?> this is annie | Tag Archive | travel
Tag Archives: travel

Say ja to Island

30 May

Say ja to Island

DATELINE: REYKJAVIK

I don’t know what the hell time it is, and do you know why? Well, first off, I don’t wear a watch. Secondly, and more interestingly, it’s because the sun isn’t going to set tonight, at least not here. I have returned to the island in search of puffins. Iceland has literally millions of them, according to the guidebook that maybe I should have brought on this trip.

Lately I’ve been sorta down, listless, overwhelmed by a sense that something isn’t quite right. Not that it’s wrong. It’s just — in high school I played soccer, and sometimes I’d be so engaged in what I was doing that everything felt like it was effortlessly synchronized. I don’t feel that lately, but I want to.

Anyway, I have realized that I like two things very much, and these things make me feel that way. The first is travel. The second is this: cute animals. I’m pretty much a five-year-old when it comes to furry creatures (and the occasional iguana), and Iceland has puffins. So, as part of a crazy traveling month, I decided to go to Iceland to find and adore puffins.

I feel most alive when I am traveling or around animals, which means that my dream job would involve going around the world with a tv crew, introducing viewers to adorable animals. It is only a matter of time until a producer comes a-knocking, I’m sure. Anyway, bless for now.

Excuses galore

16 Jun

Excuses galore

After dinner in Florence, I decided it would be safest to walk home along the river. (Safe route-imagining is one of those things that male travelers might not think about as much as female travelers do, I imagine.) The night was almost warm, and it was around 11pm. I’d had just enough vino bianco (one glass) to feel like Florensh was jush greaaaaat, but not enough to stop me from eyeing every street before turning on to it.

Halfway between Ponte Amerigo Vespucci and Ponte I Never Remembered Its Name, I saw a man about 20 feet in front of me. Here is where I always feel a little bit bad when dealing with strange men on the street. My first thought is defense: What might he want, and if I need to run/kick/hit, where will I go and how will I get scrappy? It always seems unfair, because streets are filled with many non-creepy men. But I have to look at them as possible creeps. Initially, at least. But let us return to our friend. (more…)

Bonjour Paris (in the style of Funny Face)

3 Jun

Bonjour Paris (in the style of <I>Funny Face</i>)

Been a while. I went on vacation. More precisely, I went on a work trip and went on vacation afterward. If you’re going to take a 10-hour flight to Europe, you might as well maximize your time there.

Work took me to Paris, which is the sort of fantastic phrase I never thought I’d get to say. It remains my favorite city, and that’s probably why I’ve visited relatively few other parts of Europe. Faced with a choice between, say, Amsterdam and Paris, I choose Paris every time. Even its relatively young Haussmanian buildings look “old” to these eyes, and the parts of the city that are old are inspiring. But Paris always feels vibrant and fresh, contemporary without trying to prove itself. Paris never needs to prove itself. It’s like a beautiful woman who doesn’t wear makeup, because what’s the point? Everyone already knows she’s gorgeous. (It should be noted that French women wear relatively little makeup.)

And then I went to Italy. I have always wanted to go there, mostly to stuff my face with tomato-drenched carbohydrates. But I chose it for personal, symbolic reasons as well. Lots of stories to begin tomorrow.

Four Belizean transport things that you can’t do in the U.S.

1 Feb

Four Belizean transport things that you can’t do in the U.S.

1. Ride in the bed of pickup trucks without getting ticketed. You see this all the time. People pile in the back and usually look like they’re enjoying the wind whipping their hair. Betty would kill me if she knew this… but I’ve done it, too. Yesterday I rode a mile uphill in the back of these German/Costa Rican guys’ Chevrolet, and when I trudged away from the jungle in a downpour, they let me hop in back again.* DON’T TELL BETTY.

2. Take a colectivo taxi. No matter what make or model a car is, if the license plate is green, it is a taxi. You flag the car down on the highway and squeeze in with any other passengers. You can go maybe six miles for $4 BZ unless you’re a tourist, in which case you get charged a little extra. But, really, if you haggle over 50 cents US, you are an a-hole.

3. Hop on a refurbished school bus and head from one end of the country to the other for $10 BZ. (That’s five bucks US.) Unfortunately, the bus stops every ten feet to let people on or off. I am exaggerating, but only a little. On the way from Belmopan to San Ignacio, one lady refused to deboard the bus with a group of people. She insisted that the driver take her approximately 20 feet down the road, which he did. This level of service means that it takes forever to get where you’re going.

4. Use a golf cart as your primary mode of transportation. On carless Caye Caulker, this is the fastest way to move. I guess people must do this in Florida and other warm places with old people, but it’s not the main way to get around.

* I couldn’t help but remember the story I overheard a local tell the other day. Background: Spanish Lookout is a Mennonite colony not too far from San Ignacio. It’s mostly known for farming, construction and what-have-you. Nothing too crazy, or so you’d think. Anyway, this guy** starts talking about how some Mennonites are helping traffic drugs up to Mexico; there was a big bust in which the fuzz found cocaine in coconuts. Last year some deal must have gone wrong and a Mennonite was found shot in the back of the head. Anyway, the drug trade is lucrative (duh) and so you’ve got a few people living l-a-r-g-e in buggy country.

While climbing Xunantunich, I’d run into the ride-giving guys. They were nice enough but something about the way they were quiet gave me an odd feeling. They were talking in a language that sounded vaguely German, but it wasn’t German. Dutch? No. I asked and they told me it was a dialect of German called Plautdietsch. Oh, and they’re from Spanish Lookout.

So while going downhill in the back of a new, slick, decked-out, expensive pickup, I thought, “This is one of the nicest trucks I’ve seen in the whole country. I bet it cost a lot.” Then I did the math. Let’s say that the truck cost (conservatively) $20,000 US. Double that for the 100% (!) Belizean duty fee and we’re at $40,000 US. That is about 18 times the yearly income of the average Belizean.

As we reached the river — my hop-out point — I thought, “Golly, I hope I’m not hitching a ride with Mennonite drug smugglers.” Maybe they were Mennonite oil barons?

**He just walked into the computer cafe as I was typing this up. Small world.

Pretty much everywhere, it’s gonna be hot

15 Jan

Pretty much everywhere, it’s gonna be hot

In just over a week, I’ll set the alarm for 2:30am and be on my way to Belize again. Last time, I didn’t get to see everything that I wanted to see thanks to a tropical depression. (That’s what you get when you travel during hurricane season.)

This time, I plan to snorkel and swim with nurse sharks. I hope, with the same greedy desire that children have in toy stores, to see a sea turtle or two. It is so wonderful to go somewhere and be close to animals you’ve encountered only in pages or behind glass windows.

As before, I am paranoid about being attacked by botflies and snakes, both of which are probably plotting against me with the help of their jellyfish colluders. Oh, and there’s some sort of disease that you can get from swallowing snail-tainted river water. Need to watch out for that. Then there are the fire ants, some of which crawled up my pant leg and bit the back of my thighs about seven times; it took almost a year for the scars to fade. See, relaxing!

I haven’t told Louis that I’m coming yet; part of me wants to surprise him by calling him from San Ignacio. “What are you doing for dinner tonight, Louis?” I could ask. But he works so much — and I mean really works because he’s a rancher — that I imagine he’s busy most of the time, and it would be more polite to give advance notice. Or maybe I will go help him herd goats again.

All of this is an elaborate setup to highlight the best thing I found today while researching the trip. The website for Crystal Belize is proudly garish, yet oddly charming in the innocently showy way that Belizean advertising favors. Were I to rent a car, I’d skip Avis and go with these guys all the way.