Sunday, March 20, 2011

Italy trip update

Our trip is beginning to feel more real now that we have the rest of our accomodations booked - hooray!!

 We'll spend our first six nights in Rome.  We have booked an apartment beside Castel Sant'Angelo.  It looks marvelous!!  Bright and (relatively) spacious, with a beautiful view of those soaring umbrella pines that we love.  It has A/C, dishwasher, washing machine, internet, little balcony, two double beds, kitchen, etc.  And I read good comments from previous renters (I checked it out on a couple different websites), so feel pretty confident about booking it.  I also like that only have to pay 20% upfront, and the rest on arrival.  The owner has arranged for a private car to pick us up from the airport and take us to the apartment - same price as a taxi, but is more welcoming to have someone holding a sign with our names on it.

We are really delighted to have found this apartment.  Seems like it will be a fantastic location for us.  I checked on google maps and it seems to be only a 15-20 minute walk to the Pantheon and Piazza Navonna area, and to the Vatican Museums.  And only 40 minute walk to places like the Borghese Museum and the Colosseum.  Of course, we can always hop on a bus, or ride the metro - the Lepanto and Ottaviano stations each look to be about a 10 minute walk away at most.

At the end of our first week, we will say goodbye to Rome and head on to Cetona, Tuscany for two weeks - as mentioned in my last entry, Mom and I have booked this cool looking house for our base - and then the final leg of our journey will be spent in Ferrara and Milan.  We've booked a room in the Touring Hotel (and got a 25% discount for booking more than 40 days in advance!)  The place has good reviews on Venere and Tripadvisor, and is just a block from Castello Estense and a couple blocks from the Cathedral San Giorgio.  We're spending 4 nights in Ferrara.  We plan two daytrips, one to Padua to see the Giotto frescos in the Scrovegni Chapel (finally!!) and another to Ravenna to see some of those stunning 5th-6th century mosaics for which the city is famous.  Of course we are looking forward to exploring Ferrara for a couple days as well.

We'll wrap up our trip with 2 nights in Milan, as we fly home from Linate airport.  When I first looked at hotels on Venere, I narrowed it down to the "centro storico" area...and began to see rooms in the 300+ euro per night range - a few of them were over 500 euro a night.  (Sidebar - who stays in a room that costs 594 euro PER NIGHT???  The big spenders of the fashion industry, I suppose.  Is beyond my comprehension, have to say.)  Anyway, I thought to myself: guess we're not staying in the historic centre.  But wait, what is this?  The Canada Hotel - what a neat coincidence for two Canadian travellers!  They have lovely looking rooms for only 100 euro per night, and are within a 10-15 minute walk to the Duomo.

So we are all set, except for one night between Rome and Cetona (due to the fact that the car rental agency in Chiusi is not open on Sunday but picking up the car in Rome is out of the question since I refuse to tackle that city as a newbie driver in Italy!  So we are going to Chiusi on Saturday, picking up our car, spending the night in an as yet to be determined location, then we can settle into our Cetona house on Sunday.

All I have left to say right now it July YET???????

Monday, March 7, 2011

Italy, here I come again!!!

Just a quick note for my blog friends who don't yet know this...I've booked a trip to Italy this summer with my Mom!  We fly over to Rome (3hr layover in Frankfurt) and fly home from Milan (3hr layover in Frankfurt).  Four weeks in bella Italia, be still my amore-struck heart!!

We'll stay in Rome the first week, exploring the city and perhaps taking a daytrip or two to places like Tivoli or Ostia Antica.  I haven't booked accomodations yet, am waiting for that "this is the place" feeling.  Which exact feeling struck me as soon as I came across the ad for our home base in Tuscany for the second and third weeks of our trip.

I've reserved a fantastic house in Cetona (click here to see the ad on Homelidays).  The owner's blurb is this:

"We have a completely renovated and tastefully decorated 3 level home, built on the remains of a 16th Century tower in the Tuscan hill town of Cetona. The house sleeps 4 people and is situated near the village centre on a panoramic street just a minute away from the central square with markets, shops and restaurants. Our house has 2 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms, a kitchen-dining room with a quite large dining table, 2 living rooms with fireplaces, study and balcony on the top floor.Outdoor terrace garden with climbing roses, herbs and potted plants. We have also a large vegetable garden in a with a lots of olive, apricot, fig and apple trees. A gazebo with a big barbecue is - on request - at you disposal."

And the photos and testimonials seem to back that description up.  I am delighted at the thought of staying in a place built on the remains of a 16th century tower - how cool is that??

(Public domain photo of Cetona from Wikipedia)
The medieval hill town of Cetona also sounds wonderful!  As does the surrounding area, lots of places to explore.  Cetona is a short drive from Chiusi, so we can take some daytrips by train, if I don't feel like driving everywhere. Although I am looking forward to tooling around in our rental car, stopping wherever strikes our fancy, with no particular plans in mind.  Sheer bliss!

Our final week will be spent...somewhere...  We haven't decided yet, although will spend our last couple nights in Milan since we'd like to see the Duomo, and perhaps da Vinci's Last Supper painting, plus we are flying out of Milan when we return home.  And my daughters have placed their orders for their souvenirs to be purchased in Milan.  They don't care what I bring home for them, just that it must come from the fashion capital of the world, funny girls! :)  But I don't think we want to spend the whole week there, it's not a big draw for either of us.  More likely we'll stay the majority of the week in Bologna or perhaps Verona...or perhaps Mantova...however will we decide?!!?  (But what a happy decision it is!)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

One more step along the world I go...

Hooray!!  My Discernment Committee has officially recommended me as a Candidate for Ordained Ministry in the United Church of Canada!!  Whoot!!!!!  I'm so excited!!!

I was almost positive they were going to, but it feels grrrreat to have the paperwork signed off.  They filled out their Report and Recommendation, which we all signed.  I filled out my Application to be Received as a Candidate for the Order of Ministry, and attached the required "1,500 word" narrative of my faith journey (which ended up being 2,226 words - oops), and resumè.  Those documents now go to my church council (aka session)  And here is how things go from here (copied from the Process booklet):

Concluding the Discernment Process

1. The session receives the discernment committee’s recommendations and the inquirer’s application and makes a decision.
2. The session completes CAN 203: Action by Session and Presbytery/District Regarding Inquirers, page 1, and sends it with the original of DIS 202(a) and the application CAN 202(b) to the Presbytery/District E&S Committee.

Presbytery/District Education and Students Committee
1. If the inquirer is applying for candidacy for ordered ministry, the Presbytery/District E&S Committee completes CAN 203, page 2 top, and sends it to the Conference Interview Board (CIB) with DIS 202(a) and the application from the inquirer.
2. The CIB meets with the inquirer. Following the interview, the CIB fills out CAN 203, page 2 bottom, and returns it to the E&S Committee with the CIB’s recommendation.
3. The E&S Committee interviews the inquirer and makes its recommendation to the presbytery/district regarding candidacy.
4. Two members of the E&S Committee sign CAN 203, page 3, “Police Records Check.”
5. Then they send CAN 203, DIS 202(a), and CAN 202(b) to the presbytery/district secretary.
6. The E&S Committee also makes recommendations on educational programs using CAN 204: Initial Certification to School or Program.
7. The presbytery/district secretary completes and signs CAN 203 (page 3) and distributes it as indicated on that page.

Yup...bureacracy is alive and kicking in the church just as it is in government!  But the end is nigh, and much of the remaining steps happen in the background from my perspective.  I just need to show up for the interviews and wait for paperwork to be completed by the various parties involved. Not to downplay it all, am sure the interviews will be stressful, as interviews tend to be!  But hopefully they will go well, and everyone concerned will agree I am called to ordained ministry. :)  And in the meantime, I am applying to the Atlantic School of Theology to be accepted into their Master of Divinity program starting in September.

We closed tonight's meeting, our last as a Discernment Committee, with the following prayer...which I wrote straight out of my head in a couple minutes before heading out the door to the meeting.  I wrote it in advance because I knew I would be expected to do the closing prayer, and am not yet comfortable doing so spontaneously.  Not sure why I still feel awkward about sharing my prayer straight from heart to lips, fear of being mocked, I suppose.  (Say grace, anyone?)  And yet if I write the words of my heart down, even in an unedited stream of consciousness kind of way, I can share them without hesitation.  Very strange.  I don't doubt that one day prayers will roll off my tongue as comfortably as they roll out of my fingertips...I just need to practice cutting out the written step and trusting that God will put spontaneous words in my mouth.  But I is the prayer with which I closed off our discernment period...
Dear God, we give thanks for your wisdom and guidance this past year, as we discerned together your call. When we listen for your voice, we are able to find our own voice and find the strength and courage to sing our song of faith for the whole world to hear.

It is with deep joy and blessedness that we feel your Spirit moving among us. We have gathered as people of the light, seeking to know your will, to understand how we can shine our own light in this glorious yet often broken world of ours.  I personally give thanks for the people around this table [names edited out for privacy] who have given so generously of their time and thoughtfulness to help me discern where you are calling me.  We go out now, empowered by our relationship with you, O Holy One, and by our relationship with Jesus. In following his example, we are strengthened and enlightened to embrace our own divinity and step out in risk in order to serve others. We journey with a sense of hope, of surprise, of expectation that we can make a difference.
As we all move forward from this time of formal discernment, I pray that we will continue to hold within our hearts the sense of wonder, and of possibility, that we have found here together. And continue always to answer your call to an abundant, extravagant, astonishing life beyond our imagination! In Jesus name, we pray. Amen

And then I broke into spontaneous song (one of my fave hymns from Voices United):

♫ ♪ ♫ I'm gonna live so (live so) God can use me
Anywhere Lord, anytime (anytime)
I'm gonna live so (live so) God can use me
Anywhere my Lord, anytime!!! ♪ ♫ ♫
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