Annie Bananie en Europe

A blog about travel, life, and everyday tidbits

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From high places, part 5

Almost a year and a half have passed since the last “From high places” post was published. Since then, I’ve been back in Europe – specifically the UK – and certainly have visited more high places throughout my travels. I think it’s time for a part 5 😉 (List in alphabetical – not chronological – order as usual. Check out the previous posts on the “Series” page.)

Budapest (read about it)

The “Pearl of the Danube” is a place that made me feel something special. Budapest is one of those places that is not only exciting for travel, but one of the few cities I’ve been to where I think I’d actually enjoy living. The view of Budapest from Gellert Hill exposed the grandeur of the Hungarian capital, and the winter chill embellished the beauty hidden within its sad histories.

Český Krumlov (read about it)

Český Krumlov is the stuff that fairytales are made of. Thanks to a suggestion on my travel checklist, the little Czech town has been on my list of destinations to visit for years before I finally got to it in the winter of 2014, just in time for the first snowfall of the winter! The little town glistened in the snow and exposed its beauty flawlessly – how exquisite!

Edinburgh (read about it)

As one of the many cities with the name “City of Seven Hills”, there is no shortage of high points from which to gaze upon Edinburgh, the lovely Scottish capital. So far I’ve only climbed Arthur’s Seat (where the above photo was taken) and strolled around Castle Rock, though Calton Hill is definitely to be visited soon.

Königswinter

I left my group of friends and took a spontaneous detour from Cologne last year and headed to Königswinter. From there I ascended Drachenfels, a hill at a height of ~300 metres. It was a hiking break from a mostly city-oriented trip. From the top of the hill, the town of Königswinter was clearly visible along the Rhine river.

Leipzig

In Leipzig, my friends and I stayed in an apartment on the 4th (or 5th?) floor, high enough to get a good view of the city from the windows (the only location in this list that was indoors).

Lisbon

Another “City of Seven Hills” is Lisbon, a city that has a special place in my heart because one of the most influential teachers in my life came from Lisbon. Third visit to Lisbon recently, and the city was still as charming as ever with vibrant colours dotting its prominent hills. The many “miradouros”, or viewpoints, required a lot of legwork through winding streets and up steep steps to reach, but these views were worthy of the sweat!

Madrid

I went to Madrid this year to see a friend who was studying there. This would be my second visit, but my first time seeing the city from a high place – Cybele Palace, which is also the city hall and my favourite building in Madrid. Looking west (I think it was west), I saw snow-capped mountain ranges in a distance and wondered where that was. Could they be the Sierra de Guadarrama mountain ranges?

Oxford

Oxford used to be my dream university in high school for no valid reason at all, other than the reputation that attracted me when I was still a teenager. Well, I never got to study in Oxford, but at least I finally got to see what it’s all about during a visit two weeks ago. I constantly compared Oxford to Cambridge during my walk around the city mostly because of the well-known rivalry between the two universities and the fact that I had already visited Cambridge. Still, to me both places are just tourist destinations – let their rivalries entertain themselves 😉

Prague (read about it)

I had high expectations for Prague and while it was a lovely destination, it felt a bit underwhelming after the visit to Budapest a few days later. Don’t get me wrong, I liked Prague – I just liked Budapest a lot more 😛 What’s undeniable is that the view of Prague’s old town from the Petrin tower (where this photo was taken, if I remember correctly) was nothing short of spectacular!

Note: This post didn’t include hiking destinations in Scotland, such as Callander Crags, Kinnoull Hill, Conic Hill, and so on. Obviously hills are high places, but most hiking adventures have already had their own dedicated posts, deservingly so 😛

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Short travel reflection: Revisiting Lisbon, Madrid, and Barcelona

I’m currently in the middle of a week-long trip in Portugal and Spain (Madrid at the moment), visiting a friend who is studying in Madrid and joined by some other friends coming all the way from Canada and the USA. I’ve previously visited the three main destinations of our trip – Lisbon and Barcelona in 2011, and Madrid (and Lisbon again) in 2013. Lisbon was definitely my favourite out of the three, but revisiting all three of these major cities one after another will give me a whole new perspective, especially after so many years already.

Alfama district, Lisbon, Portugal in March, 2016 – Looking down onto an alley leading up to São Jorge Castle.

We left Lisbon this morning and arrived in Madrid, and in three days we’ll be in Barcelona. In Lisbon, we got to see some of the places that I missed during the previous two trips, including the Alfama district and the areas around Sintra. For Barcelona, one of my greatest regrets was not entering the Sagrada Familia when I was there five years ago, and now I finally have a chance to make it happen. So, while I don’t get to visit new cities during this trip (except for Córdoba as a day trip in two days), I do get to have the new experience of travelling with buddies with whom I’ve never travelled before, and going back to the places that I’ve missed in the cities previously explored. I do hope to write about these experiences when I return to Glasgow – that is, if I don’t get swamped with work. Oh well, let’s not think about work at the moment – let the travels continue!

A mission in Portugal, part 1 – Lisbon

I planned a trip to Lisbon, Portugal for four days at the end of April 2013 with a special mission in mind – to find my retired middle school French teacher, who is actually Portuguese and lives in Lisbon now. The task is actually on my bucket list, and I can proudly check it off now.

About Mr. da Silva, he’s nothing short of goofy. 13 years ago, in grade 7, he became my first extended French teacher – yes, he’s Portuguese, but he’s fluent in English, French, Spanish, and Italian, in addition to Portuguese – and I immediately loved his energy and charm. I would never forget the two years I spent with him in class, not only for French, but also for drama, geography, and history, IN French. It would not be an exaggeration to say that it was because of him that I continued learning French, which was the reason why I never struggled much in France.

I thought it would be no better way to explore Lisbon and its surroundings with an authentic local, and Mr. da Silva gladly agreed to be my guide. He even offered to pick me up from the airport, and I was so excited as he waved to me right as I exited. I went back to my middle school to visit him after graduation, but how many years has it been since I saw him? I don’t even remember, so the fact that he recognized me right away surprised me. Well, I guess Facebook must have helped. Yes, he’s 66, but he has Facebook and we’re friends. Old friends, in fact 😉

In three days, I did quite a lot, including a trip to Cascais, Sintra, Cabo da Roca, and Óbidos. Let’s start with Lisbon, shall we?

As the plane was about to land, I saw a gorgeous view of the Lisbon aqueduct – yay for my window seat! I’ve been to Lisbon two years ago, so I knew that the view outside the window just before landing would be magnificent. And yes, I know I wasn’t supposed to be using electronic devices during take-off and landing, but…how could I resist?

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From high places

Rainy season has arrived! I was told that Belgium gets very rainy right around the beginning of winter, and I wasn’t looking forward to it. Alas, it rained last weekend, so my plan to head to Maastricht had to be halted…indefinitely.

Still, I have another three weeks left in Belgium. I hadn’t done as much travelling this time as I would have liked, mainly because PhD life is catching on. Usually I feel so tired during weekends that I’d rather catch two extra hours of sleep instead of getting up early to catch a train. It doesn’t help that the skies are grey most of the time; all motivation is lost when the sun is hiding from me.

Yet, I am enjoying this life of being a busy student, being lost in research and just resting at home during weekends like normal people do. I suppose I can’t expect to travel every single weekend for the remainder of my PhD, especially not towards third year. I still have no idea how I did Berlin, London, and Liege, and Lille all in one month before. Even I found it a bit crazy.

So, what will I blog about? You ask. Well, if you’ve been following at all, you’ve probably noticed that I like taking pictures of cities from high places when possible, such as hills, towers, or top of cathedrals. I’ve assembled a collection of “pictures from above” from my various travel destinations, including some from years before, just to see how they compare. Of course you’ve seen some of these in previous posts, mais peu importe.

I’ve wanted to write a blog on this topic for a long time, and here’s my chance. In alphabetical order, let’s fly!

Barcelona (read about it)

On my last day in Barcelona, I visited Montjuïc hill alone, after the early departure of my companion LS. If there is one romantic place in Barcelona, it was Montjuïc. It was a shame he never got to see the view of Barcelona from atop the hill; he would have loved it.

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Portugal part 2: Lisbon

If you haven’t read part I about Sesimbra yet, read it here.

Portugal has held a special place in my heart for a very long time, because one of the most influential teachers in my life was a Portuguese man. In grades 7 and 8, Mr. DaSilva taught extended French. He was a silly man, always telling corny jokes and life stories in class, yet for some reason I just liked him. I can honestly say that he played a big part in getting me here today. He inspired me greatly during those two short years, when I was still a youngster, and he encouraged me to continue my French studies. I’m glad I did, because knowing French certainly contributes to my survival in France – go figure.

That was why I was so excited that the first training school is in Portugal. I had told myself that I would definitely visit Mr. DS’s hometown one day and see the place where the old man came from, and so I did, thanks to IDS-FunMat.

So the schedule said that we had an “excursion” to Lisbon on Thursday. Now, the word “excursion” reminds me of elementary school field trips, and to be quite honest, I think most of us were looking forward most to Thursday for obvious reasons. In fact, I think I had the mentality of a little kid that day, excited to go out with a bunch of friends and curious about the unknown city beyond the visible.

The wheels on the bus went round and round and took us from Sesimbra all the way back to Lisbon, our first point of contact in Portugal. We didn’t know that we’d be getting a Portuguese tour guide, so instead of just sightseeing, the whole trip was a bit of a history lesson for most of us, since I’d imagine that not many were familiar with the country of Portugal. First fact: the Portuguese pronounce their capital city as “Lish-boa”, even though it is written Lisboa. One more thing to remember, if you forget anything else I say: the 1755 Lisbon earthquake defined the history of the city. More on that later.

As before, mouseover the small pictures to read a brief description and click to see the full version.

I always find it super annoying that these cranes manage to destroy an entirely beautiful landscape, but without these cranes, the houses and bridges wouldn’t be built. The gigantic crane right outside of our hotel also bothered me. It just seemed so out of place on a peaceful beach…

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