10 Photos that Will Make You Want to Visit the DC Area

Despite having only moved to the area back in September 2016, I’ve visited the DC area since I was fifteen, when my sister first moved to the region for college. This selection of photos are some of my favorite things, and part of what making living in such a different culture easier. Maybe they’ll inspire you to visit me and the area!

If you visit the D.C. Area, you might see:

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Flower beds dotted through city blocks

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A plethora of free museums, as well as dozens of pay to enter, to learn all about history and other subjects

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Gorgeous water fountains

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Foggy, misty mornings on Autumn country roads

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Festive holiday lights in old town districts

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Gorgeous water fountains

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Theatrical performances of all types and flavors

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A wonderful and FREE zoo!!

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Amazing food of all shapes and sizes, including homemade crepes

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Review of New World Magischola:LARP

This weekend I attended New World Magischola, a larp set in the same universe as College of Wizardry (Czocha). Just as with CoW, it’s a Nordic Style Larp. For more info on larps and nordic larp in particular, check out my post about College of Wizardry

Also here’s NWM’s official page, their next event will be Yule.

After being bitten with the larp bug, I’d heard from several attendees of CoW11 that NWM would be running this summer. I looked it up, but found myself not wanting to pay the higher price, easily a hundred more than CoW, perhaps even a bit higher. So I applied for a scholarship, and waited. I knew that if I didn’t get one, I wouldn’t go.

But as luck would have it, I did earn a scholarship, and so I started making plans.

Once again, I was unable to convince my fiancee she might have a good time, so while she flew off to visit family in Idaho, I’d be attending myself.

This year, NWM was held at the College of William and Mary (unlike last summer when it was held at the University of Richmond. An adventure itself, so I’ve heard). As I live up in Southern Maryland, all I had to do was drive, a novel idea compared to flying across an ocean and taking a several hour bus ride.

Thursday morning, in torrential rain, I started my drive down. In a rental car no less, as I’m having trouble getting the new tags for my car. After panicking over having enough for the tolls, I set off. It actually ended up taking more like three hours, with traffic and getting lost, but finally I arrived at William and Mary, a little bit after check in had started.

We were staying at an older dorm, and…okay, let me get this right of the way. It’s not a castle, it’s not Czocha, and I knew it never was going to be. But even so, William and Mary have a lot of amazing buildings etc. This was not one of them. The mattresses were cracked and broken, the bathrooms had no plugs in them.

I knew the food was going to be plain old college food, something I almost never ate myself, as I only had one quarter I had a meal plan, not being a freshman when I attended an actual school. But even knowing that, the food was not great. The staff was incredibly lazy, half the food stations that should have been open weren’t. It’s a good thing food to us was just a neccesity.

Now follows a bunch of things I struggled with, didn’t like, etc. Let me say before I go into any of that: I don’t regret attending. Had I known certain things, I might have chosen not to, or to do things differently. But despite problems, I don’t regret this larp. Being Tallis Brayboy allowed me to experience things I haven’t gotten to before.

Problem One: I didn’t realize that over half the people doing this second semester larp would choose to play their same character, who had all been at a previous run together. Especially the staff, I was literally the only new one. Which meant all the other faculty had connections and history that while I could invent, didn’t exist. I also had this problem with my students. Students who might have come to me for problems as a teacher, went to all the other teachers they already knew.

Problem Two: This was the final run. That means everyone was exhausted. The NPCS and crew did an amazing job, really!  But I could tell everyone was burnt out, overworked, ready to be done. It’s no fault of anyone, but if I came to NWM, which does so many runs right in a row, I’d choose to go to one of the earlier ones.

Problem Three: The plots. There was too much happening. A lot got lost, a lot got convoluted, and with so many player originated plots, the big plots done by the NPCS weren’t really necessary.

The good things:

  • The players. Even if sometimes I wished more of them had chosen to include me, the creativity and spontaneity of everyone always amazes me.
  • Getting to be a teacher. I loved getting to actually be a teacher, and have people listen to me, “learn”from me, and let me bullshit things like they were fact. Thank you all who improvised with the lessons and exams, and hopefully let me guide you
  • The little things. Exchanging worried glances with my fellow faculty about Snodgrass. Giving side eye about Virginia Isle and hoping someone would notice. Crying by myself for real in the faculty lounge when I got a letter about how to bring my mother back from the dead.
  • The people who DID interact with me. Just the fact that people came to my ritual and my ghost lesson at ALL means the world to me. I loved the small necromantic ritual we had, it felt very intimate. And all the other little moments when people spoke to me, called me professor, etc.

 

Ultimately, would I go again??

I…don’t know. Perhaps. If I knew a ton of people weren’t going to all know each other, I’d be way more likely to. If the venue was different and a bit nicer, I’d be much more inclined. I’d love to attend a softer run, where everyone agrees before hand its honestly just school and building relationships, no big plots, rituals or anything.

I ended up leaving early because I couldn’t handle the stress of dealing with parties, feeling left out, people being drunk. If I’d gotten to party in character I might have been more inclined. But that’s something I struggle with all the time, not just with NWM.

This review has been a mixed thing, and I hope that reflects my feelings. I had very low moments, I had very high moments.

Most importantly, Tallis Brayboy did teach me things about myself. Tallis is inside me, just like Diana was. Tallis allows me to be authoritative, in control, smart, a little bit snide, and loyal to my family.

Tallis, you are more than the island your family keeps afloat and more than your past. 

New World Magischola- Packing

Some of you may recall that I went to a little thing called College of Wizardry back in March. I played a character named Diana Torres, a young, green, baby werewolf in house Molin. I fell in love with LARP and have since received a scholarship to attend New World Magischola, down in Williamsburg, VA.

It’s only a week before I drive south, so I thought now would be a good time to talk about my character, and my packing.

Originally I was planning on playing a student, but this particular run was quite short professors, so I bolstered myself, and decided to offer to be one. Much of my character is staying the same, but she’s a couple years older.

I’ll be playing Tallis Brayboy, Professor of Cursebreaking, house monitor for Croatan (her former house when she was a student). Tallis has visions, which are often jarring and upsetting for her, along with an ulterior plan/motivation that drives her and consumes her. I’m teaching three classes, plus a special and an exam. Wish me luck O.o

I’m still gathering things together, but here’s the basics that I have so far:

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A blue and cream lace dress

A constellation dress

 

My wand and suitcase

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My boots

I also have several necklaces, a couple hats, and a mask.  In a week almost down to the hour, I will be at William and Mary, checking in and creating my classroom!

See you soon, Tallis.

20 Photos that will make you want to visit Northern Ireland

I’ve been to N. Ireland four times now, and it’s my home away from home. Every time I find something new to love, good food to eat, and a desire to stay longer.

Have you ever wanted to visit Northern Ireland? Here’s what you might experience should you decide it’s time!

A brewery factory, such as Bushmills which makes some amazing whiskey

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The Giant’s Causeway, a natural phenomenon with a fantastic legend to go with it

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Traditional parades celebrating William of Orange

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Castles, castles, castles

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History museums full to the brim of interesting information, lessons and silliness

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Tours of Crisp Factories with delicious samples

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Beautiful churches

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Ruins and burial sites around every other corner

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Beautiful, green and vibrant walks in the woods

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Cityscapes that reflect age and charm

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Hidden nooks and gems

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Fried scallops, the way the food gods intended them to be

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Excellent planetariums

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Amazing ice cream dishes with alcohol in them

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Living history museums on life thousands of years ago

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And living history museums that explore Irish life in America as well

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Statues of famous writers

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Cities that have a rocky history, but a hopeful future

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Have you been to Northern Ireland? What’s one of your favorite experiences? Or what do you really hope to see if you go to visit?

Escape Room Live- Alexandria

During my time in Berlin preceding College of Wizardry, I got to explore some of Berlin, and one of my favorite experiences was being introduced to Escape Rooms.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with escape rooms, here’s what they are:

A mind game. It’s all about intellect. You’re “locked” in a room, with a clock counting down. You have to use clues, objects, and other people to help you solve the puzzle, and beat the clock to escape the room. It’s fashion for each room to have a theme, and I’ve read of everything from mobster, to titanic, to zombie.

My first one was at Claustrophobia Berlin, in a pirate themed room. I’d never met the two girls I was doing it with before, but we were all going to CoW together, and we did an awesome job! And I was hooked.

So when thinking about what to do for my 25th birthday (which was on Tuesday, June 20th!) I thought how much fun another escape room would be, especially since my parents and my fiancee Sierra hadn’t done one before.

We ended up going with Escape Room Live- Alexandria, which is right in the historic district of Alexandria.

As I am a huge lover of Sherlock Holmes (let’s be clear here, the original stories and the RDJ version plus others, not the tv show) we went with ‘Moriarty’s Madness’

As Sherlock, you have broken into Professor James Moriarty’s office… and he isn’t happy. What does he have planned and can you stop it from happening?

The clock is ticking…   Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.”

The biggest difference for me from the escape room in Berlin was that this did not feel like you were in a different world. The room itself was lovely, but you didn’t feel locked in, you could see out onto the main street of Alexandria, and there were big glass windows above Moriarty’s office that while you couldn’t see anything out of because they were so high, you did know you weren’t really in an office.

But the clues were interesting and fun, with a variety of things. There were seven of us, one exchange student, me and my fiancee, my parents, my sister, and my brother in law. At first I felt pretty darn useless, but it eventually got to a point where it was all hands on deck. I figured out several things on my own and felt quite proud of it. And when it was time, I got to be the one to stop the bombs.

We ended with twelve minutes to spare, which I thought was pretty good, but apparently with seven people it was relatively sub par. Oh well, I was still proud.

Of course, no Escape Room would be complete without the posing in costume

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Escape Room Live has three other rooms in Alexandria: The Wizard’s Apothecary, Sherlock Holmes: A Matter of Time, and Poe-Ranormal Activity. 

They also have two other locations, in Georgetown and Glover Park.

Escape Room Live is  a lot of fun, well put together, and what it might lack in realism, it makes up in puzzles and mind benders.

Book your room at Escape Room Live!

 

 

20 Photos That Will Make You Want to Visit the Pacific Northwest

I miss the Pacific Northwest everyday. I’ve made a new life for myself out on the East Coast, and I like to think it’s whole, and special. But the West coast was my home for 13 total years. I hope these photos inspire you to visit, and see what I love about it.

 

If you visit the PNW, you might see:

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Rocky, jagged beaches that you can see from hilltops

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Driftwood covered beaches on sunshine filled days

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A herd of caribou casually grazing in a state park

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Rushing rivers that go over old, old lava tubes

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Dormant volcanoes that leave their mark on the land and the people

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Serene rivers that become a place for two people to get engaged

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Mountain hikes that let you see over into another country (literally)

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Sandy beaches for walking on

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Gorgeously manicured gardens

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Cultural events honoring our dead

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Snow covered mountains in July

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Snow tubing!

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Surprise walks in the snow on a Sunday morning

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Seals begging for food next to a fish and chips place

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Very fashionable and delicious high tea

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Suspension bridges over rivers that make your heart race

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Views like this as you travel through a pass

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Rainy and misty days

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Fresh, ripe strawberry picking

 

 

Favorite Photos of Myself from International Travel

So today we’re going to-well, I’m going to be a little vain, and share with you some of my favorite photos from my international adventures. I’ll talk about what’s happening in the photo, where I am, and why I love it so much.

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Rome, Italy 2007

I’m fifteen here, and this was my first time abroad without anyone. I stayed with a family, through an exchange with airline employees. Here I am in front of one of the many ruins in Rome, which as a history enthusiast, I loved. I love the sunlight, the shadows, and my outfit in this shot.

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London, England 2008

My mother gave me the most amazing birthday gift for a 16th birthday: a four day trip to London. Here I am at the end of the London Dungeon, a historical tourist attraction that takes you through all the Penny Dreadful history and mythos of the city. I hated it at first. But I was going through a big Sweeney Todd phase, and when we got to that part of the ride, I was fine for the rest of it. Seriously, what a nerd.

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France, 2009

Going to France to stay with a family was…an experience. Honestly a lot of it exhausting and frustrating. Eating vegetarian was super hard, I was with a huge group of kids so instead of getting to choose anything I wanted to do, like we’d done for the girl who stayed with us earlier in the summer, I was dragged along doing things I was not at all thrilled about. That being said, there were things we did that while I dreaded, turned out to be fun and I would like to do again. Such as canyoning, and like here, ropes courses. I love the determination on my face, me being upside down, and I remember how triumphant  I felt afterwards.

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Barcelona, Spain 2009

As part of my time in Europe, I spent a week in Barcelona with the girl I was with and her older sister. This was by far my favorite part of the trip. Hot, hot dry weather, my hair super easy and cute, sun, mojitos, weird parades at 1 in the morning, gorgeous fountain shows. Love my hair in this, love my dark skin, love the memories.

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Zurich, Switzerland 2009

The day before New Years, my sister and I flew over to Zurich for a quick four day trip, as that was what we’d asked for that year at Christmas. I commend my sister for being the one in charge at only twenty one, it wasn’t always super easy. But we saw gorgeous snow, cityscapes, mountains, and all the Christmas decorations still up in the city. I love how this tree is decorated, I love my hair in this, and I really hope to take another sister trip very soon.

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Ireland, 2010

For my graduation from high school trip, I said so long Wooster, skipped my graduation ceremony, and took off to the Republic of Ireland, to see a very different part of the island. I love this photo mainly because I loved that trip. I’ve gotten to see Northern Ireland many times, but the republic only once, and I badly want to see it again. That smile on my face is so genuine, my hair blowing in the wind, free from high school. Happiness at it’s purest.

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Statia, 2011

Living on the dry, oil driven, forgotten island of St. Eustatius was almost always hell. There wasn’t that much to do, it was only 11.8 sq miles in total, and I didn’t get along with my coworkers. But there were days like the one in this photo that were wonderful. A quiet, secluded beach with just me. Snorkeling. The sun and an idea. This photo helps remind me there were some good things about those long three months, like tings, the ocean, the dogs that followed me around the island. Good things can be found anywhere.

 

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Medellin, Columbia, 2011

Way back when I was only six years old, we had an exchange student from Columbia. She lived with us for a year, and I adored her. Then she went back home, and we didn’t see her for years. We kept wanting to go visit, but in the late 90s and early 2000s, Columbia was not a safe place to visit. Then at last some things began to change, and we finally felt we could go there. Medellin is called ‘garden city’ and there’s a reason for that. It’s lush, beautiful, with crazy nice malls, and fruit restaurants. Coming off the high of finishing LEAPYEAR, I was still tan, my hair was growing out, my smile was big, and my jewelry fab. ❤

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Yokohama, Japan, 2012

At the end of my first year at Evergreen, I did three weeks abroad in Tokyo, as part of a cultural exchange. We attended English classes, and other classes, and honestly that part was pretty dam boring. What was really fun was interacting with all the Japanese students. These two lovely students invited me to go with them to Yokohama, a city in the Tokyo area, with gorgeous waterfronts, amusement parks,and shopping centers. I love this photo because I look so darn cute (thanks photo booth filters), and I was really, genuinely happy that day.

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Finland, 2012

In case you haven’t noticed, or don’t know me very well yet, I’m a huge dork/nerd and I will play dress up given the chance. Despite being hung up on a girl that ended up being not good for me at all, I still managed to enjoy my time in Finland. Discovering the character Moomin, eating amazing food and drinking too much coffee, seeing historical sights. I think this photo sums up my happy place: traveling aboard, learning things, and playing dress up

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Belfast, Northern Ireland, 2013

See, what did I just tell you in the photo before? This is me not even a year later, in the Belfast History Museum (I think that’s its name?) It’s an excellent museum that I took Sierra back to a year later. Here I am dressed as Sherlock Holmes, because even if the TV series is not good, the character endures in so many other ways, and he means a lot to me. Plus, aren’t I adorable, playing dress up at 20 years old?

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Germany, 2013

I just wrote a post on here about things that baffle me about Germany, and that’s not even including the stuff with my au pair family. But I don’t really feel the need to go into it here. Because one of the most upsetting things about my family not working out, was that I really do like Germany. I was starting to get a better grasp on German, I liked the culture, the food. The landscape. So here’s a photo of me before things started going down hill, surrounded by a gorgeous Autumn backdrop, loving it all.

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Northern Ireland, 2014

How many times have I been to Northern Ireland again? Honestly, I’ve lost count. And I would happily go again. It’s my home away from home. In ten years I might walk into my friend’s kitchen, watch an orange cat crawl into the sink, drink a cuppa, eat something Cadbury, and watch Brit tv, while looking forward to a toastie and crisps, and it would feel like I’d just been there the day before. I love Northern Ireland, I honestly think I would be happy living there. And if I look perfectly at ease here at the observatory, it’s because I am. No better way to feel.

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Paris, France 2016

Despite having been to Paris three or four times before, I’d actually never been up in the Eiffel Tower before! For shame, I know. So when my sister, my mother and I decided to take a last hurrah trip to Paris, I knew I needed to actually get up there! I love this photo because of how nice my hair looks, and just the view of the city.

 

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Czocha, Poland 2017

This comes from College of Wizardry, the larp I wrote about a couple months ago. Here I am, pretending eat a fresh, mad man’s eyeball as a cure for a potion I volunteered to try. The reason I love this photo is that it displays the amount of creativity and improve involved, and the whole immersion. It looks like I’m super disgusted, right? The candy was actually pretty good! Hooray for pretend.

 

 

 

Baffling Things in Germany

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So since my traveling has been at a dead lull, with work schedules and my webseries I’m making, I thought I’d do a little blast to the past as it were, and talk about things I learned during my 2 months and so many days time in Germany.

Living in Germany was very interesting

A caveat that this is just what the family that I lived with and their extended family did.

 

No Ventilation

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According to the people who I was living with, houses in Germany have no ventilation system. Which means that you have to open all the windows every day, or you get black spots on the wall from humidity etc….Very strange, given that neither of the houses I stayed in were very old.

Now if it’s summer, this is great, I’m sure. Fresh air, warmth, nice smells. But I was there in Autumn. And apparently this is normal to do all year round. That means in the middle of January you’re supposed to be opening all your windows. Guess what that means the house in Germany never was? Warm. It was never warm.

Mail Boxes

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The mail boxes in Germany only go one way. You can only receive mail from your mailbox. If you want to mail anything, no matter what it is, you have to go to a public box, or the post office. So you can never just send something, from the convenience of your home. It confuses me, since the post man or woman is coming anyway….couldn’t they also take the mail?

Sparkling Water

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I’ve drank this in France, in Germany, in Ireland, in Poland, and it will never.ever.taste.good. I have been to Europe so many times, yet I will never understand why you would pay to have carbonation added to your water. The little boy who I “took care of” actually preferred his water this way. They had a machine to give it bubbles. Just…just why?

Showers with no ledges

I think this is pretty common in Europe, since several places I’ve stayed in have had showers like this. And I think I might dislike them as a much as I dislike sparkling water. These showers have no bottom, there’s just tile, and the shower curtain didn’t even go all the way down. So yes, that meant the whole floor was soaked after I took a shower, no matter how low the spray was. Which then meant I had to go and try and mop up all the water every time.

 

 

 

My Top Movies Featuring Travel

There a lot of movies I love, yet there’s also a plethora of ones I cannot stand. The same can be said when we narrow it down to movies that feature travel. There are the stupid, chick flick, lazy ones. The ones that are over the top. Gratuitous. Yet there are others that for one reason or other have my heart, even with their flaws. So today I’m going to tell you all my top movies with travel in them, and tell you why I love them.

 

  • Wild

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I read the book before watching this movie. The person who I got the book from told me they found it boring, and pointless.  Given that the main character is also who wrote the book, perhaps even self centered. Yet to me, that’s what makes the story compelling. Cheryl decides, after a failed marriage, abuse, and the loss of her mother, to go hike almost the entirety of the Pacific Crest Trail, with no prep, no experience, and no companions. A stupid thing to do really.

Yet the author never shies away from this fact. She talks about her crap sandals, her bleeding toes, her total cluelessness. It’s a brutal tromp, and the movie goes above and beyond to represent this visually. You feel how alone Cheryl is, and what that does to us, for a long period of time. How we think, how we feel. The pain, the loss, all the memories that we are unable to suppress. Actors so often get type cast, and I feel Reese Witherspoon has been absolutely subjected to this. Yet here she is able to shine in a role very different from her normal fare, and the almost entirely solo affair works in a way similar to the movie 127 Hours.

  • Under the Tuscan Sun

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I grew up with this movie, and it continues to hold a place in my heart. The story is simple on the surface, woman flees life in the US and unhappy marriage, finds fancy place in Italy, falls in love. Yet the story is so much more than that. The gorgeous, romantic man is a player, her friend winds up pregnant on her doorstep with no where to go, an aging woman befriends the MC yet is absurd, fun, drunk, and sexy. In the end, the main character doesn’t get the man, she doesn’t have it all figured out.

A handsome man shows up at the end, hinting he might be the one, but that isn’t the point of the movie. The point is a little like the movie The Waitress, it’s about finding your own slice of hope and happiness, of finding friends who will be there, and standing on your own.

  • Eat, Pray, Love

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As with Wild, I read the book of this before the movie came out. Actually read it whilst being in India, though of course what the character was experiencing in India was very different from what I was doing in India, for the most part. Yes, I did spend some time meditating in an ashram, but not like the one she did, which was very western, very touristy, very popular.

But I feel this book, and thus the movie, gets a bad rap. Sure I know there were legions of women in book clubs who wanted to go and take life changing tour packages to these countries, all to have some magical enlightenment. But the book and the movie weren’t some tourist trap for me. For me the story is about exactly what it says it is: one woman, learning to overcome these ideas that have been forced upon us since we were small. (And this movie has Javier Bardem, I mean, come on)

Really though, we all can take a lesson from the people and cultures she visited. To eat wholly, not gluttonously but because it pleases, because it fills, it creates. To pray, to open ourselves up to the divine, no matter how that translates for us. To create an empty, quiet space. And to love. Love not just romantically, but love in every sense.

  • Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

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The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel features a huge cast of British greats, who,if you watch BBC or Brit movies at all, you will recognize every single one. The movie tells the different stories of several British retirees, some who live in India full time, others who supposedly are there just for a stint. This movie is hopeful,funny, poignant, and sad. I never felt it cheated its characters, and they were all fun, engaging, and unique. The quest to keep this little hotel running is endearing, and this is one of my favorite movies, period.

  • Tracks

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Tracks is fairly similar to Wild. Blond young woman leaves everything behind in order to go across unfamiliar, treacherous and rough land, on a whim. Yet while Wild is a character piece, and a story about moving on and facing inner demons, Tracks is very much a journey piece. Upon deciding to cross the Australian outback and reach the western ocean with only camels and her dog,the main character ends up having to put up with a photographer from National Geographic  showing up every couple of weeks,as per her agreement for them to fund it.

The photographer is awkward and uncomfortable, there’s no romance, and there’s not some huge lesson to be learned. All it is, is the story of this girl going through this environment that everyone thinks she is crazy for, and succeeding. And that’s all it needs to be.

 

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