While I can’t say that Metz is my favourite city I’ve ever visited, I can say with a huge degree of honesty that it holds my most favourite cathedral, which makes this a travel story that I must tell.
The train to Metz cost more than I thought and seemed to be a little bit longer too, but was made fun by the lovely ladies I was traveling with. It was a dreary, rainy Saturday in February that we decided to go and boy, did we make a mistake in not brining a map. We got off the train, starving and ready to be tourists in France. Only we ended up going the wrong way from the train station and walking about 20 minutes AWAY from the tourist part of town we had wanted to be in. Lost and turned around, sopping wet from the soggy rain, we went walking up and down the same street, trying to figure out which way we had gone wrong. Eventually, after speaking some broken french to a stranger and realizing that he too was directing us in the wrong way, we made it to the part of town we had wanted to be in.
It was adorable, with lots of shopping and places to stop and pick up pastries or meringues.But the absolute best part of the day was the cathedral. Now, before this trip I had never heard of Metz or this cathedral. I had absolutely no idea what I was in for.
Nicknamed ‘The Lantern of God’ (and rightly so), Metz Cathedral is known for its ***fantastic*** stain glass windows & gothic architecture. Walking in, I was absolutely amazed. Even on this rainy, ugly day the colour from the windows was glinting everywhere. The high ceilings and archways are enough to make you feel as big as an ant, but paired with the colourful glass windows and I was speechless.
If anyone reading this has seen disney’s version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame- I felt like singing ‘God Help the Outcasts’ like Esmerelda in front of the stain glass. (then again, i’ve always wanted to be Esmerelda so maybe thats not such an odd thing for me)
All in all, if you happen to be in the Lorraine region of France any time soon, it is WELL WORTH the trip to Metz for the cathedral.
It will forever be one of my most favourite churches I’ve ever seen.
Across the Luxembourg border is a town called Trier- the oldest roman city in Germany. I was drawn to going for its easy travel (one hour from Luxembourg by train), history and shopping. I loved it from the moment I arrived- the train station is only 10 minutes away from the centre, making it super easy to walk down. The place I stopped into (as usual) was the info centre. Usually in every town theres an info centre either in the train station or in the city centre. I got a map and a list of tourist activities and I was on my way.
The first place I hit was right beside the info centre and was one of the oldest places in the city. The Porta Nigra is a huge Roman city gate built out of sandstone between 186-200 AD. It was given its’s name ‘Porta Nigra’ (latin for ‘black gate) in the middle ages however the true Roman name for the gate has been lost in time. What I found most amazing was that the gate would have been taken apart stone by stone for building materials in the 11th century if not for a Greek hermit monk named Simeon who lived in the gate. Previous to living in the gate, Simeon had lived in a cave off the shore of the Red Sea, but left because he was he found he was too often disturbed by other people. I loved hearing the bits and pieces of his story and kept imagining him living in the (freezing) cold gate, alone, all day long.
The rooms were huge and lonely but absolutely beautiful. Graffiti is carved into the stones, a mix of historical carvings and modern swear words.
One of the other things I lvoed about it was the long hallways and winding stairs. Each area had a long hallways connecting it with huge arched open windows, allowing you to take pictures of the town below. All together the experience cost 4 euros and was well worth it to wander around. Plus the view is fantastic.
Next, I went and got myself a real german pretzel ( really great choice by the way) and made my way to the cathedral. On the way I stopped around town mostly because it all looked so cool and colourful. This fountain is in the middle of the square making it a beautiful meeting point for people. For a while I ate my pretzel and watched family and friends meet at the fountain, hugging and speaking german or french.
Finally I got to the cathedral. Inside it was massive- high ceilings and beautiful artwork. What amazed me most was the organ up on the wall. I would’ve loved to hear it played to know what it sounded like. It was so incredibly massive.
After being a tourist for most of the day, I resigned myself to shopping at T.K Max and some other shops. I got myself a Dunkin Donuts coffee and headed home. It was a great day of solo travel and my very first time going to a new country completely alone. I find travel empowering. It confirms that the crazy things I think I can’t do, I can.
Trier may not be the world’s hottest city to visit but I do recommend if you are in the Luxembourg area or even Germany, that you take a stop, even for a few hours and visit the Porta Nigra & Cathedral. They have beautiful stories attached to their history waiting to be explored.
About a month ago, my best friend and I took a trip to Edinburgh, which quickly became one of my favourite cities that I’ve seen yet. While there, we woke up extra early one morning in order to be the first into Edinburgh Castle that day. When we got into the city from our hotel we were met with this sight: . Now, historically, I’m not too sure how people did these on the daily. All I can say is, they must have had great butts. After the enormous set of stairs was a nice walk down the Riyal Mile to the castle. It was a super cold day and we bundled up as best we could. By the time we got to the castle it was nearly 9:30am and the sun was just finally coming up over the city. The sky was bright blue against the skyline of old buildings mixed with new. The castle, which is on this beautiful green mossy cliff was golden in the sun and looked straight out of a fairy tale. I’ve been to the Tower of London & Windsor castle and Edinburgh castle beat them both by a long shot.
Entering the castle, you walk through a massive arch way and enter the ticket area. What blew me away was that the castle continues to go upwards through the cliff. There is a rock wall as you enter that just seems to climb up forever.
We bought our tickets and audio guides (I love audio guides in touristy places) and, though quite frozen, we headed in. On the other side of all the touristy gift shop and ticket book was a couple lookouts, which encompassed the entire city we had been walking the night before. Looking out over the city I convinced myself that in some past life I was a Scottish princess and lived in this gorgeous castle (can you tell I’m an english major?). We spent I think 2 hours wandering the castle, listening to our audio guides. In the prisoners ward, I ended up taking my bra of inconspicuously because carrying a backpack while wearing a bra is uncomfortable. Historically, Alisa was laughing, that some prisoner had probably wished for just such a thing 200 years ago. My favourite part of the castle however, was where Queen Mary gave birth to her son James. It notes that its quite a mystery as to whether James was in fact her son, as there were baby bones found in the walls of the room.
After the castle we went to a small pub on the Royal Mile where we had a baileys and coffee to warm up along with the best brie panini and carrot soup. It was a pretty near perfect morning/lunch and I would highly recommend anyone visiting Scotland go to the Edinburgh castle in the morning and watch the sunrise. It will make your trip.
Last week, while prepping for my return to Hawaii, I found my travel journals from our first trek out the beautiful islands. We did so many wonderful things, from diving with sharks to dancing in luas to laying out on the beach. What stood out most in my journal though were two things- climbing Diamond Head crater and visiting Pearl Harbour Memorial. I was trying to pin down why I wrote so much about these days and it came down to a love for history.
I love to travel because I think it connects us to a greater story that is within us all. There is the here and now and there is also the then and gone. Seeing the two merge while traveling is really one of the most beautiful things. It is a connection to culture and humanity and the earth and the self, really, what more is life about?
The beauty of Diamond Head Crater is apparent- this massive crater nestled by the ocean created by a volcanic explosion hundreds of thousands of years ago. Before heading to hike up the crater, we visited Hanauma Bay for some snorkeling- its another spot formed by amazing volcanic eruption and gorgeous ocean. Already, I was feeling in awe of the power of the earth. I hadn’t expected the crater to be so massive and driving up closer through the city & suburbs, the sheer enormity of the earth’s power over human history dawned on me. The english name “Diamond Head” is a bit of a funny story. British sailors came upon the island in the 19th century and thought the calcite crystals on the beach were diamonds. Hawaiians had called the crater Lēʻahi, Le meaning ridge or brown ridge and ahi, a type of tuna. Quite different, though very much based on an understanding of the land. Eventually, the crater would become home to the first military base on the island, Fort Ruger. A prime location for defense against land and sea attacks, the crater was a strong asset to the US historically.
What blew my mind was that, the crater didn’t give off any military vibes to me. Even when climbing, I would have never thought of it. I think that has much more to do with the ‘island state of mind’ and the natural beauty of it then it does the actual military use. Historically, the crater has been filled with soldiers and plans and guns but there isn’t a lingering feeling of stress like I’ve found at other military bases or historical sites.
I was excited to have made it up the crater. I felt my history of scoliosis and surgery and laying in a hospital bed really strong that day. I did this, I climbed a mountain. Laying in a hospital bed, finding it hard to even walk- I couldn’t have thought I would do that. All the histories came crashing together into the here and now and it felt like pure magic.
I had this same feeling of history in the Pearl Harbour Memorial. I mostly surprised by how little I knew about the attack. December 7th 1941, during WW2, Japanese forces launched an attack on the naval base near Honolulu. What I didn’t know was that, at the time, the U.S and Japan had been headed towards war for a while, with China in the middle of it all. I won’t get into economic and political history but tensions were much higher then I had previously thought before visiting the memorial. Honestly, what I knew of Pearl Harbour was what I had learned from the movies, which isn’t saying a whole lot.
It was in the Battleship USS Arizona memorial where I did most of my writing. You can look through the floor and see the ship, sunken by the 1800 pound bomb that fell from the sky to hit it. Then, when you look up you see all the names, carved in white stone. I kept thinking about all those people’s history- they’re all a part of a family tree of different stories all melding together. The lives of those involved in Pearl Harbour and Hiroshima and Nagasaki, they’re all part of this huge story of human history that is easy to learn and hard to feel. Through travel, through being there in that moment, looking at history, we are able to feel. The memorial was somber and quiet while the tours around the ships were active and engaging, reminding us that history is past and right now, we were simply Canadian tourists on the island.
Through travel we can feel certain histories we didn’t imagine we could. I have no U.S relatives and no connection to anyone involved in Pearl Harbour to my knowledge, thought I felt the weight of those days. I felt the immensity of a volcanic eruption 300,000 years ago to form the island. I felt my story intertwine with others, and isn’t that what humanity is about? Connection. I love Hawaii more than any place I’ve ever been. It may be because of the beautiful beaches, palm trees, Elvis movies and lighthearted ukelele songs but it’s also for the culture and history of the islands. Even though its a real tourist destination, there is a vibrant and rich world of language, food, dance and history that is open and willing to be explored. Travel info for these two activities will be linked in their titles. I encourage you to further explore the history and visit them to feel it.
In about a month we go back to the amazing islands! This time touring Kauai and Maui. I’m excited to explore the smaller islands and really ‘dive in’ to the beautiful things they have to offer!
If you have any recommendations for activities while we’re there give me a shout! I’d love to hear about previous travels and your experiences living on island time! Email email@example.com to share your stories, promote activities and recommend tour spots! Big love
Happy Sunday! Bath is by far one of my favourite places on the planet. So much so that I’ve been twice! It a truth universally acknowledged that… there are two very different ways to see bath (see what I did there, because Jane Austen lived in Bath?) and both are fabulous!
Most likely, if you are traveling the U.K you have flown in Heathrow (closest to London) or Gatwick (South of London). From Heathrow , Bath is about an hour and a quarter drive (we’re using Brit lingo here!) while from Gatwick is about 2 and a half hours. Fancy a road trip anyone? Its also important to note that both of these trips happened in May!
TRAVEL GUIDE #1:
The first trip I took to Bath was with my friends. We were all visiting my parents in London and decided we wanted to go to Stonehenge & Bath. After going to the Tower of London we ran into some quite charismatic bus tour sales people. We debated for. oh maybe two minutes and bought tickets for a day trip bus tour to Stonehenge, Bath & Windsor Castle (like I said, the guy we talked to was a great sales person). We went with Golden Tours at the time and if I remember correctly it was around 80 pounds. Today the price hasn’t changed too much at 89.00 pounds/ adult and you get a Subway lunch included!
Now, what I can say about the tours is that they are chaotic. While it takes the pressure off of driving everywhere yourself and you have an itinerary, you still have to make sure you find your right bus! We had a hard time because there were so many tours leaving all at once and there were people everywhere in the station! Once we had finally found our bus, we realized that since we bought our tickets on the street we were supposed to go to the office and have them verified before getting on the bus. Account for this in your timing!! Thankfully there was a bus switch and we made it on time and all was fine and dandy, however anxieties were high!
After that the trip was WONDERFUL. One of the things I loved most was that the guide explained histories as we drove, stuff we wouldn’t have gotten had we gone on our own. It was also planned down to the minute which can be a plus or a minus depending on your travel length! We hit Windsor castle first- If you love castles, flowers and beautiful cathedrals then you’ll love Windsor. We had a very limited time there but I enjoyed it all just the same.
Next stop was Stonehenge which was completely sublime. Its one of those places you have to keep reminding yourself “i’m really here”. Some will say its just some rocks, but it truly is an incredibly peaceful place.
Now, ON TO BATH! Bath is well known for its placement over natural hot springs. This geographical placement allowed for an incredibly rich social history starting with the Roman baths around 70 CE. The baths are some of the most well preserved sites of Roman history in the world! The tour included entry into the baths, pump room & a spa water tasting(which we ran out of time to do). There is a big bath in the middle (which no, you wouldn’t want to take a bath in) with the ceiling open to the sky and side rooms where you can gaze at the fascinating aqua duct system. There is real sense of relativity in the baths, of the significance of time. Being amongst pillars and beams and art you can see the socialization of the people who visited hundred of years ago. You can feel the work and effort of those who designed the structure and the aqua ducts. It a sense of the permanent impermanence of life.
The tour was short as we had packed A LOT into the day. We also spent some time wandering the city a bit but had to hop back on the bus in what felt like no time. Exhausted we made our way back to London where we gushed to my parents about all the wonderful beautiful things we had just seen.
TRAVEL GUIDE #2:
The second time I went to Bath was with my Mum and boyfriend. My father had a meeting somewhere close and therefore dropped us off in the city early in the morning (8 AM). If you can, I encourage you to arrive in Bath super early. Seeing it not bustling with tourists was really beautiful. Sun rising, people setting up their flower stands, theres a general peace about it all. Especially when you come upon Bath Abbey. It is by far, one of the most beautiful churches I have ever seen, and the inside is even more spectacular. Its by donation to wander around inside which makes it both lovely and affordable to the wandering traveler.
After wandering around the Abbey and having a bite to eat. Th three of us wandered around the town. My Mum had done the Bath hop on, hop off bus tour and loved the flexibility of it. Its about 30 punds per person and is easy to catch to get around the city & country. There is also a historical commentary (in many languages) while you ride. We found it wonderful when we needed a walking break. Spending a full day wandering is hard on the feet and back, especially if you brought a back pack of snacks and sweaters and umbrellas! There are two separate rides- city & country. The city tour moves through the different parts of the beautiful limestone city (all of bath was built in limestone for uniformity and beauty). The country goes into the more natural parts of bath.
Now, if you are doing this kind of day trip I highly advise you go ‘off the map’. One of my favourite memories of this day is when we took the bus out to the country to maybe bask in the sun by the water and ended up lost in what I think might be St.James Cemetery ( but could be wrong.) It was the most beautiful place with overgrowing vines and flowers and old broken tomb stones. The eeriness of the cracked open tombs subsided quickly thanks to the sunshine and comforting sense of oneness. I couldn’t help but feel that everything was connected- myself, the people beneath me, the sky above me, and the plants intertwined between us all. Every stone was hundreds of years old and commemorated a deeply loved and cared for human. It will forever be cherished as one of my favourite travel memories.
If you are taking a day trip and simply wandering, I encourage you to find your travel memory- your place of amazement. Thats whats so wonderful about travel, some things don’t have to be shiny and incredible- sometimes they just have to nestle into a little place your heart.
Those are my two day trip travel guides to Bath! They are both fabulous AND affordable. The first is a bit more structured and you get to see LOTS. Its wonderful for your first time to the U.K and if you’re working with limited time and lots to see. The second is far more leisurely and geared towards the wanderers. If you don’t like having a plan and want to fall madly in love with your own version of Bath, I encourage you to go early and get the hop on, hop off bus tour.
If you have any beautiful Bath memories you wish to share, questions, concerns, opinions or epiphanies please do email me or comment in the section below.