I’m sitting on our balcony. It’s warm and lightly breezy. My flower garden has delicate pink flowers opening up with petals as thin as tissue paper. Jude is quiet and lounging in the sun behind me and checking up with that little green winged insect he trounced on yesterday. He might not be relaxed at all. His ears are alert, twitching constantly as he hears the sound of the air conditioner motor from next door, the leaves fluttering, and the children announcing that the pool party has started, hurry up! Birds are tweeting and he takes it very personally. My husband is running the water in the kitchen, either washing dishes or making coffee. No doubt both. I put in my request for pancakes and bacon already. Not too big and not too small. I can hear him chuckle as the radio plays on his phone. I feel like I recognize this comedian’s voice but I can’t quite pin it. Bill has told me I’m very good with voices. When we’re watching TV I almost always recognize a voice and can list off all the times I’ve heard it before, what character they played in what show. I’m proud of that because my husband complimented me on it.
I’m constantly reminded that summer is ending. Target has giant pencil cutouts hanging from the ceiling that announce “Back to School” and at work we’re having the calm before the students all arrive back at their respective colleges and catholic school buildings. This time of year has always brought me anxiety. Going back to school was like a sentence to imprisonment. Rules and work and people who didn’t know any more about co-existing with other developing people than I did. Even after being out of school for four (or more) years, I still get that feeling of fear. Suddenly, your freedoms are locked away. Winter comes and your options become limited. Traveling is difficult and avoided. The air becomes too dry for your skin to handle. Your peers become agitated and you do too.
I don’t have a grand follow-up that going to change everyone’s perspective of school and winter. But, things are going to change for me this year. I will have more time to myself. While that excites me, it also worries me a bit. It would be very easy to become complacent with sitting around eating all day and watching cartoons. But, I want to focus. I have aspirations, probably, and during this time of limited exploration, it will then be easier to focus and contemplate the next adventure. While I love being on the balcony writing and resting and gaining inspiration and joy from my flower garden, there comes a time where you need to step into action. I hope I use my time well to grow and pursue my work and life goals.
I promised stories and pictures about my husband and my latest excursion. To be honest, I don’t know how! I’ve written out notes detailing what we ate and where we walked everyday, but how do I present it? As you can see, writing is not my greatest skill. Rambling might be. I guess I will just start by saying, I’m anxious to return. We had loads of trouble actually getting there. Our 4 hours layover in New Jersey turned into a 20-something layover (at which point I had a teary breakdown). The delayed flight turned into a canceled flight after 5 hours of waiting, then another hour in line to find out our next option, then another 2 or three hours waiting for another delayed flight that was canceled as well. We then spent the night at a hotel (which didn’t have ANY coffee ANYWHERE) after arriving around 3AM. The next day we both were in higher spirits, although, my husband somehow was in pretty high spirits the whole day before anyway, despite being the one to sort out all of our complicated flight detours and having to wait in lines lines lines to talk to customer service who have already spoken to 500 angry customers today. Yes, despite all that, he was pleasant to everyone and smiled and laughed when things went awry and held me while I was crying.
Somehow we got there. After 32 hours of being awake and even more hours of travel, we met with Christina at her B&B and settled in. I remember the under part of my eyes burning for days like they were sun burnt, but I think it was more likely from exhaustion. It took me quite a while to readjust my sleep schedule. I really worked to not go back to sleep after breakfast every morning so I could get used to my new time.
Bill spent much of the first few days at the conference. We got up at 7am and Christina made us a beautiful breakfast spread of tarts, fresh fruit, yogurt, coffee and juice (I have never fallen so in love with a juice before), meat, cheese, bread (gluten free for me!), and a couple homemade treats like banana bread and strawberry cheesecake. This was my favorite part of the day.
While Bill was away I would wander. I didn’t know where I was going to go most of the time, but I just walked and walked, wondering what I would find. Sometimes this was fruitful, other times it was just hot. Because it was always hot. 100F, hot. You just get used to putting your hair up so none of it can touch you and accept that you will forever be soaking in sweat.
I had very little confidence while Bill was away. I did not know the language very well (I was pleasantly surprised when I found Bill spoke it so well – not just for practical reasons), so I was very uncomfortable trying to do anything other than wander. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I eventually learned enough to get around, but even then was still so lacking in confidence that I just mumbled and they still couldn’t understand. I definitely felt like an outsider. When we moved to Milan and Bill was always by my side, I felt much better. It felt more like home to me. But until then, I struggled a bit in Verona.
Meeting Bill after work was a highlight of my day. We went out for pizza – the absolute best pizza of my life! Did I mention they served gluten free pizzas? And that it tasted unlike any other crust I’ve ever eaten? And that it was so springy and tasty that I can never eat pizza again?
Our pizza dates were often followed by gelato. The smoothest, creamiest, delightful treat on a boiling hot day. It hurts inside a little to be reminded that I can’t just pop back over to this little gelato place any time I want. (I wrote this sentence and instantly asked my husband if we could go out for ice cream)
One evening we gathered with the rest of the conference guests and ate a big meal at Antico Caffé Dante. We got there around 7PM and were served dessert and coffee by 11PM! I remember my dad telling us about how meals can take several hours. Thankfully, not every meal, but I must say, I do enjoy a leisurely dinner with friends.
On our last day in beautiful Verona, we took a bit of a trek to visit a gluten free bakery outside the city. Bill unravelled the mystery of public transportation and we set off to Brio. Finally, I felt a common denominator. This was something I could understand. Gluten free food! It was such a beautiful and spacious shop. Something you would see in Kinfolk. This was a truly special place. I would have gotten one of everything (and I almost did) if I could have. I picked out a few cookies and a cake, but the true magic was this wonderful olive bread baguette. I should have gotten three! What a fantastic taste and texture it was. The olives gave it such bright character. What’s the point of eating anything else? They were so kind to use there too. We were giving water and coffee and good conversation. Paula explained in english the ingredients in each pastry. I only wish that we could have gone back again.
We took the adventure of figuring out how to use the bus and stopped by @brioglutenfreebakery today. Joan was so kind and talked with us for a while, asking how our trip has been. She graciously spoke to us in English and explained what was each pastry. I only wish we had time to visit again before we move on tomorrow. #verona #Italy #brio #brioglutenfreebakery #senzaglutine #glutenfree
That evening, we sat outside and drank wine in the city. We were to head out to our next destination in the morning. Verona was such a beautiful place. The streets we took to get to the university, or to the cafe, or to the bakery… They had become familiar. Verona had a charm that we didn’t find anywhere else. The old streets and buildings and balconies all had an old soul. I hope we return someday to speak with them again.
Part 2 will cover our time in Milan, our travels back home to the States, transition and overall thoughts. <3