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anxiousadventure

Right, where did we leave things?

img_1784My last day in London was one of the best. I was on no particular time frame. I had tea scheduled at 12:30 PM at One Aldwych Hotel  – I highly recommend this! It was the first thing I had planned when I booked my trip. I woke up around 9 am and headed out towards Westminster Abbey. During one of my other tours, the guide had mentioned the lines could get long. I also learned while waiting in said line, that if you booked your tickets online, you could skip the line – so, that’s something you might want to look into. Westminster was absolutely amazing, awe-inspiring and humbling. While my knowledge of the Tudors is mostly thanks to Showtime, it is still amazing to walk by the tombs of these past kings and queens. I was especially floored to view Charles Darwin and Newton’s memorials. I was a good girl and didn’t take pictures, but I wish I had. You’re not allowed to.

 

After Westminster, I took a few shots of the clock tower and parliament, and headed back to my hotel to get ready for tea. Tea was … amazing. The level of service provided was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I felt completely spoiled, which for someone who actually is completely spoiled, that’s saying a lot. The theme of the tea was ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’. The dessert course was extravagant. My favorite was the edible chocolate golden goose egg filled with vanilla cheesecake filling, topped with mango puree. The oddest bit was the rhubarb flavored cotton candy. o_O

After tea, I walked along the river Thames for a bit taking pictures and thinking and processing the fact that I had just completed a vacation in a foreign country by myself without an anxiety attack. In fact, I feel as if I flourished in London.

I headed back to my hotel and took a quick power nap. I had scheduled a haunted London tour for 7:30 PM.

The tour was …. OK. I wouldn’t recommend it. We traced the steps of Jack the Ripper which was cool. We saw the memorial for William Wallace. The most exciting part of the trip for me was seeing the roof and call box at St. Bart’s where Sherlock was filmed.

 

I headed home after the tour to finish packing. I had to get up early to catch my flight home. I truly cannot wait to go back to London. I feel like it’s a problem because there are other places I’d like to visit, but I’d be perfectly content visiting London again.

 

And sometimes you have to sleep until noon.

And eat ice cream for Thanksgiving dinner.

After waking up at 6:30 am on Tuesday, and 4:30 am on Wednesday, I ended up sleeping until just about noon on Thursday. I struggled internally with wanting to go out and explore and being just too damn tired to do so. I decided that I would be no good sight seeing if I was exhausted and I let myself sleep.

When I finally was dressed and ready to go, I set out in search of …

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Harrods is huge. No, really. Even with a map, I had to go back twice in order to find the ice cream parlor. There were several eateries in the lower levels, a produce store, butchery, raw bar, etc. Holy cow. Huge. Store. I did find the ice cream parlor. So, I present to you my delicious Thanksgiving dinner …. A Creme Brûlée  Doughnut with Chocolate, Vanilla, Hazelnut and Raspberry Gelato.  Yeah, it was good.

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Before I had returned to Harrod’s in search of ice cream, I had walked around Hyde Park and had lunch at the Hard Rock. I didn’t fare so well with the British cuisine. I’m a bit of a picky eater, so I tried to find American type restaurants.

I zipped back to my hotel and changed so I could meet my friend Rob and his fiance Laura out for some Cheeky Nandos!

Cheeky Nando’s is a British expression typically used on social media to describe a quality dining experience at the South African restaurant chain Nando’s. In late 2014, the phrase began trending in captions of selfie photographs featuring subjects making an “A-OK” hand signal.”

They introduced me to my  new favorite food : Halloumi Cheese! I was a bit surprised I enjoyed, because again, picky eater. But it’s freaking delicious.

Rob and Laura also introduced me to my first proper pub, the Nag’s Head. I ordered our drinks from the bartender, paid, WITHOUT tipping. That still feels unnatural!

After the pub, Rob and Laura walked me to this club called Cahoots! I saw it on Buzzfeed. It’s 1940s-themed and has an old railcar in the actual bar. The interior design was pretty cool. The bouncer out front – super hot. It wasn’t as busy inside as I thought it would be but everyone played up the ’40s theme. This was my third encounter with the foam thing on top of the drinks.

I didn’t take many pictures on Thursday. It was really my first day to catch up on things. But I enjoyed getting out and walking around. The underground system in London is extremely accessible and easy to follow. I ended up getting out of the bar super late and I grabbed an Uber. It would have been 9 pounds, but I had a coupon, still that wasn’t a bad deal.

You, me and Paris

1img_6131It was approximately a year ago I sent a text message to my biffle with the text: “You, me and Paris?” superimposed over an image of the Eiffel Tower.

It’s been approximately 17 years since I’ve contemplated visiting Europe at all.

Day two of my trip found me tossing and turning, fighting my way through lucid nightmares of sleeping through my 4:30 am alarm and missing my Euro Star train to Paris.  My parents had bought me an awesome tour package to Paris for the day as a birthday present. Thanks Mom and Glenn.

I did wake up on time. I only had a tiny meltdown, when for some reason my curling iron decided it didn’t agree with European outlets. I had prepped my already curly hair for curling, so I had to yank a brush through it and flat iron it in about 15 minutes to make my taxi cab for 5:15 am, to make it to the train station for 6 am.  Yeah… I’m already not a morning person, let alone a jet lagged, it’s really 1 am morning person.

When I met up with tour group at St. Pancras, I received my train ticket and had to step away for a moment.

img_6421Yep. Good ol’ seat 13. You might be asking, “Anxious Adventurer, why would this make you cry? ”

Well blog readers, my dad passed away when I was a kid and 13 was his lucky number and my lucky number. Ever since his passing, 13 always seems to have a way of appearing on my birthday. And this year is no different. It made me feel at ease immediately.

The train ride itself was uneventful, save for the rampant painful ear popping. I suppose that’s the price you pay for descending beneath the depths of the ocean. I still can’t quite fathom how they create tunnels under the ocean. I suppose I could google it …

My first impressions of Paris derived from District 18. It was difficult to shake the Hunger Games out of my head every time our amazing tour guide spoke of districts. I was a bit surprised by Paris. My cousin had spent a few weeks in Paris on her honeymoon, and I wasn’t as enchanted by the city as she is. I definitely prefer London. Paris seemed extremely crowded, frenetic, and graffitied. That said, I was all but hopping out of my seat when came upon the Moulin Rouge. That movie was the very first DVD I ever owned.

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The bulk of my pictures were taken through a bus window .. the whole ‘panoramic’ tour of Paris. But ah, the Moulin Rouge. Our guide explained that it’s not Can Can, it’s pronounced Con Con, to resemble the noise geese make. She truly was a great guide. After the bus tour, we took a cruise down the Seine River. At the end of the river tour, the sky cleared up, offering a crisp blue background for the Eiffel Tower.

Lunch at the Tower took a little bit longer than I would have liked. Even with “skip the line” lunch passes, it still took a good 45 minutes to get seated.  We ate lunch, weird foam thing again …. bought some souvenirs, and then my tour friend Ron and I had to book it down the 350 stairs from the first landing to make our bus. Worth it. Better down than up 🙂

After the Eiffel Tower, we had the option of exploring the Louvre or exploring Paris on our own for two hours. Now, there was a noticeably greater police presence in the city of Paris, but I didn’t feel as comfortable in Paris as I did in London. I don’t speak French apart from saying Hello, Goodbye, My name is Jenn, Do you want to have a threesome with me? I ended up opting for the Louvre tour, which wasn’t in my original plans. I couldn’t be happier.

While I consider myself a patron of the performing arts, I had no clue how much I would love the Louvre, mainly because of how much Roman and Greek statues were there. I also had NO clue it used to be a palace before Versailles was built. Again, thanks to our great tour guide — she used to study at the Louvre — she led us around quickly from room to room describing the history of pieces, rooms, and more. It was quite the experience.

Paris was the one place I had no cell phone service and I was actually OK with that. I was able to check in once in a while via WIFI to let people know I hadn’t been “taken”. But I feel I was able to enjoy a much richer cultural experience. Our group was almost 100% Americans (Yay Thanksgiving break) and there were a few tweenage girls who were playing games on their phone and I just wanted to give them a shake and say “Do you know what you’re seeing?!” Even when I was 12/13 and my parents had taken me up and down the East Coast camping – I was the one telling them about plantation life at the plantation grounds in South Carolina, or completely enthralled in Charleston listening to the stories being told on the horse drawn carriage rides. Paris was just… an experience. The Louvre was an experience. And the Mona Lisa … was super small.

Please do not take photographs…until you know what you’re photographing..

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Or … the most passive aggressive tour guide ever.

Day 2.

The best of London Tour! Or… perfectly adequate views of some of the sights of London tour as I call it. It was fine. But I wouldn’t call it the best. The tour guide was … sassy for a middle-aged British dude. His comments were for sure aimed at me. But I can take photos and listen simultaneously …cheeky entitled American. I’ll let the photos do the talking.

I visited St. Pauls Cathedral, Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, cruised the River Thames, Greenwich, and took a ride on the Eye. There are a few shots in from the bus as well.

St. Paul’s was … beautiful. Buckingham Palace was entertaining. There were heads of state arriving in the carriages and tourists about lost their minds over it. The Tower of London was massive. I had no clue how large it was. I have so many more photos but I tried to pick my favorites, and just I played with the color levels on some. As a big fan of Jonathan Rhys-Meyers and the Tudors, I loved seeing the birth place of Henry the VIII.

London Day 1

I don’t think I had any set expectations about how traveling solo in a foreign country would feel or be, but it certainly wasn’t anything like my trip was. My trip was … amazing. It was stress free. It was peaceful. It was full of doing exactly what I want, when I want. Which I tend to do anyway, but this was different. I typically do most things alone anyway, but I didn’t have any type of set schedule, apart from the tours I had booked. I allowed myself to be spoiled — by myself without feeling guilty. I had booked a more expensive hotel. And it was worth it. I owe it to myself after the last few years of hard work and dedication to my career and my own self-worth and happiness to a ‘treat yo self’ vacation.

As soon as I de-planed and got through customs, which didn’t take nearly as long as I thought, it actually took longer coming home, I bought a SIM card for 30 pounds. It had 12 GB of data. I barely used a gig. I highly recommend doing that if you’re traveling abroad. It gave me a London-based phone number, internet service, texting, etc. The London number helped for apps like UBER and for the taxi services, etc.

My hotel. I stayed at the Radisson Blu Edwardian Vanderbilt. Yeah. That’s a mouthful.
I loved it!  I arrived around noon after taking a cab with My London Taxi (They were great). My room wasn’t supposed to be ready until 3pm, so I had planned on just dropping my luggage and roaming London, but low and behold, my room was ready, and not only that — the hotel upgraded me to a King Suite! I did a little dance in my head. I had also mentioned upon booking that I was staying in London for my birthday. As soon as I had unpacked a few of my articles of clothing, a knock on the door — and WINE compliments of the guest relations advisor for my birthday.

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Yes, Radisson Blu, you have won me over. The room was just beautiful. It did feel very posh and fancy, but I loved it. I had read that the rooms were typically small, especially the bathroom. And it was, but for a solo traveler, it was fine. I never did figure out how to make the bathtub work…

 

The room had a mini fridge, hair dryer, shampoo, conditioner, soap, etc., robes, slippers, the heat worked, had a lovely view of Kensington, and probably the best feature of all was that it was barely a 3 min walk to the underground station.

My first night in London I spent drinking wine and eating M&Ms fighting my jet lag! I headed out to dinner with a friend — to a highly British spot TGIFridays! No really. Food was an issue. I’m a picky eater. I tried to stick to mainly American eateries. I was baffled by the fact that they have no ranch.

 

Across the Pond and back.

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I had trouble getting my keyboard and WordPress to sync together well, and I was also exhausted at the end of the day. I didn’t end up posting while I was away, so I will post now retroactively. I’ve just spent about three hours editing photos from my FIRST day in London. I loved it. The city is absolutely beautiful and ripe with history. It’s the sort of thing you just really don’t see here in the states. You might find it in Philly or Boston or DC. Which might have been why I was drawn to living in Boston way back when.

My flight over to London was uneventful. I should have taken a picture of the airline food but I didn’t want to be that girl. Next time, I’ll be that girl. It was some weird curry chicken thing with mush and veggies. I was told it was couscous? But from my dedication to the show Chopped, it definitely was not in fact couscous. In addition, there was a roll, crackers, cheese, a “salad” which consisted of a few leaves of lettuce and two giant tomato wedges. An overcompensatingly large side of caesar dressing accompanied said ‘salad’. There was a lovely prawn appetizer with cocktail sauce and a brownie dessert. I saved the brownie. Again, the flights were pretty uneventful. I flew from Ft. Lauderdale to Atlanta, and naturally, the international gate is on the clear opposite end of the airport so I had to all but run from one end to other as I had a mere 20 minutes between flights by the time everyone had gotten off the plane. I was glad I had paid for the SKYY extra comfort seat with guaranteed overhead space, comfort kit (ear plugs, sleep mask, toothbrush, world’s tiniest toothpaste, ear buds, hot towel service, and unlimited booze service).

I only had two or three “Holy Shit, I’m actually flying to another country all by myself because I wanted to” moments. And I only forgot to pack a hairbrush and an umbrella.

Twas the night before Travel

15055784_10105798729426592_4548350375789760392_n.jpgTwas the the night before travel
And all through the house
Not a person was lurking
Not my mom nor her spouse.

My dog she was snoring
Breathing deeply by my side
Visions of catching lizards
Playing behind her closed eyes.

When from the spare room arose an odd racket
It was my empty luggage calling, sad I hadn’t begun to pack it.

Ok, but really. It’s 1 AM. I technically haven’t begun to pack yet. I’ve managed to throw the things I want to pack on the bed in the spare room. That’s close enough. I have most of the day tomorrow to pack. I’m not … super worried.

My mom threw me a surprise party tonight. It was a combo Birthday / Going Away Bon Voyage deal. It was ridiculously thoughtful and awesome. It was part Paris and part London, and wholly awesome.

I decided to upgrade my seats on the flight over to London, because why not. I also decided to book a car service to and from the airport to my hotel with My London Taxi.  Because why not? I think I’m most excited about having my name on a board.

I will be tweeting, Instagramming, snap chatting my trip, so stay tuned for that. I’m going to try and get some sleep.

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Mini adventures in between.

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I had myself a quick solo mini adventure this weekend and it was amazing. There have been more than a few obstacles in my personal life in the last two weeks. This weekend had been set aside for the Reeve Carney concert at The Abbey in Orlando and Food & Wine Fest at Epcot.

One of those two things didn’t happen. Two of those things almost didn’t happen.

My original plans involved one of my best friends who owns his own business, and due to that, sometimes our plans fall through. They fell through. I almost balked and scrubbed my plans to see Reeve. The concert tickets were only $10 a piece. And due to stressors, anxiety and depression in my personal life, curling up in bed this weekend to spend some quality time with the Salvatore brothers and Vampire Diaries on Netflix sounded extremely appealing. And then I realized — If i can’t handle a concert by myself, the hell am I doing going to Europe by myself! Geronimo’s the way.

I booked myself a hotel room a mere 5-minute walk from The Abbey. I’m quite thankful I have a job now that allows me to do so on a whim. I couldn’t do that when I waited tables. And I set off on the turnpike. I witnessed a pretty horrific accident en route to Orlando that left me in tears. I’ve yet to make it through 10 days in a row without crying, but I’ll be OK.

Let me just tell you — Reeve Carney puts on an AMAZING live show. His album is on iTunes.  He’s listed as ‘alternative’ but I wouldn’t classify him as that. It’s more bluesy, folksy, he sings from the soul and heart and is very melodic and piano guitar heavy. He co-starred on Penny Dreadful, a Taylor Swift video, my dreams nightly, and starred as The Amazing Spiderman on Broadway. His voice on the album does not do him justice live. He was playful, interactive with the crowd, and so so so humble. When he sings, he goes somewhere else. You can see how soulful he is, and how connected with his music he is. It’s beautiful. He met all of his fans at his merch table at the end of the show for pictures and autographs. The fact that the venue was intimate and not super crowded really added to the vibe of the show. It was the first time in weeks I’ve been able to just let go and relax, and breathe.

My favorite Reeve song is Geronimo — which he didn’t play last night. “When your heart is afraid, Geronimo’s the way.” That’s my motto.  My whole life has changed in the last five years. Feel the fear and do it anyway. That song pulls at my soul.

I wanted to write about it. And share my photos and I hope he sees them.

 

Less than a month to go!

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My pinterest is becoming overrun with London lists, the spare room in my house has transformed into a staging area for packing, and the countdown is on. My trip abroad is less than a month away.

I still get giddy when I casually mention that I’ll be in London and Paris. I finished shopping today with a cute dress for tea at One Aldwych.  It’s pretty fantastic looking, the tea. Not the dress. Although the dress is adorable too.
Tea:

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The best part about this trip is the actual -lack- of anxiety that I’m feeling. I think part of that can be attributed to the fact that I’m going alone and I’m not relying on anyone to be there for accommodations and such. I’ve got a few tours picked out. I’m taking a mega tour of London, the Paris day trip, and a haunted London tour. It will leave me with one full day to explore on my own.

I’ve got the cell phone thing figured out. I’ve got transportation figured out. I’ve got everything pretty much figured out, and I feel great.

I was a bit emotional a few weeks back because I can’t help thinking about how far I’ve come from the person I was even four years ago. This trip … going abroad, overseas, Europe, has been a LIFE LONG dream. It’s one I never thought I’d realize. I’ve struggled with depression, anxiety, sadness for so long. I’ve busted my ass in the last few years to try and become a happy, healthy functioning adult. I can remember when I moved home from Boston back in 2012, how much of a struggle it was for me just to get out of bed. And now I wake up every morning happy (relatively) and with purpose. I have attained every single goal I’ve set for myself. And this is just the beginning.

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