Friendship, Travel Journal

Travel Journal: London – Part Two

I’m back with Part Two today of my travel journal for my trip to London with my friend Brandi.

If you missed Part One and all of the background on the trip you can read it HERE! In it I shared all about Buckingham and Kensington Palaces, as well as St. James Park and Hyde Park.

As I mentioned in part one, I am splitting up my blog posts for this trip based on highlights, so I can average out the amount of pictures in each post as much as possible.

Today’s post features a lot of popular historic tourist attractions. I’m definitely a history junkie, and thought it was so cool to see so many iconic sites that I learned about as a student growing up.

Trafalgar Square

So even though I just said I was a history junkie, I am also a Doctor Who fan, and I’ll admit the only reason I knew what Trafalgar Square was because of that show. There are actually a lot of real-life locations throughout London that are featured in Doctor Who, but for whatever reason this was one of the main ones that I remembered the scenes from.

Anyway, I actually came to the square twice, first when I was just wondering around on my first day in London while Brandi was finishing up her work engagements, and then again with her on our first full day. It such a great hub for people watching!

The building featured above is the National Gallery, which has portraits and other pieces of art.

Street acts always creep me out, and this one did too, but I was also fascinated. What is their secret?! Is that an actual person standing on a platform that is anchored through the sleeve? Or is it a remote control of some sort?

House of Parliament, “Big Ben” and Westminster Abbey

Trafalgar Square, House of Parliament, “Big Ben” and Westminster Abbey were all a part of our first day, which I talked about in Part One. We put in 13 miles that day!

Parliament and “Big Ben” were unfortunately being worked on so they were under a lot of scaffolding. I’ll be honest though, I really thought that “Big Ben” (whose name is actually the Elizabeth Tower) was smaller than what I had imagined based on pictures and TV. Still impressive though!

London 2018 House of Parliament

London Big Ben 2018

I love seeing the different architecture of cathedrals and churches, and Westminster Abbey was beautiful. We opted not to do the tour just based on the lines and cost, but it was probably the one thing that I wished we would have planned better for ahead of time to do.

Tower of London

The Tower of London was one of the main highlights of the trip for me. I’ve always vaguely known what it was, but knew very little of its history. First and foremost, we were there to see the Crown Jewels (#basicwhitegirl), but the rest of it was really interesting too and we could have spent way more time there than we did. But back to the jewels… this is where most of the Crown Jewels stay (and are guarded) when they are not being used. The exhibit, where we weren’t allowed to take photos, did a really thorough job of sharing the history of all the pieces and coronations in general. Brandi and I chatted about the fact that since the last coronation was in 1953, it will be really interesting to see both the differences and similarities of a modern. We also pointed out that our generation is unique in the fact that we’ll live through two.

Two travel notes here, the Tower of London does require a ticket, and it wasn’t cheap, but I would still definitely recommend it Like I said, we went through some of the other exhibits, but we could have more time. There are also guided tours you can join, but we bought a guide book that was really thorough and something I wanted to keep afterward. My other note is that there are a few really great shops here. On this trip I really wasn’t in the market for a lot of cheap souvenirs or gifts, which is what we saw in most of the other shops we stopped in around London. But the shops at the Tower of London were much more unique, including the official Historic Royal Palaces shop. Growing up, I collected tea sets that my grandparents usually gave me for my birthday or Christmas, so I was really happy to get a tea cup and saucer that is a copy of a set that the Queen uses.

Tower Bridge

Right next to the Tower of London is the Tower Bridge, which we took a walk across. We spent the whole weekend calling it the London Bridge, which I guess is a common mistake. I read somewhere that it lifts for water traffic an average of 1,000 times a year, and only does so with 24 hours notice.

During on of Brandi‘s work dinners, she was up in The Shard, which is pictured in a few pictures below, and got to take in this great view!

London Eye and a few other sites

The famous “Eye” from the Westminster Bridge.

The pointy building above is “The Shard.” I always think its really cool to see the contract between historic and modern architecture in the same place.

The Wellington Arch sits on the corner of Hyde Park and Green Park, along the route from Buckingham Palace to Kensington Palace.

Also near the Wellington Arch is this World War II memorial above and an Australian War Memorial pictured below. The Australian one was being repaired, but was really unique and apparently normally has water running over it.

Admiralty Arch which marks the beginning of “The Mall” which is the road way that leads up to Buckingham Palace.

This building is for the Queen’s Horse Guards, and the open area is where the ceremonial parade takes place. This is also where beach volleyball was played during the 2012 Summer Olympics.

We also opted not to do the tour for the Churchill War Rooms, but I was interested to see it proximity to Buckingham Palace.

Alright, that’s it for today’s post. My third and final post will be in the next few days, and in addition to sharing about the rest of our trip, I’ll also be sharing any final observations and tips about traveling to London.

Thanks for stopping by!

Friendship, Travel Journal

Travel Journal: London – Part One

Hey friends! Last week was a bit of a blur after an 8-hour flight on Monday and then jumping into a busy work week. But after a relaxing weekend I am ready to start sharing all about my trip to London!

So back in January, my friend Brandi told me that she was going to London on a work trip, and I somewhat jokingly suggested that we make a girls weekend out of it. I can’t remember the exact conversation, but a few days later we both asked each other how serious the other one was, and both answered with a resounding VERY SERIOUS. I’ve traveled with friends domestically a little, and only in the last few years have I started traveling more internationally in general, but this trip was a whole new experience.

More and more, I see how important adult friendships are, but also how hard they can be to cultivate and maintain. This was a one of a kind opportunity to really focus on a friendship I value so much, and while I don’t get to see her nearly enough these days, I am so grateful that we went on this adventure together.

ANYWAY… Brandi arrived a few days early on Monday for work, and I took a direct (hallelujah) red-eye flight on Wednesday night, which put me in London at 10:30 Thursday morning. After I got to Brandi‘s work hotel (which we were staying in the first night) and said hi during her lunch break, I spent the rest of the afternoon walking around and exploring on my own. Now I’ve changed my mind about five times, as to how I wanted to organize my blog posts for this trip. It’s always easiest to do the chronologically, but on this trip there were some stops where I took A LOT of pictures and others where I took maybe one or two. On the other hand, because the number of pictures varies so much I also struggled with doing individual posts based on one or two highlights at a time. So I think I am going to split everything up into three posts that hopefully average out in length, and attempt to group things together by highlight as much as I can. On the third and final post I’ll round up any last thoughts and tips I have for traveling to London!

Buckingham Palace

Our first full day ( Friday), was by far our longest and most tiring. But based on where everything we wanted to see was located, it made the most sense to pile it all into one long trek. We started out walking from our first hotel, which was in the Covent Garden area and walked to Trafalgar Square, the House of Parliament (and Big Ben!), Westminster Abbey and past the Churchill War Rooms. I’ll be sharing all about those in tomorrow’s post though 🙂

The next part of our trek was through St. James Park to Buckingham Palace.

I was somewhat surprised that it wasn’t busier, but happy that we had plenty of time and room to take it all in.

I hate to admit this, but I had slight lapse in memory, and while we were walking by Westminster Abbey (where Will and Kate got married), I kept looking for the Queen’s Balcony where the royal family always famously stands and waves to the public after weddings and other special occasions. When we got the the palace, I realized my error.

St. James Park, Hyde Park and the Princess Diana Memorial

St. James Park is the park that leads up to Buckingham Palace, and Hyde Park leads up to Kensington Palace. Since I took a lot of similar pictures throughout both, it made sense to just group them together. St. James Park is by far smaller than Hyde Park, but both are beautiful and so well-curated. Both had great walkways, restrooms, paddle boats for the ponds, cafes and more. Like I said above, it makes sense just to do the whole thing at once, but I will say, Hyde Park was much bigger than we were anticipating. Altogether, we put in 13 miles that day!

I also didn’t know that the Queen or the English in general (?) had such a fondness for birds or water fowl. But both parks were full of them, including the pelicans below that have lived in St. James Park for a long time.

This used to be the official Bird Keeper’s cottage. Now I think it is used for a number of other things, but they were putting in a new garden in the front yard when we were there.

As the third generation in a family of florists, I am usually pretty good at identifying flowers. This unique one stumped me though, much to Brandi‘s amusement. I later learned from my Mom that it is known as an “Imperialist” or “Crown Imperial,” which is very fitting that it is in the Queen’s park.

In Hyde Park, we saw the memorial fountain for Princess Diana, and were really impressed. That might be a bit odd to say, but I live in a city full of memorials and this one was just so different and I loved its simplicity (please no one take that disrespectfully). If you can’t tell from the video below, it is one large circle and the water it pumped up at the top of the hill and comes down both sides. The stone is carved in different ways to change the flow of the water at different points.

Kensington Palace

We finally made it through Hyde Park to Kensington Palace, which is home to a number of the Royal family, including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Will and Kate) and Prince Harry.

We considered doing the tour, as part of it is open to the public, but we were pretty tired at this point and still had to go back and get our luggage at the hotel and go to our new hotel, which was a bit further out from the center of London.

OK! That’s it for today! I’ll be sharing more throughout the week!

So There's That Series

So There’s That Vol. 31

{Sort of like  a “Friday Five”  or a “Life Lately” except it’s probably not Friday, and I gave up on the idea of a catchy alliteration. These are some bits and pieces of my not-so-glam 20-something life. See past posts HERE}

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London

I just returned from a long girls weekend in London with one of my best friends Brandi! Stay tuned later this week or next for a few blog posts all about our adventures!

In Case You Missed It On the Blog in March

  1. Favorite Things I Need to Tell You About Right Now – Vol. 2
  2. Friday Jam Session: Post Break Up
  3. Third Work Anniversary and 10 Things I’ve Learned
  4. So There’s That Vol. 30
  5. Friday Jam Session: 90’s Country
  6. Guest Feature on Whimsical September’s Saturday Sit-Down

Mom and Dad Visit DC

My parents visited me in DC at the end of March. We had a wonderful time and I wrote all about it on the blog here.

Sawyer June

This sassy girl just turned 9 months a few days ago and her personality is really starting to show. Snapchat videos and FaceTiming with her is my favorite! This particular round of pictures is EXTRA ADORABLE.

I mean SERIOUSLY!!!

Guest Blogger Saturday Sit-Down

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to be a guest blogger for Whimsical September. Since I discovered her last summer, Erica has become one of my favorite bloggers to regularly keep up with, so I was thrilled to be featured in her Saturday Sit-Down series. She did a fabulous job at doing her research and personalizing questions for me to really showcase what my blog and I are all about. You can read it here (and check out the rest of her blog while you are there)!

Wild Love

Having been a dancer growing up, I could watch dance routine and choreography videos ALL DAY LONG. Kyle Hanagami has become one of my favorites to follow on Instagram. This is video is one of his most recent choreographed routines, which also features one of my favorite dancers, Julianne Hough, and music by another favorite, James Bay.

Winter Sunrise

Mark Alan Andre Photography

I can never get enough of beautiful DC photography. And even though I am hating this eternal winter we seem to be having, I was practically drooling over this photo and the full series.  The photographer is a fellow K-State grad too 🙂 Great work Mark!

Life is Too Short for Fake Cheese and Fake Friends

This article was technically written for moms, but even though I am not at that stage of life yet, I can still relate on many levels. More and more, I am seeing and experiencing the equal difficulty, stages and crucial importance of adult friendships.

“I want friendships that fill me up, because no one is ever satisfied after eating fake cheese.”

Amen, girl. Read the full article here.

National Ag Day

National Ag Day was March 20, and in DC that means a series of special events and guests in town. I spent one evening speaking with college students attending the Agriculture Future of America (AFA) Policy Institute, and shared a bit about my job and path to living and working in DC. AFA also invited me to join them for an event at USDA, where Vice President Pence spoke and signed an official proclamation for National Ag Day. I had never heard Pence formally speak before, and was happy to hear most of his comments. There continues to be a lot of uncertainty right now regarding trade, so personally I think that part of his speech was a bit sugar coated.

Out and About

A few snippets (and Instagram stories) of life lately.

Going on my resume: Winning the office March Madness bracket 2 of the 3 years I’ve been working here.

My Life in Memes

Memes that are speaking to me right now… both thought provoking and just plain funny.

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So, There’s That.

Family, Washington D.C.

Mom and Dad Visit DC

Hey friends! I’ve been a little MIA lately, but March was a bit of a monster, and there were many times where I opted to go to bed earlier instead of staying up to blog 🙂

But the month also rounded out in the best kind of way — with a visit from my parents from Oregon.

This was my Dad’s first time visiting DC, and my Mom’s second. Though her first visit was centered around helping me move apartments so she didn’t get to experience or see much. I have been looking forward to them visiting for a long time, so I had a pretty packed schedule planned for them. It was actually kind of unique… I’m the oldest child, so I don’t really know that I’ve spent this much quality time with them together just one-on-one since I was little. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing either way, because that’s probably pretty normal, but it just stood out to me. I am really close with my parents, so living so far away from them for almost 10 years now is much harder than I think most people think it is for me. I was so excited to finally share my current home and life with them!

I picked them up late from the airport on a Wednesday night, and then turned around and hit the ground running by making Mom take a Pure Barre class with me at 7 AM. But she was a trooper! We picked up Dad, who was at a diner nearby working on his laptop, got ourselves ready for the day and then swung by my office so they could see it and meet a few people.

Our first stop after we trekked into DC was actually probably my favorite of the whole visit. My Dad is a mason, so I did a little research on things to do in the area related to that, since freemasonry is such a huge part of U.S. history. We went to the House of the Temple, which is headquarters for the Scottish Rite’s Southern Jurisdiction (there are three types or branches of masons I learned).  I had no idea this beautiful building was in DC and considering there are few things that I haven’t already done here, it was fun to experience something new with my parents — especially something that is so important to my Dad. I’ll admit, I still don’t understand a lot about freemasonry, but I did learn quite a bit, AND GUYS… I was beside myself over their library!

After the House of the Temple, we headed toward the National Mall to see the Monuments. We made the full trek from the Washington Monument, down past WWII and Vietnam, to the Lincoln and from the Korean and FDR, and around the Tidal Basin to the Jefferson. Yes, my feet were basically goners by the end of day one.

(Nevada is my Dad’s home state.)

We wrapped up the day by finishing the short walk down to the new Wharf area and had dinner at Hank’s Oyster Bar, which is their newest location.

On Friday, day two, we officially made our picture stop at the White House, though we walked passed it several times during their visit. My Dad’s younger brother, who passed a few years ago, and was in the Army EOD, had spent some time protecting the White House that we didn’t know much about, so my Dad walked up and asked two of the on-duty Secret Service, a few questions about what my uncle’s role and experience would have involved.

Next, we headed to the nearby Renwick Gallery, which is an art museum that features temporary exhibits and is a part of the Smithsonian system. That day was actually the opening day for its newest exhibit, “The Art of Burning Man.” I mentioned above that Nevada is my Dad’s home state, but the other part of that is that he actually grew up on the edge of the Black Rock Desert, near where Burning Man is held every year. Growing up, my sister, cousins and I spent part of our summers visiting our grandparents there (who have since moved). To be honest, we probably have a bit of a different opinion on the event, but nonetheless the artwork it inspires is stunning, and its more amazing to think that all of these pieces have previously been built out on that desert, and in many cases, at a larger scale.

These ones changed colors and also expanded and contracted.

This is all carved wood.

Next, we went up on the Hill and visited the Library of Congress, before making our way to Congressman Walden’s office (my parent’s home district) for a Capitol tour. Walden’s Chief of Staff is also from my hometown and when to high school with my Mom, so they enjoyed catching up a bit.

For an early dinner we head to The Carving Room, which was featured on one of my Dad’s favorite shows, Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on the Food Network. We wrapped up the day by stopping at the National Portrait Gallery for the last 45 minutes it was open. We chose to walk through the U.S. Presidents exhibit.

On Saturday, the third day, we headed out to my favorite tourist stop in the area: Mount Vernon! I’m actually kind of sad, because I’m running out of expected visitors to take here. Not that I can’t go on my own or with other locals, which I did for the 4th of July last year, but it is just not the same. At heart, George was a farmer first, and has always been my favorite president, so I genuinely love sharing his home and life with my guests. #nerdalert

It needs to be noted here (at the request of my Dad) that he is smiling. Everyone always gives him a hard time that he doesn’t smile that much, but that behind him is the OUTHOUSE and he just thought that it was “so cool” and needed his picture with it. #facepalm

We spent a good chunk of the day at Mount Vernon, so to wrap up we visited the Marine Corp Memorial (Iwo Jima), walked across the river from Arlington into Georgetown for dinner at Pizzeria Paradiso (I’d never been — SO GOOD!) and then went back to my neighborhood to watch the NCAA Final Four at a sports bar.

On Sunday, the fourth and final day, we started out with breakfast at the famous Old Ebbitt Grill and then peeked into the Trump International Hotel (it is really pretty inside and out).

Next, we spent a good chunk of the day at my favorite museum, the Newseum. It is one of the few non-Smithsonian museums here and one of the few that you have to pay for. I actually love it so much I became a member, which gets me in free, discounts and invites to special events. I’ve been there a few times for multiple hours and still have never made it all the way through. It is a bit spendy in a city with so many free options, but I HIGHLY recommend it.

Our last stop of the day was to Arlington National Cemetery. I’ve now visited here at least once during every season (which isn’t hard, I live 2-3 miles away), and I can attest that they are all pretty, but I think spring might be my favorite. We made sure to catch the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and also saw the end of the day flag lowering.

We wrapped up with a great dinner at Circa and then home early because they had an early flight home the next morning and I had to return back to a busy work week.

Thanks for visiting me Mom and Dad! I loved our one-on-one time and getting to share my current home with you.

I love you.

Mandy.

Music - What I'm Listening To

Friday Jam Session: British Artists

I am headed to London late next week for a long girls weekend with one of my college besties, Brandi, so I thought it would be fun to throw together a playlist that focused on British artists. Which, in hindsight, was a bit easier said than done. Other than The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, I didn’t have too many expectations of what would be included, but as I started to dive into my saved music as well as exploring other playlists on Spotify, I discovered that I should have been more specific, and just focused on one era and genre. There were so many artists and bands that I forgot or never realized originated from the UK!

So, my list is a bit eclectic, ranging from the “British Invasion” to current music. To keep the playlist from being too long, I did decide to limit it to artists and bands that were only from England, not from Ireland (sorry U2) or Scotland. However, please don’t go fact checking on me… I’m sure I messed up at least one or two 🙂

Enjoy!

Alright, let me know what obvious favorites I missed!

What are you listening to lately?

See ALL past Friday Jam Session posts HERE.

90’s  Country
Post Break Up
Motivation
Favorite Albums in 2017

Life at Random

Guest Feature on Whimsical September’s Saturday Sit-Down

Today I am being featured as a guest over on Whimsical Septembers’s Saturday Sit-Down series!

I discovered Erica and her blog randomly last summer and I am so happy that I did! I have so much respect for her story as a military wife, mom and young entrepreneur. I love her tone as a blogger and I have become to faithful reader because I appreciate how relatable she is. Also, she just happens to be a recent resident of my favorite little city in the Midwest – Manhattan, Kansas.

Erica’s Saturday Sit-Down features a new guess blogger every Saturday and I am so excited to share a little piece of my story with her readers!

So head on over to check it out (you might learn something new about me), and stay awhile to see what Erica’s blog is all about!

Thanks for the feature Erica!

Music - What I'm Listening To

Friday Jam Session: 90’s Country

I’ve said many times before that my taste in music stretches far and wide. But if I had to listen to only on genre of music for the rest of my life, it would be country music. And if I had to be more specific, I would choose 90’s country music (followed closely by outlaw country and Texas/red dirt country).

I can’t help it. It is what I was raised on, and honestly, I think it played a large part in why I love good storytelling.

This was by far the hardest playlist so far to keep under a certain number. I could have easily created this long of a playlist with just a small handful of my favorite 90’s country artists, but there were also quite a few single hits that I could not overlook. So I limited myself to 1-2 songs per artists and for the most part, kept it to upbeat songs, though there were a few slow songs that snuck in. I also did quite a bit of double checking to make sure that the songs featured really were from albums that came out between 1990 to 1999. I had so much fun picking through these albums, since so many of them we had a home growing up.

And just so no one yells at me… I am well aware that there is no Garth Brooks on this list, but his music is not on Spotify.

I hope you enjoy this one as much as I enjoyed putting it together! Happy Friday!

What are you listening to lately?

See past Friday Jam Session posts HERE.