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Going Across a Border

I’ve left France only to come back again. You would think that in my first year living in France that I would celebrate my 36th birthday in full French flare with some exotic cheese that I can’t pronounce, an exclusive bottle of Champaign and the best crème brûlée But I didn’t. I chose instead to be around loud people, marble objects and pizza.  Go figure.

Ventimiglia's Train Station

Ventimiglia's Train Station

I have just gotten back from a northern Italian excursion (also explaining my brief absence from the blog).  One of my closest friends arriving from New York City last week motivated me in taking my first true vacation.  Being in this corner of Europe, you have a lot at your finger tips.  We chose to go across the border into Italy, familiar ground for me but brand new territory for my buddy.  We drove across into Italy to the first major town, Ventimiglia, and caught the train to explore three major Italian cities.  Overall the trip was fantastic.  An excellent choice to spend my birthday enriched in a foreign culture.  I won’t bore you with the tedious details but here is a brief summary of each:

  1. Milan – Our first stop was a major metropolitan hub of Italy.  You had people everywhere and streets lined with the most exclusive names in fashion.  Of course it was mostly window shopping for us.  Milan brought back memories for me as one of my older brothers lived in this city for two years.  I enjoyed seeing all the medley of trolley cars screeching across the streets similar to that of San Francisco.  The Duomo was still majestic as this cathedral took over 400 years to build will all its spirals and statues.  We voted the pizza we ate here to be the best of our journey.  We stayed one brief night here.
  2. Venice – Next we experienced one of the top tourist destinations in the world and now we see why.  Venice is a city that is like none other.  The little streets that are only made for pedestrians lined with several points to waste money or to invest.  We went with the latter and found some nice shoes.  The town was still hustling with tourists and we couldn’t image being there in the heat of July or living there having to deal with tourists day in, day out.  Even though this time was number 3 for me, San Marco Piazza is still an architectural gem.  The weather was absolutely fantastic with the sun shining but still cool enough for a jacket.  Even though we stayed one night, we covered a lot of territory.
  3. Florence – This city was our highlight of the trip and where we stayed the longest.  A true feel for an authentic Italian city.  You had an active modern city taking care of business under the shadows of a past empire.  Florence was a major player in the world of commerce back during the Renaissance allowing it to invest in the greatest artists of that era.  You see the influence everywhere you go.  A proud city holding the funerary monuments of Michelangelo, Brunelleschi , Galileo and Dante and their profound objets d’arts.  As a consequence to its wealth, it also attracted several political conflicts including its version of separation of church and state.  My friend’s childhood desire did finally come true, to see the famous David in the flesh.

Of course we had some excellent pasta dishes and pizza and some not so excellent ones.  We explored a bit of the night life and came back with heavier suitcases than when we started.  The journey ended in true Italian style, a delayed train ride.  We got back to my place a little before 1:00 in the morning and my friend had to be at the airport in a short 5 hours to check-in for his flight back to the States.

Reflection & Affirmation

Reflection & Affirmation

As much as the Italian sites were an inspiration of human development, I had my own personal affirmation during this trip.  My thoughts were solidified when we were driving back from Italy and we crossed the frontier and saw the big sign ‘France’.  I could finally read out loud the road signs with near perfection.  I could finally use my cell phone.  I could finally sleep in a bed that was familiar to me.  I could finally exhale.  I could finally say, I’m home.  It isn’t a scary, uncomfortable or prideful statement.  It is an affirmation that a change has occurred, a decision has been made and one is ready to face the consequences.

This experience takes me back to my days of choosing a college.  I was fortunate enough to be able to visit several of the colleges I was considering.  You walked along campus and you have your internal gauge of whether this place was right for you or not.  As I walked through the streets of Italy, I felt it wasn’t a location I would want to live but a definite joy to visit.  It is that gut feeling that you have whether or not it is right for you.  I could dwell on metaphysical details that lead me to such a decision: the loudness of the Italian people, Italy is slightly behind on the cyberspace landscape, the presence of everything being under construction, the cash society and sluggish diversity trends.  Yet I feel it is more about an inner peace/decision.  An exhale.  I am living in France; I am visiting Italy.

So what’s next? Back to the grind.  My next French bureaucratic goal is to exchange my Pennsylvania driver’s license to a French one!  (shivers) Stay tuned.

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