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!

Career/Professional, Photography, Travel Journal

Travel Journal: Estes Park, Colorado

Seeing as I leave later today for another quick work trip, I figured I better get my act together and get something about my trip to Colorado up here! Because trust me, my lack of timeliness is not a reflection on the trip.

Every two years, my organization hosts a world staff conference that brings together all of our 15 overseas offices, along with our two here in the U.S. Two years ago (really!?) we traveled to Antigua, Guatemala, and this year our conference was in Estes Park, Colorado! Even though I grew up in Oregon and lived in Kansas for eight years, I actually have never spent any significant time Colorado, aside from the airport of course and passing through on a long road trip. Our conference was hosted at the famous, historical Stanley Hotel, which might be familiar to some because it was the inspiration for Stephen King’s book, The Shining, and a few other movies were filmed there, including Dumb and Dumber.

I’ve said this a few times before, but I really do love the organization that I work for and being able to get together and connect with our staff from around the world helps remind me why my job is more than just an 8 to 5. My co-workers are very passionate about the wheat industry and the people in it. They are intelligent, kind, supportive and… hilarious. I am a better professional, and person because of them.

One fun addition to this trip was that my mom tagged along!

My organization also values family and unique experiences, so I was able to invite my mom along to join us in Estes Park. While I was in meetings she enjoyed a spa day and lots of time outside, which was great opportunity for her to just relax because she had just wrapped her own busy couple of weeks at work. After I wrapped up with my conference we stayed an extra few days for a mini mother-daughter vacay.

Though I did take a lot of photos during the conference, I’m not sharing any of them here because I don’t think its the right platform, but if you want to see those then head over to our Facebook page HERE.

It snowed in Estes Park a few days before we arrived, so I had to pull out a few winter pieces that I had already packed away for the summer. Thankfully, by the time we arrived most of it had melted and the weather didn’t end up being quite as cold as we expected.

I loved getting to introduce my mom to my co-workers and our wheat farmers!

View from the front porch of The Stanley Hotel.

The “downtown” main strip was adorable, full of t-shirt shops, candy stores and YEAR-ROUND CHRISTMAS STORES.

Mom made me go in one. If you know me personally, you know I’m the Grinch in my family and being in that store was just too much for me.

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On our first full day after the conference we hiked up to Gem Lake. A few of my co-workers did the hike earlier in the week and mentioned that even though the distance was pretty short, that the hike itself should not be underestimated. The walk from the hotel to the trail head was 1.7 miles and the hike itself was also 1.7 miles. The altitude was definitely a bit a challenge from time to time, even on the walk up to the trail head but after a while we both felt a bit more leveled out. The trail wasn’t too difficult to maneuver until the last quarter mile or so where it got more rocky. But it was all still a bit steeper and slower than we first thought. It wasn’t until AFTER the hike that we learned that the 1.7 miles climbs 1,000 ft, so that explained a lot. But it was so much fun to enjoy the views, chat and just spend that time with my mom.

She’s going to LOVE that shared that. #sorrynotsorry

Gem Lake… which is more like a pond 🙂

So growing up in Oregon, I know that you’re not really supposed to feed the wildlife, but we didn’t go up there planning too. Another hiker near us had her granola bar snatched right out of her hands by a squirrel and when she got up to leave she left of with a few nuts she had leftover, so by then we were already too entertained and curious about how close they would get to us.

They got REALLY close.

Even after we were out of nuts the two squirrels kept come back to us to double check. One even tried to gnaw on my mom’s phone!

This isn’t zoomed in. It was sitting on my backpack which was sitting right next to me.

 

“Paul Bunyan’s Boot”

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We returned back to Denver the day before our flights out and I was able to catch up (very) briefly with two of my best friends!

Kayla is one of my best friends from high school and lives in the Denver area for school right now.

This little one is no stranger to the blog. Baby Robin and her parents, Leah and Ryan just happened to be visiting family in the Denver area and made a little time for a visit!

Cheers!

Family, Photography, Travel Journal

Travel Journal: Candid in Bangkok and Phuket, Thailand

Friends, here it is.

My LAST travel journal post about my AMAZING trip to Thailand! It has been just short of two months since I returned and I hope that you have enjoyed hearing and seeing my trip as much as I have enjoyed reliving it through these posts. Even after looking back, it is really hard for me to pick a favorite part, but overall I am so happy that I got to share this experience with my grandparents and Aunt Diane.

Overall my only complaints are my really bad sunburn (somewhat my fault) and that I got really sick when I came back from a virus we think I got over there.

(Side note: I mentioned in my very first post that for the sake on journaling I would circle back to this. Basically, a week after I returned I became really sick with a fever, headache, body ache, extreme fatigue and rash. Except for one experience in college, it might be the most sick I’ve ever been. It landed me in the emergency room, which then led me on a trail of different doctor’s visits because I had low platelets. They could never quite tell me what I had but after about three weeks I was finally back to normal.)

ANY WAY.

For my last post I am pulling together the rest of the pictures from the trip that are more candid and didn’t fit into any particular other post very well. This also includes pictures from our dinner cruise in Bangkok.

See below to see the rest of my posts from my entire trip!

Travel Journal: USW South Asia Board Team to Thailand and the Philippines

Travel Journal: Wat Pho, Wat Arun and the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand

Travel Journal: Pak Khlong Talat Flower Market in Bangkok, Thailand

Travel Journal: Chatuchak Weekend Market and Jim Thompson House in Bangkok, Thailand

Travel Journal: Thai Cooking Class and Elephant Rides in Phuket, Thailand

Travel Journal: Koh Hong Island Excursion

Travel Journal: Karon Beach Sunset in Phuket, Thailand

Dinner Cruise

On one evening in Bangkok, we did a dinner cruise on the “Grand Pearl” on the Chao Phraya River, which included a full meal. The food was good, but not great. After we ate we moved to the top deck for a better view. Overall we had a good time, but we weren’t raving about it. I liked the music and atmosphere up on the top deck, but my family would probably say that the music was a little too loud and didn’t fit with the beautiful scenes we were taking in.

Our ship.

I bought the ceremonial picture they took before we boarded the ship. So this is a picture of that picture, which is why it is a little lest sharp.

View of the Grand Palace from the river.

View of the Wat Arun temple from the river.

Misc in Bangkok

My Grammy’s name is Gloria Jean…

This was a piece of artwork that I was in LOVE with and want to recreate someday. All of those books are different kinds of dictionaries in different languages and some for specific subjects.

Everyday while we were in Bangkok we would return to the hotel in the late afternoon and relax with a Diet Coke (or on this day for me, a Corona) before we headed upstairs to freshen up and head to dinner.

On a plaza outside one hotel we passed was probably a dozen or so fun, motivating phrases engraved into the sidewalks. I took pictures of almost all of them, but this one was my favorite.

Aunt Diane

These brooms were used to street sweeping.

Sisters.

Misc in Phuket


In Phuket, my Aunt Diane and I went parasailing on Karon Beach. When I was a kid I went parasailing at Wallowa Lake (in Oregon) and we both launched and landed on the back of the boat. Here things were much less formal, so after we were all strapped in we just started running on the beach (which was pretty comical because my Aunt is even shorter than me) and were eventually lifted up. What was crazy was that one of the guys in the picture road with us…just hanging out on the ropes not connected to anything, and would sometimes lightly push his foot into my back and ropes to steer us. It was so much fun to see that view and relax up there. And it was really cheap.

While we were out doing some shopping we stumbled across this place that gave fish pedicures. So as you can see in the pictures, you sit with your feet in the water while little fish nibble away at your dead skin. And the reason there is no picture of me? Because while I am all about trying new experiences, there was no way you could have paid me to do that. I am WAY TOO ticklish. My Aunt Diane thought it was the best thing ever, while my Grammy liked the results, but couldn’t stand to watch it happening.

Definitely watch this video for a good laugh!

Since I traveled to Guatemala almost two years ago and bought two small pieces of local paintings off the street, I have decided that I want to do that in every country I visit. In Thailand it was a bit harder to find something I liked, but I finally found a group of brothers selling their paintings on our last day. It was definitely worth the wait. When I finally get the canvas restretched I will probably share it on Instagram.

Well, there you go.

Thailand is a beautiful country with such a rich culture and traveling there with three people that I love so very much was an experience unlike any other.

Thank you to my Grampy, Grammy and Aunt Diane for sharing this experience with me.

I would definitely recommend it for vacation and have already had a few people ask me for advice on traveling there, so I would be more than happy to chat with anyone more!

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Cheers!

Family, Photography, Travel Journal

Travel Journal: Karon Beach Sunset in Phuket, Thailand

I am winding down on my Travel Journal blog posts for my trip to Thailand… only one more left after this!

If you haven’t been following along already be sure to checkout out my other posts so far from this trip!

Travel Journal: USW South Asia Board Team to Thailand and the Philippines

Travel Journal: Wat Pho, Wat Arun and the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand

Travel Journal: Pak Khlong Talat Flower Market in Bangkok, Thailand

Travel Journal: Chatuchak Weekend Market and Jim Thompson House in Bangkok, Thailand

Travel Journal: Thai Cooking Class and Elephant Rides in Phuket, Thailand

Travel Journal: Koh Hong Island Excursion

Karon Beach Sunset

I saw a lot of beautiful things on this trip but I am pretty sure that nothing compares to the sunset on Karon Beach. Our flights out of Phuket were red eyes so on the last evening I went back down to the beach about 20 minutes before the sun was supposed to set for some quiet time and picture taking. If you know me, you know that I am a mountain girl through and through, but seriously, this beach sunset was breathtaking.

While I was relaxing on the sand for a bit, a young woman around my age came up to me with a DSLR camera of her own and asked if I would take a few pictures of her. She didn’t speak very good English, but I learned that she was visiting Thailand from Indonesia. Once I took her picture, she immediately reached for my camera and insisted on doing the same because I had “sunset colored hair.” She also insisted that I would look like I was having more fun if I threw up a peace sign 🙂

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Stay tuned for more posts covering this trip soon!

Cheers!

Family, Photography, Travel Journal

Travel Journal: Koh Hong Island Excursion

Continuing to blog about my trip to Thailand in February and today’s focus is one that I have been so looking forward to sharing.

If you haven’t been following along be sure to checkout out my other posts so far from this trip!

Travel Journal: USW South Asia Board Team to Thailand and the Philippines

Travel Journal: Wat Pho, Wat Arun and the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand

Travel Journal: Pak Khlong Talat Flower Market in Bangkok, Thailand

Travel Journal: Chatuchak Weekend Market and Jim Thompson House in Bangkok, Thailand

Travel Journal: Thai Cooking Class and Elephant Rides in Phuket, Thailand

Island Excursion

I have always been fascinated with the pictures of the islands in the Andaman Sea west of Thailand, so going on an island excursion was toward the top of my list of things to do during the vacation.

We went through a company called Bluanda, and we would highly recommend them. They had a fun, great staff and our group was maybe about 12 total.

A shuttle picked us up and took us to the other side of Phuket where we had a light breakfast and then boarded the catamaran.

Our first stop was Koh Hong Island where we relaxed, swam and snorkeled. I saw so many beautiful fish!

We then went a bit north to the Phang Nga Bay, which is used as a backdrop in many movies, including the James Bond movie, “The Man with the Golden Gun.”

Finally we stopped at a private island that I can’t remember the name of. There we had lunch and then relaxed a bit more on the beach before we did some kayaking and went on a short rain forest hike, where we saw banana trees!

The trip wrapped up with a ride back to the marina at sunset.

It was a full, sandy and sweaty day, but so relaxing and beautiful. For the sake of this being a journal, I should also add that I got the worst sunburn of my life the day before so the only bad part of the day was that my shoulders were pretty sensitive and stiff.

Koh Hong Island

I’m not really a fan of coconut water, and trust me, I keep trying different brands because I want to like it. But I did like it much better in its real form and wish that it had been cold instead of warm.

Our lunch came in these stackable hot pots which was one of our favorite meals of the trip.

These bananas and purple potatoes were SO GOOD!

Our private island for an afternoon.

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Stay tuned for more posts covering this trip soon!

Cheers!

Family, Photography, Travel Journal

Travel Journal: Thai Cooking Class and Elephant Rides in Phuket, Thailand

I’ve been pretty busy and worn out from getting caught up at work lately (from both the trip in February and being sick for most of March), but I am determined to get the rest of these posts edited and up in the next week. I believe there will be three more after this.

So after four days in Bangkok, my family and I took a short flight down to Phuket… aka the part in Thailand you see in all of the amazing photos on travel sites.

We stayed down in the Karon Beach area at the Hilton Grand Vacation Club.

Today I am sharing about the Thai cooking class we took and the morning spent riding and playing with elephants.

Be sure to checkout out my other posts so far from this trip!

Travel Journal: USW South Asia Board Team to Thailand and the Philippines

Travel Journal: Wat Pho, Wat Arun and the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand

Travel Journal: Pak Khlong Talat Flower Market in Bangkok, Thailand

Travel Journal: Chatuchak Weekend Market and Jim Thompson House in Bangkok, Thailand

Thai Cooking Class

I’ve never really been someone who gains joy from cooking or even preparing a meal for others, but for whatever reason I kept insisting that I wanted us to take a Thai cooking class during our trip. I love Thai food and I just thought it would be a unique way to experience it.

At our resort in Phuket they offered a class that was taught by the chef who was in charge of all of the resort’s restaurants! Honestly it was a cooler experience than I was anticipating. No we really didn’t do much more that dumping already prepared servings of ingredients and then stirring, but before we started the chef walked through all of the ingredients we were using and taught us about them. Plus the staff was fun to work with.

We paired off, Grammy and Aunt Diane together, and Grampy with me, to prepare four different recipes from booklets that we got to take home with us. And the best part of course was that we got to eat what we made for lunch! I would definitely recommend doing a cooking class in any country that you visit.

Elephants

Riding an elephant was definitely on my list of things I really wanted to do on this trip, but friends… my excitement before doesn’t compare to how COOL it really was! I honestly didn’t want to leave!

We did our rides through Kok Chang Safari. There were a few other “treks” or “adventure” packages that were advertised at our resort but this only seemed to be both the cheapest and straightforward experience. We signed up for the 20 minute ride, which was perfect for us, but you can ride for up to an hour. We also loved that they picked us up from the resort and took us back, and that there was a cute little outdoor bar to hang out at afterward.

The seats themselves were pretty sturdy but there was only a rope holding up in and on some of the really steep part we still had to hold on a bit.

It was FASCINATING to watch how they steered and directed the elephants mostly using vocal cues and their feet on the sides behind the ear or on their temples. It was actually really similar to riding a horse. A few time they put more pressure on those areas using a stick, kind of like you use reins.

The guy took my digital camera and not joking… took over 30 pictures. Which was a joy to sort through…

The elephant my grandparents are on is named “Happy New Year” and the one I am on with Aunt Diane is named “Pancake.”

And don’t mind the fact that I am looking down. My legs were just long enough to rub the elephant’s back which was so much softer than I was expecting.

Bath time!

I really could have stayed there all day. They were just SO SWEET 🙂

#Hangry

So for a couple of baht (20?) you could buy a basket of banana halves to feed them. I think we bought 3 or 4 baskets.

Pretty sure selfies are allowed (and very cool) when they are with an elephant.

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Stay tuned for more posts covering this trip soon!

Cheers!