Results for tag "travel-photos"

I See London, I See France…I See Photos from My European Vacation

A few weeks ago,  some friends from college and I went to a friend’s wedding in Finland. We then caught up with some peeps in London and France. Rather than bore you with all of the details, I figured I’d give you a photo recap of our adventures instead.

Thus, here’s the cliff-notes version of what happened:

My friends and I met up in Finland, where we played around in a train graveyard



And got lost


We saw some cathedrals



And then went to London



Where we took some silly photos


And then got lost some more


We saw some blue trees


And a blue rooster


And went to high tea


Where we ate some buttery scones with strawberry sauce…Yum.


Then we went to Hogwarts


Okay, not really…

But my friend DID get photobombed by a guy that looked a lot like Harry Potter


Next, we went to Paris


Where we sat in cafes


And saw some more cathedrals


And got lost (again)


And then 36 hours later…


…I left my friends and headed to a city in the French countryside


Where I met up with friend I hadn’t seen since I lived in Germany


And ate some cheese, some duck and this delicious creme brûlée


And then took a train to the top of a volcano to visit some ancient ruins




Okay, so obviously a bunch of other stuff happened that I left out. Mainly my friend’s wedding ceremony and reception, my accidental detour to Latvia and my stay in a 747 airplane-turned-hotel in Sweden…but nobody’s got time to hear about all that, right? It was a whirlwind trip (I visited seven cities in eight days) and by the time I arrived home from France, I was exhausted and jet lagged and I swore that I was done with traveling for good…

Ha. Just kidding.

…I’ll be traveling to New York in two weeks.

Where have you been recently? Any where good?

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! Nope, it’s a few thousand bats. Photos from Austin, Texas

One of my friend’s from high school and I went to Austin this past weekend. She’s one of the few friends I have left who is still single and childless and therefore has the time and money to take off on weekend adventures with me (plus she’s a pretty cool chick!). Last year we went to Hawaii and Jamaica together. This year we ventured into the land of hipsters, live music and a food truck on Sixth street that sells the best hot dog I’ve ever eaten.

girls with fake black mustaches

My friend, Katie, and I gettin’ our fake moustaches on

Here are a few of the more interesting things we saw while there:

1. A movie theatre that’s also a bar/restaurant

inside of alamo drafthouse theatre

I know this isn’t the best photo. But it was dark and I was trying to be stealth ninja about it so I wouldn’t get caught using my phone during the movie. But as you can see (maybe?) the chairs are normal movie theatre-style seating. The only difference is that in front of each row of seats is a built-in table/bench with menus and a pad of paper and pen for you to write down your order for the waiter.

It’s called the Alamo Drafthouse and is located in the center of the city on 6th street (although they screen current films, they also show films from the 80s and 90s as well as movie musical ‘sing-alongs’ and according to a girl in my hostel, “Filipino pornos”. She was sort of drunk when she went though, so she might have been confused?).

2. A slew of funny, clever signs

To know me is to know I love me a clever sign. Or even a failed attempt at a clever sign. Japan was full of them and it was hilarious. I give Austin props for making the effort.

funny sign on Sixth street in Austin
Note the bit at the bottom that reads “Taking a picture of this sign without coming in for a shot is cheating”. I totally cheated.

Soup of the day: whiskey

I must warn you, drinking too much of the “soup of the day” can result in wandering around lost at two in the morning and then losing your hostel key four times in a row (though I, of course, wouldn’t know anything about THAT).

its beer thirty somewhere

pee-wee hermon austin sign

3. Hipsters

Last year, East Austin was number seven on Forbes list of Top 20 “Hippest Hipster Neighborhoods” in the US. I could certainly see why. It IS a pretty a hip, young city and it wasn’t nicknamed “the live music capital of the world” for nothing.

It didn’t feel at all pretentious though (like certain neighborhoods in Brooklyn or San Francisco do). Everyone seemed really friendly and down to Earth.

people buying cupcakes at food truck in Austin

Apparently one of the signs are that you’re a hipster is that you love cupcakes…but c’mon…Who doesn’t love cupcakes?!

statue with hipster sunglasses in Austin Texas

4. Funky, colorful graffiti art

There’s this place in Austin called “Castle Hill”, where the entire side of the hill has been spray-painted with graffiti art. It’s near the Whole Food world headquarters (anyone else surprised to learn that Texas birthed the organic food trend?) and it’s a cool spot if you’re looking for a unique backdrop for photos.

graffiti art in Austin

graffiti art in Austin Texas

cool graffiti art in Austin

sunflower and graffiti art in Austin

5. Bats (lots of ‘em)

Every evening, right around dusk, hordes of picnicking tourists gather under a bridge to wait for the thousands of bats to awaken from their daytime slumber.

Sitting in the grass waiting for the bats to wake up felt a lot like waiting for a concert or fireworks show to begin. Vendors sold ice cream and sodas, little kids waved glow sticks and photographers fiddled with tripods and zoom lenses. Everyone was earnestly staring at the stage  bridge, video cameras in hand, waiting for a sign the show was about to begin, and I half expected a mic’d MC to step out of the bushes and shout something to the effect of, “Ladies and Gentlemen! Boys and Girls! Put your hands together for the Austin bridge bats!”

people gathered to watch the bats under the South Congress bridge in Austin Texas

Statesman bat experience sign
You know you’ve made it when you get your own fan site and hashtag.

"Never handle grounded bats" sign under South Congress bridge in Austin Texas
These signs were everywhere…which I found funny. Apparently these “bat-lebrities” aren’t into signing autographs, interacting with their fans or being “handled”.

Here’s a couple “grounded bats”. Um…cute?

baby bats laying on the ground in Austin Texas
When the bats finally made their appearance, it was a little underwhelming. I don’t know what it was I was expecting exactly. Maybe I was hoping they’d do some aerial tricks? Dive bomb into the crowd of tourists? Or that a few of them would morph into vampires and saunter into the crowd and bite someone? I think I definitely was hoping for, at the very least, some live music. SOMETHING.

Instead I got this:

bats flying over South Congress bridge in Austin Texas

Annnnnnd…..there they go! Flying off into the sunset.

6. A giant pool with weeds growing in it (aka Barton Springs, a natural spring located in the center of the city).

Barton springs pool and lifeguard

Besides the bats, the other thing everyone (the guide book, the receptionist at the hostel…EVERYONE) kept insisting we go see was Barton Springs. Barton Springs is in the middle of a park and seems, upon first glance, like any ol’ rec center pool. There’s a three dollar cover charge to get in, a diving board, smelly bathrooms and a half a dozen lifeguards strutting along the concrete sides of the pool blowing their whistles and yelling at swimmers for backflipping or sneaking their innertubes into the wrong side of the pool.

But then you look closer and you see weeds growing where you’d normally see sky-blue concrete and moss growing along the pool ladders and walls. That’s because it’s not a chlorinated pool but rather, a natural spring. And a freezing cold one at that.

Probably the most interesting thing about Barton Springs is that outside the life-guarded portion of the springs is the free, ghetto version (the only thing that separates the two is a chain-link fence).

The ghetto version of the springs has everything the official version doesn’t, including dogs, beer, drunk people, pot smokers and nudists. And at least one crazy dude with a studded neck piercing who told me that he was missing his “vampire eyes”.

Yeah, it was a weird place. But then again, so is Austin.

To see more photos from my trip, click here:


Have you ever been to Austin? What did you think?

Hot Springs in the Mojave Desert (Yep, they exist!)

The Arizona Hot Springs, located in Arizona near the Hoover Dam, are about 45 minutes outside of Las Vegas. They’re one of two local hot spring locations (the other one is called Gold Strike Hot Springs) and can be reached either by boating down the Colorado River or by hiking along a dry riverbed. Calling it a ‘hike’ is misleading, however, as the trail is mostly flat, so even though it’s approximately three miles long, the walk isn’t strenuous. You can walk there even if you’re not in great shape.


River in Arizona, Hoover Dam

The Colorado River




The red, blue and purple canyon walls are what make this a particularly gorgeous hike.


There’s a little bit of scrambling is involved as you get closer to the springs.


To get to the hot springs, you have to climb up a ladder.


There are two pools. The one pictured above is the milder of the two, the other one is too hot in my opinion (you can only sit in it for a few moments before you start to feel light-headed).

Road Trip to Reno

Last weekend my mom and I drove from San Francisco to Reno, Nevada (about a 4 hour trip).

Parts of Reno were really pretty; like this river, for example.

Reno riverwalk in Nevada

Or these mountains:

Mountain view in Reno

Parts of Reno were uniquely Nevada (like the neon signs, the casinos, the pawn shops and the brothel billboards).

Sands casino neon sign

And then parts of Reno were just strange, like the sculptures outside the Reno bus station.

Reno bus station art

Reno sign

On Saturday, we drove into the mountains to Virginia City, an old mining town. This “city” (less than 1,000 people live there) was where Mark Twain landed his first writing gig (writing for the local newspaper).

Virginia City scene

Old West Mining Town near Reno Nevada

Virginia City jail

Have you ever been to Reno? What did you think?

8 Magical Places That Will Make You Feel Like You’ve Wandered onto the Pages of a Fairy Tale

iceland ocean

Fairytales may not be real but the eight whimsical vacation destinations on this list are. Read on to discover where to go when you’re craving a novel-worthy escape from reality.

1. Goblin Valley State Park, Utah

Fairytale Film: The Labyrinth

Discovered in the 1920s, Goblin Valley earned its unusual name thanks to the thousands of mushroom-shaped rock formations scattered along the hillsides, some of which, under the right light, appear to have monster-like faces. Though these sandstone rocks, called “hoodoos”, may look otherwordly, they’re actually the result of entirely earthly causes: thousands of years of weather erosion.

If you visit Goblin Valley (located near Green River, Utah), go at sunrise or sunset when the rocks are cast in dark shadows and take on an especially eerie look.

Goblin Labyrithn film

Goblin from the 1986 film “Labyrinth”.

rocks in goblin valleyPhoto by Frank Kovalchek

boulders at Goblin Valley in Utah


interesting rock formations in Utahl

Frank Kovalchek

2. Kakslauttanen Igloo Village, Finland

Fairytale Film: The Chronicles of Narnia

Though this resort in Lapland, Finland, has 40 log cabins, the world’s largest smoke sauna, and a bar and chapel made entirely of snow and ice, what makes this hotel famous is its snow and glass igloos. Though the glass igloos have see-through ceilings (making them ideal for viewing the Northern Lights), they’re heated, so guests can enjoy the cold without actually being cold. Igloo Village is open from December until the end of January.


film still Narnia

Kakslauttanen Igloo Village

Photo by: Visit Finland

snowy scene from Kakslauttanen Igloo Village
Photo by Visit Finland

3. Elf School, Reykjavik, Iceland

Fairytale Film: Elf

With it’s volcanic hot springs, fields of lava rocks and thousands of waterfalls, the fantasy film-worthy landscapes of Iceland makes a fitting location for a school that educates its students on the habits and behaviors of magical creatures.

According to a study conducted by University of Iceland,  while only 8 percent of Icelanders claim to believe in elves with full certainty, 54 percent of Icelanders concede that it’s possible or likely that they may exist. 

Given the results of this study, perhaps it is then unsurprising that a place like The Icelandic Elf school exists. The school (which mostly attracts tourists) teaches its students about the 13 different types of elves that purportedly live in the rocky terrain of this volcanic island nation. In addition to earning a diploma in “elf studies”, students can also learn about other key characters in Icelandic folklore, such as fairies, gnomes and spirits.

screenshot from Elf film

Iceland Fairytale elves
Photo by: Trey Ratcliff

elves Iceland

Photo by Shadowgate

4. Treasure Island Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas

Fairytale Film: Treasure Island

The Treasure Island Hotel and Casino, built in 1993, is one of the most recognized Vegas hotels on the strip. Though not nearly as pirate-themed as it once was (in an effort to move away from it’s kid-friendly image, the hotel has been repainted and its signage changed to reflect a sleek and more modern image), Treasure Island still retains some of it’s campy appeal in its nightly show, “The Sirens of TI”.

Performed in the man-made lagoon in front of the hotel, the show features explosions, a battle between pirates and nearly nude “sirens” and a finale that includes a sinking pirate ship.

pirate ship

pirate scull Treasure Island Las Vegas

Photo by Paul Mannix

Treasure Island pirate ship

5. The Garden of Cosmic Speculation

Fairytale Film: Alice in Wonderland

Though the 30-acre “Garden of Cosmic Speculation” is located at the private residence of a landscape architect in Scotland,  the garden is open to the public on a select few days a year.
Alice in Wonderland pond

Unique sculptures at garden Dumfries in South West Scotland

Photo by Flexdream
unique pond and trees in garden in Scotland
Photo by Flexdream

6. Glowworm Caves, Lake McLaren, Tarunga, New Zealand

Fairytale Film: The Little Mermaid

Two hours from Auckland, in Waitomo, New Zeland, sit the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. Glowworms the size of mosquitoes, thousands of them, twinkle from the limestone above the freshwater Waitomo river. Visitors can see the glowworms by taking a riverboat tour to the Glowworm Grotto, where the cave ceiling resembles a starry night sky.

"kiss the girl" movie scene from The Little Mermaid

glow worm caves, Lake McLaren, Tarunga, New Zealand

Photo by Neverunprepared.

7. Neuschwanstein Castle

Fairtale Film: Sleeping Beauty

Built in the 1860s in Bavaria, Germany, the Neuschwanstein castle was once the private residence of a German king. If the castle looks familiar, it’s because Sleeping Beauty’s castle (which exists in Disneyland in California) was modeled after Neuschwanstein.

According to Wikipedia, Neuschwanstein attracts 1.3 million visitors per year, with up to 6,000 per day during the height of the tourist season.

sleeping beauty castleSleeping Beauty Castle at Disney Land. Photo by Andy Castro.

fairytale castle in Germany in winter

Photo by Luis Miguel Justino

8. Colmer, France

Fairtale Film: Beauty and the Beast

Take a stroll down the cobblestone streets of the French town Comar and you may feel as though you’ve stepped back in time to medieval Germany or perhaps, Venice. Located minutes from the German border, it’s not uncommon to see Colmar’s citizens speaking German or snacking on some schnitzel as they stroll down the town’s cobblestone streets. Colmar is also known as “Little Venice” due to the city’s canals and waterways. On Friday and Saturday nights, the city’s churches, fountains and squares are lit up with blue, green and red lights, which further add to the fairy tale-quality of the city, especially on snowy nights when icicles twinkle like dangling blue sapphires.

screenshot from the film "Beauty and the Beast"

Colmar France

Photo by: Nikkodem
Colmar, France river
Photo by Fonzie D
Main photo image by: Alexander Shchukin

Have you visited any of these whimsical places?