Friday, May 17, 2013
Posted by Mark Squire at 7:15 AM
The next day, a van tour was arranged for some of our group, and we set off to explore more of the Amalfi Coast. My merry little group was chauffeured by the charming Francesco (affectionately known as “Franco”), who delighted us with his stories and coastline legends. We stopped for some shopping and gelato in Amalfi, had lunch in Revello, and learned more about all of the coastal towns we passed through on our journey. The Amalfi Coast is truly amazing and deserves a second visit.
Afterwards, we headed to Sorrento where we stayed at the Hilton Sorrento Palace, a large modern hotel. It was the beginning of our emergence back into normal life again. Some chose to relax poolside while others ventured forth to explore new territory. Sorrento is full of wonderful shops, little churches to wander through and fine dining opportunities along the beach and hillside.
Our first stop was to the island of Capri (pronounced CAP-ree) via a 4+ hour train ride from Milan to Naples and then a ferry boat from Naples to Capri. The LaPalma Hotel was amazing! We all fell in love with our Island “home” instantly and acclimated to a life of bliss and luxury with relative ease.
The next day many of us took the city bus over the hills to the little town of Anacapri, which is less touristy and full of charm. From there, some took the adventurous ski lift ride to the top of the mountain for incredible views of life below, while others enjoyed all that the little town could offer them from the safety of ground level.
For dinner, our group met at Da Paolina (The Lemon Tree) for an extravagant dining experience under a lemon grove. The appetizer and main course buffet was tasty and delicious with a wide variety of island delicacies and file Italian cuisine, which was followed by the elaborate dessert buffet which included fresh fruits, delightful pastries and cakes, and an incredible serve-yourself gelato bar.
With full stomachs, we returned to our hotel to pack up for our a.m. departure. It was going to be hard to say goodbye to Capri.
- Internet connection issues. No really, we had some accessibility issues. Seriously, Wi-Fi was not as readily available as perhaps we had imagined in Italy.
- Crazy schedule. OK, it might sound like a lame excuse here, but this was a busy trip and technically it was a “mission” trip. We were in Italy to serve by singing, after all. So in between our choir rehearsals and concerts, our long walks to get to the concert locations, the sightseeing adventures and forced late-night gelato runs, there wasn’t much time left over for anything else other than sleep.
Thanks for your patience and for joining us on our journey! I hope to post more about the extension adventures very soon…
Thursday, May 2, 2013
In today’s blog message the answers are:
Yes, yes, and yes.
Yes, the St. Luke’s Chancel Choir and accompanying entourage have seen the sights, eaten pasta, sampled fresh mozzarella, drunk wine at lunchtime, sampled at least three flavors of gelato, and/or been witnesses to a car accident, ridden the Metro, taken a ride in a Roman taxi, and/or walked miles of cobblestone streets alongside zooming scooters and relentless little Fiats.
And, yes, they have lived to tell about it, as loved ones are sure to learn soon.
And, yes, we’ve been singing. The choir gave its first concert Tuesday evening at San Ignazio, a church within a block of the Pantheon filled with Baroque art and statuary. Church representatives assured Mark Squire and Bob Zehr that 9 p.m. would be a good starting time on a week night in the Eternal City, as Italians typically eat late and stay out late.
They were right, of course.
By the time we closed the concert, some 300 people filled the pews in the magnificent space. Sprinkled throughout the program were anthems with Latin texts, passages no doubt familiar to many of our listeners.
We got a standing ovation, and one older gentlemen in front raised his arms above his head, as if applause just wasn’t enough to describe how he was touched, or perhaps he just wanted to hug us all.
St. Luke’s own senior pastor Rob Fuquay, standing behind this man, smiled and raised his own arms in solidarity. Or maybe he was just signaling the choir a touchdown. In any case, gifts of music and love were given and received, given and received.
Posted by Jennifer Hawke at 11:15 PM
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
At around 6:30 a.m., many of us got our first glimpse of Europe from the airplane window, cloud banks broken by the peaks of the Alps. An hour later, we approached the airport, green fields and clusters of red-tiled homes hugging bits of the coast. The waves of the Mediterranean broke along the beach. And with a soft landing, we arrived.
It’s hard to be at your best on the first day of a trip like this with jet lag affecting sleep patterns, meal times and personal hygiene. But choir and guests practiced good manners, I’m happy to say, and we settled into our Rome hotel quickly, starting with a lavish brunch that included sausages and thinly sliced Italian meats, tortes and pastries, fruit, and the richest quiche I’ve ever tasted. And cafe americano that was wonderfully unlike anything that ever came from a Mr. Coffee.
Several of us ventured over to the nearby train and Metro terminal (oh, did I mentioned the weather was warm and sunny?) and hopped on an open-top tour bus for a whirlwind tour of the Eternal City. The Colosseum, the Forum, St. Peter’s, several other monuments and churches appear around corners as the bus takes us along narrow, busy streets filled with honking cars, zooming scooters, and pedestrians, well, everywhere.
I enjoyed soaking up the colors, from the rich green leaves of tree-lined streets, the pale yellow and terra cotta of the painted four-plus storied buildings studded with tall windows, all shuttered, some with lavish window boxes and rooftop gardens. Every so often, a thoroughly modern facade would appear, wedged in between ones with ornate window cornices.
The span of architecture in Rome is a humbling reminder of those millions of minds and hearts who lived before us and helped to form what we think of as our cultural heritage. This city has a lot to teach us in the next few days!
Posted by Jennifer Hawke at 4:57 AM
Sunday, April 28, 2013
Blessing and honor