Whether you are traveling with a group or independently, you will get more out of your visit to Brazil if you do a bit of advance planning. One thing would be to learn a few basic sentences in Portuguese. Remember, that is the official language of Brazil is Portuguese, not Spanish as in most other South American countries. A phrase book or phone app would be a wise investment. At least become familiar with some aspects of the country, emergency contact numbers, etc. Here are a few basic tips to help you prepare:
As the tourist season comes into full swing in Rome, one of the most popular attractions not only for Catholics but many non-Catholics as well is the Sistine Chapel. Actually part of the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel can be so crowded during the height of the season (an estimated 20,000 visitors per day) that you cannot really have quiet time to enjoy it. When you are packed in like sardines it is hard to enjoy the beauty of the artwork. And some tourists just cannot be quiet while the guards saying “silencio” are equally distracting. Unfortunately, such crowds also attract pickpockets which can really ruin your visit. You either worry about getting pick-pocketed or actually do become a victim. It is not all that likely, but it does happen.
If you are an independent traveler you might want to consider a private guided tour of the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel. These tours are not cheap—about $300 per person–so they will not fit everyone’s budget. Those who can afford one may find it worth the expense as you will probably be in a small group of 10-15 people. These tours, as mentioned above, include the Vatican Museums as well as the Sistine Chapel. You will normally have about 30 minutes in the Sistine Chapel without the crowds and noise.
Most Catholic tour groups will include a visit to the Museums and Sistine Chapel during regular hours; however if you have planned to make the Sistine Chapel one of the highlights of your trip to Rome then you can probably take a private tour since most of these tours are after-hours when the daytime activities of the tour group are finished.
Be sure to check around since there are several companies offering these tours and you want to be sure that you choose the right one. Some of these “private” tours offered are during regular hours and although they are much less expensive (about $90 per person), they are not private in the sense that you avoid the huge crowds. You do, however, have your own private guide and usually a group of about 15-20 people. For independent travelers who don’t want the after-hours private tour this is a good alternative.
How we all hate those airport layovers! Of, at least most of us do—endless hours of boredom, questionable airport food, endless CNN broadcasts (often in a language you don’t understand) and waiting that just tend to wear you out. But…quite often direct flights are more expensive than those that require a layover so we end up with layovers. Most of us hope to spend as little time as possible between flights; however, trying to avoid long layovers can come with its own set of problems.
In this day of flight delays you sometimes you get a close (too close) connection that can cause you to skip that rest room that you really needed to use (should have gone on the plane!) and run breathlessly through the airport as you hear the dreaded announcement “final call” for your flight. And as it sometimes happens, this is from one end of the airport to the other. Of course the standard airline response to these close connections is: “well, it’s a legal connection”.
Our advice is to opt for the longer connection in many instances. The advantages? Well, you may get to see some sights that will add to the pleasure of your trip without spending much more. One time my husband and I had a flight on British Airways arriving at London Gatwick around 9:00 a.m. and our Croatia Airlines flight to Zagreb did not depart until 7:00 p.m. So we did a bit of research and found out that the Gatwick Express train could zip us into London in less than an hour. The “helpful” guy at customs told it wouldn’t be worth it, but fortunately we ignored him.
The result was a delightful day in London, catching a city tour bus, taking a cruise on the Themes and of course some fish and chips in a local pub. Got back to the airport with plenty of time to spare and had some great memories of our day in London even though that was not part of our original plan. Did not hit any Catholic sites that day but still it was a pleasant time.
Some people often extend their layover to an overnight stay. Often this does not change the airfare so long as it is less than 24 hours. Of course you will have the cost of your lodging but assuming you are some place interesting then it’s a great way to get even more enjoyment out of your travels.
Check out any Catholic sites that may be nearby: perhaps a chance to visit a nearby shrine or even attend Mass. Two examples among many are the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe near Chicago’s O’Hare Airport or the Shrine of Our Lady of All Nations near Amsterdam’s SchipolAirport. And you can easily whisk in to Paris from Charles de Gaulle airport and catch Notre Dame, the Miraculous Medal or one of the many other Catholic sites in Paris.
Or if you are not up to going anywhere but are just dead after that long overseas flight and have a later departure that day, consider grabbing a hotel room for a day rate. You can catch a few hours of sleep, take a shower and be bright eyed and bushy-tailed as you resume your journey later that day. Many airport hotels offer day rates at less than the normal nightly rate and a Google search for “Airport Hotel Layover Rates” will even pull up a couple of websites dedicated to just that. Be sure to leave a wake-up call!
How about you? Do you have a suggestion on any Catholic sites to visit during a layover. Let others know.
Pope Francis has announced only two trips this first year of his Papacy: World Youth Day in Brazil in July and to the Mediterranean the island of Sardinia, which is part of Italy, to visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Bonaria (Our Lady of Good Air) to venerate the statue of Our Blessed Mother that has inspired seafarers for centuries.
At first I did not realize the relationship between this city and his homeland of Argentina. But after reading more I now understand why this shrine would have such meaning for him. The Conquistadores who came to South America named the city of Buenos Aires, Argentina after this shrine. Buenos Aires literally means “Good Air”. Apparently they argued over whether to name it the “City of the Most Holy Trinity” or “The City of Our Lady of Bonaria”. The sailors, many of whom were from Sardinia and therefore had a devotion to Our Lady of Bonaria prevailed in the argument. The name was later shortened to simply Buenos Aires.
Of course, since Pope Francis is from Argentina he is quite familiar with history of the shrine so it is no surprise that he wishes to pay a visit as many other Popes have done previously.
The Shrine has been under the auspices of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy (the Mercedians) since its founding in the 14th Century and are active is several areas throughout the world today. Note the comment below for a description of the above photo.
Like many independent Catholic travelers, we like to try unusual things. Although staying in a chateau is not terribly unusual, it was the first time for us and therefore we considered it outside the norm. For some reason, we just don’t seem that keen on B&B’s. Can’t explain it—just prefer hotels. Perhaps we feel less privacy when staying in someone else’s house rather than a hotel. So when planning a trip to Normandy (mainly the Catholic pilgrimage site of Pontmain, Mont St. Michel & the D-Day beaches) we decided to try a chateau just to see what it was like. We hopped a train (our favorite way to travel in Europe) from Paris to Lisieux to visit the Shrine of Saint Therese of Lisieux. It’s only a little over an hour by train and so we spent a day there and then caught the high-speed TGV to the city of Rennes near the Normandy coast where we picked up our rental car. From here it was a short drive to the Chateau de Bouceel, our choice for this trip.
As you can see, the setting was like something out of Downton Abbey (minus the staff & the British accent). The chateau itself was beautifully maintained and definitely had atmosphere. The chateau briefly housed the German army officers for a few months in the summer of 1940 but they later moved elsewhere since the chateau did not have electricity at that time. The owner pointed out the front steps where his father, as a member of the French Resistance in World War II, was arrested by the Gestapo and was due to be shipped off to the Buchenwald Concentration Camp where he would no doubt be executed. However, the rail lines had been bombed and since by now the Allies had landed on the Normandy beaches he eventually was freed by the Allies. With all this history, staying here was a unique experience.
We had a car and made day trips to nearby Mont St. Michel, the Normandy Beaches and Pontmain among other sites.
Our host had a book of cartoons (in French), the cover of which is shown below, detailing his father’s experiences during the war which he signed as follows:
To the brave young heroes from the U.S., Canada, England, Australia….who gave their life and without whom my dad wouldn’t have come back, this book wouldn’t exist….I wouldn’t be here to sign it.
Let’s never forget!
People who prefer a chateau or B& B cite advantages such as individually decorated rooms, direct contact with the owners or the chance to mingle with other independent travelers.
Those who prefer hotels cite the more flexible check-in times (often you cannot come and go as easily), more anonymity, usually a restaurant on the premises. So I guess it is just a matter of taste.
Certainly, in our case, the chateau fulfilled all our expectations and then some.
How about you? Do you have any experiences you would like to share with everyone?
For more information about the shrine click here to go to our webpage on the Catholic Travel Guide website. It is open daily to visitors from all over, but is also a place of worship for locals as well.
In the video you will see Catholic artist Tobin Pilotte with his wife and six beautiful children taking up the gifts. Isn’t it refreshing to see young Catholics bringing more than 1.6 children in to the world? One of the tenets of our Faith is that children are a gift from God, not an economic and ecological burden.
For several years now the Vatican Museums have been open to the public on Friday evenings from May through October, except for the month of August, when most Italians take their vacations. These nights are different from the usual Vatican Museum tours in that they offer glimpses into areas not necessarily included in regular tours as well as musical performances by some of Italy’s most talented artists.
Tours of the Vatican Gardens, one of the hidden treasures of Rome, will resume on May 6, 2013 according to the latest report from the Vatican Museums official website.
The tours were suspended shortly after it was announced that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI would be taking up residence at the Mater Ecclesiae Convent which is located within the Vatican Gardens. There were certain alterations being made to the building that are now complete and on May 2nd he did indeed leave his temporary residence at the Papal Retreat in Castel Gandolfo and is now residing at the former convent.
What a question….sound familiar? How often have you heard this comment after excitedly announcing your decision to travel to a certain destination? It seems that as soon as you make plans to visit somewhere then things start to happen: a bombing, an earthquake, or the local populace going on strike. And of course the media is all over whatever sensational news there might be. That’s how they make their living!
Well, having been in that position more than once, here is how the conversation usually goes: