Magnificent Rome

I feel very fortunate to have visited Italy recently, and I am pre-empting my regular past-and-present period to move back two thousand years.

I had no idea many of the great sights of ancient Rome are right next to each other.  I was able to reach these on foot from my hotel in a beautiful neighborhood, Aventino, with lovely apartments with red-tile roofs and inviting terraces, and tall trees lining the hilly streets.  This is one of the seven hills of Rome.

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Between this Aventine Hill and the Palatine Hill is the Circus Maximus.  A sign posted there stated Romans raced chariots drawn by teams of four or six horses.  The races took place for NINE HUNDRED years.

There  was once a stadium here that seated 150,000 people.  Today, the track remains.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Circus_max_1978.jpg

The ruins on the other side of the Circus Maximus, shown in the upper right of the photo in the link above,  are the ruins on the Palatino, the Palatine Hill.  “Palatino” for “palace,”  and there are great, long arched walls of an ancient palace and other buildings.

This hill was the birthplace of Rome, both according to legend (Romulus and Remus were supposedly raised by a wolf here), and history. Archeologists determined people lived on this hill 3,000 years ago, about 2,000 B.C. (BCE).

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The Palatine Hill overlooks the Roman Forum.

This video shows the Roman Forum, the few acres that were the center of Western civilization, of worship and government, for centuries.

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Visitors to the forum can enter the ancient Senate, where Roman citizens governed until the emperors became more powerful. I was awed to stand here.

Roman Senate

In ancient times, there were a number of arches in Rome commemorating military victories.  There’s one beside the Roman Forum, and a larger one, the Arch of Constantine, across the street from the Forum and the Palatine Hill, beside the Colisseum.  As I said, it’s amazing how close everything is.  Here’s the Arch of Constantine, built in 315.

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That’s the Coliseum on the right.  After viewing the Coliseum, we walked past monuments, including a square designed by Michelangelo, on the way back to the hotel.  What a day.  What a walk.

Magnificent Rome — Vatican City

Normally, I write about the late 1800s, the early 1900s, and the present, but I was very fortunate to visit Italy a few weeks ago, and this is truly a city of the past and present. The Eternal City.

I was astounded the first morning when we took a short ride on a public bus.  I saw, spanning the Tiber River, a beautiful bridge with several statues, and it was instantly familiar, probably from photos and movies.  On the other side stands an ancient castle.  The bus crossed the bridge, and the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica came into view.  I was thrilled to see these monuments so close together.  My mouth might have dropped open, but the other people on the bus were just going to work that morning.

To enter St. Peter’s Basilica, you wait in a long line in one of the most famous squares in the world.

There is a post office in the square, where you can buy postcards and mail them home with the postmark of the Vatican, which, you’ll recall, is a separate country from Italy.

Here’s the interior of  St. Peter’s Basilica, probably the largest church in Christendom.

The baldacchino, the bronze canopy-like structure, was designed by the Bernini and stands over the altar, which was built over the tomb of St. Peter, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus.

Men and women of the cloth pass the throngs of sightseers and go about their business.  From a chapel at the side, open only to those who wish to pray, a couple people emerged looking sad.  I imagine they pray at St. Peter’s for their desperately ill loved ones.

Two Swiss Guards are stationed at a private entrance for cars.  Although visitors took photos, his expression was almost fierce, letting everyone know he was truly guarding the Vatican.

The Vatican Museum, in a separate building, contains treasures of ancient Rome and the Renaissance.

The walls of the room above are covered with frescoes of maps.

Four rooms in the Vatican Museum were decorated by Raphael.

These rooms include Raphael’s “School of Athens,” below, featuring famous Greek philosophers.

The Sistine Chapel, with the ceiling and the altar wall by Michelangelo, is the most famous room in the Vatican Museum.

I’ll post more photos of magnificent Rome.

The VIP Room at Walt Disney Concert Hall

Angelenos, do not click away.  You may be very used to seeing Walt Disney Hall, but I’ve included a photo of the a little-seen modern, elegant VIP room, the Founder’s Room.  First, here’s the exterior of Walt Disney Concert Hall, which opened in 2003 in downtown Los Angeles.

Image credit: palette7 / 123RF Stock Photo

Designed by Frank Gehry, it is a concert hall in the round and the home of the L.A. Philharmonic and the Los Angeles Master Chorale.  I have a subscription to the Philharmonic, and when I walk up these steps in the afternoon to go to my matinee, there are always people outside taking photos.  Many look like they are on vacation.  They are happy to see this gorgeous building, but I feel lucky that I have a ticket to hear the L.A. Phil in this beautiful venue with its amazing acoustics.

Orchestras and chorales perform wonderful concerts at Christmastime.  You may want to buy tickets now to a holiday concert in your area.

Disney Hall’s Founder’s Room is a VIP room, but you can rent it for a wedding or a private party.

Hotel del Coronado, Part 5 — Ghost Sightings Compiled by the Hotel

The book Beautiful Stranger‘s Chapter 9 is a delicious read.  Guests have reported all sorts of strange occcurences and apparitions wearing old-fashioned clothes.  Two rooms have been studied by paranormal researchers and their instruments, and designated one a “classic haunting.”

I have a Master of Science degree in Geological Sciences, which has taught me to be open-minded where the natural world is concerned.  I’m a Christian, but I don’t know what to make of these sightings at The Del.  Chapter 9 is pretty darn convincing. Here’s one of my favorites:

A doorman and a female concierge showed off Kate Morgan’s room, a “haunted room” to two young guests.  No guests were staying in the room, and it had been cleaned by the maids.  When the doorman and concierge unlocked the door, they found the room as tidy as it should be except a woman had lain on the bed and left the impression of her body on the bedspread.  The doorman tried to straighten the bedspread, but it did not smooth out — the imprint of the woman’s body stayed exactly the same.  She lay there.  The concierge and youngsters screamed and fled.  Once they were out, the young guests were “intrigued.”

Yeah, pretty cool.

The Hotel del Coronado, Part 4 — The Victorian Ghost-in-Residence

Mid-Winter, Coronado Beach by Louis Betts (1907)

On my first trip to the Del, I was browsing the Victorian Gift Shop, which, I might add, is right up my alley, when a man entered.

“So, have you seen the ghost of Kate Morgan?” He asked the clerk.

“Oh, yes.” The woman seemed dead serious.

Intrigued, I purchased Beautiful Stranger: The Ghost of Kate Morgan and the Hotel Del Coronado. On the cover, it says “The official account of Kate Morgan’s 1892 visit and why she haunts The Del today.”

Over the years, there have been so many “sightings” that the hotel figured it had nothing to lose by publishing what is known of this young woman’s visit and tragic death, and the paranormal phenomena guests and employees have reported.

Kate Morgan had lost contact with her husband. He was a professional gambler, and last she heard, he plied his trade on railway cars. Kate worked as a domestic in Los Angeles when she took the train south and checked into the Hotel del Coronado alone. That in itself was unusual, but her behavior was strange.

She seemed be ill and  said it was terminal. She claimed that her brother, a doctor, would come.  She was not interested in a local doctor,  only in the man she inquired about at the front desk at least once a day for four or five days.

She took a train to San Diego, bought a gun, and  a hotel employee found her body outside early in the morning.   She was twenty-four.

A corner’s inquest was held almost immediately. Newspapers across the country speculated about the young woman, who had checked into the hotel using a false name. Although she had claimed to be expecting her physician brother, it turned out she had no brother. Who was the man she anxiously awaited, and did she end her life because he did not come to her?  perhaps it was her no-good husband or a lover. Had he cast her aside? Had he left her in a family way?

The San Diego Union reported that a hotel guest saw Kate Morgan on the train from Los Angeles to San Diego, accompanied by a well-dressed gentleman, and the two of them had a bitter quarrel, right on the train, which ended with Kate asking for forgiveness and her companion getting off the train without her. This witness saw her again at the hotel, and he was sure it was her. Trouble was, this man said Kate was on his train from Denver to San Diego. Funny that he spoke to a newspaper but not to the authorities.  He may have been entirely made up by the reporter.

The hotel’s heritage department compiled recent sightings in the book Beautiful Stranger, and some of them are in Kate Morgan’s room, and others seem to have no connection. Quite a few have occurred in a different room.

I regret I did not ask the gift shop clerk what she had seen to make her feel that the ghost of Kate Morgan was in her presence. The book describes incidents in the stores — the clerks witnessed books “jumping” or flying off of shelves, and the stories were corroborated by the store’s customers.

The Hotel del Coronado — Part Three

This is not Coronado Beach, on Coronado Island, off of San Diego, California, but this structure is similar to the cabinette my husband and I rented there. I could not write a series about this 120-year-old resort without telling you how wonderful it is in the present.

At the Del, a cabinette is two wooden lounge chairs joined together with a canopy that you pull up if you want shade.  The young people lucky enough to get summer jobs at this wide, wonderful beach brought bottles of water to our cabinette, as well as a bowl of fruit.  All included in the price.

Read a good book, doze, read, swim.

I don’t know how it can be legal, but just across the path, at the edge of the hotel, there is a walk-up bar where you can get wine, beer, or cocktails to go and bring them to your beach chair or cabinette.  Some people had cardboard boxes that held four cocktails per box.

Read, sip, doze.

The Del is presently the largest wooden structure in the United States.  Although it was built in 1888, it was powered by electricity from the beginning.  Other Victorian hotels were lit by gaslight, and the open flames caused fires and destruction.

Although a few days at this beach resort is wonderful, some guests in the early twentieth century stayed for such long periods — they received a substantial discount off the nightly and weekly rates — that the Del opened a school for the children.

With the next post, I will begin the astonishing events of the past and present.

The Hotel del Coronado — Part Two

Pickford, Chaplin, Gable and Katharine Hepburn, as well as movie stars of the present, have been guests at the Hotel del Coronado.  Eleven U.S. presidents have slept here.  Charles Lindbergh was feted at a 1927 banquet for his solo crossing of the Atlantic in “The Spirit of St. Louis,” and a replica of his plane circled above the guests in the dining room.

Clicking this link will open a new window with a website showing a lovely impressionist painting created by artist Louis Betts about 1907. It is of Coronado Beach, and Betts probably painted it while he was outside.  The top of the page has a detail of the painting. Below that is a blank area above a row of small photos (called thumbnails). Click on the thumbnail of this painting, the one on the far lef,t to see the entire painting.

I can almost feel the warmth of the sand. The lady in the white dress carries a yellow umbrella, and the top of it is lit by the sun. The umbrella shades her upper body, and she herself casts a shadow on the sand.

With all the sunshine and bathers enjoying the ocean, I wondered why the painting is called “Mid-Winter, Coronado Beach.” I’ve been to Coronado Beach in summer, which I will write about in a few days, and this looks like summertime to me. This afternoon, it’s 75 degrees in Coronado and the water is 69 degrees. (Yes, the water is this cool off of San Diego, the southernmost city on the west coast of the continental U.S.  That’s because the surface current along the Pacific coast comes from Alaska. Along the east coast of the U.S., the current comes from the Gulf of Mexico, so beach water is warmer on that coast.)

But mid-winter in Coronado? Isn’t the water chilly? The water then averages 59 degrees, but this painting was an advertisement for the Southern Pacific Railway.

This painting will be on display only until September 20, and then it will go into storage. The exhibit is called “Paradise Found.” I will try to see it. Art is worth the drive, and I could use a little paradise.  I’ll bet you could, too.  This is what art is for.

Hotel del Coronado — Part Three will describe the beach in the present, and then I will move on to the amazing events at the hotel, as I promised in Part One.  If you haven’t read Part One, the previous post, take a look at it and view a scene from the #1 comedy of all time.

The Hotel Del Coronado : A Beauty at the Beach – Part One

Image credit: coleong / 123RF Stock Photo

Let’s cool off. What better place than Coronado Island off San Diego, California? I had heard of a grand Victorian beach hotel a couple hours from my home, but when I saw Coronado Beach on a list of the top ten beaches in the United States, I had to go. Later this month, I’ll describe the past and present at the hotel – afternoons at the beach, famous visitors and astonishing events.  Yes, astonishing. I promise.

I’m excited to introduce this resort with a delightful video clip of a famous comedy filmed at the Del. The American Film Institute, based on input from many industry experts, ranked “Some Like It Hot” the number-one comedy of the first 100 years of American cinema.
“Some Like It Hot” stars Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis. Billy Wilder co-wrote, produced, and directed. Filmed in 1959, it takes place during Prohibition, when speakeasy musicians played by Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis witness the St. Valentine’s Day massacre. In order to flee Chicago gangsters, they must disguise themselves as female musicians. They join an all-girls band heading to a resort that is supposedly in Florida.

The clip shows the lovely Hotel del Coronado, where both Tony Curtis and Marilyn Monroe catch the eyes of millionaires. One of them, Osgood Fielding III, played by Joe E. Brown, flirts with Jack Lemmon.  It’s priceless.

http://youtu.be/F-E_gW71qfc