All posts by wePhilistines

a soulsearching wanderluster with a thirst for good whiskey and better music.

false farewells in rome

this is my final post on italy.  it was one of those places that i knew i needed to go, but wouldn’t be surprised if i found it overrated.  i didn’t.  it surprised me with every new location i explored, and i truly did wish that i could have stayed there a lot longer.  but i will be back.  someday i will explore the southern half, and i’m sure that it will sweep me off my feet just like the northern half did.  i have one more fun little story about rome below, but before you read that, enjoy this little video i put together of my time in italy with my good friend dave.  also, one last special note.  this is the first time one of my videos features music actually written by me (the first half).  let me know what you think…

i woke up the next morning a little hazy and thick in the head.  there was definitely a point in the night where ceasing to drink would have been wise, it was probably right around the time dave had ordered a pitcher of long island iced tea, but we had breezed straight through that and now i was suffering the consequences.

we only had a few hours to kill before our flight to croatia, so i woke dave up and we groggily walked nearby to the colosseum.  we had only passed by it at night previously, and now that i had a little time, i wanted to see inside.  i initially balked at the ticket prices, but once i realized i could also get into the roman forum with the same ticket, i handed over the cash and we sprinted inside, hopeful that we had enough time to see both historical attractions. Continue reading false farewells in rome

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sleepwalking from tuscany to rome

we pulled into a gravel lot adjoining a bed & breakfast in the small town of chianti in the region of tuscany just as dusk was setting in.  we had rented a car in florence and i had eagerly taken to the narrow, winding roads of the italian countryside, whipping our tiny black fiat to and fro, this way and that, far exceeding the speed limits and making my copilot, dave, nervous on more than one occasion.  periodically i would feel guilty, but those feelings usually only lasted as long as the next adrenaline rush.

tuscan gardenswe checked into the bed and breakfast, a charmingly decorated place called the hotel salivolpi. it had a style i could never replicate in my own home even if i had stolen all the furniture and accoutrements straight from the lobby.  the woman operating the place appeared to be the owner/operator, and she had a kind but direct and efficient manner about her.  i inquired if anyone else happened to be staying at the b&b,  aware that it was christmastime, and was semi-disappointed when she informed us there was only one other couple, newlyweds, at the inn. tuscan winter i then laughed to myself when i began to pick up on the fact that she believed that dave and i were some sort of granola-y, bearded gay couple looking for a romantic getaway in quiet tuscany.  this amused me, and i did nothing to dispel her assumptions.  i don’t think dave had picked up on it, but once we got settled into the single-king-bed room that we were sharing, i told him and we had a good laugh over it. Continue reading sleepwalking from tuscany to rome

a reunion in the ghost towns of cinque terre, italy

i had been in genoa for a couple days doing nothing when i finally received an email from dave, written in a brief and rushed manner:

“finally got rebooked.  boarding now from germany, see you in a couple hours.”

a few hours later i was wandering around the empty streets of genoa trying to find my friend dave before he got too lost and i couldn’t find him.  i rounded a corner and saw him standing underneath the facade of a large university building, squinting at the signs in italian, searching for any kind of english or guidance as to where he should be going.

“need some help, gringo?!”  i called out as i approached.  he spun around and looked at me and burst into laughter.  i gave him a big hug, grabbed his bag and walked him to the hostel, where the hostel manager, a thin, lively man named carlo, was giving a few of the guests a little lesson on how to prepare noodles in italy.  we got dave checked in and situated in the dorm room and hurried back down to be a part of the action. Continue reading a reunion in the ghost towns of cinque terre, italy

an existential crisis in florence, italy

i arrived in florence the next afternoon amid a contemplative daze.  so many questions about my past and my future had been raised, and it was too easy to take the bait and wander down tangents of useless what-ifs and might-haves.  i wanted to sit down, focus, lock myself in a room somewhere and hash everything out like it was some kind of math problem, but i was old enough to know now that this was not how it works.  there was no quadratic equation to one’s problems or happiness.  there was only awareness and progress, and every life, no matter how short or long, was just a process of evolution or devolution.  i needed to focus on the present and keep moving.  besides, i had exited the train and wandered directionless while my thoughts had run free in an oblivious daydream.  now i had no idea where i was.

i was indeed in florence, one of the artistic and cultural icons of the world, home to the powerful medici family (so powerful they were able to get two of their family members to be elected pope), birthplace of the italian rennaissance, and home of such historic titans like machiavelli, the poet dante, galileo, michaelangelo, raphael, donatello, leonardo da vinci, and master splinter (ninja turtle joke ftw!!!!). as soon as i was paying attention again, it didn’t take long for the ghosts of greatness to begin lingering in every shadow and corner of this magnificent city. Continue reading an existential crisis in florence, italy

solitude and self-discovery in venice, italy

i arrived in venice rejuvenated.  the peace and solitude of nice in the winter time had been exactly what i needed, and now i entered italy with a vigor and excitement.  but i also spent a lot of time reflecting in the french riviera, and i was now even more aware of the effects the journey was having on me.  i was more in tune with my reactions and emotions, and rather than shy away from the “why” of things, i was now embracing and dissecting it all.  i was more open to experiences and people, and less intent on “conquering” locations and checking off list items, and more content to patiently absorb.  i was indeed slowing down, but it wasn’t a bad thing.

i collected my pack at baggage claim and took a bus across the bridge and into venice.  a thick, damp fog had descended from the dolomite mountains down to the floating city, limiting my visibility and relegating me to watching the raindrops collect and race each other from one side of my bus window to the other.  when the bus pulled in, new instincts kicked in as i oriented myself directionally and then crossed east over a bridge and into the heart of venice.

people attempt to stay dry in venice by walking on short installed platforms that reach just above the flood’s reach

i was confused and startled as i crossed the bridge.  the wet haze from the fog was beginning to clear and separate, revealing a strange, snaking system of Continue reading solitude and self-discovery in venice, italy

seeking refuge in nice, france.

my plane landed in marseilles and i quickly found the train station and boarded the train to nice.  i was still a little on edge from the morning’s events in tangiers, morocco, so i didn’t really enjoy the train ride or its scenery, unfortunately.  but it was only a matter of time before the delicate side to side rock and roll of the train lulled me into a fast asleep.  i awoke only minutes before the train pulled into the station.

i exited and hoped it wouldn’t be too long before my friends had found me.  i was tired of being on edge and i was tired of not being able to trust people.  the morocco medinas had worn me out.  i stepped out into the terminal and walked a few feet.  i didn’t see my friends, but something else had momentarily captured my attention.  nothing.  people rushed around me, hurriedly trying to catch another train or grab a cab, music played softly overhead, and people navigated on autopilot while interacting with their cellphones.  but no one cared that i was there. i may as well have been a garbage can, merely an obstacle to avoid, an object to tolerate but pay no mind to.  no one was trying to sell me anything, no one in my face demanding that i purchase some item that i likely had no use for, no opportunistic agents persuading me to follow them down some darkened alley to a “hotel” i had no desire to stay at.  i was completely anonymous, and not a single soul around me gave one ounce of a damn about me. i breathed a sigh of relief.  i’d never been so happy to be among the french.

a few minutes later Continue reading seeking refuge in nice, france.

sketchy hamams and life lessons in Tangiers, Morocco

the rain had refused to stop falling.  there was no escaping, and it had become maddening.  i made a snap decision and checked out of my hostel, determined to escape the confinement of the indoors by finding another city further north that might have escaped the weathery onslaught.  as i was checking out, a dutch couple i’d not yet met who had been staying in the hostel was also leaving.  i overheard that they were traveling to tangiers, which was where i had been eventually planning on going to.  i knew there were no buses running that day due to the storms, but i knew there would be a taxi driver crazy enough to drive me the 2 hours to the northern coast.  i politely asked them if they wanted to share a taxi and we trudged out into the rain together.

i had expected to be able to get a couple taxi drivers to enter into a bidding war for who would take our business, especially on a slow day in heavy rain, so i was shocked when the opposite actually happened.  the first driver we talked to set the price rather high, and then all the other drivers in the area stuck to the price that they had heard set.  it took us 20 minutes to find anyone who would come down from the price even a little, and when we did it wasn’t much.  but we paid the fare and took off into the storm.

on the ride i got to know thomas and jolande.  they were a couple from the netherlands and actually hadn’t been together very long, so i was surprised that they were traveling together.  i’m not sure why, because when i thought about it, traveling with someone is one of the best ways to get to know the “real” version of them, so why not do it early on in the relationship?  jolande was a small business owner who would travel to exotic countries like morocco and purchase fancy antiques and rugs and the like and then ship them back to her shop in the netherlands where she could sell the items at a premium.  i could tell she was a very shrewd negotiator and knew what she was doing when it came to her business.  she also had a pure heart that shined through when she talked about ideas passionately, and a sweet, caring way about her.  thomas was a musician, and a funny one at that.  he reminded me a lot of jeff goldblum in jurassic park.  he wore thick-rimmed glasses and had a hip style about him and a clever sense of humor.  they both liked to smile and laugh a lot, and they were both really tall, as the dutch often are.  i guessed that they were both around 40 years of age, but they were both young souls, wild and free, and i got along with them quite well. we talked about music and literature and travel, and found that we had a lot of mutual interests and tastes. i took a moment to thank the stars that they were cool, because a 2.5 hour ride in flooding rainstorms in the north of morocco with an awkward cab driver who spent most of the drive shouting into a tiny cellphone with boring or annoying side conversation would have been almost unbearable.

we arrived at the medina of tangiers and parted ways, agreeing to meet up later that night.  almost immediately the touts and vendors were upon me, trying to get me to follow them to a hostel, or buy hash, or eat at their restaurant, or a dozen other propositions.  i didn’t even have the patience anymore, i was tired of negotiating, tired of saying no, i just wanted some quiet.  i put my headphones in and turned on my ipod while i searched for my little hostel located down a dark back alley.

that night i met up with thomas and jolande and we left the old medina in search of an old bar that was famous for being jack kerouac’s favorite watering hole, called the tanger inn.  we knew very little about it other than the fact that it was best known during 50s, 60s, and 70s as central hub for nightlife of the beatnik travelers and iconic authors like allen ginsburg, william s. burroughs, and of course, jack kerouac.  i was reading kerouac’s “on the road” at the time, so i was particularly enthusiastic about retracing some of the man’s paces in a time when i was in the middle of my own wandering journey.

we passed through the old gate of the city and out into the famous square of the grand socco. Continue reading sketchy hamams and life lessons in Tangiers, Morocco

music monday: airplane mode

nobody likes traveling without a little music to accompany them at some point along the way.  and when i say nobody, i mainly mean myself.  i don’t like going anywhere without my headphones in and my spotify app blowing out my eardrums.  recently i was lucky enough to join some friends on a trip to costa rica, and that means lots of time in airports, on airplanes, and in customs lines.  the only proper way i know to combat the misery that inevitably accompanies those things is to make a superior playlist that will keep you calm and in control (and maybe even help you take a nap on the plane).  this playlist will do just that, even if you’re not going anywhere.  filled with mostly new songs from mostly off-the-radar bands, this playlist will expose you to some songs you weren’t aware of, and may even provide a little inspiration you’ve been looking for lately.

a 30,000 foot view of belize

chefchaouen, morocco: the blue pearl of north africa

i met ben and abby in a dingy little coffee shop next door to the bus station in fes.  the coffee wasn’t particularly good, but i’m not sure what could be expected from bus station coffee shop.  i opted instead for a takeaway yogurt and boarded the bus.  we chatted idly for a couple hours, trying to enjoy the sights on the drive, but a strong tradewind from the north had sent storm clouds from europe sweeping down into morocco, dampening the sights and the air. thick clouds blocked many of the scenic views of the rif mountains, and when we did eventually stop for a break, everyone only piled off the bus and then huddled under the overhang of the gas station.  when we eventually arrived in chefchaouen hours later, it was raining lightly and we all just wanted to get to our hotels.  we parted ways and agreed to meet up again somewhere in town, though we never did.  i was okay with it;  they were on their own adventure and probably wanted some time alone, and i had a new city to explore.

chefchaouen is not a big city, and once again i incorrectly assumed that i could just find my own way to my hostel at riad baraka by navigating from memory.  after not being able to locate the hostel and stumbling up and down the uneven, serpentine streets, i began speaking to an old man who had been trying to lure me into his restaurant.  i ended up making a deal with him that he would show me where the hostel was if i ate at his restaurant.  fair enough, i was hungry anyway.  as i sat and ate, i noticed the horrible smell of rotting fish drifting from my pack, and suddenly remembered it as the same smell that had been emanating from the cargo hold of the bus i had ridden in.  something in that abyss of despair had spilled onto my gear, and now i smelled like yesterday’s garbage.  perfect.

harmony hotela spanish omelette and 2 pieces of bread later, the old man led me a few minutes walk away to the riad baraka, making sure to stay upwind of me.  when we arrived there he began asking me for some sort of token or gift to remember me by.  i didn’t really understand what he wanted at first, but i didn’t really have anything i could share with him and i felt badly about it.  i pack relatively simple, clothes and toiletries, and camera and laptop, and that’s about it. i don’t buy mementos or souvenirs. ever.  so i disappointed the man and Continue reading chefchaouen, morocco: the blue pearl of north africa