Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh Castle

Like I said in my last post about Paris, I’ve been looking through my travel photos and reliving the memories of past trips while we stay inside, social distancing. Last week, I posted photos of our first anniversary trip, and now I want to post photos from our second anniversary weekend exploring Scotland last November. Let’s start with Edinburgh, Scotland!

We rented a car and drove from Bristol to Edinburgh. It was a journey of about 7 hours, and our first time seeing a lot of the British countryside along the way. I love a good road trip.

Sightseeing

The evening we arrived, we visited the Edinburgh Christmas Market….

Edinburgh Christmas Market

European Christmas markets are so fun – we spent the evening checking out the shops, trying lots of different food, and enjoying the holiday music. And since we had driven up and knew we had extra room in our car, we were able to purchase some large prints by a local Scottish artist. Perfect.

Edinburgh Christmas Market

In the morning, we explored Edinburgh by foot. Here is the entrance to Edinburgh castle…

Edinburgh Castle

Like always, I’m drawn to the juxtaposition of the old and new. There’s a grand view of the modern city buildings below the castle….

Love a snapshot of two eras.

We listened to a Rick Steves audio tour: Edinburgh’s Royal Mile Walk. Since we had the tour on our phones, we walked the Royal Mile at a leisurely pace with lots of stops along the way whenever we liked. Totally convenient.

The Royal Mile

Here are some snapshots I took along the walk….

Edinburgh Bagpipes
Edinburgh Phone Booths

Lots of holiday decorations – I love the winter vibes.

Traffic cones topping the statues – this is a long-running thing in Edinburgh, we saw it in a lot of places! Here’s James Braidwood on the left, the founder of the first fire department in Edinburgh, and David Hume on the right, an Enlightenment philosopher born in Edinburgh.

Our favorite part of the walk was turning off the main route of the Royal Mile to explore a close, or alleyway: Lady Stair’s Close.

We would’ve completely missed this if we hadn’t heard Rick Steves mention it on the audio tour! The Writers’ Museum is a free museum just off Lady Stair’s Close that highlights some of the great Scottish writers. We loved it.

The museum is inside Lady Stair’s House, and walking through the house felt like a unique chance to explore how a wealthy Edinburgh home in history might have looked and felt.

After visiting the museum, I was totally inspired to find a bunch of Scottish lit to add to my own library (like Anne Donovan’s Buddha Da and a collection of Carol Ann Duffy poems). I’ve been excited to read literature from the UK while we are living here.

We had so much fun visiting Edinburgh, Scotland and can’t wait to come back. I would love the chance to see it in the summer, also!

I have some photos from our tour of the Scottish Highlands that I’d also like to share, so I will be back with those next.

Hope you and yours are staying safe and healthy –

kate

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Paris in the Fall

Since we are spending so much time at home lately with social distancing, I find myself looking through old photos and reminiscing about being outside and exploring. I thought I’d share my favorite photos from our first anniversary trip to see Paris in the fall, November 2018.

In no particular order, here are some of my fave photos/memories….

Seeing two of Monet’s paintings that feature a figure in the landscape, Woman with a Parasol, Turned to the Right and Woman with a Parasol, Turned to the Left:

Paris Monet

Those paintings are in the Musée d’Orsay, which was once a train station and is now such a cool space to explore art.

See that old train station clock? It’s in the Beaux-Arts style that was popular in France in the late 1800s.

We spent an afternoon wandering the Champs-Élysées, seeing the Arc de Triomphe and exploring the shops…

Champs Élysées

The trees were a lovely orange color this time of year! I love fall colors.

Champs Élysées

We ate at Ladurée on the Champs-Élysées, something that I’d been wanting to do for years! It definitely lived up to the hype, our late lunch was amazing….

Ladurée Champs Élysées

And of course, we had to try their macaron specialities. Plus several macarons for take-away!

Speaking of food, for our anniversary dinner we did a dinner cruise along the Seine – what an amazing experience! Dinner was great, but my favorite part was seeing so many famous sites of Paris from the river – a totally different perspective from the sightseeing we had done in the day time.

Checking out Notre-Dame in between courses…

Seine River Cruise

So cool to see the city by night from the river.

To compare and contrast, here is a photo I took of Notre-Dame the day before from a nearby bridge….

Paris Notre Dame

Loved floating underneath that same bridge later during the dinner.

My favorite neighborhood for sightseeing in Paris is definitely Montmartre. I love going here in the evening and watching the sunset from the top of the steps leading up to the Sacré-Coeur….

Paris Montmartre Sacré Coeur Steps

The views over the city from up here are beautiful.

And the neighborhood is great for walking around, grabbing a bite, and just taking in the evening.

Last but not least, one of my favorite memories from this trip is hopping the scooters to scoot our way along the Seine in style. We rode from the Louvre all the way to the Eiffel Tower, and it felt like a great way to save time and still see the city up close!

Paris in the Fall Scooter

So fun.

Best wishes to everyone self-isolating and social distancing out there. I hope these photos provided a moment of escape for you, like they did for me.

-Kate

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Tower of London

Tower Bridge

Sharing some of my favorite photos today from touring the Tower of London. These are from my sister’s trip to visit and see London for the first time back in January – loved the chance to take in some sightseeing together.

Tower Bridge London

We started our Tower of London visit with the Yeoman Warder tour (free with admission ticket). So cool to walk around and get an overview of a thousand years of history all around the Tower.

And of course, we saw the guards while we were walking around….

Tower of London Guards

After the tour, we spent a couple hours exploring further on our own.

We saw tons of armor in the Line of Kings exhibit, a display that was originally opened to visitors in the 1600s! It has changed a lot over the years, but one thing you could always count on seeing there: so much armor.

Tower Bridge London

After our visit, we crossed the Tower Bridge as the sun set. We took this photo across the river from the Tower of London. Love those views of the city lights….

River Thames

Then caught the tube home….

london tube

You can find tickets to the Tower of London online here.

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What I Read in January + February

Jan Feb Books
Jan Feb Books Read

I love books. I love stories. I love to read and I love to talk about reading.

But for the last few years I just didn’t have the time or the drive to read as much as I used to. Can you relate? I’d still read a book here or there, but my unread pile was definitely higher than my read pile. That’s the way these things go sometimes.

I don’t know what happened, but last fall I found myself wanting to dive into stories again. Maybe I was excited about reading books about England now that we’d moved here. Or probably I was looking for a way to relax in the middle of moving chaos, haha – reading totally works as a wind-down for me.

I’d like to share what I’m reading here on my blog – it’s something I’ve always had in the back of my mind. A chance for me to reflect on what I’m reading, and just keep a list of sorts. I don’t have any particular goals to read a certain number of books, and (just so you know!) I’m not picky about what I pick up to try.

Here’s what I’ve read in January + February:

  • The Body: A Guide for Occupants by Bill Bryson // I picked this up and put it down and picked it back up again. I always enjoy Bryson’s writing, and his new book The Body, with a structure less narrative-focused and more of a series of closer looks at how humans work, was easy to come back to whenever I was in the mood to read a chapter.

  • The First 20 Minutes: Surprising Science Reveals How We Can Exercise Better, Train Smarter, Live Longer by Gretchen Reynolds // This was re-read for me. Actually a re-listen, because I checked out the audiobook on the Libby app from the library. (love) I’ve found that reading about sports science is a good way to keep me motivated to stay healthy, and there were lots of studies in this one I’d wanted to revisit.

  • Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray // I’ve got a couple of English classics on my list inspired by a Brit Lit class my sister is taking. Vanity Fair was ok, but my favorite thing was it prompting a movie night to watch the 2004 version starring Reese Witherspoon. Love old school Reese.

  • Middlemarch by George Eliot // Also inspired by my sister’s Brit Lit class. Really struggled to get through this one, but it got easier as I went along. Maybe I will like the next Brit Lit book on her list better, haha.

Cheers to more reading in 2020,

kate

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Stonehenge Day Trip

Stonehenge Heel Stone

Crossed off a big thing on my sightseeing wishlist recently! We did a Stonehenge day trip in December and it was just as fascinating as I was hoping. We visited as a day trip from Bristol, but a Stonehenge day trip is also doable from London.

Stonehenge Day Trip December Sunset

We drove from Bristol and after we parked, we had to choose whether to take the shuttle the rest of the way out to the site or walk – we chose the walk! It took us about 35 minutes at a leisurely pace. You can see Stonehenge in the distance in this photo…

Walking to Stonehenge

I really enjoyed the walk as a chance to take in the landscape and scenery…

Gate to Stonehenge

…and we passed some sheep along the way….

Stonehenge Sheep

So peaceful.

We caught the sunset at Stonehenge a few days after the winter solstice. The stone circle was built to frame the midwinter sunset as well as the sunrise at the summer solstice. The circle marks the passage of time each year.

Stonehenge Day Trip

Walking around the stone circle at this time of year – when the days are shortest and the air is chilled – left me feeling like part of a bigger cycle. Like I’d reached the middle of winter and was now ready to start planning for spring again.

Stonehenge Day Trip

The coolest thing to us was seeing that sunset line up with the Heel Stone. It lines up perfectly on the solstice itself, but it still seemed almost synced and special to us a few days after. Here is a photo with the Heel Stone in the foreground and the stone circle + sunset lined up behind it….

Stonehenge Heel Stone

How cool is that view? I am so amazed by the engineering and understanding of the solar cycle that went into the planning and construction of this place.

Phone Photo of Stonehenge

Most of the site is organized to help remove modern visuals (for example, the parking lot and main road to the site were moved further away in 2013). It really helped me get a sense of how the stone circle might have looked in the wider Stonehenge landscape through the ages.

Even so, I still totally love how this photo turned out – juxtaposing the ancient monoliths with the modern motorway and car lights juuust visible in the background:

Stonehenge

Awesome.

You can plan your visit and find tickets online here at the English Heritage website. We decided to go for the yearly membership with English Heritage in order to explore more of the sites, castles, monuments etc they care for – I’ve just started reading through their guidebook and I can’t wait. While I’m learning about all the sites to see, I’d love more suggestions of places to see in England – leave a comment! 🙂

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Lanzarote Weekend Getaway

Lanzarote Sunset

A warm weekend getaway to Lanzarote was just the thing to brighten up my February.

Lanzarote is just off the coast of Africa, west of Morocco, and it’s one of the Canary Islands – an autonomous community administered by Spain. The island is known for its volcanic landscapes, year-round sun, and active holidays for athletes. This vacation was all about the warm winter weather for us.

Sun Setting Over Lanzarote

We stayed in the Sands Beach Resort in Costa Teguise which was perfect for us to be right by the ocean but still surrounded by restaurants, outdoor pools, and resort amenities like the grocery store. Exactly the kind of relaxed vacation I wanted for a chance to rest and recharge.

Here are some photos from the resort…

Sands Beach Resort Lanzarote

I love those tiles and architectural details.

Lanzarote Sands Beach Resort

Lanzarote is home to a lot of marathon, triathlon, and other events throughout the year – so there were quite a few triathletes and training groups in our hotel over the weekend. The resort had a great heated lap pool and I was glad to get a swim in while I was there….

Lanzarote Lap Pool

After a morning swim, we’d head out for brunch. I like to stay protected from the sun but I don’t love head-to-toe sunscreen, so I let a UPF 50+ dress from Coolibar and a hat do the heavy lifting for me. I totally love Coolibar lately for sun protection clothing and have been really happy with this dress and some running shirts/sleeves from them.

Coolibar Dress

We had brunch a couple of times at the on-site Mai Tai Pool Restaurant which was uncrowded and quiet this time of year. Perfect place to read in the sunshine and take in the sea air!

Lanzarote Plant Life

We also tried a few restaurants in Costa Teguise, and our favorite was La Bohemia. The Iberian pork was a highlight – the perfect Spanish thing to try! Comes with lots of different salts like paprika, mustard, sea salt, wasabi, red wine, and herbs…

Lanzarote Iberian Pork

Yum.

There’s a history of art and architecture on the island (artist César Manrique’s home is open for tours here) and we definitely enjoyed the art installations that populate the place. We saw lots of interesting architecture and installations as we walked around in the evenings…

Love it.

I also love taking in the sea air on those evening walks. So does my husband….

There are tons more things to explore in Lanzarote like camel rides, underwater museums, and the volcanic landscapes of Timanfaya National Park. Our weekend was all about relaxing – but I’d totally love to come back and check out more of the things Lanzarote has to offer.

xo Kate

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Moving to the UK

Bristol England River

Big news! We moved to the UK! 🇬🇧

It has been a whirlwind of changes that happened crazy fast. So now we are based in Bristol while my husband works here & in London, and meanwhile I’m traveling for a new corporate job I’ve taken in the Netherlands.

Moving to the UK…. Lots of change! Exciting! Overwhelming! In the middle of it all, I’m trying to make an effort to slow down some and get to know this city.

Here is a pic snapped one morning while crossing one of the bridges downtown….

Moving to the UK

What makes a new place start to feel familiar for you? Any tips for settling in? So far we are trying to find new favorite restaurants, coffee shops, a local grocery…. you know the drill.

Exploring Bristol is so fun to do. Every side street has something new to find….

Bristol England

Love it.

My husband catches the train to London every other week. He loves traveling by train – they run frequently and (bonus!) no need to measure out your liquids like when taking a flight.

Bristol Train Station

As for me, I travel every other week to the Netherlands with a quick flight to Amsterdam and a 2-hour train north to Groningen. Here’s where I walk into work at the hospital in Groningen….

Groningen

We synced our work schedules to travel the same weeks and then hang out together in Bristol on our weeks in town. So far, so good! We think we can keep this schedule up for the rest of year.

moving to the uk

Moving to the UK has been such an adventure so far. Can’t wait to settle into this new season of life.

Cheers,

kate

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Touring Hobbiton in New Zealand

This is a post from my “Photo Rescue” project where I’m rediscovering all my pictures from New Zealand. Read all posts about New Zealand here!


The Hobbiton set tour was a must-do day trip for us from Raglan while we were staying on the North Island in New Zealand. I am huge Lord of the Rings fan, and this was something I’d been wanting to do for years!

We decided to arrive plenty early for our tour to avoid any last minute time stress. Hobbiton New Zealand is somewhat remote so there aren’t lots of choices for lunch, but luckily there’s a cafe right by the parking area. Perfect for early comers like us or for a quick bite after the tour!

We had a couple pastries and some coffee as we waited for our tour time….

Here is a picture from one of the gardens in the Shire. All the food in the gardens is real! All the trees on set are real, too, with one exception – the famous one at the top of the hill over Bag End.

Here is a picture of me in the middle of the open field used for Bilbo’s birthday party scene in the first movie. That’s the famous Party Tree in the background! Is this making anyone else want to rewatch the films? 🙂

Hobbiton Party Tree

So cool to see all the hobbit hole doors nestled into the hillside…

Hobbiton

The hobbit doors come in all different sizes as part of the practical effects used while filming. Standing next to a small Hobbit door makes you seem as big as a wizard….

Hobbit Door

…. while standing next to a normal size door makes you seem perfectly Hobbit-sized! So cool to see that in person.

Hobbit Hole

And last but not least… party decorations, Hobbiton style:

Hobbiton Party Decorations

You can check out more about the different Hobbiton Tours on their site here.

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A Home Away from Home in Raglan, New Zealand

Raglan New Zealand Floor

This is a post from my “Photo Rescue” project where I’m rediscovering all my pictures from New Zealand. Read all posts about New Zealand here!


Our AirBnb in Raglan, New Zealand was too cute not to get its own post. I was enamored with every bit of it – the interior design, the views, the record player. This place had it all!

We decided to stay in Raglan almost by accident. We flew from Christchurch to Auckland with a plan to book a place in the city, but we changed our minds at the last second. Instead, we booked a place in Raglan – a small town by the ocean with great spots for surfing, kayaking, and enjoying the water.

We spent most of our time in this sun-filled room with a view of the bay….

Bay View Windows in Raglan New Zealand

The perfect spot for me to keep re-reading The Hobbit 🙂

I loved all the midcentury style furniture and the overall color scheme of this room. Plus, the light fixtures! Love the look of these and the wide light they cast at night.

Here, see the fireplace in the background with the mantle styling? Love how the colors there pick up on the colors of the seating in the foreground.

And then, this nook just off the kitchen was perfect for a morning coffee…

Let’s see a beauty shot of that floor. The color story, the intricate tile-inspired designs – I love all this, too!

Raglan New Zealand Floor

And speaking of the kitchen, here is a peak at it. I love the juxtaposition of that yellow light with the aqua cabinet doors. Gives it some real pop, y’know?

Ragland Kitchen

And last but not least, the bedroom with this amazing dresser + mirror.

Raglan, New Zealand was a great place to stay as our central hub on the North Island. From here we were able to head out on day trips like Waitomo and Hobbiton. But my favorite part might have been this cozy home away from home!

xx Kate

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Swimming with Dolphins in Akaroa

This is a post from my “Photo Rescue” project where I’m rediscovering all my pictures from New Zealand. Read all posts about New Zealand here!


I have been waiting for this post! I couldn’t wait to share the photos from our experience swimming with dolphins in Akaroa, New Zealand. Everything about this was a once-in-a-lifetime amazing experience for me. Let’s dig in!

We did Akaroa as a day trip from Christchurch on the South Island. In November, it was a very doable and scenic 1.5 hour drive.

There are a few choices of tour guides for Akaroa experiences like this one, and we went with EcoSeaker. We chose them because we liked their longer tours, commitment to education, and history of conservation/habitat protection.

Only 12 people go out once a day to minimize any potential impacts on the environment or wildlife. Here we are on the boat…

On the boat

Everyone is provided with wetsuits to help you float in the ocean. They are fully buoyant and keep you warm!

At the time, I was not the strongest swimmer (I could tread water and swim around slowly) – but once I was accustomed to the sensation of the wetsuit keeping me afloat, I had no trouble at all!

On the boat in the harbor in Akaroa
Swimming with Dolphins Akaroa

My husband, who is a very strong swimmer (he grew up with lots of #lakelife in the Midwest!) thought the wetsuits were good quality and moved well with him through the water.

Swimming with Dolphins in Akaroa

Everything about Akaroa harbour and the ocean water is beautiful and vividly colorful, like stepping into a painting. I just love that turquoise water.

Akaroa

And we saw some dolphins! These Hectors Dolphins are a small, inland type of dolphin and very rare in the world. We felt so lucky to see not just a group of 5 or 6, but many more!

Dolphins Akaroa

See the dolphins in Akaroa swimming with some of our footage in our New Zealand highlight reel here.

Akaroa Harbor

Part of your tour cost goes towards Hectors/New Zealand Dolphin research and education – and that means more opportunities for conservation.

EcoSeaker Review

You can learn more about EcoSeaker, the Hectors dolphins, and Akaroa on EcoSeaker’s site here.

Definitely one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.

xx Kate

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