January 18, 2018

A London Travel Diary: Part 1

The minute our plane touched down in London this past November, I was home. London is not only my favorite city but it's my favorite place on earth. I can't believe I let five years go by without a proper trip to London and that definitely won't happen again. We're already planning a trip back later this year.

As with almost all of our trips, this one was pretty last minute. We flew out the day after I got home from Seattle. We booked an Airbnb in Notting Hill and landed bright and early on a Monday morning. Heathrow is always a bit of a disaster when it comes to clearing Customs so by the time we got out of the airport and made it to Central London, we only had about 90 minutes to kill before we had to check in, so we popped over to Granger & Co for breakfast. We had eaten at one of Bill Granger's restaurants in Sydney and loved the food! I don't know how it's possible that he makes such good eggs but seriously, his restaurants have the best scrambled eggs you'll ever eat!

We checked into our place, took a quick nap, and freshened up before heading out for the day. I never shop back home but when I'm in London, I always start my trip with shopping! Some of my favorite pieces are from my last trip to London (yes, five years ago!). We started at Primark (and splurged on their new Harry Potter collection!) on Tottenham Court Road and then made our way down Regent and Street. 

For dinner, we went to Wagamama and ate so much food! I know Wagamama is a chain but when I was living in London, there was one right in the High Street that my friends and I used to go to. Wagamama is full of memories and damn good food and I wouldn't skip it!

After dinner, we walked down Carnaby Street and eventually made our way to Piccadilly Circus. We did some shopping at Lily White's, Waterstones (book), Fortnum & Mason, and Hatchard's (more books) before calling it a night and heading back to Notting Hill for a round of pints at the neighborhood pub, the Prince Alfred

The next morning, we woke up to a fairly typical rainy fall morning in London. 

Our first stop was the Tower of London. I had visited the Tower on my first trip to London (when I was 16!) and had just finished my first Phillipa Gregory book (and didn't really know anything about British history) but The Pilot had never been and I really wanted to go back!

From there, we decided to check out the newly opened Sky Garden. While it was really cool up there, I don't recommend going on a rainy day. The whole point of the Sky Garden is the view and, with rain and low visibility, it wasn't really worth the trip. It's free so it wasn't a total disappointment but I would try to plan for a better day!

We left the Sky Garden and made our way to Borough Market to wander around. 

Borough Market is definitely better on designated market days but it's also super crowded. It wasn't a market day so there weren't as many stalls open but I love wandering around this market! It's one of my favorites!

Next, we made our way the Strand and bought some tea at Twinings. We had banoffee crepes at Creme de la Crepe in Covent Garden and listened to live music. We stopped at yet another bookstore, Foyle's (we, ok fine, I bought SO many books on this trip!) and then we bought tickets for the West End production of An American in Paris (which, I didn't actually like). After the show, we had a late night dinner at Byron

It was the perfect start to our London trip and I couldn't understand why we had let five years pass between visits. We've both traveled a lot and while I have a lot of favorite places, London will always be "my place." I love going back and pining for the city that always feels like home the second I land!

Stay tuned for with more details our trip!

January 12, 2018

5 Places I'd Like to Travel in 2018

If you've been reading my blog for any length of time, you know that when The Pilot and I travel, it's rarely planned and it's almost always spontaneous. Nonetheless, I always have a running list of place I'd like to travel. For the last three years, I've posted a list of places I'd like to travel in the year ahead. Each year, I've maybe made it to one or two places but the year has always brought a lot more unexpected travel! Nonetheless, I still like making the list. So, without any definite travel plans as of now, here's a list of places I'd like to travel this year!

1. France - Unintentionally, The Pilot and I have found ourselves in Paris every other year since we started dating. We've been there together in 2012, 2014, and 2016 and have decided to make the biennial trip a tradition! In my five trips to France though, I've never been outside Paris. This time around, I'd really love to see more of the country and extend our trip to southern France!

2. Geneva - This has been on my list every year since I've written it. I did a study abroad trip to Geneva in college and went back a few times after but it's been almost 10 years since my last trip and I'd really love to go back and show The Pilot around.

3. Portugal - When I went to Lisbon 2 1/2 years ago, I fell in love in a way I never have before. Since that trip, I've had a hard time articulating just how that city made me feel. It was the first trip I took where I truly didn't want to come home. I'm dying to go back to Lisbon but also take a road trip and travel north!

4. Chile - We almost took a trip Chile last year before we remembered that the seasons are different! South America is the only continent I haven't traveled to (Antarctica doesn't count) and Santiago has been piquing my interest for a while now! 

5. Ottawa - The Pilot loves Canada. He does a lot of flying in and out of Canada and Ottawa has quickly become one of his favorite cities. I was planning to run the Ottawa Marathon last year but wasn't able to. I've never been to Ottawa but I'd love to visit it with him!

So that's my short list! Because of the way our vacation schedules work out, it's pretty rare for us to do much traveling in the first quarter of the year but I think we're both itching for a getaway so that might change! There are so many other places I'd like to travel to but I keep this list on the realistic side. It's a lot easier for us to travel to Europe on our limited vacation time than it is to go to say Chile or Thailand.

We may make it to all of these places this year, or we may not make it to any but, either way, I know this year is going to be another fun travel year and I can't wait to see where we end up!

What's on your 2018 travel list?

January 9, 2018

Beyond Words Book Club

Two years ago, I wrote a post about how to start a successful book club. Afterward, a lot of people reached out to me about wanting to be part of a book club and I reached out to my good friend, Carolann, about the idea of starting an online bloggers' book club and so, Beyond Words was born. We started the club on Goodreads where we all vote on which book we'll read each month.

Our little book club started off with some great momentum and we've read some of my favorite books over the last few years but one thing that I think is desperately missing is a good discussion.

So, Carolann and I are moving Beyond Words to Facebook. It's our hope, that the more user-friendly interface will enable more discussion and offer more options for members to recommend books, not just for the monthly polls but to each other!

If your New Year's Resolution is to read more, or you already read plenty but are looking for some good book discussions and recommendations, check out the brand new Beyond Words Facebook page!

For those of you who have been tried and true members, we'll keep the Goodreads page going at least for a little while just in case there are some of you who aren't on Facebook.

For those of you who are new and want to join us, here's how things work:
  1. We pick books 2 months in advance to allow plenty of time for library wait lists, busy schedules, and getting through everything else on your TBR list!
  2. Either Carolann or myself will put up a poll to vote on our next book club pick. We welcome suggestions at any time! You can post your suggests on the Facebook page, or send them to us through email, our blogs, or social media!
  3. The voting period is always open for one week, after which we'll announce the next read. 
  4. We host a link up on the last Friday of each month to share your review on that month's pick and/or share the other books you've been reading!
  5. Throughout the month, you can discuss the book on our Facebook page but no spoilers! The day of the link up, Carolann and I will open up a discussion post where you can leave comments and discuss with all the spoilers you want!
I hope this new interface makes it a little bit easier for everyone to join! Our January pick is "Dear Fahrenheit 451: Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks: A Librarian's Love Letters and Breakup Notes to the Books in Her Life by Annie Spence" and the February poll is live today! Check it out, vote for a book, and come back here on Friday, January 25 for our first link up of the new year!

If you have any questions or suggestions, don't hesitate to reach out to myself or Carolann!

Happy Reading!
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