Such great heights: Cities from above

I like to look down on cities. London, with its slowly turning Eye, the Thames churning below. Tower Bridge and St. Paul’s show off The City and the wharfs, tiny workers and ships scurrying about.

London, England

London, England

Paris, with the iconic tower piercing the sky, the white and gray buildings stretching out for miles below, their grandeur muddled by distance. Montmartre, too, offers sprawling views from the cathedral steps; it seems a world apart from the rest of the city.

Paris, France

Paris, France

Venice and Bruges. Canals branching off every which way. Both have belltowers jutting up proudly from the main squares. Peals from the large bells clash and jumble through my ears before drifting out over the waterlogged cities. Venice, in my mind, will always feature blazing orange terracotta roofs and liquid turquoise under a sun turned up full blast, while Bruges, its northern cousin, rests cozily under soft gray skies, falling mist kissing steel blue waters and cobblestone streets.

Venice, Italy

Bruges, Belgium

Being above a city, looking down but still grounded, connects me to it on a personal level. I will gladly pay the fee to climb ancient, narrow steps and feel the wind of an entirely new place in my hair while I breathe in the scents, pulse and character of the city lying below.

I hope you enjoyed these pictures! Here are a few more I love.

Gent, Belgium

Gent, Belgium

Oxford, England

Oxford, England

Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh, Scotland

Florence, Italy

Florence, Italy

 

 

 

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Recently read: ‘Travel as a Political Act’

I’m a big fan of Rick Steves. I find his TV shows, radio shows, guidebooks and lectures to be helpful and factual yet personal and honest. So when I came across his book Travel as a Political Act (the new, revised version), I bought it right then and there.

Rick Steves - Travel as a Political Act

This is not a guidebook. Here, Steves expands on ideas he promotes in his shows: basically, be an informed traveler. Research your destination. Learn about the culture. Understand the history and political environment. Come in with an open mind, absorb new information and incorporate those ideas into your worldview when you get home.

The book almost reads like a textbook. Each chapter is like a case study that focuses on a different topic or destination, like taxes in Denmark and exploring post-war society in former Yugoslavia. Steves doesn’t shy away from some touchy topics, like drug policy in the Netherlands and the difficult situation in Israel and Palestine. Some people might not agree with his views, but he explains how his personal experiences shaped his thoughts on the issues and presents both sides of arguments equally. It all comes back around to learning, understanding and making informed decisions as a traveler.

I probably enjoyed this book even more because I enjoy Rick Steves’ products and I agree with him on many points. Even still, I think this would be a thought-provoking book for any traveler.

Natural beauty on Alcatraz

The weather on my  trip to Alcatraz in August was beautiful – warm, sunny and bright – somewhat of an anomaly when you think about typical San Francisco weather. It really made the flowers and scenery of this craggy island stand out against the dark interior of the former prison located there. I bet the view on a clear, sunny day made imprisonment even more unbearable.

Alcatraz, San Francisco

Alcatraz, San Francisco

Alcatraz, San Francisco

Alcatraz, San Francisco

Alcatraz, San Francisco

…and inside:

Alcatraz, San Francisco

I hope you enjoyed these pictures! And just for kicks, here are a few more nature shots from my San Francisco trip.

San Francisco

San Francisco

San Francisco

San Francisco

San Francisco

San Francisco

San Francisco

 

 

Recently read: ‘Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil’

This is not a new book, and I’m kicking myself for not reading it sooner. To begin with, it was published in 1994. I was only three years old then, so I’m letting that one slide. However, it’s been sitting on my bookshelf for at least two years now, and I wish I had enjoyed it years ago.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

Midnight is a work of nonfiction, but it reads like a novel. Set in Savannah, Georgia, it documents life in this secluded city before and after the killing of a young man at the hands of one of society’s wealthiest young bachelors. The story was compelling and I didn’t want to put the book down – I finished it in a few days.

John Berendt’s vivid portrait of Savannah and the quirky people who live there just made me want to road trip it down to Georgia (hey, it’s not even five hours away!). I want to see Savannah’s architectural gems, walk under decades-old trees strung with Spanish moss, and laze away a humid evening in a city square.

I don’t know much about Savannah, but that’s the impression I got from this book. And sometimes all you need is a good first impression to start off a great trip.

An urban mountain retreat in Asheville

I can’t believe it took me so long to visit Asheville, North Carolina. I’ve been around other parts of the state’s mountains – Boone, Grandfather Mountain, the Blue Ridge Parkway, secluded forest cabins, comfy bed and breakfasts – but for some reason I only just got to Asheville.

Asheville

Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains next to the French Broad River, Asheville was easy to get to from Raleigh but felt a world away. It was no problem walking or driving around downtown, which is pretty small. My husband and I stayed in a wonderful bed and breakfast on the outskirts and walked into town, which is full of great restaurants, art galleries, shops and breweries.

AshevilleOne of the main attractions near Asheville is the Biltmore Estate, the largest privately owned house in the United States (it’s more like a palace). Tickets are expensive but worth it – we spent the whole day touring the house, wandering the gardens, and eating at the restaurant housed in the former stables. The Christmas decorations and massive Christmas tree had just been put up, so the house was even more impressive than usual. One of my favorite rooms was the indoor pool, a truly lavish addition to a house built more than 100 years ago.

Biltmore Estate, AshevilleI’m a little late getting this post up. We went to Asheville in November, and since then I’ve had a job change, been sick more than I’ve been healthy and dealt with the holiday hassle. Better late than never, I suppose.

Asheville was fun and a perfect weekend getaway for us. We had a relaxing few days of eating, drinking and exploring the city while taking in the beautiful scenery. I’ll be back!

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