All My Sunsets

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Ciao a tutti!  Live from my terrace in Imperia, Italy — located in the Imperia Province, in the Italian Riviera, an hour and change each from Nice and Genoa.  This is a rare live post because while I document my life all day via social media, I haven’t taken the time to post — with writing feeling like a luxury with the never-ending checklist of items I have on my mind during the school year.  In the summer, though, I feel so inspired, my mind relaxed and free.  And this vacation is super special.  It’s 5 weeks!  Since I moved home from Italy, I went for a month for the summers of 2014, 15, 16, and 17.  They were each epic in their own way.  But I must say, this location is superb, the price can’t be beat, and I’m really letting myself relax — taking days to be super lazy while I can.   I also rented the scooter for the entire 4 weeks I am here — purely out of necessity because it’s an hour hike up the mountain from the sea . . . then I will bop around a bit before home.

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This is my 12th day here. I’ve popped around a bit on this trip, had a ton of relaxation, and my father arrived from Cologne yesterday.  He has a hotel down at the sea, allowing this sweet space to reflect at the end of the day.  My days and sunsets have blended together beautifully into a ritual of calm.  I take a long, lazy start.  I see which cats have come to greet me.  Eventually, I hop onto my scooter for an errand down the mountain, take a swim / workout, and eventually make it back up just before or during the long, lingering sunset.  I adore both the sea and the mountains, so when they combine like this plus the charming Western Riviera culture, I’m smitten.  Mickey Mantle wrote a book All My Octobers.  Mine will be All My Sunsets.

I keep vowing to update this frequently, but for the summer I will make it a habit and not censor myself.  I always remind myself the blog must be written fresh — it can be edited and polished into something beautiful later, but these are the thoughts I’ll refer to when I write something more.  And hopefully that habit will continue as I recognize it’s not a luxury; I love to write and should write.  But as I usually do when there’s a long lag, here’s what I’ve been up to since January 2017.

For MLK weekend 2017, I flew out to visit my hilarious high school friend Ellen in Malibu, then we road-tripped to Solvang (European style wine country place as featured in Sideways) where I met up with my great friend Jessica who road tripped from Bishop to join us.  I met Jessica teaching in Italy.  She went off to Germany for two years as I returned home and was living home in California a bit after an epic few months backpacking and volunteering in Southeast Asia.  It was so fun to make these connections, then back to NYC and enjoying dates around the city, tubing up at Hunter Mountain, then February break!  Up to NH for our annual ski weekend retreat with Fordham friends, then straight to Switzerland, where I had an amazing flight for $500 and a room for $100 a night right in the mountain of Wengen, a perfect ski base.

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I enjoyed sunny breakfasts overlooking the Lauterbrunnen Valley – probably my most favorite place in the world – and I’ve written about it several times here with Mom   and here with Brendan .   I pushed my limits skiing on the difficult slopes, relaxed in the spas, gazed at the stars, and flew back to NYC via Spain revitalized.

It wasn’t long before it was Spring Break!  I found yet another amazing airfare deal just over $400 into Milan via a long layover in Lisbon and home from Naples.  I got a day rate in Lisbon for my shower and nap, then strolled around the harbor in sunny delight and even more delighted by the quality of the food.  Then that evening I was in an airport hotel by Milan Malpensa.  The next morning I took the three hour bus ride straight to Genova (much easier than schlepping on an airport bus or train to Milano Centrale then the train to Genova).  I had an amazing Airbnb overlooking the sea in my old neighborhood in Genova Quarto.

 

I met for drinks and gelato with friends, visited old students and my old director at the international school

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Many aperitivi in this spot of Genova Quarto

and eventually took a night train — fun!– to Puglila.  That’s way down in the heel of the boot.  I know I wanted to go by Bari but didn’t know much about the region.  I had just seen a Conde Nast Traveler photo of the restaurant in the grotto,

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and then when I was searching for towns, I saw Polignano a Mare and that same photo popped up.  I knew I would stay there, and found an affordable and adorable room right by the sea.  I had charming breakfasts in the square, lazy days sunbathing, running and wandering, and enjoyed a special Easter Eve mass where they gave us holy water to bring to our homes.  The next day, I hopped on a train to visit my friend Joseph in Lecce, way down in the heel of the boot.  I met Joseph during one of my many visits to Bruges in 2010, and we have stayed friends ever since.  I wrote about my visit to see him in Ferrara back in 2013.    Too soon, I hopped on a train to Naples where I spent the night in a castle with views over the bay, and drifted off into sweet travel dreams on my own two story section of the castle.

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This is actually a sunrise

Image may contain: ocean, sky, outdoor, nature and waterAmazing.  I flew home the next day and was back in Europe three months later for my annual summer extravaganza.

I had a shocking and complicated breakup — but I don’t really discuss dating on this blog — this is pure travel adventure, so only as it relates.  But I was so wrecked, I didn’t even want to go on this trip last year.  But I went anyway because, I mean, it was booked.  I could always come home.  The same advice he gave to me when I was going through a horrible time and didn’t know if I could go on a month long Australian adventure.  Of course I went and it was amazing.  I arrived in a decent sized apartment in the city center of Genova for only 900 euros.  It had very good AC and a little terrace with no real view but hey – outside!  I holed myself up during the day, watching Netflix, ventured out to some beaches, meditated on the balcony, lingering over my coffee and wandering for sunsets.

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I spontaneously bought a floor ticket for U2 in Rome.  There were track fires, so I missed half the show, my hair covered in ash . . . but it was amazing, and healing.  “One good thing about music, when it hits you feel no pain.  Hit me with music.”-Bob Marley.  I tried to get back to Genoa, but track fires blocked the way.  I had just finished a travel writing book written by a woman who moved to Spello, Umbria with her husband and three kids — one year of expat life.  She put them in the local school! Amazing!  Il Bel Centro.  I was so enchanted by her writing (set during the second year of my Italy stay) , and had to see Spello.  I looked at the train departures, and saw one leaving, bought a ticket, got a 40 euro place on booking.com, and had an enchanting evening strolling around the hill town.  Magic.

Image may contain: sky, cloud, twilight and outdoorAlready feeling more like myself, I visited a high school friend in London where she toted me to a swanky Innovation event.  I didn’t even know that was a field.  They love to hire teachers.  Something to consider for the future.  We had great laughs and long late night chats.  Brunch in her neighborhood, then a train to Ipswitch for Jessica’s wedding celebration.  Jessica was the friend I just met up with in California. On that trip, she told me she was engaged.  They actually got married in Vegas when I was off to Italy — but flights to Vegas were so expensive that week – it was cheaper to go to Italy, and Jessica said she figured I would be at the UK celebration anyway! 🙂  A charming BBQ in her husband’s parents’ backyard, meeting friends and family, then off to the Fake Festival — amazing coverbands including for Queen an Oasis.  High tea the next day, then off to Belgium for a few nights to visit Jasper (I didn’t see Dave this year).  I love wandering the streets long enough to feel hungry again for my next Belgian treat: beer, bitterballen, cheese croquetts, waffles, chocolate, frites.

Then from Belgium to Milan where I met up with my Dad.  We took a tour of the city that included the Last Supper, which I’ve always wanted to see.  We also went to the top of the Duomo.  I love the Duomo as I wrote here when I first saw it!  Before long, we were on a train to Genoa, and Dad stayed with me a bit.  (We don’t see Mom in my summer adventures because she prefers to stay local in the heat).  Dad and I enjoyed day trips to the beach and lots of lazy time.  Then it was off to Constance, one of our favorite places.  We enjoyed spa time, a cruise to an island with Botanical Gardens, and then he was off and I was back in Genoa.  A few more beach days, a bus trip down to Florence to meet up with a Fordham friend.  It was 104, so we ducked into his hotel for cocktails and the most amazing water!  Then we dashed back out to buy leather jackets and then I was on the Flix Bus back home for a few more lazy, lounging days.  I arrived back home just in time for my birthday, celebrating with high school friends in my parents’ backyard just before dashing off to Lake Placid for 4 nights with Mom the next day.

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Mom won’t do Europe in the summer but she loves the cool mountain air and easy travel to a favorite region.  I paddle boarded and kayaked, strolled and laughed with mom.  It’s amazing how healing travel can be — the same healing does not happen if you just have time off.  It’s what you do with it, and the experiences and insight you have when you’re thrown out of your normal zone.  At least for me . . .

Back to school in the fall, and a 4 day weekend meant a trip to see a high school friend Kate — Ellen’s sister.  Ellen flew in from LA, so we all met there for a fab girl’s time, going to yoga, swimming holes, yoga, and then off on a long desert road trip to see the Marfa lights.

I had never heard about Marfa before, but after we booked, I listened to this favorite song and heard it right away “saw the lights of Marfa . . .”

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Soon after, I went to a yoga retreat up in Hunter Mountain, maintaining my peace and trying not to linger too much on the time spent tubing with him. 

 

Image may contain: sky, cloud, mountain, twilight, outdoor and natureThe rest of the year featured two outpatient surgeries, a 6 week virus that left me sick and weak and eventually in need of antibiotics which I had not had since 2010 because they are actually quite toxic for me.

2018 –I took a long weekend to Stockholm, Sweden mesmerized by the 6 hours of daylight, froze on a boat tour of the archipelago, and wandered the Medieval Center still decked out in the remnants of Christmas.   Before flying Norwegian Air back home (amazing planes, amazing air quality, amazing deal), I indulged in a massage in a classic spa.  Ahh!

There was still the February ski weekend in NH, although I had to take it very easy.   I got sick and gained weight from the antibiotics, despite upping my workouts, eating even better, and doing careful detox programs.  I was frustrated but it was time for a trip Ireland with mom. This one was epic . Over Easter, we started just north of Dublin in Donabate, with a sea view room.

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running along the cliffs in Donabate

My frisbee friend from Fordham messaged me when he saw I was in Ireland, and I drove in to meet him for drinks that first night.  The next day we went to Easter mass then drove down to Cork.  It was unseasonable cold and horribly rainy — not the gentle Irish rain.  No, the shower rain.  We were happy anyway, stopping off at a Cathedral along the way.  I made sure to run every day in Ireland, determined to get back in shape for my 5K races coming up at the end of the month.  When we made our way to Killarney, the highlight was a Dingle Peninsula tour where we stopped to HOLD BABY LAMBS!

I’m obsessed with sheep, so this was a dream come true.  The car broke down another day, and that led to a series of adventures but we ended the trip in Malahide on my mother’s birthday.  I arranged for our friend Mary Bridget to surprise my mother at the restaurant.  We met Mary Bridget at a hotel in Lake Como Italy, and we have been great friends ever since.  I wrote about her here:

Image may contain: ocean and indoorI returned from Ireland, and continued running almost every day — yet I didn’t stretch after a 5K, and did Irish dance on that tight hip and then tried running on it a day later.  My knee gave out massively, and I had to get an MRI.  I tore my meniscus in two spots, damage to the patella cartilage and several other injuries.  The doctor thought I might need surgery, and I imagined this summer adventure in a straight leg brace — how could I ride the scooter with that?  While I limped around work, I fretted over my summer and couldn’t imagine walking and running again.  I got the news that I wouldn’t need surgery, and on May 26, the doctor said, you should be feeling 90% in 4 weeks, and when you feel 90% you can try running.

By June 26, I didn’t feel as much pain anymore, and by the beginning of July I was able to get more aggressive again for my workouts. I actually discovered Barre which has been really intense while also being therapeutic.  I am now able to run for trains and jog through airports and other required travel running.  I hiked up to my airbnb from the sea, and with the fresh air, fresher food, and lifestyle I am feeling like myself again finally.

In addition to swimming and scooting around, I watched several world cup games over Aperol Spritz, and England vs Croatia when I popped over to Kent to see Jessica and her husband with their new baby boy!  Zia Kristin was so excited to meet him!  I returned home and got a swanky haircut in Monaco after several expensive salons butchered my hair – I like classic not trendy, Kate Middleton – not Vogue.  I had a bit of adventure getting back, watched France win the world cup, beaches, naps, writing, reading, Italian netflix, and Dad came to visit straight from Germany.  We drove to Alassio today for a glorious beach day and now I am updated on the blog, recharged in spirit, and excited for the new adventures yet to be written.

 

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These trips aren’t just luxuries; they are necessary healing retreats where I can be me.  The only thing that makes me sad is trying “hold on to these moments as they pass.”

I may be thinking of them in a Long December, but there will be more travel magic ahead.

 

 

 

 

 

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