Real Talk: Emotions and Travel

I LOVE traveling. I do. I really do. I love seeing new things, hearing languages I can’t understand. Nervously perusing the menu hoping they’re not going to try and trick me into eating something fishy (as in fish, literally, I can’t stand seafood). But sometimes, it just plain stresses me out. And I know it can be super stress inducing, even for *~normal~* non-anxious people.

Travel can be a jarring experience. I remember my first time abroad in 2004, I was more overwhelmed than I expected by my visit to France, and fortunately my professor at the time (it was a school trip) recognized it for what it was. I wasn’t unhappy, scared, or freaked out, just off balance and I didn’t feel quite like myself. In her sage and French way, she told me (I can’t for the life of me remember how it came up, but I’m sure I said something that must have prompted it) how there really can be a travel shock, even for someone who knows the language, respects the culture, and wants to learn; especially when it’s your first time abroad. All of the sudden all of the little cues that you recognize inherently are gone. I believed she used the example of a mailbox– in the US, a box with a curved top colored blue, white and red is clearly a mailbox, but once you get into France BOOM, even that is different. Typically, French post office boxes are yellow with blue letters. You multiply that by all of the little inherent things and it can become overwhelming. You’re not culturally fluent.

I still get that fish out of water feeling from time to time. Oddly, the most fish out of water feeling for me lately has been restaurant etiquette. For the most part, France is similar to the US. Walk in, they seat you, you order, eat, you ask for the check/they bring it to you, you pay (sometimes at the table, or at a cashier).  In Italy, it varies slightly, but just *not knowing* what to do kind of weirds me out. The super touristy areas have kind of glommed on to the US way of doing things, but in more authentic restaurants, you kind of walk in, seat yourself, depending on the restaurant you order at the counter and they bring it to you, other times there’s table service (that you pay for), you frequently pay for your stuff at the counter, after your meal, and the check (conto) never comes to your table. This stuff can vary in the US too, but you instrincily know. Croatia so far seems to be whatever you prefer. They’re willing to do whatever, because this is such a touristy area…in fact, I saw them kind of adapt their service for each patron in the restaurant tonight. More hands-on for us Americans and a little more standoffish for some Germans. Not drastic differences, but enough to tell that it was a thing, and that they were practiced at it.

This trip is helping with what I like to call “Charlotte’s lack of chill.” I have zero chill. None whatsoever. Given my general anxiety and the fact I’m dealing with a heavy load of grief, my goal for this trip was to try and stay present in the moment. Not to get too far ahead of myself, constantly worrying about missing one connection or the next. Not to spend all my time sad about not being at home, in my bed, with my cat. (My greatest wish is that Apparition like in Harry Potter was a thing so that I could travel the world and then still sleep in my own bed at night.) I’m doing so much and much of it in quick succession I don’t have as much time to work myself up over a thing.

I was especially worried about this trip because during past travel trips when things got to be too much, it was one easy phone call to the person who could calm me down. Who would listen to every silly story and unimportant concern, down to what I had for breakfast and what I would be doing that day. The one person who could calm me down when I call at 3 am (my time) because I SWEAR my hotel had bedbugs (I told you I have no chill…and a HUGE fear of bedbugs). Lord, my momma was a patient person. But that rock of her always being there to listen to me is gone– but I’m trying to go and DO because that’s what she would have wanted me to do. Knowing that has been a kick in the seat of the pants from time to time.

I feel much more emotional this trip, but not always in a bad way. Walking in and around architectural masterpieces, caused a much stronger emotional response this time. And lately, even the happy feelings recall my Mom’s death. Because grief isn’t just one emotion but every single gotdamned emotion squeezed into an all-encompassing one that you feel all at once and that’s why it’s so hard, so persistent, and so powerful.

I had a really big “knock-me-on-my-ass” moment in Venice. In Venice, they make a special kind of glass called Murano glass…and in one of the shops, they had a set of salt and pepper shakers. Now, my mom has more S&P shakers than a person could need. She loved them. When I went to Rome, I brought her back the most awful, kitschy salt and pepper shakers I could find. We both knew they were bad, but that’s what made them fun. When I saw this set of Murano glass S&P shakers, my mind jumped to “oh I should get those for Mom” for .02 seconds before reality caught up with me. Now, like I said before, my emotions are already really close to the surface from walking around Venice, which was phenomenally beautiful and incredible, so the wave of grief hit me hard since I was already so happy emotional. I spent the next 15 minutes walking around trying to hold back the tears because I didn’t want to be that girl walking around Venice alone, sobbing like loon.

So, in some ways, the grief emotions have kind of distracted me from the the travel anxiety ones. The worries about restaurants, missed connections and the like all seem lame in comparison. I lost my mom and it’s hard to think of anything that is worse than that. Sometimes they work together to make me a blubbering mess; that happened in Besançon. After being there for 3 days, with non-stop rain and no potential to do WHAT I NEEDED to do, combined with a very powerful I miss my mom moment, I was a wreck.

This trip was bound to be connected to my mom’s death, beyond just the fact that I’m mourning her loss. On the 29th of this month, it will be six months since my momma died, when I was starting this trip for the first time. I miss her more and more each day. I should have bought those salt and pepper shakers.

 

Three Days in Italy: Venice & Trieste

Venice

I was only in Venice as a brief stopover on my way to other climes. I have no research reason to be there, other than it is the easiest big city close enough to Pula to travel into. BUT I had to spend a day in Venice. For a day, I think I got a lot done.

I took my time getting into the city. I stayed in the Mestre neighborhood on the mainland so I took the bus, which took about 15 mins to get into Venice proper (hotels and lodging is SIGNFICANTLY cheaper and I have trains to catch and the station is close by). Since this was just a ‘me’ day and not a ‘research’ day, there was no set itinerary besides wanting to see art, San Marco, and to eat some noms.

As soon as I got off the bus and walked like mayyyybe 50 feet, Venice was beautiful. It certainly was helped by the fact that it was a gorgeous 62 degrees with lots of sun. Now, normally I’m not a sun lover. The sun kind of hates me; it burns me with its rays so quickly, even when I take proper precautions against it. But after a week of rain in France, I was ready for something besides WET.

I needed breakfast so I stopped for a caffe and cornetto right next to the Basilica dei Frari. I had no specific plans to go there (shame), but I’m so glad I did. It was a great mix of gothic-y goodness with Renaissance opulence. I was probably the youngest person in there by 30 years, but that was okay. Titian is interred there, and one his masterpieces, his Assumption altarpiece is the piece de la resistance.

I continued to walk around Venice, picked up some post cards and stamps, walked and walked and walked. I loved how you would just walk around and stumble upon big piazzas and squares..thankfully there were signs that would point you towards prominent sights (Rialto, San Marco, Accademia, Pizzale di Roma) and even if they didn’t have that, you could follow the crowd.

When I made it to San Marco, I stopped at an expensive, but ultimately meh, caffè to eat lunch and do postcards. The restaurant, while expensive, had no coperto though I’m sure it was built into the price (for those of you that don’t know, a lot of restaurants in Italy have a charge at restaurants called “coperto”…it’s essentially a cover fee that you pay for your seat. Most places have it listed very discretely leaving some Americans feeling scammed or confused. It’s not a scam though, it’s a normal part of life. HOWEVER, sometimes the rate is exorbitant when you’re in tourist areas…for example, in Naples we once had a 6€ coperto PER PERSON…it’s usually closer to 1 or 2€). So I didn’t mind paying 6 euro for my bottle of water to sit in front of Basilica San Marco for an hour.

I walked around the exterior of San Marco and the Doge’s Palace, and checked everything out. An outstanding day with gorgeous views. The interior of S. Marco was incredible, but unfortunately not photographable. After San Marco’s I went to the Museums off the square that consisted of the Venetian history museum, the archaeological museum, and a few other collections. It was there that I met a very nice couple currently living in Naples– we hit it off and she told me if I’m ever back in Naples she’ll take me to Paestum!

I wandered around a bit more, grabbed some gelato…vanilla and pistachio and then headed back to my airbnb. I had a nice dinner at the same restaurant from the night before then went back to my room. It was a day full of noms, art, and walking.

Trieste

After catching the train, I arrived in Trieste, where I would be catching the bus to Croatia. Trieste also has an arch, though it is rather unremarkable and there’s not a lot known about it. I didn’t really know a lot about Trieste, and after walking around the main area, I don’t know that I’ll be itching to get back. It was beautiful, but it was very shoppy and night-lifey, two things I’m just not into. If I were to resort to stereotypes, I would say it essentially felt like the Naples of the north, but with money. Besides the main square, the architecture was all really ratty. Who knows, maybe it cleans up nice in the summer.

I did love the Roman ruins I found, even the sad, small little Arco di Ricardo.

My bus for Croatia left really early in the morning the following day, so it was an early night for me. The bus station was surprisingly hard to find…There was a bunch of scaffolding surrounding the entrance so it was not clearly marked at all. I found it though, with plenty of time to spare.

Belle Besançon

After one full day in Paris, getting my sea legs, I headed off to Besançon to explore my first arch. I have long been excited for this particular leg of the journey…I’ve never been to this part of France before and this small city near the Swiss and German borders is rumored to have one of the prettiest Centre Villes in France. I can now verify that its Centre Ville is beautiful.

I took the TGV from Paris to Besançon, then the local train to Besançon proper, then the bus to my airbnb. I stretched my rusty French when I picked up my airbnb keys (honestly, just TRYING gives you so much street cred that and BEING NICE…I should make a post about loud, stereotypical Americans over here that completely justify our bad reputation.) Checked into my airbnb — which is perfect, and explored the town a bit.

The town is VERY charming — even in rain and with grey skies. The road through town, “La Grand Rue,” is the old Roman road that broke the town into halves (the cardo). Besancon (and the Grand Rue actually) is also the birthplace of several notable Frenchies, Victor Hugo and the Lumière brothers.

Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate with my desires to explore this town to the max. I had planned on Sunday being relatively relaxed, but between the rain and travel catching up to me, I didn’t get very far besides a small walk. On Monday, a ton of things were still closed (I forgot that that was also a European thing) and the rain was RIDICULOUS. IT poured, and when it wasn’t pouring it was still raining pretty heavily, and it alternated between the two with little warning. I got nothing very productive done, besides wading through some ultimately unhelpful 18th-century sources. (At least now I know they’re unhelpful?) It turns out that France was hit by what they were calling Tempête Zeus a strong storm with winds that blew a bunch of trees down across the country, and several people were actually killed… (not near where I am though…my weather was mild in comparison to elsewhere.) Between feeling rather cooped up, and not getting to explore my monument the way I wanted to or the rest of the town, I was in a pretty dark mood by the end of the day.

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Today however, while the sun didn’t shine and the rain wasn’t completely gone, it was much improved on all fronts. I began by doing a quick walk around my monument and the surrounding area, which got my spirits up immediately. Then I went to the cat cafe which was WONDEFFUL. It made me happy to see the kitties, even if they weren’t into cuddles (I wanted it too much). Then I spent several hours *finally* doing all things I needed to do with the arch. I looked at the arch, photographed it, then explored the hill up to the citadel, including the Cathedral of St. Jean. I went back to my apartment, checked my photos, and then went back to the arch again for good measure (and the fact I had forgotten to get shots of a few angles.) All in all, it was a good day to end my stay in Besançon– even if I didn’t get to explore the way I wanted to. There’s always next time.

 

~48 hours in Paris

My brief 2 days in Paris to launch my trip went very well. My goal with this few days was to basically just get on Paris time and to build some extra time into my schedule if anything inopportune occurred with my travel. Fortunately, my flight arrived early and all went well.

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Friday was a day of low-key exploration with mon amie de Paris, Lindsey. We went to Saint-Denis (a very important church in the development of Gothic art), to the Marais for noms, and to some fun areas for walking. It was a good day filled with fun times, fun people, and delicious noms. The only sad face is the fact I tore a small hole in my light jacket (not my rain jacket thankfully).

 

 

 

Arrival in Paris

This has been a phenomenally long day, but was practically perfect in every way in comparison to my last first day in Paris. This is a boring blow-by-blow of my day and trip with little things I want to remember.

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The view during our descent into Paris, taking by my charming Breton seat mate

The Plane This airplane trip was fully of personalities. There was a very peppy group of sorority girls that greeted each other with a VERY LOUD, “BONJOUR BITCH!” (All of the French people within in hearing suddenly had very wide, surprised eyes). There was one of the rudest passengers I’ve ever seen on a flight. She packed the LARGEST carry on I’ve ever seen, got mad when it couldn’t be stored near her, expected that her seat would be moved to place her near her bag and suggested she should be somehow compensated for this, she took videos of herself dancing in her seat for a good hour, about an hour before we arrived she got her carry on down from where they had stowed it at the front of the plane and spent probably a good 20 minutes in the rest room primping…all while being incredibly rude to the flight attendants who were unfailing patient with her (THOUGH — there definitely were some exceedingly annoyed looks and the two dealing with her did a *little* totally deserved bitching.) Completely entertaining and horrifying.

This was probably the best batch of in inflight movies I’ve had in recent memory…I watched Florence Foster Jenkins (HUGH GRANT LOOKS OLD), Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (omg, I loved it), and Bridget Jones’s Baby (much better than I was expecting and COLIN FIRTH LOOKS OLD).

The flight arrived early, I cleared customs relatively quickly, gathered my bags and made my way through Paris proper to the small suburb. I had time to kill because checkin at my airbnb was not until 1, so I sat on a bench for a bit, then I went to a cafe where I spoke some rusty French that the lady at the cafe very kindly complimented. I ate a tarte with onion, courgette, cranberries, and a type of cheese I forget. I stayed there for a bit and read until I settled into my AirBnb (a very nice couple with a young son who airbnbs their bottom floor). I showered and napped, then met my dear friend Lindsey and we went grocery shopping, then back to her apartment, where she made a delish dinner. We then went out for a little walk and a dessert crepe.

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La Soeur Tartin: a crepe with carmelized apples, vanilla ice cream, chantily, salted caramel sauce, and pralines. 

All in all, not very eventful or crazy exciting. I had wanted to go to the Louvre, but I underestimated the level of my tired. I’m off for bed now for a fun, ease-myself-into-the-European-walking kind of day. There wil be pictures that will be SO much more exciting than these here.

Meet Gussie

Meet Augustus, Gussie for short.

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Gussie is a gift from my friend Lindsey (she had it MADE for me, by a friend of hers! Check them out!). He’s a delightfully nerdy stuffed version of the Augustus of Prima Porta; I mean, the details are amazing, from his protruding ears, to the distinctive hair style, and his gesture. He’s one of my favorite possessions and I love him so much.

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Two Nasty Women and and Emperor: Me, Best Friend Ashley, and Augustus out adventuring in Nashville in January 2017

This might be a little superstitious of me, but he’s going to be like a good luck charm for me on this trip. A little token and reminder that I love what I do, I love the folks I’ve met along this academic journey (and some of them are fond of me too, I guess), and to live in the moment and be happy. Because dang if this little guy doesn’t make me happy.

Gussie brushing up on his French history before we head off to Europe! He’s very up on current events. 😉 

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EuroTrip Redux is 100% BOOKED

Travel and lodging for EuroTrip 2.0 is DONE. I leave in less than a month.

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Planning this trip again has been hard. Harder than planning it originally hard. I fluctuated between planning the trip EXACTLY as it had been before, and doing it completely differently. I settled on a happy medium. I’ll be following the same trajectory, sans London. I will not be staying in the same airBnBs, besides the one in Pula, which was from the advertisement, everything I needed and like RIGHT next to my arch.

The stars above indicate overnight stays…I’ll be traveling to many other places besides those listed…but you’ll have to follow my instagram to stay updated on the day-to-day.

Now that it is all planned, and I’ve taken care of a few other things that had me stressed, I AM ACTUALLY EXCITED.

I GET TO SEE PARIS IN THE SPRINGTIME (kinda. In April).