London

My 24 day Contiki bus tour took off from London, the city where people drive on the wrong side of the road, call sweaters “jumpers,” and refer to anything fancy as “posh.” Because London only served as a meeting point, I was stuck on the wrong side of the road for a mere day. But because my tour of 53 people consists of 50 people from Australia or New Zealand plus a British tour guide, the funny vocabulary continues to follow me. And because I am one of the two Americans, I’ve picked up on some foreign phrases in an attempt to blend in. I find myself calling college “uni,” shopping for “jumpers,” “getting on well” with my fellow travelers, and being “quite keen” for the upcoming adventures.

We only had a matter of hours to explore London as part of the tour, so I’m going to finally publish my photos from my previous trip to London over a month ago.

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Next Stop: Paris

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Toledo: The Town That Took My Breath Away

Have you had a moment in your life when you feel like your breath and any ability to speak has been sucked out of your chest? You refuse to blink because if you close your eyes for even the slightest moment, the beauty before you might have just been a dream. That’s how I felt when I walked into Catedral Primada Santa María de Toledo, the 3rd oldest cathedral in the world and located in the historic town of Toledo.

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There was a guided tour I was supposed to be listening to, but the world tuned out as I walked around like someone who had just been let out of a windowless room for the first time in their life. I wandered so slowly that I might as well have been standing still. But mesmerized by the architecture and intricate detail of every square inch of the place, my motor skills seemed to have vanished. The only thing left functional were my eyes which tried to absorb every detail but failed miserably. It didn’t matter how long I stared at my surroundings, new details kept on coming to light and another wave of awe washed over me.

It eventually occurred to me that I should be using the camera I barely still had gripped in my right hand. I knew it’d be impossible to capture the true magnificence of what lay before me, but I also knew that I needed to have a little souvenir to take home or else this experience would slowly slide into the back of my subconscious, never to be fished out again. And with that sudden realization, I started snapping away.

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The Catedral Primada Santa María de Toledo wasn’t the only sight to see in Toledo, but after such a striking first impression, the rest of the town seemed almost ordinary. Looking back, it’s hard to believe that the rest of the architecture, streets, and places of worship captivated so little of my interest. I am living in Madrid, Spain. This is one of the most beautiful places in the world and I was in such sever aftershock that I wasn’t able to appreciate that simply walking down the street here provides breathtaking views. Luckily I had the sense to put my camera to good use. These photos allow me to relive each step and appreciate every brick in the beautiful town of Toledo (including the original stones from a Roman road!).

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Asheville, North Carolina

Working two jobs all summer has left me sleep deprived and cranky. Thank you Grandma for being my savior – this wonderful woman flew me out to see her for a long weekend.

Asheville, North Carolina is the home to more trees than I’ve ever seen in one place at a time, plenty of southern fried food, and scenic roads that wind through the expansive countryside. It’s also where my grandparents reside during the summer.

Originally a small pioneering town, Asheville has managed to retain its historic charm while now offering everything the modern American could possibly need. The streets of downtown Asheville are filled with endless restaurant options, art galleries, and shops… all tucked into historic architecture that takes your breath away. Local bars look like they are pulled from an old fashioned movie and even the court houses are gorgeous.

I always look forward to the change of scenery Asheville offers, but I think the thing I appreciated most about my trip was the fact that she let me sleep 9-10 hours every night. Then after letting me lounge in the mornings, she took me to see plays, eat delicious food, and showered me with gifts every afternoon. The most memorable conversation was over lunch. After ordering pizza and iced tea, the conversation steered toward aging. My grandmother announces, “You know when I was young, I said I would never get heavy and I’d never have saggy tits, but you know it just happens” and shrugs. My grandfather doesn’t even look up from his copy of The New Yorker and calmly says, “The word is breasts” to which my grandmother refutes, “Nah. I like tits. It’s more graphic!” I love that woman more than words can express. If I’m as cool of a grandmother as she is, I’ll be more than happy.

The rest of the trip was full of many other laughs and with my grandpa in tow we went out for many other meals including a sushi and sake lunch. As a final gift, he bought me some fabulous new Steve Madden heels. The weekend flew by and I was soon packing up my gifts, hopping on a plane, and I have now returned to work and reality.

 

Bolivia Part 3: La Paz

Click the links to read Part 1 and Part 2.
The last leg of our trip was in Bolivia’s capital, La Paz. Many of us were ecstatic to be back in civilization. La Paz was a third world version of New York City with taxis everywhere, constant foot traffic, and plenty of places to have a sit-down meal. Unfortunately our hotel’s heating was broken and I slept in my ski jacket most nights. The redeeming feature of our accommodations was the view out into the bowl of La Paz. For those who don’t know, the capital is basically a huge crater.

Although the city was spectacular to wander and look at, a police strike was occurring during our stay. It was advised not to take out any large, personal cameras. As a photographer, that was devastating news. But the risk of getting my camera stolen or broken wasn’t worth it. Luckily, my iPhone took decent pictures. I was able to discreetly capture the amazing cathedrals, street musicians, and shopping streets.


One thing that was more frightening than breathtaking was the amount of wires the people of La Paz think are acceptable to hang from one post. Not only are these hazards on every corner, many of them are tilting over into the main roads!

After 16 days, lots of travel time, many new faces, and countless memories, I packed my suitcases one final time and headed home. Now back in the states, I appreciate hot water, comfortable beds, and paved roads a lot more. What we consider normal and expected is actually a luxury for many people in other countries. Not everyone has been fortunate enough to be born into a country where they get to drive home on the interstate, in their car, to their well-constructed house, where they get to sleep in their soft bed. This was one of the most eye-opening experiences I have ever been on and something I won’t forget for a long time.