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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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!

Site Archeologique de Glanum (St. Rémy de Provence)

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Glanum, and Saint Rémy, remains the most beautiful place I think I’ve ever been. There were a few monuments I wanted to see, largely the monuments belonging to the Julii family from the late Republic and early Empire.

I was not expecting to be so overcome with the beauty of the archaeological site. Provence was on full spring display–trees were in bloom, the sun was out– so much so I had to visit the pharmacy afterwards and get some medicine for my sunburn.

 

I wandered the site for a while, almost in a state of complete awe. It was just too beautiful. Continuously occupied since pre-Roman times, the site was abandoned at some point in the third or fourth century. I quickly learned why escargot became a French delicacy…snails were literally everywhere. At one point, it was unavoidable to actually step on them.

IMG_1817It was here at this site that I was just overcome by the combination of all of my favorite things. I was in France! There were arches! It was beautiful outside! There was an archaeological kitty that followed me around! I named her Octavia (the site had two portraits, one of Octavia and one of Livia. Since there’s already a cat important to me named Livia, this one was Octavia. Super friendly and attention seeking.

Just look how beautiful!

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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.

 

A Day Trip to Susa

Sorry for the long absence…life got in the way…to pick up where I left off…I was in Turin taking in the sights of the Piedmont.

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My main goal for visiting the Turin was to visit the Arch of Augustus in Susa. Susa is a small town in between Turin and France. The train ride from Turin to Susa was probably one of the most beautiful of my life. Like Turin, it rained, but it rained on and off, and totally stopped long enough for me to hike out to my arch, do my thing, and then get back to the train.

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The building at the peak of that mountain is the Sacra di San Michele, a former Benedictine abbey (now run by another order), that dates to the 12th century. (Umberto Eco based his novel, The Name of the Rose, on this Abbey.)

The city of Susa was charming and small. I didn’t have a lot of time to spend there, but my path to the arch led me through the town center…The town was super sleepy and not very populated…but that was okay with me. Like in Turin, while I was walking through Susa, I had a hard time believing I was in the same country as Naples.

 

A small sampling of the small town of Susa.

Finally, I found my arch. I knew it was in the mountains, but I had no idea just how beautiful of a site this arch occupied. The view was incredible, like ridiculously so. So ridiculously beautiful, I was moved to song. Now for those of you that know me well, I am usually singing. I also love The Sound of Music, and most musicals generally. Perhaps unsurprisingly, while walking around the arch and its surroundings (see the pic below of what the arch overlooks), thinking myself entirely alone, I sang loudly and at full voice the title song from The Sound of Music. IMG_1423

A few minutes into my warbling, I realized I was not as alone as I imagined. Hidden below the hill, was a large group of teenaged students on a tour of the town. I heard some applause, and promptly blushed in horror as the climbed the hill to explore my arch. A few of them smiled and said, “brava!” and the tour guide leading them gave me the biggest grin..many of them didn’t care. Never have I been more glad to be confident in my vocal talents, and it’s a story I’ll remember for forever. And honestly…WHO WOULDN’T BREAK INTO SONG AT THAT VIEW?

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Me and the group of students that caught me and my vocal stylings. 

After completing my work, I headed back to the train station and the sky opened up. I enjoyed the view again on my way back to Turin. I treated myself to a late afternoon gyro (when in Europe?) and enjoyed my last few days in Italy.

 

Ancona: A Day in Marche

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View of Ancona from the Ferretti Palace, it was a gorgeous day

My brief day trip to Ancona was another thing I was not very excited about. It’s a prominent harbor/seaport on the Adriatic, and for whatever reason I had an impression that the city could be a little rough and gritty. It’s not entirely untrue, a large part of the city, especially on the outskirts, is unrelentingly industrial and it doesn’t have…the polish, of other cities in Italy, but it was by no means a place where I felt unsafe even for a moment.

It was however very hilly, and for the first time, the train station was much farther away from where I needed to go, not crazy far, but just not close. It is in many ways super liberating as an American to train into a city and use your feet to get everywhere you need to go. Ancona was this trip’s exception. Between the hills and the distance, I decided to take a taxi to the Archaeological Museum, which was at the apex of the hill, in the 16th-century Ferretti Palace. English was not a thing here in Ancona, at least not to the folks I interacted with, and again that’s fine– there was a brief hang up because I only had a 50 euro bill, and I misunderstood the price of admission, but it all got worked out. (SideNote/ProTip — in Europe, always go to BNP Paribas ATMs …they give you a choice on you’d like your bills distributed. I know there are others that do it, but BNP Paribas ATMs are everywhere. NOBODY in Europe likes a 50 euro bill unless your purchase is 50 euro even.)

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The Ferretti Palace and the harbor at Ancona — The Ferretti Palace is blocking the view of my arch, which is in the harbor below. You can see a reconstruction of a group of equestrian statues on the roof…more on that momentarily. 

This museum was technically the archaeological museum of the Marche, the region to which Ancona belongs. It focused super strongly on the proto and pre-historic eras of history, with a nice glimpse into the Greek and Roman history of the city as well. I had the museum entirely to myself. So I took my time exploring, and taking care of business. There was a lot to see that was interesting, and lots of sherds and things that (sorry sherd nerds) I glossed over. It was nice to take my time and have so much to wade through.

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The Gilt Bronzes from Cartocerto di Pergola, c. 1st century BCE/CE  (a copy of the original currently in Pergola)

On my way out, the woman working the front desk stopped me and told me to follow her! It was in this moment that I learned I can a) understand Italian a lot better than I give myself credit for and b) I do very well when the subject matter is something I’m super familiar with– like ancient Roman sculpture and art. She told me that a lot of people missed seeing these guys, and they were important and no one goes to Pergola so I needed to check them out. The Gilt Bronzes from Cartocerto di Pergola were found in Pergola in the 1940s and they were housed in the museum in Ancona until the 1970s when they were moved back to Pergola in a specially built museum. This is apparently a sore subject, based upon the guide’s tone and description. A copy was made however, which is what you see above. The Gilt Bronzes are SUPER important because they’re the largest surviving gilded bronze equestrian group from Roman antiquity. It comprises two equestrian figures (2 men, and 2 horses), and two women — the second rider doesn’t survive, and all of the other figures are fragmentary. Even in modern copy, it was impressive.

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Isn’t this picture just so stereotypical Europe? At least in the minds of Americans? 

After finishing up on the museum, I made the descent down the GIANT HILL OF ANCONA (after the flatness of Venice and Rimini, I was spoiled) to find my way to the Arch of Trajan, the major reason for my visit. Along the way I saw many scenic vistas and buildings, continuing to erase the negative conception I had previously had about Ancona. It wasn’t like any other Italian city I had been to (there are SO many wonderful little cities and towns that are each unique in their own way), but it was charming in its own right.

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You can see the more picturesque Ancona (foreground) juxtaposed with the kinda-gross-Ancona (background) 

I eventually wound myself down the switchbacks of the hill, and started upon the track to the arch. It was like immediately being in a different town because in order to get to the arch, you had to walk past a good mile of harbor stuff — a lot of it passenger ships. There were a few restaurants (most closed it was Sunday) and a nice walking path with the nice soft squishy material (what is that stuff called?) A good number of folks were out and about enjoying the pleasantly warm day.

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The Arch of Trajan at Ancona 

Eventually, there it was. The Arch of Trajan at Ancona in perhaps one of the most confusing juxtapositions of old and new that I’ve seen yet. The picture above captures some of it, but from all sides you had visible evidence of at least two millennia of cultural activity. It’s an impressive structure, one that was surprisingly difficult to photograph, thanks to the steps on the approach. It was a great spot for taking cheesy pictures of me in front of my arch thanks thanks to the architectural assemblage in the surrounding area.

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Me and my arcchhhh 

The rest of my time in Ancona was fairly brief and I had my only experience with the trains being messed up in Italy. The train was 45 minutes late. Luckily I didn’t have to be anywhere, but I was currently in a difficult spot because I *really* had to pee and the bathrooms only took 50 cent pieces and I didn’t have any (things were also closed because Sunday). The train FINALLY arrived, and I go to get on my car 3. Car three is closed down and other Italian speaking individuals spoke to the conductor who told them in very rapid Italian SOMETHING and gestured toward the rear of the train (and here’s where I learn how bad my Italian is)…I just follow them as they walk down the cars. Eventually we are stopped by another conductor, he examines each of their tickets and tells them something and I think he just assumed I was with them because I was just standing there like “uh…..Inglese?” and he’s like “Oh yeah! Car three is at the end. After car 8.” So to sum up, 45 minutes late, and two “Car 3″s! Ah the fun of travel!

Rimini: A Pleasant Surprise

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The unfinished Tempio Malatestiano, designed by Leon Battista Alberti in the mid-15th century — the construction of this church’s history and its patron is scintillating. Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta wanted the church to serve as a mausoleum for himself and his lover (later his wife). Eventually, Malatesta was excommunicated, ran out of money, and the church was never completed as planned. Alberti was super influenced by ancient Roman monumental arches — here he has divided the facade into thirds (like the Arch of Constantine) and the rondels in the spandrels are a clear reference to the Arch of Rimini, which is a short walk away. 

Rimini is a beach town on the east coast of Italy, a popular vacation destination for many Europeans. I admit, that I was not looking forward to visiting this small town and was not very excited about it.

Don’t you just love when you have to eat your own words?

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View of the historic side of Rimini and the 1st-century BCE bridge the Ponte di TiberioIt was a delightfully spooky day and very “unbeachlike” weather, which is probably why I loved it! 

Turns out that the train tracks split the town down the middle. On one side, you’ve got the beachy bits of the town and on the other, the older more historic area. All of my activities avoided the beach side and were firmly located in the historic center. Of all of the towns I visited in Italy, I felt the most comfortable here and I can’t really say why. It may have been my AirBNB which was a family home run by a woman whose children were grown. I felt like I was in a home, and not a hotel. She was so kind; I had a giant breakfast waiting for me every morning and a kind smile when I came home. We could not converse very well…her English was like 25x better than my Italian, but my Italian is *really* bad, but we tried! This was probably one of my favorite places I stayed.

When I rolled into town after a short train ride from Ravenna, I had very little time to get settled before having to jet to the city’s archaeological museum. I dropped my stuff and walked the short walk to the museum. Long story short, I arrived in Rimini on a Saturday, Sunday I was planning on visiting Ancona because the museum I needed to visit was closed on Monday. I THOUGHT that Rimini’s museum was open on Monday, but it was NOT. I was only in Rimini until early Tuesday morning, so I had to go RIGHT THEN.

The museum was probably one of the best local museums dedicated to archaeology that I visited (in Italy). There are TONS of regional/city-based archaeological museums all of various degrees of qualities. This one was pretty spectacular. It was right next to an archaeological site that was covered over, the so-called House of the Surgeon, and then the museum itself was spread over 4 floors. It was a lot of fun, and exactly the kind of museum I was into, super focused on the city’s development over time from literally the beginning of time to the modern era.

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One of the in-situ mosaics from the House of the Surgeon in Rimini; super cool preserved archaeological site! 

The rest of my time in Rimini was spent exploring the arch and the ancient bits of the city itself. The arch in Rimini was also way more impressive than I was expecting. First, it is HUGE. Second, the sculptural components on the arch are so much smaller than on later arches that are intricately decorated (like Septimius Severus or Constantine’s) that scholars have often described them as being diminutive. I didn’t find that to be the case, AND I think it’s a problem. For more, see my dissertation 😉

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The Arch of Augustus at Rimini (27 BCE) facing the entry to the city — on the opposite end of the main road through town you come to the Ponte di Tiberio. The arch was encorporated into the city walls during the medieval periodwhich explains the nice little crenellations.

The city has great medieval- and renaissance-era remains that I definitely did not explore as much as  I could. I explored exteriors and that was about it. I definitely want to head back to Rimini some day, and I’ll just have to do the new bits then.

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The Piazza Cavour in Rimini