Wait, it's 2017? Already? HOW?! This past year has flown by. Do you remember being little when the length of a year felt like an eternity? I remember the feeling of Christmastime lasting for a couple of months, now I'm lucky if I'm in that spirit for a week. It's definitely something I miss the most about being a child, that warm Christmas feeling that swallowed you up. I remember making a Christmas countdown with my childhood best friend and I swear that countdown never went fast enough. Every year I try to commit to enjoying the season rather than speeding through it, but it never happens. Maybe next year. ;)
Saying "2016" out loud sends a lot of people into a rage or it sends them running in fear. It was a scary year, there were a lot of deaths, a lot of destruction, elections all over the world were big 'ol shit show, but I was one of the lucky ones who had a good year.
My 2016 highlights:
1. I got married! Luke and I had a super small backyard wedding at my Aunt Michelle's house on June 11th. We invited the people closest to us and kept it as small as possible. I don't even think we spent more than a couple of hundred dollars on the wedding (dress and cake included). I don't like being the center of attention (hello, anxiety) and having a big fancy wedding was never something I dreamed about. None of that cliche "my childhood dream wedding" business over here. If it weren't for the guilt of not giving my mom the chance to have a wedding for her ONLY child, we wouldn't have done anything at all.
2. I traveled to the UK twice and discovered my new favorite city, Edinburgh. The first time we went we traveled up and down England and Scotland. We visited London, Nottingham, Bath, the Cotswolds, Lacock, Sheffield, Edinburgh, parts of the Highlands, Luss, and Glasgow. It was a Christmas gift to my mom (and to us) and it was one of the most amazing and exhausting trips of my life. That trip cost probably around $10k but it was worth every penny. Luke and I planned a second trip to Scotland for our honeymoon, we went in September. We booked a lovely Airbnb in the Old Town of Edinburgh right on The Royal Mile and spent a little over a week there. We took a couple of day trips to the Highlands again and we even visited Loch Ness! One of our day trips took us across the border of Scotland/England, and we visited Alnwick Castle that was used for a lot of the Harry Potter films. Edinburgh will always be my favorite though, I'm constantly trying to talk Luke into booking another trip there (ps: I think we'll end up going again this year). We've even talked about moving there one day - if MM (Luke's company) ever opens a UK office, we're already signed up to go.
3. We met up with a lot of friends! We always see Luke's best friend Atwood, but we got to meet his girlfriend Ruby last year. She's super sweet and she's from Canada, so we got the opportunity to take a road trip to Montreal for a weekend. Not only did I meet Luke on Tumblr back in 2009, but I also met a lot of other great people who I still consider friends today. In England we met up with our friend George (Twikki) for the second time, and we got to see one of my best friends, Naomi, and her boyfriend Ollie and their little son Eric. Naomi and I have been close friends since we were 14/15 and I've visited her three times now. When we were in Scotland we met up with our friend Pete and his girlfriend Ayden of Little Blog of Horrors. On our second Scotland trip we met up with Lauren in Stirling, another old Tumblr friend. I see the faces of these people on social media nearly every day so it didn't feel like our first time meeting a lot of them, it was lovely! I'm hoping to see some of them again this year.
4. I discovered my love for genealogy while researching my family history through Ancestry.com. I've helped solve a couple of family mysteries for people and even been in contact with previously unknown family members! These people have helped me through some ancestry road blocks and I'm so grateful for them. Through Ancestry I discovered the Find-A-Grave and World Archives Project volunteering programs which I am now a proud member of.
5. Luke got promoted this year! He has so much passion for what he does, I really admire it. He started working for a company called MM.Lafleur in 2015, it's a professional women's clothing company in NYC. Luke is an engineer for their website, and he LOVES his job. I never pass up the opportunity to brag about him, I'm just so proud I can't help it! There wasn't really schooling for what he does, and since we've been together he has taught himself almost everything with the help of some of his friends and coworkers and has been working his way up professionally. I won't let anyone take credit for his achievements, they are ALL his own.
6. I hit 10,000 Etsy sales this year and my little business turned five! 10,000 sales in five years sounds like it's not much, but the first three or so years of having my business I had only made it to 1,000 sales. Two years on and I've passed 10,000, not counting duplicate items that Etsy doesn't count towards the total or items sold at craft fairs. I think the total might be up to at least 40,000 items I've made. That's INSANE for one person! My little hands are weary but busy, and that's all I could ever ask for.
I get a bit bored while I'm working, making things you already know how to make or have made hundreds of times before can get a bit dull. To keep me busy I spend a lot of quality time with Netflix, and binge watching TV shows is my favorite thing to do during my work day.
Some shows I've completed this year:
- Making A Murderer
- Gilmore Girls - LOVE, Luke is also obsessed.
- Penny Dreadful
- Scream (MTV's version)
- Shameless - This show is insane but I love it.
- The Carrie Diaries - Not normally my thing, but I oddly enjoyed this.
- Black Mirror
- The Crown
- Medici: Masters of Florence - A good chunk of the Game of Thrones cast is in this, amazing show if you love historical stuff.
- The OA - AMAZING, go watch it. 20x better than Stranger Things.
- The Last Kingdom - Luke and I just finished this together, we're going to finish watching Vikings next.
- Versailles - Another historical drama favorite, I'm bringing this one to Luke next. I'm his show tester and only bring him the best ones.
We've also seen a good amount of movies this year. Some of my favorites were The Hateful Eight, The Revenant, Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children, The Girl On The Train, and Fantastic Beasts. I love Eddie Redmayne so damn much. What were some TV shows or movies you enjoyed last year?
1. Glencoe, Scotland // 2. My new rings from Luke // 3. Alnwick Castle, England // 4. Apples we picked // 5. Last selfie of 2016!
Overall, I had a pretty wonderful 2016. I don't expect anything from 2017, I don't have any set goals but I do have some things I'd like to do/get done this year. I hope everyone reading has a lovely year. <3
UK Trip 2016
For Christmas this past December, Luke and I surprised my mom (and lets be honest, it was a gift to ourselves as well) with a 10 day trip to England and Scotland. I had been to England two times before this trip, once in 2008 by myself to stay with a friend, and again in 2012 with Luke. This was my mom's first time heading across the Atlantic, and I was so happy we were able to share this experience with her!
We did some serious planning for this trip because we were really crunched for time between meeting with friends along the way and visiting the places we wanted to see. In the weeks leading up to it, I worked on an itinerary and even planned out places we could eat that worked with my (and luke's) vegetarian diet, and my mom's gluten free diet. Doing this really helped cut down time we spent looking for places to eat - I recommend doing this ahead of time if you're on a tight schedule while you're away, it makes all the difference. We booked three Airbnb flats and one hotel in different cities along the way. It was our first time trying out Airbnb and we had overall great experiences with all three hosts and flats. We stayed in London, Edinburgh, and Glasgow flats and stayed in a hotel in Sheffield before making our way back down to London for our flight back home.
Over the course of our trip we met up with 5 friends, visited 13 different cities/towns, traveled on 2 planes, 9 trains, countless tube/subway rides, a couple of cars, vans, and busses, and we walked over 40 miles! This is without a doubt the most I've ever traveled in such a short amount of time - but it was all worth the limited amount of sleep and aching legs. The weather was lovely for us, we never got rained on and the sun was always out (as it always is when I'm over in the UK - I think I bring the nice weather with me!). We did so much over the course of 10 days that I'll be breaking this trip into 5 or 6 different posts so each post isn't too picture or content heavy. The map above shows our route and every place we visited along the way, we covered a huge portion of the UK but there is still so much more to see. The moment we landed back in the US, I was ready to go back again!
(left, Castle Combe village / right, Roman Bath's museum ceiling)
(left, Tower of London / right, Westminster Abbey)
(left, Edinburgh Castle / right, Holyrood Abbey)
(left, Inveraray Castle / right, Doune Castle)
(left, The Drovers Inn / right, Chatsworth House)
UK Trip Posts
* All photos are my own unless otherwise stated.
UK Trip: Days 7 - 10, Glasgow, Luss, Sheffield, & End Of Our Trip
On Monday morning my mom woke up with pains in her side, radiating towards her back. We asked her a few times if she'd like us to take her to the emergency room, but she kept telling us that she'd be fine (stubborn, as usual). Luke and I ran out for breakfast, and when we came back to pack our stuff and leave, she was in severe pain. We had a tight schedule - our train to Glasgow was leaving in an hour, and once we arrived we would have to meet our Airbnb host as she was also on a tight deadline. We asked her once again about the emergency room, but she said no. We quickly packed and caught the train for the hour ride to Glasgow, and that's when she finally decided that she needed to see a doctor. As soon as we arrived in Glasgow, we took a cab straight to the emergency room and got her checked in and settled before rushing off to meet our Airbnb host on time. I felt a little bad leaving her there, but she had many chances to visit the ER in Edinburgh! After a little while, and after we got settled into our Glasgow flat, my mom took a cab to where we were staying and announced that she had a kidney/bladder infection. She was all set with antibiotics and cranberry juice, and was feeling a little bit better, though still felt out of sorts the rest of the trip.
Our Glasgow Airbnb flat was super cute! I loved how our host decorated the place, she had welcomed us with fresh flowers, chocolates, juice, and other necessities for our stay. It was definitely a nice touch, and a nice welcome to Glasgow. The shower was a bit strange - you had to turn it on by a switch and then let the water in the sink run, click the button to turn on the shower, and then turn the tap off. A bit tricky - but it worked well until our last night when it decided it didn't want to work anymore. The flat had these lovely window seats that were comfortable to sit in and take in the views (which were mainly of a construction site and seagulls, but hey, I didn't mind). A big highlight of this flat was the rooftop terrace - it was so cozy, with colorful lights lighting up the wall at night time. Our flat owner loved plants, they were displayed all over the terrace. If it was warmer, I know we would have spent a lot of time out there!
Glasgow reminds me of New York City - a mix of new and old buildings. We didn't spend much time there, but the shopping scene looked good. There were a lot more people in Glasgow than in Edinburgh, but at night it seemed like a ghost town! Monday night we met up to have drinks with Pete and Ayden from Little Blog of Horrors. Pete and I have been friends since 2009 when we met on Tumblr - my list of Tumblr meet ups has grown a lot over the past 7 years! It's strange having online friends that you've known for so long, it seems like you know them already, so when you finally meet them in person it doesn't feel like something new? Just like you're meeting with an old friend you've seen a thousand times before. We walked to Brew Dog first and had a couple of drinks while we chatted. After that we went to a tiki bar with a £111 drink!! It was dark in there, and aside from us there was only one other person in there. I guess many people don't go out on weekdays. Our last stop was another place where we had a couple of drinks and then some food before heading back to our flat for the night.
By Tuesday, I was so exhausted from the past week of constant traveling that I was struggling to stay awake. Pete and Ayden picked us up in the early afternoon and we headed to Loch Lomond and visited Luss again. This time we had extra time to explore, and we walked along the Loch with the ducks. The pier was SO windy and cold! I imagine it's absolutely beautiful in the summer though. For lunch we stopped at the Drovers Inn, a 310 year old haunted inn used by Highland drovers who used to drive their cattle down the side of Loch Lomond to the markets. It was super dark inside with dark wood all throughout. A stuffed grizzly bear, among many other old taxidermy, greeted us as soon as we walked in! I really loved the whole place - creepy taxidermy and all. The staff wore kilts, it was the first time I had seen one over there. The building gave off an energy - you could actually feel how old it was. After a filling lunch and a drive back to Glasgow, they dropped us off and were so kind to give us gifts of Scotch for Luke, and another drink for me. I've been working on a little thank you package that I'll be sending their way soon! We said our goodbyes, and then relaxed and packed the rest of the night.
Wednesday was Luke & I's 6 year anniversary. It feels more like SIXTY years, and I couldn't be happier to have him by my side. We woke up early and made our way to Sheffield by train to visit Naomi, Eric, and Ollie. I've been friends with Naomi for over 10 years. We met online back in the "zine world" community days where we would make online magazines through email & send them out to subscribers. From there we joined RTA's ("reply to all" email groups - some themed, some random) and became close friends. Back in 2008, as my graduation/birthday/didn't go to prom present, my family sent me to visit her in England all by myself! I know it really freaked everyone out, but I came back alive two weeks later and I had finally met my best friend in person. Fast forward to 2012, Luke and I went to London to stay with her and Ollie for two weeks, and now 4 years later, we got to visit them again! This time was a bit different since Naomi and Ollie have a baby now - Eric! He's absolutely the cutest, happiest baby I've ever seen.
We met up with Naomi and Eric (Ollie was working) at the train station, and quickly dropped off our bags at her flat before catching a bus to the Peak District. Poor Eric had the chicken pox, but he was a serious trooper and hardly ever cried the whole time we were there. We decided to visit Chatsworth House, which is the home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. Chatsworth house was built in the 16th century and it sits on a 35,000 acre estate. The grounds are absolutely beautiful - rolling hills, water, free roaming sheep and their babies. The "house" itself has 126 rooms - 100 of which are closed to visitors. Even though most of the house is private, we spent a few hours exploring the inside alone, I can't imagine how long it would take to explore the whole thing! It was definitely the most pricey entrance fee we encountered at £25 per person to get in - but I can imagine why they charge visitors so much, 35,000 acres to take care of!? It's a wonder how they've kept it running for so long. Upon arrival, we grabbed some food at the buffet inside. Luke held a baby for the first time ever! It was so funny, Nai kind of just handed Eric to him and he didn't know how to hold him. Luke is the baby whisperer though, and all babies love him so all was good. Guess who "lived" here? You got it - Mary's back at it again being in every building in the UK. Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned in Chatsworth House by her hater cousin, Elizabeth I. The guest wing of Chatsworth House is decorated how it would have been hundreds of years ago, and many of them still feature hand painted Chinese wallpapers. The ceiling and stairs in the Painted Room were so ornate and detailed (pictured below), and the doors and doorways were absolutely huge!
We meant to catch a bus to Bakewell and explore the town, but we ended up on a bus back to Sheffield. In the end it worked out because my mom wasn't feeling well again, so when we got back in the city we checked her into our hotel (the Leopold Hotel, which is an old boys school) and went to Starbucks where we were meeting Ollie when he finished with work. The 4 of us + Eric went out to dinner at an Italian restaurant right behind our hotel, where we talked and ate for a while. After finishing up we walked back to their flat, took some pictures, and then grabbed our suitcases before heading back to the Leopold. Ollie was kind enough to walk us back, otherwise we would have gotten lost for sure! We said our goodbyes to him there since he had work early the next morning and we wouldn't see him again.
The next morning we got breakfast with Naomi and Eric before setting off to the train station to head back to London. We all hugged goodbye, and then the three of us traveled by train, plane, cab, train again, and car before arriving home late Thursday night. We were greeted by two very cuddly cats who I know missed us SO much - and boy did I miss them!
This trip was amazing. Aside from my mom not feeling well towards the end, it went just as planned and I couldn't have asked for a better vacation. While it was quite expensive due to the fact that we traveled to different cities, it was 100% worth it. I know my mom had an amazing time, and it was so nice being able to take her somewhere she's always wanted to go. Edinburgh is my new favorite city, Luke and I have decided that we're going to become sheep farmers and move over there right away. While England is amazing and I'll always love it, Scotland definitely stole my heart. It's the most beautiful place, and I can't recommend it enough. If you get a chance - please go, you will not regret it.
UK Trip Posts
* All photos are my own unless otherwise stated.
UK Trip: Day 5, Exploring Edinburgh
We arrived in Edinburgh very late on Friday night, just before midnight. Since the city was so dark and quiet, we weren't able to experience much until the next morning. Our Edinburgh Airbnb host was kind enough to meet us late in the night and we were so thankful after such a long day of traveling. The flat was located right on the Royal Mile which is the best location you can be when visiting the city. We had to climb three floors of stone spiral staircases to get up to the flat we were staying in but it was 100% worth it. The flat was absolutely amazing and I would live there if I could - no joke. The space was big, incredibly clean, and in the perfect location. It had two super cozy bedrooms that overlooked the Royal Mile, a living room, kitchen, and a gorgeous bathroom with a black slate shower. If you ever stay in Edinburgh, this is the place to stay.
Edinburgh is by far my most favorite city, and that's saying something because I really, really love New Orleans. There is absolutely NOTHING that I didn't like about our time here (actually, I lied - the slow incline of the Royal Mile all the way up to the castle nearly killed my legs, but that's it). Honestly, I get a little teary eyed just thinking about it. The Royal Mile is such a great setup, on one end is Holyrood Palace, and on the other end is Edinburgh Castle. Between the two endpoints are many restaurants, pubs, cashmere shops, and kilt shops. The buildings are absolutely gorgeous and everything is so damn old! By the first half of the 1700's, Edinburgh was one of the most densely populated, overcrowded, and unsanitary places in all of Europe, and boy has it come a long way. Luke and I kept wondering where all of the people were! Every place we visited in Scotland seemed like it was a bit.. dead? There weren't any crowds which is probably another reason why I love this city so much. We were curious about the population of Scotland so we looked it up, and it turns out that New Jersey ALONE has 3 more million people than the whole of Scotland does. This is just one of the many reasons why I'm ready to move to Edinburgh ASAP.
On our way up to the castle on Saturday morning we passed by St Giles Cathedral, which is believed to date before the 12th century. I especially loved the windows on this building, they reflected the sky perfectly. We also passed an old pub that had "Mary Queen of Scots probably drank here" written on the window, which is so fitting because that woman really got around. After admiring the sights for a while, we finished the trek up to the castle which had amazing views (pictured below).
Edinburgh Castle was the busiest place we came across in Scotland, though for 10am on a Saturday, it really wasn't that busy. The Castle itself was built on Castle Rock, which is an extinct volcano. The site has been occupied since the 2nd century, though the oldest still-standing building on the site (and in all of Edinburgh) is St Margaret's Chapel which was built in the 12th century. Mary Queen of Scots, who pretty much followed us everywhere we went on this trip, lived and gave birth to her son here. The Great Hall (pictured below) was built in the early 1500's, and its wooden beam roof is said to be original.
Holyrood Palace & Abbey
One of the highlights of our trip, for me, was Holyrood Palace. If you visit Edinburgh - go here. I fell completely in love with the place. It's located at the opposite end of the Royal Mile, and it's where the Queen stays while she's in Scotland. Most of the current Palace dates to around the 1670s, but Mary Queen of Scots' 16th century apartments still exist within the Palace. The interior of this place is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G and I'm 10000% bummed that pictures weren't allowed to be taken inside. The Gallery is the largest room in the Palace, and when we were there it was set up for a banquet with a table - no lie - that had to have seated at least 200-300 people. The walls were covered with portraits of every King of Scotland since the beginning of time and the room looked like it went on forever. As you traveled deeper into the Palace, closer to the King's bedroom, the rooms got fancier and fancier. The 17th century ceilings and four-poster bed were stunning. Access to Mary's rooms (yeah, we're on a first name basis now) were via a cramped, steep spiral staircase. We stood in Mary's room and learned about how her jealous husband had her secretary dragged into the next room where he was stabbed 56 times and murdered right in front of 7 month pregnant Mary in 1566. The spot where he was murdered has an eerie red blood-like stain on the floorboards, though it's unlikely that this is what the stain actually is.
As we exited the Palace, we stumbled into Holyrood Abbey which was built in 1128, but ruined since the 18th century. This place is unreal, and I could've spent so much time admiring every little detail. The old moss covered faces (below in the photo on the left) really gave me the creeps. We wandered around the Holyrood grounds for a while taking pictures & enjoying how beautiful our surroundings were before heading off to Arthurs Seat, which Luke wanted to climb.
We took a City of the Dead "Double Dead" night walking tour, which covered the Edinburgh Vaults and Greyfriars cemetery, one of the worlds most haunted places. On our way to the vaults, a drunk man dressed as Santa joined our group which was pretty funny. Everyone kept telling him he was a little early for Christmas, and he ended up leaving once we passed by his destination (which I assume was another pub). Our tour guide was entertaining and knowledgeable, and he only threw in a couple of jump scares which was appreciated by the group. The South Bridge Vaults were formed inside of the arches of South Bridge in Edinburgh, which was built in 1788. For 30 years these vaults were used to house taverns, cobblers, and other tradesmen. Not long after they moved in, they abandoned the place due to poor air quality and dampness that was caused due to the bridge not being sealed properly. The poor people of Edinburgh ended up moving in, and the vaults became a slum. Prostitution, robbery, and murder were common in these vaults. Famous serial killers Burke & Hare chose their victims from this area and sold their bodies to medical schools. Women in the vaults were known to befriend pregnant mothers in order to steal their children and put them to a life of work as chimney sweeps. The life expectancy of these children was a maximum of 12 years old. Over the years, many people have had paranormal experiences in this part of the city. The vaults are pitch black, the darkest places I've ever been to. I only got a strange feeling in one of the rooms, which wasn't a room that was supposed to be haunted. If there was actually something there, or if I was influenced by the stories that were being told, I don't know. My mom mentioned that she heard some noises, but wasn't sure whether or not it came from someone in our group or ~~~something spooooopy~~~.
After we finished at the vaults, we made our way to Greyfriars Kirkyard which dates back to the 1560's. We were told that though only 5,000 headstones survive, there are at least half a million people buried here. A "plague pit" was found at Greyfriars, where plague victims were thrown in to be disposed of. There are so many people buried here, it's not uncommon for bones to start popping up out of the ground - the hills you see are not natural, they are created from hundreds of years of bodies piling up. Between the mass amount of bodies and body snatchers, it's no wonder Greyfriars is considered one of the most haunted places on Earth. We were able to see a couple of mortsafes, which were used to protect bodies from body snatchers that would sell them for medical research. The bodies were left in the mortsafes until they were decomposed enough to be deemed useless for medical research, from there they would be buried in their final resting place. The Covenanters Prison can also be found within the graveyard, 400 people were imprisoned here over the harsh winter months during the late 1670s, many of which died here, and the remainder were sent on a ship bound for America that ultimately sank on its journey there. Our last stop on our tour was to Greyfriars Bobby's headstone, a loyal dog who guarded his master's grave for 13 years in the late 1800's. Cemetery keepers would normally have killed the dog, but neighbors in the area grew to love him and a local animal activist paid for his license and care. Bobby brought in so many visitors over the years that some believe Bobby died much earlier than 1872, and was replaced with younger dog to keep the money rolling in. To this day you will find sticks and toys at his grave, left by animal lovers over 100 years later.
Over the course of this day we walked THIRTEEN MILES! In one day!! When you go to Edinburgh, I recommend taking your walking shoes - you'll be doing A LOT of it. :)
UK Trip Posts
* All photos are my own unless otherwise stated.
UK Trip: Day 3 and 4, Exploring London & Nottingham
Tower of London
Thursday was our only free day in London so we explored the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey. This was the third time I've been to London, but since I stayed with friends the last two times, I never really did many tourist-y things. Both the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey were right at the top of my must-see list. In the morning we grabbed breakfast at Pret, which Luke is a huge fan of. We have Pret in some major cities here in the US, but the ones in the UK have a huge vegetarian-oriented menu which I love!
After our quick bite to eat we took the tube to Tower Hill and walked to the Tower of London, we got there around opening time which I highly recommend as it gets quite busy in the afternoons. Right inside of the gates you can join a free Beefeater tour, which we didn't do but I wish we would have. The Tower of London was founded in 1066, and the White Tower (pictured below) was built by William the Conqueror in the early 1080's. Inside the grounds are many buildings of different ages, and this is also where the Crown Jewels are kept. I wasn't very interested in them, but many people are and I'd recommend seeing them first as it's the busiest part of the Tower. Throughout the Tower you can find wire statues of exotic animals, which commemorate the animals that were given as gifts to the Royals by other Royals over the centuries. A polar bear once living at the tower was chained but allowed to wade into the River to catch fish, and other animals at the Tower included lions, monkeys, a leopard, zebra, and an elephant. In the 18th century the price of admission to see the animals was 3 half-pence, or you could bring a cat or a dog to be used as food for the animals (which tore my heart out when I found out). Eventually the animals were moved to what is now the London Zoo, or they were sold off. It's definitely an interesting part of the Tower of London's history that I had never known before.
The White Tower is the oldest part of the complex and it houses the Royal Armories collection. Inside we were able to see a very small armor set dating back to 1610, belonging to either a child or a little person. Right beside it stood a set of armor that looked like it belonged to a giant, which is believed to be from the mid 1500's. This part of the Tower has been a museum for a very long time, and a lot of the armor housed here has been on display for hundreds of years. One of the most popular pieces is King Henry VIII's armor c. 1540 which included a special piece to protect his man parts (and by it's size, I think he had also hoped to impress the ladies with it). We spent a couple of hours exploring the grounds and learning about what the buildings were used for. We even visited the part of the tower where two young princes were kept by their uncle, who ultimately took the throne for himself. The princes disappeared, and it's likely that they were murdered here. The Tower of London is a must see if you're visiting the area, you can spend hours exploring and learning about the centuries worth of history that was made here.
The second half of our day was spent at Westminster Abbey. After hearing my aunt talk about it on her recent trip, I couldn't wait to go and I wasn't disappointed! The present church dates back to 1245, but there was another church on this site since the 7th century. Many coronations, Royal weddings, and burials have taken place here. There were so many monuments inside that I couldn't even look at half of them! They're everywhere - on the floor, the walls, everywhere you look. Among the first graves that we noticed were Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin. We spotted the tomb of The Unknown Warrior, who was buried in Westminster Abbey in 1920. His is the only grave you're not allowed to walk on. Geoffrey Chaucer is buried next to the Poets Corner, where many famous poets and writers are memorialized. We stood next to where Mary Queen of Scots was laid to rest, which is close by to where her hater cousin, Elizabeth I is buried. Inside of the Abbey there is what's thought to be the oldest door in all of the UK, c. 1050 (pictured below on the left)! It amazes me that something so old is still around, and that I was able to see it in person - even something as common as a door. I'm a huge history lover, I even majored in history for a short period of time before I left college.
On Friday morning we had breakfast and then packed as it was our last day in London. Our Airbnb checkout was easy, and we headed to the train station to catch a train to Nottingham to visit a friend. I met Twikki (or George) on Tumblr 7 years ago, and he has visited us once before back in the states. We weren't able to do much because we had a train to Edinburgh to catch, but we stopped at a pub that claims to be the oldest in England, Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem. It rests against Castle Rock, where Nottingham Castle is located. Luke and Twikki had a drink while we chatted, and we eventually made our way up the hill to look at the Castle, which was closed. We had an early dinner at Whetherspoons and said our goodbyes at the train station.
UK Trip Posts
* All photos are my own unless otherwise stated.
UK Trip: Day 1 and 2, Arriving In London & Bath, Cotswolds, Stonehenge Tour
We chose to fly out of JFK airport in New York because the price of our flights to London and back were unbeatable, about $600 per person round trip (compared to my last two travels to the UK when the cost was around $1200 per person). I'm absolutely terrified of flying. I'm not sure when or why exactly it happened, but within the past few years I've developed major anxiety before and during flights, and it gets so bad that sometimes I even end up crying while we're on board. This time was different, and I think it had to do with the fact that we chose an overnight flight that I was able to sleep on, and the ride was so smooth and easy.
We landed in London on Tuesday morning and took the tube to Shoreditch where we met our Airbnb host. The flat we stayed in was on Brick Lane in East London. It's a trendy area with a lot of nice places to eat, vintage stores, street art, and food carts. It was quite a bit away from the places we visited in London, but the Underground makes it easy to get to where you need to be that it didn't bother me. This was our very first Airbnb experience and it wasn't bad! Our host, Lorena, was so sweet and she had a helpful booklet explaining the area and even had restaurant recommendations. The flat itself was nice, though due to it's location, a bit noisy. The kitchen was well equipped with everything that we needed for our short stay, and the whole place was very spacious for a flat in London. We spent the rest of the day relaxing, and while we were out later on picking up some food for the flat, we stopped at Las Iguanas for dinner. I chose the halloumi skewers which were amazing! I love halloumi, and it's VERY pricey and hard to find at home, so when I'm over in the UK I tend to eat it as often as I can. Luke got a smoky chipotle butternut squash enchilada which he enjoyed. If you're vegetarian or gluten free, Las Iguanas has a great selection to choose from! Back at the flat we had a few of our favorite Kopparberg ciders (strawberry & lime flavor!) which we can't get in the US, and headed to bed.
On Wednesday we took a City Wonders tour to Bath, the Cotswolds, and Stonehenge. The tour was a bit pricey at around $500 for the three of us (included travel, lunch, and Stonehenge admission), but we got to see some places we otherwise wouldn't have been able to see. Early in the morning we met with our tour guide, driver, and our tour group which included a Canadian couple and the three of us, so it was a very intimate tour which I liked a lot (I think we were lucky in this sense because it was the middle of the week, if it were a weekend or in the summer I'm sure it would be a much larger group). The ride to Bath from London was a couple of hours, so we chatted with the other couple while the driver set off to Bath at an alarmingly high rate of speed (seriously, he was crazy), and our tour guide slept. We kept getting the same question over and over again while in the UK: "So, what about that Donald Trump?" It's weird to know that the whole world is watching what's going on over here regarding the US election, and I'm just as afraid as the rest of the world.
Our first stop was Bath, where we had some free time to explore on our own. Bath is a beautiful city, and most of the buildings are made from the same golden-colored Bath Stone in Georgian style architecture, giving it a uniformed look. Many sidewalks in Bath were made to be very wide so women in the 18th century could leisurely walk together with their wide, Gerogian style dresses. During our trip to the UK I noticed that a lot of windows were boarded or bricked up, and our tour guide explained that in the 18th and 19th centuries there was a window tax, and you were taxed on how many windows you had. To avoid paying more than they were willing, many people boarded up some of their windows, this was common all over England and Scotland and you can see many examples of this to this day. We passed by the building where Sally Lunn, a famous bread maker from france, lived and baked in 1680 (though the building was built in 1482!). Jane Austen also lived in Bath, though she wasn't a fan and wasn't afraid to express it in her writings.
During our free time we visited the Roman Baths, which sit below street level. We paid admission to enter the Roman Bath museum, which sits above ground and allows you to go underground and explore where the Romans relaxed and bathed. You can see the water steaming, though you're not allowed to touch it. There's a little fountain that you can drink from, and Luke was the only one brave enough to try it. He said it tasted chalky but otherwise wasn't bad! The museum allowed you to easily picture what it looked like in the place that you were standing over 1000 years ago, and if you're ever in Bath, it's a must see. We didn't get a chance to explore the inside of Bath Abbey (pictured below), but the building itself is stunning. It was founded in the 7th century, but rebuilt in the 12th and 16th centuries. In the photo on the bottom right you can see the "stairway to heaven", which I thought was lovely.
Castle Combe, England
Our next stop was Castle Combe, an old small weaving village in the Cotswolds. Castle Combe is named after a 12th century castle that once overlooked the village, and it is often called the prettiest, most picturesque place in all of England. A 14th century market cross still stands in the town, this is where the people of the village would go to sell their goods and livestock. The buildings are all well preserved, with no additions or things like satellite dishes allowed to be added even though people still make these ancient buildings their homes today. We spotted a bakery stand that works on a trust system, take a goodie and leave money in it's place. This would NOT fly here in New Jersey, but I thought it was so sweet! Our guide told us that many wealthy, retired people stay here during the summer and it's common to see expensive cars looking out of place in this tiny town. Castle Combe has starred in a few movies and TV shows, among a few are Doctor Dolittle (1967), War Horse (2011), Stardust (2007), and an episode of Downton Abbey.
We stopped by St Andrew's Church in the village, a portion of it was built in the 1200s, but the rest of the building was built in the 1400s. Inside there is a monument and burial place of Sir Walter de Dunstanville, who died in battle in 1270. He is thought to have fought in two crusades due to the fact that his legs are crossed in his memorial. We didn't get the chance to explore the graveyard, but many of the tombstones looked so worn down that I doubt we'd learn much from them. Lunch was included with our tour price, and we ate at the White Hart, a 14th century pub with very short doorways. Since two of us are vegetarian and one is gluten free, I figured we wouldn't be able to eat anything because it was a meal set up by our tour, but our server was understanding and immediately offered us jacket potatoes which were absolutely huge! They were without a doubt the biggest potatoes I've ever seen in my life, and they came with a nice side salad. My mom ended up trying jacket potatoes at many of the places we ate at along our travels, and she said none compared to the one we had in Castle Combe.
Our next stop was the 13th century town of Lacock. Pictured above is St Cyriac Church, built in the 1300s. I much preferred Castle Combe over Lacock, but it was still a lovely place to visit nonetheless. Many Harry Potter scenes were filmed in this town, including the home of James and Lily Potter, where they were murdered by Voldemort when Harry was a baby (pictured below, on the right). Snape and Quirrell's classrooms were filmed inside of Lacock Abbey (which we didn't visit but saw from afar), as was the Mirror of Erised, some Hogwarts corridors, and some Hogwarts courtyard scenes. In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Slughorn resided in Budleigh Babberton, those scenes were also filmed in Lacock. We explored inside of an old 14th century barn (pictured below, on the left) and even had the chance to go into a small lockup from the 1700s where drunk, unruly people were sent to spend the night. There was only enough space for a wooden bed and an 18th century toilet. We stopped at the local tea room for some water and ice cream (let me tell you - English & Scottish people LOVE their ice cream - you can find ice cream stands all over). Luke overheard some old women gossiping Mean Girls style about a friend of theirs who sat at another table with someone they didn't like, all while they drank tea from their silver tea sets outside. I can't imagine living in a place so small that everyone knows everyone else's business!
The last stop on our long 12 hour tour was Stonehenge. Now, I've never been too interested in Stonehenge, and to be honest I wasn't excited that it was on our tour. However, I really enjoyed it once we got there (aside from the constant wind). Stonehenge itself seems like it's in the middle of nowhere - surrounded by fields, hills, and sheep all over, and I think that's what gives it this strange energy that I was feeling. In the distance you can see ancient burial mounds, assumably belonging to the people who once inhabited this area. No one knows exactly why or how these rocks were placed here 5,000 years ago, but it was interesting listening to theories from our tour guide. Apparently you're not allowed up close to the stones because of a rare type of lichen growing on them (the green moss-like forms on the stones), though after doing some research it looks like the lichen are very stubborn and not likely to be damaged! So in the end, I'm not exactly sure why tourists aren't allowed up close anymore.
After finishing up at stonehenge, we headed back to London and ended our tour. By this time we were so exhausted we just went back to the flat, ordered some food, and went straight to sleep!
UK Trip Posts
* All photos are my own unless otherwise stated.
Castle Combe, England
St Andrews Church, Castle Combe, England
Cobblestones, Tower of London, London, England
Old Door, Westminster Abbey, London, England
Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh, Scotland
Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh, Scotland
Holyrood Abbey, Edinburgh, Scotland
17th Century, Holyrood Grounds, Edinburgh, Scotland
Arthurs Seat, Edinburgh, Scotland
Chair in the Lord's Hall, Doune Castle, Scotland
Done Castle, Scotland
Loch Lubnaig, Scotland
Loch Awe, Scotland
Kilchurn Castle, Scotland
Kilchurn Castle, Loch Awe, Scotland
Inveraray Castle, Inveraray, Scotland
The Saloon, Inveraray Castle, Inveraray, Scotland
Inveraray Castle, Inveraray, Scotland
Inveraray Castle, Inveraray, Scotland
Highland Cows, Stirling, Scotland
Chatsworth House, Bakewell, England
Airbnb Glasgow flat, Glasgow, Scotland
Airbnb Glasgow flat, Glasgow, Scotland
UK Trip Posts
Extra Trip Photos
* All photos are my own unless otherwise stated.
The Marlton Hotel, New York City
I've been a bit busy planning our upcoming trip to the UK so I haven't had much time to blog, but I wanted to share photos of this amazing little hotel with you in Greenwich Village in New York City. Luke had an offsite meeting for work on Friday night, so instead of him making the 3+ hour trip back home late at night, we decided to stay at The Marlton Hotel. We booked a room here a few years ago when Luke first started working in the city, but since he was gone for around 8 hours I was able to spend time admiring all of the work they put into every corner of our room, taking a million pictures.
My purse fit in perfectly!
Okay, so how beautiful is this room!?! I still can't get over it. The rooms are VERY tiny, and they run around $350+ for one of the smaller sized beds, but the staff is kind, the rooms are clean, and everything is just so beautiful I could cry. The lobby, espresso bar, and bar area downstairs have a British pub style feel to them, it reminded me of one particular pub we visited in London a few years ago. They keep the lobby dimly lit and the vibe is so, so cool. I couldn't recommend a better place to stay in the city!
A Weekend In Maryland & Anxiety
One of my favorite weekend adventures is to head down to Maryland where Luke's from for a visit. He grew up in the Bel Air area of Harford County and it's the cutest little place. It has that small town, cozy feel to it that you read about in books. I love spending time there. This past weekend we decided to make the hour and a half trip down to visit his best friend, Atwood, and his girlfriend, Ruby, who was visiting from Canada.
Luke and I have made a new habit of listening to podcasts, and we've invested the past 2 to 3 weeks into listening to season 1 of Serial and Undisclosed after being addicted to the Making a Murderer Netflix series. It makes the trip to Maryland go so much faster, and it's particularly interesting because Serial and Undisclosed share the story of Hae Min Lee, a Baltimore teen that was murdered in 1999, and her ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed, who was charged with her murder. It's been weird listening to these podcasts because I know the areas they've mentioned through Luke, and being in the towns where these events took place just feels strange (and spooky). If you haven't listened to Serial or Undisclosed, I cannot recommend them enough, especially if you liked Making a Murderer. After the end of Serial, I was sure of my opinion of Adnan's guilt/innocence, but now that I'm halfway through Undisclosed, I really don't know what to think anymore. If you've listened to the podcasts, I'd love to know your thoughts on the case! Sorry I went a bit off track there, but this is something that has definitely taken over my mind these past few weeks.
When we go to Maryland we usually spend the night at Atwood's house, but we decided to book a hotel this time around. After we got settled in, we drove to Atwood's house to meet Ruby for the first time! She's very sweet, and I had such a great time with them this weekend. We got lunch Saturday afternoon before heading over to Baltimore to explore. I've only been there a couple of times and it was my first time visiting Fell's Point, a cute little waterfront neighborhood established in the mid-1700's, complete with cobblestone streets! We got a drink at the Cat's Eye Pub on Thames Street and then headed over to The Sound Garden, which was voted second place for best record store by Rolling Stone. We decided to try our luck at the casino down the street, and I ended up winning $10! HUGE for me since I usually lose everything. After a while in the casino, we left and stopped over at Potbelly, my favorite sandwich shop on the way back to Bel Air.
Sunday we had a nice lie in before checking out of our hotel and heading to get breakfast. At 11am on a Sunday, I knew our odds for finding a place that wasn't too busy were slim. We parked and walked to a couple of different brunch spots which both had long waits, and my anxiety started to kick in. I don't do well in crowds. At all. My mind shuts off and my anxiety quickly takes over, and I automatically search for the quickest exit. Whenever I'm with other people in a situation like this, I feel insanely guilty because I know I'm inconveniencing them. I'm the type of girl who will go miles out of her way to make sure she's not inconveniencing anyone, but I just can't help it when it comes to my anxiety. I'm thankful for Luke because he's very understanding at times like these, and he'll go out of his way to get me out of the situation. This is something that has gotten worse over the past couple of years, but I'm working hard on finding techniques that will calm me down in situations like this. I have a big year ahead of me (getting married, traveling) so it's important that I take control of my anxiety instead of letting it take over my life. Atwood and Ruby were kind and understanding, they could probably see the terror on my face, so we ended up stopping at an empty local pub to get food before heading over to Havre de Grace.
A trip to Havre de Grace wouldn't be complete without visiting Seneca Cannery Antiques, the building is absolutely beautiful and they have something for everyone! With over 50 vendors, I could spend hours in there just looking at every little thing. Some favorite things that I've come across have been old black and white photos, wooden ladders, and vintage fabric. Another must see in Havre de Grace is Glyph, a cute little stationary store with some of the best cards I've ever seen. The staff is so kind and welcoming, and all of their products are to die for. We always have a great time shopping there. Luke, Atwood, and Ruby all bought some goodies and then Luke and I set off back to New Jersey. It was a great weekend, and I know we'll be back again soon!
* All photos aside from the first two were taken in Glyph!
I'm sorry this post was a bit ramble-y, I'm going to try and make a habit of blogging more often! I hope you all are having a wonderful week. :)