Annie Bananie en Europe

A blog about travel, life, and everyday tidbits

Tag Archives: winter

Incredible Iceland #4 – Winter sunrise

On my final morning in Iceland, I decided not to explore anymore, in case I didn’t want to leave. Then the tears on the plane would be for Iceland, not Bordeaux…

…but I was going to see a sunrise on top of the Hallgrímskirkja. Sunrises don’t have to be painful ordeals at 5am. Head to Iceland in the winter months where the sun rises at 10am. Wake up bright (or not) and early (9am is barely early), eat a nice breakfast, drink a cup of coffee or two, and head up the Hallgrímskirkja for a grand spectacle. But…BRRRRRRRRRRRR!! It was COLD! Getting ready for Canada, yeah! Made me wonder why I missed the cold, and how I survived 14 Canadian winters.

The day before the sunset watch, I saw this beautiful scene by the Hallgrímskirkja in the morning. I wondered what it would be like to be at the very top of the tower, observing the rising of the sun as it happens.

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Incredible Iceland #2 – The Golden Circle

To illustrate why Iceland is my favourite place ever, this post is absolutely necessary. I loved Reykjavik already after one night of staying there, but I loved Iceland even more after immersing myself in the boundless realms of nature that it promised to offer. And it did not disappoint.

You see, when I planned my stay Iceland, I knew I wanted to see some nature. Maybe a lot of nature. A trip to such an exotic destination wouldn’t be complete without seeing its most defining features outside of the urban center – the waterfalls, the geysers, the national parks. I didn’t have a car to take me around the country, but that wasn’t an issue as there was a myriad of tour companies operating day-tours along the most popular tourist routes. One of the classic tours is the Golden Circle tour, a route that takes you around South Iceland and stops at several cultural and natural sites. The description seemed to suit me perfectly, and after signing up with one of the tours, I was on my way to see the other side of Iceland. And boy, that beauty…it was unfathomable.

We set out at around 8:30 in the morning, when the sky was still pitch black. The sun rises at around 10:30 in January, so that’d be another couple of hours before we’d see daylight 😛 On the bus, I saw some dedicated runners doing their morning runs in the dark, an interesting sight as I had never experienced a morning that was still dark at 8:30 am. The bus took us out of Reykjavik onto the “Ring Road”, beginning our tour around the Golden Circle, passing by the “greenhouse town” of Hveragerði. Yep, those rows of illuminated houses are indeed greenhouses, and they looked stunning in the dark, even from the bus, prompting a friend to say, “How can a greenhouse be this beautiful!”

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Meanwhile, in Canada…

I just thought I’d make it officially known that I’ve been back in Toronto, Canada for almost a month. February has been a slow month of resettling down at home, meeting up with old friends, and beginning the tedious job application process. Meanwhile, I’ve had some time to reflect and reorganize my luggage, my photos, my writing, and most important, my thoughts and mentality.

Perhaps I’m still in the withdrawal stage after realizing that I’m back home “for good” (at least “for now”). Just as I was amazed to wake up every morning for the past three years to realize that I was in Europe, I am now amazed – in disbelief and even denial – that I am in Canada. Which is strange. One would think that I could get used to this place in a flash because after all, it is home. Is it not? Yet there is a sense of unfamiliarity that looms over me everywhere I go. I miss the sound of the trams in Bordeaux and the aroma of Bordelais wine. I crave the independence of living on my own and there is not one single day that passes by without me thinking, “I need to get out of this house.”

I mean no disrespect for my family or my country, and I admit – after the 3-year period of indulgence, I do tend to take home and Canada for granted. Nevertheless, I am enjoying the company of my family – minus the pressure and expectations all over again – and I actually do like the snow and the cold weather this winter. In my mind, this is what real winter is supposed to be like – a city covered in a gleaming white blanket and bone-chilling winds that freeze all emotions. All I could say is…NICE.

Dashing through the snow remained a childhood memory…until this year. I’ve heard that the three Canadian winters that I’ve missed were very mild, and this was certainly not a very WARM welcome back, but I love it. Lots and lots of snow – now THAT’S real winter and something this Canadian girl has missed dearly 😉 On a side note – shoveling snow really should be Canada’s national sport 😛

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IDS 2013 part 2 – Training time

Hmm…I didn’t think I’d be too busy to update, but I underestimated this mission to Belgium. Third day back at the lab and I’m already feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the things I have to accomplish by the end of the month. Bring it on.

The blog posts must continue. It’s been almost two weeks since the training school in Annecy – wow? I left the IDS-FunMates in Bordeaux – lots of them, including Yi-Shiang, Jiang, Xuesong, An, Vusala, Edgar, Mathilde, Hanbin, Camille – and joined the ones in Louvain-la-Neuve again – Diana, Alina, Victor (I think), and Naresh who is arriving soon.

These are only some of the 60 or so students in IDS-FunMat. Now in its third year, the program has approximately 20 students per class, meeting annually in March for a training school where everyone gets to meet and mingle. Yeah, “training” school. Of course we have lectures and seminars and presentations and workshops, but all of us know that we don’t see some of our colleagues except during this event, and so we take full advantage of the week.

Especially me. I ❤ my IDS-FunMates so much. (Photo album here.)

I arrived in Annecy on a Sunday afternoon, roots and branches still visible, but on Monday morning I awoke to a big surprise – snow! Big snow! I think it was a present from the people who arrived from Canada or Belgium. I mean, I did request snow maybe two months ago, but c’mon, it’s the end of March. Some spring, please? Well to be fair, the snow was lovely, and I didn’t mind it, especially with the Alps as the background for our training school the entire week 😉

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Copenhagen, the beginning of a Scandinavian winter

The first trip to a Scandinavian country happened last weekend with Denmark as the destination. It was a choice between Copenhagen, Denmark and Strasbourg, France for travel buddy Ara and I, but taking into account cost (flight and accommodation, we didn’t know we were in for a surprise in Denmark) and exoticism, we went for Copenhagen. It would have been cool to see the famous Christmas markets in Strasbourg too, but they’re exactly why the reason why train tickets and hotel prices are jacked up, probably. Oh well, I’ll have my chance for Strasbourg again.

Actually, I always thought Scandinavia is Norway, Sweden, and Finland. Makes sense, no? The three long countries in northern Europe…turns out it was a geography lesson learned for me as I found out Denmark, not Finland, is part of Scandinavia. The four countries, plus Iceland, are the Nordic countries. Ah, terminology!

A few observations on Denmark or well, Danish people in particular. (1) Danish people speak excellent English, almost without an accent (“not quite British, not quite American” as mentioned in this entry). (2) Danish people are extremely friendly, so friendly that it warms up even a bleak winter. (3) Danish guys are quite hot ^_^ One of my colleagues suggested that it was necessary to offset the cold temperature in Denmark. Very likely, my friend. Good hypothesis 😉

Denmark is one of those mysterious countries that I knew nothing about before going. With the mindset of “not knowing anything and counting on finding out more when we get there”, Ara and I headed into Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark, on a delayed flight, and the story begins. (Click for Copenhagen album on Facebook.)

I gotta start this post with my favourite photo of the trip, taken at Nyhavn, or “New Harbour” in central Copenhagen right after we arrived. The canal area, surrounded by colourful façades and boats on both sides, is gorgeous during the day but stunningly beautiful when reflected in the water during the night. Thankfully the wind and snow didn’t hit until day 2, so the water was calm enough to give us this scene!

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