I began 2014 completely exhausted after coming off several months of much-too-fast travel and without any sort of direction. Do I keep traveling even though the thought of being on the go makes my stomach hurt? Or do I lie low and go back to work even though the thought of sitting in a cubicle makes my heart hurt?
I made a compromise: travel a bit, work a short contract, and travel some more.
While I didn’t set out on an endless nomadic journey again, I still managed to travel quite a bit while still holding down a job and building up some more travel funds.
Montreal in the Winter
When you think about Montreal in the winter, what comes to mind? Streets and sidewalks covered in a blanket of snow, turning into a solid sheet of ice when compacted by feet and tires? Frozen nose hairs, burning eyes, tingling and numb limbs? You aren’t too far off.
But what are you missing? Christmas lights adorning every tree and building; piping-hot and amazingly satisfying poutine; an endless supply of hot chocolate; the Christmas tree and wreath market outside of Jean-Talon Market; and the fireworks displays and ice skating at the Old Port.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been over a year since I packed my things into a storage unit, quit my job, left Austin, and embarked on a several-month journey to various places across this great planet. In fact, I’ve been “home” (in Pennsylvania) now and living a “normal” life again for 9 months, and that time has flown by.
Albuquerque wasn’t really on my travel radar until “Breaking Bad” (more on this later), but after additional research and glowing recommendations from friends, it’s certainly a place I’d like to visit soon. I’m not much of an outdoorsy gal though. There are plenty of options for those types of activities (golf, hiking, fishing, etc.), if that’s your thing. But no, my style is more like leisurely strolls, popping in and out of shops, stopping for fabulous cocktails and amazing food, and enjoying whatever cultural activities are available. Here are a few of the things I plan to do when I head to Albuquerque.
Ah, Montreal, a city that quickly captured my heart last winter despite its arctic chill. I wasn’t prepared for the level of cold I was in store for traveling there in mid-December. I thought that coming from Pennsylvania would be preparation enough–how different could it be? But oh, how I was wrong. The bone-chilling, eye-burning, and nose-freezing sub-zero temperatures were a bit more than I bargained for. I often prefer traveling in winter months because you get to see a side of cities that you don’t during summers when they’re overrun with tourists, but I don’t think I’ve ever willingly chosen to travel to a city as cold as Montreal in the winter months. That being said, with the proper clothing, it is possible to combat it a bit.
It’s absolutely necessary to pack a thick, warm coat, scarves, gloves, hats, etc. I also packed a pair of leggings to wear under jeans on particularly cold nights when I was out and about. Beyond that, my tip is layers. Lots of layers. One of the most miserable aspects of winter anywhere is how warmly you have to dress to deal with the outside temperatures and how you instantly melt and turn into a sweaty mess when you go inside where the heat is blasting. That’s why layers are your friend–just continue removing until you’re comfortable.
Also, be sure to pack boots that you don’t mind wearing in snow. The weather forecast before I left called for a couple of inches (2-3, tops) of snow, but you and I both know how quickly those things can change. We ended up getting about 2 feet. So, it’s best to be prepared for anything.
A few other quick tips:
- If you’re planning to use your cell phone maps app, I recommend getting those cell-phone friendly gloves so that you don’t have to remove your gloves every time you consult your directions.
- If you have sensitive eyes, you may want to pack some sunglasses. They can protect from the wind, the sun glares off the snow, and can help keep in some heat to keep your eyes from freezing/burning.
- Lastly, if you’re as sensitive to cold temperatures as I seem to be (my friend who went along didn’t have nearly as many issues as I did), take some of those little hand warmers that you can throw in your coat pockets.
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Fall is in the air here in Pennsylvania, and while most people are enjoying their pumpkin-spice everything and dreading the impending winter, I’m just thrilled to be experiencing my first real autumn in about seven years. It’s always been my favorite season and living in Austin meant that I didn’t get to really experience it. I might pop over to another state or country and soak up the weather for a few days or weeks, but I’d been seriously missing the cooler weather, wearing boots and scarves, driving warm beverages, and most of all: the colors. I took a drive to Pittsburgh last week and was in total awe of the myriad of colors that whizzed by.
A few years ago I spent fall in the Netherlands with two Dutch friends and a Brazilian friend. One day we took a little trip to Kasteel de Haar to walk around the grounds, soak in the atmosphere, and work on acquiring Type 2 Diabetes with the amount of hot chocolate we consumed to stay warm. But! The best part of the whole thing was the colors. Oh, the colors! The reds, greens, oranges, and yellows were magnificent and I could’ve spent the whole day there photographing. This is one of my favorite photos from the day. Thank you, Holland, for giving me that much-needed dose of autumn that year.
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This week I started an almost full-out war on my personal Facebook page. It started innocently enough: I posted a conversation I’d had with a guy who I think was initially trying to flirt with me, but ending up just being insulting and ignorant. Not to me, but to an entire country in general: Iran.
It’s no secret that I’m drawn to Muslim-majority countries. I’ve been to a couple and there are several on my must-see list. So, when this guy asked me why the hell I’d want to go to Iran (and then suggested that I’d be decapitated if I went), I was more than a little upset and irritated with his level of ignorance of what I consider to be an enigmatic, diverse, and beautiful country. In any case, the conversation on my Facebook sparked a debate in which people were very strongly divided: totally for visiting Iran or totally against.
This was one of my favorite scenes from when I was in Venice. I love people watching, and this grandpa and his grandson provided me with several minutes of entertainment. The grandpa had a hand full of food and was feeding the pigeons, holding them on his arm, for his grandson to touch. While feeding pigeons in Piazza San Marco is actually a finable offense, and pigeons are really disgustingly dirty, I loved watching that little boy so apprehensive to reach his hand out at first and then going for it full force. It just reminded me of how amazing it was to be a child and to not fully apprehend how things worked and to have your parents and grandparents teach you the ways of the world. So cute.
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I don’t think Romania is on most people’s radar as far as a travel destination is concerned, and to be perfectly honest, it wasn’t on mine until probably a year or so ago when I started seeing other bloggers’ photos of the beautiful country popping up. Amanda, Pete and Dalene, and Erick had all spent quite a bit of time in various parts of the country and every time I saw a post or a photo, Romania jumped a bit higher on my places to see. So, when the opportunity to be a part of a group of 60 bloggers (50 Romanian/Moldavian and 10 foreign) exploring Neamt County came up, I jumped at the chance.
I didn’t realize it until I left Morocco and backed up all my photos on my computer, but I guess I really loved shooting photos of Moroccan doors! I don’t know how many I ended up with in total, but here’s a selection of 13 of my favorites. Most of the blue ones you’ll see are from Chefchaouen, but the rest were from Tangier, Marrakech, and Fes. I absolutely love Islamic architecture and the ornate tile work on some of these doors. (Also, I’m always sort of curious what kind of magic lies behind them!)