Archive for the ‘travel’ Category

  • August 13, 2013

    twenty-six

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    26 was ushered in without much pomp and circumstance. in fact, I was traveling for work, so it was ushered in without any pomp and circumstance at all. don’t get me wrong – I was celebrated mightily on the days before 26 and the day of 26 found me overwhelmed by cards hidden in suitcases and so much technological love my phone almost died taking it all in. (including a photo montage of an almost 2-year-old signing me “happy birthday” which was, obviously, the best.) but that 31st day of july was spent on a lot of traveling and not a lot of talking to real, live human beings except to say things like, well, I suppose you may pat me down because the security screening thought my shirt buttons were a bomb. and the closest I came to actually being wished a happy birthday in person was when the man selling me wine had to look at my ID. he didn’t notice though…apparently, they don’t card too carefully out there in colorado. but to be honest, I was okay with that. for an introvert who misses clean mountain air like its my job, driving through the rockies with bon iver on the stereo was kind of a present in itself.

    what did happen on the days that 26 became a reality was this:

    1. plane rides with 6-year-old boys who started out as strangers but bonded over shared gummy bears and talk of favorite superheroes. my heart melted into a little puddle right there on my tray-table.

    2. almost car accidents with bear watchers. stopped in the middle of the road. on a blind curve. tahoe or estes park – tourists are always just the same.

    3. free bouquets of sunflowers from the sweet gentleman of a florist at safeway because he “needed the room.” if that’s not the best unintentional birthday present ever, I don’t know what is.

    4. eating dinner alone in a restaurant for the first time. a real restaurant. you know, the kind where you sit and order and try not to look too, “I will one day be an old maid with lots of cats” while sandwiched between couples reaching over candle light and families laughing boisterously. turns out, it’s not nearly as awkward as I thought. although don’t expect me to get into the habit of it anytime soon.

    5. a lovely little lake named lilly and the beetle bugs that are (nature at its worst!) eating all the trees around it.

    6. night that is NIGHT (no city lights to dim the darkness here, thank you very much). the milky way. shooting bits of fire a million miles away. stars for miles and miles. stars that remind me of abraham and promises and futures greater than the reality of life as we know it.

    7. stories of strength and dignity in africa that remind me why I’m here. the passion of others rubbing off on me. the honoring of those who have made the story so much of what it is. the reminder couldn’t have come at a better time. the reminder was needed more than ever.

    8. sunrise coffee and reading on the back deck to gain a little perspective before chaos ensues. the bit of calm before somehow always gets me through the storm.

    9. curvy, cliffy roads that feel more natural to me than highways and byways. when you learn how to drive in mountaintop blizzards, you feel a lot more confident on cliffs than you do in traffic.

    10. mountain wildflowers. for days and days and days.

    11. sunset from the highest road in north america. above the tree-line. inside the clouds. atop arctic tundra. amidst big-horned sheep and massive elk and even a porcupine to boot.

    12. a miniature donkey named stella.

    colorado I love you. mountains I love you. humidity back in nashville…well, you are just killing me.

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    Filed Under: ADVENTURES BIG AND SMALL, I AM A LIST MAKER, travel

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  • April 25, 2012

    a sinking city

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    if venice were part of my family, she would be my spontaneous, slightly erratic, but lots-of-fun little sister. full of impetuous moods (see: weather), over the top personality (see: local gondoliers and vaporetto operators), and a slightly concerning shopping addiction (see: trinket stores and boutiques everywhere). she would also be super mysterious and beautiful but need a lot of direction in life (see: magical streets of water and cobblestone, but with no explanation of where anything actually leads). but if venice were my spontaneous, slightly erratic, but lots-of-fun little sister I would probably love her the most for all the same reasons she sometimes annoys me.

    the rain. it came. strong and continuous throughout our entire first day. but with water below me and all around me and coming down on me, I kind of didn’t mind it. I kind of felt at home. I didn’t very much care to get my pant legs wet and my hair frizzy. but I did like the feeling of rain covering everything and making it all a bit quieter, a bit softer. I liked the way bright umbrellas looked in a gray world. I liked the way strangers huddled together under store awnings and bonded for just a few minutes before venturing back into the downpour. I liked the way the gondoliers flipped their collars up, pulled their rain rackets over their striped shirts (yes, they dress that way at disneyland and real life!), and continued calling out discounted prices for a ride on the grand canal. I liked the way my world felt contained and settled in a blanket of rain.

    and as much as the first day was full of rain that I thought would flood an already flooded city, the second day was full of sun that seemed as though it didn’t even know rain existed. we went to an island where all they do is create masterpieces of blown glass. glass so hot that the master glass-blowers (like that lovely gentleman with the glasses) create something fragile and exquisite and then light their cigarette right off of it. I wandered through peggy’s favorites and dipped my hands in the canal of this sinking city and rode the vaporetto with venetian locals on their way to work just as if I were riding the DC metro on my way to work. we zoomed up the waterway like a freeway. and I marveled at half-flooded but still wholly-functioning buildings and boats carrying all the same things (food. lumber. moving boxes. people.) that cars carry in our world. but our world seemed about a million miles away.

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  • April 20, 2012

    a city with a view

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    we took our time in florence. with a larger handful of days than in any other city, we discovered the city slowly, peeling back layer upon layer like a giant sweet onion.

    we strolled the streets gazing lovingly at bright colors and perfect fits and beautiful bags. dolce and gabbana. roberto cavalli. and my favorite, max mara. it was nice to have them around for a little while to understand that art is as much on fabric as it is on a canvas.

    we almost became regulars at the restaurant at the corner. with it’s slightly overdone italian decor (we are italian! it shouted to us. please believe us!) and slightly earth-shattering pizza. all sorts of flavors and freshness and delicious bites shared.

    we became fast friends with lorenzo of lorenzo’s gelato on the corner as he let us (me) taste practically every flavor behind the glass. at least we thought he was lorenzo. he could have been anyone really. but we like to think he was the lorenzo.

    we met david at the accademia and I think I may have fallen in love. michelangelo was given a discarded and neglected piece of marble when he was 26 years old. 26. really? yes. really. and then he created something completely miraculous. breathtaking in more ways than one.

    we chatted with owners of camera shops and of leather shops. we got hit on by waiters who called us honey and sweetie, reminding me more of what my mom might say to me than what flirting men might say.

    we saw street performers and buskers. everywhere. campy puppet shows and classical guitar players and spray paint artists. I almost got pick-pocketed while enthralled with a slightly inappropriate charlie chaplin. and I’ll always be a sucker for an accordion player.

    and that last photo up there is of my lovely new friend, kristin. she is loosely related to my traveling friend and is from sweden. she is a writer and a walker and peruser of tiny hidden bookstores that she shares with us. and I think she looks just like joni mitchell. and we all know how much I love joni.

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  • April 8, 2012



    as we drive through perilous and stunning tuscan hills from one tiny village to the next, I am struck by the human capacity to remember. and more strongly, the human tendency to forget. to forget so much more than we want to. how often I misplace my car keys or cell phone. how often I cannot remember the plot of a book I once loved. how often I forget the name of that one song or the date of my best friend’s birthday. I have forgotten so much of my time in germany just a few years ago. it comes back to me in pieces or through photographs. but the memories of those unforgettable experiences have proved to be, well, forgettable.

    and now I am here and I want so badly to remember everything. how I wish I could paint every image in my mind as vividly and everlasting as the frescos of these breathtaking duomos. how I wish these moments and experiences could last as long as the ancient cathedrals and castles that surround me. how I wish I could remember every landscape. every face. every piece of luscious cheese that I am consuming with no regard to my slight lactose intolerance.

    I am sitting in a cafe overlooking the famous piazza in siena. where tourists and locals fan out as if they were on a sandy beach instead of on hard brick under the shadow of an enormous bell tower. I am here, sipping a macchiato and watching the rain of this sudden thunderstorm fall hard and fast. I am here, listening to four languages spoken at once. english and german and french and…is that dutch? surprisingly, the only italian is when the waiter asks if I want anything more. I am here and the chatter of others is comforting in my own desire to be silent. I am here, trying to recount everything of just the past few days. the past few hours. I am trying desperately to remember before I forget.


    trying to remember the young couple in front of me. writing postcards and drinking cappuccino. but mostly just making out. I would feel awkward and imposing if I thought they cared at all. if I thought they even noticed me. I wonder if their passionate love will last. there is an older couple sitting in front of them. their hands resting lightly and naturally on each other. their love has lasted and become normal and not something to flaunt. their love seems more real.


    trying to remember the hotelier in montepulciano. his unenthused but otherwise impeccable service. his sort of bored beauty. and trying to remember adamo, whose family has been making wine for over 1,000 years. he let me snap just one photo of him before insisting that I be in the shot with him. and trying to remember jenny, the winery tour guide who moved from new york with her dog to write a book in tuscany. and trying to remember that I wondered all of the things I wondered. I wondered if I should move to tuscany too. befriend the hotelier who is too cool for me. befriend adamo and with him, harvest the vineyards for wine and the olive orchards for oil. befriend jenny and have her teach me italian with just a hint of new york accent.
    trying to remember the tuscan hills. rolling and green and dotted with cypress trees just as I imagined. idyllic and picturesque and so similar to what I see in movies and in my mind. but also different. also dotted with gas stations and car dealerships. the ancient fortified cities still holding tabacchi shops and overpriced gelato.

    trying to remember driving in italy for the first time. not just through the steep and winding hills of tuscany with their sharp turns and narrow lanes and road that go from pavement to dirt without notice. but also on the italian highway with speed measured in kilometers and road signs I do not always understand and drivers who know themselves and their cars well enough to drive in such a way that would find my mother with her eyes tightly shut and hand gripping the door.

    trying to remember the bright blue cathedral floors. the taste of baked pecorino with pears. the smell of cypress trees after rain. the feel of cold concrete city walls on my fingertips.

    but I know I won’t remember. like everything else, I will forget as time passes. I will forget too soon. I will look back at photos and I will read these words. but my memory will be hazy and only half-formed. I will forget what intrigued me so about saverio and what inspired me so about jenny. I will remember them only a little. and eventually I will only remember remembering. I will have a memory of a memory. but oh how I wish it could remain vivid and bright and full in my mind forever.

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  • April 3, 2012

    a little town by the sea




    if I grew up in italy, it would have been in portovenere. and if I grew up in portovenere, my life would be similar to the one I know now. I would still have learned the same lessons of my childhood. (with less snow?) I would still have yearned for an escape only to long to return the moment I left. I would still have appreciated the beauty and significance of my home only after I had left it.






    so many reminders of life in a small town balancing precariously between tourism and daily life. so many reminders of a tight knit community somehow entrusted to care for and cultivate a little piece of paradise. life surrounded by the salted waters of the ligurian sea or the fresh waters of the lake I love best. tiny islands holding the ruins of lighthouses or victorian tea houses. specialty shops selling locally made pesto or locally roasted coffee beans. masters of handmade ceramic boats or tiny pinecone pendants.






    every person was my person in one way or another. these people. and their crafts. were my people. my mom, the beautiful woman serving dinner and chatting with locals at the most popular restaurant in town. my dad, the skilled skipper manning the helm of a strong and sturdy boat with confidence. my grandmother, the tiny italian women with her legs dangling above the ground while sitting and chatting with her friends. my friends, ignoring the tourists and continuing in daily life of soccer games and first loves. my brother, happiest in the sun and on the water. or in simpler times, he was one of the boys, bored and waiting for the fish to bite. (but would he be the one without pants?) could we have been so close as to sit on the crumbling rock wall together?

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  • April 2, 2012

    a roman holiday indeed



    rome. my new favorite city. paradox abounds as I pass winking, calling casanovas and pious priests on the same street corner. as I pass women with natural symmetrical beauty but choosing to cover it with layer upon of thick makeup. as I pass modern wine bars dwarfed by ancient ruins of rock and rubble.





    if I could stay longer, I would sit in the Campo di Fiori for an entire day and watch it change from morning market to evening apertivo to night pub crawl. watch it flow effortlessly and automatically from one lifestyle to the next. from one person to the next.

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    if I could stay longer, I would spend the whole day at the vatican falling more in love with sculptures and maps and frescos. I would sit in st. peter’s and soak in beauty created. and in school children on field trips. when I was their age, I got to go to the donner party museum. somehow, I think this is a bit cooler.

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    if I could stay longer, I would wander the piazzas and photograph the buskers mingling with the tourists. the mimes and accordion players and invisible men and stunning stilted white women.


    if I could stay longer, I would befriend a street artist. I would ask him to teach me how to tag a moving train or the underside of an overpass. I would ask him to teach me how to paint in his vivid shades of greens and purples and blues. I would ask him to teach me how to paint with the same grand curves and winding words. I would ask him to create for me an elaborate signature like his own.

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    if I could stay longer, I would weave in and out of streets called leonina and condotti and tritone. and I would and snap quick shots of men in sharp suits and soft leather shoes on their way to work. based on their polished beauty and confidence, they could all be heading to the same model agency.






    if I could stay longer, I would become fluent in this language of effortless flow and romance. I would learn to speak as quickly and beautifully as the romans do. I would talk fiercely with my hands. I would return the looks of charming waiters and baristas. I would flirt with the confidence of these roman women.

    if I could stay longer, I would fall in love entirely.

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  • March 29, 2012

    ordinary instants in sicily

    I wonder what it would be like to see these things as the sicilians see them. to me they are quaint and unique. moments to be captured and remembered. to them, they are normal and ordinary. everyday necessities of life.

    an afternoon reposo in the shadow of st. agatha’s cathedral.

    good natured shouting and jostling at the daily catania fish market. I imagine these two have been friends for years.

     lemons. everywhere. bright yellow trees heavy with the fruits of their labor.

    keeping the fish wet. and the cigarette dry.

    a little piece of home. not everything can be local, I suppose.

    narrow streets on the steep hills of motta sant’anastasia. cars whizzing up and through them with such velocity that I may never complain about the driving in dc again.

    the smell of fresh mussels cooking in homemade white wine broth by lovely new friends. with this view behind them.

    that beautiful travel friend resting below the duomo of siracusa.

    young accordion masters serenading us amidst white wine, pizza, and the siracusa piazza del duomo.

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  • March 24, 2012

    today is the day

    I had such grand plans to post something fun and interesting on the eve of my trip to italy with my lovely and dear friend. but now here I am, sitting at the airport listening to a little girl tell her grandmother about girl scouts and mad libs and how she wants to try every single gelato flavor. and I think that might be a good goal for me too. trying every single gelato flavor, that is.

    here’s the plan:
    – 2 nights in sicily
    – 3 nights in rome
    – 1 night in portovenere
    – 8 nights in florence with 1 night in montepulciano and day trips to siena and cortona and ravenna thrown in
    – 4 nights in venice

    I look at that and can’t even believe it’s happening. but friends, it really is. and I’ll try my best to keep you updated along the way. pictures will be limited to the iphone until I get back but I’m pretty sure italy will look beautiful any way you shoot it.

    ciao from on my way to italia!

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