It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but for someone who took an early train to an unfamiliar town and hiked several kilometers from the station to sit for a couple of hours on a hillside waiting to catch a seconds-long glimpse of the peloton—well, it was the most important decision I’d made in a week. A month.
I selected Poland on a whim because the people seemed nice and genuine, like the plucky European underdogs. I didn't speak Polish. I didn't have any Polish family members, and I did not have a long-distance Polish lover.
At Treehouse, Josiphet welcomed us in the morning with a warm smile and showed us all the rooms in the building, which was inspired by Spanish Catalan architect Gaudi. Pieces of bright, colorful glass were cemented into the white walls, which had been designed to spiral up in large curves, following the staircase up the maze-like tower.
My scalp was moist, my back was sticky, and a slippy layer of sweat covered all of my extremities, so going to sleep at night felt like laying down in a salty puddle, with two other cyclists bathing in their own grease, just inches away.
But take a step closer to the men under those wigs, salesmen armed with red plastic binders and smartphones, welcoming you to Vienna with breath rolling in cigarette stench, touting the latest “authentic” musical rip-off, and the illusion quickly fades: welcome to Vienna.
I questioned whether or not we were in a movie, in which I wondered whether the festival was real, whether Pont-à-Celles was real, whether we were real, whether the day had slipped from one dimension of time and space to another without our realizing it
They were all immaculately dressed in H’mong traditional garb, and the intricate pattens on their shirts and pants and the bright colors that flowed across their limbs seemed to move of their own accord in the darkness.
Le Pin had about ten jeunes between the ages of fourteen and twenty who all gathered at la place—which was nothing more than a bench under a roof—to smoke cigarettes, play cards, and talk. And the first time I met them was overwhelming
Now, the hotel is a hipsters’ paradise, with cool, light interiors and a do-as-you-please vibe. We felt as if we had stepped into a hip playground for grown-ups, where real life was but a distant memory.
The hotel sits on a lava field at the foot of a volcano and is surrounded by hot springs, which gives it the appearance of being an alien structure that is seemingly growing out of its moon-like surroundings.
You don't even need to go on a walking safari to see game—at Mfuwe Lodge, I saw a leopard, a pride of lions, and an elephant, who pulled at the branches of the tree next to my chalet at night, shaking the roof.