Thursday, 26 January 2017

Madeira // The First 24 Hours


It's hard to believe 2016 is now part of my past. It was a crazy year, in the best and worst senses of the word. Some of my best memories, ones which I hope never ever to forget are to do with the amazing trips I was privileged enough to be able to go on. My final trip of the year was a sort of unexpected one. My friend Lucia and I (who you may remember mention of in my Oxford Series) had attempted to make plans to go to Madeira together earlier in the year, but they fell through. By some lucky stroke, we managed to be both free over the October midterm. She and her parents headed there before me, but I had some schoolwork I needed to keep up with, and so followed her there a week later.

My dad and I got up really early on Friday the 28th of October. We had a sleepy airport breakfast, and a smooth trip to Gatwick Airport in London. Then we had loads of time to kill. Once time was well and truly fading fast, he left me, and I checked in for the second time that day, this time around 3pm for a flight. It wasn't the first time I'd been through security and all of that glorious waiting alone, but still relatively inexperienced, I did it as efficiently as possible. Once I'd made it to my gate, I was surprised to find that about eighty percent of those travelling with me were retirees. I shouldn't have been. Once I arrived in Madeira, I could see exactly why.

Regardless, I had put in a full day of travel before it was time to deliriously step off the plane and gather my belongings. I was so tired, and so far away from home. It was surreal in a sense, to see Lucia and her parents smile and wave at me at the arrivals. They were dressed in light summer clothes, their week of sunshine relaxed them to no end. I don't remember much of that first evening. We had a nice dinner out on the balcony, the sunshine welcoming me and sending me to sleep in equal measure. Lucia and I had lots to catch up on, and she bubbled away letting me in on some of the things she was dying to show me on the island.

Saturday was really when the trip began for me. I was still tired, naturally, but the family was all go. I'd be lying if I said I remember all the names of places we went to and the conversations we had. The horizon melted the sea and sky together as one, with only The Desertas to offer me some sense that we were not alone. Madeira is in the same time zone as Ireland, so that was something, but I still felt as though I were on a different planet at first. The distance felt untraceable. I meandered through those first couple of days in a trance. All around me was beauty, but I don't think that I was ready to take it in. This is the reason I am so thankful to have brought my camera with me. The images above show me just how special those views were.

The island itself seemed to have all kinds of microclimates. Our first view point was high up, but hot. Next, we were consumed by constantly moving cold clouds, before being transported back to dry land. The island  is so steep too, that most places are easiest got to by car. Madeira is a Portugese island, but lies off the coast of Morocco. It's the closest to the equator I've ever been, and had some of the most fantastic produce I've ever seen and eaten, and most likely will ever see or eat, but we'll talk about that again.

I have so much more to say, so many more photos to share. Do please indicate whether it would be pleasing to you if I were to continue this series. I know I've been writing so many travel posts lately, so if you'd like to see something other from me, please leave your suggestions down below! Thank you for reading.

Anna ZH

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Oxford // Day Three

Our last day was short, granted, but a lovely end to a wonderful trip. We started off by packing our bags, grabbing an earlier breakfast, and checking out of LMH. Our main ambition for the day was to go on a boat trip along the river Isis. Once we arrived at the docks, there was a tour soon to start, however, we were the only people who wanted to take it. So, the four of us got the tour boat and guide all to ourselves. It was really interesting to see the rowers at their work as well as all the buildings and structures along the way.

We took a look around a museum, but it was unfortunately largely closed off as they were continuing to film the Transformers film there. My canvas shoes got absolutely soaked in an unprecedented downpour too, which really wasn't much fun.

We went to La Maison Blanc Cafe which my dad had spoken much of for a treat before we said goodbye to Oxford. Let me tell you, I had the most wonderful hot chocolate I'd ever had in my life there, and made everyone try it.

I was sad to leave Oxford. I truly have never felt so at home in a new place before. Lucia and I keep saying to ourselves and each other that we will be back there one day, and quite frankly, I can hardly wait!

Check out days one & two!

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