Monday, November 30, 2009


It was a long trip, but I will try to keep the post short. The first day we traveled all day starting at 2 pm, first by bus to the port and then by boat, we were on the boat all night. The next morning we landed in Croatia and it was back on the bus to take us to Medjugorje and our hotels, we arrived at 11. On the first day there, we stayed in Medjugorje for the first day. We toured the two miracle sites that they claim to have. The first is the statue of Jesus that is near the church, it is leaching an unexplained oily substance from the knee. The second site is up on a hill where six children claim to have seen the Virgin Mary many years ago. I touched the knee and it had a fluid substance bubbling slowly out of it but there are non miraculous theories that may explain what is causing the liquid. After the tour we went back to the hotel for a break. That night for dinner we celebrated Thanksgiving dinner at our hotel, it was veal with potatoes and green beans, but it was still thanksgiving because I shared it with a family of sorts, my Gonzaga family. After dinner we went to the only pub in town, almost all the students we had a great time.

Statue of Jesus

Apparition Hill

The next day we went to Mostar, it is known for all of the violence that occurred during the conflict during the 90's. On the way there, our bus celebrated the start of the Christmas season by playing Christmas music. We toured what is left of the old city, seeing a famous bridge that was rebuilt after the conflict. After the tour we went to lunch at a restaurant where they served us a traditional Bosnian lunch, which was a giant pita filled with sausage and french fries, it was quite good. After lunch one of my friends, Andrew Doty, played the piano. He is quite good, he did a lot of contemporary pieces, including the theme to The Office. We didn't stay long in Mostar because it was a Muslim holiday and many stores were closed. For dinner that night we went back to that pub, upstairs there is a restaurant that was quite good, we stayed after for a few drinks but called it an early night because we had to be up earlier the next day for our trip.

Evidence of the Conflict

The bridge in Mostar

Bro pic with Me, Grant, Kepfer, Doty, Dorman, and Larry

Doty on the piano

Saturday, we went to Dubrovnik, which is in Croatia. It rained all day but I still had fun, it took a little while for all of my stuff to dry out after. Once we arrived we had a short tour of the city followed by lunch. I went to The Admiral with Doty, Tim, and Larry, I had cream soup and shrimp risotto. After lunch we tried to find our way on to the wall that surrounds the old city, but we got there to late and it had been locked up for the night. We explored around the city and found the Jesuit Church and a playground. It was a long bus ride back, everyone was wet. When we returned to Medjugorje we didn't have a chance to dry off, it was a race back to the pub for dinner, I had the stuffed chicken, it was delicious.

Jesuit Church

Us at the playground

By the water in Dubrovnik
(I need to shave in this pic)

Sunday was the start of our trip home. We went to Split and had time to kill so we found a place to eat. I had pizza amerikana and a local dark beer, the beer was a little heavy for my liking but it had good flavor and I am glad that I tried it. We got on the boat for another 12 hour adventure with little to no sleep. Arrived in Ancona at 7am where we boarded the buses for the last leg of our return.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

When in Rome...

We had quite a weekend in Rome, I'm glad that had been there before on opening tour, even though I stayed in another part of Rome this time, it helped. The school put us up in a pretty nice hotel this time, not a premium location but in a city with as much history as Rome, there really isn't a bad place to stay.

We left for Rome at 9 am on a Friday, it was an early start. We had a four hour bus ride to our hotel in Rome, we arrived right on time and took an hour for lunch. I didn't explore to far from the hotel for this meal because I didn't want to miss the tour of the Colosseum. After lunch we were to go on a walking tour of ancient Rome. This meant a trip to the Colosseum and the Forum, which I enjoyed immensely because I hadn't gotten to see either of them on my first visit. After the tour we went to the Pantheon to find the gelato place that Father Brian likes so much, I got chocolate with orange and egg cream (tastes like eggnog), the combination reminded me of Christmas. From the there it was off to the Trevi Fountain, another site I missed on my first trip, of course I threw in the coins for good luck or whatever it is worth. After that we returned to the hotel to rest before dinner. For dinner we went to the Hard Rock Cafe, burgers and shakes, so good! We had a late meal so after dinner it was back to the hotel to call it a night.

Me in the Colosseum

Better View of the Colosseum

Trevi Fountain

Me with my Shake

Mel, Emily, and Kate

The next morning it was off to the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel... but the Sistine Chapel was closed, the good news is that they wouldn't have let me take pictures in there anyway so you aren't actually missing much. We still enjoyed the museums and made the best of the morning that we had. We had lunch at the cafeteria at the museum sat in the garden until our tour with Fr. Brian was supposed to start. We met Fr. Brian in front of St. Peter's. He took us through St. Peter's and down through the tombs of the Popes. From there we went on a long walking tour of trastevere, the Italian neighborhood across the Tiber from most of the city. From there we went to the longest continuously operating hospital in the world, I believe that it was called St. John's. From there we went into Rome's Jewish ghetto, one of the oldest Jewish communities outside of Palestine. Not far from the Jewish ghetto was the room where the Apostle Paul was held while he was in Rome. After that we walked to the original Jesuit house that was next to the original location of the Vatican, both the previous and the current Jesuit house in Rome are located specifically because the leader of the Jesuit order always wanted to be able to see the Pope's window, as a reminder that they should be working together. This is where the tour ended, some went on in search of canoli that they would never find, Tim and I returned to the hotel to rest before dinner. Fr. Brian tried to give us directions to a little restaurant near the hotel that he though we would like, we couldn't find it but Tim and I were sure that we could find our way back to the Hard Rock, different burger and a margarita, same result as the first visit... bliss.

In the Vatican Museum courtyard

Statue from the Vatican Museum

From the Egypt Exhibit

St. Peter's

Paul's room from when he was held in Rome

Sunday was our day on our own, we had the Roma Pass which would get us into one more museum for free and there was the blessing of the Pope at noon outside of St. Peter's so we picked an interesting museum that happened to be close to the Vatican... Tim and I did both. We went to the Museo Nationale di Castel Sant' Angelo, this museum houses a collection of old weapons and much of the art that has been recovered by the Carbinari, the Italian national police. It is a beautiful castle, I got some great pictures. From there it was off to the Vatican to see the Papal Blessings, it was quite a crowd. We went from there back to the hotel to have lunch near by before catching the bus back to Florence, on the way we watched Talladega Nights, fun for me.

St. Peter's in the Background

Top of Castel Sant' Angelo

Crowd waiting for the Pope

Pope giving the Blessing

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Yarn Hunt - The Kepfers come for a Visit

Its been a while since I've really had enough time to post or do anything worth posting about, but over the last two weeks I've squeezed in little things here and there. Starting with the hunt for Italian yarn and ending with Matt's family visiting Florence for the over the last week.

The first think I did was to start a hunt for Italian yarn or knitting magazines, my aunt loves to knit and loves to get knitting magazines or yarn from places when people go there. These things are light and would be easy to fit in a suitcase so I asked her if there was anything that she would like from Italy and she provided me with a short list of items and locations to try looking for them and I did the footwork. Both the places that she listed were within walking distance so I went on a scavenger hunt to find them. I found them both but one was more of a neighborhood store that sold yarn along with other things, while the other was a yarn store that had been there for over 40 years and still was owned by the same family. I went in and asked for the items on the list just to see if they had them and discovered how much more I needed to learn in Italian. They had one thing on the list, an Italian knitting magazine, so I got that and will be bringing it home for her, I put it in the front pocket of my green suitcase, I may not remember in another month so someone else may have to remind me.

Yarn store window

As of last Monday Matt's parents came for a visit, they leave this coming Monday and they will be missed. They brought me three shirts when they came and they are really nice. On Tuesday we took them to Acqua al 2, a restaurant that can be found both here and in San Diego, it is very good. On Thursday it was a trip to Edi House, one of our favorite pizza places in Florence. On Friday we went to Za Za's and I had ravioli in a creamy walnut sauce, delicious. Saturday(today) we went to Boboli Gardens and then went to this little restaurant that they found earlier in the week. The birds were out in full force at Boboli Gardens. The restaurant was economical enough that i will probably go back and eat there again on my own. I had pasta with ragu and steak with arugula and Parmesan. This was my first taste of steak since I've been home, it was the best thing i have tasted since I've been here.

Matt and his dad

Ducks at Boboli

Crane in the fountain