Last stop, Milan! After a long month of travel I end my trip in Milan a quick weekend trip with Romane. This trip has truly been a wonderful experience and a great fresh start after the last six months. I am so very thankful to have had this experience and the opportunity to see old friends and meet new ones. Like most of my travels, Romane and I had no plan for Italy and we plan to just see where the wind will blow us, but of course our first stop was the Duomo. After somehow missing it several times we found it! Three cheers for a wonderful GIT and a to a wonderful time in Milan.
I will start by saying that everyone should experience Monaco at least once in their life. I felt like I was living slightly in a different universe. I was not expecting going to Monte-Carlo let alone going to the Casino. No worries I did not gamble! Romane had spent the previous two summers working in the Casino so when we arrived we were given a very warm welcome and a little tour of the grounds. It was incredibly! Unfortunately no photos were allowed inside, but I have a nice little mental note of how beautiful everything was. We ended the night with Romane’s friends in a Karaoke bar. I am not sure when I will go to Monaco again, but I believe it is a must!
After my night in Cannes we packed up her families car and took a road trip to Marseille. A beautiful seaside town with incredible churches and architecture. The city had a certain charm about it different from the other cities I had visited. This trip was also different because I got to spend a little bit more time with family.Weonly had one day in Marseille, but we managed to pack a lot in! We started the day at Notre Dame de la Garde a beautiful cathedral in the city.
After the church her family indulged me in one of my guilty pleasures! SOAP. I am not sure when it began but at some point in my life I really started to enjoy artesian soaps. If you are reading and also a soap person then you would be familiar with Marseille Soap. It is a type of soap specific to the region and made famous by their soap making process. There is no official trademark for the original soap, but in Marseille there exist a society that focuses on the history of Marseille Soap. So of course with the opportunity in front of me I went to a soap museum.
After my soap detour we went back to the more popular sights of the city ending the day at Fort Saint- Jean!
Less than 24 hrs. in Menton and I was on a train to Cannes! During the summer the city host themed parties every Sunday. The Sunday I arrived was planned to be very exaggerated version of the 70s . Romane for-warned me that the line could get a little crazy to get in. I learned that this was a very soft could. After about an hour of waiting and a little bit of french elbowing we arrived! It was only one night in Cannes, but the city is now on the books for me!
After a long 6 years I finally had the opportunity to reconnect with my French other half. In 2013 Romane lived with my family as a Rotary Exchange student. Even though 6 years have past, our interactions are familiar. After two weeks of solo travel I am very glad to be spending time with Romane and her family and I look forward to all of our upcoming adventures.
By a stroke of good fortune, my first day in Barcelona ended up being the first day of the Festa de Gracia. The festival is one of Barcelonas largest festivals and oldest traditions in Barcelona each year in the neighborhood of Gracia. The residential streets are completley transformed to match a certain theme. The magic of it all is that each of the streets are 1) decorated by all of the residents and 2) they are only allowed to use recycled materials to complete the task. The fesitval attracts people from all over the city making it very crowded. Luckily my hostal was in the neighborhood and it was very accessible even on the opening night. With this I was fully prepared to be a part of Barça! After having such a good experience with walking tours in Porto I decided that with Barcelona being such a large city it would be best to explore it by foot. I slightly over estimated the amount of walking, but I really do feel that I had the opportunity to experience the city as much as I could in the short time that I was there. It would be improper not to mention that most of these tours included food.
I saw the flyer for Cookele my first night in the hostel. I was at first a little hesitant about taking a class, slightly fearful of it being a tourist trap. But my crash course on how to cook seafood paella made my time in Granada what it was. The course was meant to be a comprehensive experience, so the day began in the market. There I was taught what ingredients were needed for the recipe and how to get what I needed from each stand in the market. The food buying experience takes on a whole new character when you have the opportunity to interact with the seller of each product. At every stop there were suggestions and recommendations to make the paella better based on their knowledge of their products. We moved from fruit, to dried goods and ended in the seafood section.
From the market we walked to where the class would take place. A large kitchen with vintage decorations and from there the fun began! The process all together took about 4hrs. But in the end we had a wonderful paella that was shared with friends.
It is experiences like these that make me feel a part of a culture. Eating, talking and being a part of the community.
After a four day food tour in Porto, I decided to delve into the history of Seville. With only two nights in the city I really packed in the sight seeing and was able to see a lot of the city. With everything so centrally located, it was easy to move around the city and see most of the historical sites. Walking from place to place was less of a problem than the sheer size of each place. I easily spent two hours in each place. By midday I was exhausted, but then I remembered I was in Spain where siesta is a cultural norm. I fully intend to utilize this much needed midday nap for my remaining days in Spain.
While my time in Seville was short, I intend to return. My last evening I spent time watching the sun set in la plaza de Espana and it was one of the best sunsets I have seen so far.
After a few festive nights in Lisbon I was glad for four rainy nights in Porto. Rain on vacation is often dreaded, but I enjoyed every rainy moment. Like my time in Lisbon I went mostly without a plan. I knew where I was sleeping, but I left the rest to where the wind would take me. My hostel was located on the opposite side of the river in the town of Villa nova de Gaianext door to one of the cities most famous wineries, Sandeman.
While I wish I could name the historical sites of the city of Porto, I found myself overindulging in the history of gastronomic delights the city had to offer. I ordered everything from cod fish to a famous sandwich inspired by the french, ( no photos because I consumed it so quickly) and of course I did a tour of the cities famous Port wine.
To redeem myself I joined a walking tour of the city that condensed the history of Porto in a 3hr. walk around the city, which coincidentally included a few food tours. I may not be able to tell you much of the historical events that happened in the city of Porto, but I can recommend a few places to eat!
Recognizing how small the world is,creates comfort in life’s rare moments. Lisbon was everything that I hoped it would be while also being nothing that I thought it was. Arriving in the city I was awestruck, taken aback by the amount of energy generated by the city. The four days I spent in Lisbon gave me a lot of new experiences and the confidence in the ability for human connection. I have been energized with the necessary spirit needed for the next two weeks as I travel alone.
Being of the World
By chance I found Park also by chance Sara found me. Both of us sitting alone but spaces apart she asked me “você está sozinho?” When I said that I was there alone she said “good,me too!” From there we spoke about the city, university, and Megan Merkle. The conversation started with her original envy of an American actress marrying Royal and ended with her explaining life as a mixed race Angolan woman in Portugal and wondering what it was like in the US to be of African Ancestry with a lighter complexion. Then she asked “Do you like African music?”
B. Lezaan African music venue and bar was my first taste of culture in Lisboa. Somehow the energy inside seemed multiplied by that on the street. When we arrived an Angolan band was playing while the crowd danced. I could feel the essence of other places I traveled with strong cultural ties to the people of Africa Despite the distance from home and language barrier I could sense the influence of Africa and its global impact. As in African American, I often fail to recognize the rich and profound impact Africa has had in the shaping of global cultural, it was something that I recognized as foreign. But on my second night in Lisbon I was reminded to engage with another part of my identity when Sara made a toast, “Cheers to being of the world and cheers to bringing you back to Africa”
After a slight bump in the road, I am so glad to be preparing for my Great Ideas Tour. My flight leaves out of Jacksonville August 1, 2019! I will be focusing most of my travels on the Iberian Peninsula kicking off my tour in Lisbon, Portugal. The Great Ideas Tour is meant to be informed, experiential, reflective and transformative. The past six months have given me the opportunity take a careful look at life. I am thankful now more than ever for the opportunity to gain both breadth and depth in each of my experiences and I look forward to sharing with each of you.
Since January 8th I have fully embraced the joie de vivre. Once I decided to be filled with the exuberant joy of life, I also decided I would live no other way. I went into this experience deciding it would be the mantra of my journey. Doc Ramsey’s joie de vivre would remind me to be brave in a land unknown and to embrace the novelty of it all. While I thought this would be my motto as I pushed myself to overindulge in European pastries, I have since learned it can also apply to chemotherapy.
Instead of boarding the plane to London on January 7th, I prepared for a CT Guided Needle Biopsy on my right lung. A week later I was diagnosed with Stage One Classical Hodgkins Lymphoma. While this news has postponed my Great Ideas Tour, what I have learned in reading about Doc Ramsey and embracing the joie de vivre, I know it will be no time before I am ready to jet set. I decided to approach this challenge with a similar mindset to the joie de vivre. It is a small bump in the road, but travel is certainly on the horizon. I appreciate all of the continued support and kind words from the Ramsey Family and can not wait to share my journey.