One More Chapter
A twenty two year-old's view on life, death,
and Taylor Swift conspiracy theories
and Taylor Swift conspiracy theories
I have decided to take a break from all the school work that I have been doing this afternoon in order to write this blog post.
For some time now I have been in the planning of one of my next great adventures: the hiking of the Appalachian Trail.
Many people, including myself, were quite surprised with this sudden determination to walk 2,200 miles from Maine to Georgia. Especially since I had a pretty strong hatred for hiking throughout most of my childhood.
I remember our many vacations to North Conway, NH - one of my favorite places in this world - that took place each summer during my childhood. We would spend our days there doing all the things one does in North Conway: mini golfing, eating Ben & Jerry's, relaxing at the condo's pool and, best of all, visiting Storyland and Santa's Village. It was heaven on Earth.
Then, usually once in the whole week or so that we were there, my mother would say, "Ok, today we are going to go on a hike." This was usually met with groans from me and my siblings. We were all lazy, but my brother and sister were at least in some sort of shape. I was not. I am pretty positive that my mother chose the easiest hike that she could find within the White Mountains. Ones that the elderly could hike. But me, I could not. And I made sure that everyone else around me was suffering as much as me by complaining the whole time, being snippy and falling behind so that everyone would have to stop and wait for me constantly. This happened until I was probably 12 or so, when the vacations took a pause during my parents' divorce, picking up again when I was 17.
This past summer, the Summer of 2014, I returned again to New Hampshire, having missed the summer before and in an unmatched excitement. I was in the best shape of my life. I was training for a triathlon and running 6 - 9 miles a day and going to the gym. I was dieting and thin and my legs were pure muscle. I was ready to hike, and actually excited for the first time in my life.
This year we were to hike Mt. Washington, the highest peak in New England. In the back of my mind I was hesitant, but up for the challenge.
That day changed my life.
I didn't just enjoy the hike, I loved it. Every second of it. I felt so happy, so at peace the entire time. It was tiring, yes, and in total we spent about nine hours on the mountain (though, we did stop for lunch and exploring at the top as well as a visit to the museum) but it filled me with so much emotion. I knew right away that I wanted more. More and more and more and more.
The views were spectacular.
I felt truly and authentically happy. Something I don't think enough of us really experience more than a handful of times in their life.
I thought to myself, yeah, I could stay here a while.
We came upon a hut during our treks, one that overnight hikers might use for shelter. It was there that I actually started asking about the AT. I had lived my whole life within driving distance of it, but hadn't given it more than a fleeting thought. Now, I was beginning to understand what these crazy people might be seeing in the idea of spending five to eight months hiking in the mountains. And it didn't seem crazy at all.
Welcome to the greatest city on Earth.
Or at least, the greatest I've been thus far in my travels.
Last weekend, as many of you know if you follow me on Facebook since I was posting constantly about it, I traveled to Edinburgh, Scotland in the northern UK.
First, let me say, yes. I traveled alone and, yes, I was a little nervous. But nothing, and I mean nothing, can compare to the horror that I faced getting to France in the middle of one of New England's worst snowstorms and having to deal with literally every possible thing go wrong. After I survived that, I knew that I could do anything.
In addition, I was travelling to an English-speaking country and therefore I was really quite excited. I mean, not only are they English-speaking, but they also have extremely attractive accents. In addition, I have been learning that the more that I travel the less scary and more exciting it becomes. Just like the taste of coffee, it's an acquired taste.
Edinburgh was one of the greatest places I have been to in the entire world. And here's a list as to why:
1. Everyone is friendly there, and I mean EVERYONE!! It's like Disneyworld there.
2. There is the big city feel but it's also surrounded by mountains and hills. And it's geographically very, very small. I walked everywhere there easily, no need to spend money on public transportation, except to bring me to the airport! And it wasn't too crowded either, very calm and peaceful in the mornings.
3. It's very clean! Not only do you get to feel close to nature with many gardens and the surrounding hills, but the city is much much cleaner than any other I've been to so far. I even saw a man run into a busy road one morning to fetch an empty soda bottle, then throw it away. Not kidding.
4. There is so much beautiful sightseeing to be done!
5. The food is fabulous! While, yes, the food here is Paris is also to die for, it's great getting to experience a new culture and see what they have to offer. And in the mornings everything smells so delicious! All the breakfast places cooking their breakfast meats and brewing coffee. I've never experienced an entire city smell like breakfast before.
6. Bookstores are everywhere! And, yes, they are in France. But these ones are all in English.
7. Did I mention they were so friendly?
I was also lucky enough to meet my best friend, Kate, there, who was on a trip with her class. I spent all day Saturday with her. We went to Edinburgh Castle, had lunch at the cafe where J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter, visited the cemetery where apparently she got the names for many characters and spent time exploring the city.
Then we went out for dinner afterwards and attempted a pub crawl as Edinburgh is famous for it's nightlife, though we ended up just getting a few drinks to split at two different places since all the others were so ridiculously crowded.
It was an amazing weekend and one that I am eager to repeat. I just want to go back there and hike all those mountains!! (unfortunately it was really cold still when I went). I will be returning to Scotland, this time to hang out in St. Andrews, again in late April and just cannot wait.
Have I found my future home? Only time can tell.
Basically, I now think that nobody should live their life without visiting this amazing place.
Thank you for reading,
Song of the Day
Maroon 5, "Sugar"
Because, it's just awesome.
Welcome to HEAVEN!
Sorry about the delay in this post. Turns out that when you are living and studying and travelling around Europe, time seems to just disappear out from under you. But, nonetheless, I desperately want to write about our recent trip to Loire Valley.
We left for La Loire bright and early Saturday morning (the 7th of March) and took a two hour bus ride, during which sleeping seemed to be the preferred activity, arriving at our first chateau, Chenonceau, around 10 am.
I have to say, stepping off that bus at Chenonceau was what I think it will feel like when I die and (hopefully) go to heaven. It's so beautiful it's difficult to describe. The chateau is that which Henry II once gave to his favorite mistress, Diane de Poitiers, who lived there until his death, after which Catherine de Medici demanded Diane return the chateau to herself and move elsewhere. I was heavenly, like stepping back in time, most of the rooms exactly the way that used to be when the royals were living there, with breathtaking gardens surrounding the entire thing and a river running underneath the chateau's extension.
After our visit to Chenonceau, we boarded the bus once again and set off towards the Mushroom Caves in Bourre. This was, to say the least, a strange experience.
Most of us were expecting to see a large cave with mushrooms growing out from the sides and ground. Turns out a mushroom cave is actually just a long, winding underground series of hallways that were left from when people would take the stone to build the chateaus and castles.
After a lot of walking deeper and deeper into the caves. Finally our tour guide brought us to a room that was completely empty (and very cold) with a long line of platforms, out of which grew a few, tiny mushrooms. Hmm. A bit anti-climactic.
We saw two other rooms of mushrooms, these growing out of boxes. WOW!
But what really caught out attention was the adorable baby at the back of the tour group that kept making the cutest noises.
On a positive note, we got to taste some mushroom cream afterwards. I know it sounds gross, but it's basically a puree spread over some toast, and was actually quite tasty.
That night was spent at a hotel in Tours, a small city near Loire. I spent the evening going out for dinner with a group of friends, then having a nice conversation in rather stumbling french with one of our program directors. I settled in for a wonderful sleep and a lovely conversation with my roommate, whom I was glad to have ended up with as she was a delight and I loved getting to know her.
The next morning we were up bight and early and, after gorging ourselves on the hotel's continental breakfast, we were back aboard the bus, peacefully slumbering with happy tummies, on our way to Amboise.
I knew right away that Amboise was the place for me. A small town full of happy people and lots of nature! There was a huge market and small skating rink upon arrival (though it was very warm that day, I was sweating) and the town traveled up a large hill, topped with the beautiful royal palace. Everywhere there were people walking around with woven baskets, like what Dorothy would carry Toto in, full of bread and bouquets of flowers. It was amazing. I was in love.
Thank you for reading,
Song of the Day
Not sure why, but I'm currently obsessed with Howard Shore and the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit soundtrack. And so, naturally, I have also become obsessed with all the Billy Boyd songs. Enjoy.
"The Last Goodbye" By Billy Boyd and Howard Shore
Well, I went to write this week's post (sorry I missed last week) and realized that it has been almost one month since I have touched down in France. I absolutely can NOT believe that.
It's a strange feeling, studying abroad, and many of the other students agree on this point. I feel like I have don't almost a fraction of the things that I want to do while here and as though I have only been here for perhaps a week. But In another sense, I feel as though I have been here for months and months. I am comfortable riding the metro and trains, I have fallen into a pattern and rhythm. Plus, I've eaten enough bread for a year and really need to start working it off.
That having been said, it's safe to say that this has been one of the most wonderful, exhausting, fantastic, eye-opening and adventurous month of my life.
First off, I have to say that each day I am more and more glad for having chosen to live with a host family.
These people are the sweetest, most loving people I think that I have ever met. They are always asking how my days are and teaching me more little tid-bits about life in France and we are all learning from each other about the differences between our cultures. It's great!
Last night, I made my host family a traditional New England dinner. At first I wanted to make them my family's famous clam chowder, but apparently it's near impossible to find clams here, so I made a seafood chowder with mussels, crab, shrimp, cod and potatoes. It was still pretty fantastic. I also taught them to eat corn on the cob (which was also near impossible to find here) and they were so fascinated by how we ate it! Apparently corn on the cob is food for the pigs here and no one ever eats it like that. For dessert I made them apple crisp with ice cream, which once again they fell in love with! It's was so great being able to share a little bit of home with my host family and, at the same time, it felt nice having a bit of home myself.
Another thing I've been doing here is sight-seeing. And a lot of it!
Yesterday I went to the top of the Arc de Triomphe and saw the most beautiful view of Paris. Seriously, it was breathtaking. I've also visited the Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, Luxembourg Gardens (where I like to eat lunch right next to school!), Notre-Dame and MUCH MUCH MORE!
This city is so beautiful and so historic, it's amazing.
And it's all in the middle of people just going to and from work and school, driving around like it's no big deal. In the middle of a round-a-bout there will be a huge statue that is so beautiful you simply must stop and stare. Right there. Just in the middle of all this 21st century chaos. It's quite a trip.
One of the most interesting things that I have seen thus far has got to be the Catacombs which spread all throughout the under ground of Paris, just full of bones upon bones upon bones.
There are even sections where it seems that those who were building these, dare I say beautiful, tunnels became a tad bored with the redundancy of placing bones in the same, uniformed patterns and decided to switch it up a bit.
Just upon entering these extensive crypts you will notice the skulls in the shape of a heart, then further on, in the shape of a church. It's simply breath taking. It might be a bit odd, but it truly took everything in me not to simply reach out and touch one of the skulls. I mean, these all used to be people. Walking, talking, breathing people.
But not everything has been a walk in the park.
For instance, I am STILL on the search for the perfect cafe to get a nice coffee and write.
It's difficult because it's still rather cold so there aren't many welcoming terraces. And I judge the insides hard core. Plus, I often find a potential candidate online and then chicken out and don't feel cool enough or French enough to go inside.
I think that I am just going to have to suck it up and deal with it one of these days.
SCREW IT! I'll say. I DON'T CARE WHAT THESE STRANGERS THINK OF ME! I WANT TO WRITE DAMMIT! And then I will.
I am also very so grateful for that amazing people that i have met here and the friends that I am making, but of course I miss all of you back in the States as well. MORE THAN YOU COULD POSSIBLY IMAGINE. It's difficult to be experiencing all of this and seeing all these incredible places, and the whole time be wishing that you were all here to experience it with me.
Though, all in all, I am falling in love with travelling and can't wait to start exploring the rest of Europe - and doing more hiking! (I recently went on an adventure in the French wilderness and it was so beautiful!!! I need to get me some more of that!!)
Until the next time.
Thank you for reading,
Song of the Day
"Start a Fire" by Passenger
One of the most amazing songs that just always makes me feel better no matter what kind of day I'm having.
About This Blog:
I started this blog as a way to challenge myself to write more over the 2014 year, but it has blossomed into so much more than that. I use it to let people in on what's happening in my life, talk about things I find important and to spread the news about amazing people, places and art.