Friday, July 12, 2013

England: High Tea & the Tate

While writing about my trip to London, I kept thinking "this was my favorite part! that was my favorite!" Okay well now I really figured it out. Is there anything better in life than food and the arts? Not really.

High Tea at the Milestone Hotel was such an experience. I wanted to stay there and eat those scones with clotted cream and jam all day. I have a gluten allergy and they brought me gluten free scones, sandwiches, sweets, everything you could think of. I thought because of the allergy I would be just drinking tea, but boy was I wrong. They went above and beyond.  

Despite being pretty ill the day we went to the Tate, I still found it incredibly inspiring. My namesake room particularly piqued my interest, filled with representations of Eve before and after the fall. Really beautiful artwork. I also loved the work by John William Waterhouse - particularly The Lady of Shalot and Saint Eulalia. As a flute player, his portrayal of mythical feminine beauty really drew me in.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

England: Windsor Castle, Bath & Stonehenge

We briefly visited Windsor Castle, where we got to see the changing of the guards complete with our family being split up and yelled at by the security. What fun!  

My favorite part of Windsor Castle was the gardens with all of the summer roses. They were all gorgeous and it was very reminiscent of Alice and Wonderland. 

The same day that we visited Windsor Castle we went to Bath. We saw the roman baths, and sat along the water which was very relaxing. My favorite part was this little street with the flags strewn across. We sat upstairs in a bakery on this street and had a snack before hurrying on to our next destination. 

Our last stop of the day was Stonehenge. I'm so glad that we got to see this. Apparently, next year Stonehenge is going to be even more difficult to see. There will be a scenic train running around it, and you will not be able to walk around it like we did. A few decades ago you could even go right up to the rocks, but of course that has changed. There was a really cute field of sheep next to Stonehenge that reminded me of Wallace and Gromit. I kept thinking "Do these sheep have any idea how close they are to one of the seven wonders of the world?!" Nope.   

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

England: Tower of London

During our first day in London we went to the Tower of London, and got to see a part of the city that is incredibly rich with history. We opted out of seeing the Crown Jewels because of the line and lack of interest, but still saw many other interesting and disturbing parts of the Tower of London. My favorite was the memorial to all of the people that had been beheaded in the square, including Anne Boleyn. 

The part of the Tower of London that I actually found the most disturbing was an open poll in one of the torture chambers where visitors got to vote on whether or not they thought that torture was acceptable, and that it was split 50/50 for yes and no. It was something like a million votes for each. The thought that one out of every two people surrounding me thought that the awful things we were looking at were totally fine made me want run out of there screaming. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Finnish Lapland: Posio & Rovaniemi

I found Lapland impossible to capture in a photograph. I took this first photo at midnight on lake Kitkajärvi in Posio, Finnish Lapland during the first weekend in July.

If you've ever woken up at dawn and taken a walk in the countryside before the people and animals have woken up then you might have had a glimpse into what midsummer nights are like in Lapland. The peacefulness as well as that feeling that you and the Earth are having a private intimate moment... that is what it feels like. That the sun decided to stay up just for you tonight. 

We stayed in a lovely cabin on the lake (mökki) in Posio complete with a sauna, of course, and we decided to drive to Rovaniemi for the day to visit Santa Claus (joulupukki) in his natural habitat. Santa Claus's village is located right on the arctic circle line so it was fun to see that as well. I took a picture with Santa and had a lovely chat with him where he told me to marry a good Finnish man and stay in Finland forever. 

Then we went to the post office where all of the letters all over the world addressed to Santa are sent. It was a very sweet experience! There are framed letters from children everywhere and stations for you to write your own letters to friends and family and have them addressed officially from Santa's Post Office at the North Pole. You can also fill out a form to have Santa send someone a letter around Christmastime, which of course we did for the little ones in our family. 

The farther north we got in Finland the more often we had to stop for a herd of reindeer to leisurely cross the road. They are very different from the skittish deer back home! It reminded me of the buffalo traffic jams in Yellowstone National Park. On the way home we came upon this albino reindeer. He was all alone snacking along the side of the road. 

I really loved Lapland, and I plan to go back sometime this winter to visit the northern lights and experience this magical region in a different season. 

Friday, July 5, 2013

My First "Sunset" in Lahti

I heard all about the white nights before I arrived in Finland, and it definitely lived up to the hype. My favorite part, ironically, is the sunsets. These photos were taken around 11:30pm during the first week of July, shortly after Midsummer (Juhannus). 

The beautiful colors last for hours since it takes so long for the sun to set and then it remains dusk before the sun rises again. Lahti has a lovely harbor on Lake Vesijärvi where the colors reflect across the lake. 

While I loved the hot summer nights back home in Virginia complete with lightning bugs, sparklers, stars, and the moon - I could not help but be jealous of all of the children in Finland that get to grow up with THIS.