Traveling Mamas

Inspiring you to explore our world

  • Cover of A Journey into Michaelangelo's Rome by Angela K. NickersonA Journey into Michelangelo’s Rome offers a fascinating exploration of Roman culture, art, and politics, as well as a visual feast of Renaissance art and contemporary photographs. Street maps allow the reader to navigate through the city and discover Rome as Michelangelo knew it and as it exists today.

    Angela K. Nickerson is based in Sacramento, California; she regularly leads tours to Rome and other cities in Europe. She graciously allowed Traveling Mamas to interview her about Italy and her gorgeous new book. Read through to find out how to win a copy.

    Angela K. Nickerson, Author

    TM: What inspired you to write A Journey into Michelangelo’s Rome?

    AN: I came to this project by luck, chance, divine intervention, and happenstance. I used to teach literature, and I developed a course called “The Bible as Literature.” To hook my students I used Michelangelo’s work as illustrations for the Biblical stories we studied. His frescoes on the Sistine Chapel ceiling and his sculptures of Moses and David all made wonderful illustrations as we encountered those tales. My students truly understood and thoughtfully considered the stories as well as the artist’s interpretations.

    I’d been out of the classroom and writing professionally for a few years when Roaring Forties Press put out a call for proposals, but I knew that this was meant to be. A Journey into Michelangelo’s Rome is truly a fusion of my great passions: writing, travel, and art.

    TM: How long did you have to research all the information?

    AN: Because I’d done so much research as a teacher, I did not have to start from scratch. However, I spent months immersed in the 16th century reading everything I could find. I was very fortunate, too. Dr. William Wallace, one of the world’s leading experts on Michelangelo, was a tremendous help and led me to a few resources I might never have found on my own. I also know a few librarians who helped me track down some obscure documents.

    But the most fun part of the research happened in Italy. Casa Buonarroti in Florence holds the largest collection of Michelangelo’s papers and sketches. It is a remarkable place to visit. And in Rome I developed friendships with several people who work for museums and Rome’s archaeological agencies. They were a great help in collecting information as well.

    TM: Which chapter is your favorite?

    AN: That’s a tough question. Each chapter is a story from Michelangelo’s life and focuses on the creation of one of his great works. If I had to choose, though, I would say that San Pietro in Vincoli: The Tragedy of the Tomb (chapter 4) might be my favorite.

    In 1505 Michelangelo was commissioned to create a tomb for the newly-elected pope, Julius II. Julius II had grand ideas for his own memorial, and Michelangelo saw an opportunity for a lifetime of steady work. But it was not to be. Julius II’s priorities changed, and money was short. He redirected Michelangelo’s energies producing one of the world’s greatest masterpieces: the Sistine Chapel. And after Julius II’s death, his heirs scaled the project back further and further until the final installation (completed in 1545) was just a shadow of Michelangelo’s original vision. The story is sad and complicated and rich, but the pieces of art that were intended for Julius II’s tomb – Moses, Leah, Rachel, and the Captives – are fascinating.

    TM: Do you feel these places would be appropriate for families? If not, why?

    AN: Absolutely! Michelangelo’s work is very accessible for children. The stories are dramatic and intriguing, and his depictions are full of movement and life. Italian churches and museums are quite family-friendly, too. European schools often take field trips to museums, and they are used to accommodating younger patrons.

    The key to traveling as a family in Italy is preparation, and having a theme for a trip can make it more interesting for everyone. Of course, I am partial to Michelangelo, but many children and teens recognize his works when they see them. Knowing that, prepare them a bit for your trip. There are several children’s books out on Michelangelo that can be great places to start. And once you are there, edit the choices you make. No one can go to every museum in Rome, so choose the ones that fit your theme.

    The Vatican Museums, for example, can be overwhelming. There are thousands of pieces of art on display, and it can be over-stimulating for children and adults alike. However, hitting the highlights of the museum – including Laocoön, the Raphael Stanze, and the Sistine Chapel — rather than trying to look at every piece can make the experience much more enjoyable.

    The families who have the most fun on trips to Rome have done a little work before leaving, preparing together for what they will see. And cater to your child’s interests. If your 6th grader is studying Ancient Rome, don’t miss the Forum and perhaps a trip out to Ostia Antica would be fun. Do you have a budding artist? Take along a sketchbook and make some time to sit and sketch together in the Colosseum or in front of the Pieta. Those impromptu art pieces make priceless souvenirs. Perhaps your 10th grader has been studying the Middle Ages in World History. Then don’t miss the museum at Castel Sant’Angelo. It has great examples of swords and armor and the building was the site of many battles and sieges.

    Successful European travel with families is about pacing and preparation. But I see lots of families have a great time together in Rome!

    TM: Will you be writing other books similar to this one?

    AN: Yes. I am still not sure what my next project will be, but this was truly the best project I’ve ever worked on. It was incredibly fulfilling. I truly expect that my next project will somehow combine three things: art, history, and Italy.

    Thanks to Angela for taking the time to answer our questions. If you would like to win a copy of A Journey into Michelangelo’s Rome then leave a comment or question and you will be entered into our giveaway. Same rules apply, as always. Contest ends May 20 at midnight and winner will be announced on Winning Wednesday, May 21.

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  • I HEART Josh Groban. There. I’ve stated it to the world. I’m also excited to have a copy of his Internet Limited Edition CD/DVD Awake: Live which includes bonus tracks.

    I listened to the CD this weekend while cleaning the house and boy does it have some tracks that are perfect for a romantic roadtrip. Josh’s silky sexy voice turns my knees to jelly. In fact, I almost didn’t get the house cleaned because I put in the DVD after I was finished listening to the CD.

    Never fear, you have a chance to win your own copy. In fact THREE of you will have a chance to win a copy of Awake: LIVE. Just leave a comment about Josh Groban and his music and you will automatically be entered to win.

    If you don’t win, you can still buy a copy. And be sure to catch Josh in concert or even on the television. Check out this 20 minute AOL video: CLICK HERE TO WATCH

    Contest ends at midnight on May 20 (tomorrow). We’ll announce the winners this Winning Wednesday, May 21.

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  • Summer in the US is the time where most families head to the beach. These are my picks for the 2008 beach season. This list is based on personal experience, family friendly offerings, sand quality, and overall good times. Feel free to comment on the destinations included or add your own picks for Gulf Coast beach destinations.

    5. Galveston Island, TX

    Galveston is on the list because it is home to Moody Gardens and a new Schlitterbahn Waterpark. The boardwalk along the beach is a great place for families who like walking along the beach without getting all the sand in your shoes. Also, there is a lot of pirate history, with Galveston Island being home to Campeche, a settlement once inhabited by Jean Laffite and his crew.

    4. Gulf Shores, AL and Orange Beach

    courtesy Alabama Gulf Coast CVBThese two are really separate, but when many people around where I live say they are going to Gulf Shores, they could be going to Orange Beach instead. The two are side by side and offer shopping for Mamas at nearby Foley, an abundance of golf courses for the dads, and so many family friendly activities. The beaches are really nice and clean with many restaurants overlooking the Gulf. I spend time there one summer with my family when the kids were very small. We were able to find an affordable 2 bedroom condo on the beach through Brett Robinson Rentals. Be careful though, as the Gulf Shores area has become a bit pricey.

    3. Panama City Beach, FL

    I know what you are thinking, isn’t this a Spring Break destination? Yes, it used to be and I almost fondly remember a high school trip there where we stayed at The Chateau. You remember that old place don’t you? We used to call it the S—hole. Anyways, I returned one summer with family in tow. It has definitely changed to a family friendly destination. Beware of the evening traffic along The Strip. It is perfect if you are a family with teenagers, as many activities include parasailing and those bungie drop things. If you have younger children, there are plenty of go-cart tracks and waterslides.

    2. Destin, FL

    Destin, Sandestin, and the northwest coast of Florida offer some of the most gorgeous beaches I’ve ever seen. This place has the shopping, the golf, the activities, and even the spas. One thing that sets it above other beaches is the relaxation factor. Be sure though that when you book your lodging, make sure it is ON the beach, not near the beach. Many condos here are located across the highway from the beach. This isn’t the best when you have little ones. Destin does offer some fantastic seafood. I remember many childhood summers at the buffet! The sand here is so fine, it actually barks when you walk.

    1. The Florida Keys

    image courtesy Monroe County TourismThe Florida Keys is one of those places in the US that makes you feel as if you are on a tropical island somewhere. The Keys offers a variety of atmospheres, from Key West, which is a beach version of The French Quarter, to Islamorada, which is laid back and slow. If you don’t have the money to actually stay at the legendary Little Palm Island, you can still visit this hideaway for lunch. The same goes for Sunset Key. There are so many Keys to choose from with a variety of activities for families of all backgrounds.

    Families can swim with the dolphins, visit a butterfly museum, learn about pirates at an interactive attraction, and see how turtles are taken care of at The Turtle Hospital. Families can’t go wrong when visiting The Keys.

    So these are a few of the many favorite family travel beach destinations along the US Gulf Coast. Remember that a vacation is a time for travel, relationship renewal, and most importantly, fun. Be spontaneous and make the most of your time together this summer.

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  • Wow! What a response for the Tots on the Go Giveaway!PeaPod Plus

    We had two hundred entries and almost a thousand lurkers. The TrendyKid Trunkie TwoGo and The Go-Go Babyz Infant Cruizer were two of the top picks, but the number one choice for the prize ended up being KidCo’s PeaPod Plus.

    There were some great entries, such as Cindy Beckman who commented, “Sit n Stroll by TriplePlay is absolutely wonderful. I wish it were around when I had my first child. Thanks for a great giveaway!”

    Erin Daly said, “The Ultimate Toy & Travel Bag looks great for those long car rides this summer.” The Traveling Mamas couldn’t agree more.

    Our winner for the Tots on the Go Giveaway is Elizabeth M, who stated, “I think the KidCo’s Pea Pod would be fantastic for traveling!” Congratulations Elizabeth. Tots on the Go will be contacting you to find out where to send your KidCo PeaPod Plus.

    Tots on Go LogoThanks to everyone who entered and a special thanks to Tots on the Go for helping us with this great giveaway.

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  • Beale Street image courtesy Memphis CVBMr. CajunMama recently expressed a desire for a daddy weekend, since I like to take my own soul-oh trips and girlfriend getaways. I enlightened him that the proper word in today’s terminology is mancation. He laughed so hard and said he hoped it isn’t anything like metrosexual. So, in our household a mancation is still referred to as a daddy weekend.

    Here are some of our top picks for a Southern mancation where daddies can travel with the guys for a long weekend:

    10. Beale Street in Memphis, TN – The Amtrak station manager in Hammond, LA, mentioned to me that many guys get together and take the train up to Memphis on a Friday night and come back on the early Sunday train. The barbecue and blues clubs entice groups of guys to travel for a fun weekend.

    9. Mississippi Gulf Coast – The beach and casinos are back in business after Hurricane Katrina. Guys can travel and lose money for a good cause.

    8. Outer Banks, SC – Hang-gliding at Kitty Hawk and a kayak trip add some adventure to any mancation.

    7. Grand Isle, LA – Locals call this the Cajun Bahamas. Many a mancation has been spent deep sea fishing from this destination. Due to the BP Oil Spill visitors may need to check fishing reports, but keep in mind that the Abita Beer is waiting on ice for you.

    6. Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail – Golf mancations are a hit. Guys travel from course to course and play the links.

    5. Kentucky Bourbon Trail – This stretch of two-lane highway is also a great place for guys to lay back and enjoy the bourbon.

    4. New Orleans, LABourbon Street. Need I say more?

    3. Daytona BeachDaytona Beach isn’t just for families, couples, or girlfriend getaways. This destination is the home to NASCAR, which makes it a must for our list.

    2. Florida Keys – Ernest Hemingway and Jimmy Buffet knew a good place when they came across the Florida Keys. Pick a key, any key.

    1. SEC Road Trip – This was the number one pick from an LSU freak (Mr. CajunMama).

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