Marathon training was going great. I was scheduled for 13 miles on July 20. It was hot as balls that day but I was stoked and ready to run, especially with my new fuel belt. About 2 miles in, the … Continue reading
Tuesday June 9th – Civita Di Bagnoregio
Before I delve into the beauty and enchantment of this town I must tell you about the night prior. So on my way back from the funicular to my apartment I had this inkling that I should stop at my now favorite spot to grab a glass of my now favorite wine – Oriveto Classico. I ended up chatting with some girls next to me that were straight up Opera singers traveling through Italy and performing. I’m sorry, what? Talk about AMAZING. I was totally enchanted by their stories and where they had been and the politics of stage life. They were so incredibly nice. It’s amazing what happens when you step out of your comfort zone and just say hello.
After the girls departed, I was left sipping my white wine and watching the world pass me by. I decided I wanted to use the internet but for some reason it wasn’t working so I asked the couple next to me. Conveniently they spoke English. It turns out that they are from Canada and spend 6 months out of the year in Orvieto (they are both retired). Now when I say that this was the CUTEST couple I have ever seen, I more than 100% mean it. The way they looked at each other, the way they held hands, the way he lovingly held onto the back of her neck, the way they talked to each other. Gosh, I could just feel the love. I told myself, “Someday Kara, you will find that too.”
Anyways, we got on the topic of dinner and they suggested this place called Corsi D’Orvieto (I think). Wonderful food, wonderful atmosphere and it was great because it was off the beaten path. I walk in and I am the only one there. To make matters more interesting, they didn’t speak english. When it came down to ordering, I had no idea what to order so the chef, who was no older than 25, came out with broken english and recommended some dishes. And HOT DAMN were they phenomenal! Probably my best meal the entire trip.
Bruschetta with zucchini and tomato and shredded Parmesan as an appetizer and it was absolutely amazing. I ate all of it.
Fettuccine with grappa and some cheese I can’t remember right now. It was equally as delicious and of course with no carb left behind, I ate all of it. I am still baffled at how I never felt full while I was there. Oh and I ordered house red wine which ended up being 3 glasses. Now on top of the two glasses of white wine I had, I was pretty buzzed.
Now being that I was the only person there for most of the dinner (a party of 4 showed up later), I began to attempt to chat with the manager who was about 24 years old. I noticed he kept going to his computer so I walked myself right over and sat myself down right next to him with my glass of wine and for the next half hour (or hour, I lost all track of time), we chatted via Google Translate.
His name is Almir and he is from Skopje, Macedonia. He told me that he is adopted and that he lives just outside of Orvieto with his adoptive parents. I asked where his parents were and this is where I got a bit sad. His father is in prison and he doesn’t know where his mom is. Hearing that made me really sad. I asked him if he liked being in Orvieto. He said that he didn’t because there isn’t much job opportunity here. We chatted briefly about the economic crisis and how bad it truly is. He said there really aren’t any jobs in Italy but his parents own the restaurant so he works there but he doesn’t want to be there. It made me realize just how fortunate I am with my family, my life, my job and my country.
He went on to ask why I would travel alone instead of with friends. Before I left for Italy a friend of mine told me that Italians wont understand why I would travel alone. She was right. I told him that I travel alone simply because I can. He didn’t understand. He asked why I wouldn’t travel with friends. I told him because it’s difficult in life to travel alone as you get older and I can always do that with friends in the future but for me to travel alone now is very spiritual and freeing. He still didn’t really get it and this ties into some emotions that hit me the following day.
Now because I was up pretty late and got pretty drunk, a 7:22 am train to Florence just didn’t happen. So, I went to Civita di Bagnoregio which is a very small town on top of a hill that is getting smaller and smaller because it’s eroding. It won’t be around much longer, so I’m told. It’s funny how everyone says to go to Rome and Florence which again, I will but I’m more interested in the smaller cities and towns in the Tuscan region. There’s more intimacy and more meaning in them.
Here on are excerpts from my journal while I was there…
I have throughly enjoyed my trip so far and I am doing it exactly how I wanted and how I envisioned it would be. Did I want to go to Florence today? Yes. But I also enjoyed last night and that wouldn’t have happened had I not run into Jay and Lance (the couple I met) and had I not chatted with the kid from the restaurant and wouldn’t have happened if I had kept to my plan and gone to bed early so I could get up early and go to Florence. I am grateful for both of those interactions.
But it’s kind of starting to suck being alone. Maybe I should have brought friends. The language barrier is hard. Not knowing where I am going is hard. Stepping outside my comfort zone is hard. It would be so much easier and comfortable with a friend. Isn’t that what this is all about though? My solo Italian journey to, in a sense, find myself. To be uncomfortable, to learn to navigate on my own, to learn about myself, to teach myself to be more social and to be more welcoming of the unknown. My life is so black and white (or at least I try for it to be but fail usually) and thats comfortable. The unknown is scary and going into Italy, there was a lot of unknown on how I would feel, what I would do, where I would be, etc.
I was also kind of of bummed I didn’t make it to Florence. But I guess that’s part of all of this. Living and learning. I did have a lot of fun last night and I wouldn’t take back meeting Lance and Jay and Almir and having that absolutely delectable dinner. But something just feels off and I don’t like it. I’ve been so happy and up this entire trip, so at ease, so peaceful, so just…I don’t even know how to explain it. But now that feeling is gone. Maybe it has to do with the fact that my journey will end soon. I don’t want to leave. But I know that in a few days I will be leaving and who knows when my next Italian journey will take place.
Finally found Civita di Bagnoregio. It took an hour bus ride and a 35 minute walk, partially because we had no idea where we were going. But it is totally worth it. This place is magical. Jasmina was right. Pictures will not do it justice. It is another town on a cliff except these cliffs are deteriorating. Who knows how long it will be here for.
This entire trip I have been going blind. Like I wrote about yesterday, I am learning a lot about myself and how to handle the complete and utter unknown. I would not have been able to do this even a year ago. I would have freaked out constantly. Not saying I haven’t on this trip because I have but I’ve managed to always bring it back together and find out where I am.
I have just sat down to lunch. It’s crazy how infrequently I eat here (I ate at 9 am. It is now nearly 2 pm). I don’t get that hungry for hours. I think part of it has to do with the fact that I am so nervous I lose my appetite, like I was on my way here. Every time I sit down to eat I have some wine.
The house red is beyond delicious. And a heavy pour. Just how I like it. 🙂
Just got my bruschetta. And oh my god. The bread. No words. So fresh and full of flavor. I do not know what the spreads are but they are delicious. I ate them all.
Then came my gnocchi. The sauce. Oh the sauce. So fresh. Homemade. A little bit spicy. Full of flavor. I haven’t had gnocchi this good since the last time I was in Italy 10 years ago.
And to finish is espresso of course!
Civita Di Bangoregio – pictures do it no justice. You have to see this place before it’s gone.
So yeah, thats a cliff right there. You go over those fences, you die. Just to give you an idea of how crazy this place is.
Waiting for the bus….
This has been the biggest adventure of my life. There have been many times I thought I’ve been lost and I just had to go with it, many times I’ve been worrying something bad is going to happen and many times I’ve been absolutely fine. It has really tested my ability to trust myself. I’ve been so scared that I can’t eat, worrying that I will miss a train or miss a bus, especially this one back to Orvieto.
I made it home safely.
Tomorrow I travel to Florence, but not before having a delectable dinner of seafood risotto and CANNOLI!!!!
Monday June 8th – Arezzo
Train station boredom
Today was the first day I had the balls to actually leave Orvieto. I didn’t even want to but I knew I had to step further outside my comfort zone so I ventured down to the train station, bought my ticket through the automated ticket machine, checked the train platform and schedule and suddenly felt like I was finally getting the hang of this traveling through Italy thing. I wanted to try out some Italian AND wanted to make sure I was, in fact, on the right platform so I turned to two women next to me and attempted to ask, in Italian, which platform was to Arezzo. They were American. There goes my attempt. It was actually really nice that they did speak English after having been around mainly Italians for the past few days. Turns out they were both born in Italy but live in Chicago and California. One of the women’s daughter was getting married in Italy. Hello dream of mine! 🙂
We “snuck” into first class, which had air conditioning (heaven) and chatted about Italy and life. They were headed to Montepulciano and asked me if I wanted to go with them. Since I had made the decision to go to Arezzo (and my host said it was a wonderful city), I stuck to the plan and said goodbye once we hit their stop. I was kicking myself shortly after I got off the train for making that decision. I felt COMPLETELY uncomfortable in Arezzo. It was dirty and the people weren’t as friendly and it was a much bigger city than Orvieto. Needless to say I wasn’t ready for it but I stuck it out anyways and explored a little bit of the city.
The only 2 places I actually went into were the archeological museum and the San Domenico church. The church wasn’t extravagant per say but the paintings. Oh my gosh the paintings were AMAZING. Some of them had chipped away over time but the intricacy of them was outstanding. When I enter churches I instantly feel connected. I know it sounds silly but I feel something wonderful in my soul and I love it. How could you not with images like this…
After visiting the church, I walked around for a few hours. Unfortunately I forgot about Siesta and was unable to get inside anything else except the archeological museum. So I walked around a bit and took some photos.
Little cool tidbit…
Life is Beautiful was filmed in this square in 1997
As I was sitting at the train station I began to reflect on my day in Arezzo. The number one thing I realized is that it is IMPERATIVE I learn Italian for next year. They make it seem like everyone knows English. THEY (whoever they are) couldn’t be more wrong. Here are some thoughts that I wrote while waiting for the train.
Even though I started out not liking it, I’m happy I came because I learned what not to do as a tourist and it got me out of my comfort zone. Traveling alone makes it easy to hole up and do what is comfortable. Taking my adventure to Arezzo pushed me way out of my comfort zone to the totally unfamiliar. It was kind of how I felt when I first got to Orvieto but at least I knew someone there (my host) and have met a few more people along the way. Feeling lost is a great way to describe it.
Being alone in Italy has challenged me and taken me so far out of my comfort zone that I have had to and wanted to talk to people so that it feels less lonely and scary. It has, as a result made me less shy. I was hesitant to talk to anyone at first but I am getting better. It has been a great learning experience and now I really have no issue going places alone. Back in the U.S. going to a restaurant alone was something I would NEVER do. Now, however, I LOVE it! (You’ll see why in the upcoming posts.)
It’s funny how much traveling alone tests your confidence. I can have all the confidence in the world in the U.S. but being in a new country alone where very few people speak the language in the areas you are in and every sign is in Italian brings a whole new level of necessary confidence. I really had no expectations, had no idea I would feel so lost and kind of be okay with it, knowing that things would work out. When I arrived in Rome I had a panic attack, questioning why I did this, especially alone. But I guess I just had a subconscious faith that it would all work out. And so far, it has.
That afternoon when I got on the Funicular to head back up to Orvieto, I took a HUGE sigh of relief that I had made it through my first day. About a minute after I got on waiting for it to move, my two new American friends that went to Montepulciano got on! I was hesitant to ask how it was for fear they would tell me amazing, which is exactly what they did. I got a little jealous and felt some regret in not going with them but then I reflected back on my train station reflection and reset my thoughts on the matter. I WAS happy I went to Arezzo alone (but still jealous).
So far, my Italian journey was going exactly as planned…there was no plan and that’s what made it perfect. And just a repost because this is my favorite photo.
July 17-19: Cupid’s Camp ❤ When I say I have never met a more amazing group of people, I am being 100% serious. The passion, the commitment, the excitement that this group brings to the table is unprecedented. I came … Continue reading
Sunday June 7 – Corpus Domini
Today was the day I was supposed to go to Florence but after finding out about the procession that was to take place in Orvieto and the importance and uniqueness to it, I chose to stay and watch. And boy am I glad I did.
“…this day is celebrated the miracle of the Sacramental Bread, the Eucharistic miracle of Bolsena. Tradition has it that in 1263 a Bohemian priest, Peter of Prague, going to Bolsenastopped to celebrate Mass at the altar of St. Cristina. The priest was plagued by doubts. He did not believe possible the transformation of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. During the consecration a miracle occurred: blood gushed from the communion bread.”
I always wondered what the significance of communion was when I attended Catholic School so to learn a little about it and to watch the people of Orvieto come together not only to dress up and participate in the procession but also to watch was really cool. There were thousands of people out and it was just so amazing to continue to see the culture existing in this small city. The locals dress up in these crazy intricate costumes to walk through the narrow, cobblestone streets (in 90 degree weather mind you and for over an hour and a half), representing different areas in the city, different businesses, the hospital, the church, etc. I can only imagine how much of an honor it is to be involved. And plus, my new American friends and I got the best seat in the house. Right outside the Duomo. 🙂
The bottom right in the picture on the right is the Holy Relic. It was so worth standing in the beating sun for an hour and a half to not only see the whole procession but to see the Relic.
Now what we didn’t realize was how difficult it was going to be to get around the city after the procession had passed us. Trying to get to lunch at a restaurant that was right in the middle of the procession was one of the more screaming “we are Americans!” situations than I would have liked. After squeezing ourselves to the walls of the buildings on the narrowest streets you could EVER imagine trying not to get in the way of the procession, we finally made it to the restaurant. I ordered an Italian sandwich that was probably the size of my head. And yes, I ate the whole thing. No food left behind in Italy. No way.
It was nice to chat with these girls who were studying art in Orvieto through Gordon College. They had been there for 4 months and were actually leaving the day I was set to leave. I couldn’t help but be absolutely, insanely jealous that they had spent so much time there. Oddly enough, none of them really picked up the language which was weird to me because by the time I left, I was beginning to pick up on more words and was starting to feel comfortable hearing the language AND trying to speak some myself, but that didn’t go too well. It’s the effort that counts, right????
After lunch I was seriously needing a siesta. All that standing in the sun was exhausting! But seeing how it was such a gorgeous day and I felt the need to move around in order to digest a bit, I decided to go on a walk. I let my instinct guide me and it was well worth it. At this point I had only explored the main part of the city and this one running trail my host recommended. This time, I decided to get “adventurous” and walk down a random road on the other side of town.
On my way down I heard a dog barking and my heart literally stopped for a moment. I am PETRIFIED of getting attacked by dogs. I proceeded cautiously, not knowing what I would do if it charged at me but when I looked to my right, there was this tiny little thing that didn’t seem to want to do much more than bark. I reached the end of the road shortly after and turned to walk back up. As I pass the same house I hear a second dog, see them running, bolting actually, right at me. DEAR GOD I AM GOING TO GET EATEN ALIVE!!!! They ran right at me, sniffed me, decided I was OK and chose to walk with me. It was the cutest thing ever, especially after thinking I was going to get eaten.
Shortly after I returned from my hour and a half walk, which by the way was heaven (everything about this place was and is heaven. That’s the word of the trip in case you haven’t noticed), it started to get slightly suspicious of rain so I bolted home, showered and went out to dinner to the same place as lunch. Sitting alone in the corner of the restaurant, writing, reading and of course drinking my Orvieto Classico, I couldn’t help but feel completely at ease. I felt even BETTER when this came…
OH MY GOD IT WAS HEAVEN!!!!!!! Two slices of classic bruschetta and one with pear and gorgonzola and covered in deliciously fresh olive oil. Holy hell. I could have bathed in the olive oil it was so good. I have never eaten so slowly. I didn’t want it to end. I didn’t want ANYTHING I ate to end. It was so satiating that I didn’t feel a need to eat anything else. I contemplated getting dessert and figured since I hadn’t had a cannoli yet, I may as well get two mini cannoli to go.
It was the ONLY thing I ate there that I almost didn’t want to finish because the shell was soggy but I ate it anyway. 🙂 I am, to say the least, a cannoli SNOB and I should have known better than to get mini cannoli. I made up for it a few nights later.
Shortly after I went to bed full and happy. Another successful day of feeling as though I was in heaven was complete. I couldn’t help but start to think about the number of days left until I had to return to the States. I pushed that thought out of my mind about as fast as it came. Monday was to be the first day I ventured outside of Orvieto. Comfort level was challenged.
Until next time! (I promise it wont be another two weeks before I post again!)
Saturday June 6 – Can’t get enough
This place, OH MAN THIS PLACE. I started to create somewhat of an itinerary thinking I would go to Rome but I just couldnt’t get enough of Orvieto. There was plenty to do here. And the history of the city was just fascinating to me. There was and is a legitimate underground city. Due to the fact that Orvieto is on a cliff and there was no access to water waaaaaay back in the day, wells were built in order to retrieve water from waaaaaaay underground. Now, the wells that were in the underground caves were pretty cool but then I ventured into this one…
Pozzo di San Patrizio
To give you a little bit of an idea if you don’t want to read about it at this website that I borrowed it from: http://www.italyguides.it/en/umbria/orvieto/pozzo-di-san-patrizio
“First, an extraordinary fact about the ancient town of Orvieto is that it did not have a constant supply of fresh water. It was an impressive fortress-city in central Italy built upon a ridge formation. Orvieto’s location on top of a bluff of sheer volcanic rock served as a defensive site and papal refuge in ancient times.”
“Fearing troops might lay siege to the Orvieto, the pope commissioned architect-engineer, Antonio da Sangallo the Younger to build an underground well system. The future Pozzo di San Patrizio would provide Orvieto with an adequate water supply in case the pope could not travel outside its fortress walls to return to Rome.”
“The bold scheme of St. Patrick Well consists of a circular shaft 200 feet deep and 45 feet wide lighted by 72-arched windows cut into the Pozzo di San Patrizio. Two spiral staircases descend from opposing doors of the shaft to access and transport water.”
And HOLY MOLY was it a tiring hike back up because yes, I went to the bottom of the 200 foot well. The two spiral staircases were pretty cool simply because they were completely separate. I couldn’t really grasp the idea then and still can’t now. By the time I climbed back up the spiral staircase I was huffing and puffing and sweating and SERIOUSLY needed something to cool me down. A glass of wine and water later and I am back on to my next underground experience.
The Pozzo della Cava
I visited this cave on my own so that being said, I didn’t really get the full history and explanation especially because it is a much more complex and MUCH cooler cave than the one I visited the day prior. But to be underground and see what they were able to construct without modern day tools is just fascinating to me. Not only here but with the Pozzo di San Patrizio. It makes us all look pretty lazy if you ask me. They adapted to their environment and thrived (and left behind some pretty sick artifacts). Walking around this cave alone was pretty creepy but at the same time I was walking through history. It was on the verge of being spiritual, as if there was a presence there that I could feel with an intensity that cannot be described. You have to experience it to truly understand it.
When I came back up, the little old man that I am assuming was the owner or manager took my hands and walked me to this…
Yeah, that’s the cave below. Pretty badass. Then he told me I was Bellissima which put a little smile on my face. Grazie! 🙂
After all this exploring and my daily run/walk through Orvieto and the surrounding area, I decided to hit up a new spot for my nightly pre-dinner glass of wine at Caffe Costadoro. It had a lovely seating area on a small square just off the Corso and when I sat down with my glass of Orvieto Classico, I was pleasantly surprised with a free hor d’oeuvre and a wink from the rather cute waiter. Now I didn’t want to eat all of it and spoil my dinner but it happened anyways and therefore it became my dinner!
After two mini sandwiches with prosciutto and salami (of course), 3 bruschetta (which by the way, the “ch” is NOT pronounced like “sh”, it’s a “k”. I learned that the way most Americans say it means lady of the night in Italian. Not exactly a good thing when you’re asking for it to eat…) with 3 different spreads that I still do not know what they were, and 2 glasses of white wine, I decided to indulge in gelato from the store that was said to have the best gelato in the region. Boy, was it good but the measly two scoops I was given just weren’t enough so what did I do once I got closer to the main square?
Yup. Two separate gelato purchases within 5 minutes of each other. Heaven. On. Earth. I even splurged a little and got the whipped cream. When in Italy, right?? But to be honest I felt a little guilty, but not full oddly enough, so I decided to go for a walk and this is when I found the most beautiful views I saw my entire trip.
Looking back onto the medieval section of the city
The cliffs were absolutely amazing
Not a sound. No cars. No construction. No people. Just me and peaceful quiet.
And my favorite…
When I picture heaven, this is what it looks like.
Thank God I went for that walk.
Friday June 5 – Exploration of Orvieto!
I woke up at 8:30 am feeling utterly refreshed. When I opened that window/door behind me to welcome the morning air and the views of the garden, I couldn’t help but feel completely relaxed for the first time in what felt like a lifetime. There was no thoughts about anything but relaxation and of course, breakfast. As I recall from the prior time (10 years ago) I was in Europe, breakfast is mainly meat, cheese and bread. If there was ONE thing I was looking forward to on this trip, it was breakfast. The fresh baked bread, the prosciutto and salami that seemed to have the perfect amount of salt, the cheese that with one bite had enough flavor to last me an entire trip and the butter, OH THE BUTTER!!! It tasted like it had just been churned. Spreading a whole packet on my two halves of bread and topping each side with a slice of cheese, prosciutto and salami – and sometimes jam which is weird I know – and then taking my first bite of a European breakfast in 10 years. Heaven. On. Earth.
I got a little greedy and decided to try the yogurt and muesli, which don’t get me wrong were better than anything I have in the US but just didn’t compare to my meat, cheese, butter and bread. The rest of the time was just that. And maybe a croissant or two my last 2 days 🙂
Now that I had been fed, it was time to explore Orvieto!!! I step outside of my B&B and it hits me again. I am in Italy, alone. My Italian journey that was 10 years in the making is finally happening. I am living my dream. As I walk down the cobblestone to the main street I can’t help but think of Eat, Pray, Love and all the magical things that happened, hoping that I would be able to feel some of that magic myself. Walking along the Corso (main street), passed the caffes, restaurants, boutiques, gelato stands….yeah…I just get lost in it all.
I take a right up to the touristy part of Orvieto in search of the tourist information booth so that I could buy my ticket to the, shall we say, attractions of the city. As I get closer to the square, I see a Duomo for the first time in my life. Holy. Shit. Magic hits right there. I stand in awe as I can’t even get the whole thing in my picture frame. I stare at the intricacy of this, this, this…I don’t even know what to call it because it’s way more than a building, more than a church, more than architecture. It’s breathtakingly beautiful. Every structure in America suddenly looked very boring to me.
When I head inside I can’t help but feel at peace, calm and centered as I walk around and stare in awe at the beautiful paintings on the walls, the ceilings, the floor, everywhere! Paintings EVERYWHERE!
I will never look at a church the same way after seeing this.
The next stop on my exploration day 1 was the underground caves. I had about 20 minutes to kill and was feeling pretty hungry since it had been a few hours since breakfast so what do I go do?
Gelato for lunch? YES PLEASE! Chocolate chip, banana and vanilla and I don’t even know what those gummies were but it didn’t matter. They were heaven. Everything was heaven to me. Now being that it was 90 degrees, I scarfed it down pretty quick and headed back towards the meeting place for the caves.
Read more about it here: http://www.orvietounderground.it/index.php/en/orvieto-underground-en/the-discovery
Basically Orvieto is on top of a vast underground cave system. I wasn’t that impressed with the tour because it was very short but I was more fascinated by the fact that the people of Orvieto were able to dig this massive underground cave and tunnel system, with nothing really but large picks and axes. That well on the bottom right was built in that shape so that the workers could shimmy up and down as they dug deeper and deeper until they hit water. The use of the wells was how they were able to supply the city with water as it is built on a cliff. The top left which looks like it could hold wine was actually to raise pigeons for food. Can’t imagine eating a pigeon but to each their own. The upper right was where they made their own olive oil and let me tell you, the olive oil in this region, OH MY GOD I COULD HAVE DRANK IT. 🙂
When we came out of the caves I was in awe, again, at the view that this city has.
Now at this point I was feeling a bit restless so I decided to throw on my running shoes and explore the side of the cliff and into the valley. Normally I listen to music the entire time I run so that I can drown out noise and distract myself from either the pain of running or the monotony but here there was no need for it. The sound of the birds, the sound my shoes with each step as they hit the dirt and rocks, the sound of the breeze against the trees, the sound of the damn sun for all I knew was more than enough reason for me to go sans music. I was in heaven. I found a staircase, ran up it a few times, did some squats, lunges, burpees and push ups and just basked in the 90 degree weather with only a cloud or two in the sky.
Next up was my Siesta. My waterfall shower. My comfy bed. The breeze coming in through the window. A quick journal entry. A quick whatsapp chat to my parents. A quick nap. And then…a pre dinner cappuccino. I toured the Corso looking for the best spot for an afternoon cappuccino while I watched the world go by.
Cappuccino quickly became my favorite thing on the trip, next to breakfast of course. There is something about the milk, full fat mind you, that is just a taste bud teaser. Maybe it is the sweetness or maybe it was the fact that it was mostly coffee and a little bit of milk instead of the other way around like it is in America so it gives you just enough of the good stuff.
As I sat there sipping my cappuccino I couldn’t help but think about the difference in lifestyle between Europeans and Americans. Granted I was on vacation so I had a different perspective but life seems slowed down there and appreciated more. I ate slower, I walked slower, I drank slower, I talked slower, I ran slower :-), I just existed slower.
And I ate this as slow as I possibly could because it was the best pizza I have ever had in my entire life.
I had dinner at a lovely outdoor restaurant called Charlie. The crust is made in house which is fairly common even in America but I SWEAR they put something different in it or leave something out because the dough here doesn’t even compare to the dough there. And the freshness of the ham, the arugula, the cheese. God I don’t even know what kind of cheese was on that thing but it was savory and scrumptious. Bite by bite I would breathe in to get the most flavor imaginable and even then I felt there was more to taste. The house red wine was better than any non house red wine I’ve had in the states and it was about 3 euro. Score. I’ll have two glasses please.
I sat there checking out the map of Orvieto and planning day 2 of my journey. Every day just got better and better and the views, I keep mentioning it, the views were to die for. 🙂
Wednesday June 3 – Here I go
I can’t put into words the number of emotions I was feeling as I finished packing and then took this picture. The main one wasn’t so much an emotion but a reaction. Anxiety and with that anxiety, wanting to puke. Holy shit this is actually happening. I am going to Italy ALONE. The next 10 days would prove to test my ability to deal with the unknown, to go way out of my comfort zone and to be in an area of Italy where not many people spoke English which brought crazy amounts of anxiety especially when I was asking for directions.
I figured I start the trip off right by having some Italian wine at the wine bar in the airport and a nice, healthy dinner. This was the first of many times I would be dining alone over the next 1o days. It’s amazing how awkward it felt then compared to at the end of the trip when it felt completely normal to be alone at dinner because it gave me the chance to either talk to others that were traveling or to write about my experiences.
They say what doesn’t challenge you doesn’t change you. Well this trip challenged me in ways I never even expected. Tears were almost shed but I made it out alive, in fact, better than alive. I am rejuvenated with a whole new prospective on life that I will be blogging about for the next couple days, or weeks depending on how much I choose to divulge about this journey. But I will give you a day by day because I have so many pictures I want to share!
I got SUPER lucky when I got on the plane, getting 3 seats to myself! By the way, if you choose to fly overseas, please please please choose Virgin Atlantic. The attendants are SO nice, they feed you food that is quite delicious by airplane standards, the planes seemed to both be brand new AND the movies are FREE!!! And there are actually legit awesome selections. I didn’t sleep a wink because I was up watching Gone Girl and American Sniper. HIGHLY RECOMMEND! AND they give you a travel bag with socks, a pen, an eye mask, a blanket, a tooth brush and tooth paste.
Thursday June 4 – I have arrived
I arrived in the Rome airport and did exactly what I thought I would do. Freak out. What the hell did I get myself into? Where do I go? Who do I trust? Am I going to get kidnapped?? I knew I had to take two trains to get to Orvieto so I head to the train station and of course the woman hardly spoke english and was talking so fast that my head was spinning in circles. All I knew was that I had a 15 minute connection at Roma Termini. Now I am not sure what the hell I was thinking Roma Termini would look like or how I expected to find my next train but for some reason I wasn’t nervous. But then the train I was on was 7 minutes late, which left me about 5 minutes to find my next train after we had finally exited the train once it got to the station. I started to freak out again. I got off the train and it was just a mad house. Termini is the BIGGEST train station I have ever seen in my life.
Holy shit where do I go? I almost started crying until a young man asked me where I was going. Orvieto!!!! I have 5 minutes! As he brought me to my train, practically running, I couldn’t help but think of the movie Taken. If you haven’t seen it, don’t. If you have, you can understand my hesitation and anxiety. He gets me to my train, I check to make sure nothing was stolen, yell “Grazie!” and hop on my train. (I think he wanted money but there was NO way I was missing that train.) I asked the man I sat next to if he spoke english. Of course not. Orvieto? Si. THANK GOD. I plop down in my seat with a tremendous amount of relief.
At this point I had been up for 33 hours. I was hot, hungry, thirsty and tired. There was no AC on the train and with the windows being open, every time another train passed by within inches of us, there was a BOOM that would blow your ear drums beyond belief. I looked at my watch. 5:30. This train was an hour and a half. Shit. Good thing I didn’t have to pee or I would have been screwed.
We arrived at Orvieto station, I walked outside and looked for the bus to take me to the town. Of course the bus driver doesn’t speak English and wasn’t the right driver for where I was going. We talk at each other in our respective languages and I was picking up words here and there but it was useless. He eventually points me to the Funicular. I pay the 1.30 euro toll and head up to the main town. What now? Where the hell am I? DOES ANYONE SPEAK ENGLISH?!?!?!?! Some nice men at the produce stand told me, in Italian, to walk 1 km up the road and I will find my hotel. Ok. How far is that in miles? Well I know it’s less than a mile and I walk 1 mile to work in the morning so this should be no problem. Wrong. Sweating, making noise, getting stared at, feeling uncomfortable, hearing english. ENGLISH?! AMERICANS?!?!?! THANK GOD.
One of the girls ended up walking me to my hotel. That 1 km walk felt like 5 miles at that point. I dropped off my stuff and headed out onto the town for dinner. At that point I had been up for 35 hours. All I wanted was a shower, food and bed. Food was first. I went to a restaurant called Montanuccis, sat in the garden in the back, ordered a glass of wine, a salad and strawberry ice cream, which by the way actually tasted like real strawberries. I sat back and just took it all in. I was in Italy. Finally. It was finally happening. I had 9 months of attempting to learn Italian, 9 months of anticipation, and 9 months to plan what I was going to do. I didn’t learn Italian and I didn’t really plan what I was going to do. I was going blind into a country I didn’t speak the language and really didn’t know where the hell I was going.
But I did know that it was going to be the best vacation of my life and it started with soaking up this view. Heaven.
I slept for 10 peaceful hours that night and woke up ready to take on Italy!
Until next post…
I did it! I can’t believe I DID IT!!!!!!! I am still in shock today. Nothing about the last 10 weeks was easy, ESPECIALLY the race but it was all worth it. After I picked up my bib on Saturday … Continue reading
I know I’ve said this before but I am going to say it again. I am fucking proud of myself. Ten weeks ago I started running consistently for the first time in over a year in order to train for The Run to Remember. I set a goal of 1:45:00 because that’s what my goal was two years ago and I beat it with a time of 1:42:45. I was running a 10 minute mile for 3 miles when I started out and it, to say the least, hurt. A lot.
Over the last 10 weeks I have had a lot going through my mind ranging from:
Can I actually accomplish this goal? Did I set one that is too lofty? Why am I stressing so much over this one race? I can’t do this. My legs are heavy. Fuck this, I quit.
I CAN do this. My legs are light as a feather. I am speedy. I am strong. I am going to crush this race!!!!
There have been moments of doubt and moments of belief. I reached out to others for help with my training and for mental and emotional support and I can’t thank them enough. I have had not so great runs and great runs. The last three weeks I stepped up my running intensity because I didn’t feel as though I had taught my legs how to run FAST well enough. I pushed my body more than I have in a year and a half. I pushed it to it’s limits and I came out on top. I surprised myself by running a 7:08 min mile and even further surprised myself during that run with an average pace of 7:31 (I slowed down a wee bit). Again, 10 weeks ago that average was 10 minutes.
At one point in time I really started to doubt myself so I reached out to someone who helped me with my race two years ago when I coincidently was also doubting myself. His name is Chris Heuisler. He was a trainer at Equinox then and is now the RunWestin Concierge at the Westin Hotel. He is a kick ass guy and a kick ass runner. I told him about my running and asked him what the quote was about demons and overcoming them. It was a quote that I had attempted to get right in a prior post about my demons coming out to play. This is what he said to me about doubt and he included the quote:
Kara! Great to hear from you and good luck with the race. I think doubt is fine, but it’s how you deal with the doubt that separates the competitors. The line was, “Sometimes the demons get you and sometimes you get the demons. When you race, it’s your opportunity to say “F*ck you, demons. Not today.” So go out there and embrace the fact that the demons of doubt cannot own you for 13.1 miles. Good luck and thanks for reaching out.
This was what I needed. I needed to know that quote inside and out because I kept repeating it to myself two years ago as I was running at the fastest pace I had ever run. Three days before that race we sat down and came up with a game plan that helped to calm my anxiety and prepare me for the best run of my life.
I ran my heart out in that race. And I intend to do it tomorrow because when I finished and beat my goal, I emailed Chris (after I could breathe again) because this is how I felt:
And this was his response:
THAT is how you run.
I want that same feeling. To know that there was nothing more I could have done in training or in the race. For me, that is the greatest feeling in the world. And that is why I have set this goal. I don’t just want to finish, I want to finish strong, to run my race, to kick ass. So I go into tomorrow feeling the strongest I have felt on this whole journey and more than ready to absolutely fucking crush it.