Picture Postcard: Autumn in Montréal

It was an all too quick trip work trip. Conference sessions quickly filled up my days keeping me inside the hotel. But late one afternoon, I ventured out and stepped into the brisk sunshine. A few blocks from the hotel, I climbed aboard a city tour for a quick jaunt around the majestic city.  Ablaze in autumn splendor, Montréal dazzled and delighted, leaving me wishing for more time to spend in this the largest French speaking city in the world. C’est magnifique.

 

10 Fun Facts about Sorrento

  1. As you travel to Sorrento to savor this Italian paradise by the sea, you’ll become part of a tradition dating back more than 2,000 years.IMG_1773
  2. You’ll be in good company as the Greeks, Romans, and Italians have all woven their history into sun drenched Sorrento.

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    Locals dance the Tarantella

  3. Legend has it that Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus’ villa was located on the same spot as today’s regal Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria. 
  4. Lemons in Sorrento are considered the best in the world thanks to the mineral rich volcanic soil compliments of Mount Vesuvius. You’ll find them throughout the town filling the air with the sweet smell of citrus and delighting locals and vistors alike.
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    Sorrento is the home of Limoncello

    Fruit Markets of Sorrento

    Fresh fruit markets with lemons of all sizes

  5. The cliffs of Sorrento will take your breath away. In ancient times, the Greeks and Romans built a protective wall around the city. Over the centuries the walls became higher and higher creating magnificent views.
  6. Nestled on the Sorrentine Peninsula, Sorrento is perfectly situated to provide spectacular views from every direction including the Bay of Naples, Mount Vesuvius, and the Isle of Capri.

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    Capri

  7. You’ve got it made in the shade in Sorrento. The ancient Greeks designed the narrow streets of Sorrento and intentionally positioned them to shade pedestrians from the sun. You’ll be glad they did as this walkable city is best enjoyed on foot.

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    The narrow streets of Sorrento

  8. Location, location, location. With Sorrento as your home base you are within thirty minutes of Pompeii, Capri, and Positano.
  9. As you travel south from Sorrento you’ll experience one of the world’s greatest drives. The Amalfi Coast sits 500 feet above the Mediterranean Sea and promises to remind you to enjoy the journey.
  10. There’s a song about Sorrento and how this sweetly sun-drenched city will beckon you to return. It seems as if everyone wanted to sing about Sorrento, including Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Elvis, Bocelli and Pavarotti. Visit Sorrento, and there’s a good chance you too may soon be singing about your “Return to Sorrento.”
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    Sunset in Sorrento

    Click here for more information about how you can join me and study in Sorrento this summer.

Vistas and Viewpoints

I have traveled to places that stay with me for all the wrong reasons. Places that haunt my thoughts with a physical weight of sadness palpable in the air all around. To walk Gettysburg, Antietam, and the Alamo, is to experience tragically beautiful places, steeped in the blood of American history. I used to take comfort in the decades that separated us from our collective past. I used to believe we were wiser and more enlightened basking in the peace of our nation.

A few months ago, I visited a place that I knew would be difficult for me. There was a good chance the mountain pass would not be open and the Alpine snow, even in middle of May, would prevent our group from visiting. Secretly, I was hoping we would not go. The weather cleared, the skies opened into a bright blue, and despite the snow on the ground, the group was cleared to go to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest.

As I walked through the 406 foot underground tunnel, designed for Hitler’s car, I caught myself holding my breath. I touched nothing, but looked at the perfectly laid brick work and wondered about the 3,000 men that completed this entire project over the course of 13 months. With the mountain snow trickling ever so quietly, the group took a quick turn to the right, and into a massive golden elevator. Expansive by designed, the elevator was engineered to hold Hitler’s car and transport him to the top of the mountain.

The 400 foot ride up the center of the mountain was quiet, smooth, and a quick. Still to this day, the engineering is considered a masterpiece (and one of the reasons the property was not razed). As I listened to the tour and details of the place, I was drawn to photographs on the wall. I wanted the people to look like monsters or at least as odd as Hitler. Yet, they didn’t. They were disturbingly young, well dressed, and happy.

Finally, I made my way outside, now 6,000 feet above on a summit facing the Alps of Austria and Germany. I needed to fill my lungs with clean air and a minute to myself. As I looked around, none of it made sense. This was one of the most spectacular natural vistas I had ever seen. The views were striking, breathtaking, and pristine. How in the face of such natural majesty could man’s inhumanity continue, proliferate, and manifest into such violence and evil?

The events of the last few weeks have my thoughts returning to my visit to the Eagle’s Nest. There are many things I do not understand. What I do know is that hate, the visible and visceral manifestations demonstrated this week along with unseen subtle and stayed discrimination have no place in our society.

I know throughout history, diversity remains a strength for a community and religious freedom a hallmark of civilized societies. I know there are many lessons to learn from the past. Lessons steeped so deeply in pain, it becomes difficult to revisit and yet necessary to do so. Cicero the great Roman Orator and Philosopher explained, “To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child. For what is the worth of human life, unless it is woven into the life of our ancestors by the records of history?” Let the record of history be clear, that we the people of this time and place know the worth of the lives lost before us and value the dignity and humanity of all. There are some lessons we must never repeat.

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Hauntingly Beautiful

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Catching my breath

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Valleys  from the Eagle’s Nest

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Snow capped Alps

Fireplace inside Eagle's Nest

A Gift from Mussolini

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The view from inside Eagle’s Nest

Summer Solace

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved to travel.

As a small child, one of my favorite possessions was my suitcase. Delightfully adorned with lavender and blue hydrangeas in a seventies style tapestry, the single handle suitcase, held a place of honor in my childhood. When it wasn’t in use, I kept the suitcase by my bedroom door, in plain sight. I remember wistfully staring at it, dreaming of the places I would carry my suitcase and willing the adventures yet to come.

For more than a decade and a half I have been traveling with students, leading study abroad programs throughout the UK and Europe. I believe travel is essential for education, necessary for understanding, and good for the soul. Mark Twain explained beautifully that, “Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all of one’s lifetime.” I see his words ringing true each and every time I take a group of college students abroad. Their worlds change, history confronts them face to face, art overwhelms them, and modern day headlines and the ravages of war walk by them on the street.

University life is great work, meaningful, rewarding, and when done properly exhausting. At the end of my study abroad trips, I return to the same thought. I need some time to myself. To explore and to sit still. To think deeply and to wonder aimlessly. To return to old favorites and to find new adventures. And so nearly a year ago, I set to work planning my sojourn sans my students. In late Spring of this year, after completing my annual study abroad , I returned to Italy and settled in for a more authentic experience in a Venetian neighborhood know as Castello.

At times family and friends joined in the fun and at other times I travelled by myself. Along the way, I collected hundreds of photographs, drank the best coffee, wine, and prosecco of my life, and learned a great deal in the process. Now that I am back in Florida, and unpacking my bags, I’m ready to share my adventures with you. With Venice as my home base, join me as I travel both north and south, east and west to some of the most beautiful places on our planet.

Dear Venezia

Dear Venezia,

For many years, daydreams of you and your floating water colored castles sustained me, transported me, and carried me away. Still photographs frozen in time and artists’ renditions of you danced in my head, breathing life, and possibilities into my soul. You dear Venezia, delivered a much needed imaginary escape during a series of difficult and tragic times in my life.

Love at first sight

The poets echoing refrain and artists’ masterpieces made me love you, long before we met. For decades you graced my hallway, my desk, and my office, waiting for me to see you again. I heard you calling my name, but was too tired, too heartbroken to answer. Yet, you persisted. You remained in my every day, watching and waiting, decorating the backdrop of my life. And when death came to call a second time, leaving me standing yet again over a gloomy windswept grave, you waited no more. You came for me, rushing in, redirecting my plans, and willing me to your verdant marshes.

As the chimes ring and the pilot speaks I wake to see you from the air above. Still woozy with sleep, I stare silently in disbelief, at your verdantly green islands stretched beneath me. I fear my daydreams may be too lofty to sustain the weight of my expectations. Yet, the thought of you overwhelms my senses. I am equal parts excited and anxious. Curious questions cloud my thoughts.

With a mix of adrenaline and sea midst coursing through my veins, I taste the salt water spray on my lips as I travel from the east barrier island, the Lido. At long last, I make my way to you. Much like a bleary eyed child awakening on Christmas morn, I am astonished as I finally see you. I stare, scarcely breathing. In front of me, a kaleidoscope of improbable possibilities.  Technicolored moments long admired from across the Atlantic float majestically before me in sea of hypnotic Adriatic blue. Euphoria washes over me as my heart rate quickens. In this moment, I too am floating outside of myself, a soul set free leaving the terra firma in my wake.

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Parting is such sweet sorrow

Lessons in La Dolce Vita

During the Summer of 2016 I lead a group of Jacksonville University students on The Grand Tour of Italy. Following the trip, several of the students were so inspired  they continue to work with me through the fall semester, producing a video illustrating the lessons they learned on the journey. Their stunningly beautiful video and personal stories are featured here for you to enjoy.

The Colors of My Soul

To say Italia left me inspired this summer, does not begin to describe what happened. Here’s my take on a quote by Emperor Marcus Aurelius, the last of the five good Emperors.

“The soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts” as Marcus Aurelius said,

I shall make mine red with the poppies of Roma,

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terra cotta from the rooftops of Firenze ,

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lemon scented yellow from Capri

 

Capri

Capri

and float in a sea of Venezia blue.

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My Blue Heaven

Shrine on

Shrine on

I’ve spent my entire life surrounded by water. The grand lady of them all, the Chesapeake Bay is the first body of water I’ve ever loved. She’s captured legendary explorers that have written far more eloquently than I about her beauty, wealth, and substance. To treasure the Chesapeake is a birth right of sorts coursing throughout the veins of the children of the fair state of Maryland. And for those like me, scattered throughout the world, the Chesapeake remains the measure of maritime beauty. Ask any Marylander, and I am confident they can wax poetically about the bay, summer days of their childhood shuffling through the mucky water, waiting impatiently on a splintered wooden dock for a sign of life in a rusty old crab trap. I am certain one of the reasons I love living in northeast Florida is because of the two great bodies of water, the Atlantic Ocean and the St. Johns River, that encircle my everyday. Yet, it the Chesapeake who will forever hold a special place in my heart.

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But now, I must confess, I have a new love. He is unlike anything I have ever seen before. With a rocky coastline and a white washed façade, this Greek is an epically stunning beauty. In all fairness, I have experienced bodies of water that have brought me great joy. Childhood summers in the fierce surf of the Atlantic Ocean venturing into the swift and dangerous undertow of Rehoboth Beach, the pale salty turquoise of the Gulf of Mexico as an overly confident bikini clad co-ed, the powerful, cold, and daunting Pacific Ocean while traveling on a motorcycle through the hills of Santa Barbara. And while it has happened in the past, I wasn’t prepared this.

Mykonos Blue

Mykonos Blue

He is different. And I did not expect to fall so suddenly for this diminutive little Greek. Just the sound of his name, Mykonos brings a smile to my lips. I am defenseless against his beauty. His body of water is the bluest blue I have every seen. Somewhere between midnight and cobalt with a glimmer of  sapphire, he reigns supreme. Yet he remains completely transparent, refracting sunlight as hypnotically as a stained glass window. This hue, Mykonos Blue, as I’ve come to call it, is mesmerizing and making it nearly  impossible to turn away.

Stairway to heaven. Close enough it's Mykonos, Greece.

Stairway to heaven. Close enough it’s Mykonos, Greece.

I know I am not the first to fall for this charmer. The entire city is designed to enhance his beauty. The white washed buildings stand in simple contrast to his regal blue elegance. The turquoise trim on the shutters and railings throughout the town emphasize his brilliantly deep dark shade. And while Ulysses had his Sirens beckoning him back, I suspect it will be Mykonos that calls my name to return yet again and again.