Oh the Places You’ll Go 2019…
It’s funny to think back to this time last year. I think I had maybe three or four of these trips on my radar: Rome (because it was in January), DC/Charlottesville (a planned reunion + guest speaking), Latvia (for a wedding), and Florida (a last minute addition but also for a wedding). The rest? It just happened.
My 2019 trips were wide reaching, and almost random. Just the way I like them! I’ve enjoyed putting together a few end of year recaps (see here and here), so I figured I’d do the same for a travel roundup. I always tag my Instagram posts with #PAV[name of city] which becomes a microblog mini guide online (tip: I like to post slideshows on IG, so be sure to click the arrows). Still, I wanted to put this post together because over the years I haven’t been as good at blogging my travels, although some of the links below are to longer blog posts. What I have been better at is truly sharing the highlights (with the few exceptions where someone else has infiltrated my hashtag 😉).
ROME, ITALY #PAVrome
This was my first trip of the year. If I recall I booked it in December. I got a good deal on a flight so I could visit a friend from high school who was traveling there.
Lesson learned: It’s super fun to travel with art historian teacher types who will show you around the city!
Highlights: Coffee in Rome is amazing (and cheap). I loved our local place Linari. The Villa Borghese with Bernini sculptures was also incredible (book tickets in advance).
SARASOTA, FLORIDA #PAVsarasota
For my February trip to Florida I flew into Sarasota and flew out of Miami. The US is huge, but when you’re in the same state you can’t not see family. (Funny, I should have put Atlanta on the list, as I had an unexpected stop over there where I got to have a reunion with my aunt and cousin at a hospital where my cousin had just had surgery!). One of my cousin’s lives in Florida with her family. It was so nice getting a peek into their world, and see a bit of Sarasota.
Lessons learned: Traveling somewhere warm and sunny in winter is amazing!
Highlights: The Ringling Brother’s Circus was born in Sarasota, and the Ringling Museum is quite nice. It’s not all circus, but also has an impressive art collection.
MIAMI, FLORIDA #PAVmiami
A friend from when I studied abroad in Paris invited me to her wedding which was the impetus for a mini reunion of study abroad pals which was such a nice treat. It turns out Miami has a great art scene, both in terms of street art and contemporary art.
Lessons learned: Even when tons of time has passed you can still pick up from anywhere with good friends.
Highlights: Traveling with a museum educator means you know which museums to prioritize! The Pérez Art Museum was a favorite.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA #PAVcharlottesville
If you ask me, Charlottesville—home to the University of Virginia—is one of the best college towns in the US. It’s even more fun when you get to go back with some of your best buds. My class from the crew team (yes, I was on the men’s team) has been saving money for awhile and bought a boat that the team really needed. So we used it as an excuse to have a mini reunion and christen the boat on a regatta day. We hung out all day with lots of laughs about absolutely nothing, just like the old days. I also got to business expense the trip because I was invited by the Career Office to speak on a panel of alumni about the “Gig workers” (although I consider myself to have a “portfolio career“). It was great to connect with other alumni who have taken less traditional careers.
Lessons learned: Go “back to school” with friends from the time.
Highlights: When you get invited to a Crew House party and are treated like gods and end up being the last group standing (even as the “old people”). I also got to reconnect with my friend Cindy from my first year hall. Sperryville is also quite charming if you ever have the chance to go! (My friends Caitlin and Craig run a delicious pizza place.)
THE HAGUE, THE NETHERLANDS #PAVthehague
I love any good excuse to travel to learn. Sarah Richards who wrote “Content Design” and spearheaded the GOV.UK content redesign was teaching a day long workshop in The Hague. The price was right, so I hopped on a train and went. The Netherlands has always been super inspiring to me design-wise.
Lessons learned: Follow authors online and then follow them to where they’re doing events!
Highlights: The Voorlinden Museum just outside of the city (I took a bus from the train station) is one of my all time favorite museums. I stated at The Student Hotel, which isn’t just for students, and I loved the vibe. It’s also where the workshop I attended was held.
ANTWERP, BELGIUM #PAVantwerp
My friend Meg and I have made it a tradition to check out “new” cities together as a weekend trip. We’re great adventure buddies and have similar interests, or at least appreciate the other’s (à la Meg’s love of beer). We get a few recommendations from friends who’ve been to the city, but otherwise we set forth and explore.
Lessons learned: Belgium is an under-appreciated country and high on style.
Highlights: Antwerp is a fashion capital of the world and rightly so. I loved the style in the city which is more playful and colorful than anything you see in Paris. The Middleheim Museum art park was also completely dreamy and we loved sitting outside Brouwerijcafé Taproom and enjoying a beer. Oh, and the main train station in Antwerp looks like it’s straight out of Hogwarts!
THE SOMME BATTLEFIELDS, FRANCE #PAVpicardie
When my dad came to Paris this summer one of his goals was to visit the WWI battlefields. Wanting to spend time with my dad, I agreed to join. There’s so much talk of WWII history in France it feels like WWI is completely overlooked. It was a day trip for us on the train to Albert.
Lessons learned: War sucks.
Highlights: You can visit the fields with the trenches and start to see just how tough life was. There was no heat to escape to in winter. The Somme Museum in town was quite fascinating and gave you a sense of what war would have been like. We only visited a few sites (Beaumont-Hamel and Thiepval Memorial). We were lucky there was a driver available that we had the tourism office call to take us around, but with a heavy subject like that, it was plenty.
AVIGNON, FRANCE #PAVavignon
Last minute opportunities was perhaps a theme of my year. I’d hopped on a call with Jillian Reilly, founder of Antacara, thanks to a blog reader. She and I instantly connected and were very drawn to the work of the other. She mentioned she was hosting a “retreat” in Avignon a few weeks later and I’d be welcome to join. It took me all of one day and minor schedule rearranging I was on my train a few weeks later. It was truly a transformative week for everyone there.
Lessons learned: When you walk synapses in your brain are literally firing and making new connections. There’s so much power to exploration.
Highlights: Exploring a new place with others from different corners of the world is such a joy. Even if you’re not on an Antacara trip, the Domaine de Rhodes where we were based is one of the most magical hotels and grounds ever. It’s such a special place, and the work of the creators comes through.
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS #PAVboston
Having already been stateside twice in the first few months of 2019 going back wasn’t really on my radar until I got an invite to join the Apollonauts to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. I first declined, but then realized that I couldn’t say no to that! It was also a fun excuse to visit my aunt and uncle, and Boston always reminds me of summers of my childhood.
Lessons learned: The moon landing was a way bigger deal than I ever imagined. So was my grandfather’s role.
Highlights: My grandfather’s lab hosted a big 60s inspired party. I got to meet so many of the men and women (including Margaret Hamilton!!) who worked with my grandfather to make getting to the moon—and back—possible. I definitely didn’t totally know what I was getting into when I went, but it was such a joy to be included, and see the fabulous expo (and website) Draper Lab put together.
NEW YORK CITY #PAVnyc
When I’m on the East Coast popping up to NYC is easy, but the city is so big I can only spend a few days without overloading. I think I made it twice in 2019. I got to visit Color Factory and see all the blood, sweat, tears, and passion that friends of mine put into the project. I also got to jaunt to upstate NY to see my Florida based family, and my friend Grace who lives there. In the city I got to connect with friends from different chapters of my life, which is really my favorite excuse to travel.
Lessons learned: Sometimes you can show locals a thing or two. Introduced a few friends to Oyster Bar in Grand Central Station, a great place where my parents took me to once.
Highlights: Staying at the TWA Hotel. It was pure time travel. Best played as staycation.
Technically Alexandria, Virginia is home, but it’s just outside of DC. I ventured into the city a few times this year as part of my research into my grandfather’s world.
Lessons learned: Archives are awesome!
Highlights: The Udvar-Hazy Air & Space Museum near Dulles Airport is amazing in a big old hangar. It turns out one of my grandfather’s ballroom dancing trophies is on display near the Discovery space shuttle (some of his inertial navigation instruments are in the hall too). At the Library of Congress I uncovered an audio file of my grandfather speaking about his work.
MONTPELLIER, VERMONT #PAVvermont
One of my aunts lives in Vermont and going to visit her takes me back to my childhood. My time in Vermont this trip was far too short, but still worthy of a mention. Small town life is so charming, particularly the lack of traffic!
Lessoned learned: Creemees are a thing! I’ve been to Vermont many times in my life, but only this trip did I discover the magical soft serve ice cream famous in the area. Maple flavor of course.
Highlights: Dog Mountain is a special place first imagined by artist Stephen Huyneck. There’s even the Dog Chapel where you can leave notes for furry friends who have departed. His carved works and prints are for sale in the gift shop.
BRETON WOODS, NEW HAMPSHIRE #PAVnewhampshire
The real reason for heading deeper into New England was a mini family reunion with my dad, brother, aunts, and uncle to (re)visit the Cog Railway which was celebrating 100 years this summer. Anyone who follows me knows what a train nut my dad is. My dad casually mentioned they were talking about going and I instantly insisted that we make the trip happen when I’m home and can join.
Lessons learned: Good god it’s cold (and windy) at the top of the mountain, even in August. Good thing my aunt had extra gloves and gear. Also, my aunt was smart and reserved tickets to go up the mountain.
Highlights: The Mount Washington Inn will always be this magical, mythical place to me engrained from my visit as a child. We didn’t stay there, but went for a drink. I also loved the small town of Littleton nearby where we hit up a brewery for dinner. Oddly, the lunch at Fabyan’s train station after our train ride totally hit the spot as we enjoyed our time on the terrace and recounting stories.
LONDON, ENGLAND #PAVlondon
My friend Jen and I realized we needed to put together a bachelorette party for our friend Carolyn, so we took it as an excuse to pop over to London. I was the decoy who went early to hang out with Carolyn for the weekend. I arranged a lunch with another friend when two more friends joined. Later that evening we had our hot tug (hot tub boat) arranged for the driving down a canal, sipping champagne.
Lessons learned: Driving a hot tug boat is much harder than it looks.
Highlights: You never know who you may meet, or what you might learn, on the train. . . Once in London, the Kew Gardens never fail to disappoint. There was a Chihuly glass show throughout the grounds which made for fun exploring.
RIGA, LATVIA #PAVlatvia
My friends Carolyn and Andrejs got married in Latvia, which was exciting for me as it was a new country for me to check off my list. It turns out that weddings in Latvia have a host, and it was seriously one of my favorite weddings I’ve been to. Lots of little activities, but in a thoughtful way, and lots of laughs in the process.
Lessons learned: Sometimes when you visit castles in Latvia the guides are really actors, not real monks. (I can be quite gullible!)
Highlights: Destination weddings are fun when a group of friends can travel together and hang out. Despite having been to many a market in my day, the Centralas Market was very impressive with a great food court. The KGB museum was also fascinating. Really though, if you can get invited to a Latvian wedding, I highly recommend it! (Or my friends were just awesome wedding planners.)
VIENNA, AUSTRIA #PAVvienna
I’d been talking about going to Vienna for a couple years, knowing it was a place near and dear to my mom’s heart as the city where she spent a year studying abroad and met one of her lifelong best friends. Then this fall I realized my mom’s birthday was the perfect opportunity, and fall seems like a far warmer season than winter to visit.
Lessons learned: Sometimes creative constraints are the best way to roll. I wrote “Rules of a Pilgrimage” my first night in the city and they served me well.
Highlights: Thanks to my “Rules” I did my best to see Vienna through my mom’s eyes, and that was such a treat. By chance the cheap hotel I picked was near Café Sperl, a café that makes a cameo in Before Sunrise, one of my favorite movies so I loved becoming a regular there. I kept a journal during the trip which is something I need to do more of these days. The Kunsthistorisches Museum was one of my mom’s favorites, and quiet impressive to see. It was also fun to discover that my friend Erica from high school lives there, so my reunion tour of the world lived on!
BARCELONA, SPAIN #PAVbarcelona
When two of your dear friends who live in NYC (and soon are moving to Australia) tell you that they’re going to be in Barcelona and see if you want to meet up you say yes!
Lessons learned: You can get super cheap flights to Barcelona (but flying out of Beauvais airport is a trip in and of itself!).
Highlights: I’d been to Barcelona before, back in 2001, but I don’t remember having stepped inside the Sagrada Familia (book tickets in advance). It was truly breathtaking and like nowhere I’d seen before (and I’ve been in A LOT of churches). Also, Ibearian ham is SO good!
Home, but I always feel like an explorer in this city. Really this section is devoted to venturing further afield for new experiences, like to the horse races (with chariots!). I also became more French spending a few days in the countryside in Montargis.
Lessons learned: Indefinite strikes are no joke and you truly can get a lot of steps in this city!
Highlights: Discovering the gnome from Amélie is my neighbor! Also, heading to the suburbs can be great. Finally visited the “guinguette” Chez Gegène in Joinville-le-Pont and it did not disappoint!
As my motto says: Travel is not about where you go, but how you see the world. None of these trips were a race to see or do more. They were a reason to see friends, family, and learn/discover something new. It wasn’t until I took the time to put together this post that I realized just how much I experienced this year. And this doesn’t even count all the wonderful visitors and clients I explored Paris with this year!
As I head into 2020, my word of the year is EXPLORE. It’s a word that reflects something I already do, but I’m looking forward to challenging myself to see how I can push it further and discover new frontiers.