Machu Picchu

Mom woke me up at 4:30, I did NOT want to get up. I was thinking in my head: “We’re going to Machu Picchu- wake up, wake up.” But I’m the kinda girl that needs a lot of sleep. I finally got up feeling half awake, half miserable, and half really excited (I know, I know, my math’s all wrong). We got our stuff together went down stairs in the hotel to go eat the bread, jam, and ham breakfast (of course not all together). Then we got up, left the hotel and started walking the short way to the bus station.The night before, we stayed in Aguas Calientes, a very touristy, expensive, little town situated below Machu Picchu. Our dinner that night was terrible pizza topped with what was supposed to be garlic (I felt very sick the day after). Anyway, in the morning, we walked down a street, crossed a bridge and we were at the bus station. We had gotten the bus tickets to Machu Picchu the night before (which I really recommend, because if you do it the day of you’ll be waiting for a very long time) and got straight in line for the buses to Machu Picchu (which come about every 10 minutes). We boarded the bus and started the journey (which was terrifying for mom, and so cool for me) to Machu Picchu. The bus ride was twisty and beautiful and kinda scary.
I’m not gonna share any of the pictures from the bus ride because they’re all blurry, but the bus ride consisted of very beautiful views, mountains, rivers, terrifying cliffs that you’re about to fall off, things like that. We then rolled up to the entrance of Machu Picchu. A hotel is situated right by the gates, which is a bummer because when you start climbing up, up, up, and up you can see it in your view, but it must be really nice to stay there, waking up to see a view of the surrounding mountains. Anyway, we got in the long line to get into Machu Picchu. Surprisingly,  the line moved pretty fast, we were soon in.

The whole reason for waking up early was to see the sun rise, so we walked up to the Sun Gate (where people often take the pictures of Machu Picchu for post cards). Usually it takes an hour or two to get there and we got there in seventeen minutes. Mom just happened to  “forget ” to tell me that fact. I have to admit though that it was pretty magical to see the sunrise at Machu Picchu. We sat down at the Sun Gate  for a while soaking it all in. After about thirty minutes we headed down.

We started walking around in the ruins of Machu Picchu. It was pretty cool- we were walking where Incas might have walked. It was pretty magical. After a while of walking around we decided to sit in the grass. We sat on one of the many terraces (which were used for growing crops during the time of the Incas), looking around at the alpacas (the only reason the alpacas are there is because they ‘mow’ the grass), the surrounding mountains, and the ruins of Machu Picchu behind us. I can’t really explain what it was like to be there. We were starting to feel a little toasty in the sun so we walked around some more, looking at the way all the stones fit perfectly together, hearing all the birds flying over our heads, feeling the sense of magic, tasting the fresh air, and smelling the freshly ‘mowed’ grass.

We sat down again to eat our snack, but was kindly asked not to sit on the wall that we were sitting on, so we got up and started walking again. We came to an alpaca. It was right next to a guy who was sitting on a bench thing (it wasn’t really a bench, it was more of a big stone that you can sit on) paying no attention to the alpaca (who was eating from a little patch of grass right next to the guy) and the alpaca was paying no attention to the him. On the other hand there were about three people taking turns sitting next to the alpaca taking pictures, the alpaca got sick of that and started walking straight towards me and mom, we started walking away to not be in its way but it kept following us finally we walked into a room (well it wasn’t really a room, it was really four stone walls with no roof) filled with so many people that we couldn’t be in there anymore without going nuts so we started walking to the door slowly and stuck our head out, the alpaca was a couple feet away eating grass. A women said to us “They won’t hurt you, you know.” Me and mom laughed we knew that but it was still pretty alarming to see this fully grown alpaca walking towards us with his teeth sticking out.

 

I was starting to feel pretty tired (we did walk up at 4:30) so we decide to walk slowly towards the exit. I felt pretty sad to be leaving for some reason. I looked back one more time and then it was gone. “If you ever have children, you have to promise me that you’ll bring me and them to Machu Picchu.” Mom paused “And you’ll pay too.” She said as an after thought. “Sure.” I said.

 

Pictures from Machu Picchu

Pictures from Machu Picchu

Iceland

Hi!!!!!!!!

It’s me!!!!!!!!

Ok, let me start off by saying that I feel like a a new person. I feel like I can do anything and everything now.

When we arrived in Iceland I kept saying to myself that this is a dream. I couldn’t believe that I was actually in Iceland! But I had the stamp on my passport to prove it. I was like WOW, and WOW is right! Iceland is beautiful and wonderful and brilliant. Iceland isn’t what Iceland sounds like at all, it isn’t icy, it’s cooler then lets say Portugal or Spain it’s about 50 degrees fahrenheit, and also it’s again beautiful. The lava fields and the grass and the mountains that you can see from every surrounding. Ok, enough of that.

Instead of renting a hotel room or a hostel we rented an apartment on AirBnB which is a site where you can rent apartments, houses, etc, all over the world. So we rented an apartment but we rented one with the person that owned it there, the person (named Halla) was very nice. She is a healer and a tour guide, she offers tours to people that stay with her for some money. So when we got there she had breakfast waiting for us and after that she gave me a healing and sent us both to bed, for we were very tired, as Iceland is four hours ahead then NYC. When we woke up we went to a swimming pool near by with hot tubs a saltwater pool and a sauna. It was very nice then we walked along the water back to her house (did I mention that her place is right next to the water?) When we got back Halla gave my mom a healing and we talked about what we wanted to do the next day, I would tell you but your about to read that part! After the talk we went to bed.

Me next to the water close to our apartment.

When we woke up the next morning we went to a small piece of land attached to Iceland with a big line of rocks and on the piece of land (Grotta) there is a light house. But Grotta is closed because it is matting season for the birds and they are a little aggressive, which was a bummer. We figured that out we kept walking till we came to a golf course and it was beautiful all the birds and it was right next to the water. When we were walking around the golf course all the birds were squawking at us because they had there nest there and one bird came soooooo close to us I thought it was going to poop on our heads! When we finished the walk around the golf course we walked to the city center of Reykjavik and saw the beautiful church.

Grotta… Beautiful right!

I think the church is beautiful and unique because the way the sides of the church look like stairs.

The church

After that we ate at this tiny seafood resturant and had lobster bisque, and we learned that Icelanders eat a certain kind of whale called minke whale, their side of the story is that there are 250,000 minke whales surrounding Iceland and that we are underusing the resource. I think that killing any beautiful animal isn’t right. I think that eating chicken isn’t right or eating lamb any kind of animal but whatever.

An Icelandic drink called Malt, tastes sooooo good!

Then we walked home and  got ready to go caving, hiking up a mountain, and going into hot springs. So we got ready dressed well brought bathing suits did everything we needed to do and left (did I mention that Halla is going to be our tour guide for this?). Then we got into Halla’s car and drove to the middle of nowhere in a sea of a huge lava field, then we got out and walked a while till Halla said “Here we are!” We looked down and saw an opening to a cave we put on helmets with lights on the front and climbed down into the dark cave.

The opening to the cave. SO COOL!!!!!

The cave was amazing! It was dark and low ceilings and it was completely quiet (we couldn’t talk because if we did there was a risk that rocks could drop from the ceilings) except for the sounds of water dripping from the ceilings. We walked and we climbed down things then we were at the end.

Going in!

Coming out!

Then Halla said “Now for the second cave!”

The second cave!

Going in!

In the cave! AWESOME!!!!! Right?

This cave had three levels we walked through the first level and then we came to a rope to the second level and Halla said “You can use this or you can use a ladder.”

The rope… (I tried it).

Or the ladder?

The second level that the ladder went to.

We all decided to use the ladder because the rope looked hard, we walked a little bit more and came to the wooden ladder that was missing a step and situated in a mountain of ice. Halla went up and I started to go up next, it was going fine until I got to the missing step. See, I am only 10, so I don’t have long legs as my mom or a grown up, I tried to get up but I couldn’t then my mom said I could put my foot on her hand so I did and put my knee on the next step but then I had no way to get up to the next step so I decided to go down because I started to freak out and it was beyond my comfort level but then I couldn’t get down so my mom brought me down. So anyway I didn’t get to the second and third level but it was fun and I tried my best. Then we went back to the entrance of the cave and walked back to the car.

Walking back to the car. Looks like were in front of a green screen right?

Taking a break at the car to drink hot chocolate and to eat Icelandic food!

Drinking hot chocolate with Halla

We drove to the mountain Reykjadular and stopped on the way to go into a gas station to put on our bathing suits (because we were going to a hot spring) and then drove a little bit more till we got to the parking lot, put backpacks on our backs and then started climbing Reykjadular.

The drive there. WOW!

We went up and up and up it was sort of tiring but as most people know I don’t get tired easily.

View on the hike

More view!

After a while of walking and sort of climbing we got to a part of the mountain were the path was a foot long it was slanted down and it was gravel and after the path it went straight down. So we went single file holding each other’s hands and slipping, if you read my moms blog post called Reykjadular, smoke valley, Iceland then you know that my mom thought we were about to die. I was fine, I just couldn’t look down. When we over that part we started seeing hot springs (again you can see more info about it on my moms post about Iceland) but the hot springs were over 2,000 degrees and mist that smelled like sulfur was floating over it so we could NOT take a bath in that. We even saw a hot spring (if you can even call it that) that was so hot that it was clay and it was bubbling! SO COOL! Then we got to hot springs that were safe enough to take a bath in so we got to one that seemed warm enough and to our liking and took a bath. Let me tell you only one thing it was AMAZING! The water was warm and clean and we had a beautiful view of the mountains surrounding us, it was one of the most amazing things ever! When my mom looked at the time it was 12:00 AM Icelandic time! And we had to leave at 4:00AM for the airport! So we had to leave the hot spring😦 and head back. We got to the car went to a gas station and got a hot dog. Now the Icelandic hotdog is a specialty and it is very good, I have no idea what was on it but it was amazing! If you go to Iceland you have to try the Icelandic hotdog! We got back into the car (in the car Halla told us that Icelanders don’t go on the hike that we just went on, and she also told us that no kids my age ever go into the cave, so I felt very proud)  and went back to the house I slept for an hour and we packed and then we left.

THE END

So anyway, Iceland is amazing. You have to go there… You HAVE to go there! And let’s say you’re going to Paris and you want to first go to Iceland. Icelandair has a great deal where it’s cheaper if you go to Iceland and then go to Paris. Awesome, right?! That’s why we went in the first place and I’m glad we did!

Interview on a writer,traveler, and a single mom… AKA my mom

I love New York! New York has wonderful places to go to, wonderful food, wonderful everything! New York is a wonderful city to live, you never get bored! There are so many places to go, and so much to do. Today my mom took a break from her work to do something with me. We didn’t go anywhere, but we did make a wonderful science project. On the 17th or the 18th me and my mom are going to the science mueseum for the big science fair! See what I mean? So many things to do!

My mom is a writer, she reads me all the chapters of the new book she is writing, the book she is writing is called “Rainer Taupe and the Great Glass Turbine”. The book is about a boy about my age on a big New York adventure. The book involves talking rats, the sewage system, and some cool things about New York history. it is also scary- it made me cry once but it makes me laugh a lot. Because it is also a comedy. You should ask her to read it. My mom is also pretty, creative, and crazy, she sometimes makes me annoyed. But she’s the best, she does the best at being a mom. I think she should get a boyfriend, but she’s busy all the time. I think she works too hard! I love her so much!

Lets see what my mom thinks about New York:

Me: Do you like living in New York?

Mom: Well, my dear, we’ve been living in New York for over eight years. It’s been tough as all heck but I could be at the bottom of the ocean and, if you were there, still manage to feel in love with my life. Before New York we lived in Madison, Wisconsin. While Madison was beautiful, it didn’t fuel my creativity in more than a peripheral way. I had felt a great need, for many reasons, to escape. From day one, New York felt like home. I think it feels this way to many people. In Madison I had felt, in my own tiny way, like a miserable somebody. In New York, I immediately shed so many layers that I couldn’t help but feel like a nobody in the best possible way.

Is this confusing to you, my darling daughter? I suppose I only mean that in New York it didn’t matter where I had come from. Here, backstories don’t really matter- it’s what we’re doing in the moment and where we plan to be that is most important. This feeling, so unique to New York, I think, really affords a person a great amount of freedom. Terror, too, but mostly freedom (ask me in a couple of years about my thoughts on sublime experiences).

I’m an artist, writer and single mother to your sweet self. In New York, we’ve met thousands of interesting people doing at least as many interesting things. We practically lived at the Met Museum the first couple of years we were here. I’ll never forget your tiny little limbs clambering up and down the main staircase. We went to a million gallery and movie openings, you had weird famous people draw your portrait at parties. We dressed up and had fun.

When you started school, things changed a little. Public school, we found out, is no joke. We both had tough schedules, and it weighed on me that you, my dear, were always tired. I feel a lot better now that you’re about to start a homeschool and after having had such a great summer of being with family and friends. Traveling around a bit helped. It makes New York feel habitable again.

Speaking of habitable…  Williamsburg, the neighborhood where we lived for our first seven and a half years in New York, was once great, filled to the brim with passionate, irreverent, unequivocally wonderful outsiders. Sadly, it’s become vanilla- a cleaner/wealthier version, as I’ve heard you say more than once, of the Lower East Side. A few years ago, new, god-awful constructions started to go up along the East River, and the prices followed suit. One by one, the creative people who moved to W’burg moved out. Why, this coming weekend even Monster Island is having it’s final block party! Money and a host of other things eventually forced me to move us out of W’burg, too, into Bushwick. At the end of the day, after downsizing, getting rid of a lot of crap, and painting our new place to make it a home, I feel pretty great. Life is good. 

I think, however, that my love affair with New York is waning. Call it my eight-year itch (Google ‘seven-year itch’ to see what this means, my sweet), but I’m feeling ready to cheat on my favorite city with the rest of the world. We’ve talked about it extensively- how I’d like to show you the world while you’re still a kid. I think, just as I once felt that I was leaving Wisconsin to break into something larger, I feel as though I owe it to you to help you do the same, even if it’s just for a few months here and there.

To come back to your original question- do I like living in New York? Absolutely. I love it, in fact. I think it’ll be home base no matter where the road next takes us. But I do hope the road takes us!
 

Me: What is your favorite thing to do in New York?

Mom: You mean, in addition to spending time with you? Hm. Spending more time with you?

I suppose, if I must answer, that I also love going to the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. It’s a magical place. Catching the magnolias blossom in spring takes my breath away- no, it makes me cry. You know this, as you make fun of me to no end. I don’t really love the Queens Botanical Gardens, as you once bust your poor little head open there on a perfectly idyllic day, resulting in a rather horrid visit to the emergency room.

I still love going to the Met, to the Natural History Museum, PS1, the Queens Museum. I love that we have friends in all of these places who can bring us behind the scenes. I think Wave Hill is a treasure. Sitting along the East River makes me feel nostalgic thinking about our first few years in NYC, while sitting on the Hudson generally makes me want to escape. I really like sitting in all the little community gardens in the Lower East Side and eating outside in the thick of it in locations throughout the city. I enjoy cheap little eateries and love going out for the occasional over-the-top meal (this happens once in a blue moon). I still like to go see live music and LOVE dancing, but because of my crazy schedule and responsibilities, am more often found going to bed early. I can’t wait to go to the Science Museum. That place it nuts. YOU’RE nuts while you’re there.

I love sitting on rooftops. I love sitting on OUR rooftop, looking out over Brooklyn. Come to think of it, I think I’d rather like to be up there now, watching you drink a cool glass of water while I sip on a Corona. Maybe we can even dance for a bit. How many questions you got left, kid?

Me: What do you like best about New York?

Mom: A few years back, I read a book called THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING by Joan Didion. Do you remember me talking about it? In it, Didion wrote about losing her husband and the illness of her daughter. Her daughter died soon after she finished the book. A couple years (or a year or twenty, I have no since of time) after the book came out, Didion wrote an adaptation of it for Broadway and opened with Vanessa Redgrave as its sole actor (you probably remember me going?). It was so shockingly beautiful that I bawled like a baby (and ran head-on into Faye Dunaway immediately after I left a rest-room, sick as a dog with some sort of stomach flu, but that’s another story). A few years ago, Vanessa Redgrave’s daughter died after a tragic accident on a ski slope.

Why do I bring up these sad things? I suppose because the best aspect of New York is that you are here with me. If you weren’t here, I’d be liable to shrivel up and beat my chest. Sure, you aggravate the heck out of me (you’re a ‘tween’, after all), but I really can’t think of anyone cooler or smarter or kinder than you.

Being in New York, one must have a real passion for living. What better passion is there than love? I love you, I love my friends, I love that I can walk down the street and fall in love with the city, again and again and again.

As far as my all-time favorite think about NYC (besides you)? The Empire State Building. It featured, in many ways, as a character in one of my books (couldn’t keep it to just a setting). What a crazy place. That said, I hate visiting the Empire State Building. My goodness, just thinking about those lines, I’m liable to scratch my eyes out. I’ve sat in that line only once. Never again, not if I can help it.

Me: Where did you live before New York, What is your story?

Mom: Born in Rhode Island, lived in Wisconsin, moved to Brooklyn. I went to a few schools, made a lot of bad art, fell in love a few of times (yet had my heart broken only once), wrote a great book, and had the most amazing kid ever. Currently I’m planning a trip around the world…  with YOU, kiddo (and anyone who wants to join us). If people are gluttons for punishment, then they can read more about my travel planning adventures here: breakoutofbushwick.com

Me: What do you do for a living?

Mom: Good question.

I recently started a writing, editing, design and lifestyle design business: melissabanigan.org. Clients are slowly rolling in. I’m a fiction writer looking for representation, help people with various projects.

Honey, I feel weird writing to you about what I do for a living. I make money, a little bit, and put food on the table. I’ve worked every job under the sun, and then some. I think, at times, that I can scrape by doing anything. That’s good enough. I love you. Are you nearly finished asking me questions?

Me: What is your most  memorable memory?

Mom: Besides giving birth to you? I suppose my second-most memorable memory is more a conglomeration of many memories- it’s a feeling, but mostly scents. It’s the smell of the top of your head, your sweet morning breath when you were a baby, your stinky little arm pits. It’s the smell of your Nana’s (my mom’s) mints when she took me to church when I was a little girl. The horrible smell of boys’ cologne when I was in middle school. The ocean. I fall in love with smells. I wish I weren’t kidding.

I work really hard in this life, and tend not to relax very often. Instead of focusing on the stress of it all, I try to remember the tiny little moments that make everything worth it. Seeing you on the beach this summer, running around like a banshee, will be one of my favorite memories forever.

Insanely enough, I remember particular hugs from specific people. Yours are amongst my favorite. My friends and family members are all great huggers.

I used to be an abundantly nostalgic person. Not so much these days. Sometimes, I forget what happened yesterday. But I sure do live for sweet, calm, happy moments. I like holding hands, I love snuggling, I love falling asleep on the beach, I love watching you sleep, I love the feeling of finishing a chapter (and I really love the feeling of finishing a book!). I love hearing you tell me that you love me. I love, more than anything, your laugh.

Life is wonderful.

Is this your last question? It’s nearly your bedtime!!

*****************************

Well, that’s the scoop on my mom. The End.

Planning to go on the road

Picture by Kevin Jones

Me and my mom have always wanted to go on a long trip. One day we were staying in the house all day and I was wondering what she was doing on the computer. I asked her and she told me that she was looking at a blog and reading about a family who was on the road. She told me that she also  wanted to go on the road. At first I wasn’t too keen on the idea, but after a while I started thinking that would be pretty cool! My mom told me that if we really do go on a road trip we would probably go next year.

I am so excited! I would want to go to Italy.  I know a women from Italy and she has a very strong accent and she loves avocados!  And I mean she really loves them. She has them for breakfast, brunch, snack, lunch and dinner. She is one of the best people I know! She is funny and she laughs a lot and I’m in a good mood when I’m around her.  I love her so much!

If we do go on a road trip I would also want to go to India and ride an elephant and wear a sari. I know a girl named Reshma Zadda and she is about the same age as me. She was born in India but now she lives in Chicago.  She LOVES icecream- she just loves it!

 The only thing that I would not like about a long trip would be riding in a car. See, I get car sickness and it doesn’t feel good. I also feel sick on planes.  I actually don’t have many good travel options because I get sick in cars, planes, trains and buses. Maybe I wouldn’t get sick on an elephant.  I can’t wait for the Road Trip!  I really hope we do it!  Mom says we’re going to have to do some fund raising and work really hard so that it can happen.