There and back – Always (Part 3)

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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.

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There and back – Always (Part 3)

My favorite places (Part 2)

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Austria, 2015.

Last week, I started my run down memory lane covering much of my older travels, but this week I’m looking at much of my 2015 trip. These locations are more recent but, during them, we explored much less making less choices over what I could revisit. Still, everywhere we hit on that crazy month in 2015 was amazing so I’d truly want to do it all over and over again.

1. Switzerland

We really only hit one thing in Switzerland: Jungfrau or Top of the World.  When we went everything was shrouded in fog but we had such a fantastic time playing aroundin the snow. Because of the weather, they had to shutdown a good chucnk of the outdoor activities and I’d love to explore more and get to take pictures with much less fog.

2. Austria

Austria and Germany are a bit of a blur since we tended to stay along the borders of both and past between them on almost every tour we took, but when it comes to Austria, I would love to revisit the Mirabell Gardens. This is where they filmed parts of Do-Re-Mi in The Sound of Music but there is so much more to the gardens than that. When we explored last time, The rain was starting up which was fun but also made the adventure shorter lived than I would have liked. Plus the movie reference gives you a great excuse to stomp, dance, and sing your heart out throughout the greenery.

3. Germany

Germany is a tricky spot for me but what I loved most were the many stops within the Balvarian Mountains. Whether on break along its giant lake views or venturing through King Ludwig II’s castles, they left so much more to explore. On a trip that I explore alone instead of on tours, these mountains and all their sites might take up the bulk of my time.

4. Netherlands

The Zansee Schans was the perfect stop in the Netherlands that I would visit again and again. Yes, it is touristy but the cheese room alone haunts my dreams! seriously, read the post and go, go, go!

5. Belgium

Just like every other stop along this trip, out time in Bruges was short but so much fun. It was one more city sitting along the channels and exploring them more would definitely be on my list of must do’s. I loved siting in the middle isle, straddling the center bench and watching the city pass me by.



Yes, these were quick but, again, so was the time I got to spend in each of these places. Next time I will be looking over my last 4 countries which I have been lucky enough to visit over and over again – a very different but equally daunting challenge.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

My favorite places (Part 2)

A few of my favorite places… (Part 1)

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Cliffs of Moher, Ireland. Summer 2013.

I’ve had an extreme case of wanderlust recently which has had me thinking of all the countries I’ve visited and, of those, which I’d love to visit again. While there are plenty of sites in each of these locals – even those I have lived in – that I haven’t seen, there are always those spots that I’ll always want to visit over and over again.

Checking through the travel app I mentioned in an earlier posting, I realized that I’ve visited 13 countries (not including small day trips south), four of which I’ve visited over and over again.

This week I’m thinking back between 2001 and 2013 and four locations that I’ve only visited once but definitely want to visit again.

1. Italy, 2001

I was 10 when I flew here with my little sister, grandparents, four cousins, and an aunt – yes, it was hectic. I was the third youngest and obviously in that awkward preteen stage where I barely knew which way was up let alone what this trip would do for me. This was the first trip I was old enough to remember and really helped me figure out that while I love to travel, sometimes someone else’s dream vacation – and I mean pace – just doesn’t work for a crowd.

We still talk about this trip a lot in my family. Grandpa drove on the sidewalk – and still denies it. We threw coins in the Trevi Fountain. We made friends with the owner of a family run restaurant and they made us a special dinner our last night with them and we ate gnocchi most other nights until we couldn’t move.  Bex accidentally trapped herself in at least 3 different toilets and couldn’t figure out how she was doing it. We stayed in some beautiful hotels with scenic views and others that blacked out a lot due to record breaking heat waves. Every few days, we piled into this white van which was just large enough for all of my and the suitcases and we would drive all over Italy – I’ve seen a lot!

But above all, I have the fondest memories of going to the Blue Grotto in Capri. I remember sitting in the boat and having to lay back against everyone else as we entered the cave – just in case the current carried the boat too high. The Grotto is beautiful  and even if you aren’t allowed to touch the water, it’s an experience. The fact that this trip was 16 years ago is truly scary but makes me want to go back and revisit the Grotto and others close to my heart as well as the many areas I haven’t made it out to.

2. Japan, 2002

We visited Japan when my uncle and his family was stationed there over the middle school’s winter break. I was 11 and since we were on base, we ended up spending a lot of time doing base-life activities – at least for visiting family. Somehow, I remember a whole lot of shopping and getting to make and consume a lot of homemade sushi.

This trip is an interesting one to think back on because while we did explore the city and country, it was really more about visiting family. What sticks out most was walking through some of the temples and my Aunt explaining some on the ceremonies my cousin was going through and the different events  they were looking forward to. I just remember how beautiful everything was and I mostly want to go back to retrace some of those steps.

3. Australia, 2004

I’ve talked a bit about going to Australia but, just to refresh anyone’s memory, I was a student ambassador with the People to People program the summer between my 7th and 8th grade years. I was one of 40 students under the supervision of 3 teachers and 2 Ausies – out guide and our driver (s technically there were two over the over the course of the trip). Because of who I was traveling with, I got a very different view of the country. We had a house stay and school visit to an all girls school; we stayed about 4 days at a cattle farm with termite mounds taller than I will ever be; we toured a government building and nature preserves and a crocodile farm. We toured caves and learned songs and had a few beach days in between.

If I could go back I would do it all again and so much more, but one of the places and experiences I will never forget and can never recreate was our visit to the Sydney Opera house. Our group got a special tour and I remember stumbling upon a modern ballet rehearsal – I wish we could have seen it! But mostly, they talked about the acoustics and one of my really good friends in the group got to get on the stage and belt out a few notes – it was amazing. It also definitely put seeing an actual performance at the Opera House on my bucket list.

4. Ireland, 2013

Yes, this is an eleven year gap, and no, it’s not because it took 11 years for me to venture outside the US again – although it was a close call – but this was the next place I haven’t been able to visit a second time. This 2013 trip was the first trip I had planned by myself and I’ve talked about it here many, many times. This is probably one of the places that is really hard for me to narrow down one site that I must see again or that really stands out.

My sister and I did a large U around the base of this country starting in Galway and making many memories down, around, and up to Dublin – it was a lot of buses. From our 4 days without luggage in Galway, or trudging said luggage across town and back during our day trip through Killarney, or my adventure with the boys in Dublin (another unrepeatable event I’ll always treasure and enjoy retelling), or nights spent in pubs listening to and singing along with good music with great people, there was so much to this trip and the beginning of a much larger adventure, again, making it hard to pick just one thing.

Still, I have: the tour of Trinity college and visiting the Book of Kells. First, the tour was amazing. Given by students (very cute and very funny students, mind you), the tour is entertaining informative and fast. We got information on strange bureaucratic surveys – guess where the three largest maple trees – if I remember correctly – in Ireland (never mind that’s because they are practically the only ones in Ireland). The tour lets off by the entrance of the Book of Kells and the small tour cost goes to that price. This is a must revisit for me since watching the 2009 film about it (the film is also very worth watching!).


So this is all for Part 1 of my revisiting – 12 years of my life and, so far, we’ve got four down, nine to go! Until next time:

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

A few of my favorite places… (Part 1)

A Year Ago Today…

It’s been a quicker year than I ever expected!

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Grey Cardiff, Wales. January 2016.

Since the weather in LA has been decidedly grey, I’ve been missing and reliving my time the UK in equal measure but both parts have me reminiscing.

A year ago today, I was traveling by train from London to Cardiff with my parents during my Masters graduation trip. We spent the day running around Doctor Who themed sites (including the soon to be closed Doctor Who Experience) and the night searching for a pub that served food late – this was surprisingly difficult since it wasn’t really late at all!

I had been in this city twice before but walking through parts I hadn’t visited before and letting myself get lost in the city (we got turned around quite a bit) was such an adventure and a pleasure.

While most of my travel this year has been localized – as in California with a few jaunts out of the state – just like that last trip to Cardiff, it’s really been about pushing what I’ve done before in every place I’ve visited.

I’ve visited new LA lookout points; I’ve gone to events like marches and camp outs; I’ve visited new beaches; and I have photographed them all. In some ways, This year has wavered but mostly remained the same; in others, I’ve grown so much.

So take a look at your past year: what do you think?

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

A Year Ago Today…