Oregon, Photography

Pendleton Round-Up Wagon Train: “Horsemanship is in the Details”

Back in June when I was at home on vacation visiting my family in Oregon I had the opportunity to experience a few days at the annual Pendleton Round-Up Wagon Train. This week-long family event has been around since 1982 and is an opportunity for people to bring their horses and teams to experience a week in the beautiful Blue Mountains and recreate the wagon train experience that the pioneers had on the Oregon Trail. This is the second year that my parents have been the event’s official caterer. While I was there I was able to tag along on the morning route for two days before heading back to camp with my dad who met the wagons and riders out on the trail for lunch. This is an incredibly unique, fun event filled with history, beautiful animals and salt of the earth people. 

This part five of five posts. With so many pictures, I struggled with what was the best way to split them up across a few blog posts, but in the end I decided to organize them based on a few themes. So what you see is not in any type of chronological order and covers the two and a half days that I was there. Enjoy!

If you missed them you can view:
Part One “On the Trail” HERE
Part Two “Circling the Wagons” HERE
Part Three “Cookin’ Spoo Style” HERE
Part Four “All in the Family” HERE

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We are down to my last post of this series! I had much fun going back through all of these photos and choosing my favorites, which was obviously hard since I had to spread them out over five posts. I’ve always said that photography is just a hobby for me, mostly because I have friends who do this for a living, work so hard to perfect their craft and are SO TALENTED. But it is a creative outlet for me and it makes me so happy that other people enjoy them too.

This last post is all about the “details.” These kind of shots are my favorite to seek out. I am a very detailed oriented person and appreciate how its the small details that make usually add the final touch to a story.

And as you will see, in order to keep everyone, people and horses alike, safe, and for everyone to have fun, horsemanship is ALL about the details.

Thanks to everyone at the wagon train for letting me tag along and making me feel welcome. I loved taking these photos.

Oregon, Photography

Pendleton Round-Up Wagon Train: “All in the Family”

Back in June when I was at home on vacation visiting my family in Oregon I had the opportunity to experience a few days at the annual Pendleton Round-Up Wagon Train. This week-long family event has been around since 1982 and is an opportunity for people to bring their horses and teams to experience a week in the beautiful Blue Mountains and recreate the wagon train experience that the pioneers had on the Oregon Trail. This is the second year that my parents have been the event’s official caterer. While I was there I was able to tag along on the morning route for two days before heading back to camp with my dad who met the wagons and riders out on the trail for lunch. This is an incredibly unique, fun event filled with history, beautiful animals and salt of the earth people. 

This part four of five posts. With so many pictures, I struggled with what was the best way to split them up across a few blog posts, but in the end I decided to organize them based on a few themes. So what you see is not in any type of chronological order and covers the two and a half days that I was there. Enjoy!

If you missed them you can view:
Part One “On the Trail” HERE
Part Two “Circling the Wagons” HERE
Part Three “Cookin’ Spoo Style” HERE
Part Five “Horsemanship is in the Details” HERE

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My Dad first learned about the wagon train and this catering opportunity from one of the teachers at his school, Rochelle Meyers. Her family, starting with her husband George and his parents, have been a part of the wagon train for 12 years. Now they bring along their kids and sometimes cousins and other family members too. Rochelle and her family let me tag along in one of their wagons for one morning (and arranged for me to ride in a different wagon on a second morning.)

If you know me well, you know my first love is for a good story (hence my career and this hobby blog), and I loved hearing this family’s story. They were so kind and shared a lot about the history of the wagon train and stories about favorite memories, mishaps and about some of the different characters that participate every year. It was fun to watch and take pictures of the three generations working together doing something they love and taking the time to patiently help the kids learn how to help and contribute themselves.

The Meyers’ have two teams of Belgian Draft horses. There are the geldings (males) Gus and Call who are 20 years old and have been with Rochelle’s father-in-law Bill, since 2001. The team of mares (females), Kayla and Angel, 9 and 11 years old respectively, have been with Rochelle and George since 2016.

Thank you Meyers family, for letting me hang out with you!

Part five (the final one) will be up on Friday!

Oregon, Photography

Pendleton Round-Up Wagon Train: “Cookin’ Spoo Style”

Back in June when I was at home on vacation visiting my family in Oregon I had the opportunity to experience a few days at the annual Pendleton Round-Up Wagon Train. This week-long family event has been around since 1982 and is an opportunity for people to bring their horses and teams to experience a week in the beautiful Blue Mountains and recreate the wagon train experience that the pioneers had on the Oregon Trail. This is the second year that my parents have been the event’s official caterer. While I was there I was able to tag along on the morning route for two days before heading back to camp with my dad who met the wagons and riders out on the trail for lunch. This is an incredibly unique, fun event filled with history, beautiful animals and salt of the earth people. 

This part three of five posts. With so many pictures, I struggled with what was the best way to split them up across a few blog posts, but in the end I decided to organize them based on a few themes. So what you see is not in any type of chronological order and covers the two and a half days that I was there. Enjoy!

If you missed them you can view:
Part One “On the Trail” HERE
Part Two “Circling the Wagons” HERE
Part Four “All in the Family” HERE
Part Five “Horsemanship is in the Details” HERE

************

Today’s post veers off from the series of photos of the horses and people on the wagon train, and focuses on the whole reason why I was actually there… my family!

My Dad built his first BBQ with his students when he was teaching high school agriculture maybe 15 years ago or so (?) (now he’s a high school principal). They used that original BBQ for high school football concessions, offering tri-tip and pork loin sandwiches along with your typical hamburgers and hotdogs. But more and more people became interested in it that they started using it for fundraisers and my Dad really started to get into trying new things (he’s always loved cooking). Eventually my Dad built his own BBQ and started doing the meat catering for weddings, company parties, golf tournaments and other events. Now on his third BBQ (because he always has new ideas on ways to improve it), he stays pretty busy with his side business, Cookin’ Spoo Style. He mostly sticks to just catering the meat but sometimes branches out and will do the whole meal.

As I mentioned above, this was his second time as the official caterer for the wagon train event and this year it happened to fall on the same week that I was able to come home for a visit.  As the caterer he was responsible for all three meals Tuesday through Friday, plus a dinner on Monday night and breakfast on Saturday for approximately 150 people… all without running water and electricity. So this event was much bigger than anything else he’s ever done and took a full-time team of 6 (and a second BBQ) to pull off. For lunch, instead of having the wagons come back into camp or sending them out with a cold lunch, my Dad, Mel and Tim would meet them out on the trail with a hot lunch, while my Mom, Jerrie and Dave stayed back at camp to prep for the next meal.

I spent the first 2.5 days there helping out and spending time with my parents, and though they put me to work, I had so much fun. I didn’t have cell phone service the whole time I was there, which was honestly so refreshing. My Dad was meant to be an educator and anyone who has met him can see the passion he has for his profession, but I love that he also has other interests and passions that he pursues and shares with others.

Part four will be up on Wednesday!

Oregon, Photography

Pendleton Round-Up Wagon Train: “Circling the Wagons”

Back in June when I was at home on vacation visiting my family in Oregon I had the opportunity to experience a few days at the annual Pendleton Round-Up Wagon Train. This week-long family event has been around since 1982 and is an opportunity for people to bring their horses and teams to experience a week in the beautiful Blue Mountains and recreate the wagon train experience that the pioneers had on the Oregon Trail. This is the second year that my parents have been the event’s official caterer. While I was there I was able to tag along on the morning route for two days before heading back to camp with my dad who met the wagons and riders out on the trail for lunch. This is an incredibly unique, fun event filled with history, beautiful animals and salt of the earth people. 

This part two of five posts. With so many pictures, I struggled with what was the best way to split them up across a few blog posts, but in the end I decided to organize them based on a few themes. So what you see is not in any type of chronological order and covers the two and a half days that I was there. Enjoy!

If you missed them you can view:
Part One “On the Trail” HERE
Part Three “Cookin’ Spoo Style” HERE
Part Four “All in the Family” HERE
Part Five “Horsemanship is in the Details” HERE

************

I didn’t find time during my work trip this past week to get part two or more up, but I should be able to move forward with sharing the rest of these photos over the next few days.

At the end of every day upon the wagon train’s return to camp they “circle the wagons,” which originally was a safety tactic for protection. Today, it creates a great display of these beautiful animals and horsemanship.

Part three will be up on Monday!

Oregon, Photography

Pendleton Round-Up Wagon Train: “On the Trail”

Back in June when I was at home on vacation visiting my family in Oregon I had the opportunity to experience a few days at the annual Pendleton Round-Up Wagon Train. This week-long family event has been around since 1982 and is an opportunity for people to bring their horses and teams to experience a week in the beautiful Blue Mountains and recreate the wagon train experience that the pioneers had on the Oregon Trail. This is the second year that my parents have been the event’s official caterer. While I was there I was able to tag along on the morning route for two days before heading back to camp with my dad who met the wagons and riders out on the trail for lunch. This is an incredibly unique, fun event filled with history, beautiful animals and salt of the earth people. 

This part one of five posts. With so many pictures, I struggled with what was the best way to split them up across a few blog posts, but in the end I decided to organize them based on a few themes. So what you see is not in any type of chronological order and covers the two and a half days that I was there. Enjoy!

If you missed them you can view:
Part Two “Circling the Wagons” HERE
Part Three “Cookin’ Spoo Style” HERE
Part Four “All in the Family” HERE
Part Five “Horsemanship is in the Details” HERE

************

For many years, the wagon train group would actually move camp each day or every couple of days but more recently they’ve kept a base camp and go out on different routes from there each day. There are outriders, folks that just bring their horses to ride, and then there are the teams (both horses and mules) that pull the wagons. There are also a few single-horse carts. The first day I went out with the Meyers family (who I’ll share more about in an upcoming post) and their two teams. The second day I rode with Jill Perrine and her single-horse cart.

It takes an incredible amount of attention to detail, skill and teamwork for everything to go smoothly on these rides. I really enjoyed learning and taking it all in. Even though my family has never had horses, I have always really loved them and I was so memorized watching them work. Some folks go all in on this event and make an effort to make their wagon historically accurate. And some even wear period specific clothing! And if you’ve been a regular reader here you know that I think that the Blue Mountains are God’s country, so I was so happy to be along for the ride and the opportunity to capture it all with my camera.

Check back soon for part two!

Travel Journal

Travel Journal: Girls Trip to Nashville

Over Memorial Day weekend, I traveled to Nashville, Tennessee, for a long girls weekend with my best friends Megan and Kyla.

These gals were my roommates for 4.5 years in college, first in the women’s scholarship house, then out on our own. (They both took an extra semester and my first job was in our college town so that explains the extra half a year I got with them!) Megan and I were co-maids of honor in Kyla’s wedding, and even as we’ve all grown up and lead pretty different lives, their friendship continues to be one of the most important things I have.

A few years ago I got the idea that we should do a reunion trip every 5 years since we graduated college (May and December 2013), and it took no convincing to bring them on board with the idea. We chose Nashville because it was a new city to all of us and travel-wise it was about halfway for all of us.

We all got in on Saturday afternoon and stayed until Wednesday morning. We looked at a lot of options for where to stay, but finally settled on an AirBnB apartment that was across the street from Vanderbilt’s campus and right off of Music Row. We were so happy with it! It gave us the room to relax a bit each day, a kitchen so we could keep some snacks and drinks we picked up on a grocery store run and we even stayed in one night with pizza and a movie. The location was fantastic for the price and I was even able to do an emergency load of laundry for free (long story!). If you are planning a trip to Nashville and look at AirBnB, we highly recommend this one!

Our plan for the trip was to keep it pretty low-key. We wanted to explore the city, eat good food and just enjoy each other’s company without being on-the-go too much. We did some “Pinterest-planning” and thankfully we all still have quite a few of the same interests. I have a lot of pictures to share, so I decided to split up the trip by category instead of day-by-day.

Neighborhoods We Explored

Nashville has such a fun culture and so many little neighborhoods to explore!

12South
This was probably the neighborhood we heard about the most prior to our trip and now we know why. There are so many fun places to eat and boutiques to shop at, all varying in price, but all still staying true to the neighborhoods artsy, laid back culture. 12South is also home to MANY of the city’s fun murals! We walked about a mile to get here from our apartment and spent a good 5 or so hours exploring. Our favorite store was definitely White’s Mercantile, which is further down the street, so make sure you don’t miss it!

These stripes are on the side of the Draper James store, owned by Reese Witherspoon.

This place is on a side street right off of 12South, and was the perfect place for a stop when the heat got to be a bit much. They have a large, unique selection of beer, and we were all wishing that we could have taken a growler or two back home with us.

Hillsboro Village

This neighborhood was a bit closer to where we were staying and also home to a lot of fun food and shopping. We really enjoyed the store A Thousand Faces.

Downtown  // Broadway Street

Broadway Street in downtown Nashville is about as iconic as it gets. And it doesn’t matter what time of day it is, the place is always busy, but always has a pretty laid back vibe

The Gulch
If I lived in or around Nashville, I bet I would spend a lot of time in The Gulch. Just right near downtown, The Gulch has young and hip culture and a great mix of everything, but is still easy to get around in and feel comfortable at. It is also home to the Instagram famous “What Lifts You” mural, which were just right around the corner from where we took a workout class.

Vanderbilt
I don’t actually have much to share here, but since our apartment was right on the edge of Vanderbilt’s campus and the fact that it is also an arboretum, we decided to take a walk through part of campus. We didn’t make it over to see their stadium, but at that point pizza and getting off of our feet was calling our names. However, considering its location, I think Vanderbilt would be a fun place to go to college… and I say that as a Kansas State alum who thinks Manhattan is one of the best little places on earth 🙂

Fun Things We Did

Pedestrian Bridge

When we explored downtown during the day, we started on the other side of the Pedestrian Bridge that starts at Nissan Stadium (where the Tennessee Titans play) and crosses over the Cumberland River and ends just a block off of Broadway.

Yazoo Brewing
One of Megan’s friends from Wichita used to live in Nashville and recommended Yazoo as her “favorite brewery EVER.” So naturally, we went. We each got a DIY flight that allowed us to pick our 6 beers and spent the rainy afternoon chatting inside and working our way through some great brews. I don’t think any of us tried something that we didn’t like and we all loved the atmosphere of the brewery.

Dierks Bentley’s Whisky Row

Our first night (Saturday) we went out on Broadway and ended up spending the whole time at Dierks Bentley’s new bar. (Megan and I are huge Dierks fans!) The first level had a live country cover band and the other three floors, which includes the rooftop had a mix of live DJ’s and non-live music of all genre’s. For what is most likely their busiest night of the week, I felt like this bar was still manageable crowd-wise and clean enough all things considered. Don’t get me wrong, it was still packed, but you can tell when a bar puts a bit of thought into its flow and crowd control.

LA Jackson’s 
One night after dinner in The Gulch, our plan was hop around to a few rooftop bars in the area, but loved our first stop at LA Jackson’s, which is atop the Thompson Nashville Hotel, so we parked it there for the night. It had great views and a fun drink menu.

Country Music Hall of Fame

This museum was definitely worth the price tag (around $24)! We spent about 3 hours here, which was a sufficient time for someone like me who likes to read most of the signage. Right now it has temporary exhibits on Loretta Lynn, Shania Twain and one for Tim McGraw and Faith Hill together. My understanding is these rotate out for various artists throughout the year. The rest of the museum has a variety of permanent and other rotating exhibits that focus on different era’s and milestones of country music.

Grand Ole Opry

I was so, so happy that Megan and Kyla were both up for making a visit to the Grand Ole Opry a part of our trip! We went on Tuesday, our last night, and it ended up being a great way to round out our vacation. We had tickets on the upper deck and off to one of the sides, but the whole experience is still very intimate that we didn’t mind at all. On the bill for our night was Rascal Flatts, Dan + Shay, Carly Pearce, Chris Janson, Connie Miller and Larry Gatlin & The Gatlin Brothers. It was a fun lineup and except for Carly Pearce, this was the first time I’ve seen any of these artists live. One note to anyone using this post to help plan a trip of their own… the Opry House is a little bit of a drive outside of central Nashville. It’s not too bad at all, but when everything else is really close together, just make sure you plan for this.

Parthethon

This is the recreation of the temple in Greece that is dedicated to the goddess Athena, that resides in Nashville’s Centennial Park. It was originally built for Tennessee’s 1897 Centennial Exposition, and now includes an art museum. We didn’t make time to visit the museum, but we did snap a few pictures and Megan (who is a certified yoga teacher in her spare time) couldn’t pass up the opportunity had to “stop, drop and yoga.” 🙂

Pure Barre and Shakti Yoga
If you had told me back when we were in college that we would actively seek to add a workout or two into vacation, I wouldn’t have believed you. Not that we didn’t enjoy exercising back then, but there was definitely a time when the words “vacation” and “exercise” did NOT go together. Megan went solo to a hot yoga class one morning (just a bit intense for us other two amateurs lol) and then we all headed to a 7 AM Pure Barre class together another morning.

Food

Barcelona Wine Bar
Spanish small plates, paella, cocktails & wine are offered in an intimate, late-night setting.
This is where we ate on our first night and it was sooooo good. I’m a sucker for good tapas, and both the mood and the service at this place was top notch. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit though, that I JUST realized that there are THREE locations near me in the DC/NOVA area. There was nothing that we ordered that we didn’t like, but we LOVED the Spiced Beef Empanadas, the Jamon and Manchego Croquetas and the Smoked Pork Belly!

Frothy Monkey
Food + Coffee + Wine
We had breakfast at the 12South location on our first full day. They have a great menu and we passed on the bakery items, but it all looked great. We got here a bit early and are thankful that we missed the big brunch/lunch crowd.

Adele’s
Farm-to-fork restaurant with a cool vibe offering New American dishes, cocktails & patio seating.
I am pretty sure without even confirming with the other girls that this was our FAVORITE meal of the trip! Adele’s is located in The Gulch, has a great atmosphere and also great service. It was a bit more on the spendy side but worth every bite! I usually take pictures of my food when I travel, but never actually share them with anyone or on the blog… but I had to this time! The presentation was great and I want to give you a peek at just how yummy the food is. And though they aren’t pictured here, you can bet that we also enjoyed fun cocktails, a summer squash salad as an app and shared TWO desserts.

My scallops entree.

Megan and Kyla both got the steak.

Fido
This converted pet shop features gourmet espresso drinks, elevated food & a funky coffeehouse vibe.
We stopped here for breakfast in the Hillsboro Village. I can’t remember what the other two girls had, but my chorizo, eggs and hashbrowns with tortillas was AWESOME!

Too Boots
Offbeat chain serving cornmeal-crusted pizzas with quirky Cajun toppings in a kid-friendly space.
We had pizza delivered here for our movie night in (watched The Greatest Showman!) and I loved their unique topping combos. Not sure if it was a random one-time perk, but our delivery was free! Can’t beat that.

Biscuit Love
Bright, spacious offshoot of a food truck known for locally sourced Southern breakfast & lunch fare.
This place was easily the most recommended place to eat at in Nashville on Pinterest and now I can confirm that there is a reason why! It was SO GOOD and I’m sad that I can’t become a regular. We went pretty early on a week day because it was right around the corner from the Pure Barre studio in The Gulch, but otherwise I would recommend getting there early and mentally prepare that you are probably going to have to wait awhile (luckily Nashville does have 2 locations). And I couldn’t review this place without RAVING about the “Chronic Bacon,” which is spicy AND sweet. To clarify, my first job out of college was working for the Kansas Pork Association, so I have tried A LOT of different bacon dishes, and this hands down is my new favorite.

Mike’s Ice Cream and Coffee Bar
This bright ice cream parlor offers cones, sundaes & old-school sodas plus espresso drinks.
Two words: Espresso Milkshake…. i.e. a milkshake made with any flavor of ice cream they have with two shots of espresso added. I’m not really a milkshake girl normally, but I was 100% behind this afternoon snack. I got mine with my favorite ice cream, butter pecan, and have zero regrets.

Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville
I probably should have left this off the list, but for the three of us it is somewhat a comical part of our trip. The short of it is that it was the last day of our trip to we were worn out, it was raining, we had all become pretty hangry in the span of about 10 minutes and we were on Broadway where most places have live music acts all day every day, which is normally great except that it was SO LOUD and just all a little more than we could handle. As we walked by Margaritaville, I practically yelled at the other two ahead of me to stop and come back because while there was live music, the volume was much more manageable. (My younger self is cracking up at this right now). To be fair, the food wasn’t bad by any means, but it wasn’t anything special, except that it did the job. So my advice is to swing by for a fun margarita menu and skip the food… unless you are hangry and need to eat in quiet.

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If you have made it this far, thanks for reading, and let me know if you have any questions about visiting Nashville. We had a wonderful time and filled our tanks with a much needed reunion and best friend time. And as for Nashville, I definitely plan to go back someday!

Friendship, Travel Journal

Travel Journal: London – Part Three

Hey friends! I am back with my third and final post for my Travel Journal on my trip to London. Click below for Part’s One and Two

Travel Journal: London – Part One (all about Buckingham and Kensington Palaces, as well as St. James Park and Hyde Park.)
Travel Journal: London – Part Two (all about many popular historic tourist attractions.)

Today, my post pulls together all of the remaining details and sites of our trip, and then at the end I am going to round up some of my observations and tips for traveling to London.

British Museum

The British Museum was actually our first stop on our first day because Brandi’s work hotel was right around the corner. It was a fun (and very touristy) way to kick off our trip! Most notably, the museum is home to the Rosetta Stone and an impressive Egyptian exhibit. This is going to sound a little silly, but Brandi and I commented multiple times on the age of some of things on display. It’s not that we haven’t been to museums before, but many of the items were dated back to 2000 BC, which is just fascinating to wrap your mind around.

Doctor Who and Harry Potter

One can’t visit London without indulging in a fandom or two. For me that is Doctor Who, and Brandi didn’t put up any complaints when I asked to go out of our way to find this Tardis that sits outside of the Earl’s Court Station.

I also randomly found this Dalek, and lots of other smaller Doctor Who collectors items in this children’s bookstore.

Now when it comes to Harry Potter, I have to throw out a disclaimer. I watched all of the movies in college and I didn’t read the books until AFTER college. Even though I was a HUGE bookworm as I kid I was just never interested in reading Harry Potter and I don’t think any of my close friends did either. Fast forward to college and I made friends who couldn’t handle the fact that it was missing from my life, so I finally jumped in. And of course I loved it and am now a forever fan, but since I didn’t grow up with it, I am not quite as attached as those, like Brandi, who literally grew up with it.

I visited the Platform 9 3/4 area and Harry Potter store at Kings Cross Station with Brandi, but I opted not to stand in the 1+ hour long line for the photo opp. Brandi has already visited once with her co-workers earlier in the week so we just shopped a little in the store.

This theatre was just a few blocks from Brandi’s work hotel, which was fun to walk by.

The Warner Brothers studio where the majority of the movies were filmed are actually 20 miles northwest of London. When we looked into tickets, they were all already booked for the days that I was going to be there, but Brandi was able to extend her trip an extra day to fit the tour in, so these are a few pictures from her. I’ve been to the main Warner Brothers Studios in California, so I was bummed I couldn’t join because I knew this experience would be pretty cool. But I am so glad that she was able to make it work.

Olympic Park

The hotel we stayed at after we moved from Brandi’s work hotel, was the Moxy London Stratford, out in the Stratford area, which is also home to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park! Our last afternoon we walked over to the park and took a short boat ride on river which was led by a tour guide. He shared all about how the area was built up for the Olympics, how things looked and functioned during the Games and then what things are used for now. Brandi and I are both big sports fans so we really enjoyed this!

This tower of sorts is the large sculpture in the UK, and actually is supposed to be a different representation of the five Olympic rings. You can take an elevator or the STAIRS to the top. And, its a little hard to see from this angle, but there is actually a tube slide that you can take to get down! Or you can repel down with climbing gear. We didn’t allot enough time for it, but had we known I definitely would have planned to do the slide!

Tea Time

A trip to England is also not complete without doing tea! Brandi did the full tea experience with her co-workers earlier in the week, but I was content with the place we found in Soho, Maison Bertaux. They have been baking daily on the premises since 1871 and I learned later that it is the oldest patisserie in London. It was so cute, and SO GOOD!

The Lion King

Brandi and I never actually chatted about seeing a show until I arrived, which is kind of funny, because I think we both agree that it was our favorite part of the trip! We agreed on The Lion King pretty easily, so on Friday close to midnight we jumped online to see what tickets we could find for Saturday. We wanted to a little bit more than the nosebleeds so when we found two seats that included champagne and ice cream, that were labeled in the purple section, as two Kansas State grads, OBVIOUSLY those were the seats for us, and we sleepily bought them without dwelling too much on the price. When we got to will call the next evening we found out that the tickets also included access to a fancy lounge before the show and during intermission! And after all of that, the show was absolutely AMAZING! I teared up multiple times.

If you are planning a trip to London, seeing a show is a must, and honestly I would encourage you to let that be your splurge and let yourself get the all-around theatre experience. Obviously, there are a lot of great shows, but we highly recommend The Lion King.

Other Sites Around London

I always really enjoy going to markets in the different cities and countries that I visit, and since Brandi had never been to anything like that, I really wanted to take her. I had a lot of people recommend the Camden Market in Camden Town, so that’s where we went, but honestly I was a little disappointed. It wasn’t bad, and it was an interesting part of London to see, but it just wasn’t what I was looking for and we really could have skipped it. We did though, get our second round of fish and chips in this cute pub, called the “Camden Eye,” that had seating on the second floor that allowed us to look out and enjoy some good people watching.

I always like to buy paintings or other forms of art in the countries that I visit so we did some quick research and headed down to the Spitalfields Market, which was more of the artisan market I was looking for.

The first day that I arrived, I had the afternoon to explore on my own while Brandi was wrapping up her work responsibilities. As I walked through the Covent Garden area I discovered that London, or at least that area, is home to an endless amount of old bookstores, which are my favorite! I just couldn’t believe that there were that many. In many alleyways, and on the main street, there would be multiple stores in a row. And they all seemed to have a little bit of a different focus and range from first editions to new releases.

After an exhausting couple of days, we wrapped up the trip with good old pizza and beer.

Last Thoughts, Tips for Traveling to London, Etc.

  1. Brandi and I are both Type A and super planners… but for this trip we didn’t actually do a lot of planning ahead of time for this trip other than what was necessary. I am not saying that this is best way to do this trip but it worked for us. We did some exploring on Pinterest, asked friends for recommendations and  discussed what were a few things that each of us of interested in. But for the most part we were both content with exploring and seeing where that took us. After our first full day we had a much better idea of how we wanted to spend the rest of our time and planned that out.
  2. London can be expensive and you can spend a lot of time just getting from one place to another. I don’t say all of that to deter people from visiting, but it is important to factor in. We decided to stay further out from central London and got a great rate at the Moxy London Stratford, and then took the Underground in everyday, which was about a 20 to 30 minute ride to wherever we were going. We did  A LOT of walking, which we were personally OK with and had planned on. When it came to spending, there were a lot of extra tours that we could have spent money on, but luckily we were on the same page about what things we were OK with skipping and what we wanted to spend more on.
  3. Speaking of the Underground (London’s subway system) I would recommend buying a Visitor Oyster Card IN ADVANCE. Ordering it online, pre-selecting a balance and having it mailed to you before your trip saves you a bit of money and once you are there, Oyster cards have a daily cap in Zones 1 and 2 (central London and more), meaning once you reach a certain amount, it doesn’t charge you any more that day. Learn more HERE.
  4. Overall for getting around I would recommend downloading two apps. First, “Tube Map – London Underground,” the official app for the Underground. I spent sometime studying the map to better aquaint myself and that was really helpful. The app will give you up to date train schedules and you can map out your trip right in the app. I would also recommend “Citymapper.” I discovered this right before our trip but it actually works for any city you are in! It’s basically a one-stop shop for all things transportation and commuting, including walking. I’d explain more, but its best if you just check it out yourself! Its already become my main app back in DC.
  5. As far as money goes, I just always find it easier in other countries to convert my U.S. dollars to the local currency. With that said, I do have a credit card that doesn’t charge extra fees for international transactions, and I felt completely comfortable using it there the few times that it was necessary.
  6. I didn’t really talk much about food because I never really saw London as a “foodie” destination, so that was never a focus for us. (Note… neither of us like Indian food so that was never something we sought out.) Of course, we got fish and chips a couple of times, and then I’d definitely recommend planning on doing tea.
  7. Two FYIs… first, Heathrow Airport is 30 miles or so out from central London. I had a direct flight both ways and Brandi was traveling with colleagues, so Heathrow was still the choice for us, but I would just take that into consideration and maybe look at Gatwick as well. Second, not all of the Underground stations are handicap accessible, which means if you are using it as your main mode of transportation, be prepared to haul your suitcase up and down the stairs.
  8. Overall the locals were really friendly, and as two 20-something women practicing common sense, I don’t think we ever felt unsafe.

There is so much more I could share, but for the sake of length I am going to stop there. If you are planning a trip to London though, definitely let me know if you have any questions!

Lastly, thank you Brandi for letting me tag along and making this such a fun girls weekend! I loved going on this adventure with you (even though we never saw ANY corgis) and am so thankful for your friendship 🙂

*****

And just for fun here are some of my other Travel Journal posts:

Estes Park, Colorado

Thailand and the Philippines

Tumon Bay, Guam

New York City – Girls Weekend

Lake Tahoe, Nevada

Antigua, Guatemala