaking to say good bye to so many things. Saying goodbye to the people I have come to know and interact on a daily basis, the sights that I see every morning on my way to school, the incredible monuments that I walk by on a usual basis, the places I frequent and all the things that have become essential components of my everyday life.

Saying goodbye began the day I finished my horribly difficult finals and decided to walk the route I take every morning and take pictures of everything and everyone I normally see so I could always remember it the way everything was. The sights that had become so normal that I would very soon no longer have access to except through the shining veneer of a photograph.

My average day starts with walking out of my front door of my top floor apartment building in Prati, the area near the Vatican. Looking down the winding staircase, I wait for the antique elevator to arrive.


The tiny old elevator that I have come to love so dearly, creaks with the wait of my being and the shutters close with a rattling as the ascensiore comes to life bringing me closer to leaving the apartment.


To leave the apartment building I pass through our communal courtyard that feels like something out of some tropical city on the Mediterranean. A circular fern fountain in the center surrounded by palm trees where a pigeon with two lame feet always sits on the lip of the fountain under the cool shady space of the ferns.Feeling each cobblestone beneath my feet I pass by the fountain out the other door out on to the streets of Prati to begin my walk to the Study Center.


On my walk to class I pass by the old Borges road which is a wide avenue leading to the Vatican lined with cute shops and my favorite ivy covered building above a gelateria.IMG_1024 IMG_1030

Then I cross one of two bridges, one takes me by the Vatican, the other on the bridge below Castel Sant’Angelo which either way leaves me marveling at the towering beauty of the castle and the bridge that stretches below it lined with Bernini sculptures of angels each carrying an aspect of the Passion of Jesus Christ. IMG_1040

Crossing over the Tiber I find myself on a back alley street that leads me to my study center. My first stop on the alley way is a beautiful little passageway that has a starry blue ceiling and a little altar to the Virgin Mary. It is like standing under a night sky when you are beneath it’s arches.

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Right after the passageway of stars there is a Forno, or a sort of all purpose bakery that sells meats, cheeses, fast foods like pizza and panini as well as wonderful pastries. This place, Forno di Castel Sant’Angelo is my favorite forno in Rome and I love the people who work there, both the loud (semi-scary) woman who works behind the counter constantly yelling at the other workers and the cashier girl who is quiet yet very sweet.  I always get pizza and then go eat on the Castel Sant’Agnelo bridge overlooking the Vatican or I get a Romanello which is a sort of chocolate croissant.

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You can even see the Castle from the Forno standing in the street.


The stretch of street from the Forno until you reach my study center is one of my favorite walks because as you slowly progress between the towering, colorfully shuttered buildings along the cobblestone streets, moving past weaving vespa riders, you have your eyes fixed the entire time on the Boromini clock tower that gives the piazza that the study center is located in its name, Piazza Dell’Orologio or the Piazza of the Clock.

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As the clock tower looms closer and closer, with school only a few short blocks away, we reach my next and probably favorite place in Roma that has made a home in my heart very appropriately and that is Bar Amore, the cafe I go to every day for my caffeine fix and a little dose of amazing authentic Italian experience. This little bar has been handling with students from our study center for years and they are so extremely friendly, welcoming, and helpful that they instantly become very popular to the study abroad students because who can say no to a cappuccino with a chocolate powder heart on it?


Bar Amore is owned by the most amazing Italian family who instantly made me feel welcomed, like a family member with their warm smiles, and welcoming gestures. Always ready for a conversation and ready with my favorite foods along with my coffee order when I come in frustrated after class or early in the morning to get my caffeine fix for the day. I cannot express my love for them all, they were such an important and heart warming part of my study abroad experience and I am so grateful for all of their smiles, wise italian words, and for always giving me an extra heart in my coffee on the days when I was sad or having a hard time. This family really showed me how important it is to interact with people who are not a part of the program, because they truly made everything special and showed me so many things about Italy and being Italian I never would have known without them.IMG_1080

Saying goodbye to them was one of the hardest things I did, Elena and I both started crying and it was so sad to say goodbye. Fabio was so funny because he kept saying, Why cry? Why say goodbye? You will be back soon, it will be like you never left. But it made us cry more because we will both miss our daily cappuccinos and Ciambelle so much in the United States. 10177391_10203017216902774_5471348076645998325_n

after our tearful goodbye I continued on past my other usual places like the Tabacchi store with the woman who always sits out in front with her dog for a smoke. She always waved and smiled, yelling out a hello when I waved in the morning.


The tabacchi store is the last stop before the Piazza where my school is with the tower clock tower above the State Archives and Library of Rome. IMG_1091 IMG_1092

The study center itself is housed in this building below and is simply a floor in an apartment building dedicated to a university of sorts. IMG_1090 IMG_1094 IMG_1102

I said goodbye to the lovely ladies at the front desk who are always there to help and make me laugh whenever I need to smile. The two Chiaras and Elizabetta, the figure heads of the Accent center who I will miss dearly!


Also Bruno was a particularly hard goodbye. Bruno stands in front of the University everyday and says goodbye and hello every time I go in and out of the center, always smiling and waving. The one Ciao Bella I deeply loved hearing when I walked into the building every morning. His kind smile and happy eyes.


After going through my typical morning to say goodbye to everything I continued on to everything I see in the area around the study center.


This is the beginning of the street I take almost everyday after school to either go to my second favorite coffee shop, Piazza Navona, or anywhere else I feel like going. It is probably my favorite little street to wander down.


It is full of little vintage shops packed to the brim with old clothing and leather bags.IMG_1117IMG_1119

The street ends at Pasquino, the famous talking statue of Rome that back in the early 1500’s people would anonymously post poetry that critiqued everything from the Pope, economic, political, and social problems to denouncing a fellow neighbor. A long standing monument to uncensored poetry and the dissenting voice of the people trying to be heard, it still has poetry attached to it today much in the same way it once did over 500 years ago. Even though he isn’t very pretty to look at, essentially unrecognizably as a statue, I still love checking every day to see if Pasquino has anything to say.

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Then on to Piazza Navona and the three fountains that span the huge Piazza. IMG_1134 IMG_1137

Back around the corner is my favorite ivy covered building, right near my second favorite coffee shop that I can actually sit in and work at like a cafe in the United States. IMG_1141

I would always sit right at the very front table and watch everyone coming and going to Piazza Navona.


Then one of my other favorite little streets, Via Coronari, a cute little street lined with artisan shops and good food. It is a beautiful place to wander.IMG_1154

Behind the study center are more streets to wander down with buildings covered in fragrant honey suckles.


Also my favorite little tiny car that is always covered in hats and baskets. Please note the size of the car compared to the bike next to it. Yes it is that small. And yes it does drive around like that, I have witnessed it myself. Italy is full of these tiny cars, a majority of which I am taller than which is saying something because I am pretty dang short. IMG_1163 IMG_1165

The alley ways leading up to Campo Di Fiori are a beautiful mix of dark alley ways with artisan shops and graffiti nooks with fruit vendors. It is always nice to walk down it on any given day. IMG_1182

Campo di Fiori flower stands.

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And lastly one of my other favorite locations I frequent often, the Jewish ghetto which is known for its fried artichokes. I always go for the Israeli fast food and the delicious Schwarma in Lafa. IMG_1207

My last average day, left to wander the streets of Rome that I will not see again for quite some time. Hopefully sooner rather than later I will return.




The Colossus that is Rome

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

For my Ancient Roman Civilization class we had a couple of days where we did for our site visits some of the biggest and best of Rome, the things everyone from around the world comes to Rome to see. We saw the Roman Forum, the Palatine Hill, and the Colosseum. IMG_0562 IMG_0623 IMG_0620

The doors of ancient temples, the archways of triumphant emperors, the fallen columns of once grand corridors, lie all around us in the Forum Valley.

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Moving up from the Roman Forum, we climbed to the Palatine Hill where back in 753 B.C. Rome was founded on the place where the twins Romulus and Remus were washed ashore after escaping near death to be nursed back to health by a wolf who saved their lives. This hilltop, riddled with the remains of Royal Imperial Palaces and the luxurious buildings that the biggest people of Roman history once lounged in and walked around.IMG_0660

It also had a fantastic view overlooking the Roman Forum and the rest of Rome, the buildings the color of the dawn rising and falling like the rolls of the tide.IMG_0663

Ivy covered buildings, plant covered terraces, and monuments of the Colossus that is Rome rising from the ground in every direction you can turn.

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Even the Vatican sits far in the distance, the dome of St. Peters visible from its perch far away from the Forum.

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The entire class sat and listen to the lecture about the places we had seen, were seeing, and were about to see. Sitting basically in the shade of Colosseum we were looking back and forth between the Colosseum and one of the biggest temples of ancient Rome dedicated to Roma and Venus.

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It was super strange finally going into the Colosseum, I had waited all semester for this site visit, knowing that we would see it eventually for class, but finally here I was, standing under the barrel vaulted roofs of the corridors of the Colosseum with the hoards of tourists bustling about.

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The sights you see in movies, the images of postcards of Rome was standing before me suddenly and it did not seem real whatsoever. Walking around and around the Flavian Amphitheater taking in the view from every angle. Knowing that people travel from all over the world to see this place makes it feel very strange to be there, to look down at your feet and wonder how many stood there before you and would stand there after you had gone. This structure has stood for almost 2,000 years and people have walked these corridors for almost that entire time, how many feet, how many people have stood here before me. Thinking of the people sitting in these sloping stadium seats, watching the gladiatorial games, watching humans kill each other for sport, watching animals fight to the death, or watching mock battles to entertain the masses of a once massive empire. To stand at the feet of history and wander what your part in it might be is a strange and humbling experience.IMG_0733 IMG_0731 IMG_0729 IMG_0721 IMG_0714 IMG_0710 IMG_0706


This day was also just very strange because for so long I have looked at these monuments from the outside, never knowing what it looked like from the inside was something I had gotten really used to. I had become so accustomed to my one view point of things and to finally go inside these places, to see the Forum from within the pathways that are still lined with Basalt rocks that paved the ancient roman roadways. To walk the Via Sacra, the triumphal procession route that emperors and generals returning home successful campaigns stood where I stood. To see Rome from the Palatine Hill, where possibly Romulus once stood long before Rome became the wonder that it is today. Did he know? Did Romulus, the father of Rome, stand over his future empire and have any idea of what he little hut town would become? Could I stand there, where he once dwelled, and understand what it was that I was looking at?

Tomorrow I have my last final here in Rome which means I am done with my semester and standing on that Hill, standing on the Forum roads, standing in the Colosseum I still do not understand what it is I am seeing. I have been here for a whole semester and am still baffled every day by the wonders that are around every street corner. My time is going on and it is strange to be here in this eternal city, knowing, this city will continue on long after I leave as it has always continued on, eternal, changing but always the same. I will miss this deeply; Rome will remain the same, despite its decay, but I will never be the same.



What the Window Frames

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

Some of my favorite things about my apartment in Rome are the windows that open wide to look down on the bustling street of Cola di Rienzo below. Windows, shuttered, unshuttered, glass or iron grated, dominate the facades of most buildings in Rome. Tourists photograph them, sometimes not even knowing why. I count myself among this lot. Windows in Italy in general are beautiful, and there is something magical about them in an ineffable way. I feel compelled to take pictures of beautiful windows in the same way I feel compelled to take pictures of sunsets; it isn’t just for the beauty, there is something else I am trying to capture that I simply cannot explain. A mystery surrounds it, maybe it is what lies behind the shuttered windows, maybe it is the fact that behind every closed window lies a home, a world’s center, in which countless memories, experiences, and tiny everyday moments occur that I may never know about.


But now I find myself in the curious position of being on the other side of the window frame. I am lucky enough to be one of the lives that exist unseen from the looker-ons below on the top layer of windows that speckle the Roman façade of this apartment building. I am the one within the window looking out, the one hidden from those looking on from outside. What I have discovered from my perch above the streets of Rome is that even on the inside, you never stop looking. Just as those down below crane their necks to look to the windows above, those behind the windows are still looking out, either up or back down below.


I am not alone in this either, I see my neighbors, and the people across the street in the apartment buildings all around my own, and they are always looking. There is something unique about the look of a watcher, something that speaks of a desire that comes from an unknown place in your soul. A searching soul. They know not what they are searching for, but they are endlessly driven to look, never knowing the origin or the destination, only knowing the face of what they seek when it is right before them. Then and only then is it clear where or what our seeking eyes were wandering towards.


People will come to their windows, some will throw them open with grace of arms opened wide, others stand behind the glass with their nose only centimeters from the glass. Others emerge onto flower covered balconies, resting their elbows on the wrought iron fences that mark the outer limits of their personal world, turning their head this way and that endlessly. But the most important moment of looking isn’t the approach, or the slow wandering of eyes over what there is to survey above or below, it is the moment that person turns away. There is a strange pain in that lingering moment, the desire to never stop looking, but pulled by the weight of other everyday necessities, the seeker slowly turns, the body twisted, but the eyes remain looking over their shoulders. Seemingly unwilling to stop the never-ending search, hoping that in that last moment of looking the object of desire will be made know. But often, nothing illuminates itself, and the seeker sadly turns and walks back into their home to return to the normal everyday actions that beckon back inside.


What intrigues me even more than watching the other seekers from within their window frames, are the windows that remain shut. The windows that, even if the window shade is not drawn, no seeker ever comes to peer through the glass onto the world below. There are so many seekers, and over my months here I have come to know many of them as they come forth from their homes out into the light to look, but there are still more yet, that even though I see movement in their occupied homes, they never come to the window. These people are the ones that make me wonder. Do they have nothing to seek? Did they not hear the call of their soul to search? Or did they already find what their soul was endlessly searching for? Those windows interest me, the ones who seem to have no need to seek.

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What the window frames will always be a mystery to me, the common thread that ties my life to all of those in the buildings around me. We are always searching together, maybe for different things, or maybe we are all searching for the same thing, maybe we seek each other, or maybe we seek to be seen. I do not have the answer only the ability to recognize the yearning in almost every window that surrounds me. A community of strangers, linked in this tiny habit, but unknown to each other in our independent worlds that just keep spinning even in those small moments where the seeker takes a moment to poke their heads out of their world in search of something other.


If every window holds a world, then every building is its own universe, and I have found myself an explorer of worlds, desiring nothing more than to know the contents of what lies beyond the window just as an astronaut strives to discover new planets while drifting in the dark empty cold of space, knowing that there is more to life than your own little world.



Burnt Sacrifice

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

IMG_8877Smoke hangs in the air like the lazy wispy breath of a dragon left dormant, but dangerous. Filling the highest corners of the room, wrapping itself around you like a soft caress of a lover tracing the line of your cheekbones with tender ghostly hands. You pick up the books, each page carries the sent of cigarette smoke from the shop owner who sits languidly with his feet up on the small modest desk, the slight remnants of mud dripping from his work boots onto loose papers scattered haphazardly around the desk. Chair tilted back, one arm across his chest, the other cocked with the cigarette held like a smoking gun before the hazy grin of the warden of the books locked away behind glass cabinets. His wrinkled eyes squint with the stretched grin of a man who has seen too many things, watching the people as they come and go, enter only to leave, but the books remain the same. Slowly soaking in the poison fumes of his cigarette, which languidly rolls off the cherry red embers of the burning end, the books have been drinking the bitter taste of cancer for so long it has begun to taste sweet again. 

The warden flicks his hand sending the blunt withered end of the spent cigarette cascading into its pit of ash. Like an offering to the Gods, this burnt sacrifice has left only ashes and the smoke, the ghost of an offer, left to wander the pages of the books for an eternity of antiquity.


Disposable, discardable, and undesired, the remnants of a sacred offering turned to decay before the coals could fully die away. The slightest hint of red still pulsing in its dying frame. The man who cast the smokey ghost to the ceiling of the room, who, through cracked lips breathed the ghost into being from lungs grown slick with tar. He is a modern day dragon caught amongst his sacred treasure trove of books. But like the dragon that hoards his treasure until the end of his days, the dragon of smoke pillars, the keeper of books, this creature not only destroys himself but brings ruin to the books that grow weathered with curling brown pages tainted and torn by the breath of a dragon left floating in the air.

Yet how sweet the smell has become, how romantic this hazy den of treasure has grown, like the lull of sweet sleep before the eternal slumber finally pulls you down. Is this how it will end? With a moment of glorious transformation, in which the bitter becomes the greatest and most just of desserts that has ever come before my seeking hands? But maybe not on this cold day, where the smoke constricts yet warms my face like the kiss of a caring grandmother rough like sand paper against my cheek.

The dragon smiles behind his desk, watching with leering eyes my path that I am led down by the smoky trails of a ghost I cannot seem to grasp. Intoxicated by the warmth of its seking, the spell only broken with the ringing of a bell. The front door opens, a rush of fresh air, the awakening of reality as the smoke escapes through the door and I follow suit, leaving the dragon behind the door as he reaches into his desk, pulls out a new cigarette and witha  flcik of his hands, the very same gesture he used to discard his offering, lights another cigarette a new. His eyes watch me through the glass as the cigarette burns red again, he tilts his head back letting out another fresh plume of smoke between grinning teeth. The dragon has begun again.


Temple Guardians

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014


The victory temples of old stand a solitary vigil in the midst of a modern city that pays them little heed. Four temples, fallen to ruin and decay, walled in by tram lines, bus stops, towering shops, and a never ending flow of people. They once were celebrations of victory, temples dedicated to the gods that the Romans believed helped them gain victory, their remnants lie about the enclosure like an architecture bone yard of the ancients.

The only beings that set foot down there, the ones who have come to call this place their home, are the guardians of the temples, the abandoned felines that prowl the ruins. Victory temples turned cat sanctuary, these guardians of the past watch over what has been left behind after the decay of time set it’s claws into the crumbling facade of victory. These are creatures of desperation, creatures of hardship, vigilance and wariness. They watch from below, or from the pedestals where once figures of gods stood. They are the gods of this place now.

Brutalized by a city that does not want them, these mangled guardians slowly wander the overgrown ruins. Some with tails cut off, others with injuries that have left them limping, some missing body parts, and many left with a mean or bitter temperament towards the humans that must have abandoned them and left them to the streets of the city to survive. But others are kind guardians, their fur intact and a kind demeanor towards the few humans who visit them in their sanctuary.

I have sat and watched these mangled guardians, the battle scarred, the age torn, and the arched back hissing of two cats ill at ease and clawing for a fight. They are gods in their own right. Warriors of a city that have no place for them within its walls, but here, here in Largo Argentina, at the victory temples of old, they are guardians if not gods. A land of their own for them to sun bathe in, be fed by generous humans, fighting for the right of their land, and wander for endless hours amidst the decay of human ruins. Part of me wonders if they take a strange pleasure in being amidst the ruins of human activity, if they feel like lords of that which the humans failed to preserve. Forsaken by man, taken up by animals, it seems like the order of the world at hand.


The Difference a Daisy Can Make

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

There is a haven to be found in every home you make. A place where the earth seems to resonate and the trees sway like a dancer in the wind that captures your heart with the grace and gentleness of a mother’s comforting embrace. In a field of daisies, underneath a cherry tree with cherry blossoms spinning in the air, lazily making their way down from above onto the green grass below, I felt the air resonate like the beat of a hummingbird’s heart, the same as my own just on a frequency faster than I could feel. It was like the wind whispering a thousand times over this is home, this is home.  IMG_7682

There is magic in a field of daisies. To stand on a pathway and look at the hundreds of upturned faces of flowers reaching towards the sky, their nourishing mother the sun shining down upon each petal, each upturned dot of beauty that makes for a sea of life below your feet.

Spring has arrived in Rome. The trees have begun to come back to life, the flowers are blooming, the sky is the deepest of blues. IMG_7680 IMG_7670 IMG_7685

One of my favorite places in Rome is the sprawling park of Villa Pamphilij. The huge expanse of park space, just seemingly endless hills of rolling green that sits above the main city center, a haven of green, and trees, and the peaceful tranquility of life slowed down to the sound of a beating heart. The get away from the noise, the hustle and bustle of the city, into the nature that Rome has to offer is always a treat. Just endless hours to wander through long grass fields under the canopy of umbrella pines, that only let in leaks of golden light to shower the grass with warm rays of nourishing sunlight. IMG_7706

Weaving through the spire like lengths of the umbrella pines, feeling the long grass slip between my finger tips, this place seems so unreal, like a part of a different world, wrapped up in itself, its own like cosmic bubble just beyond Rome, yet still a part of it. IMG_7712

There are even green parrots with long amazing tail feathers that dive through the canopy of the trees, crying out to one another as they swoop through the park to find new places to rest their wings. I found one of their tail feathers amongst the grass and it felt like such a gift, to hold this beautiful feather, a work of art straight from the nature that spawned it.


There is so much in the park, so many different areas, different spaces all with their own special wonders that make this place a wonderland of adventure with infinite discoveries to be made by those who venture out into its long expanses of nature. It is one of my favorite things to just get lost wandering around this park. These are all just some photos of my adventure in the park, my haven of happiness to escape from the city center. 



Il Giorno dei Libri

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

As an English Literature major, and an avid lover of books, there is no paradise like that of sheltered haven of old books housed in a library with towering walls of ancient tomes and centuries old unopened pages. The other day I was in a book lover’s paradise. The name even seemed appropriate, Biblioteca Angelica, referring to the original collections owner Angelo, but to me it felt like a library of angels.


The Study Abroad Program I attend at the University of California Center in Rome has the ever fulfilling practice of site visits, wherein we the students get to go out into the wonders of Rome and have our lectures on site in many of the amazing places Rome has to offer up to those who seek its treasures. For one of my classes, Rome and Renaissance Literature, we had the pleasure of getting a mini little tour of Biblioteca Angelica and all of its centuries old wonders.


We were taken into the library and given a tour in Italian, which I was happy to discover I could understand almost everything she was saying. Our gracious host and guide through this wonderland of books, was kind enough to impart her extensive knowledge on the origins of the collection and its relation to the Church of St. Augustine, and the associated convent. The actual library itself, which is open to the public for study usage, and you know I will be back there in a heartbeat to study as soon as I can, was truly incredible. High ceilings, filled to the brim with walls of centuries old books, covering every inch of the walls, wrapped from top bottom and every corner of the building lined with beautiful tomes and books.


Standing in a library of old books is like standing in a sea of whispered words. Sinking into a warm abyss of aged pages, and words reaching out from paper to wrap and coil around your heart and mind like seaweed vines entwined around your being to bring you back to the books that sit silently, but softly calling your name. There is nothing more magical than a library filled with books spanning the great divide of time.IMG_8120

The library is from the 17th century, and many of it’s books are older than that. We were lucky enough to be brought down into another layer of the library where our host showed us some truly mazing treasures. She treated us to a handful of ancient books all from around the 1540’s that were just breath taking. There is something about a fragile binding, the browned pages thick and weighty to the touch, the gothic and italic scripts of printing press or a gifted hand that fills me with awe struck wonder. So much care went into these books, such dedication and time spent to create each one of these, and to think of how far they have come, and how long they have survived to end up in my hands at the very moment they were placed before me, today, this year, this life. It is amazing to think of the journeys that books take in their life time, not all of them are strong enough to weather the storm of time, but others are cared for or are lucky enough to be protected by the caring and cherishing embrace of a guardian. The stories that lie within the pages of these books, not just in the words on the page, but the stories and tales of time imbedded in the grain of the books, in every torn page or browned edge from the years that it lived and survived.


Looking carefully at each book placed before us, with eyes wide with wonder, the class beheld the books that beat back time to be with us in that very moment. IMG_8048

We had a selection of books placed before us, but the most notable for us and our class were three works we specifically had and would be going over in class. The poems from Pasquino, taken from the talking statue and published so that the voice of stone could be read more universally, the poems from the counter poetic contest established by Goritz under the statue of St. Anne and the Raphael fresco of Isaiah in the book Coryciana, and finally, the one that took my breath away, a really old copy of the Book of the Courtier by Castiglione.

The Pasquillorum, pictured below was an amazing collection of poems posted on the statue of Pasquino. Pasquino is a statue near Piazza Navona that from the mid 15th century to the mid 16th century, people would use as a place to express their political, social, or any other sort of discontent in the form of poetry by attaching their writings to the base of the statue. The poetry would all be anonymous and take on the name of the statue as a sort of literary shield that allowed people to write anything and post it publicly without threat of punishment or censorship. The book we looked at was a collection of published poems that had been collected from the statue and put into a book. It was amazing to see the things we had been studying in our class come to life in these fragile old books. The words we had been reading on rough photocopied paper transformed into the elegant script of a 16th century book.


The other book that we got to see was an extremely old copy of the Book of the Courtier, or Il Libro del Cortigiano by Castiglione. The marble front cover, the old speckled pages, the ornate inside cover, and the script itself were all beautiful. To have read and studied this book, and now see it in its actual 16th century binding and creation was truly an experience. To feel its pages, the slight rise of the printed inky black words, the torn corners, or the fragile binding that took this book beyond literature into a historical work of art in preservation.


I was so grateful for that experience, and it was definitely my favorite site visit of the semester thus far, but then again as an English major I am always biased when it comes to books, especially really old ones. We left the library in a state of awe and contemplation, pulled back from the depths of that silent, warm worldly embrace back out into the noisy bustling world of Rome, like a person being born again into a strange and unnatural world. I almost turned around and went right back into the silent haven of books, but I had to keep going. To let all of the experience sink in I went and got coffee at the well known Sant’Eurstachio Cafe, where I sat outside on the bustling streets of the piazza, watching the world move on around me. Thinking about how different the world before my eyes was than the world inside of the books we had just looked at. And strangely enough, in many odd ways, the worlds, though vast different, didn’t actually seem too far from one another. I could see the lining, the black words in the outlines of every person that walked by, etched into the words that came out of all of their mouths, were the traces of the same words used in those books. It was an interesting time to sit and watch the world, wondering about all that had changed, but also all that had remained the same. IMG_8103



Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

Fingers trace the lines of the knotted wood polished, like rocks made smooth by the crashing of the waves, by the seeking hands of the needy. Desperate fingers ring the wooden front of the pew, hopeless fingers, hoping fingers, searching fingers, tired fingers, angry fingers, ecstatic fingers, but most of all, human fingers holding tight to the wooden beams of fallen trees lined up like old layers of bricks used to fortify the foundations of a building. The pews filled with people, each with a different word, or a different hole in their heart, seeking searching, for something they know not the name of, the know not the form of, nor know the true power of, yet they come with heads bent down and palms raised up for answers.

There is a side chapel in the Vatican, reserved for prayer alone, where tourists cannot enter unless it is God, not vacation experiences, they seek. A room of silent reverence where a strange feeling lingers in the air, an odd shared glance with the nun kneeling beside me in which I realize we are all here for the same thing. No matter who we were, where we came from, or the thousands of different reasons or things that happened to us in our lives that led us to this moment where a nun and I shared a knowing glance with one another, in which we both acknowledged that we came not for ourselves, but seeking another.

It is in the moment in which she is beginning to stand to leave that our eyes meet, a little smile shared, but no words spoken. When she has crossed herself and left the small chapel, I turn to look back at the now empty place beside me. My eyes rest on the red kneeling portion of the pew where the indents of her knees in the red material are still visible. These indents of burden, these indents of faith, these indents of understanding left in her vacant space. Knowing that when I stood to leave, my own indents would remain where I once was too. There was something beautiful in the space she left behind, like an afterimage of a single part of a larger being. We all walk these different roads, lead these different lives, but can you not hear the sound of a heart beat always in your ears, and have you ever wondered if it is not your own? Have you ever stopped to think that these afterimages we leave behind of ourselves are all simply pieces of a greater being, drifting like ghosts in a world not meant for them because they forgot the sound of their own heartbeat when it was entirely whole?

The afterimage begins to fade, the marks of being have risen again, the pew left empty ready for the next apparition with the questioning weight of knees bent who forgot their way home. I stand and look down on the marks I will leave behind, knowing soon they too will fade, forgotten, into the red material of the wooden pew. Wondering, what soul had occupied the same space before me, wondering what they had prayed for, and what had led them to this point where they got down on their knees.  Knowing soon, I myself will be an afterimage, flickering for a brief moment in a little chapel in the Vatican, in the heart of Rome, wondering where my ghostly feet will lead me.