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Abroad: Vol I

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Abroad: Vol I - Page Text Content

BC: a drelevonne production

FC: ABROAD | Volume I

1: Volume I: Through Europe ( The Netherlands, Czech Republic, Italy, Spain, France ) 2013

2: Maybe being older and having the opportunity to experience Europe in this way gives you a better sense of appreciation; I sometimes felt myself near tears and thanking God for the chance to just sit in a place beyond words.

3: From me, to me and you... I cannot remember when my love for travel began...whether it was in 1988 when my mother first started working for Delta or in 2002 when I paid for my first trip as an adult. When this passion started is not important. What is important is how travel has shaped my life - my pursuits, my happiness, my dreams are all, in some way, related to my need to see the world. That is what this book is about, feeding my need to travel - finally accepting that the need would not go away and could not wait on the schedule of others. So, I gave in to my desires and, in a month, I traveled through five countries and almost 20 cities...and I still cannot wait to see more! E. Nichole 2013

4: A M S T E R D A M

5: Amsterdam is beautiful! Saying that is weird being that the first day I arrived, I was a little overwhelmed by the busyness of the city and unhelpfulness of the rail staff. But, once I had placed my bags in my big picture-window room off a lily-filled canal and took the city in, I could not stop wanting to take in more. The first day, I just watched the street traffic and was amazed by the simplicity of it – bikes, bikes, and more bikes! I was amazed at the city’s energy and flow – the man in his business suit zipping off to work; the modelesque woman in full makeup, dress, and heels powering through the hordes of pedestrians; and the 70-something year old woman with her daily selections of flowers and breads strapped to her bike, gently floating down the bike lanes – divided into its own little, separate community of lanes moving side-by-side with motor vehicles big and small. As if this seamless flow were not enough, taking in the canals and the mix of architectural style simply took my breath away. There were huge windows everywhere, seemingly inviting you in...but don’t stare too long, that’s rude! Hearing the stories about the narrow houses wedged between those three times their width and the slightly forward leaning buildings with traditional anchors on beautiful gables, just tickled my heart. And, after a day admiring Amsterdam’s glorious streets, squares, buildings, and canals, having the chance to visit the ‘cleaned up’ Red Light District at night was beyond intriguing and vastly different from my expectations. In America, you would think “what happened to these women, why would they do this, who hurt them?” But, in this man-made city, it was pure choice and commitment. Not saying that the ladies always enjoy what they do but you can’t help but wonder their future goals or what they are saving for and if they will ever return? With that said, will I ever return? Sure, the crowds still overwhelm me; there seem to be thousands of people on the streets every day. But, I am sure I will return someday. Amsterdam has struck a place in my heart, and I cannot wait to explore this feeling more.

7: Amsterdam has struck a place in my heart, and I cannot wait to explore this feeling more.

10: . . . bikes, bikes,

11: and more bikes!

13: . . . once I had placed my bags in my big picture-window room off a lily-filled canal and took the city in, I could not stop wanting to take in more. . . .


21: Maybe in ten years. That’s my opinion of Prague, and, honestly, maybe even longer than that. In my travels, no other city has made me feel so American, so foreign, so different, so black than did this Czech city. Out of my natural habitat, I am used to throwing myself. But, the feeling of being within a cage, like a wild animal that the locals stare at, fearing or not-so-secretly detesting is an entirely different feeling. Not even being from the South prepares you for this city...well, maybe not if you were born in the 1980s, but I am sure my ancestors would probably understand. From the obvious stares and snickers of the children, to the pedestrian avoidance of the entire community, to the disrespectful service in the little neighborhood markets, I have not felt so different and unwanted since my Puerto Rican best friend realized I was black in the fifth grade. The city itself is quite beautiful. The immense height and glam architecture of the buildings towering over narrow cobblestone streets with even higher peaks of the nearby hills are in fact breathtaking. It was one of the most astounding sights I have come across. The history behind the nation and the people’s struggle for independence and individual freedoms is even evident in the embellishments on the structures and statues in the alleyways. But, this struggle may be too fresh to allow for outsiders. Much like in other nations, the mass forget the freedom for all in the (supposedly) united fight. So, maybe in ten or more years, I, as a black female will venture back to this breathtaking city and be able to enjoy the freedoms its citizens fought so hard to secure. Or, maybe the majority will continue to exclude the minority, as is known to occur. Progress is sometimes slow to come, but hopefully, one day, a small voice will grow to a roar and demand equal treatment and acceptance for all, allowing the entire world to experience this beautiful city.

23: . . . the city itself is quite beautiful . .

27: BREATHTAKING CHURCHES | Jan Palach decided to literally ignite himself in protest of the Soviet Union invasion of Czechoslovakiain Wenceslas Square, on 16 January 1969.

29: . . The immense height and glam architecture of the buildings towering over narrow cobblestone streets . . .

32: Milan may not be known as a must-visit city, but it is a very lively and livable one and that makes all the difference in the world. In general, people pass through Milan for more glamorous destinations, like Venice or Rome. Unlike the popular spots, its attraction is not purely site driven. While there are beautiful sites and streets and churches, it’s the pull on your heart that makes Milan notable. Few things visually amaze you, but the feeling of community will astound you. The little mom-and-pop cafes and shops line the streets especially in the Naviglio area, which comes alive at night, seemingly every night, as if for a special occasion. Surrounding a grand canal, this area alone is worth a stop for any visitor as is a surprisingly non-depressive visit to a local grand cemetery. In the Cimitero Monumentale, art comes to life in statue form. From the everyday markings left to remember families and loved ones to the life-sized depiction of the Last Supper, your feet will tire before your eyes. In all, Milan is one of those cities that you only occasionally come across – big but with a small feel. Where the café owner remembers you and shows appreciation for your return, that sends you off with treats for your travels and wishes you the best, where you could go back time and again and easily become part of their lives by just embracing their wonderful city.


37: Cimitero Monumentale

41: . . .art comes to life in statue form . . .

44: Disappointment is what I take away from Venice. My expectations had me anticipating the Italian version of Paris surrounded by canals of shimmering water. Where everywhere I looked my heart would ache to share it with a loved one (or even an Italian fling...shh). Somewhere that would wedge a place in my heart where I would have to return again to truly be fulfilled. However, what I saw was a commercialized version of something that looked to have once been a great, romantic destination. Do not get me wrong, the spectacular bridges and narrow alleyways of this floating city are worthy of praise. The churches, museums, and palaces seem to pop out of nowhere and stand alone amongst the algae and stone. The archways and antique picturesque doorways scream to be admired, and they even hint at the stories of their former residents. V E N I C E However, with all that natural beauty, the flood of mall-like shops depletes the value of this once unique city. And, as someone who generally avoids malls altogether, feeling enclosed in a floating one is pretty torturous. Every time I started choking on the clothes, shoes, accessories and crowds, I would have a small peak of pure heaven...then heaven would be blocked by another swarm of mall shoppers, and I would have to hurry along or be drowned. Drowned by people and not water in Venice seems strange. In the end, I am left with a feeling of disappointment, not with the city itself, but what years of commercialization has done to a once significant city. Maybe I will return, maybe I will chance a midnight stroll and try to fall in love with this city as I am sure many have before me and maybe still do – when they find a moment of heaven amidst the chaos.

47: . . . the spectacular bridges and narrow alleyways of this floating city are worthy of praise . . .


54: I cannot give enough praise for La Spezia, more specifically Cinque Terre. Although the landscape has been altered by man, Cinque Terre is one of those places that make you truly believe in the glory of God. Its beauty is hard to describe, from its carved hills to its climbing shores and the wonderful fruit you can witness seeming to jump out of the terrace land, your eyes become gluttonous as they devour sight after sight after sight. And, just when you think there cannot be a more beautiful sight, you round a jagged corner on the harvest paths and behold Vernazza emerging in the distance like the bow of a ship forging out of the cliffs. Climbing the steep, uneven stairs set deep in the terrace vineyards at first seems overwhelming and, for a not so conditioned person such as myself, maybe a little too hard to accomplish. But, the reward far outweighs the obstacle. There isn’t a more rewarding sight than something you think you have discovered on your own, like a glimpse of a bulging rock in the sea through the branches of olive trees or the glimmering ocean above the bright berries lined up in row upon row. And, that is what Cinque Terre gives you –

55: a little piece of heaven that in your heart is just your own. | La Spezia & Cinque Terre

56: La Spezia | . . . Le Grazie & Portovenere

60: Cinque Terre (Monterosso & Vernazza)

62: . . . steep, uneven stairs set deep in the terrace vineyards . . .

64: . . . behold Vernazza emerging in the distance . . .

66: Florence’s beauty is that of hidden jewels and immense ideas. The little passageways seem to store away their pleasures for only the most avid explorer and wandering local. In terms of architecture, Florence’s motto should be ‘go big or go home,’ so nestled in the middle of the most unassuming neighborhood, a work of art emerges like the peak of a mountain in passing clouds. It makes you believe you have arrived at a destination where you did not intend to go but are happily willing to experience. The narrow streets lead to small cafés and boutiques you feel you are the first to discover. And, as you get lost in the beauty of the city, as I did, you may wonder how you ended up standing before something so grand and how you can share something so special with strangers. Pack a lunch and any piazza becomes your kitchen table with all the locals and travelers as invitees. Look up, look down, get lost, get found. Just lose your way, forget your plans and make new ones. It is a beautiful city to get lost in, and you may not even mind. Florence is a city of delight where strolling is both rewarding and free, if you just have the time to lose yourself. | FLORENCE

69: Florence’s motto should be ‘go big or go home' . . .

71: Florence is a city of delight where strolling is both rewarding and free, if you just have the time to lose yourself.

77: . . . get lost in the beauty of the city . . .

78: At first glance, Rome was not much more spectacular than the rest of Italy’s beautiful cities. But, bit by bit, the city tugged at my heart, which was hard to admit after my first meal of hard pizza with potentially overripe tomatoes. But, after walking between the new(er) and old parts of Rome and witnessing the innovation of the Roman ancestry, I found myself back in awe and waiting for the next discovery. Like the neighborhood ristorante that you stumble upon out of sheer desperation and starvation and find one of the best meals of your life, where a Greek salad has no lettuce and calamari means a full squid. Like searching the less crowded streets for a glimpse of a scene from a black and white movie and discovering like-minded travelers eager to lay their hand where a star once had. Like hearing what seemingly is a festival and finding out it is just a Saturday night in celebration of the last bit of summer. Then, seeing the ruins and all the breath is suddenly removed from your lungs as you imagine the city at its heights, imagine the grandeur of the city as Cesar walked among his followers, imagine the savageness of spectators in the massive Colosseum witnessing unspeakable fights to the death, imagine looking out over your empire without knowing your city would forever change the world. And, as you take it all in your mind explodes a bit with wonder and your heart swells realizing where you now stand. Rome calls to you and has you asking if you have really seen enough, if you have tasted all there is to taste, and if and when you can come back again because you know there just isn’t enough time to see and taste all that Rome has to offer. | ROME | By the time I reached Rome, I had been to some of the most breathtaking destinations and began to feel a bit desensitized to the mixes of architectural brilliance lain upon cobblestone roads.

83: . . . imagine the savageness of spectators in the massive Colosseum witnessing unspeakable fights to the death.

103: Vatican City

104: Amalfi Coast | Maiori | Minori | Ravello | Positano | Amalfi | It seemed kind of fitting to end my time in Italy at Casa Lady around the corner from Tres Jolie as if indicative of what was to come. The Amalfi Coast was a place that you must see and experience to believe and understand. Steep in the hills and steep in tradition, the people in this region secured my faith in the warmth of Italy. It warms your belly, your feet, and melts your heart a little. You either love or hate the Amalfi Coast, I would say, although I really couldn’t understand if you did the latter...other than possibly the overcrowded buses, which can be solved easily with a beautiful but cling-to-the-railing stroll along the winding roads. The Amalfi Coast is truly like gathering your entire family for a feast. Some may have to travel from afar, basically no one will be on time, you will have to quiet down that loud aunt/uncle and give a little kiss to soothe a wee one, and it all may seem too much but then you round the corner and are greeted with a smile or hug, and as you sit down to the most fabulous made-from-the-heart meal, you know that all the chaos was worth it. So, after visiting Maiori and Minori and Ravello and Amalfi and Positano, mostly on overcrowded buses that ran on unpredictable schedules, if they came at all, a certain part of my heart still warms at the thought of the houses built into jagged coastlines. And while there may be some regrets, like never making it to Sorrento, you know that there will be a next time and that the memories you have made will surely outweigh any what ifs.

114: M A D R I D | It was worth a night in the airport, but there just was not enough time to truly enjoy all that Madrid or Spain had to offer. I regret that, regret not having focused more of my time exploring this somewhat disconnected European country and its people. From the little I saw, I have that feeling of butterflies in my stomach, that feeling of newfound love. And, I can only imagine that twinge growing into that deep, undying kind of love – the kind I have for Paris.

115: The city’s hot, hot dry days with glowing skies still call to me. Its beautiful people intrigue me. Its difficult history interests me. And, I want to know and experience more. The people I met there made me feel like I was at home. From the hosts I stayed with, to many of the local strangers encountered on the streets, I felt loved and accepted as I am. Whether that was in my head or truly the atmosphere of the city, I truly did not want to leave and still yearn to go back to Spain. Madrid, of course, would be my first stop, to stroll through the immense Buen Retiro park to Palacio de Cristal (glass palace) or through Plaza Mayor to meet Neto and Paco for dinner or, maybe, I would go for a ride on the Teleferico to view the city from above, which time prevented me from experiencing this trip. Wherever I end up in Madrid, or probably Spain as a whole, I know I would have to force myself to leave. As it stands now, I cannot wait to return and everyday find myself thinking of ways to make the city my home.

121: The city's hot, hot dry days with glowing skies call to me. Its beautiful people intrigue me.

128: NICE

129: Nice was nice, and sadly nice is the only rating I can give after having seen how glorious Europe’s coastal line can be. Again, my expectations outweighed the actual grandness of the city. I always wanted to visit Nice, hearing so much of its gorgeous pebble beaches and blue shimmering sea. My anticipation built as I rode the train from Marseille, seeing glimpses of ocean through the brush. And, as I finally made my way toward the smell of the ocean, my heart sank a little seeing its flat, fruitless landscape. After what I had seen, it felt like the first time I saw the Gulf Coast. I was disappointed, looking for aquas and crystal blues but seeing greens and light browns. And, while Nice was nothing like the Gulf, it brought back those memories and feelings of opportunity lostI immediately wished I had chosen Barcelona. Enough about disappointment...there was beauty in the city. For sun lovers and socializers looking for an abundance of good food without the desire to really explore, the city offers a perfect, relaxing atmosphere. Its wide, expansive beach and promenade were great for leisurely strolls and admiring the dark blue sea. And, ascending Colline du Chateau (Castle Hill) gives you a nice, sweeping view of the city coastline...and maybe of the other nearby cities you can visit. So, in all, Nice is nice, but it is a quick weekend getaway from a nearby residence, not a destination for which to cross the Atlantic.

136: is Paris, my first true love. After traveling through some of the grandest cities in Europe, I truly expected my love with this city to diminish and thought for a moment maybe it had. But, as I sat down for my first meal at Marmite, I got that familiar feeling of my eyes glazing over and all of my senses being overtaken by an undying, passionate love. It felt like I was experiencing the city for the first time with new eyes...and in a way I was. This time, my love was not lustful or in awe of the powers of the city but one that built from my gut to my heart in a sense of appreciation and respect. As I sat watching the city pass me by, seeing the different characters and attitudes (including the 70-something cross dresser out for a stroll in Pigalle), watching the traffic of cars and buses and bikes and even skateboards and segways, I started to get that feeling of calmness I felt years ago. But this time it felt all mine. And found myself having little conversations between myself and the city, “where should we go next, my love” “lets explore Montmartre, dear, you’ve never seen how I used to be.” And exploration became casual strolls to little nooks and corners never seen, and I felt like it was home, like I wasn’t a tourist trying to capture the city’s essence but as a resident out for a late night stroll. On my first night, I found myself on bus #69 seeing things I know I have seen but did not remember being so beautiful – riding until the driver turned to me as I loving stared out the window, the route was over. I had experienced the city before but never in this way, only dependent on the city and myself, relying on my faulty sense of direction and the beauty of the sites to guide me. And, eventually, after eating my favorite salad, going to my favorite cathedral, exploring artsy old Paris, walking the banks of the Seine, | PARIS . . .

137: and standing in the glow of the lighted Tower, I made it casually back to my little temporary residence in the 10th arrondissement and fell into a deep exhaustive sleep. I had done so much, seen so much in a few hours and the next day, I mentally planned to do even more. But, the next day I fell into a natural rhythm with the city, and found myself being a tour guide for a first-timer who was overwhelmed with the city as I once was. And as I showed my new friend the greatness of Sacre Coeur compared to Notre Dame and made her fall in love with its domes and steps and views and crowds, I realized how Paris truly was my city. I was again in love with the city and yearning for one more day, another few hours – but instead had to part and wait for the city to once again call for me.

141: . . .exploration became casual strolls to little nooks and corners never seen . . .

151: Paris is Paris, my first true love.

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  • By: andre r.
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    • By: Nichole R.
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  • Title: Abroad: Vol I
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  • Published: about 6 years ago