photography

First Few Days in Paris and a Rescheduled Birthday

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I love Paris. I know everyone says that, but you guys, I really love it. We have been to so many beautiful cities and small charming towns in Europe and I have loved those too, but there is just something about Paris. I know I mentioned it the last time we were here, but it gives me the same feeling as San Francisco… I feel like I belong here (I just need to go shopping so I actually fit in – everyone looks so fashionable and put together here).

I love these buildings.

I love these buildings.

We accepted this housesitting assignment all the way back in the beginning of April while sitting at a pub in London, only a week after arriving in Europe. We didn’t have any other plans really and maybe it was unwise to accept something so far in advance (which has not always worked out, but that’s for a different post), but there was no way I was turning down five weeks in Paris rent-free. We arrived last Friday, and have only actually explored the city once so far, because I’ve been so sick.

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Place de la Bastille.

Place de la Bastille.

The Bastille neighborhood on a quiet Sunday.

The Bastille neighborhood on a quiet Sunday.

Heh, if only he had a hat to wear that would take care of the bright sun problem.

Heh, if only he had a hat to wear to shade his face from the bright sun…

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Yesterday was my birthday, and I woke up feeling worse than the day before, so Jeremy and I decided to reschedule my birthday, and celebrate when I’m feeling 100%. I think the reason I get hit so hard when I do get sick is because I don’t sleep. I’ve been averaging 3-5 hours of sleep a night, which doesn’t do much for recovering. And I’m unable to take naps during the day, like a normal sick person. Come on, body! I spent the day mostly in bed, but I did get up to walk a few blocks away to a park we hadn’t been to yet, and what did we see? The Eiffel Tower!

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It may be tiny, but it’s there!

What a face!

What a face!

Our dogs for the month, Frimeuse and Leo.

Our dogs for the month, Frimeuse and Leo.

Jeremy made me my favorite breakfast (fried egg with toast, sliced tomato, avocado, and iced coffee), and made salmon for dinner. I’m feeling a bit better today, so I’m sure I’ll be back on my feet soon. I’m really itching to go running, and go explore every inch of Paris. One of my best friends Nicole will be here in six days, so I HAVE to be all better! Our apartment is near the Bois de Vincennes, which is the biggest park in Paris; it’s three times the size of Central Park. I have gone running there once so far, and I thought I covered a good bit of ground, but turns out I only reached one corner of it. It’s a perfect place to have close by!

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One of the lakes in the Bois de Vincennes; you can rent rowboats here!

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I got a little lost and found some [creepy] teepees in the woods.

Bois-de-Vincennes-Park-Map Today, I’m feeling a little better and Jeremy and I are going to walk to the health food store we discovered, which sells kombucha! It was a very exciting discovery. Now, if there was only a cold-pressed juice place nearby… Happy weekend!

Day Tripping: Venice, Italy

 

 

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During our week in Bologna, Jeremy and I wanted to take a day trip. Bologna is super central, and pretty much all trains going through the region stop there. Florence is only about an hour away, the coast is a couple hours, Venice is two hours, Parma is only thirty minutes (if I recall correctly), and more. I was hoping we’d make it to Florence and Parma, but we were having such a good time in Bologna, we only made it to Venice. We took a train around 10am and arrived around noon.

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We were starving, so the first thing we did was look for a place to have lunch. We wanted something with a nice view, but away from the tourist areas (which are known to be more expensive). We walked a bit but got to a point where we needed to eat immediately, and stopped at a place right on a canal. The view was exactly what I was hoping, the Aperol Spritzes were refreshing, and the food was just okay. But it was a quiet area and it suited us just fine.

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After lunch, we started walking. We didn’t have a map, as per usual, so we just wandered around, sometimes hitting the huge tourists spots, sometimes walking down tiny alleyways with no one else in sight. Man, those tourist areas were packed. Venice in the summer is obviously going to be very crowded, but we didn’t really anticipate just how crowded it would be. And it was real hot. But Venice is a beautiful city, and it was fun to get lost. We asked a gondolier how much a ride would be, and it was 80 euro for 45 minutes, so unfortunately it wasn’t in our budget. I took a ride in a gondola the last time I was in Venice as a teenager with my grandma, and I remember it was really enjoyable.

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After we had our fill for the afternoon, we hopped back on the train and arrived back in Bologna in the evening. A successful day trip, indeed!

Day Tripping: Portovenere, Italy

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One of the days my parents, Jeremy, and I were in Sarzana, we decided to take a day trip to Portovenere. The Cinque Terre were a little too far away, and Portovenere was only about a 30-minute journey by ferry from La Spezia. We parked the car and made our way to the dock to catch the ferry.

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La Spezia

The ferry ride in itself was really fun, and there were beautiful views all along the way. Even though we never made it to Cinque Terre, at least I got to set my eyes on some colorful seaside towns.

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Approaching Portovenere.

 

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When we arrived, we walked around the town and through the narrow alleyways, climbed up to a church on the cliff (where a couple had gotten engaged virtually seconds before we arrived!) and admired the views, and found a lunch spot on the ocean to have a cocktail and some food.

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What? I always stand like this.

What? I always stand like this.

Aperol Spritz - so refreshing

Aperol Spritz – so refreshing

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Lunch with a view.

We had a really nice afternoon exploring Portovenere, and it seemed like it was a good decision after hearing how packed Cinque Terre is during the summer. There weren’t THAT many tour groups, and we were able to relax and just slowly meander around the coast.

Exploring the Northern Italian Countryside

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Turin is the capital of the Piedmont region of Italy, and it’s a good base if you want to explore the charming villages and wine country that surrounds it. My parents, Jeremy, and I set out from Turin to drive to Cinque Terre along the coast, but after a late start, decided the journey was too much to do in a day, and settled for driving to Alba instead, famous for its white truffles. The drive was only about an hour, and much of it was through pretty countryside, where you could see villages perched atop hills surrounded by vineyards.

DSC_4581Immediately when we arrived in Alba and exited the car, Jeremy and I looked at each other and exclaimed that the air smelled very sweet. We had landed in some magical village that smelled entirely of chocolate. I remembered that I read that the Nutella factory was in the region, so I knew it must be it. We were determined to take a tour of the factory, but finally found out that it wasn’t open to the public. What a shame.

The city of Alba is proud of their Nutella heritage.

The city of Alba is proud of their Nutella heritage.

We spent the afternoon leisurely walking around Alba, eating a nice lunch, and visiting a couple churches. Truffles were not in season so we didn’t get to try any, but Alba was still a very nice town to visit.

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I love Italy’s brightly-colored buildings.

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After leaving Alba, we kept driving west to Barolo, famous for its excellent wines. As a friend of mine put it on Instagram: “The king of wines, and the wine of kings.” We found a big winery/resort and Jeremy and I went wine tasting. We tried at least eight wines, and they were not tiny pours. They were all delicious, but we only actually tried two types of Barolo at the end, and they blew all of the other wines out of the water. They were also the most expensive by a long shot. We walked away with some nice wines, but had to pass on spending the money on the Barolo. (Side note: I discovered online that the Barolo vineyards have just been made into UNESCO World Heritage sites a few days ago, which is pretty cool.)

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Barolo vineyards.

We then drove into the center of Barolo, and walked around its narrow, winding roads and alleys, and admired the beautiful views.

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I have to also mention the best meal we’ve had during our travels by far (and which led to the worst run of my life), a few nights after our excursion to Alba and Barolo. It was in a tiny village called Revigliasco in the hills above Turin, and the restaurant was La Taverna di Fra Fiusch (not easy to remember). My parents treated me and Jeremy to a wonderful meal, and it was the most full I’ve ever been in my life. I was actually sad that I was so full after the second course because I knew I wouldn’t be able to eat all of the third and fourth courses. I didn’t get pictures of all the food served, but I managed to take a couple.

 

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Cute little village of Revigliasco.

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I know this is just a bread basket… but it was the most delicious bread I’ve ever had, especially the focaccia straight out of the oven. It also contributed to my extreme fullness, which is a rookie mistake. Never fill up on bread when you have four courses yet to come.

Course one – I really wish I had written the menu down so I could remember what all it entailed.

Course one – I really wish I had written the menu down so I could remember what all it entailed. The pesto “mousse” with burrata on top on the right was incredible.

Dessert – a work of art that consisted of pistachio cake, told you I can't resist pistachio.

Dessert – a work of art that consisted of pistachio cake and some extremely delicious sauces.

Our Fourth Housesitting Assignment: Iffeldorf, Germany

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Oops, it’s been a while. We’re in Sarzana, Italy with my parents and we haven’t had strong internet for the past week and a half, so it was tough to post. We are hopping on a train today to spend the night in Pisa, then on to Rome tomorrow, which I’m pretty excited about since I’ve never been. I wanted to finish up our time in Bavaria, since it was so memorable.

We weren’t sure about taking this housesitting since it was for two whole weeks and it was during the time my parents were going to be in Europe. It turned out to be a really great decision though, especially since my parents ended up driving us to Munich, and then we met back up with them after the assignment was over. Our host in Germany also let us use her automatic car, which made a big difference, since we were able to explore a lot of Bavaria. Besides the incredible hike we went on complete with beer and pretzels near the top of the mountain and some beautiful runs on the trails near the house we were sitting, there were multiple other highlights as well.

Visiting Linderhof Palace

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Linderhof Palace, according to Wikipedia, is the “smallest of the three palaces built by King Ludwig II of Bavaria and the only one which he lived to see completed.” King Ludwig II seems to be quite the interesting character, and Jeremy and I decided to pay to take a tour of the palace, something we rarely do as budget travelers. Ludwig took over the throne in Bavaria at 18, and he built elaborate castles (we visited another one of his castles, Neuschwanstein) before he was mysteriously found dead in a lake at age 41. He also had a strong fascination with Wagner, which influenced parts of the palace we toured.

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We couldn’t take any pictures of the inside of the palace (even though Jeremy tried to sneak one and got caught!), but you can see some of the rooms online. The most interesting room to us was the dining room, where there was a table that Ludwig would eat at alone and the table had a pulley system (called “Tischlein deck dich”), so the table would lower into the staff’s quarters and they would make up the table and put food on it, and raise it back up to where Ludwig was sitting. There was also a big mirror in front of the table, so that Ludwig was dining with himself every time he ate. The tour guide didn’t say this, but on Wikipedia it says that the staff had to make up the table for four people, and Ludwig would have imaginary conversations with them while he ate.

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I was excited to see a palm tree.

Another really interesting part of the palace was the grotto, which Ludwig had built for him. People would put on Wagner operas for him in this man-made grotto, and he would sit in this big clam shell and they pushed him around in the water. He was the only spectator of the opera.

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Day Tripping: Salzburg, Austria

I really wanted to visit Austria since I’d never been, and we decided to visit Salzburg (even though Innsbruck was a little closer) for the day, where Sound of Music was filmed. It was about a two-hour drive, and it wasn’t bad. We had to buy a permit to drive in Austria, but nobody checked it. It was a little nerve-wracking to drive in Salzburg, as it is in any city really, but luckily I only got massively honked at by a line of cars once. And we missed the turn for the parking lot two times and kept circling around the city in our big old Volvo station wagon, and ended up pulling into the parking lot of Augustiner Bräu monastery/brewery. It was perfect. We had to wait a little while for them to start serving beer, so we walked around town a bit.

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You know a city is magical if they have unicorn statues around.

You know a city is magical if they have unicorn statues around.

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I'm such a sucker for plants that look like they belong in a Dr. Seuss book.

I’m such a sucker for plants that look like they belong in a Dr. Seuss book.

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DSC_4475 We headed back to the brewery to get some food and delicious beer, straight from the barrels.

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You can’t really see them because they’re white, but there was a guy serving shaved radishes with salt and we got some. They were really good.

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The halls were filled with food stands.

Anniversary Dinner

Jeremy and I celebrated our one-year wedding anniversary by exploring Starnberger See, a big lake nearby with lots of cute towns around it. This is also the lake where King Ludwig was found dead. We ate dinner at a nice restaurant in our little town, outside overlooking the local lakes.

Starnberger See.

Starnberger See. The water was crystal clear.

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Finally got to wear the one nice dress I packed.

Kloster Andechs

Our housesitting host gave us some suggestions on things to do around Iffeldorf, and visiting Kloster Andechs was high on her list, with good reason. It is another monastery that brews beer, and it’s location on the top of a hill makes for really nice views while you sit outside and enjoy a liter of beer. You can also hike up there from a neighboring town which takes about an hour, but both times we went it was late so we just drove up to it.

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Fishes on sticks.

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The monastery.

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DSC_4568  We had such a good time in Bavaria, I do feel like I could live there. The cats we were taking care of didn’t warm up to us too much, but they were still nice to have around for the most part.

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My dream chocolate bar.

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Making friends.

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The biggest birdhouse I’ve ever seen.

You ain't kidding.

You ain’t kidding.

Our last meal at the train station before heading to Verona. Goodbye Germany! For now...

Our last meal at the train station before heading to Verona. Goodbye Germany! For now…

Does anyone have any tips on places to eat or whatnot in Rome?

One Year

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Today, June 7, is the one-year anniversary of the day Jeremy and I got married! It seriously does not feel like a year already; it seems like I was losing my mind planning the wedding just a few months ago. Even though it was super stressful to plan, everything was worth it and the day went smoothly, and it was so fun having all of our Georgia friends and family fly out for the week.

LJ_details_010We wanted a really simple, small wedding, foregoing a lot of the traditional wedding stuff (bridal party, first dance, bouquet toss, etc.), and I think we accomplished that. We didn’t have a color scheme or anything, we just wanted bright flowers, with a general theme of poppies (the California state flower). We wanted to show our out-of-town friends the beauty of Santa Barbara, and I knew the ocean had to be involved in some way. We were lucky enough to have a family friend offer to host the ceremony at her beach house on one of my favorite beaches (and on the same street as my preschool), and then we shuttled people over to the San Ysidro Ranch for cocktail hour and a sit-down dinner. After dinner, a trolley came to pick everyone up and dropped us off downtown for more celebration. All in all, it was so much fun and it was exactly what we wanted, and I’m so happy we chose the photographer we did (it makes a huge difference!).

Here are some shots from the day! Photos by Esther Sun Photography.

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Me and my grandma. I love this picture.

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We had guests write notes on vintage California postcards I found at a thrift store.

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The San Ysidro Ranch is a magical place.

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We started the year in Santa Barbara, and within the next few months, would pack up our apartment, drive across the country, and depart on this crazy traveling adventure we’re on now. We’re going to celebrate by going to dinner at a lake-side restaurant in our little village here in Germany, and doing some hiking in the Bavarian Alps this afternoon. We shall see what the next year has in store for us!

How I Discovered My Fear of Heights

DSC_4272 After a day spent wandering around Munich, my parents, Jeremy and I piled back into our little VW to head south to reach Neuschwanstein Castle, which Disney modeled the Sleeping Beauty Castle after (apparently). Acting as navigator once again, I wanted to get us there by taking the Romantic Road, a route that would lead us through charming Bavarian towns and worthy places to stop. We had no time constraints, so we figured we would just start driving and see where it took us.

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When it was approaching lunchtime, we started looking around for places to eat. The villages we drove through looked absolutely dead; all stores were closed. It seemed like it might have just been lunchtime closures at first (something we had grown accustomed to in France), but after a while it did seem like something was going on. We finally landed in one town, and started to see people in traditional lederhosen heading in a direction where we could hear some music, and knew we had to follow. We parked the car, and followed the smell of bratwurst to an outdoor festival. There was beer, bratwurst, cake, and music, and we sat down to indulge in the village’s holiday celebration. We asked two people at our table what the holiday was, and in their limited English explained that it was Ascension Day, celebrating Jesus’ ascension into Heaven. It is also sometimes called Father’s Day, which I had seen signs for, but didn’t realize what it was referring to. I don’t eat meat except for fish, and my dad hasn’t eaten red meat in, say, 40 years or so, but when you find yourself in the midst of a Bavarian village celebration and they are only serving homemade bratwurst, you eat a homemade bratwurst. We all had one, and they were delicious.

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My mom and I had a really hard time deciding between all the different homemade cakes, but finally settled for these two, a chocolate/banana slice and an apricot slice.

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Out of focus picture means I was too impatient to get it right before digging in.

As it often happens here in Bavaria, it was sunny when we arrived but storm clouds began approaching rapidly, and the band packed up their instruments. The rain started falling as we were walking back to our car; it was perfect timing, really. We got back in, and continued our journey south.

Pretty little village.

Pretty little village.

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These storm clouds don’t mess around.

Our next stop was the Wieskirche in Steingaden, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It doesn’t look like much walking up to it, but once you step inside, the rococo-designed church that dates back to the 1740s is really something.

The Wieskirche in Steingaden.

The Wieskirche in Steingaden.

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Hi, dad!

Hi, dad!

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After leaving Steingaden, we didn’t have much further to drive until reaching Neuschwanstein Castle. We stopped at a gas station, where Jeremy and I had our first truly rude experience in Europe (after over two months, I’d say that’s pretty good). I wanted to ease our hurt feelings with huge fried balls of dough covered in chocolate, a Bavarian specialty, but I refrained.

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Pulling up to Schwangau, we got our first glimpse of the castle.

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We hiked up to it, but there were busses or horse-drawn carriages that you could take up the steep hill instead. It took about thirty minutes of climbing (with beautiful views along the way), but we finally made it.

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Getting closer…

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Made it!

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After walking around a bit outside (tickets to tour the castle were sold out), we wanted to find a bridge I had read about online, called Marienbrücke, where you could get a really good view of the castle from above. It was a bit more hiking, but we found it, and now my stomach turns just thinking about it. I had no idea how high up it was going to be, and what a dinky little bridge it was going to be. I was paralyzed with fear as soon as we approached it.

I have never been afraid of heights, and consider myself a pretty brave person. Growing up, I remember being nervous about doing things for the first time (like riding a roller coaster, but who isn’t?), but after being talked into doing it (usually by my brother), I loved it and wasn’t afraid after that. I don’t know if it’s because the older I’m getting, the more of a wus I’m becoming, but this bridge scared the hell out of me. It didn’t help that it had started raining, it was windy, and there were huge storm clouds ahead. The bridge is made of wooden panels you walk across, that move when you step on them. I couldn’t fathom how everybody was nonchalantly walking across, like it was nothing. I was gripping the handle so tight and wouldn’t budge, and I wasn’t even on the bridge yet. Jeremy came and got me and finally convinced me to walk across, and I basically had a panic attack as I did, and couldn’t look at anything except the unstable wooden panels beneath my feet. I didn’t even look at the castle. All I could think about was a lightning bolt hitting the bridge, and falling to my death. I didn’t get any pictures because of my debilitating fear, but luckily Jeremy and my dad did.

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Neuschwanstein Castle from Marienbrücke bridge.

I tried to find a picture online of the bridge and how high it was to make people understand my fears, but I couldn’t find a good one. You guys will just have to believe me.

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 After going back across the bridge, I really wanted a picture of me and Jeremy on it with the castle behind and knew I’d regret if I didn’t get one, but obviously I wasn’t going to walk out onto the middle of the bridge like the thousands of other lunatics that do daily (the castle gets 6,000 visitors a day on average), so I shuffled out just a few feet, and grabbed onto Jeremy for dear life. It’s one of my favorite pictures from our adventures so far.

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I feel like a real sissy now, especially seeing how many people just walked across it no problem. I’m hoping this was just a fluke, and that my bravery returns.

Anybody else afraid of heights? (Please say yes.)