Photo Diary: Bonita Springs

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A few summers ago I went to visit my friend and her boyfriend in Bonita Springs, Florida and had such a wonderful time. It was a trip of firsts for me -- the first time I was going to Florida, the first time I was flying on my own to a place where there wasn't a relative on the other end waiting for me, the first time staying with friends in a different state. It's been so rainy here in Austin today that I felt myself nostalgic for the Florida sun.

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One of the places that I took the most pictures was the Everglades Wonder Gardens. We were able to see alligators (& pet baby ones!), deer, turtles, flamingos, snakes, and so many more wonderful animals up close. It was truly a wonderful experience!The view outside their window during a particularly rainy day.The bald eagle was at another place, but the name is escaping me right now. He was not amused by our attempts to photograph him, that's for sure.

Photo Diary: Paris

DSCN1471 Paris in spring was truly a magical thing to experience it and I miss it (& France) like a limb since I've been thrust into the Texas summer. One of my favorite things about Paris was how many different types of flowers and greenery grew everywhere there was space in the city. DSCN1495 My parents and I stayed in an Airbnb that was in the First Arrondissement, so after getting all of our luggage up four floors we set out to explore our new neighborhood. Of course we experienced the 30-minutes-of-rain-and-30-minutes-of-sun rule for the first couple of days, so it was always a struggle of having just the right number of layers to stay warm when it rained but to not be drenched in sweat when the sun came out. DSCN1477DSCN1478DSCN1479 The next morning we set out hoping to find a patisserie to grab coffee and pain au chocolats at, but ended up finding a street market instead. We wandered around, picked up some meats and cheeses and a couple baguettes for dinner that night, and got galettes for breakfast. DSCN1491DSCN1487 Naturally, we had to spend a good number of hours in the Louvre! I had gone before when I visited Paris, but it was nice to go with my parents and explore different parts of the museum that I hadn't seen before. DSCN1512 DSCN1517 DSCN1519 DSCN1521 DSCN1523 Probably my favorite exhibit in the entire museum is the Napoleon Apartments. They are just so beautiful and immaculately designed, and it's fascinating to see how people used to live and utilize their space. DSCN1532 DSCN1538 DSCN1543 DSCN1553 DSCN1557 DSCN1562DSCN1572 DSCN1573 DSCN1578 DSCN1581 DSCN1594 DSCN1600DSCN1606 DSCN1607DSCN1613DSCN1616DSCN1618 DSCN1621DSCN1622DSCN1626 DSCN1628 Another stop we had to make was to the Tour Eiffel. I had gone during the night over Valentine's Day weekend but had yet to see it in person during the day. We took a good amount of time taking photographs in front of it and of it from the ground before buying our tickets to go all the way up to the top.DSCN1667DSCN1670DSCN1671DSCN1675 DSCN1676 After we descended we saw a crane just hanging out in the pond by the Tour Eiffel!DSCN1690 For lunch we went to Café Constant, a very nice (yet tiny) café owned by Christian Constant.  DSCN1705DSCN1709 One of my absolute favorite places we went to in Paris was the Centre de Pompidou -- the center for modern and contemporary art. My parents and I ended up going in about an hour or so before they closed the main exhibit we wanted to see (which we didn't know until we were ushered out) but I can't wait to go back and spend days there seeing absolutely everything. DSCN1993DSCN2030DSCN2039 DSCN2044

The Palace of Versailles

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One of my favorite places that I went to while in Europe was definitely the Palace of Versailles. While there were many misadventures trying to get there, my parents and I eventually did and the breathtaking chateau more than made up for getting lost on the RER trains. We bought our tickets at a tourism office across the street from the metro, which included a tour through the grand palace and a bus that took us to the Petite Trianon to begin our journey. Starting at the rear ended up being the best decision because we had all the time we needed at the Petite Trianon and the Grand Trianon before walking through the gardens and finding our group for the tour. Our feet were so worn out by the end of the day that it would've been a very unhappy day if we had to start at the grand palace and then circle back before a two hour tour.Each room has its own color scheme. There was no real continuation of a single color scheme throughout, each room instead being a capsule for it's own colors. This is Marie Antoinette's bed in the Petite Trianon, where she spent most of her time.Marie Antoinette also had her own billiards room in the Petite Trianon. Our tour guide told us that not very many women were allowed to play games with the men before Marie Antoinette came into power.

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One of my favorite things in Versailles was how every room was immaculately and precisely laid out. Every chair, table, sofa, etc. had a very specific place. I can only imagine that these are the places they must have had when Marie Antoinette lived in Versailles. The weather was temperamental while we were there (of course) and so it was rainy and chilly, but with a few moments of blue skies and sun. I felt that it added a bit of drama to the palace and was a joy to photograph. I had to wait TEN MINUTES to get the next photo because people kept walking through. I had approximately 0.0000002 seconds to get a shot with nobody in it. Thank you high school journalism for letting me get quick on the shutter! After the Petite Trianon we walked to the Grand Trianon. Both of the Trianons were much more simplistic in their interiors than the grand palace was -- a lot more white walls, a lot less coming at you visually a

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The yellow room is deceiving -- in photographs it looks like a darker yellow, but in person it was incredibly bright and neon.

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The long road to the main palace...

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All throughout the gardens were statues of Greek gods from when Louis the Fourteenth reigned in Versailles. 

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And the one room EVERYONE wants to see: Marie Antoinette's bedroom. It was the definition of luxury.

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The Hall of Mirrors was ah-mazing. I have photos of the whole thing, but it was so crowded when we were there that the photos aren't ones I want to necessarily share. Instead, I have a few detail shots for y'all.

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This installation was a gift from Swarovski in the past few years -- a chandelier made entirely from their crystals to remember the jewelry of Marie Antoinette.

Have you ever been to Versailles? I'd love to hear your stories in the comments!

Photo Diary: London

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My last stop during spring break was London. I'd been in love with the city from afar for years, but it was quite a different experience to actually be in London. I stayed in a hostel in Hyde Park until my parents arrived and thus my first experience of the city (besides an hour plus on the tube to get to Hyde Park from Heathrow) was Oxford Street. It's safe to say that I was a tiny bit overwhelmed. No, a lot overwhelmed. Compared to my experiences in America -- and even abroad before -- people in London just move at a quicker pace. They are constantly going, going, going and don't really care if you're standing in their way on the sidewalk. I was very glad I had booked a day trip to Manchester the day after I arrived because I needed some time to adjust to life in Britain.

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I actually forgot to take any photos while I was in Manchester, but I loved it so much. It was much more manageable for me than London was on the first day and the city seemed to be much more what I had encountered in my travels previously -- smaller, more of a working / student town, and the ability to walk anywhere you needed or wanted to go (although I did still take buses around different parts.)

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My time in London before my parents arrived was mostly spent shoe shopping, as I needed a new pair of black boots for walking. I ended up finding a pair at Selfridges, which I love dearly.

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Once my parents did arrive, the first thing we did was make our way over to Buckingham Palace to watch the changing of the guard. Unfortunately it was cancelled the day we went due to "extreme wet weather" which was... interesting as it had only rained a little bit that morning.

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One of the places I enjoyed visiting the most was the Victoria and Albert Museum. My parents and I saw the exhibit on the history of Italian fashion, which was really fascinating and intriguing. I loved seeing the evolution of the styles.

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One of my favorite things I ate in London was this tartine: it had goat cheese, prosciutto, asparagus, jam, and arugula.

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I will say that -- without a doubt -- my favorite thing that we did in London was going to the last home game of Arsenal's season. The stadium is AMAZING and while the game itself wasn't fantastic, it was so wonderful just to be there in person instead of watching the game on a TV in Austin.

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It was also a really special experience to share with my dad, as the only reason I support Arsenal is because he does and I've grown to love them so much over the years.

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(Obviously we found the Thierry Henry statue!!!)

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We did a whole lot more than I've talked about here, but I'm struck again by how I felt while we were in London. I love the experiences I had and the ability to see so many amazing cultural and historical places and landmarks, but I don't love London the way I've fallen in love with nearly every other city I visited in Europe. London and I are just on different wavelengths, we move at different speeds and have different modes of operation. I would go back to see more of the history and the culture in a heartbeat, as I know that in a week or so I barely scratched the surface, but I wouldn't go back for the city itself. Which makes me sad, as I've always had a special place for the city in my heart before I was actually there. I'm not sure if I would fall in love with it if I go again, now that I know more of what to expect and how the city works.

Maybe I'll give it another go someday.

Until next time, London.

Around London: Harry Potter Studio Tour

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One of the only things I knew that I HAD to do while in London was visit the Harry Potter studio and set. I bought my ticket a month and a half in advance and impatiently counted down the days until I would be there. The world of Harry Potter has been a part of my life since I can remember -- I had a tradition of going to the book releases at midnight with my parents and getting home, not sleeping until I had finished the entire thing. So many of the spines on my copies are broken, the corners well-worn and the inside covers stamped with my name so everyone would know whose books they are. I went to every midnight release of every film and I could probably cite events, characters, etc down to the page and paragraph numbers. To say that what J.K. Rowling created was important to my life would be inaccurate -- what she created is a part of my life. So it meant nothing to me to travel two hours outside of central London by bus to take the set tour, not when it was something so dear to my heart. There were multiple times while I was there that I wanted to cry with joy at being there and I know I'll be back as soon as I can. For this post I want to let the photographs do most of the talking, not adding a lot of commentary. I hope that you enjoy this homage to the journey as much as I enjoyed taking it. (Oh yeah, and I suppose I should mention that I'm a Hufflepuff through and through. House pride, y'all!) The butterbeer was nonalcoholic so that everyone who came could enjoy it. A word to the wise -- it's incredibly sweet, and could be too much for some people. But it was delicious nonetheless!