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 It said my ticket was outdated even though I literally bought it moments before.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!