Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will I blog about it in one day (rome #1)

I’ve been wanting to get started on some blog recaps of my trip to Rome but haven’t been quite sure how to go about it. Like most writing, the best way is probably just to sit down and get started!

We left on a Friday for Rome. This was a family trip with Louie’s family: his mom, stepdad, brother, and us.  We all got to the airport to check in for our flight, first to Detroit, then to Rome, and found out that Louie’s stepdad wasn’t going to be allowed to go. PSA: make sure your passport expires more than 3 months after your trip to Italy. Otherwise you have to fly to a one-day passport center, get your passport, and then meet your family later. With the weekend, that meant that he wasn’t going to be able to join us until Tuesday at the earliest, which was a huge bummer and got the vacation off on the wrong foot.  We were terribly sad to leave him behind, but there wasn’t a better option.

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(not so sad that we didn’t take a “we’re going to rome!” selfie. Is it a selfie when it’s of two people?)

The flight was noneventful after that. We landed in Detroit and made an easy connection with the international leg of the trip. Louie and I were sitting together and tried to sleep mostly, but mostly failed at that. Oh, one of the good things we did on the airplane was request an “asian vegetarian” meal on the Delta Flight. It ended up being really tasty compared to what the regular meal looked like (and what I recall airplane food being.)

We landed in Rome in the morning. It’s odd after flying all night and trying to sleep and then feeling like it’s the middle of the night, when it IS, but it’s also the morning. All that to say, jet lag is no joke.

After clearing customs, and struggling to find out way out of the airport: welcome to Italy and all the signs for the exits point to exits that are closed…we made it to the cab line and took a cab to our hotel (we determined this was cost effective versus the train for four people).

We were spending the first portion of our trip at the Hotel Suisse at the top of the Spanish Steps. We arrived too early to check into our rooms but we were able to drop off our luggage and go sightseeing. And by sightseeing I mean, in desperate search of espresso.

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Excellent espresso. Do have it at the counter, not at a table.

piazza del spagna

So many people out and about!

We arrived on a beautiful Saturday and I believe everybody in Rome was out and about plus all the tourists that had just arrived. We walked around to a variety of different piazzas and every one was just jammed with people.

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Column of Marcus Aurelius—okay this was slightly less crowded than the other areas, but mostly because it was really sunny.

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The Pantheon. We didn’t go in at this time because there were approximately 70 million people already inside.

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The square around the Pantheon.

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Piazza Navona.

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The Spanish Steps covered with azaleas.

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Piazza del Popolo. We walked up to the Villa Borghese then. (At some point we had gone back to the rooms to take a short nap and then headed out again. I had been so exhausted I thought I was going to throw up so this was very necessary for me. I felt slightly better after a nap and shower so was managing to hang on for more walking and dinner…)

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View of the Piazza del Popolo from above

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Cool building on our street, Via Gregoriana. It is a library!

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Anyway, after wandering all over the city, it was time for dinner. The first night we had a wonderful meal at a restaurant called Colline Emiliane. They make their own pasta and it was just wonderful. In retrospect this was actually one of my favorite meals! I didn’t take pictures of my food on this trip because it seemed tacky, so you won’t have that, but I had spinach and sausage stuffed ravioli, veal, lots of bread and a delicious Pinot Nero wine, among other things that I can’t recall. Italian food is just the best, isn’t it?

After dinner we went back to the hotel and crashed.

So that’s where I’ll end my first recap of the trip. I hope you’ll forgive me if I have decided to draw this out a little bit. I know that later I will enjoy looking back on my blog and reading them so this is the best way to do it! I might cover more than a day next time, who knows. It’s my blog and I’ll do what I want to 😉 and hopefully you will enjoy reading about my trip! There are three parts to traveling as far as I’m concerned: planning the trip, actually traveling, and then writing about it and looking at pictures afterwards.

Home Sweet Home

I still can’t believe I’m home and I’m not in Italy anymore. And I can’t believe that I ever WAS in Italy. I haven’t uploaded my pictures from my camera yet (I took tons but I’m waiting to look at them when I feel like I can really savor them, or alternately I’m terrified they will all be terrible and I’ll be sad…or I’ll just be sad that I’m not there anymore…).

But I’m home, and back to teaching. The weather here is cold and rainy today which is super strange. I’ve been home since late Sunday night and I’m definitely still jet lagged—the past two days I’ve been tired by 5 pm and exhausted by 10 pm…we have been working hard to finish the last remaining Downton Abbey episode (we watched one episode of Season 5 on the trip out, 7 episodes on the trip back…one to go!) but somebody keeps falling asleep after about ten minutes.

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I wanted to post pictures I hadn’t posted on Instagram already but they were turned upside down. I’ll tell you more about the trip later, but for now I’m just recovering and trying to get through the week. I’m taking time off violin playing which means I actually have a lot of free time, but there’s a lot to catch up on. Mostly emailing, and then getting distracted by interesting things to read on the internet.

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I’ve also been reading this book about my great-grandfather. It just came out and my mom sent a copy. It’s fascinating to read about a family member in book form. Though I never knew him, I certainly heard a lot about him over the years. It makes me want to know even more about my ancestors.

I can’t believe it’s basically summer now. And not just because the weather is cold and rainy, but because summer seemed so far away. School gets out this week or next, depending, and my second student recital is coming up and then people start dropping like flies. I’m working on some interesting stuff this summer, including a violin/piano recital with Jen, some gigs (not as many weddings as before, though a few for sure!) and perhaps some other stuff I’ll tell you about as it comes up. Some things are still in the planning stages of course, but I’m just so thrilled NOT to be moving this summer and being able to work and take vacation, but not have to take vacation to move. Since my big vacation is being me, my main goal for the summer is to visit family—my niece especially. They grow up so fast.

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Look at those arm rolls! And that smile! 7 months old today.

The Countdown has already begun!

So FRIDAY is the trip to Italy. I have a long to do list, but it’s mostly fun stuff.

Tonight I played my last concert of the “season”. It’s been a CRAZY year but so much fun. I don’t know quite what will happen performance-wise over the summer other than a concert with Jen on July 31, but it’ll be nice to have some time to relax. I have a long to-do list of fun stuff I want to do in St Louis this summer too. (Note my usage of the hyphen this time. Which is correct, I’m too lazy to bing it. Trying that one out. Doesn’t seem to work, does it?)

But first, Italy! Let’s see. I found euros in an old wallet from my Paris trip of yore. I thought it was going to be a few, but it ended up being 35 euros. Did I already tell you that? That’s probably along the lines of a “and then I found 5 dollars” story but I was really pumped. I sound poor don’t I?

Fun things that have happened: (I’m going to number them, in no particular order and for no particular reason.)

1. Somebody wrote a blog post about the Perseid Quartet’s recent performance at the Kemper Art Museum.

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2. Illumine Ensemble: Next to last performance, same as tonight. We didn’t have the full house we were hoping for, but we had an appreciative crowd and I’ll take that over numbers any time. Of course I’d prefer both, but I didn’t manage to market as much as I usually do.

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For instance I didn’t post this until now. This is what we played tonight. It was a blast! The food was really tasty too, and the eggplant on the poster is really creepy…and hopefully didn’t scare people away. I scored a free Civil Life Brewing Company T-shirt for Louie tonight (I’m less of a t-shirt person).

3. We went to dinner at Lona’s Lil Eats and the SLSO concert on Saturday night. It was a fun night. Lona’s was in my old neighborhood, though not there when I lived there. The symphony was fun though I got a little emotional about it…sometimes it’s tough to see my ex there. We had a long time together, and not so long apart even though it feels like it. After the concert we shut down Urban Chestnut Brewing Company with our friends and it was a really fun night.

4. Cats. CATS.

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I’ll miss those guys when I’m in Rome. A little bit at least.

5. I’m taking some time off from playing now (other than teaching the rest of this week.) I fell back in February and to be honest my pinky finger hasn’t really healed yet. I figure I’ll give it two weeks of honest to goodness rest and then if it’s still bugging me when I get home I’ll go in to see a doctor about it. I’m wondering if I have a small fracture or something. I have full mobility in it and it doesn’t hurt except when I do certain things on the violin, but it’s not right. Fingers crossed it’ll heal on it’s own: you know I am stubborn to a fault and hate going to the doctor unless absolutely necessary. I’m telling myself if two weeks off isn’t enough then the doctor is necessary.

Okay, that’s enough numbered lists! Tomorrow is Tuesday, and soon it will be time to go to Rome. Don’t hate me!

Odds and ends

Sometimes I’m torn over how much to write about on my blog, how often, how much to share, and whether this is indeed simply a public diary of sorts, or what. Who knows. I probably do this whole blogging thing really wrong, but I’m determined to keep it up :)

One of the most fun things this week was getting to have a (very) late lunch with an old friend, Emily, from my hometown. She and her husband (who I had not met yet—I hadn’t been able to attend their wedding celebration over the holidays) were driving through St Louis en route to Seattle and were able to spend a few hours (under two!) with us. I grew up in a small town in South Carolina (smaller than Gaffney on House of Cards, though not too terribly far away) and don’t keep in touch with many people from those days. Emily and I failed to get a picture of us together, so that’ll have to wait until I go to visit them in Seattle someday, I guess!

Otherwise this week I’ve been mostly teaching, preparing for the Illumine Ensemble’s Play with your Food concert tomorrow night and Monday. And reading up on Italy. (ITALY!). I’ve skimmed through the entire Rick Steves and DK guidebooks so far, and I’ve read a few other memoir type books in order to get into the proper mindset. I feel like every time I visit Europe, or really anywhere, I always wish I knew more about the history and culture and various things before getting there. On the one hand, it’s impossible to learn everything about Rome (especially in three weeks) but on the other hand, it’s not impossible to learn some things. So I’m going with that and hopefully all my reading will make the visit even more amazing.

It’s hard to believe that we are leaving in just over a week! And then it will basically be summer…this year was hectic, crazy, and stressful, but I guess it’s almost over! Time to finish unpacking from my move last summer and work on the house. The summer should be less stressful, though my friend Jen and I are playing a recital program at the end of July…but it’s stuff we’ve been playing off and on for awhile so it won’t be too bad and should mostly be fun. Quartet wise we are in the brainstorming phase right now and just reading stuff, listening, and planning. We’ve really grown as a group and had a marvelous time this morning reading through a Villa Lobos Quartet and Beethoven’s op. 59 no. 1 (which we decided is a yes for this season.)

Another fun thing that might be happening AFTER Rome (though I hate to think past the trip!) is that I am possibly going on my first float trip. Float trips are evidently a big thing in Missouri. Basically you float down a river on a raft with your friends.  There will likely be camping…

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It is nice feeling like I’m just not quite as stressed. After being so stressed for…months…it’s nice to occasionally appreciate that, yes, though I still have a ton of things to do, I am keeping up well enough. And I’m not going to start worrying about my summer teaching schedule yet. It’ll be what it is, and hopefully lots of folks will keep taking lessons and I will be able to make all the timing work out decently enough without having a student every 90 minutes for six hours.

Question for comments: Have you been on a float trip? What do I need to know?

House of Cards

I’ve just finished the second season of House of Cards. I know, I’m living in the past. And don’t hate me when I say I only watched about two episodes of the first season. Louie had already seen it and didn’t want to watch again, and finally we decided to just go ahead and he could just fill me in on things that didn’t make sense.

I didn’t like House of Cards at first because of Kevin Spacey’s horrible accent. He’s supposedly from Gaffney, South Carolina, which isn’t too far from where I grew up (Clinton). His accent doesn’t match, and it bothers me that actors think all southern accents are the same. I would rather him just talk in his normal voice honestly. The other thing I hate about the show are when he talks directly into the camera. I cringe every time. But otherwise it’s a very enjoyable show and I’m eager to find out what horrible thing the characters will do next.

The weekend was pretty busy. Yesterday I had the first spring recital for my students (everybody played quite well, and they were mostly happy!). I have some ideas on general things we all need to work on, but I was pleased overall. I think it’s great for the students to have an opportunity to play for everybody, and that they really grow while preparing for a performance. I also had an orchestra concert last night with the Metropolitan Orchestra of St Louis that was quite fun to play. The day before we’d had rehearsal with the Illumine Ensemble for Friday’s “Play with your food” concert, Metropolitan Orchestra rehearsal, and I taught a makeup lesson. I feel like I definitely spent the weekend running around, but what’s new, right?

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(I am slouching a bit too much, aren’t I?)

One of my favorite things is going to Louie’s mom’s house for brunch on the weekends. We don’t go that often, but it’s always delicious. His brother makes vegan waffles, and we usually have bagels, cream cheese, and smoked salmon, all in large quantities. I’m salivating just thinking about it again. We went yesterday morning before my work day started, and had a nice time eating and talking about plans for Italy. We are spending 5-6 days in Italy, then going to Orvieto for a day/night. We made a list of tentative plans, which include the Vatican Museum, the Appian Way, and more! We’ve all been to Rome before (which sounds ridiculous in and of itself) so we are open to trying new and more unusual things. Did I mention I can’t wait?

Other random thoughts:

I’ve been running quite a bit lately. Well, three times last week. The weather has been glorious.

I’m getting used to giving shots to the cat. It was a quick learning curve, but it’s still A THING that must be done. Twice a day. Poor kitty.

Ever since our “vegetarian challenge” the other month, we’ve been eating much less meat. I haven’t cooked meat at home since before that, with the exception of salmon. I’ve definitely been more of a pescatarian, but I have ordered meat a few times out at restaurants, but I’ve still mostly chosen fish or vegetarian options. I think less meat is a good answer for me, both ethically AND with my diet, as I find I’ve been better able to control my appetite and feel good.

And that’s enough for now! Better get to practicing before I have to teach.

Is it Monday already?

The weekend was stressful and busy but fun. Saturday was needlessly stressful due to some weddings and things, but the evening was super fun, and Sunday’s quartet concert was fun too. Friday night we went to the symphony with my friend Jen and her husband Chuck and went to Small Batch afterwards for drinks and a snack.

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We had awkwardly close seats as usual. I wasn’t super impressed by the Rachmoninoff (Piano Concerto no. 3) balance wise, but I blamed where I was sitting, but our friends had better seats and they said the pianist was hard to hear as well. I find so many times I’ve been to symphony concerts (not just in St Louis) and don’t hear enough of the soloist. I don’t recall that from ushering back in the day in Cleveland, but it’s possible my standards are higher these days, who knows!

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Saturday night at the Tavern of Fine Arts with my Irish group. We had a good time. Olivia, the flute player, is moving away in a few months so we won’t be able to reprise, but it was a lot of fun and I’m glad we were able to play the show again.

Sunday afternoon the quartet (Perseid Quartet) played in Edwardsville at the First Presyterian Church. It was a small crowd, but a good one, and I was tired but had a wonderful time performing. Two of my students attended, and I have to say: I LOVE when students come to my performances. It really makes me feel honored and appreciated, and I also hope that I inspire them!

I didn’t take any photos but I stole this one from our quartet facebook page. Most of my “in performance” photos are from my good friend April who is never shy about taking photos during a performance.

This time of year is just busy, isn’t it? I do feel like this was a particularly stressful weekend to “cross off” and the next two are not as bad. We’ve finished all of our scheduled quartet performances so now we are back to brainstorming and planning (if you would like to offer us a spot on your concert series or a place to perform we would definitely consider it!) and that’s always fun. Planning means new possibilities, and that’s one of my favorite things. And honestly I think until fall, things truly have settled down a bit. (Famous last words, I’m sure, and I shouldn’t forget about July’s piano-violin recital, but there’s nothing to MEMORIZE on there at least.)

Speaking of planning. Italy. I’m just so excited, though it doesn’t seem real! I’ve got the Rick Steves book on Rome, since he was my lifesaver in Paris, but I have barely looked at it yet. (Plus most of the planning isn’t really up to me, and that’s fun too, but we do have some decisions to make). I have 3 more concerts left, a gig, and a student recital in addition to my regularly scheduled activities (teaching mostly). It’s been a wild ride this spring, but as I was driving to a 9 am rehearsal in Edwardsville I was thinking, yes, I’m a little tired, but I’m managing, I’m having enough time to exercise, eat well, and occasionally see friends, and more importantly, I’m having a blast performing! It took me a long time to get to this point in St Louis, and I’m pretty happy about it. And what’s funny is that I’d LOVE to play even more, and I still try to figure out how to squeeze more into my life, even as I come here to the blog and complain about my lack of balance and how busy I am. I might be crazy?

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We decided to go out for Vietnamese food last night. We tried a new-to-us place called Linh Mi Gia and were NOT disappointed. The food you see pictured was delicious (I have such a weakness for the broken rice/pork type dishes). This is one of my new favorite restaurants for Vietnamese, and I definitely will go back and try a few other things.

thoughts about violin, teaching, running, life.