on the bucket list

My travel bucket list will always be endless, but here are a few places that I’ve seen around recently and really hope to visit sometime in the near future:

Cape Coast Castle, Ghana

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If I’m being honest, I found out about this on a Snapchat story by DailyMail about Steve Harvey’s trip here. In the photos and videos, he looks barely recognizable, but also completely distraught from seeing the castle in real life. Known as the “gate of no return,” the castle was a slave trade hub where most slaves lived for months before leaving African soil for the last time, dragged off into a nonexistence by white slave traders. It’s alarming to me how embedded slavery is in our history but how we never tackle it as deeply as we should. I feel like for all the attention we give to horrors like the Holocaust we must give to slavery as well, if not more. If anything, I am surprised at myself for not having known about this earlier.

Avenue of the Baobabs, Madagascar

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Photo via Slate

Situated between Morondava and Belon’i Tsiribihina in western Madagascar, the Avenue of the Baobabs is a line of Grandidier baobab trees. They are what’s left of what used to be a huge forest of them. Many of them are over 800 years old. It’s intriguing to me simply because it’s something you can’t find anywhere else, as is the same as much of Madagascar: 90% of its wildlife is only found in its country. Seeing anything that large and looming is sure to be awe-inspiring.

Caño Cristales River, Baru, Colombia

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Photo via Atlas Obscura

There is nowhere else in the world where a river like the Caño Cristales can be seen. Dubbed by some as the most beautiful river in the world, the River of Five Colors runs through the province of Meta in central Colombia, and is a part of the Serranía de la Macarena national park. For specific months in the year, the river shines red, yellow, green, blue and black as a result of the reproductive process of certain aquatic plants in the river. In the surrounding park, you can also find turtles, aquinas and iguanas. The river has been protected by the local tourism board, and has reignited itself as a tourist destination after years as a dangerous region controlled by guerillas.

Greenland

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Photo from Planetware

I have no specific places for this one, but just the country (or territory) in general. Having visited Denmark, Finland and Sweden a few years before, I’ve gotten an overall glimpse at Scandinavia, but those experiences have been more focused on their major cities. My trips to Iceland and Norway this summer (and Denmark again), the former especially, gave me a more in-depth look at its isolated and unique environment. Its amalgamation of crazy natural occurrences, from glaciers to fjords to waterfalls, never fail to stun.

The local culture of these places take on a more understated, minimal manner that you only notice well into the trip or once you’ve left, whether it’s the delicate (but never boring) seafood cuisine, austere architecture, boating traditions and harbors, or quiet hospitality. In my mind, Greenland takes these a step further. While Iceland is only home to 300,000 people, Greenland only has 50,000 (!) across a landmass roughly the size of Mexico. I’d love to explore its main cities like Nuuk and Ilulissat, but also its glaciers, icebergs, fjords, as well as scientific centers from WWII, the Cold War, and the Soviet era. More unique experiences include dog sledding, experiencing Inuit culture, and seeing the Northern lights.

things i read last week

The Belt and Road Tracker from the Council on Foreign Relations is an interactive map that shows how bilateral economic relationships have changed between China and certain countries.

Elizabeth Warren wrote a piece on Foreign Affairs, detailing the erosion of American strength and its undeniable connection to capitalism and elitism.

Continue reading “things i read last week”

three days in London

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My memories of London before this summer were not so fond.

The first time I went I was 5, and I remember three things: the Big Ben, holding my mom’s hand, and a cavity that turned my tooth gray.

Other than being 5 years old, the pain of the cavity, which I carried all the way home until a dentist yanked it out of my mouth, clouded every memory from that trip.

Brunch at Granger & Co., by King’s Crossing. I ordered the ricotta pancakes with bananas and honeycomb butter (to die for) as well as the scrambled eggs on toast.

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London has always been one of those cities that I figured was overrated. London, Paris, whatever, we heard of them all the time…what was really so great about them?

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This summer, I put up a story on my Instagram seeing if anyone was in Europe and wanted to meet up. I was taking classes in Berlin, and had a week beforehand of free time, between finals ending and these new classes starting. And God knows if I had 7 days free, I wouldn’t be sitting idle somewhere in New York.

So I ended up in London for a short three days, and it completely changed how I saw the city.

It’s amazing for 20-year-olds – there are so many things to do, ones that seem to me, at least, more accessible than those in New York, and you have the classic non-grid streets that give you winding roads of historic buildings that you can wander through aimlessly.

London had endless food stalls and events, vintage shops, and parks. Not to mention, the weather was perfect the whole time there, which probably made it better.

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We spent a few hours sitting our jackets on Primrose Hill, surrounded by other people having picnics or letting their dogs run around.

porto by night

 

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Porto Portugal Europe travel summer winter ribeira

 

porto from above

Travel to Porto, Portugal in the winter on the Dom Luis I Bridge. europe

Travel to Porto, Portugal in the winter on the Dom Luis I Bridge.

The view of the city from above is one of the reasons why I fell in love with Porto. From the Dom Luis I Bridge you get an unblocked view of the city and its mix of medieval and red-roofed architecture. We went over the bridge three times, twice by foot and once by tram, and each time it was right before sunset when the city had a haze over it. It was a great time to take in the view, talk to some strangers, and listen to the music flowing from the boardwalk below.

Travel to Porto, Portugal in the winter on the Dom Luis I Bridge. europe

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Travel to Porto, Portugal in the winter on the Dom Luis I Bridge. europe

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These next two photos are of Porto from Gaia, which you can reach from across the bridge. It’s probably one of the best views of the city, although Gaia itself isn’t as appealing.

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Travel to Porto, Portugal in the winter on the Dom Luis I Bridge. europe

vienna, austria

Vienna is…

Vienna Austria Europe travel summer city palace streets

….a Baroque wonderland

Summer travel in the city of Vienna, Austria

…..gorgeous winding streets

Vienna Austria Europe travel summer city palace streets

Summer travel in the city of Vienna, Austria

…academies that look like opera houses

Vienna Austria Europe travel summer city palace streets

Summer travel in the city of Vienna, Austria

Vienna Austria Europe travel summer city palace streets

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Summer travel in the city of Vienna, Austria

Summer travel in the city of Vienna, Austria

 

Vienna Austria Europe travel summer city palace streets

 

Summer travel in the city of Vienna, Austria

Vienna Austria Europe travel summer city palace streets

my pre-flight routine

The week before

I’m an inherently high-maintenance gal, no thanks to my great genetics that have forced me to wear night contacts since third grade, slather on skin products that probably don’t do anything to fix my acne, take the occasional Claritin, and get sick about 15 times a year…..

That being said, there are a lot of important things I need on my person at all times. This means big bottles of makeup remover, contact solution, and moisturizer all have to fit into my backpack or my carryon. I usually order travel-size contact solution on Amazon because it’s a lot cheaper and then squeeze other things into smaller bottles (from Muji or CVS). I don’t know what I would do if my luggage got lost and I didn’t have access to these things.

The day before

Always check-in to your flight! I used to not do this but it has changed my life. It’s so much faster, especially if you don’t have luggage to check in, and you also get to choose the aisle seat and make your life 10x easier.

I make a huge personal fuss about greasy hair on the plane, having to stare at ugly nails, and feeling gross in general, even if those things don’t bother me much on regular days. If I’m in China, where services are cheap, I’ll get these things out of the way so I don’t have to think about them on the plane or on the road.

The day before a flight I get my hair done so that I get through the flight and maybe a day or two of the trip with perfect (clean) hair. And I’m honestly too tired on those first days to wash my hair anyway. It saves time and energy and makes you feel a lot better on the plane. Getting my nails done is the same, and it’s nice to have them done well for the next week or two.

The minutes before the flight

Yes, I wear makeup on the plane. I’m not at that stage of self-confidence or skin where I can just waddle onto a plane with all eyes on me and feel fine. For short flights, I just leave it on the entire time. For longer ones, I hog the plane bathroom for a good 15 minutes (sorry), take it all off and do an extra hydrating skin-care routine, and then brace for the angry stares I get when I exit. Then two hours before the flight lands, I’ll go back in and put my makeup all on again. It sounds tedious, but getting up and walking is a blessing on a 14-hour flight.

I grab all the fruit I can in the stores around my gate. Apples or fruit cups are great. I do this every single time, even if I don’t always eat them on the plane. I don’t really mind airplane food, and if it’s bad I just stick it out, so I rarely buy full meals to replace flight meals. I will, however, always buy a bottle of water because flight attendants are the hardest to get a hold of for a dumb cup of water on the plane.

I also make sure I have all my good playlists on Spotify downloaded. This last flight I had to go all 14 hours without this one song I’d been addicted to for the past week. It sucked.

I’ll pee 5 minutes before boarding time so when I come out the line is just starting. It’s not the most important to get onto the plane first, but getting a good spot to store your carryons is, and it also helps avoid finding someone already in your seat because they want to switch seats with you.

schonbrunn palace; vienna, austria

Visiting Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria

Vienna Austria Europe travel summer city palace schonbrunn

Vienna Austria Europe travel summer city palace schonbrunn

Vienna Austria Europe travel summer city palace schonbrunn

Visiting Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria

Vienna Austria Europe travel summer city palace schonbrunn

Visiting Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria

I am a sucker for a good palace….A palace or a castle that gives you a glimpse into the life of royals back in whatever century. The Schonbrunn gives you a look at the heart of the Hapsburg Empire in all its glory, and the chance to learn a lot about people like Maria Theresa or Sisi (a princess who led an incredibly depressing life).

This was my second time at the Palace in Vienna. They have an amazing (and free) listening tour that takes you through the main rooms and tells you the stories of everything in them. Despite having listened to it before, the tour was just as good the second time around. Of all the palace tours I have been on this one was the most up close and personal.

athens, greece

View of the city of Athens architecture and buildings on a European vacation sunset sunrise skyline

athens greece europe mediterranean greek travel summer city vacation athena athina ocean lake boats yacht sunset sunrise skyline

athens greece europe mediterranean greek travel summer city vacation athena athina ocean lake boats yacht sunset sunrise skyline

athens greece europe mediterranean greek travel summer city vacation athena athina ocean lake boats yacht sunset sunrise skyline

View of the city of Athens architecture and buildings on a European vacation sunset sunrise skyline

athens greece europe mediterranean greek travel summer city vacation athena athina ocean lake boats yacht sunset sunrise skyline

View of the city of Athens architecture and buildings on a European vacation sunset sunrise skyline

athens greece europe mediterranean greek travel summer city vacation athena athina ocean lake boats yacht sunset sunrise skyline

View of the city of Athens architecture and buildings on a European vacation sunset sunrise skyline

athens greece europe mediterranean greek travel summer city vacation athena athina ocean lake boats yacht sunset sunrise skyline

View of the city of Athens architecture and buildings on a European vacation sunset sunrise skyline

athens greece europe mediterranean greek travel summer city vacation athena athina ocean lake boats yacht sunset sunrise skyline

i’ll live in athens one day

athens greece europe mediterranean greek travel summer city vacation athena athina

 

Athens hit me with an impression that no other city has in a while the long-lasting kind I still have from Cairo or Istanbul. But Athens is raw, and young, and vibrant. It has an entirely different energy, a mix of the prestige you get from being a famed European city (colonialism and popular history, woo) and the chill (*chill*) of being in the Mediterranean and beachy and all that. I get the sense that people just hang around and have a good time, all the time. Greeks are just tan and eating well and having a good time. Minus that economic crisis.

I was eager to learn Greek in the short time that I had there, and locals were more than ecstatic to add on to my vocab (a repertoire I could count on my fingers). In no time I was throwing out my Καλημέραs and ευχαριστώs and παρακαλώs. A waiter serving me moussaka in the countryside of Greece taught me to add on poli to efharisto. I actually started learning Greek on my own, or attempting to, last summer. I thought we were going to Greece then (we didn’t end up going anywhere), and so with all my free time I delved pretty deep into Greek grammar and everything. I still have the Greek keyboard on my computer today.

I think Athens also hit me hard because of the lack of expectations I had, or the difference between what I thought Athens would be and what it ended up being. Athens is kind of cast aside, and stuffed in that historical old city category.It’s not all ancient Greek temples and mythological remnants – although a lot of it is – and it’s not all *typically* pleasing, aesthetically. It’s full of graffiti and drab square housing, nothing like whatever we imagine a European city to be. But it ends up enchanting you with the carefreeness it exudes, at the perfect midpoint of having yourself too together (think: anywhere in Germany) and being a full on mess (think: Cairo, and all of its dust).

Also won’t forget to mention the pharmacist that hit me with a life-changing face wash. I was sick for our first day in Athens and honestly more sunburn than human (from Crete) and my parents went out to buy meds and some other stuff I forgot to bring, and because I’m always breaking out, asked the pharmacist for to recommend something and he gave the Bioderma sebium cleanser. And I’m now on my third bottle. He also recommended us Vichy post-sunburn cream and it cured my burns in no time.

And so I stand by my title when I say I want to live in this city one day. If I’m talking realistically, as in how will I find a job, Greece is one of the first stops for one part of the global refugee crisis, and there are tons of NGOs on the ground and internationally that do work here. This winter, I might actually go on a service trip that does just that and helps refugees in Athens.

 

athens greece europe mediterranean greek travel summer city vacation athena athina

athens greece europe mediterranean greek travel summer city vacation athena athina

athens greece europe mediterranean greek travel summer city vacation athena athina

athens greece europe mediterranean greek travel summer city vacation athena athina

athens greece europe mediterranean greek travel summer city vacation athena athina

View of the city of Athens architecture and buildings on a European vacation

athens greece europe mediterranean greek travel summer city vacation athena athina

View of the city of Athens architecture and buildings on a European vacation

athens greece europe mediterranean greek travel summer city vacation athena athina ocean lake boats yachtathens greece europe mediterranean greek travel summer city vacation athena athina ocean lake boats yacht streets

 

athens greece europe mediterranean greek travel summer city vacation athena athina ocean lake boats yacht