Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Its A Wonderful Life

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, its that lovely time of year that everyone has been waiting for - Christmas! I, for one, have taken it upon myself to get into the Christmas spirit, and so has my best friend, Rome. The entire city is decked out in gold twinkle lights, and I've never seen anything like it in my life. The accordion players are even playing Christmas songs, so really, its impossible not to catch the spirit. If I was at home right now, this is what I'd be doing... 
I'd be decorating the tree at home with my family, watching the delicate pearl coloured snow flakes fall, baking gingerbread cookies and buying an extra tub of vanilla icing for extra 
deliciousness, wrapping presents in every colour imaginable, stashing my purse with candy canes... I'd be making a snowman and donning her in my pink Burberry scarf, and going beer boganning with my friends at H. H. Knoll park. I'd throw snow balls at the side of the house, sip hot chocolate inside by the fire, go Christmas shopping at the Pen Centre, and walk down West Street arm-in-arm with mom picking out new ornaments. I'd be buying candy cane scented soap from Harmony on West, listening to Christmas music and drive around the city appreciating everyone's lights display. I'd be buying a carton of egg nog and convince myself that I do like it (although every year my taste buds still disagree) and get drunk with my closest friends while building an edible gingerbread house. 
My favourite part about this time of year is eating yummy holiday candies with my sister on the couch while having a marathon of all the classic Christmas movies. Our personal favourite is A Christmas Story, and if you don't know what I'm talking about, then I feel really sorry for you. Ask for this movie as an early present and watch it right now. If you take my advice and aren't satisfied with the movie, tell me and I'll mail you a thousand dollars. I'm that confident that this movie is the best Christmas movie ever. Home Alone is also amazing because 1) who doesn't like a Christmas thriller and 2) "......KEVIN!!!!!!!!" Of course, Elf is also a must see. Unfortunately, you have to watch Zooey Deschannel have a shower and listen to her sing at the same time (I don't know which is worse) but its adorable, and I haven't met anyone who doesn't like it. My favourite childhood Christmas movie is Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer: The Movie. There are a lot of different versions of it but the best one is the one with ":The Movie" at the 
end, and it was made in 1998. It is very important that you watch this specific Rudolph movie, because the other ones just don't compare. If the one you watch doesn't include Stormella the Ice Queen, you've got the wrong one. Just to be sure you don't screw it up, here's the link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rudolph_the_Red-Nosed_Reindeer:_The_Movie
I promise you that my mom is the sweetest person at Christmas. She always surprises my sister and I by buying chicken bones. Before you gag, I don't mean real chicken bones. Its the name of a candy that has a hard, sweet pink shell and has chocolate on the inside. My mom has always done such a good job with Christmas stockings, and that's one thing I'm really going to miss this year. We have these huge stockings that she always fills with makeup, magazines, candy, chocolates, jewelry, and for some random reason, a clementine. You know its Christmas in the Pressé household when there are cartons upon cartons of clementines stacked in the kitchen.
Missing out on Christmas this year makes me realise that I don't think I can miss out again next year. I think that this is my one year to really put myself out into the world and travel and experience Europe, but next year I would like to be able to be closer to my family so I don't have to miss out on things like this. I feel that I should share a couple of mine and my sister's Christmas traditions, one in which I doubt anyone else does. I forget how old we were when we stopped doing this, but for some reason we thought it would be a hilarious idea every Christmas Eve to run in the snow around the huge tree in our front yard. Naked. We did this for several circles - that's right, not just once - and we were even barefoot. We still leave out milk and cookies for 'Santa'. When we were younger, I always chose the tallest glass and poured it to the rim with milk. To this day I don't know if my parents dumped it into the sink or if they actually drank the whole thing. 
They also would leave cookie crumbs left behind on a plate (I always thought it was a bit rude of Santa not to put his dishes away). We left carrots in the snow for the reindeer and my parents would shake Christmas bells while standing at the staircase, causing my sister and I to jump out of bed and race to our parents room to 'wake' them up. My mom would write really clever things on some of the presents. For example, some things would be signed with love from Cindy Lou, The Grinch, Rudolph, Jesse McCartney - all my favourite people. 
Niagara-On-The-Lake is, in my opinion, the world's most picturesque city - especially at 
Christmas. Its beautiful, old fashioned, and not ruined with tourists. There's horse carriages you can ride around on, beautiful Victorian mansions that are dressed up in their Christmas best, and the most incredible Christmas store in the world. Its open all year round and sells everything you can imagine that has to do with Christmas. If it was acceptable to go door to door singing carols with my family, I'd do it. I wonder if that's acceptable in Italy... Probably not. I mean, could you imagine if you were an Italian and this bubbly little foreign girl bangs on your door, and starts belting out the lyrics to Jingle Bell Rock? Maybe I'll give it a go, though, and carry around a little box with a coin slot. I could always use some extra money, but who doesn't? I've already bought my Christmas cards, signed my name, and licked the envelope and stuck them in the post box. This week, they're putting a huge Christmas tree up at the Vatican, which I'm really excited about. I must say... Rome's Christmas decorations are a bit more extravagant than Port Colborne's. 
Last night, Nathan and I were taking another nighttime walk around Rome and appreciating all the beautiful Christmas decorations and lights. He's leaving for Paris today and isn't coming back until Sunday, so we wanted to see each other before he headed off to the land of impossibly skinny women, house music, and hairy legs. He said, "Even though I love this city, I can't wait to go home for Christmas." Sigh... I told him that I'm not going home for Christmas. I expected him to say how terrible that was, and that I should be with my family, not in Europe. But I told him my plans, and he was really enthusiastic for me, which made me feel really good. I probably already mentioned this, but I'm going to travel with my Austrian friend Magda for Christmas. 
Actually, today is exactly 3 weeks until my trip, and I'm so excited. I'm flying to Munich first, where Magda is picking me up. Then we're driving back to Salzburg to spend Christmas, and we're travelling to a place called Upper Austria as well. Then we're going to spend a few days in Vienna, and then Prague for New Years. So even though I'm not going to be home for Christmas, I'm still so excited to see Magda and travel to so many new places. I'm not sure how well we're going to do in Prague... I know we're going to have a great time, but neither of us speak Czech or have ever been there. But its kind of hard to miss home and worry about not being able to speak Czech when I'm about to embark on the greatest holiday experience ever. I don't think anyone knows just how excited I am for this festive season!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Follow The Yellow Brick Road

This is a representation of the Pope and I.
For me, coming from Port Colborne to Rome is a lot like The Wizard Of Oz. I was stuck in this seemingly black and white world, and when I arrived in Italy, my life became technicolour. And now, I never want to leave. I was talking to my friend Taylor about this, who's living on the border of France and Switzerland. At first when she heard I was taking the year off to travel, she thought I was crazy. But then I encouraged her to do it, and she did. I'm really proud of her, too, because she was supposed to go to the University of Toronto for law, and now she's learning French and having the time of her life. She says, "The only problem with coming over here is that I never want to leave." I couldn't possibly agree with her more.
Ever since I moved into my new house, I haven't had much time to update my blog because I'm literally in the heart of Rome. I no longer have to wait for anything or anyone - I can go wherever, whenever. And every single day, I'm out and about. I also have loads of free time, so I've been spending most of it out with friends, window shopping, touring around, eating more food... It is pure heaven over here, and now I know how Dorthy felt. Except instead of, "there's no place like home," "there's no place like Rome." I love my life here. Especially since I have such great people to spend it with. 
One of my favourite people here is my good friend Kelsey, who I spent Sunday evening with. We met up at the monument in the centre of Campo dei Fiori and split a bottle of wine. I keep a wine opener in my purse at all times, (I'm so European these days) and the whole time she was accidentally saying dirty things. It was really nice to be able to use the "That's what he said" bit that only really make sense if you're a Native English speaker. We talked about her busy weekend, and my new house, made up stories about the people walking by, and I gave her the details of my new beau. We'll call him Nathan. 
Nathan is 20 years old and is studying here with my other American friends like Connor. I met him a few weeks ago at Scholar's but nothing really happened between us until last week. I went out with my au pair friends and the Americans on Friday, and Nathan was there, looking more delicious than anything I've ever seen in my entire life. Honestly, I've never 
been this attracted to a guy before. He's from Boston so he has this sexy little accent, and there is no way I can describe him without being able to do justice. He has tanned skin, dark brown eyes, and a perfect smile. On top of his charming looks he's an actual gentlemen, and asked about how I grew up, what my family's like, and all that important stuff that's sometimes awkward but really wasn't at all. He's really easy to talk to, but its bittersweet because he's going home to the U.S in three weeks. I was talking to a friend about him and said how terrible it is that I just met him now, and that I wish we had met sooner. She reminded me that it could be worse, and that I could've met him three days before he left, or maybe not at all. This is true. I hate it when she's right.
So, after Kelsey and I had some wine, she walked me to Scholar's where I went to meet with Nathan. His favourite football team, the New England Patriots were playing, and they won, so he was pretty happy about that. We hungout there for a bit and then decided to walk around the city. Rome at night is beyond any kind of beauty you can ever imagine, especially the Trevi Fountain, with its electric blue waters and twinkling gold lights.
On an evening in Roma.
It still has tourists and romantic couples lounging about even at 1 am. We walked everywhere, and eventually ended up at Villa Borghese. We just hungout there and had a view of the whole city. The best part was St. Peter's Basilica, which was decorated with gold lights. It was definitely one of my favourite nights in Italy so far. I don't know how much I want to, or should reveal about my current romance going on here, because this isn't just some drunken guy I met clubbing or a French idiot who wears scarfs and stripped shirts. I actually get the butterfly feeling with this guy, and so I want to respect his privacy as formally as I can. When he was walking me home (I told you he's a gentleman), I saw my Swedish friend Ronja, who I've been running into spontaneously lately. She thought that maybe he was Italian or Greek or something, and said, "Who's the hottie? What country is he from?" He replied, in perfect English (and that irresistible brooding Boston accent), "I'm from the U.S." She was really taken aback, but then laughed and said, "That's too bad, I was hoping we could talk bullshit about you behind your back right now." Oh, Ronja... 
Another person I ran into the other day was my French friend Marine. She told me she thought she saw me stumbling out of a bar in Campo dei Fiori Friday, which was true. I went to a bar/restaurant called 'Sloppy's', which bears the logo, "Classy in the front, sloppy in the back." The chic dining area was outside at the front, and the bar was at the back, in case you didn't catch on. She told me, "Yes, I zought it vas you, who else is zat tall, thin and blonde?" Hearing her say that made me feel like... Well, tall, thin and blonde. When a French woman compliments you on your physical physique, you should feel really good about yourself. Every Monday and Thursday, I take the little ones to their swimming lessons and guess what...? Marine's little girl goes there too! Her name is Indigo, and she goes to a French school, but not the same one that Daisy and Lodo go to. We were watching this man in one of the pool lanes who was heavy set, and we couldn't tell whether or not he was naked. When he got out, we saw that he was actually wearing a skin coloured (and unfortunately very see through) bathing suit. It was a bit of a relief, because while he was swimming we could actually see his butt crack. Marine didn't know what this was and asked me, "Vhat is zat, ze name of ze meedle of ze ass?" 
An ass crack, Marine. Its called an ass crack.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Casa Dolce Casa

(Photo courtesy of Shayna Dwor)
I, MichElle Catherine Lauren Pressé, have moved into my new house in Rome. Finally, I am here. For those of you who haven't read my previous blog post titled "Fearless Friday's", let me give you some background. I'm living in Campo dei Fiori, which is in the heart of Rome. Everything is in walking distance, and I'm nestled right in between the Vatican and Piazza Navona. Piazza Navona is a beautiful square filled with outdoor café's and has several large, marble fountains situated right in the middle. In my opinion, I am living in the ultimate location in Rome, for day and night. How lucky am I? 
Speaking of luck, don't you hate that one person you know who does everything on time and somehow flawlessly without ease? Lately, I have been this person. What I mean is that before I moved here and took the bus, I would show up at the stop and it would magically arrive within the first five minutes of my being there, when it usually takes between 10 - 15 
Lodo on the left, Desi on the right
(photo courtesy of Shayna Dwor)
minutes of waiting. Then, when I was out for dinner with my friend the other night, the waiter came over and apologized because he actually sat us at someones reserved seat. No big deal, right? We'd just move. Well, I guess they felt pretty terrible about it, because we scored a free bottle of wine. Also, I went to the grocery store the other day because I wanted to pick up a box of tea for myself. I didn't know that there was a huge sale on the vanilla tea that I love, but even better than that, I got the last box. I guess its true what they say - good things do happen to foreign people.
So - my new living situation. Its a beautiful yellow house filled with lots of art and interesting details. For example, there's a spiral staircase, wooden beams, and archways here and there. My bedroom is painted a light cream and I have those Japanese cherry blossom flower pattern on my curtains. I sound like an idiot, but I'm really excited about my window.
The window in my old bedroom had these dark metal shutters that made my room like a cave. It was always so dark, and would be so unless I either turned the lights on or opened my window, which let cold air in. But now, I don't have any shutters - just normal glass and normal curtains! So my room has sunlight - beautiful, natural, happy-go-lucky sunlight. I have a chandelier and wooden beams across the top of my million foot high ceilings, and a picture of an angel hanging over my bed. I like to think this will make me have only good dreams. I have my own private bathroom right across the room from me that is painted this amazing shade of bright orange. Let me tell you, I am quite comfortable here.
I guess you could say the family is well off... Not only do they own a beautiful house in the centre of Rome, but they also have their own castle in Tuscany as well as their own private island. I swear, someone could make a movie about these people. But oh, wait - someone already did! A couple weeks ago there was a film crew taping part of a movie at their house. If they come back maybe I'll get a small part and kick off my acting career. 
There are 10 of us living in the house, which is about the population of my town back home: the parents and their four children (Clemintina, Manfredi, Lodovica, Desideria), not one, but three Filipino workers, and now me. So its a busy household. Actually, the one Filipino worker is currently home in the Philippines for a little while, but he's coming back sometime after the holidays.
Clemintina, the oldest, spends most of her time out with friends or in the upstairs loft painting. Manfredi is rarely home, because he's always playing sports. Which he could do perfectly at home, since they have their own basketball and volleyball court. I'm really only responsible for the two little ones, Lodo and Daisy. Lodo is curious about everything I do, and tries her best to ask me questions in English. Her and Daisy follow me everywhere, and have become my two little Italian
Amazing lunch prepared by the
Filipino cook, Veronica
shadows. Because we live right in the centre, I can take them anywhere I please. So basically, I get paid to walk around Rome and play with two adorable children. The kids all go to the private, super exclusive French school in the heart of Villa Borghese that was a palace designed by Michelangelo. Man, if only I could've had the education these kids are getting... Its really tempting to speak French since we all know it fluently and their English isn't so good. But Lodo really does try hard, and I can't imagine trying to be trilingual at the age of 8. Daisy has created her own personal language called Frenglian. French, English and Italian all rolled into one. 
Anyway, the house is literally sitting on top of pure Roman ruins. There is a pathway under the house where there were old shops, and they keep their wine and ping pong table down there. So, I can play ping pong in Roman ruins without having to leave the property. Another interesting fact about the house is that during the medieval century it housed a madwoman. 
Play room (photo courtesy of Shayna Dwor)
During this time, my bedroom and the parents bedroom were connected, and she was imprisoned for chopping off her father's head. She eventually died here, which is a nice thing to know about the room I'm going to be sleeping in for the next 6 and a half months.
On a different note, my mom and I had a phone conversation before I left and she was asking me about my feelings for next year. I still have absolutely no idea what I'm going to do, but if I decide that I want to go to school in the fall, than I have to apply in less than a month... Eeeek! She's kind of encouraging me to take more time off to travel because I'm enjoying it so much, and I told her what I want to do. I told her I wanted to give Harpo Studio a call and see if I could host The MichElle Pressé Show. Who wouldn't want to watch that? I would love to host my own TV show. Then, I came up with the most fabulous idea known to humankind. I would like to travel all over the world and host tour 
guides to cool cities. But, instead of the usual facts of history, I would make everything up in order to make the city both more hilarious and more interesting. Of course those participating on the tour guide would know everything is fake, but it would be hilarious. I thought my mom would respond by saying, "I am so proud to have given birth to such an intelligent daughter. Only you could come up with an idea that creative. You are perfect." Instead, when I was done telling her my idea, there was silence. Then she said, "And people are supposed to pay for that?" More silence. "With WHAT - fake money, too?" We'll see who's laughing when the rest of the world hears my idea.
Well, I just wanted to make sure I was able to set some time aside from my busy day to share this with you guys. Tonight I'm going to the nearby grocery store to pick up some MichElle-friendly snacks for my snack cupboard, and then I plan on spending the rest of the night reading my Glamour magazine in bed. Tomorrow, I will explore some more, and will update as soon as I have more time on my hands.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Friendsgiving Part II: Jewish Ghetto Style

Do you know what it feels like to look back on an old photo of yourself and not even recognize who you are? Because I have. Sometimes on facebook, things will come up on the side of my page that I posted a long time ago. Today a photo came up from last year and I didn't even realize it was me until I saw that I was tagged in it. It made me realize that a lot can change in one year. Actually, when I think back to my life a year ago, nothing is the same. And you know what...? I'm perfectly at peace with this. I'm going to attempt to use a strange way to describe how I feel about my old life. You're going to think I'm crazy if you didn't already. I feel like I died and went to heaven (Italy). I kind of feel like a ghost when I look back on things because its hard to believe that once upon a time, it was really me. That's all I have to say about that.
The days we didn't care. I'm on the bottom right in the
yellow rubber boots. I wish I still had those bad boys.
On Saturday, I surprised my family by calling them at my grandparents house. Its my grandparents 56th anniversary and my nana just turned 79 this past month, and so all the family on my mom's side had a party. I was in touch with my cousin Graeme who knew I was going to call, and he picked up the phone right away when I called. Nobody knew who it was, and I got to talk to a bunch of my aunts, uncles and cousins. When the phone was handed to my papa, he didn't know who it was until he heard my familiar, cheerful 'hello'. He said, "Oh my God! Are you home?" Awe.... Bless your soul. No, papa, I'm still in Italy.  It felt so good to hear everyone's voices.
Last night, Kelsey and I went out for dinner to celebrate Thanksgiving. I know Thanksgiving was a month ago, but Kelsey is American, and so this is her day to celebrate. We kept giving
it formal names like, "The day in which we give thanks to God." We went to this little restaurant in the Jewish ghetto of Rome. It was my first time going to that neighborhood and it was a nice change in scenery. There were amazing little kosher restaurants and we had such a delicious dinner. Fresh bread, to start, and then I had gnocchi. It was steaming hot, smothered in tomato sauce, and had melting mozzarella cheese dripping through it. I have never tasted anything so perfect in my life. Kelsey had couscous and vegetables, and we shared a bit of each others meal. After our fancy dinner we walked over to Scholar's to visit my friend Connor who
goes there every Sunday to watch the American football games. Connor is the guy from Atlanta who saved me from that French guy. See Scarf's Are For Girls - Got It? if you don't know what I'm talking about. Connor was there with a few of his other American friends and he hit me with some tragic news. They're all going home in a month. What? I thought they were at least staying until spring. It was so sad, but we had a really great night together and I loved celebrating 'Friendsgiving' twice. I think I will make it a tradition once I come home to celebrate both Thanksgivings. Why should the best holiday known to humankind be celebrated once a year, if you can celebrate it twice? I don't know why I didn't come up with this idea sooner.
Giulia ghetto stomping
on her spaghetti.
Kelsey and I also flipped through my thick book on Rome. The book was published by National Geographic and has hidden maps, cool ideas for what to do and where to go, off-the-path excursions, and interesting facts about the city. We found so many things that we want to do together.
My current host mom is in Poland for the week, which means I am solely responsible for Giulia until I move out on Wednesday. My bags are almost entirely packed, except for this load of laundry I'm going to do before I go. Giulia went to her viola lesson after school and did some studying at home. After we got that out of the way, we made popcorn and watched A Bug's Life. I haven't seen that movie in about a decade, and I forgot how adorable it was. I love watching old Disney movies. I also walked around my neighborhood and took cool pictures of displays and found this really funky furniture shop. It was a great way to kick off the new week.


Friday, November 18, 2011

Old Buttons & Warm Memories

A reader e-mailed me with a question I thought I would publicly answer, as this is my open diary to the world. The reader gushed about my blog (thank you!!!) and at the end wrote, "PS: Do you think you're too picky with guys?" The answer to this question is absolutely. Let me lighten the confusion by reminding you that I do not want a relationship at this moment in my life, but that I do have standards when it comes to who I choose to dance/flirt/make out with when I go out. Yes. I am picky. Is this a bad thing? I certainly don't think so! If I'd been pickier in the past I would've avoided a lot of losers that are on the list of my ex boyfriends. I loosely remember hearing this quote that goes, "Don't waste your time waiting around for the perfect person when there is someone imperfect who could make you perfectly happy," or something like that. In response to this, I am not wasting my time waiting around for 'the perfect man'. In fact, I'm not waiting for anyone. I do have a thing for green eyes and English accents, but I am not seriously waiting for an English prince to come sweep me off my feet and make my dreams come true. Alcohol does that for me.
Nothing turns me on more than this.
Women, I encourage you to be picky about men. Why should you lower your standards when you know, and your friends know, that you deserve the best of the best? If you're fixed on finding a guy who lays rose petals on the bed and instead his idea of bedroom romance is cleaning his crap off of the floor, dump him. If you want a guy who shows up at your door with chocolate bars and new DVDs when you're PMSing and instead he just asks for some one way action, dump him. If you convince yourself you need a guy who wakes you up every morning with homemade pancakes and a back massage, then... INTRODUCE HIM TO ME. All jokes aside, I believe that everyone should have realistic standards when it comes to dating, but don't be afraid to go for someone who isn't necessarily 'your type'. If you always look for someone 'your type', you'll end up with the same relationship problems. I have this friend who always goes for the same type of guy - the infamous football douche. As long as he knows how to toss a pigskin, she's in love. And weeks or months after it doesn't work out she would come crying to me because either a) he cheated, b) he was a liar, c) he couldn't count past 10 or d) all of the above. I wanted to give her a smack upside the head with a newspaper every time because guess what, J? You keep dating the same guy with a different name over and over again. That's my two cents on relationship advice. For now. 
Well, for those who read religiously and are wondering what I possibly could've been doing these past few days that didn't allow me to write another post, I'm sorry to say that nothing profound has happened. I did some shopping, and that's about it. My favourite store in Rome is called Tally Weijl, which is similar to Forever 21. I bought a hot pink skirt, black glittery top, and a dippy-wrappy-kind-of-funky leopard print top. This means that the next time I choose to go clubbing, I won't be standing in my closet for a decade trying to remember what I wore the weekend before. I also bought some cool jewelry, a new scarf, and, best of all, A NEW COAT. But not just any new coat! A snow white, winter pea coat that fits me beautifully, even when wearing a thick sweater underneath. It has these cute silver buttons that make me feel like an adorable and feminine British soldier. Because its white, I can wear any coloured scarf with it, which is wonderful. It also has these white silk-lined pockets that make me feel like I'm touching heaven whenever I stick my hands inside. I wasn't planning on buying a new coat, but my beloved grey bell coat is tattered. 
Nana has been rocking her over sized tortoise
sunglasses way before Paris Hilton. Trendsetter.
I bought this grey coat two years ago in the States and I fell in love with it. That thing got me through the freezing cold winters of Canada and France, and we shared a lot of beautiful memories together... However, two of the big buttons are missing, which wouldn't be such a problem if it took more than four to do the coat up. There is also a huge chocolate stain on the front of it from my gracefulness of eating a crepe. I saved the old buttons because that coat gave me a lot of warm (literally) memories, but its too weathered for me. I think tomorrow when I go downtown I'm going to give it to a homeless person who will appreciate it, even if there is a little huge blob of chocolate on the front. As my nana Whyte would say, it was 'well loved'. My nana is always saying intelligent things, and it was recently her birthday this past month. Her favourite thing to say is, "Take a bite out of my ass, its a peach". Since we're on the subject of my nana and I love history (not that she is historical, but wait for it) her mom - so my great grandmother - was the first female principal in Ontario. Pretty cool, huh? I like to think I got my determination and feminism from her.
So - on a more important note... This Wednesday, I am moving in with my new family. This day has crept up on me, and I'm beginning to pack my belongings, which is making everything more surreal. I'm not really sad about it - I'm excited, more than anything. Actually, I'm realling looking forward to it, and I don't totally know what to expect. Sure, I'm still a bit nervous, but wouldn't you be too? 
Luckily for you, I'm in a wild writing mood which means that I've decided to write about my many random thoughts of the moment. The first thing on my mind - Italian salad. Italian salad consists of lettuce and nothing else, unless you decide to add some sea salt, balsamic vinaigrette or olive oil. At home in Canada, we add carrots, cucumbers, shredded cheese or even possibly cubes of cheese, a wide variety of dressing, croutons, etc. So salad here is very plain, and some of the American au pairs have complained about this. Personally, I don't mind. Its healthy and delicious.
Second thing on my mind - waffles/crepes/pancakes with hot chocolate dripping down it. I don't have anything else to say about it, just that I would really like some at this moment in time.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Let's Make Better Mistakes Tomorrow

Lately I've been feeling more creative than usual. Let's just say that if my life was a kindergarten classroom, I'd be spending my time in the art's and crafts corner with all the other cool, creative kids. I've been too busy to worry about applying to university, but to tell you the truth... I still don't know exactly what I want to do. I thought I did, but I'm starting to panic a bit because I have less than two months until the deadline for applications. I went out with some of my au pair friends, and my American friend Kelsey is kind of in the same position as me.
In a perfect world, I think I might possible maybe spend another year abroad... I really just don't know what to do. Part of me is saying, "Go to Ottawa! You need to go back to school." But then this other part of me is saying, "MichElle... School will always be there, I promise. Right now you are young and have the ability to be flexible and travel and do everything in the world that you want to do." Oh, dear... Its kind of like the devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other. Except on the left side there's me wearing my glasses and carrying a pile of books, and on the right side there's me wearing a backpack and carrying a map. Really, if you were in my position, which one would be more appealing to you?

Today I went into a shoe store to think about it. What better way to decide your future than to gawk at pairs of sparkly thousand Euro pumps with heels bigger than my ex boyfriend's....... ego? While I was in the shoe store, this skinny fashionista came up to me and said, "Hallo, wie geht's?" (This is German for hello, what's up?) I smiled because this guy obviously mistook me for a German, and also because I actually understood what he said. I love German's... Anyway, I shook my head and said, "Englische und Frankreich", and I realized after that Frankreich means "France", rather than an implication to say, "Sorry, just English and French." Then he pointedand said,"Reese Witherspoon." Oh my gosh. This man
just compared me to Reese Witherspoon. Well, who wouldn't?! If you look at the photos on the right, we're practically twins... Of course, the difference is that she has a heart shaped face, and of course I'm more famous, but nevertheless, it was a beautiful moment in my life.
I talked to Cely about my dilemma in not knowing what to do about university. She didn't offer any help, although she did listen to me and give me a banana. When in doubt, have some potassium... Help! Everyone gets so caught up in the whole What am I going to do with my life tragedy that they don't take a time out and decide what that's going to be. A lot of my friends in college and university admitted to me that
they don't like their school, or their program, and that they feel lost and trapped... I have the luxury of freedom, which is nothing to complain about. My biggest concern is what gelato shops are going to close for the winter. if Frigidardium closes, so help me God, I will lose. My. Mind.
I took some career altitude tests, asked for advice, and nothing helped. I wish I could go to sleep, and just wake up with the right answer. Really, though, this is the reality: In Canada, we are pressured to figure out what we want to do at a very young age. We then spend a fortune on school, and yet half of us drop out or end up miserable because we changed our minds 'too late'. The only concern I'm having is that I don't want to waste my time or money applying and then decide to travel for another year. Before I get too ahead of myself, I would just like to say that I am still coming home in June no matter what. I need to be grounded for a while, and I need to make some actual money for the summer, especially if I want to travel again. I'm playing ping pong in my brain. Europe, university. Europe, university. The thought exhausts me.
I found this interesting questionnaire on the internet. One of the questions read, "How do you define success?" I used to think the answer would be happiness, but that's a mood, not a destination. So... How would I define success? By learning a new language. Traveling to new countries. Eating dinner at that exotic new restaurant or sitting on one of the world's greatest ancient monuments while eating cinnamon gelato... That isn't success though, that's just what I like to do. And its a very depressing thought to know that I can't live this way forever... I just don't where which direction to go. If I came back to Europe again after next summer, would I be stuck in the same question as I am now, and could I really be away from my family again for another whole year? That's the reality when you move halfway across the world. Now would be a really great time in my life to win the lottery.
Where I would like to be in 10 years:
  half naked on a fountain.
People, I am in a pickle here. Please send me suggestions. Tell me what you think I should do. I know that ultimately only I can decide this, but it would help me out a lot if you could share your opinions with me... These are my current options for the future:
1. Go home in June, work for the summer, and move back to Europe for another year in the fall.
2. Apply to school, go home in June, work for the summer, go back-to-school shopping and move up to Ottawa.
3. Quit everything and work as a back up dancer for Enrigue Iglesias.
I wish that money wasn't an object and that I could be free to do anything and everything in the world, but I'm just dreaming. Right? Ahhhh, life... You are my best friend and my worst enemy. Much like Frigidarium. On the one hand you make me feel fulfilled and are dipped in hot nutella, but on the other, you take my money and cause me to be further away from my six pack.
I recall something I read about in the book Influence by Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. They put together a book that includes personality tests, opinions, favourite quotes, photographs of their favourite designer clothes, places of travels... There was something in there called the Proust 
questionnaire. Marcel Proust was a French writer who believed that a person must first understand themselves before they figure anything or anyone else out. I decided to fill out my own Proust questionnaire.
1. What is your greatest fear?
being abducted, or losing my eye sight

2. What is your current state of mind?
content

3. What is your favourite way to spend time?
traveling and exploring, but on a normal day, spending time with friends, drinking tea, writing

4. What historical figure do you most identify with?
i don't know
5. Which living person do you most admire?
oprah winfrey
6. Who is your favourite fictional hero?
robin hood - whats sexier than stealing from the rich to give to the poor?
7. Who are your real-life hero's?
my papa whyte

8. What is your most treasured possession?
the teddy bear my papa pressé gave me. his name is brown bear (i was very original) and it was my first gift. it may sound childish but i've taken him on all of my trips with me.

9. When and where were you happiest?
here in rome

10. What is your most obvious characteristic?
possessing a creative mind, making others laugh
11. What is the trait you hate most in yourself?
stubborn

12. What is the trait you hate most in others?
being late, dishonest and arrogant. so if a person is dishonest about why they were late and act arrogant, we will not be friends
13. What is your greatest extravagance?
the fact that i live in rome

14. What is your favourite journey?
 the one i'm currently on
15. What do you most dislike about your appearance?
my height, i wish i was taller. i like to think i'm a lot taller than i actually am.
16. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
perfection

17. On what occasion do you lie?
when someone annoying starts talking to me and i say that i'm busy 
18. Which words of phases do you most overuse?
"keep calm and carry on", i don't overuse it though
19. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
 not being such a perfectionist
20. What do you consider your greatest achievement?
moving to france alone at 16, then moving again to italy at 18, learning languages on my own

21. Where would you like to live?
right here in rome, where i am. or in buckingham palace.

22. What is the quality you most admire in a man?
a good listener, spontaneous, genuine

23. What is the quality you most admire in a woman?
independence, a strong sense of self, and a good sense of humour in all people

24. What is it you most dislike?
bullshit and grown woman who think its ok to wear pigtails. it isn't.

25. What do you value most in your friends?
their ability to love and support me no matter what i do or where i go

26. How would you like to die?
in my sleep, obviously. at my funeral i want everyone at my funeral to arrive in limos, wearinging black with veils and crying as celine dion sings, 'my heart will go on'. kidding.
27. If you were to die and come back as an animal, which animal do you think it would be?
a vegetarian lion (is there such thing?)

28. If you could choose an object to come back as, what would you choose?
not a toilet, i can tell you that

29. What is your motto?
everybody dies, but not everybody lives

30. Who has been the greatest influence on you?
oprah winfrey

31. What or who is the greatest love of your life?
i don't know 'who' yet because i haven't met him but writing and traveling are my two favourite loves at the time. i'm consistent and dedicated to them as i haven't been in my other loves.

32. Which talent would you like to have?
singing, or the ability to pick up languages the same way that animals can pick up diseases. you know?

33. What would you like to be?
"a wise woman"

Monday, November 14, 2011

Paradise

I have to share my new favourite song, Paradise, on this blog because it is absolutely wonderful. Its from Coldplay's new album, Mylo Xyloto, and it just so happens to be on constant loop on my laptop. What can I say - I'm obsessed! A lot of people criticize Coldplay for their songs being the same one after the next and putting people to sleep. I admit, sometimes I fall asleep to it - but only because its soothing. But some of their songs have made it onto my 'Jogging' playlist, so there! When I was in high school, I used to listen to Coldplay as I did my homework because it made me feel more intelligent. Anyway...
By nature, I am not a zen person. I'm loud, passionate, and get excited easily. When I laugh, you can literally hear me from half a mile away. I know this because a couple summers ago, my neighbor threw a huge party at our beach. My house is just up the road and my mom swore that she could hear me laughing. I don't really believe in astrology, but I feel that I fit the Gemini sign more than I do the Cancer. Even though I'm one of the most outgoing people on the face of the earth, I also have a very soft and quiet side of me. For example, lately I've been spending part of my afternoons reading Pride and Prejudice on my favourite bench at the park. When I don't feel like reading anymore, I just watch the ducks swim in the pond and... well, that's it, actually. I don't think, I don't feel, I just watch the ducks swim because its relaxing.
The other day my Austrian friend Magda was in a car accident. Nothing serious, thank goodness, but she e-mailed me saying how lucky she was not to be bruised and that she's using this as a lesson to take more notice of her surroundings and appreciate the little things. I couldn't possible agree with her more. So, tapping into the 'Gemini' side of me, there are two halves that make up MichElle. The first half is this vibrant girl who enjoys eating pasta, pizza, pastries, delicious rich foods. She loves going out to bars and drinking on the Spanish Steps with her friends, and she loves pinching random bums and making her friends' look like the culprit. She flirts and dances and has a laugh you can hear a mile away. She loves to have a good time and soak up every minute of fun she can get her little hands on. That's MichElle part one.
I love this photograph!
MichElle part two is a side that not many people see. She enjoys reading books in the most quiet part of the park. She would sometimes rather spend her nights inside writing and reading interesting articles. MichElle part two would rather wear her favourite purple sweater from home and a pair of cozy PJ bottoms rather than that leather jacket, tight jeans and pair of sky high heels. Sometimes she even goes to bed before 11 pm. 
No, I am not schizophrenic, I do not have multiple personalities, and I don't have a twin. But what I'm trying to tell you is that I'm not this crazy foreign party girl that some of my European friends think I am. For example, did you know that my favourite drink isn't a cocktail, but rather a nice hot cup of tea? Preferably orange tea, the smell and taste of citrus oranges make me feel happy and energized. And the colour isn't exactly hard on the eyes, either. Did you know that my papa Whyte is my hero, the person I love most in the world? Or that I'm a vegetarian not because its 'slimming' or 'trendy', but because I deeply care about the injustice of animal cruelty and disagree that animals are slaughtered every day in factories to feed our already obese population? Ladies and gentle men, my heart and mind go deeper than the Atlantic ocean.
The reason I'm telling you this is because the other day, one of my au pair friends told me, "You're one of the funnest people I know!" I recognize that 'funnest' isn't a word, but I don't want to fabricate this blog, and English isn't her first language. This shouldn't have brought me down, but for some reason, when she said it, I felt shallow and empty. So I wanted to write this not because I feel the need to defend MichElle part two, but because even the most social people sometimes need a weekend off or so to recharge their batteries.
Hi. I love you.
Before I begin to tell you how I've been spending my last few days (sorry for not updating, guys!) let me tell you a little tale about last Saturday. As the world knows, Berlusconi has made headlines for quitting his job as prime minister. On Saturday, Roman citizens, news crews, reporters, journalists, and even tourists lined up outside the gates of Piazza Colonna. It was truly incredible to see how happy the Italians are. The busiest street in Rome, Via del Corso, was blocked off because police were worried about people attacking the government as well as the private black cars that were sneaking their way through the back of the building. I made friends with this Italian journalist Alessandro, who told me everything that was going on. I am so glad I met him, because of course I love journalism, but he was feeding me all the information on exactly what was happening. We spent the whole night discussing politics and watching live history happen right before our very eyes. Alessandro made a joke that I thought was seriously clever. He said he couldn't have it into the press so I decided to give his joke credit on this blog. He said that the situation was much like the Colosseum. Piazza Colonna was the stage, Berlusconi was the gladiator, I and the other watchers are the spectators, and him as well as the other journalists, photographers and reporters were the vicious lions.
The crowd of people then walked to Berlusconi's house which isn't too far from Piazza Colonna, and you will never believe this... HIS HOUSE IS RIGHT BESIDE SCHOLAR'S! YES. 
Forever young.
All this time, I've been getting drunk right next to the prime minister's house. Scholar's is literally right beside his house. Its funny because I always wondered what this beautiful building with a large Italian flag was, and was even more curious as to why there were always policemen lined up outside, but I never would've guessed ol' Silvio lived there. I guess you really do learn something new every day, huh?
Wow, I get so sidetracked sometimes with my rambling, I haven't even got to what I originally wanted to talk about. So, for the past few days, I have actually been living a healthy lifestyle. I'm amazed, because usually when I plan on going for a jog I actually stop by Da Agostino for a slice of pizza instead. But, no. I have actually gone jogging and have done stretches every single day since this weekend. I also have been drinking tea again every morning, taking my vitamins, and eating a healthy well balanced diet. I'm so proud of myself. It isn't that I'm not in shape anymore. I am, but I began losing sight of that six pack I've always dreamed of. I know that if I keep up this regimen than it'll actually develop this time. Also, I've been kind of sleepy here... Since I've been eating pasta twice a day, I haven't felt as energetic and upbeat. I still am, but not naturally. So now - I'm back on track (literally). I remember hearing a quote saying that your body is a temple, and therefore you should treat it like one, which is what I'm doing now. And as I write this while drinking a cup of orange tea and eating a delicious apple, I've never felt so good. Looking back on this post while editing, I realize that this rant is kind of pointless, but I was in a creative mood. But hopefully you take something from it anyway.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Mad Haus

Political thug.
BREAKING NEWS - the Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, has resigned from his position of national sleazeball. Within a month there will be a new prime minister. HALLELUJAH! THE ITALIANS HAVE GONE WILD! Seriously - its all anyone is talking about right now. Even 9 year old Giulia is thrilled. For the past 17 years, Berlusconi has been a selfish tyrant who probably got the most votes in his high school for most likely to shove his foot down his throat. Its kind of a bittersweet moment for Italy. On the one hand, they are finally free of having a terrible leader who is involved with fraud, the mafia, bribing judges, being charged for having sex with underage prostitutes, having scandalous affairs with foreigners, and saying crude things that have caused other governments to look down poorly on it. 
On the other hand... Who is going to run the country now? And how will they pull the Italians out of their sinking debt? Right now is a very poor time in Italy's economy. Nothing like Greece, if you follow European politics and finances. I asked a few of my au pair friends about it and they said they're nervous on the financial effect this will have on the rest of the European Union. We'll see what happens, but today I had the best time waving an Italian flag through the streets with the other Italians who were crying, smiling and blowing kisses up to the sky. It was crazy.
My next piece of news seems a lot less serious compared to the paragraph I just wrote. I, MichElle Pressé, have finally bought myself a pair of rain boots. Yes - its true! I've been looking everywhere for the right pair, and I finally found them. The reason I've been so desperate for them is because every time it rains here in Rome, I can't really leave the house. It isn't good for either pairs of boots that I brought, so I realized that I needed the classic rubber boots for those rainy Roman days. But these bad boys won't just come in handy in
One of our typical conversations. Don't
worry - she gave me permission to
post this!
Italy, of course - my friend Magda and I are thinking about traveling to London over Easter break. England is notoriously rainy, but in the spring we must prepare ourselves from the buckets of water that we may encounter if we end up getting the chance to go over there. 
I am so excited to travel with Magda this Christmas, not just because I get to see amazing cities like Munich, Salzburg, Vienna and Prague, but because I think Magda is hilarious. We haven't met in person yet, but she e-mailed me back in May through an international pen pal website because she wanted to improve her English. Much to her surprise, I was moving across the ocean to a country that borders her own. We became close over the summer, sent each other post cards, packages, and thought it would make perfect sense to travel together - why not? So on Wednesday, December 21st, she is picking me up at the airport in Munich and we will set off on our 15 day road trip adventure.  
As everyone knows, today is the luckiest day ever. In the morning I was telling Cely about it an she got so excited. She set an alarm on her phone and we both made a wish at 11:11. I'm not a superstitious person, but if the world is telling you to make a wish at the luckiest time on the luckiest date, then why not? Besides - the next time I'll be able to make an actual good wish won't be until my 19th birthday on July 6th. And that's too far away from now, in my opinion. Back on track - since I'm not superstitious, I'm going to tell you what I wished for and hope it doesn't affect the outcome. I wished that this winter, it will snow in Rome. They haven't had a serious snowfall since January of 1985, but I like to think that this year it will in my honour. Of course - it already snowed back home in Canada. So maybe that's a telltale sign that my wish will come true. That's my only little update for now, but I just wanted to share that little piece of news with you all in case you haven't read the news or whatever. Consider yourself updated.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Do As The Romans Do

Are you planning a trip to Rome? Even if you're not, here is my step-by-step guide of how to survive in the Eternal City. It'll come in handy if you ever visit. The first thing I want to talk about is the buses. In order to 'legally' take the bus, you have to buy a ticket for 1 Euro at a news stand or tabacchi and stick it in the little yellow machine on the bus. This machine will stamp the date and time on the ticket to prove that you've paid for your ride. But really... Who can afford to do that every single time? Not me! However, sometimes the polizia comes on the bus and checks to make sure you have a valid ticket. You'd think that if you see them, you could just hop off the bus, right...? Wrong! Usually there are several of them so that they can block to doors to make sure no one gets off. They check your ticket, and if you don't have one, you're charged 100 Euros. No questions asked. A big, fat fine because you don't have a bus ticket. Now, I'm smarter than most people. What I did was I bought a couple tickets and kept them in my wallet. They haven't been stamped, but I take them everywhere. Every time I get on a bus, I stand by the little yellow machine, so if the police ever come on, I just stick it in the machine and I'm good to go. I haven't bought a single bus ticket since September.
The second thing on my mind - always, always, always act like a Roman. Just follow them. This is especially smart when crossing the street. Sometimes there aren't lights at crosswalks, and so if you ever want to cross the street, you have to walk like you own it. There's no hesitating, no 'maybe I'll cross...' You decide whether or not you're going to do it. If you do, look in the direction of oncoming traffic, stare into the eyes of the driver, and they will stop without any problems. Then you move along. 
The goal is to look as
similar to this guy as
you possibly can.
Another very important tip is to try not to look like a tourist. Blonde hair, pale skin, blue eyes = TOURIST. Map-in-hand, looking confused, snapping pictures every ten seconds = TOURIST. I can relate, because even though I act like a Roman, I still look like a foreigner. And I will continue to stick out like a tourist unless I get a tan, dye my hair dark, and invest in some coloured contact lenses. I'm not suggesting you do this, but try to study the map in your head before venturing out. The nice thing about Rome is that there are a lot of clues around the city for what area you're in. For example, if you want to get to Piazza di Spagna (Spanish piazza), look around at what you see. There is a very famous hotel close by called Hotel Madrid. Madrid, as in the capital of Spain - so Piazza di Spagna must be close by, right? Right! Think about it - simple. As for the snapping photos, I love photography, and anyone would be crazy to come to Rome and not want to take a hand full of pictures. So go nuts on that one.
Have you ever heard the expression 'keep your money in your front pockets'? There are a lot of pick pocketers in Italy, and when you go anywhere, you should actually hold your purse in front of you as if you were a football player carefully protecting the football as you carry it to the end zone. And men - never keep your wallet in your back pocket. You are guaranteed to be robbed.
Now, the annoying men you will find throughout the city... I'm having trouble beginning this because 1) I hate judging people and 2) I feel that what I am about to post is racist... But its important information to know. There are a lot of men working here from Africa who go about the city selling things. There are hundreds of them, all selling the same things - some sell these annoying toys that make these God-awful noises when you throw them on the ground. Some sell laser pointers and will point them at you in the night and laugh, hoping you will laugh along with them and maybe purchase one. The most
"Free roses? For me?" Don't be this person.
notorious sellers are the men who hangout at the Spanish Steps selling roses. They walk around to women and say, "Would you like to buy a rose?" When the women says no, he'll say, "You're so beautiful, you can have one for free." This is never true. The oblivious woman will take it and say thank you, thank you, thank you! Luckily for you I'm giving you the down low. As you begin to walk away, the man will try to make small talk by asking where you're from, and then ask for money. I know what you're thinking. Didn't he say I could have this? For free? Liars! All of them - liars. Just walk away from these guys. And if its raining, dozens of these men appear - out of NOWHERE - with umbrellas. The other au pairs and I think they all have their own secret underground mad house where they discuss what they're going to sell and how they can ploy more people into giving them money. Its crazy.
There aren't any beaches in Rome, but there are plenty of beautiful beaches in Italy that are for sure worth visiting. If you're traveling from the Western world, you are in for a very rude (or wonderful, depending on your philosophy) awakening. In North America, women especially are pressured to look a certain way. Tall, thin, big boobs, round butt. If you don't look this way, you should be ashamed. Cover up. Italy is 100% not like this whatsoever. At the beaches the men wear speedos, and the women are bare-breasted with thong bottoms. Or perhaps nothing at all. Its just how it is. Italians are not ashamed of their bodies, but if you want to wear a one piece bathing suit, they don't care. But understand that you are in Italy, and that you should adjust to their way of life. So don't expect anyone to cover up because seeing skin makes you feel uncomfortable. Deal with it. When I went to the beaches in Tuscany, I actually had Italians, both male and female, coming up to me with bottles of sunscreen asking if I wanted any. I still don't know if this was a joke because I'm pale or if they actually cared about my well being. In addition to talking about clothing, do not pull a Snooki and walk past a Roman Catholic church wearing a revealing outfit. The fact that I have to use a Jersey Shore reference in my blog deeply depresses me, but you get the idea. Its inappropriate to dress scandalously when walking by a church. In fact, most churches in Italy do not allow you to show your knees or your shoulders. So suck it up and wear a shawl.
Worth every single calorie - I promise.
Food. This is my favourite subject and I have a huge smile on my face just writing about it. I think its safe to say that Italian cuisine is the best over any other type of food - Mexican, Chinese, Indian... You just can't beat a bottle of red wine, pasta, fresh tomato sauce, pizza, gelato... You just can't. When you come to Italy, do not worry about what you put into your body. I don't care if you've been on a diet and are trying to shed those last 10 pounds. How many times in your life will you get the chance to eat true Italian food? Do as the Romans do and savour every bite. Enjoy your food, because in Italy, that's what their culture is all about - enjoying. So enjoy the food, because you deserve it, and because you can worry about your weight once you leave the country, because at this moment in your life, it doesn't matter. Italians take great pride in their food, and for good reason. The great news about this though is that its definitely possible to eat all this delicious food in Italy and actually lose weight. In fact, I haven't seen many overweight people while I've been here, because everyone is constantly walking. Through museums, churches, cobble stone streets, parks, beaches, mountains, hills - Italians love to walk. And while you're here you should, too! Also, one of the best experiences you will have with food is dining alfresco. Italians like to enjoy their food while also enjoying the weather, the scenery, and people watching. Also, dogs are welcome almost everywhere, so don't be surprised if you see a Yorkie or a beagle sitting alongside their owner at the table.
View of Rome from St. Peter's basilica.
It is said that the best art museum in Rome is actually Rome itself. There are beautiful fountains, statues, monuments and paintings everywhere you look. You will notice in Rome that there are many different depictions of the Virgin Mary. The interesting thing about this is that it is not to honour her, but because the Romans believed that if thieves were around and saw the Virgin Mary, that they would have a change in heart and behave like a good Roman should.
Italians are very laid back. This is sometimes a problem for me, because I grew up learning how to do things quickly - this is why we have places like Walmart, because we don't want to waste our time going to different stores. We would rather one-stop-shop and get it over with quickly. Italians like to take their time. I remember going to my favourite bakery in the centre one morning and saw on their sign that they opened at 9 am. Well, it was just past 10 am, and the owner was outside carrying boxes inside. I was disappointed by this and asked how soon they would be open. She said, "Whenever these boxes are finished moving. Anytime." Italians do not care about time. It means nothing to them.
Does this scene from
Eurotrip ring a bell?
Annoying men part two: Women, do not come to Italy expecting to fall in love or be swept off your feet by some stallion. Sadly, Italian men find it appropriate to behave like New York construction workers. Whistling, following you down the street, honking their horns, and basically acting like perverts. Its disgusting, degrading, disrespectful, but worst of all, its accepted. This has been very difficult for me to deal with, even after being here for nearly two months. What's even worse is that you can't exactly get away with telling them to F off or give them the finger. Italian men are aggressive, and they will get in your face and harass you even more.
Be careful on the streets because Italians are terrible drivers. They chat on their phones, text, don't look at the road, hog two lanes, park on the sidewalks, triple park in front of other cars, and even READ BOOKS while driving. Ok, so I've only seen this happen once. Yesterday when I was in the centre, I actually saw a man reading a book while driving. I couldn't believe my eyes. If you ever take a taxi in Rome, don't be surprised if the driver begins talking into his cell phone or pulls out the latest copy of their favourite author's series. The funny thing to me is that police are very strict on the no drinking and driving policy. This
rule of course isn't actually funny, but I heard a story on the news the other day about a woman who was charged with drinking and driving. She had not been driving erratically, but the police were doing car checks to test people. Normal - this often happens when I drive by the local bar by my house back home in Canada. This woman had a small amount of alcohol in her system and had her licence taken away immediately. She had no alcohol to drink, but rather, she ate some baba bread. Baba is a soft dough that is soaked in rum. In my opinion, the rules in Italy make little to no sense.
Never ask an Italian about politics. At least, not right now. The Italians are very ashamed of the way their government runs because it is dominated by Berlusconi, who is extremely corrupt. Asking an Italian about their government is like asking a French person how their mood is. Odds are, the answer won't be a good one. It even depresses me to think about Italian politics. Actually, cross this whole paragraph out. Never ask anyone about Italian politics. If you're interested, ask google.
Silly Pope!
The two most holy things in Italy are  the Pope and nutella. Stick them together, and its like Adam and Eve. They take religious and nutella seriously over here. While living in Milan last year, a friend of mine was at the dinner table with the Italian family she was currently working for. You know how sometimes if someone asks you a question with an obvious answer, you reply with a sarcastic question back? For example, Zack asks Katie, "Did you buy the new Harry Potter book?" Well, duh, because Katie is a huge Harry Potter fan. So Katie can respond by saying, "Is the sky blue? Do fish swim? Does James Brown get down?" Well, the Italians asked my friend an obvious question to which she responded, "Is the Pope Catholic?" Jaws hit the floor, because in Italy, you never joke about the Pope! It just isn't something you do. And nutella is a serious business. These people are obsessed with it and eat it every chance they get. In my opinion this is quite intelligent.
Pope condoms.
You better enjoy that last breath of fresh, cold Canadian air, because in Rome, everyone loves to smoke cigarettes. Its a very European thing, and you will even notice the waiters smoking outside while still doing their job. It may not be healthy, and you may still think its 'dirty', but this is just what Italians do. I've been singed a couple times by careless Italians limply holding their cigarettes in the hand as I walk by in a pair of shorts. In North America we have vending machines where you can conveniently buy a drink or a snack. In Italy, they have cigarette and condom machines. So if you need to have a smoke or want to have sex, just go outside and grab something from the 'vending machine'. 
Easter at Vatican City.
You definitely want to consider what time of year you plan on visiting. Christmas and Easter is the craziest time to come to Rome because of all the tourists. There are many nuns, priests and monks who travel all over to world just to come to Rome at this time to hangout at the Vatican. Between January and February is quite rainy. March and April offer warmth and sunshine. In April, the Spanish Steps are blooming with flowers, so its a very beautiful time to visit. May, September and October are the ideal times to visit because its hot, but tolerable. June to August is the absolute worst time to travel in Rome because there are literally millions of tourists every day who crowd the streets. Its hot, sticky, and super uncomfortable, which is why most Romans actually flee the city. You are guaranteed to sweat buckets and stand in line to get in anywhere for hours on end.
My final paragraph will be on random little tips. If you're a North American visiting Italy who is thinking about hopping over to a nearby country, check out Ryan Air. Ryan Air is a British airline company that flies all over Europe for as cheap as 9 Euros per flight. Amazing. Another thing I want to mention is that when you go to a bistro or pizzeria, they sometimes charge you extra if you stay there to eat. Its common for them to charge you an extra Euro for using their utensils, table cloth, etc. I feel like I've already explained the bidet is a low and looks like a toilet. Its actually used for after you use the bathroom to wash yourself, and to use before and/or after sex to keep clean. If you don't use it for this you can also wash your feet in it. Its a nice idea, really.
Well, I think I've covered all the important tips and insiders on how to get around Rome without any trouble. If you have any tips for me, or are planning a trip to Rome, I would be more than happy to be a free and personal tour guide. I know all the best bars, shops and restaurants to hit. I hope you enjoyed reading.