Quinta da Regaleira, Sinta, Portugal - French Californian

Mysteries in the Fog: Quinta da Regaleira

If someone were to ask me: What is the Quinta da Regaleira? I’d have a really hard time coming up with a short answer. In fact, it can only really be summed up through multiple pictures and an entire blog post! So here it is.

The Quinta da Regaleira is basically a mansion and its surrounding grounds situated in the mountains above a village called Sintra, in Portugal.

I first heard about Sintra when reading something about J.K. Rowling. If I remember correctly, she was describing all the things that inspired her when creating the world of Harry Potter, and one of them was Sintra. I had no idea what Sintra would actually be like, but I knew that if it had inspired one of my favorite fictional worlds, then visiting it would be worth my while.

Since reading that article, I forgot about Sintra, but as Portugal rose in popularity over the last few years as the coolest, newest travel destination, I saw more and more images pop up into my Instagram and Pinterest feeds featuring this amazing, mysterious garden with moss-covered ponds and a deep, dark spiral staircase that descended into the earth but opened up to the sky. I found out later after doing some research that the place I had seen magical little glimpses of was in fact the Quinta da Regaleira (don’t ask me to pronounce that).

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Cathedral Light (& thoughts on religion)

I’ve had the chance to visit lots of Gothic cathedrals in Europe while I lived in France, and one thing that always fascinated me was the light inside of them. It’s elusive and fleeting, but always beautiful because of its rarity, so I thought it was time I dedicate an entire blog post to it.

But before we get into that, I thought this would be a somewhat appropriate time to talk about my views on religion. I haven’t publicly spoken about it before – as far as I can remember – and I don’t often discuss it in-person. But today, I’m putting it all out there! If religious discussion doesn’t interest you, however, just start reading at the line break further down.

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Château de la Roche Courbon, France

Château de la Roche-Courbon

You wouldn’t believe how many fairly-tale castles there are in France. They’re almost as common as rest stops on an average US highway. Ok, that’s an exaggeration, but I’m fairly certain you could find at least one within 20 miles of wherever you happen to be in France.

I had the chance to explore the Château de la Roche-Courbon recently, and although it’s certainly not the most famous or well known château in France (those titles are reserved for the huge castles of the famous Loire valley), it was magical nonetheless, with a dry moat, sculpted gardens and rounded turrets.

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Exploring Heidelberg, Germany - by French Californian

Exploring Heidelberg, Germany

 

Last year, my friend Katie and I took a 5-day jaunt through Germany’s Black Forest region, visiting three towns: Freiburg, Heidelberg, and Tübingen. Here is an account of what we did while in Heidelberg.

Heidelberg is famous for its charming Old Town, dense forest and imposing red-toned castle. Much like Freiburg, exploring Heidelberg was like walking straight into a fairy tale or Romantic painting. Most of the little streets in the Old Town led straight to a wall of trees of the famous Black Forest, a region which inspired some of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales.

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The Santa Barbara Mission by French Californian

Discovering California History at the Santa Barbara Mission

 

On my last trip to California, my Mom had the fabulous idea to visit Santa Barbara for a few days. I’ve visited many times, since it’s only about 3 hours away from my hometown, but the only things I remember about Santa Barbara are the zoo – which, if I remember correctly, was famous for its giraffe with a crooked neck – the beach, and shopping on State Street. For this trip, since we’re all a bit more grown up, we decided to check out what else the city has to offer, so we headed to the Santa Barbara Mission.

The only knowledge I had about Missions in California came from a school project I did in 3rd or 4th grade, so I was long overdue for a refresher. The Missions are some of the oldest structures along the California coastline, built by a Spanish order of Franciscan friars in an effort to spread Christianity to the Native Americans. There are 21 of them, and the Santa Barbra Mission was established in 1786, although after a major earthquake in 1812, it had to be rebuilt.

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Discovering the 16th Arrondissement of Paris

The other day, I met up with my friend Laura from Ciao Amalfi to explore the 16th Arrondissement. Our primary objective was to visit the lesser-known Musée Marmottan-Monet, but we decided to stroll through nearby streets afterwards. Photographs weren’t allowed inside the museum, but I must admit that it had an excellent collection! If you love the Orangerie with Monet’s waterlilies, you’ll like this museum. They also had a pretty fabulous collection of medieval illuminated manuscripts, most of them extremely detailed and shining with golden gilding.

Just across the street from the museum, we spotted some unique architectural details. One door was guarded by two panthers amid roses. Another was decorated with pinecones and evergreen boughs. Panthers and pinecones are not typical motifs in Parisian architecture. These buildings definitely fall under the Art Nouveau category, but there was something else about these designs I couldn’t quite put my finger on…

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