Relic of Saint Francis Xavier to go on Display

The body of Saint Francis Xavier is kept in a casket in the Bom Jesus Basilica in Goa, India.  Once every ten years it is put on public display.  The Diocese has announced that this event will take place from November 22, 2014 through January 4, 2015 in the Se Cattedral de Santa Catarina, commonly known as the Se Cathedral.

Millions of people are expected, both Christians and non-Christians.  At one time it was hoped that Pope Francis might visit during this time but, according to the Vatican News Service, he has declined that invitation.  

He was credited with baptizing thousands of people in his lifetime, using his right arm.  His right arm was taken to be put on display at the home church of the Jesuits in Rome, the Church of the Jesu….hence the body you see here is missing his right arm.

There will be daily masses and additional temporary facilities which will offer a prayer room, counseling, cultural performances and more.


Temporary closures of Pompeii

In an age of austerity, you can look forward to labor disputes interrupting your travel plans on occasion.  Such is the case this week (June 23-26) in the ancient ruins of Pompeii.  

Union meetings called during the morning hours meant that tourists had to wait several hours before finally being admitted.  

The unions are disputing back pay and working conditions, and obviously by scheduling these morning meetings they put pressure on management to agree to their demands.  

So if you plan to visit Pompeii this week, just take this in to consideration.


Don’t let fear stop you from Independent Travel

As we approach the busy travel season in Europe, one of the things that people worry about is getting scammed in one way or another. 

Unfortunately, although violent crime is rare, pickpockets in cities such as Paris and Rome tend to be very active and it seems that the authorities do little to combat them.  

Fortunately, you can take some basic precautions that will minimize your exposure.  Just a few are:

1.  Do not wear flashy jewelry…leave that back home.

2.  Use cross-body straps on purses, camera cases, etc. so that even if your hands are occupied you won’t present an opportunity for a thief.  

3.  If you see a disturbance on the street, keep walking. These can be staged events designed to distract you while someone helps themselves to your wallet or purse.  

4.  If someone approaches you with a “lost” ring or other valuable, ignore them and keep on walking.  Again, this is designed to distract you and is one of the more popular methods of taking your belongings.  

5.  Do not open your wallet in public, and never allow anyone to help you at an ATM machine.  

6.  Keep your money (and credit cards) in more than one place…if you do become a victim you won’t lose everything at once.  Use a money belt for walking around.

7.  Leave your passport in the hotel safe.

8.  Use old, beat-up luggage.  Using flashy, expensive luggage is asking for trouble.  Same applies to backpacks.  Let’s face it, if you are a thief you are going to go where the money is!

So, have we scared you?  Hopefully not…..we hope we have assuaged any fears you might have.  Taking a few precautions mean that you are much likely to become a victim.



A great cruise opportunity from Canada

We like to point out bargains as we find them.  Today’s suggestion would be most appropriate for those living either in Florida in the U.S. or Quebec City, Canada.  If you have read our page on re-positioning cruises you will know what a bargain they can be.  When a ship has to be moved from one place to another as cruising seasons change, the cruise lines naturally don’t want to sail with the ship empty.  And hence there are some bargains to be found.

One that we think is an exceptionally good deal is a 14-day cruise on Holland America departing Quebec City and sailing to Prince Edward Island, Halifax, Sydney in Canada; then on to the U.S. cities of Portland, Maine, Boston, Mass., and then down the coast all the way to Port Canaveral, and Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  

Your first night is spent in Quebec City on the 14th, with the ship being your hotel.  Then the 15th is a great opportunity to visit one of our favorite shrines:  the Shrine of Saint Anne de Beaupre in Quebec.  It is the oldest shrine in Canada and one of the most popular pilgrimage destinations in the country.  Then you can board your ship and have a few more opportunities to visit other Catholic sites along the way.  The cost for this 14 day cruise, according to their website is $1199 for an inside, $1599 for a balcony and $2999 for a luxury suite.  Taxes and fees are extra.

And don’t forget, Holland America has a Catholic priest on all its sailings to celebrate daily Mass.   To see which other cruise lines have a Catholic priest on board click our page here.


Looking for a Sunday Brunch in Rome?

Picture breakfasting in Italy! Those of you who have been to this magnificent country before perhaps found the traditional Italian breakfast of a hard roll and coffee somewhat disappointing.  But, good news, due to popular demand from tourists, some hotels have begun offering a ‘reinforced breakfast” that includes cereals, eggs, etc.  

And we were truly ecstatic when we recently discovered that Cafe Pompi, a popular local Roman restaurant, offers a fantastic Sunday Brunch.  Their specialties are poached and scrambled eggs, crispy bacon, toast, butter and jam, baked beans, tasty sausages, pancakes, fluffy muffins, donuts, yogurt with cereal, fruit salad, all invariably accompanied by orange juice and a steaming cup of coffee.  The cost is pretty reasonable for an Italian brunch of this quality: about 10 Euros.

But if you don’t happen to be here on a Sunday morning, then consider stopping here some time for their famous Tiramisu, which is their main claim to fame. Many consider it the best they have ever tasted.  You can get all kinds of flavors, but their original is still a big draw.

I can’t decide whether I want the brunch or the Tiramisu, but I am not in Rome that often, so I’ll have both!

They have a couple of new locations, but we recommend the original one at Via Albalonga 7 in the San Giovanni neighborhood. Open Tuesday thru Sunday 6:30 AM to 1:30 AM.  Metro to Re di Roma stop and two minutes walk to restaurant.  The restaurant is south of the Termini Train station. 

Been there?  Please let us know how you

By the way, we are not compensated in any way for this review.  Just wanted to pass this on to everyone.


Breakfast in London, Lunch in Paris, Dinner in Barcelona?

Yes, this is possible and welcomed news! Those traveling from Paris to Barcelona have always had the option of taking a high-speed train, but it had one serious drawback. Due to the fact that France and Spain use different rolling stock, you had the inconvenience of having to change trains near the border between the two countries. With the construction of a new high-speed rail line that links the two cities directly, that problem has been eliminated…no change of trains is necessary.

The upper level in the first class coach.  Second class is basically the same, but with more seats.  Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.
The upper level in the first class coach. Second class is basically the same, but with two seats on each side of the aisle. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

The trains clip along at a speed of about 200 mph (320 kph ), enough to get you there in a hurry but slow enough to see quaint French villages with the majestic Alps in the background and then, on the final leg, the beautiful Mediterranean coastline of Spain. For a better view, try a seat on the upper deck (these are bi-level carriages).

The Paris-Barcelona trains run from Gare de Lyon station, one of five stations in Paris.

Le Train Bleu Restaurant inside Gare de Lyon Station (photo courtesy wikipedia)
Le Train Bleu Restaurant inside Gare de Lyon Station. A step back in time to the golden age of travel. (photo courtesy wikipedia)

By happy coincidence one of our favorite lunch spots in Paris just happens to be in a train stationTrain Bleu Restaurant  inside Gare du Lyon.  Sit down, have lunch from the set menu (which includes a half-bottle of red) and then at train time you just walk a few yards (meters) directly on to the train.

There are currently two trains each day, with a travel time of approximately 6 and a half hours from Paris to Barcelona making several stops in France and a couple in Spain. In March 2014 that will be increased to four trains per day.

For British travelers this new service will also allow you to take the Eurostar to Paris, change stations and then catch the train to Barcelona.  So it is possible to have breakfast in London, lunch in Paris and dinner in Barcelona.  What a convenience and a great entry for your travel journal!

Those of you coming from the UK might also want to check out Loco 2.  This booking website gets great reviews.

We are big believers in train travel in Europe.  First, the romance of train travel is hard to resist, especially since air travel has long since lost any semblance of romance and the wait to check in can often be longer than the flight itself.  Also, since most train stations are located downtown, you avoid a long (and often expensive) trip from the airport to the city.  

Certainly more relaxing than flying....and the food is better!
Why anyone would choose fly rather than take the train eludes me. Certainly more relaxing than flying….and the food is better!

Most importantly, you can actually see the countryside and its people rather than looking down from 30,000 feet.    

You can get up, walk to the snack or restaurant car, and socialize with others.  This is the beauty of train travel, it’s definitely more rewarding than just the utilitarian need to get from one place to the other.  

So, sit back, relax, meet new friends….whatever. That’s probably the whole reason you’re traveling in the first place.

For a more in-depth look at train travel in Europe we recommend the website called the Man in Seat 61.


Christmas Crib in Notre Dame Cathedral Paris

The Creche ( called by names such as Manger Scene, Crib, etc) is a staple in many houses as well as churches ever since Saint Francis created the first one in the 13th Century.  In the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris there is a tradition of hosting a crib from a different country each year.  For 2013 it will be the Czech Republic.  

Photo of this year's crib courtesy Notre Dame de Paris
Photo of this year’s crib courtesy Notre Dame de Paris

During the time from early December through early February an estimated two million people will visit the Cathedral.  At the foot of the crib Cathedral is located a large transparent box. All visitors, regardless of faith, are invited to register a Message of Peace and drop it in the ballot box. These intentions of prayer and peace that are requested every night during the last Mass at the cathedral.  

Update:  We failed to note in ou calendar that the crib in Notre-Dame de Paris is available to visitors every day, during the opening hours (7.45 am to 6.45 pm)

During Saturday and Sunday and other exceptional nights shown on our calendar, the crib is available until 8.45 pm.

Check out Calendar of events for details.





Tridentine Mass summer school in the South of France

The Monastery Saint Benoit offers a great opportunity designed for families, individuals and groups of clergy and laity who wish to participate in liturgical celebrations according to usus antiquior (the Tirdentine Mass) in addition to having a holiday in Provence in the South of France. The school will run from Saturday July 5th through Sunday July 20th.

Each morning (except Sundays and pilgrimage days) practical training and academic formation will be offered in such topics as Liturgical chant for cantors, singers and sacred ministers; How to celebrate low Mass (for seminarians and clergy); The roles of sacred ministers (priest, deacon, subdeacon) at solemn and sung Mass; Training for altar servers; Liturgical theology; Liturgical History (The Second Vatican Council) and a reading course in the seminal texts of the 20th Century Liturgical Movement

In addition to the liturgical celebrations there will be pilgrimages to several major historical sites in the area including Mass at the local Marian shrine of Notre-Dame de Miremer; the medieval Basilica of St Mary Magdalene at St Maximin to pray before the relics of St Mary Magdalene where Mass will be celebrated as well as a visit to the cave; a guided visit to the former Cistercian Abbey of Le Thoronet (built in the 12th & 13th centuries) and a pilgrimage to the chapel and relics of Saint Roseline of Villeneuve (†1329).

One of the highlights will be a Pontifical Mass at the Throne celebrated by the Bishop of Fréjus-Toulon, Mgr Dominique Rey on Friday 18th July.

La Garde-Freinet, is located in a wine growing region some 11 miles (20 km) from Saint-Tropez and approximately 7 miles (12 km) from the Mediterranean Sea. Unlike many areas,  English is widely spoken in the village. 

Participants will arrange their own accommodation and will be responsible for their own meals. There are several hotels and B&B’s in the village.  You can participate in the entire two-week program, or just portions of it if you wish.  

More details and registration information will become available beginning early January 2014.

 Click here for the official website of the summer conference.


What do searches for Moscow & San Antonio have in common?


We get searches on our main website for lots of places and subjects; however, two consistent searches that we get every Friday and Saturday are for Moscow and San Antonio.  Now you wouldn’t necessarily put those two cities together…one the capital of the Russian Federation and the other a historical and popular tourist destination in the U.S.  So why do we get so many search requests for these two cities on the weekends? Is there a connection?

The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Moscow
The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Moscow.

It turns out that those searching for these two sites are looking for a place to attend a Catholic Mass.  Moscow, of course, does not have a lot of Catholic churches since most of the churches are Russian Orthodox.  So we suppose visitors to the city have a hard time finding a Catholic church.  (There are several, so click here if you want to know more).  

San Antonio, Texas is a different matter.  

In addition to the chain of Spanish Missions, there are many Catholic churches in the Archdiocese (one of the oldest in the U.S.) so what are people looking for?  

The Oblate Grotto in San Antonio.  Mass here is almost like going to Lourdes!
The Oblate Grotto in San Antonio. Mass here is almost like going to Lourdes!

Our Google Analytics report shows that they are looking for one place in particular:  The Oblate Grotto. Since San Antonio is full of places to attend Mass, why the Oblate Grotto?  The Grotto does have a full-size replica of our Lady of Lourdes Grotto as well as Our Lady of Guadalupe which makes it a wonderful place to attend Mass.

So out of all the possible places in the world, these two cities rank near the top searches on weekends. Interesting, yes?