Picky Picky Picky

Uncategorized

When I was about six, my family and I went on a trip to London. One of our last nights there, we were out to dinner and I ordered a cheese pizza. I (allegedly) proceeded to complain that it tasted funny and I couldn’t eat it. Now the UK isn’t known for its culinary greatness (please see beans on toast), but it’s pretty hard to mess up cheese pizza. My parents, being so over me, took a bite to prove there was nothing wrong with the pizza only to be met with the culprit: nutmeg. The pizza was covered in it and let me tell you – pizza and nutmeg is not a great combo.

Unfortunately for my parents, there were blessed with a picky eater – me. My diet consisted of cheese pizza (no nutmeg please), the right kind of chicken nuggets, and buttered noodles. I ate carrots but only raw (gotta get them nutrients). And just the slight deviation from what I wanted caused a hunger strike and/or a tantrum. (I’ve been teaching my family patience since 1995. What can I say it’s a talent.)

As I got older, my diet has expanded. I am still partial to a cheese pizza (hold the nutmeg) and my ultimate comfort food is still buttered noodles, but traveling as a picky eater isn’t easy. I’ve learned to love plenty of new foods, discovering new loves everywhere I go.

While traveling, I don’t always have the ability to only eat what I want. So I use a couple of tricks to not starve, which might be helpful to reassure fellow picky eaters or those traveling with picky eaters, young and old:

I implemented something we used to use with the three-year-olds at summer camp and I always try to do a “no thank you” bite – give it one bite to taste and say no thank you if I still don’t want to eat it. I can happily say I’ve tried escargot and crocodile meat, but I am happy to never eat them again. At the same time, I’ve gotten to try quite a few new foods that were a little tastier.

Especially when traveling with friends (and especially when traveling with less picky eaters), it’s a nice part of traveling to taste test the local cuisine, but maybe the picky eater in the group is concerned about trying something new. Solution: share a plate of the new and exciting food and give it at least one bite. Splitting a plate gives everyone a chance to try something new, but not feeling the pressure to miss out on your safer meal.

Speaking of safe meals, if you’re picky, bring a back-up. I always pack a Cliff bar or two in my bag. Better safe than starving. I also highly recommend stopping by a local grocery store (partially to skim what is and isn’t the same to your home) and grab some snacks. Maybe you’re scared of the local spice level or maybe you’re in a town where everything closes at 8:00 p.m., but having a bag of chips or some bread and jelly can keep a lot of hangry fights at bay. (This advice is also relevant to the vegans, the dairy-free, the allergy-prone amongst us…)

So much of travel is putting yourself out there and trying new things. But it can be overwhelming. Doing all of that adventuring while hungry won’t turn out well.

Visiting a Friend

Travel, Uncategorized

I’d been looking for a reason to visit a friend who relocated to Bloomington, Indiana. Bloomington is home to Indiana University and located about an hour south of Indianapolis. Visiting in passing during my undergraduate time in Indianapolis, I never really explored the area.

In debating the best time to visit, I saw a show in Indy that I would love to see – one of my current bands on repeat is Joseph, a sister trio with the most soothing harmonies and the most beautiful lyrics; they were playing at the Vogue in Broad Ripple not far from Butler. After a quick text confirming my friend was a) in town that weekend and b) interested in picking me up from the airport and housing me for a few days, I booked my flights to the Midwest.

(Hot tip: Surround yourself with friends who will not only go see your favorite band with you, but who will also listen to their music in the months beforehand to sing along with you at their concert.)

I had grand plans to fully explore the city of Bloomington and see all the sights. I did my research and complied a list. (Spoiler alert: Bloomington is pretty small and the list was pretty short.)

Despite my preparations, we spent most of the time hanging out and catching up. We did go for a wander of IU’s campus and we did find a couple of murals in Downton Bloomington, but it was mostly a trip to say hi.

Joseph was an amazing concert, the weather was wonderful, I took time off of work, and I ate both Kilroy’s breadsticks and Hotbox breadsticks. Not a bad weekend if I do say so myself…

One of my yearly resolutions was to visit friends who moved to new cities – maybe this is the catalyst for me to make a couple more trips (New York or New Orleans next maybe?).

Extroverting Introvert

Travel, Uncategorized

Every once in a while, I’ll express stress or frustration about having to put myself out there in order to experience even slight success at what are sometimes the most mundane of challenges. My mother always reminds me to “get my extrovert on” and get it done.

The concept of extroverts and introverts is really not as clear cut as defined. My personality type requires time to myself to recharge and I am unlikely to throw myself into a conversation with someone I don’t know. However, life sometimes calls for being an extrovert. You may need to make new friends or ask a question or throw yourself at the mercy of an extrovert in order to survive your new surroundings. It can be overwhelming.

One of my favorite things about travel is meeting new people. That’s particularly challenging for me but oh-so rewarding on the tail end.

In order to successfully adventure as an introvert, I’ve collected goals for myself that allow me to get the most out of my travel experience.

Don’t sit down. The temptation after traveling somewhere new is to sit down on your bed and maybe take a little snooze. Don’t. Firstly, you’ll end up asleep and jet lagged. And secondly, you’ll miss out on meeting people. Especially if you’re in a study abroad program or in a hostel, people tend to be excited and open to meeting new folks from the second that arrive. Take advantage of that excitement and roll with it. You can sleep later.

Smile. I know it’s such an American thing to do, but it works. Maybe you’re sitting in your first day of class or hanging in the common space of your hostel – keep your head up and at least a mildly pleasant expression on your face and you’ve increased your chances of an extrovert taking pity on you.

Keep yourself disconnected. It’s really tempting to just sit on your phone with your head down and your headphones in, but that’s just closing yourself off. I’ve mentioned that disconnecting helps with easing homesickness before. If you’re not attached to your phone at all times, maybe someone or something will catch your eye.

Go to those awkward meet and greets. I know no one wants to partake in the horribly uncomfortable experience of sharing your name, hometown, and a fun fact about yourself. But sometimes that’s what you need to do. Most folks at that kind of event, whether it’s welcome drinks or board game night at the hostel, are looking to be social – seize the moment.

And lastly, accept that sometimes you’ve just gotta be an introvert. Traveling or moving or starting something new, all of these are great ways to learn about yourself and spend some time looking inward. Who are you? What makes you happy? Everyone (introverts included) would benefit from a couple of minutes of time alone to self-reflect. And that’s okay. Not everything about life has to be overwhelming.

Exploring Georgetown

Hometown, Uncategorized

One of the perks of my current living situation is the proximity to one of the cuter parts of DC. Georgetown is literally across the water from my apartment and is walkable. Georgetown is pretty impossible to drive to and isn’t Metro-accessible, which can make it a pain in the butt to visit.

Getting there: I find the easiest way to get to Georgetown is to take a little walk. You can park your car at Rock Creek Park and wander over along the waterfront or you can find parking in Rosslyn and walk or take the free Circulator bus across the river.

What to do: The main attraction of Georgetown is the shops along M St. There’s anything you could want from Kiehl’s to Nike to Starbucks. It’s also always rotating, so you may visit two months apart and see new shops where another had previously been. I’m not a huge shopping person, but the window shopping opportunities are good and there’s plenty of people watching. (Warning: good weather means people and Georgetown can get packed, especially during tourist season.) I love a good wander, so I’d recommend ditching the main road and taking a stroll up the hill towards the cute houses there or down the hill towards the waterfront.

(In the winter, Georgetown Glow lights up the night and the waterfront hosts an ice skating rink for your winter activities.)

Where to Eat: Farmers Fishers Bakers has a great brunch if you’re in the mood. Skip Georgetown Cupcake and get a sweet treat from Baked and Wired instead. And if you want a bit of history with your meal, visit Martin’s Tavern.

Bonus Bits: Georgetown University is right there – it looks a bit like Hogwarts… And the House of Sweden (home to the Embassy of Sweden and the diplomatic missions for Iceland and Liechtenstein) is on the waterfront. Both host events that are open to the public if you’ve interested.

Five Favorite Things: Museums

Five Favorites

Growing up, I was very spoiled by the quality of museums in the DC area. And many of them are free to visit (shoutout to the Smithsonian). I could learn about history, art, space, animals, you name it, all within a few walkable blocks. When I started traveling around and museums weren’t up to snuff and they charged me to visit, I was supremely disappointed. I’ve popped my head into many a museum over the years, in various places. In reflection, some of my favorites are free and some are not, and only one is in DC. Here’s my list of five favorite museums:

Musée d’Orsay, Paris

If you find yourself in Paris, ignore the instinct to wait in line to get a grainy picture of a thousand hands in front of the Mona Lisa. Unless you have all the time in the world, the Louvre is not nearly as interesting as we were led to believe in elementary school French classes. Paris is an architecturally beautiful city and one of its gems is the Musée d’Orsay. Housed in a former railway station, the Musée d’Orsay houses some of the most stunning Impressionist art. I could spend hours wandering through the pieces and people watching. Plus if you go upstairs, you get a pretty good view.

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Children’s Museum, Indianapolis

Got kids? Despite being a little older than the target demographic and lacking in a child of my own, the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis was visited many times during my Indiana inhabitance. The fourth oldest and the world’s largest children’s museum is home to interactive and educational fun, ranging from dinosaurs to space to a carousel, all indoors. The space also hosts rotating exhibits (I even went with my grandma to see the terra-cotta soldiers there).

Courtauld Gallery, London

Another place I visited with my grandma was the Courtauld Gallery at the Courtauld Institute of Art. When my mother and I visited London many years ago, we purchased the London Pass which ended up not saving us very much on anything, but led us to a smaller gallery just a few blocks from Trafalgar Square. Located in Somerset House, the gallery has a wonderful collection of paintings that includes Manet, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne, as well as ceramics from the Renaissance and Degas sculptures. It’s usually much calmer than the National Gallery down the street so you can avoid the chaos that is tourist London.

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Renwick Gallery, Washington, DC

Another gallery to avoid the crowds is my one DC gallery on this list. Part of the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum, the Renwick Gallery is a smaller space that allows each piece to take over individual rooms, shaping the experience with the integration of the piece into the physical space. The gallery is located literal steps from the White House and, because it is part of the Smithsonian family, entry is free.

Glyptotek, Copenhagen

The Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen was a surprise find on a family trip to the city. The collection was built around the personal collection of the son of the founder of certain well-known beer. Though the primary focal point of the museum is sculptures, the highlight of my visit was the beauty of the collection in a stunning building. White sculptures stood out amongst crisp colorful walls; an atrium filled with plants sat at the center of the museum; the ceilings are just as stunning as the floors. And there’s a beautiful rooftop space that gives you a lovely view of Tivoli Gardens.

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** I do feel I should defend my list slightly. It’s heavy on the art galleries and lacking slightly on the quirky museums every city seems to have. Don’t get me wrong – the Natural History Museum and the Museum of Natural History are two favorites. The Air and Space Museum in Dulles is also really good, and I will never turn down a little museum that is oddly specific. But the ones on my list make me (want to) return again and again. They’re places I’ve spent hours and hours, only to leave and wish for more hours in the day.

Snow Covered Sheep and Sally Lunn Buns

london, Travel, Uncategorized

We’ve got chilly, dreary weather and it has me reflecting on what might’ve been the coldest day of my life. In early March of 2018, I took part in a day trip through the International Student House in London. They organized the transportation and tickets for a visit to Stonehenge and Bath.

Getting up very very very early on a Sunday morning, we made the trek to ISH and hopped on a small charter bus. One of the toughest things about visiting Stonehenge is simply getting there, so shout out to pre-organized transportation. After a slightly frightening drive thanks to a winter storm hitting the UK, we made it to the stones. The trip was originally scheduled for January and ended up snowed out – the March date was also very close to being snowed out. As you can tell from my pictures, it was snowy all morning, making roads quite treacherous. Fortunately, despite the site closing due to weather, they let us in.

Our tour let us go right up into the inner circle of the stones and a very kind man explained the history of the area and the various theories behind the placement and transportation of the rocks. (My contribution to this part of the day was to regularly nod and say “aliens“.) Stonehenge is admittedly a little overrated and a long way from nothing, but getting to wander this close to the rocks surrounded by a fresh blanket of snow was an amazing experience. You could read where past generations had carved themselves into the stones and stand in awe at how the rocks could possibly be moved to this exact spot.

Once we were ushered away from the stones so they could close the site for the day, we hopped back on our bus. I tried to convince everyone to sneak one of the many snow-covered sheep back with us, but was turned down. It was still relatively early and still not particularly nice out, but we took mostly back roads towards Bath and made it with no accidents. (Our step count for the day was particularly high thanks to the shaking of the bus.)

Our scheduled activity in Bath was a tour of the Roman Baths. Despite it being freezing outside, it was quite steamy in the baths. The tour was interesting and the baths are in great condition despite their age.

After our tour, the plan was to spend the afternoon in Bath exploring. (We had to fight a girl who wasn’t properly dressed and wanted to go home, but we got our afternoon.) Bath is relatively small, and our first stop was lunch.

We wandered our way over to The Salamander, a cute and cozy pub off the main drag and had beer and burgers. Once we warmed up, we wrapped back up and continued our explorations. Bath has plenty of shops if you’re interested, but we found ourselves down by the river and crossed the Pulteney Bridge to the other side for an exploration.

On a warmer day, I’m sure the riverside is packed but we were not there on a warm day. With our time dwindling, we made our way back across the water and popped our heads in Bath Abbey.

Our last stop was possibly the most British thing we did all day (besides regularly commenting on the weather) – we stopped for tea. And not just at any old café, we stopped at Sally Lunn’s Eating House. Older than the United States, Sally Lunn’s tearoom is home to the famous Sally Lunn bun. We had ourselves some tea and some scones and a Sally Lunn bun.

Once we’d eaten our fill, we made our way back to the meeting place, did an accidental loop of the Baths in search of our bus, and headed toward London. And all before it got dark at 5:00 p.m.!

Christmas in London

london, Travel, Uncategorized

Most of my visits to London had been quick trips made in the summer or spring. It wasn’t until I moved there for grad school that I truly experienced their winter. And I learned very quickly that London loves Christmas. And they’re right to… There is something truly magical about London between the months of November and January. The city lights up in the most unexpected and lovely ways despite the dark and dreary weather. It gets cold, but not freezing most days. There’s occasionally snow but only enough for you to appreciate it before it’s gone.

What I love the most is the festive feelings everywhere.

A wander down Oxford Street and Regent Street will show you storefront after storefront with holiday-themed displays perfect for a bit of window shopping, with strings of lights reaching from building to building. Carnaby Street and Covent Garden also get all dressed up for the occasion with giant ornaments, lights, wreaths, and general festive cheer.

Trafalgar Square hosts a massive Christmas tree, while Somerset House and the Natural History Museum fill their courtyards to create skating rinks.

The U.S. has still not adopted the Christmas market to nearly the extent Europe has, which is a bit of a disappointment in my opinion. Hyde Park turns into Winter Wonderland, filled with rides, hot cider and wine, food, games – and entrance to the experience is free. So you can wander the crowds and take in the sights and sounds on the cheap. Leicester Square also hosts a smaller Christmas market with little booths to shop at. It’s much easier to pop in and out of than the Hyde Park situation.

Though it gets dark early and the weather is not ideal, there’s nothing quite like wandering past a pub and seeing everyone wrapped up inside enjoying their evening, or passing by a window display of a man dressed as a tree or only in brussel sprouts, or seeing lights flicker on overhead as you drive by on your double-decker bus.

Winter is a magical time to be in London.

December in DC

Hometown, Uncategorized

No, we don’t really get snow. And yes, most of the city seems to disappear for the month. But DC in December is still a lovely place to be.

Last year, I happened to get a tour of the White House during the holiday season, but there are plenty of accessible (and mostly free!) options for a festive December in DC.

The National Christmas Tree is lit, with smaller trees representing each of the states (and territories!). My favorite part as a child was always the massive Yule log (because it was warm after being outside freezing!).

The National Botanical Garden gets festive as well. There’s a model train display and this year’s theme is botanic gardens from Hawaii to Maine.

Less flora, more fauna? Head to the National Zoo for ZooLights! Most of the animals will be snoozing, but you can wander amongst the light displays of all your favorite zoo friends.

Speaking of lights: Georgetown lights up for Georgetown Glow. The curated lights display takes you on a path through and around Georgetown with different installations. Each year brings different artists and different spots for the area to light up each night.

Maybe you don’t want to drive all the way into the city? Old Town Alexandria is always a lovely place to visit, but in December it definitely keeps its charm. The first weekend in December is the Scottish Walk supporting the Campagna Center. (There’s always plenty of pups, too!)

My personal favorite part of the holidays is a good Christmas market. Luckily, there’s one on F Street. The Downtown Holiday Market features local artists and crafters, as well as food stalls. It’s a great stop for a last minute Christmas gift and reminds me of London at this time of year.

Have you got any festive plans for the month of December?

Dubrovnik: A Love Story

Travel

I already wrote about my roadtrip down the coast of Croatia in a previous post, but felt that Dubrovnik deserved its own dedicated post.

We chose an Airbnb that was a light twenty-minute walk from the old city and absolutely loved it. We were able to cook ourselves breakfast and dinner for most of our time there, saving some money. Some of us were doing work and could relax on the WiFi. Plus it gave us a more realistic idea of the area than just the tourist zone.

We planned our time in Dubrovnik around the arrival of cruise ships. Since Dubrovnik was used as a set for Game of Thrones, tourism to the city has grown exponentially. Cruise ships also favor the city, which means that the city is flooded with bus groups and cruise ship tourists during the peak of the day, but empties out some in the evenings. To avoid big crowds, we planned our aforementioned trip to Kotor on the cruise ship day that overlapped with our time in Dubrovnik.

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(It’s been a while so my timing might not be quite right – forgive me. And take any schedule I provide with a grain of salt.)

Our first day, we wandered around the city. The historic part of the city is inside the city walls, so we focused our explorations there. Just like Venice, Dubrovnik is a place you could get lost in, just wandering down winding roads and alleys, turning corners that end in the water. We had soaked in the sun, ate lunch at a small restaurant in an alleyway, and had plans to take the ferry to Lokrum Island. Unfortunately, we were still in low season and the ferry only ran once or twice a day.

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Our backup plan was a quick sea kayaking adventure. We rented kayaks from just outside the city walls and did a loop of the island. The island has tons of inlets and caves that you can squeeze into and take a look around. I made the great choice to wear jeans on this adventure, which resulted in me walking through hoards of tourists looking like I’d just peed my pants. It was worth it. Following that adventure, we returned to our Airbnb and slathered our sunburns in lotion.

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Our second day in Dubrovnik began early. We wanted to climb Mount Srd to Utvrda Imperial (Fort Imperial) before it got too hot. The view from the top is pretty spectacular, but the hike is serious work – it’s a steep climb with lots of switchbacks and next to no shade. Many people seemed to prefer taking the cable car up and hiking down, but we finished our trip up and back before lunch. Definitely bring water and some snacks (there’s a cafe up top but its usually busy and quite expensive).

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After showers and a relaxing lunch at our Airbnb, we went back into the old town for the City Walls Tour. We went at the end of the day to catch sunset. The whole thing is a loop, so take your time. It’s also nice to pause and look down, letting larger tour groups pass by, and see the city still recovering from its relatively recent turmoil. After our tour, we grabbed food in the old city at one of the many restaurants and enjoyed a scoop of gelato to end the night.

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Our last morning in Dubrovnik was spent at Lovrijenac, the fortress just outside the
city walls that featured in Game of Thrones. Our City Walls tour tickets included Lovrijenac, which is an interesting place to explore.

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After another scoop (or two) of gelato, we went back to our Airbnb and headed north.