There and back – Always (Part 3)

Conwy Castle, Wales. Summer 2013.

If you’ve followed along the last two weeks, you’ll know that we’ve been listing my favorite spots for every country that I’ve managed to visit. Last week I covered my quick stops but now I’m looking at the four countries that I actually have covered extensively and for much longer ranges of time.

So jumping right in:

1. England

I visited England in 1993 (though it totally doesn’t count), 2013, and 2016, but I lived in London from 2014 to 2015. Living in a place is so much different than just visiting it and makes my connection that much deeper. I’ve seen so much of this country, especially London – to the point where I think I’ve walked just about every area at least once – so it’s hard to pick just one place that makes me want to come back and visit time and time again.

In the end, with some help from my mom, I settled on Hampton Court Palace – though ‘settled’ seems the wrong word for it. Hampton Court is lovely and I would love to get my camera in there but more than anything I believe it is the interactive aspects of this palace that makes it worthy of multiple visits. Depending on when you go, they will have a rotation of historical story lines and scenes going on throughout the day that you can follow along and interact with. These stories lead you around the castle and through history.

When we visited, the scenes were from the point where King Henry V was trying to divorce his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, to marry Anne Boleyn. We got to see these chief characters as well as varied named and unnamed courtiers who surrounded them. At one point the ladies separated from the gentlemen so this trip is great for groups who can get together between scenes like this to exchange notes.

2. Scotland

Scotland is one of the places I will never turn down a visit to. I was there in 2013 and again in 2014 but it feels like I have been here ao much more than this. I may have lived in London, but Edinbourgh is probably my favorite city in the world. I’ve had so much fun and cemented friendships here. In 2013, this city was a real turning point and it’s effected my view of this city forever.

Every time I visit I climb Arthur’s Seat. I’ve gone the long back way as well as the direct and both have been brilliant. It’s easy enough to climb in a dress and converse or workout gear if you really want to push yourself. You can do a quick 30 minute climb or spend the whole days picnicking and climbing through the different points.

3. Wales

I’ve been to Cardiff more than anywhere else in Wales and I was there in 2013, 2015, and 2016. Still, the place that sticks out most in my head – despite my Whovian tendencies – is Conwy Castle. This ruined keep was a brilliant day where I climbed over and over, up and down every tower and rampart parapet. Parts of these walls are not accessible but following along the great stones you can always find your way back up. Next time I visit, I want to stay longer and explore the area more. There are beach areas along the castle grounds as well as the town inside the walls.

4. France

Besides England, France is the country I have explored the most. I’ve visited with both family and completely by myself three times from 2011 to 2016 covering large areas of the country each time. Where I’ve written many love letters to Lyon and always recommend passing through if a person is at all able, old town ended up being my number two location in France.

In the end, Mont Saint Michel in Normandy is my top pick. I loved exploring and climbing through the old monastery but there is so much more I want to do here that I would happily go back to France just to come back here. I want to walk around the cities base as well as see area at high tide when you get to see the real inspiration for Disney’s Corona.

And that wraps up all the countries that I can actually count as having visited. In some ways, it feels like I’ve been everywhere but, in others, it’s more like I’ve been nowhere at all. While I’d give a lot to go back to any of these countries  – the areas I’ve been to or not – obviously I’m hoping to add many more to this list.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

There and back – Always (Part 3)

Just some points of planning well

Some advice for traveling out of London…Part two of my London travel summary

Here is my Heart: London, England. December 2015.

If you are stationed in London, whether living here or just as a home base to travel out from on vacation, this city is close to everything so it’s a great spot to travel out from, especially if you are looking for smaller outings. If you are looking to do more of these small trips as I wish I had during my time out there, there are a few pieces of advice you should keep in mind:

First, you don’t (and I really mean never) need to pack as much as you think. You can really go weeks at a time living out of a backpack or carry-on sized bag if you pack it correctly. By this, I mean both HOW and WHAT you pack.

Most travelers know that rolling clothes takes up less space in your bag, allowing for more room for other pieces which is a great tool, however, if you pack a good mix of durable items (even if some are thinner) you can get away with not packing very much at all.

A pair of basic blue of black denim pants can generally stretch across weeks with no problem, especially if you pack them in with dryer sheets and/or a small bottle of fragrance spray. If you pack two pairs (say if your trip is longer than a week) you can switch back and forth to let things air out during the day rather than all night which is the best idea with a single pair. Adding a pair of leggings or two helps with this rotation as well while still keeping things light.

Tops are a bit harder because they tend to be less resilient, however, if you are careful, follow the same patterns as stated for jeans, you can get away with double wearing shirts—triple wearing if we’re talking about a thicker material (like you’ll find in a unisex top, thicker thermals and plaid button ups). Think about packing stuff that goes together and you shouldn’t run into any issues!

This changes if you have to plan for events, of course—I’m graduating soon which includes a week of travel between countries, meaning adding in outfits for multiple nice events/nights out as well as the cold of Europe in January.

For a quick trip (call it a week,) I pack a pair of jeans, a pair of thick leggings, one jacket, one sweater, 4 shirts—two of which are long tops—and pjs. I’ll wear boots and pack a pair of easy sneakers and/or flats that I can walk in.

But this isn’t just about packing, so moving on to point two:

Before you even think about what to wear and where, plan a few small day to weekend trips at a time without any dates necessarily attached. This lets you schedule them in once you have ideas of what you want to do and around your non-travel schedule. Once you are more settled in, this pre-planning will make it much easier to actually get things set up.

A note here: when I say plan these trips, I mean write them down and in detail; don’t just keep ideas in your head. You have to know how long you want these trips to be or need them to be going into the later stage of planning (ie. nailing down your details) so you don’t waste time.

I also really recommend using the favorite feature on Google maps. You’ll be able to plan your day to day excursions based one where things are in relation to each other, as well as find easy links and time tables for when things are open and the time it will take to get from one stop to another. It also lets you discover places you physically cannot get to whether because of lack of transportation, time, cost, or any of the other issues which tend to pop up. I check this everyday I’m traveling just to check where I stand.

After you finish up one of your trips, make a list of everything you wanted to do that you weren’t able to get around to. You’re more likely to go to the same place multiple times if it’s not far or hard to reach, so having this list already created will make it easier later. I’m experiencing this now while planning a few days with my parents in Paris. While my mom is doing a lot of it with my father in mind—he hasn’t been to Paris in a very long time—I was able to send her some places from my list that would work for each of us.

But my biggest piece of advice for traveling out from London—or really any European hub city—is to do at least one solo trip with these bits of advice in mind.  It’s an experience that lets you grow in ways you probably won’t expect and lets you figure out what YOU want out of traveling, which if you’re reading this, seems like the whole point.

Today was hectic and this was a quick piece, but if you have other key pieces of advice you’ve picked up along your travels, I’d love to hear your travel codes!

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Just some points of planning well

Wander Morden….

…. More time in green London.

Pooh Bear in Morden Park. Morden Hall Park, London. September 2015.

This trip happened about 10 weeks ago, back in the full fall weather, before winter started moving in, on a much warmer day than I’m currently experiencing.

One of the reasons we hit this park was because of a free music show some friends were a part of at a nearby café. But back to the green space:

Morden Hall Park is a National Trust park which surrounds the River Wandle in the south of London. The park contains an array of landscapes and buildings including Morden Hall (hence the name), Morden Cottage, an old Snuff Mill, a second-hand bookshop, as well as old farm buildings some of which make up the garden center and a city farm.

The area known as the “Heart of the Park”, which includes estate buildings, the Stable Yard, and the rose garden, is  a great area to wander and take pictures—at least as a start. This is where the top picture was takes.  The rose garden was one of my favorite spots. With over 2000 roses and the little brook featured in the picture, it’s a beautiful photo stop as well as a nice place to treat yourself to a picnic and nice read—weather permitting!

Water Arches. Morden Hall Park, South London. September 2015.

Throughout the park, if you stick to the waterways, you’ll find foot bridges of all styles and sizes, from flat woods to intricate metals, each fitting the style of the surrounding areas and all great for us photo junkies.

Another great spot we wandered across was these beautiful water arches with the overgrown plant life lingering across the water ways. These are located a short walk from Morden Hall, and are one of the many hidden gems you’ll find if you just wander through the many areas of this National Trust Park.

There is also a Tramlink light rail line from Wimbledon to Croydon that runs through the northern part of the park with multiple stops which give you quick and easy access to the park and a nicer walk than coming up from the underground. The train tracks make another great picture spot and was quite unexpected for us!

Train in the Green. Morden Hall Park, London. September 2015.

I loved being able to walk over the train rails and there are so many areas throughout the park, each which look so strikingly different from the rest that this is just one more spot in London where you can take the day off for photoshoots, a day in the park to read or picnic, spend your lunch hour if you live or work nearby, or another chance to escape the gray of the city while still being in the city.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Wander Morden….

Cheating or Smarts?

Some quick tips to visiting the Greenwich Meridian.

VIew from the top. Greenwich Observatory hill, Greenwich, England. Spetember 2015.
View from the top. Greenwich Observatory Hill, Greenwich, England. September 2015.

There are so many things to do in Greenwich beyond just standing on a line marked inthe ground (not that that isn’t reason enough for some visitors). From visiting universities to the maritime museum to wandering the cute streets and shops to boat trips to the observatory, this area can easily fill a weekend(+) or a quick day trip given your availability.

But—as covered constantly—you always have to consider some money factors when traveling through pretty much any area.

While the usual wandering around town is sure to save you quite a bit of money—as well as packing a lunch that you can enjoy out on Greenwich Park—here are a few more tips of the money saving variety.

We’ll start off more traditionally and say planning! Plot out your travel including times to find the best and cheapest way to Greenwich. Depending on where you are coming from, you may be using multiple types of transport which (depending on how you are paying for it) can start to add up. Luckily, if you are using an Oyster card, this maxes out relatively quickly on trips like these, so you aren’t spending too much compared to the distance traveled.

Also, if you do have an Oyster card, you can get discounts for the cable car, if don’t mind the heights and spending a little money, that is.

If you are trying to stick with the free model for this visit, however, you should try visiting The Maritime Museum, The Queen’s House, and Greenwich Naval College. These are all right next to each other and run along Greenwich Park.

On a less traditional route, let’s consider why most of us head out to Greenwich in the first place: visiting the Greenwich Meridian Line. The main space where this line is mapped out is held inside the Royal Observatory and this area is chalk full of things to go and see… but they also cost you.

Therefore, if you want the official picture, this also costs you.

If you want to see everything that the admission ticket gives you and you have the time for it, it is definitely worth a look. If you don’t, however, but don’t want to miss the photo op, there are two less conventional options to save that cash:

First, if you can find Park Vista Street—near Park Row Gate—and take a careful stroll down it, you’ll come across a row of large metal dots and a little plaque nearby: these are denoting the Meridian just as much as the one in the courtyard but for nothing more than the time it takes to stroll down the street.

I walk the line. Greenwich Prime Meridian Line, Greenwich, England. September 2015.
I walk the line. Greenwich Prime Meridian Line, Greenwich, England. September 2015.

The second way in is a little sketchy but easier. When you are at the top of the hill looking at Flamsteed House (the building with the big red ball), look to the left and you’ll see a black gate where people (who paid for the ticket, mostly) are exiting. You can open this gate from the outside and walk a few feet and there you will find a smaller but still very real golden line marking the path of the Meridian line.

While this feels sketchy, there is no sign telling you not to enter, no security stopping you, nothing. Basically, it’s an honor code or as my friend decided “a savvy traveler test.”

This is just a judgement call: if it bugs you too much, don’t do it; if it doesn’t, go for it. I still recommend subtly and taking the picture quickly, but, hey, do what you need to do, right?

Anyway, hope you find this useful and travel well,

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Cheating or Smarts?

Moving week…

… aka. hell week.

Skyline at Sunset. London, UK. August 2015.
Skyline at Sunset. London, UK. August 2015.

This is another week that we’ll be keeping things short, sweet, and casual, here at Leave on the Wind.

Why? Because on top of my first days (kind of) at my internship and scrambling to finish my dissertation (thank God it’s finished), I have had to pack up my life, clean my old rented room, and high-tale it out to the other end of London right in the middle of the rest of my suddenly very hectic life.

In the process of finding a new place to rent, I looked at a few different renters sites to get a feel of the market and then pick my next home for the next four-ish months.

And, oh my God,  were some of these places scary – and that’s just the websites!

After my searching, I landed on AirBnB and this is a site I can really recommend.

While, like any site on the internet, there are a few listings that made me skeptical, the proportion of sketchy to  easily livable or outright lovely compared to every other site were tremendously improved.

What makes renting through AirBnb so great comes down to a few simple points:

  1. The website is exceedingly easy to navigate – you get to set your specific parameters from cost to time needed to rent to type of let to pretty much anything that you might need to consider.
  2. The places are certified – what you see is really what you get, and with (generally) clear pictures, you can count on these rentals even if you aren’t in a place where you can physically go and check the room out before paying for it.
  3. Everything goes through the website – you are told to never directly pay the person who owns the room but to go through the site. This is great in case something goes wrong because the company can come in as an intermediary. This is equally helpful if you end up having a problem with the letter, such as things not living up to the agreement, the company can be contacted.

On the down side, during busy season like August into September when schools are coming back and new students are flooding into the city and old ones, like me, are scrambling for last minute housing as they wrap everything up, spaces can go very quickly so you don’t always have time to sit around and consider your options. If you take too long, the places you like will not stay around!

In the end, I’m going to be staying in two rentals I picked through this sight. The first is a studio I’m splitting with a friend until she heads back home and I wait for location 2 (a private room rental in another studio/warehouse setup) to be free.

Once I get a feel for both of these locations (and my life more under control), I might give a little bit more on this whole process, which should be wrought with pain, adventure and hilarity but until then:

Be safe, travel well, and I will be back, same place, same time, next week… if I survive it:

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Ps. and if you have any great stories on moving, feel free to share them below; make me laugh or share my pain, I’d love to hear them!

Moving week…

Book Nerd: Hatchard’s, Piccadilly

The first to visit, the last to post… for a little while, at least.

These are really worth a read as you wander! Hatchard's, Piccadilly, London. January 2015.
These are really worth a read as you wander! Hatchard’s, Piccadilly, London. January 2015.

If you guys have been tracking, I announced this Book nerd adventure back in January and since then I’ve definitely been in and out of a lot of book sellers—and I’ve loved it. But in my haste to get everything else done for my travels and keeping you up to date on other things, I skipped the first store that actually got me started on this –now global—adventure: Hatchard’s in Piccadilly.

The Piccadilly store front’s claim to fame comes down to being the UK’s oldest book shop (established in 1797), but wandering inside, you would never know that this space was anywhere near that age.

Growing up in LA, the only bookstores I had really available to run around in were chains like Borders and Barnes & Nobles that were attached to malls—and even those numbers are dwindling. These major retailers housed their wares in open plan spaces where the only divisions of the room—except for floors—were the book cases breaking things down by genre. These were not interesting architectural places or mazes to lose yourself in, in a nod to Alice wandering the expanding world of wonderland; they were simply spaces you went to get the books you needed before continuing along with your shopping needs.

So, while I am now quite used to the world of creative book spaces and aesthetic draw of the booksellers I’ve looked at so far, walking into Hatchard’s was my first real experience of a bookstore as more than a building to buy a book or two.

I’d chosen this shop as my first for a few reasons: I was in need of books to read on the trains and such before heading out to France for reading week; it’s the oldest bookshop in the UK (!); I knew the general area and it wasn’t too far from where I live; and, finally, I had a class assignment where I had to go and observe a space and the way people interacted with it—a bookstore seemed like just the place to get everything I needed in one go.

Like I said, this was my first trip, so (after a few minutes of searching for the shop and getting turned around in the little streets surrounding it on the way) when I walked in and began to wander, I was pretty much floored.

A glimps of the lovely little details. Hatchard's, Piccadilly, London. January 2015.
A glimpse at the lovely little details. Hatchard’s, Piccadilly, London. January 2015.

This store is pretty much the opposite of open planned. Rather, each of the 5 floors (3 up from the ground floor and one below) is made up of rooms and passageways for customers to wander through.

And, boy, did I wander.

I found myself loving the feel of this store with its great central staircase and the quality it held, less like a maze (like Shakespeare and Co in Paris or the mammoth which is the Strand in New York) andmore like a labyrinth, where each room falls into a path which has a clear pattern to wander through.

It’s been a while since I visited the shop so you’ll have to excuse some of my lack of details, but one thing still stands out to me: there were a few areas that had chairs and even a couch where shoppers had set themselves up to work. Unlike most establishments where people congregate, this wasn’t a café setting one would see in any other bookshop. Rather these were small niches throughout the store where people were working on various project, none of which had anything to do with being in a bookshop. Again, coming from the dwindling market of Los Angeles, this was a completely foreign sight to behold.

But to wrap this up: Hatchard’s is a great space with a lovely and large range of books as well as an easy air which makes you understand wanting to sit down and stay for a while. Although—as my teacher felt compelled to remind—this is not a discount bookstore and, for where it’s located, you can definitely see why keeping the aesthetics at top marks would be so important.

Still, if you are in the area, this is a stop I’d recommend to you fellow bookies, there is an atmosphere, books, and some history in these walls—what else do you need?

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

ps. As I said, this’ll be the last book nerd post for a little while, but we’re not closing the book on this chapter forever. So, next week we’ll get back to other travel stuff. But for now: Love you, awesome book nerds.

Book Nerd: Hatchard’s, Piccadilly

Final prep, part 1…

Last minute check list and to dos before heading out.

grey cities. La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière, Lyon, France. February 2015.
Grey Cities. La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière, Lyon, France. February 2015.

This week is my last week of prep before heading out for my first real solo travel excursion.

While I’m technically still on my first solo adventure (moving to London for school), I’ve had a pretty stable (almost) home away from home experience in London. I came over not knowing anyone but knowing that I was going to be in a dorm with a bunch of fellow students and that I’d have a network of people right away who would be there with me throughout the year. So, basically, not quite the same as solo traveling.

Anyway, this trip (as I’ve discussed over this last month) is a pretty big thing and I‘ve had to consider a lot while planning as a young, single, female traveler. In that light, these last bits of wrapping up besides packing (which I’ll talk about later), here’s my list of things to do before heading out.

1.  If you didn’t nail this down earlier (ie, this was a quickly planned trip so I’m finishing this process!), go into Google Maps and map locations. You can make different maps for the various cities you are going to visit or whole countries if you want in order to figure out a basic schedule of what sites you’ll be looking at together. You’ll be able to see which places are close enough to make a good day out so you aren’t trekking back and forth every day! I still suggest this as part of planning your accommodation, but, even after that, you can pop a few more last minute places before you head out.

2.  While looking things up and mapping them out, it’s just handy to look up where your country’s consulate is within the county(s) you are visiting. Not only is it sometimes fun to see how the area consulates are set up in, but in case of a bad bind, it’s already conveniently pinned! Traveling by yourself, it may also be handy to know where some of the emergency services are located near where you are staying.

3.  On that front, it’s good to have some on hand emergency numbers. Not all emergency services have the same number so look them up and key them in your phone along with the numbers of where you are staying and anyone you may know around the area. If you have an emergency contact, you should make sure that there number is easily accessible and actually note it along with the name (and this is true for everyday life, as well as travel!).

4.  Go over your travel and reservation itineraries and have all of your paperwork in order, together, and easy to get to. The days right before and especially the day you leave is always crazy, so have everything you can/will have on hand when you walk out the door together in a folder early (seriously, this is overlooked to many travelers detriment!).

5.  Don’t just look at your large scale travel in this last minute preparation. How you are getting to your first destination is just as important as the travel you’ve spent all that time planning! After all, if you miss or just mess up your first large scale send off because getting to your first check point went awry, you’re whole trip can get pretty turned around. And remember, you’ve done your research, so if there is something earlier in terms of said large scale travel options, it doesn’t mean you should switch things around—you picked what you did for a reason! (Long term readers: remember the Irish Ferry timetable debacle? Earlier was decidedly NOT faster!)

6.  Lastly (for this week’s post), give someone you trust your itinerary. The closer they are to where you are going the better since they’re more likely to be able to get to you if trouble occurs. Just basic details like where you are going to be on which days and the addresses and numbers of the places you are booked at. Really simple and it will give both you and your loved one(s) some much needed peace of mind.

The rest of my pre-trip items will be covered on Friday’s Silk Sheets and Grilled Cheese on what to pack and some inspiration I’ve looked at to help that along. In the meantime, go out and get some things you may need for packing—travel size shower products, books, ect., but we’ll cover that more on Friday with all the choices and reasoning behind them.

So until Friday: hope you stay tuned for the adventure, and happy travels!

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Final prep, part 1…