Viva la France! Road-trip Foolishness Pt. 6: Chamonix

The crowning jewel of our trip to France was Chamonix.

Chamonix, located near where the borders of France, Switzerland, and Italy meet, is a resort-town. We drove in mid-afternoon and spent the evening wandering around finding dinner before heading to bed for an early night.

In the morning I woke up, made some coffee, and bundled up to go sit on the balcony and enjoy the view of Mont-Blanc, the highest summit in France. Once everyone was up, a few of us walked over to the cable-car that would take us up the mountain. The cable car was cheaper than was listed on the website, and ended up costing us only 15 euros round trip.

If you’re making the hike up to Lac Blanc, I highly suggest taking the cable car to cut time off of your trip up the mountain. The hike up (sans cable car,) is barren, boring, difficult, and quite frankly, a waste of time. You would have to wake up hella hella early to even make it to the Lac Blanc refuge at the end of the hike, and even then you may get there after dark. So, be smart, and take the cable car.

Our early-morning hike was pretty interesting, as it was extremely cloudy. I didn’t mind, and neither did my companions, as the higher we went, the thinner the clouds became and leT ME TELL YOU, there are fewer things as sublime as hiking the side of a mountain and looking over your shoulder to see a break in the clouds and THERE THEY ARE, THE MIGHTY AND MAJESTIC ALPS. It was like peek-a-boo, only epic instead of weird.

The hike up to Lac Blanc Refuge wasn’t too difficult, the hardest part being the incline at the beginning. Now, I’m not the most active person, as I’m just mostly on my feet all day and I run some mornings (I’m not a marathon runner–hell, I’m not even a mile runner,) so when I say it is do-able, I really mean it. There is a part of the hike where you have to rock scramble up, but as long as you have the proper shoes the worst that will happen is you get a nice leg workout.

When we reached the refuge, the cloud cover pretty much cleared up, and we were able to take in panoramic views with our own eyes and cameras.

We hung out at the refuge for a while, ate some granola bars and apples, and took lots and lots of selfies. Eventually we knew we had to hike back down to the cable car, as it stops running at a certain time and we did not want to be stranded in the French Alps. The hike down took a while, as we had to be careful coming back down the rocks, and that incline from the start of our hike became the craziest decline– I definitely slipped on my ass a few times, and I wasn’t alone.

We ended up having to wait in line for about 45 minutes to catch the cable car down, mais c’est la vie. My group and I kept taking turns to hold our place in line to take pictures, and when you’re in the company of friends, 45 minutes waiting for a cable car in one of the most beautiful places in the world isn’t bad at all.

When we got back down to the bottom of the mountain, we walked back to town to meet up with the rest of our group. As we debated our dinner choices, we stopped and saw an aerial performance mother-daughter duo, who were using bungees to do stunts in the spaces between buildings. It was a little thing that made an already special day that much more excellent.

We all stayed up talking before we went to bed that evening, and the next morning we woke up to explore the town some more and do some last minute souvenir shopping. We came across an older gentleman who was selling dog key chains, except they were made out of pipe-cleaners and the man made them himself. I practiced my French a little because I wanted to get his photograph, and I opened the conversation with “Hello, how are you today?” and he just responded with “No, don’t ask me that!” I laughed and he let me take his picture when I asked. Not the best quality image, but still one of my favorites from the trip.

After our shopping trip we had to leave this gorgeous place and make the drive to Lyon. We were genuinely sad to leave and most of us shared that we would definitely make an effort to return and spend more time in the area.  So, if you’re ever in the east of France, check out Chamonix. There are hikes for everyone, skiing, and a charming town with an old guy making awesome key chains.

Safe Travels, and Happy Shooting!

Viva la France! Road-trip Foolishness Pt. 5: Marseilles

If you ever find yourself planning a trip to France, do yourself a favor and go to Marseilles.

My road-trip crew and I rolled into Marseilles mid-afternoon in the month of August. It was warm. It was hilly. It was one of the most beautiful cities I had ever visited.

We stayed at an AirBnB that was near the top of the tallest hill in Marseilles, directly below the Notre Dame de la Garde. Our hosts were very accommodating and great at communicating, and the apartment we stayed in had a view of the port. Waking up every morning to an incredible view-over-coffee definitely set the tone for our stay.

After we checked-in, we walked down the hill to the port to find some dinner. My friend Sean and I were having a blast taking pictures of the sunset over the area, and we vowed to wake up bright and early to get more photographs.

We’re the kind of people who, when on a short vacation, will get up and do as much as possible, so sure enough we woke up at 5AM, drank some coffee and wandered around Marseilles. Sean and I found a playground covered in street art, experienced the fish-market at the port, and explored some back streets. The fish-market was super cool, even if some men paid me some unwelcome compliments in French (eye-roll).

We explored, drank coffee on the docks, and took pictures for a good 5 hours before returning to our companions sleeping-in at our AirBnB, croissants in tow. It was around noon when we left the apartment one more, and headed straight up the stairs near our place to visit the Notre Dame de la Garde. The neat-o thing about this church is how it has a maritime theme, with ships dangling from the ceiling and paintings of vessels on the walls. Marseilles is a port city, so it only makes sense, and it made for some really neat photographs.

 

After the church, we explored the hill top and got lost. We ate apples at a park and wandered some neighborhoods, and finally made our way back down to the port, where a market was happening.

We all bought some souvenirs and continued on our way around the port, before walking in the general direction of the Cathedrale la Major. We totally got lost (again) but we were glad we did, because we found some excellent street art and even stumbled upon some artists putting up some art.

When we got to the cathedral I was exhausted, so I admittedly didn’t take like any pictures and I sat on a bench and took a nap. I’m super lame, but hey, when it is nap time, it is nap time.

We ended our evening at the beach, which was closed and dark, but we still managed to catch the sunset. We walked all the way back up the hill to our apartment, where once again we got lost, but at least this time we stopped and got some ice cream to keep us cool. We might have also picked up some beer to drink as we enjoyed the view from our apartment one last night.

So, if you find yourself in France, spend some time in Marseilles and get lost. You won’t regret it.

Safe Travels and Happy Shooting!

 

 

Viva la France! Road-trip Foolishness Pt. 4: Tours, Cher River, & Auvergne

If you are ever crazy enough to take a road-trip through France, a good place to stop is Tours. It’s known for the Loire River Valley, which a lot of people stop through to see all kinds of fantastic castles. For us, Tours was a stop between traveling from Mont Saint Michel to Marseilles.

We got in to Tours from MSM at about 7PM, where we found our AirBnB and crashed for the night. The next day we decided to go exploring, walking around and getting lost. We stopped in some small mall to look for a swimsuit and some tennis shoes, and we found the Cathedrale Saint-Gatien, which was one of the most beautiful churches I have been in.

My group and I wanted to see some sort of castle, but we weren’t too keen on doing a castle tour. I looked into our options and I found the perfect thing– kayaking around Chateau de Chenonceau. We booked in advance with Canoe Company. Now, they don’t really have online booking, but if you are traveling internationally and email in advance, they will reserve a spot for you and you can pay on arrival.

We really had a magical kayaking trip down the Cher River. We arrived at around 4PM and the four of us were split into two canoes. The trip towards the chateau was really funny, as we were shit-talking each other and kinda racing. I say kinda because we were actually a hot-mess, trying to coordinate our paddling to move forward. One of the highlights was when we got up to the chateau and were able to kayak underneath it and back. IT WAS SO BALLER.

On our way back, we noticed a field of sunflowers on the shore. We dragged our canoes up the bank and spent a good amount of time frolicking, taking lots of pictures and avoiding bumble bees. The sun was beginning to set so the light was perfect. To top it all off, hot-air balloons were inflating in the distance. It was one of those afternoons where things just got better and better, where everything felt like a dream and my non-stop smile made my face ache in a pleasant way.

Once we docked, we headed back to our AirBnB where pasta was made, laundry was finished, and sleeping commenced. We woke up very early the next morning for our 9-hour drive to the south coast of France and to the gorgeous city of Marseilles– but before we get there, I have to tell you all about a little place off of the beaten path in Auvergne.

Our half-way marker was at the Jonas Caves in Saint-Pierre-Colamine. The caves, also known as Grottes de Jonas, were an ancient troglodyte village back in the 14th century. It was a bit of a drive up the mountains to get to it, but it was so neat to get out of the car, stretch our legs, and explore caves that people used to sleep, eat, bake their bread, and die of the plague in. There were stairs and doorways and windows and lots of picture opportunities. Additionally, there were faux animals along the mountainside, so if you’re into kitsch, 10/10 highly recommend.

If you decide to visit, know that there is a chance no one will speak English. When my group and I went, the lady at the tour office spoke only French, and the signs on the pathway were also in French. It was fine for my group, since 3/4 of us spoke the language. However, it’s very easy to mime wanting a ticket (which was like 3 euros.) Even though you may not be able to understand the signs, it is still a really cool experience and if you’re like me and crazy about photo ops, there are plenty to be had.

So that is the half-way point of our road trip across France. Keep an eye out for our adventures in Marseilles, Chamonix, and finally Lyon.

Safe Travels and Happy Shooting!

 

Viva la France! Road-trip Foolishness Pt. 2: D-Day Beaches

Lawd, we actually did a road-trip through France.

When my friends and I rolled up into the rental car place and they asked where we were going and we told them, “Well, we’re going to go Normandie, then Tours, then down to Marseilles, then up to Chamonix, then over to Lyon,” I think the poor gentleman who was doing our paperwork was going to have a heart attack. As Americans, we frequently forget that driving for HOURS to get anywhere is not the norm in other parts of the world, especially Europe.

However, my homies and I have done this kind of travel before. So it wasn’t that big of a deal, however we did not insure the car and we were paranoid wrecks most of the time we were driving so, word of advice? Go for the insurance.

Anyway, once our three beautiful days in Paris were over, we got our rental and left the city. After driving for 3-ish hours and stopping for dinner at a place called Marina’s in the French countryside and speaking broken French to our waitress who spoke broken English and much pantomime and communal laughter, we arrived at our hotel where we passed out only to wake up at the crack of dawn to go to the D-Day Beaches.

For my friends who are paranoid like I was about entrance fees and parking: do not worry, there is so cost to drive to the beaches, park, and check it all out. We pulled right up to Omaha beach, parked in a lot, and walked around. The only thing we had to pay for was admission to the Operation Overlord Museum (which was pretty informative and I totally recommend.) There was no admission fee to the American Cemetery.

When we arrived in the morning, there were already people at the beach, sunbathing, swimming, building sand castles, and doing normal beach-things. At first I was deeply unsettled by this, because I was taught in school how many Americans died on that very beach, and it didn’t seem right that people were playing in the same spot where there was so much blood, the ocean turned red.

But, the ground didn’t feel haunted. I’ve been to places where grave atrocities had been committed– Dachau Concentration Camp, World Trade Center Ground Zero, to name a couple– and at those places, everything felt wrong. The energy was off, like the land and air had the horrible memories permanently imprinted into them. But at Omaha beach, those feelings were absent.

And I firmly believe it was because of the children playing and the families relaxing. The people that died on that beach not so many years ago died so that their loved ones and their legacies could have fun on a beach on a sunny August day. Instead of leaving the beach as an empty memorial, it has become a place of enjoyment. The ground holds memories of violence and bloodshed, for sure, but it also has the memory of fun afternoons and laughter.

We walked the entire length of Omaha and ate lunch at a restaurant that had all kinds of D-Day Paraphemalia, such as an Operation Overlord coloring sheet (lol seriously) and I wonderful picture of Eisenhower. In true deo-fashion, I took pictures. Also, brie on pizza is a terrible idea, I do not recommend it.

After our adventure down the beach, we walked all the way back, bought some fruit, and checked out the Overlord Museum and the American Cemetery. The museum was, admittedly, really cool. There were dioramas, maps, figures, historical artifacts, actual tanks, and lots and lots of information. My brain was mush by the end, but I learned so much and had a fun time of it. Well, as much fun as a person can have while learning about a harrowing topic like WWII.

Speaking of harrowing, after the Overlord museum, we visited the cemetery and spent a good chunk of time there, walking among the graves and thinking about the sacrifices made by the brave men and women buried beneath our feet. It was a beautiful day, not too warm, and the cemetery was honestly beautiful. The most emotional part of the day was when someone played Taps. My friend Sean and I just stood there for a long while, listening.

Visiting the Beaches of Normandy was something I had always wanted to do. I grew up as a history buff and read so much about the D-Day Invasion in school that I knew I needed to visit its hallowed grounds one day. Honestly, I never thought I’d get the chance to, that it would be one of those goals that would elude me. It seems like a silly thing to consider as I sit here writing about how I was just there, but the feeling must come from knowing about places of great historical significance and feeling as though they are inaccessible, almost fictional. I’m pleased my friends were willing to visit with me and contemplate the ground we walked on.

Safe travels, and Happy Shooting!

Viva la France! Road-trip Foolishness Pt. 1: Paris

This past month was my third time in France, in the beautiful city of Paris. The first time I went was with family, and I had just taken my first color photography course and was a huge newbie. The second time I went was on a weekend from my study abroad program, and I forgot my camera battery and I ran out of camera film. This time, I was prepared!

My friends and I all met up in Paris for the start of what would be a long road-trip through France. We spent three full days in Paris, checking out the usual sites like the Louvre, the Musee d’Orsay, the Eiffel Tower, and the Champs Elysees. We walked around Montemarte, got lost a few times, ate breakfast from a cafe and were just a couple of tourists.

And I took excellent photos, at last.

 

For this trip to France I brought 4 cameras (which may seem excessive to some, but hear me out, and mind you, when I studied in England back in 2014, I brought like 9 cameras so this was light!) I brought my Canon Powershot (more on that later,) my Fuji Natura Classica (whose beautiful film has been discontinued UGH,) my iPhone, and a Fuji Instax.

The Powershot was okay. It was compact and light, and I brought it with me on my adventure to Asia in 2017, but as a professional photographer I was dying inside. Home girl really needs to invest in a full frame DSLR. Between the Powershot and my iPhone, I took a TON of photos of mediocre quality but awesome content.

 

One of the many magical things about Paris is, no matter how many times I have been, it is always exciting and new. This time when I went to the Louvre, I was able to see it in a new way– the last two times I had visited, I was focused on the arts and antiquities (I mean, as I should,) but this time I was able to focus on the architecture and the sheer madness that is the Mona Lisa gallery. (When my friends were hesitant on whether or not to dive into the fray, I was like YOLO FUCK IT LETS ROLL and man I regretted it but then again I got that fun shot of being totally crushed in the crowd so whatever haha am I right?)

There is something magical about wandering around Paris with good friends. I know Paris isn’t for everyone; some feel it is too dirty, too touristy, too busy. But that’s what I love about it. I got to see street artists making knock-off Disney princesses in the street, and I went into the Centre du Pompidou without knowing it was a library, of all things. I was a total creeper and photographed people unapologetically for probably the first time in my life (and my one friend, Sean, kept saying “oh my God ur such a crEEP”)

Most importantly, when visiting my absolute favorite place in the entire world, Notre Dame de Paris, the bell tower was open! It had not been open the last two times I visited, and I 100% cried.

 

So, I love Paris, with all of it’s tourism and charm. We did a lot of walking because honestly, that’s how you see the quirkiness of the city. We got lost looking for the Metra, found a playground in excellent golden hour light, and by our hostel there were the remnants of a carnival that looked straight-up terrifying and therefore photogenic af. If it weren’t for dragging my less-than-willing friends around the city, I wonder if I would have enjoyed Paris the third time around.

Nah, who am I kidding? I would have loved it regardless. It is the City of Love, after all.

 

I’ve noticed that the more I travel, the more my style as a travel photographer is realized. I’ve noticed I’m keen on patterns of light and shadow and people looking involved in whatever it is they are doing (was that a long way of saying I enjoy candids of strangers? Yes.) I sometimes worry if my work is becoming formulaic, but maybe that’s a silly thing to worry about when traveling around the world making photos. Honestly, just take the damn picture if you want to.

Happy Shooting and Safe Travels!

 

Vincent van Gogh’s Ear Goes on Vacation

My hobby of making fun narratives while globe trotting has continued! For my two-week road trip through France, I decided to make a reference to the famous and widely-adored painter, Vincent van Gogh.

Van Gogh, though Dutch by birth, spent a lot of time in France. A strange yet well-known fact about him was that during one of his depressive episodes, he cut off his own ear.

And, because I think I’m hilarious, I decided to take his detached ear, name it Vinny, and took it around France for a much-needed vacation.

Naturally, the ear needed a straw hat, like the real Vincent, and a painting palette and brush because inspiration can hit anywhere.

I am a very goofy person. The biggest challenge was finding the small paint palette and straw hat, and I refused to do without. I eventually found both at the craft store, and the glasses were something I just came across and decided “YES PERFECT” without much thought.

I required the straw hat for a reason, and that reason was this self-portrait of my muse:

Image result for vincent vangogh hat

Traveling with a cardboard-ear-on-a-stick certainly got me some strange looks, but honestly this travel narrative is one of my favorites so far. You can find some of my others below:

The Girl From Bath (Bath, England)

Colors of London

Before the Cliff’s Edge (Cliffs of Dover)

Fell into a Faerie Portal (Ireland)

Memento Mori (Western USA)

Thanks for reading, and safe travels and happy shooting!

Florida After 10 Years

My best friend and I have been planning to go to Walt Disney World together for the entire duration of our over-a-decade-long friendship. There have been a couple instances where it almost happened but then didn’t, leaving us both broken hearted and disappointed.

BUT AFTER TEN YEARS, WE DID IT YA’LL

One of the perks of being an adult and out of college– you can go to Disney when you want (well, after over a year of planning and saving, but you get the picture.)

Allie, my bff, is an expert on all things Disney. She will smoke your ass in trivia, knows probably every song from every movie (even obscure ones,) and has been to WDW in Florida more times than years she has been alive. It’s wild, she’s wild, and our trip was amazing for it.

We drove down from Michigan for two days, finally stopping in Celebration, FL. Celebration is a town that was designed by Disney and it is very charming with its colorful buildings and hybrid 1950s-meets-Cuba architecture.

After Celebration, we went to our rented condo and relaxed for the night, going out to Old Town to check out the shops. There was an anime shop and the guy working there was so friendly and enthusiastic, I asked him to pose for a photograph. He moved his hands at the last second, but like I said… he was enthusiastic!

Our trip was jam-packed, wild, and AMAZING. We started our marathon with a full-day at Magic Kingdom, where we of course Disneybounded. My partner, Mitchell, was the Prince Charming to my Cinderella, and Allie was Merida. We made the cutest princesses ever, and it was super fun to hear parent’s say to their kids “Look honey, those girls are dressed as Cinderella and Merida!”

In the evening we ran home, changed, and went to Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, also in Magic Kingdom. Mine and Allie’s favorite holiday is Halloween, so we got all dressed up as extra af. Allie went as a mermaid (she made her entire costume herself and it was INSANE) and her boyfriend, Dom, went as a pirate. I was a rainbow and Mitchell was the sun. Some Disney Cast Members stopped Mitchell and I and gave us pins that said “Most Dynamic Duo!” because they loved our couple costume so much. Yeah, we were all super damn cute.

I ADORED the Halloween party. As an adult who doesn’t like to go to adult-parties (where there is alcohol and awkward socializing,) it’s hard for me to celebrate Halloween. It’s legit my favorite holiday, but it’s not like I can go trick-or-treating, and I live in an apartment in the city so decorating my house and passing out candy is a no-go. The Halloween party at Disney was awesome because we got to actually go trick-or-treating, there was a dance party, and the park was only half-full because you have to have a special ticket to get in after 6PM. There was also a special Halloween parade and a Halloween stage show, which featured the Sanderson Sisters from Hocus Pocus and all our fav Disney Villains. I wish I could spend every Halloween there!

Our second day in Florida was spent at Universal Studios. We went on some of the rides, got super sick because apparently we are all old and can’t handle anything anymore, and spent the majority of the day at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. This was my second time there, but the first time I went the park had just opened, so it was really like I was experiencing it again for the first time. The best part? Allie and I went to Ollivander’s Wand Shop, and there is a little show that they put on where Ollivander picks someone from the crowd and has a wand “choose” them. Allie and I were picked because we were dressed head-to-toe in Slytherin garb, so basically it was the coolest thing ever and Allie and I got interactive wands out of it. Best. Day. Ever.

The Disney-marathon continued with the Food & Wine Festival at EPCOT, which was AMAZING. It’s hard to say it was my favorite part because I adored Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, but man, it was incredible. I love food, EPCOT is my favorite park, and I got to Disneybound as my favorite character ever, Quasimodo. The whole gang had Hunchback themed bounds that day– Allie was Esmeralda, Dom was Phoebus, and Mitchell was Clopin.

After getting rolled out of EPCOT (we were sporting food babies after all the delicious food we consumed,) we took a break from the parks and spent a day walking around Disney Springs, formerly called Downtown Disney. We all Disneybounded as droids from the Star Wars franchise for this expedition. I was BB-8, Mitchell was C3PO, Dom was R2D2, and Allie was K-2SO. It was a pretty relaxing day, after spending three full days in the parks.

We picked back up with an adventure in Animal Kingdom, where we saw the new Avatar-themed world, Pandora. The new rides, Rivers of Light and Flight of Passage were AMAZING, especially Flights. Like, goodness, I could stay on that ride forever. For that day, Mitchell and I bounded as Pongo and Perdita from 101 Dalmatians, and Allie was Dr. Facilier from Princess and the Frog and Dom was Hades from Hercules.

Our last day at WDW was spent at Hollywood Studios (or as Allie and I will always call it, MGM,) where we got sick once more on simulators, I lost an umbrella (and FOUND IT BECAUSE DISNEY CAST MEMBERS ARE AMAZING,) and we saw the incredible show, Fantasmic. Mitchell and I also met Kylo Ren, which was an experience. You can tell that we were terrified to be in his awesome Vader-fanboy presence. (Side note: I constantly refer to Kylo Ren as my space-trash-husband, so this was a big deal.) For MGM, Allie bounded as Loki, Dom as Thor, and Mitchell and I went as Dipper and Mabel from Gravity Falls (my favorite show EVER.)

Disney was seriously a blast. Shout out to Allie for making sure we had a lot of photos together in our Disneybounds, and for putting the adorable borders on the photos!

Speaking of adorable borders… I brought my Fuji Instax Mini with me, and loaded it with Disney Tsum Tsum themed film. I adore these pictures so much, as they add just a little more magic to our already magical trip! You can find this same film (and other films with Disney-themed borders!) on Amazon or eBay. If you order from eBay, it’ll take a while to get to you, so keep that in mind when you order!

So, enough with the typical vacation photos. If you made it this far and you’re wondering where the photography is, you’ll be pleased to know it’s just a few more lines of text away!

The photographs I made in the Disney Parks and in Universal Studios were more formal studies and examinations of light, rather than normal tourist pictures. I can’t help that Disney and Universal make things so picturesque– it’s almost as if they want people to take pictures. Who knew?

It was a little bit of a challenge, though. I wanted to make really cool pictures of a few of the most popular places in the United States– hell, the world, even. I think I managed to get a couple shots in that aren’t so standard, but I’m content with the photographs that are a little more par-for-the-course, because hey, the light was really pretty and I dig it.

We ended our amazing trip with a visit to Daytona Beach, where I lounged like a beach bum, Mitchell built a sand castle, Allie sat in the sand and Dom let himself get knocked about by waves. I love the ocean, I think it is beautiful, but I am not keen on large, open bodies of water where all sorts of critters live and I freak out when seaweed so much as brushes my leg so I sat on the beach and enjoyed the sounds and sights.

Annnnddddd that’s my trip to Florida, told through my rambles, vacation photos, and photography. Again, shout out to my BFF for the best photos of our cute ass crew. I’ve been really spoiled these past few months with all the travel– and next month I’m off to Vermont, so keep an eye out for a post on that!

Safe Travels and Happy Shooting!