Sara Walker

Modern-Day Hemingway

It’s been 86 years since Jake Barnes and Lady Brett Ashley roamed the streets of Pamplona and experienced the madness of San Fermin. And I’m here to bear witness that the spirit of Hemingway, the man who brought the festival widespread fame, is still alive and well. We joined the festival on Saturday night and were immediately ushered in with bottles of Sangria and a trip to the nightly fireworks show for instant camaraderie under the booming lights. By whom, with whom, and why? I’m about to let you in on a secret: the Pamplona Posse. If you want to live Hemingway, the Posse is the closest you’re going to find to tried-and-true modern day ex-pats. In fact, the grandson of Ernest himself, John Hemingway, counts himself among the ranks, along with others hailing from everywhere from America to England to Scotland. The group is highlighted by a core group of men and women who come each year and join in the festivities and take part in the runs. If you want to see whom I’m talking about, look at the daily pictures or videos from the runs and often the guy on the horns is one of these crazed men (Gus, Graeme, Bill and Gary and the main group of runners). They take pride in their runs, earning respect and fame locally for their skill. Posse members warming...

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America From Abroad

We woke up with a simple question: how do you celebrate July 4th while not surrounded by parades, fireworks and American-flag clad patriots? This July 4th would be like no other, as we celebrated America while gallivanting around Switzerland. We started the day in Lauterbrunnen, a small town they call the Shangri-La of Switzerland for its sheer beauty and abundance of waterfalls. However, since our arrival, cloudy skies had covered the towering peaks of the Eiger (the North Face mountain) and the Jungfrau. Yet, ever a sign of the power of America, the weather came around and gave us clear skies for our day of celebration. Morning view of Lauterbrunnen So what did we decide to do with our day? We brought America to the top of Europe. That is, we took the famous Jungfraujoch train up to (what they claim) is the highest point in Europe. It is the base for many snow hikes around the Eiger and provides a glimpse into a glacier paradise. In the picture below, if you see that tiny-seeming building between the peaks–that is the Jungfraujoch station. Far-off Jungfraujoch station We happened upon an American flag near the train station and decided it was the perfect accessory for the day — it also proved to make us very popular at the top of the mountain, as every American wanted their picture taken with...

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Farm to Fork

I’ve always tried to shop locally and organically with frequent visits to the Carrboro Farmer’s Market, Whole Foods or Weaver Street. These places were my version of farm-to-fork living, but after ten days on a farm, I now realize I had no idea what this lifestyle really means. The Piedmont region of Italy pioneered the Slow Food movement in 1986 after a McDonalds was slated to open near the Spanish Steps in Rome. The now-worldwide movement focuses on keeping regional specialties alive by supporting local farms that harvest local products. It stands firmly in opposition to anything that could be considered “fast” food. Our farm, Tenuta Anitica, keeps with this mission. It operates as an Agrotourism bed and breakfast in which they grow local products like hazelnuts, Barbera grapes and strawberries and then use these products in their restaurant and to sell to their guests. The nuts they make into homemade Nutella and cakes and cookies, the strawberries and other fruits like apricots become jams, and the grapes turn into delicious wine. Italian tourists visit Tenuta Antica to take part in this proud tradition of local production. While at the farm, they get to see the natural growth and then eat traditional Italian cooking made from these very ingredients. For us, it provided an insight into how hard, and truly slow, this process can be. During the summer, and...

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Women at Work: A WWOOFing Experience

For the past week, Chrissy, Coty and I have been “WWOOFing” in rural northwestern Italy, near Cessole, a town of maybe 100 inhabitants. WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) is a program that matches willing participants on small organic farms around the world. Let me tell you–it is no vacation. We wanted to get a real world italian cultural experience and learn a little bit about organic farming and lifestyles along the way. Instead, it became a quick lesson in appreciation for the ease of our lives in America. Here is a run down of our day: 6:45 – Wake up. As any farmer will tell you, it’s better to get up and get to work before it gets too hot. While it can’t boast North Carolina humidity, the temperatures have stayed consistently in the 90s and with the sun not setting until after 10 p.m. here, cooling down is a process. 7:30 – Begin working in the fields. The first two days we were assigned with the task of tying up the vines in the vineyard. I will never loIok at wine the same way. It’s a task that sounds simple but even at your fastest pace, it is a laborious task with little progress ever seeming to be made. 12:30 – Stop work. By this point with the sun beating down on you from seemingly all...

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Travel Time

One week. That’s all it’s been since I last posted. Yet I feel like it could’ve been a month. Let me clarify, it’s not that the trip is dragging on, it’s that every hour we are seeing something completely new, each day we venture somewhere else. As I write I see vineyards rolling by, green shutters flung open as we whiz by small Italian towns on the way from Venice to Lake Como. Life is good and like this two-hour train ride, the view is changing fast and it’s hard to keep up. Chrissy and me riding bikes on the walls around Lucca   In the spirit of trying–since my last post–here is where we have been (pay attention, you don’t want to miss the cities rolling by). We left the paradise of Positano, headed north to Lucca, then traveled back east to Florence, up to Venice and are now steaming ahead to Como. And I used to think that the three hour trip from Chapel Hill to the North Carolina coast was a busy travel day. Each has been spellbinding in its own way. I loved Lucca for the same reason I love Carrboro. It’s off the beaten path, less touristy but packs a bigger punch of life. Great food, better people and a small town that is content in itself. Florence is what you’ve heard–beautiful, artsy and...

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Bumps Along the Way

No one has ever claimed that traveling was the easiest venture. Our visit to Naples became difficult for a reason no one had expected or warned us about. No, we didn’t get mugged, nothing got stolen, we didn’t get lost, overall it was an enjoyable place to see, full of culture and a seemingly more realistic portrayal of italian life. Coty (right) and I before she had to leave (in front of Mt. Vesuvius) However, as life goes when it is least expected things tend to change dramatically, quickly and often painfully. Sunday, the third person on our trip got a call telling her that her grandmother had passed away the previous day. Heartbreaking news for anyone, but especially from thousands of miles away. She, as anyone would, quickly made reservations to fly back into North Carolina to be there for the services and for her family This post is not just to lament on our and her misfortune but instead to share one of the hardest parts of travel…leaving the unknown at home. We are far away and we have no guarantee that things will be the same when we get back, instead we rely on faith. The scariest part of traveling has turned out not to be fear of what could happen to us here but instead not being there if something happens at home. The two...

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Roman Holiday

Coming to Rome I heard that it was overrated, too touristy and not a place to spend much time. I disagree. Granted I’ve never been to any other italian town so I dont have much of a comparison but everything so far has been molte bella e enorme. The first day we arrived after a long 8-hour flight (20-hour total travel time…got to love those six-hour layovers). We finally arrived at our hotel–Casa Santa Pudenziana–a women-only convent where we stayed in a six-person room. It was quite the experience, especially when we were awoken in the morning by a screaming italian wanting to clean the room and for us to check out. Needless to say, we quickly obeyed her wishes. The first day, we explored the weaving streets near our hotels, visited the beautiful church connected with the convent and toured the Santa Maria Maggiore church. Each was beautiful–almost Disney Epcot seeming in their perfection. Today, Thursday, we roamed the Roman ruins (say that five times fast). It was a lot of walking but completely worth it. Everything was bigger and more spectacular than you’re even thinking right now. As a fan of sports, the coliseum was especially breathtaking. It was gigantic, holding 75,000 during its prime–much bigger than even our beloved Dean Dome.  Another fun fact of the day: the coliseum was once filled with water to reenact...

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Travel Tips from Michael Bloomberg

A summer series about travel.  Sara Walker is a May 2012 graduate of the University of North Carolina in the school of journalism with a minor in southern studies.  Upon graduation, she and two of her equally crazy friends concocted a plan involving Europe, backpacks and six weeks abroad to put the lessons they learned at Carolina to use.  This is the first time in Europe for Sara but she has driven across the country in an RV (yep, that actually happened), lived all of last summer by herself in San Diego working for CBS College Sports Network and has driven through the deep South following the Blues Highway—Route 61—just to say she’s done it. Check here for weekly updates on what Sara is doing, where she is and what trouble she will find herself in next. As the last step of packing, I’ve decided to come up with a helpful guide for the next six weeks.  My inspiration: UNC commencement speaker Mayor Michael Bloomberg.   Bloomberg summed up his speech by telling each of us graduates to spell out TAR HEEL, with each letter representing one of his key talking points.  He said it best…   “Now, I know you remembered every word of that, but just in case, here’s a summary of the seven, in no particular order: Teamwork is everything. Assist others. Risks are necessary. Hmmmm, the...

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