I’m Ready to Talk about My European Vacation

Florence

Florence

It’s been criminally long since I blogged–I am going to blame it on my post-vacation malaise. You know, that time after you get back from vacation where your mind just replays whole days of the trip and you spend hours staring at pictures. As you probably deduced, I had a fantastic trip to France and Italy. It would be hard to describe every aspect of the trip in detail so I am going to break it down by some of my favorite/weirdest/funniest moments.

  • Montpellier France was as inspiring as I remembered it being several years ago. Isn’t it strange that you can be away from a place for so long yet once you are placed in those streets once again, you know the way? I got to discover all new places as well. Despite it being named after my least favorite writer, Papa Doble provided my Mom and me drinks that were sinfully good. Good enough to make me forget that I was enjoying myself at a place named after Papa. Puke. Speaking of which, after eating only a baguette and some cheese all day, I may have vomited all over the bathroom. I’m blaming it on Hemingway, not the very attractive French bartender who my mom coerced into taking a picture with me.
  • We hit a little train hiccup on the way from Nice to Florence. When we got off at the Italian border, we were told that the train tracks that we were supposed to take to our connection in Milan were “not there” (thanks for the detail, train station lady!). The solution was to shuttle us on to another train (going to a city that we had not heard of) where we would get off and then hop on a bus which would take us to another train. Easy, huh? If you are confused reading that, imagine having to follow those instructions in broken English while your head feels mildly squishy from a hangover. Luckily we were not the only ones forced into an unwanted adventured–my mom took under her wing an Asian girl who was equally lost (and traveling alone! If I was doing so, I would have ended up in England instead of Italy). I thought my mom’s concern for this girl quite heroic until she turned to me and said, “At least if we don’t end up in Milan, we’re bringing someone down with us.” Oh mom…Once we got off our first train, we were herded in the direction of several buses. Only one was loading so we assumed that was our guy. Cut to an overcrowded bus with people sitting the aisles weaving through tiny roads with a large drop to the Mediterranean on the other side. We were not told how long we would be on this bus or where it was even going. Note to self: bring a map of the place you are going to next time. Anyways, after being on the bus for about an hour and a half, we got off at this tiny, grungy train station where another train was not, in fact, waiting for us as the train station lady had suggested. Instead, we had to wait another two hours, which also meant there was no way that we were going to make our connecting train in Milan to Florence. Somehow we managed to get to Florence that night and I think our pitiful tale got us an upgrade to a junior suite at our amazing hotel!
  • Mom and I fell in love with Florence. There is something magical about it. I now understand Dante’s love for the city from which he was exiled. From the Ponte Vecchio to the Duomo to the Palazzo Vecchio…each place left me breathless as if I was discovering Europe for the first time. I could have spent my whole life there and never bore of the city. On one of my favorite nights, we had a spectacular dinner of pumpkin ravioli, Floretine steak, and glasses of wine. The restaurant was on the smaller side, intimate, near the Palazzo Vecchio. I am sure I have dreamed of places less atmospheric than this place. A table of six or so middle aged Italian men sat at the table next to us, buying a few bottles of wine. During our meal, the men sent over a glass of wine each for Mom and me. Oh those Italian men, quite suave. They know the way to a lady’s heart is wine. But it didn’t end there. As they were leaving, one of the men blew me a kiss. I am not sure that I have ever seen anyone over the age of five blow someone a kiss, but he certainly made a case for it.

If you made it through those long paragraphs, congratulations! Can you believe that this is the edited version?

One More Sleep Till Europe

europe

I have been singing this modified song from the Muppet Christmas Carol all day.

“There’s magic in the air this evening, there’s magic in the air/the world is at her best, you know/when people love and care/The promise of excitement is one the night will keep/After all there’s only one more sleep till Europe!”

Do You Still Go on Family Vacations? (We Just Booked One!)

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Since I can remember, my family has taken the family vacations that you only see in movies and t.v. shows. Maybe it is because we always managed to covertly squeeze all six of us into a single hotel room (I didn’t realize until much later in life that other families didn’t have to “disperse” in the lobby so that hotel employees didn’t notice how many people were staying in one room), but adventures and hijinks were guaranteed any time you put all of us in a foreign locale. This is all leading up to the announcement that the family (plus significant others–except mine because Tom Hiddleston couldn’t make it–damn you Hollywood!) are going to the Dominican Republic this summer! If that wasn’t exciting enough, we are staying at an all-inclusive resort. I can’t wait to spend some much-needed time with tropical drinks…um, I mean my parents and siblings (and tropical drinks!). Between my Europe trip next week and the Dominican Republic, my year is off to great start!

Who else still goes on family vacations? What about the Dominican Republic? I have never been!

A Better Way to Pack

My suitcase is way messier

For someone with OCD, I sure am a slob when it comes to packing a suitcase. It starts off neat enough but within a day it looks like I hired an infant to do my packing for me (which isn’t a bad idea cost-wise…). By the end of a long vacation, I may as well be looking for a sweater in the bottom of a murky lake. Since I am going to Italy and France in 10 days (side note: WOWZA), I decided to take matters into my own hands and splurge on some packing cubes. I was skeptical at first although after using one of them for traveling this past weekend, I can gladly admit that it is going to make a huge difference. I bought the Space Pak kit from Flight001 although there are plenty of good options out there. There are a ton of different bags in the system from toiletry to clothes to shoes. My favorite part of the bags is that they have a divider so you have clean clothes in one part and on the other half you can store your dirty things. It’s like they know me!

Any one else use packing cubes? As for you wise travelers, do you having packing tips for me?

I Miss You Minneapolis!

Minneapolis-20060311

This past weekend, my mom and I went on a whirlwind trip up to Minneapolis. We left super early on Saturday morning, went to three different wedding venues with Jamie and Kevin, and then returned to Omaha on Sunday. I had not been back to Minneapolis in about two years and it made me really nostalgic from the moment I saw the skyline. I spent four fabulous years in the Cities at the University of Minnesota, but I kept thinking how different it would be to experience Minneapolis as a real adult with more than $25 in my checking account (which happened once in my college years–it is not fun when paying for a movie ticket could put you into debt!). At least even though we only spent a day in the Twin Cities, I got to eat at a lot of my favorite places–and Minneapolis sure can supply good food! I had a Bloody Mary and amazing hash at Bryant Lake Bowl; an ice cream sundae and french fries at Annie’s on campus; and cocktails and a croque madame at Salut. I basically hit every one of my food groups (the Erin Pyramid is comprised of fries, booze, and sweets). Not too shabby. I won’t go into the wedding stuff from the weekend as I am sure the actual bride, Jamie, will want to talk about it so I will simply say it was a productive, delicious weekend!

 

50 Romantic Midwest Getaways

Not all of us can afford to whisk our significant others away to Paris. Midwest Living has a list of romantic getaways that are a little less pricey. I have wrote before about how much I love weekend trips and I will reiterate: what a fun way to explore without the time/money! If I was dating someone I would so be making plans to go to one of these places…as it is, I don’t think a lot of the hotels on this list would allow me to bring my adorable dog Dottie as my companion. Don’t they understand she is my adopted daughter?map

Travel Writing

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I have pages upon pages of journals when I was in Montpellier for school.  Some are intensely private, only for my eyes (besides I doubt they would interest any other). Others, I am willing to share.  So here we go…

A trip to Avignon–not merely to pass time but to stifle it, cage it, and make the most of it. The train took us past alternately hilly countryside and the open, sun-burned tops of cities looking like hundreds of sandcastles scattered across a paved beach. In France I am aware of my need not to bury my head in a book as I travel, but to crane and dissect every object in view. This is not just to study it as most of the time I look no further than its surface, a superficial inventory of southern certain trees, plants and rocks. The Palais des Papes inhabited all the size of its 14th century supremacy–it is easy to see the source of discontent in the Cevenols when so near towers a glittering symbol of clerical excess. Still the enormity swallowed me up and I was too speechless to chid the bones of old Popes for their love of gold and echoing halls clothed in tapestries. It would not be these soaring walls, however, that would  force me to pull out my journal and jot down words which I would not allow myself to forget. On display in one of the rooms, placed rudely off center, a square of wall remains from a prison that held Protestant prisoners. The scratched words, like some grooved decoration, have an unlikely symmetry–the words are complete, planned like hieroglyphics, without an alarming sign of crazed desperation marking itself in jolted words. In scanning all of these words only one word appeared twice: vigilate. My heart insisted it was the work of one person–the words shared a similar meticulous straightness, stiff against the stone, passed down from an angular hand. I will also claim for my prisoner the phrase following the first appearance of vigilate– 21 mois [months], distinct and spare in comparison to all around it. As a historian I am taught to ask the answerable questions–when did my prisoner die, what did he leave behind in a documented will, if his bloodline remains. When I have neither a name or lone statistic to locate the answers, I set aside my historian tools and give up on excavation. I now depend on fiction to fill mortar in the gaps–or to create a wall in the first place. My prisoner found rhythmic solace in counting: the trees along the Tarne, the slices of cheese on his sandwich, the number of bruises staining his sallow skin the color of red wine, relics left behind by the periodic beating from soldiers. 21 mois–this was merely another count, he told himself as the stone became pliable under his knife. It was no more important than the slick, swaying trees or the cheese upon his sandwich–all his bloodied misery was boiled away to leave only the salty remains of a number and a word. Yet this would be my prisoner’s only countdown, the last artifact of faith before he learned that numbers were as useless as shields and fortifications. Men still devised ways to steal around such defense and chip away where the foundation was the weakest. 21 mois–they have become a part of me, embedded scrap metal stuck between skin and marrow, which I can feel as my lungs heave like the sound of a hollow tunnel. I feel it but I do not understand. I grin at the worker in the Palace as if I have just been reconciled with all my heartbreaks and memories. She does not know the tale of my prisoner and I will not share it with her.

This Year’s Travel Plans

The close of summer means the end of lake time. I hate feeling cooped up at home so I am glad to begin that always exciting, sometimes arduous process of planning trips to keep me sane and adventurous. So far I plan on visiting NYC to see my BFF Emily as well as journey to the opposite coast to Portland to stay with Lindsay and Melissa. Also in progress…an European vacation with my mom (who know what crazy adventures we will get ourselves into when we are subsiding on mostly wine and cheese?). We are trying to narrow down where we want to go in Europe, which is like trying to figure out which is your favorite Muppet–you love them all (maybe that analogy applies only applies to me). Any travel plans in the works for you, gentle readers?

A Radiolab Short that is Definitely Worth the 30 Minutes

A new book on rabies from one of the contributors on Radiolab

A new book on rabies from one of the contributors on this episode of Radiolab

Anyone who knows me knows I’ve been traveling a lot this summer. Podcasts are pretty much the one thing that keeps me entertained on the road. So much so that last Sunday, when my cellular data decided to stop working on the 2.5 hour ride back to Marshall, I seriously contemplated throwing my stupid, no good, obnoxious iPhone out the window, as clearly it was trying to sabotage the one thing I like about car trips. Well, I survived without it but next time, iPhone, you are a goner if you try those mind games on me. ANYWAYS, one podcast that I always love is Radiolab. Erin mentioned the show in general on a post before on her favorite podcasts and I wanted to link to a particular recent episode on rabies which was incredible. I’m not a big science person in general because it usually is presented so dry but I love how Radiolab takes these science topics and draws you in. This has been one of my favorite episodes in recent history and I definitely recommend you listen if you want to know more about the most deadly disease in human existence.

The episode is called “Rodney Vs. Death” and you can find it here online for free or stream it for free on the podcast app.

Since I’ve been on a non-fiction kick lately, I think I’m going to get out the book Rabid I have pictured above!

Anyone else a Radiolab fan? 

Relaxing Weekend Plans

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After the first week of school, I basically want to find a bed and fall into a mini coma for the weekend, leaving bed for only caffeine and salt & vinegar chips. But today after school, I’m going to take the 6.5 hour drive to my family’s cottage in Hancock, Wisconsin for some fun times with friends. Kevin & I are going to be hanging out with another couple for some jet skiing, games, & probably a decent amount of drinks. It sounds like more work but there’s no other place I’d rather be than the cottage. I will even give up some sleep for it (but not the salt & vinegar chips. NEVER).

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