About earthriderjudyberman

Stories, and the art of telling them, fascinate me. I am a writer, a teacher and former reporter - both in newspapers and on radio. In this blog, I will share some of the stories I heard growing up, from our travels, our family and experiences on the job and off.

Valley of Fire in Nevada

Valley of Fire - Nevada

By Judy Berman

The desert might seem like an odd place to visit when the temperatures have been in the triple digits for several weeks.

But, fortunately for us, there was a slight breeze and an air-conditioned van that eased any discomfort as we toured the Valley of Fire State Park in mid-July. Valley of Fire is about 50 miles northeast of Las Vegas, Nevada.

We scampered across rocks and climbed up into them. This place was on my must-see visit in Vegas this year.

Some people stare at clouds and think they look like a dog, a bunny or some other creature. As we stared at the rock formations, we did the same. We saw the profile of an Indian Chief, an elephant, a poodle and much more.

The desert also held some surprises. In the middle of nowhere, there were three cabins. The Cabins were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) workers in the 1930s.

Not far from the park, we stopped to visit the Desert Springs. While it’s a lovely oasis, don’t drink the water and don’t swim in it. The results could be deadly.

The Arch Rock, Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

The Arch Rock, Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

Nightmare? Rock formations

Nightmare? Rock formations

 

Valley of Fire - Fire Wave - a small waterfall spilling off the rocks

Valley of Fire – Fire Wave – a small waterfall spilling off the rocks

Valley of Fire - rock tunnels

Valley of Fire – rock tunnels

climbing steps to see petroglyphs (writings in the desert)

climbing steps to see petroglyphs (writings in the desert)

petroglyphs - ancient writings in the desert

petroglyphs – ancient writings in the desert

Profile of an Indian Chief carved into the rocks?

Profile of an Indian chief carved into the rocks?

Balancing Rock

Balancing Rock

A rock formation that some think look like a poodle

A rock formation that some think look like a poodle

The Cabins built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC)members.

The Cabins built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) members.

Desert Springs - A welcome attraction in the dry desert, but do not drink the water or swim in it.

Our tour guide, Adam Hefner with Casino Travel and Tours, at Desert Springs – A welcome attraction in the dry desert, but do not drink the water or swim in it.

 

Where do you prefer to visit? The mountains, deserts, rivers, the ocean or cities?

 

Note about the photos: I chose to use five photos from Wikimedia commons because many of my own photos had a bluish cast. Not sure what happened. It was certainly disappointing when I checked the photos after we returned from our tour.

Main Photo: Valley of Fire, Nevada – vista – taken Dec. 18, 2012, Author: Frank Kovalcheck of Anchorage, Alaska https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7d/What_an_amazing_place%21_%288286982428%29.jpg

Photo: Valley of Fire, Nevada – Arch Rock – taken Dec. 18, 2012, Author Frank Kovalcheck of Anchorage, Alaska    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b3/Arch_Rock_-_it_is_actually_very_small_%288285923311%29.jpg

Photo: Valley of Fire – Nightmare rock formations – taken Oct. 11, 2012. Author: John Fowler of Placitas, New Mexico https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/7a/Nightmare_%288192727113%29.jpg/640px-Nightmare_%288192727113%29.jpg

Photo: Valley of Fire – Fire Wave – taken Oct. 11, 2012. Author: John Fowler of Placitas, New Mexico. (At the time of his visit, there was a little waterfall spilling off the west side.) https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/54/Fire_Wave_%288161224428%29.jpg/541px-Fire_Wave_%288161224428%29.jpg

Photo: Valley of Fire, Nevada – rock tunnels – taken Dec. 18, 2012, Author: Frank Kovalcheck of Anchorage, Alaska https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/4/43/Absolutely_amazing_formations_everywhere_%288286980054%29.jpg/486px-Absolutely_amazing_formations_everywhere_%288286980054%29.jpg

 

Photo: Valley of Fire – climbing steps to see petroglyphs – ancient writings in the desert. Taken July 2015 by me (Judy Berman)

Photo: Valley of Fire – petroglyphs – Taken July 2015 by Judy Berman.

Photo: Valley of Fire – A stone structure that appears to be a profile of Indian chief. Taken July 2015 by Judy Berman

Photo: Valley of Fire – Balancing Rock – Taken July 2015 by Judy Berman

Photo: Valley of Fire – A stone structure that some think looks like a poodle – Taken July 2015 by Judy Berman

Photo: Valley of Fire – The Cabins – Taken July 2015 by Judy Berman

Photo: Valley of Fire – Desert Springs – Don’t drink the water or swim in it. Taken July 2015 by Judy Berman

 

Six Secrets to a Happy Marriage

Up - couple in the movie2

By Judy Berman

It’s the little quiet moments that I enjoy most, and the exhilarating times, too, in our 31 years of marriage.

What advice would I give for a happy marriage? I defer to others to bring you the pearls of wisdom that might work for you.

  1. Never go to bed angry

Even if you have to stay up several days and emerge with Rocky the Raccoon eyes from sleep deprivation. Of course, by then, you might be so tired that you’ve forgotten what your argument was about in the first place. That’s a win-win situation.

  1. Remember those three little words: “Let’s eat out.”

That worked for comedian Henny Youngman and his wife.

When asked the secret of their long marriage, Youngman confessed: “We take time to go to a restaurant two times a week. A little candlelight, dinner, soft music and dancing. She goes Tuesdays. I go Fridays.”

  1. An open-and-shut policy:

Benjamin Franklin recommended: “Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, and half-shut afterwards.”

Or, to quote another profound source:

“Like good wine, marriage gets better with age – once you learn to keep a cork in it.” (Gene Perret)

Up - couple in the movie

  1. Don’t stop believing:

“A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, and always with the same person.” (Mignon McLaughlin)

That bumpy ride on the road of married life often requires some realignment. To navigate it, to survive the ups and downs of life, means those in the vehicle might have to reset their GPS, and their outlooks to reach a common goal.

  1. Keep talking:

“A happy marriage is a long conversation which always seems too short.” (Andre Maurois)

That line of communication links you together. Your partner can’t read your mind.

  1. Keep laughing:

“A healthy relationship should have a lot more comedy than drama.” (Dave Willis)

Laughter bonds people. It might be lines in a movie that gets you to giggle. Or a weird situation you spot when you’re out and about. Inside jokes that keep on giving are the best.

Venice - family vacation - June 2015 (97) - at Caffe India

Each relationship has to find its own rhythm. I have to thank my husband, Dave, for his patience, love and support.

 

Do you have a quote about being happily married? Please share below. 

Source of many of these quotes are from: “40 Best Funny Marriage Quotes and Advice”   http://quotesaboutmarriage.com/40-best-funny-marriage-quotes

Photo: from the movie “Up.” For the second image, here is the link: http://www.supertran.net/2009/08/movie-up-2009.html

Photo: Dave and  I (Judy Berman) in Venice, Italy, June 2015.

An Unforgettable Teacher

Louis Lichtenstein - APW Central

By Judy Berman

The prospect of standing on a stage and acting out lines from a play were even worse than I imagined.

Just what was I thinking when I signed up for my high school’s prize-speaking contest?

Was it the lure of acting that spurred me on? The promise of easy money? It was a paltry sum, but anything that added to my feeble allowance was a plus.

I turned to Louis Lichtenstein, a history teacher, and asked him if he would help me prepare. He wasn’t my teacher, but he was someone I often turned to for advice and knew I could count on.

It’s been years since I’ve graduated from high school, but I’ve never forgotten Mr. Lichtenstein and how he encouraged me to step outside my comfort zone.

I was reminded of this incident twice – on the same day – the day before I returned to school to teach after summer break.

During pre-planning, Brevard County Public Schools’ South Area Superintendent, Dr. Mark Mullins, asked all of the teachers at our school to stand. He asked us to think of a teacher who made a difference in our lives.

Then he pointed at me and a few others and asked us to name that teacher. There have been many wonderful teachers in my life. But, without hesitation, I said: “Mr. Lichtenstein.”

Dr. Mullins noted how we were all smiling as we reminisced about our own days as students. He told us we could be that teacher for our students.

That night, at home, I read Sara Paulson’s column in “Florida Today” about a high school teacher who made a lasting impression on her.

Among her concerns prior to the start of her children’s school year were whether they’d be going to a good school this year, whether they would struggle with their workloads and how they’d get along with their peers.

Paulson wrote: “Will this be the year that one of my kids meets his or her Mr. Collins?”

Tom Collins, she explained, was a teacher who was friendly, approachable. “Kids gravitated toward him. His class had a reputation for being fun.”

Motivational - The teacher will come when the student is ready.

Again, I thought of Mr. Lichtenstein as he listened to me emote lines from “Arsenic and Old Lace” – a dark comedy that Frank Capra turned into a movie in 1944 starring Cary Grant.

At times, from where he stood, my voice was barely audible. He’d tell me to project my voice. Or, he’d suggest ways to enhance my performance.

My confidence grew as I practiced my lines. I really got into the play.

Then, the big day came when I had to act out this play before the WHOLE school. OK! Altmar-Parish-Williamstown was a small school in Oswego County, but that didn’t make me dread the outcome any less.

As I crossed over to center stage, I prayed that no one would hear my knees knocking.

My mistake was that I looked out in the audience to spot one of my friends. At that moment, I realized my English teacher was saying my lines along with me.

I froze and stammered “I forgot.” It seemed like forever before I regained my composure and finished the play.

It’s safe to say that I raced thru my lines as fast as I could so I could escape the glare of the spotlight and the audience’s attention.

My discomfort was short-lived. Despite my lousy performance, I began to think about trying out again the following year.

After graduation, after I got married and had two daughters, I went to visit Mr. Lichtenstein. As always, he was a great listener, empathetic and gave excellent advice.

He’d left teaching. But his heart was still involved in helping others. He was a counselor who worked at Farnham Crisis Center in Oswego.

When I searched for his name this week on the Internet, I learned that he died in April at the age of 91.

I recalled the students who sought him out.

Like me, their spirits were uplifted after talking with him.

Mr. Lichtenstein’s belief in me made me feel I could conquer whatever I set my mind to. We should all have a caring educator like him in our corner. I know he made a real difference in my life.

 

What teacher made a difference in your life? Or, in your children’s lives?

Photo: In my yearbook, a photo of Louis Lichtenstein, a history teacher at Altmar-Parish-Williamstown Central Schools.

Photo: The teacher will come when the student is ready. http://www.nigelhuang.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/Daily-Motivational-Quotes-The-teacher-will-come-when-the-student-is-ready.jpg

 

Link: “Momsense: Who was the teacher who changed your life?” By Sara Paulson, Florida Today.  http://www.floridatoday.com/story/news/local/2015/08/11/momsense-teacher-changed-life/31452153/

Bill Carey – Bringing the Stories Home

Bill Carey in jeep

By Judy Berman

Working nights in radio is rarely glamorous. But I jumped at the chance in 1984 to work for Bill Carey, the news director at WHEN-AM radio in Liverpool, New York.

When I walked in the newsroom, I could always count on a few things. Bill Carey, with his ever-present cigarette, would be typing away furiously on his typewriter. Whether he was writing a hard-hitting news story or a feature, the end result would be polished, fair and memorable.

I looked forward to listening to his “Year in Review” stories. Carey often intertwined tales of a local murder or politics with clips from TV shows, movies and music sound beds. It was masterful, captivating, and either great fun or heart-wrenching.

In 1983, his annual report focused on the 1981 disappearance of an Auburn woman. Julie Munson had car trouble. A man, in a car behind hers, stopped to check her car. She apparently knew him, and accepted a ride after he told her there was a problem with her car.

Carey said she soon realized there was a problem. Not with her car, but with the man who gave her a ride. She threw her car keys out the window as a sign that she was in trouble.

Eighteen months later, her remains were found in the Montezuma Refuge. Munson’s father noted it was “not the solution we hoped for.”

Carey’s story ended with: “For 18 months, 4 days, the Munsons had left a light on their porch. In early April (1983), that light that had burned brightly for all of those torturous nights … fell dark. Julie Munson would not be coming home.”

In 1984, Carey’s annual report included a story of dirty tricks, intelligence-gathering and politics in Syracuse.

He used movie clips from “The Wizard of Oz” in telling this story involving former police lieutenant, George Georgiade, Syracuse Mayor Lee Alexander and Police Chief Thomas Sardino.

Wizard of Oz - 1900

Georgiade blew the whistle on alleged wrongdoing in Alexander’s administration. A county judge ruled that the grand jury reports remain sealed. The reports were critical of the mayor, the police chief and the top lawyers.

As Carey read each of the names, listeners heard the Tin Man (the Mayor), the Cowardly Lion (the Police Chief) and the Munchkins (the top lawyers).

An appellate court directed that the four grand jury reports be filed as public record.

Asked about the outcome, Georgiade said he won the battle.

But, a reporter asked, “Did you win the war?”

“Well, I’m just a small guy,” Georgiade said. “It’s very difficult for a small guy to win a war. It’s enough to win a battle, especially when it’s against City Hall.”

The story ends with Dorothy asking, upon her return from Oz, “doesn’t anybody believe me?”

Then, she declares: “There’s no place like home.”

Later, after Alexander, Sardino and a city hall attorney challenged the ruling, an appeals court decided that the reports remain sealed forever.

Bill Carey

When I think of home, I recall Bill Carey’s stories and how he brought them to life. Thru his writing, we embraced other people’s heartaches as our own. He cast a revealing spotlight on the messiness of politics, and created stories that were unforgettable.

On Aug. 7, 2015, Bill Carey, a senior reporter with Time Warner Cable News, lost his two-year battle with cancer. He is missed.

If you want to copy a portion or all of this post, please ask first. See Copyright details on the side and on the About Page.

Main Photo: Bill Carey in a jeep. (Photo courtesy of John Lisi to Syracuse.com) http://www.localsyr.com/story/d/story/photos-bill-careys-career-in-central-new-york/18835/t6zMb4jW0EiiV8lC9G6lqQ

Photo: Bill Carey doing a standup for television news cast. (I do not own this picture.)

Illustration: Characters from the “Wizard of Oz”  – Dorothy meets the Cowardly Lion, from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz first edition. Illustration by W.W. Denslow (d. 1915)

Unraveling a Mystery in the Classroom

Students - testing in class at a Taiwanese school. 2006

By Judy Berman

What if something you did when you were a teenager came back to haunt you 20 or more years later?

That’s what is happening to many teachers in Florida. Rep. Erik Fresen, a Miami Republican, created a program that will cost the state $44 million. In the state’s 2015-16 education budget, that money is set aside for a maximum of 4,402 teachers to get up to a $10,000 bonus.

But, for teachers to qualify for Florida’s Best and Brightest Teacher Scholarship, they have to be rated highly effective – the highest ranking – in their schools. Plus, they had to have ranked at or above the 80th percentile on their SAT or ACT scores.

You read right. That’s the tests teachers took when they were still in high school.

What was Fresen’s basis for this? He had read Amanda Ripley’s “The Smartest Kids in the World.” What he took away from it was that there is a clear link among nations with top academic performance: well-paid teachers with high aptitudes.

The problem is, Fresen got the equation backward. Ripley looked at how three countries – Finland, Korea and Poland – revolutionized their classrooms. She noted that if America “wanted to get serious about education at long last, we needed to start at the beginning.”

“Following Finland’s example, education colleges should only be allowed to admit students with SAT scores in the top third of the national distribution, or lose government funding and accreditation. Since 1.6 million U.S. teachers were due to retire between 2011 and 2021, a revolution in recruitment and training could change the entire profession in a short period of time.” (p. 96-97)

One reform Ripley said is needed is all stakeholders – parents, teachers, administrators, teaching colleges – need to embrace rigor.

Student - at a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math class

“In Finland, all education schools were selective. Getting into a teacher training program there was as prestigious as getting into medical school in the United States. That rigor started in the beginning, where it belonged, not years into a teacher’s career, with complex evaluation schemes designed to weed out the worst performers, and destined to demoralize everyone else,” Ripley wrote (p. 85)

I read Ripley’s book to see what was behind this issue. She followed three American students who took one year of high school in Finland, Korea and Poland. Thru these students, their schools in those countries and back here in the states, Ripley analyzed data and made many observations. I will focus on only a few.

Teens in Finland, Korea and Poland scored higher on the PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) than those in the United States.

“None of the other international tests measured teenagers’ ability to think critically and solve new problems in math, reading and science. The promise of PISA was that it would reveal which countries were teaching kids to think for themselves.” (p. 15)

The United States had a middling performance. “U.S. teenagers did better in reading, but that was only mildly comforting, since math skills tended to predict future earnings.” (p. 17)

Ripley said that there was a consensus in those three countries “that all children had to learn higher-order thinking in order to thrive in the world.” (p. 191)

She felt that there is a lack of emphasis on math in schools in the U.S. and that needs to change because “it was critical to kids’ life chances” All decent jobs required some math and science fluency. (p. 77)

So how do you spot a world-class education? Ripley suggests you tune out the “jargon about the curriculum and vague promises of wondrous field trips and holistic projects.” (p. 212)

Among her recommendations: Listen to the parents as they talk about the school. Ripley went on a tour of a Washington, D.C., private school where it cost about $30,000 a year. When a parent asked the parent tour guide what the school’s weakness was, she said: “The math program was weak.”

No reaction. But when the parent tour guide said she wished the football program was stronger, she suddenly had the other parents’ attention. Ripley was stunned.

Parental involvement is vital to a child’s education. But Ripley said that parents’ greatest impact is when they read daily to their children, talk with their children about their day, and discuss the news around the world.

“(Parents) are teachers, too, in other words, and they believe in rigor.”(p. 213)

Ripley admits that “no country has figured out how to help all children reach their full learning potential.” (p. 219)

While one child may thrive and excel in one school setting, another may fail. But the top scores were not about diversity, wealth or per student spending. “Excellence depended on execution, the hardest thing to get right.” (p. 18)

What changes do you think are needed to improve education in the U.S.? Do teaching colleges have to be more selective in students they accept?

 

Source: “The Smartest Kids in the World” (and how they got that way), by Amanda Ripley. Simon & Schuster paperbacks, Copyright 2013.

Photo: Junior high school students testing in Da Ji Junior High School in Chiayi County, Taiwan  (Dec. 1, 2006) https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/32/Students_Testing_Something_in_Class_at_a_Taiwanese_School_2006-12-1.jpg/640px-Students_Testing_Something_in_Class_at_a_Taiwanese_School_2006-12-1.jpg

Photo: Student at a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) summer camp at Ryken High School, Leonardtown, Maryland. (July 27, 2010). A student examines her robot before releasing it for a test. The camp was hosted by the Indian Head Division of the Naval Surface Warfare Center and Naval Air Warfare Center Patuxent River. More than 70 elementary and middle school students participated in activities such as building electronic alarm systems, solar-powered cars and water balloon cannons during the weeklong camp focused on encouraging K-12 students to pursue education and careers in the STEM fields. (U.S. Navy Photo/Released) https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/4/43/US_Navy_100727-N-4304M-001_A_student_at_a_science%2C_technology%2C_engineering_and_math_%28STEM%29_summer_camp_at_Ryken_High_School_in_Leonardtown%2C_Md.jpg/640px-US_Navy_100727-N-4304M-001_A_student_at_a_science%2C_technology%2C_engineering_and_math_%28STEM%29_summer_camp_at_Ryken_High_School_in_Leonardtown%2C_Md.jpg

Gondolas and Water Buses in Venice

Venice - nightlife along the Grand Canal

By Judy Berman

At times, the Grand Canal in Venice looks like a typical congested interstate highway.

Vaporettos (water buses) – Venice’s public transit system, gondolas and water taxis all jockey for position to and from the island.

After dodging Vespas and Smart Cars in Rome, it is a relief to go on shore to a car-less destination.

Our overnight stay at Hotel Ai Do Mori was just minutes from St. Mark’s Square, and our room had a view of the street and the bell tower. Except for the church bell ringing early the next morning, we didn’t hear any of the street noise while we were in our rooms. Lovely.

We got around the city “streets” on foot via narrow pedestrian walkways and bridges. Right after we checked in, we went out for lunch. Then, we were in search of a gondola ride.

We passed street vendors hawking their wares.

Suddenly, a vendor ran past us, talking excitedly on his cell phone. Apparently, he was alerting the other vendors that police were patrolling the area.

One vendor hid behind a cart near us and watched as police entered and then left the square. Within minutes, all vendors were back, and it was business as usual.

There were several gondoliers hanging out by the docks. We hopped aboard along with our youngest daughter and her husband. Our oldest daughter, her husband and their two children rode in a separate gondola.

During the day, a 40-minute ride cost 80 euros. You could divide the cost with another willing couple if you’re on your own. The ride is more scenic and romantic at night, but the price jumps to 100 euro.

Singing and music would be extra. Please ask for a Venetian song. Rick Steves’ Venice guidebook suggests “Venezia La Luna e Tu” (Venice, the moon and you)

“Asking to hear “O Sole Mio” (which comes from Naples) is like asking a Chicago lounge singer to sing “Swanee River,” Steves jokes.

Here’s some sights we saw on shore and off:

Venice - gondoliers and vaporetto on the Grand Canal

Gondoliers navigate their boats on the Grand Canal. A vaporetto (water bus) – Venice’s public transit system – is in the background.

Venice - St. Mark's Square

St. Mark’s Square – Music, tourists and pigeons fill the square. St. Mark’s Basilica (Basilica di San Marco) was built in the 11th century, replacing an earlier church. The saint’s bones have been buried here since about 830 A.D..

Venice - restaurant

A delightful surprise – either a shop or a restaurant – can be found just around any corner on the narrow “streets.”

Venice - restaurant display window

A close-up of the restaurant’s display window.

Venice - gondola and bridge

A gondola glides under one of the many bridges on one of the quieter, small canals. Our guide pointed out many interesting and historic sites along the way.

Venice - early morning

As there are no cars on Venice streets, produce and products are hauled on carts from the boats to the stores and restaurants. Early this particular morning, we saw one shop-keeper wash down the street in front of her business.

Buon viaggio! Happy travels!

Travel tip suggestions:

We took a train from Rome to Venice – about a four-hour ride. Seats fill up quickly. So it’s a good idea to reserve them ahead of time. We did so before we left the States.

Gondola rides: Rick Steves says prices are standard and listed on the gondoliers’ association website at www.gondolavenezia.it

Is Venice on your list of travel destinations? If not, where would you like to go?  

All photos were taken by me (Judy Berman) during June in Venice. The main photo is of nightlife along the Grand Canal in Venice.

If you wish to borrow any of my photos or my post, please ask first. See copyright on About page and on the side.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rage and Reverence at the Vatican

Rome - family vacation - Vatican - June 2015 (61) - Pieta

By Judy Berman    

Centuries-old art in the Vatican Museum and St. Peter’s Basilica stir strong passions. Rage and reverence.

In 1972, a deranged man damaged Michelangelo’s Pieta (a statue created in 1499 of the Virgin Mary cradling Jesus’ body after he was crucified). The man dealt 15 blows to this statue, which removed Mary’s arm at the elbow, knocked off a chunk of her nose and chipped one of her eyelids. The restored statue now is protected by a bulletproof acrylic glass panel.

St. Peter’s Basilica, the world’s largest church, covers about 5.7 acres. It was built in the 4th century over the tomb of St. Peter. “Atmospheric factors, the barbarian invasions, wars, sacking and neglect during the Avignon period had reduced the basilica’s structural walls to such a precarious state that it threatened to collapse.”   Construction on the new St. Peter’s Basilica began in 1506 and was completed in 1626.

Rome - family vacation - Vatican - June 2015 (84) - view of St. Peter's Basilica

St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museum are impressive because of their history, their size and their extensive art collections that included paintings, marble statues that are 15 feet high, and antiquities from Egypt – including a 3,000-year-old mummy.

Michelangelo’s 12,000-square-foot fresco on the Sistine Chapel ceiling was the only art that was off-limits to photographers. It took Michelangelo four years to complete (1508-1512).

A golden globe sits in the courtyard outside the Vatican museum. The “Sphere Within a Sphere,” created in 1990 by Arnoldo Pomodoro, is part of a series of bronze sculptures found in prime locations throughout the world, such as the headquarters of the United Nations in New York.

Rome - family vacation - Vatican - June 2015 (25) - Sphere within a Sphere (1990) created by Arnoldo Pomodoro

Laocoon’s statue, on display in the Vatican, was excavated in Rome in 1506. Legend has it that Laocoon and both his sons were killed by giant serpents sent by the gods. They were angry because Laocoon attempted to warn his fellow Trojans not to take the wooden horse outside the gates that the Greeks offered as a gift.

Rome - family vacation - Vatican - June 2015 (49) - Laocoon and his Sons

Along the base of the inside of the dome in St. Peter’s Basilica is an inscription in Latin of quotes from Jesus to Peter in the Bible. It translates to: “You are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of the underworld can never overpower it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 16:18)

Rome - family vacation - Vatican - June 2015 (63) - letters are 7-foot tall, quotes from Jesus to Peter in the Bible

The bronze statue of St. Peter is seated on a marble throne. He’s blessing the faithful with his right hand. In his left hand, he holds the keys to the kingdom of heaven. It is a tradition for pilgrims, after they’ve prayed, to kiss or rub St. Peter’s right foot. Over the years, this has caused his right foot to be worn smooth. The toes on his left foot still have individual digits.

Rome - family vacation - Vatican - June 2015 (66) - St. Peter - visitors rub his foot

The entrance to the Confessio – a 17th-century sunken chapel – opens under the center of the dome and “is really the heart of the Basilica.” Its name is in reference to Peter’s confession of faith that led to his martyrdom. Under the papal alter in the Basilica is St. Peter’s tomb. This is where, in the movie, “Angels and Demons,” (2009) – based on Dan Brown’s book – the Camerlengo (Ewan McGregor) met his demise when he set himself on fire.

Rome - family vacation - Vatican - June 2015 (68) - the confessio - under papal alter in Basilica

As we left, we saw the Papal Swiss Guards outside the Vatican.

Rome - family vacation - Vatican - June 2015 (80) - Swiss guards

Don’t be fooled by their colorful garb. These guys don’t play. When a visitor stepped inside an area that was off-limits, the guard strode menacingly toward the visitor, who quickly backed off and stood behind the barricade.

Is there an art collection or site that is part of your bucket list? Please add to the comments below. 

Source: St. Peter’s – Guide to the Basilica and Square.   http://stpetersbasilica.info/Docs/Basilica-Square3.htm

Source: St. Peter’s Basilica and Confessio –   http://stpetersbasilica.info/Confessio/Confessio.htm 

Source: Angels and Demons tour (of St. Peter’s Basilica) http://www.aroadretraveled.com/angels-demons-tour-air-st-peter-basilica-part-2/

Source: Sphere within a sphere. http://vatican.com/photos/gallery/the_sphere_within_a_sphere-p44

Next week, I will post photos from our visit to Venice.

Part 2 of our Rome trip – Roman Holiday – can be found here

Part 1 of our Rome trip – Roming the Streets of Rome – can be found here