August 11, 2015

The Ancient City of Pompeii

We spent a day trip traveling from Rome to Naples to explore the ancient ruins of Pompeii. There is a fast train from Rome to Naples, so the travel time was only a couple of hours there and back. Starting at the Naples Archeological Museum is an ideal orientation to the story of Pompeii and the lifestyle over 2,000 years ago. The museum displays frescos, mosaics and artifacts saved from the massive excavation of the city, including the famous Alexander Mosaic.

The city itself has four entrances, so the sheer scope is a surprise to first timers. Stone walls and streets greeted us upon entry, and soon enough we were peering into homes that are so well intact, it's hard to imagine they are over 2,000 years old! We crossed over large stone crosswalks that Romans built to stay above the street level to avoid treading on animal droppings from horses and carriages. We saw temples and bath houses, urns and plaster casts, and pipes for plumbing water. The advancements of this ancient civilization were right before our very eyes. Our daughter, who had just completed the 6th grade curriculum for ancient civilizations, was amazed by the experience.

My favorite room was the Villa of Mysteries, the ancient Roman Villa with colorful, well preserved murals that hints at a cryptic and magical story. Rick Steves has a great audio tour of Pompeii to help you figure it out!

August 6, 2015

8 Things I Loved About Rome

Rome got to me, but in a very good way. Certain images on my camera keep visiting my mind -images that stay with me and keep the travel experience fresh. I keep remembering: 1) dinner at night, 2) guys in business suits riding mopeds, 3) the majesty of St. Peters - inside and out, 4) the ancient Roman ruins, 5) the statue of Mary and Jesus where it feels like Mary is thinking "Hey, I've got a child here... I'm busy parenting... whatever you need will have to wait," 6) THE OCULUS OF THE PANTHEON, 7) yum, 8) those shoes. Wherever you go, if you've been to Rome, it seems to stay with you. Or at least that's how it feels to me.

July 20, 2015

Rome: Vatican Museum

Our itinerary in Rome included a tour to the Vatican Museum. We were a bit nervous beforehand, thinking back to the crowded Louvre from a prior trip. Would it be enjoyable, or would we suffocate and get trampled on? To prepare, we watched a Khan Academy video about the Sistine Chapel to arm each child with hope and anticipation as we worked through the route. One of my favorite sights was the Hall of Maps, where walls were adorned with paintings of regional topography. The details were rich and enticing (even the font on the maps!). The Hall of Tapestries was no less amazing, or the statues from ancient Greece like the Belvedere Torso

A remarkable lasting impression was from the courtyard - a modern juxtaposition or "a sphere within a sphere". Check it out here! The tour ends with a 15 minute window to experience the Sistine Chapel in silence. No talking or photographs allowed. We were enraptured with the Last Judgement by Michelangelo on the first wall. Looking up at the story of creation is a gripping experience. The view was worth the effort. 

July 8, 2015

Rome: The Colosseum

Our first major stop in Rome was the Colosseum. On a tip from a Rick Steve's Guide to buy tickets at the Forum entrance, we avoided lines and strolled the Forum ruins before entering. The view was remarkable and the late afternoon sunlight hit the Colosseum at various dramatic angles. We took our time and circumnavigated both levels, quietly imagining what a roaring crowd would have sounded like 2,000 years ago. It's crowded for a reason, because it's nothing less than awesome. If you are interested in the structure and history, I recommend the Khan Academy Smart History videos.

June 13, 2015

The Recital

She started ballet "late", at 9 years old instead of 2. But she worked hard for over a year, faithfully attending class, stretching, dancing, and thinking about all things ballet. And now she is promoted into the level that catches her up with her age group. And when I see her on stage, I don't just see my girl anymore, I also see someone who just loves to dance.