Aurora Watching 101

I’m heading home from a trip to northern Sweden to see the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis.  I spent four nights trying to see the aurora (and about 5 minutes watching an amazing display!) and I came away with some ideas for effective aurora watching.  I’m writing them here in order to help others successfully see the aurora.

The aurora borealis is a beautiful display of colored lights in the sky caused by charged particles from the sun.  It’s rarely seen much below the arctic circle so a trip north is almost always required to see it.  The main challenges of aurora watching are timing your trip during solar activity, having clear skies, avoiding artificial and natural sources of light, battling the cold, staying awake and staying comfortable.

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I’m in Carcassonne, in the early stages of a two-week road trip around France.  I’m staying at the youth hostel here, in one of the best youth hostel locations I’ve ever seen.  I’m inside the walled medieval (I can never spell that, thanks spell check!) city.  If it’s not clear what I mean by that, I’m going to put in a picture I took from the road a couple miles away, across a farmer’s field.

How about that?  Doesn’t it just make you think of Robin Hood or the Black Death or a jousting competition?  (I found out after I wrote that that they do have jousting there in the summer.)  So anyway, that’s where I am typing this right now.  I’ll continue this later, I’m going to tour the walls right now and then get on the road to my next stop: Provence.

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Visiting the Costa Concordia

Italian police are very good whistlers.  I could hear this one across the rocks and sea from about 100 yards, and I was pretty sure he was trying to get my attention.  I looked up and he waved me toward him.  “Oh good,” I thought, “the blasting is over and I can approach the ship.”  I walked over, but it turned out he was telling me to get farther away, not closer.  A small defeat, but I had already won the war.

I had arrived that morning on Isola del Giglio with a mission: to get as close to the Costa Concordia as possible, in her shadow if possible.  The site of her funnel almost hanging over the rocks drew me toward her, from London, from the mainland Italian port of Santo Stefano where I had found a hotel room, from the Giglio harbor where the ferry brought me.  I kept coming closer to see this broken giant at her resting place.

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