No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.
There are thousands of travel blogs out there. A lot of them are written by people whose job is to travel full time. They are digital nomads. These people are even paid [in the form of free trips, freelance writing or photography, doing product reviews] to travel. A lot of these same travel blogs have similar posts: How to… Top 10 reasons… Best things about… Worst things about, ect… I am trying NOT to be like these blogs. You see, I am not a full time traveler, nor do I ever plan to be. I’ve never made a dime from traveling. In spite of that, I get out the door occasionally.
I’ve traveled the UK and Ireland for 3 months.
I’ve lived in Campeche, Mexico for a year.
I backpacked around South America for over a year.
I’ve lived in Moscow for 4 months.
but I still don’t consider myself a long-term traveller. Why? Because in almost all these circumstances I’ve had a home base [South America was my most nomadic existence, but even then I rented apartments, did home stays, and did a lot of ‘slow travel’]. Living out of a suitcase sucks. Packing and unpacking every few days suck as well. I know because I spent most of my childhood staying with various relatives. Being in a new environment, not knowing where things are, hanging around bus/train stations–all of that sucks.
For some, the thrill of a new environment gets them going. They love nothing more than to be constantly on the go. I love nothing more than relaxing…whether it”s in my bed, on a beach in Thailand, or sitting in a coffee shop in a new location. I love having a home base…somewhere to come at the end of a hectic day [whether its all day exploring or a challenging shift at the hospital] that’s ‘my space.’
I am an introvert. I need alone time to recharge my batteries. I don’t necessarily like routine, but I do like familiar circumstances. Traveling, being on the go all the time, meeting new people, is exhausting. It’s even more exhausting when you are constantly moving. I don’t really have family roots, but I have strong geographical roots. South Carolina is where I will always consider my ‘home’ to be. Even if I’m living elsewhere. I am at a point now where about the most time I can squeeze into a vacation is a month [and that’s really pushing it]. I know that getting to Point B from point A is the most expensive part of traveling. Spending $1500 for airfare seems like a lot for a 2 week vacation; not so much if it’s spread across of 4 months. A lot of travel expenses are like this.
In a perfect world, I’d work for 3 months and travel for 6 weeks. 6 weeks in one location [or region] is enough time to really explore a region. Still, 6 weeks travelling is not the norm [especially in the USA], but any longer than that, and this guy may forget who I am.
Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times if one only remembers to turn on the light. Albus Dumbledore
On July 2, 1997, I wandered into a bookstore in Manchester, England looking for a book to keep me company on my train ride to Edinburgh. The sales clerk suggested a new book that had just come out three days ago called ‘The Philosopher’s Stone’. I flipped through it and thought–seems interesting enough…probably written for middle school aged kids, but it will be a quick read and I’ll have a book to trade when I get to Edinburgh. On my train trip north, I became immersed in the wizarding world of Harry Potter…of how boy of 11 found out he was a wizard and he and his friends were able to thwart the most evil wizard of all. I finished the book right before we pulled into Edinburgh and promptly put Harry Potter out of my mind. We weren’t re-acquainted again until 2006 [when I plowed through almost the entire series in a two week period and then had an agonizing year wait for the finale] But by now, you could say I am a bit of a Harry Potter nerd. I have read all the books and seen all of the movies [including the midnight premiere of Deathly Hallows-Part 1 in Trujillo, Peru] multiple times. I feel as if I KNOW Harry Potter. The following is how I’d imagine my life would be if I weren’t a muggle. If I weren’t a muggle, my life would be completely different, but somehow still familiar.
If I weren’t a muggle, I could go shopping in Diagon Alley…instead of just Target.
This is what I imagine Diagon Alley to look like..the real Diagon Alley is in Leadenhall Market which today looks nothing like Diagon Alley.
2.If I weren’t a Muggle, I’d be able to access Platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross Station.
3. If I weren’t a muggle, I would either be teaching potions [my favorite class] at Hogwarts or be employed as a healer at St Mungo’s Hospital for Medical Maladies. My ideal job, however, would be taking over for Madame Pomfrey at Hogwarts.
4. If I weren’t a muggle, I could have gone to Hogwarts for middle and high school.
Old Hoggy, hoggy Howgwarts….
5. If I weren’t a muggle and had gone to Hogwarts, I would have had to be sorted into a house. The sorting hat would have encountered a little bit of difficulty deciding where to place me, but according to this quiz, I’d be placed in Slytherin–which is ok because green and silver are my colors… [I wouldn’t be one of those Death Eater Syltherins though].
6. If I weren’t a muggle, I wouldn’t have to use the visitor’s entrance at the Ministry of Magic.
7. If I weren’t a muggle, I could have eaten all my meals in an oh-so-elegant dining hall instead of the very generic one at Clinton High School. I fully expected to see The Bloody Baron or Nearly Headless Nick floating through the room or Dumbledore sitting at the head of the table.
8. If I weren’t a muggle, I could have received mail via owl instead of the Arden Post Office.
9. If I weren’t a muggle, I could have brought my cat to school. Lucy would have loved that, and she could have helped me study for my OWL exams.
Just a few ideas about how my life would be different if I weren’t a muggle and here are a few other photos from The Wizarding World of Harry Potter:
The cafe that started it all…Where much of the first books were written in Edinburgh.
Alnwick Castle in Northumberland taken during my 1997 trip to UK before it was Harry Potter famous [the learning to fly on broomsticks lessons were filmed here]…I went to see the Poison Garden [which in my opinion should have found its way into the HP books]
and finally the beaches of Pembrokeshire, Wales [taken before HP fame during the ’97 trip]…In my opinion some of the prettiest beaches in the world…For the films, they built the Shell Cottage. I am not sure if it is still there or if they took it down after filming was completed.
I have always kept a record of my travels. It used to be with a pen and paper and 35 mm film. Now it’s all digital. On Flashback Fridays I reflect back on some of my past travels and travel mishaps before I started this blog.
More Wales…though this time farther south than Anglesey and a little more north than Cardiff and Swansea.
A lot of the charm of Pembrokeshire lies in its remoteness. It seems as if it is a different world. On the edge of the Earth. Rocky coasts. Charming little towns. The craggy coastal towns on the Atlantic Ocean. Castles. Sleepy little towns.
Some of the best walks on the Wales Coast Path runs through Pembrokeshire.
If I had to choose one are of Wales to visit over and over again it would be Pembrokeshire. Cardiff is nice for industry and Snowdonia is mountainous and wind, but Pembrokeshire gets my vote. It is wild. And beautiful. And sparsely populated. And of all the places I’ve ever visited, this land speaks to me more, and I could one day, you know, immigration laws notwithstanding, call it home. I’d even commit to learning as of now the unpronounceable Welsh language.
In some ways, 2016 has been great; and yet, it’s been rough in lots of ways. I have had four physical addresses in the last 6 months. 4 times of packing up my stuff and moving to a new location. 4 times of unpacking boxes. 4 times of trying to get the kitty cats comfortable. 4 times of trying to get settled. 4 times of buying duplicate things because I couldn’t find what I needed at the time. 4 places where I’ve tried to make a home. On top of that, I’ve had three jobs + some freelance work in the last year. It was the opposite of what I needed, but in reality, I had no choice. It was either move or be homeless. It was either work or end up at the *poor farm.
In June 2016, I quit my toxic hospital job. I had worked in a hospital (not necessarily the same hospital) on some level since 2003, and it was a big deal to leave. Even though that was one of my goals for becoming a RN. Even though my latest work environment was toxic; even though my co-workers were cruel and hateful. The hospital had been my one constant my entire adult, working life.
Also in June, I left a living situation that was no longer working for me. And it didn’t go well. In the time from telling her I was moving until the day I left, it was beyond stressful. The cats were mistreated; my things were mistreated when I wasn’t there [and let’s be honest, I was only there to sleep because I felt so unwelcome.] A few things went missing or were broken. A number of mutual friends, while still cordial when out paths cross, aren’t exactly people I’d call friends anymore.
And in July, one of my closest friends, for lack of a better term, ‘broke up’ with me. He was my main camping buddy and hiking partner, and while it sucks not to have a person to do that kind of stuff with anymore, it certainly won’t stop me from doing these things.
I’ve always been more on the private side even in real life. I strive to be truthful and honest in all my interactions, but here lately, I’ve been even more reserved. One of my goals in this new rendition of the blog, is to be more open and transparent. But some things will always be private.
I started a new job at the end of June. It’s been three weeks now, and I’m still loving it. It’s crazy busy, and keeps me on my toes. It’s still healthcare, so what I can say about what I do and where I work is quite limited. I now work in physical rehab. It’s so different than what I used to do, and I get to use both of my skill sets. I have a lot more freedom to do what I need to do, to do what I think is the right thing, and I love that. I love that my skills and knowledge is valued, but what I love more, it that it feels like what I do matters. And I haven’t felt like what I do matters in a long time.
I also have new living quarters. It’s palatial by New York City standards, and more space than I really need, but the price was right, the neighborhood is good, and the landlord is chill. After living with roommates since 2006, it is nice to finally have space of my own… where it doesn’t matter if I empty the dishwasher the second it’s done or if I leave clean clothes in the dryer for a week. A place where I can decorate as I choose, and a place where the kitties and I can relax however we see fit. And most important, a place where I can start to feel settled.
The Next Steps
In August, I head back to the classroom (metaphorically speaking–all my classes are online). Depending on which option I pursue I could be finished by the end of next summer (with a BSN) or three years from now (with a MSN or DNP) Who knows what direction my life will go, but at least for the next year, I’m going to be pretty stationary. I’ll still find time to do the things I love, and hopefully, deepen relationships with all my friends.
I don’t know where the road is going to lead me, but I hope you will hang around for the ride.
This was my introduction to Paris. And to be honest, it was a bit much. Beautiful, but excessive. I’ll be the first admit that I came to Paris, not wanting to like Paris. I knew it is an expensive city and I didn’t need yet another expensive city to be crazy about [London, I’m talking to you]. I knew a lot about Paris before I came here. I knew that if I didn’t resist its charms, I would regret it later. Sort of like that extra bottle of wine at dinner.
If cities were people, Paris would be a supermodel. Super hot, but incredibly high maintenance. It’s unreasonably expensive if you want to take full advantage of what the city has to offer. Compare that to Krakow, Budapest, or Prague; they are just as amazing– just not as famous.
Yes, Paris is beautiful. Gorgeous even. But still I think it’s overrated. But tourists seem completely infatuated with the city. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Eiffel Tower gets dry-humped a few times a day by overzealous tourists. [yes, I realize I am being crude]
Perhaps if Paris had been my first adventure instead of London [although to be honest, it took me years to warm up to London], I’d have a different opinion. Or maybe one needs to visit Paris as a couple. Or in the spring. Or perhaps I just have a completely different idea of romance than most.
Admittedly, I am sure I missed out a lot by not knowing French or not having a background in art history or not being a culinary snob. But I can see the city as a very livable city, if you are earning a local wage. The public transport system [I usedit over the holiday weekend; it was vomit-covered, but free] and bike-sharing system are among the best I’ve encountered.
Parisian Metro vomit–not quite the introduction that I was looking for
I can see the appeal of Paris as a vacation spot for tourists. Amazing art and architecture are everywhere so it’s like a massive orgy of tourism.
And I guess therein lies the problem. I stopped being a tourist about 7 years ago. My ideal way to travel now is slow and easy… to feel a city as a local. I don’t always get to do that, but it’s what I would prefer. And when you try to do that in Paris, you feel like a low-born serf. Cheap in Paris is still expensive.
In the two days I was there, I found people pretty helpful especially considering I can’t speak any French apart from “Bonjour, parlez-vous anglais?” and “s’il vous plait”. I mean strangers weren’t exactly inviting me home for glasses of wine, but I didn’t find them any more rude than say people in New York City. What I did see was rude tourists rambling on in English without any introduction. And if they weren’t understood, they would just speak louder. Parisians aren’t fucking deaf – they just don’t speak English.
My favorite parts of the city were Pere LaChaise cemetery and Notre Dame cathedral. Maybe it says more about me that I preferred hanging out with the dead than engaging with shopkeepers, waiter, or merchants.
Should you visit Paris? Sure, it’s definitely worth visiting. Especially if it’s your first time to Europe. Would I go back? Probably not, but I’d glad I checked it out.
If you’ve been to Paris, what did you think? Would you go back? What am I missing?
From time to time I get reflective and think about what real motivates me to get out of my [oh so comfortable] bed, and while I’ve pursued many hobbies over my life, the one consistent one has been photography. I got my first camera in first grade, and have been happily snapping since.
My ‘day’ job doesn’t allow for much creativity, my written notes aren’t meant to be creative. In fact brevity and details are praised much more than creativity and embellishments. This blog [and its predecessors] was started as nothing more than a creative outlet. I like being a writer and photographer; I also like saving lives. My ‘day’ job requires me to talk to people all day long, and for a natural introvert, that’s hard. Writing and photography are more solitary pursuits and combined with hiking, these are the passions that have stuck with me throughout my life.
I love storytelling, and I love being creative. I thrive on taking risks, stepping into the unknown and exploring new places, and if I end up inspiring others to do the same, well that’s just the icing on the cake. I would never call myself an ‘artist’, but in some way I think all photographers are artists to some degree. I may not be able to draw a straight line with a ruler, but perhaps I can see things in a different way, and that may inspire someone in some way.
I do almost no post-processing. I used to use Flickr a bit, but they had some issues last year, and I do love the new flickr. However, I have nearly 4000 photos on the site so I still visit it from time to time. I’ve never used Lightroom or Photoshop but I’d like to learn . This is what I’ve learned in 30+ years of snapping photos
Animals are where it’s at
I don’t like taking pictures of people. Maybe it’s because I live alone. My entire family could fit inside a thimble. I don’t want to take photos of strangers, and I don’t want to be one of those self-obsessed selfie taking insta-grammers either. So yeah–people aren’t my favorite subject. But animals. How many people say that they do not like animals? Almost no one. And those people who say they don’t like animals, well I probably wouldn’t like them either.
Glance at almost any travelers’ bucket list and you’ll see animals predominantly featured. Maybe not explicitly, but ask anyone who has listed African Safari on the list what part of the African Safari they’d like to see, and most will respond ‘Lions’ or ‘Elephants’. My point being, the animals are the draw. Same with visiting the Arctic. The main draws for the frozen tundra are northern/southern lights and polar bears, grizzlies bears, penguins and puffins. I mean even I’d brave the cold for a chance to see that.
I think seeing wild animals is a great appeal to travel. And for me it certainly makes a good story. How can you begin to compare seeing a lion sleeping in a zoo with tracking a pride of wild lions on safari in Africa? Or seeing lemurs on fake tree branches versus seeing them in the wild of Madagascar. And most of the time, animals carry on about their business paying you no attention so you can shoot to your heart’s content. And after about 100 shots, you may just get ‘the one.’
2. Have the right equipment
Despite what people say, there is no “right” camera. The best camera is the one you have with you. Growing up, I would have sold my soul for a Nikon D90, but I never got one. Instead, I once I had enough money, I went to the local pawn shop and bought two Pentax camera bodies and 3 lenses. I learned a lot using those cameras, and some of that knowledge sticks with me today. I’ll shoot with whatever is in front of me. I used to be staunchly anti- camera phones, but have been in situations where that was the only camera I had available. I’ve used all sorts of different cameras and lenses over the years when shooting wildlife and I have only one piece of advice – get a good zoom.
Using a telephoto lens, I’m talking more than 100mm or its equivalent, is something I feel strongly about; I’ve seen too much bad behavior concerning wildlife and personal space. For example, National Parks have signs all over the place telling you what distance to keep between you and animals, but do people listen? Nope. They do not. And then they wonder why the bear takes a swipe at them.
I currently use an Olympus Mirrorless 4/3 camera set-up, and one of my favorite lenses for animals in the 150-300mm. I can safely keep my distance, yet get up close and personal.
3. The right time, right place, and lost of patience is key. On that note, be proactive and eager.
You can’t force wildlife photography – that means being in the right place at the right time. Whether you plan your trip around a specific event or make sure your schedule is flexible enough to accommodate spending extra time here ort her, it’s up to you. Also make sure you’re prepared with all the equipment you might need including enough memory cards and batteries. You can never have too many batteries.
Always take more photos than you mean too. Always. When you are out in the elements looking at the tiny screen on the back of your camera, it is really hard to tell what’s in focus, what isn’t, and if you have it composed how you want to, and if it’s properly exposed if you are in a harsh environment or if the animals are on the move.
Even when I want to stop, I fire off a few more clicks of my camera. Sometimes I even go back another day if possible. Everything is changing, and wildlife photography is so unpredictable so it’s important to keep trying because even when you think you nailed the shot, you might not have or there’s an even better shot just around the corner.
If you are really passionate about wildlife, then it’s easy.
4. Practice and focus
If I know that I am going to be snapping animal photos, I like to use my portrait lens. It’s a Olympus 25mm [50mm DSLR equivalent] and I wish it was the first lens I ever used. It’s perfect to learn on. Because you can drop the aperture down to 1.4 (which is really big) and you can get the most beautiful portraits with stunning depth of field. This means that the face is really sharp and focused and the background is blurry.
In fact, if you are shooting at f/1.4 it’s so sharp that you have to focus on the eyes because the nose will blur a bit and vice versa. Learning to shoot focusing on the eyes is hard, especially with animals and takes practice – the details are always in the eyes. In fact, shooting wildlife in general takes practice because you have no control over their behavior and you have to be fast and prepared for anything.
So if you have any pets, practice taking their photos. I’ve spent hours practicing with my new lens on my cat. Anad not just my cat either. I take pictures of friends’ cats and neighbor’s cats too. I want to get as much practice as possible photographing animals that aren’t familiar with me so that when I encounter animals in their natural environment. For me, the hardest thing is getting the focus right so I practice as much as possible whenever I can.
To me, wildlife photography is essentially the same as portrait photography, except animals don’t listen and might eat you given half the chance. Kind of like photographing children, I guess.
Wild animals are in fact wild animals. They deserve our respect and when we are in their territories, we should play by their rules. We live in a world where people are obsessed with the perfect selfie or snapping the most amazing photo ever–consequences be damned. But if an animal bites you or scratches you, then you are at fault and have no one else to blame when you end up in the hospital for months receiving IV antibiotics. Be patient, give them space, and let the animals come to you. Unless it’s a bear. Or a lion.
6. Keep learning, be open
Just when I think I’ve mastered the art of taking photos, someone shows me something I never seen or even thought about before. So much of what I have learned has come from talking to other photographers, asking questions, trial and error, and watching video tutorials online. Even now I still download courses and am always Googling photography tips trying to get better.
Here’s the thing about Tuscany: it’s so freaking beautiful and historic. And tasty. Wine, bread, olives, olive oil. I’m sure it’s beautiful… especially in spring/summer/fall. Winter is pretty awesome too.
After spending some time taking in some winter sports with the best athletes on the planet and searching for my soul against the tiny coastal villages nestled against the Mediterranean, it was time to get down of discovering what Italy is known for: good food, good wine, and good art.
But first a side trip to back in time. Enter Trebbio Castle, built in 1184! 1184. That was the dark ages for crying out loud. Anyway back to the story…
The castle was built in 1184 by the Pazzi Family, [Italian language lesson=‘pazzi’ means crazy]. In fact, the family was pretty crazy to even attempt such a thing, but these were different times. Ever hear of the Medicis–you know the family that rules these parts back then? The Pazzis and Medicis were rivals. Somewhere deep in the castle [IDK if this part is true, but it sounds good] Francesco and Salviati Pazzi, with the help of Pope Sixtus IV and his newphew Girolamo Riario concocted an plan against the Medicis. The Pope was upset that the Medici’s were attempting to thwart his Papal power over the North-central Romagna region. And if you’re wondering whether it was successful or not, just check to see whose balls are all over Florence… a little hint, they’re not the Pazzis.
Here’s the thing about a time before photography or the internet. You can use your imagination to picture how things happened. It was April 26, 1478. Easter morning. The most sacred of sacred mornings. It was beautiful–spring in full bloom–warm even. All the Florentines were in the Duomo for High Mass. The Pazzis snuck in to the Duomo and managed to get a seat near the Medicis. Catholics being catholics the homily was probably eerily similar to Easter homilies today. I like to think it happened right as the priest was offering communion to the Medicis. The Pazzis managed to fatally stab one of the Medici brothers, Giuliano, but Lorenzo ‘The Magnificent’ managed to escape. The Florentines side with the Medicis and killed the present Pazzis on the spot. And all sins were immediately forgiven…
You might be wondering what happened to the castle after the demise of the Pazzis; it fell to disrepair. A caretaker lived there for 15 years [contractually], but as soon as he was able, he skedaddled off with a young missy in tow.
The love story
Fast forward 500 years or so…A young Austrian girl come to Italy to learn Italian. Whilst on the train, she meets the the man who would become her husband. They married and settled in Milan. Never-mind the 40 year age difference [I’m all about the older men, but I don’t think I could do 40 years older]. She was 19; he was 59. Six years of marriage = 5 children.
One day he came to her and said “A few years ago, I was a lonely man, so to thank you for all that you have given me, I bought you castle in Tuscany with over 800 acres.’ [Sidenote: If ever a man wanted to buy me a castle in Tuscany, I’d let him]. I’m sure he didn’t quite expect the turn of events that set the castle’s restoration in motion. You see, there’s no heat in that castle; I’m sure he expected that the Missus would only want to live in the castle in the summer, but oh no–give a girl a castle, she’ll want to live there for life.
And so they did. Restorations began in 1968. They started the wine and olive oil production. The castle is now in the hands of their daughter, Anna Baj Macario, who took over the estate with her husband Stefano Casadei, who is the winemaker. They live full time in the castle, which still doesn’t have heating, and is really quite cold, especially in February.
It takes over 100,000 euros a year to maintain this place so in addition to making wine and olive oil, they give tours, offer cooking classes, have apartments for rent and host events like weddings at the castle.
The moral of this story: Life can start at any age usually when you least expect it. [Or how it applies to me; don’t give up on life just yet].
And a bonus: A recipe for homemade pasta
Ingredients: EGGS ( 1 egg per person), FLOUR (*100 grams per person), EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL (1 teaspoon), SALT
On a wooden board, put the flour in the shape of a volcano, and the eggs in the middle. Add the extra virgin olive oil and some salt. With a fork, start mixing the eggs, taking the flour from the side, little by little or it will result lumpy.
Then, start mixing the dough with the hands. Don’t work it too much, because the pasta must result porous, in order to better absorb the sauce.
Then, when the dough is homogeneous, leave it to rest for at least half an hour.
Then, roll out the dough: firstly by hand, after with the rolling pin. Put a handful of flour on the dough in order to roll it out better, or it will stick to your hand/to the rolling pin. Turn the dough once in a while in order to give it a round and not oval shape. When the dough is very flat (*1-2 mm), leave it again to rest half an hour.
Then, fold the dough. Now you can cut the dough to prepare the shape of the pasta that you prefer: tagliatelle are wide stripes, tagliolini are narrow stripes.
Open the stripes, and let them dry.
Handmade Tagliatelle with “Sausage” Sauce:
Put some onion, celery, thyme, and rosemary in a pan with extra virgin olive oil. Then add fresh sausage: when the meat gets a nice brown color, add peeled tomatoes. Let it boil for about 1 hour and 30 min.
Handmade Tagliolini with Vegetarian Sauce:
Put some shallot (kind of onion) and celery in a pan with extra virgin olive oil. Add grated carrots and zucchini, some thyme and some fresh basil. Add some fresh cream, and chili (if you’d like).
*Metric measurement because, you know, Italy ain’t America.
Unpacking is never ending. I was recently going through some of my boxes, and found photos and other mementos of my trip to Rome [and Italy] over 10! years ago. Time flies when you’re busy traveling the world, writing a blog, going to graduate school,working an actual real job, and doing all the other things that occupy life.
Anyway… I came across a little statue I had bought of Romulus and Remus… which got me thinking [it’s always the smallest details…] when EXACTLY was Rome founded. And so I did a little sleuthing and discovered a bit about Rome’s discovery. [Because, yes I am #ahistorynred]
I remember snapping this photo at one of the [many] museums I visited in Rome. I remember the guide telling us the story of Romulus and Remus. I remember the cold, the rain outside, and it didn’t matter how long the tour lasted I was there until it quit raining. Yes, I had an umbrella and raincoat, but it was COLD and I don’t like the cold. So museum-ing I went.
According to one story, the founder was a Trojan hero, while another tells of 2 brothers fighting it out for the prize. Whatever the truth, Rome celebrates its birthday – known as Il Natale di Roma, the Birth of Roma – on 21st of April, and has done so for 2770 years.
Our Trojan hero, Aeneas, achieved fame fighting the Greeks in the Trojan Wars. He was son of the goddess Venus and a mortal father. He escaped Troy before the death of Laocoon and the destruction of the city in 1220 BC. And according to Roman poet Virgil, Aeneas then went on a bit of a wander before finally landing in Italy. Virgil’s epic poem Aeneid, [which I have never even attempted to read] written between 29 and 19 BC, stretches over 12 books and 9896 [wow, count them!] lines of dactylic hexameter rhyme.
The first six books tell the story of Aeneas’s wanderings from Troy to Italy. The second six books describe his victory in battle in Latium. The victorious Aeneas set up home in Latium and married the daughter of a local ruler, King Latinus. How and when Aeneas set up Rome is a bit vague, but Virgil and the Ancient Romans saw him as their ancestor, founder and, most importantly, a link back to the legends of Troy and ultimately, therefore, the gods. And historians of the day recorded that Aeneas named his new city “Rhome”, meaning strength. But sadly for Virgil and Aeneas, however, there is a more popular founding tale that has taken over; the story of the she-wolf and the twin brothers.
While Virgil’s story certainly is plausible, I prefer the other story.
Before we can get to the boys, though, we need to backtrack a bit. Their story starts with King Numitor of Alba Longa, an ancient city of Latium. Numitor, son of King Procas was a descendant of our old friend Aeneas. On his father’s death, Numitor inherited the throne. Unfortunately for him, his brother Amulius coveted the position. In 794 BC, he overthrew the new king, and murdered his sons in order seize power for himself.
Numitor’s daughter, Rhea Silvia, was forced to become a Vestal Virgin. The pagan god Mars, however, had other ideas as he had fallen in love with the new priestess and decided to sneak into her temple to sleep with her. Rhea bore him beautiful twin boys and named them Romulus and Remus and so the story begins. Still with me?
Amulius was furious, as any evil uncle would be, and promptly threw Rhea into the River Tiber [sarcasm font: because it’s ALWAYS the woman’s fault]. Fortunately the river’s waves caught her, she married the river god who saved her.
The twins were similarly thrown to the river’s mercy. Set adrift in a reed basket, the babes floated gently downstream until finally being caught in branches of a fig tree at the bottom of a hill named Palatine in honor of Pale, goddess of shepherds.
And this is where the story gets a bit unusual. According to legend, the she-wolf, an animal held sacred to Mars, found the twins, fed them until a shepherd arrived and took them home to his wife. Over the years, the twins grew up knowing their story. In 753 BC, at 18, they decided to start a new city near to the site of the fig tree that had caught them. Sadly, they couldn’t agree on which of 7 hills in the area that they should build. Romulus favored the Palatine hill whilst Remus preferred the Aventine. Kids!
So to settle the argument the twins turned to religion. They read signs from the gods to resolve the fight. The boys took the presence of birds on the hills as an indication of favor and so Palatine won. Romulus saw 12 birds on his hill whilst Remus only saw six on his.
You’d think that after all the family conflict down through the years the boys would have learned how to play nicely. Sadly, they did not. Remus teased his brother by repeatedly jumping over the low settlement boundary. And whether in jest or jealousy, his actions represented a bad omen for the new city suggesting that the city’s defenses could be easily overcome.
Romulus took the jeering badly. The joke finally turned sour when Remus was murdered either by his own brother or one of his followers on 21 April 753 BC, 2770 years ago!
Temple of Rome…not Temple of Reme
The victorious Romulus named his new settlement – Rome – after himself. He oversaw the growth of his new city, and captured Sabine to help populate his dream. There’s no record of when or how Romulus died. The Greek historian Plutarch wrote that Romulus may have vanished in a violent storm in 717 BC at 53. The Romans clearly still venerated Romulus though, and declared him a deity after his death.
So Happy 2770 th birthday, Roma. You don’t look at day over 2000.
I have a confession to make that will put me squarely in the literary hall of shame–I have never, not even once, read a book by Earnest Hemingway. It’s not as if I haven’t tried…I just find them incredibly boring, but to have been Hemingway, to have lived a carefree life of travel, whisky, women [ok, not interested in that part], and writing, that part is appealing to me. And a giant house full of cats. The only thing that keeps me from adopting all the strays in the hood is the fact that I do like to pack my bags and head out for a bit. I can find kitty-sitters for Lucy and Christopher; if I had 10 or so, it might be a bit more difficult. Anyway, I digress…
Key West is well known for it’s unique and historic houses, but I’d wager the Hemingway House is the most popular if for no other reason than its former [and current] occupant[s].
The Hemingway House
The house was originally owned by Asa Tift, a marine architect and captain, who built the house in 1851. The estate didn’t become Hemingway’s home until 1931. He purchased the property, which by then had been boarded up and abandoned, for $8,000 in back taxes owed to the city.
Hemingway, his second wife, Pauline, and their two sons lived together in the house until 1940, when Hemingway left for Cuba. In 1951, Pauline (now his ex-wife) died leaving the house vacant, apart from the caretaker that lived on the property.
For the next ten years, Hemingway used the house as a place to stay during his trips between Cuba and his home in Ketchum, Idaho. When Hemingway died in 1961, his sons agreed to sell the estate.
During his years in Key West, Hemingway completed about 70% of his works including A Farewell to Arms, Death in the Afternoon and The Snows of Kilimanjaro. [of which, I’ve read none…hangs head in shame]
I *might* could get some writing done in an office such as this.
After his death, the house sold at a silent auction for $80,000. A local business owner, Bernice Dixon purchased the house. She lived in the main home until 1964, when she moved into the guest house and turned Hemingway’s home into a museum. After Bernice’s death in the late 1980’s, the estate was passed onto her family who have kept the property open to visitors wanting to learn about the life of Ernest Hemingway.
My interest in visiting the Hemingway house was not because I’m a Hemingway fan , but because I love old architecture. I especially have a thing for buildings with wrap around porches and wooden shutters.
And the cats. Oh yes, I knew all about the cats ahead of time. Any place that has cats roaming around is my kind of place. Each cat [and there are more than 40 fabulous felines roaming the house and grounds] has six toes or at least the genetic trait to pass on to future ancestors of Hemingway’s favorite pets. These polydactyl cats live all over the grounds. They were all born here and are completely used to camera wielding tourists. They can sleep through any shutter speeds, but occasionally want to be pet or scratched behind the ear.
During my walkabout the house, a cat pranced into the bedroom and clawed at the carpet [just like Lucy does]. She was permitted to do so [unlike Lucy]. She then plopped down at the feet a group of tourists … quite certain that no one would step on her [Much like Christopher. Cats really are the same no matter where you go]. Another cat was asleep on the master bed.
Legend goes that Ernest Hemingway was given a white six-toed cat by Captain Harold Stanley Dexter. Rumour has it six toed cats are good luck…kinda like cute little four leaf clovers. The gift-kitten was from a litter of the captain’s cat Snowball, who also had six toes.
Hemingway’s boys named their new kitten Snow White and as Hemingway once wrote, “one cat just leads to another”. Even today, some of the cats that live at Hemingway Home are descendants of the original Snow White.
Argghhhhh….I can’t even stand the cuteness of this guy.
There are so many cats at Hemingway’s house that the museum has its own veterinarian to care for them. How cool is that job. A Cat only veterinarian. Sign me up! Cats, unfortunately, do not live forever. However, there is Cat Cemetery behind the house where one can pay respects.
I am many things, but one thing I am not is a runner. Despite my many years of playing sports, running was always my least favorite activity. So how I let myself be talked into running a 10K as my very first (and most likely my last) is beyond me. In a flash of what I can only describe as temporary insanity, I signed up for the 10K. The thinking was that if I knew I was going to run a race, I’d train for it. Ummmm… not so much. I don’t enjoy running, and I enjoy cold weather less so October-ish was the last time I did any real training.
My goal is always the same– to not finish last.
Cooper River Bridge Run – 10K RUNNER 26285
MICHELLE PRYCE TRAVELERS REST, SC Female / 35
Cooper River Bridge Run
I wore trail running shoes instead of actual running shoes and warm up pants instead of shorts. To say I didn’t dress the part is an understatement, but no matter– I finished 12536th place… decidedly not last in a field of near 40,000 other runners. My friend DJ finished a lot higher up than I did.
Part of my issue with running is that I get distracted by the scenery… and this is why I make a much better traveler than runner.
We were up much earlier than the sun to catch the shuttle boat from Charleston to Mount Pleasant.
the bridge in the frosty moonlight…it was right around freezing when we headed over to the starting line
we got to see the sun rise over Shem Creek before the race started
The American flag was parachuted in. It was super-cool to watch
At about 8:30 or so, I was off. The winner had already finished by the time I started. Since the main draw of the race in running over the Cooper River bridge, the bridge is the focal point.
it is a beautiful and architecturally interesting bridge.
Charleston and I have a long, complicated history. Charleston is where I fell in love with travel. I vividly remember an elementary school field trip to visit Ft Sumter, Drayton Hall, and the historic battery. It’s a short boat ride out to the fort, but my imagination stirred–what if we keep going? Where will we end up? What was daily life life in the 1700’s? 1800’s? 1900’s? As a self-professed history nerd, Charleston has everything. Pre-Revolutionary history all the way to today.
Charleston is also where I fucked-up the best relationship I’ve ever been in. So now my relationship status with the city can only be described as “it’s complicated.”
Old cemeteries rock my world and Charleston is full of them.
Cannons still guard the entry [by water] to downtown
for shoppers, the city market is awesome… going strong 200 years +
my favourite meal ever–Shrimp and grits, and if you don’t care for that, there are plenty of other awesome places to eat and foods to try.
Hi, I’m Michelle and this is my own little corner of the interwebs where I write, share photos, and interact with others in the blog-o-shpere. So in addition to that–Who am I? I am –in one way or another– the following: hiker + backpacker + swimmer + pediatric respiratory therapist + registered nurse + avid traveler + cat parent + gardener + photographer + medical science junkie + adventure-seeker + DIY enthusiast + voracious reader + history and science nerd + football fanatic + aging athlete + wannabe chef + trying not to succumb to the trappings of a 9-5 life. And beginning in 2018, a Peace Corps Volunteer in Rwanda.
Everyday life doesn’t have to be routine. Anyone can do just about anything he or she wants to do– sometimes one has to find creative ways in doing it. Sometimes one has to tear down the barriers that might stopping them. Everyday is an opportunity to choose your own adventure. That is what I ultimately write about.