Europe 2018

AKA who is ready to see my awkward selfie-taking skills in action again?

I did not think I’d be having another amazing European adventure this summer. If anything, a hasty last-ditch attempt to revisit things I hadn’t seen in a few years and to see monuments that were covered up the last time when I was there in 2017 and 2015.

But, I’m incredibly lucky, and I get to have another ‘trip of a lifetime.’ I’m so excited and thankful for this opportunity. I have a lot of work to do to get this trip off the ground, but it should be an amazing one…the best one yet, perhaps!?

This trip will allow me to do all that I wanted to do with revisits and monument viewing, but I will also get to see the major collections of ancient art that I have not yet seen. Below I’ve listed my destination list, and the main attraction for my visit.

Destinations
  1. Copenhagen, Denmark: Ny Carlsburg Glypotek
  2. Berlin, Germany: Museumsinsel (though the Pergamon museum is closed, they’re supposed to have a temporary exhibition of some stuff from it open by 2018. Supposedly)
  3. Mainz, Germany: Arches!
  4. Munich, Germany: The Munich Glyptothek
  5. Verona, Italy: Arch!
  6. Rome, Italy: (revisit) Much arches! Such arts! Very yes!
  7. Benevento, Italy: (revisit, but was scaffolded!) Arch!
  8. Athens, Greece: ALL THE THINGS.
  9. Susa, Italy: (revisit) The Arch of Augustus
  10. Nice, France (and technically, La Turbie): The Trophée des Alpes, a monument from the 1st century BCE
  11. Saintes, France: Arch!
  12. London, England: British Museum!
  13. Paris, France: Louvre (many, many times Revisit)
  14. Besançon, France: (revisit) Arch!
  15. Reims, France: (revisit, but was scaffolded) Arch!

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.

Meet Gussie

Meet Augustus, Gussie for short.

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

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

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

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

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From the Archive: Packing Light

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Packed bags for 4 months in France

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the Archive: Ciao, Roma

As my time in Rome draws to a close, I find myself thinking of what I will miss…and what I will not. So, I thought I’d share.

What I Won’t Miss

The Heat – and no, not the Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy movie. It’s been really bloody hot in Rome. I acclimated well enough, but it was still uncomfortable to wake up sweating, go to sleep sweating, and never stop sweating. This leads to other issues; no AC in the apartment I was staying in leads to open windows, which leads to mosquito bites which leads to cranky.

Pasta – I seriously might not eat pasta for a year. Weird for me.

Questionable toilet facilities – If you’ve read my previous post, you know it’s something I thought about frequently. It will be nice for a toilet seat to be a constant again. (And soap, toilet paper but ESPECIALLY toilet seats.)

What I’ll Miss (In No Particular Order)

Suppli – Delicious mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce, rice, all lightly breaded and fried.

Quattro Venti Bisteccheria – Those of us that lived off Viale di Villa Pamphili often visited this particular restaurant and enjoyed some of my favorite food I’ve had in Rome (including the best steak I’ve ever had). I think we ate there once or twice a week and our waiters got to know us. It was the first time I ever felt like I had a favorite-neighborhood-watering-spot.

The Bakery on Quattro Venti  –  One of the ladies who worked there knew what I wanted when I walked it. That was cool.

 Rome  – I’ll miss Rome in a kind of general abstract sense. I had a harder time getting a hold of its modern urban geography than I’m used to, but in the last few weeks I started to understand it more in my head-map. I look forward to getting to know this city from different perspectives and hopefully in different seasons.

Art and the Monuments – This should probably be an obvious and IS the most important one. I loved being surrounded by the remains of a culture/civilization/whatever that I’ve researched and studied for a very long time now. It was a long time coming and the past six weeks have allowed my knowledge (I think) to sharpen.

My CSS peeps

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When you’re in a group of people almost constantly for six weeks, it feels like you’ve known them a lot longer. It was great to be surrounded by fantastic, intelligent people that all shared a common interest in the ancient world. It was a privilege and a pleasure to share this experience with you all!

(Photo stolen from the group facebook page)

This blog was originally posted here

From the Archive: The Forstall Forica Formula

After spending a bit of time in Rome/Italy, around the touristy bits, in restaurants or just out and about, it does not take one long to realize that public restrooms can vary widely and no bathroom is created equal.

The ancient Romans kind of knew what they were doing with public restrooms (I mean, they existed). See the below example from Ostia, a public restroom or “forica.” If I were time-traveling, and willing to give up certain rules of hygiene and privacy, toilets in the Roman world (when available) could be a lot, A LOT worse.

Now in modern-day Rome, FINDING a toilet isn’t hard. Finding a perfect toilet that meets all of our modern-day desires (and frankly, basic American expectations) can be….rare. I’ve developed, after careful thought and consideration, a toilet-rating system that is useful to those traveling in Rome. Well, it might be more amusing than anything.

CRITERIA FOR A GREAT BATHROOM IN ROME

1. A TOILET SEAT – It seems that it’s common practice in Italy once the toilet seat breaks, not to replace it. If the bathrooms are on the newer side of things, you will probably be lucky enough to find a toilet seat. If not, be thankful there is a toilet.

2. SOAP – Some places, during the tourist season, get slammed by mobs of tourists and when the soap runs out (if it was there to begin with) who knows when it will be replaced. (Tip: Carry GermX or something to assuage your hygienic concerns.)

3. TOILET PAPER – This one is very similar to the soap one. Sometimes they just run out, and it will be a while. (Tip: Come prepared with tissues or whatever and you’ll be fine. Don’t come prepared and chances are you’ll be sorry.)

The above three qualities are the HOLY TRIFECTA. If you’ve found a toilet with a toilet seat, soap, and TP, pat yourself on the back. It’s a good day. If you’ve found one that has NONE of the above, use it and hope for a better future.

4. HAND DRYING DEVICES – Sometimes, there’s paper towels. Often times they’ve run out. Sometimes there are hand-dryers that probably haven’t worked in five years. Sometimes, there’s a Dyson AirBlade hand-dryer that is really freaking cool. To get a point for this category, the bathroom must have paper towels or a functioning dryer that blows COOL air, not the icky hot kind with oodles of bacteria. (Tip: If you don’t have a hand drying device, just walk outside in the 90+ degree weather and you won’t notice your wet hands anymore.

5. GENERAL CLEANLINESS AND FUNCTIONALITY – In the summer it’s hot in Italy. Not many places have AC, and not everyone keeps their public restroom in good order. A bathroom that does not reek, have garbage everywhere, and all of its flushers work is a good bathroom. In Pompeii, one bathroom had a toilet tank that was leaking (it was near the ceiling so it was like it was raining in the bathroom) and another bathroom had six toilets of which only one was currently working. Added bonuses like hooks for bags are a nice touch, but so far, I’ve only found in like 2 bathrooms.

6. BONUS POINT(s) FOR AESTHETICS – Sometimes, a bathroom just looks nice. If a bathroom gets a point for all five of the previous categories, it’s a really good awesome bathroom. Be happy you’ve found it.  BUT. Sometimes a bathroom gets points for all five of the previous categories, but it came dressed to impress. And that bathroom would be the holy grail of bathrooms. I’m happy to say I’ve found two holy grails (okay so maybe not as rare as THE holy grail) the bathroom at the Epigraphical Museum (pictured above) and the bathrooms at the Baths of Caracalla. I would rank the Baths of Caracalla above the Epigraphical Museum because, no lie, it was prettier. I’m sad I didn’t take a picture.

This blog was originally posted here, with pictures.

From the Archive: Week 5

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Week five was PACKED. It was another six day long week (Monday-Saturday) that was full of more visits to the forum, the capitoline museums, and the long anticipated trip to the Vatican Museums.

There were a few “lasts” this week. Our last trip to the forum. Our last trip to the Capitoline. And our last trip to the Epigraphical Museum and the Palazzo Massimo.

We went to Ostia on Wednesday; it was a long, very hot day, but it was very neat to see another city I’ve only read about and now be able to visualize it.

On Friday, we went to the Vatican Museums and it was very, very crowded. Tons of tour guides seemed to like to stand in front of very inopportune spots to discuss something else entirely – for instance, one guide set up in front of the Laocoon to talk about the Sistine Chapel for a good 10 minutes. Nonetheless, I saw so many things and it was a good visit. After finishing with the museums, we visited St. Peter’s Basilica and then had a tour under the basilica in the Vatican Necropolis where the supposed-tomb of St. Peter was found.

Saturday we traveled the ancient Via Appia, making stops at the Villa of the Quintilii, the Catacombs of St. Sebasteion (I did not go down, my claustrophobia got the best of me, especially after the Vatican Necropolis), the Tomb of Caecillia Metella, the Villa and Stadium of Maxentius, the Tomb of the Scipios, the Aurelian wall, AND the baths of Caracalla.

Next week is the last week of the program! We’ll be exploring early Christian Rome and finishing up our seminars!

This blog was originally posted here, with pictures!