I’ve been home from Hawaii for over two weeks now, and I’m not exactly enjoying the New York weather. Being in the brutal cold with intense wind chills is reminding me of the weather at the Haleakala Crater at sunrise. While we were in Maui Karen and I decided that we were going to make it a relaxing vacation and we were sick and tired of people telling us what we had to do or the “15 must see/do” activities and sights on the Island. Who is to say what you’ll enjoy or must do? To me, it’s just another way for people to make money and market touristy activities. The one thing I decided I wanted to see and do on Maui was watch the sunrise at the Haleakala Crater and bike down the volcano. I knew that my mom with her fear of heights among other fears would not enjoy it one bit and I would be better off doing it alone. I booked the trip and had to be ready to be picked up at 2:30 in the morning. It took a decent amount of time to get to the top of the volcano and you had to wait outside for over an hour in order to get a decent place to watch the sunrise. Through hearing and reading about the sunrise I had expected to have some sort of spiritual awakening. It couldn’t have been further from that. I have seen my fair share of sunrises, and that was enough for me. It was definitely beautiful and amazing colors, but beyond freezing cold. I wore layers, and the bike company gave use windy breaker pants and a jacket along with gloves. It was so uncomfortable and I was still shaking for the first part of the bike ride. Despite the overrated sunrise, the bike ride was incredible. We rode 28 miles downhill and barely had to petal. There was a lot of braking involved for most of it because we rode single file and couldn’t pass, but for about 7 miles I was closer to the front and barely had to break, where we reached between 30-40 mph. It was an incredible feeling to sense the temperature change, see the views, and glide down the volcano on a bike. Although I had no spiritual awakening I’m definitely glad that I included this early morning rise in my Maui vacation.
Karen and I have been in Hawaii for almost a week and a half now. This has been my most enjoyable trip in the past few months. My attitude coming to Hawaii was, how can you not be happy going to the beach everyday, living in warmth and practicing Aloha? We’re staying at the Kahana Beach resort on the west coast of Maui. We are right on the ocean and even saw a sea turtle from our bedroom one morning. Can life get any cooler than that? We are on the 12th floor and can see the mountains out one window, and the ocean from the other, and when we go downstairs in the evening, sunsets are amazing. Here are some views from our studio window.
I rented a boogie board while we’re here so I could have my fun, but it took us a while to find a good beach. I was expecting huge swells (isn’t that what Hawaii is notorious for?), but I didn’t realize that specifically Maui doesn’t really have that big of waves, unless you’re on the North shore. Our first couple days we wasted time on really calm beaches, until someone told us about D.T. Fleming which is good for boogie boarding. I had a lot of fun here, and the first day I spend about four hours in the water and couldn’t leave until I actually realized I was a little pooped. My highlight at D.T. Fleming was when a man asked if I was from Maui, it felt like home. I guess because most people are tourists, they don’t all come from areas growing up with the ocean, and a few times while I was boogie boarding people started clapping, and kept telling me I was “really good” . . what an ego boost. Another day at D.T. Fleming I was out there and met a local Hawaiin guy and had really good conversation about the island, history, respect, and how much has changed on the island because of Americans. The day we were talking there wasn’t much wind and the water was still, it was a Sunday and most of the cruise ships were leaving. Although the ships leave, they don’t go without letting nature know they were there. There was a lot of brown areas in the water and we started feeling stinging sensations all over our body. The cruise ships use all kinds of chemicals and they leach into the water. Soon after talking about this, a sea turtle swam into a body surfer, and the Hawaiin guy said that’s his sign to leave the water. The sea turtle should not have been that close to shore, and something was bringing him in, whether it was the chemicals in the water or another animal, it was a scary thought, and I decided to get out. Overall it’s pretty sad to think about Hawaii’s history and how much is ignored to this day. Maui is extremely built up, and there are strip malls everywhere. Karen was here 28 years ago, and wasn’t expecting it to be this built up, so when we got out of the airport we stopped at Whole Foods and Safeway to stock up on our grocery needs, only to discover that there are supermarkets and commercial stores all over the island. It is very interesting to see this island in the state it is now, but I find it saddening to see the lack of respect for the history, native people, and nature of the island. All in all, it’s a beautiful island, and I will be sad to leave.
Here are some pictures from D.T. Fleming:
Karen and recently embarked on the last of our celebratory travels. We have seen the desert in Vegas, flown overseas to France, and now we get to relax on the sands of Maui. There is no way we would be able to travel like this and celebrate Karen’s retirement and my graduation without our generous friend Julie allowing us to use her timeshare in France and Hawaii and our wonderful friend Andy accommodating us in Las Vegas. Before we embarked on our long (understatement) flight to Kahului Airport I decided that we should stop in LA for a day or so, not only would it be smart to help offset our jetlag, but a must to see my great friend Caroline. Caroline has been one of my closest friends since my freshman year of college when I started off at Hobart and WIlliam Smith. I haven’t seen her in probably two years, and I haven’t visited her at her home in Santa Monica since the summer after our freshman year. There’s all those corny sayings about friends and how in great friendships you can go years without seeing someone and pick up right where you left off, well they’re all true. I’m so glad that we got to spend time with her and her amazing family in the beautiful Santa Monica area, even if only for a short time. Being that Karen was an art teacher, we decided that our day in California should involve a trip to the Getty museum, a drive up PCH to Malibu, and we of course had to end our day with some Mexican food and margaritas. Here are some pictures we took at the Getty.
Although I’ve been back from France for a couple weeks (no I haven’t spent most of my time trying to finish Breaking Bad. . . ), and I’m leaving again soon, I have been trying to reflect on my experience and its significance and what it means to me. Overall I am sad to say that France was a bit of a disappointment. Perhaps it’s because I expected to much, or I had romanticized Paris for too long and too hard. Or maybe it’s because nobody tells you their true Parisian experience until you tell them how you honestly felt about your trip. This is by no means a sign of ungratefulness or me being unappreciative. Through every experience, whether good or bad I believe we experience it to learn something and use it to make our future that much more positive and enjoyable.
Leaving for France I was under the impression that the stereotype that the French are rude was passe and no longer a real problem for American tourists. . . well, it’s a stereotype for a reason. Perhaps New Yorkers aren’t the kindest, but I would like to think that when tourists ask me a question, no matter how thick their accent is, I help them with sincere warmth and a genuine smile. With this said, there are plenty of kind and friendly French people.
I was most upset with my experience as a tourist, because that’s exactly what it is – a tourist experience, not a true French experience of France. My mother and I went to France for the art. I wanted to be able to have moments of my own with art and places. In museums I like to take my time and spend as much time as I see fit with every individual piece. For me, this could be simply walking past something, or standing in front of it for 37 minutes looking at every inch and angle. A specific experience I had that upset me was in the Musee D’Orsay. Karen and I were on the Impressionist floor (possibly both of our favourite movements) each walking where we pleased. I found myself standing in front of a Monet and having the breath taken out of me. I don’t know what it was about the specific piece, but as I stood there I felt something. I could imagine what Monet felt while painting, what all the people decades before me thought, and how my children’s children would study this art. Standing in front of this piece my eyes started to well up, but alas, the museum was crowded and you are herded like cattle so my moment was short lived as antsy tourists passed the piece with little appreciation.
The experience I had with my mother was stressful and more of a test of patience than it was enjoyable. Through it however I gained a new found appreciation for America, and especially New York. I have never been the most patriotic person, but I left France understanding why so many people visit and move to our wonderful country. I have always acknowledged our vast amount of flaws (why I have never been one to scream proudly that I’m American), but there also has to be a reason why so many people immigrated here and continue to, to this day. New York (in my humble opinion) has to be one of the most amazing places on the planet, we have everything directly at our fingertips, with all walks of life, and the freedom to be whom ever you want – without judgements (perhaps just a little sometimes).
Any-whossssss, Musee L’Orangerie was a great museum experience. When I go through my photos more thoroughly I’ll make more posts on specific places and experiences.
Although almost everyday we were in France there were a lot of emotions to be had, it is without question that our trip to Normandy was the most emotional. Before Karen and I had left for France we decided on purchasing a four day EuroRail Pass. Two of the days were officially designated for Nice, leaving us with two extra days to discover some of France. While still in America and planning our travels, I kept mentioning that I would like to visit Normandy, but Karen was hesitant and said that it was going to be emotional. All I can say is, that she is definitely glad I convinced her against her first wishes, however sad it was. In order to get to Normandy, we had to take our beloved RER A to Gare Saint Lazare and then take a train to Bayeaux. A lot of France reminded Karen and I of Long Island, and Bayeaux was no exception. When we first arrived in the small town we realized we would need to eat something. There was a small bar type cafe, where the owner was the bartender, server, and more than likely town drunk. It was slightly endearing to see small town locals gathered together having a drink and watching French game shows, a real change from the every so hectic Paris. Being in Bayeaux and this eatery reminded me of the North Fork of Long Island and Hampton Bays (close to where I grew up). Before blindly boarding the train for Normandy we decided it would be best to have some sort of plan, so we booked a small tour on Viator. This was one of the best decisions we made the whole trip. We were picked up at the train station by a very informative and delightful local guide, Sophie. There were six other people on the tour with us, and we traveled in a van to the beaches on Omaha and Utah as well as the American Cemetery and Memorial. Being that there was only eight of us, the tour was very intimate and overwhelming. It was one of the most incredible feelings I have ever experienced to stand on the sand were so many man had died for me and my freedom. There truly no words (how ever cliche it may be) to explain the feeling of being there. When we went to the cemetery it was another whole bunch of emotions. After walking past the wall of the 1,557 missing soldiers were it is impossible to not already feel the tears boiling in my eyes, but we continued walking. We then arrived at the 22-foot bronze statue entitled The Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves, were an American tour group was gathered. The National Anthem began playing overhead and four older gentlemen presented a wreath to the statue, and it is safe to say that I possessed no sort of control over my emotions. We continued through the cemetery, were we couldn’t stay long due to our overwhelming sensitivity, wandered through the museum, and continued in the van to more sites of American battle before we made our way back to Paris. I would whole-heartedly recommend this trip to any American who is every in France. It is extremely overwhelming and significant to our history, and definitely gave me a greater appreciate for our incredible country.
The day after Karen and I traveled to Vernon and Giverny, we had a planned tour bus for Paris that included a cut the line ticket for the Eiffel Tower (the main reason we booked it) and an hour tour on the Seine. Considering nothing is ever easy, when we got to the tour (which took forever to find, because signs for the same thing point to different directions), the man working there said that we didn’t have a spot reserved on the bus, because we booked it through Viator and they hadn’t confirmed our reservation. Alas, we were able to get on the next tour two hours later, and had time to stroll the Jardin des Tuileries and grab a bite to eat. The gardens were beautiful and we walked towards Place de la Concorde which was interesting as well. We ate some escargot and onion soup and headed for our bus tour. We were first in line and able to get the front seats on the top, giving us a great view. Arriving at the Eiffel Tower it was windy and raining. C’est la vie, right? The whole experience of the Eiffel Tower is very touristy and overrated. It felt like it was something you do, because you have to say you did it. Perhaps on a nice day it’s enjoyable, but there are people everywhere, it’s expensive, and of course you have pickpockets.
On Saturday Karen and I planned to do the trip we had been waiting our entire lives for, the sole reason we wanted to go to France. We went to Giverny, to visit la maison et le jardins de Claude Monet. When we first got to Giverny it’s hard to say that I was in a pleasant mood, because we spent close to five hours traveling from where we are staying in Bailly-Romainvilliers. In order to arrive in Giverny, we had to take the 34 bus to the Marne-la-Vallee station to take the RER A to the Chatelet stop on the Metro, and then take the M 14 to Saint-Lazare and take a SNCF to Vernon, and then a bus from Vernon to Giverny. The gardens themselves were beyond beautiful. They were serene and everything one would have hoped for. Although they were gorgeous, I was hoping to have more of a spiritual experience. There is a highway which goes in between his house and garden, which is disappointing and the amount of tours and groups of people was disheartening. I feel that an experience like Monet’s garden should never be with a large group, one should be able to take ones time and soak in preferred personal places and moments. I was overwhelmed by the sight at one point, and sat on a bench looking through bamboo at the boats in the river and began to feel tears misting up, but alas a huge tour group stood directly in front of me and my moment was ruined. After we made our way through the gardens, we walked through his house and saw his bedroom, studio, kitchen and more. Following the house we had to exit, yes you guessed it, through a gift shop. Upon leaving his house we walked up Rue de Claude Monet to the church where he was buried to visit his grave. After this we made our way back to the bus that would take us to the train for Paris. Unfortunately the train was completely packed and we had to stand for over an hour, which didn’t help the situation. Maybe it was wrong of me to expect so much, but I’m still beyond thrilled that I was able to visit the town and home of my beloved Claude Monet.
Day one is coming to an end, for I need my rest to explore Monet’s gardens in Giverny tomorrow. All in all, today was a good day. Already day one and I got my rain. I wouldn’t exactly say rain, more like pouring buckets. After Karen (my mother) and I woke from our pleasant nap, we spoke to the concierge about the area, and made our way to the Supermarket to buy our dietary needs (aka wine and cheese). Jim Gaffigan talks about his trips to Disney and how vacation is eating on top of eating plus some more eating. My boyfriend also likes to remind me that traveling is based upon eating in a new place, which I’ve decided I’m fine with especially considering the French diet. So even if I hate everything about this trip (I won’t…), I will always have the meals to look forward to. Considering today was used to become acclimated and slightly rested, I had a lovely day. Karen and I also had the chance to visit the indoor pool, hot tub, and steam room after our meal of Champagne, cheese, grapes, olives, and baguette. We wrapped up our evening by visiting the bar in the lobby, and met three charming women from California to share ideas and thoughts about traveling, Europe, shopping, and my romantic hopes for Paris. They wished me luck in my adventures and hope that I find a French Philosopher, as well to feel a little closer to Audrey Hepburn (I guess technically it’s Jo Stockton). Although today was rather uneventful, I still throughly enjoyed myself, and had the pleasure of feeling French rain (it’s the same rain as in New York – in case you were wondering).
Even the stairs in our place are lovely.
A swell dinner.
Karen drying herself after the rain we got caught in.
I am officially in France. Although I have said it, texted it, and I am now typing it, it still hasn’t sunk in. Perhaps the fact that it is merely 4 am in New York and it is already 10 am in France. Not to mention I didn’t sleep at all on the plane because I was too busy taking advantage of the free movies (and of course slightly anxious). Although I was prepared to stay occupied on this flight with my three Hemingway selections in hand, a journal, and episodes of Drunk History downloaded, I was seduced into the temptation to watch new movies. Although it may be grimy, I will admit that I watched 3 movies, all in a row. That seems like a completely unhealthy amount of movies to watch in a day, let alone one sitting. But I had an excuse, right? Some how all my movies involved traveling (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel), being on a plane as a key point (Say Anything), and I couldn’t help but feed my romantic side with all my favorite things including a trip to Paris (Funny Face). The choice and timing of these movies could not have been more perfect. Funny Face was coming to an end as we were approaching Charles de Gaulle Airport and while Audrey Hepburn looked out her window over France, I couldn’t help but feel like I was the same person in that moment. Although I know my experience will be nothing like hers, or any of the Parisian experiences I read and watch, I can’t help but romanticize and feel connected in some farfetched way. Maybe it’s the lack of sleep that’s getting to me, but I still have hopes for Paris to leave me with incredible memories. Either way I believe it’s time I take a quick cat nap before heading to the market to pick up a baguette and other necessities.
A girl can dream, and if Paris isn’t the best place to dream I’m not sure where is. I am leaving this Thursday for a trip to France with my mother. A good read is essential in any part of life, but I find books to be sentimental in travel. Perhaps it’s because I have romanticized Paris in my mind, but I’ve decided on reading Hemingway while I’m there. I’m most looking forward to Paris in the rain. I want to sit in a cafe in the Latin Quarter, drink coffee/wine, look to the streets the artists and writers of the 20s walked, and focus on that moment and nothing else.