Orange

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My visit to Orange was the main reason I went to Provence. With the most famous example of an arch monument in France, it’s a must see for my work. Not only does Orange have an outstanding arch, but one of the oldest completely extant theater complexes in the west with a nearly fully preserved scaenae frons. The first few days I was in Provence it was pouring rain, so I wasn’t able to go to Orange until Sunday, and I had to go then, as it was closed on Monday and Tuesday (navigating opening days is the hardest bit about travel in Europe!) Being Sunday, the town itself was very quiet and sleepy, with not many restaurants open in which to prend un verre.

 

The theater was fantastic–I had it nearly all to myself so it was hard to imagine it teeming with theater-goers centuries ago (and kind of amazing to have it all to myself!) The exterior wall behind the stage front was once called, by one of the King Louis’s, “the greatest wall in France.”

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The arch was, in short, amazing. The pictures I took that day are some of my favorites, as the sky was one of those beautiful early-spring days with large fluffy clouds. I was slightly concerned because there was some construction on the roundabout that surrounded the arch, and it was technically fenced off. I decided to consider that fence a suggestion and visit it anyway– and there was a hidden benefit of it being Sunday! There were no workers or construction folks working on the roundabout to get in my way. Or accuse me of trespassing.

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I love love love when I can pass through the arches bays. Sometimes they’re blocked off, which is understandable I suppose, but this trip I was fairly lucky and more arches were open than not. The contrast of the bright and the dark of the passageway are literally one of my favorite views.

Alps to Avignon – 2017

My journey from Susa to Avignon was the most eventful trip of the entire trip, and resulted in the very first BAD mood (not just cranky, but BAD). I was *very* excited about passing through the mountains and finally getting myself to the South of France. Turin, while I had enjoyed it, had been stressful (surprising lack of internet) and just stress of my own creating (I imagined my hotel had bedbugs. It did not.) I was ready to get to France, but also sad to be leaving Italy. I felt 100% more comfortable in the northern half of Italy than I had in Rome and Naples.

Leaving Turin that morning was a hassle. It was not a long walk to the train station, but it was pouring rain. I super dislike getting wet in clothing, plus the added difficulty of having glasses. Google also decided to be difficult, and told me to take turns down road that had tall fences that stopped pedestrians from crossing them. Finally arriving at the Porta Susa train station, I hurried in search of the standard train station bar to grab my last delightful Italian macchiato and cornetto con crema. The bar was completely overwhelmed by people, and the line went on and on and on and on. I hate lines, and I hate waiting and I wanted to find my platform instead of wait. So I had my very first vending machine coffee, but you’ll be pleased to note that Italian coffee vending machines are far superior to their counterparts in the US.

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I was training from Torino to Lyon, then Lyon to Avignon. I was scheduled about a 40 minute wait at the station in Lyon, which was a healthy wait for a train, plenty of time to find your platform (unless you’re at the Bologna train station, sheesh). From the get go though, the train was late, projected to arrive five minutes after my train to Avignon left. Enter super stressed out Charlotte for like the entire ride. I did enjoy the scenery, but nowhere near as much as I should have.

When I arrived in Lyon, I was the first person off the train, and like jumped off the train before it stopped moving. Amazingly, there was a train-man (what’s the technical name…brain fart) and he yelled at me “AVIGNON?!” and I screamed back, “OUI!” He hollered at me that the train was on Platform 8 and that I should go! So I went, and thankfully it was not far. Upon reaching Platform 8 there was another trainman who asked if I was the passenger from Turin to Avignon and I said yes, and the second my feet were on the train it began moving. I collapsed in my seat so happy to have made it with all of my stuff in tow.

It was raining in Avignon as well. I was staying in an hotel for one night before my airbnb was available (and I wish I had stayed there the entire time. It was affordable and the breakfast was delicious, and there were people that I could have said hi to every day instead of dwelling in my solitude. And the internet worked! But I didn’t know yet that this would be an issue, haha). A very sodden and travel-weary Charlotte made her way to the hotel.

Regardless of the bad weather and the rain, I was immediately charmed by Avignon, I adored it. After getting some dinner in my belly (because remember, I didn’t get lunch b/c of the train mishap, nor did I have breakfast b/c of the bar wait) the crankiness wore away. I was in Avignon, in the south of France, where I had always wanted to go. The internet worked at the hotel, and I was again reconnected with the the world. I called my dad and sister and enjoyed my kebab (probably my favorite travel food) and watched some crappy tv.

The next morning I awoke hoping to find sun, but was displeased. It was again pouring wet, but I wanted to explore. So I did after a charming house-made breakfast with homemade jam. I had fun eavesdropping on the other guests’ conversation and practicing my French. The innkeeper man said my comprehension was superb. I, since the weather was so gross, essentially had Avignon to myself. There’s something beautiful about a rainy city, so I tried to appreciate it for what it was, which was shockingly beautiful and perfect.

 

I met up with my AirBnB which was charming. It was a cute little apartment on the top floor of a 17th-century building. At first I was quite pleased, but by the end of the day, I was kind of frustrated, as the internet had completely stopped working. Curse of the internet. It started in Torino and followed me for the rest of the trip.

But! The sun returned by the end of the day, and, in retrospect, beautiful, beautiful Provence, with all of its blooms and bites, made up for the lack of interwebs.

Ravenna, The Glittering Jewel in Italy’s Crown

“O lone Ravenna! many a tale is told
Of thy great glories in the days of old:
Two thousand years have passed since thou didst see
Caesar ride forth to royal victory.”

“O fallen! fallen! from thy high estate,
O city trammelled in the toils of Fate,
Doth nought remain of all thy glorious days,
But a dull shield, a crown of withered bays!”

-Oscar Wilde, in his poem “Ravenna

The title of this blog should be preposterously bombastic, but Ravenna is nothing short of a miracle. The town itself did not stun; each town in Italy has its own character and so too does Ravenna, but it was a special kind of northern Italy ritziness that I did not love (or hate…it just didn’t speak to me or enthrall).

Yet, Ravenna was worth the three train rides and bus ride and thirty-one year wait. I started the day with my Italian preference a cornetto con crema and a cappuccino. I purchased my ticket that was good for San Vitale, Galla Placidia’s Mausoleum, the Orthodox Baptistery, the Archiepiscopal Museum, and the church of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo.

San Vitale (left) and Galla Placidia (right) are neighbors. Galla Placidia predates San Vitale by about a century and a half (give or take), but I visited San Vitale first. Galla Placidia has always been my favorite and I wanted to save it for last (of the two). It was so strange to see the interior of this church that I knew so well from pictures in person. Strange because it was so very familiar but in three dimensions AND the emotional response was legit.

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Looking into the apse with the sixth-century mosaics.

I won’t go into huge amounts of art-historian detail, but I spent a lot of time looking at the mosaics. I also spent a lot of time eavesdropping on people as they were talking about the mosaics. Fortunately, most of the tourists that day were French, so I could follow along…especially because my French art historical vocab was “on fleek.” (That’s what the young kids are saying these days, right?) There was no source of light besides sunlight from the windows, and the greens and golds of the mosaics sparkled. The purple worn by the most important figures (Jesus, Justinian, and Theodora) highlighted them even more emphatically in person (because of the LIGHT) than is possible in photographs, even good ones.

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One of the mosaics from the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, with the Chi Rho and Alpha Omega, and grapevines all Christian iconography/symbols. 

The Mausoleum itself is very small, though the ground level has risen over the centuries so that it is even smaller. The interior of this small building was magical. It was kept dark so that you can really see the mosaics. I was in there for about 10 minutes before it all went to hell (when about 40 French high schoolers tried to cram themselves into the small building that was already pretty occupied. I left Galla Placidia much faster than I had hoped.

After the super crowded Galla Placidia, the Orthodox Baptistery was a welcome respite. I had the structure nearly all to myself, except a few older ladies and couples. The structure was smaller than I expected and that made the mosaics all the more evocative and impressive.

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After the Orthodox Baptistery, I headed over to the neighboring Archiepiscopal Museum, which was probably the most deserted of all of the sites I visited (I found out that the few friends who have been to Ravenna, none of them actually went to the museum, haha) and that is just too bad. The museum houses the material collection of Ravenna’s cathedral and lord, is it impressive. It includes a lapidarium (stones! usually inscriptions), episcopal regalia and ornaments. BUT the icing on the proverbial cake is the Chapel of San’Andrea and its mosaics (built during the time of Theodoric) and the Ivory Throne of Maximian, pictured above. The bishop’s cathedra is made of so many pieces of ivory (:( poor elephants and rhinossss) that are so intricately carved it took my breath away. Literally no one else came in the room while I was there. A few folks stuck their head in and looked at the chair like “why does this old chair have its own room?”

After lunch and getting a little lost, I went to Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, the last of the churches included on my ticket. By this point, I was SUPER tired and the cobblestones had done a number on my ankle. So few people came to Sant’Apollinare Nuovo (there was one group there while I was) and I was the only person under 50. I definitely was starting to get a little saturated. It’s a term I came up with to refer to what happens after my brain has gotten overstimulated by what I’m seeing. It’s not that I’m not excited or entranced by what I’m seeing, but that sponge that is my brain has reached maximum saturation. It had been dipped into much art-historical liquid to fully retain anything else very well. I took a break for a while at a coffeeshop that was SUPER modeled after an American coffeeshop (I chose it for location) and wrote postcards.

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The last stop was the Arian Baptistery, which I got to see for free. I had it all to myself (besides the very uninterested guard who was playing on her iPad). I didn’t stay super long, just looked my fill at the dome and then headed on my way.

My brief, one full day in Ravenna was just long enough to see nearly everything I wanted to see. I did not get out to see Sant’Apollinare in Classe (it’s a few miles out from downtown), not technically in Ravenna, but in the town of Classe. I walked past, but did not stop at Dante’s tomb (bad girl); I was on a mission that had nothing to do with 13th-century poets. I ate a lot of good food and gelato, and saw nearly all of the requisite late-antique sites, and checked a giant item off my bucket list.

Take my word for it. If you have even a small appreciation for art and history and you’re in north-ish Italy, take a few days and a few extra train trips and say hello to this city that holds so many critical art historical masterpieces that are not visited nearly enough.

Belated Blog: Charlotte and the Internet Curse

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Me doing a silly selfie in the Arian Baptistry in Ravenna, Italy — March 17, 2017 my last day with internet. 

My last blog came to you live, from Ravenna right after my glorious trip to Croatia, but then radio silence fell hard and fast. Most of you I’m sure gathered that I was alive and well, but blogging did not happen. It was not from a lack of desire, rather, from a lack of internet. In Rimini, I was so busy (some bad scheduling on my part), that I did not do my Ravenna blog. When I arrived in Torino, I discovered that my internet did not work. This happened again in Avignon, and again in Paris. Three days before I returned to the US, my internet *finally* started working.

I led a cursed life, a half life, wandering western Europe without connection. When I first encountered my internet troubles in Torino, it FREAKED me out. I had settled into a good routine, one that ended with a few eps of Parks and Rec before bed, brought to me live from the Netflix and my VPN. The loss of my only semblance of routine, my connection to the States, and my ability to upload my oh-so-precious research photographs to my cloud-based storage had a rough effect on my happiness. I fortunately had VERY SLOW internet on my phone that was unlimited so I could maintain the basics, but it made blogging not possible.

I still want to do all of the blogs I had planned and the ones I thought of while I was there (I wrote them down) however, because there are memories of each place I’d like to preserve and the blog is a great way to do so. Funny stories I’d like to hold on to. Some of the coolest parts of my trip have so far gone unblogged! There *is* a benefit to this belated blogging, especially for you reader — there will be no whining about the internet being bad 😉

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.

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).

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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