Adventures in the Mediterranean

Almost 24 hours and three time changes later, my dad, grandparents, and I are finally home!  While travel days aren’t my favorite- and make for incredibly long periods of time without sleep- I had such a great time exploring Spain, Corsica, Sardinia, France, and Italy.

We took the metro to see the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, we spent a day on a catamaran off the coast of Palma de Mallorca, walked up a steep hill to see a castle in Cannes, explored several old cathedrals in Ajaccio, Corsica, and walked around the ancient ruins of Nora in Sardinia.

After last week, now more than ever I am convinced that I will someday call one of these places home.  For those of you who don’t know, it has been a dream of mine for several years now to emigrate to London after college to begin my career, and, while I’m sure the picturesque panoramas we were seeing while off the cruise ship were tainted with a certain level of ‘disneyfication’, I cannot wait to hopefully call one of these places home and to take part of their cultures and blend them with my own.

And, while maybe not directly related, our experiences off the beaten path reminded me even more of the collegiate journey I’m about to embark upon.  Traveling for me, always seems to be accompanied by an almost spiritual feeling; I’m reminded even more of the person I want to be just by the life-changing experiences I’ve already been able to take part in.

I never would have pictured myself navigating the Barcelona metro, for example, and taking chances in totally different places, almost all on my own.  And, it’s in this way that I draw parallels with the next four years to come at Miami of Ohio; my own sense of self will continue to be warped, molded, and challenged as I continue grow in a setting that will force me to be more independent than I’ve ever been before…and even though this is daunting, I’ve never felt more ready.

While I may not have all the answers to this existential understanding and reflection that I’ve been experiencing ever since graduation last May, I feel more prepared than ever to go headfirst into the unknown, try new things, and work toward my best, most accepting, most tolerant, most easy going self, just as I feel I’ve been able to do during my week in Europe, both through doing my best to participate in new cultures and totally immerse myself in them.  And I’m so thankful of trips like these to continually remind me of the life that I want and the ‘I’ that must go along with it.

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“Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost”- Moose Tracks Trail & Swift Current Chairlift!

Today was our last day in Big Sky, Montana, and we had a nice relaxing morning and afternoon- a good change in pace after yesterday’s splashing adventure!

After sleeping in a bit this morning, we got up and took the beautifully long chairlift ride about halfway up the slope of the Lone Mountain Peak.  The view was just gorgeous as we rose about 9,175 feet in elevation!  When we got to the top of the Swift Current Line, we disembarked, and after looking around at the incredible town below us, we soon located the Moose Tracks Trailhead and were on our way!  The walk down the slope was about 2.4 miles (one way) and I was continuously thankful that we had ridden up instead of trying to hike up AND down!  It wasn’t difficult to imagine a Moose or even a bear traipsing through the woods just in front of us, but unfortunately, we didn’t see any wildlife aside the occasional pika (a pika is a squirrel-like rodent that looks kind of like a chipmunk).

Nevertheless, it was a beautiful hike and after a nice lunch in the room, a long visit to the hot tub downstairs, then some time well-spent in the gift shop, here I sit, admittedly a little drowsy, and looking forward to a great rest of the day in Montana!

 

There and Back Again- A Human’s Tale Of Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and Big Sky, Montana.

This week I’ve been in Montana and, as I’m sure you can guess from my not so subtle allusion to J. R. R. Tolkien’s famous work, the scenery here is beyond words!  From the mountains, to the valleys, and even the car ride from the airport to the hotel, I have felt like I was in the scenery right out of the LOTR movies or (perhaps more likely) A River Run’s Through It.

The first day, we arrived at the airport at around noon local time, and drove about 40 minutes to our hotel.  When we got there, after staring around in awe, we checked into a suite!  We visited the little gift shop and began talking with the woman Juli.  She told us about the best hiking trails around town, including the lovely (and easy) Ousel Falls trail, and Beehive Basin.

Ousel Falls Trail (2 miles round trip) led us down around a creek, and then up a little ways to the top of a waterfall!  Check out some pictures below!

The next day, we visited Beehive Basin, a 7.1 mile round trip hike to the top of a mountain!  Now, no one would ever accuse me of being athletic, but I did my best!  And boy was it a challenge!  The last mile especially was difficult- the upward grade was pretty intense; it seemed to me that it was more aptly described as ‘climbing’ than ‘walking/hiking’.  However, despite the pain, it was definitely worth it!  At the top of our trek, we found a gorgeous lake in a valley, surrounded by steep mountains.  It was such a beautiful sight that we sat and admired for a long time (once I could breathe again, that is).

On both Tuesday and Wednesday, we took the scenic drive to Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Teton National Park.  Both were unforgettably gorgeous, and we got to see bison and elk!  We learned so much about the potential benefits to the wildfires in the 1980s, as well as all the conservation efforts that were made to ensure great future experiences for both the future generations of humans and wildlife alike!  Besides seeing all the wildlife (and desperately hoping to see a bear!), my favorite part of both expeditions was definitely the hike at Jenny Lake in Grant Teton.  It was a stunning lake, with about a 2 mile (roundtrip) hike to Inspiration Point, which was a little cliff that overlooked the whole entire lake!

Which brings us to today!  Today we had an adventure as we went to Montana Whitewater for whitewater rafting!  Dad and I were put on a small 4-person boat with a very grandfather-grandson duo and a guide named Walker!  We swerved about through various rapids, boulders, and freezing water!  Because the boat was so small, our guide lead us to do various tricks.  Most notably one called ‘bath tub-ing the boat’ which consisted of rowing upriver straight into a rapid that began to dump all its water into the boat.  Once it seemed like we had practically sunk the boat, with water up to our waists, the rapid threw us backwards and with some skillful maneuverings from Walker, we were soon righted, the water drained itself, and we were on our way again!  It was really a great experience despite the cold water!  I was nearly drenched at the end and dad was even worse off than I was, because he FELL IN!  As we glided by a series of rocks, we hit a small one that dad was note bracing for and in an instant, out of the boat he went!  The look of panic on his face and the shock he no doubt experienced at being fully dipped into 55 degree water, said it all!  Still, no harm no foul- dad soon dried off in the warm sun and we ended with quite a story to tell!  If you are ever in Montana, I would highly recommend Montana Whitewater, if you’re interested in a fun adventure!

Tomorrow is our last day here in Montana!  We plan on taking one last hike and relaxing poolside!

Back Home Again in Indiana

Gooood morning hoosiers (and inhabitants of America alike!)  Never did I think I would be up this early after a long day of travels…but I suppose it makes sense, as I went to bed last night at approximately 8:01 pm.

I am safe and sound at home, with several more fun travel stories to tell; which I will devote this blog post to.

The long plane ride from London to Toronto was about 7h30min, so slightly longer the way back than the way there.  Everything was fine, and going smoothly until about the last 30 minutes of the ride, when out of nowhere, sirens start blaring.  A few passengers immediately begin to panic; strapping themselves in, grabbing the hands of their travel companions, etc.  Surprisingly, the flight attendants also got a little panicked; 4 of them rushed forward and one of them took the phone to make the announcement “We need backup!” All seemed to be coming to a dramatic head, until I realized that the sirens were coming from one of the lavatories.  A sheepish looking passenger walks out of the door, holding up some sort of e-cigarette, exclaiming as he did so “I didn’t know the no smoking rule applied to e-cigarettes!” (…not the sharpest tool on the shed…News flash: anything that smokes will set off the fire alarms!)

He sat back down in his seat, being mocked by his 6 buddies, before receiving a stern talking-to by the flight attendants, who also let him know that he could have been arrested for what he had done.

Not thinking much of it, it did seem a little strange when, before we could exit the plane, there was an announcement that everyone must retake their seats and pull their bags out of the aisle (easier said then done when you have a carry on suitcase stuffed to the brim with souvenirs).

On came border control, with three armed officers who surrounded the man with the e-cigarette (in case he should decide to make a run for it), and escorted him off the plane; much to the irritation of his friends.

I foresee a hefty fine in his future!

On our flight from Toronto to Indianapolis, about 10 minutes before we descended into the Indianapolis International Airport, we were struck by lightning!

Mom and I were sitting in the front row, having a chat with the flight attendant when there is a flash of white light (which wasn’t heavenly, I can assure you) and the sound of an explosion!  It looked like it had come from the cabin door, which of course made everyone worried that the door had lost its pressurization.  I thought something had blown  up in the cabin, which I think the flight attendant was worried about too because he hurried to the back of the plane and made a call to the captains.  They assured him it was ‘nothing to worry about, just a lightning strike’.

On my part, I’m kind of proud to say I witnessed a lightning strike- I wasn’t too scared after about 20 seconds (when I had made sure that the plane wasn’t nose-diving toward the ground).

But, we made it alive and well to Indianapolis where Michael picked us up and took us home.

What an exciting end to an exciting trip!  Between having to sleep in the airport on the way there, watch a guy get escorted off the plane by border control, and getting struck by lightning, I’d say I’ve almost seen it all (but wouldn’t necessarily be sorry not to witness anything else exciting on plane rides)!

Thank you one more time for reading this blog as I posted everyday- your support really means a lot!

The End.

London Trip- Day 8. Last Day in London

So, it looks like my fabulous Spring Break trip has come to an end.  And what an amazing trip it was!

Today we had a laid-back day.  We went this morning to Oxford Street again to look for prom dresses.  I tried on some nice dresses at a place called Coast, but the two dresses that I really loved didn’t fit quite right- so it looks like my prom search has been extended until I get back home.

After our morning of shopping, we had a quick bite to eat and then we made our way to Her Majesty’s Theatre to see Phantom of the Opera.  There are not accurate words in my vocabulary to express how incredible that show was; maybe I’ll try again later when I’ve had time to process the extraordinary production I’ve just seen.

In the words of my mom (and I agree), typically in Broadway productions you always forget about the men because they’re overshadowed by their female counterparts.  In this case, though the actress playing Christine was amazing on her own, the Phantom and Raoul certainly held their own with her (and in fact, were my favorites).

Such a great way to end my great experience here in London.  And, though I’d admittedly rather stay just a little while longer, I couldn’t have asked for a better time here.

I’ve got to go for now, to begin the packing process in preparation for my early alarm at 4:30 am  (11:30 pm home time) but before I do, I want to say a big thank you to everyone who read my blog and who made this trip possible in the first place.

Until tomorrow (when I’ll try to keep you abreast of my travel plans).

-Mady

London Trip- Day 7. “Yer a londoner, Mady!”

Yesterday we visited Westminster Abbey and the Warner Brother Studios for a tour of the sets, costumes, and props used in the Harry Potter movies!

We weren’t allowed to take any pictures inside Westminster Abbey, but the church was gorgeous!  There were hundreds and hundreds of carved statues all around.  My favorite part was at the end of the tour, when we visited “Poets Corner” that honored some incredibly famous writers.  I found small plaques for Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters, as well as a large shrine for William Shakespeare (and many more- those were just my favorites).

We walked around (admittedly lost for a while) and managed to at least get some cool shots from the outside of the buildings and in the garden areas.

After that, we went to the Warner Brothers Studios.  We successfully found our trains (with only one delay on the way back) and made it to the studios on time for our tour.  We walked through the studios for about 3.5 hours.  We saw Dumbledore’s office, the Gryffindor common room, the Knightbus, Number 4 Privet Drive, and many more.  I saw an exhibition of special effects and even got to try it myself!

See it here!

There were so many fun things to experience and do there, I don’t know if I could pick a favorite.  I think the highlights in my opinion, were definitely the detail and thoughtfulness added to each one of the props, costumes, and ‘rooms’.  Using the digital guides that were offered, I learned so much about the construction and creativity that went into making all of those movies.  The behind the scenes opportunities were really special.

Additionally, I really loved the intricate model of the Hogwarts castle and properties that they had built.  It was HUGE and made completely by hand!  I don’t think the pictures I’m including could possibly do it justice, so you’ll just have to trust me when I say that it was quite a sight.

Overall, though a long day, it was definitely a great one.  Later on today you’ll be getting another blog post- a total of two for today, as promised!

 

London Trip- Day 6. I wish shopping could be a career.

Today was a more relaxed day, as we stayed in the city and explored the various famous department stores and markets around here.  We visited Harrods, Selfridge’s, Debenham, John Lewis, and the Covent Garden Market.

Never in my life have I seen department stores as big or imposing as Harrods and Selfridge’s.  Not only did I get a self-conscious sense that the store workers could tell solely by looking at me that I couldn’t afford their 5,000 pound prom dresses, but I got lost quite a few times in the labyrinth that is ‘womenswear’.

While today I was unsuccessful in finding a prom dress, Mom and I had a great time at Selfridge’s- a store she was determined to visit because she watches the TV show.  We found a lovely little cafe on the bottom floor of the store called Dolly’s, where mom enjoyed ice cream and I had a chocolate chip cookie and mint tea.  (I told you afternoon tea has become one of my favorite traditions during my stay in London!)

Next, we made our way to the Covent Garden Market, where we ate a nice lunch; I ordered a grilled chicken caesar salad, and mom ordered chicken wings, but we ended up switching meals before the end of our time there.

The Covent Garden Market was bursting with street performers, homemade art, and fancy stores all mixed together.  We bought several small trinkets and enjoyed taking pictures with the performers- we even got a video of Elsa saying ‘hello’ to Katie (who is maybe her biggest fan?)!

Overall it was a really nice day, and I enjoyed the chance to sleep in a little later.  Tomorrow we head to the Warner Brother Studios, for a behind the scenes tour of some Harry Potter sets!