May: Bibione

A peculiar funny trip this month. Everybody can recognize himself in what I am writing, I bet.
What about a family trip?
And what about a family trip when adult? Yes, no? Good, bad? If Asked me only 5-10 years ago, the answer would have been totally the opposite.
But in May 2012 the answers were yes and good: welcome to Bibione, little sea center and last town of Region Veneto, famous site for sick and old people due to the thermal area.
Bibione is the perfect destination for a middle class Venetian Family, small and cozy, or better unknown by many.
We have two major topics here on the plate, my friends: one, as mentioned, is the family trip; the other one is the beach holiday during low season. Pretty interesting both, innit.
Funny fact about me: I come from a big family and it’s fortunately like in the best sitcoms on telly: there are always laughters and celebrations and people in somebody else’s house but also lots of mutual respect and affection. Like a bunch of engineering students at the university pub. I repute myself a very lucky gal (also of the fact I don’t have engineers in the family, to be fair).
Said so, I’ve never been educated to family trips, when kid the chance to travel were few and I used to spend Summer with grandparents or just friends or worse just working; since last year I’ve changed my mind because it’s nice to have a moment of pure sharing (and honestly blast) with the big reunited family. And this good vibrations are transferred to the place too.
I am pretty sure Bibione was a bit shocked and rocked by us.

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The crew singing to the waiter: have I mentioned I have a big happy family?

And so, family trip even if you are an adult, why not? It can be the right thing to do to remember the value of family, the feeling of being surrounded by people who love you for real and think that you are awesome just being yourself. People who look into your eyes, listen to you, talk to you and not just speak, and tell you they believe in you. I know it’s not always like that, that’s why I tell myself I am lucky and that I have an excellent ground to build my future family on.

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Young generation coming up to take control soon

About the other topic, beach holiday in Springtime, or in general during low-season I have something totally pro to state: low season holiday are the best possibility to enjoy a place, even a nowhere place like Bibione, and suck its life blood out. The place is empty of people – tourists, the weather is never too extreme, the silence gives you space to think and listening to the music on an empty beach is deeper than ever.
You breathe, you understand yourself. And you find again motivations to move on and believe that the good is out there, as the sea is showing you on its silent terms.
I think there’s nothing else I can add; the rest, the left difference in my descriptions, will be made by the pictures I took those days.

Watch, and breathe.

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April: Oslo

Few days ago Norway celebrated one year anniversary of the terrorist attack in Oslo and Utoya. It makes me shiver a bit, to write about Oslo, my April trip, right now, because memories come out again. I hope that, if some Norwegians read this post, they can appreciate my comments about this lovely city and its peaceful, proud and independent citizens.

Into the Norwegian Wild

According to my experience the days following Easter break are the best to take advantage of low cost tickets, so I went to visit my older brother, who’s been in Oslo for the past 3 years. He decided to move there after living in Spain and UK, mainly inspired by his great love for nature and by the confidence to find better socio-economic guarantees to build both working and family projects, thanks to Norwegian solid welfare state. “Dream big, move to Scandinavia” One of my favourite thing about Norway and Scandinavia is the idea of Hus, home: a house is/must be coloured and well curated from the outside, spacious and warm in the inside. A house in Oslo, especially outside the city center, are made with love, so that people can feel secure in them.

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A funny detail, well funny for a profane foreign person like me, is an old tendency to make grow grass or trees on the roof, an efficient tradition to protect the house from cold and snow during those long Winters, in the most natural way. I find it an example of how civilized people can respect and get along from mother nature. I wish I could see it in other countries too.

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Stunning, right?

I don’t know if it has ever occurred to you too, but I feel more connected to the city when I visit a place where somebody I am close with lives, as if I somehow understand and belong to that place too. I guess that I have developed a certain empathy for places, due to my travelling passion.

I really like Oslo, its nice city center, its laying on sweet hills, the trams and the isles on the fjord. A good beginning is certainly to visit the official websites, they are so well built and translated in many languages you will be able to find all the information you need. I personally suggest to download online the walking tour around the center, it is really easy and enjoyable to do; additionally, art lovers, Oslo is a city for you! Highly recommended Munch Museet (a must!), Museet for Samtidskunst and Stenersen Museet.

Since I had already walked all around the center I decided to jump into the water! I had an amazing cruise around Oslo Fjord, where I could take lots of beautiful pictures and enjoy the view. The feeling you often have in Norway is to lose perception of the colours green and blue: they are so bright that they seem melted together at the same time and what a better moment to feel it than during a cruise? It was the moment of the trip when I felt like nature was a triumph and I just wanted to be part of it, but in the humblest way.

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Sky, land and see are kissing each others.

Another terrific inspiring place is Vigelandsanlegget in Frogner Park: 212 statues created by artist Vigeland during his whole life as a tribute to human conditions. The interest aspect is that the statues have no title, so everything is open to interpretation. The place is really worth a visit, especially because feelings get along with the nature around.

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This statue was totally me

I am going to end this post describing the joy of being in a city with someone who’s actually living there: easy way to find alternative things to do and see. Thanks to the brother, accredited expert in wine and beer, I enjoyed a beer tasting in a pub with its own brewery “Oslo Mikrobryggeri”. Priceless moments.

Last but not least: please do hang out in Grünerløkka, a very young and lively area: to visit at every time of the day. And how could I forget? Aker Brygge is a very beautiful new area in the harbour, ideal place for shopping and food during the day, with real unique buildings, my favourite place in town indeed.

See you soon BrOslo.

For information:

http://www.visitnorway.com/en/ 

http://www.visitoslo.com/en/

March: Leipzig

This I am going to describe is a typology of travel occurring quite often: occasional trips.
Take a boring week at the office, a long and slow flow of the time, a desire of Springtime and a free weekend.
The result for me was Leipzig.

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I’m currently spending this lively existence in Germany, as I might have already said (have I?), and there are two cheap ways when you want to travel across it: one is the Wochenende Karte, a cumulative ticket (up to 5 people) to travel to any destination by regional trains for the price of 40-45 Euro; the other one is the a service called “Mitfahrgelegenheit”, car and train pooling, a super good idea to optimise time and spare money by sharing the mean of transport with strangers. I managed in few hours to find company and rides to visit Leipzig, yeah my March trip could start.

From a city to another one, Germany offers the view of green and yellow fields, rivers and gigantic wind turbines. From time to time small “dorf”s, aka villages.
Leipzig’s main train station,Hauptbahnhof, has a direct and quick access to the city center, I like that.
The first thing I noticed was how streets were empty but clean on Sunday morning, I like that too.
See, a bad aspect about having an occasional trip is that, basically, you don’t organize where to go and see, so you are quite ignorant about what’s in front of you, despite the fact you had a quick read on the internet; looking at the bright side of the road, the good aspect is that you’re open to anything the city lets you discover, and making so, you are easily impressed.
Well, map on a hand I found out that as internet proclaims, Leipzig is a true beauty, so historically rich and compelling, thanks to its value for music and literature. Bach Statue in front of St Thomas’s Church put a huge smile upon my face, I felt so happy to touch him and say a silent thank you. Also Goethe memorial is in an amazing location. To see.

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Guten Tag Herr Goethe.

 Goethe’s Faust stated that Leipzig was “the Paris of the East”: unfortunately I couldn’t see if it’s true in a cold Sunday of March but from what I saw it is a quiet but culturally active German city. A paradigm to state this can be the accuracy gave to music through statues, theaters and the Opera. Beautiful match.

A wonderful building is the Town Hall, a massive colossus of stones, middle ages souvenir of a castle maybe, and speaking of that also stunning it’s the market square, where you can still feel how pulsating must have been back in the good ol’ dark times. One little detail that made me laugh for some minutes (being completely honest w/ you…I dragged the joke the entire day) was the name of the street:

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Ring? King?

 I know, it’s totally normal for Deutschland, but please think of it in English as I did…quite funny indeed. 

Outside the Rathaus there is a beautiful park, Johannapark, I really suggest to visit: it has lakes, sweet low hills and lovely saison fields of flower. at the end of the park you get to the urban river, where it’s really enjoyable to hang out in the afternoon.

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A remarkable place that I suggest is Panorama Tower, at the university: at the top there’s a restaurant where you can have Sunday brunch while enjoying the view outside. What better than having cappuccino and cake “high-flying”?

In the end, despite the fact I visited for just few hours, Leipzig is worthy of a trip, if you want to allow yourself a little nice Sunday.

February: Veneto

First thing that hit me getting off the plane in Verona is the synesthesia between the brightness of the sky and the strong smell of manure.


Around me the countryside, at the end of the horizon the mountains: welcome to Veneto.

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Val Leogra, Alto Vicentino, Veneto

This word, Veneto, this Region remind me intimate feelings, most of the time battling on: love for my family, boredom, enthusiasm for seeing old friendly faces and places, annoyance, impatience. I am pretty sure that the curse for every person who has decided not to settle down where family is, instead, to move away from the place of origin is that every time you go back you feel again a teenager, and with it a nervous tension that makes you think:
a) “Nothing much changes here, people especially”
b) “I can’t resist staying here anymore than a fistful of days “
c) “How much do I still belong here?”
I think every expat has experienced that.

Along the years I’ve come to an answer for the last burning-in-me question in point c: I do belong to Veneto for the good vibrations that its rich green nature and the smile of people give me, nothing more, so that dramas, a strict sense of belonging and Italian bad behaviours can stay out of my mind, no regrets.
I know, I am not making justice this time describing this wonderful and different every mile land in North Italy: as I say feelings come stronger and lead me.
The region is humid, especially in San Vito di Leguzzano area, where most of my “tribe” is; the cold of February goes straight into the bones, making you shiver all day. A good shelter is the bar, center of every social activity with the main square, where you can sip a lovely not-bloody-expensive-as-abroad cappuccino, have a croissant or tramezzino (the food of the Gods, indeed) and then, while reading the sport or local newspaper and chatting with fellas, it’s time for the aperitivo.

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Baricentro, lovely bar in San Vito di Leguzzano states “We give credit only to 90 years old people if accompanied by parents”

 

Aperitivo is the excuse number 1 in Veneto not to go straight home after work or to catch up with friends or just the best way to skip dinner!
The most typical and beloved drink in the region is spritz: white wine (Prosecco to be more elegant, either richer), a bit of sparkling water, Aperol or Campari (there are actual differenr political parties/religions about that), everything served with crisps, tramezzini or crunchy toasted bread with sauces, BOOM! The best part of the day, the most genuine character can start and so chats, banters, “I take this. No no no, let me pay this time” discussions and laughters.
Being part of Veneto means that the more you work, the more you celebrate after. Sometimes so much you miss the Sunday ceremony due to hangover. Sorry priest.
Catholicism in the surface, family lunch, devotion for the nature and mountains, passion for food and alcohol, confidence of “same places, people, talks”: this is what I see in Veneto.
Moreover, the main square with a church, a bar or two, the supermarket; and more playgrounds where youngsters meet, old crumbling houses, old people looking outside the window, smell of freshly baked bread.

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Vicenza, my main city.

A great taste in clothes and good looking people conclude the painting.
Do you like this image? Take it or leave it. Or, as I do, take it a weekend, then leave. It can be painful, especially if you leave behind something like this…

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Janis

If interested: http://www.veneto.to/home

January: Hamburg

Let’s face it: the idea of visiting Hamburg in January is a bit cheeky and reckless.
But it was for a good cause: a meet-me-at-halfway weekend.
As part of my 2012 resolution I’ve asked myself to travel more, at least once per month around Europe, and to try to improve my working and social life ( still in progress, but I do see potential).
Oh, I’ve also asked myself to follow my heart.
So that’s the reference frame that brought me a frozen Friday night to Hamburg.

Two days are not enough to visit and enjoy a city, but quite enough to bite its personality, especially if, like Hamburg, it’s a Northern city in Winter: grey, hostile, suggestive.
Like Berlin, it is mostly reconstructed: from a big fire first, from the bombs during War after. I could feel how the city is now structured in many cubes-palaces along the city center. But it’s a city that keeps alive the pride of have being a resilient independent trade center: warehouses are immense and everywhere. Red bricks. Red bricks. Red bricks and ice that January.

                                       Photo courtesy of Mr. M. Moon – Summer 2010

The District along the canals and the harbour is fascinating, especially on a cold Saturday morning, because you can see the extension of those buildings and imagine how only one hundred years ago they were full of goods, ready to be dispatched across Germany and more. I recommend to visit “Warehouse District Coffee Roasters” because it’s a nice, warm, a bit touristy but crowded by citizens too, cafe’-patisserie where you can enjoy a drink or buy the coffee beans they import and roast directly there. And the place smells damn good too.

Not far away from the Warehouse district there is the modern neighbour of HafenCity, that with the snow and ice around us, maybe especially because of it, reminded me of a Scandinavian district, where every house is a high quality unique piece of design more than architecture. It’s a fascinating place, especially if you take a walk along the river in a misty fog. The silence there can be unbearable, same feeling I sometimes experience in Scandinavia.

                                       Harbour – HafenCity, a view by D. C. D. E.

I highly suggest to walk along the harbour on Sunday, meeting for every average family there, and breath the festive atmosphere. The path I walked was completely iced (mysteriously slippery where you thought it was safe) but it’s nice to see all those different boats hit and go the surface, the shops where there are take away food and postcard that shows a sunny summery Hamburg. Not far away there’s the fish market, that on Sunday early morning becomes the most hipster place in town, so trendy I barely listen to the clock alarm and stayed in bed to sleep. Sorry, my bad, next time I will head there, promise.

I might say I enjoyed that weekend, bar the bloody cold spitting-snow weather. Yes in Summer it would be maybe more enjoyable, but events are the protagonists of our days and we suck the best from them. At least, we try to.

                                       Hamburg, a view by D. C. D. E.


The city itself is honest with you
: it can give an idea of a German city, with a district for nightlife full of clubs and legal prostitution, a district with a remake of the golden ages, a modern area, a commercial one (strictly closed in the evening and Sundays) and a charismatic Football Stadium. I went to watch St. Pauli, the underdog ( reputed by every supporters across the globe) football team: if you like football, go there, to experience the family experience pack, where there are lots of kids screaming for the team and the food is tasty.

YES! A holy communion of goods made by the spirit of football. Amen. Auf geht’s.

Citizen of my World

My mind, my broad imagination have always travelled, even before I physically started doing it.
I am a classic example of daydreamer, with the peculiar exception that I can produce vivid, almost real thoughts. The attention for details should be awarded.
I don’t think it’s craziness, a privilege instead. In fact, growing up, I had the chance to travel with my imagination thanks to the tv or pictures, or even walking to school and staring at that gigantic tree next to the church, Lebanon I had been told. Click, trip started: hot dry weather, a burning bright, smell of spices and I, gracefully dressed in silk. No doubts, we are always prettier in dreams!
Richer times came and so real travels.
From the first cheeky funny up-all-night Summer holidays with my friends, to the first holiday as a couple with former lovers, to finally the trips alone. I am trying to experience the world, living it in order to get inspiration. I haven’t been to many places yet, I am always a poor do-it-by-yourself person, but those I visited I always enjoyed and watched with a curious, getting-rid-of-cliches point of view, as much as possible.
I have some spare time next months and am going to write about my trips in Europe along 2012, with some pics I took. My target was “One European trip every month”, courtesy of low cost flights.
Enjoy.

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My background picture is an installation/artwork I saw in Lyon, Biennale d’Art Contemporain, last November.