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Venezia, Italia

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Being a dumb American, I did not know Venice was actually Venezia until I started booking my reservations.

My host, Kenneth was extremely helpful and arranged for me a place to stay in a hotel affiliated with a church that was only 65 Euros a night. That was a great deal, considering at this time of the year the hostel was going for over 100 Euros! He also accompanied me to the station with detailed travel instructions. Oh the benefits of having a host!!

I boarded the train and saw that I was assigned to the aisle seat, but no one was next to me yet, so I stole the window seat.

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Ciao Milano

The Prologue

People have been asking a few different questions recently. Where is Whitney? How come you haven’t blogged in a while? What have you been up to? How can you afford to travel?

I’m attempting to answer these questions here:

1.) I am currently in Tampa. Plan to see some “How to do Florida like a local” posts in the future. I really like it here and I’ve started to accept how Floridian I am.

2.) I’m all full of excuses of why I haven’t blogged in a while. Mostly it’s because my life is busy, but in a more mundane sort of way.

Ecclesiastes 3 “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

A time to be born and a time to die…”    …A time to surf and a time to host

Yes, I’ve been doing lots of hosting. I have a map of the U.S. that was hand embroidered by my Great Grandmother hanging in my living room. We use it as a reference point. “What states have you visited?” “I’m on holiday in the U.S. for two weeks, where should I go?” “I’ve been there.” I love hearing about other people’s journeys. Every Couchsurfer does it differently: foreign exchange students, long-distances bicyclists, au pairs, freelancers, conference attendees, vacationers, hitch-hikers, WOOFers and those lucky Germans on sabbatical.

3.) I’ve actually been up to quite a lot and that’s why I’m trying to get back in the swing of things!

4.) I know this may blow your mind, but traveling is not expensive. NOT AT ALL! In fact, it can be cheaper than staying in one spot.

So without further ado, I bring you my Italian adventure!

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St. Louis – Back to the South

Apparently there is a debate across our country on whether St. Louis is really Southern. From my experiences it is – though my thoughts on whether a place is Southern or not is largely culinary based. Do they brew the sugar in the tea or do they stir it in after the fact when you order? I can taste a difference! Do they traditionally have their own distinct style of BBQ (Pulled Pork Carolina Mustard Style, Texas Cut Brisket, ect.) I grew up sticking my head out the school bus window to smell that savory smoke billowing out the front screen of BC’s BBQ – the pride and joy of all the Yalaha, Florida locals. I’d smell it down the road on Saturdays and hear the vroom of  biker groups speeding by on their pilgrimage. We had to stop by grab the meat, a coke from the long wall cooler and a mini sweet potato pie at the cash register. I later worked at Sonny’s serving up the good stuff – smelling of sweet sauce. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on some authentic St. Louis style ribs!

I was directed to this place called Pappy’s by my Couchsurfing host Mark. I was fortunate to have a spare bedroom in the apartment of my freshly college graduated and surprisingly platonic roommates Mark and Laura. I was told to go to Pappy’s at an odd time of the day, because it is always packed. I headed over at around 2:30. There was a line out the door, but the BBQ was worth the wait! Ohh… it was some good stuff!

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The Town of Jackson

I was fortunate to get a last-minute Couch Surfing acceptance from Seth in Jackson, Wyoming. Locals call it Jackson, not Jackson Hole. I made that mistake and put Jackson Hole in my GPS and ended up at a parking lot of a resort I couldn’t afford to stare at. When I finally made it into town I walked around and swung into the Grand Teton Gallery. Seth was out in the woods and I needed to kill time before meeting him. I found the right gallery as they were having a magazine launch party that evening! I lucked out! Bar! Who needs a bar! I found a social place with free food (and good stuff – shrimp cocktails, cheese, meat, crackers, watermelon…), wine  and lots of art! A few of the pieces in the gallery were from some of the same artists that show at the Plantation Wildlife Arts Festival in Thomasville, Georgia. I do work for the arts festival, so I was so excited to see the work of some artists that I knew!

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Seeing Seattle

I booked a bed at the local American Hotel HI in the Asian side of Seattle. Being the friendly hostel veteran that I am, I quickly made friends with another solo traveler – a really sweet girl from Uruguay who was traversing the U.S. after her study abroad. We checked out a local noodle shop and then walked to the harbor. Next door to the hostel was also a dessert shop. It was so colorful that you just had to walk in. The shelves were lined with beautifully decorated cake slices of every flavor. The menu also included every kind of Boba Tea you could imagine.

 

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Santa Fe

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I pulled around to the workshop behind a hotel for the maintenance man to help me fill my tires with air. The weather in the desert really takes a toll on tire pressure. He said, “You’re travelin’ by yourself? Go get yourself  a little somethin’ to eat in Roswell and fill up for gas. After you get through town there won’t be nothin’.” I didn’t think he literally meant “nothin'”. I thought there would certainly be a tree or two, maybe an abandoned building, maybe a lone gas station…. nope. There was nothing after Roswell for three hours. Not even a tree. I couldn’t pick up a radio station.

I drove and drove listening to the three CD’s I had in the car over and over again. I was so happy when I finally came to this little town where I could fill up for gas and grab a hamburger at a diner. I reached Santa Fe in the dark relieved that I was no longer on the road!

The Diner

The Diner

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San Antonio Day

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2013-03-19_13-23-29_450I woke up to a flat tire the day after SXSW had ended. I was relieved that I made it back to Manor the night before and didn’t end up on the side of the road at a ridiculous hour. I decided it was best to rest for the weekend anyway. The only place I went for a few days was with Bill to the park. Rural Texas was starting to look festive with wild flowers starting to span the grass. Every other picnic pavilion had kids out hitting a piñata and there were several games of competitive soccer. We walked for a while and took in the scenery of the Colorado River.

Tuesday after my restful weekend, I pumped up my tire and went to the repair shop to patch my wheel before heading to San Antonio. Over the weekend I had also discovered Roadtrippers.com and had found some suggestions of things to see – the first of which was Barney Smith’s Toilet Seat Art Museum. Read the rest of this entry