Wales 2012: Travel Bloopers

Yesterday, I went to Wales to see it’s castles. Tomorrow, I’ll tell you the story of seeing those castles, along with shorelines, mountains, and cozy towns.

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But today? Today, it’s about my travel bloopers which, it seems, is quite the trend with my visiting Wales. Remember the first time? When I missed the trip? Well, I didn’t do that again so it could have been worse, ;-). But as I was walking to the campus building where the coach would be, I noticed it was a beautiful morning, bright and colorful, and as I had a few minutes (or twenty) before the bus came, I figured it’d be a perfect chance to shoot some photos of *my* campus… Until I noticed my SD card was there and remember it was still in my computer! :O I had to set my camera to take photos at only two megapixels (excuse me while I make faces at their quality) so that it could hold about 30 internally. You know, 30 is still tough for a traveler. It taught me to consider shots though and really question what I wanted to preserve. Was it the front view of the castles that I could find on postcards or the internet anywhere? No, not at all. It’s the image you catch walking through a passageway or a bright building down the street that catches your eye. It’s the view out the window of the castle that takes your breath away and calls you to sit and appreciate it for a minute. That’s what I want to remember.

Paris 2012: 15 Sights in Less than 48 hours

Who knew how helpful my travel partner turned tour guide would be? Four previous trips to Paris and a functional grasp on the French language allowed for an eventful, tiring, and well worth it 48 hours.

Including…

  1. Champs Elysee
  2. Arc de Triomphe
  3. Tour Eiffel
  4. Basilique du Sacré-Coeur and Montmarte
  5. Cathédrale Notre Dame
  6. Shakespear and Company
  7. The Sorbonne
  8. Jardin des Tuileries
  9. Musée du Louvre
  10. La Défense
  11. Jardin du Luxembourg
  12. Mosquée de Paris
  13. Musée du Louvre at night
  14. Parc de la Villette
  15. Moulin Rouge

Phew, ;-).

More soon!

A Traveler’s Du’a

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Mosquée de Paris: Thanking Allah (SWT) for all that he’s given me. These trips? These experiences? I’m blessed, so blessed.

Next Up:

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We leave Wednesday!

Macedonia 2012: The Final Days

Friday:

The four of us, my uncle, aunt, and cousin, headed to the heart of Skopje for a nice dinner in the city center. It was the perfect way to celebrate my visiting, delicious cuisine and a beautiful setting. Speaking of delicious cuisine, the Italian restaurant we ate at definitely met expectations. My spinach filled tortellini covered in a tomato basil sauce and plenty of cheese was savory and fulfilling, the fresh orange juice made on site is worthy of suggestion, and the dessert? Well, does chocolate cake with a gooey steaming hot inside served with a side of creamy rich ice cream ever really fail? My cousin and I did sort of fail in our coffee order though. Meant to accompany our dessert, we learned that it was a frozen drink served in a minature shot glass, something like ice cream and a second dessert itself. Of course, we had no complaints with this, ;-). Skopje comes alive at night; when the sun goes down, the lights come on. The fountains glow in colors and the crowds fill the area. If you ever visit, I think I can suggest a nice dinner at one of the cafes, maybe even seated outdoors on a warm summer night, without running the risk of any disappointment.

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Yes, we did spend hours getting ready because we felt like a looking nice. When you look nice, you feel nice; it’s a fact of life, no?

Saturday:

Just another day in the city: shopping, coffee and conversation in the fresh, warm summer weather, and, you know, exploring a fort area. No big deal on that last part. The Skopje or Kale fortress is surrounding by a green area, perfect for smiling family picnics and romantic dates. However, I suggest not being one of *those* couples in public.

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Sunday:

A drive up the winding mountain rodes and a ten minute ride up the rest in the cable car and there we were at Millennium Cross situated at the peak of Vodno mountain. For a tourist attraction, it was ridiculous cheap at only 100 denari or just over 2 USD. At the top, you can take in the sights of Skopje from one side or the beautiful mountain ranges from the other. There is a cafe and the chance the ride an elevator up the cross where you can walk out onto one of the horizontal bits. We, however, sat on the benches, watching the children and dogs play, eating chocolate croissants and sunflower seeds, sipping on our fresh juice (all packed, by the way… you can definitely save while exploring!), and indulging in final leisurely conversation.

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There you are, the final three days… And here I am… Back in the United Kingdom… Back to reality: sociology papers, cleaning, shopping, and all the rest, ;-).

Macedonia 2012: A “Taste” of Nostalgia

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😉 Some things are so fantastic that the taste lingers in memory. These two drinks, among others, will be missed as will all of the food. I should write about that soon.

The Return to England: Backlogged Live Blogging

From Macedonia:

Here I am, at the end of a two week escape from my escape, at gate 102, waiting for the bus to shuttle us to the place where we will board the plane that will take us from Macedonia to Switzerland.

I crawled out of bed sometime around 7:15 and enjoyed probably the last of Albanian breakfasts that will meet my lips for sometime. Regardless of your preferences, I cannot fathom one not enjoying thick bread, feta cheese, and cucumbers, today’s quick choice. I said goodbye to my aunt and then walked with my cousin to where her father was waiting in the car. On the drive, we sang along to our favorite songs of the two weeks, top 100 sounds that I would have never heard without her influence, nevermind that it was only 8 in the morning. After we checked in at the airport, my uncle treated us to one last cup of warm tasty delight (have you noticed how positively I speak of warm beverages?) at the little cafe situated in the area before security checks. It was the perfect way to end my trip, one last relaxing chat over drinks, especially since my uncle and I daily enjoyed a cup of coffee this past week while my cousin and aunt were away at school, one learning and once teaching. He’d just had a surgery to remove something suspicious from his forehead (alhamdulillah, all is well and there seems to be no cancer) and had time off of his work at the embassy. His final advice? Finish university on time, marry a good Muslim man, be a good Muslim woman, and learn Arabic, the language of the Qur’an. Oh, and it was the first time that Tansu and I have managed to find hot chocolate so that’s always a plus. We did finally do the whole scene of the goodbye, kind of sad, but kind of hopeful.

Which leads me right back here to gate 102. The plane from Zurich has just landed in the time I’ve spent writing this and I’m still left fascinated that I get to breathe the fresh air and walk right up to the plane, climb a steep set of stairs, and settle in for a day of travels. Two planes, two trains, and a bus. This last bit is less fascinating, let’s be honest.

Macedonia has not only treated me well (yes, even despite Tansu’s constant ache to get away from the country), but it has also opened my eyes. It brought me back to my own history, my family, and my culture. I constantly matched my aunt’s actions to my grandmother’s and realized just how rooted in our Albanian heritage my entire unbringing has been. I lived in the shoes of my young mother, raised in the United States by her immigrant parents. In the shoes that spent summers reunited with family in Macedonia, not a care in the world, catered to by back-home hospitality and comfort. After these two weeks, I know that I must return. Macedonia wasn’t another country to add to a list or a destination marked for leisurely travels. No, it was much more, an introduction to a new place that I can be a part of. I pray that  I return next time with my mother or my grandmother, again with my future husband whoever he may be (insha’Allah, somebody well based in the deen), again with my children. I also have a desire now, more than ever before, to learn Albanian because, to be honest, I don’t want to abandon the past. I want to carry my ethnicity forward. In the end, I can’t speak for the future, none of us can, but insha’Allah it’s bright and insha’Allah it includes Macedonia.

From Switzerland:

Back to Switzerland, back to the West. You know, 3/4 is the worst sort of layover; not quite enough time to hit the city, but more than enough time to be considered a “comfortable” amount of time in the airport. I left the airport for a brief amount of time, heading to the shopping mall right across the way. I tried a mango sundae from McDonalds. I don’t eat fast food, but I’ll eat their desserts so I’m really not doing much to save myself from the fatiness of it all. But honestly, it’s just interesting to check out McDonalds in different places. Each country sells something different, something unique. I also bought a sunflower eat pretzel from a vendor which was mouth-watering. To be honest, Switzerland hasn’t brought quite as much reflection. At the airport in Macedonia, I was still in the country, still in sight of the beauty of the mountain landscapes, but now? Well, now, I’m in a country with no roots and I know Macedonia is behind me so all I want now is to be back in my Manchester flat. I have just over one month left of this experience: final essays and medical school application materials to get in line, a trip to Paris in line, more trips on my mind. It’s not much time, not when you know how fast time really does go. I need to go go go and do do do and smile and laugh and enjoy these last days. Here’s to that.

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Macedonia 2012: Shopping in Denari

*Which reminds me; I need to get some denari to take bake to the US, ;-). Preferably coins as I have a killer project in mind, :).

The other day, my cousin, a friend of hers, and I went into town to do what girls are known for: shopping. Of course, I’ve already wrote about how I’m not a huge fan, but it was still nice to go in and out of malls, check out the advanced European fashions, and lust over a few things.

My purchase of the day? You guessed it, another scarf. 480 denars/10 dollars. Not even a deal for a hijab, but this shop just had too many scarves screaming at me to not leave with one. The bright, over the top color patterns had me in love, but I know myself all too well and settled on a more subdued white-based print:

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Lovely, yeah? 😉

Tansu had been talking about this vegetarian restaurant in town and what better time to finally try in than in the midst of a hard day at the mall? The rice noodles, fresh greens, and baby corn with a sweet chili sauce blended together into a sticky mess that almost melted in my mouth with it’s perfect combination of flavors. We also indulged in something that’s been quite the addition to my visit: two scoops. A refreshing cone of ice cream and a warm cup of delight tend to be a reoccurring theme with my travels if I’m honest. There’s something comforting in each; they can remind you of home while simultaneously introducing you to a way of the culture at hand. Oh, and in case you were wondering (I know you were), I had strawberry and hazlenut in Bitola, fresh berries and chocolate in Ohrid, and cream with a berry swirl and nutella in Skopje, always something fruity with something rich.

What’s the one thing you *must* try everywhere you go? 🙂

*Must. Always. Carry. Camera.

On the Road: Ohrid to Skopje

Once again, I caught myself staring out the windows at the never-ending mountains, clouds looming lower than their tips at points. This time, though, I noticed something else. I noticed the mosques, tucked into the villages sprawled in valleys between mountains or the villages crawling up the mountain sides. Their minarets distinctive, high enough above the town to be noticed, I’d catch them as soon as they appeared. Each town seemed to have at least two mosques (I wonder if it has anything to do with Sunni/Shi’a/Sufi factions), but some had three, four, maybe five. I thought to pull out my camera toward the end, maybe a bit too late to catch everything, but not too late to have something to share. All but one photo has a minaret in it. Subhan’Allah, :).

ImageImageImageImageImageI love the blur of this one, :).Image

Macedonia 2012: Ohrid in Photos

Hands down the most beautiful spot we’ve visited in Macedonia and one of the most lovely places I’ve been in general. My cousins and I explored the shopping district, walked along the beaches, and hiked the bordering mountain. Oh, and we ate ice cream, something I’ve done quite a lot of here. Subhan’Allah, I can only imagine the beauty of the lake in the summer and the atmosphere of those restaurants on the water.

Excuse the photo spam. I seriously just chose my favorites, but this place was unbelievable.ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage