Exploring Assisi – The Unintentional Pilgrimage (Part 1)

Me and my preggo bestie Trin, at Katie's wedding reception. It was a misty day, but we're actually on top of a mountain, overlooking the sea, in Lovran, Croatia.

Me (right) and my preggo bestie Trin, at Katie’s wedding reception. It was a misty day, thus hard to see much of the background, but we’re actually on top of a mountain overlooking the sea, in Lovran, Croatia.

In the summer of 2012, I went to Europe for a best friend’s wedding. Before I left, I quit my job of four years. I’d hated working there pretty much from the beginning, and had just been holding on until a better job came along. One never did. So it was with a mixture of trepidation and elation that I gave my notice. Jobs were scarce; what would I do for money? But the promise of an entire two weeks in Croatia and Italy, not a moment of which would be spent thinking about my gut-twisting, heart-palpitation-inducing job, filled me with a longing that I couldn’t ignore. I briefly imagined a long vacation, wasted with worrying about a pointless job back home, and realized that my limit had been reached. I called up my boss and resigned my position immediately.

From the moment my flight landed in Trieste, I was in heaven. My American girlfriend was marrying a Croatian sailboat captain, and two of his best friends drove into Italy to pick me up at the airport. On the way back to their hometown of Lovran, one friend spoke in Croatian and the other translated into passable English (much better than my Croatian): “What music is favorite of yours?” “How like you our country?” “You are best friend of Katie, yes?” The radio dial fluctuated between German pop music and Italian power ballads, interesting roadside attractions were pointed out, and one of the guys measured me up as a potential bridesmaid “score” – THAT look is universal.

In Croatia, I met up with my two best friends. One was getting married, and the other announced to me on the spot that she’d just found out she was pregnant with her first child. We celebrated that first night together with about a gallon of happy tears and another of freshly-made gelato. It was odd, because I was intensely sad to be being left behind, but also so happy to see my friends getting all that they desired. It was the kickoff of what was to be an emotional vacation; maybe it’s my nature as a Scorpio, but I can’t think of a better way to spend a couple of weeks in two of the most beautiful countries on earth than exploring the complexities of the soul.

Luckily, since I was with two of the people who know me best in the world, I was given the perfect mixture of alone time vs. together time in Lovran. I had time to explore the town on my own, sit on the beach, and drink espresso in the local internet cafe. But I also had the important honor of helping the bride Katie’s mother steam creases out of her wedding gown on her wedding day. I also felt beyond loved when Katie invited her best girlfriends to spend a few precious moments drinking champagne with her as she got dressed, put on makeup, and tried to relax before meeting her intended at the traditional pre-wedding party. At and after the ceremony, Croatian relatives who had never met any of Katie’s friends from the US knew me on sight, called me by name, and hastened to give hugs and make conversation, but no one was clingy or expected too much. When I was worn out from talking, there was a beautiful mountain-top balcony where I sat and had a glass of wine, enjoying the murmur of conversation in the background while a cool breeze from the ocean comforted me, the last of the unmarrieds, feeling a little melancholy at the end of the night.

The night after the wedding, I was back in charge of my emotions and decided to take full advantage of being relatively young and able to party. I went out with Katie’s younger twin cousins and some of their new Croatian friends, drinking beers and conducting a singalong down at the marina, then moving our party to a local late night bar. It was a raucous time, until I realized it was almost time to pack up and leave town in two hours…oops. At 6am the next morning, an extremely hungover and sleep-deprived Anna caught a ride back to Trieste, where I caught a bus to the train station, where I then caught a train to Venice. It was a good five hours of hating my life and hoping not to puke on my fellow passengers. But then: Venice. My eyes fill with tears just typing it. There’s no need to wax poetic. Let me just say that it’s one of my favorite places on earth. It never disappoints, and always draws me back. I’m always living for my next visit; the smell of salt water, the sound of music floating over the canals.

A wonderful meal on the island of Burano. House-made clam linguini, crusty fresh bread, and the restaurant's own house white, enjoyed al fresco on a drizzling day.

A wonderful meal on the island of Murano. House-made clam linguini, crusty fresh bread, and the restaurant’s own house white, enjoyed al fresco on a drizzling day.

After a too-short stay in Venezia, another train ride (this one much less hungover, thank goodness) conveyed me to unfamiliar territory: Perugia. Before visiting this Umbrian gem, the city honestly wasn’t even on my radar. In fact, I’d chosen to visit Perugia primarily because it was a short bus ride from my intended target: Assisi, home of Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone, otherwise known as St. Francis. I didn’t spend enough time to have any great stories about the town, other than being awestruck by the massive Etruscan Arch (dating from the 3rd century BC), and falling in love with the tradition of a late night espresso and gelato at my local gelateria. In hindsight, I have no idea how I slept on that vacation. I think I had an espresso every time I passed a cafe, I never turned down a glass of wine (which should be a rule on any good vacation), and I know I ate gelato at least twice a day for two weeks!

The Etruscan Arch in Perugia, Italy.

The Etruscan Arch in Perugia, Italy. The photo doesn’t do justice to how imposing this 3rd century BC construction is in person. It seems indestructible.

My second morning in Perugia dawned bright and cool – perfect weather for a day trip to St. Francis’ hometown. I didn’t know what to expect. Before leaving the States, I’d decided that since I’d have a full week on my own in Italy, it would be a good idea to spend some of my time just shopping and eating (two of my top favorite pastimes), and the rest checking out architecture and religious relics. Assisi seemed like a fairly obvious choice, given my time constraints and an extremely basic knowledge of St. Francis – that he was an animal lover, displayed symptoms of what might today be concluded to be mental illness, and wasn’t too keen on fashion. Most of all, though, I was excited about visiting a town that hasn’t changed all that much through the centuries. Assisi is a walled medieval city, set against a stunning backdrop of rolling, verdant hills. I’d never seen anything like it in person, so why not? Francis would just be the icing on the cake.

Little did I know that this trip would set something in me on fire. Stay tuned for more on my awakening in Assisi, tomorrow…(Click here to read Part 2)

Basilica Papale di San Francesco, as seen from a street higher up in the town (it might have actually been someone's private courtyard, but no one told me not to stand there).

Basilica Papale di San Francesco, as seen from a street higher up in the town (it might have actually been someone’s private courtyard, but no one told me not to stand there).

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Sea (Memories of the Adriatic)

Croatian Beach, Anna Harris

Rocks on a tiny beach – Lovran, Croatia.

Lifeboats, Photo by Anna Harris

Lifeboats in the harbor – Ancona, Italy

Fresh Catch, Photo by Anna Harris

Fish market – Split, Croatia

The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge asks that we post photos illustrating our idea of the sea. These three snapshots are from my trip to Italy and Croatia last summer, and serve as melancholy reminders that in a life divorced from the water, I can only be half of myself.

When I think of the sea, I think of love, wholeness, peace. And eels, of course 🙂

Vacation Retrospective – Day #3: Meeting Zachary

If you’ve read my last post, Vacation Archives – Day #4: Venice, you’ll know that the night before travelling to Venice, I went out with the Bride’s younger twin cousins (amongst other members of the bridal party), and had a great time. It would be remiss of me to avoid mentioning how important this night was to my vacation, overall.

Up until going out with this oddly matched group of Croatians, an Armenian, and two fellow North Carolinians, I was feeling pretty down. One best friend had just gotten hitched, while the other was preggers. They’re both forceful presences in my life, and not only was I feeling overwhelmed by the changes they were going through, I was also feeling overwhelmed to once again be in their presence. They’re both captivating, powerful women, with lots to say and no fear of saying it. When we’re together, it’s difficult to get a word in edgewise. By nature I’m pretty introverted. I don’t speak unless I’ve been thinking about what it is I’m going to say for a while. I detest arguing unless it’s a big ticket thing I’m fighting for. In a similar vein, I avoid confrontation unless it’s meaningful and warranted, and I have a lot of trouble expressing my emotions. Basically it means that I either don’t get to talk at all, or else that they have to stop and be thoughtful and give me room to express myself (both of which make me feel like a loser who can’t get with the program).

Now, imagine me, jet-lagged and lonely, trying to come to terms with my friends’ new lives, mulling my own over and not getting anywhere. Now imagine that no matter how much I want to be heard and seen, I’m just emotionally incapable of putting myself before my friends for even a second, of fighting to have a good time just for me. I’m under an enormous weight, feeling this incredible pull to just sit down, shut up, and let everything just happen to me, instead of with me, or for me, or by me. The thing is, as I realized much later in the vacation, this is how I’ve often felt in the company of my best friends. Marginalized, through no fault of their own. The third wheel. The one to be pitied or goaded or petted. The pet. The little sister. And that’s something that’s been happening since way before I ever knew them. Somehow, I project some kind of weakness that makes me the lesser quotient of any group.

But this is not a pity party, actually. This is a celebration, because if it wasn’t for one of the twins, Zachary, I wouldn’t have ever realized this piece of the puzzle. I realized at the reception, then the next night at the party, that Ian got all the attention, while Zachary, much like me, was palpably part of the periphery. It was probably too bold of me, but I struck up conversation by asking him what it was like to be in the shadow of his outgoing, super-fun brother. Not that Zachary wasn’t super-fun, as well…he’s just cool in a different, understated way. We got to talking about what it means to be linked to other people, and the struggle to have a voice while also genuinely loving the attention our friends/family/coworkers/competition are receiving. It’s a weird spot to be in, and he got it so well.

I don’t know if you’ve ever read Anne of Green Gables, but the parts where Anne waxes poetic about meeting a kindred spirit have always stuck with me. I’ve only met a few genuine kindred spirits in my lifetime, along with a great number of genuinely awesome (but not quite spiritually compatible) folks. It was obvious to me that Zachary was a kindred spirit, and in his own way he helped me figure out something about myself, about what it’s going to take to believe in myself more, to speak up for myself daily instead of monthly or yearly, to stand up to the people I least want to offend with my need to breathe freely.

It’s funny, because before going on vacation I thought that maybe The Man was one of those people, that maybe I should be more forceful with giving him a piece of my mind. Over my trip, I came to realize that yes, I could stand to talk more often, but he’s one of the only people in the world that I constantly speak only the truth to, and loudly, and weirdly, and me-ly. My problem there is not knowing what I want – not that he isn’t giving me what I’m asking for. That’s a whole ‘nother can o’ worms, for a different blog post all together.

Anyway, Zachary, if you end up reading this – thank you. You rock more than you’ll ever know.

Vacation Archives – Day #4: Venice

This is an entry from the Vacation Archives, a somewhat tardy report of my adventures in Croatia and Italy. On June 3rd, 2012, I left Croatia with about an hour’s sleep, after a night of drinking and singing, and caught several modes of transportation toward Venice, Italy. This was written after settling in for the night at my room at Hotel Tiepolo.

I’m one insanely lucky bitch. I’m writing this from my lovely little hotel room in Venice, Italy. Today has been one of great highs and lows.

Last night after dinner, I went to a little party down on the waterfront in Lovran, just a few locals, Katie’s brother in law, and Katie’s twin cousins, Zachary and Ian. We drank, sang, Ian played guitar, it was an awesome couple of hours. When the rest of the kids decided to go off to a party at another town, Zachary and I went to a local bar to get some beers and listen to a Croatian rock band. We had so much fun making friends with some locals at a nearby table, and talking about music and dancing and life.

Zachary (right) and our new Croatian friend. He didn’t speak much English, and we didn’t speak any Croatian, but we still managed to share some laughs.

Our new friend, dancing to a popular song.

Things went a little sour after I accidentally closed my finger in the bathroom door, then was accosted by a big guy who kept asking me if, since I was American, I dated black people. He actually used the n word, though, and was extremely offensive in badgering me about this weird question, probably because he was just a jerk, but possibly also because I kept feigning that I didn’t have a clue what he was talking about. It was just such a weird and pointless thing to ask, and also the language he was using was so hurtful that I just froze, mentally, and was concentrating on escape rather than setting him straight. I was close to tears by the time I managed to escape him (I was physically trapped in a corner since the bar was so full). Soon after, Zachary and I left and went back to our apartment house, where we sat up having grappa and talking on the patio until around 4:30.

Cute sign in the bar’s women’s bathroom.

I took a short nap, then caught a ride to the Trieste airport with Katie’s brother and family. From there I caught a bus to Trieste, then a train to Venice. As you might guess, I was pretty hung over and very tired, and felt like puking for much of the trip. No fun. I was proud of myself for not missing any connections, though, and I managed to catch a fitful nap on the train.

My original plan on reaching my hotel was to walk from the train station here. However, I was so tired that I caught a water bus instead. A much better option, considering that when I got to San Marco, I found that the street address didn’t match up with my map at all. I couldn’t find an Internet cafe to use my iPad, and I ended up wandering for an hour before giving up and calling the hotel. It turns out that the “street” is actually a dead end alley measuring about 30 feet in its entirety, lol. Once the clerk gave me an idea of the area to look for, I found my way with no difficulty. Lucky, actually, because I had been in a five block radius of my destination the entire time and would never have found it on my own.

But I got here, and that’s the big thing. The hotel is tiny, and much nicer than I expected. I’ve got two windows that open out to the street, where there’s a great night breeze and it smells all kinds of yummy from the restaurants out in the square in front of the hotel. The streets are still bustling, which is neat since its 10pm on a sunday. The room has a big bed, wood floors, wood beamed ceilings, a mini fridge stocked with sodas, a personal safe, and my own private bath, complete with hair dryer, bidet, and really great water pressure in the shower. In the morning there’s free breakfast, too!

After taking a short nap, I put on a cute outfit and went out to explore and find food. It felt very safe to just wander about, unencumbered by my pack. I walked in every direction I could, then back, and chose the next direction. I now know how to find my way here from San Marco and San Zaccharria, so I don’t think I’ll lose my way tomorrow. I went to San Marco to take photos and do some people (and pigeon) watching, and heard some lovely bands playing to the diners in the square. Weird but true, the first song I overheard was a great favorite of mine to sing, Besame Mucho, and then the next band I encountered was playing another of my all time favorites, All Of Me. It felt fateful, somehow.

I had dinner at a crappy little snack bar run by a sweet Chinese couple. The food was just ok, but I hadn’t eaten in 12 hours and was tired of inspecting menus, and they had photos and cheap prices. Plus, I tend to be less intimidated by Asian proprietors. Yes, I know that’s weird. At least I was still eating Italian food.

There’s a purse at a store next door that I will probably buy tomorrow. Right now I’m going to eat some chips, read a bit, then catch some shuteye. Tomorrow I want to go out to Murano and Burano. One of the restaurants in the square is playing the soundtrack from Last of the Mohicans. Beautiful, but odd to hear from my hotel room…

Update: after I stopped writing, the restaurant started playing the Godfather soundtrack!

Vacation Archives – Day #2: The Wedding

This is an entry from the Vacation Archives, a somewhat tardy report of my adventures in Croatia and Italy. On June 1st, 2012, I went to one of my best friends’ weddings. This post was written in the early morning hours after returning from the event…

Katie & Nikola

Katie & Nikola, on the way to the wedding

Today was the wedding. It was beautiful and very different from anything I’ve seen in the states. The day started off early, since the bride needed help setting up the pre-wedding cocktail hour, and we wanted to hang out to help her dress and get ready.

I helped her mother iron the wedding dress, then just hung out and acted awkwardly. I really don’t do well in touchy freely situations, and weddings are always too emotional for me. Not in that I cry (which I do) but in that I’m annoyed at crying, and feeling weird about having to keep getting hugs and kisses. I’m just a dork when it comes to PDA from my buds. They all know this about me, though, so when I’m all awkward they think nothing of it, thankfully.

So to keep it short, there were a ton of photos, Bride got dressed, everyone teared up, then we had a party. The tradition is for the groom’s family to come and collect the bride to take her to the church, so the Bride’s family has a small party prepared. The neighbors are all invited, and it’s a good time for the community at large to wish them well. Typically both bride and groom would also host a three day open house at their family homes leading up to the wedding, but they skipped that. A cute little traditional band played a trumpet and two accordions, and lots of bread, cookies, steak tartar, cheese, and dried meats were served.

The cool little band that played the pre-wedding reception.

After the party, everyone stuffed into cars, and we drove as one procession down to the town, horns honking the whole time. The band was in the first car, and played during the drive, in the parking lot, and all the way through town to the church.

The church dated from the 11th century, and was mind boggling in its beauty and upkeep. The only way to get there is on foot, and we stood as one party in the courtyard for a few minutes before being allowed in. The wedding itself was blessedly short, even more of a blessing since it was a Catholic ceremony, all in Croatian. I won’t lie, I would have fallen asleep if not for the beautiful frescos that caught and kept my interest.

After the wedding ceremony ended, everyone went up to the front of the church to meet the married couple and wish them luck. As soon as everyone had paid respects, we were marched back out to the parking lot (actually the local fire department’s lot), the band playing and by this point, drinking. We got back in cars and drove up, up, up the mountain to the reception. This was seriously the most gorgeous spot I could imagine having a wedding reception in. The building had been there, built into the mountain, since at least the end of he 19th century.

There was a large patio looking out to the ocean on one side, a lush valley on another, and onto the next mountain from the third side. It was very modern and chic, and felt like something you’d see in Oregon or California, maybe in wine country, but infinitely more spectacular. Inside, the tables were gorgeously set, and there was awesome local art throughout. We started out with endless champagne and hors dovres on the patio, then eventually moved to the tables. There was plenty of time between each course, enough there was actually dancing between courses, something I’ve never seen in America. we started with asparagus soup, then had pasta stuffed with ricotta and herbs, followed by a pasta and young asparagus dish for the vegetarian crowd, and fish for the others. I had requested a veggie meal, since i knew I would be using this vacation to either go veg or at least pescetarian.

Bestie & me at the post-wedding reception.

Dancing went on all night, and the reception rolled until at least 4am, though I went home at 2ish. We were given parting gifts of homemade grappa and olive oil, too. So cool. Overall, it was a lovely evening. I was down for part of the evening, just feeling out of sorts for a variety of reasons. It turns out that Bestie just found out she’s pregnant, and now Bride’s married, and there I was at the reception with no one to drink with or dance with. My boyfriend was on the other side of the world, too lame to travel, missing all of this, pissing me off, making me realize how many more times I was going to have to sit out the dance because of him. But eventually I moved on and had great conversations with bride’s brother and cousin, and then the old school friend from London (who’s so cool, so I’m pumped that we got a chance to talk that day and the next).

Near the end of the night, a friend of Bride’s started a food fight that thankfully stayed small. It was a good laugh, though, and several members of the party ended up covered in wedding cake. I wish I had gotten a photo…

Vacation Retrospective – Day #1, Part 2: Lovran, Croatia

I never ended up writing a follow up post about what happened once I finally touched down in Trieste, Italy at the end of almost 22 hours of flight/airport time. However, there were a few interesting bits I want to make sure not to forget or otherwise leave out.

I walked off of the plane in Trieste with the idea that I would get to the lobby and see my friend Katie (Bride) standing there. Instead, I walked out into the lobby and saw a sea of unfamiliar faces. Luckily, one of them was holding up a sign with my name on it. It was written in Katie’s handwriting, and though the guy was a fresh-faced 24 year old, I still felt a flash of pride and allowed myself to pretend that he was my limo driver! I’ve always loved that part in the movies where the limo driver is waiting with a sign, and the young author/artist/newly-minted bigwig gets to pick his own name out of the crowd. *sigh*

I hopped into a small car with two friendly Croatian brothers, friends of the Groom, and started the hour and a half ride through Italy, Slovenia, and into Croatia. We chatted about 80’s music, dancing, what was new on the radio in Croatia, and I learned a few words, like “hvala” (thank you). Once we got to Lovran, the driver, Mario, drove me straight to my apartment house, which is kind of like a bed & breakfast, but without the breakfast. They’re very common in Croatia, and this one cost me 21 Euro a night. I had thought that I would be sharing a room with Bestie and her husband, but instead I had my own private room, with my own bathroom and a cute little balcony. It was very homey and cheery, with a big painting of Marilyn Monroe over the bed. I loved it.


First was a very necessary shower and a very short nap, followed getting all of my things out of the pack and into the closet. While I was unpacking, Bestie knocked on the door. We hugged excitedly, and talked about the plan for the evening, then she told me her big news – she’s pregnant!

I was both happy and a bit crestfallen. This was supposed to be the last big adventure for the three of us, and now she wouldn’t be able to steer the party, like always. I didn’t tell anyone while I was on vacation, but it weighed on me for the next couple of days; my own fault for placing so much emotional power on the thought of this vacation, and also for not giving myself the permission to step up to the plate and just have fun for my own damn self.

One thing I learned over the course of this vacation is that I often feel powerless and unable to change life’s course, and I also always think of all the possible ways that people could dislike what I have to say. I often throw myself off course before even starting just because I come to a decision for other people without giving them a chance to react or respond. I assume people won’t like me, or will think my ideas are stupid, or will want to do better/bigger/more fun things, and ascribe these imagined faults to the people, without any real proof that they’d ever actually be that way. It’s unfair of me, and it’s bigoted in its own way, and what’s weird is that I never just assume that strangers will do or say X, Y, and Z. I trust strangers and often reach out to them in ways I’d never reach out to people I actually know and love. Instead, I assign imaginary roles to the real people in my life, and confine them to these boundaries without much proof that they wouldn’t rise above my assumptions if I just gave them time, space, and opportunity to prove themselves bigger than my judgmental thoughts will allow. It’s weird. But it’s me, and it’s something I’ve got to work with.

Anyway, moving back to vacation notes…that evening Bestie, her husband and I caught a ride with the groom up some very steep mountain roads to the little guest house that Katie and her family were inhabiting for the week leading up to the vacation. Groom’s family owns the house and a large plot of land around it, and they grow grapes, cherries, peaches, chestnuts, and other lovely edible things there. Groom and his brother run a sailing company, and often the tourists that take the sailboat out will stay in the guest house for a few days, too. The house is broken up into two apartments and lots of basement space for storing the wine the family makes with its grapes.

Bestie, her husband, and our friend Karl, brother-of-the-bride. Notice the bowl of cherry pits – this was a tiny fraction of the cherries we ingested over the course of the vacation. They’re just so good!

Bestie, Katie and I spent the evening walking around in the garden, getting reacquainted, eating too many cherries, and playing with Katie’s cute nephew. Then around 9pm, Bestie, her husband and I caught a ride back down the mountain to the center of town, where they had found a great gelato place the night before.

One of the many beautiful villas in Lovran, Croatia.

We walked through this adorable little seaside town, admiring the lovely late 19th century villas that lined the roads, breathing in the incredible salty sea air, then met up with another newly arrived wedding guest at the gelato place. After gelato and coffee, we walked along the promenade, then decided to see if we could find Katie’s extended family at the restaurant they had said they were going to. After a couple of wrong turns, we found the family, then ended up having a late dinner (the second one that evening – we had eaten earlier at the guest house, as well) and more wine with Katie’s parents, her sister’s inlaws, her uncle, and friends of the family. Finally, around midnight we wandered back to the apartment house for a well-deserved slumber. Tomorrow was the big day!


Vacation Archives – Day #1: Away to Croatia!

This is an entry from the Vacation Archives, a somewhat tardy report of my adventures in Croatia and Italy. On May 31st, 2012, I flew from New Orleans to Chicago to Munich to Trieste. This was written on my iPad during the longest leg of the journey, on an Airbus somewhere over England…

This is a practice run to see how I could write a blog post in Notes and then transfer it to WordPress later. Apparently this might work. It looks like all I have to do is type here, then copy and paste once I have an Internet connection, which technically I could have, but I’m not willing to pay 11€ for an hour of Facebook time.  I’m not sure what font Notes uses, but it’s uncomfortably close to Comic Sans. It’s kind of freaking me out, but don’t see a way to change it here. Argh.

So here I am, somewhere over England at 3:53am CST. I’m flying Lufthansa, and so far it’s been a pretty nice flight. The seats are a bit squished for my liking, and had I not been prepared with sleeping pills, I doubt I would have been able to catch a nap. Even after two Tylenol PM and one regular sleeping pill, though, I was still only able to get a fitful four hours’ nap. The flight computer says we have about an hour and a half left of the flight, so I might try to get just a little more shuteye in a minute. (Note: A couple of days later I realized that I had accidentally taken two Tylenols and an Excedrin, by mistake…no more sleep for me on that flight).

The journey started in NO with a United flight to Chicago, then what ended up being an intensely stressful 20 minute layover in which i sprinted in flip flops, too-loose jeans, and heavy backpack from the end of C concourse to the end of B concourse, straight on to this flight just in the nick of time. We land in Munich, where I’ll have another too-short layover (this time in German, with a passport check point – how fun!) before catching my last flight over to Trieste. There, my friend Katie (you guys know her as The Bride) will be picking me up, and we’ll have an hour or so drive to Lovran, Croatia. I’m tired just thinking that I’m not yet half way through with traveling. It’s all worth it, though.

I’m going to be sharing an apartment with Trinity (Bestie) and her husband for the next few nights. Really looking forward to seeing her again. I hope that she’s at the airport to pick me up, too, but will understand if not. It is her vacation too, after all.

I tried to pack light, and am on the road with a hiking pack (not a huge one, but bigger than the average daypack), and a messenger bag for a purse. I’ve got two dresses, one pair of shorts, two pairs of jeans (three if you count what I’m wearing), a few blouses, six tank tops, three t-shirts, a yoga outfit, and a pair of pajama pants. I brought my TOMS, a pair of heels, and both pairs of Sanuks. I’m planning to lighten my load along the way, so I only brought old underwear, my least favorite pj pants, etc. I probably should have done the same with my shirts, but most of them are brand new from last weekend’s 40% off sale at American Eagle. As The Man pointed out before I left, a large portion of my traveling weight is my electronics: two phones, iPad, camera, electric toothbrush, Clarisonic face brush, and a host of connectors and adaptors to keep this show on the road.

According to the computer, we’re over Germany now. I’m going to sign off and get my gear sorted for landing. Ttfn!

Vacation Snapshots

Sorry for my absence. I never thought it would be so difficult to find wifi while traveling. Right now I’m on a train to Florence, so I thought I’d take some time to post some random (crappy) photos I’ve taken with my iPad thus far. Hopefully I’ll have Internet at my hotel tonight, and I’ll post more interesting bits then.


My awe inspiring view from the plane between Munich and Trieste.


The propeller was moving faster than the human eye could see, so I loved that the iPad could capture it.


A sign in Slovenia. Can you see the graffiti smiley faces?


The garden at my friend’s house in Croatia. The large plot is the vineyard, and there are cherries, peaches, figs, chestnuts, and hazelnuts (my fave) as well. Beyond the treeline is a steep slope down to the town and from there the ocean in the distance.


Evening in Burano. All of the townspeople are heading to the main street for wine and gossip.


Another view of Burano towards the ocean. All of the houses are candy colored, and so neatly kept. Most of the houses also have curtains over their front doors, as well. I loved the additional pop of color and pattern this made along the streetscape.

One Week To Go…

A week from now I will be in the air somewhere over the Atlantic, on my way to party with some of my favorite people in the entire world, in a place that I’ve been assured is one of the most beautiful locations in the entire world. I am one lucky dame. I’ll be hanging out with:

Bestie & Me

Bestie & me last month at a wedding – I have no idea what she’s telling me, but it’s obviously disturbing. Let’s hope we take some more attractive pictures next week!

The Bestie: We’re yin and yang. She sees a tree and climbs to the top just to be there; I get nervous just crossing the street at the crosswalk. She walks into a party and chats happily with everyone, even people she’s never met before. I get overwhelmed half way through the party, and hide in the back room, nursing my beer and reading a book. She taught me how to ride a bike (at 19), gave me all the best reasons to go dancing instead of studying, instinctively knew when to prod me into action and when to leave me alone. I don’t know if I’ve been as good of a friend, being the crabby little weirdo that I am, but we’ve shared enough laughter to last a lifetime, and we’re only just beginning. I’m very excited to see her again, even though we just met up at another wedding last month.

Bride & Anna

The Bride & me a few years ago at the New Orleans Jazz Fest. We’ve seen each other since then, but I can’t find any photos. Definitely got to fix that!

The Bride: Seriously one of the most beautiful and intriguing women I’ve ever met. The Bestie and I lived together for two years (sharing first a dorm room, then another room in a house, with no arguments – a rare feat for freshman year roommates from VERY different backgrounds, connected by a computer matching system). We decided it was time to move into our own apartment, with separate rooms, but needed a third person. Bestie introduced me to Bride, and magic happened pretty much immediately. She made, and makes, everything work perfectly for the three of us. She’s both a wild woman and an analyst. A night of drinking can turn into a conversation about string theory, fate, the touch of faerie in the everyday realm, or some controversial new street artist that would never have gotten a second look from me. We’ve shared some great adventures, the three of us, the two of us, the two of them, and somehow no one ends up being the third wheel. The Bride has lived in Europe since she and Bestie graduated architecture school in 2004. It’s been amazing to get to visit her, and this time will be no different, despite change of locale. It’s funny that though time and distance separate us, our relationship has stayed strong. It’s different now, but I’m hoping we’ll all get to be bitchy old ladies together, drinking wine on a topless beach somewhere, scaring young men with our saggy old tits. Except for Bestie. She’s going to have great tits forever, the bitch.

The Bride’s Bestie: I’m so happy she’ll be able to come to the wedding! At first, it seemed as though a pretty intense health scare might keep her in the US, but everything’s looking up and she’s going to make it to hang out with us, after all. I’ve only seen BB a few times, but we keep up through Facebook, and she’s amazing. It’s not often that you meet someone who is devastatingly gorgeous AND devastatingly kind, but BB is that lady. She’s had a pretty crazy life, from modeling in her youth, to being on TV, to selling celebrity real estate, and now she’s finishing up her college degree and doing all kinds of amazing student government work. She and her husband promote the arts in her hometown, and regularly raise funds for the underprivileged in our country and across the world, fighting malaria and for women’s rights. It sounds out of this world, but that’s just BB – amazing. Also, she’s one hell of a party girl, so this wedding just got kicked up another notch!

Partner & Anna

Partner & me, again at Jazz Fest a few years ago.

The Partner: The Bride’s business partner from her old firm in Austria, Partner is a riot. She’s a native German speaker, but speaks English well. Even so, she’s been quiet, even terse, the handful of times I’ve gotten to hang out with her. She’s definitely not a big talker (at least not in English), but when she does, it’s with wit and skill. She says what she thinks, a trait I love in others (this also means that I try not to piss her off!). She’s very sporty, a long, lithe woman with sun-kissed skin, sparkling eyes, and a slightly weathered demeanor that belies her life as an outdoors-person. Not sure if her girlfriend will be coming to the wedding, as well, but I’ve been curious to meet Partner’s other half.

The Mom: I love, love, love The Bride’s mom. She’s amazing in so many ways, and though I adore my own mother, if I had been able to build a perfect mom, this Mom wouldn’t be too far off from the characteristics I’d choose. Like me, she’s crazy about medieval history, and is actually a retired professor of Germanic history with a focus on medieval bits. She recently walked the Camino de Compostela, something I’ve wanted to do for years, and will do one day in the not too distant future. She also writes, and we’ve been buddies for NaNoWriMo for a couple of years now. Plus, she’s also very laid back, digs a glass of red wine, and is a fascinating conversationalist. I’m psyched to be in her presence for a few days.

The Sister: Likewise, I’m happy about hanging out with The Bride’s sister. She’s intimidating, some might say scary in her intense forwardness, but I admire her and look forward to getting to know her better. She’s all grown up with two kids, a husband, and a PhD, but she’s still the girl I’d choose if I was looking for a partner in crime and couldn’t find Bestie or Bride in time. Hell, I might choose her over those two – I think she might have less scruples of hurting someone than they would. I’m picturing us in some kind of Mad Max scenario, running down bad guys on some dusty road in the outback. Luckily, this vacation is all about beaches and gelato, so most likely no crime in my immediate future. It’s going to be great to down some wine and talk trash with Sister.

Bestie, Hubby & Anna

Bestie, Hubby & me at another friend’s wedding last month. This was a field day, held the day before the wedding, 50 degrees, cold and rainy. We were fighting the chill in the best possible way, with shots of Jameson and good conversation.

Bestie’s Hubby: I didn’t dig Hubby when we first met (Bestie and I were once again living together, three years after graduating from undergrad), but he’s grown on me. He’s so very different from the kind of guys I was used to meeting, acting silly in sobering situations, saying the first thing that comes to mind always, generally annoying the shit out of me for much of the first couple of years I knew him. But then they got married, and I had to like him or else. And though at first I was dismayed at trying to find a way to make this happen, all of a sudden it turned out that he was really fun to hang out with when I stopped being so uptight. To be fair, I think Bestie has rubbed off on him, and he’s grown up a bit since they got together. The last couple of times we’ve hung out, we’ve had some nice conversations, and it’s been a pleasure to be around him. He makes Bestie laugh, and now he makes me laugh too. That’s pretty cool in my book.

Of course, there will be many more people. The Bride’s fiance, whom I’ve only met once but liked very much. His entire family, all from this small Croatian town that we’ll be visiting. The rest of The Bride’s family, and more friends from all over the world that I haven’t met yet, but can’t wait to get to know. This is going to be an absolute blast!

Every Day I’m Shuffling

I’m so excited about going to Europe again!!!!! After shopping for walking shoes yesterday, I decided to sit down and try to map out the basics of my trip, so I could see what distances I can fit in and thus where I can go in the short time I have to travel on my own. It looks something like this:

  • Day 1: Fly out of the US 🙂
  • Day 2: Arrive in Trieste, Italy – hopefully catch a ride with friends to Lovran, Croatia
  • Day 3: Wedding in Lovran
  • Day 4: More wedding festivities in Lovran
  • Day 5: Shake off the (most likely massive) hangover and get my butt on a bus back to Trieste. From Trieste, catch a train to ?????
  • Days 6 – 9: Travel in ?????
  • Day 10: Travel back to Croatia to meet up with my girlfriends, then hit the road to explore Southern Croatia & the islands
  • Days 11 – 14: Exploring Croatia, and hopefully making it to Split to see Emperor Diocletian’s Palace before turning around and heading back to Trieste
  • Day 15: Fly back to the US 😦

So what I’m thinking is that I’ll probably stay in Northern Italy during my trip. I’ve been to Venice before, but didn’t get to see as much as I would have liked, so I want to go there again for at least a day and a half. Plus, there’s the Tower of Pisa, and even cooler there’s Assisi, birthplace of St. Francis (my favorite saint, though I’m nowhere near Catholic). Also, I hear that nearby in Loreto there is a tiny holy house that ‘lives’ inside of a very large church, supposedly the home of Christianity’s #1 Family when they lived in Nazareth. Like the body of St. James at Santiago, the house was flown to Europe from the Holy Land by angels. Or carted over by crusaders, but who’s really interested in the details? 😉

What can I say? I’m a sucker for medieval pilgrimage sites. I’ll report back when I can pin all of these oddball ideas together.