Of Saint Bernards and the Pope

After 5 hours of sleep (I was excited), I rose early for the Audience with the Pope. If you’re new to my blog, the Sisters gave me a ticket. Sister had told me that I needed to leave at 7-730 in order to get a good seat. There was a crowd going through security, of course. In the craziness, I saw familiar colored fabrics of my Tahitian friend’s that I had met in Lourdes, France. I made my way to them and held up the picture I had taken. The lady made a huge smile, we took a selfie, and then she took off a strand of her seashells (lei) and put them around my neck . I was so touched and will treasure them forever. Their group aimed for a certain spot and , not knowing any better, I aimed for the front and found a seat in The eighth row. I found out later that you should head for the sides or corners and near babies if you want to see him up close as he rides around the crowd. But if I had done that, I would have missed a lot! There were groups from all over the world and I felt that, for just a moment, we were all at peace and one with another. It was as it should always be. Joy filled everyone’s face. In the very front was a group from Kenya. They were singing and dancing. Their exuberance was such that they were video taped. All I know is that they were making all of us smile! To the right of them was a group from Guadalajara. I saw people from Poland, Germany, Ivory Coast, Brazil, Argentina, Australia and many more.

The cheers when Pope Francis came out were incredible. A happy roar fits best. He makes a circuit through and around the crowd. As I heard someone exclaim, “He really does kiss all the babies”! As he neared me what I noticed most were his kind expression and genuine smile. To put it simply, I felt the love. The service was in Italian, French, German, English, Portuguese , Polish and another that I didn’t recognize. The message was about respect for family. New marriages were blessed along with religious items. There was what I think was a blessing of Saint Bernards, but I’m not sure. I do know that it made for a great photo op. And, if you know me, you know I loved the dogs getting the attention. After that, he went to the groups that were seated near the altar. People stayed , hoping to get another up close view. I admit not wanting to leave either… the mass feeling of joy was too great to leave. I hope that the pictures will give you an idea of that feeling. One of the specific things I wanted to share was that I never felt crowded and I think it was because everyone was happy.

Eventually, I did leave as I had much more of Rome to see. This day I was completely on foot until the ride home (which I paid for the next .day). So, off I went in search of Piazza Navona. On the way, I bought a great leather satchel. I love the fountains. Next stop was the Pantheon. We are so lucky to have so much that has survived from the timed period. To be able to see the grand size of things amazes me. While there, I went in a linen shop and got the coolest hand towel for my next door neighbor…. it has fish all over it. Are you seeing a pattern yet? Monument, shop, monument, shop…… Last stop was the Trevi fountain where I threw the obligatory coins in to ensure my return to Rome another time. By this time, I was ready to drop and my feet were flat out done!

Stopped by the grocery store and picked up a sandwich and returned to my room. I think I was out by 9pm. It was a most spectacular day!!

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s installment on my last day in Rome and my tour of the Vatican museums and Sistine chapel. Until then…..Please “like” , “share, and “follow”.

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Arriving in the eternal city

After our train stopping for an hour and a half due to fire on the tracks, I arrived in Rome around 730pm. I quickly found a taxi (taxi stands are well marked in Rome) and made my way to the convent where I would be staying. Did you know that there are certain orders of nuns that have a mission of hospitality? There are quite a few that have “bed and breakfast” type hotels to encourage people to come to Rome. They are very inexpensive to stay at and the care and attention you receive is unparalleled. You have to sacrifice a little…..watching tv in a communal room instead of your room. They have great WiFi. My Sisters, whose mother House is in Madrid, we’re mostly from Puerto Rico and a few had even lived in Miami. I really can’t tell you just how loving and helpful they were. I will definitely visit again. Here are pictures of my room.

Each morning, when you enter the breakfast dining room, there is a table with your room number. It’s already set with dishes, coffee cup bread basket (sweet croissant and hard roll). On the buffet was fruit, yogurt, cereal, juices, tomatoes, coffee and tea. More than enough to get you going for a day of touring. In the background there is a tv softly playing Christian 🎶 music. There were families from Spain and France visiting while I was there.

For my first full day I had booked two experiences. The first of which was “Must have pictures of Rome and walk tour”. Renato gave the tour and he was very knowledgeable. He is a professional photographer as well and took pictures of me and the other gentleman on the trip. This was a great bonus for someone traveling alone. Back to the tour…. we met at Piazza Campidoglio, where he explained the history of each of the buildings and showed us how each was from a different period in the history of Rome. I especially liked hearing about the recycling of the columns inside the church. Each pair was from someplace different. We also visited the ruins behind the government building and the monument to the unknown soldier. Continued below the pictures…

Next, we walked through some back alleys and around the Jewish Ghetto. We crossed the bridge onto the island with the 2 hospitals and then into Trastevere (which I seem to have a mental block pronouncing). Renato took us for coffee and it was obvious this area means a lot to him. It was a great tour and I recommend it. We three parted friends and with his permission and credit , I will post his pictures this weekend (here and instagram). If you would like to try it, I found his tour on Airbnb experiences.

I found a little place for lunch and had pizza, something that usually wreaks havoc on my blood sugar, but I’m walking so much things went well. For the better part of the afternoon I wandered, just taking it all in.

Next up was another Airbnb experience. This time “Grandma Sauce, a cooking experience ” . This experience was with Andrea at his loft and we had a blast. He has crafted an out door kitchen and dining area on his rooftop that was incredible. His love of cooking and the ingredients is evident right away. There were two couple and myself. The couples were from Northern Virginia and North Carolina. We learned to make 2 sauces, meatballs and how to use them….a gnocchi bake, over meatball, and over pasta. If you look at our picture, it’s obvious how much fun we had! Please look Andrea’s experience when you come to Rome, you’ll love it.

One of my random discoveries before going to cooking classs was a cat rescue. Rome is filled with cats, so their work is appreciated and needed.

When I got back to the convent that night, Sister was waiting for me with a ticket to the Papal audience the next morning. I was so excited I could barely sleep!

And that’s it for this day! Tomorrow, my experience with the Papal audience.

It’s all about the journey until you get there!

When last we spoke I had just left Lourdes, France and was on my way to Monaco. As a flight attendant, I’ve seen most of the world…..from the air. This trip, I wanted to see things from ground level. So I booked long train rides from city to city. I must say, it was a great idea and I’m loving every minute of it. Riding through the countryside of southern France was even better than expected. I even saw Flamingos!!! There is a protected area where a flock lives and I was lucky enough to catch them on a day that they were there. Unfortunately, the train was moving too fast to get a picture. I had a lovely seat mate who was on her way to a friend’s wedding in Lycee. When she boarded, I was taken aback by her dress and makeup at 8 in the morning. Then, she told me about the wedding, laughed, and said I don’t usually wear flowers in my hair in the morning! Haha! We had a nice chat, her English being better than my French. The trolley came by twice and both times I got an espresso. They brew it right on the cart!! I was amazed by the mountains of the French alps, not expecting them to be so high. I changed trains twice, in Toulouse and Marseille. The train that I picked up in Marseille was a regional and very crowded. It’s in the last picture in this first group. Then we’ll move on to my arrival in Monaco.

Riding through the French Riviera was a special treat! Every town we passed through I felt I already knew (from reading books where there was always some romance involved or the heroine was escaping to recover from a broken heart). There were several that I wish I could have stopped to see, maybe another trip.

After a long day on the train I arrived in Monaco. The train station was very nice and clean too. My Airbnb host had given me instructions on how to get into the marina where the boat that I would be staying on was moored. However, the tents for the upcoming boat show were being set up and I got a little lost , but only for a minute . We were to meet in front of the bronze statue of the Diver by the pool. I eventually found it and Tony. Tony, my host, couldn’t have been more wonderful. He had thought of everything. He was very attentive and had everything on the boat that one could possible need. I really wish I could have stayed there longer. The two nights that I stayed on the boat I was transported back to my childhood and slept like a baby. Everything about this stop, from the boats to the boat show to the marina reminded me of my father and I began to miss him terribly. For those who haven’t known me long, my father was a yacht broker over thirty years and when he had a boat show I would go with him a lot. It also brought a lot of nice memories.

The first night in Monaco, I went to a seafood restaurant right at the marina. The food was good and so was the location!

The next morning I tried to get moving early but, Monaco doesn’t rise early and neither did I. Once up , I set off in search of the Starbucks for the coveted “I’ve been there” mug. The one that I went to (there are two in Monte Carlo) was on a roof top and had the most amazing view!! Then, I realized I had left all my meds back at the boat! So, back to to the boat (after stopping at the souvenir shop by the Yacht club). So, I was able to drop off my purchases while picking up my meds…good thing.

After all that, I set off to be a tourist. On Sundays, the local buses are free and go the same places as the tour buses, so I took the number 1 to get to the palace and made it just in time to see the changing of the guard. The line was short so I bought a ticket to do the tour of the palace which I’m really glad I did as the paintings were gorgeous! The old city is so charming and I wandered the streets looking for a little place to have lunch. Found a little sandwich place, quite good. Following lunch, I went to the cathedral and Princess Grace’s tomb. The cathedral was magnificent .

I walked down through the exotic gardens to the Oceanographic museum , which was wonderful! For those who grew up watching Jacques Cousteau specials, this is the museum that he directed. I took a million pictures! Afterwards, I wandered down the mountain hoping to find a special place that my host had told me about…. and I did!!! It is a secluded beach that he said only locals know about. Of course you have to climb down very steep steps to get to it….. but, totally worth it!!! I made it down and put my feet in the Mediterranean!! It’s a pebble beach and my tender feet had a hard time walking but I lived ever second!! I even took 3 tiny pebbles.

Next up was stopping for a pizza before returning to the boat to get ready for my night out at the famous casino. The pizza was fabulous (pizza Marguerite) and I followed with an espresso to wake me up! I hurried back to the boat to shower and change into a long dress (yes,really) brought just for this night. No pics, as I was alone and somewhat intimidated by my surroundings. Anyway, I felt rather glamorous walking to the elevator at the yacht club, which take you up the mountain to the level the casino is. Unfortunately, my sugar went low and I had to stop for a coke. Gathered my wits for about 15 minutes and made my way towards the casino. All the while, I’m thinking “walk in like you own it”. My turn to intimidate 😉. Keep in mind, my knowledge of this place is only from James Bond movies, so I’m expecting diamonds and glitz and tuxedos and……………there was nobody there! It was only 9pm and, apparently, the place doesn’t get hopping until 11-12. I will say, it was extraordinarily beautiful. The paparazzi are stopped out front and snap pics continuously, to not miss anyone , I’m guessing, that they don’t recognize. The cars out front are lined up and of types you only hear about, but never see. The convertible Bentley seems very popular. I prefer the vintage sports cars that were riding around, and there were lots. One only has to see the streets of Monaco to understand why the Grand Prix is here/there. I played the slots for a little while and then went to find the roulette table. I’ve never played. But, I walked up with every intention of playing once. I watched……and left, just wasn’t interested. So, I walked around, still looking for James Bond. Didn’t see anyone even remotely dressed that well or that interesting. So,I went back outside to look for celebrities….,.nada. Took some pretty pictures and decided to head back to the boat. I walked around and ended up taking pictures of a lovely church that I found out this morning is where the locals prefer and where they like to have their weddings (as opposed to the cathedral). The remains of their patron saint are buried there. I went back to the boat and packed up for the next part of my vacation. In the morning, my host Tony took me to the train station along with his daughter whom he was taking to school. My visit to Monaco was a blast, loved it and so glad I got to see all the places that I did in such a short time.

Today, I’m making my way along the Italian Riviera and loving it. I see now why people love it. Maybe on my list for other trips.

Thank you for joining me on this adventure! Be sure to “like” , “follow”, and “share”!!

edit: still unable to upload with pictures, hoping to edit them in later.

Leaving Lourdes, vacation midpoint.

I’ve just pulled out of the station in Lourdes and must admit I’m a bit tearful. It was an incredible experience that I’m not likely to ever forget. If you’re new to my blog, welcome! I had problems uploading in Lourdes, so I’ll be starting with yesterday’s adventures first.

I woke up very early to join the queue for the baths, my purpose for coming here. If not familiar with Lourdes, please google. It was a chilly 59 degrees, but you could almost imagine being on a south seas island as I was behind the Pacific Islander group again and they were singing so sweetly. Another lovely tidbit, they were wearing what we would think of as Luau type traditional outfits and garlands of flowers on their heads, as beautiful as their huge smiles. Seated on either side of me (we were lined up on long benches) was a lady from Dublin and a lady from San Francisco. Both had been to Lourdes multiple times and explained everything, which helped my nervousness. They were both very kind. We got in line at about 7 am and my turn came about 9:15. Prayers started around 9 followed by the infirm being taken in shortly thereafter. When called back , you are seated on another bench to wait to be called into the changing area. The first thing I noticed was how warm it was, knowing that the water was going to be like ice. The changing area is shrouded in curtains and I was told there would never be a time that privacy or modesty would be compromised. I was soon called back and the first woman to introduce herself and ask my name warmly said “welcome”. I mention this because the way it was said immediately put me at ease. The area had places for eight people (I don’t know if the men’s side is the same). The lady that helped me held up a very large blue cape like thing (much larger) that fully shrouded me so that I could undress in total privacy despite being surrounded by people. Then, once finished, it was wrapped around to await my turn. When that time came, the curtains in front of the bath were opened and I was ushered in. Inside the area were three people, one at the head next to me and one on either side. One was a very young American nun, who handled communicating and explaining. She was very sweet and I wish I could have thanked her. So, a large piece of Muslim which had been soaked in the waters and wrung out was then wrapped tightly around me (cold), again under the blue cape thing and sort of fastened. The nun and the other lady then took my forearms (for stability) and instructed me to walk down the 2 steps into the water. There was a statue of Our Lady at the opposite end and you were instructed to present your intentions and their signal that you were finished would be the sign of the cross. I stepped down into the (icy) water and walked forward then was told to sit back like you’re sitting in a chair and submerge. They started the Littany of Our Lady of Lourdes. And just like that , it was over. Truly, I don’t remember getting out of the water or the muslin being removed (I understand from others, this is normal). I remember getting dressed and being amazed that I was already dry (no towels, but had been told this would happen). They tell you not to rush, that there is no hurry and they offer to help with your shoes. When done, the lady that had welcomed me came over and said She was a nurse and asked about my cgms and pump. She smiled and said “it is much better for you” meaning my tools make control better. I smiled, said yes, and showed her my reading on my Apple Watch. I think it was 143, from my pump being off while in the bath and being nervous. She smiled again and said “good”. I walked out with a huge smile on my face and I think it stayed there for hours. Below is the picture of the benches where we waited and the doors to the baths.

From there, I walked over to the Grotto for a few more moments of prayer. I felt different, really I did. But, if you asked me how, I would be at a loss of what to say. From there, I decided it was time to reach the top of the mountain. And, I decided to walk all the way to the funicular. It was a pleasant walk through town and I took quite a few pictures (to be included in the gallery). The ride up the mountain was incredible and the sights beautiful!! Taking pictures at the summit was fun and I offered to take a group picture for a German family and they reciprocated. I had brought a picnic and do, sat down to enjoy it. This is a good time to say that the Lourdes area is overrun with moths right now and I don’t know if it happens every year, or not. It was more than relaxing up there and I content to just look at the scene. Back down the mountain and then on to the apartment to start packing for the trip to Monaco (and a quick nap).

For my last evening in Lourdes I went shopping and then for a nice dinner of roast chicken and mushroom risotto. When dinner was finished, I went back to the Grotto for pictures. Below are pictures of the place where you fill your bottles with the spring water and the grotto and spring. It is tradition to touch the rock face and there are places it is worn smooth.

I wanted to come back for the candlelight procession this night not as a participant, but as a spectator. It was amazing seeing so many people and knowing it’s like this every..single..day.

My time in Lourdes was more special than I had even hoped for. I hope to upload even more pictures to the gallery.

A very full day in Lourdes, France.

This place is growing on me as I settle in to the rhythm of the schedule. After letting myself sleep in this morning, I was off and running at about 1030. First stop was the tourism office to plan the rest of my stay. I already knew that I would be going to the 5pm Procession of the Sacraments and the 9pm candlelight procession. It was very overcast so I have put off going to the top of the mountain until tomorrow. The lady that was helping me reminded me that today was market day. If you’ve known me long, you know that I adore farmer’s markets. So, with map in hand, I set off. What a treat, culinary and otherwise. It’s funny, I was so worried that my French wasn’t strong enough for this trip, but I seem to be understanding and understood very well. I bought some local cheese, a local cake type thing, and some tomatoes and those apricots that look like little sunsets. Following that, I stopped in a hardware store and bought a travel iron. Neither my apartment, nor the boat have one and I feel strange all wrinkled up. Quick side trip (not really, got lost again) back to drop everything at the apartment and I set off again, this time to the Sanctuary. I was most interested in seeing the underground Basilica able to hold 7,000 plus people. While huge, it doesn’t feel like it and you don’t feel overwhelmed by people. The old church is beautiful and I also got to see St Bernadette’s crypt. By that time, I was ready to go to where the Procession of the Sacraments starts. It’s very impressive to see all the groups gathering with their banners. The languages were French, Italian, and German. Although, several times they used English. I was thankful for the German. I’m eating dinner now, as is everyone else here. I opted for a mushroom omelette and it was fantastic!!! This morning at the market I had seen a mushroom as big as my head, guess it was still on my mind. I’m going to break a rule and have a coffee before I leave, it’s going to be a late night. I also want to warm up in case it gets chilly during the candlelight procession. Then, I’ll head back over to the Grotto, to offer prayers for friends and family. I’m planning on trying again for the baths in the morning. If all of this sounds like a foreign language to you, google Lourdes and St Bernadette. I’m here for the healing miracles, the pilgrimage, and some family history.

Last night, I posted about changing all my pump settings and then promptly forgot to write about it. Duh! I really was tired. For this first half of my vacation, I’ve been having lows all over the place from too much walking and climbing. On my T-slim, I duplicated my settings into a new “pattern” and then lowered the carb ratios and correction factors. Happy to say, today was much better. Climbing hills (mountains) has always made me go low.

Brief intermission while I go to the candlelight procession and the grotto.

The candlelight procession was everything I had hoped it would be. The pictures speak for themselves. There is something so basic about receiving light and giving light. My heart was warmed numerous times this evening by people who offered to hold my candle while I took pictures, none of whom spoke English. I walked with an Irish group for awhile and then an Italian group. Couples are plentiful and it seemed as though it was a beautiful experience to have together. One favorite moment was asking the Pacific Islanders if I could take a picture. I have no idea where they were from, but we smiled a lot and sometimes that’s all the communication you need.

And so tonight, my parting thought for you….. Being kind and smiling require no translation.

unable to upload pics tonight, will edit in the morning.