Photo essay from time spent touring and working from Europe in 2022.
Being a fully remote digital Art Director in the post-pandemic world has its perks: in early 2022 I challenged myself to work from Europe, living the dream of digital nomadism.
Paris was my first stop. I’d been before, but only as a weary traveler in the De Gaulle sprawl.
Skateboarders crowd a section of the Place de la Bastille, DV cameras in tow. Chattering tourists – half of them American – fill sidewalk bistros, clamoring away at dusk while cigarette smoke wafts through the muggy air. My broken French suffices to order food with something close to a Parisian accent, but the subtleties of casual conversation elude me.
A traditional brasserie situates its raw bar at the entrance, so passerby can judge the quality of the catch before they commit to eating there. Lemon should be squeezed around the sides of an oyster before consumption to ensure it moves (otherwise, not fresh enough). A gold plaque at the bar marks where Hemingway used to sit.
At dawn, I awake with a start, faced with immutable truth: Paris Beauvais airport is nowhere near Paris. On the bus, an hour slips by and I step into the packed Ryanair terminal with 5 minutes until the day’s only departure.
«J’ai un vol qui part dans cinq minutes!» I scream in the general direction of the line.
«A Dublin?» someone asks incredulously, and remarkably the stanchions are lifted and broken French lurches out of me as I try to explain to the gate agent that yes, this bag is small enough for a carryon.
I haul ass through security, my name echoing over the PA next to a phrase I can only assume is “Final Boarding Call” and make it onto the plane a minute before takeoff with a row to myself, sweaty but victorious.
At around 9am my Ryanair plane lands in Dublin. Despite losing the hour and rattled from my experiential French exam at Beauvais University I remain wide awake until a hearty Irish breakfast delivers a stunning knockout. Eilidh, one of my oldest friends who’s been living and teaching in France, meets me here.
In Smithfield, the clock strikes ten and musicians playing trad seshes cede to Katy Perry on the Bluetooth. And more Guinness. A nondescript Japanese restaurant conceals a thriving basement nightclub. Fish and chips taste good, but so does Guinness. Everyone is friendly. Everyone. A night out culminating in 10 new Instagram followers is the expectation.
A rattly train to Howth leads to a narrow footpath, wending its way along coastline. Cliff faces abound, each lovelier than the next. My drone fights the wind and loses. A man lights a full cigarette on the top floor of the double-decker bus at 2pm.
With less Ryanair drama to speak of, we arrive in Rome, a fairytale. Cobbled streets and 4,000-year-old columns coexist incongruously with speeding motorcycles and tourist shops. My girlfriend Molly joins us and we stay in my favorite Airbnb ever, an actual home without shitty decor (I prefer deciding when to live, laugh, and love).
On Saturday in Trastevere, people swarm sidewalks and plazas, drinking wine from plastic cups – a flagrant celebration of life for a city with literal bone chapels.
Getting into Vatican City feels like leaving LAX on a bad day. Being inside Vatican City feels like God exists. So does walking through the Campidoglio late at night, by the ruins of the Forum.
Bucatini all’amatriciana also makes a compelling case for divine existence.
The Eternal City is flanked by seven slopes, forming a gradual, buttery perimeter. But Naples’ Vomero Hill makes El Capitan look ADA compliant. I’m exaggerating, but you try it; sweating bullets, hauling all Ryanair-regulation earthly possessions. It’s worth it for the pizza, though. Anything would be worth it for this pizza.
At Trattoria da Nennella, in the claustrophobic, clotheslined elegance of the Spanish Quarter, the singing waiters pause as a new college graduate sprints in – bottle of red in hand, laurel wreath askew – and is serenaded by a neighboring table. Moments later, the adjoining room becomes a full-scale bachata party as two straggler tables struggle to finish their mains in the dark. We’ve all enjoyed enough limoncello and pasta e patate at this point to dance, but it feels fair that only our graduate gets to ascend the table.
On the last night, I take a funicular to the Castel Sant’Elmo and watch as a lazy dusk envelops the sky, the Amalfi coast glimmering across the gulf. At night the Piazza Bellini shimmers with smiling faces and conversation, pockmarked only by stony-faced, gun-toting Carabinieri. (But even they have cute berets.)
Spritzes cost 1 Euro. You read that right.
Briançon is like no city I’ve ever seen. Nestled in the Alps at 4,350 feet, it’s the highest-altitude city in France. It provided an important strategic position for the Romans, and later Louis XIV.
Nowadays it provides an important strategic position for the après-ski experience. I partook.
The Alps make you feel on top of the world but helpless to nature. Sunlight and snowstorms clash in a constant weather supernova.
The air is so dry my throat parches every 30 minutes. Luckily the tap water is second-to-none.
Thanks to relaxed drone laws, I am able to battle the wind and win, capturing some of my most favorite photos – panoramic visuals of the town and surrounds.
The Briançon-Paris Intercites de Nuit sleeper train cuts a brisk path through the dark French countryside, stopping only to drop weary crew members off at home.
As morning sets in, windmill-dotted hills cede to flat land as the Thalys thunders along at two hundred miles per hour, catapulting me to Amsterdam.
I am greeted by grey skies, a rental bike, and old friends from my time studying here at the Rietveld Academie. I stay for three days, working EST hours in the evening and lounging in the morning, taking in museums, student art exhibitions, board games, food. I can see myself living here for a few years someday. Maybe longer.
Feel free to contact me for prints, downloads, or travel advice.
Tools: A7iii, Mavic Air 2, Lightroom