Category Archives: Travel

Europe 2014 – London Part III

On our third and final day in London, we were again blessed with great weather – sunny and almost warm enough to walk around without a coat. We headed to St. Paul’s Cathedral, which was designed by Christopher Wren and built during the 17th century. Due to the fairly high cost (16.50 GBP) and Adam’s relative indifference to church interiors, we decided not to go inside.

Millennium Bridge

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Road trip to Denver

This blog post is coming to you from a not particularly fancy but pretty adequate Extended Stay America hotel room in the lovely city of Denver, Colorado.

Over the past 5 days, we’ve slowly made our way north – driving from Central Florida (think Disney World), where we spent Christmas with my family, through Georgia, Tennessee, and Indiana, then west – from St. Louis, through Kansas City, Topeka, and finally, at last, to Denver. We went relatively slowly, dividing a 27 hour drive into more manageable chucks. We stopped in some really cool towns, ate good food, listened Serial podcasts, and managed not to kill each other or wreck our new car.

I always feel like long road trips sound way more exciting than they actually are, especially when you’re driving through the Midwest; there isn’t a lot to see except fields and silos and the occasional water tower. However, this was a road trip borne out of necessity (the only practical way to get a car from one side of the country to the other is to drive it there), and now that we’re no longer spending 4+ hours in a car every day, I can look back over the trip and say that it’s been relatively enjoyable. Here are a few iPhone photos of our journey.

Fog

The morning of our departure from Florida, the fog was unreal. You can’t really tell, but that’s a lake behind that tree.

From FL, our first stop was Fayetteville, GA, to stay with my aunt and uncle. Not only did they graciously host us, they took us to the nearby town of Senoia for dinner at Zac Brown’s Southern Ground Social Club. Turns out, Senoia is where much of Seasons 3 & 4 of The Walking Dead is filmed. I don’t watch the show, but my husband is obsessed, so of course we had to return the next morning during daylight hours to walk around.

Railroad tracks TWD

Burned building TWD

Wall TWD

Fake Church TWD

Behind the fake church and the ugly zombie-barrier wall are million dollar homes. Each homeowner gets paid $7,000 for the inconvenience of having to look at the wall and deal with all the filming hoopla. I have no idea how they keep these beautiful houses from showing up in the tv episodes, but that’s the magic of the green screen, I suppose.

After poking around the filming area (there are NO TRESPASSING signs every 2 feet or so – not even exaggerating – but we were able to take pictures from a distance without getting yelled at), we drove the 4-ish hours north to Nashville in search of some hot chicken. One of my friends recommended Hattie B’s, so there we went.

Hattie B's Hot Chicken

Hattie’s has 4 different heat levels, from Southern “no heat” to Shut the Cluck Up “burn notice”. I am a sissy, so I went with Medium (“touch of burn”). Husband has a death wish, so he chose Shut the Cluck Up. You order either white or dark meat, pick your sides, grab a table, and wait for delicious to be delivered to your table.

Hattie B's chicken

The chicken was ahhhmazing – totally worth the wait in line. It was hot and crispy with great flavor. My Medium wasn’t quite spicy enough, but I don’t think I could have handled the Hot, so no complaints from me. Adam, however, said his chicken was “the hottest thing I’ve ever put in my mouth”. This is a picture of him dying from the spice:

Death by hot chicken

After Nashville was St. Louis and a trip to the famous Gateway Arch. Adam bought tickets for us to ride to the top, and I’m glad he didn’t tell me what that involved – specifically, getting in a teeny tiny claustrophobic egg shaped vehicle (seriously, this thing was 4×4 and they jammed 5 full grown adults in there) and slowwwwllllly making our way up 630 feet. It was a really cool experience to be at the top of the Arch, but I don’t expect I’ll ever volunteer to do it again!

St. Louis arch

Top of the Arch

The view down made me woozy.

The view down made me woozy.

After that traumatizing experience, I needed sustenance. I needed BBQ. I needed Vernon’s.

We arrived just after they opened and ordered smoked tofu (for me) and lots of meat (some of which was also for me). Ribs, corned beef, brisket, and pulled pork. Y’all, it was incredible. They smoke their ribs in a sweet/savory glaze which caramelizes into something heavenly over 5 – 6 hours. I don’t always eat meat, but when I do, I want it to be this delicious. Vernon’s hit the spot for sure – if you’re in St. Louis, definitely stop by!

Vernon's

Our next stop was Junction City, Kansas, where we celebrated my birthday dinner (cue I’m so old waahhhhh whine here). In the thriving metropolis of Jnc City, as it is known on highway signs, dining options are limited to fast food, Cracker Barrel, and a Mexican restaurant called La Fiesta. We chose La Fiesta, because it was a celebration, after all. And let me tell you, whoever decorated this place must have recently gone to a great party, because the interior of La Fiesta was wild.

Me with booth

This is me, at our table. As in, this picture was on the seat. And all the booths were decorated like this, with crazy 3D wood carvings of scenes from what I can only assume is a cra-azzzy Mexican party.

Chair and walls IMG_2474

Surprisingly, our food was pretty good. Or as Adam said, “It’s hard to screw up fajitas and queso dip.” Fair enough.

From Junction City, it was a long, boring, bleak, monotonous drive to the Mile High City. Nothing but corn fields for miles and miles and a disturbing number of adult only stores and “spas” with half-naked girls advertising “special services” on the billboards. I can’t imagine who frequents these kind of establishments, but after driving for 2 hours without seeing another car, I kind of understand. Sometimes you just need some human company, no matter how depraved.

While Adam drove, I took a nap with my stuffed dog, known as “Fluffy Puppy”.

Napping

Yesterday, we arrived in Denver in the middle of a snowstorm. Visibility was pretty miserable, driving was stressful, I was tired and cold and hungry. In short, I was ready to head back to Florida where I was complaining about 80 degree temperatures in December.

But then this morning dawned – cold, but sunny. And I woke up to this view from our hotel room.

Downtown Denver Denver MountainsI think I like it here. Denver, will you keep me?

Europe 2014 – London Part II

Our second day in London dawned bright and clear, with only a slight chill in the air. For London weather, it was absolutely perfect, and I was thrilled that I had planned for our morning to be spent on a walking tour through the city. Per the recommendation of friends and our guidebook, we decided on the company London Walks and chose the This is London – Flash! Bang! Lightening Highlights Tour! to get an overview of the city and see a lot of sites quickly. Here’s an excerpt of the tour description from the website:

And so we come to the rem acu tetigiste moment: everything you want to see in the famous heart of London can be seen on foot in two hours! Seen better. Seen up close. Seen round behind. Because we can go where the buses can’t. Seen better. Guided better. Fraction of the cost. So, hey ho and off we go – off to see all the classic sights in the heart of London. Tick ’em off: the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, St. James’s Palace, the quintessential Royal Park, classy St. James’s, the Mall, Trafalgar Square, Admiralty Arch, Birdcage Walk, Queen Anne’s Gate, you name it. They’re all here – all the London pearls.

The tour started at the Westminster Abbey tube stop, right across from the Elizabeth Tower, the structure that houses Big Ben (as our guide reminded us, “Ben is not the clock, not the tower, but the bell that tolls the hour“). Thanks to the marvelous efficiency of the London Tube, we arrived 20 minutes early and had plenty of time to walk around a bit and take some pictures.

Big Ben

Westminster Pier

Big Ben gate

(Warning: what you are about to experience, some might consider picture overload. If you and your internet connection are up for viewing tons of vacation pictures, please continue after the jump.) Continue reading

Europe 2014 – London Part I

From Reykjavik, we hopped a plane to London, only a few hours away. Due to weather-related delays (of course it snowed the morning we left Iceland), we didn’t arrive into Gatwick until noon, and by the time we took the train into the city and checked in at our hotel near Victoria Station, it was nearly 2pm and we were ravenous. Using Yelp (love it when restaurant reviews are in my language), we found a nearby pub supposedly famous for – what else – fish and chips. The meal was far from healthy, but the portions were huge, the fish was perfectly cooked, and the prices (for London) were reasonable. Feeling fueled and appropriately “Londonized”, we headed off to see the city.

Standing outside at the Reykjavik bus terminal in the middle of the snow.

Standing outside at the Reykjavik bus terminal in the middle of the snow.

I’d been to London before, about 5 years ago, on a girls trip with my mom, aunts, cousin, and grandmother. We’d spent 4 days in the city and had covered most of the museums and major sites. My husband, while an avid traveler, is not nearly the museum geek that I am, so on this trip, we focused on seeing more of the city itself and spending less time indoors (although we did make an exception for pubs).

It's not exactly the best photo, but you get the idea. Mmmmm fried food.

It’s not the best photo, but you get the idea. Mmmmm fried food. (You can tell this is my husband’s plate because everything is doused in pepper.)

One site that I refused to pass up, even though I’d already been, was the Treasurers of the British Library. For the price of free (!!), you can see an incredible collection of historical manuscripts and other treasured pieces of writing. Along with historical heavy-hitters such as a Gutenberg Bible, the Lindisfarne Gospels, and a notebook of Leonardo da Vinci, there is an impressive collection of maps, plus writing from other famous, more contemporary authors. Think drafts of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, scraps of paper that start to tell the story of The Boy Who Lived (that would be Harry Potter), music scores of Beatles lyrics edited by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, and so many others that I’m forgetting. Let’s just say the British Library is my happy place, and I would have stayed for hours if not for my patient and good-natured, but clearly ready to leave, husband. He’s a good sport, but history isn’t really his first love.

Beer, though, that’s something we both love. I’m especially enthusiastic when I can get my beer in a beautiful, Victorian setting, such as the Princess Louise, which is located not far from the British Library. The interior decorations of the Princess Louise date from the late 1800s, and pictures, even professional ones such as the one below, do not do it justice. The entrance leads you into a long hallway, off of which several partitioned “drinking spaces” give access to the bar. There is stunning detail everywhere you look – stained or etched glass, intricate mosaics, carefully carved wooden panels. I’ll tell ya, drinking in places like these can put all your other favorite bars in a rather harsh perspective!

Interior of Princess Louise. Photo taken by Michael Slaughter for heritagepubs.org.uk.

After our beers, it was time to head to dinner. It was drizzly outside, so we decided to take a bus over to Soho, one of the most famous and vibrant London neighborhoods, known for its conglomeration of delicious ethnic restaurants. Traffic in London is pretty awful, so buses aren’t exactly the most efficient form of transportation, but sometimes it’s nice to watch the city creep by from the top of a double-decker bus, rather than have it zoom by underground.

My husband is a fanatic for Chinese food, so we decided on Y Ming Chinese Restaurant, known for authentic Northern Chinese cooking. I can’t remember what we ordered, and I have a fairly strict “no pictures at the table” restaurant policy. I do remember really enjoying mine (some sort of slurpy noodle soup, I think), while my husband wasn’t as thrilled about his. Overall, it was a good meal, but certainly not the best we had in London.

Our first afternoon in London was pretty rainy and nasty, so we didn’t take any pictures with our nice camera. Next post will cover our walking tour of London, for which we had amazing weather, and will be full of photos!

For more information on our Europe 2014 trip, check out these other blog posts:

  • 2 nights in Reykjavik  Hallgrimskirkja church, yummy food, and gorgeous scenery
  • London Part II – walking tour of London highlights, Westminster Abbey, and an Irish pub
  • London Part III – St. Paul’s, Borough Market, and an incredible WWI memorial at the Tower of London
  • Paris Part Ia walk through Luxembourg gardens and sunset at the Eiffel Tower
  • Paris Part IIthree blockbuster sites: Notre Dame, Versailles, and Sainte Chapelle
  • Paris Part III – the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, and Auguste Rodin museum
  • Bayeux – small town France
  • D-Day Beaches – paying tribute to the Greatest Generation
  • Mont Saint-Michel – an abbey on an island

Europe 2014 – 2 nights in Reykjavik

Thanks to a few Icelandair advertisements strategically placed in DC metro stations, I learned about their free stopover policy several months ago. It’s only a 5 hour flight from DC (Dulles) to Reykjavik, and then just under 3 hours from Reykjavik to London, so it seemed like a great way to break up a long trans-Atlantic trip. I’ve wanted to visit Iceland ever since I read Jar City by Icelandic author Arnaldur Indridason, and fitting it in on our way to London turned out to be perfect.

Iceland

Our flight left Dulles at 8:30pm on Saturday and touched down in Reykjavik at 6:30am local time. Because we were visiting in late October, the sun wasn’t yet up, and wouldn’t be for another few hours. We never check bags, unless the flight attendants are particularly nasty (they weren’t), so we were able to go straight through customs with our carry-ons and were on a bus into town within 30 minutes. Reykjavik airport is small and efficient. The drive took about 45 minutes total; I can’t say I was awake for any or all of it. After a quick switch at the bus terminal (tour buses and narrow Reykjavik streets aren’t exactly compatible), the mini bus dropped us right around the corner from our incredible airbnb house, which I found for loads cheaper than any of the other hotels in Reykjavik.

Despite all the warnings about napping and jet lag, we were going on a few hours of sleep at best, and the down comforters on the king size bed were too much to resist. We decided that if the sun wasn’t up yet, we didn’t need to be either.

A few hours later, with sunlight streaming through our window, we found the energy to get out of bed, shower, and bundle up to explore the city. Temperatures were in the low 30s – not exactly warm, but certainly bearable. First up, the church of Hallgrimskirkja, which looks unlike any other church I’ve ever seen.

Hallgrimskirkja

The church was right up the street from our airbnb house and is said to have been designed to resemble the basalt lava flows in Iceland’s landscape. The statue in front is of Leif Eriksson, famous Icelandic explorer. The church is free to enter, but is very spartan inside, keeping with the Lutheran tradition.

Inside Hallgrimskirkja

Inside Hallgrimskirkja is bright and airy and worlds away from the embellished and adorned Catholic cathedrals I’m used to visiting in Europe. At the back of the church is a large and beautiful pipe organ, the only adornment. The organ weighs 25 tons.

Hallgrimskirkja pipe organ

Although the organ is impressive, the real attraction, in my opinion, is the bell tower, which is open to visitors for a small fee (I believe it was Ikr 900 per person – just over $7). You buy tickets in the small gift shop, then take a very small elevator all the way to the top.

Hallgrimskirkja square

Reykjavik view

Reykjavik view

After our tour of Hallgrimskirkja, it was time for lunch. We quickly found out that food in Iceland is expensive, so we turned to a local hole-in-the-wall noodle place for a hearty, warming meal on the cheap. I can’t remember the name of it, but it was popular and amazing. Hubby got chicken, I got veggies, both extra spicy. It was deeeeelicious.

Noodle lunch After lunch, the plan was to walk down to the harbor area and do some sightseeing, but the weather had other ideas. Just as we were heading out, it started pouring. Already cold and tired, we were not ready to add soaking wet to the mix, so we opted for a low-key afternoon in a coffee shop with our books and bowls of steaming lattes. Eventually, the rain stopped and we ventured out to do some browsing in the shops along Laugavegur, where I picked up a souvenir from the Handknitting Association of Iceland (see photo below).

This hat my look silly, but it was warm!

This hat may look silly, but it is warm!

After an early dinner (we ate at Fish, which was ok but not great), it was time for bed. None of the legendary Reykjavik pub crawl action for us! I’m not as young as I used to be, folks.

Day Two in Reykjavik was sunny, but cold with a biting wind. We spent the day wandering around town, window shopping, and trying to stay warm.

Colorful houses

Beatles bar

I let my husband steal my hat to keep warm

I let my husband steal my hat to keep warm

Lunch at Snaps

Lunch at Snaps

For lunch, we decided to splurge on the lunch special at Snaps restaurant (located in the Hotel Odensve). We were not disappointed! The menu descriptions were victim of a little mistranslation (the description on my husband’s meal – the far plate in the photo said “open faced sandwich”), but both dishes were incredible. We couldn’t believe how much food we received for the price (Ikr 1800 per plate) – especially when prices for similar restaurants were at least Ikr 2200.

After lunch, we caught a bus out to Laugardalslaug, one of the local swimming pools on the outskirt of town. While not nearly as resort-like as the famous Blue Lagoon, it was incredibly nice for loads cheaper. One thing you must do in Iceland, either at Blue Lagoon or at a local pool, is take a dip in a “hot pot” – a small pool naturally heated by geothermal springs. Basking in clear blue water, naturally heated to 104 degrees, while the snow falls was easily our favorite experience in Iceland. I didn’t visit Blue Lagoon, so I can’t compare, but I highly recommend Laugardalslaug – it’s easy to get to, incredibly clean, and we were the only non-Icelandic people there. I wish I had taken a picture, but I find that hot tubs and iPhones aren’t the best of friends.

After a few hours lounging in the hot pots, it was time to catch the bus back into town, find something for dinner, and go to bed early before our 4am wakeup call. Next stop – London!

Check out these other posts to read about the rest of our Europe 2014 trip! 

  • London Part I – arrival in London, fish & chips, a snazzy pub, and the British Library
  • London Part II – walking tour of London highlights, Westminster Abbey, and an Irish pub
  • London Part III – St. Paul’s, Borough Market, and an incredible WWI memorial at the Tower of London
  • Paris Part Ia walk through Luxembourg gardens and sunset at the Eiffel Tower
  • Paris Part IIthree blockbuster sites: Notre Dame, Versailles, and Sainte Chapelle
  • Paris Part III – the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, and Auguste Rodin museum
  • Bayeux – small town France
  • D-Day Beaches – paying tribute to the Greatest Generation
  • Mont Saint-Michel – an abbey on an island

Honeymoon updates, in picture form.

As you may have guessed from my extended absence, the new hubs and I are still honeymooning. We’ve now been in the US Virgin Islands for 12 days; we’ll be here for another 3, and then we’ll spend a few days driving up I-95 from Florida back to DC. Add that all up and you get a full three weeks of honeymoon time (it’s a good thing we like each other). I had to take an unpaid leave of absence from work; he has 25 days of paid vacation a year and thus is getting paid to sit on the beach drinking daiquiris. Lucky bastard.

Although now that we’re married, it’s share and share alike, so I guess I’m pretty lucky too.

I don’t have any more wedding photos (they’re coming, I promise!), but I do have a few vacation iPhone photos to share with you in the meantime. I know it seems cruel to share pictures of sunshine and beaches while 98% of the country is buried under several layers of snow and ice, but…sorry. I don’t have anything else of substance to post about!

Also, I didn’t bring a computer and typing a full post on my iPhone is so out of the question.

Therefore, I give you another cop out photo post.

20140305-202457.jpg I took this picture while we were eating lunch at a nearby drive bar/Caribbean restaurant, Latitude 18. Adam had the shark bake (in West Indies food a “bake” is a kind of fried bread thing that in this instance was used as sandwich bread for fried shark meat). Neither of us had ever eaten shark before, but it was delicious, as are most things freshly fried. I liken the shark to skate (a stingray-looking fish), if that helps you at all. For my lunch, I ordered the vegetable roti, which was insanely good. If there’s one cuisine that is like to become more comfortable with, it’s Indian. The required spices can be hard to come by, but with the internet, I really don’t have an excuse. If you know of a good Indian cookbook for beginners, please let me know! Sadly, the view from our lunch table was so pretty that I forgot to take a picture of the food.

20140305-202523.jpg Here’s a dish that I did remember to photograph. Duffy’s is famous on the island for being a big party bar located in a parking lot. Surprisingly, they also have excellent conch fritters. It might be considered a tourist trap by some, but it’s definitely one I didn’t mind being caught in (please excuse the grammar, I’m on vacation). The music was good and loud, bartenders were friendly and helpful, and bushwackers (it’s a frozen drink, get your mind out if the gutter) were strong and tasty.

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We’ve been doing a lot of drinking. I mostly stick to beer, since sweet fruity cocktails give me brain freeze and a stomach ache, but my sweet-loving husband is in daiquiri heaven.

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The best thing about the condo we’re renting is the view from the porch. Lots of mosquitos share the porch with me, but I continue to brave the blood sucking monsters for views like this.

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This picture was taken at Cinnamon Bay, St. John. On Thursday, we were sunscreened-up and out of the house by 6:45 to catch a boat for a day cruise around the islands. The boat broke down just after we pulled out of the marina, so we were back to the dock by 8:15 with a whole day ahead of us. We decided to take the 9AM ferry over to St. John, which was an excellent decision. Something like 85% of the island has been preserved as a natural park, and it’s absolutely gorgeous. Cinnamon Bay doesn’t have condos or a beach resort, just campgrounds and a small restaurant. It was divine. Not that I’d be an enthusiastic camper (I prefer my bathrooms inside and nearby for easy nighttime access), mind you, but I admire all the people who were!

Side note, if anyone has sightseeing or eating suggestions for Savannah, GA or Richmond, VA, I’d love to hear them! The hubs and I have decided to do one night stop-overs in those cities to break up our drive back to DC (mostly to save our new marriage from the trials of a 16+ hour car ride).

Well, only 3 days left on our honeymoon – I’d better get to the beach while I can!

From the other side

Hello there! I’m now officially married and am writing to you from St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands. I’ve had two rum punches and three margaritas and am typing this on my iPhone; you should be shocked and amazed if there are less than 12 typos in this post.

We’ll be honeymooning for about two weeks, splitting our time on St. Thomas and the surrounding islands. Everyone keeps asking us about our travel and sight-seeing plans; I feel like such a bum for saying we don’t have any, but it’s the truth. I just want to sit on a beach for a few days and enjoy the fact that no one is asking me about whether these napkins would be best for the appetizer table or for the dessert table. Eventually, we’ll make plans and explore and I’ll (hopefully) have something to write about when there’s less alcohol in my system. But for now, please enjoy a collection of photos from my highly sophisticated iPhone.

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This was my car’s temperature gauge as I drove across the Georgia-Florida state line. After weeks of near-freezing temps in DC, I almost got out and did a little dance. Temperature in central Florida while we said “I do” – 82 degrees F.

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Thank you notes that we’re tucked into the out-of-town guests’ gift bags.

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Picture of said gift bags, stuffed with granola bars, water bottles, aspirin, orange juice, tea bags, jelly beans, oranges, and orange flavored popcorn (not as weird as it sounds).

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Neither of us really like cake, so for dessert we had Krispy Kreme donuts that were flambé’d in orange liqueur and served with vanilla ice cream. Apparently they were very good. I didn’t get to have any though. The bride and groom are very popular at a wedding, did you know that? Everyone wants to talk to them.

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Us dancing at our wedding. That’s me in the long white dress!

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A picture of the free travel magazine they gave us as we boarded our flight. I am all about a good travel mag, and free is better than not free! I read the whole thing cover to cover and circled the names of restaurants I want to try while we’re here.

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Of course I dragged us out of bed for 7am sunrise yoga this morning. Not only did we get in some de-stressifyng (yes, it’s a word, trust me on this!) twists and sun salutations, we were up early enough to get some great pictures off our hotel room balcony.

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View from our table at lunch. Yes, it’s over-priced, but the food is good and the weather is heavenly. I’m not going to complain.

I heard there’s another snow dump heading for the East Coast. Y’all stay safe; I’ll try to send warm thoughts your way!

Backyard tourism

I don’t know how many of you suffer from the disease known as the “travel bug”.  More formally known as wanderlust, my symptoms first presented in high school when I traveled to Honduras for a church mission trip.  In addition to building houses and working with a local doctor to dispense vaccines, we were able to enjoy meals prepared by local women, play soccer with a group of teenagers waiting for their turn with the doctor, and travel across the country, where the lush scenery often contrasted with the stark poverty of most of its residents.

Traveling in another country was an experience both terrifying and thrilling.  Even mundane, ordinary tasks, like ordering a junior bacon cheeseburger in the Honduran Wendy’s became a novelty.  Traveling challenged me, broadened my perspectives on the world, and left me hungry for more.

As a senior in high school, I traveled to Italy as part of a spring break trip led my by AP European history teacher.  When that wasn’t enough, I vowed to study abroad in college.  I spent my spring semester sophomore year in Florence, Italy, and managed to explore most of that country, as well as Paris, Lucerne, Munich, Athens, and Cofu.  When that wasn’t enough, I did another study abroad, this time the summer before my senior year, in Maastricht, the Netherlands.  From there, I was able to see London, Brussels, Bruges, Baden Baden, Dusseldorf, Amsterdam, Delft, and the Hague. When that wasn’t enough, I convinced my fiance` to take a month while we were both between jobs and travel throughout Italy (hint – if you want to win my undying love and devotion, whisk me away to Italy).  We visited Rome, Orvieto, Assisi, Florence, Cinque Terre, Venice, Bolzano, and Milan.  And since that still isn’t enough, I’m already planning trips to Iceland, to Vietnam, to Thailand, and beyond.

Traveling is my drug of choice; it calms my nerves and makes me feel alive.  Nothing makes me as happy as reading a guidebook and highlighting all the places I want to visit.  I’m convinced that food ordered in another place automatically tastes better than anything I could get at home.  International travel gives me the greatest fix, but even visiting the next town can hold me over temporarily. When I go without travel, I go through withdrawal.

I can’t speak from experience, but I’m assuming that’s how some people feel about cocaine.

Obviously the difficulties associated with choosing travel as your favorite hobby are many. Traveling requires money, it requires time, it requires at least some amount of planning.  If I had the option, I’d trade $10k of my salary for 20 extra vacation days each year.  But I don’t have that option, and so I have to come to terms with the fact that I’m not going to visit everywhere I want by the time I’m 30.  Which means I have to sate my wanderlust in other ways.

Enter: the idea of backyard tourism.  Backyard tourism, I believe, is a concept that grew out of the staycation movement.  To me, backyard tourism is what it sounds like. It’s being a tourist in your own city; in your own neighborhood.  It’s bringing a camera and pausing to take touristy pictures.  It’s visiting museums or landmarks you may have seen before, but with a fresh set of eyes.  It’s appreciating what makes your city special.  Best of all, it’s very cheap, or even free.

A few weekends ago, between polar vortexes, the temperatures climbed into the 40s (balmy bliss!) and Adam and I ventured out to do some touring.  I was surprised at how much our trip to the Jefferson Memorial (which I’ve seen about 15 times) and the National Art Gallery (which I’ve visited even more) temporarily cured my travel bug.  I saw things I’ve never noticed before, learned some fun facts about the 3rd President of the United States, and listened to a Civil War-era musical performance (there’s always something random like that going on in DC).  Below are a few pictures from our day of backyard tourism.

Looking out from the Jefferson Memorial

Looking out from the Jefferson Memorial

The man himself

The man himself

Flag football on the National Mall

Flag football on the National Mall

Playing around with the reflective triangle sculpture outside of the art gallery

Playing around with the reflective triangle sculpture outside of the art gallery.  Poor fiance` was so bored.

Trees in reflection

Trees in reflection

More reflections....

More reflections….

 

My favorite feature of any of the Smithsonians - the atrium in the National Art Gallery

My favorite feature of any of the Smithsonians – the atrium in the National Art Gallery

This statue, The Dying Gaul, is visiting all the way from Rome.  It was made in the 1st or 2nd century AD, and this is the first time it has voluntarily left Italy (Napoleon stole it in 1797 and took it to Paris, but France returned it after Napoleon was defeated).  Sorry for the poor picture quality, flash photography wasn't allowed.

This statue, The Dying Gaul, is visiting all the way from Rome. It was made in the 1st or 2nd century AD, and this is the first time it has voluntarily left Italy (Napoleon stole it in 1797 and took it to Paris, but France returned it after Napoleon was defeated). Sorry for the poor picture quality, flash photography wasn’t allowed.

Touristy shot of the Capitol building.

Touristy shot of the Capitol building.  It makes me happy.