Planning the Second Time Around*

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI have been putting off replanning my Eurotrip (previously Eurotrip 2016, now Eurotrip 2.0 or Eurotrip 2017). I think it’s pretty obvious why it has been hard. BUT, I finally did the biggest thing necessary and purchased my tickets for Eurotrip 2017. My plane tickets are booked.

My last two visits to France have both been important milestones.

In 2005, it truly felt like a coming of age. The 19-year old that went to Paris came home a 20-year old that knew herself a little bit better, believed in herself a little bit more, and from that point forward she challenged her preconceived notions about the world a little bit more.

In 2016, obviously, my life changed big almost immediately after setting foot in France. Seeing Paris through shocked, grieving eyes was at best what can be described as surreal. Looking back on it now, barely two months later, I recognize that I felt comfortable there, even in the worst possible emotional circumstance (much of that was also thanks to a very dear friend). For a while recently though, the idea of going back made me nervous. Paris will, for better or worse, now always bear the association of being where I learned of and began to grieve my mom’s death. What would it be like returning to this place that I have always loved, that now holds this connection with the loss of one of the most important people in my life?

Before I left for this trip, my mom was so excited for me. Her last words to me were full of excitement, pride, and hope for my time there, for my adventures, and for what I was going to try to accomplish regarding my work. There is no one who would have wanted me to go back to Paris, and enjoy myself, more than my Momma.

EuroTrip 2017 will unfold much like EuroTrip 2016 was supposed to, save one destination. I will not being going to England. My stop in England was essentially only for fun, and in getting reimbursed for my lost expenses by my department, it didn’t feel right to include those monies and London is not cheap. I’m okay with that though — this will certainly not be my last trip to Europe.

Here are the original destination blog posts I made for EuroTrip 2016.

Paris * Besançon * Venice * Pula * Ravenna * Rimini * Torino * Avignon

 

*I had the Step-by-Step theme song stuck in my head the entire time I was writing this post. If you’re a child of the 90s like me, I hope it is in yours now too 😛 

From the Archive: The Worst Kind of Unexpected

Many of you, those who know me well or even a bit through Facebook, know that Eurotrip2016 didn’t happen. I made it to Europe, but I quickly returned home.

Long story short, my mom died.

Those are words I never thought I’d say, an idea I’d never thought I’d have to come to terms with at least not at this point in my life, but I find myself saying it out loud at least once a day because it seems so incredible that she could be gone.

I will come back to this blog when I do this trip again (TBD – but it’s looking like March is the goal), but I leave you with one of my favorite pictures I took during my three day weekend in Paris. My dear, dear darling friend Lindsey and her beau, Arnaud, took care of me so well. We went to the Jardin des Plantes where I fell in love with this one particular plant (if anyone can tell me what it is, I’d be grateful – it’s the periwinkle blue guy) and took a million pictures of it. This visit to a garden full of beautiful flowers was one that my mother would have greatly enjoyed and I felt oddly at peace. It was a good thing to do and I’m glad Lindsey and Arnaud took me. ❤

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From the Archive: It’s Time to Go

My suitcase has been packed – I’m still not sure how one carry-on for six weeks is going to work, but here it goes.

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This is it. All I’m taking to Europe for Eurotrip2016 – Traveling REAL light. I managed to fit 5 pairs of pants, 10 tops, pajamas, underwear, socks, a pair of shoes, a jacket, a sweater, a scarf, and toiletries into the suitcase! Color me impressed. 

My kindle is fully loaded with trash historical novels, cheesy romances, and the trio of Harry Potter short stories released recently.

My ipad is full of articles and music.

My house is cleanish and ready for Livia (and her babysitters) to enjoy while I am away.

I feel ready to, but also very reluctant to leave.

Leaving home has not always been hard for me. Growing up, I think I was just always so excited for the next adventure and I COULDN’T WAIT for the next best thing. My mother was forever telling me I was going to wish my life away in counting down to the adventure. I’m not sure when it happened, but that’s not a thing I do anymore…far from it. I think as I have gotten older, my anxiety has managed to remove the OMG I CAN HARDLY WAIT approach of my youth…there are too many things I worry about instead. Often, before getting ready to leave on a trip of any duration, I think to myself, “I’ve created a comfortable space that I enjoy, with my wonderful bed, and my sweet, snuggly, sometimes-persnickety feline. WHY would I want to leave?”

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Yes she looks more evil here than snuggly, but she’s my 9lb ball of evil. 

But then I remember an undeniable truth: that I do like traveling. I love experiencing new places, new smells, new sights and a little time away from home is a small price to pay for some great life experiences. Even more remarkable, I’ve managed to turn this love of art and culture into a burgeoning career ( and here’s to hoping that I actually get a job out of this down the road :-P)!

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A feline who cares nothing for your trivial complaints about not having enough personal space.

So the past week or so has been a strange combination of emotions. One second I glimpse that younger version of myself, brimming with excitement and ready to go. Two minutes later, Livia does something cute and I’m cursing myself for planning a trip that lasts so long. Back and forth, back and forth. It’s exhausting.

I AM excited. FRANCE. ENGLAND. ITALY. and CROATIA. It will be a trip of a lifetime.

Tuesday, I fly to my parents’ house (where my mom is making my FAVORITE dinner). Wednesday I fly to France where I will arrive in PARIS early Thursday morning.

From the Archive: Packing Light

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Packed bags for 4 months in France

I am not, nor have I ever been, very good at packing light. I like choices and there’s nothing worse than getting to your chosen destination and feeling completely annoyed with your clothing options. The above picture is from way back when right before I did my semester-long study abroad in France. The duffel on top is the size of what I would consider a normal size duffel bag, the bottom is a super large rolly duffel. This lasted me for the four months I was in France from late summer to early winter. I purchased another duffel in France that became “my carry on” on my way back home because of all of the stuff I had acquired while there (mainly books! quelle surprise!). My bags were also SUPER overweight on the way home but the delightful attendant for Air France let them go without a charge when I spoke French to her and responded that I had been there for months and was sad to go home. SPEAKING FRENCH is always a good idea on Air France…they give you extra wine.

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Flash forward to Summer 2015, ten years later, when I was on my way to Italy for six weeks. The same two large and “normal” duffel bags made their appearance again (there was a little more room inside and seriously, guys…LL Bean stuff is made to LAST) and here we have a 9lb cat in the shot for size comparison. In those bags, I think I had an entire American pharmacy and SO many clothes all for one season. I only checked the big duffel so I had to run from Gate 25 of Terminal D to Gate 4 of Terminal C (basically the entire length of two terminals) with that stupid bag. I literally thought I was going to die. Luckily for this trip, I was staying in one place. There wasn’t a lot of moving around to be done.

This trip will be OH so different though. Hauling around this ungainly, heavy large duffel for six weeks is a TERRIBLE idea, one that stressed me out a lot. Even my less ungainly large spinner suitcase would be too heavy for the heaving up and down train stairs continually that would need to be done for me to get where I am going. I knew I needed to make a change. I think I decided a couple of months ago that this trip would be done with nothing more than a carry-on sized suitcase, a backpack, and a purse. And that scares the hell out of me.

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This is my suitcase for the Eurotrip 2016 on the right in both pics with my large duffel and large spinner cases on the left. 

It’s just so small compared to what I’ve traveled with before! And it needs to last me for six weeks. I’ve got some great tips from one of my BFFs Ashley,  who is currently doing her own Eurotrip with similar baggage constraints, on how to get this done and be sane.  I tried to isolate exactly what freaks me out about travelling light.

I don’t like the idea of needing something and not having it. I understand that all of the countries I am visiting this trip are developed and have resources, but I just flashback to my 2004 trip to France when my camera broke (this was pre cell phones) and I couldn’t find a disposable. And then to my 2005 trip to France when I got the WORST blisters on the back of my heels and the French bandaids sucked and there was no neosporin or comparable substance to be found (my mom mailed me some bandaids, neosporin, and tennis shoes). And then to my 2015 trip to Italy when my eyeballs decided that they were allergic to the city of Rome and my eyedrops were insufficient to handle whatever crazy junk was happening and EVERY TIME I tried to go to a pharmacy, it was closed.

I need to get over it though. I will be fine. For every one thing I brought and used and was glad to have, there were probably 5 things I did not use, and then 3 things I wished I had that I had not packed, but did just fine without. After making the decision to pack light, I could feel my stress about moving around so much dissipate, somewhat.

Another thing that freaked me out was access to laundry. I LOVE clean clothes. My favorite (yes I have a favorite) chore of the week is to do laundry on Sunday. I love having all of my clothes clean and ready to go and the idea of maybe having to re-wear clothing that was to my (perhaps slightly OCD) way of thinking was dirty, made me cranky. But thanks to friend Katie’s suggestion, I found what I think will be a great solution. Woollite has sink packs…complete with a sink stopper, and travel-sized clothesline that doesn’t require clothespins. None of my airBnB’s have a washer, so this seems to be a perfect solution.

I’m going to do a test pack in a week or so just so I feel prepared and can adjust my expectations if I need to (likely). Does anyone have any travel tips for packing light while gone for an extended amount of time?

From the Archive: Destination Spotlight, AVIGNON, France and PROVENCE

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My last stop before heading back to Paris for my second, longer stay there, is Provence and Avignon. I will be in this area for a week, the longest stay of anywhere else so far. Mainly because I have a LOT to do. I chose Avignon because it’s smack in the middle of all of these wonderful things I need to see. The map above shows areas I need to visit, most all of which have arches.

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I am also super excited to be in France again, and in Provence where I’ve never been. I have so much to do, that I hope I can fit it into one week!

I’ll be there in late October, so hopefully it will be not super crowded and mild, or even cool weather. In Avignon, I’ll have the opportunity to explore some historical sites from medieval France, including the Palais des Papes (gotta love those anti-popes!), and maybe even some 19th-century highlights. I’ve been told it’s cheesy but visiting the asylum where Vincent Van Gogh stayed and standing in his room where he ‘saw’ the scene he painted in Starry Night in St-Rémy is pretty cool (there’s also an arch in St. Rémy, so I’ll definitely be around….) I’ll also visit the Pont d’Avignon (below) and sing the little ditty, “sur le pont d’avignon, on y danse, on y danse…” All of the Frenchies will think I’m crazy 🙂

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This is ninth in a series of blog posts that I will be doing to talk about where I am going during this trip, why I am going there, and what I’m expecting to see.

Paris * Besançon * London * Venice * Pula * Ravenna * Rimini * Torino

From the Archive: Destination Spotlight, TORINO, Italy, and the Piedmont

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Torino, or in English, Turin, is going to be my homebase for my excursions to areas in the Piedmont region of Italy (mainly Susa and Aosta). I wanted my homebase to be a slightly bigger city that was relatively central to these two places. That way, I can day trip during the day, and by night enjoy one of Italy’s premiere cities. Torino, besides being home to the 2006 Winter Olympics, the Shroud of Turin, and  Fiat and Alfa Romeo HQs, was also the capital city of the Dukes of Savoy and the first capital of unified Italy. Dating to the Roman era, Torino presents some excellent 17th, 18th, and 19th century architecture.

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Torino will offer grand royal architecture, nice plazas, and some fun eats. Torino is home to a regional coffee beverage, which sounds delicious, called bicerin an espresso, chocolate, and milk beverage (pictured below). Additionally, Torino, and the Piedmont more generally, has a local type of pizza that I might actually like (I…..don’t really like Italian pizza…I’ve had pizza in Rome and Naples and NOPE). It’s called pizza al tegamino, a deep dish pizza, and it looks delicious.

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One of the other cities I am going to is a small town called Susa, getting very close to the French border. Here, there is another very early arch that is well-preserved and super out of the way. It looks charmingly picturesque and I’ll get to walk a good deal of it in my quest for the arch.

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Susa

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The Arch at Susa

The other city I am going to visit is Aosta…the arch is woefully incomplete, but I will be close, so I figure I should see it. Aosta is very close to the French/Swiss border.

This is eighth in a series of blog posts that I will be doing to talk about where I am going during this trip, why I am going there, and what I’m expecting to see.

Paris * Besançon * London * Venice * Pula * Ravenna * Rimini 

From the Archive: Destination Spotlight, RIMINI, Italy

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Rimini… is not a place I would probably choose to go if there wasn’t an arch there. It’s a beach town. And its arch is well, just okay. It’s a very early arch that was incorporated into the town’s medieval walls (hence the crenellations) so….it’s a little meh for me. The town does appear as if it has some picturesque parts and the museum looks to be super cool. I’m not going in the summer time so there shouldn’t be a crazy amount of beachgoers. I really don’t like the beach…I’m more of a rocky cliff beach kind of person…not the sunbathing kind.

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I will also be visiting Ancona for a day trip while I’m staying in Rimini and their arch is MUCH cooler. It’s another city perched right on the Adriatic coast and is important for shipping and passenger traffic at its port. This here arch is RIGHT on the water 🙂

I’m hoping that these two cities will completely eradicate my very low expectations and blow my mind!

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This is seventh in a series of blog posts that I will be doing to talk about where I am going during this trip, why I am going there, and what I’m expecting to see. 

Paris * Besançon * London * Venice * Pula * Ravenna