Niagara: Such Mighty Falls

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If you’re looking for affordable airfare between Europe and North America, you may want to consider Toronto as your jumping-off point because we’ve recently stumbled across some incredible deals out of Pearson airport. In January, our friends found super cheap tickets from Toronto to Dublin so we met them in Ireland to celebrate their engagement. Fast forward a few months and we were able to find bargain tickets from Geneva to Toronto on TAP Portugal and back on Condor, paying about 1/3 of what the fare would have been into Cleveland. On top of the savings, we had the added bonus of getting to see the mighty Niagara Falls during our cross-border drive, which was really something else.

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Heidelberg & the Black Forest: Searching for Red Riding Hood

FullSizeRender 10.jpgI’ve gotten a little behind again because I have been spending most of my out-of-work hours putting the finishing touches on my master’s thesis, so let’s travel back several weeks to the end of April, when Gui and I took a weekend-long road trip through southern Germany. It involved a biergarten, shopping, hiking and cake, so it was basically a perfect weekend 🙂

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Bordeaux: Le Vin et le Sable

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We had gorgeous weather for our weekend getaway to Bordeaux last month, which made wandering through vineyards, soaking in the city’s beautiful architecture and climbing Europe’s largest sand dune particularly delightful. I wasn’t expecting the city of Bordeaux itself to be so cool — It’s filled with sidewalk cafes, interesting bars and students having picnics on the grass along the river. Gui and I met my two friends from grad school there for a weekend adventure and by the end I was googling the cost of rent for flats near the waterfront. Maybe one day 🙂

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Fribourg: Urban Golfing à la Suisse

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With our half-fare train passes on the verge of expiring, Guillaume and I decided to take advantage of our last discounted weekend and the gorgeous weather to visit the medevial city of Fribourg, Switzerland. The train journey itself was quite the treat, particularly the stretch just after Lausanne, and I think the above and below photos of Lake Geneva look like paintings even though they were taken through a glass window — Don’t you?

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Ouarzazate & Aït Benhaddou: Rock the Kasbah

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Our decision to join a small-group tour to Ouarzazate turned out to be wiser than we had imagined. Several friends had advised us not to rent a car in Morocco, warning of sky-high prices and less-than-optimal vehicles that were not worth the hassle, particularly for a day trip. But as our little van began the climb up the Atlas Mountains and we got a full picture of the conditions we would have been facing on our own, we were very relieved that we hadn’t let our distaste for tours get the best of us. The zigzag road was… well… currently not so much a road, as workers are trying to carve deeper into the mountain to widen the path. We would round a sharp corner — without a guide rail of course — and suddenly drop onto unpaved gravel as our fearless driver dodged the speed demons flying around the other side of the bend. I had popped a motion sickness pill before we boarded the van, but even with the medicine it was a little much so I decided it was time for a nap.

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Marrakech: Glorious Sensory Overload

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Coming from quiet and pristine Geneva, Marrakesh is nothing short of sensory overload: Giant hunks of raw meat hanging from market rafters, men charming snakes sprawled out on the ground in front of you, stalls overflowing with lamps, spices and slippers, children chasing soccer balls through the narrow cobblestone streets, the intermingled smells of freshly-squeezed orange juice and roasting meat, roosters crowing, cats meowing, men pulling carts, donkeys pulling carts, cars pulling carts and oh, the motorbikes, constantly zipping through the alleyways and dodging pedestrians full speed ahead. You won’t get much of a feel for this from my photos — I only dared to walk around with my camera out on the calmer streets — but Marrakesh is quite the vibrant living city. We spent our two days downtown mesmerized by the color and chaos. Continue reading

Cinque Terre: Postcard Italy

FullSizeRender 3 7.31.06 PM-min.jpgWhen it comes to Cinque Terre, I think I can let the photos speak for themselves — with one major disclaimer: You’re going to feel the burn if you want to experience those views! The current trail detour that takes you from Manarola to Corniglia is hella vertical and we were completely soaked through our jeans by the time we made it up to the vineyards. The trails between the other towns were all pretty challenging as well, though that must partly reflect our state of fitness as we saw some rockstar olderfolks powering up the endless stairs.

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Mont Saint-Michel: The Big Flood

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Guillaume had long had his heart set on a trip to France’s iconic monastery so we decided to time our visit with one of the special periods each year when Mont Saint-Michel becomes an island, with access to the mainland completely cut off at high-tide. We didn’t have the best weather for our October visit — gray skies with periodic rain showers — but watching those tides come in and surround the giant rock island completely was incredible, even in the chilly mist.

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Tromsø: Chasing the Aurora

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If you’ve never joined an organized Northern Lights chase, let me attempt to paint you a picture: A minivan full of people from all over the world clad in matching thermal suits, an eager guide craning his neck out the window to search the sky while WhatsApping others for intel, and, later, a bonfire with a bag of just-add-water Norwegian-style camping food to fill your belly while you wait, wait, wait. Finally, when you’re starting to feel your toes go numb in the hard core winter boots you were issued, the sky (hopefully) comes alive. To be clear, not with the same bright green color you’ll see in photos — that’s only visible with your camera using a long exposure, as the human eye (and your cell phone camera, for that matter) cannot take in the same amount of light. It’s more like someone is shining a flashlight from the other side of the sky, with beams of light filtering through pale, milky green clouds for seconds or even minutes at a time.

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