Thursday, December 31, 2015

Bring on the New Year!

I've never been one to wrap up a year in a little box and label it before I put it away.  I'll do a quick recap as any a blogger must but I don't look back on my life by years.  My past is catalogued by events and memories, the years just seem to run together.  But for 2015, I have the strong urge to put parenthesis around it, take a good, hard look at it and give it a firm send off. 

Oh, the places we will go! Travel Blog

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Berlin Christmas Markets 2015

If you celebrate Christmas, I hope that you had a wonderful one!  Apologies for the past few weeks of silence on the blog.  It's been one helluva year and as it came to an end, we were both just not really feeling like going all out.  We didn't even put up a tree or decorate at all.  Not in a Bah Humbug way but just in a quiet, restful way.  We had a very relaxed Christmas which is just what we needed. 

Berlin Germany Christmas Markets

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving from Texas

I'm in Texas for the first Thanksgiving in four years!  I'm only here for a week but I thought it was time for a family holiday and I needed to get my hands on that grandbaby of mine. I spent two days in Austin with my mom and step-dad, two days in New Braunfels with my dad and brother and the rest of the family.  Then I drove the six hours to Odessa in East Texas to visit Jessica, Johnny and Michael.  They just moved here a month ago for work and they're getting all settled into their new home.  

Gruene Texas

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Temple of Hatshepsut & Handling Vendors in Egypt

Ancient Egypt is a huge part of the curriculum in American schools.  Or at least it was when I was growing up.  We learned all about the pyramids and hieroglyphics.  My dad's collection of National Geographic was another source of information.  

Ancient Egypt is also very popular in Hollywood.  Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra, Raiders of the Lost Ark and who can forget Steve Martin's ode to King Tut.  You're going to have that little ditty in your head all day now.  You're welcome.  Or how about "Walk like an Egyptian" by the Bangles.  Even better.

It's obvious how Ancient Egypt has captured the imagination of generations of people.  To see it all up close and personal was a dream come true.  It's even more magnificent than you expect.

Handling Vendors Touts in Egypt

Monday, November 16, 2015

Luxor, Egypt

I still have several posts about our week in Egypt planned.  When the horrible crash of the Russian passenger plane happened last month, it was devastating.  To think of those hoilday-makers flying home full of memories of Egypt and then to be killed so tragically.  Then there is all of the speculation of it being a terrorist attack and possibly a bomb.

I thought initially there is no way that I can write about Egypt now.  More and more people are questioning whether it is a safe travel destination.  The plane crash in Sinai isn't the first time terrorism has rocked this country, specifically the tourism trade that supports thousands of Egyptians. 

But, then I changed my mind.  Of course I will write about our time in Egypt.  It was one of the most incredible weeks of my life.  I will not let fear keep me from traveling and I will not let terrorists keep me from sharing some photographs and stories of our time there.  The last thing I want to do is offend anyone, but I think writing about Egypt is the right thing to do, especially in this situation.  So, on to our next stop.

Luxor, Egypt

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Royal Ascot 2015

Once I submitted my application for British citizenship, it seemed we spent the summer doing all things British.  What's the most Britishy Brit thing a future Brit can do?  Dress up to the nines and head to Ascot to rub shoulders with the royals.  The races at Ascot were founded by Queen Anne in 1711 and over the past 300 years more and more pomp and circumstance have been added to this special event.  Officially known as the Royal Meeting, each June 300,000 people attend the event, all hoping to win a few quid and spot a Royal.  Well, we didn't win anything but we did spot a few Royals. 

Royal Ascot 2015

Monday, November 9, 2015

On Becoming British

It's official.  I'm a British citizen.  The process has been long (4 years) and expensive (£4K), with reams of paperwork.  But I've been lucky.  It can take a lot longer and be much more complicated.  Going through the process as the spouse of a British citizen definitely makes things easier.  It started with a Visa, then Indefinite Leave to Remain and now Citizenship.  My ceremony was just a few weeks ago. 

Becoming a British Citizen

Friday, November 6, 2015

Chestertons Polo in the Park

I'm in complete denial about the transition to winter.  I don't mind the cold really, but don't get me started on the darkness.  I left work at 5pm yesterday and it was dark.  This does nothing for my mood, let me tell you.  So instead, let's pretend it's still the height of summer.  We actually had a pretty warm summer in the UK.  We tried to enjoy every bit of it.  One Saturday we spent watching polo in the sun.  It was the perfect British summer day. 

Chestertons Polo in the Park

Friday, October 30, 2015

Easter Markets of Prague

Last December we were scheduled to visit the Christmas Markets in Budapest.  However, a hospital stay meant that we had to cancel.  When I heard about the Easter markets in Prague, I knew we had to go.  I'm a bit embarrassed to be posting about Easter Markets when everyone is getting geared up for the Christmas Markets.  But, maybe you'll add it to your travel plans for next year.  Because the Easter Markets in Prague are delightful.

Easter Markets of Prague, Czech Republic

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Eating Prague Food Tour

One of my top London experiences was the Eating London Food Tour which I took a few years ago.  What a great way to experience a city... through your stomach.  I knew that this same group also has an Eating Prague Food Tour.   It was at the top of our list for our city break in Prague.  It didn't disappoint.  

Eating Prague Food Tour

Monday, October 26, 2015

Prague City Break

You may not believe this, but I have a blogging calendar.  I use a notebook calendar and post it notes.  A pending post goes on a post it note (I currently have 36 of them) and once it gets published, I write it in the calendar. I have this plan delusion that I'm going to post three times a week so every time I sit down to blog, I have to go through the process of moving the 36 post it notes further along in the calendar in sets of three.  When was the last time I posted three times in one week?  No idea.  Since I started working full-time, I often don't post three times in a month.  But I am still a blogger and I'm determined to continue.  In fact, I'm going to sit down right now and write three posts to publish this week.  No really.  I am.  I also have the perfect location to write about this week... Prague. 

Prague City Break

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Leicester House in London

There's this particular London PR firm that occasionally invites me to a blogger's table to review a restaurant.  I never say no to their invites because I know I'm going to be treated to a wonderful meal and great company.  They introduced me to both Gaylord London and Le Garrick.  They've also helped this picky eater get completely out of my comfort zone and try some wonderful dishes that I've always been afraid to try.  My most recent invite was to try some French Vietnamese cuisine at Leicester House. 

Leicester House in London Restaurant Review

Monday, September 28, 2015

Southern Comfort launches Blood Orange

Being a Southern (US) girl, I grew up on Southern Comfort.  Well, of course, I didn't drink it until I was of legal age (Drink Responsibly) but it's a very familiar bottle in the bar line up of any proper Southern bar or drinks cabinet. Southern Comfort was created in a New Orleans bar in 1874 by bartender M.W. Heron.  It's the perfect blend of neutral spirits with fruits, spices and whiskey flavoring. 

This year Southern Comfort launched their first ever Travel Retail Exclusive, Blood Orange Comfort.   Hey, I travel.  I enjoy Retail and Exclusives!  They offered me a bottle to try out and as they say in the South, "Momma didn't raise no fool."  Yes, please.

Southern Comfort launches Blood Orange

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Great Pyramids of Egypt

There's a particular scene at the very end of Titanic that has always stuck with me.  Silver-haired Rose gets in bed and the camera pans across a series of framed photographs on her bedside table.  

We see photos of young Rose in various scenarios, in a cap and gown, climbing aboard a plane, sitting atop an elephant, surrounded by family members, beaming on a horse on the beach.  All photos meant to quickly convey a life well lived, a long and fulfilling life of adventure and happiness.  

I wonder what photos silver haired Selena will keep on her nightstand.  Graduations, weddings, Jessica, grandbabies and great grandbabies. What travel moments will I want to surround myself with?  Me on a camel at the great pyramids of Egypt will definitely be on that nightstand.  

The Great Pyramids of Egypt

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Egyptian Museum in Cairo, Egypt

When we were planning our trip to Egypt we started off with a week-long resort stay in Hurghada.  During one planning session I looked at Matt and said "But, I can't go to Egypt without seeing the pyramids."  I think it was the tears in my eyes threatening to spill over that convinced him that we needed to explore further than the resort. Of course, he was easily convinced.  So not only did we add on a Private Cairo/Giza Tour but also a Private Luxor Tour which we booked through Egypt Tours Portal

The Egyptian Museum in Cairo, Egypt

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Welcome, Sweet Grandson!!

I'm back in London and if you follow along on Instagram you know that I'm now Gigi to the most beautiful little boy that ever was!  Welcome to the world, Michael!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Taste of London 2015 & Celebrity Cruises

It's hard to believe that this is my fourth summer in London.  It doesn't seem possible.  One of the first events I attended that first summer was the Taste of London.  We haven't missed it since then.  You can read about 2012, 2013 and 2014 to see why we love this restaurant festival so much.  Of course, I wasn't going to miss it this year either. 

Taste of London 2015 & Celebrity Cruises

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Grim's Dyke Hotel

I've so missed the London Bloggers Teas and the fun of meeting up with other bloggers over scones and tea.  So when my inbox pinged with an invite from Linzi at Office Breaks to attend a bloggers tea I immediately responded "Yes!"  

The fact that it was located in a gorgeous country manor made it even more appealing.  The Grim's Dyke Hotel is a 19th Century Tudor-Style manor located on 40 acres just 12 miles from the center of London. 

Grim's Dyke Hotel, London, England

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Garden Beauties and a Life Update

You'll never guess where I'm writing this.  Well, actually you probably will.  I'm in Texas!  I was supposed to fly home on August 8th and stay for three weeks.  But as the birth of my first grand baby approached, the possibility of not being here for the birth took over my thoughts.  All signs point to this baby coming early and I had to get here.

Grim's Dyke Hotel, London, England

Friday, July 24, 2015

Palm Royale Soma Bay Egypt

When we were planning our trip to Egypt we decided on the resort of Hurghada rather than the more popular Sharm el Sheikh.  The beach resort we selected was the Five Star Palm Royale Soma Bay, the home of Casanova. The reviews on TripAdvisor were overall pretty positive and I found them to also be pretty accurate. 

Palm Royale Soma Bay Hurghada Egypt

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Afternoon Tea & Sightseeing with Thistle London

Last year I wrote about an amazing date night that Matt and I had here in London that included a stay at the Thistle Marble Arch.  It's a favorite London hotel and I particularly loved the complimentary lounge.   Nibbles and bubbles just for me?  Yes, please.  

This summer Thistle Hotels invited me to join them for again for a special treat. 

London Afternoon Tea Bus Tour

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Victoria & Albert Museum

When I first got my new Nikon I decided to take it to the V& A Museum for a little practice run.  The V&A is one of the first museums that I visited in London and one of my favorites.  I also love that you can take photographs.

Victoria & Albert Museum London England

Friday, July 10, 2015

Casanova the Camel

I'm currently editing the photos from our week in Egypt.  It was one of our top three trips and I can't wait to tell you more.  

I'll start by introducing you to the handsome Casanova who resides at the Palm Royale Soma Bay in Hurghada.  This was our home base for our trip and it was a great choice.

Casanova the Camel, Hurghada Egypt

Thursday, July 2, 2015

A French Dinner Party - Le Garrick

About a month ago, my friends Charles and Dominika invited me to the southwest region of France for a dinner party.  A large group of us gathered around the family table as dish after dish of rustic, authentic French food was put before us.  Charles explained that we had his wonderful mother to thank for these flavors and combinations.   She's taught him everything he knows about French cuisine and that special French way of celebrating food and life. Each ingredient had a story, every dish more special than the last.  The wine flowed and the hours passed in that intimate and charming way than can only happen around a dinner table.   

Le Garrick French Restaurant London

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Instagram Update

Things have been terribly quiet around here for a few weeks, but I'm back and I have so many photos to share with you.  Before we get back to regularly scheduled programing here's a little Life Lately update with the help of Instagram.  My blog posts are a bit behind but here's what we've been up to. 

First and foremost... Grandbaby!  Jessica is now at 31 weeks and doing terrific.  She had a baby shower a few weeks ago.  It broke my heart to not be there but they were surrounded with love and presents.  We'll be going to Texas for three weeks in August for the delivery.  I can't wait hug my sweet baby and meet her sweet baby.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Horningsea, England

During our weekend excursion to Cambridge,  we stayed in a tiny village just outside the city called Horningsea.  The village has one pub and one restaurant with rooms which is where we stayed.  The Crown & Punchbowl is an old coaching inn dating back to 1764.  Old coaching inns are dotted around England and we will always pick one of these over a regular hotel.  We've had the best luck. 

Horningsea, England

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The City of Cambridge

After two years and only 4,000 miles, we decided that it was time to get rid of the car.  It was used so rarely and just costing money.  But not before one last UK road trip.  As you know, I love London.  But I also love getting out of London, so our next weekend city break was Cambridge. 

Cambridge England

Saturday, May 16, 2015

An Indian Feast at Gaylord London

Can you believe that my first experience with Indian food was just three years ago when I moved to London?  Up until then I'd never had Indian food.  Now I can't imagine a week going by with at least one curry night. Britain has a long standing love affair with Indian food dating back to their colonial relationship with the subcontinent.  Curry is as popular as fish & chips in the UK.  There are 9,500 Indian restaurants for the UK population of 64 million.  (Half of those are in London).  Compare that to 8,000 for the US population of 314 million and most Americans are missing out on some spicy special food.  

Gaylord Indian Restaurant London

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Happy Mother's Day, Love!

Happy Mother's Day to all of you mothers and mothering souls out there.  Mother's Day is one of those days with the potential to bring up some of the harder emotions, isn't it?  There is love, happiness and joy, but sometimes loss or sadness. 

I'm experiencing a whole range of emotions today, but the primary one is love. Absolute love for my wonderful mother, pure love for my beautiful daughter, excitement and joy that she will now know the joy of motherhood, and a new fierce love for a grandson that I will soon meet. And for my husband who loves me enough to know just what I need on a day like today when I'm far from home. Today I'm celebrating all of the love. So whatever emotions you are dealing with today, I wish you love.

Kew Gardens London

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Lunch in Monaco

I've mentioned before that I have a Fifty by Fifty goal.  I started 2013 at 23 countries visited and ended the year at 33I started 2015 at 37 which is pretty good.  But now I have only 18 months to get 13 more countries.  I might just have to adjust it to Fifty-five by Fifty-five.  But that's okay.  I'm certainly having a wonderful time and savoring every single new place.  

When we went to Nice for a weekend break, it was just too easy to get that #38.  We hopped on the 100 bus and paid 3 euros to go to Monaco for lunch.  If only they were all that easy and inexpensive.  The 20 minute bus ride along the coast is absolutely gorgeous.  I had to stop myself from yelling out to the bus driver "Stop!  I NEED to take this picture!"

Monte Carlo, Monaco

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Castle Hill of Nice

In a place as beautiful as Nice, you want to take in all of the best views.  The best views in Nice are from the lush park at the top of Castle Hill, Parc de la Colline du Chateau.  When Matt asked "stairs or elevator?" I don't have to tell you how I responded. 

Castle Hill in Nice, France

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Restoration in Nice, France

After two full winters in London, I quickly realized that the weather is not the problem.  I don't much mind the rain.  It's the darkness that really gets to me.  Six hours of sunlight is not enough for this Texas girl.  (At what age must I stop referring to myself as a girl?)  Luckily, it doesn't last that long and we're rewarded with really long sunny days in the summer.  

Nice, France

Saturday, April 11, 2015

A Prickly Life Lately

I thought it was time for a Life Lately update, just to catch up on the day to day stuff.  I started to make a list of the things that I would mention and quickly realized that my update was turning into a "proper moan," a "whinge" even.  Two very British expressions but they certainly fit.  In truth, I don't have a thing to whine about.  Life if really good.  So what did I manage to come up with?  Well...

Kew Gardens London

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Oslo, Norway

After a quiet Christmas in Bergen it was time to head across Norway to Oslo via the Bergensbanen.  It's a 7 hour train trip along the highest mainline rail in Europe.  It was built in the late 1800's and is reputed to be one of the world's most scenic train journeys. 

Oslo, Norway

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Bergen, Norway

Christmas this past year was pretty quiet for us.  For a few reasons really.  We had already decided to spend Christmas away with some friends.  I was struggling with my third Christmas away from my family in Texas and hoped that if we were traveling it might distract me a bit.  After a short hospital stay followed by the flu I had absolutely no energy and a fuzzy brain, so it turned out to be a great choice.

Bergen, Norway

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Instagram Egypt

I've started editing the photos, but it will still be a few weeks before I start posting about our week in Egypt.  I couldn't let another day pass without something on the blog.  

I'm addicted to travel and every trip is a treasured experience.  But there are a few trips that have affected me on a deeper level.  Egypt was absolutely one of those life-changing experiences.  I don't really know how to explain it.  It went by so fast but I can remember almost every single moment.  

The place, the people, the history, the dessert, the red sea, the tombs, the pyramids... all of it combined into the most epic week.  I love the way it challenged me, both physically and mentally.  It caused a big shift in my worldview of the both the ancient and the modern.  That's where travel holds the most magic.  Where it changes you.  Egypt changed me.

It's also been a difficult trip to return from.  I commute to work and sit at my desk longing to be traveling again and experiencing other parts of the world.  Egypt has taken my wanderlust to all new levels.  

Here are a few of my instagram photos from that week to give you a taste.  I couldn't resist adding a little music, so click on the mute button bottom right if you're at work.

What place has caused a shift in your worldview?

Sunday, March 15, 2015

My tips for visiting the Tower of London

Like anyone who's lived in London for a few years I have my own list of things you Must Do if you're visiting.  You should do a walking tour, visit a museum and a park, take a boat trip down the Thames, check out the views from on high at the Shard or London Eye, enjoy afternoon tea, see a show in the West End, visit a market and walk the South Bank.  

Also on that list is the number 1 tourist attraction in London.  Many people will suggest that you avoid the tourist spots and focus on seeing the "real" London.  But, tourist spots are tourist spots for a reason and the Tower of London is the epicenter of London and British history, it is real London. 

Tower of London

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Our Family Road Trip Wrap Up

I can't tell you the number of road trips I've taken with this guy.   Philip is younger than me by four years.  We would pile into the car and spend the next 8 hours playing "Mom, he's looking at me!", "Her foots on my side!", "Dad, are we there yet?", "I have to pee!" and that old classic "She's touching me!"   We were always pretty adept at tormenting each other.

Our road trip from the UK to Ireland, Scotland and back last year was much of the same.  This time I got smart and claimed car sickness which meant I got the front seat!  It brought back so many memories of traveling together as children.  It was so great to spend a whole week with my brother, my dad and my husband.  My three favorite guys.  Im certain they all still love me, in spite of putting them through that road trip.

Our Scottish Road Trip

I don't have my UK drivers license, so Matt had to do all of the driving.  It was a lot of driving.  (What was I thinking?)  Matt loves my family, but we're a pretty odd bunch which I'll be the first to admit.  After a week in the car with the three of us, he took on this stunned expression. 

Our Scottish Road Trip

I'm sad this is my last post about our epic Too Much Road Trip with stops in Dublin and the Great Mounds in Ireland,  Belfast and the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland, then over to Scotland and the Trossachs, the Highlands, and Balmoral Castle

Our Scottish Road Trip

Of course we had to visit Loch Ness, we grew up on those legends. The freshwater loch extends for about 23 miles so we drove along it for quite awhile.  We were in search of the perfect place for my brother to jump in.  He really wanted to swim in the loch, but it was a cold, rainy day.  He was easily talked out of taking a dip. Alas, no sign of Nessie.

Our Scottish Road Trip

As we were driving along, I shouted "Castle!"  Matt knows it's futile to resist.  I can't pass up a castle.  This one was the Urquhart Castle in Drumnadrochit.  It was built between the 13th through 16th centuries and the ruins are now one of the most visited in Scotland. 

Our Scottish Road Trip

Our Scottish Road Trip

Our Scottish Road Trip

We bypassed Inverness and turned South towards the Cairngorms National Park.  We spent a memorable night in Aviemore at the charming Cairngorm Hotel.  There were bagpipes, live Scottish music, whisky and a ton of laughter.  The next day we continued south driving through the Cairngorm National Park which spans over 1,500 square miles in central Scotland.  Hours and hours of spectacular views, although there may have been a few naps that day.

Our Scottish Road Trip

Our Scottish Road Trip

Scotland is breathtaking.  I just sat back and took it all in.  There is no chance that I was going to capture it with a camera.  But all I have to do is close my eyes and I can see it.  The clouds move slowly across the landscape changing the light which reflects off patches of color.  It's like looking through a kaleidoscope.

Our Scottish Road Trip

I'm just dying to know the stories behind this house with the star shaped wall surrounding it. You get the sense that Scotland is just full of stories.  You can almost feel them swirling around you, stories of heroes and battles, intrigue and love.  I've obviously spent too much time reading the Outlander series.   

Our Scottish Road Trip

Our Scottish Road Trip

Our Scottish Road Trip

Our Scottish Road Trip

In the afternoon, we came across a guy paragliding.  Or he attempting to paraglide but things were not going his way and he had to keep starting over.  We drove a little further along the valley, pulled over for a stretch and to see if he would make it.  (He didn't.)

Our Scottish Road Trip

Somehow one of us saw some deer hiding in the brush on the other side of the valley.  Can you spot two of them in the photo above?  It was taken with the telephoto lens, I can't believe we spotted them.  Matt took the camera over to the ledge to get a few more photos when he gestured for us to come look.  We had almost missed these beautiful creatures down in the valley. 

Our Scottish Road Trip

They were a distance away and not too disturbed by us.  I think they are red deer.  There is something so exciting about spotting and photographing animals in the wild.  Oh, to be a wildlife photographer.  I could have watched them for hours. 

Our Scottish Road Trip

Our Scottish Road Trip

Our Scottish Road Trip

Our Scottish Road Trip

Our last night on the road was spent in one of my favorite cities, Edinburgh.  Matt and Philip went to explore the castle, while dad and I took a bus tour of the city.  My dad fell in love with Edinburgh, too.  He could quickly imagine himself living there. 

Our Scottish Road Trip

Our Scottish Road Trip

Our Scottish Road Trip

I love the feel of Edinburgh and the people are so open and friendly.  There is a lightness to the city that is a nice change from London. 

Our Scottish Road Trip

Our Scottish Road Trip

Our Scottish Road Trip

Dad then went in search of a nap and I went in search of the guys who were on their way to a whisky tasting. 

Our Scottish Road Trip

Our Scottish Road Trip

Our Scottish Road Trip

I think Philip loved Scotland. The chance to travel with him again like we did when we were kids was a highlight of my time in the UK.  From the day that I arrived on this side of the pond, I've been dying to share some of this with him.  I'm ready for them to come back. 

Our Scottish Road Trip

The next morning it was time to head back to London.  But not before we fulfilled one of Philip's bucket list requests. He wanted to drink a beer on Hadrian's Wall.  So that's exactly what we did.  Cheers, Bubba.

Our Scottish Road Trip

Our Scottish Road Trip

Our Scottish Road Trip
I'm so incredibly thankful to have had that week with my three favorite guys doing what we all love to do... explore.  It was a week of moments that I will treasure for the rest of my life, peppered along with moments of "Dad, he's looking at me!!!"

Who are your favorite road trip companions?