August 27, 2010

Orlando, Florida!: Part 1

Magic Kingdom! We got to watch the Main Street Electrical Parade and the Summer Nightastic! Fireworks (both were incredible, the latter being the most outstanding display I've ever seen) on two separate days -- it didn't get old at all!

The Move It! Shake It! Celebrate It! street party...super fun to watch!

Eco-friendly Dumbo? :)

We ate at Tony's Town Square our first night in Orlando, which is a fancy little restaurant off the side of Main Street, U.S.A., in the Magic Kingdom. But it's not any restaurant -- it's straight out of The Lady and The Tramp! Fun!

Whip out your wands, folks...

Hogsmeade is self-explanatory. Incredible, incredible stuff here.

"The Flight of the Hippogriff," the easiest coaster here. It's not an overly kiddie coaster; it's still a lot of fun if you're older.

Hogwarts. We took so many pictures, and I can't post them all, so it was really hard to pick which ones to put on here! Trust me, the place is worth a visit, although it's only a one-day thing. It's so amazing.

The detail on the castle -- just everything inside and outside -- is impeccable. It's absolutely brilliant on Universal's part. The hilarious thing was our wait in the morning to get in (only about a half hour, actually) -- the rest of Universal Studios was absolutely deserted and the only lines were for the WWoHP park. :)

Along the sides of the lines for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, which is the most mindblowing ride there. There are lots of goodies, but it's dark so it's hard to take pictures. Priya managed to get this one of the Mirror of Erised, but we gave up afterwards because you just can't take anything properly.

I'm sorry I couldn't rotate this one -- it's when you're walking towards the loading dock for the ride. If you haven't figured out what it is yet (shame on you!), it's the staircase to Dumbledore's office. (And if that still puzzles you, you haven't watched the movies enough times!) But the fabulous thing about the wait is that you get to walk through the castle, literally, and they basically themed it around a Quidditch match; so there are Daily Prophet clippings with "Gryffindor vs. Slytherin!" headlines, and the moving portraits (they're actually screens, but they are freakishly oil-painting-like) are chatting about Harry's chances of winning...etc. :) It's every die-hard fan's fantasy. Absolutely fantastic stuff.

The ride is sort of like the Back to the Future ride, says my dad, but I don't know if you've ridden that one either. You're in a little buggy-type thing (if you've ever been to the Haunted Mansion attraction at Disney World, you'll know what I'm talking about), and you levitate. You go through the castle in the air; parts of it are giant contact lens shaped screens where you get to follow Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint as they take you flying around the castle and onto the Quidditch pitch and you come face-to-face with a Horntail, and parts of it are actual real objects that move -- for example, you see rising Inferi and ghosts and "acromantulas" that spurt blood on you (it's just water), and there's a big dragon that looms towards you and breathes hot orange fire on you. It's all so wonderfully lifelike that we were all screaming and I closed my eyes in parts out of fear. It's really not scary, but just not knowing what to expect kind of makes it frightening. It's spectacular, though; it features Emma Watson as well. There's a part near the end where you dive straight down, plummeting towards the lake, and I still remember my mom screaming as we all "flew" downwards. AWESOME. We got to go on this three times, and I think it would have been unmagical if we went on it any more times, but the one word to describe this ride is AWESOME (in capital letters).

The entrance to Dragon Challenge, which is also fabulous! The big blue thing you see there is the coaster; the seats are attached via the top, so it's like you're sitting in a hanging set of seats rather than in a car-type setting, and that's actually good because there are corkscrews and dangerous-seeming turns, but it's so thrilling and an absolute BLAST to ride. These two coasters (there's a blue Horntail and a red Fireball) are vying for my favorite ride(s) of all time. Note, though: the Fireball is way more fun and way more scary.  :) Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful all around!

Can you guess?


Still no? Come on, the "chocolate" sign has to be a dead giveaway. Plus, there's all sorts of candy...


Honeydukes is so colorful and so tantalizing, yet so pricy that you feel bad to buy anything. Brilliant and fabulous to look around, though.

Part 2 coming up soon!

August 23, 2010

Collaborative poem

My heart beats like smoke:
thin-armed prescience inside my chest
more of nonbeing, more
than threaded sorrow and fluid chambers
manifestation of emptiness, sing saccharine love songs
to blank-faced old men
wearing paper-airplane folded souls underneath,
hidden under fading footsteps.

I love this poem so much. It turned out incredibly well, so thank you to Holly, Q, Maxie Steer, Julia, Erin, and geekspawngirl for participating!

I'm organizing a post of Orlando pictures, so definitely stay tuned for that! We had so many fabulous experiences while on vacation, and I can't wait to share them with you through our photos!

August 19, 2010

Happy Birthday... one of the most fantabulous people I know.

I would be lying to myself and her if I said that she's the perfect sister, because half of the time she's funny, helpful, and entertaining, and half the time she's annoyed with me (but only because I bother her). But the thing I like about her is that she's unapologetically herself and still very grounded and very human, and she's extremely young at heart.

On our vacation to Disney World, from which we just returned, she was so excited about meeting Mickey and Minnie and stood at the end of Main Street, U.S.A., watching the castle for about fifteen minutes as it changed colors against the night skyline at the end of our last day at Magic Kingdom. She scoured every newsstand and every shop for just the right pair of Minnie Mouse ears and was made thoroughly happy when I pretended to be Gustav, a fictional personal assistant to Mickey Mouse (she even gave me requests to give to Mickey, to which I pretended to relay a response).

This is what makes her so Priya -- that she can be this young and still call herself fifteen, that she can be a 4.0-GPA student and still find time to watch episodes of Arthur, and that she can be traveling everywhere on all sorts of school trips and still be the best sister I could ask for.

Happy fifteenth birthday.

Lots of love from

August 18, 2010


I had a fabulous trip! I have so many stories to share and lots of pictures! The butterbeer was delicious and we had so many fancy meals...not to mention the fact that we got to meet Cinderella's family and all sorts of other Disney characters as well. :)

Thanks for participating in the collaborative poem -- if you haven't already done so, be sure to join in on the fun by Friday, August 20, at 12 pm Pacific Time (3 pm Eastern), and I hope you enjoyed the guest posts!

Lots more to come soon!

August 16, 2010

Guest Blog: Holly from 'Eating a Tangerine'

While I'm off on another humid, sweltering, waterslide-chasing adventure of my own, Holly agreed to stop by and share her travel experience -- to none other than Berlin, Germany!

Berlin Death March

June had come, and we were exchange students. Our summers and our futures were bright. We were the cream of the our generation's crop, emissaries of cross-cultural goodwill and exemplars of the well-rounded high school existence, full of youthful enthusiasm and idealism (maybe). We were headed for the real-deal experience of German culture, full drinking-age privileges, linguistic immersion, and some epic profile pictures to make our friends back home jealous.

The woman next to me on my San Francisco - Washington, D.C. flight asked was I getting off in Washington? I informed her I was flying on to Germany to be an exchange student. Was I going to live in a German family's home? she inquired. Oh yes. She must have felt honored to be sitting next to me, the bright hope of America's youth, a perfect embodiment of amicable globalism.

We had converged in Washington, D.C. from our respective hometowns, crossed the Atlantic, been shepherded through the Frankfurt airport, and then flown east to Berlin, where we would receive our orientation into German culture. The only thing left standing in the way of our destinies were the dozen or so Berlin miles between the airport and our hostel.

I should have expected we might not have the smoothest transition onto the streets. The relative uneventfulness of the past fifteen hours were due mainly to our confinement to the airplane. I had already run into a little trouble with a Dulles security officer for leaving my bags unattended. (actually, I had left them in the company of my fellow bright-hopes-of-America's-youth, who had abandoned them when their time to board came. My time, too, actually, only I was running around the airport trying to sort out some lost papers.) Fortunately, he seemed to sense my status as an emblem of hope for international cooperation, and so did not hinder me any further.

Oh, and the lost papers, that's right. In accordance with my mama's advice, I had placed all of my significant, likely-to-be-required papers in a plastic document holder that I was carrying on my person. Which I managed to leave behind at a pay phone kiosk in the airport terminal. Inventory: plane tickets, traveler's checks, contact information for my host family and exchange organization that I would need upon landing, or if I should happen to run into any difficulties like, oh, I don't know, lost documents. Fortunately, I was carrying my passport and cash separately, even more closely to my person.

Additionally, one of our number's suitcases appeared to have gone on a vacation of its own to Rome, and another, who held Peruvian citizenship, had had some difficulty with the passport control in Frankfurt.

Not to mention we'd already been traveling for more than twenty-four hours and our brains were distinctly worse for the wear.

So we land. Into the sweltering, damp June heat, jetlagged and travel-grimy, with as cringe-inducing an excess of luggage as you'd expect of American teenagers, plus some, minus that one guy's stuff—we land. We are met by Hannah! and! Jana! who are to be our intrepid volunteer shepherds. Other than Ned's AWOL luggage, we have it together enough to catch a bus, on which we catch our first ground-level glimpses of the metropolis.

Next comes a transfer trek to a subway station. We learn there are, for our purposes, no escalators in Germany. Approximately 700 lbs of luggage make their way into the Berlin underground under the alleged guidance of approximately 1500 lbs of American teenager. Trains are ridden, and then it is time for the stairs to be ascended. O, stairs! 2200 lbs of American hopes and consumerisms lumber back up into the beating sun. We roll across the plaza and begin to follow a side street. That is, the lucky ones of our number roll. A certain couple of kids were on top of their aesthetical game enough to be using those big ole vintage hard-shell suitcases which could ostensibly be carried by their single mannerly handle, but in order to keep up with the Berlin death march must be clutched in both arms across one's front with all the desperation that twenty-six hours of travel and ninety-some degrees Fahrenheit engender.

After a half mile, our fearless leaders order a halt. They confer over a map in rapid German, and announce that we have been marching in wrong direction; we must turn around and go back the way we came. Hannah and Jana have not lead us aright, and the spilling of this sweat, the lugging of this luggage, have been for naught.

Back into the subway. Despair begins to tickle at our minds. If Hannah and Jana fail to find our hostel, who could stand in their stead and succeed? How could we have been so trusting of them, pretty as they were and with their rhyming names? God of exchange students, lead us not up more unnecessary stairs. There are more stairs, both up and down, and then there is another half a mile at least, more trekking, with our suitcases in our poor incredulous arms or clattering along behind us on their cheap wheels which send them toppling every time we face a curb. There are bike lanes to cross too slowly and thoughtlessly with our American ignorance and jetlag-numbed minds, and opportunity to be on the receiving end of warning yells from Germans who must swerve to avoid us.

And finally, there is a hostel. Four stories up, but there is an elevator for our baggage. We pile it in. We send it up. We send ourselves up, through the stairwell's cigarette smoke. And we are arrived.

August 13, 2010

Collaborative poem!

I haven't done a collaborative poem in a while, and since I'm on vacation it's a perfect time to give you long enough to chime in with your line!

Here's how it goes:

I'll kickstart the poem with one line (below). Go to the comments section of this post and submit ONE line to add to the poem. (If you submit more than one, I'll take the first one I see so that it's fair for everyone.) If people have left lines before you, make sure you submit a line that allows the poem to flow well. Feel free to use punctuation, and keep it relevant. At the end, I'll wrap up the piece with an ending line and post the poem in its entirety.

This time around, I'll take everyone's lines that are submitted before August 20 at 12:00 p.m. Pacific Time.

Here's the opening line.

My heart beats like smoke:

Write away!

August 10, 2010

Guest Blog: Danielle from 'Sesquipedalian'

Hello everyone!

Since Maya is presently out gallivanting on fabulous adventures, I thought it seemed appropriate to write about travel as well. Recently, I was able to spend three weeks in France (all over) and England (mainly London area). In both places, I was able to partake in one of my favorite tourist activities-- scouting the local English bookstores. There are a million different things I could write about but instead I'm going to focus on one particular site-- a bookstore. Shocking, I know.

The first time I visited France in 2006, I stumbled across Shakespeare and Company Bookstore across from Notre Dame in Paris, completely by accident. Upon my second trip this summer, it was the first place I wanted to revisit, as well as the one I remembered the most. My first thoughts upon seeing the exterior are best described as mouth gaping awesomeness. It is the kind of store that makes you believe you have accidentally stumbled into Heaven. Pictures are definitely the best way of describing this:

the first cashier desk, with lovely books

a view of the main store area, with the wishing well in the center

the second cashier desk, and of course.. books

the store was filled with rich colors

an example of the vintage artifacts in the shop

the shop's motto

one of the beds and the lovely piano

lovely boxes of lavender, just strewn about

the classic old fashioned typewriter in the writing nook

a very creaky and narrow staircase-- good fun!

the shop made me just a little bit happy
Now that you've seen just how special Shakespeare and Co. is, you can read the official history here if you so desire. This, however, is my condensed and specialized version of the story.

The shop was founded by an American named George Whitman in 1951, with the motto of "BE NOT INHOSPITABLE TO STRANGERS LEST THEY BE ANGELS IN DISGUISE." The most exciting part of this is that he would let friends and strangers alike stay the night in the beds he conveniently placed throughout the shop (you can see one of them in the pictures above). The only conditions were that they made their beds in the morning, helped around the shop, and read a book a day. On Saturdays, he would make pancakes. To this day, you can still make an appointment to stay the night in the shop. The book selection is also superb, branching nearly every subject of interest you could possibly have-- not an easy task for a shop this small. As if that were not charm enough, the random assortment of eclectic and whimsical items such as a wishing well where coins of all nationalities are thrown, street signs, attached moving ladders similar to Beauty and the Beast style, an abundance of well loved armchairs, reading rooms, lavender, picturesque views of the Seine river, a playable piano, and an authentic old fashioned typewriter in perfect working condition are all characteristic of the shop and its history. In the writing nook, visitors write and leave little notes expressing their joy in stumbling across the shop, their dreams and aspirations, and sometimes even a secret or two. It was incredibly inspiring to be sitting where you know thousands have come before you, breathing in the magic of a classically wonderful bookshop.

In closing, I can express only two things more. First, is that you absolutely must visit this shop if ever you find yourself in Paris. It's very easy to find-- directly across the river from Notre Dame Cathedral. Secondly, always keep an eye out for the hidden bookshops you might see along your adventures. They're usually the most magical treasures.

Happy reading!