Tuesday, May 31, 2011

picture perfect: a relaxing long weekend at Lake George

We all know that the best laid plans can often go awry... and sometimes the plans that materialize in an act of spontaneity go off without a hitch. My Memorial Day weekend was an instance of the latter, with an invitation late Thursday sending me packing and hightailing it to Philadelphia the following morning to catch my ride to upstate New York for the holiday. My hostess was a friend and former roommate from university, Lauren, and her parents, who have a beautiful house on the northernmost tip of Lake George. Several of our friends had spent a wonderful weekend at the house last summer, which I regretfully missed due to a previous engagement (and by that I mean I was living in South Korea), and I was excited to finally get to see the place that my friends, and more importantly Lauren, always speak so fondly of. Maybe not equally important, but certainly pressing, was the need to unplug for a few days. I had spent far too much time in front of a computer screen during the previous few weeks (which might come as a surprise given the relative dearth of postings) and was eager to leave my laptop behind and turn off my cell phone. I read. I slept. I took in three wonderful days of fresh air. I went for a boat ride. I caught up with my friend and enjoyed the presence of her family in what certainly seems to be their collective happy place. I was spoiled by her mom's cooking. I powered down, slowed down, and caught up on the things I truly needed. And I thought I would be without plans for the Memorial Day weekend.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

j'adore: Icelandic skyr

I'm currently having a breakfast of siggi's Icelandic style skyr, a rich, creamy yogurt made from skim milk and all natural ingredients that has 0 grams of fat, low sugar, and a whopping 14 grams of protein.
Skyr is the traditional yogurt of Iceland. It is made by incubating skim milk with live active cultures. The whey, the water naturally found in milk, is then strained away to make for a much thicker, creamier, concentrated yogurt. So to make just one cup of skyr, with all that water going out, you need 3-4 times the amount of milk required to make a regular cup of yogurt. As a result of this process skyr comes out with 2-3 times the protein count of standard yogurt.
Siggi's cup design also gets points for being eco-friendly. The cup is made of nearly 50% less plastic than the typical yogurt cup and is covered by a removable (and thus recyclable) cardboard sleeve.

So if all you know about Iceland is that they have had a string of badass summertime volcano eruptions (or maybe you heard about that time their economy was in shambles), now you can say that you've heard of a really delicious, nutritious, filling yogurt that hails from the tiny island nation. Even better, you could say you've tried it. Go on. Try it. So. Freaking. Good.

Also, is Iceland Hobbiton? (via). I have to go there. Iceland, I'm officially lusting after you. But only in the summer when there is almost endless sunlight. I don't need to add travel-induced SAD to my list of random ailments. So, get your act together, volcano-wise, but maybe not financially yet. In other words, I should probably make my way there while the dollar to króna exchange rate is still so favorable.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sunday Night Souvenir: Nepalese Necklace

As I have mentioned before (though hopefully not ad nauseum... yet), shopping for unique jewelry is one of my favorite things to do while traveling. Realistically, when you get home, are you ever going to wear that dress that you bought for $3 in a Cambodian market, even if it was your go-to look across much of Southeast Asia? Or that edgy leather jacket that you spent a small fortune on in London that you just had to have even when it was too small and not really your style (a shout out to my sister)? Jewelry is perfect. Small enough that it doesn't take up room in your suitcase, it is the kind of investment that you just might hold on to forever and pass down to someone that shares similar genetics (who you can wow with your stories of world travel and Y2K). You are never going to gain or lose too much weight to wear a pair of earrings, and you never know when that wild necklace you bargained for on the streets of Bhaktapur is going to be the perfect statement piece for that little black dress.

While living in Nepal, I accumulated several such necklaces as personal souvenirs and gifts. The cost of purchasing small trinkets from local vendors is relatively low, and purchasing crafts can have a huge impact on low-income households that depend on such fickle business for survival. With those things in mind, I went through several periods where I was incessantly purchasing small crafts to bring home, such as necklaces and scarves, as it always gives me great pleasure to bring home gifts if my wallet and--possibly more importantly--my suitcase can afford them. Multi-strand beaded necklaces are traditionally worn by married women in Nepal (though such customs vary amongst the several different ethnic groups in the country). This is a different take on the beaded necklace-- one that probably exists more as an appeal to foreign travelers than as something commonly worn by Nepalese women-- with a large pendant inlaid with turquoise as the main attraction. It is bold, and though probably not suitable for most outfits, it is the perfect statement piece. Most importantly, though, it reminds me of a people and place that will forever remain close to my heart, cheesy as that statement may be.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Rocks for Jocks and Critical Film Studies in Lyon

So let me just start by saying that between Blogger shutting down at the end of last week and my own internet failing for several days this week, I have been a very bad blogger. So bad, in fact, that I failed to notice that the internet/Blogger swallowed entire posts whole last week, including another excellent escape to France with our friend, Kate. So suspend all disbelief, ignore time, and forget that K has just wrapped her second week of a brand spanking new dream job in the Big Apple- we are going back to Lyon.

As is my gracious host Lindsey, I am an unimaginable archaeology geek. It's what I did in college. It's what I did after college. I've written stories about it, I might even someday write a book about it. It's my hands-down favorite thing to think about. Lyon: got it. Here are some pics from my first stop upon arriving in town, the Gallo-Roman ruins. I spent all day here Tuesday, and loved every second of it. I even tolerated French children on field trips. And less than full sun. But it was magical. The walk itself to get there was epic, not unlike urban hiking, but I think I might go back tomorrow.

So I love rocks. But my second love (which happens to encompass my so-called day-job) is film and television. So another pilgrimage here was to the Lumiere Museum, the house and collection where the Lumiere Brothers lived. They are the inventors of cinema and the house was filled with the first cinematography cameras and photographs and even screenings of the first-ever films. A very cool, very nerdy mecca. On the way over there I was listening to one of my podcasts about some atrocious movie out today and it was really wonderful, to think how "far" exactly storytelling has come.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

spring in Philly

Baltimore is currently plagued with dark skies and intermittent downpours, a perfect day to be confined indoors to catch up on work of both the scholarly and house variety. Last week, around this time, I was in the City of Brotherly love catching up with friends and enjoying the perfect weather at some of my favorite spots (UPenn campus, Philadelphia Zoo, Water Works/Art Museum area, Rittenhouse Square). This photograph was taken from the Spring Garden bridge over the Schuylkill River overlooking Boathouse Row (to the left) and the classical structures of the Fairmount Water Works (on the right). After crossing the bridge, I spent the next hour basking in the sun in the grass between the Water Works and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Perfect, even with the unfortunate smudge of bird poop that my new dress sustained. With the deafening sound of raindrops now pounding on the roof, what I wouldn't give to be back in that moment!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

only Lyon

Lyon is 100% the undiscovered gem of France. The city surrounds two rivers, the Rhone and the Saone, that create a little middle piece of the city. My friend lives just a few blocks from the Rhone and it's super easy to get everywhere on foot. It's much smaller and more manageable than Paris, and not quite as in-your-face charming, but feels like a city where people actually live. The river banks and parks along the water make it absolutely gorgeous. Great shopping, farmer's markets aplenty on the banks of the Rhone, and their "central park" is to die for. More to come!

 (this post brought to you by my friend & guest blogger Kate. For more of Kate's travels in France, check out her posts from Paris, Fountainebleau, and Avallon!)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Buddha's Birthday

Bongeunsa Temple in Gangnam, Seoul
May 10th of every year is special for being the birthday of somebody near and dear to me. May 10th 2011, however, is special to many people around the globe for being the birthday of Prince Siddhartha Gautama a.k.a. Buddha.

East Asian countries following the Chinese Lunar calendar (all but Japan) celebrate Buddha's birthday on the 8th day of the 4th month. For some, it is an event worthy of an entire month of celebrations, while for others, it is merely a day off work and an excuse to visit the local temple to take in the colorful displays of lotus lanterns.

My only direct experience with Buddha's birthday comes from South Korea. Even though only about 20% of the population identifies as Buddhist (close to 30% are Christian, while most of the remaining population do not identify as any particular religion), Buddha's birthday is a public holiday and is marked by celebrations at all of the major temples. Though I cannot speak for the other major cities in Korea, Seoul holds a big festival, typically the weekend before the official holiday, which culminates in a huge parade through the city. During the preceding month, colorful lotus lanterns are hung around temples and at strategic points throughout the city. The temples, gorgeous and peaceful during the daytime, become magical during the fresh spring nights when the lanterns are lit. It is truly one of the best times to experience Seoul, a brief sojourn into the world of perfect spring weather squeezed between the harsh winter and the oppressively hot, humid, and rainy summer. During last year's festivities, even though I had to get up and work at 6 am the following morning, I made myself get out to soak in the parade and the flawless night. Though I typically am not a fan of the crowds in Seoul, it was totally worth it. I'd love to experience this holiday again in another part of the world. But until then... happy birthday, Buddha!

The weekend before Buddha's birthday, there is a parade through Seoul starting near City Hall and ending at Jogyesa temple. Many people wear traditional clothing, like hanbok, to march in the parade.
festivities at Jogyesa temple
Buddha flies into Seoul in a glowing helicopter these days. 21st century Buddha.

Monday, May 9, 2011

au revoir Paris, bonjour Burgundy

Guest-blogger, friend, kindred spirit (my dad called that one), Kate, leaves the City of Light for the Burgundy region of France...

Avallon is undiscovered. It's small, dangerously charming. I couldn't find a thing about it before I went but I very much recommend. An old walled-in town center, several places for food and coffee, surrounded by farms and forests.

On the train from Beaune to Lyon. Like Amtrak, only a positive experience.

Also, this has nothing to do with France but I think it applies aptly to the lives of both Lindsey and myself. My boyfriend sent it to me while I'm away, which I hope informs the world as to what kind of man I have found. That is all. 

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day: 7 continents of animal mothers

It's Mother's Day. So, naturally, I went to the far reaches of the globe internet to bring you these images of animal mothers and children. So go hug your mother. Call your mother. Make her some sangria. And if you think, oh shit, I forgot to send her a card or some flowers, go green and send an awesome WWF e-card to express your gratitude for everything mom has done for you, not limited to that time she let you spend 9 months living like a parasite in her womb.




North America

South America

Happy Mother's Day!

images via, via, via, via, via,

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Cinco de Mayo (¡Arriba!)

I have no claims of knowing the "real" Mexico.

I have been to Mexico twice. Both of those times mark my only experiences with the "all-inclusive" package, both of which were exactly what I needed at the time, even though it is a far cry from the way in which I typically like to travel. Both involved lots of scuba diving, and the first trip will always be memorable as the one in which I became certified, while the second will have a place in my mind as the time that one of my best friends got certified and was able to dive with me (here's to many underwater adventures in the future, Juju).

My grandparents who have been spending a month in Mazatlan for the past 15 years would have way more business writing a blog post about Mexico. Not to add any fire (pun intended?) to the debate over the safety of Mexico, but last year they were dining out when drug-related violence broke out nearby (including grenade throwing if I am not totally making this up). They were fine, a bit shaken, but returned this year, despite all the stories of cruise ships changing their routes to avoid the Pacific port city. They love Mexico and have made a lot of friends there over nearly two decades of travel. My Mexico mainly includes making faces at Moray eels and ordering champagne with dinner, because I can.

But still. Viva Mexico!

One day, I will talk about how awesome the diving is in the Yucatan- I have experience with Cozumel and the Belize Barrier Reef, both of which are excellent (points go to Cozumel for the better turtle situation). But for now, I'll just leave you with goofy pictures.

Viva Mexico! Diving off of Playa del Carmen on the Belize Barrier Reef. We are facing the reef, so I promise it looks way cooler than this photo might indicate. J on the left is on her first or second open water dive- she was still figuring out buoyancy and hadn't yet figured out her underwater pose...

 Flotsam, Jetsam, now I got her boys, the boss is on a roll 
(above photos courtesy of Jaime, J's instructor)

My mom took this when we left the grounds of the all-inclusive via rental car for a scenic drive around Cozumel, a failed attempt at seeing Mayan ruins, and dinner/shopping in Cozumel town (city?). That's me in the corner, that's me in the spotlight, losing my religion hiding my head in shame.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

a Manhattanite in Paris (take deux)

Kate checks in again from gay ol' Paris. (for part one of Kate's adventures, go here)

"Bonjour again! I have taken my sweet time writing another post, for the uninteresting reason that Internet has been elusive. Alas, I am now in Lyon. But much has happened in the meantime! I had 5 days total in Paris, and the weather was absolutely gorgeous. I walked everywhere, took the metro only once, as I had no schedule, time on my hands and streets to see. I ate approximately 26 chocolate croissants. I saw everything that I could, the Pantheon, the Louvre, a macaron place all my friends who studied abroad here recommended. At the end of the days, it was all about walking. I got lost, I wandered, I perused, I walked and walked and walked and walked. I think, despite the croissants, I may have lost weight. Miracles happen.

 View from the window of my friend's apartment in Paris. Lovely courtyard, standard. 
Pretty sure if you looked out the window at my NYC apartment you'd see someone dying or peeing.

Highlights: the Abesses neighborhood, just below the Sacre Coeur, great shopping. The Marais district, very chic, long winding cute cobble streets. Obviously: Shakespeare & Co, it was especially lovely on Friday since it's a British place and they were tres-psyched about the wedding.

Also, by Friday I was itching to get out of the city and so rather than going to Versailles, (I'd spent the previous day at the Louvre and was feeling like I'd never want to see another tourist again), so I went to Fontainebleau. It's another castle about 30 minutes outside the city. For one thing, it's free. For another, it's by a forest and absolutely gorgeous. Great walking paths and trees and nature and the estate grounds and gardens are super accessible and beautiful.

 Fontainebleau, the better thing to do than Versailles!

And the adventures continued! Stay tuned..."
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