Adrienne Pilon


Adrienne Pilon

I'm a teacher on leave, living in Venice with my husband and two kids. Husband is a prof. at Wake Forest U, which owns a house on the Grand Canal where a semester abroad program takes place.

Europe » Italy » Sicily » Agrigento May 8th 2015

What is it that makes one place so uninteresting and the next enthralling? It is a question we have puzzled over. Visits to great cities like Vienna left us cold, but our last trip, to Sicily, had us enchanted from the moment our plane touched ground. Okay, actually from the air before landing. The landscape is dry, rocky, and rather harsh, yet something in it spoke to us; something in that Mediterranean landscape was instantly familiar. Sure, we are native Californians. Is that all it is? When our friend Clare suggested that we use her father's house in the Sicilian countryside for a few days, we thought, "why not"? I'd always wanted to visit Sicily and this seemed serendipitous as we had a little time after the semester in Venice ended. And so we went, flying ... read more

Europe » Italy » Veneto » Venice April 27th 2015

People constantly ask what my children are doing for school while we are abroad. "Not much" is one answer. "Everything" is another. The truth is that formal schooling doesn't take up much of our day because there are other things to do and see. The other truth is that my children are very different and are having radically divergent experiences and thus, educations. Our oldest, Ari, hates travel and doesn't see the point of any of it. He would much prefer to be at home, in bed, or with his friends. He has, though, enjoyed taking Dean's English class with the students here. Gabriel loves every new experience and soaks it all in on every level. They are both taking something from this. What the kids take from this long term, I haven't any idea. It ... read more
Fighting in Munich
Goofing off

Europe » Italy » Veneto » Venice April 22nd 2015

One of the obvious difficulties of living and traveling in other countries is the language barrier. Even after studying Italian and mastering the (very) basics, there is lots of trial and error and confusion. Leaving Italy and traveling to countries with languages even more unfamiliar, such as German or Turkish, has been REALLY confusing. Contrary to popular misconception, English is NOT spoken everywhere. This is fine with me. I welcome the ridiculous bumbling and unfamiliarity that comes with travel. It is cleansing, bracing, challenging. It is also exhausting. Take, for instance, the lotion debacles. From the moment we landed in Europe, Dean and I have been searching for a decent body lotion. Purchasing lotion ought to be a straightforward transaction, unless you have no idea what those bottle labels are saying. "Doccia latte," for instance, translates ... read more
Lost in Translation
Ordering at restaurants
More practice ordering

Europe » Italy » Emilia-Romagna » Ravenna April 17th 2015

In mid-March I got on a train with few belongings and fewer expectations. To set off so unburdened confers a freedom I have sought to replicate in my life over and over again: the freedom of travel. On this day, success. We set off early in the morning in a group of six: my family of four, a student, Katie, and our R.A., Matt, on a train bound for Bologna. I stepped off the train at Ferrara, alone, and sent them on their way. Once on another train, this one headed to Ravenna, I found that feeling of utter freedom steal over me. I had no responsibilities for the moment, and was bound by nothing but my own whims and desires. I was, briefly, a traveler once again. The Italian countryside unfurled before me as the ... read more
Floor of St. Vitale
Floor mosaics
S. Vitale apse mosaics

Europe » Italy » Veneto » Venice April 16th 2015

One of the fun things about having a friend visit while we are abroad is playing the tourist. While living in Venice, it is easy to ignore the big sights and forget that we are inhabiting a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Okay, not really. Yet there are days that schoolwork, grocery shopping, laundry and other chores take precedence and the other parts of living in Venice become second nature. Even the really, really fabulous parts, like getting coffee and gelato out every day and doing all our errands on foot or by boat. Visits from three friends--all separately--gave us the opportunity to look around once again and realize how very lucky we were to be in magical, wonderful Venice. We started by explaining how we get places: when it is more efficacious to walk, and when ... read more
Beth, in Venice
Beth in Venice
San Marco

Europe » Austria » Salzburg » Salzburg March 14th 2015

We had just one night in Salzburg, and were immediately enchanted. Cold and dusted with snow, it was fairy-tale like on our first night there and transformed by the sun the following day into a charming, riverside town. Salz=salt and it was a big, huge deal some several centuries back and a great source of wealth. That and some disputes in that part of Europe meant that Salzburg needed protection and so the Hohensalzburg fortress was built in the 11th century. The fortress hangs high above the town in picturesque fashion, as these old buildings do; the medieval center is equally picturesque and charming. We went on a boring tour of said fortress--or at least the first part was boring (though the fortress is fabulous!). I escaped fifteen minutes in by signaling to a guard my ... read more
Salzach River

Europe » Italy » Veneto » Venice March 11th 2015

It became a bit chilly this afternoon, after several days of great weather, but never mind-- I've been sitting out on the balcony or perched in an armchair in the living room where I can watch the world cruise down the Grand Canal. It's a traffic-heavy day with work boats and barges, water taxis and vaporetti (water buses) all competing for canal space. Dean wonders: is there canal rage? We see boats converge on the same spot in the canal all the time, but we've witnessed no accidents as of yet. This morning, though, on a long walk through Cannaregio, we saw a boatman on a transport barge exchange words with a gondolier. The Cannaregio canal is so busy, in fact, that we stopped just to watch the traffic: water taxis, transport boats, gondole and other ... read more
Transport boat
Water taxi
Water taxi

Europe » Germany » Bavaria » Munich March 3rd 2015

We went off to Munich on the train a couple of weeks ago. The train ride was lovely: up into the Dolomites, through a sliver of Austria and out just a bit over the Germany border right into the city. The first thing we noticed walking out of the train station to our hotel was the prevalence of immigrants--West Africans, North Africans, Turks, and more. The next thing we noticed was the cold. After leaving our bags we headed out to the center, Marienplatz, to see and do and eat. My heart sank a bit. I didn't like the buildings, nor the look of the city. The entire center of town looked rather like a large shopping mall--a monument to capitalism and consumerism. Oh, and the glockenspiel is kinda lame. The food looked unappetizing. And then ... read more

Europe » Italy » Veneto » Verona February 19th 2015

We stepped out of the Carnevale madness for a day last week and took a quick trip to Verona. Verona is lovely. Perched on the Adige River, Verona is anchored by a huge public square (Piazza Bra) and Roman arena (the largest outside of Rome). A UNESCO world heritage site, Verona is layered with history quite literally: Roman ruins sit side-by-side with structures from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, and in some cases these structures are built one atop another. Much of the city, including that arena, is built with pink limestone from the area, giving it a rosy hue. Winding narrow streets with pastel-colored buildings, flower pots on balconies, and cobblestone pavement make this a postcard-worthy place. Each time I turned a corner, I wanted to take another photo. Verona, like many cities in ... read more

Europe » Italy » Veneto » Venice February 12th 2015

Carnevale means, literally, "meat goes" or at least something like that. It is the lead up to Lent, and is the period of debauchery before the period of abnegation and self-denial before Easter. Here, in Venice, Carnevale began a week ago with a series of festivities: a parade of masks, the Flight of the Angel of Carnevale, fireworks, and lots of parties. Throughout the city people parade in elaborate costumes, posing for cameras wherever they go. Many are clearly practiced in their poses, turning and vogueing the moment a camera appears. Many of these Venetians are wearing sumptuous costumes specially created by designers, and will be part of the various competitions that take place during Carnevale. These masked men and women ( and sometimes children, and even dogs) are seen all over the city now. Sometimes ... read more
Carnevale trio
Carnevale duo

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