Exploring & Escapades

bits & pieces of my travels

Month: February, 2017

Winter Botanic Garden

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This is not my first time visiting the Cambridge University Botanic Garden; I hope it’s not my last. I love this little place, my own little secret retreat down the street from my house.

Last time that I came, it was fall, colorful. It’s amazing to see a place transform with the seasons. The rose bushes are bare, the pond is dry. Even the greenhouse has transformed. Poofs of red & silent passages. New, but ever vibrant, smells. But it’s all so alive in it’s own magical way.

I love coming here to wander aimlessly through the tropical rain forest, the winter garden, all of it, until close. And I can’t wait to come back in the spring to see it transformed again. 

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Winter London

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A rare spot of sun in February London. I had a friend visiting from Boston for the week, which meant that I spent a few days re-visiting all of London’s main tourist sites. We started at Big Ben, made our way past Parliament, up to Westminster Abbey, to my favorite nearby pub, over to the Churchill War Rooms, through St. James Park, past Buckingham Palace, down the mall, and across to Trafalagar Square. This has become my go-to loop for visitors. It’s a lot of walking, but it’s such a nice way to see so much of the city in a short period of time. 

It’s strange, though, to explain to guests that this is such an anomaly. In my day-to-day life, these London staples simply are not staples. They are, though, very nice to re-visit them now and then. And it’s beautiful to see London lit up and anew from eager, fresh eyes. 

Horsey Gap

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Seals!!! This was one of the happiest, greatest, best moments of my entire life – there really isn’t any other way to put it. I’ve loved seals ever since I was a little kid and my parents would take me to see the seals out front at the Woods Hole aquarium. So naturally, once I discovered that there is a beach in England overflowing with seals, visiting this beach became a priority. 

Horsey Gap is almost exactly two hours from Cambridge via car. And it is FULL of seals!!! Every year, between the months of October and February, the seals return to the sand to give birth. Which means, not only is the beach full of seals, but also specifically, it’s full of BABY seals. And you – yes you! – can walk on the beach with these seals. Frolic with the seals. Be one with the seals. Seals, you, & Mother Nature in a blissful collision on a beach in the depths of an English winter. It’s spiritual. At least for those of us who loves seals. 

In case you were wondering, we did this trip in one afternoon, started late morning, visited and befriended the seals, stopped for afternoon tea, made it home for dinner. It was a whirlwind day with lots of driving, but I would do it again instantly. This adventure, to put it simply, was awesome.

Wicken Fen

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A Saturday stroll, close to home. One thing that we’ve struggled with in England is finding simple, naturally beautiful outdoor places to explore without having to drive at least an hour – the type of walk or hike we could begin spontaneously in the afternoon. And then we discovered Wicken Fen, a Natural Trust reserve (England’s oldest, as a matter of fact) and a mere 42 minutes from our house.

We spent a very muddy afternoon here exploring right up until the magical, fiery sunset. It was so nice to be outside in the crisp air, even if I did temporarily ruin my rain boots. 

Winter Cambs

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Weekday wandering around winter Cambs. My new favorite mid-week activity – a break from post-grad, job-app life – is an excursion into the center of town to do two things: (1) buy fresh flowers from the market and (2) aimlessly walk around playing with my camera. And here are some of the results of the latter. Not pictured: the beautiful, rainbow fresia bouquet that accompanied me home. 

There will be more of this. 

Akamas

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The Akamas Peninsula is the last untouched corner of Cyprus. No cars allowed, literally. You need a four-wheeler to travel within its borders, unless you are on foot.

We *did* originally plan to spend a day off-roading across the area… that plan quickly dissolved at the airport when we learned that the rental car company had given our four-wheel drive reservation away to someone else. But it was (really) a blessing in disguise. We took the peninsula on foot instead, and it was one of the most memorable parts of our entire trip.

For Akamas, you can enter from either the south or the east. We did the latter, first passing through the seaside towns of Polis and Latsi along the way. Not far from Latsi, there’s a parking lot at the edge of the park – and the cutest little restaurant (pictured above). After a quick stop for pre-hiking coffee & a snack of Halloumi and tzatziki, we set off on the Aphrodite Trail, a 7km loop up into the hills and back down along the cliffs. 

It was so quiet and so fresh, magical, as if we were wandering through our own mythological adventure. We passed the legendary Baths of Aphrodite, unnamed ruins in the mountainside. There were goats. And then, at the highest point of the trail, we veered off the path to climb further still to the very peak.

That view. An entire piece of an island, no longer shielded by the treeline. No people, no cars, no buildings. Just the waves, crashing against the rocks on the coast for no one to see. 

It was hypnotic and hard to leave. 

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