Category Archives: Travel

48 Hours in London – Plus 3 Misconceptions Gone

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The graduation cap kept slipping off my head and the tassel was getting into my field of vision, occasionally blotting out important surrounding objects, like pillars or toilets. I couldn’t bend down, nod, or even glance at my phone. I was beginning to get an inkling into why all graduands look so dignified – standing tall, chin up, gaze fixed firmly ahead, stiff smile. They must be terrified of dropping the thing…

I hadn’t worn a robe before either, and this ceremony at the London Barbican for alumni of the University of London’s International Programmes was my first British-style graduation, national anthem and all.

So when the lady at the dressing booth carefully placed and arranged the heavy black robe on my shoulders, the eerie weight of responsibility settled on them too.

I was on my best behavior: walked across the stage confidently when my name was called (having wisely ditched my stilettos in favor of more sensible flat-sole boots), bowed imperceptibly to the Vice-Chancellor and the other members, looked proudly (how else, cap was unstable) up into the audience, shook someone’s hand and was utterly relieved to be seated again without any major incident.

I was all too happy to relax and watch the long procession of excited graduates that followed, their enthusiasm, the faculty speeches, and the subtle yet undoubtedly motivating and inspiring pomp of the ceremony.  I barely fidgeted. The fact that I was dead beat after hours of walking through London must have had something to do with it.

Trying to pack this buzzing and fascinating city into only 48 hours and tick most of the major boxes on my to-see list is no small feat. It is, in fact, for no small feet at all. I have come dangerously close to a broken back, but I did manage to get a pretty good sense of the place, if I do say so myself.  Yes, boys and girls, it can be done!

So, as my throbbing, swollen feet are my witness, and in my capacity as surface-scratcher extraordinaire, I feel it is now my duty to dispel at least 3 common misconceptions right off the bat:

1. English food is terrible.

No way. Not necessarily. The gusty winds of healthy living are sweeping through the busy streets and teeming bike lanes of London, with tasty treats, leafy salads, fresh thick soups and vegan sandwiches on every corner. Things like pumpkin or papaya slices on rye bread with seeds, arugula, coleslaw, vegan mayo, vegetables and cheese can make a wholesome yet light and savory breakfast at a fraction of the price of fish and chips. Eat away! The food scene is amazing, and old traditional pubs, local steakhouses, elegant seafood restaurants, or first-class international cuisine are equally sophisticated and delightful. I particularly liked the looks of some eateries around Covent Garden.

2. The British are sticklers for protocol. (You know, stiff upper lip, haven’t been properly introduced type of stuff…)

Well, what can I say, if you marry into the Royal family (new wedding coming up!) most likely, but then you’ve brought it upon yourself. In my experience, however, even during official ceremonies there is the occasional cutting of slack, and guidance is always offered with smiles and in a calm tone of voice.

On the streets, the British are considerate and friendly chaps (and lads), who do not seem at all phased by the bustling crowds and will always take a second to give you directions or duck while you’re trying to photograph the sights. There will be a polite sorry for every brush against your arm, and thank yous are abundant. Never an arrogant snarl, never a condescending eye roll. There is a touch of affability and humor with every interaction. (Oh, I love decorum and a good upbringing!)

And even though the city is as vibrant, diverse and fast-paced as they come (more than 300 different languages are spoken in London schools), I did not get a sense of hectic rage among its inhabitants at all. They are lax and at ease in the commotion (occasional exception: cyclists – no, they are not training for the Tour de France, they’re just pedaling to work). To my complete surprise, most pedestrians don’t pay the slightest attention to red traffic lights. These seem to be optional, as jaywalking is common. So no sticklers there.

The hard focus on discipline and immediate punishment so typical of Germany is oddly missing here, as is the idea that human communities can only be held together by an obsession with conformity and the strict enforcement of procedures.

3. London is outrageously expensive.

Again, if you want an apartment on the riverbank, overlooking the Tower Bridge, or a nice flat in a posh neighborhood (ok, rents are pretty high everywhere) that will bore a significant hole through your bank account. High-life central London entertainment and tickets to most tourist venues will also take a toll on your finances; croissants and hot dogs in the immediate vicinity of a tourist attraction tend to be quite overpriced. But regular food and transportation fares are decent and even a couple of nights in a pleasant hotel not very far from the City are affordable.

You will see the occasional homeless person, and beggars on the Tube. But you will also see great culture and art (Tate Modern has sections with free access); impressive architecture – an eclectic mix of old and new, gleaming glass-and-steel structures cuddling the grimed walls of old churches, townhouses emblazoned with heraldic symbols, and charming little gardens redolent of rhododendrons; garrulous seagulls on the Thames and a buzzing fleet of red double-decker buses that will seem like they’re all driving on the wrong side of the road!

So be careful when you cross the street, pack an umbrella and enjoy five o’clock tea!

I’ll interrupt my reminiscing now and stand for God Save the Queen as my graduation ceremony closes. London, it’s been a pleasure!

Spoiler alert: here are (some) pictures. Don’t forget to also follow me on Instagram, under ipesardna, for more interesting stuff.

 

See you next time!

 

 

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Romanian sights 2017

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Exploring (and enjoying) the Carpathian garden! 😉

 

Italy. 15 hours near Pisa

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Italy. 15 hours near Pisa

To even consider a 15-hour drive (round trip) for a measly 15 waking hours in Italy, you must be pretty desperate.

We not only considered it, we actually went. Three weeks of winter in the month of May, all hell breaking loose at work and a nasty throat infection did it. We wanted Italy. We needed Italy. We found a nice bed-and-breakfast near Lucca at €120/night for four (Triolivo, in Guamo), packed a bag, and didn’t think twice.

An ambition that had been simmering in our subconscious quickly developed into a full-blown obsession. We want to see the leaning tower of Pisa! We’ve been to Italy so many times by now, how could we have missed it? I mean, it’s not exactly hard to find. It’s right there, on every children’s atlas, right next to the red Ferrari. Simply had to see it. Simply had to climb it.

293 steps and we were at the top for the noon bells! Was it worth it? Well, our son was crawling on all fours under the large bell to explore the sound mechanism, and was so excited he even forgot to cover his ears in the hubbub, so you be the judge of that.

What else was on the list? The charming little citadel of Lucca (where Giacomo Puccini was born), sun and storm in the Tuscan hills, a seaside view of the Apennine mountains with surfers in the roaring waves, profiteroles, dry soup made of fresh tomato puree and white bread, and the hot sand at Camaiore.

We only spent one night, but came home with a bagful of great memories. I think our son’s exclamation on the way back pretty much sums it up: “But we were there for 3 days!”

Enjoy… 🙂

24 hours in Verona – November

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Litoral final

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mi-e sufletul greu,

submers în stânjeni de fluid clar, oceanic,

cu peşti.

apa mării stă oglindă în dimineaţa asta

fără adieri,

luciul ei printre pini şi ambarcaţiuni e tras în foiţă de aur,

iar tihna de început de lume a frumuseţii

mă apasă

cu desăvârşite sfârşituri.

 

valul e ceva care îţi dă speranţa

ciclicităţii,

a revenirii:

un recul cu braţele întinse către o eternă

întoarcere;

dar graţia deplină a acestei păci –

ciobul acesta de frumos imperturbabil – condamnă

orice viitor

la descompunere.

Path through my childhood

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I walked the winding path today

around the apartment buildings

right through my childhood.

 

Everything smelled the same.

The big white lilies gave off a fragrance of early evening,

the sunset was in its incipient stages.

The heat bearable, like me.

 

Summer petering out.

 

I leapt from one slab of stone to the next, imagined where the bench used to be,

and the staircase where all the teenagers laughed and wrote funny signs on the wall,

and me, just a child, in my cream polo T-shirt with red ladybugs and two buttons.

 

I came around the walls, touching, scraping.

Nothing but old people now on the other side of those walls, sequestered by them.

I still breathed through widened nostrils, I alone could still leap.

 

Where the bench once stood, just arid space.

(Where I once insulted another girl’s doll and was ostracized an entire summer.)

Even the buildings look old, and that is comforting.

 

It is comforting to know some things never change,

that you can count on them never to change,

that your memories still have places to inhabit.

 

It is comforting to unearth roots,

anchoring where it used to be.

My soul is comforted by old immovable things now.

 

There is a weak storm brewing.

I don’t feel threatened. It too has no strength anymore.

It tousles the treetops, the night sky a pinkish fog,

raindrops dry out before they hit the cement.

 

It is merely a swoosh.

 

A coming and going like the ocean tides.

Doves cooing on warm roof tiles, small sparrows under bushes.

It is farewell.

The heart of summer

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“The morning is full of storm

in the heart of summer.

The clouds travel like white handkerchiefs of good-bye,

the wind, traveling, waving them in its hands.

The numberless heart of the wind

beating above our loving silence.

Orchestral and divine, resounding among the trees

like a language full of wars and songs.

(…)

Her mass of kisses breaks and sinks,

assailed in the door of the summer’s wind.”

from Pablo Neruda, “The Morning Is Full” in Twenty Love Poems And A Song of Despair  (beautiful translation by W.S. Merwin)

Have a magnanimous, magical summer! Have a book.

 

Periplu românesc 2016 – Romania 2016 – Rumänien 2016

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Munţii Cernei – Defileul Dunării (la Cazane, de pe apă) – Sibiu şi Făgăraşii cu creste înzăpezite – Sighişoara – Salina Praid – Secuime – Cheile Bicazului şi retur.

Pe scurt: am fript slană la foc în munţi, am mâncat direct la o stână, pe Dunăre căpitanul/ghid i-a lăsat pe copii să ţină ei cârma bărcii cu motor în timp ce zburam cu 40 la oră pe graniţa dintre state (extaz pt. fiică-mea, concentrare crispată pt. fiu-miu), băieţii au fost la pescuit, am fost la parc de distracţii (plus bar) în salină, am vizitat muzeul din Turnul Sighişoarei, iar de bălăceala din piscina hotelului Korona nici nu mai zic. Patronii de acolo ne-au făcut o reducere la cazare fiindcă ne-au recunoscut de anul trecut. Şi ce mişto se văd Cheile Turzii de pe autostradă, într-o sâmbătă aproape pustie!
A, şi – evident – highlight-ul (dacă îi întrebaţi pe prunci): Angry Birds Movie în 3D la mall, cu o dublare în româneşte de zile mari. 🙂 Epocal a fost.

Click pe oricare imagine pentru vizualizare in format mare, apoi săgeţi stânga/dreapta pentru imaginea anterioară/următoare. Savuraţi!

Copyright: Andreea Sepi 2016.

Romania (Banat mountains, Danube Gorges on the border to Serbia, Sibiu and the snow-capped Fagaras mountains, Sighisoara, Praid Salt Mine, Eastern Transylvania, Bicaz Canyon and back) – May 2016. Click on any image for full-size viewing (then click on arrow left or right for previous/next image). Enjoy!

Romania – Primeval beauty

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Romania, Europe’s tender wilderness. Here, the Cerna Valley and its surroundings, in the country’s southwest.

The scenery, a soft primordial crescendo. The climate mild, the people welcoming. And the fragrances – whether wild flowers and acacia or the smell of home-cooked meals – irresistible.

Rumänien, Europas sanfte Wildnis. Hier, das Cernatal und seine Umgebung im Südwesten des Landes.

Die Landschaft – eine ruhige, sich selbst überbietende Steigerung. Das Klima – mild, die Leute – bescheiden und gastfreundlich. Und die Duftwolken – ob Wildblüten und Akazien oder hausgemachtes Essen – unwiderstehlich.

 

Articolul complet în limba română, aici:
http://atelier.liternet.ro/articol/16825/Andreea-Sepi/Romania-luminoasa-Parcul-National-Domogled-Valea-Cernei.html