The Home of Quasimodo

 When, after long gropings up the dark perpendicular stair-case which
pierces the thick walls of the steeple towers, one emerged at last unexpectedly
on to one of the two high platforms inundated with light and air, it was in
truth a marvellous picture spread out before you on every side;
– Victor Hugo

Once upon a time, I stepped into the life of Esmeralda and danced around the towers of the Notre Dame, shaking my tambourine.

Just kidding. Nobody can shake a tambourine like Esmeralda, but I did get to wander around the towers of the Notre Dame on a crisp Paris afternoon.

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Not only was my time in Paris a bit of a whirlwind, I was also on a very strict budget. If you are looking for a beautiful attraction to visit and don’t want to spend a dime, you can visit the Notre Dame and attend a service or simply take a look inside the cathedral completely free of charge. However, for just 8 euros you can climb to the top of the towers.

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I was not about to miss out on the chance to explore the towers of the Notre Dame, so I stood in the cue and patiently waited until it was my turn. As you walk up the steps, it isn’t long before you pass by the Emmanuel Bell, the largest bell in the tower (and the one that Quasimodo had to ring every day).

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You may be daunted by the long lines that form, as they only allow about 20 people up the tower at one time, but your patience will be rewarded with impeccable views of the city in all directions and the chance to become friends with the gargoyles.

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The cathedral itself is a stunning piece of Gothic architecture.

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And this is the view of the Seine and the Eiffel Tower in the distance that this lucky gargoyle gets to stare at each and every day.

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Now, if I were you I would dress up in big hoop earrings, dangly bracelets and gypsy attire, grab a tambourine and dance my way up and around the towers.
Have you visited the Notre Dame? Let me know what you think!

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Sunday Snapshot: Lipstick Kisses

oscarwilde
“Keep love in your heart. A life without it
is like a sunless garden when the
flowers are dead,”
– Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde, the famous Irish poet and writer, is laid to rest in the Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris’ largest cemetery. Home to other famous icons such as Jim Morrison, the cemetery often has a few tourists walking around. Over the years, Wilde’s monument was adorned with quotes, hearts and red lipstick kisses (including my own) from those who visited. I found the tradition to be beautiful but officials deemed it graffiti and in 2011 a barrier of glass was placed around it to prevent any more lipstick kisses.

Do you have a photo you would like to share for Sunday Snapshot?
Submit it to whirlwindtravel@hotmail.com to see it here the next week!

On Falling In Love With The World

Three summers ago I fell in love. Not with a man, as expected at my age. That hasn’t quite happened yet. Instead, I fell in love with the world. I dreamed of spending my life living in new countries, exploring the continents, learning new languages, embracing new cultures and meeting new people.

Two summers ago, my heart was taken again, by Thailand. Still a part of the world, but a bit more specific. A lot of the young travelers who arrive in Thailand are there for the parties, the cheap prices and the beaches. Throngs of young people migrate to particular areas in each city and on each island to drink buckets of Sang Som, attend Full Moon Parties and see controversial ping-pong shows. While the cheap prices are certainly an added bonus and the parties are indeed some of the wildest I have ever been to, Thailand is so much more than that. I fell in love with the people there: the men and women working hard at a street stall, children zigzagging through the crowded bars trying to sell roses to drunken foreigners. I volunteered and became passionate about something I knew very little of before I went. I got my priorities straight, realized just how lucky I am, and learned about a new way of living that I’ve tried to integrate into my daily life at home.

Cambodians lounging at their countryside home

Thai streets

Cambodian children

With a love of travel comes a sacrifice and for each individual making travel a priority, their sacrifice is unique to them. Some may sacrifice romantic relationships, friendships, wealth, or material possessions. Some might sacrifice the idea of a career or a family all together. But with that sacrifice comes something that many travelers yearn for. An indescribable feeling that comes from a mixture of ultimate freedom, terror, empowerment and lack of control. Travel isn’t easy. It can be hard, but it’s both the good and bad that make me love it. I haven’t gone as far or seen as much as many but I have gone and seen more than some. I am both thankful knowing that I have been born into a lifestyle that allows me to continue to see new places and grateful for the things I have already seen.

do as the romans do!

Each destination I face brings out a new reaction. I am disappointed by some, others I enjoy but will never return, and a special few steal pieces of my heart. It feels as though every time I fall in love with a new city or a new country, a piece of my heart is left behind with it. It takes a special place to do that but it is because of those special places that each time I come home I feel as though I’m being stretched farther than before. There is something beautiful, yet terrifying, about that feeling. Having your heart belong to so many places already, feeling the intense pull whenever you hear its name or see a photo.

sheep in Ireland

Laughing in Trafalger Square, London

Abbey Road!

Travel isn’t for everyone. I don’t believe that you have to travel in order to be cultured, aware, or a better human being. A traveler is not better than anyone else. A businessman or woman is not better than anyone else. For some, travel can only happen in the summers. For others, travel is their lifestyle. Either way, travel is something more than a vacation. It’s more than five-star resorts and parties on a beach. It’s forcing you, especially as a backpacker, to trust. That’s something people don’t seem to have a lot of these days.  It’s becoming as fully integrated into the local culture and way of life as you can get yourself in the time that you have there. It’s exploring parts of a town that few tourists have. It’s befriending the music students in the park, the lady at your favorite smoothie stand, or the homeless child on the street.

looking out over Chiang Mai, Thailand. One very special place.

As it is now, I feel my heart scattered across the world in Thailand, Canada, England and Ireland. Four places, so far apart from one another. Travel is so many things: invigorating, fun, tiring, terrifying, spontaneous, and enriching. But why do I do it? I travel to push my own limits. I travel to find something that I wasn’t aware that I was looking for. I travel to connect with people, nature, myself, the world in general. I travel because it is what makes me the happiest. I travel because I can’t imagine not.

So, for all of you readers who also travel, why? What does it mean to you?

Dreaming of London: A London Photo Gallery

I first stepped foot in this city when I was fourteen years old. It was a family trip to visit our relatives in England and I immediately fell in love. To my horror we were only there for a day and we did the tourist thing. A bus tour, walking around to see famous sites like Big Ben. I was young, invigorated and in love with a city I had barely known. Since that day I have been there a few more times and the more I visit, the harder I fall. It is still my dream to someday live in this city and to be lucky enough to call it home.