NC in July

Photos taken at various locations: Max Patch, Soco Falls, Mingo Falls, Blue Ridge Parkway

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Completing a Bucket List Item Unintentionally

Pleasant surprises can occur at any time and any place.

Two weeks ago while traveling in Seville, Spain, my group and I were visiting the Saint Mary Cathedral.  While walking around I took in all of the wonder and beauty of this intricately designed place of worship.

Then our tour guide proudly said “The Saint Mary Cathedral is the 3rd largest cathedral in Europe, next to St. Peter’s Basilica and St. Pauls.”

Thinking nothing of it at first, my mind did a double take thought and I suddenly realized that I have visited all three of those cathedrals!

Two years ago I went on a Euro Trip to London, Paris, Florence and Rome and visited the two largest cathedrals.  I suddenly was overwhelmed with excitement of the thought that I could cross something off of my grand life bucket list – even though that had not originally been on it!

1. St. Peter’s Basilica – Vatican in Rome Italy

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St. Pauls Cathedral – London, England

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3. Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See – Seville, Spain

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Hey, you learn something everyday huh? 

La Alhambra

Today I spent 5 amazing and exhausting hours getting lost in the wonders of the Alhambra!

IMG_1265The Alhambra is a palace and fortress located in Granada, Andalusia, Spain.  It was originally constructed as a fortress by the Muslims in the 700-800’s and was later converted into a royal palace in 1333 by Yusuf I, Sultan of Granada.  It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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alhambraThis place is absolutely exquisite!  As I looked around at the intricate ceiling designs and washed out walls I could almost feel the intensity of all of the history that has happened in here, from a Sultan’s reign, to gypsy squatters, to Catholic conquest and influence.

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IMG_1379I think the most impressive sight however is when you are standing at the top of the Alhambra you can see the entire city of Granada, as well as the beautiful Sierra Nevada mountains!

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La Alhambra is truly a sight worth seeing and is one of the many reasons why I am absolutely in love with Granada!

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What I’ve Learned So Far

I have now spent two full days in the beautiful Granada Spain, and I have to say it has been a huge culture shock… a good one that is!  I could not have picked a more perfect place to live for half of the summer!

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Here are some things I have learned so far:

  1. Everyone here is extremely beautiful and well dressed
  2. Public Displays of Affection are a normal and accepted thing
  3. You could lick the marble streets of Granada because they are so clean
  4. The University of Granada is considered an Ivy League of Europe
  5. Andalucia has national nap time (siesta) and literally everything is closed from 2-5 pm
  6. Granada is a young hippy town
  7. Granada means pomegranate in Spanish
  8. A discoteca beats any club in America
  9. You get free tapas with any alcoholic beverage purchased
  10. Granada has 250 days of sunlight
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El Mercado

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Sierra Nevada Snow Peaks

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Central Ciudad

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Albacin – Arab community

Adventure Time

About a month ago, I made a spontaneous decision to go on a weekend trip to the Smokey Mountains of North Carolina through a program at my school.  Without knowing a single person, nor what to expect when camping in freezing cold weather, I embarked on what would become one of the best weekends of my life.

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The group of people I was traveling with consisted of 10 students like myself and 2 trip leaders.  Sitting in an 8 hour car ride helped us become fast friends as we shared our past experiences and knowledge with each other.

Our first adventure was hiking 6 miles of the Appalachian Trail to reach Max Patch, a bald patch overlooking miles and miles of beautiful mountains.  I have seen a lot of sights in North Carolina and the Smokey Mountains, but I don’t think anything will ever compare to what I saw and how I felt when I reached the top of the patch.  The sun was slowly setting and I was staring at what looked like a painting, because it just doesn’t even seem believable that such a sight exists.  In that moment I felt so powerful and serene; I could have stayed up there for the rest of my life.  The vastness of the mountains was a wonderful reminder that there is so much out there that I have yet to learn anything about, and it made me very appreciative of my life, and excited for what lies ahead of me.  All of the small petty problems that we get ourselves so wrapped up in on a day to day basis seemed so meaningless and minuscule when I was standing up there and it made me happy that I am learning to see the big picture more often then I used to.

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After an extremely cold night in the tents, our next destination was to Black Balsam.  We went on an amazing uphill hike to the top of the mountains and again saw a magnificent view.  This was a very enjoyable time for me because the group of us just sat up there for what seemed like forever just talking and sharing stories with one another.

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Another extremely special moment was that night; the weather had warmed up a little bit and from our tents you could hear no noise from cars, see no artificial lights, and instead see a view of the sky much like a planetarium setting – only a million times better.  All of us took our sleeping bags outside and just laid under the stars to which I stared at for hours and hours.  It was one of the most beautiful experiences and witnessing multiple shooting stars in one night was also a plus (hopefully some wishes will come true).

Our last adventure of the weekend began the next morning when we woke up at 4 am in order to go in a sunrise hot air balloon.  As we were waiting in a huge field, my heart was pounding with excitement as the balloons with brilliant colors were being blown up.  Sailing in that balloon was incredible; the view of the world from that little basket was definitely a perspective you cannot experience anywhere else.

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This weekend couldn’t have been more perfect even if I tried.  I made amazing friends, gained even more of an appreciation for nature, learned some new things about myself, and took risks!

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It’s a Party in the USA

On our nation’s 236 birthday, I spent the day having an absolute blast with all of my friends in Gainesville.  We decked out in red, white & blue, sang along to good old country songs, and BBQ-ed all day long!  The 4th of July is one of my favorite holidays because as far as attire is concerned, the cornier you are with your patriotism, the better you look, and there is nothing wrong with being a proud American.  Of course the night continued with a fireworks show that I could view from my very own porch!

What did you do to celebrate America’s birthday?

North Carolina- adventurous getaway

I’m back!! I have returned from my wonderful trip to the mountains of North Carolina, and boy was it tough leaving there!  I always have a good time when I visit, but for some reason this trip made me fall in love, and I wish I could stay there forever.  Here are some of the highlights of my trip and I suggest anyone visiting the area should check these places out.

  • Soco Falls:  Located just as you enter the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Soco Falls trail is a great place to hike because it has good diversity in it’s uphill/downhill paths, and you get to see this amazing waterfall at the end!

  • Fontana Lake: This magnificent lake stretches about 30 miles or so and is perfect for kayaking, skiing, or even riding an aluminum boat and having to bail out water with plastic cups after hitting a wave from a speed boat. (That totally didn’t happen to me…).  Along the sides of the mountains is the most beautiful granite I have ever seen and luscious trees make for a gorgeous view!

  • Great Smokey Mountains National Park:  Take a drive through the Blue Ridge Parkway and stop along the way at the many gorgeous overlooks and travel through some cool tunnels.  The visitor center has a great trail along the Ocanaluftee River and a mini museum of the history of civilization in the Smokey Mountains.

  • Nantahala Outdoor Center:  One of the best white water rafting areas in the country!  My dad and I put on our wetsuits and ventured through the rapids in a small 2 seater kayak and actually survived the big falls at the end.

  • Downtown Asheville: This is probably one of the most eclectic and diverse cities I’ve ever been to.  There is so much life here from the young population of hippies and college students, to the extreme vegetarian/vegan friendliness, to the amazing music scene.  For me, the highlights were eating the most amazing pizza at the Mellow Mushroom, shopping for awesome tapestries/unique clothing, and spending hours people watching!

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  • Lake Junaluska: Located just outside Maggie Valley, this lake is surrounded by the most beautiful mountains and is a great 3 or so mile circle to both bike and walk.  During the summer, they have the rose walk with thousands of roses to gush over.

I had the most amazing time visiting with my family!  From our many adventures, to eating awesome food and watching amazing views, I can surely say North Carolina is one of the most beautiful places on earth.

Y’ALL COME BACK NOW YA HEAR?

It’s Ok to Get Away

Sometimes you just need a change of scene and to get away for a few days.  What I’ve discovered is that you don’t really need to go very far in order to escape and have some excitement.

After enduring a vey tough and stressful two weeks all leading up to an organic chemistry test, the last thing I needed was to spend another weekend in Gainesville.  I didn’t want to drive for 5 hours just to be home for a weekend, so instead I decided not to travel too far and visit my friend in Tallahassee.

We had a fabulous time! We ate great food, went to awesome clubs, and explored all of the cool areas of this city from awesome hippie shops, to delicious cupcakes!

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the cutest sign ever!

I realized that in order to have a great vacation, you do not necessarily need a 5 star resort or a theme park.  Simply going on your own adventure in any random town and discovering neat and interesting things can result in a great weekend!  Therefore, if you feel that you need to “just get away,” don’t even hesitate and go for a drive!

Gainesville Summer Bucket List

I am staying in Gainesville, devoting my entire summer to acing Organic Chemistry (hopefully acing).  While it may seem as though spending your entire summer in a college town would be all hustle and bustle, I was completely shocked to find Gainesville turned into a ghost town for the first half of summer session.  I am determined to make this summer an exciting and memorable one, so I took matters into my own hands and did some research.  There are actually a ton of really fun, cheap, and adventurous activities to do in Gainesville!

I’ve made a summer “bucket list” for myself so I can enjoy my time exploring my own city with my friends! (This list is not in any particular order of importance)

1.  Butterfly Rainforest                                                                                                        (SW 34th St. and Hull Road,Florida Museum of Natural History,Gainesville, FL 32611)

A perfect place to go on a date!

2.  Santa Fe Zoo                                                                                                               (3000 83rd Street Gainesville, FL 32608)

There are 70 different species and 250 individual animals.

3.  University of Florida Bat House                                                                             (Museum Road, Lake Alice, Gainesville, FL 32612)

4.  Kanapaha Botanical Gardens                                                                                     (4700 Southwest 58th Drive Gainesville, FL 32608)

Known for having some of the world’s most unusual plants.

5.  Paynes Prairie                                                                                                                (100 Savannah Boulevard Micanopy, Florida 32667)

Lots of wildlife, trails, and nature!

6.  Lillian’s Music Store                                                                                                       (112 SE 1st Ave, Gainesville, FL 32612)

This place has a mellow vibe, and great music.

7.  Tilt 264 Amusements                                                                                                   (6479 W Newberry Rd, Gainesville, Florida 32605)

This place will bring out your inner child!

8.  The Rock Trail- Mountain Biking                                                                                    (2.3 miles west of I-75 on Newberry road and turn left, a sign that says “The Rock”will appear.)

9.  Ginnie Springs                                                                                                             (7300 NE Ginnie Springs Road, High Springs, FL 32643)

A great place to relax down a lazy river with friends.

10.  Devil’s Hole                                                                                                                (Take S-20 towards Hawthorne. Take route CR-21. Turn left onto Lake Galilee Dr. about 1.8 miles from intersection. Travel 150 yards and take a dirt road to the left, just past the first group of mobile homes. Sinkhole will be about 0.5 miles away on the left side.)

This sinkhole’s location is “hidden,” and the only way to find it is if somebody else has been there and relays the directions to you.  Luckily, I have obtained these directions through a friend!

Enjoy Adventure!