I’m sitting in the cafe of the communal area at the Generator Hostel in Dublin. It is trendy and loud here, with many excitable young people. Since it is raining outside, I decided to get some work done, including this post, which will serve as a journal of sorts. I’m typing up some notes that I have been taking during my trip, or as I call it, SR’s Tour Through Three Neutral States and An Axis Power.
Don’t get too excited, there is only about a page and a half of notes in my pocket moleskine and the photos that you see on my IG/FB are pretty much the only ones I have taken. If you are expecting a voluminous photo album and a mountain of poems about Milanese supermodels, you will be disappointed (like I was). If you’re curious about stories, I have some, but not many. I’d love to share, although I don’t know how interesting they will be. Most of this journey has been a personal one. In fact, I have barely read or written during my time abroad. I spend my days walking through the cities, reading signs to myself in a stereotyped accent of whatever country I happen to be in (with the exception of Italy, where I drove around, hyperventilating and swearing at truck drivers). Altogether, this trip has been restful and nice.
Of all of the cities I stayed in, I felt most comfortable in Madrid. This is probably because out of the three countries where I didn’t speak the language, I understood the most Spanish. The Metro system was clean and new and easy to use. The food was excellent. The graffiti game in Madrid is nothing to mess with–the strongest I’ve seen during the trip. I walked the streets thinking about Hemingway. Madrid is also the city I’m most likely to come back to. Between bullfights and tomato-wars, me and Spain have a lot of unfinished business.
This town is all villa-lined cliffs and breath-taking views of the lake. I spent a good amount of my visit screaming in my Fiat-500 on their narrow, break-neck roads, climbing hills and apologizing to faster Audis. But, when I wasn’t doing that, I was enjoying the natural beauty of this lake-bound town. Beautiful place, terrifying to drive in.
Deciding to drive instead of taking the train both blew up and paid off on the way to Locarno. For the second time on my trip, I was stopped and inspected by border officials. This time, they examined everything in my car and in my bags. They even swabbed my hands and had a dog sniff me out for drugs and paraphernalia. They were very confused, as people often are, when they found a copy of my itinerary.
On the other hand, having a car meant that I had the great pleasure of driving in the Alps, including slaloming through a series of switchbacks so fast, my brother would blush. Locarno itself was quaint and charming, albeit pricey. I had the benefit of the Locarno International Film Festival taking place in my backyard and watching a movie outside with thousands of movie fans was surreal. Lake Maggiore is fantastic. Go to there if you get a chance.
Venice is a strange, mysterious place, so obviously, I loved it. Despite the droves of turisticos, there are empty alleyways and side streets to get lost in as well as many spots for you to dip your tired feet in the canals. I chanced upon a small paperie on a random corner that was only open for a half hour window before the old Italian shop-owner kicked me out. I had no idea where I was at any and all given times in that city, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
My first interaction with Milan was the metro, which reminded me of 90’s era NYC with loud, screeching, metal, deathtrap train-cars. Nevertheless, the city was beautiful, with no shortage of fashionable people and expensive stores. Along with Madrid, the architecture in Milan really forced me to look at it. The Duomo wass imposing and majestic. The fact that it was a magnet for tourists made it the only time during the trip I consistently saw people with my skin color.
The city feels homey and familiar. Between the weather and the old buildings, I have the sense that I’m in New England in the fall. There’s a palpable sense of history in the streets and a great many of my favorite authors have their roots on this island. I’m back to speaking the king’s so everything is easy and comfortable. I’m embarrassed by sobriety and I should like to have another go at this town with some unscrupulous company.
If it seems like I haven’t visited or done the right things in these cities, you’re probably right. If you want the details on all the good stuff, you can come visit yourself. I was on a mission, I was looking for an answer. During a nap in Spain, I find out what my question was and on my drive to Locarno, I found the answer. Well, it was more of a non-answer, but I had a feeling God was going to give me one of those. In any case, I feel like I accomplished what I came out here to do.
Now, if you don’t mind me, I’m going to go and blow the rest of my euro’s. I’m looking forward to seeing the folks in LA (for about 12 hours), watching Ted at his new gig and helping Greg on a mission of some kind. It will be nice to be back stateside (in a proper Allied power), enjoying freedom and drinking drip coffee.