Friday, July 12, 2013

England: High Tea & the Tate

While writing about my trip to London, I kept thinking "this was my favorite part! that was my favorite!" Okay well now I really figured it out. Is there anything better in life than food and the arts? Not really.

High Tea at the Milestone Hotel was such an experience. I wanted to stay there and eat those scones with clotted cream and jam all day. I have a gluten allergy and they brought me gluten free scones, sandwiches, sweets, everything you could think of. I thought because of the allergy I would be just drinking tea, but boy was I wrong. They went above and beyond.  

Despite being pretty ill the day we went to the Tate, I still found it incredibly inspiring. My namesake room particularly piqued my interest, filled with representations of Eve before and after the fall. Really beautiful artwork. I also loved the work by John William Waterhouse - particularly The Lady of Shalot and Saint Eulalia. As a flute player, his portrayal of mythical feminine beauty really drew me in.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

England: Windsor Castle, Bath & Stonehenge

We briefly visited Windsor Castle, where we got to see the changing of the guards complete with our family being split up and yelled at by the security. What fun!  

My favorite part of Windsor Castle was the gardens with all of the summer roses. They were all gorgeous and it was very reminiscent of Alice and Wonderland. 

The same day that we visited Windsor Castle we went to Bath. We saw the roman baths, and sat along the water which was very relaxing. My favorite part was this little street with the flags strewn across. We sat upstairs in a bakery on this street and had a snack before hurrying on to our next destination. 

Our last stop of the day was Stonehenge. I'm so glad that we got to see this. Apparently, next year Stonehenge is going to be even more difficult to see. There will be a scenic train running around it, and you will not be able to walk around it like we did. A few decades ago you could even go right up to the rocks, but of course that has changed. There was a really cute field of sheep next to Stonehenge that reminded me of Wallace and Gromit. I kept thinking "Do these sheep have any idea how close they are to one of the seven wonders of the world?!" Nope.   

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

England: Tower of London

During our first day in London we went to the Tower of London, and got to see a part of the city that is incredibly rich with history. We opted out of seeing the Crown Jewels because of the line and lack of interest, but still saw many other interesting and disturbing parts of the Tower of London. My favorite was the memorial to all of the people that had been beheaded in the square, including Anne Boleyn. 

The part of the Tower of London that I actually found the most disturbing was an open poll in one of the torture chambers where visitors got to vote on whether or not they thought that torture was acceptable, and that it was split 50/50 for yes and no. It was something like a million votes for each. The thought that one out of every two people surrounding me thought that the awful things we were looking at were totally fine made me want run out of there screaming. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Finnish Lapland: Posio & Rovaniemi

I found Lapland impossible to capture in a photograph. I took this first photo at midnight on lake Kitkajärvi in Posio, Finnish Lapland during the first weekend in July.

If you've ever woken up at dawn and taken a walk in the countryside before the people and animals have woken up then you might have had a glimpse into what midsummer nights are like in Lapland. The peacefulness as well as that feeling that you and the Earth are having a private intimate moment... that is what it feels like. That the sun decided to stay up just for you tonight. 

We stayed in a lovely cabin on the lake (mökki) in Posio complete with a sauna, of course, and we decided to drive to Rovaniemi for the day to visit Santa Claus (joulupukki) in his natural habitat. Santa Claus's village is located right on the arctic circle line so it was fun to see that as well. I took a picture with Santa and had a lovely chat with him where he told me to marry a good Finnish man and stay in Finland forever. 

Then we went to the post office where all of the letters all over the world addressed to Santa are sent. It was a very sweet experience! There are framed letters from children everywhere and stations for you to write your own letters to friends and family and have them addressed officially from Santa's Post Office at the North Pole. You can also fill out a form to have Santa send someone a letter around Christmastime, which of course we did for the little ones in our family. 

The farther north we got in Finland the more often we had to stop for a herd of reindeer to leisurely cross the road. They are very different from the skittish deer back home! It reminded me of the buffalo traffic jams in Yellowstone National Park. On the way home we came upon this albino reindeer. He was all alone snacking along the side of the road. 

I really loved Lapland, and I plan to go back sometime this winter to visit the northern lights and experience this magical region in a different season. 

Friday, July 5, 2013

My First "Sunset" in Lahti

I heard all about the white nights before I arrived in Finland, and it definitely lived up to the hype. My favorite part, ironically, is the sunsets. These photos were taken around 11:30pm during the first week of July, shortly after Midsummer (Juhannus). 

The beautiful colors last for hours since it takes so long for the sun to set and then it remains dusk before the sun rises again. Lahti has a lovely harbor on Lake Vesijärvi where the colors reflect across the lake. 

While I loved the hot summer nights back home in Virginia complete with lightning bugs, sparklers, stars, and the moon - I could not help but be jealous of all of the children in Finland that get to grow up with THIS.

Monday, June 24, 2013


My brother recently moved to Montreal so I made a quick weekend trip to see him. I had never been to this city before and I was pleasantly surprised. It was much more français than I expected, so my horrible high school French got a little bit of practice deciphering signs. 

We walked up Parc du Mont-Royal for a beautiful view of the city below. 

We also spent a rainy day in old town and warmed up over some hot tea in a Chinese tea house. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

Wintergreen, Virginia

Wintergreen is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia in Nelson County. My extended family has had a cabin there since before I was born, and this look out nearby called "THE PLUNGE" is still my favorite spot in the world. 

The fresh mountain air, beautiful view and solitude that it offers is always the best cure to whatever ails me. 

I feel so lucky to have grown up in such a beautiful part of the country, and I'm glad I had the time to visit this spot before moving away.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Paying Homage to Composers: Cemeteries of Paris, Vienna & Venice

Père-Lachaise Cemetery (Paris, France)

My reason for visiting the Père-Lachaise Cemetery was to visit the "grandfathers of flute playing" from the Conservatoire de Paris. Since they are mostly only famous in the flute world, and I didn't bother to look their gravesites up ahead of time, I only found one: Philippe Gaubert. He is in a family tomb in the Père-Lachaise. 

Georges Enesco, though a violinist, wrote many French Conservatory flute pieces and I stumbled upon his grave on the way to finding Bizet. I was so excited with this surprise that I jumped up and down and several Parisians came by to see who I had found and looked very puzzled when they had no idea who this man was. 

The great opera composers Bizet and Rossini were honored with flowers...

& my piccolo even got to rest with Rossini for a moment. 

Isola di San Michele (Venice, Italy)

I visited Stravinsky's grave in the summer of 2012 when I was staying in Austria. Venice was a short weekend trip, and I am dying to go back. The Isola di San Michele is the most beautiful cemetery I have ever been to. There is something truly magical about it. I could have spent all day there. Stravinsky is buried between his wife, Vera, and his collaborator, Sergei Diaghilev. There were many flowers, pointe shoes and notes to the composer and to the founder of Ballets Russes.   

Zentralfriedhof (Vienna, Austria)

I visited the Zentralfriedhof in Vienna in the summer 2012 when I was staying nearby in Graz. Brahms, Beethoven and Schubert are all buried in the same circle with a monument to Mozart in the middle (since he was buried in an unmarked grave). 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Paris: Père-Lachaise Cemetery

Visiting the Père-Lachaise Cemetery was my favorite experience in Paris. It was beautiful and peaceful, and I even made a new friend - Monsieur Chat.  

Monday, March 11, 2013

Paris: Luxembourg Gardens

I had a stopover in Paris on the way back from Helsinki, so I only had about six hours to roam this famous city that I was visiting for the first time. A friend of mine told me that the Luxembourg Gardens were a must-see, and luckily they were just a 15 minute walk from my hotel, so it was the first place I headed off to.
It was a Sunday morning, so everyone in Paris that was out and about was enjoying their leisure time. There were lots of joggers and even several groups of people doing tai chi in the park. I found the boats in the fountain quite picturesque. I quickly realized that what fascinated me the most about Paris was the people rather than the scenery. These colorful little boats brightened up this dreary Sunday morning.

Lahti: Sibelius Hall

Lahti is a city about an hour north of Helsinki along the coast of lake Vesijärvi. I wish I had taken more photos when I was there, but I was quite preoccupied! This is the Sibelius Hall and home of the Lahti Symphony Orchestra. It is right on the water, which you can see through the glass atrium lobby. Lahti is the Finnish word for "bay."
I will call this city home starting in July! I cannot wait. It is the perfect size (population of about 100k), so it has everything you could ever need but is not too overwhelming.

Friday, March 8, 2013


Helsinki Cathedral in the morning 

Helsinki Cathedral before sunset

Uspenski Cathedral exterior

Uspenski Cathedral interior


I fell in love with Helsinki the moment I stepped off the bus from the airport. I arrived at night, and the city was full of life. During the day everything was bright and crisp in the late winter sun. I got to stay only a few days, but I can't wait to return in July.