Winning London: Part 1

You might be pretty excited by the title, but I’m not talking about the Mary Kate and Ashley movie from the early 2000’s today. Waah waaahhhh. Although, shout-out to them for making a really great movie, not to mention they were the original fashion icons of my generation. Their outfits during that entire movie were so classy and amazing.

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Well, look at me, maybe we will talk a little bit about the movie! Anywho….. I am actually going to take you on a quick trip around beautiful London, England! We are going to hit some of the hotspots, then wrap it up for the day!

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Your first stop should 100% be Westminster Abbey. It is an absolutely gorgeous building, inside and out! One of my favorite things to do when visiting a new larger city is look at the cathedrals, because you really get a taste of the incredible architecture. I have rarely seen a cathedral that was disappointing.

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Westminster Abbey stands tall in the city, and it’s hard to miss because it really is in the center of everything. I have to hand it to London, most of the major tourist hot-spots are all in the same area, making it very easy to walk and see a lot! When you go into Westminster Abbey you are not really allowed to take photos inside, which was a major bummer for me. I guess they want to keep the allure, which I suppose I understand. I will warn you, it is very expensive to get inside, but in my opinion it was well worth the cost for the experience and the history! You have years and years  of famous monarchs getting married, crowned, and buried in Westminster Abbey. It’s incredible to see all of the people who are buried there like Mary Queen of Scots, Elizabeth I, Jane Seymor, most of the Henry kings!! Incredible! AND! They have a large corner called the Bard’s Corner that pays tribute to authors like Shakespeare (heard of him?) and Jane Austen!! So much history in one building.

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I also highly suggest coming back at night and looking at it then! The way they light up Westminster at night is so beautiful and almost haunting, especially on a rainy London night. Make sure to explore all areas that you can! We loved this corridor that leads to a beautiful courtyard in the back! It kind of reminded me of Hogwarts!

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After you have explored Westminster Abbey till your heart is content, your next stop should be Big Ben and Parliament. Westminster Abbey is next door neighbors to the Parliament building! Again, I love how close everything is in London!

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Did you know that Big Ben is actually the nickname of the clock itself, not including the tower? The tower is called the Elizabeth Tower; it was renamed in 2012 to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee! Also, can we just take a moment here and talk about how adorable  the Queen is?! I’m not sure if it’s because she reminds me of my Grandma, but I just think she is the cutest little lady!

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Ok, back to London. One of my favorite views of Parliament and the tower is from Westminster Bridge. You can walk out on the bridge (or even cross over to the other side of the Thames) and get a great view of the building! One of my favorite parts of walking around London was hearing the chimes of Big Ben. When we went, it was the last time Big Ben was going to ring for awhile because they were doing some restoration on it, so that was really special.

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Another super cool thing we got to see was Parliament letting out of session! At one point we walked around the corner and all these men and women were dressed in old clothing and had powdered wigs on!! It was both fantastic and hilarious. Jackson, being the fearless guy that he is, walked up to one of the younger looking Parliament members and asked if we could take a selfie with him. Yes, I know that this was the most American thing we could have possibly done, but looking back on it now it’s one of the funnier moments in my life. Turned out the member we selfied with had just begun his time serving, and he thought we were hilarious….so…. we were Parliament approved.

There is so much to do and see in London that I could hardly cover all of it in one blog post. I thought I would start with two of my favorite places, then eventually I will put out the second half. I hope that if you ever get the chance to go across the pond, you take it! London is a neat city, and one that I hope to visit again in the future!

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❤ Abbie

P.s. This should go without saying, but I did not take the photo of Mary Kate and Ashley or the photo of the Queen. Everything else was taken by me. Obviously.

For Grandpa…

This post is written in honor of my Grandpa Jachym for today, his 95th birthday. Thank you for your constant love, beautiful hand-made wooden objects, and sharing all of your travels with me over the years. I cherish each moment I get to spend with you, and each story that tells me a little more about the young man you were. This post, this journey, it was inspired by you.

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In my life I have traveled to many different places. I’ve gotten to see natural wonders like the Cliffs of Mohrer, incredible homes like Versailles, huge cities like New York, but none of them meant as much as this little town just outside of Reims, France.

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As Jackson and I were planning our Europe trip there were many places on our must-see list. Places like Edinburgh, London, and Paris, were absolute musts for us, but when I knew for sure we were going to Paris, I knew I had another place that made it to the top of my must-see list. You see, my grandpa used to tell me these amazing stories about the times he was overseas during WWII. He would tell me about visiting Versailles, about running around England and stealing chickens (I didn’t say his stories were legal…. but brilliant and hilarious, nonetheless). He would tell me of his home outside of Reims where his unit was stationed. He shared the photographs of the places he visited, which always made me long to visit these locations. So, when I found out we were going to Europe I asked if I could borrow his photographs to take with me, and he gave them to me without question.

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One day, while researching places to visit in France I found writing on the back of his old photograph that read, “Our home at Pargny Les Reims.” I showed it to Jackson because I thought it was cool, and he asked if I had “Googled it”? For some reason that had never occurred to me, but I am thankful every day that it occurred to him. After a quick search, he found a photograph of the exact same home that was in my grandpa’s photo some 73 years ago… and the best part? The home has become a bed and breakfast. Friends, when I saw that I was instantly in tears. Even now just thinking about it I am holding back tears. To find a very specific non-famous location continents away from my home just seemed unfathomable, but here we were staring at the beautiful home on our computer screen. That was it for me. I booked our stay immediately and it instantly was moved to the top of my list.

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We left Paris for a one night stay in the small town of Pargny-les, Reims at La Baleiniere Bed and Breakfast. When we arrived we were greeted by the lovely owner of La Baleiniere, Patricia. She and her family were some of the most kind and helpful people I have met. We were having trouble connecting to the internet, so her daughter set up our phones. When we wanted to take a trip into Reims to see the famous Reims Cathedral, her husband drove us. I can honestly say they were the best hosts we have ever had, and I would go back a million times over.

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When we arrived Patricia gave us a tour of the rooms, and told us about the history of the home. (When I found this place I emailed Patricia and explained my grandpa lived there during the war, so she already knew my side of the story.) The home was owned by her husbands family for three generations previous. During WWII the home was first taken over by the French army, then the German army, and ended with the American army.

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She showed us the places in the walls where the American soldiers carved their names in the stone. She showed us the burn marks on the floor where they put out their cigarettes. She told us how during the winter, they would chop down a tree and shove the tree in through the window, then chop it up to go in the fireplace. Unfortunately, the Americans didn’t really know about the history of the home, so they kind of beat it up back in the day. Looking on it now, so many years in the future was really incredible. I could just imagine my then-young grandpa standing at the fireplace and watching men play darts.

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We had the entire half of the bed and breakfast to ourselves because we went in February, which is an off-season. We had full roam of the dining room, library/game room, living room, and our room. We arranged to stay in the Hélène suite, which was honestly divine. I have never stayed somewhere so lovely.

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In the morning our hostess made us a lovely breakfast, then we had to head back to the train station to make it back to Paris. There were so many amazing moments on our trip to Europe, but for me this one topped the cake. It was not only beautiful, but emotional. I wish my grandpa could have been there with us.

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When I got back to the U.S, I made a trip up to Ohio to visit. I got to tell my grandpa about my trip. I got to show him my photographs of La Baleiniere. I’m not sure how much he understood, but I will never forget his smile when I showed him the picture of me standing in front of the place he used to call home in that little small town in Reims.

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Happy birthday, Grandpa! I love you!!

Abbie

Wanderings: Arthur’s Seat, Scotland

An actual Europe post?!?! WHAT?!?! Look who is being productive!! I thought this would be a great first post on our incredible Europe trip! Hiking Arthur’s Seat was one of my favorite (and most sweaty) parts of our Edinburgh stay! I would say that this should be top priority on everyone’s Edinburgh bucket list!! Also, one of my best friends, Adele, is heading to Edinburgh next week so I thought I would give her yet another thing to look forward to!! So Adele, this one’s for you! Today we will be making the trek up Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh, Scotland!

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Now from the bottom this thing looks like a mountain (while hiking it also feels like a mountain) but it is technically considered a hill. It is located next to Holyrood Palace, which is where the Queen stays when she comes to visit Scotland. It’s a beautiful house and you can tour it when she isn’t visiting!

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You can start the trek by going left or right to get up to Arthur’s seat. Left is quicker and less of a trek. Right takes you on a bit of a wander around the base and middle of the hill (which is also scenic). Really either way you go you are in for a treat! I suggest left, because we went right first and were a bit confused on how to actually get to the top! (Side Note: If you want to click on any of the photos in the galleries below it should blow them up to normal size for you. It’s just impossible to have all of the full size pictures in one blog post. It would be insanely long! So please click away!)

I probably should have said this sooner, but I definitely suggest wearing hiking boots. The way up and the top tends to be a bit slippery, so you will definitely want some traction. I also suggest not wearing a ton of layers, even if it is 40°F. That hike up there can get a bit sweaty, trust me! I had 4 layers on and was dying.

The views while going up the hill are incredible.

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You can see all of Edinburgh laid out beneath you! You can see the hill that Edinburgh castle sits on. You can hear church bells ringing off in the distance. It really is a dream and pictures just do not do it justice.

There are several places to sit once you are near the top. If you are really feeling fancy, try to bring a picnic basket with you and have a picnic! You’ll have the best view in the whole city!

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Once at the top I suggest you just take it in. To this day sitting at the top of Arthur’s Seat is one of my fondest memories of our whole trip. Enjoy every moment.

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❤ Abbie

P.S. Another huge “thank you” is in order to my husband Jackson for taking some killer shots of me. He really is the best.

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WW: Two hours in Savannah, Ga

Let me start this whole thing by saying that two hours in such an incredible and historic city is just not enough. Seriously. A whole day wouldn’t have been enough to explore Savannah. That being said, this is just going to be a brief post about the things we discovered just walking around for two hours. Now, you might be asking why we only spent two hours in Savannah. To be honest, we just didn’t have time. We were driving back home from Myrtle Beach and just happened to be passing near Savannah. You should know that Savannah has always been on my list of places to visit in the U.S. I’ve heard of it’s beauty and historical significance almost my whole life. So to drive by it without stopping (if only for two hours) was absolutely unthinkable! Let me tell you, I am so glad we stopped. In just the short amount of time we walked around we saw a lot of really beautiful things. Hopefully in the near future we will be going back to spend a long weekend there (you know my birthday is coming up… hint, hint). So until I can do a full-fledged Wandering Wednesday I’m just going to leave this little beautiful snippet right here.

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I mainly wanted to focus on the historic district, of course, so we parked on the east side of the beautiful Forsyth Park. Sometimes when you have such a short amount of time in a location the best thing to do is just wander. I find that most of the time just wandering around can lead you to some beautiful things. I’m not necessarily the type to always have everything planned out which is always interesting. So, we walked.

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Savannah is full of beautiful and huge churches. It is always incredible to see the pure size of these places! Some churches will even let you tour the inside!

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One of my favorite parts was just walking around and seeing all the beautiful historic homes. They are beautiful and they are everywhere. Some of these mansions date back to the 1800s! You know you’re in a cool place when they have a Victorian District.

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The day we went to Savannah was just a measly 98 degrees and humid as all get out, so as you can imagine we started to get pretty thirsty. We just happened to be passing by this cute little cafe called Art’s and noticed that there was a double-decker bus inside, so we stopped. The cafe is across the street from the Savannah College of Art and Design, which is housed in an incredible building itself! Definitely stop in for a drink at Art’s, it’s a neat experience!

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There are so many adorable little shops hidden in basements and second floors of these historic buildings! If you have the time, stop in a few of them! I highly recommend stopping in The Book Lady. This adorable little bookshop and cafe is located in the lowest level of an old building, and is easy to miss if you aren’t paying attention. When you walk in you feel transported to something that would be in Harry Potter. Books line the old brick walls, and a worn leather couch surrounds an old fireplace. I imagine in the winter it would be the perfect little hideaway. Come dream with me. You’re lounging on the comfy couch, sipping on hot apple cider while the crackling fire lulls you into relaxation as you read a book. Yeah, this place is dreamy.

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After you’ve awakened from the dream that is The Book Lady (and you step outside into the humidity, really feeling that non-Christmas vibe) we highly suggest walking down to Forsyth Park. It’s a beautiful little area! I love parks in the middle of big cities. A little bit of a nature sanctuary is always needed!

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I hope this has inspired you to spend some time in Savannah. I am planning a second, more thorough post and will hopefully get that to y’all before the year is out! I hope y’all have a killer Wednesday! Go wander!

Abbie

Wandering Wednesday: Hot Springs, AR

As you all know I was on vacation last week and I got to travel up to the lovely Hot Springs, Arkansas! I adore this little town! Walking around Hot Springs is like stepping back in time. The architecture and beautiful sculptures are reminiscent of a bygone era. So let me take you back in time today as we tour the charming town of Hot Springs!

The town gets it’s name from the thermal springs that flow from the ground. The water averages at about 143 degrees year round. There are places around town that you can feel the water as it flows from the ground!

Back in the 1800s people from all over the country would flock here to relax in the thermal springs. Because of this the town started to build bathhouses for people to enjoy a more spa-like experience. Today as you walk down the main street of Hot Springs you can’t help but notice the incredible Bathhouse Row which is made up of 6 beautiful historic buildings.

Each building housed their own thermal spring baths. Many of the hotels also have their own baths for you to unwind in! You should definitely visit the Fordyce Bathhouse which has been turned into the Hot Springs Visitors center! It shows what it was like back in the old days to visit a bathhouse in the town!

Starting in the late 1800s to the 1930s Hot Springs became a popular site for gangsters. Al Capone and Lucky Luciano were said to frequent the town. The Gangster Museum in Hot Springs can give you lots of  information about the notorious gangster town. They will also let you try on some sweet fedoras!

Nowadays the town has slowed down and there are many adorable shops lining the streets just waiting for your arrival. One of my favorite shops is called Bathhouse Soapery. This cute little shop has lots of different handmade soaps, perfumes, and lotions that are sure to put you in a relaxing mood.

Their foaming body scrub is amazing!  I suggest Mud and Minerals or the Oatmeal Creme scrub, both smell amazing and make your skin incredibly soft! Bathhouse Soapery should be a definite stop on your next trip!

If you’re craving something sweet you have to check out Fat Bottomed Girls Cupcake Shoppe! They were featured on Cupcake Wars and the Food Network.

This place has your classic cupcakes like Chocolate on Chocolate or Red Velvet (my personal favorite) but they also have some that are a little out there like Salted Caramel (Jackson’s favorite) and Lemon Lavender. Whatever you get it is sure to be delicious!

The last shop I encourage you to visit is an antique store called Tillman’s. From the outside you can look in the window and see a lot of really exquisite antiques.

When you step inside the whole shop shimmers! Pearls the size of a quarter and gold encrusted clocks are waiting to be seen behind glass cases. If you’re lucky, a man named Davis will be in. If he is there let him tell you about some of his historical pieces!

They have everything from crown jewels that belonged to Russian Royals to a staff from a Moroccan Sheik!

Davis’ stories are absolutely fascinating and you will not want to miss a chance speaking with him!

As you walk around you will no doubt see a large grand hotel. This hotel is called the Arlington and it was built in 1924. The building is so beautiful and the inside is just as grand!

As I mentioned before there are many different bathhouses on Bathhouse Row. There are several of them that are still in operation today. Since you are in Hot Springs I recommend wholeheartedly to take a bath in the springs. Some of the bathhouses have public bathing areas, but I enjoy a more private setting. The Buckstaff Bath House is fantastic.

Men and women are separated and each person is given their own private bathtub. I have done the Whirlpool Mineral Bath. You start by getting in your designated tub filled with the hot spring water. There is a little jet in the tub so it feels somewhat like a hot tub. They give you cool towels to place on your neck and arms so your body doesn’t overheat. You relax in there for a bit. When you get out they lay you down and put hot towels on your arms and legs and give you cold water to drink. At this point you’re about ready to die of happiness and relaxation. After that you enjoy a Sitz bath and a vapor cabinet. And finally you end with a needle shower (which is not as terrible as it sounds, it’s basically a massage shower). After your spa day you will never want to leave and you understand why so many people came to enjoy the springs!

If you want to venture a little outside the town there are lakes and mountains to explore! There is a large observatory that looks out onto the town below and the mountains surrounding! The lakes are beautiful and make for a fun afternoon of swimming!

Hot Springs is a charming place filled with beauty and history! I encourage you to step back in time and enjoy the simple things in life! Happy Wandering Wednesday everyone!