No George Clooney, but pure Italian elegance at Lago Trasimeno

by Keely Herrick - Weekend Duchess
( October 1st, 2012 )

You won’t find pictures of George Clooney’s perfect smirk on the walls of restaurants in Lago Trasimeno, as you will nearly everywhere in Lake Como, but Umbria’s graceful lake has a cool beauty that is uniquely Italian. As will all towns in Umbria, you’ll want to leave the stilettos behind in favor of more comfortable shoes to scale the hills of this central region, but the sacrifice in style is well worth it.  This is not the see-and-be-seen suave of Milan or Rome; Umbria has an airy serenity combined with the earthy pleasures of rustic food and fresh air.

Your Weekend Duchess visited this town in November and found it absolutely wonderful, but be warned that the buses from the train station into town do not operate outside of the summer months. Again, Cinderella’s glass slippers had been replaced with the clunky but cloudlike Skecher’s ShapeUps, so I was prepared for the walk.  I won’t deny that I was a little crabby at passing empty bus stops every few feet during the mile or so into town, but the stroll gave me the chance to become acquainted with many of the local cats.

Who comes to a beach town in late fall/early winter? Not too many people, as it turns out, but if your mission is not social but more romantic or introspective, I’d highly recommend the trip. The lake itself is at ground level, of course, and there were still several sailboats and other daring creatures out in the chilly water, but the little town on the hill above provided an extra adventure.

Trasimeno is known, even among Umbrians, for its rich food, so your Duchess found a restaurant and tucked in to some gnocchi, fish, and of course a glass or two of Montefalco rosso. I was the only non-native in the tiny restaurant, which was packed with locals enjoying a decadent Sunday meal. Happily full and rosy-cheeked, I bumbled out of the little town and back down to the lake.

After walking by the water for awhile, I decided to head up to the local castle. The path took me through an olive grove, and you never feel quite as Italian as you do after a bit of wine, trudging through an olive grove heading up to a castle.  The silvery green of the plants made an undeniably aristocratic counterpart to the glassy blue of the lake and sky, and the silence was unmarred by motorinos or Smart Cars. Your Duchess felt quite at home.

I would highly recommend the walk around the upper edges of the castle and the brief tour of the museum inside, even though at one point I thought I might be trapped in there forever. It doesn’t spoil the plot to say that I eventually found the exit (maybe one less glass of wine? nah!) and made my way back through town to the station. Followed as always in these towns by a refined feline, I ended my weekend in Trasimeno and made my way back to Perugia. One could easily spend a week enjoying the simple pleasures of this serene scenery in the off-season, and I certainly hope to find my way back again someday.

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Assisi: Not just for Catholics!

by Keely Herrick - Weekend Duchess
( September 13th, 2012 )

Your Weekend Duchess skipped Assisi on her first few trips to Italy, thinking that one more church couldn’t possibly be that exciting. As rarely as it happens, I am willing to admit when I’m wrong—I recently spent two days in Assisi, and it is an enchanting Umbrian town. Yes, there are numerous touristy shops and it’s probably unpleasantly crowded at Easter or other high holy times, but on a normal day, Assisi is a delicate time capsule of medieval cobblestone streets and fortresses.

As with most towns in hilly Umbria, the train station for Assisi is well below the town itself, and a bus will take you up to the main square. I rode with a crowd of teenagers just out of school for the day, and it was as rowdy and giggly as any similar bus would be in America, with an exceedingly curvy and narrow route up into the sky. Those who enjoy heights will thrill at the swinging hairpin turns, but those with vertigo might just want to find a happy place for this part of the trip.

Once you arrive in Assisi, you will want to walk through the town to the cathedral where St. Francis is buried. It’s not a short walk, and it’s easy to get distracted along the way, with several smaller churches, the Temple of Minerva, and countless cafes with views of the green, lush countryside. There are monuments and memorials to Francis everywhere, and one doesn’t have to be Catholic to appreciate the story of a boy who gave up a posh life to commit to his dream, or to be sympathetic to a child whose father locked him in a church closet as punishment.

As you stroll through the winding, beautiful hills of the town (recently certified a UNESCO World Heritage Site), you’ll also gain an appreciation for the accomplishment of the man’s journey through Umbria barefoot. Even the cushiest Skechers sneakers will be challenged by this terrain, and when you see Italian women without their stilettos, you know it’s an aerobic walk!  Finally, when you reach the basilica, you’ll have to marvel at the sheer size and splendor of this monument to a man who lived his life so simply. It may not be what he would have chosen, but the spectacle of one entire church built on top of another is undeniably impressive.

Massive murals line the walls of the upper portion of the cathedral, helpfully detailing the life and exploits of Francis and his friends. It’s a colorful story and provides informative background for your visit underground to see the remains of the man himself. The theatrical nature of these halls always makes your duchess feel a little like dancing, and on the day I visited, there was actually a pop-up choir of children performing under the bright blue dome, adding a joyful tone to the potentially solemn surroundings.

When you can tear yourself away from the cathedral, make time to climb up to the Rocca Maggiore castle. The castle itself isn’t much to see from the inside, but photos of the surrounding country taken from the castle grounds will impress even your most jaded Facebook friends.  If your legs are still holding up, head out to the Eremo monastery. This is allegedly the site where Francis had his famous conversation with his feathered friends, but the walk takes you through absolutely stunning countryside.

The stillness and serenity of this walk set the scene for conversation, contemplation, or a transformative epiphany. Perhaps it’s not a surprise that here, away from the memorials and dried flowers and amidst the lowing cows and endless greenery, one feels closest to the ideals that Francis represents.  Sometimes you have to strip the gilding away to find the real value of a place.

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Walking amongst the people at the Dragon*Con parade

by Keely Herrick - Weekend Duchess
( September 6th, 2012 )

Your duchess loves a parade as much as anyone, whether it’s Gay Pride in New York City or some Catholic craziness in Sicily. As long as there are sparkly costumes and pageantry, count me in! One of the unexpected pleasures of residing in Atlanta again is that I was able to attend the Dragon*Con parade for the first time this year, and it surpassed my expectations.

I lived along the route of several major parades in New York for many years, and I got spoiled by being able to pop down for awhile, cheer and clap, go back home for lunch and a break, and then return to find the fiesta still in full swing. Dragon*Con, and Atlanta in general, is a bit more complicated and less convenient, but it was worth the crowded MARTA journey.

For the uninitiated, Dragon*Con is not a celebration of all things dragon, but rather it is a massive annual convention that takes over Atlanta every Labor Day weekend.  The parade is pretty much a smaller version of NYC’s Halloween parade with more nerds and less skin (probably a wise combination). Oddly, there were more evangelical wackadoodles protesting the Dragon*Con parade than one sees at the skinfests in New York, but people down here do seem to have a serious lack of constructive hobbies, and there are a lot of frustrated cheerleaders.

The parade itself takes place on Saturday morning, and once you survive the MARTA crush, it’s a relatively roomy and charming affair. The costumes are helpfully grouped by character, so you’ll see a fleet of Ghostbusters (complete with several cars) followed by a crowd of Batmen, etc. Of course, your duchess identified most strongly with her fellow royalty in the Game of Thrones crew, although the lack of a representative Tyrion was troubling. I suppose it’s a little too on the nose if you’re of short stature.

There are panel discussions with icons like Stan Lee (and the somewhat less iconic Dean Cain), as well as themed adult parties throughout the weekend, but the real thrill is just walking amongst a throbbing crowd of fantasy fans fully geeked out and happily in their element. The universal theme of a parade is the acceptance and celebration of whoever you are, which is probably why we love them (and why the wingnuts are less fond). At Dragon*Con, anyone can be a king (or a duchess) for the weekend, and everyone is welcome.

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Touring beyond the Tower in Pisa, Italy

by Keely Herrick - Weekend Duchess
( August 30th, 2012 )

When you think of Pisa, you may have images of some horribly Disney-fied version of Italy, all plastic pomp and no substance.  Your Weekend Duchess considered it far too touristy and out of the way to merit a visit on her first five or so trips to Italy, but it finally proved a convenient spot to spend a few days as part of a three-week trek around the country. While certainly lacking the charm or authenticity of the more cinematic bella Italia, Pisa is an interesting town full of contrasts.

Let’s get it out of the way—the Leaning Tower is impressive. Yes, it leans, yes, you can climb it, and it is an amusing sensation to be climbing a spiral staircase in a tilted building. I recommend scheduling your tour so that you can catch the sunset over the piazza from the top—if you’re not impressed by that view, I don’t need to know you.

And, especially for Italy, the whole system is surprisingly well-organized. This may be where the Disneyfication comes in, but you purchase a ticket for a timed entry, you climb with a group, and there are several package tickets involving the other sites in the piazza. It does feel more like a theme park than the relaxed chaos of the rest of the country, but it works well, given the amount of tourists. Of course, your Duchess had to be a bit of a rebel and broke in with an earlier tour group with a wink to the guard, but in general people seem to play by the rules.

So, yes, the Piazza dei Miracoli is aptly named, and each building there is a stunning, delicate masterpiece. As squares go, it’s an impressive one. Along one wall of the square is also perhaps the longest line of tourist nonsense stalls you will find in Europe. Again, it’s cheesey and Disney-esque, but if you’re looking for a pair of boxers with the crotch of David or a coffee mug featuring British popstar Robbie Williams, you’ll be a happy tourist.  There will be some souvenir there to amuse your friends back home, even if it’s likely made in China.

Many visitors to Pisa probably hit the square, see the sights, eat at one of the less-than-inspiring restaurants nearby, and head back to the bus or train, but there is more to the city. Romantic poets Byron and Shelley lived further in town, on either side of the Arno, and it was one of their happiest homes in Italy. The town today is very much a real working town, complete with cafes, record stores, and enough character to please even the most hardened New York hipster.

Walking along the river in the morning, you will feel like you’re not even in the same country as the fantastic plastic of the tower square.  You might, however, feel like you’re in Italy.

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Soggy and satisfied in Salzburg

by Keely Herrick - Weekend Duchess
( August 17th, 2012 )

Into every traveler’s life, a little rain will fall. I’ve been to Seattle several times and always had beautiful, sunny weather, so I was due for a soaking at some point, and I got it nearly every day during a week in Munich, Germany. Your duchess even relented and wore a plastic poncho in public one night on the way to a dance performance—it was unfashionable, but the best way to avoid shivering and dripping all over the person in the seat next to me.

Of course, there is no shortage of indoor adventures to be had in Munich, but I also intended to take a few day trips during the week. Salzburg, in particular, was a legendarily lovely town that I did not want to miss. After an easy train trip (you’ve got to love the efficiency of the German rail system), I emerged in Austria, umbrella in hand.

If you didn’t know that Mozart was born in Salzburg, you’ll quickly realize it when you look around the town. Someone caught the marketing bug pretty hard in Salzburg, and as a result, Mozart’s bewigged mug stares at you from all manner of souvenirs, particularly the ubiquitous branded chocolates. As touristy affectations go, it’s fairly amusing, and there’s a quaint charm to having twinkling little symphonies following you around a town.

Of course, I popped into the Mozart birthplace museum.  It’s a tiny house, and I tagged along behind a German tour group, letting my complexion, height, and hair color allow me to blend in with a crowd. The additional soundtrack of the steady rain lent a romantic tone to the story of Mozart and his family’s humble beginnings.

And the band played on: I stopped for coffee and had an outdoor cafe nearly to myself, watching the horse carriages plod gamely through the main square, all the while serenaded by a string quartet.  The town itself seemed to be showering, brocaded buildings simply coming clean in the rain. I took a long walk through St. Sebastien’s cemetery, watching a toddler in a slicker jump through puddles and coveting her boots. The university garden also provided a beautiful spot for a stroll, the beauty of roses triumphant through the deluge.

Finally, I stopped for one last coffee break by the river.  The spot had typical Austrian grandeur, all crystal chandeliers and suited businesspeople, a perfectly civilized afternoon. Even in the rain, no one seemed in a hurry—the city seems coated in a wave of cool calm.  Soggy and satisfied, I lingered quite awhile over that last cafe mit schlag, in absolutely no rush to be anywhere else.

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My Capture the Colour Photo Contest Entry

by Keely Herrick - Weekend Duchess
( August 6th, 2012 )

Much love and thanks to fellow Wanderblogger Rhonda Mix for nominating me in the Capture the Colour photo contest! Travel Supermarket is requesting photo submissions from travel bloggers featuring the colors blue, green, yellow, white, and red, with a brief description of each photo. Applicants are then requested to nominate five fellow travel bloggers, who in turn will submit their own rainbow of submissions. The application deadline is August 29, 2012, and winners will be announced next month.  More information is available on the site here.

Enough chit-chat, let’s get to the photos!

Blue:

This photo was taken on the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The sculpture is titled “Cloud City,” by Argentine artist Tomas Sarceno, and it allows visitors to climb inside the clear, connected pods for a distinctly different view of New York City. After living in New York for 17 years, I recently moved away, and I’ve realized how much I missed seeing big, blue skies on a daily basis. The roof of the Met surprised me with the overwhelming sea of sky in the middle of Manhattan.

Green:

When I thought of the Alps, I envisioned snow-blanketed peaks, but a trip to Burgenstock, Switzerland showed me how green and lush the mountains can be.  While savoring the perfect snap of a brat and listening to the low clanking of cow bells, I was overwhelmed by a truly perfect serenity. From the cable car trip to the hike up to the mountaintop, Bugenstock easily surpassed my Alpine dreams.

Yellow:

Every tourist visits Rome’s Colosseum by day, but it is a different experience altogether to see the building lit up on a dark, cool night. The poet Lord Byron was fond of wandering into the arena in the evening, and while we can’t just stroll in today, the building is undeniably majestic when set aglow like a giant jack-o’-lantern. There will be vendors selling goofy trinkets all around you, but it’s still possible to find a quiet corner and take some time to enjoy the beautiful spectacle.

White:

Sydney, Australia, is a gleamingly clean city. Its most famous landmark, the Sydney Opera House, sits like a giant white bird on the harbor. Whether you view it as a swan or an albatross (and locals are still deeply divided into these two camps), it is a defiantly unique creation, thick with the spirit of Australia itself.

Red:

Every botanical garden has the required patch of red roses, but Christchurch, New Zealand greets visitors with a giant rosy sculpture. I enjoyed a beautiful afternoon in the gardens here, but a week later the town was hit with a terrible earthquake. The gardens have been re-opened as the town rebuilt and recovered, and most likely many locals as well as tourists have found comfort in the soothing landscape of the grounds.

Thank you for viewing my entry!

Nominations:

I nominate the following five travel writers, all of whom produce work that I enjoy on a regular basis:

1. Mette Vaabengaard, Italian Notes

2. Gary Arndt, Everything Eveywhere

3. James Martin, Wandering Italy

4. Rob, Stop Having a Boring Life

5. Shermika Dunner, ArtBLT

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Sweating out wine in the Cinque Terre

by Keely Herrick - Weekend Duchess
( July 31st, 2012 )

You don’t always make the best decisions after a lunch with a few glasses of wine, but one October in Italy’s Cinque Terre, I made a pretty good one. I was staying in Lerici, on the Golfo di Poeti, near where Percy Shelley drowned, and I had taken a ferry from there to Monterosso, the farthest out of the five towns that make up the Cinque Terre. The towns themselves are everything you’d want them to be, especially in late fall when the tourist crowds have nearly evaporated and you can have an intimate little trattoria all to yourself.

So, after wandering through the town for awhile and enjoying some sort of truffle-speckled pasta and the aforementioned wine, I wandered back toward the ferry dock. On the way, I passed the sign indicating the hiking path from Monterosso to Vernazza. I like a pleasant little hike as much as the next person, and I figured it probably wasn’t that far, given that some people hike from the first town all the way to the fifth. This was just one leg of that journey, and I was wearing sneakers, so why not?

Well, the vino quickly wore off and the endorphins kicked in, as the initial part of the hike was nearly completely vertical. It is a bit more challenging than I expected, and several hikers gave up and turned back, but after the first hour, I felt pot-committed and was not about to give up. The path is so narrow that, in most places, for someone to pass in either direction, one person has to kiss the wall.  That sort of proximity builds an easy camaraderie that is undeniably encouraging.

The international aspect of the experience also hammered home the universality of a physical challenge. I exchanged fatigued giggles and eyerolls and fumbled my way through “All downhill from here, right?” in a variety of European languages.  The only rudeness I encountered during the entire journey was actually, embarrassingly enough, from a family of Americans. Two children and a husband were being driven along like a pack of wolves by a comically obnoxious mother barking out commands like “Low and wide!” to her panting crew and “On your left!” to anyone in her path. I didn’t see her strike any of them with her hiking stick, but I wouldn’t have been surprised if I had.

I’m pretty sure they missed the entire point of the experience. Climbing through olive groves on the face of a cliff over-looking unbelievably blue water is not something to be done at military speed.  A few of us stopped to watch a group of boys jump off the side of the cliff, screaming and laughing as they dove into the cool water below.  The wolf family probably knocked a few of them out of the way for taking too much time, but the rest of us savored the freedom and goofy “boys will be boys in any language” moment.

Last fall, the entire area, including Vernazza, was heavily hit with floods and mudslides, but recent pictures show the town as beautiful as ever. I would encourage anyone to go to Cinque Terre and spend a day trekking leisurely between the towns. Your Duchess does like to have a plan and execute it to the letter, but sometimes you need to wander off-course and take the slow road. As long as you still make the last ferry back to the town where you’re staying! As a bonus, after a few hours hiking through the hills, you may just have picked up enough of an earthy scent to get a little corner of the ferry all to yourself!

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Why the Weekend Duchess won’t be going to Chick-fil-A or Belize

by Keely Herrick - Weekend Duchess
( July 27th, 2012 )

Some of my friends don’t understand why there is such a fuss over the statements made by Chick-fil-A’s higher ups regarding the company’s donations to organizations that oppose equal rights for gay people. After all, the company has always been closed on Sundays, it hasn’t ever been shy about identifying itself as a Christian organization.  So, apparently, the logic goes, we shouldn’t be surprised that it donates so much money to organizations whose goal is denying equality.

Maybe it’s my pesky law degree kicking in, but I take issue with that reasoning. To me, there’s a difference between knowing a company is run by a wacky old zealot and knowing that the money I spend there goes to support organizations whose purpose is contrary to the core of my beliefs. After all, it’s the South—wacky old zealots are not really news.  They have their beliefs, and we get colorful characters for plays and movies like “Steel Magnolias” and “Driving Miss Daisy.”

People also say, well, there are bigger problems in the world than where a wacky old zealot donates his profits. That sort of thinking is a handy excuse to absolve one of any sort of social responsibility whatsoever. I personally can’t do anything about the threat of nuclear war, but I can skip my occasional indulgences in peanut-oil soaked chicken nuggets.

Similarly, when traveling, there is literally an entire world of options to consider when choosing a vacation destination. One of the Duchess’s favorite things to do is snorkel, and everyone knows not to bother me during Shark Week. I keep hearing that Belize has some of the best snorkeling around, in the same class as the Great Barrier Reef. Ordinarily, I’d have my hotel booked and bikini packed by now.

However, Belize’s policies make Chick-fil-A seem like a land of rainbows. Homosexuality is currently illegal in the country and punishable by up to ten years in prison, and this isn’t an antique law held over out of legal laziness—the courts have upheld it recently against a challenge. The trial is ongoing, but still, currently, a gay couple could be imprisoned for ten years in Belize.

Of course, I’m sure that couples could and do visit the country with discretion and avoid arrest, but that isn’t the point.  If I choose, out of all the waters of the world, to travel to Belize and give them my money, that helps their economy and validates their national policy of persecution.  For my gay friends, I imagine they would feel about as supported as I would if my male friends went to a female circumcision party and posted pictures on Facebook. I hope the policy is changed in my lifetime, but until then, there are other seas full of fish, as it were.

These may be small steps, but a journey is not composed solely of leaps. Yes, you can drive yourself crazy trying to avoid sponsoring any business whose policies differ from your own, but when the commitment to celebrate hatred is cheered so loudly, you owe it to yourself to walk your wallet out the door. One American value is undeniably true: the votes you make with your money are counted.

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Perfect evening: Leonard Cohen concert in Ghent, Belgium

by Keely Herrick - Weekend Duchess
( July 18th, 2012 )

Trying to fill in your next travel itinerary? Check out the tour schedules of your favorite bands and musicians – they may point you toward an adventure in a city you otherwise would overlook. It also may surprise you to learn how popular some acts are in smaller countries around the world.

For example, Canadian singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen is not performing in Atlanta on his current tour, but he is playing five nights in Ghent, Belgium. What’s in Ghent, you ask? Well, not much, but I saw him perform there on a recent tour, and it was an undeniably magical evening.

I included a weekend in Ghent as part of my grand European tour specifically to catch Cohen’s concert in St. Peter’s Square. While Belgium’s larger cities like Brussels and Bruges are modern cities with their own unique tweaks, Ghent is sleepier and sublime. Good news if you enjoy strolling around a beautiful old town bolstered by strong beer and chocolate—bad news if you need a working ATM on a Sunday.

Sure, the people were friendly, joking that with their love of high-caloric luxuries they were among the more rotund countries in the European Union, but I didn’t quite understand why Cohen would spend so much time in this small town until the show began. After all, this is the greatest lyricist of our time—it seemed odd that he would be so popular in a place where English is only one of many spoken languages.  He is a Canadian who has spent much of his recent years living in near-seclusion in a California monastery; he isn’t exactly someone promoted alongside the “Jersey Shore” cast on MTV.

Once the sun set and I found myself settled into the temporary bleachers, all doubts vanished.  St. Peter’s in Ghent is not the Vatican, but it has a stately, ornate facade that provides all of a church’s beauty without the dreaded dogma. Compared to Cohen’s U.S. venues like Radio City Music Hall, the setting is intimate; just a few Belgian fans getting together to enjoy a perfect late-summer evening with Leonard.

It occurred to me that I didn’t need to buy a ticket to enjoy this concert—Cohen’s deep voice can likely be heard anywhere in the tiny town when he performs in the square.  Still, he sells out multiple nights to fans who are delighted to experience the gravel and wisdom of “Suzanne” and “Chelsea Hotel” in person.

Not since I was a teenager in Atlanta had the universality of music struck such a strong chord in me. How bad can things be if Leonard Cohen can still sell out five nights in Ghent, right?  In a town I never thought I’d see, watching the words of one of my idols wash over a worshipful crowd in a deliciously divine setting, I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

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The Lone Rangette: A love of solo travel

by Keely Herrick - Weekend Duchess
( July 10th, 2012 )

I’m a little sick of all of the solo traveler articles giving advice on how not to be lonely and how to meet people while on the road.  The best thing for me about meeting people while traveling is that I am under no obligation to stay with them at the end of the day or to accommodate their quirks or needs. I do love traveling with friends and family, but I make no apologies for enjoying my own company in equal measure.



Two years ago, I quit my job, sold my apartment, and cut the albatross boyfriend from around my neck. I then spent three months by myself in Europe.  By the end of it, I was more than ready to shower regularly and talk to people again, but that time on my own was an essential part of the happy transition.

Of course, I still had a fair share of human contact, even beyond the service industry. I was able to e-mail a core group of friends daily, and I even let the albatross call me sometimes.  And if you are a woman traveling alone, the kindness of strangers is always good for a dinner, a few drinks, a story or two.  I had a really long conversation with a Moroccan tile salesman in Bologna one night and another with an older German woman in a cafe in Munich, both of which guided me to the next part of my life, but neither of which would have happened if I had followed some article’s tips on how to desperately force social interaction.

To all those ladies who romanticize love on the run with a stranger, my take on it is this: if the guy is safe enough to bring back to your hotel, the experience probably wouldn’t be anything to write home about.  Once you hit your thirties, it’s not worth worrying about your wallet going missing (at the very least) or translating “it burns when I pee” into Portuguese. Yes, Luigi will act heart-broken when you leave him on the street at the end of a pleasant evening, but you’re representing America, missy! Our rep is already pretty bad in Europe due to college exchange programs, so it’s best not to contribute to the impression that leads European men to treat us rather differently than they treat their own women.

Also, often you find yourself with friends on the road who are more persistent than you’d like. During a week’s stay by the beach in Lerici, Italy, I found myself peering out of the lagoon, only my nose, sunglasses, and hat visible above the surface, watching as the guy who bought me pizza the day before stalked the shore looking for me. While it was amusing to feel like I was in some combination of “Ferris Bueller” and “Weekend at Bernie’s,” it wasn’t fun to be looking over my shoulder throughout the day trying to avoid unwanted attention.

In general, there’s no need to feel pressure to meet people when you travel. It’s largely unavoidable and will happen organically no matter what you do, so I’d recommend avoiding the experts who tell you to eat at the bar laughing to yourself over a book.  If you get a take-out pizza in Rome, the guy making it will ask you out to a club that night, so finding new friends is not something to stress about in your vacation preparation. And there is no shame at all in spending the entire trip wrapped up in your own thoughts and your own conversation with the landscape, the art, the music, and the history of a new city.  After all, there are people everywhere.

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