My Life as Carmen Sandiego, Volume Tres: Italy, the French Riviera, and Spain

The Destinations:
Dublin, Holyhead, North Wales, Stratford, London, Holland, Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, Versailles, Burgundy, Lucerne, Florence, Pisa, French Riviera, Nice, Barcelona

I’m running out of creative juice, so for this post I’m going to keep it short, sweet, and let the pictures and video express my joy in the last three countries. Or not? When I write, I write. When I block, I hit a wall, leaning towers because I slam with such vigor. Let me try to avoid walls and buildings here. Let me grab a parachute and bypass it all. Let me fly, flutter, fall into an ocean like rain, or a pebble from a seagull’s mouth. Let me swim, struggle, gain pain underfoot.

On our way to Florence, now over halfway done with a 25-day Euro-trek, we stop in Pisa to visit the leaning tower that made it famous, to see its associated duomo (meaning cathedral), then to listen to the acoustics in the Baptistery of St. John. My sunburn now fading, but still a shade of definitely-not-white, I fall asleep on the bus to Florence (because I sleep everywhere) and wake to traffic, then the smell of old water and urine. From our hotel we can walk to Florence, so we do, and find ourselves surrounded by sculpture, religion, genitalia. But before we get to the latter, I feel myself about to cry again—this duomo is so beautiful in pink and green marble that I go quiet.

The Gates of Paradise.

Adam and Eve depicted in bronze.
More silence.

We are then guided around the city, shown the pig market and the love locks (similar to Paris), the squares and nude statues, until our end: a leather shop where we receive a very brief demonstration of leather box-making, care, coloration, and identification of real-deal animal hide.

I buy some things in the pig market. I go see the statue of David in the gallery of the Accademia di Belle Arti, his beautiful marble tush exposed (faint). I drink. I dance. At one point I even cry…a lot (I am truly an emotional girl if you couldn’t tell)*. I ask about my grandmother’s last name. I find out it is a type of tree, the last name itself uncommon. I eat gnocchi (pronounced knee-oh-key) and pizza and gelato.

Street art in Florence; not sure who the one on the right is of (smile looks SO familiar)**

On the way to Nice we stop in Cinque Terre, one of those gorgeous places you’re supposed to “see before you die.” And yes, it was gorgeous. I jump in the teal, teal blue ocean. I fall in love with the unreal beauty of it, the Disney hotel-esqueness of it all. I want to go back. I want to stick my toes in the water while I swing them off a dock, to eat pesto pizza on the street, to climb miniature alley-ways and reach the top only to look across at more water, buildings in pinks and yellows and blues that match the ocean. The ocean, these buildings, they are lovers.

A photographic sample of Cinque Terre

If a city could be a lover, Nice was mine; he wrapped his arms around me, warm and safe and whispering bon jour, baby as I walked through markets, munched on blackberries while I window-shopped, ate crepes both savory and sweet. He gave me flowers made of gelato. He ran his hands through my hair in the form of wind; he pushed waves to a shore made of smooth stones. It is in Nice I bought the hat I had been searching for. It is in Nice that I parasailed, my arms clamping to my harness like oysters.

Berries at the market in Nice

Rachel and me pretending to be clouds

In Barcelona, I fall apart. A momentary break in sanity, I give up on making friends with representations of what I’d left behind. My initial feelings of these people melt, they appear as Gaudi’s buildings do, twisted like waves. I cannot deal with this, I say. So I stay with the people who make me smile. I enjoy the rest of my trip. I see La Sagrada Familia. I walk through a park with buildings made of stone. I eat tapas near the Plaza del Sol. I drink horchata. I speak Spanish.

La Sagrada Familia

Then I go home. To Boston, to post-grad life, to a future.
To something.
To anything.
To growing up.

* I’ve actually had a lot of things happen in a short span.
**In case you believed I was serious: I was not.

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