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Blogs from the Rome Trip - Julie Kirk
NEW POST -
Day 9--At the airport
We're at the airport ready to board so thought I'd send my last blog post from Italy. We're all dragging' this morning since we had a wake up call at 5:00 am, that is 11:00 pm on Friday night your time--ouch! So when you meet your child or spouse tonight at ND, we might not be real chipper....maybe real punchy!
Again, I'll say how wonderful of a trip it was and how proud all of us should be of our students and Notre Dame!
Day 8--back to Rome
Another late night, with an early wakeup call this morning. None of us will come from this trip rested, that's for sure! We all loaded up the bus and headed southeast back towards Rome. We were to stop in Siena but those plans were changed by our tour guides. Instead, we stopped in a wonderful little town in the Tuscany region called San Gimignano. It was off the beaten track a little and was beautiful all nestled up in the hills. We all commented that we would love to see it in the fall when they were ready to pick the grapes. There were vineyards all over the place! Everyone found somewhere to grab a bite to eat and get in a little more shopping. It was a fun place!
We had about a 3 1/2 hour trip still to Rome....lots of napping was taking place! Back at the hotel, we all got "duded up" to go to, the farewell dinner. It was at a rustic restaurant and again mucho food. We had four men serenading us with Italian music plus Alex, call me Frank, Bohenenkamp sang The Girl from Ipanena. Lots of people we're singing....the senior girls sang a tribute to Phil, Teresa, and Mrs. Brent, the choir again sang their signature song, Ooh Bahbamma (sure that spelling is all wrong), and even the bus drivers let their talent show through. We decided that they shouldn't give up their driving jobs! It was another fun night and a perfect way to wrap up a trip that will be remembered forever by all of us!
Renata, the tour guide on Bus #1, asked us what our favorite part of the trip was.....I really don't think it is possible to pinpoint one thing. Some of us said the concert in Montencatini was hard to beat! The feeling that all of us had as we walked back to the hotel following that was indescribable! The whole nine days were filled with many special moments.
Phil told the kids again how awesome they all were (most of the time) . We are blessed with a wonderful group of students that we should all be proud of...they represented Notre Dame tremendously well! Ryan Brueck and Lucas Giertz thanked all the parents that came along and all of those at home that made it possible for them to make this journey. A once in a lifetime experience that is filled with many, many memories!
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FIRST DAY Thursday - I don't think anyone was tardy this morning at Notre Dame!! When Katy, Steve, and I pulled up at 4:55 this morning, it looked like there must be some event happening. We met Abbie Stewart in the parking lot who said she could not stop crying because she was so excited! There was lots of EXCITEMENT in the air, that's for sure.
The chaperones were busy checking if "their" students had their passports, choir dress or black pants &white shirts, and shoes. Those were the necessities that had to be in their suitcases. Mrs. Brant made sure that every student went and got their music folder--pretty important too! With everyone being good, Father Bruce welcomed us all and led us in prayer and a couple powerful readings. Father Steinle set his alarm early to send us off as were several parents that weren't able to make the trip.
I looked at the Midwestonebank sign as we were driving by and it was 5:55--5 minutes earlier than expected. I took the as a good sign! The bus trip to Ohare was uneventful as was our wait there to board our plane for Philadelphia. Traveling with 105 people, I think "uneventful" is good....especially when it comes to the actual travel part of our trip. No glitches, either, getting to Philly or boarding the USAir flight to Rome. Once on the plane, we settled in to the 8+ hour flight to Fiumicino Airport. We had our choice of movies, tv shows, or music for our entertainment across the Atlantic. Our meal was ok but I'm sure that some of the "dudes" could have ate a few servings of it.
I had different reports that some of us slept well (or as good as you can in an airplane seat), and then others didn't catch too many zzzzz's....Patrick Moore said he maybe got a half hour sleep. Hope that he'll catch up tonight. Just one suitcase decided to hang out in Philadelphia an extra day....David Carter handled it pretty well and is thankful he packed a change of clothes in his carry-on. The airline assured him it will be here soon....we all will say an extra prayer that it will.
Our tour guides were at the airport to meet us with our two" homes on wheels" that we'll be living in the next 8 days. We have hit the ground running! Being still fairly early, on our way to the hotel we are going to take in St. Paul's Outside the Walls since our rooms are not quite ready yet.
So, here we are in Rome!!! After three years of working the concessions at the Bee's Park, 50/50 at ball games, and numerous other fundraisers and LOTS of planning by several parents (whom I'll credit in a later posting), it is a reality! Abbie Stewart still had a little tear of happiness and excitement in her eye this morning. The students all are looking forward to what lies ahead of them--a trip of a lifetime!
And I'm sure you're all going to look forward to reading the highlights of each day on this blog, right?! I'll say goodbye for now....hopefully I'll find some free WiFi to send this to the ND website so it will be there when you open your computer this morning. Buon Giorno!
FRIDAY - It's 9:00 p.m. now and we just had a wonderful dinner....it's a "Friday-in-Lent" so we started out with a vegetable lasagna followed by fish and roasted potatoes. After saying we were all really full, here they come with tiramisu gelato. Yummy!
With all the walking we did, though, I guess we needed that big dinner. Anyway, after landing, we made our first stop at St. Paul's Outside the Walls. I think all of us were amazed at how massive it was. Lots of WOW's were said...
After that stop, we pulled into our hotel and everyone got checked into their rooms. After quick showers and a delicious lunch of pasta followed by salad (they do things a little different than we do), we were on the road again. First stop was St. Peter's in Chains. These chains are those qthat St. Peter was restrained in the Holy Land and in Rome. Tradition has it that the restraint chains from both areas were brought together in Rome and through a miracle they were joined in one unbroken chain. They are on display now at this Church.
On to the Sanctuary of the Holy Steps....how moving that was! Several of us ascended the 35 stairs on our knees pausing on each stair in prayer. There are frescoes on the walls by the step that depict images of various saints and stories of the old & new testaments. Father Bruce was overwhelmed as were the parents and students that did it.
Exhausting, exhilarating, and exciting can all describe Day 1. Tomorrow we start out at the Vatican exploring the museums, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter's Basilica. Sounds like another WOW day to me! Father Bruce is saying Mass at 6:30 for the early birds. Until tomorrow....take care and don't worry about your kids--we're keeping good tabs on them.
Ciao for now!
SATURDAY - Sitting in the lobby waiting for our buses to go to the concert. The girls are starting to show up in their long, black dresses and the guys are looking pretty dapper in their dress-up clothes. They had a rehearsal this afternoon which went well so we guess that they are all set to sing.
The day started with a group wake up call at 6:30. There were a few earlier risers that prayed for all of us at a mass celebrated by Father Bruce. The buffet breakfast at out hotel was typical European--fruit, some pastries, cheese, some coffees, cereal....no eggs, pancakes, or Egg McMuffins! After the breakfast, we all climbed onto Bus #1 or #2 and headed to the Vatican city to spend the day touting the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter's Basilica. We split into three groups for our tours today and had wonderful tour guides.
SIDE BAR.....One thing different this trip from four years ago was the presence of the local tour guides. We had wonderful guides last trip but they would mostly educate us on the bus ride to our destination and then we would fend for ourselves. Also, in my opinion, the food at the hotel has improved since last trip. We never go away hungry, that is for sure!
The tours inside the Vatican were filled with a wealth of knowledge! I can only speak for my group but Franca, our guide was AWESOME! The passion that she has for her city and faith bleeds from her. We nicknamed her Chatty Kathy, in a loving way of course.
Probably, the most moving experience today was being inside St. Peter's. It literally takes your breath away from the moment that you walk in. The majesty of it all can be so overwhelming. I can't even estimate how many people were inside when we were there....everyone just moves through slowly and solemnly. Since the last time I was here, they have moved the tomb of Pope John Paul, II to the main floor in the Basilica. Many of us stopped to pay our respects and pray at this. Several of us, both students and adults, were moved to tears just being in this holy place. We are so looking forward to singing at the Mass there on Sunday.
After leaving St. Peter's we had a couple hours of free time for lunch and a little shopping. The outdoor cafes are fun and several of us found some great pizzas and pastas. A few of the group tried to climb to the top of the dome of the Basilica but had to abandon that idea for lack of adequate time. pope fully on Sunday that can happen.
Back at the hotel, the students were able to have a quick rehearsal while the adults caught up on some much needed (or wanted!) shut-eye or walked to the local grocery. After an early dinner, we loaded back up on the buses and to head for our first concert in Italy.
The bus wasn't able to drop us at the door of St. Eustachio's Church so we got as close as we could and then walked--all 105 of us down through the heart on Rome on some cobblestone little streets to the church. It was a sight seeing the girls in their long dresses and boys in their ties....we did get a few looks and some of us were asked where we were heading and doing. Waiting to get into the church because there was Mass, the choir broke into song and soon had a small audience outside enjoying them! Of course, many of us parents were "tearing up" as this was happening!
The concert was beautiful in this very old, beautiful, kinda cozy church. The acoustics were awesome and the kids did a super job. BRAVO!! BRAVO!! A woman sitting behind Kerry Kreiss was yelling at the end of the concert! We had a nice crowd and so impressed with our the talent of our choir. Two surprise visitors were cousins of Erin and Patrick Bush. That was fun! The Bush kids were pretty shocked to see that they had showed up but just the smiles on their faces was enough to see on their faces how grateful they were to have them there!
Back to the hotel and a 10:30 curfew was welcomed by all after a full day. Until tomorrow, ciao for now!
Day 3 in Rome (SUNDAY)
BIG day!!! I mean, BIG day and a long day! Coach Schilling planned a little 6:00 a.m. run with Judge Schiiling and Deb Lillie fore any interested soccer player. There were some takers--Alyssa Bickle, Mary Kate Brueck, Gracie Deery, Sarah Kottenstette, Jayla Kreiss, Michaela Lillie, Erin Schilling, Jade Sorenson, and Taylor Hickey (non-soccer player who wants to keep in shape for AAU basketball and didn't want to miss the fun!). Katy Kirk showed up late with Gracie but opted just for the yoga work out that Coach S. asked me to lead them in after the run. We were happy to have Mike and Julie Schilling join us too for a few poses. Everybody got up and moving and to the bus by 8:30 for the trip into the center of the city to hit some of Rome's most favorite tourist spots.
First stop was the Spanish Steps. I can't remember a lot to the history behind those but a great place to take pictures (see attached) and to break out into an impromptu song. We had quite an audience and they all seemed to thoroughly enjoy it.....people taking pictures, asking where we were from, and filming our performance.
From there we walked to the Trevi Fountain. Let me tell you--that is a lot of water moving around and beautiful sculptures plus it's fairly loud. The custom is to throw three coins in your right hand and throw them over your left shoulder with your back to the fountain. If your wishes come true, you will find love, enjoy wealth, and come back to Rome some day. Sounds like 3 good things, huh? After a performance of we moved onto the Pantheon. We parents loved how the kids were starting to get into their "street performing"! It is a very cool walk through cobblestone streets and even cooler when those singing ND kids burst into some of the 70's hits from Jazz Night!
We were all a little disappointed that a service was going on in the Pantheon so we couldn't go into this ancient structure. Since we were on a pretty tight schedule we didn't wait around to go in so ventured on to Plaza
Day 4 MONDAY...onto Venice!
Buon guorno! Wake up call was at 6:00 a.m this morning--ouch! Tis gave everyone plenty of time to get moving, have some breakfast, and get their suitcase down to the bus so we could be on he road to Venice. We said arrivedicci to Rme and headed north. We got to Assisi around 10:00 where we met our walking guides that took us on a spectacular tour of the Basilica of St. Francis. This was beautiful! The blend of different architectures and the frescos on the walls and ceilings were amazing! Our tour guides through the Basilica were very knowledgeable. They pointed out many of the frescos that depicted the wonderful stories of St. Francis' life--from being the son of a "wealthy merchant trader guy" (quote Steve Giertz) to living the life of poverty, obedience, and chastity. (something we learned from our tour)
After the tour we headed down the hill just a bit to a hotel that had a wonderful lunch for us--pasta, believe it or not! We had about 45 minutes to browse through the shops of this quaint village. Several of us found some quick bargains and unique gifts and we were on our way up through the Abruzzi mountains towards Venice. When we finally reach our destination, we'll have travelled about 7-8 hours. Lots of sleeping students...
Wow! We made it to Venice finally. That was a long trip but a very pretty drive. We're all settled in to our hotel here. It is more modern than the one in Rome. Had a nice dinner and then the kids are all hanging out in their rooms. Since they were good little travelers, there were "purple rooms" tonight--meaning boys and girls could hang in the rooms together with the door open and not just 1 boy and 1 girl in a room! They all had out their IPads and IPhones because we have free WiFi in this hotel so hopefully some of you are hearing from them.
Tomorrow will be a full day in Venice that they are all looking forward to. We sing at a mass at St. Marco's tomorrow evening at 6:00. Another "goose bump night" for us parents! They're being super!
Ciao for now!
Day 5--Tuesday in Venice
Incredible, beautiful, overwhelming, awesome....I 'm sure if I would have asked all 105 of us, everyone would have said this about our fun-filled day in Venice. From the start of the day to the end, everyone pretty much had a big smile on their face. There weren't many groans when Phil announced that room check would begin shortly after 10:00.
We had to ride a boat from the mainland to Venice. I never knew before that Venice was actually an island. Guess I had never thought about it since I had never visited here....our first stop was the Doge's Palace, the Duke's Palace. Very interesting blend of architecture--baroque, gothic, and renaissance. You could sure tell when a different section began and ended--that is when our walking guide would tell us! The palace was filled with beautiful frescos and paintings, not as many sculptures.
From the Palace we walked to San Marco's Basilica. OMG--oh my gosh, it was unbelievable! Again, it took our breath away as soon as we walked in--the enormity of it is amazing...not as big as St. Peter's but still much larger than anything we are used to.
SIDEBAR--it is not uncommon for the square of San Marco and the basilica itself to be flooded. The floor inside was a definitely uneven because of the water and the sand base that was it was built on thousands of years ago. There were ramps stacked up in front of St. Mark's that are put out if needed. Also, I heard from someone that 60,00 people live on the island and there are 20,000 businesses. Can I say LOTS and LOTS of little shops?!
Back to St. Mark's...the mosaics are simply gorgeous! Like our walking guide pointed out--the sun shining in at the time we were inside was just perfect how it would hit the mosaics and showed their brilliancy! Not only the ceiling but the floor was amazing! Gracie Deery announced that she wanted a floor like this in a house some day! There were many, many patterns of all different shapes, sizes, and colors.
Just out the door, down a little street and across one of the many bridges we trekked to the Glass Blowing Factory. We were seated as soon as we walked in and got to witness a glass blower make a vase right before our eyes. What a talent! We all gasped, though, when he put the finished product back into the furnace to "recycle" and show the next group! We could then buy glassware, jewelry, etc. that they make right there before we were set free to explore Venice on our own. Most of the group took a ride in the gondolas which was a fun experience. Ask the Kottenstettes, Sharon Marshall, or Angie Zahn about the 70+ year old falling in between two gondolas.....guess it was staged but it was pretty believable. I bet that most everyone had a mid-afternoon snack of some gelato or little pastries, right?!
We came back together around 5:45 so the kids could dress in their "choir uniforms" for the Mass. Father Bruce again con celebrated. He read the first reading in English so I think that we all liked that we could focus on some English. The acoustics were astonishing! (don't think I had used that adjective yet...) The Mass was said on one of the side altars with locals that led us in a rosary before. It was a glorious way to end our day.
Back at the hotel, they had a late dinner waiting for us....the first course being a meat lasagna followed by a tenderloin and fries. I thought I was at HyVee enjoying a "tenderloin Tuesday"! The loin covered almost half of the plate. A salad was then brought out followed by gelato with some fresh fruit--sort of like an ice cream sundae but it was reversed with fruit on the bottom with the gelato on top. I think I have said before that they do things just a little different than we do over here!
At dinner, I did ask Shannon Pfeiff and Esther Murphy if the trip is living up to their expectations and they both said, "'yes, and SO much more!"'. I'm sure everyone would agree. It has been wonderful....we're all looking forward to Florence and what awaits us there.
Day 6- Wednesday - onto Florence! (Flash mob from Florence .....find it on utube at pfmeekins....)
Early wakeup call this morning for all of us....Father Bruce offered mass at 6:15 followed by breakfast and on the road by 7:30. At Mass, he mentioned in his short sermon that he considered our trip a pilgrimage, not just a trip. He hoped that all of us--students and adults-would go back and share what we have learned and experienced from this journey that we have been on this week. It is true...all that we have learned and felt as we have walked the same cobblestone streets, prayed in the same churches, and viewed the same sights as millions of people before us have is truly amazing.
At breakfast, Mike Schilling mentioned what a community we have all become. He observed even how early it was, everyone was smiling and greeting each other. I believe that we're all excited about what each day will bring us. We have not been let down yet and don't foresee we will.
After a beautiful drive through the Alps (I think), we made it to where we will be staying in a town outside of Florence called Montecatini. It's about 30 minutes from Florence. It's a neat little town with our hotel right in the middle of everything. We got all unpacked and then back to the bus to drive into the city.
We met our walking guides and took off on foot to the Academy of Fine Arts where we got to see Michaelangelo's David. WOW! It was breathtaking standing at the end of this room--all 17 feet of him. Our guide had lots of great details to tell us about him. After leaving there we walked through the town towards the Square of the Holy Cross. We saw the Duomo Basilica, the Ifizzi Museum (but didn't go in), lots of mimes, a couple of beautiful statues of Hercules, and several hundreds of people on the way.
Small world story.....I have a cousin studying here that Katy and I are going to meet up with on Thursday. So we're just walking down through the city on these little cobblestone streets when someone pokes me on the arm and it's Caitlin, my cousin! Of all these throngs of people, here we ran into her....it definitely is a small world!
Once we all met back up at the Square, you parents would have all ooo'ed and aaaahhh'ed over the "flash mob" that the kids did. Mrs. Brent positioned them in groups all around the square. All of a sudden Alyssa Bickell broke out into one of the concert songs, an African song, and starts getting a few looks from different tourists sitting around. Then here comes all the different groups singing this song towards the middle of the square. They clap and stomp throughout the song and by the time they were finished, they had quite an audience! Tooooo cool!
Back in Montecatini, we had a couple of hours of free time. The kids could be with their buddies in the area right around the hotel or could rest, whatever, before we all met for another great dinner! Being the fitness gal I am, I'm just glad we're doing lots of walking. All of us have enjoyed larger meals than normal and LOTS of gelato! But, when in Rome (or wherever we are today), you gotta do it!
You'd all be so PROUD of your kids and of Notre Dame--what an experience! We're all looking forward to a free day in Florence tomorrow.
Day 7- Thursday -Florence....
I don't know....can it get any better than this?! What a wonderful day we had in Florence! We are 7 for 7 for beautiful days....it was probably 75+ degrees today and blue skies. Perfect for walking around Firenze:-)
Coach Schilling started the day with his soccer girls and a few tracksters and a roundballer meeting for yoga and then running again with Judge Schilling (not to be confused with the coach) and Deb Lillie. There was a group of about 14....it was a great way to start the day out in a little courtyard in the center of town. The street cleaning machine and a couple of joggers went by but that was it...pretty cool!
Father Bruce had Mass and breakfast was served. We loaded up and headed towards the city for our 30 minute drive. Our first stop was the piazza of Michalangelo which was an unbelievable panoramic view of the city. The choir did an impromptu of their new theme song! Again we gathered QUITE an audience! Lots of picture were taken(as usual) before we loaded back up to head into the heart of Florence.
Once in Florence, we were let loose on our own as long as the kids were in a group with an adult. That was only for about 2 hours befor we were meeting all up again for a lunch at a ristorante in the Sacred Cross Square. This was a gift from the general fund for the students....you might not believe it, but there was actually pizza left over! After lunch was over we had about 2 more hours of free time before we had to meet back at "the" statue.
A little downtime before we had to head just across a little courtyard for our concert...as we walked over, we parents passed out programs to the locals. Pat Jackson counted 182 people at the concert tonight. It was the most modern basilica we have seen the whole trip and wow, what a sound we had! We all agreed that this was the BEST that the choir had sounded! I think the choir was touching Mrs. Brent's heart tonight more than normal. She was brought to tears which then got some of the choir members choked up. Of course, we parents don't need much to get us all going. The audience maybe had something to do with how well they sounded because they were yelling out "salut" and "bravo" like crazy. We parents were enjoying it as much as the kids were. Speaking for myself, I guess I don't want it to end! Outside the basilica, they broke into Hey, Jude for their 2nd. encore--awesome!
Lucas Giertz got to celebrate his #18 birthday today in Florence--probably a birthday he'll never forget! We sang to him when they brought out the cake after dinner which was, by the way, another delicious meal. We parents wondered how many of the kids did try the potato/pea flan--ha!
Sitting around in the lobby after dinner we had two crooners, Patrick Bush and Andrew Giertz, that were serenading any girl that would come sit in between them. Esther Murphy did decline, though....just in case you were wondering, Craig! Just fun little things that make the trip memorable....
Ok, I'm going to try to make it to bed before midnight so better wrap it up. We wish all of you could be here with us! Again, those fantastic ND students are making us very proud. Heading back to Rome in the morning and looking forward to our farewell dinner tomorrow night. I think everyone is in for a SPECIAL treat!