Summer Vacation 2018 Day 2: Windsor Castle, Bath, Stonehenge

On day two of our summer trip, Pam, Darlene, and I took a day-long coach tour to Windsor Castle, Bath, and Stonehenge with a stop in the village of  Lacock for a traditional pub lunch. There wasn't as much walking as the day before (only 10,301 steps), but we got to see the  beautiful English countryside and quaint little villages with thatched-roof cottages and lovely little gardens from the comfort of a lovely coach. 



The first stop was Windsor Castle. The Castle and grounds are beautiful, and St. George's Chapel is gorgeous! I wish we'd had time to do a little shopping in town, because it looked like there were some fun shops. We got to see a bit of their Changing of the Guards ceremony as well!



Next we went to Bath and got a coach tour of the town before stopping for an hour or so for some free time. I'd already seen the Roman baths on a previous trip, and the lines were really long anyway, so I was planning to tour the Abbey instead. Unfortunately it was closed for a private event, so I just did a little shopping and sight-seeing. They were having a public art event called Minerva's Owls of Bath so there were painted statues of owls scattered around town. I was able to see just a few of them, including the one called "J.K. Owling"!


For lunch we stopped in the adorable village of Lacock and enjoyed a traditional pub lunch at The  George Inn. I had the cottage pie with peas and carrots along with their own house-made ale, while my friends opted for the fish and chips. Mine was delicious, and theirs looked good, too! After lunch we had a few minutes to wander around the village which is famous for being the location for several movie shoots including "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince". In fact the home I photographed below was used as the exterior for Horace Slughorn's house! One of the residence has a food stand set up on their block which contains cookies, baked goods, and jams and preserves. It was set up on the "honor system" with a box for you to leave your payment and made change, if needed. I couldn't resist, and picked up a jar of Raspberry Jam!



Our final stop was Stonehenge! I was really looking forward to seeing this again, and wasn't disappointed! Stonehenge is simply awesome and beautiful! Even with the crowds of people, I was still able to get a couple really good shots of the circle. They have significantly improved the Visitor's Center since I was last there, including a large cafeteria and Gift Shop, and have added a life-size replica of the type of village that might have stood on the sight to house the labourers who worked on the site. There are also maps and other educational information around the area.


All-in-all this was a really fun day filled with lots of sights, attractions, great food and drink, and wonderful information provided by our guide, Leon, and great driving from our coach driver Fernando.  We got home late, and collapsed into bed to rest up for our next action-packed day which would include Warwick Castle, Stratford-upon-Avon, and Oxford University!


Summer Vacation 2018 Day 1: London in a Day

For the first day of our Summer Adventure, Darlene, Pam and I decided to tackle the London in a Day walking tour. The tour included Westminster Abbey, the Changing of the Guards outside Buckingham Palace, lunch by Trafalgar Square, a Thames River Cruise, a tour of the inner workings of Tower Bridge, and the Tower of London to see the Crown Jewels. Phew! 


We met our Tour Guide, Toby, and other people in our group by the Churchill statue in Parliament Square across the street from Big Ben and Parliament and right next to Westminster Abbey. These walking tours max out at 15 people, but I don't think we had more than 8 - 10 in our party, which was really nice! I also liked that technology made the whole experience super easy as we each had an earphone and receiver so we could hear our tour guide even if he was several feet away from us. I'm sure the tour guides like this much better, too, as now they don't have to shout to be heard over the hustle and bustle of the city! Surrounding Parliament Square are statues of 12 statesmen and other notable peoples such as Gandhi,  Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela, and the newest - and only female statue - Millicent Fawcett who campaigned for women's suffrage. 


Our first stop was Westminster Abbey. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take photographs inside the Abbey, which was disappointing because it's just as gorgeous inside as it is outside. It's most known as a burial place for Kings and Queens, and other notable people like Charles Darwin, Sir Isaac Newton, and the most recent to be interred, physicist Stephen Hawking. One section known as Poet's Corner, boasts Geoffrey Chauser, Charles Dickens, Lawrence Olivier, memorials for Shakespeare and C.S. Lewis. 



Next we headed up along St. James' Park towards Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guard. I didn't get many pictures because I was trying to take video instead. It didn't  really come out too well, unfortunately, but I did get a great shot of the Palace complete with the huge number of tourists mingling about! After the ceremony, we headed up the Mall and watched the Horse Guards come out, then headed up to Whitehall to walk past the heavily guarded 10 Downing street, Horse Guards, and Ben Franklin's home (when he was staying in London). 




Then we headed up to Trafalgar Square where the 14-foot-tall Nelson's Column stands with four Bronze lions at each corner, and two fountains in front of the National Gallery.  Here we had an hour to ourselves to get lunch and look around. We chose The Admiralty pub close by where I had a delicious brie and jam sandwich. We were able to get a table on the patio, and enjoyed some people watching!







After lunch we met up with our group in front of the George Washington statue by the National Gallery. It is said that Washington stated he wouldn't step foot in England, so soil from the US was shipped over and placed in the ground where the statue stands! We headed over to the Thames for our River Cruise, and enjoyed the view of London from the water.




Once back on dry land, we made our way toward the Tower Bridge for a tour of the inner workings of the bridge, a walk along the upper clear glass walkway, and were even treated to the sight of the bridge rising to let a larger boat through! 






After crossing to the other side, we ended our day-long walking tour of London at the Tower of London and got to view the Crown Jewels! Of course they do not allow photography of the jewels, and don't even let you get a close, lingering look at them. I remember the first time I saw them (back in 1987), they had you walking around the jewels in a large glass case with guards constantly chanting "Move along! Move along!" if people stood staring too long.  If you wanted to linger longer, you could go up a small flight of stairs to a viewing loft.  Now, while they are still in a glass case, they have the "moving walkways" you see in airports to take you past either side of the case the Crown Jewels are in so there's no chance of getting a very long look! There is space behind the walkway to stand back and look at them, but you can't get a real close view. 






Phew! So after all that walking (only 16,234 steps according to my bellabeat, though I swear I took more steps than that!!), we were exhausted and our feet hurt, so we took the tube back to our hotel in time for the evening reception then collapsed into bed! I really do recommend this tour, though! You get a great overview of the highlights of London, and it gives you ideas of sights you might want to take a closer look at. But! Be sure to be in really good shape beforehand, and wear really comfortable shoes!! 

Next up: Windsor, Bath, and Stonehenge! Cheers!

A Few of My Favourite Things July 2014

A little late to the party with this particular meme, as per usual, but, better late than never, right? Anyway, here are some of my favourite things from the month of July:

Travel related:

Ebags. These are by far THE best investment I have made in a long, LONG time! They made packing, repacking, and travelling SO much easier! I bought 1 set of the slim packing cubes (this 3-piece set fit perfectly in the backpack mentioned below), and two sets of the 3-piece assorted packing cubes (1 small, 1 medium, 1 large in each set) for my suitcase (also described below).

20" SwissGear Zurich Pilot roller suitcase and backpack. I honestly wasn't sure I could make it travelling for a week-and-a-half with such a small suitcase, but in combination with the Ebags, and the SwissGear backpack it worked. The smaller suitcase was much easier to maneuver in and out of the car and through the airport, and the backpack was very comfortable to wear even when it was packed full. I love that both of them had a laptop compartment - I primarily used the one in the suitcase. My only complaint with the suitcase is that the handle kept collapsing on me as I was rolling it along, but other than that, it was great. I did check both items on the plane, though I probably could've carried on one, but it's just easier for me to check as many bags as possible when travelling. I purchased both items at Target during my "OMG I'm Going on Vacation!! Panic Packing and Shopping Extravaganza" (ditto the Ebags; total panic buy!), and thankfully, it worked!


Godefroy 28 day eyebrow tint. This was super quick and easy to use, and saved me some time with my daily make-up routine. I used this about a week before I left for my vacation (about 30 days ago), and even today my brows are still pretty dark.  I don't think I'll have to dye them again for a couple more weeks at least; maybe I'll just wait till September! I did buy the 28 day eyelash dye kit as well, but, honestly, I was too chicken to try it. What with my chronic iritis and all, I just didn't want to mess up my eyes or my vision just before my vacation! Or, you know, ever, really.

CoverGirl Professional All-in-One Remarkable Waterproof mascara.  Since I didn't dye my own lashes, and ran out of time to have it done professionally before my vacation, this mascara was the next best thing! It was waterproof, smudge-resistant, easy to apply (meaning with very little mess or flaking), lasted pretty much all day, and washed off fairly easily. There was some residual mascara flakes around my eyes after using makeup remover wipes and washing my face, but it wasn't too inconvenient. My favourite thing about it is that it's not too wet, so it's not gloppy and doesn't drip on my face when I blink. Also, the brush is small enough that I don't make too much of a mess of it, particularly with my lower lashes, which are so light they're almost invisible.

NYX Eyebrow Shaper. I love this waxy, crayon thing SO much better than the mascara gel-type brow sealers I've used in the past. I don't have to wait for this to dry, and it never gets crusty. Love it!

L'Oreal Sublime Sun Liquid Silk Lotion for Face in SPF 50+. This is a great sunscreen for the face - it's silky soft, absorbs quickly, and I basically used this in place of my morning moisturizer during my entire vacation. My face never got sunburned the entire time I was gone, and despite using a really good (70 SPF) sunscreen on the rest of my body, my shoulders, upper back, and chest all got a little pink. So did my scalp but that's because I totally forgot to put sunscreen on my exposed scalp, so that's my bad.

My go-to hair colour right now is Revlon Luxurious Coloursilk buttercream hair colour number 42R - medium auburn. Love the colour, love the easy, no-drip application, and the quick, almost total rinse out. Very little colour comes off on my towels. Yes there's some, but not as bad, as say, the Natural Instincts or the L'Oreal Preference haircolours I've used in the past.

L'Oreal Elnet hairspray. I love how this holds without being stiff or sticky, and also that there's one with a UV filter to protect my haircolour (and my scalp! I could've used this during my vacay, but I just had the travel size, and it's just the regular formula).

Fragrance: I think my signature scent might be Burberry Brit. I love the fresh scent and how it's really soft, not terribly sweet and fruity like so many women's fragrances. I really liked their Summer fragrence from last year as well, but I didn't see one this year, so maybe they didn't do one.

Other stuff:

Fashion: I've been loving maxi skirts and t-shirts lately. I wore several during my vacation, and they were so comfortable and convenient, I wish I'd packed ONLY maxi skirts and tees! Oh, but also, palazzo pants. I'm loving palazzo pants as well. Maxi skirts and palazzo pants just seem to scream SUMMER!

Book: The Taste of Apple Seeds by Katharina Hagena. I've already mentioned how much I loved this book a couple times, but it was the best new book I've read in a long time. If you need a reference, it's up there with Eowyn Ivey's The Snow Child, and pretty much everything written by Catherine Ryan Hyde.

Music: It's no secret I'm a huge "Weird Al" Yankovic fan from way WAY back. Like, in the 80s, in high school, when I first heard Another One Rides the Bus on the Doctor Demento Show, and immediatly ran down to Musicland to buy the cassette of his first album, which by the way, I still have (along with a CD version and also have it downloaded on an ipod. LOVE that album!). I have every single album he's ever recorded, so when Mandatory Fun came out I downloaded that puppy really super fast!

TV: I've been loving a lot of shows lately (Defiance, The Last Ship, Falling Skies, Rizzoli and Isles, and Major Crimes), but the cream of the crop is, by far, Last Tango in Halifax. Yes, it stars one of my all-time favourite actors (and the second love of my life), the beautiful Sir Derek Jacobi, so obviously I gonna think it's the best thing EVER, but it's also a sweet, adorable little show with romance, comedy, drama, and outrageous and uncomfortable situations, with great writing and acting all-around. Two thumbs up!

Food: I had a lot of amazing meals during my vacation in July, but if I had to pick my all-time fave, it would be the Afternoon Tea at the Empress Hotel with my two friends Pammie Sue and Darlene. We had three tiers of deliciousness brought to us: sandwiches, scones, and desserts. All that with some amazingly delicious tea! Our server was delightful, the decor was lovely, and the overall atmosphere was relaxed despite the number of guests partaking in the wonderful and scrumptious English ritual.

Beverages: During my vacation I noticed a lot of bars and restaurants offering a "smokey" martini, which is a gin martini with a shot of single malt scotch in place of vermouth. I don't know if it's a new thing, or what, but I tried several during my vacation, and they were all pretty darn good. The best by far, though, was the Signature Smokestack martini from what simply has to be my favourite restaurant/bar in all the world, Tini Bigs in Seattle. Seriously. I stayed in Seattle an extra night  just so Darlene and I could go there. Amazing!

Okay, so I think that covers everything for July, which was an amazingly awesome month that went by way too quickly! I'll try to keep track of stuff that catches my fancy in August for a future entry. Hey, maybe I'll even start a VLOG like everyone else! Ha! Not likely, but hey, you never know! (winks)

Until next time, cheers, dears!!

Friday Five: Vacation Regrets

It seems to happen every time. No matter how precisely I plan out a vacation, I always end up missing something, forgetting something, not doing something, or regretting something. Here's five things I regret about my July vacation:

1. I regret not getting to talk to everyone as my class reunion. It was a case of so many people, so little time, but I sure wish I'd had the chance to talk with more folks at my reunion (aside from the "Oh, my gosh, HI!! How ARE you!?"). I started conversations with several people, only for one or both of us to get pulled in another direction. It was still awesome, and it was so wonderful to see everyone after so many years (the last reunion I went to was the 10th), but I wish I'd done more socializing.

2.  I regret not visiting Pullman, WA or Moscow, ID. I spent lots and lots of time in both cities as a teen and young adult, and even lived in Moscow for nearly four years after graduating college, so they both feel like "hometowns" for me. Unfortunately, I didn't have enough time to drive over and wander around either city, but it would've been nice to see how they've changed, and whether or not my favourite haunts (Ric-o-Shay Rags, Pterodactyl Records, The Old Mole, and Combine Mall in Pullman, and the Palouse Empire Mall and The Peppermill in Moscow) are still there.

3. I regret not getting out of the car and wandering around Cle Elum and Ronald. I just drove around and took pictuers of our old house and places I used to hang out through the window, but that was it. And at the time that was okay; I just felt kinda meh about the whole thing. But now I wish I'd parked the car and wandered around on foot.

4. I regret not taking any "outfit of the day" pictures, or pictures of my feet. I wore several really cute outfits over the week and a half I was away, and really only have a couple pictures of one of them - the maxi skirt and tank top from IGIGI. I honestly didn't even think about doing OOTD shots until I was already home. Also there were numerous opportunities to take pictures of my prettily painted toes in various places -  The Rose Garden pathway at the Butchart Garden, anywhere on the CWU campus,  and the beach at Lake Coeur d'Alene are the most obvious places, but I'm sure there were others I just missed because I wasn't thinking of it.

5. I regret not letting myself enjoy it all more. I mean, I had a great time - touring Victoria with Darlene and Pam was awesome, visiting with my original BFF Kelly was fantastic, the class reunion was super fun, and the road trip was cool, too ... but. I guess I wish I'd let go more. Let myself really see, feel, and truly experience everything. I guess I've always been more of an observer of life, rather than a participant in it, and I really hoped I wouldn't do that this trip.  I guess a leopard can't change its spots, though, right? I guess I'll just have to keep working on it!

Until next time, cheers!

Friday Five: Top Five Highlights from the Rest of My Vacation

So last week I went through the highlights of my trip to Victoria, B.C., which was AWESOME, but wasn't the end of my vacation: it was actually just the beginning! On Tuesday, I rented a car (a super cool 2o14 Ford Mustang convertible!!!), and drove across the state of Washington, stopping in some old hometowns along the way to my high school reunion. Hop in, and come along for the ride!


1.  Seeing the old stomping grounds. I was a little scared that I would get terribly emotional seeing all the places I used to live, seeing how they may have changed, but in the end, I felt kinda meh about it. Cle Elum and Ronald were mostly the same, though there has been a little growth, mostly in Ronald where a previously wide open meadow with a few scattered homes (my childhood Bigfoot hunting grounds) is now covered in houses, fenced property, and gravel roads, and I was kinda sad to see that our house on the hill - which my parents had built new in the early 70s - looked a little junky. Colfax was pretty much exactly as I remembered it despite a few businesses having changed things up (Fonk's Drugs is a coffee shop?!?) or closed up altogether.


(#1: The beautiful Palouse Hills as seen from Colfax Cemetery. #2: The formerly-vacant field in Ronald, WA where I used to look for Bigfoot. #3: The view of Peoh Point from the street in front of our house on the hill, Cle Elum, WA. #4: Downtown Ellensburg, WA.)

2.  Seeing my Original BFF. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to spend some time visiting with the woman I call my "Original BFF", Kelly. We first met when my family moved to Cle Elum and I started second grade at the elementary school there. Kelly was my very first friend and remained my best friend and pen pal after I moved at the end of the fourth grade. When it came time to go to college, we both chose to attend Central Washington University in Ellensburg, and decided to be roommates. We roomed together all four years - the first two with just us, then added a couple other roommates in our Junior and Senior years. We've continued being pen pals ever since, and I was the Maid of Honour at her wedding. We had a wonderful lunch and chat at the Village Cafe in Ellensburg, and it was great to catch up with her!


3. Hanging out with my classmates. It was a lot of fun to see all these people again, even if I didn't recognize many of them at first. (I'm sure many of them didn't recognize me at first, either!) We took a sunset dinner cruise on Lake Coeur d'Alene and had great food, drink, music, and company!


4.  The 5K Colour Run. Easily the loudest and brightest of the highlights! It was my third 5K this year, and came just two weeks after the Wild Run in Atascadero on July 4th. This was one of those colour runs where they pelt you with a variety of brightly coloured powders at various points throughout the race. I don't know if they took any official times (I didn't see any anyone with a stopwatch and no one yelled out times when I crossed the line), but I did glance down at my phone when I crossed the line, and it was 56 minutes after I'd started, so I'm calling it and even 56 minutes. It was very hot, sweaty, and messy, but a lot of fun! Check out my before and after:



5.  Visiting other cities. Although the main purpose of my trip was to vacation in Victoria with DeeDee and Pammie Sue, and visit my old stomping grounds throughout Washington state before hitting my class reunion, I did get to spend some time in Seattle and Coeur d'Alene, ID. In Seattle I got to stroll around the pathways in and around the Seattle Center, visit the Public Market, jump on the monorail for a quick jaunt downtown, and had some really wonderful meals and drinks. It was outrageously hot and I was a nasty, sweaty mess, but it was still fun! Coeur D'Alene was the end location for our high school reunion where we had a lovely sunset dinner cruise on the lake. The next day I took for myself and since it was cooler and cloudy (and even sprinkled a little) I didn't get to lounge by the pool as originally planned, but had to settle for wandering around the quaint little shopping district, and simply enjoying my lovely room and view.


(#1: Fountain in Seattle Center. #2: Sonic Bloom solar flower sculpture in Seattle Center. #3 . Tini Bigs - best martinis in Seattle, WA! #4: The view from our room at the Mediterranean Inn, Seattle, WA.)


(#1: Sunset view from the Lakeside Lounge at the Coeur d'Alene Resort. #2:  A little park downtown Coeur d'Alene, ID. #3. My view of Lake Coeur d'Alene from my room. #4. Art display downtown Coeur d'Alene, ID. )

It was truly a wonderful vacation, and I enjoyed basically ALL of it. I do, however, have a few regrets and disappointments, which will be the topic of next week's Friday Five. Until then, cheers! 

Friday Five: 5 Awesome Things About My Trip to Victoria, B.C.

So a couple weeks ago I spent the weekend in Victoria, B.C. with a couple girlfriends, and we had a blast! Here are my top five highlights of the trip:

1.  High Tea at the Empress Hotel. I didn't remember there was so much food at this tea (I did this with my mom manymanymany years ago), but it easily took the place of our lunch on Saturday! There were three tiers of treats: sandwiches, scones, and desserts. And, of course, the famous Empress Hotel blend tea - so yummy!

2.  The Buchart Gardens. We toured these beautiful gardens in the late afternoon Saturday and stayed for the fireworks that evening. It was as great decision, as it was outrageously hot during the day! We got to see pretty much all of the gardens before darkness fell and the fireworks started. I think we only missed the Italian garden which featured the Star Pond.

3.  Charlie's Angels and the Double Decker Bus Tour. Sunday we spent most of our day on a double decker bus touring around Victoria and the surrounding villages. When our bus driver approached us he declared, "Here are my angels!" So, naturally, we had to reply with, "Hi, Charlie!" His real name is, I believe, John Roberts, but that day, all day, he was Charlie - at least to us! We took the whole 90 minute tour the first time around, seeing the sights in town and the along the coast.  The second time we took a different bus (Charlie was taking a well-deserved break!) and stopped at The Penny Farthing Pub in Oak Bay Village (at Charlie's recommendation) and had a quick drink before catching Charlie's bus back into town. It was a great time! Charlie was charming and adorable, and we got to see some great stuff from the top of that bus!


4.  The Viking Exhibit at the B.C. Museum. This touring exhibit is on loan from Sweden, so no photography was allowed inside. It was fascinating, though! There were bones and beads and rusty old metal swords, bits of belts and combs and jewelry and stuff that had been found in excavated burial mounds. They showed the kinds of clothing the Vikings wore, what the class system was like, how they farmed the land and built boats. We did this during the heat of the day on Saturday (Victoria, and much of the Pacific Northwest, was suffering from some unseasonably hot weather making outdoor activities uncomfortable to put it nicely!), and it worked out perfectly!

5. Hanging out with friends I don't get to see very often.

What's Up Wednesday - 2014 Vacation Edition

Tree70%What's Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop run by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk. Check them out to see what other creative minds are up to!

WHAT I'M READING: I recently purchased three new books at the bookstore inside Spokane International Airport on my way home from one of the best vacays I've taken in a very long time. After much deliberation and coin flipping, I decided to read The Taste of Apple Seeds by Katharina Hagena. I'm almost three quarters through, and while I'm enjoying it because it's a beautifully written and interesting story, parts of it are tough to read because the grandmother's condition hits a little too close to home!

WHAT I'M WRITING: I haven't been writing anything lately, but my recent travels, photos, and the book I'm reading has sparked my creativity, so hopefully by next week I'll have something to write about!

WHAT INSPIRES ME RIGHT NOW: Going home, spending time with friends as well as reconnecting with college friends and high school classmates, and having some pretty nice alone time, too!

WHAT ELSE I'VE BEEN UP TO: As you may have guessed, I just returned home from a super fun vacation that included a weekend in Victoria B.C., a couple days in Seattle, and a road trip across the state of Washington with stops in Cle Elum, Ellensburg, and Colfax, and a quick jaunt into Coeur d'Alene, Idaho for my class reunion.

Lord, I'm tired! Must sleep now! Cheers!

July Resolutions

FYI: Monthly resolutions posts are inspired by Kim at The Kim Challenge.

So the month of July is really, really busy for me, as I'll be on vacation for 12 1/2 days straight, and the 9 1/2 days before I leave will be spent frantically trying to pack as well as go to work, get a couple workouts in, attend my last ballet class, do a 5K, and get my hair and nails dealt with, but I still want to set a few goals for myself specifically related to my trip:






Yes, I know I said "have fun" twice, but sometimes I need to be reminded that a vacation, even a really super busy one with lots and lots of stuff going on every single day like this one, is still a vacation, not work, and I need to bloody well enjoy it! And I'm sure I will. Once I'm out there, on the road, with my friends, I know I'll have a good time. How could I not?

Still. Wish me luck, eh? Cheers!