On top of the World…

…Kind of…

Gloomy but lovely. Jungfrau, Interlaken, Switzerland. June 2015
Gloomy but lovely. Jungfrau, Interlaken, Switzerland. June 2015

So, today is a little bitter sweet.

This morning, I dropped my family off at the train station where they began making their way back to the states to finish the last weeks of travel without me, while I returned to the reality of my slowly falling apart flat in London (no internet connection or air conditioning, along with other continuing problems, is really not helping my mood), and I can’t believe how quickly this month has flown by!

And I’ve only written about my first few days traveling!

So, while I stew in a little bit of post-family homesickness before starting back to my routines tomorrow, telling you all about our big adventure in Switzerland and a little bit of our Frozen themed family love and singing on top of snowy Jungfrau seems like just the ticket.

For this stop, we stayed in a great hotel in Interlaken, Switzerland with views which my sister just kept describing as simply “not real.” It’s really true. Everything on this trip looked more like paintings than actual places, which explains the continued Disney soundtrack that also seemed to follow us around.

While Arendelle is not a kingdom in Switzerland, this was definitely the music that followed us up the picturesque mountain to the Top of Europe…

Or more like inside it…

If you decide to go up this mountain, I advise checking the weather.

Why do I advise this? We didn’t.

The round trip ticket to get you up the mountain isn’t cheap (prices vary depending on ticket packages, ages, ect.) and time varies up and down depending on which path(s) you take (averages 50 minutes up and 40ish down, but you can choose different paths up and down the mountain if you want to see more). On each leg of the journey, you stop at about three viewing points where you are allotted time to jump out of the train and take a few pictures, as well as slowly acclimate to the elevation (3,454 meters/11,332 feet at the final rail station).

Each of these stops, I’m sure, has a great vantages of the valley and surrounding Alps, but I wouldn’t really know: we pretty much just got grey fog!

This isn’t to say that even in less than ideal weather a trip up isn’t worth the money or time—simply, if you have the wiggle room in your schedule, plan with the weather in mind.

Like I said, if all you see out is grey, your trip isn’t a waste.

Once you reach the top of the mountain, there are plenty of things to run around and do from seeing the chocolate exhibit (free samples in the shop where you may end up with multiples if you hang around long enough!), visiting the Ice Palace, the viewing station, and taking a jaunt outside, just to name my highlights.

Just like the mid-mountain viewing platforms, we couldn’t see much at the top either. Well, except that it was starting to snow. Luckily, there are pictures and paintings all over the station which show you what the views should look like on a clear day so you aren’t completely without a clue as to what you climbed up to see. My mom took a picture of each of these walls to coincide with the grey clouds we were actually seeing, just for comparison.

Even in cloudy weather, sunglasses are a must—it’s bright up there and glasses also keep the elements from attacking your eyes.

My two favorite parts were the Ice Palace and walking around on the actual mountain (in the outside activity area). Can you guess what this fangirl was doing during both of these parts?

Yes, singing Let It Go under my breath, but I’ll have you know I passes many others doing the same thing and a few Do You Wanna Build a Snowman’s to boot.

Ice Palace sculptures. Jungfrau, Interlaken, Switzerland. June 2015
Ice Palace sculptures. Jungfrau, Interlaken, Switzerland. June 2015

The ice palace is nothing like a castle; instead, we referred to it as the catacombs under Elsa’s Ice Palace. Almost everything here is ice from the floor to roof to walls. There are multiple passageways, ice sculptures, and alcoves to explore and it’s not hard to find yourself skating along in your shoes. This said, it’s all ice so everything is slippery with kids and adults alike moving at different speeds and levels of coordination: wear good shoes and keep your eyes peeled!

This area, because of a few tighter corridors and various structural space necessities, tends to get especially crowded and (because of a few reasons like those listed above) passing people to get around can be more than a little hazardous. If you get anxious easily or crowds freak you out, this may be an issue. Still, approach with caution, but I still recommend it—even if you aren’t a Disney/Frozen fangirl about it.

While everything else, except the uppermost platform, is located within the mountain top station, there is an area where you get to go out onto the actual mountain either for a quick stroll or picture, or one of the family friendly activities offered (ie sledding—however, this seems to be weather permitting, obviously).

While the gloom and light snow meant no sledding for us, my fellow adventurers and I definitely had a blast running and rolling around in the snow, attempting to take pictures with our selfie stick, dancing and singing, as well as a good measure of shivering from the cold and wet. We loved every minute of it. (As a bonus, three cheers for mom for not falling once!)

A few pieces of advice for a day like this, just to wrap up: patience is key and go early as possible (on a regular ticket).

Jungfrau seems to always be crowded as they are a huge draw for individual tourist, tour groups, as well as those who want to get away from the world for a while. Getting in early and hitting the popular areas, like the Ice Palace, will let you do more with less people hanging around or jumping in front of your pictures. This means you probably won’t get clear pictures on the way up the mountain but hopefully the gloom burns off on your stops down!

There are early bird tickets that help save you money, but they do restrict how much time you have up on the mountain. We spent more time on the mountain that these tickets allot you on a hazy day, so I can only imagine the time you might spend out there on a good one (especially with outdoor activities open)!

So, that’s the top of the world. Not sure if I’d have done it alone, but with a few loved ones, you are sure to have some fun!

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

ps. Any Harry Potter fans, one of the paths up or down the mountain stops at a sweet little spot called Grindelwald. We passed through for the sign but on my next path, I’ll definitely be stopping by for a wander!

On top of the World…

This can’t be real…

…and yet, somehow it is!

IMG_4320
“At last I see the light!” Mont Saint Michel, Normandy, France. June 2015.

The phrase “this isn’t real” seems to have become the catchphrase to this trip and for me this really started upon first setting eyes on the fairytale setting of Mont St. Michele.

This place looks so much like Disney’s Tangled’s kingdom of Corona that it almost stopped this fangirl’s heart—later my older sister explained that this was, in fact, the animators’ inspiration, so the comparison makes sense.

As I wrote last week, we took the Bayeux shuttle here thinking we’d get some historical and interesting information of the day’s sights. Instead, I got to nap in and out for an hour and forty-five minutes, give or take. Nice for me, but, for the amount of money we put in, this just didn’t seem worth it.

To reiterate, nice driver, but shop around for sure.

But, back to the beautiful world that is Mont St. Michele.

It’s easy to see how Disney animator’s would be inspired by this place. Between the winding streets, panoramic views and castle like features that make up the abbey, you’ll be singing a happy tune and thinking about braiding flowers into your hair as well.

This isn’t to say that only us Disney-philes will fall in love with this floating city. The abbey is rich with local history, religious iconography and sights any enthusiast would die for. And for any hiker or exercise lovers out there, climbing around the keep will definitely help meet you calorie burn quotas!

Truly a place for all types of travelers.

land out there...for now. Mont St Michel, Normandy, France.  June 2015.
land out there…for now. Mont St Michel, Normandy, France. June 2015.

But getting down to a few more details:

When you get past the parking lots you’ll have two choices: a cramped bus with two stops including getting to the final destination, or a thirty to forty-five minute brisk walk with tons of varied sites (we did the walk on the way back to the bus and it really was lovely!).

Mont St. Michele really doesn’t seem that big of a place—you can do a quick run through in probably two hours if you really push it and if you don’t want to do anything extra. We were there for two and a half hours and were able to wander the town a little, walk the ramparts, and tour the abbey with the audio guides.

So, what is it that we didn’t get to do?

There was no time to sit and eat a meal, we moved from one place to another for that whole period and we did not get to wander around the mountain city (If you can call it that) and that is actually one of the activities available.

When I get back here (and trust me, a full day is definitely in my future), I’ll be using both the walking options.

This abbey and city/town/whatever you wish to call it, it situated on a mountain surrounded by water at high tide. Throughout a good chunk of the day, however, it sits amid various streams, puddles, and sand which you are able to walk on. The “easy” walk is around the base of the mountain which is 960 meters/3.150 feet around and you don’t need any tour guide for this. however, you have to be very aware of the tides and it’s best to still check in with information just to find out the specific rules. You will need a guide if you choose to venture further out on the sands like older pilgrims (as well as more recent one’s) have, as there are some treacherous areas and features to watch out for, including quicksand.

In my next visit, I’d love to stay nearer this site (or take the train instead of a tour with a time limit) if only to see the water rise at high tide. Who knows, maybe I’ll bring a lantern and sing a little song! What can I say? I’m a Disney girl through and through. Trust me, there will be more to come!

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

This can’t be real…

Americans in Bayeux…

…(Normandy) Again.

Point du Loc, France. June 2015.
Point du Hoc, France. June 2015.

Unlike in history, this time our American visit was all for fun (though, for some, there were a few tears as well!)

My mom and sister—as stated in my last post—are traveling through the EU starting in Paris, but as luck would have it, I was able to catch up with them traveling down to Bayeux. This is technically my youngest sister’s trip (as she never did a People2People program during middle school) which means that she selected the main theme of our tour: World War II.

Our first few days were spent running around and getting the lay of the land in Bayeux and Caen—we ended up just wandering around the castle which was awesome and getting lunch after failing at finding our way to the WWII memorial and museum (which was expensive!)— which was a lovely way to start our trip. Every museum we visited was well worth it and getting the three stop museum ticket really is paid off.

The third day in the Normandy area was a long but rewarding one.

We booked an American D-Day Tour with Bayeux shuttle which takes you through various important historical locations with commentary through both the very nice and knowledgeable tour guide and an automated multimedia guide called Mike.

This tour takes you through six scheduled stops (a seventh location is added in if your group keeps to the schedule!) with commentary and free time along the way. Being the American tour, all of these locations and history discussed involved the role that the Americans played in WWII, especially on D-Day.

The first stop takes you to La Cambe German War Cemetery. While this is a very short stop, all the information you get from why this is set up the way it is to information on bodies still being found across Europe, makes this really interesting—though for time and space I won’t go too deep into any details!

Sainte-Mere-Englis, France. June 2015
Sainte-Mere-Englis, France. June 2015

Next, we hit Sainte-Mere-Englis which many people know from the film The Longest Day starring big names such as John Wayne. There was a lot of history and sites to see in this little square. For me, a few ‘must not miss’ sites are: the gate across the square from the church which still has clear bullet indents from the historic, badly aimed paratrooper drop which can be seen in the very unique stain glass windows inside the church (yes, another must see). Finally, look up the clock tower of the church and you’ll see a dummy paratrooper hanging from one corner—fun fact: this is from the film mentioned above, but also happened in real life, except this soldier—John Steele—actually attached to the opposite side of the steeple. The more you know!

Utah Beach, France. June 2015.
Utah Beach, France. June 2015.

The third stop took us to the Normandy coast starting with Utah Beach. We learned at this site—as well as many others—through many lucky breaks and happenstances, really played their part in Allied successes. In this case, the fact that they landed on the wrong beach—which was far less fortified and led to one of the main access roads—and led to the great quote by Teddy Roosevelt Jr. “We’ll start the war from right here!” Quite the pragmatist.

Because we were all on time, here’s where we added in the bonus stop: Angoville-Au-Plain. Whether you are doing this specific tour or are off exploring on your own, this is a great and quick stop with an inspiring story attached. The story tells of two Doctors who risked their lives for their patients—both allies and German soldiers alike. The whole story can be read in Angeles of Mercy by Paul Woodadge and a percentage of the profit from each purchase goes to the church’s upkeep, a huge help for such a tiny community.

Back to the original schedule, we hit Pointe du Hoc and then on to Omaha Beach.

Omaha Beach, France. June  2015.
Omaha Beach, France. June 2015.

For anyone who doesn’t know, Pointe du Hoc was a major strategic point that the Allies had to capture. And on top of all the things that just happened to go right for the Americans here—and some wrong things too—there are a few pretty funny things to note. One, when building strongholds for your big guns, double check your measurements to make sure the guns fit in later. Second, don’t send all your highest officers off on the same night for a birthday party—this is how the allies found and destroyed the big guns that wouldn’t fit in their new strongholds.

Omaha Beach was one of the bloodiest encounters for American forces in this whole war. There are a lot of factors from all sides that attributed to this, but it wasn’t until we were standing there on the sand and exploring, that we really understood the enormity of what these boys faced. We were there at low tide and the distance to cross without running for your life from beach to cover was hard enough—it really is indescribable. It felt very surreal—it’s a beautiful place but there is a dark history in its details which are hard to shake.

Omaha Beach from above. the Nprmandy American Cemetery and Memorial, France. June 2015/
Omaha Beach from above. The Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, France. June 2015.

Our final stop brought us to the Normandy American cemetery and memorial. This place is absolutely huge and I think having the guided cheat sheet our tour gave us really helped us navigate around and see everything we wanted to. One last thing of interest, if you walk along the edge closest to the beach, you are looking down at parts of Omaha Beach as the Germans stationed there would have—again, a surreal experience.

This tour lasted 9 hours— including travel and lunch, picking up at 8:30 and dropping us off at 5:30—but was absolutely worth the time, energy, and expense. Everyone we were traveling with would recommend it or its counterparts—they have and England-sentric version which we would have done if there was more time.

However, we went to Mont St Michele—I’ll be covering this next week!—the next day with this same touring company and the ride at least was nowhere near as informative despite the cost. Our suggestion: great option for tours like the D-day ones and all the people are very nice, but, to go to Mont St. Michele, you should shop around.

Anyway, as you can see, this was a very long day, but again, I would recommend it to anyone. If you are spending a while covering just this area, however, I would say to either start with this tour or get a really detailed guide book. You can easily spend days exploring these sites. We spent the day out there, learned a lot, and still barely scratched the surface.

If you are interested, more live pics can be found on my Instagram—just search gallatay and look for Taylor.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Americans in Bayeux…

Life gets complicated…

…just keep moving.

They call this summer? London, England. June, 2015.
They call this summer? London, England. June, 2015.

The thing about travel is that when it comes to figuring out how to balance it out with the rest of your life, it gets a little bit complicated. This is no more obvious than when you are a twenty something and your whole life is constantly shifting; everyone is either telling you to start to settle down or that you should be running around seeing the world.

This is the situation I am struggling with at the moment.

All my classes and finals are officially over which is great, but puts me neck deep into my hunt for an internship. I’ve been searching off and on for months but most publishing internships—which are limited to begin with—seem to take place in summer. While I love not having to balance a class schedule with a working one, it’s more than a little frustrating waiting and trying to plan all the things you want to do when you are waiting for someone else to call you back with work and a whole new schedule to work your life into.

Because of this, my life has become a mission of planning everything on the fly—literally, a few days at most before I’m due to head off.

The big complication for me right now is all this month, my mom and sister are touring around Europe—mostly places I haven’t been yet!—and all I want is to have a work schedule nailed down so that I can be there with them.

They landed in Paris on Sunday and I had hoped to meet them there today, but after a communication error, the job interview I hoped to do yesterday got bumped to tomorrow. Now, I’ll be jumping on an early train to Paris on Thursday to meet my family as we hop on the next train to Normandy.

Still, what happens after this weekend with them is completely up in the air: will I get the internship? When will it start? How many days a week and are they set up where I can take my off days together to make long weekend trips?

Well, I won’t know any of this until at least tomorrow and that’s only if I get a yes right away (fingers crossed guys!).

While all these official timelines are causing scheduling problems, I am also constantly aware that both my internship report and my 12,000 word dissertation are due in September so I’m scheduling my writing work for both of those between everything else I’m trying to plan!

Oh, the joy of being young!

All is not lost or angst, however. I’ve learned a lot in this struggle.

The way the working world works, twenty-somethings in the job hunt are definitely feeling the power shift. I’m not saying that a company looking to hire you owes you something—especially a job and a paycheck that will help you pay off the money needed for your degree(s)—but as a worker, you don’t exactly owe them everything you have to give either. If you find that you are having to sacrifice everything you want to do when you are this young—and yes, I understand that some sacrifice is needed to show your dedication and maybe curry favor at some later date—but you should still be able to do the things you want to alongside working. After all, you are doing them at least as much of a favor for them as they are for you—they need to hire someone, you are just trying to show you’re the best one to do it.

So if you want to go travel while balancing the rest of your work life, it’s well worth it to do that even if it is all last minute weekend trips—you don’t have to go far to feel like you are really traveling, just go and do something you wouldn’t normally do at home. It’s all about trying something new in a new place.

The fact is, you can put your whole life into working and starting out in your career, planning to go out and explore the world later in life—that’s a great way of doing things that many generations before us millennials have done. But, looking around at how many people who could be retiring are either still working or for some reason or another, can’t travel after retirement, that doesn’t seem likely to me.

My advice is just to go for it. Go out and do the work you have to get done, but don’t forget that this is your life and you’re young (even if just at heart!), so go find your bliss even if it means you don’t have it all mapped up in front of you. Sometimes those adventures you never planned for, are the best ones you’ll ever take.

Sorry this wasn’t very travel heavy, but I’ll continue to write and post as I figure out more of my busy summer-student life.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Life gets complicated…

When you miss the boat….

… Throw your own damn party!

The view from
The view from “missed the boat”. Westminster, London, England. May, 2015.

Since beginning this blog, this isn’t the first time I’ve written—and experienced—things just not going right in my travels. In fact, this seems to be a running theme and I’m not sure whether to blame my planning, time keeping skills, or just dumb luck, but all in all, it’s never something I regret. While this time, I was lucky enough not to be traveling very far—staying within half an hour of my London flat—but no matter if you’re planning a close staycation or a trip around the world, things not going to plan can completely kill your night, right?

Well, only if you let it.

To start, my best friend upon hearing most the details dubbed this worthy for a TV episode or romantic comedy—if I were romantically inclined—so, hopefully, you’ll be entertained, if nothing else.

Basically, the plan for last Saturday night was to have an end of exam celebration with fellow members of my master’s program (as well as a few related majors) which included a three and a half hour boat ride down the Thames with everyone “dressed to impress” to relax before we all fall into the hermit-hood which is dissertation writing.

Where things went wrong in my long day of dress hunting—not my dress!—and party prep, came down to communication and execution—or a lack of both.

A few days prior, I’d been talking to my friend (we’ll call him Cal) about the party and, since we live in the same building, I was going to join the group of people he was headed over with. Unfortunately, Cal and I couldn’t seem to get our phones to message each other over whatsapp or regular messaging (an issue that has since been sorted—it’s all about the country area codes!). Still, no worries, Cal had my flat number and would run up and get me before they left (Can you feel the foreboding? bum, bum, bum!).

It wasn’t until the day of that I realized we never talked about what time we were going to be leaving (issue two in the plan destined to go wrong!), so I got ready super early and waited…

And played guitar and waited….

And then I waited a little bit more…

And then I double checked the time and sprinted down the stairs—not an easy feet in my heels!—because I was very, very late.

What took place over the next fifteen-twentyish minutes I wish I had on film—CCTV across London is sure to have it and it must be priceless.

My fancy
My fancy “dress”. London, England. May, 2015.

If you noticed the skirt I’m wearing in the picture, you don’t have to be a fashion expect to know that a slight breeze will give you an authentic Marilyn Monroe moment—Ladies, always wear shorts, please!

Now, imagine that, except I was literally sprinting through the tube station and across Westminster Bridge—Big Ben’s Clock Tower and Westminster creating a picturesque backdrop behind me—trying to keep my skirts down with my purse and high heels (I changed to flats on the tube) clutched in my hands as I dodged camera wielding tourists and fellow London commuters alike.

With five minutes to spare and frantically texting my other friend—we’ll call her Nat—who was stuck in traffic and nowhere close enough to make the boat, I tried to locate the correct pier which none of the local kiosk keepers seemed to be able to help me with, only to have the clock run out.

We missed the boat.

But soon enough, Nat met me down by the river and we started to plan the spontaneous fancy dress night to totally kick the butt of the missed boat party.

Tulle and Bowling shoes. Bloomsbury Bowling, London, England. May, 2015.
Tulle and Bowling shoes. Bloomsbury Bowling, London, England. May, 2015.

While we decided what to do, we walked along the Thames chatting and getting smiles from strange passerbys—seriously, how often do you see girls in storybook princess garb just strolling down the street?—before the idea of doing something totally mundane and yet totally epic because of our overdressed attire.

Apparently, fancy dress bowling was on both of our bucket lists!

In what would be a video montage if this were filmed, we ran from bowling alley to bowling alley—Londoners really love their bowling!—before we ended up at Bloomsbury Bowling (thanks to the lovely and very helpful ladies at All Star Lanes!) with a ten o’clock reservation and an hour long break to partake in some fabulous pumpkin pizza (a serious yes!) before getting our shoes and continuing our epic party.

With amazing speed bowling skills—three games in an hour—inter-played with videos, selfies and musical throwbacks which just had to be danced to—some serious Usher induced, middle school nostalgia—it’s hard to imagine a boat party making my night any better.

Pumpkin Pizza, FTW. Bloomsbury Bowling, London, England. May, 2015.
Pumpkin Pizza, FTW. Bloomsbury Bowling, London, England. May, 2015.

I ended the night meeting my other friends at a local club where the after party was being held and danced away the next few hours. This started off with a ‘Dirty Dancing-esque, big lift moment”—as one bystander dubbed it—which was actually me giving up on going around the crowd and walking across a bench to join said friends, in all my big tulle glory, and into the very helpful hand-down of Cal, who was extremely mollified that he’d forgotten to get me earlier.

I ended up feeling worse than he did though as I couldn’t contain my laughter as he, completely apologetic and puppy-eyed, tried to explain his crazy night and why her forgotten me. But I told him that everything turned out better for missing the actual event; no hard, no foul.

To sum up the point of this comedy of errors, I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again: sometimes things go wrong. When it does, you can either roll over and let it ruin your night/trip, or you can roll with it and make the night even more epic that it was meant to be.

For me, it’s all about the fancy dress bowling—plus if you’ve watched Gilmore Girls, Paris Geller has already highlighted the many frustrations and disasters which come from young people trapped on a boat with alcohol…. Enough said.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

ps. The fashion version of this post will be up Friday on Silk Sheets and Grilled Cheese if anybody is interested in getting this fancy dress look!

When you miss the boat….