Lisbon

The next few posts are going to be less wordy and more of a photo dump as I’m so far behind posting anything…x

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My culinary choices consisted mostly of octopus…naturally. ❤

A Cevicheria https://www.facebook.com/ACevicheriaChefKiko/

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BBQ octopus with pork rind

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Salmon & tiger milk ceviche with edamame and peanut

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Tuna ceviche with tapioca and tomato

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Whitefish ceviche with potato lime and seaweed

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Halibut with quinoa, mussel, prawn, seaweed, cockle, oyster foam & kombu

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Banana & peanut butter cake

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Lisbon Timeout Market had an unbelievable selection of eats to choose from…spent a good portion of the day here eating!

Cold Octopus salad

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Roasted octopus stew with potato crisps…

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Salad with goats cheese & honey ice cream

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Chocolate bomb

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Portuguese custard tart

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Seafood hotpot

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Piel Island

Not far from the coast of Barrow-In-Furness lies a curious little island with an rich and interesting history. Earliest records stretch back to the 12th century when King Stephen placed the island under the care of Savignac Monks and the Cistercian order. It was here that for centuries grain, wool, wine and other precious commodities were stored (and smuggled).

What remains of the castle and it’s surrounding fortifications today is mostly a mass of crumbling stone and a pub called ‘The Ship Inn’. This pub has taken care of those that pass through with lunch and a pint of local ale for centuries. Traditionally whomever runs the pub is crowned ‘King of Piel Island’ and the tradition continues to this day. Apparently there is a ceremony that involves you sitting in a 300 year old wooden throne and having beer poured all over you.

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My idea of heaven.

Last July when we visited Cumbria we took a tiny little boat across waters peppered with jellies to explore Piel island and a few pints.

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We made a friend on the ferry over. 😉

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And even more friends once we got there!

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I love a good sheepie cuddle. ❤

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Our tour guide Mr. Chicken was ace.

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Because I can’t seem to do more than one thing at I time, I nearly fell of the side off the island and tumbled into the sea when I was busy framing a shot and not watching my feet. Thankfully my darling father-in-law was there in time to pull me out of the brambles and into safety. You really can’t take me anywhere!

We celebrated my near death experience with a pint!

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A few little jellies…

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That’s it! Piel Island done! x

Coniston Old Man

Oh crap….I’m almost a full year behind on posting. 😦

I have no idea how that happened.

I’m so bad.

I keep doing this to you! All 7 of you who come here. LOL.

Well anyway, sorry!!!

The good news is that I’ve got tons of travel photos in the vault – we’ve been galvanting this past year and I’ve been documenting it per usual- so I’ll catch everyone up. All 7 of you.

What do you say we go ahead and sweep the last year of neglecting my poor blog right under the rug and pick up where I left off last July? Yeah?! Great. 😀

Soooooo….right. Lake District. Summer Holiday.

After an initial taster walk around the Lakes, S and I decided to take a crack at the Coniston Old Man and Dow Crag walk. Coniston Old Man is a gorgeous mountain (12 largest in England) which stands 2,634 feet above Cumbria and boasts some of the most spectacular views I’ve ever been lucky enough to witness.

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Swirling layers of fluffy clouds slicing through the horizon. Bright rolling hills carpeted with greenery and napping sheep. SHEEEEEEEEP.

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Ancient boulders jutting from the Earth like sleeping giants in some fantasy novel.

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The surprise discovery of tiny sparkling lakes as blue as anything, shimmering in the sunlight like a bag of sapphires.

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Making lots of new friends.

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Pretty romantic stuff.

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But holy hell, you’ve got to work for it. It’s a proper 5 hour climb with some bouldering and nausea-inducing ‘do not look down for the love of god’ moments (granted that’s coming from a complete mountaineering novice whom spent much of last summer drinking craft ale and lazing about. Talking about myself. Cheers mate!)

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S was ahead of me most of the climb as I heaved and puffed and swore under my breath (and also swore quite loudly) until my body warmed up and I got into the rhythm of the ascent. Once my lungs caught up and my booty kicked in (S calls it the powerhouse which I think is quite sweet because dumptruck is probably more accurate).

I’m getting off-topic. This is about mountaining not the size of my ass.

Anyway, it was simply windy and warm and lovely and challenging. Totally surreal to be up with the clouds. To have climbed your way up to something that high. For me anyway. I’m new to heights!

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We did it in just over 5 hours and we were pretty knackered by the time we got back to the car, but it was really amazing.

Next up… Piel Island!

Summer in the Lake District – Walla Crag, Keswick

When the need for surroundings involving less concrete and more sheep became all-consuming this past July, we took some time off and drove up to Cumbria stay with my lovely in-laws.

10 glorious days were had. 10 spectacularly restorative days without buses heaving with Summer tourists. Quiet mornings free from angry elbows digging into my ribcage as I try to squeeze on the 8:00am train into London. Tranquil afternoons. Peaceful evenings. Just clean mountain air, craft beer, and lots of green and blue.

I’ve mixed a bit of black & white as well. Hope you enjoy. x

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Belgique! Discovering Ghent, Bruges, & Brussels…Part Quatre!! Onward to Bruges!

One of these days I’ll get all of our photos up from our Belgium trip. There are just so many! 😛

Ghent was indeed quite beautiful, but Bruges really stole my heart and I didn’t want to leave. ❤

We lucked out yet again with an amazing Airbnb situation (I know there have been a lot of horror stories floating around lately but we've always had great experiences – do your research!)

I would strongly suggest staying here if you go to Bruges.
Mina stays quite booked up so you may have difficulty securing the reservation because of the amazing stack of reviews and awards she's gotten, but if you can, it's really the most perfect little place.

We were picked up at the train station gratis (amazing)!!

Fed and watered like royalty…

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And the ensuite room was stocked with everything you would need (including a Nespresso machine! DREAMLIFE!)
You can book here directly (if you aren’t into Airbnb) http://www.biminthus.be/index.php?lang=en

Bruges is where I really let my chocoholic flag fly proudly.

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Who doesn’t need a big pair of chocolate boobs?

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No shortage of beer!

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Mmmmmmmmm KWAK!

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Beer bible! The only bible for me!!

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Satan makes delicious beer. No surprises there.

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Food was wonderful as well!

Fondue…

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Vol-au-vent au poulet
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And Bruges, itself…simply stunning.

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Basilica of the Holy Blood

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DALI Museum

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Up next! Brussels & the Atomium…

A Very Autumnal Pug Meet!

I realise it’s Christmas and these photos are from November, but I’ve been a very busy lady per usual so sorryabouthat!

Anyway, PUGS! Enjoy the snarfly, wrinkly, flarpy puggleses and a few Frenchies!

This one is mine.

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My magical Mrs. Tumness.

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Queen of the Flarp. Princess of all of the peppermints. The wuggle wugwuggs.

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That’s her with her Grampa bear.

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And here’s me cheating on her with another wuggs.

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ACK! That face! Love it.

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Annnnnndddd another one!

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Just letting it all hang out. 😛

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And those are mine too! Sir Noodles (self proclaimed King of Pugs) and my other half, Mr. Gimmeyummy!

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Pretty darn magical!

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Happy Christmas!!! xxx

Paris, FINALLY! Part One

I was supposed to go to Paris about a year and a half ago with my friend Nikki and her mother and sister-in-law, but I royally screwed that up by misplacing my passport on my flight home from Nashville and missed the trip altogether.
I WAS GUTTED. So very very sad.

Since then, I’ve been to cities in Slovenia, Austria, Croatia and Italy…but Paris remained an elusive destination forever taunting me for being irresponsible with my travel documents.

I’m thrilled to report that Paris is officially conquered!

My folks flew over for 10 days (they are still here actually!) and we took the Eurostar over for a little Parisian city break!

We rented a beautiful flat in Ternes for 3 nights and had the dreamiest time exploring Paris!
This might be the fastest gimmeyummy photo-taking to blog posting turnaround ever. Split up into two posts – Enjoy!

Our lovely apartment!

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A beautiful first meal near the flat at L’ANNEX.

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I enjoyed a few well deserved glasses of crisp grassy Sancerre…

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Followed by the most gorgeous Escargot…

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Rare Rib of beef…

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And SWEETS!

Apple Tart…

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Panna Cotta with Raspberry…

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http://annexdumarche.wix.com/lannexe

Then a night walk to the Arc du Triomphe…

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…and many many stairs to the top!

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We awoke the next day to gorgeous electric blue skies and had a beautiful little breakfast at Maison Lacombe.

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I had read that people travel all over for their croissants and I completely understand why as I was unable to get a photograph after shovelling the croissant into my face in record speed.

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I shall leave you with these and pick up at Notre Dame and all the rest tomorrow! Stay tuned! xx

My Brother Arrives!

Hooray for visitors! My big brother recently flew from Nashville to London to visit me (first time travelling outside of the US mind you). This consisted of us basically dragging him around to anything and everything historically notable we could cram into his short stay! We made sure to keep him calm in the face of public transport by plying him with lots of craft beer! Please forgive the combination of bad iphone photos and proper photographs! 😉

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The boys ready for the 49ers game!

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Climbing at Trafalgar Square…

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Imperial War Museum!

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British Museum!

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Boat taxi home on the Thames…

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The obligatory phone booth shot!

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The Emirates Air Line!

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Deep thoughts on the Thames with Dan…

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Off to the Tower of London!

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A little afternoon stroll…

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I already miss ya bro! Come back soon! xx
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Another Glorious Green Park Pug Meet + Being A Tourist…

I’m about 2 weeks late with this – better late than never.

Prepare yourself for a big dose of HAPPY.

Because PUUUUUUUUUUGGGGGGGGGSSSSSS!!!!

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NOODLES is convinced that he is their leader…

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I even brought some friends this time to share in my crazy.

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Who’s pug is this? DOESN’T MATTER – I just had to HUG him.

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Pepper is such a little tart…

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Once Sir Noodles felt that all of the pugs had been conquered, we headed to the pub for a bite to eat with Stu-pot.
He’s been visiting us from China where is a fancy pants tea ambassador! ❤
Stu has an amazing Tea blog by the way, check it – http://teaearlgreyhotblog.tumblr.com/

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Then off to Tower Bridge for a stroll along the Thames.

ACK!!! Tourists!

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My dog has been more places than you.

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If you live in London you should check out the poppy installation currently at the Tower.

http://www.britishlegion.org.uk/remembrance/ww1-centenary/poppies-in-the-moat

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We ended with pints and grub at Southwark Tavern…

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Fish and Chips!! Yummmmmm.

This is Stu showing me how to take an appropriately obnoxious selfie because apparently my attempts at selfie taking were not obnoxious enough. 😉

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It was a brilliant pug & London event-filled day! And then it was bedtime for all! Cheers! x

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A Weekend in Worcester…

It was that time again.

Work. Sleep. Work. Sleep.

We needed a break!

One Friday afternoon a few weeks ago, we piled the family into the car (pups included) and headed North for a couple of days of respite.

Goodbye London, hello Worcester!

Pronounced “Wooster” Not “WAR-CHESTER” (as I continue to do despite knowing very well how it should be pronounced).

Our friends live in a beautiful old Georgian house filled to the brim with antiques nestled quietly between neighbouring farms.

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The view from breakfast…

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A gorgeous hike…

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Happy little babies…

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A bit of rain…

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Which gave me plenty of time to explore this amazing house stuffed to the brim with antique tins, boxes, bottles, prints, signs and general oddities!

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Pepper was not at all pleased when we told her it was time to leave! (Neither we were)

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Thanks Linda & Al!!

xxoo

Beautiful Barton-On-Sea and The New Forest – now with MORE PONIES!

Barton-On-Sea is a very special place. When we can no longer stand the incessant hum of city life, this is our escape. A couple of hours in the car driving South takes you to a magical land where animals roam free. Sparkling waters, crumbling orange coastline, and The New Forest nearby…Cows, pigs, ponies, donkeys…all just knocking around your neighbourhood as tame as a house cat.
We recently escaped to the sea for a few days of peace and sunshine. It was as rad as it always is. Enjoy the photos! x

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Cars! – For my Dad on his 62nd birthday, I dedicate this to you!

My Dad has always been obsessed with cars. Actually, most of the men in my life have had a deep love for a superbly crafted automobile. The curves, the sparkle. The speed. The smell of expensive leather.
I get it, I really do.
I’ve never walked down the street with a man and watched him turn his head for a beautiful woman (honestly I think this is an urban myth or everyone else has dated assholes) but I have seen this happen more times then I could ever recollect with beautiful cars. I have witnessed my brother drop repeated F-bombs and actually blush with excitement at the sight of a classic corvette. I am convinced that the slow moving pedestrian traffic on Kings Road is entirely due to the ridiculous population of ultra expensive cars. You guys freak out over sexy machines the way I freak out over miniature ponies. And that’s okay!

Right, so today My husband and I ventured to Oxleas Wood for an impromtu picnic and some frisbee with the dogs. Much to our delight, there was some sort of classic car & BBQ event complete with a Rockabilly band in full swing!

There was absolutely NO way I was going to just walk by and not take photos for my Dad. That would just never happen. And tomorrow is his birthday! So what excellent timing! Hey Dad! I hope you enjoy this car-themed birthday blog post just for you!! x

Noodles starts us off right with a bit of window surfing on the drive to the park…

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He gets really zen in the wind…

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And then we did Frisbee!

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And other people did kites! It was a great day for kites.

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Pepper spent the entire time trying to be more adorable than she currently is.

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Ha! Like that is even possible.

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Good try Pepper pug. You are the maximum level of cute allowed by the UK Government.

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We tried to take a nice duo selfie but Pepper kept licking my eye balls and it was just too dang bright outside.

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And then the sun turned to storm clouds…

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So we decided to beat the rain and hiked up the monster hill and started snapping car photos!

I’m going to preface this section by saying that my car knowledge is even lower than my ability to fully appreciate cars. I can identify cars that are clearly rad but I don’t know what they are called or why they are special or how many horses they have in their doo-hickey. So forgive me for being a complete jerk and making up new names for these cars. Because I’m about to do that. Maybe my Dad can enlighten me afterwards. Or disown me entirely.

THIS is obviously a super awesome VW Bus and a child would know that. And it is awesome.

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This used to be a VW bus right?

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And now it’s a VW Truck? Okay. VW-BUSSYTRUCK. Boom! This is easy. NEXT!

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Sweet Lord, this is clearly Jessica Rabbit as an automobile. Jessica Rabbit In-CAR-nate?
That’s either the worst or best pun ever. Worst, right?

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That looks like the back end of a woman in a tight red dress to me.

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I know I’m getting a bit abstract here. But I see what I see.

This is some sort of old-timey truck with it’s flappy flaps up so all the men can see the horses in the doo-hickey. Amiright?

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This is a tow truck and I know that because I can read.

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This is Elvis’ car and I know this because his name is all over it.

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Elvis apparently had really good taste because this car is gorgeous and makes me want a chocolate malt and a flash mob doing Grease Lightning to come into my life immediately.

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Not entirely convinced that this was CAR, more like a wonderful vehicular creation of scraps and doo-dads.

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Cool nonetheless!

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Yeah okay fine it’s probably a car.

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A car clearly blasting Metal on the road to Hell.

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Speaking of things that aren’t cars. This is not a car. I was informed that this is a deathtrap.

THE Deathrap.

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Aaaannnndddd it’s covered in Spiders.

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I told the lady sitting on it that I thought it was pretty cool and she said “yeah we were going for something a bit retro.”

Hmmmmm I’m no expert but…

That’s not the word you were looking for.

THIS is retro.

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And really fun.

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This must belong to Gatsby. Obviously.

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And this would be the opposite of that. TAZ.

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This is Dick Tracy’s car.

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I loved Dick Tracy. That was back before Madonna got all sculpted and sinewy. She was a proper babe. All of the Cleavage.

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A series of beat up but exceptionally wonderful old trucks…

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This car also had his flap up. It must have magic inside.

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This is the George Clooney of classic cars. I might leave my husband for this car.

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Am I becoming a car enthusiast?

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This is simply stunning.

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This car knows what’s up. I want to go to the party that this car is going to. I bet there is an infinity pool.

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Not as awesome but still awesome. Subtly awesome.

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They are all awesome. Which is why they are even here.

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I have no idea what this is but it’s amazing and has an airplane hood ornament and looks like its eating a chrome sandwich.

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I give you “The Flying Ford Chromewich”

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This might be the shiniest car I have ever seen.

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I actually looked this one up because I loved it so much. British make!

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It’s simply dreamy.

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This truck was my favourite and as much as a pile of metal can make a person swoon, it made me swoon.
Something so beautiful about the rust pattern & colour…

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I mean… just incredible.

Sigh.

And that’s it! My random and fantastically surprising Sunday afternoon with a bunch of old cars. I hope you got a kick out of the photos dad! I love you! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! xxx

Horniman Museum: An Afternoon of Delightful Curiosities

Frederick John Horniman was once the world’s biggest tea trader and an eccentric collector of vast curiosities with a passion for objects of great interest, culture and beauty.
His extensive and eclectic collection of priceless objects is now housed at the Horniman Museum and Gardens in the Forest Hill area of London.
We recently spent a quiet Saturday afternoon exploring the treasures within, and I (of course) brought along my camera so I could document these delightful and intriguing finds. Enjoy!

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Go see it for yourself!!! There was so much stuff but my camera is rubbish in low light! http://www.horniman.ac.uk/

Up Next: 4 countries in 4 days!

(Staying) Home for the Holidays.

After the crazy/busy/wonderful/stressful
year we’ve had, all we wanted for Christmas was to kick our feet up and RELAX.

We didn’t go anywhere this year.
No Spain, no Cumbria, no Nashville.
Nope, not in 2013.
We’ve had a proper staycation.

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We bought a Christmas tree and hung up stockings and all that jazz.

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I’m not religious at all but I love Christmas decorations and the traditional bits associated with it.

Combine that with having this big old house that hasn’t been painted or decorated yet…I probably went a little crazy decking the halls.

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I only have 3 days left of my vacation and I’m pretty sad about it.
I’ve gotten used to eating meals with my husband (gasp!) and getting to accompany him on dog walks (what?!).

We’ve spent a lot of time watching films in and out of the cinema as well as working our way through The Wire (which is downright unbelievably good television).

S even made us a gorgeous Christmas dinner! Amazing!

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And because these are too fantastic not to share-here are a couple of brilliant shots from the company Holiday party.
Can you guess the theme?

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We’ve been dog sitting a little muppet of a dog over the holidays as well so there are THREE pups in our pack currently. Lots of walks and lots of fun at Greenwich park.

Meet Cooper. The Fraggle.

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I took my camera along on one of our walks the other day to capture some more of the magic that is my new neighbourhood.
I seriously cannot believe I get to live in such a beautiful place.

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That view NEVER gets old.

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We made a few furry friends along the way.

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Simon and the pups at the top of One Tree Hill. Simply breathtaking.

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I know I’m very lucky. I love my life and especially the people and creatures that are part of it.

Wherever you are in the world I hope you are feeling the same way and enjoying all the beautiful things that make the world so magical. If it’s not going so well for you, take a deep breath and know that you are loved and that the New Year is just around the corner.
Draw a line under the bad stuff and get ready for a year of joy! xx

A little piece of home with The Cadillac Three…

Sometimes weeks go by where I barely think of my old life in Nashville. Sometimes it’s all-consuming and I get so swept up in the nostalgia that it’s all I can think about. That’s the tricky part about living in the same place for 28 years and then suddenly starting over in a new country. It doesn’t all just go away and get replaced by new things.
There are the new things and the old things, and sometimes they work against each other.

I don’t know when I’ll be home again and that upsets me a little.
I just try to focus on my life here and that works until I see photos of my niece and nephew or see another friend has announced a pregnancy or gotten engaged.

Another wedding I will surely miss. Another baby. Life goes on…

It’s sad, but it’s the choice I made and I’ve never regretted it for one second.

I think about it sometimes, if my husband just announced one day: “I’m ready for a quieter life! Let’s go live in Nashville!!!”

I’m not sure I’d want to go back and live there.
Part of me does because it’s so comfortable and familiar.
I know everyone and everyone knows me.
It would be so easy. Like your favourite flip-flops.
We’ve been through so much together Nashville and I.

I think perhaps I’ve outgrown it somehow and I’d actually feel a bit lost.
It’s impossible to say really. My opinion on the subject changes monthly.

I do miss my friends though. This never changes. And when friends come to London I get REALLY excited.

Recently, some friends I’ve known for half of my life came to play a few gigs in London and I went out to Camden to see them.

They’ve been playing music together since they were kids and although I’ve seen them in a lot of different bands over the years, this one (The Cadillac Three) is probably the most authentic and solid thing I’ve seen any of them do. https://www.facebook.com/TheCadillacThree?fref=ts

Or maybe this is just my favourite?

I will fess up and say that although I love Pecan Pie and Dolly Parton and I swear on Tara that I am a Southern girl through and through – I’m really not a huge Southern Rock fan.

I am however, very happy to report that their show was really really good and I had a blast.

Not just saying that! It was GREAT.

I actually almost flaked out on going because it was a school night and I knew it was going to take me an hour to get there and an hour back- but I seriously love these dudes so I made it happen and I’m glad for it.

Twas most excellent!

And yeah, of course I took some photos!

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Kelbs & I hanging after the show…

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See y’all later! xx

A Change of Scenery.

Howdy!

I am overjoyed to inform you that I am officially on Christmas Holiday as of today (yes I said holiday, not vacation).
I’ve finally assimilated! I have 11 days to do whatever I want and I’m going to try to spend as much of it as possible in yoga leggings eating clementines and watching films with my main squeeze and my cuddly pups.

A lot has transpired in the last few months since I’ve disappeared from my blog. We’ve sold our flat in Stockwell and bought an old Edwardian house in Greenwich/Blackheath.

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It’s basically the house I’ve dreamt about living in since I was 5 years old and started watching fluffy period films.

It’s also a reasonably big house so the dogs are pretty much in heaven and spend much of their day running up and down stairs and out the cat flap into the back garden so they can bark at EVERYTHING THAT MOVES. 😉

My work life has been hectic but spectacularly fun and rewarding. The business has been growing exponentially which has presented me with the opportunity to really hone my skills and stay challenged on a daily basis.
I also get to work with the raddest group of women and honestly love my fucking job.

I have also fallen madly in love with living in the UK and I feel much more at home here than I did last year around this time.
I know it’s hard to believe that I would have ever not been in love with London, but coming from Tennessee, London life got pretty exhausting pretty darn fast.

Living in a city the size of London can be intense regardless of where you are from. I am from Nashville, and I belly laugh at the thought of how I used to fume with rage sitting in traffic with my Starbucks latte listening to Fresh Air on NPR.

I had no idea. At least I didn’t have to share space with anyone!

In Nashville, you drive from point A to point B and you can sing loudly and badly in your car.
You can cry. Scream. No one is watching you.
This is your time. You and Terry Gross. You and your iced mocha.
Traffic or no traffic, you get to travel to work in privacy.

I remember those days fondly, but I think now I actually prefer not having to drive everywhere.
Not having to stop for gas or put air in my tires. I definitely don’t miss my monthly freak out because smoke is pouring out from under the hood of my poor car.

Nope. Now I just get on the train and am transported to my destination.

That being said, there are just so many people in London.
From the moment I leave my house in the morning and make my way to the train station I’m surrounded by them. People on public transport typically have complete disregard of anyone else around them.

There are also plenty of polite people that get out of their seats to let an elderly man sit but they are outweighed by the assholes, trust me.

It is also REALLY difficult to stay positive and think happy thoughts when it’s 8:00am and I’m standing with a 50 lb backpack squished against the wall of the train underneath the armpit of a guy reading a newspaper than keeps flapping into my face every time the train starts to sway a bit.

FLAP. FLAP. FLAP.

I actually slapped a paper out of a man’s hands once in protest and he seemed quite horrified, but I think I was secretly celebrated as a hero to everyone else that witnessed my tube rage.

Then there are the people towering over you with their disgusting bacon buttie morning breath, or even better those heart-warming individuals that want to share their breakfast experience with everyone on the tube. There they are-chomping away on their smelly baguettes from Upper Crust as I watch bits of sweet corn topple from their mouths and onto the puddles of their coffee already being sloshed all over my backpack.

LE SIGH.

All the while everyone exiting and entering the carriage is stepping on my toes as my face gets pushed deeper and deeper into the glass of the train door. At no point when I thought of my life at 30 did it include getting punched in the boob so often.

Sometimes I get lucky and I get a seat! Then you get to be wedged between two assholes blasting horrible top 40 shit on crappy headphones. But at least you are sitting!

You basically have to learn the public transportation game if you are going to be a successful commuter and not lose it on someone.

You’ve got to learn the ebb and flow of the trains/buses/tubes you take.

What carriages are usually less busy?

What part of the platform should I stand at so that the door opens to align with the exit tunnel at the station in order to saving me exactly 24 seconds of fighting through the herd of commuters to the escalators?

Don’t be lazy and be an escalator-stander. Save yourself another 45 seconds by walking up the left side.
Burn off some calories. Get out some aggression. Hold onto the hand rail.

Do be aware though that should you fall, they will step over your lifeless body. This will of course also be recorded on someone’s iPhone and posted to Youtube within the hour for you to revisit!

Commuting via public transport can be one of the single most stressful and infuriating experiences if you don’t do it right.
My journey every day consists of two trains, two buses, and two tube journeys to get me to work and back home.
Sometimes I just have to look at the floor in front of me when I’m walking because it is mentally taxing to look at any more faces. But I’ve gotten a good set of headphones and I never leave the house without at least 4 TV shows downloaded onto my iPhone ready to be watched. I check emails, troll facebook, read a good book. The key is to stay busy!

My commute to and from work has been made much more enjoyable now that I can just huddle in the corner of the train and watch Top Chef. I still get stepped on and bumped into, but at least I’m distracted by Tom Colicchio’s beautiful shiny head and it makes it all okay somehow.

Anyway, back to our recent move! We moved for a number of reasons. We were really annoyed with the neighbourhood we were living in. Aside from the fantastic people at the dog park, the rest of our neighbours were horrible and I dreaded my walk to the tube every day. There was a lot of litter everywhere, people were really anti-social, and it just wasn’t a pleasant experience.

We also needed a bigger space. We needed a place with a garden for the dogs. They have limitless energy and the 1st floor flat just wasn’t cutting it anymore.

We are now just a short walk to Greenwich Park which I have chronicled before when Becca visited…https://nashvillegirlinlondon.wordpress.com/2012/10/31/beccas-visit/

This is my happy place these days. This is where I go to unwind and decompress from the urban overload of my Monday-Friday routine. Here is a snapshot of how we spend our weekend in our new neighbourhood!

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View of London at dusk from One Tree Hill.

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Pups in flight…

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Queen Elizabeth’s Oak.

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Here is a little snippet from http://www.thegreenwichphantom.co.uk/2007/12/queen-elizabeths-oak/ explaining why this tree is so special:

“Why Queen Elizabeth’s Oak? Because popular tradition reckons that Henry VIII sported with Anne Boleyn under its branches (well, ok, ‘danced’) and the fruit of his loins, the future QEI “oft partook of refreshments” in its shade. It’s not, by the way, the tree under which she was sitting eating an apple when she discovered she had been made Queen.”

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photo 1

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My husband has taught me this year that the key to living happily in London is about finding the right balance. 2014 will find me striving for this. I think by next year I’ll be an old pro at this city life thing, you wait and see. xx

You can never have too many ponies…

I remember the exact moment I realized that the magical sparkly world I lived in might be a big horrible lie. I was 6 years old and I had been seeing this commercial for weeks in between my much-cherished Saturday morning cartoons:

Omg. They fly. They are ponies that fly. Flutter Ponies. Holy shit. NEED.

I decided that I had to have a flutter pony more than anything in the world and eventually I wore my mother down and was soon standing in the “Barbie aisle” of Target (as I always called it).
AKA the “PINK aisle” (American girls you know what I’m talking about).

Anyway, there I am. A shiny naive six-year-old Jamie Susan. I’m rocking the SIDE PONYTAIL and I’ve got my SLIP-ON KEDS and I’m taking FOREVER carefully selecting my magical flutter pony.
Probably the most important decision of my life at this point.

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How do you choose a new best friend!?

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I picked the pale yellow one with pink hair. I don’t recall her name. But I couldn’t get out of Target fast enough to free her from her packaging and watch my new friend fly across the parking lot.

I literally threw her into the air. I watched with all of the hope in the universe. My pony was gonna flutter around my head like a butterfly and my life would be complete.

Instead, gravity ripped her from the air and she landed near my mom’s car with a loud plastic THUD.

I remember my mother gazing down at me with amazement on her face.

“Why did you do that??”

I looked at her incredulously. WHAT A STUPID QUESTION!

I can honestly still recall the sensation of my tiny angry face hurting from pinching it up in disdain and shock at my flutter pony’s poor performance.

“Moooooooooooom!!! She’s broken!!!” I bellowed.

“Oh Jamie.” She sighed. She picked up my poor flutter pony and handed it back to me.

The car ride home involved a long conversation about what you see on TV vs. reality.

This conversation was necessary I suppose, but it stabbed me in the heart as I clutched my stupid pony. I simply refused to believe that the Saturday Morning cartoon advertising THAT I TRUSTED AND APPRECIATED would lie to me this way. Don’t they know how awful it is to lie about whether or not a pony can fly?

LIFE LESSONS.

So, let’s speed up 24 years into the future of my life. I still love ponies. I love magic. I love fantasy. I am however, completely lacking of the beautiful naiveté I clutched onto as a child.

Aren’t we all…

Photography lets me tap into that little girl that believed all those glittery falacies and sometimes I get the opportunity to capture images that directly source those pure innocent feelings. It’s a gift I receive on a regular basis.

On a hike through New Forest, a few months back when the weather was still bitter and the Spring flowers were desperately trying to push through, I encountered ponies.
Velvety, soft and magnificent ponies. Gentle and wild all at the same time.
It was extraordinary and it made me feel very pleased to be alive and grateful for EVERYTHING good in the world.

I also found some super fluffy sheep and some delightful foresty bits.

Enjoy!

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Towards the middle of the day, after hiking for a couple of wintry hours, we stopped in Burley for lunch and I saw this in a shop window…

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This immediately reached in and dredged the whole bittersweet flutter pony childhood tale from my memory banks.

And then on the last leg of the hike, I climbed over mounds of prickly bushes and through deep pockets of mud just to say hello without trying to “capture the moment”…

My husband pulled out his iPhone just at the right time and snapped this sweet little blurry shot of me COMPLETELY in my element.

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Life is beautiful folks.
Even in a world where plastic ponies don’t actually fly. xx

RHS Wisley

I’ve always loved flowers and plants in general, but I never really SAW them for what they are until I got into photography. Suddenly all of these mesmerizing geometric patterns and abstract neon art designs suddenly became available to me. And then I couldn’t stop noticing everything everywhere. The deep cracks within the bark on trees. Discarded snail shells. Contrast. Colour. Light. Shadow.
It has become my therapy, my inspiration and my passion.
If you aren’t into flora and fauna, look away now. Because I’m about to lay it on heavy. If you are however, I hope you enjoy this feast of bontanical porn from my recent trip to RHS Wisley in Guildford.

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See?? Rainbows and magic and all of that…

Next up…More ponies and forest treats…

The worst zoo I’ve ever been to, the most spectacular landscape in England, and parking lot ponies…

I have a love/hate relationship with zoos.
As an animal lover (and I use this lightly as I’m probably more of a fanatic than a lover) I appreciate the opportunity to see animals. Anytime, anywhere…I’m game.
Hahaha. See what I did there???

Oy vey.

Anywayyyyy…I’ve only been to one animal park where I didn’t feel like the animals were sad and bored and miserable. See here: https://nashvillegirlinlondon.wordpress.com/2012/02/07/the-lake-district-and-lemurs/ And here: https://nashvillegirlinlondon.wordpress.com/2012/11/01/parental-invasion/

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Recently this Safari park made the news because this happened: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2013/may/24/tiger-mauls-zoo-worker-cumbria

This made me very sad because I love this place dearly. It doesn’t feel like a zoo and they are so incredibly dedicated to animal conservation. But they are wild animals…so I suppose these things happen.

All of that being said, when researching fun things we could hit up on the drive back to London, I saw that there was a “world famous” zoo in Dartmoor as featured in the film “We Bought a Zoo”
http://www.dartmoorzoo.org/

I remembered that Jonsi did the soundtrack for this film and I though I haven’t actually seen the film, the website for the real-life zoo made it sound like a wonderland of zoological proportions. It also bragged about how great it was for photographers because the animal enclosures were so close up. I was exceptionally excited!

Cue disappointment.

First, there were hardly any animals. Half of the exhibits were empty. No indication given as to why. It was like touring an abandoned zoo. When we did actually find animals, they were very very far away.

I used my super duper zoom lens to capture this. We were squinting to make out what animals these were from about a football field away.

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And granted, those are big fat adorable Capybaras. But after seeing them…from a mile away…there was about 15 minutes of walked past completely empty exhibits until we found a clearly distressed racoon pacing in circles in a very tiny little chain linked space. Screaming like he was on fire. It was fucking grim.
Needless to say I didn’t photograph the poor guy.

The petting zoo area was fenced off in such a way that you couldn’t actually pet anything. We watched as family after family pushed their prams through the muddy path only to find out that all the animals were 50 feet from the fence and you could not enter to actually pet them.

We watched as couple after couple tried to explain to their incredibly disappointed children on the way back through the mud that “they don’t know why the goats are so far away” and “they don’t know where all the animals are…”

BUMMER.

I did get a couple photos.

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The Cheetah exhibit was the only only exhibit where you could actually get uninterrupted photos.
The Lion & Tiger enclosures were small and surrounded by chainlink on all sides.

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The whole experience just made me feel horrible to be human.

I just looked at the zoo map online again and I’m simply puzzled. Where were all these animals?

We thought about asking for our money back, but then realized that Dartmoor Zoo definitely needed that money more than us. Sheesh.

We were at the Zoo for about 45 minutes. I’m not even joking. We walked back to the carpark in complete silence. Once inside the car we just sort of looked at one another in a state of shock and grumpily continued our journey home.

Thankfully, we decided to cut through Dartmoor National Park and the day was SAVED!!!

SAVED BY SHEEP!!!

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SAVED BY PONIES!!!

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My husband is brilliant at spotting things way before I see them (because of his super sharp astronaut vision) And he was able to see ponies congregating in a carpark off the side of the road in time for us to hang a sharp right and park the car amongst them.

These ponies were the most ultra chilled out group of ponies I have ever met.

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I’d say they were “stoner ponies” if such a thing existed because they were M-E-L-L-O-W.

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Check out the utter disbelief on my face.

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Followed by complete happiness…

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After more time petting ponies than we had probably spent in the Dartmoor Zoo, I reluctantly got back in the car, blowing air-kisses at my new fluffy gypsy friends as we pulled back out onto the main road.

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Thinking I had seen it all, that the day was not only saved but could not get much better, I made another friend by the side of the road!

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Also mega-laidback and happy to be hugged.

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GLASS HALF FULL!

Next up…RHS Garden Wisley, Surrey

A Snowy Day in London…

I’ve gotten quite used to listening to most people around me moan about the dreary winter weather in England.
I used to think everyone was just being grumpy and dramatic.
But to be honest, I’m getting a bit weary of the cold myself.

Recently London was blanketed in snow and it seemed like everyone gave up their constant complaining for a few days and really enjoyed it! Imagine that!

I really and truly love snow days and was very excited to take the pups out and do some frolicking!

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Pepper’s not so sure about it…

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But she soon got some cuddles and warmed up a bit…

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Snow is also good for wrestling!

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Noodles happens to love the snow…as well as affection from his favorite park buddy!

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Okay, so that’s officially enough snow for me!
Bring on some Spring!!!

EDINBURGH IN 24 HOURS…

It’s a shame when you only have a short amount of time in a spectacularly cool and ancient city like Edinburgh.

I suppose it’s not that ancient.

Wait, wait…prior to the 7th century is pretty damn old… don’t you think?

Welllll…honestly everything is pretty ancient in comparison to Nashville.

It doesn’t matter, I’m not here to get into a history argument.

And as much as I’m sure everyone would appreciate me being the consumate tour guide and explaining by every little detail is in my photos, I’d rather just post them and if you have a question, please ask me in the comments.

EXAMPLE:

YOU “Where was that cool graveyard photo taken?”

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ME: “WHY THANK YOU FOR NOTICING HOW COOL IT IS! THAT WAS TAKEN AT ST. ANDREWS ABBEY. OR WHAT’S LEFT OF IT! HAR HAR.”

YOU: “OH YOU ARE SO FUNNY! AND I LOVE YOUR BLOG. CAN I SMELL YOUR HAIR AND BE YOUR FRIEND?”

ME: “YOU HAVE TO PAY THE MEMBERSHIP FEE.”

YOU: “OKAY SURE! WHAT IS IT?”

ME: “TWO LAVENDER PONIES WITH SPARKLY HOOVES, A UNICORN THAT SMELLS LIKE BUBBLEGUM AND SUNSHINE, AN OCTOPUS THAT CAN LIVE SAFELY IN MY WARDROBE, AND FRONT ROW TICKETS TO BJORK.”

YOU: “UMMMMMMM…I DON’T THINK I CAN GET THOSE THINGS FOR YOU.”

ME: “I DON’T THINK WE CAN BE FRIENDS.”

Something like that.

This isn’t to say that at times I won’t find myself feeling extraordinarily poetic and explanatory.
It’s very likely.

Sometimes I just don’t FEEL like it.

I’m sure you have days like that too.

Often, I just want you to look at my photos (or not look at them…I really don’t care) and be inspired to travel your pants off.

So, without further babbling…checked out the gray and marvelous city of EDINBURGH!!!!!!!!!!

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Sidenote for above photo: Okay, I’m being totally honest here. I’ve had a dream with this in it since I was a little girl. This exact photograph. Serious as a heart attack. I’d never seen it before I took this photo. Except in my repeat dream. No idea what that means, but there it is.
Freaked me out pretty good.

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BY THE WAY, APPARENTLY THERE ARE NO FAST WALKING MEN IN 70’S LEISURE SUITS ALLOWED IN EDINBURGH CASTLE. JUSTSOYOUKNOW.

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I’m not going to lie. This ain’t no Hampton Court y’all. (Don’t I sound snobby!)

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I think most of the things in the castle were on loan from London museums. Which, is sort of messed up.

Hey London, Give Scotland back it’s stuff.

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THIS IS THE EDINBURGH SCHOOL OF UNICORNS

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FANCY PANTS TEA TIME FOR ME!! IN SCOTLAND! WITH MY HUSBAND!

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ACTION SHOTS!

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The days winds down…

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One more Unicorn for the road…

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Next up…the AMAZING B&B where we stayed in Edinburgh!!

Scotland O Scotland

I have always wanted to go to Scotland.
More than most people…and I’m not exactly sure why.
I probably watched too much Braveheart growing up.

Oh wait, maybe it’s the accent. I LOVE that accent.

Or the sheep.

Or these MASSIVELY ADORABLE HIGHLAND COWS.

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(BTW, Rob Manningham took this great shot, not moi)

UGH. WANT ONE. Soooooo bad.

No matter!

The point is, I have ALWAYS wanted to visit Scotland and I finally got my wish!

HOORAY!

First Stop, St. Andrews!

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Lunch was at Mitchell Deli…http://www.mitchellsdeli.co.uk/#

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The Decor reminded me very much of Marche and Margot from Nashville…

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And the food was AMAZING.

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NEXT UP, EDINBURGH!!!!!!!!!!!!

Road Trip to Scotland…

The Road to Scotland is paved with SHEEP!

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And gnarly black trees…

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And brooding countryside…

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Moon shaped hills…

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Pink snow showers…

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AND FINALLY, SCOTLAND!!!!!!!!!!!

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NEXT UP…SCOTLAND!!!

Hampton Court

It is becoming more and more evident that I should have been born a princess.

I am absolutely and utterly obsessed with castles and the sordid history of royals past…it is all consuming.

I am bewitched by the tales of King Henry VIII and the saga of his SIX wives.

I watched the Showtime series “The Tudors” like it was my job, and have also read several books about Ann Boleyn and Henry VIII… never tiring of the story.

A few weeks ago, I actually got to visit Hampton Court.

My eyes were operating on overdrive and my tiny little heart just fluttered away inside my chest as we strolled around the Palace.

Hampton Court is infinitely beautiful.

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I have this fixation with windows.

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It is difficult to comprehend fully that Catherine of Aragon looked out of these very same windows.

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Unaware of the turmoil she faced…

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That her King would lust after Anne Boleyn so much…going to the most desperate of lengths to possess her.

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And that this beguiling woman would become his new Queen, only to be cast aside and sentenced to death when she could not provide an heir and gossip prevailed…

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The sheer scale of Hampton Court…

The soaring ceilings….

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The exquisite frescos, super-saturated with color…

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What hands have opened these doors? To what end?

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Grandiose rooms…

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Ghosts that have left their mark…

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Crystal chandeliers and marble staircases…

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Massive kitchens…

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What horrors have been seen by these mirrors? What secrets?

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How can we process all of this beauty?

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Gardens that bring tears to your eyes…or MY eyes at least…

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Bask in the majesty…

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The tiny details…

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I really should be sauntering around in a mammoth gown right now…dripping in gems…

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Surrounded by so much magic…

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The air is electrified…

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There is this immense feeling that you are being watched…

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And I’ve never been happier…