Saturday, October 13, 2012

A Travel Quiz

A: Age you made your first international trip
I’m ashamed to admit it was a mere two years and six months ago.
B: Best (foreign) beer you’ve had and where
I’ve only ever had Fosters - in London no less. I’m not a big fan of drinking when I’m alone.
C: Cuisine (Favorite)
I’m a bit fan of Pret A Manger & French baked goods.
D: Destinations. Favourite. Least Favourite. Why?
Favorite: London. Ugh I fell in love two years ago and there’s nothing I can do about it.
Least: Paris or Sydney.
E: Event you experienced that made you say ‘Wow’:
On a rainy night in London - my first international trip - my hotel was a couple of blocks from Parliament and the Eye so I took an evening stroll. I was sitting across from Big Ben. It chimed 10PM and the crowds had diminished. A thin fog had set and from the bridge a lone bagpiper played the saddest song I’ve ever heard. 
F: Favourite mode of transportation?
I love the Tube. I hate the RER.
G: Greatest feeling while traveling?
Arriving at the hotel after the guaranteed mess that is airports and getting from them.
H: Hottest place you’ve ever travelled?
Clifton Beach, AU. The added humidity made it death.
I: Incredible service you’ve experienced and where?
When I checked into my serviced apartment just outside of Cairns, the owner Craig was incredible. He was classic Australian - very tan, Hawaiian shirt, no shoes - and so so knowledgeable. 
J: Journey that took you the longest?
Seattle - Philadelphia - Frankfurt - Nice. I was supposed to arrive in Nice at 2:30PM, but I arrived at 9PM. It was more hellish than it sounds.  
K: Keepsake from your travels?
I buy my sister a pen. 
L: Let down sight. Why and where?
Sydney. It was so less impressive than I had been lead to believe. Although I think it might have been aided by the fact that I had just spent a week in freaking Clifton Beach which is amazing. 
M: Moment where you fell in love with travel?
I’m not sure - I’ve been traveling since I was a baby.
N: Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in?
It’s changed hands several times now, but was called City Inn Westminster. It is next door to Burberry HQ in London.
O: Obsession. What are you obsessed with taking pictures of while traveling?
The architecture.
P: Passport stamps. How many and from where?
Q: Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where?
I tend not to go to many things. I’d have to say Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
R: Recommended sight, event, or experience?
The National Parks on the West Coast of the United States. The Hoh Rainforest in Washington State is incredible. 
S: Splurge. Something you have no problem forking over for while traveling?
A hotel with an airport shuttle. And coffee.
T: Touristy thing you’ve done?
Going to Disney parks - especially Euro Disney.
U: Unforgettable travel memory?
When I was freshly arrived in Ireland, a very kind old lady came up to me and told me about her upcoming trip to the Arctic Circle and help me find the airport shuttle. Also when I was flying home from Australia I had a window seat and one of the most amazing views of the night sky I have ever seen. 
V: Visas. How many of them and for where?
Only one - Australia.
W: Wine, best glass while traveling and where?
I don’t drink wine.
X: eXcellent view and from where?
The Kuranda train, TGV train from Nice - Paris. The landscape changes so much so quickly. 
Y: Years spent traveling?
Z: Zealous sports fans and where?
I once ignorantly wandered into Hyde Park during a huge sporting event. I don’t even know what it was for, but they were mighty passionate.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Out-Running A Rain Cloud

It had to have been 90° with 105% humidity. The clean, dry shirt I put on this morning was now a damp mess, clinging to the severe sunburn on my shoulders. Warm waves splash against my bare feet. My brand new camera swings at my side. A young family has a picnic in the sand behind me. Long expanses of sand and water lay before me. The slightest breeze plays at the tips of my hair.
If it hadn't hit my scalp I wouldn't have felt it. A glance at the sky reveals a dark looming storm cloud - a million times darker than anything I've seen all week. Another raindrop falls on my head and I begin to pick up my pace. My new camera just happens to be about 300$, and it alone holds all the pictures of my adventures in Australia. From looking at it, the cloud appears to end about half a mile in front of me. I decide to make a run for it. There is no one else on the beach, so I run as fast - however awkwardly - as I can. The rain starts coming down harder now, making ripples in the ocean. The sun falls behind the dark cloud and a breeze sends the rain sideways, splashing against my shoulder. With no shield for my beloved camera, I cradle it in my arms and run with a strength I didn't know I had.
A few yards ahead of me is a notorious crocodile estuary. The hotel owner has warned me to be wary around here, especially when the tide is high. I had just visited the zoo yesterday where I stood mere feet away from a crocodile that swallowed a full sized black labrador in one bite. Throwing caution to the wind, I charge right through it, not daring to look around for company.
Even though I have surpassed the half-mile mark, the rain still thunders down on me, threatening the safety of my possesions. The sand is getting sticky beneath my feet; my shirt feels painted on. Finally - finally I reach the safety of my hotel. I collaspe on the bench under the awning and watch, exhausted, as the rain washes the day away.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Airplanes in the Night Sky

       It's late at night. Well, no its not. It feels late, and a lot of people are sleeping but in actuality it's about six o'clock in the afternoon. The stewards have retired to wherever it is they go in between the platter called dinner and the moist hockey puck called breakfast. About an hour ago the lights were dimmed and the balding middle aged man in front of me fully reclined his seat. They tell you to keep your window shutter closed around this time as to not disturb the other passengers [they mention nothing about seat reclining]. Silence permeates every inch of the cabin; my ears ring with boredom. My feet are asleep but the rest of me is wide awake.
      The stoic elderly lady to my left is facing the aisle, probably asleep. A quick glance around the cabin is as much assurance I need as I turn to my window and creak it open. I can't see anything. My fingers steadily and cautiously slide it the rest of the way up. 
      The sky is blacker than anything I've ever seen before. Another plane passes miles and miles away. The blinking lights move ever so slowly as it drifts further into the horizon. The islands below are awash with light: a concentrated center - the city - with a luminous path tracing it's way to the water's edge. No time passes at all as we glide over Tonga, Fiji, and smaller lands too exotic to identify. And oh, the stars. Spanning as far as the eye can see. Above, below, to the East and West: they shine bright and true. Standing in the center is the moon in all it's glory. Not quite full, it glimmers like a diamond in this darkness: a spectacular, unobstructed majesty. No clouds, no rising sun in sight. They say the middle of nowhere is the best place to view the night sky, and I suppose that's exactly where I was. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

How I Travel

A lot of the travel blogs I've seen are from the point of view of hostel stayers, backpackers, and generally the rough-and-tumble type. That's not really my style. I prefer hotels with wifi, and a simple-but-wheelable suitcase. 

That's not to say I'm a big spender. I'm really not. When in metropolises I tend to walk about 20 miles a day. If you've gone to a city to see it, what's the use in barricading yourself underground? The Tube and the RER are great but for the most part I like to walk. There are hidden gems I would never have seen had I not taken the adventure on foot.

I've heard staying in hostels is a great way to meet people. The problem I find there is that you tend to meet like minded travelers. I don't go to foreign cities to meet people who are from the same country I am. What's the point in that? Also I've found that when I travel with other people it diminishes the cultural experience I could be getting if I had gone it alone. Locals usually have the best advise on cheap thrills, anyway.

There are only two things I look for in a hotel: free wifi and a private bathroom. I tried the communal bathroom thing once and it is simply not for me. I ended up down at Paddington station using their toilets when it came right down to it. 

 When in a new city I try to live like the locals as much as possible. That being said, I find myself in grocery stores more often than restaurants. On the occasions that I do venture out, I always steer clear of the Americanized institutions. Except Starbucks. You can take the girl out of Seattle but you can't take her Starbucks. 

I guess Trip Advisor is right: I'm definitely middle of the road.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Nostalgia Wednesday: Midnight in Paris

My Paris trip was pretty short - a mere three days, two of which were used for travel. I don't speak a lick of French and I really was only in France for the Cannes Film Festival. Paris has never held my interest anyway, so when I arrived at my hotel in Marne Le Valle - about twenty minutes outside of Paris - I wasn't too tempted to head into the city. I'd been on a four hour train journey and had gotten lost for about three hours. I just wanted to sleep. A talk with my sister convinced me to go and see the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dam, as all the other days on my itinerary were booked.

First of all I would like to say: I do not like the ticket system with the RER. I bought a single day ticket and whenever I put it through the machine, it wouldn't read. It said my ticket was outdated even though I literally bought it moments before. The ticket seller told me I couldn't keep the ticket next to anything magnetized: my debit card, money, camera, hotel card, my oyster card, or watches. It got so out of hand I ended up attaching it to a tight bracelet. 

I left the hotel around 9PM, and the last train back was at 11PM. I don't even remember what was around Notre Dame. I just climbed the stairs from the train and I headed straight toward it. I spent probably a solid five minutes standing in awe of it. There was a group of French teenagers hanging out nearby. One was playing a guitar and another was singing. It was hard to leave.

I jumped back on the RER to get to the Eiffel Tower. In the classic pictures theres a large park in front of the monument. It was dark and I was tired so instead of walking through the park I walked around it. Whatever. I didn't know the tower lights up at night, so I was busy taking pictures when all of a sudden it went alight. For someone who didn't care much for Paris, this really made it magical.

With thirty minutes left to spare, I headed back to the train. It was quite crowded with everyone going back home. People exited stop after stop until we finally came to mine. Four of us got off and the train sped away. I looked down at my wrist for my ticket. It was gone. Somewhere between entering the station by the Eiffel Tower and exiting the train moments ago, it had fallen out. Two of my stop mates had already sped up the stairs and out of the station. The only other person in the entire building was a large German man. He was having the same ticket problems I had had earlier, although at that time there was someone on the other side to help me. He looked at me, confused. I shrug and asked - in French - if he spoke English. He shook his head and shrugged his shoulders to show he didn't even understand the question. I showed him my lack of a ticket and pointed to the train in an attempt to convey my recent loss. He tried all the machines to no avail. We started searching the premises for an extra ticket. After maybe ten minutes a girl appeared and handed a ticket over the turnstiles. The man and myself made eye contact and he motioned for me to follow him through the handicap exit. We rushed through and into the freedom of the outdoors. He and the girl went into a pub and I headed into the night.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Nostalgia Wednesday

This picture was taken on the Sky Rail in Cairns, Australia. The Sky Rail is a 45 minutes cable car ride into the rainforest above Cairns, depositing its travelers into the heart of the village Kuranda - a World Heritage site. After sightseeing in Kuranda, travelers can either take the Kuranda Scenic Railway or the Sky Rail right back down the mountain. 

This was one of the few things I did in Cairns. And it was one of the best. I'm afraid of heights - I always have been. They let me ride in my own cable car and it was surprisingly fun. The shuttle driver told me on the drive up that the cables are changed every five years so they never get worn and basically this company takes safety to the optimum level. So even though occasionally the cable car would speed up or sway on it's own, I never felt in danger.

Kuranda itself was a lot smaller than I expected. It was gorgeous and is still the only place I've ever seen coconuts hanging from a palm tree. There was a large shopping area where the majority of the tourists bought knick knacks and souvenirs. I found myself down an alley and out the other side where the real life was. I found a small supermarket that bore almost an uncanny difference to the bakery on the tourist side. The tourists with their giant cameras disappeared to make room for the teenagers on bicycles and the children eating popsicles on the curb. I bought a frozen pineapple popsicle and went out to join them. The sounds of bartering over wood carvings and the loud, foreign accents were soon replaced with macaws and camouflaged insects. I might as well have been in a different village altogether. And then again, maybe I was.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Why I Travel Alone

"Paris is for lovers. Maybe that's why I stayed only thirty-five minutes." - Humphrey Bogart, Sabrina

It's a topic discussed with anyone who asks me about my travels. They ask where I'm going, I tell them. They ask who I'm going with, I tell them. They stare at me blankly. A great deal of people get this pathetically sympathetic look on their faces, as if I travel alone because I have to. The truth of the matter is, I want to go to a lot of places and I have the drive to get myself there. Sadly I can't say that for many people I know. Travel is not everyone's top priority.

When I travel alone I get to be incredibly selfish. I adhere to whatever agenda I want and I get to indulge in any of my little heart's desires. The more I travel the more I realize how difficult it would be having another person with me. I've garnered a 'travel mode' in which I have become incredibly spontaneous and I fear most of it would prove impossible with someone else.

I have to be brave. When I'm lost on the streets of a foreign city at night it's up to me to get myself safely back to the hotel. There is literally no one else to rely on. Sometimes it's thrilling to put yourself in daring circumstances and force yourself to work them out. I enjoy living without a safety net.

I enjoy the purity of being completely immersed in a different land - even if that land is Central Florida. The judgements I make about the cities and people that I have visited alone seem vastly more substantial than those I've made when I've traveled with others. I can't stand the idea that other people can manipulate how I view certain things. I like to make my mind up and then get input.

Suffice it to say, solo travel has completely transformed me. It has forced my to believe in myself -as cheesy as that sounds. When there's no one else to count on, you get to prove just how awesome you truly are.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A Bit of an Introduction

My name is Diana - but you probably figured that out already. I love traveling. I don't fall in love with boys or bands, I fall in love with cities. I've been traveling in terms of road trips since I was a year old, and just recently started venturing out of the country. I've come to find solo travel to be quite rejuvenating. Whenever I'm home in Seattle I can't help feeling overwhelmingly claustrophobic. I decided to start up this blog to jot down my musings from my trips and to dwell in the nostalgia of my past adventures. I hope you enjoy!