Great Britain Adventure: Bus Drives to Edinburgh!

We spent most of Day 2 on the bus traveling to Edinburgh. When we first looked at this trip’s itinerary, we were most excited about visiting Edinburgh (and we loved it so much!) but the journey there was grueling. I mean, we were chilling on a bus listening to music and talking so it wasn’t awful, but it was long. The drive was still a great experience in itself, though, because we made several incredible sightseeing stops along the way including:

Hadrian’s Wall

Hadrian’s Wall was constructed in 122 AD to defend the Roman province. Real history, y’all! That wall is nearly 2,000 years old.IMG_3905Thanks, Bret, for handing someone your phone to take this picture. Usually we handed mine over, but, I’m guessing you didn’t come here to read about my lost photos again, so I’ll just say I’m so glad we have some.

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I took a picture that looked almost exactly like this, but I found this one here: http://news.images.itv.com/image/file/70119/article_263d7fdd69a54ca1_1343640739_9j-4aaqsk.jpeg

The England/Scotland border
We tipped this guy who was playing bag pipes and posing for pictures. Note the cold, cloudy Scotland sky… because the next day ends up being BRIGHT AND SUNNY and it was a miracle I later learned.

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Sir Walter Scott’s favorite view in Scotland
There’s a sweet story that goes along with this one… his horses were so familiar with the path that they walked up here even after his death. It doesn’t sound as sweet the way I typed it… but it was sweet the way our tour guide told it.

Scotland

THIS is one of the photos I managed to save because I’d sent it to a friend (thanks again Tiffany!) but, man… this is one of so, so many I took of this incredible view. At least it’s a good, artsy one. Being there was such a beautiful peaceful experience. I remember stepping away from the flowers and taking a photo of a sweet couple on a bench gazing out into this colorful horizon. And what do you know…

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…Bret took the same photo! I was happy because I took one EXACTLY like this. So, consider that one photo recovered. Grateful.

After settling into our hotel, we joined everyone downstairs to embark on a walking tour. This particular walking tour was awkward because we are a big group – over 40 people – and we took up too much space on the busy city sidewalks. People constantly were having to walk around us because we were blocking entire sidewalks and steps. It was kind of unpleasant just because I felt like such a tourist, but it was good because we got to get our bearings for Edinburgh. This was important since we’d be exploring on our own the next day.

We ate at a really delicious Italian restaurant (I know, we weren’t in Italy, but the food was fantastic!) and we got to talk to our new friends and old friends. We had great conversations about phases of life and aging. Two of the women we met were in their 50’s and talking about how it feels like just yesterday that they were in their 20’s. I really enjoyed getting to know these women. First of all, hands down they were having the most fun out of anyone in our group. And they were definitely prioritizing their own happiness. When the tour was annoying, they confronted our tour guide. When the bus was boring, they played music on their phone and got half the bus singing karaoke. They didn’t hesitate to start interesting conversations and they lived in the moment. They spent this week away from their kids and their husbands to enjoy a friends weekend exploring Great Britain. And I admired them so much.

Then we sat up in the hotel bar with a couple friends. I ordered my first Great Britain Guinness beer (it really does taste better in Great Britain!) and we just hung out with some friends from our tour, and planned our next day adventures: visiting a castle! exploring the city! a Harry Potter tour! All of that’s to come in my next post!

Great Britain Adventure: Cambridge & York

Hello! Thank you to everyone who has expressed kind, encouraging words over the loss of my Europe photos. I wish I could say I’m over it, but, clearly, it’s taking me a while to get these out. I wrote about our first day in the UK before the dreaded factory reset, and I keep meaning to write about the rest of our trip, but every time I start to compose another recap, I think about a lost photo that I want to include, and then I feel sad, and angry, and then I don’t feel like writing anymore. It’s a pointless cycle that must end. So, never fear, Day 2 (Day 1 of our official tour) is here!  I can share my experiences on this trip without an endless photo reel. Let’s work with what I’ve got…

After spending the night in London, we found our bus tour easily in the morning. I felt nervous and excited, but also relieved knowing we were in the right place. We started talking with fellow passengers on the bus, and Bret and I were delighted to discover that we were the ONLY Americans in the whole group. There were a few Canadians, but everyone else was from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Hong Kong, the Philippines, …all over. And there was a huge age range as well: 17 to 74! When the bus started rolling, I couldn’t help but smile because our adventure was officially underway!

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Factory Reset

I’m angry at myself right now, truly.

I’ve been toggling between shock and disbelief, but somehow, my phone factory reset itself, and I failed to back up all of my Europe pictures. I’ve tried everything and I’ve asked everyone who could logically help, and, nothing.

This is one of the only full-size pictures I have left of my time in Scotland.

Scotland

It’s gorgeous, right? The perspective! The framing! The color… this is not filtered, people! I love this photo. I’m proud of this photo. I fell in love with SO many of the pictures that I obsessively took during this trip. And now, they’re “in the wind” according to my good friends at Verizon. I only have this one because I managed to send it to a friend last month before my phone self-destructed. Continue reading

New York to London

One of my favorite things about our trip to Great Britain was all of the political conversations I had with my new friends from all over the world. I felt like I’d heard plenty of perspectives on American politics here in the states, but hearing how other countries talked about our education system, gun violence, and healthcare was a really fascinating point of discussion.

I especially loved talking about top political issues in other countries. It was humbling, for one thing, because I realized that even in my own attempts to diversify my media sources there were so many things I didn’t know much about, like the Philippines newly-elected president, Rodrigo Duterte, who has being called “the Donald Trump of the East,” how English is a national language in Hong Kong (and how you definitely do not equate Hong Kong with China), and then, the many reasons for and against Brexit: Britain’s vote to leave the European Union. And to think that I had so many real political conversations with new friends – FRIENDS – who live in each of these places over a span of a week. It’s such a privilege.

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Great Britain Adventure | 2016

I’ve wanted to travel to Europe forever.

I’ve dreamed of visiting England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany. Backpacking. Exploring. I’d hoped to study abroad in college, or find a summer job overseas, but that didn’t happen.

There’s always been an obstacle: lack of money or lack of vacation days. But in January, when Bret and I talked through some our hopes for 2016, we returned to our Europe dream and asked ourselves IF NOT NOW, WHEN?! So I did some research, found a reasonable tour, and booked it.

Passport

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Boone Life: Good, Familiar

Yesterday morning, after snacking on a couple Snickerdoodle cookies from our gathering the night before, I made a bowl of fruit salad: watermelon, strawberries, and blueberries drizzled with syrup made from sugar, water, and oranges. I put on a blue cotton dress and a flannel shirt, and Bret made me stand outside to make sure I wouldn’t freeze since it was only 44 degrees outside. In May. Surprisingly, I didn’t freeze! I’m acclimating.

We got in the car, and drove 20 minutes to our friends’ house. Ten minutes of that drive were spent driving up, up, up a narrow mountain road. As usual, we couldn’t rely on the GPS completely. Something about winding gravel roads on a remote mountain doesn’t scream “priority” to google, I’ve learned. More than once, when trying to navigate home at night from a friend’s house, we’ve been stranded without GPS signal… or phone signal! Thankfully, Bret has an incredible sense of direction.

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Weekend with Vanny

Lately, I’ve been spending my weekends on the road: driving to DC for work, driving to visit family. I don’t mind the hours spent in the car when I’m with Bret. We talk a lot and listen to podcasts and stop for meals at Sheetz and Bojangles. It’s fun!

…But the solo trips can feel long and draining. I recently admitted that maybe I’m stretching myself too thin and pushing my own travel boundaries. If you look at the last two months, I’ve spent WAY MORE weekends on the road than not. And I’m not talking about two hour road trips. I mean, waking up before dawn and spending up to 75% of my waking hours in a car. Maybe I need to practice saying no. Maybe I’m trying to do too much. I’ll reassess that after my next trip to DC later this week, but for now, I wanted to share our craziest recent trip: An 18 hour round-trip drive completed in a giant cargo van in under 36 hours! Continue reading

14 Weeks Without Facebook

You may remember that I de-activated my Facebook account at the beginning of the year.

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It’s been a really healthy change in my life, for the most part. Now that I’ve had some time to step back and zoom out, I realize how much I depended on this site as my source of information about my friends. Now that it’s gone, it’s something that I often forget about. That is, until I miss a friend’s birthday, or realize that I don’t know something that everyone else in the room does because it was posted on Facebook. Continue reading

Three Years of Marriage

Bret and I have been married for three incredible years.

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I clearly remember driving up from Florida three years ago and wondering if the snowstorm making it’s way through Virginia was going to prevent our vendors and guests from making it to our wedding. The sky was clear and the sunshine was warm and we just laughed because we knew we were heading into a blizzard. It’s funny what you remember. Continue reading

Running the Disney Princess Half Marathon

So, in case you missed the earlier posts, I registered for my first half marathon last summer, trained for six months, and very much enjoyed my Disney vacation leading up to the race.

…which brings us to RACE DAY! Finally.

Sunday February 21, 2016
We woke up at 3:00AM. I managed to get a decent night’s sleep and even woke up a few minutes before my alarm clock which was a great way to start the day, but I still felt a lot of race day nerves. Continue reading

Disney Half Marathon Vacay

When I signed up to run the Disney Princess half marathon in the middle of winter, I don’t think I realized just how badly I would need an escape from my first winter in Boone. I’d been uncomfortably cold for months. After six months of training, I was so ready for this race and for the four-day Disney vacation that came with it!

Thursday
After waking up at 3:30am (let’s call this a practice wake up call for race day) and driving for 10 hours, we checked in to our hotel. The drive was long, but we didn’t mind. We love Florida. We miss Florida. Driving to Florida felt like a breath of fresh air and sunshine after being trapped in the mountains for nine months. Continue reading

How I trained for my first half marathon

I’ll just begin by saying that running in the Disney Princess Half Marathon was everything I hoped for and more. I truly couldn’t be happier with my results or the experience, and even though I am exhausted and sore and possibly injured, I’m mostly just sad that it’s over. I’m going to share all of the details (AND PICTURES) soon, but first, I wanted to write a blog post about my half marathon training process.

I still can’t thank my friend Brandi enough for convincing me to register for this thing. When she asked me to run 13.1 miles with her – my first half marathon – my immediate thought was, YAY DISNEY WORLD followed quickly by, I don’t know if I can do this. I remember almost saying no. I remember almost signing up for the 10K instead, but I did it. I talked it over with Bret and he was completely encouraging and supportive so I registered for my first half marathon. I committed to running 13.1 miles, and then the training began! Continue reading