Archive for the ‘Italy’ Category

What’s in my purse ?

Hi there ! Renxkyoko Iglesias here.

 

What’s with the title ?  Who the heck cares what’s in my purse ?  Well, I do, because  what’s in my purse is very important to me. a)  There’s a set of car keys in there.  It would be troublesome if I lost that. ….. I don’t have a spare set.  b )  a credit card   c)  driver license  d)  6 packets of  condiments from restaurants ( lemon juice ,  ketchup,  sriracha hot chili sauce, mustard and honey sauce  fr. KFC ) d )  a $ 4 discount coupon for L’Oreal mascara  … guess I have to use that soon, it expires  on No. 10……. that’s $ 4, folks, so don’t judge  )  e ) pen  f)  paper  napkins  from a restaurant )  g)  a small digital camera  h) $ 10 and some coins ) panty liner  … too much information, I know  i)  a ROSARY.

 

There’s always a rosary in my purse , and a rosary hanging on my front view mirror. However,   I’ve only prayed the rosary 6 times in my life. …… on the plane going to and from the Philippines  in 2010 and 2014 and  to Europe and back to the US in 2012.  But I think I’m going to pray once more, before election day.  I’m as afraid to be in the plane as  Trump getting elected as President of the United States.

 

A few irrelevant photos because there should be pictures , right ?

 

Alright !  This is all for now, folks !  Thank you for reading !

 

Check out my anime/manga site   http://2megaworthitwordpresscomblog.wordpress.com/

 

My European Trip, Part 13, Monaco

Hello ! Renxkyoko Iglesias here.

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My schedule  has been quite hectic since November . Fall semester is going to end soon, and that means, final exams, and submissions of all school projects. Also, I now work longer hours at my  two part time jobs.  I come home at 11 PM almost everyday. So, my apologies for  not visiting your blogsites . Believe it or not, I have, to date , 5,137 unread emails.

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So, anyway, this is my 13th post and it’s  about my trip to Monaco.

Okay, to us, peons, Monaco is definitely out of our league.  It  is the recreation center for the rich and famous.

Monaco is officially called The Principality of Monaco.  It is a sovereign city -state and is located on the French Riviera. It’s just 16 km. from Italy and 13 km. from Nice, France. We stayed overnight at Nice, by the way. I assume the tour company couldn’t afford the hotels in Monaco. One thing, parking there is like , 125 Euro /hour.( $165 ).  Yep.

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.Monaco has an area of just 1.98  sq. km. ( .76 sq. m. ), with a population of a little over 36,000, making it one of the  smallest countries in the world, second only to The Vatican , and  the most densely populated place in the world. It’s a constitutional monarchy, headed by Prince Albert II , the son of Prince Rainier, and Princess Grace ( American actress Grace Kelly ), both deceased.  The House of Grimaldi have ruled Monaco since 1297.

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.Above is the Mediterranean Sea.

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.Do you know why the rich come to Monaco and take up residence there? It has no income tax, and  has very low business taxes. In other words, a tax haven.

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.Monaco’s official language is French, and official religion is Roman Catholicism.  I guess there’s no separation of church and state in their Constitution.  Although it is independent and has  full voting rights at the U.N. , France is responsible for Monaco’s defence.

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Look at all those yatchs  that are  docked  at Port of Hercules. Do you have any idea how much it costs to park a yatch  at the port? Our tour manager gave a figure but I couldn’t believe it. I won’t tell. You wouldn’t believe it, either.

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.Monaco’s only natural resource is fishing. There’s no  agriculture whatsoever. Most of the state’s income comes from tourism,  services , banking, and yes, the Casinos at Monte Carlo.  Monaco is subdivided into 3 municipalities ;  Monte  Carlo,  La Condamine, and Monaco-Ville.

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.We arrived in Nice,  at our hotel,, dressed up for our Monaco tour that included a $ 75 a person optional dinner , and  drinks and some gambling  at  Le  Cafe de Paris.  We took  a walking tour of Monte Carlo.

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.Monaco has the world’s  highest GDP nominal per capita at $ 154,000, with unemployment rate at 0% ( yes, zero ! ),  and check out those residential buildings above…….. the real estate market as of 2011 is $66,000 per square meter., the world’s highest. And do you notice how clean the streets are? I swear I can eat food off that street. The place is just too clinical.

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.Monaco also has the lowest poverty rate in the world, and has the most number of millionaires and billionaires per capita.

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.I really find that statue of a baby a bit odd, considering that it’s in front of the Oceanographic Museum.

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Above is the cathedral where Prince Rainier and Princess Grace got married.

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.Sorry  but I  feel I have relegated myself to posting some old royal wedding picture stuck on one random street post. Monaco is a place fo the rich and famous, but not for me who gets excited to see ancient ruins and piles of rock the ancients had used at one time.

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Above is where we had dinner.

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Our  $75 .00 dinner.

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.Tuna, anchovies, olives, greens, half boiled egg, cucumber, and tomatoes.  I liked the salad… and to be honest, the anchovies made it really delicious.

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.Chicken didn’t taste good….. the tomato sauce tasted like rust, fries were very limp, the beans were overcooked.

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.Egg custard dessert……. I make a better custard than that. I call it leche flan. I could tell they included the egg whites to save on the cost, I guess. The texture of the custard is different if it’s pure yolk.  I expected  we’d get at least a spoonful of caviar.

Next photos were our night out at Monte Carlo Grand Casino. No, we didn’t go inside. hahaha….. We went to the  side casino, the one on the left,…. that was the one  for  common folks.

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.These next 2 photos are the only ones I have of Nice, France.  We didn’t  have time to walk around and take pictures.DSCN1176.DSCN1122

.So, that’s it for Monaco.  To be honest, I’m not into Monaco. Yes, it’s a beautiful place. It’s very clean,  everything ‘s spic and span, nothing is out of place. It’s like a fairy tale land.  But I think it’s too clinical. There’s nothing spontaneous about the place.  It’s like coming from an amusement center, and then stepping into a hospital.  Ah, I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me.  I should have got down on my knees  and  licked  a street .  That would a nice tale to tell my future kids, ahaha.

OMgosh, it’s almost  here.  Christmas, my most favorite holiday.

To Christians, Happy Christmas .

To Jews, Happy Hannuka ! ( Hanukka? )

To all the rest, Happy Holidays and Peace to you all ! !

Avignon, Carcassone and maybe Barcelona is next.  PEACE !

My European Tour Pt. 12 Florence, Italy

Come, Ren , say Hi !

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My 12th post is about my visit to the city of Florence , the capital city  of  the region of Tuscany.  Florence is a city that sparked The Renaissance and  is also the birthplace of Michaelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Boticelli,  Dante , Machiavelli, Florence Nightingale, the powerhouse Medici family, and  * cough * Gucci, and Ferragamo.  It  was a rich medieval city , the centre of trade and finance during the Middle Ages,  the centre of music ( Florence was where Opera started ) and  was considered the wealthiest city at that time, and today, has been ranked as one of the most beautiful cities in the world.  The Italian language used to be just a Florentine dialect,  but was adopted as the language of choice for the whole of “united ” Italy.

We did the city tour on foot. We were happy  we had a   Florentine tour guide  that had a sense of humour v and was  most passionate about the city.  ( Well, he always compared Florence to Rome, Venice, etc.,  )  He was very effusive, lively, and  very demonstrative of his feelings .   Perhaps he was  just being very  Italian.

On the way to Florence…. Behold ! Tuscan countryside !

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City of Florence under the Tuscan sun.

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.Below was our tour guide. Look at his right hand… he was really emoting, and almost singing his description of the beauty of his city.

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.Just to let you know I was at Via Torta…. Hmmm, torta is what I have for breakfast  almost everyday.

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.The buildings  look shabby and run-down, but actually , they are just gloriously old..  They are well-preserved 600 year old medieval buildings. DSCN0982

.Above is my group…. Huh ?  My back looks fat ! ! =_=”   ( That’s me in white hat and striped shirt )

Below is the Piazza della Signoria.  On the left side is Michaelangelo’s statue of David, in front of Palazzo Vecchio.

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Palazzo Vecchio

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455. Michaelangelo’s David. That’s a copy. The real thing is in the museum, which is where it should be.

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Behind me is the Fountain of  Neptune. This statue was made in 1565, commissioned for the wedding  of one of the  Medici sons. The fountain itself was the terminal of an ancient Roman aqueduct ( like The Trevi Fountain in Rome ) and is still functioning  today.  The  Medici family were the most prominent in Florence. Two Popes came from their clan, but the more famous son, Lorenzo de Medici, was a great patron of the arts. He was an accomplished musician himself, and commissioned works by Michaelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and Botticceli, all Florentines by birth.  Then and to this day, he was known as Lorenzo, the Magnificent.  The most famous political  writing of Niccolo Machiavelli, ” The Prince“, was dedicated to Lorenzo.

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I assume we all know of Machiavelli?  His name has become synonymous with opportunism, scheming, deceit, cunning, etc. . In his book, The Prince, Machiavelli emphasized the use of deceit, brute force, elimination of rivals,  etc. to achieve political stability and power . The end justifies the means  neatly sums up the theme of his book.   

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430.Above is the Basilica di Santa Croce ( Basilica of the Holy Cross ), built in 1294..  It is a Franciscan Church, and  is the burial place of  Michaelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, Rossini, and other notable Italians. On the left, you can see the statue of Dante. The designer of the church’s facade was Jewish. Take note The Star of David  at the top.  He also wanted to be buried there, but since he wasn’t Catholic, he was buried under the porch, and not within the walls of the church.

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.The dormitory of the Franciscan friars is now a Leather School. We toured the place and watched how they crafted the purses, bags, etc. We also bought purses. I bought 2 bags. Florence is also known for their leather crafts.

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Having lunch. Do you see that small bowl on the table ? That was a bowl of pasta  ( with just white sauce) and it cost $15. The small pizza was $14.  Very expensive.  Below was the open air restaurant where we had lunch.  Oh, by the way, do you see the lady taking a picture?  She kind of looks like a zombie.

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.Do you see the yellow middle building? That was Michaelangelo’s workshop.

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.Above is the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, also called the Duomo, was built in 1296, and completed in 1436. The design was Gothic. The cathedral complex  , just like in Pisa, includes the the Cathedral, the Campanille ( freestanding belltower) and the Baptistery. ( where people are baptized). Below is the picture of the facade, courtesy of Wikipedia.

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DSCN0990.The Belltower ( Campanille)

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.I’ve said before that the beauty of Europe is man-made, haven’t I ? This is why I want to show intricate details of  these amazings buildings. They are  so breathtakingly beautiful.  Can you imagine if these structures were destroyed by numerous wars , or  by  natural elements ?

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.The cathedral ‘s exterior walls are made of white, green and red marbles.

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That dome is made of bricks and is the first  octagonal dome that was built with no external buttresses to keep the structure from spreading and  falling.  Lifting over 4 million bricks was an engineering feat by the engineer who built the dome,  Brunelleschi.  He invented the machines to hoist the bricks up to the top.

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Above is the statue of  Brunelleschi  outside a palace, just across from the cathedral,  looking up towards  his achievement, which is still the largest masonry dome in the world.

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.I  managed to take a picture of an open doorway of a private residence.   That’s a beautiful indoor courtyard.

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Above is another church. On a walking tour, we passed by several more churches like the one above. It’s amazing. These churches are a mere walking distance from each other.  One Aussie guy in our group called it ABC.  Another Bloody Church.  Oy ! o_O”

Walking from 8 to 5 was really tiring. But it didn’t  stop us from taking another walk –  around  at the hotel.

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.And relaxing , while waiting for dinner .

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The view from our hotel room.

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This is it for now. Monaco, Avignon, and Carcassone are next.

Good day to all, and PEACE !  Oh, and it’s December now . Wow !  Happy Holidays to all ! ( I hope I’m first to greet my dear readers )

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MY EUROPEAN TRIP PART 11, PISA, ASSISI, ITALY

Here I am again. Hi !

So, I’m now in Pisa. Pisa is a city in Tuscany and the capital of the province of Pisa.  Although Pisa has several places of interest and history going back  at least thirteen centuries B.C. , it is famous for the freestanding belltower of the Cathedral. . Though there’s an ancient city in Greece called Pisa, historians are not clear whether this area ‘s civilization is  of Etruscan or Greek  in origin. Italy’s history is complicated because it used to consist of  so many kingdoms that were entirely separate from Rome.  Italy that we know today did not exist then. Venice, Florence, Rome…. they each had their own thing going on.   Pisa is also the birthplace of Galileo Galilei. If you have not heard of Galileo, then you’re an alien.

I was , naturally, very excited to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa and it didn’t disappoint me. It was  awesome.  Actually , the belltower is just one of the  4 buildings at Piazza dei Miracoli, or Field of Miracles. But images of  it  give the impression that the tower stands alone. Well, it doesn’t. Just a few steps from it  are  the  beautiful Cathedral, the Baptistry, and the Camposanto. ( cemetery )

Below is a pic of  our tour group ( and me ) at a pit stop. We were all ready to go, quite refreshed and perky.

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There’s the Baptistry the Cathedral, and the Belltower. They are all made of white marble, and yes, they are all  sinking. The fact is, there are also at least 2  other towers in Pisa that are leaning.  This shouldn’t come as a surprise beacuse Pisa, after all, got its name from the Greek word Pisa, which means marshy lands.

.Construction of the tower began in  1173 and was completed in  1399. The tower tilted during construction due to the soft soil and inadequate foundation. Construction was halted for almost 100 years. This allowed for the soil to settle and compress , making it a bit stable. However,  the tilting continued prompting the Italian government  to seek help from engineers and mathematicians from all over the world.

.Over hundreds of years,  it became clear that the tower was not only leaning, it was actually falling, at the rate of 2 millimeters a year, and at one point, was in danger of toppling over.

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.Today, the tower is about  3.9 degrees off perpendicular  or about 5 meters off.  Nonetheless, the tower has been declared stabilized and will remain so for the next 200 years.

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.The Baptistry above was where Galileo was baptized.  We wanted to see the Cathedral’s interior but we were not properly dressed. Dress code : no shorts. Well we didn’t know  we were going to visit a church..  So, my cousin and I just goofed around outside while the rest of the tour group were inside the church.  Not fair.  But, we had plenty of time to shop for souvenirs. There was  a row of  colorful souvenir stalls  just across from the piazza. I wish I had taken a pic  of that. Very touristy.

.A nap after a tiring day.

Next day, we went to Assisi,  a medieval town and the birthplace of St. Francis of Assisi, founder of the Franciscan Order, whose members vow to a life of poverty.  Together with St. Clare, St. Francis is the patron saint of Italy.

Pastoral scene on the way to Assisi.

.It was the Romans that built the town of Assisi  on a series of terraces. The population is about 25,000.

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.It may not look it, but that was quite a steep climb to the top.  I was out of breath when I reached the top.

A souvenir shop along the way

.There’s the church of St. Francis. He is also buried there.  It’s a pity we couldn’t take photos of the interior. But, there was a Mass going on, and  it was Sunday, so we decided to attend it . So now I can brag say we heard Mass in Assisi.

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Above is the main door of the church. That’s the only part  that has elaborate designs. The church is simple, inside and outside. It was, after all,  built in honor of a saint who lived a simple and humble life.  Right above are 2 Franciscan monks.  Or are they friars ? Priests maybe? I wonder what the difference is between a friar and a monk. * googles *………. Friars are those who can get out of monasteries , and some are ordained into priesthood, and therefore can say Mass. Monks are those who are cloistered in monasteries and abbeys and brew beer. Kidding !  But beer afficionados swear they brew the best beer in the world.  I suspect monasteries don’t have heaters, so alcohol trumps hot coffee to keep one’s body warm and toasty on cold , winter nights.   However, I’ve seen Benedictine monks  who go outside, and even seen them smoking, he he he. Okay, let’s not go there.  * ponders *   I wonder why we Catholics  use the word ” hear ” instead of attend the Mass ( we hear Mass ) and the priest who celebrates the Mass ,  we say  he  ” says” the Mass. It makes sense though.  I mean, say and hear  go together, right?  Just musing.

.I didn’t capture the beauty of the scenery, and the place  really looked  so serene.

.This is  it for Pisa and Assisi.

It feels weird that while I’m gushing over Pisa and Assisi, and talking about serenity, I’m watching the news about the Israel and Palestinian conflict. I’m not going to say what I think about this. I won’t even say something stupid like Why can’t they get along . They’ll never get along, but can’t they just leave it alone? Who are we to say that, anyway ? Heck,  our own Democrat and Republican politicians can’t get along. That said,   I wish the US would leave Afghanistan , NOW , not in 2014. We spend 6 billion dollars a month for  the people of a country  whose hearts and minds  we can never win.  Just leave them alone  and let them do what they want . If they want to kill little  girls who want to go to school, so be it.  Can I say freely,” Frankly, my dear,  I don’t give a damn.  ?  Would they  be happy with that?  We need that money here in the US.  Can you imagine what that $ 6 B can do here in the US ?  Sentido comun.  Spend it on us, on the people of Staten Island, the homeless, on education,  renewable energy, so we won’t be hostage of  foreign oil.  Here;s the thing though. I have a co-worker  who is an Afghan woman. She married a US born Afghan -American soldier who was deployed in Afghanistan.  Her family in Afghanistan was so happy, especially her dad, that at least one of his children would have a better life here in the US. The problem is, her relatives in Afghanistan are harassing her family, especially her mother and sister.   She sends half her salary to her family there, and she’s so afraid what will happen to them when the Americans leave.  Oh, and she cried and cried when she was promoted as manager, the keyholder,  at our store. She said this would never happen  to women in her country.  * sigh * I don;t know. I’m so conflicted.

Here I go again, speaking my mind.  This is supposed to be a travelogue, ahaha.  Oh, well.  * shrugs *  I guess I’m like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna read here. he he he.

Alright, this is all for now.  Florence is next…. and Monaco ( maybe ) G’day to all, and PEACE !

My European Trip Part 10 , Rome, Italy

Hi !!!  Renxkyoko Iglesias here.

Please allow me to luxuriate in the aftermath of Pres. Obama’s reelection.

.Well, excuse me, I  did work hard for Pres. Obama.

California is either super liberal or masochists.  The  Democrats now have super majority of both chambers, and across the state, from south to north,  all Propositions and  Measures increasing the tax have been approved by Californians.    We want you to pay a little more for playgrounds , parks,  libraries , new computers for schools. Yeah, sure ! Check.  An increase in tax for this and that….. Okay ! Check.   We Californians taxed ourselves, ha ha ha ! And to think, we have one of the highest tax rate in the US. Well,  we all have decided to share the burden . A shared sacrifice, if you will.  I mean, what can my $ 25 do to help others? Nada. But collectively, a lot. That’s good citizenship.  It’s not what the country can do for you, but what you can do for the country.  Okay, enough of this. I just want to put this out here.

Back to Rome……

After The Forum, we visited the usual places tourists go to.

The Trevi Fountain……. The fountain is unlike modern day fountains that are built merely as    decoration. The Trevi Fountain was the terminal point of one of the aqueducts that  supplied water to ancient Rome. But the Trevi Fountain itself, as we see it now, impressive and beautiful, was finished in 1762.

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.My 14 year old cousin

.Three coins in the fountain, each one seeking happiness, la di da….. There’s a legend that if you throw a coin into the fountain, you are guaranteed to return to Rome.  With your back to the fountain, you should throw the coin over your shoulder. This is how wishers do it. I threw a US penny though, ha ha. I hope that works, too.

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.In case you haven’t noticed, most Europeans drive Smart cars, really small cars. As an American. my eyes are not used to it. But I love it. It’s green. Sadly, Americans love the gas guzzlers, big cars, the bigger, the better.

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Above is the Roman Pantheon.  It is a building that is the most completely preserved ancient structure, built in 27 BC by Marcus Agrippa  to commemorate  Octavian’s ( later named Emperor Augustus , the first Roman Emperor….. before this , Rome was a republic,  headed by Senators ) Battle of Actium victory over Marc Anthomy and Cleopatra. This was a battle between 2 Roman forces. The original building burned down 100 years after, then Emperor  Hadrian rebuilt it and dedicated it to  ” all the gods ” , meaning “pan theos. “

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.Below is the interior of the Pantheon, courtesy of Wikipedia. We didn’t get to see  it. Tsk.

.That’s me below taking a picture .

.Above is the Fountain of Four Rivers, located at Plaza Navona, built by Pope Innocent, and designed by Bernini in 1651. The obelisk in the middle is an earlier structure that was built in AD 81.

.The place is really like an open market where paintings, arts and crafts are sold. I don’t know, but I wasn’t enthusiastic to be there. There were so just many people milling around. Or maybe I  had an overload of fountains in one day. .  This was the 10th one  we visited  that day.  I guess the Italians love fountains. I love it too. There’s one at our backyard here at home. Well, after seeing those magnificent fountains, ours is a just a water feature, a pathetic  teeny one, he he., like a bird bath.

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.Above picture is a structure at Piazza Venezia. You know , at the end of the road  from here is the Coloseum. One can also see The Forum from here.  We just drove by this structure to go to the Coloseum, but very slowly so we could take some  photos of the area. Anyway,  that imposing structure was built in honor of Vittorio Emanuel ll, the former King of Sardinia, then later became the first King of united Italy, the title he held until his death in 1878.  However, I got the impression the tour guide didn’t really like this structure. She was like, “Eh.” I thought it was pretty though.

.Well, this is it for Rome.

Oh, by the way, a commenter corrected me regarding Cleopatra.  He wrote that Cleopatra did speak Egyptian.  I’d like to be corrected.  I misspoke,  nonetheless,  what I understood  from several articles written about her was ,  she didn’t speak Egyptian in Egypt, even if she actually knew the language. Here’s my response to his comment.

Thank you for pointing that out to me. I reread that part, and yes, I did write she never spoke Egyptian, but I should have added that though she did speak speak Egyptian, what I understood was that she didn’t speak the language while she ruled Egypt…. so much so that government ” documents” had to be written in 2 languages, Greek and Egyptian. The discovery of such a document in 2 languages , the Rosetta Stone, led to the understanding of the hyroglyphics, because there is now a direct translation of an unknown written language to a known one. Please correct me again if I’m wrong. I appreciate it., after which I’ll edit my post

Oh, my, the politics here in the US… rape, aspirin between your knees, now it’s binders full of  Mata Haris. WTF ! I’m like reading a shoujo manga. It’s weird.  Two brilliant Generals,  one up for position of Supreme Commander of NATO aaaaaand, for crying out loud, the CIA Director !!!!!!  taken down by an email inbox.  Tom Clancy will never , ever have this as his plotline.  So, guys, please, if you are already ” committed”   , keep it in your pants, and zip it up. And ladies, we all know nature and time are not kind to us, so try to take good care of your physical appearance, and not let go. Don’t just go off into the sea and sail off.

I know this a shallow thinking, but men  , if given the opportunity, will do it with any attactive, willing women . Am I generalizing ?  I don’t think so. Such depressing thoughts.  ‘Course it takes two to tango.

* deep sigh *

This is all for now. Pisa, Assissi, and Flrence are next. G’day to all and PEACE.

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MY EUROPEAN TRIP 9 Rome, Italy

Hi, there !

* sigh of relief * Finally, Rome , The Eternal City. So, how do I start this ?  With statistics, and history ? With over 3000 years of  Roman history, it would take at least one volume of Encyclopedia Britanica  to present in detail  Rome’s influence on the history of the world.  At this moment, I feel stupid to even dare contemplate doing that when I know next to nothing  about ancient  Rome , except of course a few interesting trivia such as Emperor Nero fiddling while Rome burned (  some say he actually sang as he had a good singing voice , and even went to Greece to join singing contests , lol ). And who doesn’t know about Mark Anthony  and Julius Caesar ?   Yes, you got it. Both men were Cleopatra’s lovers.  And who was Cleopatra? Cleopatra was Egypt’s last Pharaoh. Cleopatra , by the way, wasn’;t even Egyptian. She was Greek who only spoke Greek, not the language of the country she ruled.  And,  she must have been so beautiful she snagged two of Rome’s most important citizens. Or,  maybe she wasn’t even pretty….. but she was a Pharaoh, and I guess, that alone would attract the best of Rome.  Okay, enough of gossip.

Below is where we went after The Vatican tour.  At the end of the road is the Coliseum.  The sight of that from the coach made my heart beat fast. I mean, heck,  that’s the Roman Coliseum,  the real McCoy…

.The Coliseum was built in 72 AD by Emperor Vespasian, and  finished by his son, Emperor Titus. It has 80 arched entrances to accomodate  about 50 ,000 spectators.  They were spectators of mayhem and carnage , slaughter of wild animals, and fight to the death between criminals, prisoners of  war, and  slaves  they called gladiators.

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.Above is the interior. Just look at those massive columns.

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.You’d expect the middle space to be an open space arena,  unlike the above photo where  you can see walls and tunnels. Actually, there was  originally a wooden floor that covered these tunnels, and the wooden floor was covered with sand, sand is “arena ” in Latin. The animals and gladiators ( later, the early Christians ) were held under the floor, in the tunnels to await their fate. Pulleys  were raised to bring the animals or humans to the surface.  The spectacle was usually a one-day event, and there were so much killing the ground would be soaked with blood,  so they had to cover the area with fresh sand, after which , the slaughter continued on.

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..Panoramic view of the arena.  Uhm, the design actually confuses me. How did spectators at the top ( what we call the nosebleed section, the bleachers ) manage to get a good view of the spectacle  down at the arena? Those massive walls originally were covered with awnings.

.The Coleseum at night, courtesy of Wikipedia.

.Above is courtesy of Wikipedia.  The arch on the right is the Arch of Constantine.

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Next photos are those of The Forum.

The ruins of the Roman Coliseum and The Forum are in stark contrast to the grandeur of The Vatican. That they are almost next to each other makes the contrast even more stunning. To a person who absolutely knows nothing about  Rome and its history ( yes, there’s a person like that ), The Forum would look like just a pile of bricks and slabs of stones with a few posts and columns scattered  here and there.

It’s hard to imagine  that these ruins were once the center of trade and politics in Rome for about 1000 years. Where the market goes, so go the politicians. I can imagine politicians standing on platforms , orating and speaking to anyone who cared to listen, while common folks went around doing their business. . ” Can you defend your  politics  at The Forum?”  This was  also the place where the Senate met, and triumphant marches and elections were held.  It was at the Rostra where Marc Anthony  addressed his famous eulogy  for Julius Caesar ( who was assassinated by  some Senators led by Brutus ).  “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar ”                     That is of course William Shakespeare’s version.  I actually stood in front of the platform and imagined the whole scene. ( Aaaargh, I’m such a geek ! )

Below is the Rostra.

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.Above is the Temple of Romulus. The door is original, and it’s bronze.  Hmmm, no wonder Kratos can’t destroy that. ( Kratos from video game God of War, he he )

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I’m trying to visualize how the place must have looked during their time.  It does look small and compact, but you know, it isn’t , really.  The columns still standing  are  tall , massive, and impressive.

I have tons of photos of this place that  I’d love to post here, but I’m sure not all  share my enthusiasm for old stuff.  I think I want to be an archaelogist. But I doubt  this career will put food on my table.  I’ll content myself watching National Geographic Channel and The Naked Archeologist and dreaming of going to Greece, Egypt , Turkey, and  Israel. Oh, and back to Italy again. I want to see Pompeii.

So, anyway, I’m done with Colloseum and The Forum, but not Rome yet.  Our tour of The Vatican and the Colloseum and Forum was done in one , HOT sunny day. It was almost 100F, and no lunch time. We were told to eat a very heavy breakfast, warned there wouldn’t be time for lunch, then headed out at  730 H. The photos below are my morning breakfast, times 2, and how my li’l cousin and I looked after a tiring day.

.We finished off the day by getting an Optional Dinner that cost  $65 each person. Add the $ 65 for The Vatican Museum  Tour, it was not only hectic, it was quite an expensive day too. Optional means the fees were not included in the pre-paid packaged tour.  To be honest, the Museum tour was totally worth it, but the dinner wasn’t. The only good thing about dinners in Europe were the ” drink all you can ” part.  One bottle of wine in Europe is cheaper than one glass of wine here in the US.  3 bottles per table of 6 persons, always.

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.The pasta was okay, but the meat was chewy. The steak we had in Venice was quite chewy too.  What’s with the hard meat, anyway? The lasagne was too watery. Perhaps that’s how Italians make lasagna, but I like it better the way we make it at home. It has form and we can actually cut through it.

Below is a blurry picture of the lasagna.

.Bottomline is , the food could have been better for $65 . Oh, and the serenaders got at least  $40 from our table.  ^__^

Well, this is all for now.  Rome again next post.  Good day and PEACE !

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European Trip Part 8, The Vatican

Hi ! ! ! Renxkyoko Iglesias here !

.I posted that picture above because that’s what I feel right now. I just  watched the presidential debate on foreign policy  between Pres. Obama and Mitt Romney and I believe Pres. Obama did a great job of presenting his policies.

You know, I went with my sister to Reno, Nevada as members of Obama’s volunteer workers . Though  I’m from California, ground  game  is not needed here anymore as  California is in his pocket already, so we have to go to places where assistance is needed.  At least Nevada is nearby… some volunteers went as far as Colorado , Wisconsin and Iowa.  And by the way, we are volunteers… we spent our own money,wages we lost were not something to sneeze at, and  we   were not paid a single cent. Not to mention that we   had to grin and bear it when yelled at.  I used to be a wimp and easily get teary-eyed, but I learned fast. Politics is so cruel. I couldn’t afford to be onion-skinned.  Not now, when so much are at stake.  There are already so many  whackos and nutheads  in Congress, and Senate, as it is. Who would have thought that someone running for a Senate seat  would have  the gall and temerity  to  say that rape is God’s will, or another guy saying that there’s a legitimate rape and non- legitimate, that if a woman got pregnant, that is not legitimate, because, a woman who is legitimately being raped would have her system automatically shut down and  have  her eggs fight off the rapist’s sperm, implying that if she did get pregnant, she  relaxed during the act, and maybe had actually liked it? WTH ! Not to mention, Romney’s VP candidate actually  tried to legislate the definition of what rape is…. if no force is applied, then it’s not rape, even if there’s a gun pointed at the woman’s head.   Yeah, they’re who Mitt Romney is endorsing for the Senate seat. I cringe at the thought of this kind of  people wearing  clown hats walking the august halls of Congress.  Oh, while I’m at it, no contraception pills, if these guys would have their way.    Sex is not for pleasure, only for procreation.  So , ladies, just put aspirin between your knees, as suggested, even if he’s your husband.  Rant over.

How ironic. This post is about The Vatican, the center of  my religion.  But I believe Catholicism is not about  how loud a person proclaims his love for God…. it’s how he treats a fellow human being who has less in life, the poor, and the meek. I cannot vote for people who would give more and more tax cuts to the already rich, and take away funds from Medicaid, practically all social nets of the poor, to make up for the difference.  Then they are the loudest in invoking the name of God. The hypocrisy is stunning.  PS I don’t like to associate either with a political party that is embraced by groups whose emblem is the SWASTIKA and KKK. That’s the bottomline for me.

Enough of  politics. Back to The Vatican and Rome. This is my third post on The Vatican and I promise, the last, so, please indulge me on this. Uhm, I say The Vatican, not Rome. Sorry.  And please forgive my rant.  T.T

Above is just one of the numerous statues lining the walls of St. Peter’s Basilica.

And below is a pinkish obelisk, right in the middle of St. Peter’s Square. It was built by an Egyptian Pharao around 2000 BC ( 4000 years ago), and was hauled out of Egypt in about 40 BC by Roman Emperor Caligula, and erected in his circus (  the circus was most probably some kind of amusement park  near the area of St. Peter’s Square , where early Christians’ tortures were done as entertainment for Emperor Nero… yes, that Nero…..   it was also the place where St. Peter was crucified ). It was moved to the center of St. Peter’s Square in 1600.

Main entrance flanked by 2 massive columns. Quite overwhelming…

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.The photo above is like the anteroom , outside the main church’s  interior. Above that photo is the main door to the church. I don’t know why it’s closed. We must have entered through another door.

.Below is  the main altar.

Someone has to correct me if I’m wrong, but I think the tomb of St. Peter , the Apostle is underneath that altar.

The one above is courtesy of Wikipedia. …. just to give you an idea how amazing the place is. Upon entering the basiliuca, the first thing people see is the Papal Altar with the canopy designed by Bernini. There is a wide aisle from the entrance , to the middle ending at the altar,  and off the aisle  are numerous  smaller altars.

Eh. I look so stiff here.  I wonder why. He he he.

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.I don’t need to describe each photo . Every inch of the interior of the basilica is  so richly decorated  I’ve run out of words to describe each intricate  detail.

.To be honest, I find that photo above a bit creepy, that’s the bronze statue of St. Peter,  and together with the photo below, the embalmed body of Pope John Paul if I’m not mistaken,I’d be frightened to death  if I’d suddenly  find myself alone in the church,  company of holy men, notwithstanding. The name engraved in the coffin is that of Pope Innocent, but it was replaced by the remains of Pope John Paul in 2005.

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Below is Michaelangelo’s Pieta.  There’s a glass wall that protects the sculpture from the crowd.  It’s located near the main entrance, on the left.  It’s truly breathtaking.  The first photo is from Wikepedia. The second one is mine. I want to show you the photo without that tiny bit of reflection.

.Do you see the balconies in the picture? The one in the middle is where the Pope stands on to bless the flock.

.The Swiss Guards.

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Oh, the sky is so blue ! !

A panoramic view of St. Peter’s Square, courtesy of Wikipedia.

So, that’s it. . What an amazing experience !  I hope you enjoyed looking at the photos.  If you can, just once in your lifetime, I urge you to go and see  The Vatican.

For some reason, I feel sad to post the last of my Vatican tour.

Well, good day to all , Valete, and  Pax.   Rome is next.