The charm of memory

It was where an adventure began. Everything had the charm of novelty—learning how to grocery shop, what was available over the counter in a pharmacy, the virtues of pointing and pantomime, that it was okay to drink wine at lunch, what a wealth of cheeses there was to explore, that the French know their way around a tarte citron, and what it was like to live in a language and culture not my own.

There was the thrill of standing on an exposed section of the Roman road—not cordoned off but there to stand on, and boats going through the lock of the canal, and sunshine, blue sky, and flowers even during the winter. When we walked a geocaching trail on the Canal de la Robine on a golden day in December, I realized that I was over feeling that Christmas should be cold and snowy!

There were day trips—learning to drive standard shift as a teenager came in handy since automatic-shift rental cars were hard to come by—that took us to interesting places. We explored the countryside around the city and the nearby seaside towns. Along with navigational triumphs (and mistakes), we seemed—every single time we came back into town—to drive the length of Boulevard Marcel Sembat at least three times. We also discovered, and to this day, still say, that the last 30 kilometers are the longest.

There were things to dislike of course: an annoying amount of dog poop on the sidewalks, the mistral blowing for several days in the winter, the frustrating self-serve gas stations that didn’t take cash or our credit cards (because they didn’t have the security chip needed) when we wanted to refill the gas tank of a rental car late at night. Set against that were great meals and friendly people and beautiful sights.

While you can’t go back and there will never be another first time, it was lovely to return to Narbonne recently, walk streets still familiar, visit favorite places, and enjoy the charm of memory.

Click (or double-click, depending on your device) on any image to launch the slideshow.

And to think I saw it while geocaching!

Among the things I like about geocaching is that I see places and details I would not have seen if I weren’t looking for a cache. I also like that many cache descriptions tell a story and the story is made richer by the logs detailing the adventures and experiences of the geocachers searching for the cache.

A sight I might not have seen if I wasn’t geocaching was this one. I often passed through Warren, RI, on the bus, but it wasn’t until I was looking for a cache on a side street that I saw The King.

In Pawtucket, RI, I was on the bank of the Seekonk River (and quite muddy it was too) searching for a cache. This lovely reflected view of the Slater Mill Historic Site was a bit different from what I saw from the street on the other side.

I discovered the Orti del Parnaso (Gardens of the Parnassus) in Florence six years ago when I went looking for a cache. In it, there is a tree planted to honor all non-Jews who helped Italian and non-Italian Jews escape from the Nazis. The tree is dedicated to Gino Bartali, a champion cyclist who, under the guise of training, delivered documents that aided in escapes by hiding them in the frame of his bicycle.

I had several opportunities to notice this stencil near the cathedral in Narbonne, France because we looked for a cache there so many times (we never did find it). One occasion yielded one of my favorite geocaching stories. Me (while trying to reach a possible hiding place in a wall while perched precariously on a tiny outcropping of rock): “Why am I always the one doing these things?” My friend Catherine: “Because you’re taller and stupider!”

My geo-buddy Mike and I went caching several times around Providence, RI and when I look at photos, I see that a lot of our excursions were at night. This is the Woonsocket Falls Dam. What I remember from this location is that across the street was a food cart that Mike recommended!

I never noticed this emblem on the wall of a building on Piazza Santa Croce until I had to look for it as part of a multi-part geocache. It marks the midpoint of the football pitch created in the piazza for the Calcio Storico matches every June. I’ve never seen a match, but from what I’ve read, the soccer played during these matches incorporates elements of rugby and wrestling.

The cache near this mural is part of a cache series called “DC Hidden Murals.” The mural is called “A Survivor’s Journey” and the dedication reads: “Inspired by true stories of domestic violence, this mural depicts a woman and child’s journey from a painful past to a brighter tomorrow with a myriad of support along the way.”

These iron rings are in the ruins of a fort on Napatree Point in Rhode Island. To reach the cache, I  lowered myself from the upper level of the fort to a stone bench. I couldn’t quite reach the bench, so I had to let myself drop the last several inches. I found the cache and took these pictures and then realized I had no idea how to get back to the top level. On one side, there was a steep drop into trees and brush and I couldn’t pull myself back up the way I came. I finally climbed a ladder, at the top of which was an overhanging iron plate that I somehow managed to crawl around. When I told my brother this story, he said to feel free to text him the GC code so they’d know where to look for the body!

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Images © Melissa Corcoran.



Caprese Michelangelo

Visiting a friend who lives in the Casentino Valley, I suggested a field trip to some place other than our usual haunts. I’ve been wanting to go to Caprese Michelangelo for about four years now, so off we went.

Caprese Michelangelo is the birthplace of Michelangelo (you might have guessed that!). He was born there in 1475 while his father was the podestà (a government administrator) of Chiusi della Verna and Caprese. The town, and the museum that includes the house where he was born, are small. Nevertheless, the Museo Casa Natale di Michelangelo Buonarroti is interesting, especially the paintings by other artists of events in his life and the collection of 19th and 20th century sculpture in a nearby building.

Chiesa di San Giovanni Battista, where Michelangelo was baptized.

My kind of road!

As fun as it was to finally visit this charming place, it was the drive that made my day. The scenery was beautiful and as we approached Caprese Michelangelo, the road got curvier and steeper. Love driving that kind of road! We passed an interesting sculpture made on the trunk of a dead tree. Best of all, on our way back, a line of classic convertibles—at least twenty-five—came towards us. They were of all different colors, with the tops  down, and the drivers and passengers started waving and honking! Naturally, we waved back; I only wish we could have gotten some pictures.

Not the “David”, but interesting!

As we often do, we wound up saying, “What a beautiful country this is.”

View from a terrace.

Images © Melissa Corcoran.


Sometimes, I go out and about with a specific sightseeing and/or photography goal in mind. Other times, things just happen!

The other day, I took afternoon tea at the St. Regis. While I was making inroads on the delicious sandwiches, scones, and pastries, I opened the book that is one of my ‘bibles’ for Florence, An Art Lover’s Guide to Florence by Judith Testa. This book has been wonderful on a couple of scores: informing me about what I’m seeing and focusing on the highlights, which keeps me from being completely overwhelmed by the art in this city. Testa provides historical background (I may actually be able to eventually keep the Medicis straight, thanks to her) and political, sexual, and religious perspectives on the artwork.

One of the chapters is devoted to the Sassetti Chapel in Santa Trinita. I’d passed this church many times and it was always closed, but when I wandered past there on my way to where I catch the bus home, it was open. I threw myself inside and hurried to the chapel. What makes the chapel noteworthy are the paintings of Domenico Ghirlandaio, including six paintings from the life of St. Francis. This not being an exposition on art, I won’t go into details; suffice it to say that it was fascinating to read Testa’s explanation of the paintings and sculptures in the chapel and look for the details she points out, including the visual pun of centaurs flinging small stones (sassetti) in the relief sculptures on the tombs of Francesco Sassetti and his wife Nera Corsi.

The chapel was dimly lit, but on the wall was one of the meters into which one feeds coins to turn on the lights. I don’t know if the other visitors didn’t notice it, but when I finished reading and was ready to look at the paintings on the walls, I fed money into the meter, the lights came on, and several people gasped! It was great.

Walking down the center aisle, I noticed stairs into the crypt. It was quite dark with minimal light coming through a grate in the ceiling, so I pulled out my phone flashlight to look around as I had run out of coins for the light meter. Fortunately, the family that came down a few minutes later put money in the meter and I was able to see better the beautiful arches of the ceiling.

Once out of the church, I was starting across Piazza di Santa Trinita when I noticed the glow of the late afternoon sun on a building. What was even better? Noticing the shadows of the workmen working on scaffolding in the piazza.

My serendipitous day ended with another shadow photo. Instead of waiting for my bus where I usually do, I went up a block to another stop because there were benches there. What a lovely arrangement of light and shadow!

Testa, Judith. An Art Lover’s Guide to Florence. Northern Illinois University Press. Kindle Edition.

Images © Melissa Corcoran.


In Arezzo a couple of weeks ago, I saw this blue door:

As with my Yellow photos, sharing the image sent me looking at other blue images in my catalog, like this tangle of rope:

Blue shutters and sky:

Shadow turning a hubcap and sidewalk into blue-on-blue (now that song is stuck in my head!):

Another door in a different shade of blue:

A blue ‘frame’ setting off warm shades:

A blue wall in Chefchaouen (for more photos of ‘the blue city,’ click here):


Images © Melissa Corcoran.