Missing Autumn

Lphotoate afternoon in Rome. The wind blows dried leaves into piles along the sidewalk; they crack and whisper against one another. The early October weather is warm and the afternoon sunlight baths Rome in King Midas’ kisses. I pass stores and restaurants opening after their post-lunch hours, ready to pull meandering customers in for a pre-dinner drink.

Without warning, I am overcome with a sense of longing for the autumn I remember back home. Maybe it’s the leaves–brittle and brown–or the sunlight that streams through the trees making playful shadows on the sidewalk and the windows of the parked cars. I ache for the bags stuffed with freshly picked apples and the taste of Dad’s baked pies, hot from the oven. I miss carved pumpkins on the steps of front porches and the crisp fall air that reddens cheeks and scatters the nicely raked leaves. I miss inventing fall drinks with fresh apple cider and the smell of pumpkin brownies with extra eggs and fudgy swirls. For the first time I can remember, I am homesick not for a person or a favorite food but for a season I will never see.

My friends and family are sending me reminders from back home. Hannah and Devin are sending baked good recipes with pumpkin spices. Billy mentions the changing leaves surrounding the Connecticut golf course. In my Inbox, Mom has listed her favorite fall memories:

sitting in lawn chairs  with cold toes on the sidelines of high school soccer games…
forcing a crying three-year old [me] to wear fairy wings
picking apples with Grandma Audrey and Grandpa Frank
becoming aware of the shortening days each Saturday afternoon on the ride back from Schenectady
waiting for the afternoon school bus among the fallen and crunchy leaves
family eating orgies of apple cider and cider donuts
Back-to-School nights

This year, my October is full of sunny days at the Roman Colosseum, sandy Santorini beaches and Athens’ rooftop bars. I will spend my remaining autumn days island hopping and exploring the coast of Turkey. By the time I return to the United States in November, bold winter weather will have pushed autumn back into the closet with the fall coats and leftover Halloween costumes. The seasons wait for no traveler.

From longing, I now feel comfort imagining the maple trees in western Massachusetts and upstate New York changing colors of red and yellow just as they did every year since my memory began. My current life is so devoid of routine and structure–as I struggle through yet another crowded city, airport, and ferry terminal–that the knowledge of another autumn season occurring back home provides me with a sense of order and peace. And when I struggle through another day of logistical planning or worry about my future after my return home, I remember that wherever I am and whatever I do, the seasons will come and go just as they always have. As predictable as the ocean waves that play on this Santorini shore.

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Highlights of Nice, France

Nice, France Highlights:

Due to the large Catholic holiday on August 15th, I decided to hunker down and spend a whole week in the coastal city of Nice. I would only recommend that much time if you are in the mood to relax and enjoy the weather, casino and local bars. Considering it was the beginning of my trip, I didn’t want to spend most of my days lying on the beach but still found fun things to do while I was there.P1020718

Vieux Ville- The “old city” in English, this was my favorite part of Nice. I walked through narrow streets filled with small cafés, souvenir stands and specialty shops selling Provence lavender, soaps and artisanal cookies. The gelato and pizza stands were outnumbered only by the tourists that shuffled along the cobblestones with cameras in hand. At the center, the streets opened up to reveal a large open market. In the morning, the stalls are filled with fresh fruit, vegetables and fish. In the evening, the food is replaced by watercolor paintings, purses and jewelry for sale. The perimeter of the square is lined with restaurants and outdoor tables under awnings boasting the freshest fish and cheapest wine. 

Beach- Crowded and pebbly. I would recommend waiting until evening, picking up a cheap bottle of wine and finding a spot on the shore to watch the sunset.P1020807

Matisse and Archaeological Museum- Not only are both museums free, they are necessary stops in this French city. The Matisse museum is well situated in the middle of a large garden, perfect for picnics and dog walkers. I spent about an hour in the museum looking at the Matisse collection before heading over to the Archaeological Museum to see stone ruins of ancient Roman baths as well as the smallest Greco-Roman amphitheater, well persevered next to the museum’s entrance. Near these two museums is another church with beautiful botanic gardens and an expansive view of the city. P1020794

Main Square and Fountains- The main center is perfect for families with children. The wide network of water jets are built into the ground and erupt without warning, shooting plumes of water high into the sky, disappearing as quickly as they come. Kids can also plan in the massive jungle gyms shaped like water creatures located to the east on the way toward the contemporary art museum (also free). I spent over an hour writing on a park bench, listening to the sounds of splashing feet and high pitched giggling. P1020708

Park- I found a large patch of green in the northwest corner of my Nice map. Feeling adventurous, I somewhat skillfully navigated the network of local buses and made my way to the center of supposed patch of wilderness. My excitement in finally finding the location was replaced with disappointment finding the gates closed with a sign indicating the park was closed for the entire month of August. No one in Italy works in August including the wilderness.

[Finally, my French blogs are done. Next stop: Italy!]

Nice, France: A Picture Look

I left you, dear reader, in my room back in Nice wondering how I was going to embrace my solo journey. The following day (and every day since) I met new people who were nothing but warm, welcoming and world travelers. I have a lot to learn from each of these people. 

Since I am heading off to bed after many hours of attempted planning for a reasonable way to get from Venice to Croatia, I’m afraid my brain is a mess of ferry schedules and hostel names. But due to my increased access to the power of Wi-Fi, I thought it was only fair that I pass along a couple of Nice beach pictures to satisfy any desires to view the sunny perfect coast of southern France. 

P1020724 P1020751 I met this lovely gentlemen Stefan while eating my very French “salad Niçoise” in sandwich form, which is to say all the deliciousness of the salad packed together between two large slices of thick spongey bread. Both of us had independently sought out the shade to escape the Nice sun and eat our little meals in silence. My friendly comment about our similar sandwiches started an entire conversation leading to a guided tour and gelato treat. Stefan lives and teaches in Germany where he is a French professor. He has family and friends in the area and has visited Nice consistently for over 15 years. He wasn’t very comfortable speaking English so we conversed in French and I did my best to channel every verb, noun, and other phrase from my high school vocabulary. We were patient with each other and I got a tour of the city I never would have received otherwise. In this particular photo, Stefan has requested a candid shot. I have absolutely no idea what we were trying to convey…but if confusion was our end goal, I would say we succeeded quite well. P1020744 The harbor. Down to the left you can make out smaller boats behind the sailboats in the water. A closer picture from the shoreline shows off the color and detail of these adorable water navigators. It’s a stark contrast from the number of large ferries taking passengers to Corsia and Sardinia every day. 

P1020823See how cute they are?
P1020828All the beaches in Nice are made of pebbles, otherwise known as smooth rocks. In my humble opinion, sand here is incredibly under appreciated  although the stones do make a pleasant sound as they tumble over one another pulled by the receding waves. 

 

[Where in the world is Katelyn update: I am currently in a hotel in Torino (Turin) having arrived in what is fast becoming my favorite city so far. I arrived this morning from Cinque Terre having the most incredible two days. Pictures and details to follow.]