So, last week I went to Italy for the first time. Scratch that, I left the country for the first time. Oh, and, I was totally alone.
Ford invited me on a press trip to visit their exhibition at Salone del Mobile, the world’s largest furniture trade show. Obviously I said yes, because it sounded really exciting—I asked if could bring someone else from Paste, and they said no. But I still wanted to go. I got advice from several of my friends, nervously photographed my passport and ID, and then waited for the day to arrive. Horror movies are of course fiction, but I kept worrying I was going to get robbed or Taken. I took several years of Italian in college but have forgotten most of it at this point (never got a chance to use it).
(Check out my official recap on Paste here.)
Ryan drove me to the airport with our dog in the back seat. I started tearing up at the curb, but swallowed my fear and dropped off my bag to go inside.
While waiting for my flight (I insisted upon getting there REALLY early), I got a bowl of chips and cheese dip to calm my fears—nothing makes me happy like cheese dip makes me happy.
(My plane! Don’t crash, please!)
I ended up riding in first class all the way there—bought plane wifi and was able to use the expansive seat as a desk for the nine hour flight. So relieved I was able to get so much work done, I didn’t actually sleep on the plane.
Once I arrived in Paris for my layover, I realized I only had about twenty minutes to get to my next flight. Charles de Gaulle is not super well laid out, either—I had to run like hell down hallway after hallway. I didn’t have time to be a nervous traveler, was just squeaking at French people to get out of my damn way because I didn’t want to get stuck in a foreign country. Thing I learned: French people are not super into lines. At one point I was waiting to talk to an attendant and people kept shoving me out of the way.
Finally got to the flight, and took a short nap. Opened the window halfway through to realize we were flying over the Alps! Holy shit, that is beautiful!
Hey Italy from above!
I arrived in my hotel room at 9 AM, tired and most likely jetlagged from not sleeping on the plane—technically I’d been awake for more than 24 hours. I sat in my room, panicking for about half an hour, and then called Ryan on FaceTime, sobbing horribly. He let me cry and cry, and then quietly suggested I take a nap. I did that, and felt a world of relief.
Walked around some before it was time to meet up with our group. The buildings were so pretty—I had a hard time taking it all in. As I walked around and photographed old buildings, a man in a security uniform gruffly came up behind me and tapped me on the shoulder. “Ma’am?” he asked. I turned out, eyes the size of dinner plates. “Were you taking pictures of the American Consolate?” he asked. I said I didn’t know, so he had me show him my camera roll—turns out, I had, and that’s not allowed. He watched as I deleted them. I realized I was starving and wandered into a cafeteria style restaurant. I didn’t know how to go through the process, so I followed behind a guy getting risotto (so I got risotto too). I watched him pay, and paid, trying to follow the motions. Came out unscathed. Also the risotto was delicious.
I made friends with the only other girl from the US—she took some pictures of me in front of this cathedral, and while I was standing there smiling a guy ran up to me, tossing kernels at me as he advanced. You can actually see his arm on the left of the picture below.
He got up to my face and grabbed my hand, forcing more kernels into my palm. He held my arm out, causing the pigeons to totally swarm my arm and body, while he was yelling, “take the picture, take the picture!” My new friend grabbed me and led me out—I was grateful.
Me: Very very panicked
We walked through this fantastic plaza to get to a private showing of a new Leonardo Da Vinci exhibit. Every room in the museum was more ornate than the last, and I kept stopping to take pictures. The guide chuckled anxiously, as our group was late getting out, but I just had to tell him that we don’t have anything like this in the states. “You guys have some stuff,” he responded. I said, “not like this!” and he smiled. And then shooed me out.
After the exhibit, we walked to a nearby plaza to see the Ford installation—outside, they were projecting all kinds of lights on a structure shaped like the Ford GT, and inside was this crazy light show/performance.
For dinner, we headed over to this beautiful restaurant that featured a rooftop garden of sorts, with plants that cascaded in and outside of the building. There were trays and trays of finger foods, and delicious prosecco for mingling. We were trying to save room for a larger meal that never came, so my new friend asked our guide, “is this it? This is dinner?” The guide told us yes, this is not an unusual way to eat dinner in Europe. I stuffed a few more breadsticks in my mouth and then went home at a solid 9 PM (3 AM, Eastern time) to collapse in my bed.
The next morning was Salone—we had an incredibly early breakfast in the hotel.
This looks like grits, but was not grits. It was closer to overcooked rice. I put my bags and food down at a table by myself, and went to grab some juice. When I came back, this guy had moved my bag and was pushing my plates away to put his down. I didn’t know if he spoke English, and panicked, waving my arms at him that it was my seat.
Another thing I learned.
Salone was massive. It was fantastical. I wish I was able to spend the whole week there, but we sadly only had a few hours. I was one of the first people to get to the building (the grits had turned me off of the rest of my meal), so I wandered around until it was time for Ford’s presentation.
Ford assigned their designers something different: to make something that wasn’t a car. My favorite concept was the foosball table with real grass. It’s a greenhouse, and a game. It was just a model, but I wish we’d gotten to play it.
I ended up in a lot of the Ford promotional photos because I was in the front row. Here’s me, taking notes
More of me taking notes (my friend asks a question!)
Me, thinkin’ about stuff
After Ford’s presentation, I wandered around Salone until it was time to head back for dinner. I really tried to get one of these red bags, but since I wasn’t press affiliated with the expo they absolutely would not give me one.
The last morning, I took myself to a little breakfast place to eat. This was without the safety of my Ford group, so I was nervous again about interacting with the staff—luckily for me, they spoke English.
The girl initially gave me an Italian menu, but after realizing I wasn’t from the area, also set down an English menu (click to enlarge).
The flight on the way back was not equipped with wifi, so I watched about four trashy movies and put together a Keynote presentation of my trip:
Finally, after only about 72 hours away from Atlanta, I was back home. And ready to travel again.