The lovely thing about being in the United Kingdom is that Europe is so nearby. My first trip was to Porto, Portugal, on my way to a workshop in Aveiro. Even in December, there were oranges on the trees! The narrow streets, with their kiddies and grannies and cats reminded me of India (just a little bit cleaner :). Many of the people did not speak English, but I managed to get by with my broken high school Spanish.

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Over Christmas, I visited southern Spain with Raju kaka. I'd previously taken a class on the Arabic architecture, so it was wonderful to actually see the Alhambra (Granada), the Alcazars (Sevilla and Cordoba), and the Mezquita (Cordoba). I loved the red tile roofs, the exquisite cascades of muquarnas, and the elaborate stucco relief work; being in a warm climate, many of the buildings also blend outside and inside with courtyards and gardens. Sevilla's gardens were particularly spectacular, especially when the Mediterranean sun was shining. Outside of the cities, the countryside had many olive trees, and windmills dotted the tops of the ridges. Of all the places I've visited, I have to say that Andalucia was the most beautiful.

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My next European excursion was to Bavaria with Lyric. We flew into Salzburg, famous for Sound of Music and Mozart, before heading to Munich. There we enjoyed the German Museum, which showcases technology through the ages (after 7 hours, we still failed to see all the exhibits!) and the free New Munich tour (and Dachau). We also managed to get 5 euro tickets to see the Bavarian National Opera. From the obstructed seats, we could mostly see only the shadows of the singers, which made for a slightly surreal Plato's cave experience. After a minor train adventure–not knowing any German, we were on the wrong half of the train when it split–we arrived in Fussen to see Neuschwanstein, crazy Lugwig's castle devoted to Wagner, and also the model for Disney's Magic Kingdom castle.

In late March, I went with the Cambridge rambling club to the Lake District for a six-day hiking trip. We went walked hostel-to-hostel from Cockermouth to Conniston, including an excursion to Scafell Pike, the tallest point in England. It was by far the most relaxing vacation I've been on; there's a glorious emptiness to be felt walking inside a cloud atop a ridge, completely separated from all our self-created distractions. At the end of the day we would return from the clouds to picturesque valleys, with blue lakes, small glenns, bushes dusted with yellow flowers, and (of course) sheep. The youth hostels were quite friendly, and we often played Trivial Pursuit in the evenings.

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This year's Marshall trip was to Scotland. The official program included a tour of the Scottish Parliament and the Universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh. The hall in Edinburgh's castle looked remarkably like Trinity's, except for the many sharp pointy weapons adorning the walls. A group of us stayed the weekend for a road-trip across the highlands, which featured a stone circle, Balmoral Castle (the royal family's residence in Scotland), whiskey distillery, and Loch Ness. We didn't see the monster but the shaggy cows with dreads were incredibly cute.

Last modified: 2012/04/09 11:33
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