Friday, December 16, 2011

Bubbling Over

I took a lot of video during my European travels, not that you have seen any of it. I always intended to make lots of amusing videos set to music, conveniently forgetting my fear of video editing software (stemming from an unfortunate incident in high school, as do so many fears).

Today, however, I was stuck without internet or other entertainment for a 3-hour layover coming home for Christmas, and I put together a little something. Behold:

A bitty video of my time in Scotland! I'm pretty pleased with it.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Final Europe Updates: Teaser

Just to let everyone know that a few final updates from my spring in Europe are coming! I still have Giverny, the second half of Iceland, and my friend Clarissa has finally posted all of the pictures she took from our time in Scotland, so I'll grab a few favorites from that and toss them up here as well!

Stay tuned!




Thursday, June 30, 2011

Au Revoir a Paris

Though I've been back for a month, I still actually have several remaining updates for you. Tonight, I'm feeling strong enough to tackle my last days in Paris. They were significantly harder that I was expecting. Not in terms of getting packed up and to the airport- that actually went swimmingly (for the first time ever!). But actually mentally coming to terms with leaving. I didn't realize until it was winding down how much Paris had come to mean to me. I grew up a lot there. And it's just so darn gorgeous, with so much history and magic.

The second to last night, I was exceptionally melancholy. I went down to the Seine that evening, after cleaning my room and packing all day. I started at Notre Dame, and spent the rest of the night walking over to the Eiffel Tower on the Right Bank. Melancholy really is the best word to use, and it didn't help that it was one of the most ridiculously photogenic nights ever created.

Take a look. None of these have had their coloring altered in any way, btw.


Things perked up significantly on my last full day, however. Because of all the time spent packing and cleaning on Thursday, I was able to spend my last Friday in Paris enjoying Paris. I could have gone on a mad sprint around to all of my favorite haunts on last time, but I opted for the slow and localized. I could only have one destination: le tour Eiffel.

I went to my boulangerie (the best bread in Paris), and picked up une tradition (better than a standard baguette), then to my local supermarche for the best goat cheese and an icy Limonata (my drink indulgence of choice. For normal people, insert your favorite wine when you imagine this scenario). Yes, there are supermarches and boulangeries near the Eiffel Tower, and they have very good products. But I needed my baguette for my last day. And I had me a picnic lunch under the Eiffel Tower.

Lunch with a view!

Then, I did something that I never planned on doing. I blame my father- he talked me into it.

I climbed the Eiffel Tower. 

And, incredibly foolishly, I actually did the first leg of it via the stairs.

Now, for many, this would not be a foolish move. In fact, the line is significantly shorter, and the fare cheaper. These are what got me to forget my Blinding Fear of Heights, which is always further exacerbated by Scary- Usually Open- Stairs, up until I was handing my ticket to the guys. The bright side of being so utterly terrified on the way up was that my adrenaline kept me from realizing exactly how fast I had powered up exactly how many stairs, so I didn't realize how hard my heart was pounding until I had been on the first level for several minutes.

I wised up and paid to upgrade to an elevator pass for the ride to the second level, and just plain ruled out the ride to the third level. Ain't never gonna happen.

My first view upon creeping to the edge of the first level

My general thoughts on being that high up

Trocadero from high up!

Contrary to popular conception, the Eiffel Tower is not, in fact, grey.

Trocadero from even higher up!! I get dizzy just looking at this picture...

I live roughly a smidgen to the left of the ginormous black thing

That evening, I went to Trocadero. I stayed for the first sparkling of the evening, at 10pm. At that point, I turned to leave. I got about 10 feet, then turned around to look. Looked for 5-10 minutes. Okay, now it's really time to go. Got maybe 25 feet, dodging a pushy vendor. Turned to look and get another picture. 15 minutes later, still standing there, I gave in and called my mom. 

[Not-So-Quick phone explanation: Upon arriving in Paris, we were all required to buy French cell phones. And, obviously, minutes for said phones. We were fed horror story upon horror story of how ridiculously expensive minutes are in France, how you should only ever text so you don't run out of minutes within the first week, etc. etc. So I bought the 50-euro plan. This got me 50 euro worth of minutes, plus an extra 15 minutes! 50 is the first level at which you get the bonus minutes. So I go about my semester, texting away. I even did some out-of-country texting when I was in Scotland and Greece. The last week, I finally figure out how to check on my balance. Turns out I have 5 days to use up, wait for it: 51.45 euros worth of minutes. I think they may have overstated how much coverage costs in Paris. So, I got to call home a couple of times! Terribly exciting =D]

She made the very obvious and clever point that I didn't have to leave. I could stay for as many hours as I deemed necessary! I could sleep on the plane the next day. So I hung around at Trocadero for over two hours. There was even some sort of figure roller skating world championship going on at the base, which made for some good between-sparklings entertainment. Thanks, Mommy!

Amazingly, none of these pictures come anywhere near to capturing the extreme dark grey-blue of the clouds, and the incredible contrast it made with the Eiffel Tower

For whatever reason, I really love the image of traffic roaring past the Eiffel Tower. I got a dozen versions of this picture each time I went at night. 

10pm sparkling

11pm sparkling

My final morning went very smoothly. I was able to pack up and leave without any difficulty. I was at the airport nice and early (aided by my wonderful friend and foyer-mate Vanessa, who helped my wheel my two gigantic suitcases to the RER station). And though it didn't thrill me to leave, I was able to instead look forward to Iceland and being home, rather than mope (too much). 

There was a nice symmetry to my arrival in Paris and my departure that helped me see how far I came in just four and a half months. It was rainy, I came in on the RER and I made sure to leave via RER. I wore my leopard print trench coat. But this time, I could speak to people. I knew which stops to get on and off at. I knew how to deal with the weirdos in the stations. 

I am so incredibly grateful for my time in Paris. I learned so much about the world and myself. I do find myself missing it frequently, even as I immerse myself in all of the things I missed about home and the USA. I'll be back with a few final updates (I still haven't shown you all of the gorgeous gardens at Giverny!), and of course, check back anytime you hear that I am jet-setting again!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

A Geological Marvel: Iceland, Part I

Leaving Paris was hard, harder than I thought it was going to be. But more on that later. For now, let's talk Iceland!

I arrived mid-afternoon yesterday (Saturday), and by the time I reached my hotel I already had two new travel buddies- Helen and Melonie. Helen is Canadian, and I met her at Charles de Gaulle, where we discovered that we had the exact same itinerary. Exact. As in, flying both in and out of Iceland on the same flights. Helen then met Melonie on the bus from the airport into Reykjavik. Melonie is a med student in Munich, here on holiday.

The craziness that I lugged all around Paris and Reykjavic. Heavy and awkward, but impressively small, considering that I lived out of the contents for 5 months.

First things first, we met up for dinner at a famous Hamburger Factory. This is where Gorbachev and Reagan ate after negotiating the end of the Cold War, apparently:

The hamburger place keeps a running tally of how many Icelanders there are. It was only 319,321 when we got there. How exciting! Though it does raise the awkward question of what they do when an Icelander dies....

You can see the picture of Reagan and co.

I tried a cheesecake made out of an Icelandic specialty, skyr, a sort of yogurt-cheese thing. It was actually quite good! While at dinner, we made plans to take a Golden Circle tour the next day (today). It would take us around to geysers and various other geothermal and geological treats.

It required getting up far too early this morning (compounded by the fact that I forgot to adjust my alarm to the new time zone, so it went off at 5:30 Islandic time instead of 7:30), but we were off!

Geothermal electricity generators, capturing the steam that rises from under the surface

Lava field! Now covered in some sort of moss/peat/lichen type vegetation.

Our first stop was in a little town famed for its greenhouses about 30 minutes out of Reykjavik. It's over an area with a particularly significant amount of underground heating, I gather, and so residents started to put up greenhouses to see what they could grow, and it just sort of expanded and now the University of Horticulture is there, and it's a whole big thing. 

Large puffin in the tourist greenhouse 

The next major stop was the Gullfoss Waterfall. Gorgeous....

We then made our way over to the Geyser area. As it turns out, "geysir" is actually the Icelandic name for one particular steaming/erupting hot spring, which became so popular and well known that now almost every single other language uses the name to describe the phenomenon. Geyser no longer erupts without urging (apparently you can coax an eruption from a geyser by pouring soap in it. Not recommended for home experimentation!) unless an earthquake has happened quite recently, but it's neighbor Strokkur goes off every 6-8 minutes, with a really intriguing sort of dome thing in the first few seconds. 

Continuing on our way...

Completely random statue at the Geyser place

It had to be done

I didn't quite get the dome in a picture, but here is Strokkur starting...

...going for it...

....drifting away in a cloud of steam....

...and water rushing back in to fill the crater.
 The final stop of the day was a two-for-one: the original meeting place of the Icelandic parliament (the longest-running parliament in the world, it was started as a general meeting of all Icelanders once a year in the 900s, and was held outdoors, in this spot, until the 1700s, when it was moved to Reykjavik), and the best place to see the effects of the Mid-Atlantic Rift.

Fissure that is part of the Mid-Atlantic Rift and the drifting apart of the tectonic plates. 

Lake that is in large part a result of the sinking of the land over the Mid-Atlantic Rift

 If you accept the extremely simplified version of the geology, I am standing in the Mid-Atlantic Rift here, between the Eurasian and American plates. 

Sadly, Melonie is leaving in the morning, but Helen and I booked our tickets for the famous Blue Lagoon for tomorrow afternoon, and will spend the rest of the day journeying about Reykjavik. I've heard great things about both!

Talk to you soon!