My summer in panoramas.

It seems fitting I share the panoramas I started to take along my trip this summer as there were times where it took more than one look or one simple photo to take in the amazing sights around me.

Here are some shots from my trip that I captured with the panoramic function on my iPhone. A couple have appeared in my previous posts, but it’s fun to see them all together here one after another.

When I first arrived in Paris I had to go to one of my favourite places- Montmartre. Here’s the view from the steps of the Sacre Coeur on a cloudy day.

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Being able to explore inside the glorious Palais Garnier, I was almost inspired to buy opera tickets, but never ended up back there.

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Next up, the Louvre. I took this photo from the less-populated entrance.

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It was a few days in to my first week in Paris that I discovered my new favourite place, the Jardin du Luxembourg, including the palace, and palm trees and pond (oh my!)…

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I spent many evenings having picnics with friends here, and daytimes getting some sunshine, reading, or people watching.

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I honestly didn’t know that you aren’t supposed to take pictures inside the Shakespeare Company Bookstore. It serves me right, then, for if you look closely there’s a weird morphing/disappearing person in the middle of this photo.

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Thanks to my amazing French teacher, we got to go inside the Sorbonne (one of the oldest universities in Europe), and this is one of the incredible lecture halls…. including the carved wood ceiling and fresco painting.

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The Musée Carnavalet was one of the first museums I came across, and the grand courtyard was everything you’d expect from a French garden. Stylish, sophisticated, and completely symmetrical.

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It was inside the Chapel at Château Vincennes on a beautiful and sunny day that I captured this photo.

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The view from the top of the Centre Pompidou allowed me this far off view of the Sacre Coeur, and the entire skyline of Paris.

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It was an overcast day in July when I couldn’t leave Monet’s Garden without a couple panoramic shots of the water lilies and romantic overhanging willow branches.

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The evening sight of Lyon before we embarked on our cruise down the Saône and then the Rhône river.

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And Lyon by day. The view on  a rainy day. Red-tiled rooftops as far as the eye could see reminded us of Florence, Italy.

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In Viennes we learned all about the Cathedral of St Maurice, which was built in the early 11th century and then added to for almost 500 years.

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In Arles we toured this amphitheatre, where events still take place today.

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Avignon during their Theatre Festival is truly papered from one end to the other with posters of the hundreds and hundreds of shows going on. And all along the way roaming artists and performers acted out scenes and handed out pamphlets to encourage people to come see their productions.

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And yes, we did take an evening ride on the ferris wheel before leaving Avignon.

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With the freedom of picking up a rental of a car, we explored the fields, orchards, hills, and vineyards of Provence and found ourselves staying down the road from here; near Carombe and Bedoin, with a beautiful view of the famous Mont Ventoux.

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The lavender fields near Sault were every bit as amazing as we dreamed. Possibly better.

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And the lavender fields went on and on….

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The hilltop town of Gordes was a welcome sight after twisting and turning mountain roads.

One of our favourite places we discovered in Provence- Roussillon, also called ‘The Red City’.

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The view of the Alps from the top of Mont Ventoux.

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And August brought us to the northern coast of France, and the stunning view along the walkway to Mont Saint Michel.

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This was the view from our hotel room. We were so glad to stay on the island to appreciate the magic of Saint Michel at the end of the day without the swarms of tourists that flood it in the daytime.

The view of Mont Saint Michel at dusk. It was incredible to have the tide completely out and be able to simply walk barefoot in the sand out to this point to see it. 🙂

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Amsterdam was a beautiful, interesting city and we could have wandered the canal-lined streets for days.

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The city of Amsterdam is full of tourists from all over the world and full of Dutch souvenirs. One colourful sight? Clogs.

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We started our exploration of the city of Prague at the oldest Medieval castle in the world, and St Vitus Cathedral.

Definitely our favourite place to start our adventures from each day: Old Town Square in Prague, Czech Republic.

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One of the many bridges in Prague.

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The colourful buildings of Prague that look like they are made of white chocolate and candy…. and of course the Astronomical Clock and Old Town Square in the background.

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When we went to see the open-air film festival at the Parc de La Villette, we barely scratched the surface of this amazing area full of various gardens, sights, and activities. This dome we later found out held the IMAX centre at the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie- the largest science museum in Europe.

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Our last apartment had the most beautiful view of the Sacre Coeur, and so this post comes full circle, with one of the places that made me fall in love with this part of the world. Hope you enjoyed seeing my summer’s adventures in a panoramic summary.

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Three days in Prague, and a lasting impression.

It all started with a night train.

Finding our 6-bunk cabin and making fast friends with the French students that would sleep on the bunks about 2 feet above our faces, Carly and I left Amsterdam and headed to Prague, on a 14.5 hour trip. We were misinformed with our original booking, which told us it was a 9 hour trip, and then we found out the train left 5 hours earlier. 😦 but in the end we still figured: this is our accommodation and our travel wrapped into one, with no important daylight hours lost in either city.

The summary of making this choice in travel? I don’t think I ever want to do it again. For more somewhat whiney details, you can read the rest of this paragraph. If not, skip to the next one. The ‘beds’ were more aptly described as wood planks with carpet wrapped around them. In addition you get a sheet, a tiny pillow, and a fleece blanket. The noise of the old train, the tracks, the many stops along the way, and the additional two people who joined us as we passed through Germany just after midnight meant that I probably had about a couple hours of sleep in total – and it should also be noted that if you buy a ticket for a bunk bed, there is no place for you to sit if you want to stay awake- you are forced to lie down in your cabin or stand in the hallway. There are no pictures to document the next morning because we looked so terrible after not sleeping.

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We arrived in Prague just before 10am on the Wednesday and proceeded to immediately get lost trying to find the right tram. The vast majority of Czech words have absolutely no resemblance to English, German, or French. We had a list of phrases we might need to know, but we actually had no idea what the correct pronounciation was. Lesson learned: even a few important words and phrases, pronounciation and all, are uber helpful to know before arriving in a new country.

My translator app, quite useful up until now.... It couldn't even give me correct pronounciation for Czech, a cool but super complicated language.

My translator app, quite useful up until now…. It couldn’t even give me correct pronounciation for Czech, a cool but super complicated language.

We had found accommodations through airbnb, and our host Vlada met us at the tram station and brought us home, which was really nice.

His English was quite good, and as we pulled into the driveway he let us know that he and his wife had four pets, so we always needed to make sure we closed the gate properly. It turns out they had three rabbits and a tiny terrier puppy, all of whom have names I can’t remember because I couldn’t pronounce them. Well, that’s not true. I do remember the black rabbit’s name. It is Karel (the Czech version of ‘Carl’, and coincidentally, the name of our tour guide on our walking tour of Prague).

How can you resist this face?

How can you resist this face?

Vlada was delighted to tell us he had a surprise for us, and showed us our (new) huge room with two large beds and a balcony. It was lovely, and I think we were so tired from our 15 hour travel we didn’t have the mindset to take our photo of the room (or house) at all.

(This is a photo of downtown Prague, nowhere near the suburbs where we stayed):
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Armed with a map and suggestions for our first day from Vlada, we took off with bus, and then tram, to get to the oldest medieval castle in the world, and the church there. It was quite a busy place, and we immediately saw the juxtaposition of the pastel buildings of Prague with the dark stone and gothic influence of the older buildings, clock towers, and churches.

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We also came across a toy museum, which had everything from tin windup toys to a full anniversary collection of Barbie dolls from the beginning until now.

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Walking across the Charles Bridge to Old Town was beautiful, and there were many artists doing portrait work- from characatures to full painted portraits, several art and jewelry vendors, and a few musicians.

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The only sign we came close to understanding.

Vlada told us that if we wanted authentic Czech food we should go to “Staromēstské Restaurace” right on the Old town Square. So we went there twice. 🙂

I had the roast beef goulash with dumplings, cranberry sauce and whip cream. It was delicious. Carly had locally caught Perch with green beans and Parmesan risotto. She said it was also excellent.

I had the roast beef goulash with dumplings, cranberry sauce and whip cream. It was delicious. Carly had locally caught Perch with green beans and Parmesan risotto. She said it was also excellent.

We sat inside because he told us the prices are less than half what they charge on the patio, which was absolutely true. It is also true that beer is cheaper than water here, and so it was very sad indeed that I am not a beer drinker. My sister found a nice Belgian dark beer here so she was very happy.

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Old Town Square:

Way more fun with saturated colours. :)

Way more fun with saturated colours. 🙂

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The astronomical clock by night

We checked out the astronomical clock tower and it was beautiful. We took a walking tour on our second day and our guide told us that every hour the animatronics around the clock face still function, even though the clock is over 600 years old. Huge crowds gather around the base to watch it throughout the day, so of course I had to get a picture of that.

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The walking tour was free and organized by New Prague Tours. Our tour guide – Karel (like the aforementioned bunny) – was amazing. He also works in drama therapy, and you could see right away he enjoyed putting on a show of giving us a detailed and entertaining tour around the centre of Prague; the amount of information he knew and shared was spectacular, and we were very close to paying for an afternoon tour with him as well. We walked through the Old Town Square, down to Wenceslas Square, over into New Town and Charles Square, and through the Jewish quarter, passing by the four beautiful synagogues there. He told us about the history in Prague during World War II, many of the local stories of artists and inventors, and we were so glad to have found this company. If you go to Prague, look up http://www.newpraguetours.com. They offer free walking tours and tour packages you can buy as well. If we had been there longer we absolutely would have paid for afternoon tours and possibly even a day trip. Well, next time.

Walking through the streets sometimes felt like you were walking on a movie set, or that the buildings were made of either marshmallows or tinted white chocolate, and the styles we’re varied too. They had everything from Art Deco and Art Nouveau,  to the only cubist architecture in the world.

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We came upon some of the coolest shops, including many marionette stores. If only I had room in my backpack (and perhaps more money in my pocket), I would have loved to take one or two of these masterpieces home.

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We also tried a local snack: ‘Trdlo”, a sweet kind of bread cooked on a turning spit and covered in sugar, almonds, vanilla, and cinnamon.

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The evenings in Prague has even more free entertainment in the Old Town square with performers of every variety at every corner of the square- if you didn’t like something, walk 10m.

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Awesome jazz band

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Flame-baton guy.

One night as we were window shopping we came across a black light theatre company called Teatro Negro, and they had a show called Aspects Of Alice, so we immediately bought tickets and had a great time seeing a very creative piece based loosely around Alice from Alice in Wonderland, and falling down the rabbit hole.

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Also in our shopping, I bought my first piece of artwork in a small gallery. I couldn’t leave without buying the limited print of a boy and his dog, so I have to get even more creative with my packing now.

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The last place we visited before bidding farewell to Prague was the National Gallery. It was on the other side of the river from downtown but had quite a mix of art from many centuries, and we were happy we got to explore it.

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All in all, it wasn’t as busy as Amsterdam, but it was fascinating and exciting and well worth the trip.

Well, that’s all for now, folks!

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I left my heart in Prague. And by ‘heart’, I mean: wallet.

If you were expecting a post with photos and stories of our three days in Prague, you will have to wait. That comes next, but first, an unfortunate but true account from the trip.

“Well, I may not have left my heart in Prague, but I did leave my wallet.”

It was a huge eye opener how fast my secure/safe/confident-that-I-have-been-responsible-traveller self turned into the panicked-and-vulnerable-feeling-“I-might-as-well-have-been-pickpocketed”-fretting tourist asking shopkeepers who don’t speak English if someone has found or turned in a wallet. That happened on our last morning in Prague. I bought a bag in a store, walked about a block, went to pay for lunch, and my tiny travel wallet was gone.
The language barrier is never so great than when you are in a high-stress situation. I realized how much I took it for granted that I would have been able to explain myself and my situation in French had I been in Paris, but where Czech is spoken, I was hopeless. The ‘important phrases’ quick-lists in guide books are actually useful, and I wished I had a few to work with in even broken, awkward Czech so I wouldn’t have felt the added stress of the isolation of being a foreigner due to language.

What a stress-filled moment it was, when I realized my emergency-if-I-need-to-cancel-my-credit-card-and-important-documents plan was faulty. The note I had saved on my phone with the number to call MasterCard was incorrect, my email with my credit card info was buried in a travel email folder (that had come to include vacation photos, and membership activation emails for hostel and tour websites), and I didn’t have my bank card number anywhere- just a photo of the card that turned out to be too pixelated to see. What did we learn, everyone? Have your (correct!) in-case-of-emergency info in a better place.

I am SO grateful to be able to call home and get the correct card info from my mum and was able to cancel the cards within 45 minutes, so grateful be travelling with my sister who still has all her necessary cards (and means of paying for things), grateful I have a second (backup) credit card in a separate place, grateful the only other items in the wallet were about $20 worth of cash and my drivers license- and that my passport is also safe. I’m also grateful I only have a week of this summer adventure left so I can sort things out in my home country.

But wow.

Here I was thinking I had it covered, and would never have something like this happen.

I was almost too embarrassed to write about this because I felt so stupid, but I wanted to share this story, because I’m sure this has happened to other people.

Has this ever happened to you? Did you lose your important documents? Get pickpocketed? Have you been scammed by someone saying ‘you dropped your ring’ or ‘sign this petition’? I am here to say, you are not the only one.