A LOOK BACK AT MADAGASCAR – PART 1: PARIS


Mass at Notre Dame de Paris © Emily Koopman

Madagascar is one of those places you only read about. In fact, when I told people I was going there, the most common response was, “Oh, like the Disney movie?” It’s not a Disney movie, but yeah. In North America, nobody really knows much about it, which I think is one of the reasons I was so drawn to it. With everyone I knew going to Europe or Asia, I almost felt as if I had been to many of those places already, and honestly knew I could likely never afford to go to a place like Madagascar on my own dime.

When I graduated from film school, my grandma told me she wanted to take me on a vacation. She said I could pick anywhere in the world. Now as you’re probably aware, my bucket list is not a short one. There’s Jordan, Romania, Latvia, Botswana, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Nicaragua… I could go on for hours about all of the different places I hope to experience in my lifetime. Madagascar is somewhere that took me by surprise. I grew up obsessed with the PBS show, “Zoboomafoo”, and I was determined to visit Animal Junction one day in hopes of hanging out with the rambunctious namesake. Of course, back then, even with big dreams, I never thought I’d actually travel to the exact opposite side of the globe and see hundreds of Zoboomafoos jumping from tree to tree in the humid rainforests of Madagascar.

After finally deciding where I wanted to go and discussing it further with my grandmother, we booked the trip around January 2017, and were scheduled to depart in mid-May of that year. I hiked and worked hard to ensure maximum endurance on excursions because I didn’t plan on missing a second.

On May 16th, after a sleepless 9-hour plane ride from Vancouver, we arrived in Paris to a somewhat rude awakening. I contacted our shuttle at the (rude) information centre at Charles de Gaulle, where we proceeded to wait… and wait… and wait. What was supposed to be a 40 minute hang fire due to traffic (hey, it’s Paris), turned into nearly 2 hours. I went back to the (now a different worker, quite polite) info centre and called the shuttle company again. They apologized profusely and said they were having computer troubles. We were assured our ride would be there to pick us up within 10 minutes. We had run into a couple from Nebraska who had also been waiting a long time, so I asked for them too.

When we finally arrived at our hotel, we were greeted by an incredibly friendly and helpful young man (who after the response to my TripAdvisor review, I now know was actually the manager).

We got settled in our room, though neither of us had slept in over 24 hours, we eventually made our way to the Eiffel Tower (which we could see from our room) and hopped on the Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus to take us to the boarding area for our Seine River cruise. That day was also the day I faced the strange and bewildering truth that the Eiffel Tower is NOT silver, but rather a rusty bronze. Witchcraft.

Anyway, on our bus ride to the cruise, I sat up top and enjoyed many of the iconic Paris sights, including the Louvre, the Palais-Royal, the Opera, and Hôtel des Invalides, among others. We disembarked at Notre Dame and boarded the cruise (which departed just across the river). By the end of it all, we were exhausted and somehow easily convinced to jump in the back of a bicycle cart being peddled by a Romanian fellow (unfortunately not the Sweet Romanian Prince I’m looking for, though friendly, he was no Sebastian Stan) who took us to the intersection nearest our hotel. We walked down the street a little ways and found a small hole-in-the-wall bar/restaurant called Les Prolongations, where I had a very messy and very rare burger with an egg on it. That’s a thing apparently. It was better than expected (albeit I had asked for the patty well done). After that, we headed back to our tragically AC-less hotel room, where we both slept sans couvertures and the window wide open. Thankfully, though exhausted, neither of us were jetlagged thanks to a magic pill from the naturopath.

Luckily, we had some time before our flight the next day. We decided to get back on the bus and do some more exploring (not before the world’s most expensive breakfast at the hotel).

First, we explored Notre Dame, which has free entry, but I thought (at the small museum inside, which cost 5 euros) I would be able to go upstairs and see the gargoyles close up. It turned out just to be a bunch of religious artifacts, which didn’t mean much to me. Pays to ask, I guess.

After that, we got on the Orange Line which took us to les Catacombes. I went into a flower shop and asked the girl working there which direction the entrance was in; she pointed to a massive lion statue and said, “derrière le chaton”, which translates to “behind the kitten”. Nice.

We did les Catacombes in such a rush that it didn’t 100% sink in that I was surrounded by millions of decomposed bodies underneath a bustling city. The lady working there wanted exact change which was very annoying and she was pretty rude about it.

We were too sweaty and tired to walk to the bus stop, ride for an hour, and then walk back to the hotel, so we took a cab.

I showered for the second time and we headed to the Orly Airport to catch our flight to la Réunion.

By Emily, on October 5th, 2017, under Travel // Comments Off on A LOOK BACK AT MADAGASCAR – PART 1: PARIS


Emily Does the Disney Tag!


Me and my boy, Petey

If you know me, or have been following me for any amount of time, you know that saying I’m a massive Disney fan is the understatement of the century. Everything about it just makes me feel… at home. That’s why I’ve taken this random tag from the interwebs (credit to whoever thought ‘er up) and answered some questions. Forgive any errors, it’s 3am.

1) Favorite Character
Peter Pan, I’ve read the book so many times I’ve lost count, nearly worn out the VHS, and used to leave notes for Peter at my window as a child.
2) Favorite Princess
Mulan! But I do love Tiana, Jasmine, and Ariel as well!
3) Favorite Heroine
I love, love, love Elizabeth Swann from the Pirates franchise. What a badass. Kida from Atlantis is up there as well.
4) Favorite Prince
Aladdin, all the way. But Eric is a total babe too.
5) Favorite Hero
I’m gonna go with Hercules on this one.
6) Favorite Animal
All of the Aristocats, Simba, and Lady. Oh shit, and Mr. Big from Zootopia.
7) Favorite Sidekick
Only number 7 and the questions are already killing me. Probably Pascal because I love chameleons (lizards in general), and he’s freakin’ adorable. Honorable mentions go to Genie, Mushu, and the dynamic duo that is Timon & Pumbaa.
8) Favorite Villain
Probably Hades — I’ve never really felt a connection to any of the villains (that’s a good thing, right?), but the god of the underworld got jokes. How about my least favourite villain though, huh? Nobody’s asking, but that would Madam Mim. I know she’s only in the movie for, like, 5 minutes, but to this day she still scares the shit out of me.
9) Favorite Original Character (Minnie, Mickey, Goofy, etc)
I guess Mickey, because he’s the lil dude that started it all.
10) Favorite Love Song
“A Whole New World”. I’m. Obsessed. Second place goes to, “You’ll Be in My Heart”.
11) Favorite Song
Um, how dare you? There are so, so many, but I can’t help but sing along AND feel inspired to work out when “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” comes on, so for the sake of giving a solid answer, there ya go.
12) Favorite Villain Song
“Mother Knows Best” or “Poor Unfortunate Souls”.
13) Least Favorite Song
Honestly, I’m not a fan of any of the songs from The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
14) Favorite Kiss
Maybe Tiana and Prince Naveen, but I don’t think I have a favourite.
15) The First Movie You Saw
Not a clue, but if I were to take an educated guess I would assume my mom showed them to be in chronological order, so likely Snow White. If not, then probably The Artistocats.
16) Favorite Classic
If we’re talkin’ animated then obviously Peter Pan, if we’re talkin’ live action then Swiss Family Robinson.
17) Song that always gets stuck in your head
“How Far I’ll Go” and “You’re Welcome”. Every. Single. Time.
18) Favorite Pixar Film
A Bug’s Life!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I was the weird kid who had a crush on Flik.
19) Least Favorite Pixar Film
Wall-E. He’s a cutie, but I couldn’t finish it.
20) Favorite Sequel
The Lion King: Simba’s Pride hands down.
21) Overrated Movie
I know I should say Frozen, but I’m saying Alice in Wonderland.
22) Underrated Movie
For this one, I was trying to think of films that it’s impossible to find merch for, and I’ve noticed that they’ve started putting some of these characters on shirts, but I’d love to see more stuff with The Fox and the Hound.
23) Movie That Makes You Laugh
All of them?
24) Movie That Makes You Cry
Also all of them?
25) The Saddest Scene From Your Favorite Movie
The ending.
26) Saddest Death
Mufasa and Ray!
27) Favorite Quote
I’m not so much a fan of the movie (though I do love the actual place) but in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Quasimodo says, “Today is a good day to try,” and I think that’s an excellent motto for anyone battling a mental illness.
28) Favorite Theme Park
I’ve only ever been to the OG Disneyland, but I honestly don’t think any others could compare. It’s where the magic all began.
29) Favorite Theme Attraction
Indiana Jones, Pirates, the Haunted Mansion, Space Mountain, or Splash Mountain! In DCA, I love Grizzly River Run, Tower of Terror (RIP), and California Screamin’.
30) Favorite Theme Park Show
I love both the Paint the Night Parade and the Soundsational Parade. When my friend and I were in Disney for 2 weeks straight, we watched Paint the Night every. single. day. Still not sick of it. It also has my favourite Owl City song.

By Emily, on September 12th, 2017, under Personal // Comments Off on Emily Does the Disney Tag!


MY TRAVEL BUCKET LIST: The Top 5

When I started writing down my bucket list, I realized that it primarily consisted of places I wanted to experience. That’s right, experience. There are so many things I want to do, and almost no country that I don’t want to visit. Here is a list of things I’m insistent that I must do before my day comes.

Jordan, The Middle East: Over the past, maybe 4 or 5 years, I’ve become increasingly interested in everything about The Middle East; but the country that has excited me most is Jordan. I’m the first person to admit that Indiana Jones is one of my favourite franchises, so it shouldn’t be at all surprising that I dream of following in Dr. Jones’ footsteps. The ancient city of Petra is considered one of the “New7Wonders of the World” (def: a campaign started in 2000 to choose Wonders of the World from a selection of 200 existing monuments), and, in my opinion, it’s one of the most fascinating. To visit would be an absolute dream, but there’s something else that might top even that: a hot air balloon ride to watch the sun rise over Wadi Rum. Wadi Rum is another UNESCO World Heritage Site in Jordan that made my bucket list. That said, as far as this list goes, a hot air balloon ride and a stay at a Bedouin Camp are just the tip of the iceberg.

Romania, Europe: Traveling to what is sometimes called, “The Land Beyond the Forest”, isn’t something on everyone’s bucket list, in fact, the question I get most when I tell people that it’s high on mine is generally, “Why?” I guess the simplest answer is that I love the horror genre, and Romania is home to the historic region of Transylvania, whose villages with fortified churches are 1 out of 7 of the country’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Spending Hallowe’en traveling through the small medieval towns and exploring Bran Castle (rumored to be the inspiration for Dracula’s place of residence) is definitely something I must to do. In fact, my friend Kenzie and I are hoping to make the trip in October 2018.

Botswana, Africa: I’ve thought long and hard about the place I most want to travel in Africa (quite honestly, I’d love to visit them all), and though throughout this series you’ll find plenty more of them, Botswana has taken its place in my Top 5. You’ll mostly find that it’s due to the abundance of wildlife, and the 3 different types of safaris you can enjoy in the area. I recently read an article on Lonely Planet which I believe says it best as, “the enchanting Okavango Delta, the rich habitats of the Chobe River valley and the blistering sands of the Kalahari Desert”, each one unique with its game. I’d love to stay at an eco/wildlife lodge at some point.

The Amazon, South America: As previously mentioned, one of my favourite things to do is see the diversity of wildlife the world has to offer, and an Amazon cruise is an incredible way to make the most of it. I don’t have a preference which section of the river I visit, but I have read that in Peru I could check off seeing both sloths AND manatees in close proximity. Thankfully, I think you can find those funny looking pink dolphins everywhere. Ideally, I’d love to travel the entire length, but I doubt I’ll ever make enough bank for that. I also thought it would be fun to volunteer in the jungle; helping with reforestation and animal inventories, but then I remembered that spiders the size of small puppies live there, and decided I would feel much safer sleeping on the boat and only making daily excursions into the rainforest. Spider-sized puppies? Adorable. Where can I get one? Puppy-sized spiders? Fine as long as I don’t have to look at them or be within eyeshot to see it eat a gecko. The idea of camping out in the jungle is exciting to me, but I’m not sure I would get any sleep. Percy Fawcett I will never be. Last but not least, I think it would be enlightening to visit local indigenous families, as well as experience shamanism firsthand.

Latvia, Europe: Again, not a place on everyone’s gap year travel agenda. The interest stems from an essay I wrote in 6th grade. We had to choose a place and write about what the holidays were like in said country. I’ve always liked to do things differently, so while my classmates chose places like France, Italy, or Spain, I decided on Latvia. Essentially, I think it was because I looked a map of Europe and it was the only country I’d never heard of that I could actually pronounce properly. Who knows! Either way, ever since researching and writing that essay (in French), I’ve always wanted to spend Christmas there. They have a massive evergreen decorated in Riga’s town square, which is (allegedly) where the world’s first Christmas tree originated. The food doesn’t appeal to me too much (neither does that in Romania), but I know they make gingerbread and I could live off of that for a couple of weeks!

So there ya have it. It took me a while to decide how to categorize this series, but I think I’ve finally got a handle on it. Expect a post like this every week for the next month or so. (If I have time! I’ve been working on a ton of different projects, plus I currently have my summer day job.)

By Emily, on September 1st, 2017, under Personal, Travel // Comments Off on MY TRAVEL BUCKET LIST: The Top 5