Monday, February 23, 2009

Look out America, I'm 21

WoW: News flash "Stacie N. Johnson is legal EVERYWHERE in the world!" (with the exception of countries which discriminate against women and give them no rights). 

Monday-- I gave my presentation on the Jewish Ghetto and History of Jews in Rome. The weather was awesome, perfect for my walking tour. I think I am a natural tour guide and may need to pursue a career in tour guiding. Not only would I get to talk all the time, but I would also be able to utilize my language, as well as pursue new languages. AND on top of that, it would give me good reason to move back to Europe (as this is my new goal in life... move to Europe, meet a European man, make him fall in love w/me, and ultimately--I'm talking 10 years from now-- get married so I don't have to go through the hassle of getting a visa) ha! 

This week was not that exciting, as I had another paper due in my History class. School, School, School... that's all I do over here (okay, that's totally an exaggeration). But, I have been doing a lot of schoolwork lately and definitely not enough city exploring. However, now that I only have 3 weeks left :( I've made it my vow to EXPLORE EXPLORE EXPLORE. 

Tuesday we visited my arguably favorite place in Rome-- Villa Borghese. Wednesday and Thursday spent a lot of my time writing my paper on the roles of women and widows in Renaissance Rome. We read some fantastic books on men's perceptions of women in the 1600s, namely-- women should sit and be still, as they serve not much other purpose in life.... HmmmMmmMMmmm interesting right? 

Thursday night I turned 21 at 12am, yay! It was a pretty tame night... a little different than a 21-run in the United States. All of the kids in my program left for their weekend trips Thursday after class, so I just went to my favorite bar with my two girlfriends Carly & Maya. Friday morning we packed, turned out papers in, and headed to Lyon, France. Maya's friends picked us up from the airport and drove us into the city. 

Lyon (which by the way I'd never heard of before coming to Rome) is one of the most incredible cities Ive ever been to. The city itself is larger than San Fran, but is scenic and quiet... like a European version of Portland. The city is bordered by two rivers and two hills on either end. Our three days there we walked the entire city; hiked to the top of both hills, walked along the rivers, explored the old town (much like the Pearl district), visited the new town, and saw all of the piazzas and side streets to be seen. Our first night out (my bday) the boys took us to the wine shop (voted best wine shop in Italy), through which they sell their wine. The owner took us on a tour of his wine cellar and opened up a bottled of 1988 Champagne to make a toast to my birthday. He then took us to his wine bar and had us sample a rosé champagne (I didn't even know existed) a white wine and a sample platter of the antipasti they sell at their wine bar-- so delicious-- maybe a little classier than 21 runs held in the States? ha! That night we went out to the river, which is lined by huge boats, and at night the boats come to life and turn into discos, bars and clubs. Overall, fabulous weekend trip to Lyon. 

Mardi Gras this week on Tuesday, Ash Wednesday and Lent this week-- maybe I will give something up for Lent? Probably, for my health's sake I should give up Nutella, but I'm not sure if I have the self control to do so! ha. 

Excited to be 21. Can not wait to get carded in the States, every time I order anything. 

Baci (kisses),


Saturday, February 14, 2009

A more "Intelligent & Sophisticated" post-- As requested by my mother

My mom was "quite impressed" with my last blog update as I expanded upon my learnings here in Rome-- seeing as my first and foremost priority here is "To Grow, Study and Learn". 

Well, this week I did just that... Mom and I had a little 'bet' going to see who could go the longest without drinking wine. I'm still in the running and I believe she probably had a glass of wine last night (Friday)-- just thought I'd boast of my successes.  Especially considering wine is cheaper than all other liquids here INCLUDING water. 

Lot's of school this week. I have a huge paper and 45 minute presentation due Monday for my Art History class-- which I'm going to rock! It's about the Jewish Ghetto and History of Jews in Roma. Everything I have researched has been SUPER interesting-- For example, in ancient Rome, the Roman Emperors believed that Jews used to Castrate their children-- I guess they thought the Jews were using magic to reproduce? Ha! Okay, that's not what my paper is about, but I thought it was funny-interesting. 

I had Italian twice this week, and a day trip to Palestrina (an ANCIENT B.C. mountain town in the middle of no where). I thought everyone was going to get sick on the bus as our drive was a WILD man. The city was BEA-utiful. We only spent a little time in the museum and then were able to spend the rest of our day there overlooking the town below  and eating picnic lunch-- Pretty cool!

The weather here the past few days has been GORGEOUS-- think Portland in September: cool and crisp, but extremely SUNNY. 

As for more mature things in my life-- I applied to what seems like one million internships this summer and am starting to get emails about setting up phone interviews. I have been interviewing for the Management Internship at Nordstrom and had my final interview this week-- pretty cool. I also had my first round of interviews for a Nike internship and yesterday found out I get to interview for a Global Running Merchandising position in two weeks (My PERFECT-IDEAL job EVER)! Keep your fingers crossed for me. All seem like really cool jobs and at this point in the economy I'd just like 'A' job. Worst case scenario-- I will move to Europe permanently and get a job here doing whatever I can (oh.. wait, maybe that's best  case!). 

Miss everyone at home-- but not too much! :) Having the TIME OF MY LIFE

This week I'm going to Lyon, France for the weekend. It's a reward for all of the INTENSE school work I have this week. 

Ciao a Tutti from Roma!! 

Monday, February 9, 2009


As if we weren't already tired enough from our wild sleepless adventures in Barcelona-- our teacher added extra class on Monday. So we had one day back to recover in Rome and then we were off to Florence for the week... I swear we saw everything there was to see in Florence. 

Florence is a beautiful city; it is much different than Rome. Florence is very Americanized and everywhere you turn someone is speaking English. The streets are flooded with American students and American tourists. Even when we tried to use our Italian in the shops and restaurants the responses were in English-- which, I might add, I was rather offended by as I have been trying very hard to use my Italian whenever possible. Realistically, it was probably easier for them to understand my English-- as my Italian vocabulary is very limited-- but at least humor me and appreciate my attempt at your language, right?

My favorite part of Florence was the Baptistry constructed for John the Baptist. Not only was the mosaic interior incredible-- the external doors and panels were beautiful! There is also a really great market called "Nuovo Marcato"-- new market; it's very small but full of great souvenirs. 

We were there Tuesday through Friday and each day was jam-packed with museums and monuments to see. I managed to sneak a run in on Wednesday and saw an incredible part of the city that we weren't able to see with the group. Maya and I ran all along the river and crossed the Ponte Veccio-- very cool. 

Florence was not my favorite city-- party because of the bad weather I think... but The David was incredible. Being a little older now (almost 21...) I really appreciate the art a lot more. I think it also helps that I'm currently enrolled in an Art History of Rome course-- so I actually know a lot about the paintings, sculptures and buildings we're visiting. The David was by far my favorite art piece in Florence-- maybe even in Italy-- I could have stared at his butt all day. My friend Nicolette and I laid down in the middle of the floor to try to get a more accurate view of The David as he was supposed to be seen 100s of years ago. 

We had incredible food in Florence. Our group dinner was at Trattoria ZaZa; the next night I went to a little hole in the wall restaurant with a "menu del gournio" which is a menu of the day-- it was hand written and changed every day! Finally, we went to a fantastic restaurant called Acqua al 2 which was incredible, it was a little pricey but we ordered the "Taster" of antipasti & secondi which meant we were able to taste 5 different pastas and 3 different meat dishes. May it be noted that I ate-- and enjoyed-- the extremely red-rare-still mooing meat. We also found the BEST Gelato I've had thus far in Italy at a Gelateria called Grom. 

I didn't leave Florence empty handed-- I definitely browsed the leather selections and walked away with a new leather jacket!

This week I am very busy as I have two papers and a project due next week-- unfortunately the weather is GORGEOUS outside and I have no motivation to stay inside and work on my paper. It's also Valentines this weekend, therefore, I have to go on a search this week to find my 'True Italian Love' ha! So I'm not sure when I'm going to have time to work on my papers.. :)

Yesterday, Sunday, was the 64F and sunny; Maya and I went to a park called Ville Borghese which is 30km of trails, fountains, monuments, a small zoo, and a couple of galleries. It was absolutely gorgeous and we ended up walking around for almost four hours. I think I will go back next weekend with my new Italian love and rent bikes for the day-- it's 12Euro to rent for the entire day. Oh! AND if I end up finding three Italian Loves, its okay, because they also rent four person bike carts. 

Today we went to the Sistine Cappella-- it was gorgeous. I think we spent around three hours inside the Museum and I don't think we saw more than 12% of the art pieces there. If I were an art major I think I would spend every second of the day in this building-- it really was incredible. 

Beautiful weather once again today. Wish I was outside. 

Caio a Tutti

Monday, February 2, 2009

My Weekend was Better than Your Weekend

Let's see... the newest updates in my life are as follows:

After my trip to Assisi (Very long and Very cold) all of the kids in my program got together and decided to go out to the bars in our Campo. It was a pretty fun night. The boys in our program were awesome and a couple of times had to act as our "boyfriends" so that the 'oh so forward' Italian Stallions would leave us alone-- I tell you these Italian boys are very persistent and don't hold much back! 

Sunday we went to the flea market by our house-- I bought a pair of, my friends call them "mary-kate", sunglasses. It was a necessary purchase as the weather was GORGEOUS here and has been holding up pretty well- Cold but sunny. I also went on a very necessary jog with my girlfriend Maya. On Sundays they close off a lot of the roads in downtown Rome so we were able to run along the streets around the Colosseum, Pantheon, River, etc. all the way down to the Vatican-- talk about a scenic run! 

Monday and Tuesday we really had to buckle down as our first major paper was due in my history class. It was quite the experience as I've never written a history paper; somehow I managed to come up with something... But don't worry, we all went out celebrating our success Tuesday night. My girlfriends and I found this bar online called 'Ice Club Roma' it was SO cool (pun intended). It's one of 5 ice bars in Europe, except this is the only ice bar without a time limit. The bar was freezing cold-- I mean what was I expecting? it's called Ice Club-- but they gave us all cool ponchos and gloves. Everything in the bar was made out of ice, including the cups, the chairs, the walls and the toilets (not really!). After we headed back to the Pantheon-area and ended up at a crazy Irish pub called Scholars.. it's the one our teachers always suggest we 'avoid'.. but it was fun and they played a lot of great American sing-a-longs. 

This post makes it sound like I'm crazy party girl gone Roman, but really we do a lot of sight seeing during the day and sit in the class room and do infinity hours of reading upon reading. We had to bring 7 paperback books over, 2 bible sized reading packets-- and yet, somehow my teachers manage to print off more reading packs for us to conquer in our "spare time". The girls and I try to spend the 2 hour break between our classes at coffee shops reading. One of the only times I miss America is when we're sitting at the coffee shops and they don't bring you refills on the coffee. I really do miss studying with a large cup of black coffee, not just tiny espresso shots-- okay that's my only complaint for the rest of the trip! 

Last week we saw more than 10 churches... probably closer to the 20s realm. It's a bit much for me, and they all start to look the same and blend together. But at least I know the big man is giving me Kudos according to ancient Roman Christian beliefs! The more pious you were (1300s definition of pious: going to church, giving all your money to the church, restoring a religious monument etc.) the higher levels of heaven you would reach. 

Oh and now for the best part-- Why my weekend was better than you weekend-- as my post is titled. 

Early Friday morning, Maya, Carly and I took a taxi to the Rome airport and took-off for sunny Spain. Carla Homedes, our Spanish friend, picked us up from the airport and dropped us off in our hostel located directly off La Ramblas-- and in the center of the middle eastern immigrant-area! There were prostitutes all around at every hour of the day, and on every street corner some creepy-sketchy little middle eastern men offered us beer, weed or drugs.. haha very safe! But really it wasn't as bad as I make it sound.. I never feel unsafe in any of the European cities I've been to-- night or day. 

Our first day in Barcelona we walked around the city for 3 hours-- and did our own sight-seeing. Then we had a very tourist lunch in the middle of La Ramblas with a set menu for 9Euro which included 1 drink, Tapas, and Paella. Then we walked around for another 4 hours-- down to the marina, into the 1992 olympic village, and all the way to the end of the pier. It was so gorgeous. We walked all along the boardwalk which sits above the beach, so in order to go down to the beach you have to walk down a flight of stairs. 

That night we (usually when I say we it's referring to my girlfriends Maya and Carly) went to dinner at 9:45pm with Marta Homedes (Carla's sister-in-law) she took us to an awesome authentic Spanish restaurant called Mamacafe. We finished dinner  around 12:30, the girls and I headed to the hostel to get ready to go out for the night. I love Barcelona-- no one goes out until 1am in the morning! We met up with the boys who were there from our program and headed down to a really Modern, Exclusive & Swanky club on the pier (Guest List only or 50Euro cover charge)-- Opium del Mar. Somehow, in my Spanish (which all came rushing back to me) I snuck past the bouncer and found a manger inside the club whom I convinced to let my friends into the club through a secret backdoor entrance. We ended up dancing until 6am in the morning... needless to say my legs were sore the next day from all of our walking and dancing. 

Saturday we woke up at 11 and headed out onto La Ramblas for shopping and breakfast at the La Bocaria. The Homedes invited us to lunch with them at Carla's sister's restaurant right down on the water by the club we'd been to the night before. It was fantastic! The entire family showed up including aunts and uncles and all of their kids. We had such a fantastic time and were there from 2:30-5:30. Carla and Carlos were so sweet and hospitable towards us, and drove us all over town and let us even shower at their house. That night Carlo's brother, Dani, invited us to come out with him and his buddies. We went to the "more ritzy" Opium club called Del Cinema and then on to another just as beautiful club called Sutton. The girls and I were in way over our heads at the most fun, ritzy, awesome club I'd ever seen. Dani took us into all of the VIP ares, got us special wrist bands, and took us to the front of every line-- we didn't have to pay a cover or be on any guest lists. I can't even explain how much fun it was, I think our time in Barcelona will be tough to beat. 

Sunday Carla took us to see Segrada Familia before we went to the airport and she treated us all to Starbucks. It was the best weekend of my life! I am definitely going to move to Barcelona the instant I graduate. I love Europe! Sunday night was Superbowl and all the kids in my program went to Hard Rock Cafe Roma to watch-- pretty fun, but we were all so tired we left at half. 

Tomorrow we leave for Florence, and we're going to Cinque Terre for the weekend.

Ciao for now from Roma!