Well, since my last one of these posts I've managed to travel to not just one, but two amazing places!! I will hold my bff hostage if he ever even thinks about quitting as a flight attendant. I am way too in love with this life style! As soon as he became a flight attendant, we knew we wanted to travel somewhere - and what better city to start with than Paris?
This is the view from one of the sides of the Eiffel Tower
First we drove up to New Jersey to see his family, for his grandmother's birthday. It was really nice getting to meet them and see where he came from - I think his town might actually be smaller than the town I came from. Which, considering we only had one stoplight in the city limits, is really saying something. After that we hitched a red-eye to Paris, which got us into the city around 8 am, and it was pretty much non-stop after that. And we walked everywhere. Like...minimum at least 50 miles. Which is literally more than what I hiked when I did the four day Inca trail trek (although admittedly, it was also a significantly more difficult hike than walking around Paris).
First we walked around the Louvre - we only had two days in Paris, so I'd said no museums or long touristy lines for things because A. I don't like touristy, long lined things and B. It would take at least a full day to really see the Louvre at all, and I didn't want to spend half my trip inside instead of going out and seeing the city. And...I know people talk about how big the Louvre is but...holy god...GIANORMOUSLY HUGE IN MONSTROUS PROPORTIONS doesn't even do it justice! My entire neighborhood in Baltimore would probably not even fill up half of that place!! And judging by how intricate the architecture was (a theme that runs throughout the whole city) I can't even imagine what the inside looks like!
From there we walked to the Eiffel Tower and chose to take the stairs rather than the elevator. It's not something I regret doing....but I'm pretty ok never ever EVER doing that again. It wasn't the hike - stairs don't bother me, but heights really, really do. I'm not sure if it was because each time we reached a spot where the stairs leveled out you'd be looking directly outside the tower, or if it was because it was narrow and there were a few people coming down and I did NOT want to squeeze against the outside, or if it was because it was SO MANY stairs which makes the heart rate go up and fear already makes heart rates go up so that combination is lethal...but for whatever reason I was realllyyyy not feeling great about the whole thing. But the views were amazing, even if I wouldn't go near the ledges, and I got a whole view of Paris so I'm really glad we did it.
We were pretty wiped after a red-eye plus all the walking + climbing of stairs, so after a quick crepe from a nearby stand we took a nap in a park. THERE ARE PARKS EVERYWHERE IT IS SO AMAZING!
From there we hit the Arc de Triomphe, Champs Elysees, the bridge with all the locks, and the Palais Garnier which was just....I have never seen so much outrageously extravagant....everything. I mean there were sculptures EVERYWHERE (especially the outside of the building which pretty much just looks like it's made entirely out of sculptures). There was a dance rehearsal inside the hall though, so we didn't get to see what the actual theater space looked like. Then we basically wandered back to our hostel in Bastille which...oh my god I really wish we'd taken a picture. It was crazy cheap, so I'm not complaining but Dave took one look at the tiny bed we were sharing and started laughing, and I looked at the completely see through shower we had in the room and completely lost it as well. It's a good thing we're such good friends haha! Then we basically spent the rest of the night stuffing our faces with amazing French food and drinking and going out for desserts. It was SO. DELICIOUS. And it feels like the city doesn't really shut down at all until 6 am! So we walked around a while and saw the Notre Dame at night (beautiful) and Hotel de Ville (creepy) before heading back to bed.
Things I learned: the house wines are the equivalent of good $15-$20 bottle wine here, they aren't kidding when they say that steaks are served pretty much rare or more rare, desserts are indescribable, beers are cheap, and espresso drinks are surprisingly expensive. 6.50 euros for a latte expensive. Good thing I just like shots of espresso!
The next day we primarily spent in parks (in the Luxembourg Gardens there's this pond where all the kids launch tiny sailboats which is cute) and eating - we walked to one of the tiny islands where I had the best ice cream (passion fruit because that is the best flavor. No disagreement allowed), loads of baguettes and macarons, and mostly just kind of people watched/ate/I read a book because I'm antisocial like that. It was also the day I saw my favourite place we went to (other than the parks, because although they will get little mention here, the city has SO MANY and they were beautiful and clean and ughhh I could have stayed there forever) - Saint Chappelle. Even though I'd said basically "Whatever, it's a building we've seen so many of those we don't really need to go in", Dave overrode said opinion and said "NO WE'RE GOING YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND." So I went, because Dave always wins. And in this case...he was so right. When you first walk in to the first floor, the stained glass is impressive, as expected, but nothing mind blowing. But then you walk up to the second floor and get this:
Honestly this picture doesn't even begin to do it justice. You walk in an it's just....overwhelming. If you ever go to Paris and can only choose one place to go see that's touristy - this should be your stop. The whole atmosphere is amazing and it's beautiful (without being overly opulent like a lot of the other impressive looking places). After that we wrapped up our trip by walking all the way out to Montparnasse (which is where Cesar Franck and Guy de Maupassant and I just have a weird thing where I like to visit foreign graveyards. So far the graveyards in Ecuador remain my favourite though). So yeah, it was an insane amount of walking and I was exhausted by the time I came back, but it was totally, utterly, completely worth it.
That was back in April (man I've been bad about posting lately). Fast forward to last week where I get to venture off to the beautiful land of.....
This is actually my grandfathers' back yard! Can you imagine having a back yard like this?? It's actually a huge open space shared by loads of neighbors and there's a stream that flows through, and koi fish, and waterfalls, and all sorts of flowers. It's basically paradise.
This time it was without Dave (although I expect to have plenty of adventures with him). My grandfather lives on the Big Island (also known as the actual island of Hawaii) where he designs and creates jewelry. (I have mentioned this before). Papa Peter living in Hawaii is both a blessing and a curse - on the one hand, hello I get to visit Hawaii, on the other hand it is both crazy expensive and crazy long to get to Hawaii. To put this in perspective, it is almost as easy to get to Seoul, Korea from here as it is to get to Hawaii from here. So it's been 5 years since I've seen him, but hopefully I'll be able to make this a yearly thing because 5 years is entirely too long.
This trip was especially nice, because I also got to see my brother who I now only see once a year usually, and I got to meet his girlfriend for the first time. (I'm relieved to say she's very cool and that I approve). He works remotely, so he had to spend a lot of time working while we were here, so we mostly stuck close to home. My grandfather preserves flowers in a variety of ways for his jewelry, so one of the days we helped out in his studio which was really fun (and really long - I am now incredibly impressed with his stamina because this is not easy to do for long hours).
Here we're doing the second step in the preserving process for the larger orchids - these my grandfather preserve in a way that the flowers still feel like they do on the stem - they're not rigid in resin or fragile. In fact, you can crush them in your hand and they'll still retain their shape with no damage, which honestly is really amazing. They're not indestructible, but you really have to be trying to get these to break.
We also walked around the local farmers market (you can buy 5 papayas for $2 here!!!!!!!!!!) which is where my grandfather gets a lot of the sales for his jewelry, and ate so much good food (which I sadly did not take pictures of, but needless to say everything I ate that entire week was healthy and delicious and I felt great.)
There's one important thing to know about the Big Island: there's the Hilo side, and the Kona side and they are very, very different. The Hilo side, which is where my grandfather lives, is like a rainforest. It literally rains every day - usually in the late morning/early afternoon. It downpours for about 5 minutes, then clears up and does this every half hour or so. The landscape is lush and green, and it tends to be the more residential part. It's not very beachy on this side of the island, although they do have a few black sand beaches (and you can see sea turtles there a lot and swim with them which is super cool. In case you were wondering). The Kona side of the island is about two hours away from the Hilo side and much more how most people imagine Hawaii: long stretches of white sand beaches and resorts. It tends to be the more tourist heavy area, accordingly. It also feels incredibly different than Hilo - it's actually a desert! This is important to know for the following story.
We did want to take one day where we went to the Kona side and got the real beach experience. It's really incredible as you drive from one side of the island to the other because the environment changes so drastically you can hardly believe all of this is possible in such a small place! We swam for a while (the water is so clear, it's amazing!) and headed over to a nearby hotel to enjoy a drink and watch the Kona sunset. There was a live singer/guitar player, a beautiful view, a tasty, drink, and I was with people I love. All in all, a pretty perfect night.
After it got dark, we headed back across the beach to drive home....only to discover that the parking lot:
A. Has a gate and
B. it is padlocked.
Turns out we were 15 minutes past the deadline when the park closes. (A deadline that was only posted on one sign, way in the corner, that said nothing about locking the parking lot.) A bit annoying, but easily solved with a phone call to the police. About twenty minutes later we get a call back from the police to say...."HAHAHAHAHA. Yeah. Nope. Nobody is coming to get you out."
At this point we're a bit frantic, because my grandfather is supposed to be at the market at 6 am the following morning, it's a two hour drive back, and they don't reopen the parking lot until 7 am. We try and move the giant rocks, we spend a good amount of time trying to pick the padlock to no avail (although I've determined that lock picking is a skill I'm going to learn because it seems like it's going to be more useful than not for me in the future), before finally accepting our fate: the four of us are going to have to sleep overnight. In a van. In a parking lot. This is of course including my eighty-something year-old grandfather (who surprisingly fared better that night than any of the rest of us). And the chairs were all separated so you couldn't be sideways, and the trunk full of things for the farmer's market so you couldn't recline the chairs much, which meant we all basically had to sleep entirely upright. There was plenty of snoring, and many narrow misses from my brother's foot to my head, and it got bloody cold in the last few hours.
Honestly? It was hilarious. It was just such a ridiculous situation! ...and very uncomfortable. But hey, I got to see a Kona sunset AND a Kona sunrise, so there's that? And I got to start my day with a swim in the ocean (because there's not much that makes you feel grimier than swimming in the ocean, then sleeping over night in a car in your clothes, and not brushing your teeth. You're salty and greasy and it is disgusting), so all in all it was a highly entertaining experience, if not one I'd like to repeat.
This is a panorama view of the lava fields from what I believe was the 1984 eruption of Mauna Loa...but I might be wrong about the date.
We spent our last full day on the island going on a big volcano expedition. We walked around the Kilauea volcano and got to see lava bubbling in the crater at Pu'u O'o, which is always exciting! (By the time we'd left for the Mainland, two new lava flows had opened up) We then drove down to Pahoa, which was the town that was threatened by the lava flow a couple years ago. It's crazy because they almost got completely cut off - there's only one main road in and out because the other one had already been engulfed in lava! We actually drove down to where the lava stopped literally only feet away from the new refuse station they'd built, which was very lucky since it's an expensive new facility.
Basically, my last two months have been phenomenal and full of once in a lifetime kind of things I'd never dreamed I'd be able to afford (at the very least not for a very long time). It's been an amazing, and because I just caught you guys up on two months worth of events, this post is incredibly long...so I'm going to skip out on links! But I promise I'll have an extra long post full of links next time :)
So what about you guys? Any recent adventures? And fun summer plans? Hit me up and let me know!