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Morocco-Desert Edition

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Photo Diary: Paris, france

 



 
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3 day Guide to Sintra & Lisbon

Pena Palace

 
 
 

Positioned atop a mountain overlooking the city and surrounded by fantasy land gardens stands Pena Palace, a castle fit for the Queens of colors and clouds.

A bit of background info: Originally, Pena Palace was a monastery, housing about 18 monks, but after being severely damaged by lightning and the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755, it was commissioned into a summer palace for Portuguese royalty, King Ferdinand II during the 19th century. Intricate Romaniat style details, Moorish style accents  and colorful tile patterns decorate the interior and exterior. The castle includes a fantastical garden with over 500 different species of trees. This awe-inspiring castle makes one feel as if they are roaming around a Narnia land made for royalty-it is like nothing I have seen before. Perhaps that is a reason that Pena Palace was meant to be seen from every angle and is currently a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal..

Helpful info:

Getting there: We made a very impulsive and last minute decision to rent a car (which I do not regret one bit), so we drove to the site and parked in the lot. This allowed us to walk from Pena Palace to the Moorish Castle.

Side note on the car: Renting a car in Portugal felt worthwhile because of the freedom that was entailed. Sunlight squuezed through a canopy of green trees until the bend of the road unveiled the vastness of the ocean and having the ability to pull over to the side of a road to take photos and enjoy the view was priceless.  Rennting a car in Portugal isn’t too expensive, but I recommend booking ahead of time to get the best price. If you feel indecisive about renting a car I would suggest comparing the estimated cost of ubering and busing everywhere versus the price of a rental. If you decide that renting a car is not your best option then no worries, you will still be able to enjoy the beauty of Sintra with public transport.

Helpful tips:

1.)   Pena Palace is definitely one of the more popular castles in Sintra, so I recommend to go there first to beat the crowd

2.)  People usually think that about 2 hours is good, maybe one hour for the Palace, but the gardens are not to be missed so would allow another hour for this.

3.)   Wear comfortable walking shoes. Like Lisbon, much of the sidewalks and walk areas are tiled and can be slippery in the rain, and as you will see Sintra has its own micro-climate. At one point it will be sunny and lovely, and then a cloud will roll in and it will rain for 10 minutes, and then the sun will reappear.

4.)   Bring a sweater or windbreaker. It's a lot cooler and windier at the top of the castles.

 

 

Coastal Portugal- The Freshest Air


 
 
 
 

I had my heart set on the hike to Praia da Ursa. The promise of adventure, the rocky coasts, radiant blues, and the untouched beach felt as irresistible as the pull of gravity. The only problem was that this hike can be tricky to get to. But all good things in life require work, so I was determined to see the dreamy Praia da Ursa with my own eyes.

As luck (or fate) would have it, when talking to our Air B and B host about hiking recommendations she just happened to mention this exact hike. I couldn’t belive it- this strike of good luck reminded me that everything happens for a reason. With newfound energy we laced up our hiking boots, packed up the camera gear and moments later we were on our way towards unexplainable natural beauty.

Sidenote: The hike to Praia de Ursa is beyond beautiful, but it is most definitely not recommended for those with a fear of heights (sorry, Mom). No need to worry because there is a bus that runs to the lighthouse, which offers a perfect vista of the coast. The lighthouse also happened to be our final destination, and since it was past sunset by the time we finished hiking we rode the bus back to the town.

I truly do not think that any combination of words could do the scenery justice. Not even photos fully capture the moment, but I tried my best to photograph the scenery to spread the wanderlust for the coasts of Portugal.

Helpful tips:

1.)   The hike to the beach begins by following a small road to a trail. You will follow the trail until it leads to rocks. You will hike up until you cannot go any higher, and from there you can choose the best route to hike down the rocks to the beach. Be prepared: the rocks are not set in stone, so use caution when climbing down. After you reach the beach and take it all in you will make your way back up towards the lighthouse. There are a few routes to get there, but as long as you keep your eyes set on reaching the lighthouse the correct path to take will be clear.

 
 

Quinta Da Regaleira


 

Delve into another fairytale land by exploring Quinta da Regaleira where footpaths wriggle through the dense foliage to follies, fountains, grottoes, lakes and underground caverns. Quinta Da Regaleira was the summer residence of the Carvalho Monteiro family dreamed up by Italian opera-set designer Luigi Manini under the orders of Brazilian coffee tycoon, António Carvalho Monteiro, aka 'Monteiro dos Milhões' ('Moneybags Monteiro'). Although, not until, June 1998 were the grounds open for the public.


Other Recommendations:

Sintra: 

  1. Grab a snack at Piriquita- this place is well known for their pastries and the cappuccinos were just as good. 
  2. Clearly, I recommend wandering through the Pena Palace, but the Moorish Castle is not to be missed either, especially because it lies only a short walk away from the Pena Palace.  
  3. Praia Grande- amazing beach that is easily accessible. We did not have time to check it out, but I have heard good things about D Bar de Funde.  

In Lisbon

  1. For food check out Nicolau Café and order the pancakes-they are incredible.
  2. Explore the old Alfalma neiborhood
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valencia

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what do you think of when you hear the word backyard?

Legs pumping air, creating a force that swings you higher. Back and forth, back and forth- this repetitive motion keeps you in motion until 3, 2, 1 your hands unclench  and you surrender to the motion. You’re flying-time slows and for that second you are a bird, weightless and limitless, until gravity pulls you down and with a thump you stick the landing.

When I close my eyes and think I am transported to carefree childhood memories, and that’s exactly how Valencia’s backyard felt. 

fresh air and simplicity
good food and good friends
hospitality and small adventures

The city of Arts and Sciences steals the spotlight when one thinks of Valencia. The futuristic sculptural like buildings transport one to the scene of a science fiction movie. While the modern architecture leaves you in awe, Valencia’s backyard, where the oranges decorate the trees, acts as the hidden gem and a reminder to the beauty of the natural and the simple. 

At a local farm we cooked paella with ingredients from the farm, picked fresh oranges right off the trees and explored a traditional Valencian house. Beautiful horses and day old goat kept us company as well, and after all of that we dined on our home cooked paella in a cozy dining area.

 

The City Of Arts and Sciences

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A single day has yet to go by when I do not think about my experience on the High Sierra Leadership Expedition. When my mind wanders I see the golden hour illuminating the mountain faces until they glow. I see the wildflowers scattered around my feet and I hear the constant rush of water. I reminiscence on the beauty of nature and the most physically and emotionally challenging experience of my life. The John Muir Trail pushed me outside of my comfort zone numerous times every single day for 23 straight days. There was no way to predict the challenges and unexpected situations that each day brought, and from this I learned the value of truly living in the moment.

On the trail, the map accurately shows milage, elevation change, and bodies of waters, but it cannot tell us the water level on a river crossing, how deep the snow will be or how our bodies will react to elevation. Once I accepted that every day would be long and require my full attention, I felt a release. No longer would my my thoughts be occupied by worries about the future or consumed by planning; instead, my attention focused on the present moment. Quite honestly, I did not have any other option, for gingerly walking over a fallen log with a 45 lb. backpack in order to cross a fast-flowing river made my senses hyper-active. Experiences such as this, seemed intimidating at first, but I had no other option except to push myself outside of my comfort zone. The JMT also exposed me to the power of the mind. When I felt physically and emotionally drained, I thought to myself, “I am here, and I am alive.” Repeating these words reminded me of how lucky I am to be surrounded by such natural beauty and how I am mentally tough enough to continue. I wholeheartedly believe that without this positive mindset, I would not have completed the trek. I take these lessons that I learned on the trail to heart, doing my best to live in the present and think with a positive mindset. 

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Photo Diary: Seville, Spain


 
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How to Stay Healthy while Traveling

1.) Eat the bread!

Life is about balance, not restriction so enjoy that fresh bread and olive oil and the rich gelato, but do not forget about eating enough fruits and veggies.

2.) Fruits and veggies make the difference in whether you feel active and energized or slow and sluggish. Not only do these natural goods make you feel good by fueling your body with essential vitamins and water, but exploring a local farmer’s market is a great way to support local and explore. While driving down the coast, Tommy and I noticed some fruit and veggie vendors on the side of the road. For us, it wasn’t even a question, we pulled to the side of the road to check it out. For one euro I got a half a dozen pieces of fruit, including some interesting fruit that had never tried.

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3.) Almonds. An ode to my consistent travel companion for saving me from my own hangri -ness. I always keep a jar of almonds in my backpack because they are the perfect snack. When I’m on the go and starving I don’t need to waste money on an unfulfilling bag of chips. Almonds aren’t messy and they satisfy my hunger until the next meal.

3.) Layers. For a cold baby like myself who wants to express her style beyond a white down coat, layers are the answer. I have a black fleece zip up north face that has been my saving grace. I “sneak” it under my more stylish, but thin jackets all the time and no one can tell.

4.) Water. Although, this elixir of life isn’t free in most European countries, staying hydrated cannot be overemphasized. Pack a water bottle to avoid wasting plastic and money.

5.) Take the stairs and walk. You don’t always have time to hit the gym, so strengthen your muscles with your everyday activities

6.) Take time to be with yourself. Whether you identify as introverted or extroverted, taking a few moments to be with your thoughts allows you to reflect on all you’ve seen and done and feel gratitude for the day.

Other Packing necessities:

-extra camera battery

- zip up cross body purse

- comfortable shoes

- blister bandages (just in case)

- water bottle

- energy bars (Cliff and Luna bars are my favorite)

Sea to Summit stuff sacks (these are unbelievably helpful)

- battery charger

- travel yoga mat

 
 
 
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photo diary: Iceland

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Although the phrase, “go the extra mile” sounds simple, repetitive even, it wasn't until Iceland that I realized how much truth the saying holds.

   Day one of adventuring brought us to Glymur falls, Iceland’s second biggest waterfall located about an hour’s drive from Reykjavik. This four mile hike will lead you up to the top of a mountain and made me feel as if I had been transported from Earth to planet Iceland.

   While climbing, I’d take the occasional glance up from my sacred hiking boots to notice the snow capped mountains appearing larger and closer, and felt the onset of an intangible feeling of serenity. 

   Atop Glymur Falls, I take refuge from the wind that whips through the air like a high speed train. Although I feel content watching a rainbow fade in and out over the waterfall the summit lingers, so I push through and walk just a little higher because it is worth it, always. 

 Why is it worth it you may ask…here are a few reasons: 

   Life begins on the edge of your comfort zone. Knowing your limits and pushing them (to a healthy level) facilitates personal growth and gives one a confidence boost like no other.

  Do it for yourself, your badass self has nothing to prove to anybody else. You deserve to feel good because your mind and body collaborated beautifully to accomplish a goal, and in turn facilitated personal growth. You gave yourself the opportunity to change your perspective and endure a little pain for awe- striking views and the feeling of being alive and healthy and fully in the world. It wasn't given to you, you created this opportunity for yourself, and this feeling proves addictive, pushing you to see more of the world and yourself.

 
 
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The power of People

 
 
 
 The Sunday manifested to be cold and dreary, and I could feel the vibes creeping their way into my mood. Quite honestly, there is not too much to do in Nice, France when it rains, so we found ourselves at the airport hours before our scheduled boarding time.  Before, our mood mimicked the weather, a bit dreary, but the hours of free time at the airport gave each of us a break to call loved ones and reflect.  I am sitting between two friends who are on the phone giving a moment by moment account of our weekend trip, and as I listen to them my mood feels immensely lighter and my heart feels so full.  Memory works in a curious way. We remember feelings over facts, the good over the bad, and the funny over the awkward. Pain and the sensation of cold disappear like intangible clouds of smoke.   I hold back (unsuccessfully) fits of laughter as Victoria recounts her trip highlight to her boyfriend over FaceTime. She explains situations in such a way that the non-ideal situation seems hysterical and I hear Jen describe in detail how gorgeous our hike was. My attention is drawn back to Victoria as she remembers her absolute favorite part of the trip- meeting Aristotle (a random person at our hostel).   The power of people is not to be underestimated. Victoria describes Aristotle as the most interesting and unique person that she has ever met. She seemed inspired as she spoke about how in tune with the world Aristotle seemed. I overhear her conclude that, “He is the most random type of person I could have expected to meet. He just reminded me to appreciate existence.”   My mood has turned a 180. I feel so light hearted and reaffirmed by the fact that experiences allow our paths to cross with the most unexpected people; thus, bringing so much joy and enabling us to find common ground with people who live such different lives. 

The Sunday manifested to be cold and dreary, and I could feel the vibes creeping their way into my mood. Quite honestly, there is not too much to do in Nice, France when it rains, so we found ourselves at the airport hours before our scheduled boarding time.

Before, our mood mimicked the weather, a bit dreary, but the hours of free time at the airport gave each of us a break to call loved ones and reflect.

I am sitting between two friends who are on the phone giving a moment by moment account of our weekend trip, and as I listen to them my mood feels immensely lighter and my heart feels so full.

Memory works in a curious way. We remember feelings over facts, the good over the bad, and the funny over the awkward. Pain and the sensation of cold disappear like intangible clouds of smoke. 

I hold back (unsuccessfully) fits of laughter as Victoria recounts her trip highlight to her boyfriend over FaceTime. She explains situations in such a way that the non-ideal situation seems hysterical and I hear Jen describe in detail how gorgeous our hike was. My attention is drawn back to Victoria as she remembers her absolute favorite part of the trip- meeting Aristotle (a random person at our hostel). 

The power of people is not to be underestimated. Victoria describes Aristotle as the most interesting and unique person that she has ever met. She seemed inspired as she spoke about how in tune with the world Aristotle seemed. I overhear her conclude that, “He is the most random type of person I could have expected to meet. He just reminded me to appreciate existence.” 

My mood has turned a 180. I feel so light hearted and reaffirmed by the fact that experiences allow our paths to cross with the most unexpected people; thus, bringing so much joy and enabling us to find common ground with people who live such different lives. 

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thoughts before i go

                                                                                                                                                                              2018, I am looking at you!

                                                                                                                                                                             2018, I am looking at you!

 
 

 

In the comfort of my childhood home anticipation flooded my mind as my eyes anxiously glazed over the housing information for my semester in Spain. 

The next four months promise change: I will be living in Barcelona with a lady in her early sixties who only speaks Spanish. As I processed this new information a stir of emotions surfaced within me. 

First, a laughter fueled by excitement overcame me. Next, without warning, the upcoming changes culminated and hit me in the gut, leaving me feeling completely overwhelmed. The comforts of home and my support system of close friends would be an ocean away.

Anxious thoughts infiltrated my mind until the voice of reason raised her voice, introducing the question, “Julia, isn’t this what you wanted? Here lies the opportunity to improve your language skills, to embrace a new culture, to learn how to be more independent and self sufficient. Here lies the opportunity to feel invigorated by a completely new and unique experience that will take you outside your comfort zone.

Breathe.

Yes, this is uncomfortable, but that means you should do it. 

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An intrinsic wanderlust fuels my curiosity about the world, and I understand that the only way to make the most of this experience is to live with an open mind. So, may 2018 teach me how to open my mind and my heart and live vivaciously.

Adios, 2017

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Adrenaline

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Thinking about yesterday’s hike makes the butterflies in my stomach flutter. Everyone has experienced that intangible feeling in the pit of your stomach and it is easy to describe the exact event that caused the butterflies to flap their wings and tie your stomach into a knot, but to try to describe that feeling leaves me at a loss for words. In order for one to understand the sensation, it must be experienced.

From an objective definition, the “butterflies” are the result of the release of adrenaline in the fight-or-flight response, which causes increased heart rate and blood pressure, consequently sending more blood to the muscles. When the brain senses a threat to survival it raises alertness which includes the release of adrenaline.

That definition makes complete sense when I think back to yesterday’s adventure. Hiking up a precipitous trail in the rain with a backpack half your size in a foreign country should make one perceive a sense of danger. But just because a situation is riskier than a walk in the park, doesn’t mean that challenges shouldn’t be taken on. I believe in quite the opposite, that you should do one thing a day that scares you. Your body is smart, and realizes that alertness is critical, thus the release of adrenaline and extra blood in muscles when performing a task that pushes your comfort zone. And for that we can say “THANK YOU EVOLUTION!” Thank you for making me hyper-aware, for making my brain feel like it is running on a treadmill turned all the way up, for propelling my legs up the endless steps, for making time seem like a foreign concept, for making me incognizant of any hunger and for not letting fear hinder me.

When I close my eyes and picture the hike a few images stand out in my mind, images that show off Mother Nature’s incredible beauty; beauty so vibrant that my camera cannot even come close to recreating. Those images are also connected with the feelings of fear, liveliness, self-assurance, and motion- of the legs, mind, heart and blood. As a result of the association of emotions with images and memories, I feel those same butterflies when I reminisce about the adventures of May 29, 2016.

It is unclear to me why I felt motivated to hike this mountain in the midst of a scattered rainstorm, why some people innately crave adrenaline more than others, and why it is nearly impossible to describe the adrenaline sensation. But, this goes hand in hand with a concept I have recently been introduced to: the misconception between art and science. The main points of this idea is as listed:

1. Science is curiosity

2. Curiosity is as natural as the desire to create

3. Art can awaken curiosity

4. Art can share stories in new languages at an emotional, human level

This idea explains a connection between art and science that resonates with my personal work, for I have a deep sense of curiosity and find art as a creative medium to explore my interests.

Just as a scientist would run labs and orderly tests to draw conclusions, an artist may research an interest and figure out how to describe that visually, whether that be abstractly or realistically. This gives the artist the power to open people's’ minds and see in a new light.

 
 
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Dreamy blues and etheral hues on a sunny day in France. 

We spent the weekend exploring the charming coastal town and taking loads of photos. If you are there for a couple of days in the off season (like we were) I recommend making the trek up to Castle Hill where you can see all of the colorful buildings and coast line like the birds do. 

On the second day, we took bus number 82 to Eze where we got some quality time with Mother Nature. 100% recommend this hike, it was well marked, not too strenuous, and gives one a taste of the beauty of Sothern France. 

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