Category Archives: Hop to Eastern Europe

Top 3 travel things to do in Greenwich, England

My boyfriend (we’ll call him X) moved to the US from England when he was young, but always has been strongly drawn “back home”. When a business opportunity for him to train in the UK for three weeks came up, I immediately bought a ticket to join him.

Obviously London is just one of the coolest places on the planet, but X was itching for a day trip to Greenwich. This is where he was born and where he spent many summers exploring the town with Mom, Dad and his brothers. I was thrilled to experience it too, as I heard it was soaked in nautical history. I’m not crazy about the past, let’s be honest, but having X show me around was like hiring an expert tour guide without the price tag.

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After getting off the tube, we walked a few minutes through the streets of town and made it to the banks of the Thames. Here is the massive Cutty Sark ship, now encased in a display structure made of glass around its base. It’s the last surviving tea clipper ship and still looks magnificent as I’m sure it did decades ago.

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Honestly, I completely forget where we wandered after that, but X brought me to a museum in a massive columned white building. Maybe the Queen’s House? Anyway, doesn’t matter, because they had KNIGHT STUFF. Move over 8-year-olds, I have some imagination to do.

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Next stop was the Maritime Museum, full of shiny things and interactive exhibits. The highlight for me was the temporary Ansel Adams display, who was the reason I got into writing and snapping photos. Funnily enough the pictures were curated by a museum back home in Massachusetts and transported to Greenwich. I did love this place but started to glaze over a little when X went on a giant diatribe about the British hero, Horatio Lord Nelson.

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It was pretty unbelievable to see the actual jacket worn by this vice-admiral – the same one he was shot in while doing battle. You can easily see the bullet holes.

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Before wandering around the observatory, we waged a battle of our own to stand on either side of the Prime Meridian, which was established in the 1800s to help ships navigate the nearby waters.

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This is just a beautiful area. You hike up some stairs or come through the park at a gentler slope and are rewarded with a vista of the city below. Alongside the prime meridian is the observatory, with London’s only planetarium.

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I have a French macaron problem/addiction/obsession. This is only exacerbated because there’s none to be found in Boston. So when I’m anywhere else I drop everything at the sight, including buying one of these blue ones at an outdoor market that cost 7 DOLLARS, but I digress. Totally worth it.

When you make it out to Greenwich and have a sunny day to spare, don’t miss these three spots:

1. Cutty Sark

2. National Maritime Museum

3. Royal Observatory

It’s a charming detour for its marketplaces, museums and pubs off the beaten path. It’s not the suburbs, but it’s a lot slower paced and offers stunning views of the greenery below when you stroll through the hilly parks. I’m a little jealous X comes from such an amazing little place.

Have you ventured outside central London on your trips? Find anything cool?

Next week I’m taking a little road trip to New Jersey. Let me say, I can’t get enough of my car and the open road. PS, his name is Jose, he’s a little black coupe, Latin and bisexual. Which suits me perfectly for a quality, reliable road trip partner.


Going with the flow at Seville, Spain’s “Feria” celebration

Although I am thousands of miles away, every April my heart goes right back to the dirt streets of Feria, where horses are ridden down temporary paths, skirts swish and drinks are poured by the dozen. I’ve never seen anything like it in person before – in the middle of nowhere on a massive abandoned lot in Seville, Spain, a pop-up tent city is erected and filled with traditional dancing, meals, music and lights that flicker until dawn.

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Every year the massive archway, that is dozens of feet high, marks the entrance to the temporary chaos of Feria day and night (seen on the bottom right of the photo). The design is changed every year to highlight some of man’s accomplishments – when I was there in 2010, there was a nod to the birth of aviation.

The whole thing goes on for a week, with months to prepare. Women wear traditional flamenco-style dresses and the males often dress as horsemen. Families have their spot carved out for years and each clan owns a tent with a wooden platform to create their very own bar/restaurant/dance floor that’s invite-only. Everyone does the Sevillana, which is a kind of flamenco line dance that locals have mastered since birth, done in partners or in groups (usually just the girls). There are larger public tents for the common folk and tourists to enjoy, plus food vendors, live music, drinks and anything else you might need to throw a giant outdoor party. Not to mention the actual carnival for kids attached, complete with rides and coasters and plenty of bad 80s music to go around.

Who knew I would acquire a taste for “rebujito“, a supposedly cold drink almost always served warm, made of sherry and lemon-lime soda. After the third or seventeenth shooter though, it wasn’t so awful. It certainly helped get me on the dance floor more often than I would sans rebujito!

I had a dream that I was going to make a mini documentary about being an au pair in Seville someday and the wonders of Feria. It might still happen, but for now I think it’s time to unearth some of the footage I took while in the city.

For example, see below. Raquel, out faithful dance teacher, did the impossible – this poor girl took a room full of bumbling foreigners from a half-dozen different countries and turned us into passable Sevillana dancers. Here she is demonstrating how to use a shawl while moving to the rhythm.

The work paid off, as my friends and I were invited to a couple of private tents, allowing us to see how the locals do it and do it flawlessly. I later crashed my way through the steps in the public areas, but for that evening I simply watched in awe and wished I could absorb this infectious Spirit, or as they call it, “duende”.

With all this tradition floating around, making you feel as if you’ve stepped back in time, it’s refreshing to be a little progress among the polka-dot ruffles and shots of sherry. These handsome gentlemen took the stage in one of the public tents and showed everyone up. Work. Bravo.

If you want to even dream about hitting Feria one of these days, plan way, way in advance. Unless you have an in or some friends who live in the city, accommodations are booked months in advance. I would suggest couch surfing or even a home swap/stay around that time, unless you have the cash to drop on an inflated hotel price. I was lucky to be an au pair living downtown at the time, sporting prime real estate near all the action.

In an upcoming post I’ll highlight the Holy Week too, which happens before Feria for the seven days leading up to Easter. Sevillanos do holidays right and shut down their entire city for parades, processions, food, partying and dancing until dawn. This is all BEFORE Feria too! Then I took off to Lagos, Portugal, for another party, but that’s another story.

Freelancer Tip #3: Listen, you are on the job even when you are not on the job. Of course enjoy your trips and live free, but don’t miss the chance to jot down some notes about a potential article angle or spend some time snapping well-composed landscape photos. Stay curious, even when home – you never know who will contact you about a lead or image request, so be constantly collecting and learning.


A joyful journey to the end of the world – travel in Lagos, Portugal

I have a lot to see on this planet, which often deters me from stepping in the same place twice. But when the chance to go back to Lagos, Portugal, I couldn’t resist the crazy perfect beaches, cliffside views and vibrant nightlife that pulses through the cobblestone streets. Historically it’s been a busy port city, and now it’s a hub of Portuguese culture, food and fun. Last time I was there I was 21 years old and out of my mind, so this round was a little more subdued. But let’s be honest, it was still a carnival ride of hazy colors, breezy shores and the friendliest people around. I went for a long weekend with the party boys at Discover Sevilla and my new au pair friends from the U.S. and Denmark.

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If you find yourself in this southwestern corner of Europe, you have to see the sunset at “The End of the World” in nearby Sangres. The wind is so strong you can barely hear yourself think but it adds to the excitement of being hundreds of feet off the ocean floor. If you are going to jump an let the wind catch you like these two are doing, for the love of God, do it far away from the cliff.

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Photo fans can’t miss the chance to capture this endless view of sea and sky and some memories with their friends. Everyone was keeping it pretty classy here, but I certainly saw people let loose later on. A definite stop on your nighttime magical mystery tour should be Joe’s Garage downtown. It has a spring break vibe but it small enough to feel personal. Either get ready to take shots on fire and dance on the bar throughout the weekend, or grab a calmer cocktail during the week when the crowds usually head home.

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A lighthouse marks the cliffs to avoid some serious damage.

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Beach all day, dance all night. Some of the areas are a little run down with abandoned buildings. But everything is clean and sunny, so you barely notice. I personally think it distinguishes it from some of the other resort towns. This image was on the way to the beach where we swam and played volleyball all day in the heavenly weather. Plenty of restaurants are located along the ocean as well, stocked with seafood specials and drinks to help handle the heat. If you speak a little Spanish or Portuguese it’s helpful, but you’ll be more than fine getting by without it – pointing and smiling is pretty universal.

PS – Happy Valentine’s Day all you crazy lovebirds! I’m going to partake in the madness and enjoy some lovey gushy stuff myself, but you do you today and own that bowl of ice cream or hot date, whichever it may be. In fact, I am going to indulge both.


A clueless walk around London’s art scene

I don’t know the difference between a Monet and Matisse. Alright I do a little, but go with it.

While in London I was on complete sensory overload and was trying to keep my mind distracted from the bitter cold. Of course I visited the museum and got an eye-full of naked marble statues, but right out on the streets is where some of the city’s hidden creative jewels lie. Sometimes I didn’t know what I was looking for, others popped right out of the scenery like magic. Art is in the eye of the beholder, and it can be seen all day, everyday, especially when in a fresh location.

This isn’t exactly the “scene”, but from an untrained, unhipster viewpoint this is what drew me in at a glance.

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Throughout Box Park there are posters and installations up for the visual taking. Not only is this entire complex in Shoreditch made of old shipping containers, the restaurants, shops and consumers themselves are all canvases. This print in particular really did make me snort aloud, as it’s a deer wearing a tiger onesie proclaiming “Thanks Mum!” Hoot.

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Art students sketching fashion inside the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. I wish I could draw myself, but I’ll leave it to the experts.

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Statues are obviously a staple in cities, but they can often be overlooked. These horses were running through Piccadilly Circus. How a sculptor can catch movement in stone and metal is beyond me. I could have stared at the details for hours, but tourists were climbing all over them so I moved along quickly.

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Of all the things to see at the Wellcome Collection museum and exhibit, the visitor made mini-drawings were my favorite. The entire wall was lined with these, stored behind two white tables filled with colored pencils, as twenty-somethings furiously scribbled away to add to the installation. I’m not sure there was a rhythm or reason, but I found them to be a small, small window into the mind on a whim.

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Some more highlights from the visitor installation and the Wellcome Center in Camden.

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And yes, here you go. A marble man from the V&A museum, bits covered for the young viewers. All the same, London’s streets, museums, people, food, dirt, performers, lights, sounds – all of it is art. It all adds to the city equally and nothing would be the same without each part playing a role. Cities like London are the best, because no matter how many times I return, things will change and it will be new, as I venture to alleyways, exhibits and into the night.

Who else has been to London? I adore the idea that we all take in things completely differently. What caught your eye?


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