Tampa

Tampa

Well, my travels continued this Memorial Day weekend. On Sunday morning, I flew from DCA to Tampa, Florida, to meet the boyfriend. I arrived a little after noon, and he arrived soon after that. I had to wait in the hotel lobby for almost an hour, but I had a good book and some Starbucks, so I wasn’t upset about it. I was too excited to be upset.

A brief interlude: I am so grateful to him for paying for my flights, and for the job he does that makes all this travel possible. Plus, he is doing what he loves, which is the best part of it all. It stinks that we’re apart so much, but I know he is happy, and I get to travel, so there are perks.

But I digress. Tampa was hot as Hades on Sunday. It was so hot and sunny, with not a cloud in the sky or even the slightest hint of a breeze, we abandoned our plans of walking the Riverwalk and touring Ybor City. We got lunch, and dinner, and hung out in the relative cool of the hotel suite in between.

Monday was our beach day. Love is not a strong enough word for the constant longing I feel for the sea. Maybe it’s based in the heritage I received from my mother’s family, who came from Naples in the 1920s. We picked up the rental car and drove about an hour to Pass-A-Grille Beach.

Pass-A-Grille Beach is south of St. Pete Beach, in the larger St. Petersburg area. If you drive there, drive down the coast until you can’t anymore. Right where the Tampa Bay meets the Gulf, you’ll find the spot where we set up camp. The parking is pay, but there was still a spot for us on the last day of Memorial Day Weekend. There is more parking down at that end, and less people.

There was a pier to our left, where the Bay met the Gulf. Just some hundred yards down the beach, people were packed next to each other, but we found a spot on our more sparsely populated stretch of beach to ourselves, with no one between the water and us. It was hot and sunny again, but there was a breeze that day. The water felt a little like bathwater – I would’ve liked it touch colder, but it wasn’t hot. The water was clear and turquoise, the waves largely gentle. We talked and played in the water, baked in the sun, and started the cycle over again.

We dined early at a seafood restaurant on the bay side, then headed back to the hotel, where we flipped between the last Lord of the Rings movie and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. My flight was early the next morning – and delayed two hours, which I was notified of after arriving at the airport (you were supposed to text me, American!). I was still home by one, and went on my merry way to work half-past four.

Tampa was fun. We didn’t take as many excursions as we did in Portland, but I’m just so happy being with him that it didn’t matter to me what we did – with the exception of the beach. The beach is of paramount importance. Still, it feels glamorous and fun to jet off on little notice, even for two days at a time.

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Portland, Oregon: Also, 100th Post!

Portland, Oregon: Also, 100th Post!

As stated in my April goals post, in the last week of April I flew to Portland, OR, to visit the boyfriend on his days off. It was his birthday present to me (my birthday is the 22nd.). It was a wonderful trip, though my second flight there was a less than ideal.

Honestly I had forgotten all about that flight until now. As usual, the night before my travel day, I could not sleep for excitement. I had been at work for eight hours that day, and my flight was just before six in the morning, but I couldn’t sleep. It always happens, so I don’t know why I’m always surprised and frustrated. I was in an aisle seat, which I hate, but can deal with, as flights are only a few hours long and the aisle won’t kill me. But the man in the middle seat was a manspreader, and also snored disgustingly the entire flight, so I couldn’t sleep at all. It was physically painful. Another thing was that the man in the window seat had closed the blind and fallen asleep. He stayed asleep the entire flight, and I missed the bird’s eye view of Mount Hood. But I lived.

I forgot all that as I got in the car with my driver, who made my morning much better. The weather was gorgeous, and it was projected to continue my entire trip. At the hotel and famished, I ordered food and waited for Ben to show. He did, and I saw him first. He joined me, and we shared my flatbread and discovered that he hates figs.

We went upstairs to nap, then walked to a coffee shop, where we sat and talked and drank before walking to Powell’s. DSC_0334Powell’s was a labyrinth of books, some new, some used. I bought the new book composed of a collection of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s inspirational tweets, a used copy of one of my new very-favorite books, The Sun Is Also A Star, and a copy of a book I had begun in another bookstore but never bought, Bittersweet, by the author of one of my other favorites, June. DSC_0341We had a snack at a pizza place catty-corner from Powell’s (Sizzle Pie) and decided to go to the Portland Japanese Garden and the International Rose Test Garden.

The Portland Japanese Garden was stunning! I couldn’t help laughing aloud sometimes because I could not contain my joy. It was a perfect storm; I love to be outside, to travel, in nice weather, with my love. We climbed up many flights of stairs set in the side of a steep hill, which had some pretty plants along it as well. It was the perfect time of year to visit, and the perfect time of day: golden hour. There was even a vista where we could see Mount Hood, finally. The International Rose Test Garden was much less impressive, as the roses are not yet even budding, but still delightful.

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We dined at Kell’s Irish Pub. I had a barley risotto with pesto and butternut squash, which was delicious. Dessert was at a Salt and Straw.

The next day, we picked up a rental car and some Voodoo Doughnuts for our ninety-minute car ride to Cannon Beach.

Upon our arrival, we drove the Pacific Coast Highway for a short time, then walked on the beach for awhile. I found a shark tooth.

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We walked through some stores, and lunched at a pub on the main street. I got some candy at a candy store, and we headed back to Portland, where we dined outside at a German place called Prost. My flight was a redeye that night, and I arrived at Reagan National before noon the next day.

Thank you, love. It was my best birthday yet.us japanese garden

Monthly Goals for April

Monthly Goals for April

Hello! It appears another month has begun, and you know what that means. It’s time for the monthly goals for April!

I don’t know that this is a goal, per se, because the tickets are already bought, but I’m going to Portland, OR the last weekend in April to visit the boyfriend! I’m so excited; I’ve never been further west than Houston, and that only happened last Christmas. I love traveling, exploring new places, and learning new things. If you have any recommendations of things to do, see, eat, or drink in Portland, please leave a comment down below!

In the last week of March I lost four pounds. I don’t know if that was because I’d been bedridden from a bout of bronchitis where I didn’t eat very much, but I’m happy about it and proud of it. I’d like to lose two pounds a week this month. I’ve been eating like crap in the recent past, and I’ve been noticing the difference in how I feel. It isn’t worth it, and I have to remember that.

I want to look at my phone less, pay more attention, listen better, and read more paper books. My phone and laptop are crutches I use to escape being social, and I need to realize that not only do people like me, they want to hear what I have to say. I like to be listened and paid attention to, so I’d like to do the same for the other people in my life.

These are a few of my April goals. Hopefully I meet them. If not, I’ll try not to beat myself up about it. Happy spring!

The Italian Dream

The Italian Dream

I want to live in Italy. I don’t really care where, as long as it’s near an airport and not too far from the coast. It would be easy to do soon, given the boyfriend’s job, if I found a job myself. I am, by virtue of my mother’s lineage, eligible for an Italian passport and dual citizenship, which would make the whole thing so much easier.

I don’t think I’d like to stay there indefinitely, but then again, maybe I would. It’s a discussion I don’t need to have yet. I would love to live there, in “sunny Italy.” I would be alone much of the time, but I could make friends, whether citizens or expats or both. My Italian language skills have increased by leaps and bounds, and I know if I lived there I could even speak passably. My reading, writing, and aural comprehension are decent, I think.

I can only think of three jobs as a native English speaker with elementary-intermediate Italian skills that could help sustain us: tutoring, nannying, and/or freelance writing. Of course, if we wanted to stay longer, I would inevitably learn more of the language, and could perhaps get a regular job, but I think we’d eventually end up returning to the States.

Have any of you lived abroad? What did you do for a job? What did you like about it? What didn’t you? Let me know in the comments!

Small-Town Spring Break

Small-Town Spring Break

I’m sitting in a cute little place called Cafe Chocolate in downtown Lititz. I’m writing, and I’m happy. I’m seriously toying with the idea of interior design, but I know I have to finish this English degree before I do anything else.

It’s slower here; I know that goes without saying, but it’s nice not to be in a huge rush all the time. Even just being at home in D.C., everything must happen quickly: getting where you need to go, getting what you need to get, etc. At home, everything, including my life, seems to need to happen quickly. I need my degree yesterday and I need a full-time job today and I need to be married and soon there need to be babies and BOY! – It is exhausting.

I think I’d like smaller-town life. As a lifelong city kid, I don’t know that I could stay forever in a completely rural area, but Lancaster is utterly charming to me. You get all the benefits of living rurally, with a city nearby that is just big enough to satisfy most cravings. Food, nightlife, proximity to bigger cities – you name it, Lancaster has at least one.

I’m also, dare I say it, happy to be out of the South. It’s different up here. The South is so full of those old-fashioned rules and niceties – sir and ma’am and miss, an in-depth conversation with the waiter, small talk – and while those are nice up here, they’re not necessary or expected. It makes me look very good when I am in a place where my Southern manners are unexpected but usually welcome.

I know that part of my contentment here is the knowledge that my love will come home at the end of the day, and that I have no obligations, as it is spring break. There’s also the fact that the days are lengthening, and the air is warming. I love spring the most of any season. It is rebirth; it is beauty and youth and goodness. I’m going to enjoy it.

Oh the Places to Go! (Part I)

Oh the Places to Go! (Part I)

I’ve always loved the idea of traveling. As stated in a previous post, I love to learn, and I believe travel is an excellent way to learn about oneself and others, and our similarities and differences. Thanks to the boyfriend’s job, it is likely that I will do a lot of traveling in the next few years, a possibility for which I am immensely grateful. I’ve compiled a list of a few of the places I want to go. Buckle your seat belts, we’re going around the world!

New Zealand

I want to go to New Zealand because it seems like a place to have adventures. There’s ziplining, hiking, and the set from The Lord of the Rings series. (I’ve read the first book and half of the second, but I got bored after the Fellowship got separated. I’ll pick it up again. I’ll probably reread the first book again, quite honestly, to see if I like it better – not that I didn’t like it in the first place, because I did. Also, Ben wants me to watch the movies with him, and given that I refuse to watch a movie based on a book without first reading the book, I can’t watch the second or third movies because I haven’t read that far.)

Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town looks so beautiful. There’s so much there – beaches, mountains, and history, not to mention nearby safaris and Victoria Falls. The architecture in Cape Town is very European, which I find interesting, though I know why it is that way. I’d love to learn more about Africa in general, and I think Cape Town is a good place to start.

Marrakech, Morocco

I can safely blame Casablanca for this. I know it wasn’t actually filmed in Casablanca, but the area looks so different from anything I know that I would love to go. Plus, Morocco is so close to Europe, it would be easy (and hopefully cheap!) to hop across the Mediterranean and continue the journey from Europe to North Africa.

Prague, Czech Republic

Something about Prague has always interested me. I have never been to Eastern Europe, and I think Prague is an excellent way to introduce me to it. It helps that the boyfriend has always wanted to go, as well.

Munich, Germany

I’ve always wanted to go to Germany. I’m a fairytale junkie (I have two beautiful old storybooks, both gifts), and as so many of the stories I love emerged from Germany, I’d love to see the country the authors had in mind when writing them. It would be like being in a fairytale, I think.

Innsbruck, Austria

When my father graduated college, he took a European tour. He sings the praises of Austria, especially Innsbruck. He always says it looks like a storybook, a fairytale. I’ve seen the Alps, and I’d like to see them again. Seeing the Alps as the backdrop to a charming city like Innsbruck is quite attractive to me.

Rio de Janiero, Brazil

I know Rio is very dangerous in certain places, but I still want to go. I had a friend in college who was from Rio and invited me to visit, and though we don’t talk much anymore, I’m still interested in Rio. I want to see that massive Jesus. Maybe I’d explore the rainforest a little, too, though it terrifies me – there’s so many things in there that want to kill you, like in the Outback of Australia.

Part II coming soon! Where have you always wanted to travel? Where have you traveled in the past? What was your favorite thing about that trip? I’d love to hear all about it -comment below!

Chicago and Aloneness

A few weekends ago, thanks to the immense generosity of a friend, I flew to Chicago. I was there for two reasons: to visit my generous friend, and to visit the boyfriend, who was passing through the city with work. Of course, seeing the two of them was the best part of the trip. But there was another part that I found profoundly enjoyable.

One day, while Ben was at work, I took an Uber from the hotel to the nearby train station, bought myself a one-day pass, and figured out how to get downtown. To be fair, it was a pretty straight shot, but I was proud of myself nonetheless. After wasting some time and no money in Sephora, I walked to Michigan Avenue. I ducked out of the cold and the misty rain into the lobby of a building, and rode its elevator to the American Writers Museum.

The American Writers Museum takes up the second floor of the building where it is housed, and it is delightful. Though the merchandise is at the entrance, it is shunted off to the corners on either side of the sales/information desk. I found that refreshing, because it showed that making money is not the primary reason for the institution. So many museums have huge gift shops, and I cannot blame them for this, as most museums and galleries are not-for-profit institutions and run on donations. But the fact that that wasn’t pushed down the throat of the visitor at the American Writers Museum was refreshing.

The American Writers Museum is every bit as delightful as any writer or aspiring writer could desire. The museum exhibits are arranged around the perimeter of the floor of the building, with the visitor arriving at the entrance upon completion of the circuit. There is a room decorated in the art of classic American children’s books, including The Wizard of Oz, Where the Wild Things Are, Goodnight Moon, and Charlotte’s Web. The museum then moves to a timeline of great American authors. There is a room with books and chairs with informative plaques on the walls, which leads into my favorite room of all: the room full of typewriters. That exhibit allows for the visitor to load some paper into any of the typewriters and type and write away, which I did, for about half an hour, probably to the chagrin of my fellow visitors.

The pleasantest part of my visit to downtown Chicago and the American Writers Museum was the fact of my aloneness. I answered to no one, and no one answered to me. There is a responsibility that companions have to one another, whether they want to or not. Though no one wants to admit they sway the way another moves through space and time, they do, intentionally or unintentionally. If I had been to the museum with Ben or my friend, I would have felt an obligation to them – to keep up, to examine what they examined, perhaps to rush – through no fault or design of their own. They would have felt the same obligation to me, though I would ardently desire them not to be affected by my presence at all. But it was lovely to soak in what I wanted to, to rush past what did not interest me (though this did not really happen in this instance), and to have a long and rich conversation with myself completely in my head, and choose whether or not to talk to someone else. I spent most of my visit in silence, and it was delicious not to make noise for such a long stretch.

If you’re wondering, I cannot recommend the American Writers Museum enough. I recommend it for everyone, but for writers especially. What I left with was two things: a keychain (hey, I loved my visit and wanted a memento, okay), and a renewed desire to write. Not necessarily to write my masterpiece, but to write and practice so that one day, the masterpiece might be written. I’d like to be in some museum someday, I think. And the way to get there is practice.