From the Archive: It’s Time to Go

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

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

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

My ipad is full of articles and music.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the Archive: Packing Light

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Packed bags for 4 months in France

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Susa

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The Arch at Susa

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

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

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

From the Archive: Destination Spotlight, RIMINI, Italy

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

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

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

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

Paris * Besançon * London * Venice * Pula * Ravenna

From the Archive: Destination Spotlight, RAVENNA, Italy

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My visit to Ravenna is my second purely for pleasure trip. I have no reason to be there other than some of the most important art historical masterpieces from the late antique/early middle ages are found within its borders. Since antiquity, the city served as an important port on the Adriatic as well as occasionally serving as a capital for the Western Roman emperors and the Ostrogothic monarchs, eventually becoming the seat of the Exarchate of Ravenna (the seat of the Byzantine governor in Italy). In the 8th century, Ravenna was taken over by the Lombards, and thus ends my knowledge of Ravenna’s history. Truthfully, I have no expectations from the city of Ravenna; I’m going for its architecture.

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Check out the details found in the mosaics of San Vitale

I’ll be spending one weekend in Ravenna and I will be going to see a LOT of churches and a few tombs. Number one on the list is arguably one of the most important 6th century churches in Italy, and Europe, San Vitale. The structure and the mosaics are well preserved and I LITERALLY CAN’T WAIT to see them. Notable among the mosaics of San Vitale are the Theodora and Justinian mosaics which depict the imperial couple presenting the instruments of the Eucharist to the church in a process of officials. Richly colored in blues, greens, and golds, these mosaics demonstrate the sensory nature of early-medieval worship.

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Looking into the apse (the holiest spot of the church). In the conch of the apse, you have Christ depicted with full imperial symbolism…he is surrounded by two angels, Saint Vitale, and Bishop Ecclesias who initiated the construction of the church. 

I don’t know if I’ll be able to see all of the churches I want to see, but top on my list besides San Vitale are Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, San Giovanni Evangelista, and the Arian and Orthodox Baptisteries. I’d like also to visit the Mausolea of Galla Placidia and Theodoric.

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Sant’Apollinare Nuovo from an aisle looking into the nave. 

Sant’Apollinare Nuovo was built not long before San Vitale, but instead of the Byzantine central-plan domed church of San Vitale, we have a traditional basilica form (a long church with a center nave, and at least two surrounding aisles, all axially oriented towards the apse where the rituals would be performed). What is interesting about this church is that it was built under Ostrogothic rule as a Palace church for the emperor Theodoric. The Ostrogoths were Christians, but believed in a “heretical” form of Christianity called Arianism (long story short – questions the divinity of Christ and the notion of the Holy Trinity). When Ostrogothic rule ended, the church was not destroyed and we have noticeable examples where the mosaic program of the church was altered to reflect both the change in the political situation AND the religious shift to orthodoxy.

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Sant’Apollinare Nuovo mosaic that depicts the Ostrogothic palace…this mosaic shows obvious signs of being altered…can you spot them? 

The Mausoleum of Galla Placidia (so-called) is a pretty early structure that has some remarkable mosaics, both figural and decorative. My favorite of the mosaics is a depiction of Saint Lawrence and the instrument of his martyrdom. Saint Lawrence was an early-Christian martyr that was literally *grilled* to death. In this mosaic Saint Lawrence is standing beside his flaming gridiron; next to the gridiron is a cabinet with the handily labelled books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, or the Gospels.  Fun Fact: St. Lawrence is the patron saint of barbecue….chew on that for a few…PUN INTENDED.

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Saint Lawrence with his grill…..and you can see where I got the image for my blog header

My plans for visiting Ravenna just reinforce, in my mind, how much of an art historian I am. I do not study early medieval/late antique/Byzantine art, nor do I study Christian art, but I LOVE THIS STUFF. I cannot wait to see it…the pictures take my breath away, so I can only imagine the impact it will have in person.

What is a place you can’t wait to visit? The most hyped place you’ve ever been? Did it live up to your expectations? 

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

Paris * Besançon * London * Venice * Pula 

From the Archive: Destination Spotlight, PULA, Croatia

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Image Credit

I still can’t quite believe that I am going to Croatia. It’s not a place I ever expected to go, nor did I think it would happen in the course of my research but here we are. Pula (or Pola) is on the Istrian peninsula of Croatia and was/is a prominent port on the Adriatic. In antiquity, Pula was one of the most important ports for maintaining Roman supply lines during various excursions into the hinterlands of the Balkans and further into Eastern Europe.

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Temple of Augustus and Roma, circa 2 AD 

Nowadays it is still a port, and a prominent vacation location. Its VERY well preserved Roman remains, its place on the Adriatic, as well as nearby attractions for those that like the outdoors draw folks to Pula…mainly other Europeans.

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Pula’s Amphitheatre…take that Flavian Amphitheatre (aka the Colosseum)

My goal here really is Pula’s Roman remains. Amphitheater. Arches. Temples. Villas. Pula has it all. I know next to nothing about Croatia more generally. In fact, I just recently figured out (I’m so embarrassed to admit this) that I will have to go through SLOVENIA to get to Croatia from Italy. Slovenia has a tiny little strip of land that reaches the Adriatic that divides Italy from Croatian’s Istrian peninsula. I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to claim that I “have been to Slovenia”; is driving through a country the same as an airport visit?

The arch that I’m going to visit is on its way to becoming one of my favorites. In many ways, this little guy is an enigma. It’s super early and super well preserved…not a combination we usually have in arch world.

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The Arch of the Sergii 

What’s the most unexpected or unique travel experience or opportunity you’ve had?

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

Paris * Besançon * London * Venice