Category Archives: Travel

Florence (the city, not my aunt)

While there’s no doubt that Florence is a heavily touristed destination (Ciao. Selfie stick?), it’s still an exceptional city. I had my first taste last fall, and this is the first chance I’ve had to write about it.

Florence’s most recognizable attraction is the Duomo di Firenze, also known as the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (Saint Mary of the Flower). Although I’d seen dozens of photographs, I wasn’t prepared for the shear magnitude of this building, nor its architectural intricacy. It seems to have its own gravitational pull; no matter where you are or where you’re walking, somehow one always ends up on a path around this monumental structure.

I tend to do a lot of walking when I’m travelling, and so I tend to focus on architecture; however, on this trip I also spent time in galleries I’ve been wanting to see my whole life: the Uffizi and the Bargello. The Uffizi contains paintings that are familiar to most, even if one has never travelled to Florence; the Bargello contains statues I remember from my high school art history text. It’s a good idea to get tickets in advance, as these galleries attract crowds, especially during tourist season.

In the Piazza della Signoria, near the Uffizi entrance, is the Loggia della Signoria, containing numerous amazing statues. It’s best to go early to allow entrance into this free outdoor exhibit. This is also the square where Girolamo Savonarola held his bonfires of the vanities, burning books and other apparently sinful objects. It’s also where he himself was thoroughly executed in 1498.

Michelangelo’s David is synonymous with Florence. A copy of the original stands on top of the hill in the Piazzale Michelangelo, affording views of Florence from the less touristy side of the Arno. Another copy is situated outside the Palazzo Vecchio in the statue’s original position, near the Uffuzi. The original in the dell’Accademia is worth the effort to see (although beyond the Michelangelo gallery, I found little else of interest). The level of detail is exquisite and compelling.

I loved Florence, in spite of the tourists. I went in the fall, off peak season, so I can’t imagine what it would be like in the summer.

©Catherine Jenkins 2018 all rights reserved

Ah, Paris

Paris, Ontario, that is. Since it was settled in 1829, and incorporated in 1850, the town has grown to a burgeoning population of over 12,000. But size isn’t everything. Paris has sometimes been called the prettiest town in Ontario. Built on the shore of the Grand River near its convergence with the Nith River, it’s easy to see why.

Paris on the Grand

There’s a Public Library, and a variety of churches. Some people even canoe and kayak on the Grand, but there’s quite a current and rapids, so it’s not for the faint of heart.

Paris Public Library

Boating on the Grand

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is also the home of Mary Maxim crafts, so there’s lots to do on those cold winter nights. When all else fails, one can always relax and watch the lights of Paris. Enjoy!

The Lights of Paris

©Catherine Jenkins 2017 all rights reserved

California, Here I Come!

California’s been on my list for a while, so when a San Diego conference opportunity presented, I jumped on it. After attending numerous conference sessions, I set out to explore the city. My first walk was along the harbourfront.

San Diego combined Work and Play

Setting out from my hotel, I wandered through the very commercial Seaport Village and kept walking. Although it’s possible to board the now-decommissioned USS Midway, I declined. Its size is truly awesome, dwarfing the numerous helicopters and planes on its decks. I walked all the way to the Maritime Museum, which allowed me to board and walk through classic tall ships, as well as a submarine. I’ve always wondered how I’d do in a sub, and now I know. Having done it once, I’m glad that I’ll never be asked to do it again.

After several more conference sessions, I headed out the next day to explore the Gaslamp Quarter. I’m always amazed at what passes for old on the west coast. Although charming, there are many much older buildings in Toronto or Peterborough, and here, the gas lamps are electrical. I made it as far as the Chuck Jones Gallery and spent a long time looking at original pieces by Chuck Jones, Dr. Seuss, Charles Shultz and others. It’s a delightful time capsule for connoisseurs of 1960s cartoons.

Balboa Park, San Diego

On my last full day, and after a few more conference sessions, I headed for Balboa Park. The round-trip walk took me three hours, but the weather was warm and clear, like every other day in San Diego. The main attraction at the park is a series of buildings constructed for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, a Worlds’ Fair celebrating the opening of the Panama Canal. The buildings are perfectly preserved and rest among lush greenery and fountains. The park is obviously popular with families.

San Diego is beautiful and the weather was consistently perfect. It’s also expensive. I was stunned at the number and population density of homeless people everywhere I walked.

The perfect image for San Diego; beauty on the surface sometimes hides unpleasant truths.

Between the time I planned and accepted my conference invitation, and the actual trip, the American political landscape changed drastically. Although I considered cancelling, ultimately, I decided to go. And I’m glad I went, but I may take such decisions a little more cautiously in future.

©Catherine Jenkins 2017 all rights reserved

My Less-tech Experiment

I’ve been doing this (very informal) social experiment for the last six months. My cell phone died—again—except this time I couldn’t find a replacement battery. So I decided to go without for a while, just to see what that was like. Overall, it’s been very liberating. I feel lighter. I still have a landline (old school, I know), as well as e-mail and limited social media, so it’s not like I’ve vapourized completely. It’s just that for some periods each day, I’m less readily available. Given that I’m teaching some part of most days, I can’t have my cell phone on anyway.

I hate the sound of it ringing, and I hate vibrate mode even more, so most of the time I’ve carried a phone, it’s been completely muted. I check it when I think of it, and that’s been a much better way for me to relate to a cell phone. In the last six months, there’ve only been three times when having a cell phone would’ve been convenient. I’ve also noticed, however, that some of my friends, especially some of my younger friends, are less inclined to get in touch now that they can’t text me. Texting has clearly superseded phone conversation, although verbal communication is often more efficient. I find tech services in Canada outrageously priced for the use I get out of them, so I’ve also enjoyed the savings.

This less-tech experiment also caused me to ponder my relationship with cell phones, as well as when and why that relationship started. After about three months without, I remembered that I got my first cell phone when my Dad was dying. I was freelancing and often out of reach of my home phone, but I knew that at some point I’d get a call and that I’d need to get somewhere. A cell phone made a lot of sense for the kind of urgency I was experiencing. I kept it through my Mum’s similar fate. And then I had it, so I kept it. But now I’ve realized that because my introduction to cell phones was surrounded by anxiety and hypervigilance, these emotions have impacted my relationship with this technology.

I think it’s good to have taken a break, and to have figured out why I have tended to relate cell phones with anxiety. I have some travel coming up, and it’s now assumed that everybody travels with a phone, in part so airlines can inform you of delays, you can change or make last-minute bookings, and so you can show e-Tickets. (I once saw a woman arrive late at her boarding gate suddenly discover that she didn’t have her e-Ticket because she’d left her phone at security. I wouldn’t have pegged her as someone who could run that fast, but she made it, thanks to a short flight delay.) So I’m beginning to move in the direction of reinstating my cell phone, but with a shifted awareness that will hopefully make my new experience a little less stressful.

©Catherine Jenkins 2017 all rights reserved

Update from Dr Jenkins

In the last year, I’ve seen nighttime overhead highway signs cautioning drivers not to stop due to high crime risk, and overhead highway signs cautioning drivers to be aware of moose. And I don’t feel like I’ve done much travel either. I did, however, take my first trip to South Africa. I lost a friend, attended a wedding, helped a friend celebrate his first birthday, and gained a cat. I built cat shelters and traps at Toronto Street Cat, attended a series of Graphic Medicine reading workshops, and went to the first Canadian Writers’ Summit and Taste of Little Italy with my long-time friend and fellow writer, Kathy Mac.  I went to Shaw Fest where the 2015 highlight was Peter and the Starcatcher, and this year’s highlight was Engaged. I went to Stratford for the first time in years, where I saw an amazing production of Shakespeare in Love. I attended a lot of concerts, with tickets both bought and shared by friends. I caught up on a lot of quality TV and some movies I’ve missed on DVDs from the Toronto Public Library. I enjoyed some non-academic reading for a change.

I taught a lot (and I mean a lot) of students, did a lot of grading, and had the joy of watching a few of my students gain awards or entry into grad school. I presented papers at conferences in Kingston (Queens) and North Bay (Nippising). I submitted a few things to peer-reviewed journals. I defend my PhD dissertation and convocated, so now it’s official and school truly is out.

This last year I breathed out, I walked, I observed, I took photos, I pondered, I cottaged. This fall, I’ve signed up for a wine course and an Italian course, because I finally can. I’m back to working out and I’m decluttering my apartment. I’m writing inventive academic work and applying to conferences in more exotic locales. And I’ve got six non-academic book projects to pick up again, now that I actually have the time and energy and focus. Stay tuned…