Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Blog Revival?


Is that how I start posts again? I've been absent from this blog for truly too long! The usual things are to blame, I guess: school, commitments, personal stuff, laziness, a lack of motivation etc, and these days there certainly isn't any lack of schoolwork due to exams coming up in exactly 2 weeks (gah!). So why have I suddenly chosen today to click over to blogger - where I haven't been for months - and create a new blog post? I don't really know myself, because I certainly don't have anything interesting to say, but I was updating my links page with my new Twitter and Pintrest usernames and suddenly felt inspired.

I suppose another reason why I haven't posted in so long is that given the aforementioned piles of homework I would only really have updated during the holidays, and this year my holidays have been unusually busy. In February I went to England and spent 99% of the time working on a huge History project; then I went to Iceland for 9 days with school; then I spent one week of Easter in Canada visiting family, and the other week in California, also visiting family. For various reasons I don't travel all that much, so for me this certainly has been a year of adventure so far!

My trip to Iceland was probably one of the best experiences of my life. We saw so much in the way of beautiful natural landscapes and features, including glaciers, volcanoes and hot (read: lukewarm) rivers, as well as a whole different society and culture. Iceland has a population of just over 320 000, and about 120 000 of those live in the largest and capital city, Reykjavik, which was quaintly fascinating - whose name I have finally learned how to spell. It was an unforgettable experience for all of us, coming from a city with well over a million people where the hustle and bustle of everyday life, along with the colourful bilingual system, are par for the course. From tiny local bakeries and geothermally heated outdoor pools to Reykjavik's many restaurants and single, house-sized government building, we took in as much of the sparsely-populated country as was humanely possible in the nine days we were there. We visited national parks, a geothermal power plant, a soil conservation centre and Eyjafjallajokull volcano, whose 2010 erruption caused the grounding of flights across Europe. Visually, it was truly stunning, and despite the constant assurances that we needed to dress in polar gear every single day just in case, the weather was kind and it only rained once during our stay. We even caught a hazy glimpse of the Northern Lights, but sadly it wasn't quite cold enough for the traditional display.

Here are some photos, in no particular order:

Sunrise over the mountains
Geothermal vents, which smelled of sulphur
Just your average view from the bus window
Geothermal power plant
Houses in Reykjavik
A super cool café in Reyjavik
Sun setting over the city
One of the many stunning waterfalls we saw
View from the mountains
A glacier in Thingvellir National Park
And that concludes my Iceland trip!

In Canada we spent a lot of time in Toronto, where we shopped till we dropped, visited a science museum and went up the CN tower, the tallest free-standing structure in the Western Hemisphere. At a knee-wobbling 350m up, we had a terrific view over the city (which sadly my phone's camera didn't do justice):

We also drove to Niagara Falls, which was twice as stunning as I'd been expecting. We actually went in the tunnels behind the Falls, where you can see out of openings onto the raging water below.

We also did a significant amount of shopping in California, as well as seeing the sights in San Francisco. We took a boat to Alcatraz Island, 1.5 miles offshore in the San Francisco Bay, which from 1933 to 1963 served as a federal prison. You can still visit the ruins of the prison buildings, now decaying from years of battering by the elements, and explore the very corridors that some of the USA's most dangerous inmates walked in hardly more than 50 years ago. I'd been to Alcatraz before, but 6 years later a newly developed taste for the morbid and the macabre (much of the island is supposed to be haunted) meant it took on a new light.

The rest of our San Francisco visit consisted of a drive over the Golden Gate Bridge, and a trip southwards to Monterey and Carmel where we did 17-Mile Drive - a stunning coastline drive for (surprisingly) 17 miles.

In retrospect, the number of photos I've included in this post probably means it would have been better suited to a few separate posts... Never mind, I feel like this whole post sums up 2014 so far and so should probably be kept together.

So, does this mean a permanent revival for my blog? Not for the next few weeks until exams are out of the way, that's for sure, but during the summer I'm intending to resume the kind of posting frequency I had last year, if at all possible.