Final Overview

July 1st, 2012

Two things have really stuck in my mind about the trip. First, I am going back to Europe. Two, I can find things to do that are just as much fun as I found there in my own home country.

When we had free time during our stay, a few of us had looked up things to do through the Internet and brochures at the hotel. It helped us find things that we were interested in and made the trip a lot more enjoyable. Certain things we saw like plays, concerts, and local events could be found just as easily around my own home. And, although I am deeply going to miss all of the food I try, trying it just gave me an excuse to learn how to cook something new; something I couldn’t find in a southern cook book. Studying different styles and textures of clothes just made me realize I could probably find those at home, if I looked very hard in the right places. I could even take a fun daytime (not overnight) train to somewhere else with friends on vacation just as easily as I did in Europe. With some determination, I can do almost all of the same things I did there. That might tide me over until I can take another visit “across the pond”.

One thing I must say I liked the most from the trip was not bringing my phone. It was a complete get away from the rest of my world. One of the boys on the trip pointed out how everyone who brought their phone, including him, were glued to it the second they got internet access. Not bringing mine let me enjoy certain aspects of the trip more than if I were staring up, with my phone to the sky, hoping for service.

I knew I would enjoy the art work on the trip, but I did not expect to fall in love with it like I did. I realized I need to learn how to paint or make a good living to afford the beautiful paintings I plan to have in my house one of these days.

I only really knew a few people on the trip as we were boarding the plane to Rome. When I came back to Little Rock three weeks later, I made such amazingly good friends! I don’t think any amount of time around Ouachita could compare to the bonding I had with those nearly-strangers that went to class with me for three hours a week. I feel as though we can all agree on that. I wish so badly to relive those few weeks, but since I can’t, I am extremely satisfied with the friendships I made, the things I learned, and the experiences I could never recreate on that trip. Even though it won’t be the same, I am definitely going back.

That was by far the trip of a lifetime!

Oh the Places (and ways!) You’ll Go!

July 1st, 2012

I think we took every mode of transportation possible. We took a plane to Rome, bus to Florence, ferry to Venice (and of course a gondola or two), overnight train through the Swiss Alps to Paris (two words: cold and cramped, still an adventure, though!), underwater train to England, trolley to Canterbury, bus to London (via gorgeous castles), and a plane back to Little Rock.

I loved the daytime train rides and I think I can safely say I know my way around a subway. My favorite mode of transportation was probably the plane! We had quite a few misadventures during the trip; like that time the air conditioner did not work, no matter what bus we were on. Or when we got off the train in Paris and had to spend ten minutes stretching all of the kinks out of our legs. Those experiences were not as horrible as they could have been, thankfully. Also, going through all of those different types helped prepare me to know the etiquette and how to handle a situation on each ride.

The Gondola’s were very extravagant and, if you got on the right one, you would even be serenaded! You need to know the right place to go to get a ride on one, or else it might not be as worth while of an experience. It was very interesting to me that there was basically a parking lot for the boats by our hotel. They would pile up there each night and, every day, would form a line picking up passengers at the dock.

I had only been on a subway once before going to Europe. I feel like a pro at it now! Hardly any of the ones in France spoke much. When we arrived in London, however, that one was quite a talker! The one phrase I remember hearing most during my stay was “mind the gap!” I can just think about it and remember that British, recording voice playing every five minutes.

I am extremely thankful for getting to learn about each way of transportation and am even more thankful to have had such great sponsors as Tiffany and Brune(dog72) that showed us how to read all of the maps and give us hints along the way!

We Happened to Step into a Fairytale.. No Big Deal..

July 1st, 2012

So.. when do I get to grow up and become a Disney Princess? I don’t remember that being in my degree plan.

If I could, I would have my castle built just like Leeds. Only a handful of us in the world can say we saw Nicholas Crump chasing a peacock around a castle. And boy am I glad I can be one of them!

The lady who owned Leeds Castle, was Lady Baillie. She loved exotic animals and, when on vacation in Africa (if I’m not mistaken) took home peacocks and, her new favorite animal and the mascot of the castle, a black swan. They have been on the grounds ever since. (Fun Fact: The bird on “Up”, Kevin, sounds like a peacock!)

Also, the scenery is gorgeous! The only attraction they have other than a tour of the castle (and golf.. eh..) is ahedge maze (think “Alice in Wonderland”) that exits throught the center, goes through a “Dante’s Inferno” themed grotto, and out at the side of one of the hedges. The shrubs were well trimmed and the flowers were all in bloom! There were so many types of trees scattered about and a cute little cabin off to the side of the front lawn.

Lady Baillie was a very sweet home owner. She had her own chapel and threw Christmas parties every year that her servants were invited to. She’d serve them instead. She also liked to have nice things about the house. There were many beautiful portraits of her and her girls. She also had a closet full of shoes. I don’t know any girl who wouldn’t want that! The library had wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling shelves of books on all four sides. It was said in the tour that she had read every single one of them!

There were many people around the castle just going for a stroll. Some had blankets and a picnic basket spread out on the magnificent lawn. It would be one of those places I wouldn’t mind spending a Sunday afternoon (or every Sunday afternoon) at.

Impressionism

July 1st, 2012

Impressionism is my new favorite form of art! I love how it is simplistic in the fact that there are no elaborate details. An Impressionist artist concerns themselves more with the brushstroke and colors. Art work like Degas and Monet is used to amplify a tone or atmosphere of a subject or scene instead of worrying about what hidden meaning you can place at the back right corner of the work. Not a lot of people enjoyed the Musee d’Orsay as much as I did. I could have spent days there! This museum is solely focused on Impressionist works of art and is made from a renovated train station in Paris. How artsy can you get?! No pictures were allowed in the museum. I liked it best when they had this rule because I was not concerned with the zoom lens as much as I concerned myself with the art and the detail of it.

In the area of classical music, I am a big Debussy fan. Clair de Lune is one of my favorite songs. While I was leisurely strolling through the Orsay (to my impatient sister’s dismay), I came across a work of art titled “Clair de Lune”.  When I came back to the hotel later that day, I googled the inspirations of Debussy. He loved impressionist work as much as I did and apparently based a few of his songs off of the works of art he has seen throughout the years.

You can’t love Impressionism without loving Van Gogh. One thing I learned from the EST class was that you discover something new every time you look and re-look at a painting. I took a very close up view of his work during my time at the Musee d’Orsay. It is said that he painted “with his emotions”. The heaviness and direction of the brush strokes says a lot about his feelings at the time. He threw all of his frustrations into his work and came out with masterpieces that told a lot more than the mere picture detected.

The piece of art that took my breath away for a few seconds was Degas’ The Little Dancer. As mentioned in my earlier posts, I am a HUGE fan of texture and “slice of life” depictions. The fact that he built a life size bronze sculpture and dressed it in a tulle tutu, brass leotard, and silk bow tied around her hair amazed me. I honestly don’t know exactly what made me so drawn to it. When we discussed it in class, it just seemed like another work of art. Seeing it face to face; seeing what Degas saw years ago; it’s very inspiring.

My favorite two Impressionist artists (other than Degas) are Renoir and Monet. I just love the simplicity and elegance of their work. They are both known for painting “slice of life” events in a fairytale sort of dream-like way (i.e. Dance at the Moulin de le Galette and Umbrella). I could look at their paintings for hours!

(None of these photos are my own only because I was not allowed to take pictures inside of the museum. Otherwise, I would have a million pictures of Impressionist artwork to show you!)

When in Rome…

July 1st, 2012

One of the things I enjoyed most about the trip was learning about every country’s culture first hand. Italy had a very welcoming atmosphere; France carried intellegence in a upper form along with an air of individualism; and England had a strong heritage and love for their royals.

In Italy, hardly any restaurant had indoor seating. In America, we sometimes view eating outdoors as an awkward, “we’re way too close to other people and their conversations” situtation. There, it’s more of a community-centered, “let’s join together and have a nice blend of each other’s experiences” event. A few other girls and I went to have lunch outside of the Vatican and our host would have a conversation with us while he was outside trying to talk others into having lunch at his restaurant. While we were eating, he spoke German, Spanish, Italian, and English just in those two hours. He was so good, that he didn’t have to wait for that person to talk to know what ethnicity they were; he could just tell by the way they looked. One of the girls on our trip, Laura is a Spanish major. She started talking to him in spanish and it was very exciting. Nothing was rushed. During our afternoons off, we had many things on our “to do” lists to see, but we weren’t in any rush to get there like we seemed to be in other places. I think that had something to do with the relaxed atmosphere of the Italian life.

Siena was by far one of my favorite stops. We only stayed for a few hours, but it was a sleepy country village in Italy with a picturesque landscape and a plaza that everyone simply sat down at and watched the time go by.

One rather amusing thing I found out about the culture is that they love Americans. I collected a Vogue in every country we went to as a souviner. The Italian one had a page of famous couples. It included the Clintons!

France was a little bit colder than the whole of Italy. Paris is known for a high crime rate, though, so that might have something to do with people keeping to themselves. The population in general seemed to be very well read and cultured. Although most went their own way or beat to their own drum around those parts, everyone seemed to not worry about what anyone else thought or did along as it wasn’t interferring in their lives.

Paris obviously had a romantic atmosphere to it. It’s Paris, after all! There were many places centered around couples. The bridge of locks, for instance, where you could write your significant other and your own name down on one side and the date on the other. As long as that lock stayed locked on the bridge, you would be happy together forever! There were many romantic local legends such as that which added a sweet, sincere, and exciting tone to the City of Lights.

In England, although it resembled the most to America in the way that people were friendly, yet distant to strangers, the language  was interesting at times. Instead of “to go” they said “take away”, “exit” was “way out”, and certain courtesies that are suggested in the US were politely demanded there. The subway had a  sign saying “priority seating” including an illustration of a pregnant woman, a small child, and a person with a cane. There were also signs in the bathroom saying “please wash your hands” along with guidelines on how to do so properly. It wasn’t speaking to employees only like how American sinks do, it was implying to everyone. I also did not see a single person cut in line or try to use our big group as a way to sneak in somewhere without a pass like others in Italy and France tried to do (and failed). The British population as a hole was extremely proud of their polite heritage as much as they were proud of their queen. She was celebrating her diamond jubilee and everyone we spoke to was thrilled about it. Only one other queen has made it to sixty years on the throne (Queen Victoria). I did not hear one bad word about her or any of the other royals.

Shopping.

July 1st, 2012

European clothes are a lot different than American ones. They focues more on texture than we do. If you wanted to find a dress made out of something other than cotton in Arkansas, it would be a bit pricier than normal. Studying the make up and history of fashion is my forte, however, so I was extremely excited when I went to European stores and they had textures such as tweed, lace, plastic, and even metallic for affordable prices and in a tasteful, classy way (I’m not being sarcastic). Being able to do that requires a lot of creativity and out of the box thinking. One pink pencil skirt I saw had plastic discs sewn into the fabric. When looking at it from far away, it would kind of shine from the light hitting it. The discs made it have a rough-textured look even though It was smooth. This added a lot more depth to the item than you would think being only made from polyester and plastic. Lace was a lot more common in Europe than here. It was a more youthful pattern than something that would remind you of a doily. It was adorned on skirts, dresses, and blazers. It seemed as though it could be used as an accent to make a more vivid color stand out or could be the defining piece to pair with neutral colors so that the texture will pop out more. I have never considered tweed a good thing until I saw it at Zara. It blends a lot of different colors together so that, when viewed far away, looks like one full color (vaguely similar to pointalism from an art perpective).

Not only the textures, but the design of the clothes are slightly different as well. Everything seemed to fit Coco Chanel’s simple, yet elegant frame of mind. Nothing was overly elaborate or seemed to be made in order to draw attention to oneself (which I admire a lot). The very same tweed dress I previously discussed had a very modest round neckline and drew all the way to the top of the shoulders in the back. I rarely saw any skirts that were short or tight enough to fit a toddler or any pieces with gaudy, over the top gold accents as if to place a higherarchy on someone.

Due to the fact that Europeans didn’t seem to elaborate on their clothes that much, they did enjoy their accessories. Many wore scarves and bracelets. Even men found a way to look fashionable and accessories without looking feminine. There was one thing, however, that none of us saw coming: Italians love American Flag paraphernalia! I’ve seen a few people in America with the Italian flag on their jerseys or jackets. These people had t-shirts, sunglasses, jackets, and even leggings! I didn’t see very many people with Red, White, and Blue starred leggings walking about, but they were always around!

Humor Me.

July 1st, 2012

Just because certain things are older, doesn’t limit their humor. If you don’t know what I mean, watch a Shakespeare play; those are covered in comedy and satire. Art work is as well. Although those pieces aren’t as popular as others, it doesn’t mean they’re not good.

Children in art aren’t always dressed up as miniature adults. They can be comical too. This kid is messing with this man who let him up on his shoulders by taunting him with grapes. I don’t know why the child’s doing this, I doubt anyone does, but it’s funny.

This little b0y is playing with a goose that’s nearly his size while his friends are cheering him on. In the Borghese, all of the ceilings were painted with detail. I loved looking at the ceilings most of all because there was so much covered in the space provided. On the top floor as I examined the ceiling paintings, I noticed three baby boy angels on a the very tip top of a cloud. The boy in the middle was in the midst of sliding right off the cloud. His two friends on either side of him were holding his arms trying to lift him back up. The facial expressions on those three children’s faces were unforgettably funny! None of the adult angels seemed to be paying them any attention. They must have been the goofs of the group.

Many artists didn’t put their name on their work. They did put their face in it, though. In the School of Athens, Raphael painted a self portrait at the right side of the painting. He is the only one looking at the viewer as if to say “Ya.. I know you’re there looking at all of us right now..”. When Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel, he was rather angry at a Cardinal who kept nagging him about hurrying up on the piece. To show his annoyance for the way he was spoken to, he painted the Cardinal’s face on the serpent in the Garden of Eden scene. I bet he was quite after that! Michelangelo was also known to paint faces of people he randomly saw on the streets as the bible story characters or the saints he was commissioned to paint a lot of. I guess he needed something to help him make up all of the physical characteristics of each person in the painting; he just used what was around him.

Michelangelo also did a self portrait in The Last Judgement. Each saint held whatever was associated with their death; he was Saint Bartholomew’s flayed skin. Michelangelo was a lot older when he was commissioned to paint this piece. Some believe that he chose to paint himself as the sagging saint to show his feelings of contempt about being hired to paint it. He enjoyed sculpting more, but everyone adored his paintings too much. In Caravaggio’s David and Goliath, he paints his own face on Goliath’s decapitated head. His apprentice (and rumored boyfriend) is David, holding the head and the sword. Caravaggio painted this at a time when he was reflecting upon his life’s work. He was very unsatisfied with certain paths he took and was disgusted with himself due to it. His apprentice shows up in a lot of his works (i.e. Boy with a Basket of Fruit).

Isn’t this guy a looker? Some pieces of art, like the David and Goliath mentioned above, have a dark side to them. Yet some, like this handsome fellow, has a dark humor tone. No matter what tone it is, I did not see a piece of art that didn’t move me in some way or another. You can look at the pictures of the art work a hundred times. You will never be moved by it until you see it up close. Apollo and Daphne, for example, was one I had seen in pictures a lot. When I actually saw it in person and studied it up close, I was blown away! Bernini did a fantastic job of depicting the story of Apollo turning Daphne into a tree because she didn’t like him. Her hair and his cloth looks as though they’re whipping in the wind. She seems to be transforming right in front of your eyes! Where he touches her, if you notice close, there are imprints in her flesh, like when you hold your arm and some skin squishes upward and where your fingers are sort of dents into your flesh. Honestly, some of these pieces made me teary eyed. That’s saying something for me because I’m not a crier. You don’t get the full experience until you study theses paintings close up (and far apart to see the big picture) and learn of the history behind each piece. It is extremely moving! Every work was made for a reason, even if it was just to entertain (like the Ugly Duchess).

The Devil’s in the Details

June 30th, 2012

The more I explored Europe, the more I found that these people really do work hard with what they’ve got. I love details. I  think that they can change the whole atmosphere of something extremely easily. Although it takes a while to do, adding details to something can really pay off. Apparently the Europeans think so too.

These pictures were inside the dome at the Vatican. They were repeated around the entire cylinder. If you look closely, you can see that every inch is a mosaic. Not only that, but each tile is individually painted to get the right picture.

This could have been a regular drain pipe, but the architect thought he could do so much more with it. He was right!

This Egyptian Piece that came to London was of a husband and wife. Look closely! The artist chose to have the wife’s arm around the husband; maybe to show how the woman should support the man or maybe another meaning entirely. The artist did it for a reason, however, or else he wouldn’t have done it.

In Italy and France, there were many painted ceilings! A few ceilings, however, required a double take. This is all painted. there’s no dome shape at all! The painter even used optical illusions, shadowing, and 3-D to make it seem like it’s curved.

The ceilings in Versailles were painted as well. This detailed picture was only in about five feet of a twenty square foot space. Everything was overly detailed. If you’ll notice, it isn’t just a picture of a woman on a sphere, she’s on a globe. Not only a globe, but a globe facing the side with Europe on it. The artist didn’t have to do that, but he did because that is significant to the Sun King (who had Versailles built) .

There were more cultural details than artistic details in London. The Beef-eaters, for example, had a strict schedule to adhere to; including having their residential gates locked at ten and not being allowed to leave at all. Guards had a strict schedule too and had to walk, without a word, in unison from one post to the next. They could never be alone while walking. The cultural details had been practiced for centuries. Even though some of them don’t make since anymore, they still adhere to it just because of their heritage. The royal accountant must take a horse ride every morning from the palace to the bank (where he works) until five when he takes the carriage back at the end of the work day. Everything is detailed with a precise time frame.

In the Vatican, they have a hall dedicated to maps. The ceilings are fully painted (even though parts look carved) and each map of Italy is viewed as if you were looking out on the land from the highest point on the Vatican (therefore, instead of the southern border and the ocean being at the bottom of the painting, it is at the top). Each city and village is written down on the map along with all of the types of terrain.

At Westminster Abbey, they carve statues of influential people in society and place the statues all around the church. Do you recognize the man in the middle? I hope you do, it’s Martin Luther King Jr.

Europe keeps to it’s “detailed” way of art. This is a Lego mosaic of the queen for her Diamond Jubilee. It looks like an actual picture! It took a lot of time, patience, and work to do, but I would say it definitely paid off!

Eat This! Not That!

June 30th, 2012

If you know me well, you know I love food! Not just that I love to eat, but the textures, flavors, smell, display, everything about it is music to my ears! One of my most cherished experiences in Europe was trying all of the different food.

On our first day in Rome, we picked a restaurant for lunch that seemed decent. After five minutes, we realized it was American-themed. Everyone grabbed pizza and hamburgers, but I tried a calzone and a fruit pizza. It was so good! The fruit pizza had some tangy/sweet cream on it that mixed very well with the sweet fruit. The calzone was more meaty than it was cheesy. I found out later, that Italians love their meat more than any other food, so I guess you could call it an Italian version  of an American dish. Nevertheless, it tasted great and wasn’t burned at all.

The next day by the Vatican, I tried bruschetta. It’s toast with olive oil, vinegar, and tomatoes on top sprinkled with garlic and basil. They eat that for breakfast, lunch, or an appetizer at dinner. It was on every menu (equivalent to our onion rings-minus the unhealthiness) and was great each time I ate it. With the Olympics this summer, Coca Cola had a promotion on their cans in Italy. Each can had a letter on it and, if you collected all of them, you could spell out Italia. This wasn’t for any prize money or any reward like what you’d see in America. It was just so you could have the pleasure of searching and making the 2012 Olympic Coca Cola Collection. To Europeans, eating out is a refined experience (well.. more-so than in the USA). Each meal lasted about two hours. It didn’t take the chef that long to cook, but it was socially acceptable after the meal to converse with your friends at the table after the meal and order coffee; just sit and relax after a good meal. It was also considered rude to ask the waiter for your check. To them, it’s their job to make your time at their restaurant enjoyable; therefore, they should be well trained enough to know when you’re ready for the bill. I quite liked that set up as compared to being hurried out to make way for new customers like how some do in America, but every once in a while, we would have a reservation that the group needed to go to on time and we had to ask for the check as soon as we finished eating.

While we were in Rome, I also tried veal. As I said earlier, the Italians adored meat so much more than spaghetti and pizza as we would have imagined. Although veal looks like a fried chicken patty, it tastes one thousand times better! The breaded part on top wasn’t tough and, when you bit into it, you could taste the marinated beef very subtly. I only got to try it once, but I was very upset when I came back to America and realized I couldn’t find a place that had it on their menu.

In Siena (our favorite rest stop) a few of us grabbed lunch at a “take away” (their phrase for “to go”) sandwich shop. The chef wanted to make sure we picked a sandwich we would enjoy, so he passed out samples of cheese and meat for us to try. Nearly all of us got bologna and goat cheese. We adored it! That was another aspect of food being a big deal to Europeans. That man wanted to make sure all ten of us had a good meal that he gave all of us slices of meat and cheese for free, just to try. I was very impressed by his thoughtfulness.

Being a southern girl, I was having sweet tea with-drawls. This is the closest thing I could come by (and I searched high and low) that remotely related to southern sweet tea in Italy and France. It had no artificial sweetener in it; simply peach tea. All of their cans were tall and slender. When I went to a restaurant, I usually ordered two drinks with my meal  (no free refills) because I was not accustomed to  such small portions.

Four times, however, the whole group went to the Hard Rock Cafe. The first time we went, I got a hamburger, onion rings, and french fries. I forgot how greasy American food is. Once was good enough for me there, so the other times we went, I ordered a Local Legendary Burger. Each Hard Rock had their own burger that they made up with fresh ingredients from that town. It was the closest thing out could get to “Non-American” food there. The food might not have been my favorite, but I loved bonding with the others on the trip while we were there. In Venice, the song “We Are Young” came on the speakers. All twenty three of us belted out every single word from our corners of the building. The rest of the customers didn’t feel like joining in, though.

Europe’s chocolate is NOTHING like America’s chocolate. It’s strictly concerned about the flavor, not about how many you can produce/eat at a time. I don’t fully know how to explain the sweet, melt-in-your-mouth flavor that came from each bite. It’s one of those things that needs to be experienced on your own.

In Paris, crepes are a big deal. The dinner version of crepes are called “bricks” (I think). They were worth the big commotion, however. If we had stayed their longer, I probably would have gotten another freshman fifteen from them. In Europe, breakfast is between six and ten, lunch is between one and three, and dinner is between eight and eleven before you would spend the evening walking around the town and mingling with your friends. In France, the picture on the left was taken at nine at night. It didn’t get dark until ten thirty. The picture on the right is a man at a crepe stand making one with banana, coconut, and nutella. Nutella was HUGE in Europe! Again, one of those things you just have to experience for yourself to know what I’m talking about. They even had Nutella gelato! Which, by the way, is a lot healthier (and better tasting in my opinion) than ice cream. It’s made more with milk while ice cream is made more with sugar.

Another (of the many) differences in Europe was the fact that nothing was diet. I don’t even think they had a word for “diet” except in England. Everything was called “light” instead. And I’m sorry Dr. Pepper lovers, they didn’t have any over there either.

This was the biggest meal I had during the whole trip! It might look huge, but there are less than ten french fries on the plate. Portions were very small and every fish came with lemon for you to squirt on top of it. All of the condiments and seasonings were natural; ketchup tasted more like tomatoes and hardly any place served mayonnaise.

I tried creme brulee for the first time as well! You could taste the sugar on the hard top. I never knew you had to crack it in order to eat it. I loved that you could make something with a texture like a jolly rancher mixed with a cream on the inside.

Of course it was a necessity to try tea time in London! I got to drench my tea in sugar just like I do at home. I was a happy camper! The stereotypical tea in Americans mind is served every second of the day and includes tasteless crumpets. In reality, tea time is usually around three to five and is a between meal snack. It includes scones, pastries and little sandwiches with cucumbers and salmon. It was equally as delicious as the rest of Europe’s food! I would recommend tea time to anyone (especially if you’re in the National Gallery at four o’clock).

“Don’t Try This At Home!” (Or Ever)

The one thing I would never recommend anyone getting is stomach. A person who shall remain nameless on the trip ordered that one night. The waiter said in reply, “You do know that’s cow stomach, don’t you?!”. He let us try some when he got it… because he couldn’t stand to eat the rest but didn’t want to be rude and have wasted their food. It was disgusting! When I say disgusting, I mean you’ll want to spit it out as soon as you get it, but all you can do is continue eating it.

Other than that one circumstance, the food there is great! It’s extremely healthy  and always fresh. When I came back to America, I was honestly disgusted by our food, even the “healthy” meals. It’s all so greasy and seems to only be prepared for consumption, not for a good experience or atmosphere. When you go to a new place – whether it be Europe or Canada, or a new state – try something new! You miss out on so much if you don’t!!

 

“Good food is like music you can taste, color you can smell. There is excellence all around you. You need only to be aware to stop and savor it.” Ratatouille (2007)

The Old and the New

June 30th, 2012

During our first stop in Rome, I could tell that this would be a trip of a lifetime! When we walked around (and through every niche, alley way, and street we could find) on the first day, Tiffany stopped the group and told us to look over the rail at a random street we were on. When we looked over the railing, we saw another set of cobblestone streets. She told us that those were the streets during Caeser’s time. Rome had expanded outward all that it could, so it merely expanded upward, building a new city scape on top of the old one. Although the mixing of the old and the new was intertwined throughout Europe, it was the most obvious in Rome.

On the same day, we went to the Spanish Steps. At the top of the staircase, a man was sitting comfortably in a lawn chair with paintings all around him hoping to make a few buck off of his work. To the right, there was a grand, ancient Egyptian Obelisk with hieroglyphics detailed in every inch. The obelisk had been imported from Africa hundreds of years ago when Europeans discovered this “new world”. It was quite surprising how much detail was in it compared to its massive size. As we started gliding down the steps, we looked at the view. It was a picturesque Italian cityscape. All of the buildings looked rather old, but were renovated with modern colors and window fixtures. When we reached the bottom of the steps, I spied a news stand off to the side with “Vogue” written all over the top. There were so many people at the bottom just sitting on the steps and socializing or eating lunch; as if this breathtaking view were an everyday thing (and I guess for the locals, it was).

When we went to the Vatican the next day, there were so many ancient sculptures and paintings. Some of the ceiling paintings had nets underneath them to catch falling debris because they hadn’t been renovated yet. Amid all of these old buildings and pieces of art, there was a large, golden globe outside, that looked as if part of it had exploded, revealing the inside. The best part of all, it spun too! It was EXTREMELY modern compared to the rest of the country (yes, the Vatican is a country). I have no clue what the significance it has with the Pope’s land, but it seemed to have a message to it. Other than the texture and medium, it fit in with the colors and striking tone of the rest of the art work.

When we went to the Forum and Colosseum, you could see the eras go by in the architecture. One arch that was really brought to my attention was one of the many in the Forum. Tiffany and Brune told us about the Jews being persecuted by the Romans. A carving on the arch portrayed that. Although Rome fell (and fell hard), the Jews lived through their rough time and saw their enemies collapse. It’s amazing that out of all the architecture that has been demolished or worn through the years (and that counts for most of their architecture), this arch and this carving has stayed put; almost as a reminder that God will always be there for his people.

So many of the sculptures and fountains we saw were made hundreds of years ago, however, they were preserved by patient people who made sure that every last detail was sustainable. It’s incredible to consider all of the effort people made to keep things preserved. Even though the world changes quickly, Rome has somehow been able to adopt new trends and maintain their old world values. I can’t think of a better way to entwine the old and the new. Of course, they’ve had hundreds of years of practice to know how to place the two together in harmony.