Smack dab in the middle of Texas, Part Two: Music and Culture

Back on track! Wondering a bit more about Fredericksburg, Texas? Get ready:

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Fredericksburg has such a vibrant and successful community that they represent a wide rainbow of faiths with beautiful places of worship. We took a peek inside St. Mary’s Catholic Church, which was built out of the popular and special stonework seen on many buildings downtown.

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The stone is seen here too at the cute Pioneer Museum. You can stroll through the complex and hang out in some wonderfully re-created and restored period houses full of antiques and charm.

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I mean, he just had to be included. I forgot to show off this photo when we chatted about the brewery, but it needed to be brought up. Before landing in the Austin airport and officially stepping onto Texas soil, I assumed I would just see a whole lot of this. I know, I’m sorry, but obviously everyone would be gun-totin’, cowboy hat wearin’, chew spittin Americans, right? TOTALLY WRONG. People tended to be wonderfully helpful, intelligent and hilarious. Not to mention, everyone dressed better than I did, so I digress.

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One of the best evenings was a drive down to the Luckenbach for some music and brews. Now I know next to nothing about country music, but a few new friends swore I just had to listen to some TEXAS country music, which apparently is a whole other thing. It was – slow, a little sad and mesmerizing. Legend has it Willie Nelson used to frequent this place back in the day.

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In the summertime and on warmer nights the adjacent dance hall is opened for hours of entertainment and special concerts or events. I would love to get back there and learn a little line dancing.

If you want to hear a quick clip of the singers/strummers in action, here’s a YouTube clip of the performance:

We’ll finish the Texas round-up next week with some history and everything else left I haven’t covered yet. Fredericksburg was fantastic, but it’s time to move onto Virginia! And on Wednesday I leave for Little Rock, Arkansas. Then two weeks from today I take a little adventure over to ASIA. So much is going on I’m just hold fast onto all the action and whatever else may come!

 


Where is time going?!

Honestly. This is the shortest blog post ever from me by far, but I wanted to bookmark this moment so I don’t let time slip by again! I can’t believe it’s been days since my last update, for shame. With trips and networking and life, it’s been a bit nutty. But back on track next week for some more interesting stuff, promise.

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Bi-Weekly World Traveler Interview – Erin from BrokeMillennials

I am well aware It’s been more than two weeks since the last one of this series, thankyouverymuch. I’ll get the hang of it, promise!

This post features a new blogger Erin over at BrokeMillennials, who was lucky enough to live in a bunch of different countries throughout her childhood and teens. She now resides in New York City and is scheming on her next global adventure with a twentysomething budget!

The rest is her words:

Tell us a little about your deal – who you are, where you come from!

My name is Erin Lowry, I’m 23 and 11 months old and I hail from, well that’s one of my least favorite questions. As an expat kid or TCK (third culture kid) as we call ourselves, answering that is a nightmare. My standard answer these days is North Carolina, even though I haven’t lived there in 13 years. I was born in Houston, TX and lived there for a solid three months before landing in Reno, Nevada and before I was speaking in proper sentences I had been taken to Gastonia, North Carolina (near Charlotte).

I spent my early years as a Southern Belle with Yankee parents until I was uprooted in February of 2000 at the age of 10 and we made the big move to Kobe, Japan. We were only supposed to stay for three years and have me back in time for my freshman year of high school. I didn’t come back to live in the US until college.

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Dressed up in traditional garb!

I fell in love with Japan and still consider it my home. So much growing up happened for me there from 10 (we moved in the middle of 5th grade for me) until 16 at the end of my sophomore year of high school. My family had been told we were heading back to North Carolina but when my parents were house-hunting in Charlotte in April my Dad received a call not to put an offer in on any houses. A few months later all our belongings were shipped to Shanghai, China.

I lived in China my junior and senior years of high school. I graduated high school from Shanghai American School in 2007, my sister graduated in June 2010 and my parents finally moved back to Charlotte in November of 2010, after a decade of life in Asia.

What are your earliest travel memories?
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The very earliest memories are of going to Florida for Easter vacation, but my first international excursion was at age 9. My Dad had been doing a substantial amount of international travel for work and had racked up quite the number of frequent flyer miles. For my 9th birthday he told me I could pick anywhere in the world to go and he’d take me as a father/daughter trip. Because he’d spent so much time traveling to Japan, that’s where I picked. When we ended up moving there a year later I demanded a refund.

That trip had a lot of really special memories for me. My Dad arranged for me to spend the day at a local Japanese school. I wore my St. Michael’s School uniform and just remember having to use sign language and drawings to express things to the other kids. We didn’t speak the same language, but we still had a really fun time at recess. Plus, at age 9 I’d already gone through a big growth spurt and towered over most of the Japanese kids at 5’1. I also had blond hair, blue eyes and extremely pale skin. They really enjoyed just staring at me. I remember learning extremely quickly that if I said I liked anything in a store one of my Dad’s Japanese business associates would immediately buy it for me. Japanese are really big into gift giving when trying to establish relationships. My Dad figured out pretty quickly what I was up to and put the kibosh on all my swag. The vending machines that dispensed ice cream were also extremely exciting.

But, the most vivid memory of all was one of the most traumatic experiences of my international life. There was one major flaw in my Dad’s father/daughter trip plan, he clearly couldn’t go into the public restrooms with me. On one of our drives through the Japanese countryside we stopped to use the bathroom. I walked into a stall and became very confused. There didn’t appear to be a toilet, just a porcelain hole in the floor. I opened the doors to all the stalls in the place and just saw floor toilets over and over again. Clearly, I couldn’t get my Dad’s help so I just attempted to squat down and use this strange contraption. Without too much graphic detail, I will say this was not particularly successful and my black, umbra gym shorts ended up a covered in my own body fluids. I ran out of the bathroom crying.

This was so scaring that I didn’t even attempt to use one again until I was 16 years old and on a Habitat for Humanity trip in the rural area of Yunan, China where western toilets absolutely do not exist. I am now an absolute master.

In case you don’t know what an Asian toilet looks like:

How did you perceive living in new places while young?

When we moved I was old enough to remember my “American culture” and have ties to my home country. Compared to most kids in my international school(s) I was a bit of an anomaly. Most kids started the expat experience much younger and had little to no understanding of their mother land (my sister was 7 when we moved and didn’t really “get” American culture until she moved back for college).

But, being 10 I was also adapted pretty quickly. The first few days included a lot of crying, door slamming and confusion but once I started school I got over that pretty quickly. Japan is a wonderland for kids. It’s safe and has public transit so at the age of 10 we were taking off to the movies, malls, pools and other hang out spots without needing our parents to pick us up or drop off us.

Being a Caucasian American in a homogeneous culture also put me in a huge minority both in public and at school, even though it was an international school. It was a strange feeling at first, but it also gave me the sense of being “special.” A common situation for European and American expat kids in Asia.

Moving to China was a bit of culture shock. It was so different from Japan and I missed the organized public transit and rigid structure of Japanese culture. I was 16 when we made that move though and had been to China a few times before so I wasn’t as baffled as the first move from America to Japan.

Bring us through a few day’s itinerary on one of your most memorable trips.

My mother was always the itinerary planner and I regret that I don’t have her detailed plans saved anywhere. I’m sure she does though.

I'm in the Duke sweatshirt!

I’m in the Duke sweatshirt!

My parents always took our requests and incorporated them into our plans. They also were dedicated to truly exploring countries. We didn’t just do Australia one, we did it six times and went to new cities and towns each time. I have a great memory of exploring Kangaroo Island in South Australia. First grade teacher went to Kangaroo Island and I thought that sounded like the coolest place in the whole world. About seven years after I first heard about Kangaroo Island my Mom put it in our itinerary per my request.

We explored the Great Barrier Reef, saw the New Years fireworks in Sydney, watched the Wizard of Oz on Australia’s Broadway with actors trying their hardest to sound American. We got to swim with dolphins in New Zealand, ride horses through the Outback and get up close and personal with puffins in Iceland. Clearly, we like animals.

In Iceland my parents drove straight from the airport to the Blue Lagoon where we got to relax after our flight and soak in the world’s best skin exfoliate.

It’s hard for me to remember full days from all our international adventures. Instead I have a highlight reel in my head of favorite moments, be it a water village in Halong Bay, Viet Nam, walking the Great Wall of China or dining in an old Irish castle.

What is the craziest person you’ve met while on the road?

I throughly enjoyed walking the beach in Viet Nam and a girl, no older than seven, telling my father she’d “bust a cap in his ass” if he didn’t buy the flowers she was selling. Got to love the lasting legacy American GIs left in “Nam.”

Truthfully, it isn’t so much the crazies that stay with me, but the faces of all the young children in various levels of poverty who wanted hugs, smiles, candy and just to speak with the strange-looking foreigners. My Dad’s blog has a post recapping some of our families best experiences:


Tell of a stereotype you thought about a place and how your perspective may have changed.

The cliche answer would be Paris. In a combination of expat kid and broke millennial fashion, I cashed in half my frequent flyer miles to take a trip to Paris my senior year of college. A good friend from my high school in Shanghai was taking a semester away from Cornell to study in Paris. I went to visit her prepared for all the American stereotypes of French people disliking us and identifying me immediately as an American before I even opened my mouth.

Truthfully, I had nothing but a grand time in Paris filled with pleasant people. I even tried my hand at ordering for myself in French at most restaurants and didn’t get a single sneer. Having never spoken a lick of French before visiting I knew my accent was atrocious, but everyone I interacted with seemed to at least appreciate the effort.

In my chances to travel I’ve really learned to always attempt to speak a few words of the native language.

With a friend in Versailles.

With a friend in Versailles.

Anything else you’d like!

Growing up as an expat is something I value and credit for a lot of who I am today. Even thought it meant constantly losing friends to moves and never really knowing when things could drastically change, I was able to have more travel and cultural experiences by 18 than most people experience in a lifetime. It’s also a lifestyle I hope to get back to one day. Even now, it’s hard for me to image staying in one place for longer than three or four years.

Thanks so much Erin! You can check her blog out here and follow her budget adventures at @BrokeMillennials. In the next few days the Texas series will continue. Feel free to reach out with your own great travel stories (even if they’re just dream right now!) I love chatting travel.


Smack dab in the middle of Texas, Part One: Food and Art

I’ll be doing a brief three-part series on the culture of Fredericksburg, Texas, getting into the real nitty-gritty when the spring issue of Canadian World Traveller is released!

You think by now I would get used to be blowing away by new places but it really never gets old. Like many Yanks, I had plenty of predispositions about Texas in my head before I ever stepped foot in the state. Luckily, all these ideas were totally smashed by such a hospitable, humble group of people. Texans really are a rare breed – sure, they may not be hip to the latest song or fashion craze, but they exude such an inspiring humility and a smart, quiet, hard-working persona that is infectious and leaves me wanting to lead a simpler life.

This was most prevalent among all the insanely talented peopled I met at the wineries, locals shops, restaurants and art galleries. some people may poo poo at a full itinerary, but it gave me a rare chance to not only experience a new destination, but truly learn about the people behind the scenes that make it all come together.

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My first introduction into the art scene of Fredericksburg was a small taste at four very different but all equally impressive galleries in town. For a town of only 10,000, they have one of the coolest and most eclectic art areas I’ve ever witness in the country.

Of course they have mostly realist, traditionally Western art, which I think can be best experienced at Whistle Pik Galleries. They have curated a collection that is both classic and contemporary, featuring notable talent such as G. Harvey and Robert Moore.

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Two new and fresh galleries, Insight and Good Art Company had contrary feels but lots of personality.

The Good Company had one of their resident artists, Omar Gaza, right in the front parlor, proudly displaying his intricate masterpieces of horses and cowboys. Further into the gallery features bold jewelry statement pieces and a few more abstract still lifes and landscapes.

Insight was open and airy with plenty of natural light to perfectly compliment the collection. They also had a basement floor with skylights that held more work from international artists.

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At the end of the day, the Artisans at Rocky Hill really rolled out the red carpet for us. Featuring ten of their in-house artists, many from the area, this gallery had everything from grandfather clock sculptures, silk-dyed scarves, oil paintings, mosaics and plenty of take-home pieces.

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They even made us homemade goodies and offered great Texan wine while we got to listen to their amazing stories. I love how some would mention how they were bankers or business owners then turned thier focus to art instead, following thier passions and talents. I wish I could name them all, but do check out their website and see for yourself all the great work these individuals are doing.

As much as I wish I could wax poetic all the amazing eats in Fredericksburg I was honored to sample, I’ll have to stick to the highlights for now.

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Fried pickles at the Fredericksburg Brewpub. Amazing and a bit spicy!

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Grilled Mahi Mahi at the Bejas Grill & Cantina

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Part of our four (!) course lunch paired with Texas wine at the beautiful Woodrose Winery

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Some indulgent chocolates I brought home from the Chocolat company downtown. They do specialize in liquor-filled sweets through, which I obviously grabbed a box of as well.

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As the grand finale, an elegant dinner presented by the Fredericksburg Herb Farm. This rack of lamb wasn’t even my meal, I had the venison, but each presentation, and taste, was flawless.

The art is different than big city offerings like London, but it certainly had it’s own flavor to admire. I’m obviously stuffed and satisfied, literally and figuatively. Next post will dive into the music and culture scene of Fredericksburg, which got better and better everyday I was there. I’m not even a history buff, I usually find myself snoring through museums, but this place really did have some amazing hotspots that made it all come alive.

Have you ever visited somewhere and was surprised at what you found? Texas so far was definitely one of those places for me and I can’t wait to go back someday.


Where else can I find you online talking about travel?

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Although I’m lacking in sleep, my time in Texas has been absolutely fantastic. It’s true what they say though – most of Texas wine is drunk in state, and I am certainly the one drinking it all. I can’t keep up, there’s so many delicious varieties! Besides wine, there’s art galleries, Texas nouveau cuisine, cozy accommodations and really, truly, the friendliest people I’ve ever met.

But that’s all I can say for now, because our days are jam packed with things to do! I’m on call in 20 minutes and haven’t showered yet!

While I wander around, I thought I’d just offer all the other places on the web I’m actively chatting about my adventures. I’d love to find you there too and interact!

Twitter

Instagram

Foursquare

ViviTrip: A fun little site that acts like Facebook for travelers – allowing you to post pics, comments and track your trip on a world map alongside others.

Quilt: This primarily is a smartphone app where you can hook up with other travelers and “stitch” together the story of your trip through posts, tips, photos and whatever else you like to share.

Even LinkedIn!

Look forward to connecting on all platforms and I’ll be back soon with details from this Texas trip!


A Jersey Hidden Gem: The Bernards Inn Review

I don’t know where the time goes…it flew by and now it’s almost April! or so says the calendar, because I’m still freezing and walking through slush in New England. Hurumpf.

Luckily, last week I was able to drive south a few hundred miles to at least escape the snow and have a little break. It as a quick business trip to Northern New Jersey and I wasn’t expecting many surprises – a bit of shmoozing, some dinner and back on the road. However, I was invited to stay at The Bernards Inn for my evening in the state and couldn’t have been more thrilled to have such a memorable time at this charming, elegant and hidden-gem worthy of a place. There’s nothing I love more than accommodations with character, and the inn was bursting with stylish decor and amenities that were truly one of a kind.

In the small town of Bernardsville, about a 1/2 hour west of Newark, is a destination steeped in history that takes pride in it’s past stories of settlement, wealth and success. On a hill are some beautiful mansions once own by several notable investors, which mirror the class and style of the inn located in the center of town.

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Rooms are frilly, yet sophisticated, and each have their own decor, which exudes a grace and mimics a time long forgotten when attention was paid to the details – from dark wood, four poster beds to plenty of storage space tucked into practical, yet masterful furniture. I love how I was welcomed with a beautiful note and treats whipped up in the restaurant downstairs – these things are standard at an inn with outstanding hospitality. Bathrooms are perfectly suited to the space as well, with plenty of toiletries branded with their signature, shiny silver “B” stickers.  Not only are the rooms gorgeous, this theme was carried through the entire property- right down to the roaring fireplace in the spacious, comfortable lobby.

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I’m trying to figure out how I can justify a future wedding in the middle of New Jersey, because the property was that lovely, especially its event spaces. The massive reception room adorned with chandeliers, ideal for an unforgettable ceremony, was my favorite. Downstairs are cozy rooms and parlor-style areas that boast original stonework from the stables that adjoined the space a century ago. Style carries through to the wine cellar as well, paring each meal upstairs perfectly with a flavorful libation.

New Jersey travel - The Bernards Inn

By the way, the cuisine alone should have it’s own post. Whether you’re passing through the area or staying a few nights, make time for a sit-down luncheon, dinner or at least a cocktail in their stunning restaurant. I was thrilled to have lunch there, complete with towering, fresh salad, lobster pot pie and a tangy blueberry sorbet. There’s space for a quiet meal as well as a large bar, complete with grand piano that has live music on the regular to set the tone.

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Bacon/radish mega salad with homemade dressing

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Giant chunks of lobster buried under a puffy, flaky crust (food is seasonal though, check the menu!)

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So many blueberries in this sorbet!

Absolutely blown away by this hotel. Hands down one of the best and most hospitable places I’ve stayed in my travels so far. These are the spots that keep me going when I don’t want to drive one more hour or get aboard another plane – it’s the people who are eager to show off their accomplishments and reflect this mantra in their amazing passion for tourism, accommodation and unwavering hospitality. Kudos to the staff, owner and whole team at The Bernards Inn for making my road trip to Jersey an easy one. The full report will be live on In The Know Traveler soon, so keep an eye out!

After a predicted hectic Easter weekend, I’ll be off to Fredericksburg, Texas for a (hopefully) relaxing week of wine, hiking, art, history and anything else I can cram into my first experience in this state. Next time though, I’ll update you on my unplanned 24-hours in Philly that I took as a detour on my New Jersey journey.

Freelancer Tip #4: Reach out to everyone and anyone. It can be easy to feel isolated, so when the opportunity to meet clients in person arises, jump at it. Forming a face-to-face bond is often longer lasting then something online as well. Even a quick Skype date comes in handy to forge those professional relationships!


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.


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