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! 

Pittsburgh – Spring Break 2018

Spring Break 2018, my friend E and I left B-town for Pittsburgh to hang out with our dear friend, K! Our goals were few– hang out, catch up, and enjoy what Pittsburgh has to offer. We were so excited to see her because we miss her dearly. Our main cultural excursions were to explore the Carnegie Museums — the Art and the Natural History. It was such a fun space, and I definitely could have spent a lot more time there. I guess I just have to go back 😉

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Me super digging the plaster casts of architectural features from major buildings from the Western canon. The above photo includes a cast from the portals of the Abbey of Saint Gilles in France and is but one fantastic thing to be found in the Hall of Architecture. IMG_8430

The architecture wasn’t just amazing in copy, but the museum itself was fantastic. IMG_8465

AND not only was the architecture fantastic, there were dinosaurs.

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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!

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.

2017 Top Ten

2017 was a mixed bag. It didn’t suck as much (at least for me personally, world events is another story) as 2016, but it came with ups and downs. There were some pretty obvious highs, and some pretty obvious lows, namely, still grieving the loss of my mom played a very large roll that filtered into everything. You don’t realize how fundamental someone is to your life until they’re no longer there. BUT I like to take the time to reflect on what made 2017 bearable and okay. Here it goes, in no particular order.

  1. Eurotrip 2017! Eurotrip 2017 was amazing–I’m still working on finishing up the blogs, but other writing endeavors got in the way. Returning to France after the aborted trip in 2016 after my mom’s death was a little hard, and solo travel for so long sometime wore on me, but it was a once-in-a-lifetime trip that I will never forget. In France, Croatia, and Italy, I visited sites, monuments, and museums of importance to my dissertation and enjoying every (almost) every second.                                                                                                                                                                         Me in Ancona Italy checking out the Arch of Trajan. DSC03132.JPG
  2. Fitzwilliam Arthur I don’t think it’s terribly surprising that I got another cat this year, especially after the loss of my mom. This (not-so-little now) kitten is such a goof and I can’t imagine life without him. IMG_3603.JPG
  3. Quilting I finished two quilts this year, one for a friend’s new baby (who is literally the cutest!) and one for my brother. I’m so happy to have found my craft, it gives me such satisfaction and enjoyment. My brother’s quilt was particularly special. When my mom died I was working on my sister’s quilt; she had asked me to make sure that I actually made a quilt for my brother too (a craft I had made a few years ago, I never finished my brother’s, largely because my idea far outstripped my abilities at the time.) I promised I would. So this quilt was super double special, it was for my brother, and for my mom.
  4. YMCA I was kind of bummed to need to find work over the summer, but I *really* enjoyed working at the local Y’s summer camp. I got to hang out with some cool counselors, awesome teens, and delightful kiddos all day long. It was nice to be reminded that I’m good at at other things and be given some perspective on what the world is all about. It made for an exhausting summer of crafts, sunburns, splashes, and giggles.
  5. Miss O I started nannying this year for a six-year-old girl and man. One of the best things I ever did. This kid is smart, funny, and just a lot of fun. Hanging out with her is another great dose of perspective. Oh and she loves Harry Potter so we’re basically soulmates. IMG_4101.JPG
  6. Friendsgiving in Nashville I had *such* a good non-traditional Thanksgiving/Friendsgiving with some of my favorite people, in one of my favorite places. I even brought my cats!
  7. Hard work!  It’s been a productive year! I’ve worked hard, and made some progress that I’m proud of, and I’m hoping that it will only get better in 2018.
  8. Self Care (and)
  9. Networks of Support These two kind of go together, and I think it’s why I feel like I’ve made more progress in 2017 than any before. From professional and personal friends and colleagues, and knowing when take a break, I’m a lucky to have access to a variety of support networks that I have availed myself of this year.
  10. Christmas 2017 This holiday season, to me surprisingly, was harder than last year. I think everything was too new last year for me to really process what the holidays are now that my mom has died. It starts with the anniversary of her death, immediately followed by my, my dad’s, and my sister’s birthdays, Halloween, Thanksgiving, then Christmas…then my mom’s birthday is New Year’s Day. The holiday season will forever be bookended by these bittersweet dates now. However, we did Christmas a little differently this year, didn’t try too hard and didn’t push it. Us siblings got small meaningful gifts for one another and “Santa” didn’t bring us presents this year, but that was all okay. I had a great Christmas, in spite of the sads, and it reminded me how thankful and lucky I am for the family I have, both related and chosen.