Barcelona part two – Montjuïc Cactus Park

In Barcelona there is a magical little succulent garden packed with every spiny cactus imaginable. Pure bliss for someone as obsessed with photographing plants as I am…

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The things that were eaten in Spain

Food in Spain is amazing in general but Barcelona was pretty next level…

The best burger I’ve had in my entire life at http://www.granjapetitbo.com/

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Another delicious burger at http://anaucogourmet.es/

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Root Vegetable crisps + honey & sesame seeds at http://www.negrocarbongrill.com/

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Tempura fried veggies, craft beer and rare steak at http://biercab.com/

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Dreamy pina coladas and guacamole at https://www.facebook.com/Pachucobcn/

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Followed by another on on the beach…

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Followed by mojitos…

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daiquiris…

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Then an exquisite dinner of tapas at http://www.betlem.es/

Steak tartare

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Octopus, artichoke & pea

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Crab ravioli

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Roasted Octopus

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Apparently all I eat is Octopus so I decided to order a whole one roasted in paprika in Figueres.
It was the best thing I ate on the whole trip (next to that legendary burger because it was EPIC)!!

It’s a shame I don’t have anything for scale. Let’s say bigger than a rabbit smaller than a cat. I ate the whole thing. Obvs.

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Sintra

If you holiday in Lisbon, a breath-taking day trip to Sintra is a must. Make the time…trust me.

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Quinta Regaleira

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Really spot-on octopus and potato salad in the outdoor cafe…

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Pena Palace

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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 Six – The Atomium

There was one final place on our list to visit before our stay in Belgium came to an end!

I give you, The Atomium in Brussels.

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Constructed for the 1958 World Fair in Brussels, this futuristic architectural wonder is equal parts science fiction and brilliant design. Crafted of steel and standing at 102 meters high, this amazing structure is a replica of the unit cell of an iron crystal atom – magnified 165 billion times.

And you can go inside of it!

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Inside the beast…

Elevator shaft…S looks up intently.

View from the top sphere…

2001: A Space Odyssey on a loop…

Each giant steel sphere is connected to the next by tunnels containing either metal staircases or escalators lit with rainbow light panels that flicker and pulse as you descend.

A little video…

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Read more about the Atomium here: http://www.atomium.be/

Farewell Belgium! You were very good to us – thanks and see you again one day! xx

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…

Belgique! Discovering Ghent, Bruges, & Brussels …part DEUX – Waffles!

Who’s in the mood for some motherflippin waffles?!

The answer is: ALL Y’ALL.

Because you just can’t say no to waffles.

(Unless you are punishing yourself, coeliac or obnoxious)…then fine.
More waffs for moi!

I did some investigative “wafflesearch” (snort…high-fiving myself) before we left for Belgium!
Although I usually cringe at the thought of doing the same exact touristy things that everyone else does on holiday, there are certain rights of passage when you visit a place for the first time.

No one goes to Florence and says
“Keep me away from all this perfect gnocchi and gorgeous gelato”.

No one “mehs” at a sexy hunk of crusty baguette freshly slathered with salted butter in Paris.

The point I’m making is that no one was going to keep me from my waffle experience. It’s Belgium, we are doing the waffle thing. It’s sorted.

So there’s this place called “MAX” http://www.etablissementmax.be/en/ in Ghent.
It’s this incredible little art nouveau cafe that specialises in waffles and apple fritters – even claims to have invented them in 1839! Here’s a little video about it:

After an afternoon spent schlepping around looking at beautiful churches, swans swimming in canals, drinking beer and other magical things – we plopped ourselves down in the wicker chairs and planned our* waffle attack.

(*I should note that S only ordered a beer. I am a lone waffle warrior.)

Isn’t it a beautiful building?

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The inside is just as gorgeous. Who doesn’t love art nouveau??

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So what did I order? Well…obviously I ordered a waffle.

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A big, fluffy, light-as-air, splendid and amazing waffle. Crispy. Slightly Sweet. Yum.

And a fancy coffee… REAL fancy.

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And then I thought…well if they really invented the apple fritter, I should probably order one…you know…since i’m here…

So I did! Eeeeee!

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Then I made this face because GLUTONY.

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S just sat and sipped his Chimay in a state of loving, and non-judgemental supervision as I tucked into my mountain of treats.

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I did my best, but living a mostly carb free existence and eating (and drinking) carbs non-stop for 2 days was catching up to me by this point.
Since I was receiving no help from my (I don’t have a sweet-tooth) better half, I really only made a slight dent in my sugar feast. He always says I’m really talented at eating all the desserts and I appreciate the support.

I’m thrilled to report that everything was absolutely spot-on perfection!

When in Ghent, go to MAX!
Order the waffle.
Die of happy!

Next up – LIGHTOPIA!!!!

Belgique! Discovering Ghent, Bruges, & Brussels …part one

Ahhhhhh Belgium! So many reasons to visit this beautiful country.

Picturesque cottages. Quirky Cobblestone streets. Beer. (REALLY AMAZING BEER) Art. Chocolate. (REALLY AMAZING CHOCOLATE) Swans. Misty canals. Moules Frites. Medieval churches. Waterzooi. More beer. More beer. More beer.

And rain. If you like and/or can tolerate rain, then yes. Visit.

I read a travel blog before my recent trip to Belgium where the author said the one thing she was able to determine by her visit to Belgium, was that it is always raining.
I would like to add to that statement by offering up my observation that if it is not raining, it has either just stopped raining or is about to start raining again.

BUT we went in February – which is really us begging to be rained upon. I promise I’m not complaining!

As you may know if you’ve followed my blog or are actually my real life friend, a year and half ago S and I bought a nice big house in a gorgeous leafy area of London. It is lovely and we are much happier and have loads more spaces than in the flat in Stockwell, TRUST.
But the “semi-constant” home improvements to said dwelling have definitely limited our ability to travel as often as we would like. We would travel every weekend if we could. But wouldn’t everyone?

Eventually the daily grinding commute and bustle of such a enormous and unforgiving city, creates a time bomb situation where you must get the hell out of Dodge. This happened last year around this time when we went to Slovenia. Like clockwork, by January of this year I was again up to my neck with boiling hatred for London.

So, it was time to GIT!

And this is where being in London has its advantages. One 25 minute train journey to St. Pancras Station, hop aboard The Eurostar, put in your heaphones, sip on your latte and in a few short hours you can be wining and dining in a myriad of amazing European cities. It’s the bees pyjamas.

So we chose Belgium for OPERATION: DECOMPRESS VIA ALL OF THE BEER.

We love Airbnb! It has always served us well. Both places we stayed in Belgium were probably the luckiest we’ve gotten with Airbnb accommodation thus far. The old Monastery conversion we stayed at in Ghent was absolutely stunning!

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Skip the fees and book directly through them here: http://bbmariereine.be/recensies.html

And the historic town centre itself is incredible.

Sint-Michielskerk glowing at night…

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Graffiti tunnel…

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We had a beautiful dinner at De Graslei http://www.restaurantdegraslei.be/en where I ordered the very traditional Flanders dish “Waterzooi”

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It was SO YUMMY.

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As was my dinner date. ❤

All the walking around in the freezing rain made us VERY thirsty. So we spent a lovely evening sampling (pouring beers directly into our faces) a few of the 250 beers on offer at Pub ‘de Dulle Griet’ http://www.dedullegriet.be/en/

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If you want to drink the gigantic “Max” beer, you must hand over one of your shoes. It goes in the basket, the bell is rung, your shoe is lifted high to the ceiling and here comes your beer!

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And then you drink the rest of the beers…

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ALL THE BEER! Up next…The Design Museum Exhibit Lightopia and WAFFLES!

Paris, FINALLY! Part Two. AND Three.

Annnnd we’re back! I decided to cram the rest of the photos into one last post so this is your warning that it’s a LONG one!

So picking up from where we left off with part one of our Paris trip, after a sweet little breakfast at Maison Lacombe we made our way toward Notre Dame and the Centre Georges Pompidou.

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Centre Georges Pompidou!!! Amazing!!!

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The walk to Notre Dame…

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Lunch at Aux Arts Etc Cafe’ Galerie

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The experience and food in this quaint little cafe was beyond wonderful and the staff/owner was very welcoming and lovely!

Off to the Pantheon…

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The Eiffel Tower!

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Collectively sharing our feelings about Selfie sticks…

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The sweetest older lady and dog duo there ever was…

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We were completely destroyed from all the walking and had a simple charcuterie and cheese feast for dinner…

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Nommmmmmmmm.

The next morning we took a boat cruise on the Seine from The Eiffel Tower…

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Then a quick little pit stop in Bistro De Montemartre…

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http://en.bistromontmartre.com/

Followed by a walk through the beautiful and somber Montmartre Cemetery…

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Our journey to Sacré-Coeur began with more walking around Montmartre…

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SACRE-COEUR!!!

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Our last dinner was at a tiny neighbourhood restaurant in Ternes called Le Petit Acacia.

We were incredibly lucky to yet again, have a stellar meal.

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The parents look pretty darn happy and relaxed! 😉

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The FOOD!

Roasted Bone Marrow

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Suckling Pig

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Confit Duck

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Creme Brulee

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On our last day in Paris we toured the Musee D’Orsay (simply wondrous and astounding!) then we dined at another fantastic restaurant Le Recrutement Cafe for one final Parisan feast.

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They still look happy! Success!

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Lovingly threatening my darling with my Escargot tongs…

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Which was short lived because then there was escargot! YUM.

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Beef stew

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Salad with duck gizzards and foie gras

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Cheesecake (my mother says this was the best she’s had)

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Cheeky Cheese Plate

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Apple Tart with salted butter ice cream

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And creme brulee #2 for moi.

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One final look before heading to Gare Du Norde…

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So that’s it. Sadly!

Thank you for taking the time to scroll through all the photographs!

And goodbye beautiful Paris, thank you for not disappointing! See you again soon! x

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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

Four Countries In Four Days – Part 3

It was brought to my attention that I completely forgot to mention the epic meat feast Uros treated us to in Ljubljana at CAD http://www.gostilna-cad.si/gb/index.html This was the day we walked around in the rain and watched the Rugby in the pub!

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This was my first experience with Serbian/Bosnian cuisine and it reminded me of Thanksgiving because the food was so delicious and plentiful but my stomach started waving the white flag of defeat shortly after we started!

So there you go! Homage has been paid Uros! All was not forgotten!

So let’s wrap up this colossally amazing trip with more photos of things we saw, ate and drank! 😉

The last full day/night in Ljubljana we met up with Uros and Jani and drove to Lake Bled, easily one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been.

The boys!

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The castle!

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The church in the middle of Lake Bled!

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Uros!

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Jani!

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Me trying to express how hungry I was with very lady-like hand gestures…

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They took the hint and we went immediately for Slovenian Pizza and beer!

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Which, was UNBELIEVABLE.

Afterwards we took a stroll down to the bottom of the hill to get a good view of the castle…

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Then we piled into the car for a scenic drive…

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And did some frolicking in the snow…

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The men were quite triumphant after navigating the deep snow banks…

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Which kicked off an obligatory snowball fight!

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Then we drove into Austria! Because why not?

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We got there just in time for a sunset stroll in Klagenfurt…

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We stopped for a coffee and ice cream and cake! MMMMMmmmmmm.

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More Dragons!

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SCHMUCK JEWELLERS. AMAZING. At least they are upfront about it right??

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The boys steering the ship to nowhere…

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Thank you Jani for the beautiful tiny dusk tour of Klagenfurt! xx

The next morning Uros took us out for a scrumptious breakfast in a gorgeous little French cafe in Ljubljana.

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Then we packed our bags and headed to Italy for one last stroll around the coast in Trieste.

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And that’s it! Four countries! Four days! All of the funtimes!

Thank you to Uros and Jani for being such incredible hosts and tour guides for us. We were absolutely desperate for a few days out of London and you gave us the most relaxing and gorgeous holiday. We are forever grateful and you are always welcome to stay with us at Westcombe Manor! We miss “Lah jub jub” already!!! xx

Four Countries in Four Days – Part TWO!

Where did we leave off? Breakfast in England. Quick afternoon flight to Italy. Seaside dinner in Piran. Cheeky drinks in Croatia. This clearly is a great way to start a holiday.
As our eventful first night was nearing a close, I suppose we were well within our rights to pass out when we got to Uros’ flat in Ljubljana, but noooooo. HOLIDAY!!

We freshened up and high-tailed it to Zlata Ladjica – The Golden Ship, to drink more beers and meet more friends.

This is where I fell in love with Bevog Tak:

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One of the most beautiful beers I’ve ever had. And the artwork is amazing as well.

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I’m not sure how easy is is to get your hands on Bevog, but if you see it in your local specialty beer shop, snatch it up. It’s excellent.

http://www.bevog.at/#beers

Here is a very blurry and VERY MERRY snap of us after a few drinks:

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On the way home I noticed a little vigil in support of Ukraine…heavy times…

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On that note, we grabbed some street food and made our way back the flat for a well-deserved sleep.

I was lucky enough to wake up to beautiful Slovenian donuts filled with peach jam and super thick dark coffee.

Yum. Thank you to Uros’ brother Niko!!!

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We ventured out in the rain to roam around the city…

Dragons!

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Translation: Tits

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The sculptures around Ljubljana are like something out of a Tool video. Which obviously makes me love it all the more.

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Nightmarish pope related Church doors!

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Yes, that is a turd sculpture. Bronze turds with faces. Spectacular.

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We met up with Ajda and her wee little pup Laika (like the dog the Soviets sent to space!)

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We stopped at an adorable coffee shop for a spell…

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I realised that I was so enamoured with her Boston Terrier that I never got a photo of Adja for the blog! EEEE!!!
So I’ve snatched one from her facebook!

This is Ajda, she’s great!

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The sun came out eventually…

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Dragon in the sun!!!

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We spent the rest of the day in an Irish pub watching Six Nations and took an early night to prepare for the next day’s events.

Next up…Lake Bled, the best pizza I’ve ever eaten and an evening stroll in Austria. xx

(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

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

Dusk in Looe and a cemetary stroll…

No matter where you are in the UK, you are never that far from a beach.
Living in London, surrounded by concrete and sky scrapers every day, I forget this.

Growing up in a land-locked state, the closest beach was a 7 hour drive.

It’s still magical. Every single time. Even if it’s a freezing cold England beach and there is zero chance of actually getting a tan or taking a swim!

During our weekend getaway to Cornwall, we spent a few hours in the lovely little seaside town of Looe.

We just missed the sunset…

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On our drive back, we spotted a spooky looking graveyard poking out from behind some dark trees and. I loudly announced “creepy graveyard”, prompting an immediate  U-turn, and drove down a narrow forest path to a errie looking church. It was almost nightfall. 

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Goodbye dusky cemetary!!!

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

The Eden Project Part II…

I’m back! AGAIN. Sorry for the delay. I am the reigning Queen of blog hiatuses.
But I never give up!
Has it really been 3 months?! Dang.
It’s like my days just get gobbled up by a big and unforgiving minute-munching monster!
I had so much time to kill when I lived in Nashville-nothing but slow sweet syrupy time.
But in London? Nope. I’m in a constant state of “hurryhurry-rushrush-getoutofmyway-movefaster-I’m sooooo late”

Even though it’s hilariously behind schedule, here is the second batch of delightful little flowers and plants from my birthday Eden Project visit!

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Weird and amazing little wood carvings and teensy sculptures…

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The SEED…

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Giant metal butterfly sculpture…

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In case you didn’t know, The Terminator lives at The Eden Project…

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I guess he’s into gardening?

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See you later beautiful biomes!!!!

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Coming up next…Ice cold beaches in Looe and a creepy Cornwall graveyard stroll…

Road Trip to Granada…

We woke up bright and early one morning and hit the road to Granada…

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The Alhambra!!!

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I really don’t have words for how grand and beautiful the Alhambra is…simply stunning.

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Next up…Christmas in Spain xx

Sunrise Hike in Alcalá la Real, Spain

I’m currently enjoying a fabulously relaxing holiday in Spain with my gorgeous husband and beautiful Sister and Brother-in-law.

Every day has been full of treats, big sleeps, and lots of photography!

I decided I wanted to wake up before the sunrise on December 21st and hike up the hillside to watch the sun break through the fog and hopefully bring with it a new age and happier days for the world.

My husband helped me navigate through the dark and find the best boulders to stand on the get these glorious shots.

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The sky went through so many colors and the clouds created an amazing collection of patterns all within the span of 20 minutes or so…

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All the tiny things come to life in the early morning light…

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La Mota sits high above Alcalá…

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The fog lingers…

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Then the blue sky pushes through…

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We feel lucky to be alive and refreshed to be in such a special part of the world together!

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I hope you are having a wonderful holiday wherever you are. xx

Barton on Sea

I was just about to post the first batch of my Spain photos and realized that yet again, I’ve got photos from other trips that I’ve not posted!

I’m not sure how my spectacularly magical Summer trip to Barton fell through the cracks of my blog posts, but I’m here to rectify this oversight!

Beaches, flowers, forests full of ponies, frolicking puppies, and double rainbows.
Pretty damn magical.
Enjoy!

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Rainbows and wild ponies in New Forest!!!

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Amazinggggggg!!!!
xx

A Very Cold Venetian Holiday…

Ahhhhhh Venice!

The last stop on our honeymoon tour of beautiful and unseasonably wintry Italy.

When we planned our trip, we did zero research on what events would be going on in the various cities we were visiting.

We just had 14 days to burn and decided on February at random.

Much to our delight and complete surprise, Carnival was in FULL SWING when we arrived in Venice.

Costumes, music, FOUNTAINS OF RED WINE, and confetti, confetti, confetti!!

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We stayed at the Hilton because we got a super good deal for it being such a high-end hotel-http://www.molinostuckyhilton.it/index.php

Although building is beautiful and the view was amazing…(view from our room…that’s Venice across the way)

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…we would never stay there again, for the following reasons:

It was simply too damn big, too far from the mainland, food drinks etc. were SO OVERPRICED, Wifi was like 25 euros (barf), and it was freezing so the gorgeous pool was closed.

We felt like we were missing out being so far away from the center of Venice.

We got up and ready and out the door everyday and then had to wait for a water taxi and then another 25 minutes to get into Venice.

By this time, we were HANGRY and GRUMPYFACED.

We did Florence and Rome via Airbnb https://www.airbnb.co.uk/

And has such great experiences with this that we will never ever book hotels again.

We learned our lesson in Venice!

So onto the fun part! PHOTOS!

I took a massive amount of photos.

Get a cup of tea, sit back, and relax because I’m going to post them all in one go.

Venetian shop windows…!!!

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My most favorite book…

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Rialto Bridge at night…

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A night of glorious Italian opera (birthday gift from the super sweet hubs)

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Day in Murano…

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The Venice Cemetery…
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Ponte dei Sospiri (The Bridge of Sighs)

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Confetti covering everything…

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Pups!

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St. Mark’s Basilica

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It was cold, but it was still dreamy. Ciao Venice xx

Grouse House Bed and Breakfast Edinburgh

How have I lived this long and not ONLY stayed in bed & breakfasts when I travel?

Somehow I had it in my head that they were these weird old musty houses with green shag carpeting stocked with uber creepy victorian doll collections.
I don’t need some demon doll glaring at me in its crocheted doily dress as I chow down on my cornflakes the next morning.

Not my idea of R&R.

Are they not strictly for couples going away to have a zen weekend to fix some personal issues and sleep in all day?

Apparently you can just stay in them like regular hotels, except for the fact that they are adorable and cozy and don’t charge you for every little thing.

WHO KNEW? AND WHY DID YOU KEEP THIS FROM ME?

Grouse House is sort of the champion of the B&B. No really. It is.

The ideal that all other B&B’s should model themselves after.

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Pretty much every little detail you could dream up, the owner Dean has already got sorted out for you.

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And he’s actually a NICE person.
He’ll talk to you and give you sound advice on where to go and what to avoid while you are visiting and really mean it!

And the rooms are decorated with charm and modern style.
No crappy wallpaper, no pink carpeting from 1983.

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Warm and inviting with tons of character and whimsy. Without being cutesy.
Just clean and calm and CHILL.

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Dean was nice enough to let me poke around and take photos the morning that we checked out.

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(After the biggest most spectacular breakfast accompanied by awesome tunes and candles glowing on the hearth!)

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EVERY Bathroom should have room spray. Period. End of discussion. Dean knows!

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The dining room is incredibly beautiful and peaceful.
Grab a seat, have a cup of coffee.
R-E-L-A-X.

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If you ever find yourself in need of the best sleep of your life, the friendliest B&B host, the heartiest breakfast, and the hottest shower you have ever taken…look no further my friends…mystery solved!

http://www.edinburghsgrousehouse.co.uk/index.html

Til we meet again Grouse House! Keep making people happy! xx