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.

**********

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

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.

Photography, Year in Review

Top 20 Favorite Pictures From My Camera in 2017

This post was actually something that I had thought of doing at the end of 2016, but never made it happen. But after another year of fun experiences behind my camera, I decided I needed to make it happen this time!

I always want to make it clear to others that I don’t think of myself as a photographer. I know a few things from practicing and being a communications professional, but I have way too much respect and admiration for both friends and strangers who take photos for a living, to claim to be anything more than an amateur.

For example, I took my camera out with me when I was feeding cows with my Dad when I was home for Christmas. Dad was taking a bale out with the tractor, which meant that the cows would let me get pretty close. Plus, it had snowed the day before and around mid-morning it was beautiful and sunny, so I just knew I could get some pretty good photos!… And guess who didn’t realize until JUST LAST NIGHT that I never had an SD card in camera the whole time, so all those photos were gone the second after I took them #notarealphotographer.

Regardless, photography is something that I really do enjoy and from time to time some of the pictures that I take aren’t half bad for an amateur (especially when the location is gorgeous).

So, in no particular order, these are my top 20 photos that I took in 2017. I originally tried to just pick 10 photos but it was impossible because of my big trip to Thailand where I saw so many beautiful things!

Enjoy!

“Docked” at a private island on the Andaman Sea near Phuket, Thailand. (More photos like this.)

Karon Beach in Phuket, Thailand. (More photos like this.)

Karon Beach in Phuket, Thailand. (More photos like this.)

On the Andaman See near Phuket, Thailand. (More photos like this.)

An island snack in Thailand (bananas and purple potatoes). (More photos like this.)

Elephant in Phuket, Thailand. (More photos like this.)

Jim Thompson House in Bangkok, Thailand. Thompson played a big role in revitalizing the Thai silk industry after World War II. (More photos like this.)

Jim Thompson House in Bangkok, Thailand. Thompson played a big role in revitalizing the Thai silk industry after World War II. (More photos like this.)


Flowers at the Pak Khlong Talat flower market in Bangkok, Thailand. (More photos like this.)

Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand. (More photos like this.)

Wat Pho Temple in Bangkok, Thailand. (More photos like this.)


Touring a cookie and cracker manufacturer (that uses U.S. wheat flour) outside Bangkok, Thailand, with the 2017 U.S. Wheat Associates South Asia Board Team. (More photos like this.)


Paul Bunyon’s Foot on the hike to Gem Lake near Estes Park, Colorado. (More photos like this.)


Nothing spectacular about the quality of this picture, except that it is hilarious. Thanks Mom 🙂 (Up at Gem Lake near Estes Park, Colorado) (More photos like this.)


This was NOT on zoom! (Up at Gem Lake near Estes Park, Colorado) (More photos like this.)

Hard Red Winter Wheat Harvest in North Central Kansas. (More pictures like this.)

My family pup Jack. (More pictures like this.)

Early morning walk around Phillips Reservoir near Sumpter, Oregon, in the Blue Mountains. (More pictures like this.)

My best friend Megan in the Blue Mountains in Oregon. (More pictures like this.)

Obviously I didn’t take this one myself (thanks Megan!), but I wanted to include it because I really like. In this picture I know I was relaxed, in my happy place (my family cabin in the Blue Mountains) and surrounded by my family and best friend. It is certainly not a perfect picture in many ways, but its very me 🙂

Career/Professional, Friendship, Kansas

A Week in the Midwest

This past week I made a trip back to the Midwest for a week full of learning and professional development, catching up with friends, fun and work. Other than the fact that there wasn’t much relaxing, I’d say that it was a pretty well-rounded (and very full!) trip.

AFA Alliance Forum

If you know me at all personally, chances are you’ve heard me talk at some point about Agriculture Future of America (AFA). This collegiate organization was a game-changer for my college experience, and continues to have a huge impact on my life today. Every year during the annual Leaders Conference for students, there is along a forum for the AFA Alliance, the organization’s alumni branch (but you don’t have to be an alum to join!) of which I am a lifetime member. I was so excited to be allotted the time from work to attend this year’s forum. Simply put, these are my “people” and I always leave my time with them feeling refreshed and with new ideas and tools to implement in my work-life and environment. This year’s forum focused on “Trust.” Trust between the agriculture and food industry and its consumers, trust in systems and working through what we don’t understand, trust between colleagues in the work place and more. We heard from speakers on time management, negotiating (on many levels), cultural intelligence and asking better questions. We also spent time chatting with each other about the high’s and low’s of what we are facing as professionals in the agriculture and food industry, which fostered opportunities to learn from each other.

If you are a professional in the agriculture and food industry and are looking for a opportunity for professional development I would highly recommend joining the Alliance and I would love to answer any of your questions!

I ALSO am very excited to share that my peers selected me to be a part of the Alliance Planning Committee, so in 2018 I will be serving as its Vice Chair and in 2019 I will be its Chair. So basically… be prepared to hear a bit more about all this in the time to come 🙂

Kansas City is one of my FAVORITE cities!



Boulevard Wheat is my FAVORITE beer so I was pretty excited that I finally had the chance to visit its brewery in KC. On the last evening of the forum, we had a joint reception there with the AFA Track 4 students (so primarily senior getting ready to graduate in December or next May.)


On Sunday morning, Michael, Ted and I joined Track 4 again for a panel discussion on “Pursuing Lifelong Leadership”…so basically chatting about our experiences navigating our post-grad lives and “adulting”, the importance of staying involved in things that fuel your interests and develop you personally and professionally and anything they wanted to ask about. And they really did have some great questions! I really enjoy these kinds of things because for me, having mentors that get me and a network of people whom I can go to with complicated questions or even chat with about the seemingly little things with has been something I certainly don’t take for granted. I hope that even if it was just for an hour, that something I said resonated with and encouraged someone else.

He wasn’t at the forum, but I was able to squeeze in a quick brunch with my friend Zech who is now living in KC. Zech is one of my sister’s good friends from high school, so it was great to catch up with someone from good old Eastern Oregon and hear about the really awesome stuff he is up to now. I love when we all grow up and my sister’s friends become my friends too, and vice versa.

Wichita

After I was finished with the Alliance Forum, I picked up my rental car and drove the quick 3 hours to Wichita, where Megan, my best friend and college roommate lives. Since I was in KC for the the forum Thursday through Sunday and then had a work event there scheduled for the following Thursday, it didn’t really make sense for me to fly back to DC again in between. I took one of the days off from work so we could get some quality time in together and then spent the other full day working out of her home office. Keeping up with friends when you live so far away from each other and have separate full lives going on is really hard, but so worth it when you have some great ones 🙂

Thank you Megan and Aaron for letting me crash for a couple of days!

Sonic is scarce on the East Coast, or at least in my area, so I went straight for the Route 44.

Megan’s pups Ned (german shepard) and Luna (corgi mix) were never far from the new excited person in their home…

Trade Talk

After a few quick days in Wichita, I drove back up to Kansas City for the National Association of Farm Broadcasting (NAFB) annual Trade Talk event. This event is a part of a larger conference, but essentially it is a day where organizations and companies across the agriculture and food industry set up booths featuring their spokesperson(s) and broadcasters from across the U.S. cycle through and record interviews all day long. That gives them a bank of content they can use sooner if the topics are timely or they can save it for the next few months when they need to fill in their programs. It also allows us as an organization to focus on a few topics and talking points that are at the forefront for us right now. It was a long, but fruitful day.

I decided the booth needed a bit more flair this year so I made two of these arrangements while I was in Wichita. I was pretty happy with how they turned out 🙂

So I’m back in DC now for a few weeks… until I travel back to Kansas (Manhattan this time!) for another work trip at the beginning of December. Lucky me!

Cheers!