Fort Wayne, Indiana

Slippery, slippery time. What has it been…three, four months since my last post? Between the throes of a rough pregnancy and adjusting to life in our new location, it’s been a bit of a whirlwind. The days aren’t particularly busy, but taking care of a toddler who wants to be on top of the keyboard and mouse isn’t very conducive to writing. Plus the last couple months I’ve usually opted for a nap during JP’s nap time. No regrets.

Instead of trying to catch you up on the day to day minutiae of our daily routine, I’m going to jump back to Easter when Mama Heidi, Nana and Poppy came to visit. It was Nana’s first time visiting! And it was extra special to have all three of them at once. We filled our days with baking and cooking German food, an Easter feast and of course, desserts. We relaxed, too! One big highlight was our day trip to Fort Wayne, Indiana. Poppy spent the first 16 years of his life in Fort Wayne (they moved to CA when he was 16) and this was his first time back since he was a teen. Living so far away, he thought he’d never see his old stomping grounds again. But lo and behold, we’re only few hours drive and we knew we just had to visit. Click through the photos to read the captions for details. It’s laundry and rest time for me!

Mr. John-Paul Goes to Washington

A couple of weeks ago we headed south to Washington, D.C.. A while back Josh signed up for the DC triathlon, and around the same time his Uncle started working in a position that allows him to give tours of the White House. We had a blast visiting with our family – staying with Josh’s Uncle, another Uncle happened to be in DC that weekend and Josh’s cousin also did the triathlon! And of course, getting to see the White House was a real treat. The first year I went to DC was a year after 9/11, so White House tours were no longer allowed (same case for my subsequent visits). We’re so grateful for the opportunity to spend time with loved ones and enjoy the richness of our nation’s history in the capitol city! JP, you look like you just sat through a filibuster, but we hope you enjoyed it as much as your baby self can. Can’t say we didn’t try to give you some culture!

TMIY Pilgrimage: Into the Heart of the Holy Family

Wrapping up the Europe pictures! After about 10 days on our own in Rome and Paris, we met up with a pilgrimage group. This pilgrimage group was formed through the organization Paradisus Dei, based out of Houston. Paradisus Dei has lots of different avenues of ministry, but their main branch is a men’s group called “That Man is You.” It’s a great group that Josh participated in through our parish (any parish can start up a TMIY chapter!). It’s a group that seeks to build up the family by helping heal, restore and empower men to be the men that God called them to be – holy men of God. When we heard about the trip, we knew it was right and we signed up right away. We actually decided to do the pilgrimage before tacking on the other 10 days of travel! All of the timing (including that I would be out of the exhausting and nauseating first trimester of my pregnancy!) was perfect and providential.

Traveling on your own and traveling with a group are two very, very different experiences. Both have their positives and negatives. Traveling on your own, you can go at your own pace and set your schedule. But! You have to plan every little detail and all the logistics, which can be exhausting and difficult. With a group, you don’t have to worry about any details (which is a huge relief) but you sacrifice flexibility. Also, you’re not just traveling with one person – no you have 50 other personalities to account for 🙂 I’m glad we did both.

Our group was challenging though because the tour agency did not schedule in enough time for all of the items on our agenda. Sure, it may only take an hour to drive to X and then 2 hours for the tour…but they did not factor in how long it takes for 50 people to get off a bus, use the restroom (especially if there are TWO TOILETS), get ready for the tour, tour, eat, probably go to the bathroom again and then get back on the bus. So feeling rushed was a big issue for our group. However, I was so impressed with the way people handled it. Not that we didn’t voice our dismay at only having 20 minutes to pray at Sacre Coeur (after CLIMBING THAT HILL) but I think everyone took it in stride. Doing so truly allowed the Holy Spirit to work through the time constraints. We also had an amazing leader – Steve Bollman. What a holy man! His wife and daughters were incredible as well. They helped keep us focus on our purpose – to draw near to God through the heart of the Holy Family. Each destination has its own historical significance, but Steve lead us deeper into the spiritual realities behind the facts.

We saw many beautiful things, and experienced an abundance of grace-filled moments. Our entire trip was truly an ascent to Lourdes. What a place of refuge and peace. Though the town may be full of shops, the area where you find the Grotto and the Basilica is void of vendors and distractions. It is a place of prayer. Sitting along the river with Josh and praying….going into the baths of Lourdes…attending Mass at the Grotto where Mary appeared…renewing our marriage vows…it was a tiny glimpse of what I believe preparing to enter into Heaven will be like. Joy. Peace. Excitement. Longing. Fulfillment. On this side of eternity, all those feelings are fleeting. Consolation comes and goes. But it is still a gift to have a tiny, minuscule taste of what God has in store for those who love Him.

Josh and I did not receive clear answers to our prayers, but we did receive assurance that God has heard us and that He is leading us and that He is with us. That He has indeed called us. To what? We have no idea! But we trust that in His time it will be revealed. In the mean time, He is working on and preparing our hearts. He is purifying us – and that is quite the process!

For all those who sent us prayer requests, please know that you were prayed for. Throughout our pilgrimage we tried to pray for you in places that were significant to your request or that reminded us of you. Many were prayed for in Lourdes (particularly those asking for physical, spiritual and emotional healing) and I pray that the peace we experienced overflowed into your own heart. God hears your prayers and He loves you.

Enough is Enough – Let’s just get these Europe photos up!

I’ve been at war with myself. For some reason, I have z.e.r.o. motivation to type about our trip. But so many new things keep happening in our life and I want to write about those! But my blog-conscience will not allow me to do so until I’ve cleared the Europe hurdle.So I sit down to write…and nothing. I don’t know how many drafts of posts that have come into existence only to be tossed after feeble attempts at gathering my thoughts

This is months old now, Ashlie! We’ve moved on! We don’t care about the Europe pictures anymore! I know, I know. But I…just…gotta…follow…through.

So here’s what we’re going to do. Forget writing a separate post for each day, over achiever. We’re going to set the bar real low and drop all the photos on you at once. With some captions. Voila.

Rome and Assisi:

From the dinner at Abruzzi. One cultured pup.

Paris. I have to say…while Rome was beautiful and so rich in history, I absolutely fell in love with France. The way Paris is laid out is so much easier to navigate, so logistically it was a relief opposed to the winding streets of Rome. Cities always have a sketchy area, but overall Paris proved clean and beautiful. I couldn’t get enough of the buildings. The food…we died. Josh said “I feel like I’m tasting food for the first time.” And it’s true! Truly the food there is an art, and not just something to fill the void. The apartment we stayed was a gem. Unlike the Rome apartment, it was EXACTLY the way it appeared on the internet. Plus, it really belonged to a Parisian, not a rental company, so it felt more homey – like we actually lived there. True, the apartment was outside of the city, but the trains there are so easy to use that it was no big deal. (However, there were train strikes while we were there, so that made using the RER line a little interesting. Overall, no major hiccups, though.)  We went to the local grocery store, would cook some of our meals at home…it all felt very French. Without further adieu…

If you are planning a trip to Rome or Paris, and have questions do not hesitate to contact us! We took pretty good notes of how much things cost, where we ate, and tricks that we learned along the way. While I had originally hoped to type all of those things out…that’s out the window now. However, I am happy to share via comments/email if there is interest or questions! Of course, I don’t know the half of it, I’m sure. But I am happy to share whatever insight/knowledge we do have. Planning big trips can be tough!

I’ll save the pilgrimage photos for the next post/slideshow. This housewife has some cleaning and errands to run! Also more to come on our move and settling into PA and my increasing circumference around the middle region.

Rome, Day 2

What a perfect day in Rome! We woke up and met Mike Zimmerman on our way to the Vatican. There’s something really lovely about being awake and walking around before a city begins the daily hustle and bustle. You can absorb the scenery with ease rather than fighting the crowds. We continued on our way toward the Vatican, catching up with our good friend. The Papal Audience didn’t start until 10ish, but people arrive much earlier to get good seats. We were there an hour and a half early and we were in the back section. We enjoyed relaxing in the sun, and taking in the sights and sounds of St Peter’s square. It didn’t feel all that long until we heard the crowds chanting “Papa! Papa! Papa!” as our beloved Pope drove around in the Popemobile and greeted pilgrims from across the world. We may have been sitting in the back section, but we did get to see Papa Francis up close when he drove around all the perimeters of the various sections. It was wonderful to see Pope Francis. It’s so funny to see someone on TV and in pictures all the time, and then actually see them in person. He, of course, looks the same!

As you may know, each Wednesday the Pope gives a talk. They can choose whatever they talk about. If you’ve heard of the text The Theology of the Body, in which Saint John Paul II explored and explained the meaning of the human body and the gift of sexuality, those came out of St. JP II’s Wednesday talks! So they audiences are not just a “hey everyone from around the world, what’s up!” kind of thing, but really a moment in which the Pope instructs, enlightens and deepens our understanding of what we believe and profess. Pope Francis had been doing a series on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. During the audience that we attended, Pope Francis spoke on Piety. You can read the full text of what he said here.

After the audience, we grabbed some pizza and walked back toward our apartment. Getting in the general area was easy enough, but then we had some trouble finding our place…it probably took us 20-30 minutes once we got nearby the apartment to actually find it! But Josh got us back safe and sound. Let me tell you…I’m so glad that I got an iphone before we left and that one of the apps in came with is a compass. We used that iphone compass every. Single. Day. It was really a lifesaver/time saver.

We partook in an afternoon nap and then met up with Mike again. He gave us a tour of St Peter’s Basilica. What a rich history we have! I’m still absorbing all that I saw and learned through the art. It is all so intentional, symbolic and catechetical. I think that often people see Catholic churches and think “Wow, what a waste of money…shouldn’t that money be used on the poor?” (I actually saw a scribbled message on the bathroom stall door in the Vatican museums that essentially communicated this very question.) Certainly, there have been people in history to misuse money within the Church and I am not here to defend their mismanagement. However, in many ways money that was spent on art was spent on the poor, because it was an effective means of sharing the Gospel. We take for granted the fact that we’ve always had the Scriptures at our fingertips (and now online, kindle, iphones, etc) but it took centuries to assemble the Bible. Jesus didn’t just leave us boxes of copies to hand out to share the Good News with others; the Gospels needed to be written down. What we read about the Apostles in Acts actually had to happen before someone could write it. Paul had to have his conversion, begin his evangelization and write his letters to the early churches. Then the early Church had to go through and prayerfully discern which of the texts were legitimate and which were not (there were false texts and heresies circulating as well). We can see the first official canon of the Bible come onto the scene in about the year 382 AD. But even after the Bible was assembled, many people weren’t literate and the art – stained glass, mosaics, statues, paintings, tapestries, the physical church itself – served as a visual way of preaching the Gospel. Before the printing press, if a person could read, it would cost them to about a year’s wages to obtain a copy of the Bible. (This is why the Sacred Scriptures were chained to the pulpit – not to keep the Word of God from people but to ensure that all people who came there would be able to hear the Word preached!) Many early Christians learned the stories and key figures of the Salvation History through the Sacred Tradition of the Church, including Sacred Art. For “Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, then, are closely bound together and communicate one with the other. For both of them, flowing out from the same divine well-spring, come together in some fashion to form one thing and move towards the same goal. Each of them makes present and fruitful in the Church the mystery of Christ, who promised to remain with his own ‘always, to the close of the age’” (CCC 80). Thank God for artists! Thanks be to the Holy Spirit, Who inspired them. Thank God for blessing us with such skilled craftsmen to share the Gospel with us down through the ages. Even if the majority of people in our particular corner of the world are literate today, art still plays a vital role. It enhances our understanding of who we are as Christians and to help us remember our story, our identity.

After enjoying, learning and reflecting in St Peter’s, Mike took us over to the Pacific North American College – his seminary in Rome. We prayed Evening Prayer with the seminarians. I even got to see a deacon that served for a summer at our parish in North Dakota, so that was neat. We, of course, got the classic “we visited Mike at the seminary” photo from the top of his seminary (best view in Rome). Sarah Melendez votes that Mike should start handing out T shirts to his visitors that say – “I visited Mike in Rome and all I got was this lousy T-shirt,” and I second that motion (even though Mike gave us way more than a T-shirt! Great company, amazing tours and so much more!)

We grabbed dinner up near the sem. The area is called Trastevere. It’s a fun, lively area with lots of street performers and such. Our dinner was delicious. For our appetizer we had melon wrapped in prosciutto. For my main course I had Bucatini al’ Amatriciana. The noodle looks like spaghetti but it’s hollow through the middle. The sauce is tomato based with beef jowl. Very tasty. I wrote almost this entire paragraph in simple sentences. I am clearly feeling very creative.

We made our way make toward the Piazza Novona and stopped at Frigidarium for gelato. Frigidarium became our jaaaaam. Best gelato, generous portions and best price. I personally loved the coconut and the nutella flavor. For no additional cost, they would also dip it in chocolate for you. We sat in the Piazza and ate our gelato with Mike and then prayed together before parting for the night.

I felt like we did a lot without over doing it – a huge blessing. I was definitely tired – even as I journaled I could feel that my arms were weary! However tired, we felt peace about having a flexible schedule that allowed us to plan but to remain open to where the Spirit wanted to take us. On a spiritual level, I didn’t feel any overwhelming sensations or movements of the Spirit from the first day. Great awe for our history and great appreciation for the gift of faith, certainly…but not a mountain top kind of experience.

The Gearns’ Wedding, NYC and Traveling to Rome

The timing of our pilgrimage was really providential. The Friday before we took off, our dear friends Katie and Kevin got married – Mr. and Mrs. Gearns! We spent a few days in Pennsylvania with them, celebrating the joyous occasion of their nuptials. Katie looked like a princess and Kevin was glowing – yes, the groom was absolutely aglow! I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a man stunned so happy in his life. But when Katie walked down the aisle, I imagine Kevin’s reaction was somewhat like Adam’s upon first seeing Eve , an overwhelming joy –“At last! Bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh!”

As always, it was great to reunite with our BU Catholic Center friends from all over the country #Sacramentsarewhatbringustogether. From Matt Hall’s dance moves to Elise channeling the essence of Lady Liberty, twas truly not an evening to be missed!

Saturday afternoon we drove to Holmdel, New Jersey and visited family. We stayed at Josh’s Aunt and Uncle’s house, along with Josh’s grandparents. It was great to see the family! That night I went into the city with the Grandparents to meet up with Josh’s mom, dad and sister Katie…and we all went and saw Aladdin! Of course, this was a real treat for this 90s girl/Disney fanatic. Although the story was somewhat altered (it always has to be for the stage, eh?) it was still really good. By far, my favorite was Jafar. His laugh was so incredibly villainous, and almost exactly the same as the voice from the movie.

The next day was the real highlight though. Katie, our little sister, played with her orchestra at Carnegie Hall! She’s a part of ESYO, the Empire State Youth Orchestra. It was our first time getting to hear the group, and they were very talented. We spent the afternoon hanging out with the immediate family and some of our cousins. That night we ventured out and walked around the city, in pursuit of ice cream. After grabbing some Ben and Jerry’s, we split off from Mom, Dad and Katie and went to a couple of pubs with our cousin, Kevin. It was great to catch up! We hopped on the train and headed back to Holmdel around 11 or midnight.

The next day we mostly packed up and rested because our flight was taking off out of JFK that night. We made it to the airport without a hitch, and got on our flight to Copenhagen. The flight was only 6 or 7 hours, but it felt like one of the longest nights of my life. Within a 15 foot radius, there were three very unhappy babies taking turns (it was a conspiracy) WAILING. Even with earplugs and a blanket over my head, I don’t think I slept more than 30 minutes on our red eye flight. I’m sure those parents slept even less! Yikes. So when we got to Copenhagen, we found some comfy chairs in a quiet corner area of the airport and absolutely crashed. We had a six hour layover, and I think we slept the majority of it. Next we hopped on our flight to Rome, and it went smoothly as well. Arriving in Rome, our baggage didn’t get lost – so that’s always a good way to start a trip!

Being advised by the seasoned travelers, Aunt Anne and Uncle Dan, we booked an apartment in Rome rather than a hotel. Our apartment was through Rental in Rome, and it came with an option of an airport pick-up. Round trip, that cost us about $80. IT WAS WORTH EVERY PENNY. First of all, FCO is a reasonable distance (30+ minutes) away from old Rome. So taking a taxi is an expensive option to get the apartment from the airport, anyhow. Secondly, I cannot imagine trying to figure out the Italian trains and buses at 10:00pm after traveling for a full day. Also, as we found later, Rome does not have north, south, east and west. Everything is on a diagonal, down an alley and streets are not guaranteed to have streets signs. So after getting off a train or bus (with luggage!), I have no idea how we would have found our way to our little apartment tucked away in an alley, a few minutes away from the Piazza Novona. So thank you, Rental in Rome, for sparing us that scenario!

Instead, we were greeted by a darling young Italian man holding a sign with our names on it (yeah, we felt cool). He helped us with our luggage, and we were on our way. It was beautiful and strange to drive into Rome with Josh. The last time I was in Europe, I had known Josh about 2 months and was thinking of him often while I traveled around with my classmates. Now, 9 years later, we traveled alongside each other sharing the adventure as husband and wife (and carrying our first child!). My heart felt so full, so blessed.

Our kind driver dropped us right off at our door. Shortly after, the Rental in Rome representative met up with us, gave us our keys, and showed us a few things about the apartment. He also gave us some maps which definitely came in handy later. Exhausted and so grateful to have arrived safely, we fell asleep.

Some notes about the apartment I jotted down:

The apartment looked nicer on the Rental in Rome website. The pictures had obviously been brightened. I knew the apartment was small, but the pictures and the way they staged things made it seem bigger. From other renter reviews, I knew the ceiling in the lofted bedroom would be low but I didn’t know how low…it was so low you couldn’t walk upright. The bathroom was TINY and kind of challenging to shower in (see pictures and you’ll see why) But the location was great – very central. We could walk most places. Overall though, the apartment worked out great. And we were lucky that we had AC! The lofted bedroom did get pretty toasty though, and Josh slept on the couch some nights because it was just too warm upstairs. Despite the few inconveniences, we liked the place and I wouldn’t change it.

Playing Catch Up

I think that I’ve spent a whopping total of 10 days in Grand Forks since May 27. And since I don’t blog while I’m traveling, that’s made for a pretty sparse summer as far as our family updates go. However, sparse is probably the last word I’d use to describe how our summer has actually gone. To give you the brief run down, here’s where we’ve been:

May 27 – May 31 Pennsylvania for the Krouchick-Gearns nuptial celebrations
May 31 – June 2 New Jersey/New York visiting family and attending my little sister Katie’s orchestra performance at Carnegie Hall (also saw Aladin on Broadway!)
Night of June 2 Flight to Rome
June 3 – June 10 Rome
June 10 – June 16 Paris
June 16 – 18 Granville, Mont San Michel, Bayeux, Normandy
June 19 – 21 Lourdes
June 22 Land in MSP
June 23 Travel back to Grand Forks
June 24 – July 1 Begin packing and preparing for our move
July 2  Fly to Oregon, Josh stays back in ND
July 2 – 9 Visit family, enjoy my home state and mom throws me a baby shower
July 9/10 Flight back to ND, arriving at 11pm. Drive back to GF and arrive home at 12:50 (thank you, Jess for our lovely conversation on my otherwise boring drive home!). Spent all day resting and trying to motivate myself to continue the packing process
July 11 Back to tackling our list

During those dates I also went into work a few times to help train the new guy, we had our first ultrasound, sold our futon, in the process of selling our Subaru and I’ve outgrown several pairs of pants.

So, as you can see it’s not so easy to deliver the detailed updates in a prompt manner – there’s just too much good stuff to share and not enough time to write! What I’m hoping to do is write and share pictures from each day in Europe, but I’m not going to set a schedule for how quickly that’s going to happen (don’t worry, I journaled pretty decent notes along the way so I won’t forget!). In between our usual updates you just may occasionally see a flashback to a particular day from our pilgrimage. I will, however, move chronologically through our pilgrimage. Slowly, but chronologically.

Honestly, I can’t even promise how frequent our regular updates will be considering that we’re uprooting our life in just a few short weeks. Additionally, I’m not checking email nearly as often, and when I do I usually read but do not necessarily have a chance to respond. When we do arrive in PA, we plan to continue living without internet. We’ll see how that goes with Josh’s school work and may reevaluate if he has a lot of online components to his courses. I say all of this to give realistic expectations of how much online-Ashlie you can anticipate to see. I will continue to blog! I enjoy it, and Josh and I like the ability to look back on our written memories. But life is taking a major shift (new state, new school, new home, new tiny human being…) and it will require me to live fully in the present moment. But still feel free to call and text us! We do love hearing from our loved ones – our lifestyle just isn’t conducive to multi-media communication 🙂

In the mean time, here are some pictures from the baby shower! My mom did an amazing job – she’s the best! She BBQed scrumptious flank steak with cherry sauce, chicken with some delicious spices, made a big, fresh salad, pasta salad and the best cupcakes ever. We played a couple of games, but mostly spent the time enjoying the company of family and good old friends. Thank you to everyone who celebrated with us! Baby Dill loves you all!

The rest of my Oregon excursion was just as great. The weather was perfect 75 – 90 degrees. I got to see loved ones and relax a little every day. Mom and I spent a number of hours watching the hummingbirds in her backyard and maybe too much time finishing season 3 of Haven 🙂 Poppy, mom, Shelly, Bernie and I went and got tacos to celebrate Baby Dill, also! It was all very simple, and just right. Lots of relaxing, prepping for the shower and spending time with the fam. Perfection.

GFK –> LAS

About a month ago, 9 lady friends from all over the U S of A met up in Las Vegas to celebrate one Kathryn Krouchick’s bachelorettehood. As I mentioned in a previous post, Vegas was selected as our destination because Celine Dion performs at Caesar’s Palace on the regular. Unfortunately that was her weekend off, but to Vegas we still went!

Papa Krouchick aka Robert aka “Bob for fun” got us a 3 bedroom suite and we filled that suite with music and laughter. When we weren’t in the hotel, we were cruising the strip and taking in the views of the city. I really feel that I could write two entirely separate reflections on my time in Vegas. One on how the humanity and personhood of a human being seems to be totally ignored and/or exploited. Specifically the humanity of women, the disabled, the homeless and immigrants. If you are not a consuming, if you are not of profit, then somehow we’ll make you be of profit. You will be consumed and used to make others consume. Women are treated like objects, the homeless and disabled are ignored, and immigrants with limited English skills are recruited to sell you prostitutes on street corners. In some ways, perhaps, Vegas is an exaggerated microcosm of American attitudes toward the aforementioned people groups. (In a different vein, but also looking at Vegas as a microcosm of America’s obsession with entertainment,  I highly recommend Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman).

The other post, and one that I choose to share now, is a good time spent with friends. Despite all the darkness that saddens my heart, we still experienced goodness with one another. Our dear friend, Katie, values deeply the covenant of marriage and preparing for a life-long communion with her beloved, Kevin. To hear about her preparations, her questions and eager anticipation was a joy. It was also a joy to share and discuss with some of our other newly married friends, Sarah Melendez and Emily Van Brunt. And, of course, the delight in hearing about the adventures from our friend, Elise, living the single life and doing God’s work in her own corner of the world – Detroit, Michigan. On top of that, we had the chance to meet Katie’s friends from high school and to spend time with her older sister, Kristen. Of course, these sisterly friendships could meet up anywhere in the world and enjoy a good time. It just happened to be Vegas.

While in Vegas I got to see the chapel that my Nana and Poppy eloped. Sarah and Elise accompanied me there, and celebrated that little piece of family history by my side. I so admire the love between my Nana and Poppy…through good and bad, thick and thin they have loved (and continue to love!) deeply and tenderly. Their love has been a great blessing in my life and formation. I’m so glad for their bravery and running away to elope in the desert!

DCIM223GOPRORight behind the chapel was a local Thai restaurant that was totally empty. We went in there because Elise wanted some Pad Thai and we met the NICEST Thai woman who kept complimenting my dress and asking us about Vegas and sharing some local tips. She also kept calling us honey and sweetie and I just loved her and wanted her to hang out with us all weekend.

The rest of the evening was spent waiting for the Traveler of Honor to arrive and eating/drinking/dancing in the room. We went to bed and arose the next day to throw Katie a little shower of gifts. Then we hit the town!

We walked and talked all day with frozen drinks in hand. Got lunch at a French cafe under the “Eifel Tower” and then went back to the suite for a little siesta. We got ready and went to Mystere, a Cirque de Soleil show at Treasure Island. Each major hotel has a different Cirque show that is only performed at that location. My mama has always raved about Cirque and it didn’t disappoint. I cannot believe the things that they can do with their bodies – such control, strength and discipline. Here’s one of the trailers, so that you can catch a little glimpse of the various acts put on in Mystere. There are other longer trailers on youtube, if you’d like to see more.

After Mystere we headed over to the Bellagio to go to The Bank. All these different hotels have nightclubs, and during the day they have people (re: guys) out trying to get ladies to come to the club. Basically, from what I gather, they want majority women in each club and they’re willing to pay for that. After many offers (a group of 9 women is a goldmine to these recruiters who get paid on commission by the number of names they get on their “list”) we chose to go to The Bank at the Belagio. We arrived and they gave us a free drink at Lilly’s bar before taking us over to the club (I honestly feel so dumb saying “the club.” Please bear with me.). Over at The Bank we got in for free, got a free table and free drinks at our table – a bottle of champagne, a bottle of vodka and orange, cranberry and pineapple juice + more. We didn’t pay a dime. Except Sarah, who wanted a glass of WATER and they said they don’t give/sell glasses of water but you can buy a bottle of water for 8 dollars. Let me be clear. We got free champagne and vodka but she had to pay EIGHT DOLLARS for an ELEVEN OUNCE bottle of water so that she wouldn’t get, you know, dehydrated from dancing. So clearly their priorities are taking care of people and making sure they’re healthy and safe. Regardless of safety concerns, we had a good time. But wow, the club changed fast. When we got there it was still fairly empty and the music wasn’t too loud that you couldn’t talk. By the time we left, it was packed and a person had to scream into my ear for me to hear them. But while we were there, they were playin our jams and we were definitely owning the floor. Just sayin.

The other ladies stayed an extra day but I flew out at 7am on Sunday morning. So basically I left the hotel room at like 4am and slept/drooled/hunched over at the airport until the sounds of slot machines woke me up/the plane took off. When I got to Fargo (Josh was picking me up, thank heavens) I was a hot mess of the hangries/tired rage and a case of the stomach stabbies like from when we were moving to ND. Basically, I spent the rest of the day out of commission. But it’s ok! Because I got to see my girls! aNd I trust that they had a great rest of the long weekend together in LV!

Katie, I hope you had an amazing time. Only 2 1/2 more months until we get to see each other again and celebrate your nuptials! May the rest of your engagement be blessed and full of God’s grace. We love you and are so happy for you!

Wanted: Advice on Traveling in Paris and Rome

As I mentioned briefly in a previous post, Josh and I are planning a pilgrimage to Europe. (I am resisting using an !!!!!!! on the end of that first sentence.) Since we got married in 2011, we’ve thrown around the idea of doing a Europe trip but never really moved forward with any plans. We weren’t even researching it, honestly. Then while Josh was deployed, he got an email about an incredible opportunity. That Man is You (a national men’s group that has a chapter at our parish) was making a pilgrimage “Into the Heart of the Holy Family” in France. After reading the itinerary, we felt God calling us to be a part of this pilgrimage. Then! We figured, heck, we’re already over there…might as well extend our trip and do some exploring on our own. Thus our general itinerary was born: Rome for 7 days (with one day in Assisi perhaps), Paris for 3 days and then meet up with the TMIY pilgrimage group in Paris. During our time with the group, we’ll stay in Paris (and the surrounding area) a few more days and then go to Mont San Michel, Bayeux, Omaha Beach (the D-Day beaches), and Lourdes. We’re terribly excited! The video below gives more details about the pilgrimage

Also, see this precious video about pilgrimages and Mont San Michel.

However, the last time I was in Europe I was with an EF Tour group from my school. I was in 9th grade. It was fantastic. (thank you, mom. seriously.) But that doesn’t help me too much in regards of how to plan our own European adventure! Our time with the group is all planned out, but we’re still setting our own schedule for the days we have on our own in Rome and Paris.

Here’s where I need your advice, O, Seasoned Travelers! While this is certainly a spiritual pilgrimage for us, we also want to enjoy the culture, art and food of Rome and Paris. We imagine spending our mornings and early afternoons visiting holy sites  (we have our papal audience and scavi tickets reserved!) and our late afternoons and evenings spent at leisure, soaking up all we can of the local side of Rome/Paris. Afterall, God is very present in the ordinary, too! Any general suggestions? Any mistakes you made that you want to caution us against?

I’m open to any and all suggestions! Here are some specific questions though.

Rome Questions

There’s so much to see in Rome – Church and world history and art overload. What do you think is an absolutely “must see” and what may get alot of hype, but can be passed up?

What are the best areas in Rome to experience life as a Roman?

What do you think is the best way to get around Rome? Did you find it walk-able?

What is your favorite church in Rome?

What was your favorite food/restaurant(s) during your time in Rome?

Did you find that most people spoke English? What sort of Italian phrases would you have found useful?

Paris Questions

What are your Top 3 Must Sees of Paris?

Which arrondisements lend themselves to leisurely strolling with lovely (but not extravagant/not $$$) shops and food?

As a tourist, did you find that Vélib’ was an enjoyable and realistic way to get around? Did you feel overwhelmed/confused/lost/like you were going to get hit by a car and die? Any tips on that?

There are so many art museums. We plan to visit the Louvre. Are there others that you loved?

Food. Tell me your favorite places to eat. Especially delightful places that may be off the beaten trail a bit – we want to try and experience more of the local scene and not simply fall into tourist traps because we don’t know where else to go!

I am a lover of vintage and treasure hunting. Any particular shops that you would recommend?

Should we plan to see any shows? Any that you suggest?

What French phrases would have been helpful to know? Or did you find that most people knew and were willing to speak English?