2022, Travel, Uncategorized

New York, New York 2022: Friend, City, Museums, and Food

Even though it was quite cold, it was a thrill to be in New York City! Check out that skyline with the supertall skyscrapers of Billionaire Row.

It’s America’s city. I think most Americans have strong feelings about it, details about this place are baked into our cultural consciousness without our even trying. You either love it or you hate it.

New York. 

The Big Apple. The city that never sleeps. The city so nice they named it twice. 

Until 2022, I had only been to New York City once, in 2006 for a choir trip. It was a good trip and I had a blast, but it very much was not a self-directed trip. I was with a large group most of the time and a small group of folks for the rest. I was a broke college kid so I definitely could only do so much exploring and experiencing. 

As a part of my research travels, I have been to most of Europe’s biggest cities, checking off collection after quintessential collection of Roman art. If you had told young me that I would have managed to go to the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen before making it to The Met, I don’t think I’d have believed you. Alas…

So in 2022 when I was finally heading to New York City to see one of my dearest friends and to see my first Broadway shows, I knew that I would finally have a chance to do New York City more the way I wanted to do it. 

GOALS FOR TRIP

  1. FRIEND TIME
  2. SHOWS
  3. EXPERIENCE
  4. FOOD
  5. MUSEUMS

Most of these adventures were had with my friend, Katie, who lives in NYC, so by that very fact it was a great trip. You can read all about my first Broadway shows, which were totally amazing and perfect. It was a life-changing weekend, where I existed in the presence of some of my favorite performing humans. 

That NYC Experience

Left: Me in Times Square in 2006. Check out that vintage Vera Bradley and me wearing JEANS (I never wear jeans anymore, they’re awful).
Right: Me in 2022, Times Square has changed–the lights are LED and brighter and masks are a thing seen everywhere; I’m a little different too I think :-p

I love being in a city. The hustle and bustle. The architecture, the sites, the smells, even the bad ones. There is something about a city that when you figure out how to navigate it, you just feel like you’re so in control and independent. Some cities work with you to make it happen (others work against you and are hard to navigate–these are frustrating cities).

New York is probably the most easily navigated city I’ve been to yet. It’s the griddy-est of grid cities. It’s relatively straightforward to mark the cross-section of your destination and move in the correct direction (To be fair: I’m not sure how this plays out in boroughs other than Manhattan). The buses and subway are all relatively straightforward, especially with google maps. They’ve also introduced a new ticketing system called OMNY that lets you just tap your card to pay your fare rather than needing to purchase a separate card (really a relief for the visitor). After a couple of days, I felt confident that I could navigate anywhere I needed to go without much stress. 

I had done some Midtown exploration back on my first visit in 2006, but I had no real idea of where I was going (someone else was almost always navigating during that trip because they knew the city better). In 2006, I also had only really explored one major city by myself (Paris, and well, I guess D.C., which was near home). Since then, I have navigated London, Berlin, Munich, Copenhagen, Paris (again and again and again), Rome, Naples, Florence, Venice, Athens, and many other cities, all by myself. Being able to guide myself around New York and definitely seeing it with “grown-up” eyes was great, and it let me see its many strengths that 20-year-old me was not able to see (and to be fair, its weaknesses). 

Me and my friend, Katie, at Rockefeller Plaza!
Some gorgeous brownstones on the Upper West Side
A view of Central Park and Midtown from the American Natural History Museum.

Without even trying, I imagine most Americans have general cultural knowledge of New York City’s sites and offerings, more than they possibly realize. I am no different, and it was great to wander the streets of NYC, even if it was painfully cold for half of my trip. The worst was definitely the Saturday of my visit, when the high for the day was 16*. Way too cold for comfortable walking around. Way too cold. I can’t wait to go back and explore in more comfortable temperatures. I’ll be able to give Central Park more than a passing glance. I’ll feel more comfortable just walking around to explore, since it won’t literally hurt to be outside. I’ll get to notice all of those city details that make a city unique. I can’t wait to explore more of in NYC.

That NYC Food

My food goals were random. I just wanted to eat well. I wanted to go to a French restaurant. I wanted to eat a bagel. I wanted to get cupcakes from Magnolia bakery (lolz), and I wanted to eat a corned beef sandwich from a Jewish deli.

I managed to have that delicious corned-beef sandwich, get cupcakes from Magnolia bakery, and a nice dinner at a French restaurant. In addition to the things I wanted to do, I also had some delicious Mexican and Greek food, an honest to dieu croissant, and a happy-hour cocktail that cost $19.

Those NYC Museums

I honestly barely scratched the surface of NYC museums: I visited the Met, the American Museum of Natural History, and the Met Cloisters. Of these museums, I only feel as if I fully did the Cloisters (and I would happily go back). I am sure I will revisit all of them again in turn in subsequent visits to NYC, plus hit many of the museums I missed.

The Met

*heart eyes*

I have wanted to go to The Met since reading The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E.  Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg as a child. (I’m pretty sure the only way you could convince me to go camping would be if it was in a world-renowned museum.) 

Fresco from the home of Publius Fannius Synistor in Boscoreale, The Met.

Obviously, I started with the Greek and Roman Wing. Duh. Highlights of The Met’s G&R collection include, among many others, the New York Kouros, the frescoes from the Villa of P. Fannius Synistor at Boscoreale, frescoes from the imperial villa at Boscotrecase, oodles and oodles of ceramics, oodles and oodles of statuary, Greek and Roman, portrait and idealized. Twas a little-ole recovering art historian’s paradise. 

I did have a few moments of profound sadness, though. This was my first visit to a major collection since deciding to not pursue a straightforward academic trajectory of a tenure-track job. As I perused the Met’s antiquities, in some ways it felt like a physical pain akin to grief. Well, no, I suppose it is legit grief; grief for the path that is no longer mine. I no longer know what my role in the art historical world is. For that matter, I don’t know what I want it to be, either.

The American Wing

I meandered through the Egyptian collection, taking a nice little footrest in front of the Temples from Dendur (standing on stone floors is hard, literally!), before making my way to the American Wing, which I only had time to do partially. I basically sprinted through some parts of the European painting collection and then to visit oh-so-briefly the medieval section. I didn’t linger in the medieval wing since I knew I’d be going to The Cloisters later that weekend.

I am so glad to have checked the Met off of my list. It was about damn time and I’m sure I will be back.

American Museum of Natural History

Me and a dino that doesn’t even fit in the frame.

“The” Museum that is a quintessential stop for many visitors to NYC was without a doubt the most hopping place I visited this trip. The rest of NYC, honestly, seemed a little empty thanks to the pandemic. 

I could have spent almost the entirety of the visit looking at the murals in the entry hallway, if it weren’t so crowded. In fact, this post took so long to write because I got lost in a research-esque wormhole looking up these batshit insane murals, which celebrate the (dubious) accomplishments of Theodore Roosevelt. (I think I’ll do a separate exploration of them later, because they are wild, and truly quite awful.)

I mainly wanted to see the dinosaurs and gemstones. I cared less about the anthropological bits and non-dinosaur life-forms. I just wanted to see some dinos and shinies. It was so busy compared to all of the other places in NYC, that it was a little overwhelming to my post-pandemic self. The whole time I was just thinking about those murals. But I love seeing dinos.

Grape agate–pretty easy to see why they call it that, eh?
One of the few actual T-rexes on display! Many t-rexes on display are actually plaster casts…but not this one!
The entrance foyer to the American Museum of Natural History, complete with very big dinosaur and those insane/batshit Theodore Roosevelt murals and quotes.

The Met Cloisters

Me and an orange cone at the Cloisters

The Met Cloisters is an extension campus of the Met focused solely on medieval art from western Europe. Built in the early 20th century to house cloisters that were brought from Europe to NYC, the museum displays Byzantine, Romanesque, Gothic, and early Ren art in various media: manuscripts, sculpture, frescoes, windows, tombs, architecture, ivories, textiles, and on and on and on.

It is a literal HOOF to get The Cloisters–you definitely don’t feel like you’re still in Manhattan–you are, but only just, it’s on the northern edge of the island. We had to climb a fairly significant hill to get to the museum, which just felt right. I feel like every monastery I’ve visited required a “nice” climb to get to it (I blame Italy). 

Gothic Chapel complete with some fun effigies and stained glass
Saint Guilhem le Desert Cloister
Soaking in the Merode Altarpiece

It was an evocative space, it definitely felt like I was transplanted to Europe. There were even lots of other visitors speaking not-English, which definitely contributed to that sensation. It’s a great museum, the quietest that I visited this trip. it’s totally worth a visit and the hoof. I definitely want to visit it again, in the spring or summer when all of the gardens are more active.  

Welcome to the Side Aisle! Everyone run, don’t walk, to follow the Greedy Peasant on Instagram (or TikTok)

Until we meet again….

It is now weeks later and I am still just so pumped from my extended weekend to New York. I feel like I packed a lot into a relatively short amount of time and I can’t wait to go back. Fortunately, I might not have to wait too long as I am currently scheduled to go to a work conference in NYC! This time I get to do NYC as a professional and it will not be nearly as cold.

2021, Personal, Uncategorized

“Pay Attention to What You Pay Attention To”

This blog has no thesis. It started as a travelogue, to keep interested parties updated with my travels during my PhD work. My travels were many, but the blogging was hard–I have a backlog of some 15+ entries to work through, but some of the motivation has faded as time has passed. At its inception, I thought this website could also serve as a professional portfolio as I went on the academic job market and (hopefully) became a professor. That ship has sailed, and thus the professional portfolio became irrelevant. Then, I decided to have bariatric surgery and this seemed a useful vehicle to keep interested folks updated easily. I have absolutely no interest, however, in making my surgery or my body the primary topic of discussion on this blog.

I’ve spent so much of my life writing, it feels like my natural state!

I still have the impulse to write. I no longer think that an academic setting is the path that I want to take. It doesn’t mean that I think my previous work was unimportant or has no teeth, I am just not sure that I want my work to exist and develop in and around a system that doesn’t have room to employ the scholars it turns out; can’t compensate me (and others) for my research; and for which I have to use my own precious free time and resources to accomplish. It’s a scenario in which I am doomed to be playing catch up. However, I will never say never.

Thus, the idea of branching out in my writing is also attractive. I love a good memoir and I love fiction. Am I capable of writing either? Who knows! Could I be an author of popular non-fiction? I don’t know! I haven’t tried. I’m not ignorant of the fact that all genres of writing require time and effort to get right. (Also, some academics have written some truly terrible fictional works…not all of us are Umberto Eco who can do both. I really, really don’t want to be THAT academic.) However, I don’t know that a public blog is the place to practice fiction writing and I’m not sure I would subject anyone to those attempts. (You’re welcome.)

In John Green’s latest book, The Anthropocene Reviewed, he quotes a writer friend of his, Amy Krause Rosenthal, who said, “For anyone trying to discern what to do with their life, pay attention to what you pay attention to. That’s pretty much all the info you need.”

Everyone should read this book!

This sentence stuck with me and I ruminate on it often still. The things that come to mind when I think of this approach are abstractions and not things for which you can be compensated nor or they ones on which you can (easily?) make a living. That’s okay for me though. I choose to interpret these words to mean what to do with your life not what to do for your work. They are not the same thing.

For now, I think this blog will take as its focus the things to which I pay attention. Crafting? Yep, probably. Random thoughts? Oh most definitely. Semi-academic explorations of mundane things? You can place your bets. Gushing and nostalgic book reviews? The odds are in your favor. Other here-to-unforeseen forays into randomness? Indubitably. Travel blogs? Yep, can’t stray too far from my origins and I can’t wait to travel once more.

Whatever this space winds up being, I hope you’ll join me for the ride.

2021, Move 2021, Non-Travel Charlotte Thoughts

Bloomington: the Early Years, 2012-2015

My years in Bloomington are obviously some of the most significant of my life. I learned so much during this years– stuff about myself, art history, the world, everything really. It will be hard to say goodbye. Or, see ya later, because really, there will always be a next time. Deep breaths. There’s no crying in baseball. My time in Bloomington can be pretty easily divided into 3 distinct parts. The Early Years (2012-2015, comprising coursework and quals); Dissertating (2015-2019, comprising proposal, all sorts of travel, and my mom’s death), and Post-PhD (2019-2021, IAS and Pandemic). I’m going to write a post about all three. Why not?

When I moved to Bloomington in 2012, I had never stepped foot in the state of Indiana. I had some half-baked notions of what I would find–a blend of vague ideas about the US west of the Appalachians and stereotypes from Parks and Rec. Indiana (my part of it anyway) was NOT barren, flat prairie, but rather with rocky rolling hills. Most people do have a weird story about John Cougar Mellencamp (or his kids). Cities and towns do have really ornate courthouses (of COURSE made of Indiana limestone). There ARE a lot of raccoons. To be fair though, I’ve seen more skunk. (I have a long-standing theory that Bloomington *is* Pawnee. Yes, I know Bloomington pops up in the show, and no, that doesn’t matter to my theory.) Anyway. I digress.

It would be impossible for me to formulate a clear narrative of the first few years, so I’m going to hit the highlights. I know I’m missing things–critical important events and people–but at this moment, the things listed below are what categorized my early time in Bloomington.


Starting a Solo Adventure

I moved to Bloomington after what had been a rough couple of years. From 2010 to 2011, I lived with my grandfather while doing my MA and working a few jobs. My family had moved far away, then after my grandfather’s health declined, he moved to Texas to live with my uncle. It was rough, and I felt rather…adrift, but stuck both in terms of geography and situation. I was independent, but not. On a path, but not a certain one. I knew I wanted to go to get my PhD, but it wasn’t a guaranteed outcome. Thankfully, I was accepted to IU and the adventure could begin.

Driving to Indiana with my seeester!

After a summer of fun, concerts with my BFF, visits to quintessential Virginia sites, I packed up all of my stuff, and moved to Indiana with the help of my Dad and siblings. It was mildly terrifying to move to a town and state I’d never been to before, where I did not know a single person, but it was also thrilling to be on this adventure because it was was entirely my own. I was in Bloomington because I chose to go to IU. I was at IU because I chose to study art history. I wasn’t sure it would all work out the way I wanted–with a tenure-track job at a small liberal arts school–but at least I was taking concrete steps to make that happen.

Part of my orientation materials, from the now defunct Henry Radford Hope School of Fine Arts. (I still have this notebook cover, because I am that person.

It wasn’t easy. The first semester was kind of rough. I was one of 2 PhD students and lived farther way than I had intended (the risk of renting online with a NoVA definition of commute). Everyone else was an MA student and grouped together a little easier because of the classes they took (or so I felt!).My expectations and hopes had to confront reality, and that always requires a little adjustment. I found my feet and my people eventually and it was seriously one of the happiest times in my life.

Loving Bloomington and IU

Bloomington seemed like a perfect little pleasantville, microcosm of a place. After living on the 95 corridor literally my entire life, it was refreshing to have real boundaries to a space (literally, you can tell the moment you leave “town,” still). After the sprawl of northern Virginia/DC, it was charming. An actually ‘main’ street/downtown area, with adjoining campus felt so novel too after George Mason.

The interior of the Rose Well House from my first walk around campus,

CAMPUS itself was gorgeous. Both my undergrad and my MA were entirely different from IU’s. Randolph-Macon was small and quaint, beautiful, but definitely not really that impressive architecturally. Mason had a fine campus and was a huge school, but it was all very 1960s and 1970s (understandably). IU has a much more unified campus that is without a doubt, one of the prettiest in the nation. The landscaping is always great. The trees are always incredible in almost any season.

Kirkwood Hall. Legit favorite door on IU’s campus.

The architecture on campus fueled my excitement for scholarly pursuits. The gothic and romanesque influence *clearly* were meant to inspire Deep Thoughts unlike the boring brutalist stuff at Mason. Even better IU had an amazing museum and attached fine arts library in the same building as the art history department. It was THE LIFE.

My carrel, number 4, my favorite number, right under that weird painting with SPQR. It felt pre-ordained. RIP FAL.
Perfect atmosphere for some thinking. RIP FAL.
The foyer of the IU Art Museum (now the Eskenazi Museum of Art).
Paired busts of the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus and his wife Julia Domna in their old arrangement at the IUAM.

Meeting So Many of “My” People

This one is it. Really, what made Bloomington was the people. In the first 2 years in Bloomington, I met more people who would become absolutely critical humans to my life. There are so many. Almost all art historians. I don’t take pictures of people (ugh) so I don’t have much to share here. All I have to say is I feel very lucky. I had opera buddies. Ice cream buddies. Art museum buddies (duh). Movie night buddies. Game night buddies. ALL SORTS OF BUDDIES.

There’s my friend L who I have been lucky enough to visit several times abroad and visit some really cool places. The first person to welcome me to IU, and who I would literally walk over the coals for.

Then there’s S&J who had become quick friends during our orientation, but then quickly welcomed me into their little group when it was clear I needed a friend. I spent literally so many wonderful moments with these two; they’ll always be my badass humans.

Year 2 brought three incredible humans, E, H, and K. I was so pleased to have found so many great people in Year 1, imagine my surprise when year 2 brought just as many amazing people.

Seriously, yo, when I count my blessings, it’s insane to think of how many of these blessings were introduced to me in this short window of time. In the art history department of IU, in Bloomington, Indiana of all places, no less!

The way it works in Bloomington though is that most everyone leaves. I’ve had to watch people I really care about move on to new and exciting things. What’s crazy to me is that I’ve managed to stay in touch with many who have moved away, some even thousands of miles away across the globe. But they leave and you stay. It’s hard watching them leave and not knowing when it will be your turn.

Ah, my desk in the grad office. Since I don’t have pictures of people (really), I’ll let this stand in for the place where I got to know so many people that I care about. RIP Grad office (yes, I was on facebook, hahahaha).

Discovering Drag Queens

In the grad office up there, one of my dearest amies introduced me to this little show called “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” You may have heard of it. This may sound random, but I have so many great memories connected to this show. I feel like it drew together many things I loved, provided some excellent stress relief, and much-needed inspiration, for some really difficult moments that would unfold over the next couple years.

Plus, I got to experience the much-beloved and unique, Uncle Elizabeth’s, which hosted drag shows in Bloomington before it folded.

I don’t have great images for the drag shows at Uncle E’s, but they were nothing but pure wonderful adrenaline.

Adopting Livia

In 2013, I finally got what I had wanted for so very long. A little baby kitty cat of my own. It was not an impulse decision, but it was still nerve wracking. I’d never owned an animal of my own before. It was a big responsibility. But oy! It was near instantaneous love. I went to the shelter wanting to get a male black and white cat, that I would name Gus. I left with a girl, grey and white that I named Livia. None of the boy kittens struck my fancy–there weren’t many. My friend L scooped up a girl baby and handed her to me. The first girl was too freaked out. L then scooped up 2nd girl baby, named “Eartha Kitt” and I didn’t put her down again until it was time to take her home. She was my baby. She loves me more than anyone else on earth and is my sweet perfect baby angel, even though she is a born crank, as evidenced by the picture below.

The curmudgeon is strong with this one. Livia, May 2013.

For those of you who were in Bloomington in 2012-2015, what did I miss? What were your critical Bloomington moments during these years?

2018, EuroTrip 2018, Uncategorized

Fair Verona

IMG_0325Before I knew it, my time in Germany was over. It had some highs and lows, and I was ready to be in a place that was familiar. Germany and I never meshed in the week that I spent there; perhaps this was because it came on the heels of Denmark where I felt instantly comfortable or maybe I just wasn’t hitting the right spots. I really think the next time I do Germany, I need to do it with someone else who knows it, loves it, and can introduce me what it has to offer.

I was ready for Italy. My first stop of my Italian tour was the fair city of Verona, of Shakespearean fame (for most…it has many other, more remarkable things to be famous for says this ancient art historian). The train ride was long, but beautiful. Through southwestern Germany, Austria and northern Italy we went, winding our way through mountains, finally arriving in Fair Verona.

DSC04177Verona was immediately from the outset, entirely charming. I lucked out with a very nicely located and appointed Airbnb. I did my usually settling in and took my first nighttime walk around Verona. I ate and I grocery shopped, at an Aldi, and came back to plan my one full day in Verona.

Verona has a lot of well-preserved Roman remains, of which I was only able to scratch the surface. I started my day with my traditional Italian breakfast of a cornetto con crema and a cappuccino, then walked to my first destination, the Porta Leone, which was really difficult to photograph, but super fascinating.

A defensive gate dating to around the 1st or 2nd century CE, the Gate of the Lions was incorporated into other buildings as time progressed, preserving basically one side of its facade.  One of my favorite things about Europe is the manner in which archaeological remains have been integrated (even sometimes when done badly or even just haphazardly) with the modern city.

After drinking my fill of the Porta Leone, I walked down one of the main (touristy) drags of the town, ate lunch, bought market fragola, which were the best freaking strawberries I’ve ever eaten. It was such a gorgeous day, the right amount of sun and shade, bustling, but not overcrowded. After some disappointments in Germany, Fair Verona was living up to her name.

I continued to walk around Verona, taking in parts of the city that I knew relatively IMG_0319nothing about. I did some people watching, square sitting, church wandering, and tomb inspecting, as one does. A few churches that I wanted to inspect were closed, but I persisted. I walked by the so-called Houses of Juliet and Romeo; Juliet’s house was overran by tourists, Romeo’s entirely ignored.

I finally drew closer to the reason for my visit in Verona. The Arch of the Gavii. The arch is a curious one–an early quadrifrons monument with no extant sculpture. I did my scholarly thing, inciting the interest of a bunch of Veronese teens that were completely baffled by my interest in the structure that provided a spot for their post-school shenanigans. As an art historian, one who grew up in the relatively uninspiring world dominated by 1980s and 1990s strip malls, it’s always crazy to me to think of growing up amongst centuries after centuries of STUFF built by a city’s previous inhabitants. I was lucky enough to grow up in a state where there certainly is plenty of history, but it very much exists in a separate space from that of daily life, “preserved” for posterity by local, state, and federal municipalities.

IMG_0370 Anyway, a tangent of an American abroad that’s constantly in shock of the material culture of places that aren’t home. I finished my scholarly perusal, visited a few other places that was on the ‘dissertation’ list, then went back to

IMG_0383my airbnb for a siesta. After my nap, I went to dinner, eating in the shadow of Verona’s famous amphitheater, which is so much smaller, but, in my opinion, no less impressive than Flavian amphitheater in Rome. Every summer, Verona’s amphitheater plays host to an incredible opera festival, and I missed performances by just one day. Just think,  I could have seen Puccini in an amphitheater. As was becoming my habit on this Eurotrip, just as I was settling in, it was time to turn my attention to the next city. Next on the stop on the tour was also the first longer stay, and my long awaited return to my darling Roma! 

2018, EuroTrip 2018, Uncategorized

My Trip to Mainz: The One Where Everything Went Wrong

Sometimes when traveling things go wrong. Sometimes it’s big. Sometimes it’s little. And sometimes it’s a series of things that just cause you to go mad.

The latter fits my trip to Mainz.

It started with confusing alerts about my trains being cancelled or me being unable to make my connection via the Deutschbahn app. This led me to be super nervous about making my connection in Frankfurt. Mainz is relatively close to Frankfurt so I assumed that it would simply be a matter of catching another local train.

My train left super early and with the confusing alerts, I decided to arrive well ahead of the scheduled time. Fortunately other travelers had decided to do the same. While I was waiting for the train, a man came up to me and asked me a question in broken English about his ticket, which he held out to me. For the life of me, I couldn’t understand his question, the ticket wasn’t for the same train as mine, and I found the German train system a little convoluted. I said, I’m sorry I don’t know. Apparently this response was NOT what they wanted to hear. He started to yell, but again, I couldn’t understand him. Thankfully, a man who was there with his family moved closer to me and stood behind me, gradually shying off the yelling man. This was the third uncomfortable/aggressive interaction I had had with a strange man since being in Germany (Portuguese man on the ferry, then one while I was at the Memorial to the Murder Jews of Europe, then this train guy).

IMG_2725
Minutes before the encounter with an aggressive dude

Next, I ended up sitting in the wrong compartment on the train. The cars, instead of being labeled at the beginning of the car, are labeled at the end. I thought I was in car 12, but I was in car 14 (there was no car 13). After a few minutes I went to go get some food for breakfast, and when I came back there was someone in my seat. I said politely that I think there’s a mistake that I think that’s my seat, not in German of course. The lady of course spoke perfect English but her response was nearly hostile. Eventually, we figured out that I was wrong (it took too long b/c instead of just being like see this is car 14 she wanted to argue and refused to engage). When I finally said, okay but why doesn’t it have it labeled at the beginning of the car and it’s only labelled at the end after you’ve passed through the car, she softened a bit and chuckled and said that, yes, it was confusing.

The rest of the train ride was uneventful. My train arrived in Frankfurt and I was expelled into a mad mess of people. I feel as if I have to explain that I’ve traveled a lot by train. I love train travel. Most of my travel has been in Italy and France–both systems are easily navigable. Germany…I had my ticket, but I couldn’t figure out which number on the ticket my train to Mainz was the one on the departure board. I eventually figured it out and caught my train with no fuss.

I arrived in Mainz, excited to be outside of Berlin and in a different region of Germany. I was only staying in Mainz for one night and I chose a hotel right by the train station, or so I thought. Turns out, no, I kind of did, but it was up an incredibly steep incline that seemed ridiculous with my suitcase and backpack. I took a taxi because I really didn’t want to walk up the mountain and find out I had gone the wrong way.

After checking in at my hotel I rushed down the mountain to the museum I was there to visit and it was SLAMMED with people. I was so surprised to see it was full of people, but there was some exhibition that had a draw to kids. I wandered around the museum and kept expecting to see the stuff I was there for, but it wasn’t there. I was super confused and so I asked. It turns out, the stuff I wanted to see had been moved to another museum, several years ago. The collections still technically belonged to the museum I was visiting, and thus that’s how they were listed in the sources I found it in and nothing on the website indicated they were at another museum. The museum they were currently in, was closed the day I was in Mainz, and it opened after my train left the next day.

I was really mad at myself. I hadn’t considered the possibility that they’d be at a different museum than the one they were cited in. I had gone back and forth about keeping my trip to Mainz so short, and clearly I made the wrong decision. If I just stayed an extra day, there would have been no problem! But alas! This is the difficulty with planing a trip that moves so fast. Shit happens, literally.

So, I said to myself, “that’s okay! There are things OUTSIDE that I want to see. I will go see them.” I took a gander at google maps, assured myself of the coordinates, then walked in the direction of the first monument, and I began to see glimpses of the pretty part of Mainz. Just when I began to arrive near where the first monument, and most important,  was there was a swirl of activity…barricades blocked the road, fences were blocking the park, and about 150 military vans and vehicles with their accompanying personnel. In the distance I saw the monument that I wanted to see, but between me and it, were the barricades, the humvees, the machine guns, and the personnel.

It was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I was exhausted and about a week into my trip (usually when the first round of tired hits) and I had been going non-stop. Things had not gone my way that day and I had a choice, Mainz wasn’t going to work research wise and all of my things to do in Mainz were for research. I had no plan for other things to do. The tired wore out. I decided to have an off afternoon, a thing I hadn’t had since arriving in Europe.

Ahhh yes, the best of all possible fast foods, ubiquitous in Europe, doner kebab.

Before hiking up to my hotel, I grabbed some doner kebab. The people in this small doner cafe were the warmest I had met in Germany thus far. A few families with small children were there and their antics cheered me. The prospect of doner also didn’t hurt. I ate my doner and headed up the mountain, and took a much-needed nap. I took the gift of a free afternoon, and I needed it sorely.

Fittingly, I only took 2 pictures from my day in Mainz, one in the train station before I got yelled at and then my doner before I ate it. The before and after of the worst day of my trip.

2018, EuroTrip 2018, Uncategorized

Two Months Late…Berlin!

I have decided that I am not an “in the moment” blogger. I need some reflection and some time to process. My Eurotrip 2018 was FAST, a whirlwind, and I moved fast. Six countries in six weeks. I wrote my blog on Copenhagen while in Berlin, but then stopped…unsurprisingly. This works out well for you, because now you, dear reader, get fond remembrances instead of in-the-moment whining.*(see above note about six countries in six weeks. I was TIRED.)

Anyway! Back to your regularly scheduled blogging!

Berlin, Day 1 I didn’t know what to expect from my first city of my German tour. Somehow, I think got my preconceived notions concerning Munich and Berlin confused. I expected Munich to be cold and sterile and Berlin to be vibrant and lively. And they are both those things in some parts, but Berlin was far more cold and sterile that I was expecting. I have a feeling that doing it again someday with someone that knows and loves it, could change my opinion…and I WILL go back. I need to see the Pergamon Altar. Doing these things solo definitely have an impact on how I experience a place, not always for the better, and sometimes, probably not for the worst.

Getting to Berlin was nothing what I expected. I thought I had booked a train, but I in fact booked a bus. The bus departed Copenhagen bright and early, and it took the ferry from Denmark to Rostock, Germany. The ferry was actually pretty neat…It was nice having lunch and getting to see the water. The only downside of the ferry is that there was nowhere to go when an itinerant Portuguese man struck up a conversation in the hopes that I would take him back to America as “your man.” After the ferry, the bus drove to Berlin and dropped everyone off at the Berlin Hauptbahnhof, where I taxied over to my hostel, which was unfortunately a little far afield.

I was immediately stunned by how modern Berlin felt. This should have been a no brainer that Berlin would feel different than any place I had been in Europe. My visions of Germany were decidedly Alpine, so the reality of a pretty typical American-looking city as my first stop in Germany felt disjointed.

I arrived at my hostel, which was not nearly as swanky as my hostel in Berlin, and the welcome desk person chastised me for writing my nationality as “American”* and also said, “well, America is kind of a shit country now isn’t it?” I’m not really sure anyone in Western Europe gets to point fingers. 😛 Tired me did NOT want to deal.

Now, I only basically had a day and a half in Berlin. I needed to set out immediately to do my non-museum exploring. I wanted to do the Brandenburg Tor, the memorial to the Murdered Jews, and just get the feel for Berlin, and grab FOOD. I also wanted to get a new bag, because the bag I had brought, from Eurotrip 2017, had NOT held up well and was falling apart. I ubered to Alexanderplatz, quickly found a TK Maxx and bought a new bag. I walked slowly towards Museuminsel, continually struck by the newness of it all. Marienkirche was a weird juxtaposition of old with the industrial newness around it.

Museuminsel was the only bit where I clearly felt like I was in Europe. Berliner Dom and the Altes Museum, though both from the 19th century, provided much of the “ambience” I had expected. Now, I was getting hungry. I wanted food. Preferably German food. I walked to Brandenburg Tor from Museuminsel and there was literally nothing between the two (oh, besides the Porsche cafe by the Porsche store, and Starbucks, but, no). I took my time at Brandenburg Tor, then headed toward the Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe. No food. Kept walking. Finally some food, but it was all curry. Now, I like curry, but I had had curry for lunch, so I didn’t want more curry. I kept walking, trying to swing back in the way I had come, hoping to find something. Anything. Finally, shops! A mall, but alas, no restaurants serving food that I wanted to eat or could afford!

I FINALLY found a place, which was a total tourist trap. It was a Bavarian restaurant called Maximilians, never mind I was not in Bavaria. I realized there, that my idea of German food was also quite stereotypical. Sausages. Pretzels. Beer! Sauerkraut! It was probably good I stumbled onto a touristy place to eat, because I learned the next day that most Berlin restaurants don’t take cards. What I ate was delicious, including the pickle, which was delightful. I had a berlinerweisser with lambic, a pretzel, and far too much food. It felt like a good hello to Germany, even if I was super cranky by the time I found it. I ubered back to my hostel, and slept SO hard that night. I had a LOT of museum-ing to do the next day.

Berlin, Day 2

I woke up early enough to be at the Altes Museum when it opened. I bought a ticket for the entire Museuminsel and planned on doing as much as possible–I wanted to spend as much time with Altes and the Neues Museums as humanly possible. I also wanted to do the Pergamonmuseum, and the Bode. IF I had time, I wanted to see the Altes Nationalgallerie (painting!). (Hint: I did not have time). I had planned on seeing if there was a place to grab coffee and breakfast nearby, but alas, this is where I learned that they did not take cards, and I was fairly low on euro after the previous night’s dinner, AND unlike the US, there were not ATMS or “geldautomatiks” located in the establishments) I decided to wait until lunch. It was a very hungry day of museuming.

It is really hard to sum up Museuminsel. The Altes was where I spent the most time, and every step I took it seemed like I was confronted with a canonical artwork from antiquity. The Altes was without a doubt my favorite museum of the day. The Neues was also very cool–but much busier. Like at the Altes, I saw many, many things I had only read about before. I went to the Pergamonmuseum just to see the Market Gate of Miletus and the Ishtar gates, but it was the most packed of all the museums I visited and I was starting to get worn out, both of museuming and the crowds. At this point, it was about 3:30 in the afternoon so I didn’t have much time left to do the last museum, the Bode, until stuff closed down at 5. The Bode was so quiet. I had most of the entire place to myself. Focusing on the medieval and Renaissance periods, it was a museum with a vast scope, one on I only partially appreciated (see earlier note about being tired).

After finishing up at the Bode I sat in front of the museum for a bit, listening to a super talented musician play his guitar. I was tired and VERY hungry…all I had had that day to eat was a coffee, water, and piece of pastry from the coffeeshop in between the Altes and Neues, but the music, plus the beautiful afternoon calmed me. I walked in the opposite direction than I had the night before, and discovered I had made an error (not really, I wanted to see the Brandenburg Tor), there were about 1001 super cool restaurants to the east of Museuminsel. I found an ATM, got some dinner and ate some food. I headed back to my hostel, pleased with what I had accomplished that day. Just like that, my time in Berlin was DONE!

 

*The rationale is that other folks from the Americas could also call themselves American. I’ve heard this before in my time abroad, and I see the point. I wouldn’t get upset if someone from the Americas called themselves that. However, “American” as the adjectival nationality of an individual from the United States is universally known/understood. United Statesian isn’t a thing. We’ve got plenty of faults, why don’t we stick to those?

2018, EuroTrip 2018

Copenhagen

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I loved Copenhagen. I instantly felt comfortable there and I can’t entirely tell you why. I think there are two possibilities. One, I’m getting super comfortable with travel and I know what to do in new places. Two, Copenhagen is a magical beautiful place full of charm, Danes that speak English better than I do, and a city that’s so easy to navigate. It is probably a bit of both, because the second bit is definitely true. I liked Copenhagen a lot–and will gladly go back in the future. I only had three nights and two days, not very much time to see Copenhagen. I managed to do a lot!

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My main reason for visiting was to see the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek–one of the premiere collections of Greco-Roman sculpture in Europe. It also has a large collection of French and Danish painting from the 19th and 20th centuries. I was there before it opened, ready to go and get Eurotrip 2018 started. It was a great collection, in spite of it being 900 degrees in the galleries with skylights (all of them), I had a great time and it was amazing to be able to see some of these portraits, many of which are the best of their type.

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After the museum, I decided to wander. I wandered to Christiansborg Slot, the current Parliament house. On a complete whim, I decided to do a canal cruise–just go full-blown tourist. I’m glad I did–since I was only there for a brief time, I got to see a good portion of the city that I wouldn’t have been able to see otherwise, plus some really super views and photo ops. After the boat trip, I grabbed some food, and walked around the rest of the city. I tried to visit all three of the churches I wanted to, but the each closed super early and I had been happily boat-touring. Copenhagen is such an easy to navigate city, completely flat, easily laid out. I walked for a while just checking it all out. That night, I had dinner at a restaurant that exuded hygge and the server was so nice and congenial.

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The next day I wanted to go to their National Gallery, Rosenborg Slot, and Tovhallerne; they were all grouped together. The National Gallery was relatively small, with a lot of Danish/Nordic works, and a strong collection of French 19th and 20th century painting. I was super bummed because the European Art from 1300-1800 collection was closed–what can I say, I prefer the older the better!
After finishing up at the National Gallery, I popped over to the Konigs Have (King’s Garden)–the public gardens that surround the Rosenborg Slot or castle. The castle was built by Christian the IV, Denmark’s 17th-century absolute monarch. Now, the castle is primarily a museum that houses the Royal Treasury, including the crown jewels. I almost didn’t go inside–largely because Copenhagen is such a pricey city and I felt like I was bleeding money, but I’m glad I did. It was well worth it. It was a beautiful day to enjoy the gardens too– it had been forecast to rain and thunderstorm, but as you can see from the pics, it was a glorious day.

I then headed to Tovhallerne, a open air produce market and like food hall. It was super crowded and busy (I realized later that this was a very busy weekend to be traveling because all of Europe is on holiday) and it was mildly overwhelming. I kind of wish there had been smaller bites to purchase instead of just full-blown meals (maybe there was, I just didn’t see them) b/c there was a lot I wanted to try, but didn’t want to commit to for an entire meal. I eventually settled on some Vietnamese meatballs with a baguette. Yum! I then walked back to my hostel, taking the scenic route through Olmsted Park, a happy and gorgeous chance.

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That wraps up my time in Copenhagen. Early the next morning, I headed out to Berlin!

 

Eurotrip 2017, Uncategorized

Bon Voyage, EuroTrip 2017 (Paris in Springtime)

 

Paris. I’ve said it before and I’ve said it again. This is my favorite place on earth. My trip ended where it began in this place that I love. My last few days comprised a trip to the Louvre, delicious noms, making sure I had everything I needed, and a reunion with my high school French teacher and color guard coach. During this time, I also day-tripped to Reims with my buddy, L. I walked along the Seine; ate chaussons aux pommes, confit de canard (a few times), steak frites; and purchased about 10 bags of carambars fruits to bring home (that disappeared way too quickly). IMG_2230

My first time in Paris was in January–it was cold, grey, and wet, but I loved it nonetheless. My second time in Paris was my study abroad from August to December. I enjoyed Paris in the summer and fall, and a brief hint of winter again. In 2017, it was my first time visiting Paris (and Europe in general) in the spring. And boy…She did not disappoint. My favorite place in the world put on a glorious spring show for my last days in Europe.

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I was glad to have this time in Paris. After my mom died the first few hours I was there in Fall 2016, I thought that the feelings I felt then would be my association with the city forever. And in some ways, it will. I will never be able to think of Paris without thinking of my mom–but if I hadn’t been on my way to Paris in 2016, I wouldn’t have seen my mom the day before she (suddenly) died. I thought about my mom a lot those last few days. Everywhere I looked were things that reminded me of her: the beautiful flowers, the advent of spring, meeting up with my high school teacher. All things that reminded me how complex grief can be. I think I love Paris more now because it will always remind me of my momma, two of my favorites that I love the most in the world.

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And with my last few days in Paris, EuroTrip 2017 came to a close. It was *such* a good trip. Though there were some negatives– rain, lack of internet, loneliness, sunburns, and sore feet–those have faded with time, I remember those less than the positives — the art! the cities! the sights! the weather! the flowers! the reunions! the food! Plus, I think I have a good handle on how to tackle some of those problems for future trips (read: in a few short weeks!). Ciao and au revoir to Eurotrip 2017!

Eurotrip 2017, Uncategorized

Reims 2017

After my sejour in the South of France, I headed back up north to Paris to conclude my trip. I was ready, more than ready to go home, and regain some kind of routine. That’s the hardest part of travel for me, the lack of routine. My last major stop was Reims to see the incredible and grand Porte de Mars. I had previously been to Reims in 2004 when I first came to France, back when I had absolutely zero knowledge about art history. I was glad to return, especially because I got to do so with my art history BFF L (who has her own art historical allegiance to Reims.)

BUT FIRST! We followed the orders of one of our professors who told us to check out the Musée de la Reddition — the Museum of the Surrender where World War II officially ended on May 7, 1945 (though, May 8 is generally seen as the end of the war, as the Soviets gained control of Berlin). It was a small museum, with an engaging video intro (in which we hear Eisenhower attempt to speak French, poor fellow), lots of period artifacts, and the room itself preserved as it was in 1945. L and I both enjoyed stepping out of our usual historical purviews to something that feels so much more immediate. As Reims is close to the French/German border, played an important role in the movement of troops and supplies, particularly after the Allied arrival.

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L and I both enjoyed stepping out of our usual historical purviews to something that feels so much more immediate. As Reims is close to the French/German border, played an important role in the movement of troops and supplies, particularly after the Allied arrival.

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The Porte de Mars should have been right around the corner. Should have been. It was, but, perhaps owing to the presence of a large carnival (the likes of which I never considered existing in Europe), it took us a minute to realize that the giant grey, scaffolded thing was in fact the object of my fancy. Completely, entirely covered. I stuck my head as far as I could into the small gap only just visible in the photo. I couldn’t see much. Thus, the wind was out of my sails, and we had a much more open and free day in Reims.

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We made do! L was very patient with me; I only brought one pair of walking shoes with me, so my feet were like, DONE with Europe and all of the walking and our day in Reims was nearly 10 miles of walking. We ate, walked, and explored the city and what it had to offer (that was open!)

 

Eurotrip 2017, Uncategorized

Arles

Though there are no extant arches in Arles, in antiquity there were several, and now it is home to one of the region’s largest archaeological museums. I took the train on a beautiful day, and walked to the museum, blissfully unaware that there was a free bus service that led from the train station to the museum. It was a longer yet beautiful walk alone the Rhône, unfortunately, my already sun sore skin was exposed even further and I could feel it get crispier and crispier. I felt like the dead little guy there in that waffenstücken.

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The Arles museum was one of the biggest of its type that I have seen in France. I could have spend much longer there. One of the most remarkable things they had in their collection was a riverboat that had been pulled from the Rhône in the past 20 years. Preserved using a process that replaced the water that had infused the wood with a preservative resin, the boat was HUGE. The picture here does not do it justice. Beyond the boat, the Arles museum had some canonical sculptures, sarcophagi, and mosaics.

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After my time at the museum was done, I was not looking forward to long walk back to the train station, when I happily learned that there was a shuttle. I got off the shuttle when my google maps told me I was getting close to the Arles amphitheatre, so I could do some walking around and exploring about the part of Arles I cared about, which was right next to the train station. I found a small bistro in which to eat where the motherly proprietor clucked over my ever-reddening sunburn and brought me a small cut of aloe to rub. I ate a giant omelet with some of the most delicious frites I’ve ever had.

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Arles was, in short, completely charming. It was sleepy in late March, perhaps a little too sleepy, but it like Avignon, pulled at my emotions and made me never want to leave. #Retirement goals.

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