Tag Archives: photography

The Great Trip Home

London pictures here.)

Okay, so it wasn’t really a great trip home, but as far as trips home go, it was pretty good.

I got home a week ago, but I’ve been pretty busy (read: procrastinating) on writing this blog entry until today.

I got to spend two days in London, or rather a few hours of one day, a full day, and a day in the airport. I took the train from Edinburgh-and the British trains are surprisingly not smooth and seem determined to throw everyone around the train cabins without actually managing to crash the train. It was an interesting ride, and after four hours of jostling I arrived at King’s Cross, where I spent half an hour waiting in line to get an Oyster Card while listening to some guy complain about his lost Oyster Card and a few other guys get really angry at him.

Anyway, the next day I spent wandering around two different types of shopping areas. This:

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And this:

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The first is Camden Market, which is an awesome place full of interesting items and clothes of various styles. Also fried oreos. That’s right. Fried foods that aren’t meant to be fried aren’t limited to the United States.

The second is Regent Street, which is full of Stores I Can’t Afford and several H&M’s. It’s a pretty street to walk down and window shop and stare at what might have been had you been born rich, or at least wealthier than you are now. It’s pretty much the opposite of Camden Market.

Now, I’ve already been to London twice, which is why this blog entry only includes something about a market and not any of the more iconic things one might do in London. One might say that I’d gotten lazy on this part of the trip–and that’s true. But I did spend a few days in London a few years ago, and a few weeks in London two years ago, so I covered a lot of ground. This visit I had less time, so I did less. And what I did was explore an awesome market that people should go to more often.

The next day I went to the airport nice and early (Heathrow, for the curious) where I wasn’t allowed to check in for three hours. I arrived six hours before my flight because my hotel check-out time was early, and my flight was relatively late. I ended up puttering around, buying a paperback version of JK Rowling’s secret book (the one she wrote under a pen name), and drinking coffee.

Heathrow Terminal 5 is a nice place to spend a few hours once you’re allowed to check in. There’s a TARDIS, several shops, a noodle restaurant, and a fair amount of free wifi, all of which I took advantage of. Never have I spent more time in an airport so willingly.

I had a flight on British Airways, which was really nice–good service, back of seat entertainment systems, and relatively good food. The flight went faster than I expected, probably because I watched Casino Royale and then spent the next three hours writing with Les Mis in the background. Not a bad way to spend a flight. I didn’t feel like dying once.

And when we got into JFK, we were treated with a lovely sunset as a backdrop to New York City.

NYC sunset from JFK airport.

NYC sunset from JFK airport.

It’s been surreal being home. I kept thinking, “Oh, yesterday I was in Europe.” And then, “Oh, this time last week I was in Europe.” I’d gotten tired of traveling but I miss it, too, which is always the problem of coming back from somewhere. Being left at home with nothing to do is quite a change from exploring new places, and I’ll probably go stir crazy in another week. I love traveling. I love planes, which sounds weird but probably isn’t. I love the feeling of being in a place with a lot more stuff going on than at home. And I love doing what I want.

But never fear! I’m accompanying my family on college tours for my sister in about a week in Boston, which is a really nice city that I haven’t been to enough. And after that, we’re going to Cape Cod for some relaxation and good ice cream and one really scary beach that constantly changes and is surrounded by sharks. It is the best beach, and it is in Chatham if you ever want to explore a creepy beach.

So, although I leave you with this last bit of the trip, travel isn’t over for the summer. Interesting things are still going on, and thankfully the rest of the summer won’t be me staring at the computer screen wishing I was elsewhere, as I often do.

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Edinburgh

As always, we’ll start with the photo blog entry.

Edinburgh, Scotland is the first city (of two, the other being London starting tomorrow) that I’ve already been to on this trip. I went two years ago when I was studying abroad in London and Oxford as a weekend trip, and really enjoyed it. But this time was infinitely better, perhaps because I’ve already been here, perhaps because I didn’t have homework over the weekend, or perhaps because I’m in a better place in general at the moment than I was on that trip.

Edinburgh  weather is like North Carolina weather-it changes all the time. Today went through cycles of: thunderstorms, extreme fog, sunny and summery, showers, partly sunny and cool, rain, and more thunderstorms. I brought an umbrella, a sweater, and wore shorts. It was raining when I walked into a bookshop and completely sunny when I walked out.

When I arrived yesterday after a flight from Dublin on a propeller plane that was two parts cute and one part scary, I took it upon myself to walk around Princes Street (one of the main streets, the other being the Royal Mile across the little valley thing) and surrounding areas, popping in and out of stores and generally acclimating myself to a place that was a bit bigger than Dublin. I liked the familiarity. I could look at a place and be like-“I went here, and it was good. I’ll go again.” To that end I ended up at a burger joint for dinner that I’d been to two years ago, that was good.

That isn’t to say I didn’t try some new things, although two years ago I covered most of Edinburgh despite only being there two days. This time I climbed Calton Hill, which has a few monuments on top, one of which you can climb. I did climb it and saw a very foggy Edinburgh that soon disappeared behind even more fog so that I couldn’t see anything. It felt weird, like a blanket had been forced over my eyes. It was a little disorienting after a few minutes, so I decided not to wait for the fog to clear and to climb back down and do other things.

I ended up walking down Princes street and then up, by which time it started to rain. And then it started to pour. So I ran into a little bookshop called Armchair Bookshop (I think) which had a TON of second-hand books and a cute dog. I petted the dog, who then followed me and nudged me and licked my leg as I browsed, and hugged me (well, my leg) as I started to leave. This dog really wanted me to stay, and to be honest I wanted to stay and pet the dog, too. But it had stopped raining and I had more stuff to do, so I said goodbye to the dog, which was hard, because this dog looked like this:

I followed you around because I love you.

I followed you around because I love you.

After puttering around the Royal Mile for a bit I ended up at the University of Edinburgh, where I popped into a quad which had been under construction two years ago. Now it wasn’t, even though the rest of the city seems to be under construction fixing buildings and installing tram rails and what-not, which it wasn’t last time. But the university was all fixed up and I got a whiff of college life, much more ancient looking than the one I’d left behind. I spent more time in another bookshop in a cafe while it cleared up, and then I power-walked out of excitement to Arthur’s Seat at the end of the Royal Mile.

Towards the end of the Royal Mile there’s the Scottish Parliament, which is an optimistic gesture on their part of breaking away from the U.K. It’s also weirdly modern compared to its surroundings-a bunch of old smoky buildings and a castle. Really, there is a castle right there.

Not too far away is Arthur’s Seat, a cliff that overlooks the city and competes with Calton Hill for Best View. Having had no luck on the Hill this morning, I took a difficult hike up to the top of the cliffs, where I’d had better luck with city views two years ago. The sun had come out and stayed out long enough for me to struggle up the cliffs with absolutely no grace and take pictures of the city from above, which looked like this:

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There may or may not be an Instagram filter on that picture to give it affect. But that’s what it looks like. The clouds were coming back in and after walking in the heat for an hour it suddenly began to feel cold.

I made my way back up the Royal Mile, popping in-and-out of stores, getting a kilt and a few other things (I’m not sure if you can call them souvenirs) and eventually ended up at Edinburgh Castle. Where I stopped and did not go in because I refuse to pay the admission price for the castle. I just sort of looked at it, went into the Festival Center to learn about the fantastic festivals in Edinburgh (International, Film, Book, and Fringe) that I can’t attend no matter how much I want to, and then I went back to Princes Street and puttered around some more.

All told, Edinburgh provided me with two days of wandering around a city without having to worry about getting lost or mugged or killed, which was nice. (Not that I worried about that in Dublin, except for the lost part.) I got to drink in the sight of a beautiful old city and pet a dog and see a great view from atop a cliff, and eat good food and hear Scottish accents, which are always pleasurable. And I got to re-experience some memories and make them better because this time I’m a happier person. And in a few days I’ll be home, which is sad, but Edinburgh has helped me to wind down a bit and get back into familiarity. And London is even more familiar, so it’ll almost be like home!

But not quite.

Although I feel homesick for London a lot. I do want to live there one day.

But for now, a two day visit will have to do.

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The Alps (Pontresina, Diavolezza, Piz Nair)

First of all:

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Second of all, for the rest of the pictures you need to visit the photo blog entry.

The photos really show more than I could ever describe. Majestic and amazing don’t even begin to cover it. But they help. Just, when you’re 10,000 feet high and can see snowy peaks rising towards the sky in every direction, and no matter where you look every view is stunning, it does something amazing to you. You feel inspired. You feel calm. You feel like you need to go and make something of your life because how could you just sit around and do nothing when there’s something this amazing in the world?

I met up with a friend in Pontresina, where I was staying, which was really nice because going hiking alone would’ve been tough and I’d have probably fallen off a cliff or something. (Luckily I only fell once, and it was a minor fall, and it wasn’t off a cliff.) The first day we hiked to a glacier. The second day we hiked Diavolezza from where the cog train is to the lift that takes you back into Pontresina-a four hour hike according to the map. We had lunch at the highest point in the trail, and there’s nothing quite like eating your lunch looking across a valley at these huge mountains and then down to a tiny toy town and rivers frozen in time.

After the hike we went to St. Moritz, which is as ritzy as ritzy gets. We saw Rolls Royce cars, which just doesn’t happen. Anyway, I’d love to go skiing at Piz Nair, which is where we went to the summit, which was 10,000 feet high. But the whole ritziness of the town seems kind of off-putting. I mean, every car is nice and every store is a brand name and not just any brand name, but the top brand names.

But I would totally ski there. Because skiing 10,000 feet high sounds amazing. It’s  a goal of mine, to ski in the Alps some day, really high up, surrounded by nothing but powdery snow and other peaks.

Anyway, the top of Piz Nair was amazing like everything else on this leg of the trip. (The picture above is from the summit.) I think mountains are where I belong. They make me so calm no matter what’s going on, and they inspire me in ways that not a lot of things inspire me. I’m more satisfied with mountains than with beaches, or cities, or anything else really, even though I like all of those things as well. But I just feel at peace when I’m in the mountains. Any mountains, but the really tall ones especially. I like being up high.

The next day my friend and I went separate ways and I spent the night in Zurich, where I splurged on Springli macaroons (I still have a few) flavored Mocha, Chocolate, and Vanilla. The Vanilla is the best. I took a picture.

Yum

Yum

Having splurged on chocolate, I went for a cheap dinner by buying a few things from the Coop (supermarket). It amazes me that almost every food place in Switzerland and a few in Spain have the Brazilian soda Guaraná. It’s really good, but we don’t have it in too many places in the states, so it’s weird to see it all over the place here. I’ll have to test out Germany’s supermarkets.

I stayed in my hotel room for the rest of the night, which was probably good because a few sex workers came and hung on the street corner of the hotel. I could see them from the window. I’m actually pretty sure I was in what passes for a Red Light District in Zurich. Either that or this kind of thing just randomly happens at certain places, and “gentlemen’s clubs” and sex shops also just randomly pop up in different parts of the city, all clustered together.

Maybe.

Anyway. I spent most of today in Zurich’s swanky airport. And now I’m in Berlin. I’m not going to write about Berlin right away, because my first impression was actually not very good. But everyone says the city is amazing, so I have to wait to explore a bit before I pass judgement on the city.

But it’ll be different. From high-altitude mountains and pure nature to bustling city with very few trees. Wow.

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First Stop: Madrid

I’ve left the United States quite a few times on the 4th of July, but I’ve never taken off right at sunset with the whole of New York City lit up beneath the plane. And what a sight it was-hundreds, maybe even thousands of fireworks going off all over the place. On any other day it would’ve been terrifying to see little explosions up until and past the horizon, but last night it was awesome. And then the plane turned over the Atlantic Ocean and so began the rest of the not-so-great flight.

In other words: they played a film I never heard of, didn’t turn off the lights for two hours, I didn’t sleep at all for some reason, and we went through a storm. Also the breakfast was…I don’t know what the breakfast was, actually. Strange would be one word. Apparently the coffee was terrible, but I didn’t have it. The milk was powdered. But, we took off and landed on time which is pretty much impossible at JFK International Airport.

When we landed in Madrid it took half an hour to get from the gate to baggage claim. There was no line at immigration, so why did it take so long? Because apparently Madrid’s airport is HUGE. Like, we had a pretty decently long tram ride just to get from our terminal to baggage claim. And we had to walk for ten minutes to get to the tram from our gate. Which was in the middle of the terminal. What? But it was a beautiful airport, very modern, very colorful, and pretty high-tech if I’m any judge of what high-tech is. A little confusing, but what isn’t when you’ve just pulled an all-nighter on a plane?

As with all European vacations, we jumped straight in. Okay, we took an hour nap, then jumped straight in. So running off of one hour of sleep, I set off with my family into the 100 degree heat of Madrid to do some exploring and learning. Luckily, Madrid isn’t humid, so it wasn’t 100 degrees of unbreathable heat. (I’m looking at you, North Carolina)

First we went to the art museum, el Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. We spent a bit of time there looking at impressionists, post-impressionists, expressionism, and modern art. I don’t know a lot about art, but I know I liked the Dutch landscapes, the two Dalí works I saw, and the other surrealists, and the three Van Gogh’s on display.

Having had enough of art, we went off to find the main plaza, Plaza Mayor. It’s this huge plaza that reminded me a bit of St. Mark’s Square in Venice, surrounded by equally old buildings. It took about half an hour to walk there, and all of that half an hour was beautiful (and uphill.) The buildings are old and colorful and a bit like art in themselves, and the streets aren’t meant to be pedestrian streets but they’re made of stone and are extremely narrow, so people have reclaimed them anyway. We shopped a bit, walked around a bit, took pictures a bit, and then headed back to the hotel for some much needed leg rest. Also, I got to practice my Spanish. As always, my listening and comprehension is better than my speaking skills, though the Spain-Spanish (as opposed to Latin American Spanish, which I’m more used to) can be a bit confusing.

After a break of sorts we went out again to experience Madrid at night and have some food porn. Madrid at night is, well, awesome. The buildings light up and everyone comes out. Whereas the streets had been empty when we walked them earlier (or nearly so), now they were full of people. Cafes were packed. Venders were selling little toys you could launch into the air that lit up.

Here’s an example of the food porn we got up to:

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Yeah, it was good. Very good. Churros dipped in warm chocolate sauce. Can’t get much better than that.

We also ate dinner at a tapas bar, so I got to try a lot of interesting and tasty foods. We spent some time fooling around the plaza and found the Market of San Miguel, which was, apparently, hiding just behind the Plaza Mayor.

I’m impressed, honestly. Experiencing Madrid by day and by night on jetlag and no sleep isn’t easy, but I feel lucky to have sacrificed the rest. Madrid is a beautiful city, a vibrant city, and one that deserves to be explored. I wish I had more time, but we’re heading off to Barcelona tomorrow. Which is going to be awesome but I’m sad to have spent so short a time in Madrid.

Still, I’m excited about the month that follows this one day. And the food. And the few days of Spanish immersion. And the new places and beautiful sights. And the food.

For images from today, see this post from my photo blog.

More to come!

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A Lot of Young People Want to Travel (and Why Shouldn’t They?)

So yesterday I heard this speech by this girl who’s dying, where she basically said that we’re all dying, some of us a little bit slower, some of us might die unexpectedly, but we’re not all guaranteed to live long lives, and because of this we should live our lives to the fullest. It had all 1,400ish people (and the staff) in tears, and it resonated with me because I’d already been thinking along similar lines (minus the dying part). I want to do something awesome while I’m young. I don’t want to waste my youth working hard to work hard and then keep working and not have a chance to do anything until I’m old and gray, or potentially at all.

If I could do anything after I graduate, I would just go and travel the world. I’d find ways to stay in cheap places, to travel cheaply by car/bus/train (only using planes if I really needed to, like between oceans), take pictures, and write about it on a blog or some sort of similar website. That would be the best thing. I would see so much. I would learn so much. Despite being shy, I would probably meet so many people. And I should do it. I should do it because I might not get the chance to later, because later I’ll be tied down by work, or a family, or possibly by ill health. Right now I know I’m fine. Right now I know I’m capable of having an adventure.

But there’s money, which is, unfortunately, an object that I need and don’t have enough of. I wouldn’t have any source of income while traveling, and even less money to come back to. I wouldn’t have a job when I came back because I’m not the kind of person who just has those sort of things lined up. I’m a girl, so I can’t just go hitch-hiking or couch-surfing willy-nilly because, unfortunately, we live in a world where people think it’s fine to take advantage of women. I wouldn’t have a travel companion because most of the people I know (and probably a few that don’t) wouldn’t just up and travel unless they had no issues with all of the above, and very few can work all of that out.

But I want to, so much. I just want to take a few years to travel and document my travels, to learn something and show something and have a story to tell for it, out of which I might write more stories. More than a job, more than success, more than money, more than a happy relationship, I want this: to be able to travel around the world and see it all, and spent a few of my younger years doing something purely for myself, because I want to, before getting tied down by responsibility and people.

I have approximately three months left before I graduate, and what will I do then?

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To the Future

(As part of the 30 day travel challenge: day 2-where would you like to travel next?)

I would like to travel to a lot of places. I want to travel to the Swiss Alps in the winter so that I can ski. I want to travel to the Rocky Mountains so I can ski. I want to travel to Banff in Canada so I can ski. A lot of these have to do with skiing. Not only is skiing fun, but the places that provide excellent skiing also provide stunning beauty (which I would photograph extensively because, well, I like to try my hand at photography). I would even go as far as to ski in New Zealand, though I would want to go there without skiing as well.

I would also like to spend more time in Scotland. I would like to spend a week in Venice instead of the uncomfortable (if amazing otherwise) day I spent a few years ago. I would like to travel to Chile and Argentina (possibly to ski some). I would love to go to Australia. Japan, possibly to ski and also to see a culture so completely different from my own.

There are too many places I want to travel to next.

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It’s Not Easy Being Blue

I go to UNC, and today was a pretty awful day in UNC world. Last night we lost to that horrid school in Durham, Dook, by 1 point. And on the buzzer! After a 10 point lead!

I felt like my night had been wasted because I was attempting to get the best photograph I would ever take: a photo from the roof of Spanky’s on Franklin Street  of thousands of Carolina fans rushing Franklin in celebration. As a photographer for the Daily Tarheel, and as one who loves photography in general, this was like a dream. And I firmly believed this picture would happen up until the final buzzer, when suddenly my picture dreams were dashed to pieces.

And then I got frostbite.

But here are my experiences from last night, in a lovely little time-line for you all to follow:

6:30pm-head to the Daily Tarheel (DTH) office to be briefed on my photo assignments and to pick up lenses for my camera. (I carried around three lenses that night for those interested-a wide angle, my own 18-200mm, and a telephoto lens.) I was told that for the first half of the game I would be taking pictures in bars, and for the end of the game I would be on the roof of Spanky’s taking pictures of the mad rush on Franklin Street.

9pm-Head up to Four Corners bar. Realize that this is not a particularly good assignment because I’m short and quiet and people in bars are tall and loud. I take a few pictures, then retreat to the much quieter Linda’s. I take a few more pictures before getting really into the game.

Halftime-Head up to the DTH office and upload my pictures to the computer. These pictures contained the only picture I would get published from that night-a strangely apt picture of a fan freaking out (in a bad way) during the first half because of some mistake UNC made on the court. I grab a monopod and a press pass and head to Spanky’s.

10:15-11:03 I end up on the roof of Spanky’s, which is wet and cold, after a harrowing climb up a metal ladder on the side of the building. I’m not afraid of heights but that was a very scary climb. I settle down on the side facing Top of the Hill on Franklin Street and settle in for 45 minutes of cheering from restaurants and talking to my mom about the game. At one point I tell her that UNC has lost huge leads before. I am prophet. Also, the police start setting up cones for the raid, and are patrolling Franklin.

11:03-11:30 Now freezing, unable to feel my hands or feet, I start listening for reactions to the end of the game. There isn’t any cheering or booing, just random sounds. The only thing I hear after 10 minutes of not knowing anything is a guy shout “FUCK DUKE!” I get a text from my mom that says “Arghhh” and one from my boyfriend that says “We lost at the buzzer.” I start taking pictures of disappointed people (and a few dook fans) meandering home.

After that, I climb down the scary ladder, half frozen and feeling like I wasted over an hour in the cold (and 4 hours of my life that night) for nothing.

And that is my story. I almost had the best photo opportunity in the world, and lost it at the last minute. I don’t like sports. Especially when they do this to me.

Hopefully next year is better. Only hope for the future of our basketball team and, for some, outright denial that the last second of last night’s game ver happened, is what keeps people going to class this week. Well, that and grades.

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