Dear Venezia

Postcards and Prosecco

Venice, Italy

Edition 01  April  2017

 

Dear Venezia,

For many years, daydreams of you and your floating water colored castles sustained me, transported me, and carried me away. Still photographs frozen in time and artists’ renditions of you danced in my head, breathing life, and possibilities into my soul. You dear Venezia, delivered a much needed imaginary escape during a series of difficult and tragic times in my life.

Love at first sight

The poets echoing refrain and artists’ masterpieces made me love you, long before we met. For decades you graced my hallway, my desk, and my office, waiting for me to see you again. I heard you calling my name, but was too tired, too heartbroken to answer. Yet, you persisted. You remained in my every day, watching and waiting, decorating the backdrop of my life. And when death came to call a second time, leaving me standing yet again over a gloomy windswept grave, you waited no more. You came for me, rushing in, redirecting my plans, and willing me to your verdant marshes.

As the chimes ring and the pilot speaks I wake to see you from the air above. Still woozy with sleep, I stare silently in disbelief, at your verdantly green islands stretched beneath me. I fear my daydreams may be too lofty to sustain the weight of my expectations. Yet, the thought of you overwhelms my senses. I am equal parts excited and anxious. Curious questions cloud my thoughts.

With a mix of adrenaline and sea midst coursing through my veins, I taste the salt water spray on my lips as I travel from the east barrier island, the Lido. At long last, I make my way to you. Much like a bleary eyed child awakening on Christmas morn, I am astonished as I finally see you. I stare, scarcely breathing. In front of me, a kaleidoscope of improbable possibilities.  Technicolored moments long admired from across the Atlantic float majestically before me in sea of hypnotic Adriatic blue. Euphoria washes over me as my heart rate quickens. In this moment, I too am floating outside of myself, a soul set free leaving the terra firma in my wake.

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Parting is such sweet sorrow

Five Facts about Me

This month I was featured in Jacksonville University’s Faculty Spotlight. The spotlight focuses on my professional career in communications and higher education. I thought you might like to know a little bit more about me.

1.  Where I find my inspiration.

Communications is my passion, my craft, and my expertise. When done well, the ability to effectively communicate embodies art, draws us together, and empowers change. And leaving the world a little better, is something I think we are all called to do.

My work at the university allows me to share my enthusiasm and expertise for communication with the next generation. My students in turn continue to inspire me. For more than a decade and a half my students have produced incredible award winning projects . Their work has gone on to garner recognition from regional, national, and international organizations. In the summer of 2018, the work went global, as an EPIC funded interdisciplinary multimedia and STEAM project was featured at the global Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry in Rome.

My students found time to join me in a servic project for the community.
Enjoying the golden light in Sorrento with my students Sylvia Dean, Class of 2019 and Sara Ann Wicks, Class of 2018

2.  What I’m working on.

I’ve lead study abroad programs at JU for more than a decade and a half. I am a passionate advocate for quality study abroad programs. I believe education remains the one great hope for vibrant democracies throughout the world. For me, study abroad is an integral part of education, necessary to prepare students for life in an increasingly global community.

During the Summer of 2017, I made a last-minute decision, changed my travels plans and travelled alone from my rented flat in Venice, 500 miles south to Sorrento where I agreed to take a series of meetings. After a few minutes on the property I knew this place was extraordinary.

Today, Jacksonville University is the official university of record for Sant’Anna overseeing the instruction, coursework, and awarding of university credits and transcripts to all students throughout the world earning academic credit through Sant’Anna.

Sant'Anna in the Golden Hour
Towering high above Marina Grand, Sant’Anna shines brightly.

3.  What you might not know about me.

I interviewed Bill Gates as part of my work with the U.S. Conference of Mayors. In fact, he corrected his assistant when she tried to shorten my name to Ann, reminding her that my name was Annmarie–and endearing himself to me for eternity.

Interviewing Bill Gates
Interviewing Bill Gates for the US Conference of Mayors

In 2013, I was appointed by Mayor Alvin Brown, as the city’s Education Commissioner and senior policy advisor on all matters education. As an executive on loan to City Hall I worked to enhance equitable educational opportunities for our community. I also served on the US Conference of Mayor’s Education Task Force, at a White House Convening on College Access, and was invited to participate in a think tank for the American Association of Colleges and Universities.

I led two community wide education summits, and raised nearly a quarter million dollars through grants, corporate donations, and private donors in support educational initiatives in northeast Florida.

Speaking at Grad Nation
Speaking at Grad Nation advocating for quality educational opportunities for all.

4.  I love to write.

Through my website Postcards and Prosecco I’m able to share my more creative work. When I’m not at the university, there’s a good chance I’m off on an adventure of some sort—looking, listening, and learning from the shared experiences of others. Before I became a professor, I was a television broadcast journalist and came to understand and appreciate the beauty of storytelling through images and words.

In the classroom, I remind my students that “Facts are Fun” as I challenge them to move their work out of opinion and into fact based communications. To help illustrate this concept, I developed a series of online travel articles using the “Fun Facts” theme. Over the years, the collection has grown. If you google facts + Santorini, you’ll find my Fun Facts about Santorini at the top of the search. Of all the things I do in the classroom, this google search may be the one that has given me the most credibility with my students.

Shadows and Delight
The blue dome and bell tower of Pyrgos

5.  I’m always caffeinated.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a coffee drinker. I started early, very early. So early in fact, I have no memory of a life before coffee. My Italian grandmother gave me my first taste of coffee and cream in a baby bottle. As a child, coffee became a part of my homeopathic treatment for allergies and asthma. As an adult, I’ve visited some of the world’s finest cafes including Florian’s in Venice, where coffee was first served in Europe, Café Sperl in Vienna, Austria, and the former monastery in Amalfi where a Capuchin monk created cappuccino.

Coffee, tea, and me.
Another reason to love Venice…coffee and it’s arrival in Europe started here at this coffee shop.

Meeting Sant’Anna

POSTCARDS & PROSECCO

SORRENTO, ITALY

EDITION 02   SEPTEMBER 2018

JACKSONVILLE UNIVERSITY IN ITALY

Spanning three centuries, Sant’Anna has stood as a source of learning, light, and leadership for the Sorrento community in the Campagna region of southern Italy. Located high above the Bay of Naples, jetting out on a cliff facing Mt. Vesuvius, Sorrento, sits 30 miles south of Naples. Now, through a new partnership with Jacksonville University, Sant’Anna is poised to become a leader in high quality global educational experiences.

Capo di Sorrento
JU on the cliffs of Sorrento, Italy

LEGACY OF SANT’ANNA

The legacy of Sant’Anna is shrouded in generosity, compassion, and commitment to the educational needs of a community. The expansive property originated in the 1800s as a private residence. At the owner’s request upon his death, the estate was bequeathed to the Roman Catholic Church. In response for such generosity, the Church sent the Sisters of Charity of the Immaculate Conception of Ivrea to care for the educational needs of the Sorrento community.

For more than 150 years, the Sisters of Charity served the diverse educational needs of the Sorrento community; establishing an orphanage, teaching nursery school through high school, and educating teachers. The school closed its doors in 1994. A few years later, with permission from the Vatican, Cristiana Pannico, founder and owner of today’s Sant’Anna Institute moved into the historical building, bringing new life, leadership, and learning yet again into the property. This time, with Pannico’s vision, expanding the legacy of learning to include international students.

Sant'Anna in the Golden Hour
Towering high above Marina Grand, Sant’Anna shines brightly.

Today, towering over a majestic cliff, high above Sorrento’s Marina Grande, the impressive five-story building includes classrooms, offices, and two floors of newly renovated student residences. The rooms overlooking the sapphire blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea and pastel colored fishing village of Marina Grande are again bustling with activity.

Marina Grande, Sorrento
The watercolored fishing village of Marina Grande.

The stone-walled walkway leading through the gates of Sant’Anna delights the senses meandering through brightly colored gardens, rose-scented arch ways, and tidy rows of Sorrento’s native aromatic lemon trees. The organic garden is lovingly tended as it has been for centuries, providing fresh fruit, seasonal vegetables, and flowers to the Sant’Anna community.

Lemons of Sorrento
Lemons and wisteria line the pathway to Sant’Anna.

MY LEAP OF FAITH

As the Executive Director of Global Teaching and Learning, and Professor of Communication, I’ve lead study abroad programs at JU for more than a decade and a half. I am a passionate advocate for quality study abroad programs. Time and again, I witness the transformation that takes place when a college student steps out of the familar and into the unknown.  I believe education remains the one great hope for vibrant democracies throughout the world. For me, study abroad is an integral part of education, necessary to prepare students for life in an increasingly global community.

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Villa Rufolo in nearby Ravello.

When done right, study abroad has the power to promote peace, replacing fear of the unknown with understanding, illuminating shared values, and cultivating respect for differences. Study abroad affords students the opportunity to experience engaged learning while increasing knowledge through understanding.

Annmarie and the Amalfi Coast
Enjoying the view along the Amalfi Coast.

My students have used their time abroad to produce award winning projects honored by the Florida Chapter of the Associated Press and the National Council for Undergraduate Research. During the Summer of 2017, at the end of a family vacation in Venice, I made a last-minute decision to stay behind, and travel alone for the nearly 500 miles south to Sorrento.

After a few minutes on the property, and an initial meeting with owner, Cristina Pannico, I recognized the opportunities for collaboration between JU and Sant’Anna could be far greater than simply my summer program. I knew I found something extraordinary and set to work to share it with the JU community.

Actual dorm room in Sorrento.
This view was waiting for me upon my arrival at Sant’Anna.

In the fall of 2017, Pannico visited JU, touring the campus and meeting with President Tim Cost. In March of 2018, I travelled to Sorrento, and spent my sabbatical at Sant’Anna studying Italian and facilitating the partnership. Later that month, Dr. Christine Sapienza arrived with the documents making the collaboration between Jacksonville University and Sant’Anna official.

The gardens of Sant'Anna
Dr. Christine Sapienza, Provost and SVP of Academic Affairs at Jacksonville University with Cristiana Panicco, Owner and Founder of the Sant’Anna Institute.

As the university of record, JU oversees the instruction and coursework provided at Sant’Anna, ensures JU academic standards are maintained, and awards university credits and transcripts to all students throughout the world earning academic credit through Sant’Anna classes.

DOLPHINS IN SORRENTO

In May of 2018, less than one year after the initial meeting between Pannico and myself, the first group of JU Dolphins arrived in Sorrento. The three-week May-mester included two courses. I taught Communications, Culture, and the Amalfi Coast, and Professor Ginger Sheridan taught Photography: The study of Displacement and Discovery.

My students found time to join me in a servic project for the community.
Enjoying the golden light in Sorrento with my students Sylvia Dean, Class of 2019 and Sara Ann Wicks, Class of 2018

A second group of students followed in June, completing course work, including Sant’Anna signature courses: History of the Mafia, Archaeology and the Cities of Fire, and Italian Language. In addition, the summer program featured a new JU International Internship in Sorrento, with students from a variety of majors interning in the community while earning discipline specific academic credits.

Lecture in Naples
History of the Mafia students travel to Naples with Dr. Aterrano and Dr. Novellino.

Over the course of the next academic year, JU will continue to pilot new programs. These additions include graduate and undergraduate courses in Health Sciences, International Internships, two Summer Sessions, the Freshman Welcome Program, and full semester programs in the Spring and Fall.

This extraordinary partnership provides undergraduates, graduate students, and the greater JU community with well-organized and innovative engaged learning opportunities. Collectively, this JU signature program pairs critical thinking and vibrant learning experiences while preparing students for success in an increasing global world. From the bluff high above the St. Johns River to the cliffs of the Sorrentine peninsula, JU’s shared commitment to educational excellence, through service, learning, and leadership has found a new home in Sant’Anna and Sorrento, Italy.

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Sunset in Sorrento and Marina Grande.

The study abroad programs are open to JU students and full time college students in good standing enrolled at other colleges and universities. For more information about how you can study abroad in Sorrento, click the link here.

I look forward to seeing you in Sorrento!

Summer in Sorrento

POSTCARDS & PROSECCO

SORRENTO, ITALY

EDITION 02   AUGUST 2018

Say hello to Sorrento!

Over the course of the last year, including during my sabbatical, I spent much of my time working on a project designed to create innovative, engaging, and educational study abroad opportunities. This summer, the program came to life as I welcomed several groups of students to the Jacksonville University and Sant’Anna partnership.

Now you can travel with me and my students through the majestic cliffs of Sorrento, the breathtaking Amalfi Coast, and set sail for captivating Capri. With signature coursework including International internships these global experiences bring education to life while offering a whole new world of understanding.

 

10 Fun Facts about Amalfi

POSTCARDS & PROSECCO

AMALFI, ITALY

EDITION 02   JUNE 2018
  1. The town of Amalfi lends its name to the impossibly steep and beautifully blue 30 mile area known the world over as the Amalfi Coast.

    Amalfi
    The city that gave its name to Italy’s most famous coast.
  2. Amalfi was the original Italian Naval superpower. During the 11th and 12th centuries, the Maritime Republic of Amalfi was rich and powerful, controlling the important sea-faring trade routes of the Mediterranean and North Africa. While the rest of the Italian peninsula was still bartering, Amalfi was minting its own gold coins and trading throughout the Mediterranean.
Cliff Hanging Amalfi
Views, vistas, and the sea
Watching the towers
The Watch Towers of Amalfi still stand today.

3.  Throughout the famous Amalfi Coast you’ll find a series of strategic watch towers. The tower system was designed to keep a watchful eye on the sea and help keep residents safe. Pirate like invaders plagued this area of Italy for centuries. Secret codes and a fire burning on top of the tower warned the community to seek shelter and flee into the mountains before the invaders arrived. Today the towers still stand, including some that are now private homes and rentals.

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Strategic watchtowers like this one, still stand throughout the entire Amalfi Coast.
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Amalfi’s watchtower

 4.  Despite its close proximity to Naples and the Sorrentine Peninsula, Amalfi feels like another world–in part because of its successful trade throughout the Mediterranean. Trade helped make Amalfi rich and left an indelible mark on this coastal region of Italy. You can still see the influence today as you walk the streets lined with the pockets of Arab-Sicilian architecture. The domed white washed buildings, narrow passage ways, and covered walkways are all borrowed techniques compliments of Greece and North Africa.

Streets of Amalfi
Narrow passages designed to create shade run throughout Amalfi.
Amalfi Bell Tower
The bell tower of Amalfi features majolica tiles

5.  For many travelers, it is the highly recognizable Duomo of Sant’Andrea that defines Amalfi. Here too, you’ll see the influence of other cultures throughout the region. Standing as a glistening testament to Amalfi’s rich past, the Duomo of Sant’ Andrea dates back to the 9th century (with additions and changes throughout the centuries). The highly recognizable striped façade is the most recent addition to the cathedral and was completed in the 19th century.

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Blown away by Amalfi and the Duomo
Amalfi Cathedral
The “new” part of the Duomo was completed in the 19th century.
The Breezeway
At the top of the stairs before you enter the cathedral, this beautiful breezeway awaits.

6.  Climb the stairs and walk through the breeze way to entry the Chiostro del Paradiso. Here you’ll find interlaced Romanesque arches and 120 columns. Completed in 1268 the Chiostro del Paradiso was a final resting place for the cities elite. Considered one of the most interesting structures on the Amalfi Coast, the Chiostro del Paradiso features a four-sided portico with cross vaults, pointed arches, twin columns and woven arches rich with Moorish influence.

 

Cloister of Paradise
Majolica tiles grace Amalfi’s bell tower.
Chiostro del Paradiso
The Moorish style cloister in the corner of Duomo.

7.  There are many beautiful details throughout the cloister and sometimes the stories they tell are fascinating–like this one in the corner of the portico. Here you’ll find a painting completed by a student of Giotto. You may recognize similarities between the beautiful blues and those of the magnificent Chapelle Scrovegni in Padua. The painting is unsigned, and no one can say for certain who the artist is. However, there may be another reason why this painter remained anonymous. The artist, who clearly was not a fan of the French Anjou rulers of Naples, took artistic license with his work. Look closely and you’ll see the soldiers responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in this painting are not Roman, but French Anjou!

French Anjou Soldiers
Re-writing history and making a political statement.

 

8.  For centuries, Amalfi was powerful, wealthy, and important. The blue and white cross of Amalfi is one of the four nautical crests featured on today’s Italian maritime flag. In the end, it was not an invader or another empire that changed the course of Amalfi, but the same sea that elevated Amalfi to greatness violently caused its dramatic demise.

Italia.Maritime Flag

9.   In 1343, a large portion of the city fell into the water following a tsunami and earthquake.  Around the same time, the plague was sweeping through the region. The devastation was so significant the city that ruled the Mediterranean would never regain its prominence.

10.  If you think Amalfi is special, you are not alone. In 1997 the entire Amalfi Coast became part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

 

Capri Sunset Cruise

POSTCARDS & PROSECCO

CAPRI, ITALY

EDITION 02   MAY 2018

If you think Capri is special you are not alone. Long before today’s celebrities and millionaires found solace in this glamorous tiny Island, the ancient Greeks and Roman emperors fell under her spell. For me, Capri is even more beautiful when viewed from the water, and a sunset cruise around the Island is the perfect place to enjoy the vibrant show of ever changing colors.

Captain.AM

My View from Abroad

POSTCARDS & PROSECCO

SORRENTO, ITALY

EDITION 02  MARCH 2018

Angel

I walk by this Angel Statue nearly every day. She stands in memory of the Italian soldiers lost in the battles of World War I. The sword wielding angel, faces the water in the direction of Naples and stands directly in front of a school.

Italy is a country that reveres its children and has fewer of them than ever before. The birthrate here continues to decline and is one of the lowest in all of Europe. The children that are here are beloved. It seems as if everyone, young and old, joyfully acknowledges and warmly greets children in this country. A new baby and a beamingly proud mother in the neighborhood are treated like celebrities, with people running out of stores or across the piazza to greet them. It’s extraordinarily wonderful to see children so cherished, protected, and well cared for.

I participated in a language roundtable this week, talking in person with local Italians seeking to practice their English. As you can imagine, my table had questions that quickly turned political. But more than the tariffs, and the President himself, my table wanted to talk about guns in America. Here, the idea of guns in schools is vastly incongruent with the cultural values of the country. It seems so simple here, you protect and cherish what you love. And Italians love their children and families above all else.

The conversations, the continued shootings, the marches across the nation have all left me thinking a great deal about students, safety, and America. Progress is possible but change is necessary.

My time abroad makes it clear to me what makes America special is the opportunity it afford her citizens. Over our short history, Americans have continually adapted, changed, and evolved. In my lifetime I have seen changes to automobile safety; seatbelts, car seats, and MADD radically changing the course of drunk driving. I have seen changes in smoking regulations, prohibiting it from restaurants and while on airplanes. As a nation we’ve passed laws regulating the amount of advertising to children, while changing the legal drinking age, the legal age to buy cigarettes, and legalizing marijuana. Most recently, individual states stepped forward and lead the way to legalizing gay marriages.

We’ve faced divisive issues before and we’ve reached solutions that ultimately leave us better as a nation. The words of President Lincoln remind us that, “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Through passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better Angels of our nature.” I pray the better angels will lead the way and effective policy change will be swiftly enacted on both the state and federal levels. I’m encouraged by the call to action I’ve seen and pray that someone in the halls of Congress, or leading one of the great States of our Union will stand like this sword wielding angel and protect what is most precious to so many of us– our children.

 

 

 

10 Fun Facts about Santorini

 

Postcards & Prosecco

Santorini, Greece

Edition 02  January 2018
  1.  Santorini is not her real name. She’s been know as Strogill (the round), Kallisti (the most beautiful), and Theras (the son of a king). Following the Crusades of the 13th Century, the island was once again re-named, this time by the Venetians in honor of Saint Irene or Santa Irini. Fast forward a few centuries and the world over knows this sparking gem in the Agean Sea as Santorini.
Oia, Santorini
The bright Blue Dome of Oia and the cresecent shape of the caldera.

 

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Narrow Passage Ways
Shadows and Delight
The blue dome and bell tower of Pyrgos
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Blue doors and more
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Santorini and the view from Fira

2.  There are exactly two ways to arrive at Santorini, by boat or by plane. If you arrive by boat you will travel up via the funicular or ride a donkey up the 980 feet above sea level.

Enjoying the ride to the top.
A smooth ride up the 980 feet of Santorini.
Looking up
A view from the sea and a new point of view

3.  She’s one of a kind. This series of volcanic islands in the Aegean Sea is the only inhabited caldera (underwater volcano structure) in the world. Many believe Santorini may be the Atlantis Plato wrote about.  The Minoan Eruption at Santorini created a devastating tsunami in the Aegean Sea, believed to have destroyed the Minoan civilization on the island of Crete.

4.  More than 3,600 years ago, someone saw the signs and knew when to get out.  Scientists believe the nearly 30,000 residents of the island successfully evacuated prior to the volcanic eruption. In the late 1950’s archeologists uncovered the near perfectly preserved city of Akrotiri encased in three to six feet of ash.

Artifacts recovered from the site indicate the city was active in trade with other parts of the world and sophisticated in design. The site, now open for tours, reveals multilevel buildings, indoor bathrooms, sewage systems, and elaborate frescos. With no trace of human remains or valuable objects left behind scientists believe the residents most likely successfully evacuated the island.

Santorini Sunset and the Sea
A golden sunset captured from the Aegean Sea.

5.  Santorini remains an active volcano, in a quiet state. Scientists have found evidence of at least twelve large eruptions in the last 200,000 years. An small episode of unrest, now in remission, was recorded as recently as 2011-2012.

6.  The volcanic activity of Santorini left behind remarkable beaches in vibrant hues including volcanic red, white rock formations, and black stone beaches. On one side of the island, Akrotiri, you can hike the stunning Red Beach.

Beach.RedRock.17

Beach.Red.17

7.  On the other side of the island, and the town of Kamari, you can enjoy the Black Sand beaches of Santorini. Side note here, the beaches are beautiful but can be painfully hot. The word sand, is used very loosely here as the black sand beach could be more accurately described as a black stone beach.

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Clear water and black stones await at Kamari Beach
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Mesa Vouno from the beaches of Kamari

 

You’ll find pathways to your chairs but you may want to pack a pair of flip-flops (or sacrifice a pair of leather sandles to the Aegean Sea as I was forced to do) to make your walk into the sea more comfortable. While you will not want to walk around Santorini in flip-flops, you’ll be glad to walk from your beach chair and into the water.

8.  Staying in the smaller section of Kamari offers a welcome respite from the crowds.  The black sand beaches are nearby at the end of street and there are plenty of beach clubs and cafés ready to welcome you to Santorini. Transportation to the airport and the towns of Oia and Thira is easily arranged.

9. Despite being a volcanic island with a limited supply of water, you’ll enjoy some of the most delicious and fresh Greek food available. Volcanic soil is mineral rich and the produce on the island is something extraordinary.

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The most delicious Greek yogurt spread.
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Authentic Greek Salad. No lettuce and designed to be shared.

10.  There is a lot of ground to cover during your visit to Santorini. Be prepared to do plenty of walking and pack shoes that will help you do so. Renting four wheelers and cruising the island is a spectacularly picturesque and incredibly fun way to visit the different towns.

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The best way to see the Santorini.
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Gifts from the Sea

Autumn in Montréal

Postcards & Prosecco

Montréal, Quebéc

Edition 01  October 2017

It was an all too quick trip work trip. Conference sessions quickly filled up my days keeping me inside the hotel. But late one afternoon, I ventured out and stepped into the brisk sunshine. A few blocks from the hotel, I climbed aboard a city tour for a quick jaunt around the majestic city.  Ablaze in autumn splendor, Montréal dazzled and delighted, leaving me wishing for more time to spend in this the largest French speaking city in the world. C’est magnifique!

 

Venetian Stroll

Postcards & Prosecco

Venice, Italy

Edition 01  July 2017

As the sun sets, and the crowds subside, St. Mark’s Square transforms into the most delightful of places. The orchestras on bandstands throughout the square take to the stage. Music fills the air serenading lucky visitors and local residents alike as silver tray service and debonaire white jacket waiters add to the magic that is St. Marks after sunset. In the span of an evening you may see a proposal on bended knee, a elderly couple dancing a waltz, and scores of brides and grooms posing for photographs. The cobalt blues of the cathedral and brilliant golds of the mosaics cast a ambient glow that showcases this treasure of Venice in perfect light.

Vistas and Viewpoints

Postcards and Prosecco

Berchtesgaden, Germany

Edition 01  August 2017

I have traveled to places that stay with me for all the wrong reasons. Places that haunt my thoughts with a physical weight of sadness palpable in the air all around. To walk Gettysburg, Antietam, and the Alamo, is to experience tragically beautiful places, steeped in the blood of American history. I used to take comfort in the decades that separated us from our collective past. I used to believe we were wiser and more enlightened basking in the peace of our nation.

A few months ago, I visited a place that I knew would be difficult for me. There was a good chance the mountain pass would not be open and the Alpine snow, even in middle of May, would prevent our group from visiting. Secretly, I was hoping we would not go. The weather cleared, the skies opened into a bright blue, and despite the snow on the ground, the group was cleared to go to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest.

As I walked through the 406 foot underground tunnel, designed for Hitler’s car, I caught myself holding my breath. I touched nothing, but looked at the perfectly laid brick work and wondered about the 3,000 men that completed this entire project over the course of 13 months. With the mountain snow trickling ever so quietly, the group took a quick turn to the right, and into a massive golden elevator. Expansive by designed, the elevator was engineered to hold Hitler’s car and transport him to the top of the mountain.

The 400 foot ride up the center of the mountain was quiet, smooth, and a quick. Still to this day, the engineering is considered a masterpiece (and one of the reasons the property was not razed). As I listened to the tour and details of the place, I was drawn to photographs on the wall. I wanted the people to look like monsters or at least as odd as Hitler. Yet, they didn’t. They were disturbingly young, well dressed, and happy.

Finally, I made my way outside, now 6,000 feet above on a summit facing the Alps of Austria and Germany. I needed to fill my lungs with clean air and a minute to myself. As I looked around, none of it made sense. This was one of the most spectacular natural vistas I had ever seen. The views were striking, breathtaking, and pristine. How in the face of such natural majesty could man’s inhumanity continue, proliferate, and manifest into such violence and evil?

The events of the last few weeks have my thoughts returning to my visit to the Eagle’s Nest. There are many things I do not understand. What I do know is that hate, the visible and visceral manifestations demonstrated this week along with unseen subtle and stayed discrimination have no place in our society.

I know throughout history, diversity remains a strength for a community and religious freedom a hallmark of civilized societies. I know there are many lessons to learn from the past. Lessons steeped so deeply in pain, it becomes difficult to revisit and yet necessary to do so. Cicero the great Roman Orator and Philosopher explained, “To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child. For what is the worth of human life, unless it is woven into the life of our ancestors by the records of history?” Let the record of history be clear, that we the people of this time and place know the worth of the lives lost before us and value the dignity and humanity of all. There are some lessons we must never repeat.

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Hauntingly Beautiful
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Catching my breath
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Valleys  from the Eagle’s Nest
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Snow capped Alps
Fireplace inside Eagle's Nest
A Gift from Mussolini
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The view from inside Eagle’s Nest