clam bakes and trips to the cape.

I once knew a guy who went to Harvard. When we first met I asked him if he got in because he was in a Ricky Martin video, or perhaps because of his line of faux-fur panties. He totally didn’t laugh! That was two years ago and I still giggle a little thinking about that conversation. I’m going to go out on a limb and say he was the one with the problem, because he once told me I’m not a funny person. I object! (See what I did there? Funny.)

Legally Blonde quotes, like Mean Girls quotes, have become embedded in a deep recess of my mind. I still automatically want to introduce myself and my cat as a team of Gemini vegetarians.

My point in this Legally Blonde post is that I came home this week and my sister had taped a calendar to our wall with a heading that said, “Social Events! You know, mixers, formals, clam bakes, trips to the cape!”

We’re trying to be more social in Dayton’s community and make more friends. We have so much stuff planned that we really did need a social events calendar! Sadly, no trips to the cape or clam bakes, but some otherwise awesome stuff.

With my job, school, work outs and bourbon testing I have a tight schedule. Speaking of alcohol, last night I finally met a whisky I couldn’t drink!!

I tried Wiser’s Rye and I couldn’t finish it. The only other Canadian whisky I’ve tried was Pendleton, which was a decent, affordable drink although it’s no bourbon.

That's Old Scout next to my list of bourbons!
That’s Old Scout next to my list of bourbons!

I was trying to get started on the rye list, but I had to go back to bourbon after that abomination. Dear lord. John Preston couldn’t drink it either, and I think I would consider him a professional drinker. I’ve been trying to think of a blog name for him since I don’t like to name people or have any identifying details about them (unless they specifically tell me they want the fame that comes along with being on my blog). I settled on JP not for the love interest aspect, but for being a small town big deal and the fact that I’ve always wanted to call someone Mr. Big. I love SATC and I even named my cat Samantha Jones.

We had Old Scout Bourbon next and I LOVED IT. That’s the second bourbon I’ve had in the past week that’s going on my top shelf.

Later I went to the gym for a 25 minute run/walk in preparation for the Flying Pig Half Marathon in May. I’m so excited about this race!! Normally I work out at 4:30 after work, but last night I didn’t get out of the gym until 8:30 pm. Everyone says they work out in the morning and it gives them so much energy, but for me I find it super calming and I feel wonderful! It’s easy for me to straight to bed and I get the most incredible sleep.

Happy Wednesday!

dayton’s elite

I wrote in my new “about” section that I don’t blog about food anymore because I’m your one and only source into the scandalous lives of Dayton’s elite, a reference to Gossip Girl that I was so hoping someone would get and chuckle.

I never thought I’d ACTUALLY get to meet one of Dayton’s elite, because 1) what does that even mean? 2) I never saw famous people in London so why would I start now? I’m oblivious.

When I was in London I’d always hear my friends be like, “Omg I just saw J.K. Rowling on the South Bank.” And I’d be like, “F— you. I’m on the South Bank every G.D. day and I never saw her!!” Or, “Omg I just saw Chris O’Dowd at Caffe Nero on The Cut.” What?!! I used to go to that Nero all the time for coffee. Never saw a sparkly-eyed Chris O’Dowd ordering a latte. One time I went to the Young Vic Theatre EVERY SINGLE DAY FOR A MONTH hoping to run into Patrick Stewart, who was performing there. At least three of my friends bumped into him there and they weren’t even trying.

One time I saw Gary Lineker filming a Walker’s Crisps commercial, but I don’t count that because someone told me he was there so I immediately ran over to check him out.

Another time I saw Gok Wan at Wandsworth Cineworld. Who?? Exactly. I didn’t even know who he was. Someone else pointed him out.

gokwan

But! I move to Dayton, Ohio and I meet James Brown, WHIO news anchor, while sipping bourbon at my local. In your face, Londoners. I didn’t know who he was at first, either. I don’t watch TV news and I’m not about to start, but it was genuinely exciting to meet someone people actually know.

When he said he was a news anchor I accidentally said, “Oh, like Brian Williams?” Tip: never compare news anchors to Brian Williams.

He was super friendly, though! I later researched him and everything he said was legit. Not that I thought he’d be a liar; I was just really excited to meet someone famous so I wanted to know all about him.

It turns out he knows my friend I was having a bourbon with (they’d been on vacation together!) so I was like … does this mean I’m connected to the inner circle of Dayton’s elite??

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I was drinking Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel and it was heavenly. My lip started to go numb a little bit – didn’t realize it’s 110 proof. It actually kind of reminded me of Booker’s – strong, full of flavor, slight numbness. One of my favorite bourbons to date!

I should note that James Brown was drinking water because he was only there briefly for someone’s leaving do (I think). I don’t know what Americans call this: You work with someone and they’re having drinks because they’re leaving to go to a different job. Does that not have a name here?? It’s a leaving do.

XOXO,
Dayton’s Gossip Girl.

barterhouse.

I have been pretty committed to my fitness plan since I signed up for the Flying Pig Half Marathon in Cincinnati in May. There is no way I’m running the whole thing, but I’m planning to try to run two miles, walk two miles, etc.

My running went out the window when my friend said he’d buy me a bourbon if I’d ditch running and have a quick drink. Ditched.

He’s an odd one, in a good way. Historically, I never talked to people in bars, but for some reason the day before Thanksgiving I was just depressed enough (still harping on an ex) to talk to strangers. I’m so glad I did! I don’t meet a ton of men with whom I can converse at length, and it’s nice to have friends who aren’t people you’d normally ever meet or socialize with.

So, we met up and I had Barterhouse, a 20-year-old bourbon – definitely the oldest I’ve had, but old doesn’t necessarily equal good. He said it started when I was f—-ing ten years old so it better be good.

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I found an in-depth review online if you want the proper nitty gritty deets, but essentially this was a NICE bourbon that is gone in a flash. It was way too easy to sip and smelled so delightful and pleasant. Smelling Barterhouse made me smile and I enjoyed sniffing it almost as much as I enjoyed drinking it.

I don’t want to make a habit of drinking $20 glasses of bourbon, so I scoured my list for something on the cheaper end I haven’t tried.

Hello, Old Crow Reserve.

Old Crow Reserve

Ew! Perhaps it was because I had a sweet little delight immediately prior, but this was not good. Honestly I think I might have enjoyed it more had this been my first drink of the night. It was a little rough, and I definitely drank it far more slowly than the Barterhouse I slammed – exactly why I normally don’t choose sweeter bourbons!

Until next time.

my bourbon trail.

Six months ago I don’t think I’d ever tried bourbon (although I’d tried Scotch) and last weekend I passed 50! For trying 50 each Karen and I get our names on plaques at the bar. Pic coming soon!!

The thing I love most about having some bourbon street smarts is that I don’t have to pretend to be cool with wine and beer anymore. Everyone is into wine or beer and they just aren’t for me. I always felt like a rube being all, “Give me the cheapest wine on the menu because it all tastes the same.”

At restaurants I’d always do the little sniff, taste and pause before I said it was acceptable, but I was merely mimicking the behavior of my peers.

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For a few months last year I was deluded in thinking I was moving to Portland, which sounded incredible! When I thought about living there I thought of constant adventure in food, hiking, learning, everything! That unfortunately didn’t work out, but I had my heart equally set on Orlando for all the same reasons + the addition of sun. Then I ended up in … Dayton. It was much harder not moving to Orlando, because that was a choice I had to make myself and how do you say no to the homeland?? We were both born near here:

Siesta Key in January!
Siesta Key in January!

How I feel about Orlando is how you feel when you first meet someone exciting. You think about him (or her), wonder what he’s doing, and feel happy any time the thought of him pops into your mind. I’m always wondering how Orlando is doing, thinking about the sun and how it would feel to walk out side and have it be pleasant. I chose Dayton because it was the financially smart option, and when is the financially savvy option ever the FUN option?!

Despite it being no Orlando, it is fun!

There’s more community here than anywhere I’ve ever lived. I feel like my life is a TV show sometimes. I never knew in what universe random friends would actually gather regularly at a central location, like in How I Met Your Mother or Friends. But that happens to me now! I also get to spend a lot of time with Karen.

50

We live near a bourbon bar, and it turns out bourbon is the best social drink. Even better than coffee! Coffee makes my heart beat quickly and I feel a bit ill, but I can sip a single bourbon over an hour. (or longer!) For me, bourbon has become about conversation, but I also genuinely love the taste and learning about whiskey.

There are a lot of great ones and a lot of not-so-great ones, but overall they’re ALL at least a little good (I do not feel the same about Scotch). I’ve had bourbon I didn’t love, like Ten High or Jesse James Outlaw, both of which we described as being training wheels for bourbon because they tasted like water.

When I first started I enjoyed things that were a bit sweeter and smoother, like Maker’s Mark. I don’t enjoy those much now because they don’t have a huge flavor and they’re a bit average. Not bad, not great. I definitely don’t think Maker’s is worth the price, which seems to me to be largely about marketing.

I love super hot sauce and I like black coffee. It’s become the same with bourbon – I want a kick! My current favorite is Booker’s. Definitely a punch in the face.

bookers

(source)

We have cards at the bar so we can make notes and check off what we try. All we wrote next to Booker’s is “chest hair.” It’s so strong (about 130 proof) that it makes my lip go numb, but it’s such a fun experience and it’s full of flavor! It’s the same excitement I get when I try an extreme hot sauce and I burn inside for like 20 minutes. This one is a SLOW sipper for me, but that’s what I like because I hate feeling drunk. Same thing happened when I tried George T. Stagg, except I was even more numb!

I don’t generally drink Booker’s at the bar, though, because at $12 a glass it’s not the economical decision. Recently I’ve started drinking Old Ezra 7, which people laugh at but it’s half the price and has a bit of flavor with a decent little punch.

My other cheap drink of choice was Old Grand-Dad Bonded, but I think there is a shortage or something. At least in Dayton, anyway. They’re out at the bar and I couldn’t find it at the store! Regular OGD is kind of a snoozer.

Karen’s favorite is Buffalo Trace. She loves bourbon too, but she’s harder to please in general. Or easier to please since she likes everything?

We’re planning a trip in April to some of the distilleries in Kentucky: Four Roses, Woodford Reserve and Wild Turkey. I can’t wait!! We’re getting a cabin with some friends for the weekend.

I’m going to start writing more about the bourbons I try as I try them so I can write short posts vs novels like today! I want to get into the habit of short little posts, more frequently, like I used to do.

PS: I meant for the title of this post to be like Bourbon Trail … but my personal Bourbon Trail, but later I was concerned it threw out the image of a happy trail. Ew!

my new life.

I’m back, and I have big things to tell! In summary, I’m a bourbon-drinking, black-cat-owning, downtown Dayton dweller with a brand new “Little Sister.”

samantha-me

By “back” I don’t mean back to blogging – I don’t want to be one of the many bloggers who starts every post with, “Sorry I haven’t been blogging much lately …”

I’m not sorry. Sometimes I don’t like blogging. I went through a rough time from approximately February 2014 until November … OK, December. I also moved my whole life from London to Dayton, which I thought would be super easy but was in fact quite difficult (emotionally, not logistically – I don’t have possessions.)

No possessions? No religion, too? Oh wait, John Lennon wasn’t describing me …

I’m back in the sense that I finally feel like myself again and I’m really happy with how everything in my life is going. For such a long time I was so stressed about a relationship that I became a person I didn’t even recognize – or like. I am the kind of person who is easily excited by little things, and I was no longer excited by anything for the better part of last year. I stopped feeling anything and I thought I was broken, which sounds very dramatic like Bella on Twilight.

Recently I was looking for a dentist that would be covered by my insurance and found Kim Dong-Il. Last year I wouldn’t have even smiled. But in 2015 I’m pretty much back to being the teenage boy I’ve always proudly been and giggled about it all day. Life is good now! Everything is funny again. I sometimes feel a little sad thinking about last year, but I’d say I’m 95% normal again.

I’ve also been having all kinds of fun exploring bourbon, which turns out is the PERFECT DRINK. No more breaking of seals and having to pee all night, it’s the best alcohol I’ve ever tasted, and you can sip it and not get drunk! I live near an awesome bourbon bar and I’ve learned so much in the past couple months. I’ve tried more than 40 (!) so far, and what I can say definitively is that Maker’s Mark is so average and a little sweet, but Booker’s is where it’s at. I sometimes describe Booker’s as a punch in the face. It will make your lip go numb. But it’s sooo goood. Here’s a picture from the bar’s site, but actually the picture doesn’t do it justice because you feel like you’re back in time in there. They play old-fashioned music and all the tables are bourbon barrels.

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This summer I’m going on the bourbon trail in Kentucky! Last year I tried Scotch in Scotland, but I didn’t really know what was happening. In any case, I’ve tried a few and honestly I like bourbon a lot more.  I can’t wait for this trip.

Since I last posted I got a wonderful job … back in November, so it’s been a while! I still miss my last job, but I got very lucky in Dayton. I have a big office all to myself, I’m the only person on my team AND it’s in healthcare, which I wanted!

As soon as I moved to Dayton I applied to be in the Big Brothers, Big Sisters program and last month I got a Little Sister! I don’t want to say anything about her specifically out of respect for her privacy, but it’s such a wonderful program and I feel like I’m making a difference to her and the community. We hang out on weekends, go to the gym, have dinner, play video games, and just be friends. She’s had a pretty tough life without many people to count on so she’s always super excited when I actually show up on time, every time.

I also adopted two black cats that I named Samantha Jones and Alan. Black cats have a hard time getting adopted because people think they are unlucky, but they have so much love to give! It was the saddest thing going through the shelters and seeing loads of black cats.

Alan loves chevron bow ties and bourbon.
Alan loves chevron bow ties and bourbon.

Alan is 8 years old. In addition to people not wanting black cats, they also want kittens or very young cats so the older ones have a rough time finding a home. Alan has more love in him than any cat I’ve ever met, and I figured even if I have him for only a few years, that’s a few years of love for us both! He basically jumped into my arms at the shelter and demanded to be held like a baby. <3

He loves to cuddle at night and loves being on his back and having his belly rubbed. His love has no boundaries – he loves everyone he meets and he gets along beautifully with other cats. He’s a model citizen!

Thus, I am thinking about applying for us to be a pet therapy team. Mostly I think it’s dogs because they’re easily trained and cats are … well, you know. But Alan is close to perfect and I think it would be so nice to take him to nursing homes so he can love on all the old people while I have a chat with them! Working with older people is something I’ve always wanted to do because I love them, but also I didn’t realize how depressing loneliness can be until I was all alone in London last summer. It was one of the hardest things to spend so much time alone, and I LIKE my alone time. I love “me” dates!! Kenny Chesney sing-a-longs can only happen when you’re alone!

But when all you have are me dates … not so fun. For the first time in my life, even Kenny’s music couldn’t make me happy.

Normally I easily meet lots of people, but London is a place where you can easily find yourself with no one. I had close friends that I loved, who loved me, and were incredibly kind to me, but I was a FRIEND. I wasn’t anyone’s significant other or family member, so that meant I spent a lot of time alone.

I am glad all of this happened though, because it gave me perspective into my own life and those of others. I was in a temporary lonely situation, and even though I knew it was temporary it was so awful. I couldn’t help thinking about some elderly people who truly have no one and often have severe limitations in making their situation better. I completely recognize that I (like most everyone I know) am a privileged, young, healthy American. It was easy for me to fix everything in my life that wasn’t working and move half way across the world, and I am ever appreciative for all of the opportunities and experiences that have afforded me such ability. But what about if you’re disabled, lacking financial resources, have no where to go, or whatever? I can’t stand the thought of a person feeling lonely, like no one cares, and being stuck in that feeling.

alan

So that’s why I’m hoping to get Alan registered as a pet therapist and we will be a team! I hope that if I’m old and lonely some young person will bring in their adorable black kitty and have fun talking to me and hearing all of my crazy stories! And maybe bring me some fried pickles. I can’t imagine nursing homes have rockin’ food.

Because of my having no feelings I didn’t do any traveling in the later part of 2014, but this year I already went to Florida and had a blast! (I also have three Kenny Chesney concerts planned in Louisville, Dallas and Indianapolis this summer, as well as the Bourbon Trail and a couple hiking trips in Kentucky)

We stayed with my favorite cousins in Orlando and over the weekend went to Siesta Key – apparently the nation’s #1 beach! Let me tell you. Sunny beach > crunching around on Ohio ice. I went for a run on the beach one morning.

Siesta Key

Orlando is such a cool city. One night we went out to a bar that has vintage video games and I spent an hour playing Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out with a random Puerto Rican guy I met there. That game is racist!! The second person you fight is named Piston Honda, and all he says is “Sushi! Ichiban! Kamikaze!”

Oh! I turned 30 since my last post. I thought I’d freak out, but not at all. So far 30 has been happy, positive and pretty calm! My 30s are already different from my 20s in that I have a clear direction in life career-wise, a cat(!!), great friendships, family, and a good idea of what I want in a relationship.

birthday

Now I’m hoping that some day I can get back to cooking real food and stop eating Hot Pockets. I am so. unhealthy. Not that eating Hot Pockets is bad. Everything in moderation, right? But I like … only eat Hot Pockets. And Jimmy Johns.

hello from ohio!

Hello! It’s been exactly one month from today that I moved my whole life from England to Ohio. In between I took my mom to Switzerland and Italy, but more on that later!

My last day in London couldn’t have been better. I spent the day with my mom and Kelly, going for a drink at the Shard with views over London and then afternoon tea at Claridges.

london last day

We met all my friends at a pub in Bloomsbury and the hardcore stayed out until the last trains.

last day

I don’t like leaving places or people on a bad note, so in some ways it made it easier to leave London because I loved my friends and job so much. I definitely hated living in London and was ready to leave, but I was so happy on the friend/work front that I was confident I was leaving because I was truly ready to leave and not because I had a crappy job or stupid friends.

Thus, I was so excited about my decision to move to Dayton! A lot of people don’t understand at all why someone would move to Ohio over London, but for pretty much every reason Dayton is a really good option for me at the moment. And I am LOVING the standard of living here. For the first time in my life I actually have an entire apartment that I feel at home in, and our loft is just so nice. I also have cats now!! As you can see I finally have an ice machine, which means unlimited iced coffee!

rue

The best part is that I live right downtown, so I still get the European feeling of being able to walk to bars and restaurants. And hopefully a job soon, too!

This is Rue enjoying our scenery. I got kind of jealous because I was like, sure, I have an awesome couch by the giant window, but what I really need is a hammock so I can chill like Rue.

rue1

Also, downtown Dayton is shockingly clean. It’s no London, obviously, but I used to think Dayton was a wasteland when it’s really not. They keep the downtown clean and there’s always something fun happening. I also love that the riverside is a nice little park with flowers, trees and swinging benches.

Lots of random parks and peaceful spots around the city.

hills dales

There are so many positive things about Dayton that I can’t wait to blog about it all so people will stop making fun of this city (confession: until two months ago I used to regularly question who would voluntarily live in Dayton).

I’m doing so many things I either couldn’t do in London, or didn’t want to do because of all the people. I ran the Air Force Marathon 10K my first weekend back, and I’ve signed up for a haunted 5K downtown next week. My sister and I are running in costume. We thought and thought about what we could do that would double as a good running outfit, then we came up with the perfect idea – Beavis & Butt-Head! We got the outfits already and I can’t wait for the race!

I was dead set on moving to Orlando, but I’m glad I chose Ohio because it’s good for so many reasons I don’t even have time to discuss.

Come visit me!

 

‘You can hug me goodbye but only one kiss on the cheek’

Likes coffee but drinks at Starbucks.
Loves country music but is a Kenny Chesney fan.
Goes to the boozer all the time but barely drinks.
Is American but believes in universal healthcare.
Social media expert, refuses to send emails or answer phones.
My friend S.

sara buda

Our friendship has been an adventure. Our first trip to Budapest nearly didn’t happen when Sara put her ‘other’ name on her flight booking. Who is this girl with two names?  Several phonecalls later this was remedied and I mused it’s a mistake she’ll never make again. It was the fourth time.
Paris was my turn to be weird. I took us to a closed-down restaurant and locked our Air bnb host out of his apartment.
Sardinia was smoother. Hours spent on golden sand, pasta on clifftops, Italians screaming from windows.

yum

We’re just getting this travel buddy thing sorted.
One of my favourite things about  S is her street smarts. In a sauna one day, three blokes decide to hit on her by complimenting her accent (?!) Sara promptly closes the wooing down by carefully explaining that saunas don’t actually help the body to release many toxins, and you may as well go and have a poo.
Also, ‘photographer’.

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This friendship is very good for diplomatic ties. It teaches tolerance of two of the worst accents in the word. It encourages wider use of handy words such as togs, jandles, sunnies and fanny pack.
We are united in our disdain at some-things-English: bad teeth, passive-aggressiveness, grey, tube people, small flats, the English.
Anywho, you know things about me no one in the world does. You’re like no one I’ve met before and I will miss you terribly.
On a brighter note, in the immortal words of the Carpenters: we’ve only just begun.
Love you S

conquering the three peaks

Last year I hiked Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the UK, and I only did that because I had NO idea what I was getting myself into and was totally unprepared.

bennevis summit

However, I loved it so much that in April I went to Wales to try Snowdon, the highest peak outside Scotland. That was far easier because it wasn’t as long (5.5 hours vs 8.5), I was fully prepared and in better shape.

Obviously, I had to do the highest in England so I could say I’ve done the three peaks. My two friends were extremely kind and drove me to the Lake District and climbed the mountain with me!

Climbing Ben Nevis was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I was actually planning out what my tombstone was likely to say about me. When I told people I was climbing Scafell Pike this weekend many people kind of laughed and said England doesn’t have mountains. Clearly they’ve never tried to climb Scafell Pike!

We started out in good spirits because what we thought was Scafell Pike in the distance was definitely not the summit. The summit was completely hidden by clouds so we remained in ignorance for the first three hours, which was probably a good thing.

We later looked back on this picture and laughed at how innocent we looked. We didn’t look like this seven hours later!

scafell pike 2

The last hour was rough. It was so tough that although it wasn’t harder than Ben Nevis, it absolutely was a tougher mountain to climb than Snowdon. Steep, unstable rocks, mist so thick we could barely see where we were going, and it was freezing toward the top. On the way back down it was so steep that I ended up having to kneel and just slide down for about 10 minutes. My hands were completely numb from the cold and I was seriously doubting why I thought tackling this mountain was a good idea. But, that’s part of the fun of it!

scafell pike

About 90 minutes from the top it was all boulders, and the mist started getting so dense it was tough to see the next cairn to show us where to go. Unlike Nevis and Snowdon, there weren’t all that many people on the trail so for long stretches of time we didn’t see anyone else.

There were enough people that I wasn’t scared of us getting lost and going all Donner party, but the sense of not knowing exactly where we were going wasn’t something I’d experienced with the previous two mountains and it was a bit unnerving!

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We finally made it after four hours! You can really see here how thick the cloud was.

summit-scafell

Boulders and freezing hands aside, most of the trek was beautiful. A couple hours of the hike were spent walking along a river and waterfall after waterfall. Every time we looked back we could see miles of the valley.

scafell pike valley

lake district

After the hike we went to Lake Windermere to have dinner, then off to our Airbnb cottage for the night. This was actually the second time I’ve been to Windermere and I’d forgotten how much fun I had the last time I was there, and how much I loved that part of England.

windermere

We rented rooms in a 300 year old cottage – another great Airbnb experience! It was in perfect condition, the host was so nice and it was just such a pleasant experience in a quaint little English village. Only £25 ($40) a night!

cottage

I’m so glad I did this hike on one of my last weekends in the country and got to spend some quality time with two of my favorite people in England, as well as see some of the best views England has to offer!

 

my top 5 travel destinations

Perhaps the best thing about living in London has been having the option to travel so (mostly) cheaply and easily. It’s going to be a really tough adjustment knowing there won’t be any more random weekends in Italy, or wherever!

Most of my traveling has been done in the past three years, and I’ve appreciated these trips so much because when I first moved to London I could barely afford to eat – my mom had to buy me groceries online a couple times! Some of the trips it took me months to save up for, while others were super cheap.

In order to save and still travel I’ve lived in an illegal house for the past year, paying cash for rent into a safe deposit box in a communal closet. The floor space in my room is literally no bigger than a suitcase. People lived in the house’s shed and attic, and every other room in the house (although honestly this doesn’t even compare to the time I lived in a house with 14 people). I thought I should mention these things because I don’t want people to think I’m some privileged rich kid with no concept of money. I’ve worked hard and lived in some pretty bad places over the years to fund my travels, and I feel incredibly fortunate to have had these opportunities!

I tried to keep my list short, but two of my picks (Kenya/Canary Islands) are so long because I couldn’t sum them up in a couple sentences!

Lisbon

I went to Lisbon for three days by myself and had an unintended Eat, Pray, Love adventure. During dinner the first night I met the Fado musician in the restaurant and we talked for hours in between his songs while I drank Portuguese wine and listened along. The next day I met Ricardo in the city and he gave me a walking tour, took me to have the best hot chocolate in the world, the best pastel de nata in the world, then drove me all over the city in his little Smart car. I know it sounds dangerous, but the city was so crowded that I felt confident I could eject myself from the car if he started getting creepy. It was romantic and exciting, and I’d never have seen so much of Lisbon if I hadn’t met a fun local to show me everything.

lisbon

Canary Islands

I never expected to go here (and in fact hadn’t previously known it was a small chain of islands off the coast of Africa, not Spain!), but I can’t imagine this ever falling off my list. When I told people I was going to the Canary Islands people’s reaction was exclusively concern that it was going to be a crappy British tourist destination, filled with chip shops, pubs, and drunk British people (it was mostly old Germans and us). Perhaps the island of Tenerife is Brit territory but we went to Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, and it was such an absolute adventure that I’ll never forget it in my entire life.

camel-canary-islands

On Lanzarote we rented an entire yacht through Airbnb (I’m never staying in a hotel again!), so even if we never left the boat it would have been a fabulous time. But we ended up renting a car on the host’s recommendation and had an adventure I never could have imagined.

Also, although I’m from Florida and no stranger to beaches, I’ve never been on a proper beach holiday before so every time I looked at the coast here I was blown away.

playa blanca

The car rental came with a map and an audio CD, and we drove around the entire island in one day, stopping at many of the sites along the way. We saw black beaches, went on a tour through the volcano national park (where we had chicken cooked from the heat of the Earth!), went to a gorgeous look-out point to another island and white beaches below, into a cave system made by lava flow, then on to a beautiful secluded beach.

lanzarote

As if that wasn’t adventure enough, we did the same thing once we got to Fuerteventura. We rented a car from the same company (CICAR) and drove around the whole island the entire day before our evening flight.

beach of dead

We saw more postcard beaches, more black beaches, caves, small Spanish towns, mountains – my heart is beating faster just thinking about how exciting this holiday was. I feel like I’m not a good enough writer to fully express the feeling of discovery and unexpected adventure I had as I was driving around the islands.

beach of the dead

Kenya

I got incredibly lucky early this year in being invited to a safari wedding and having the opportunity to travel to Africa for the first time. It took me six months to save up for this trip, but it was totally worth it. When we were flying from Istanbul to Nairobi and I realized we were finally over Africa I felt an excitement I haven’t felt since the Christmas Eves of my childhood when I believed in Santa Claus. I seriously couldn’t believe I’d somehow managed to go to Africa!

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The camp had a driver pick us up in Nairobi to drive us the six hours to Masai Mara, so we got to go through the Great Rift Valley and a lot of towns and villages along the way. It was a long drive, especially after two long overnight flights from London, but I’m glad we did this because we saw so much of the country. Two things that stood out: people running EVERYWHERE and Coca-Cola advertisements painted on EVERYTHING. We commented on all the people running along the side of the road (everyone from school kids to older people) and our driver said people run everywhere and that’s why Kenyans are the best. Side note: every single person we met in Kenya was ridiculously friendly and wanted to tell us all about everything to do with the country (and they also all loved Obama). I loved Kenya so much!!

This is me in a Masai warrior blanket at the camp after the wedding.

entumoto

The actual safari was incredible and I’d highly recommend Entumoto if you’re considering a safari. We had the BEST guide, and we’re friends on Facebook now! Every thing there was to know about Masai Mara – he knew it. He took us out at night once, and it was a completely different experience than the drives during the day – total silence and darkness like I’ve never known, and an entirely different world of nocturnal animals. We watched a hyena as he ran around with a bloody chunk of meat in his mouth (yes, they are just as scary as they are portrayed on the Lion King) and heard more of them screaming in the distance.

We drove slowly along and it was the most incredible thing to all of a sudden see a giant giraffe staring at us in the headlights. Giraffes were the only animals that didn’t seem to care for our presence. Night or day, they’d look at us and slowly walk away. They weren’t scared, but they acted like they preferred if we didn’t pollute their gaze. Maybe giraffes are kind of snobby, like how a lot of cats are snobby. I could go on and on about Kenya. The elephants, big cats, picnics overlooking the Serengeti – time of my life.

giraffe-masai-mara

cheetah

Budapest

Budapest is such a fun memory because it was totally on a whim. I got an itch to travel so I looked at Ryanair’s flight list and booked this trip because it was somewhere I knew nothing about, and it turned out my friend K was able to come with me! The whole city was wonderful, clean, cheap, great food, but the highlight was the thermal bath we went to. It was in the low 50s out, but the water was so hot and felt amazing. I also felt like I was in another time!

Budapest-bath

Rome

I went to Rome with my mom three years ago, and this was our first trip so it was when we realized how much fun traveling is when there are no men to throw off your groove. One day we bought nail polish and painted our nails purple in the middle of an ancient Roman square. Guys can be great, of course, but sometimes you need only girl time!

I’m not sure why, but the top memory of this trip is coming out of the metro station and seeing the Colosseum towering right in front of us.

rome-1

We stayed at what was said to be the smallest legal hotel in Rome, and that was an experience in itself. It was very nice, but took us a while to find because there was only a buzzer – no sign. The guy running the place was so friendly, and said his biggest piece of advice for us was simply to get lost in the city. I loved this so much!

There was definitely a lot of walking, so we spent lots of time in cafes eating and drinking! Apparently giant artichokes are a thing in Rome. I partook.

rome

She’s visiting me again next week and I’m taking her to Florence, Switzerland and the Black Forest. Maybe I should have waited to write this list because one of those two could top Rome!

I wanted to put places like Venice in the mix because it was so stunning. At least for me, Venice got old pretty quickly. I wouldn’t spend more than a day there. Somewhere like Rome, however, you could wander for days. I also wanted to include Nice, simply for the fact that you can take the most amazing train ride along the coast for only a few Euros. We went to Italy, Monaco, Nice and Cannes in one day, and the whole ride was along the Mediterranean coast. Other than that, Nice was just OK so I couldn’t put it on the list. Even though I didn’t include any German cities on my list, Germany is definitely my favorite country! I’ve been to Christmas markets in Munich and Cologne – magical. I’ve also been to Berlin twice and various other cities.

Longest blog post ever.

big changes!

I’m finally leaving London! One thing I love about life is you never know how much things can change in even a short time.

Two weeks ago a series of events unexpectedly took me to Ohio, where in the space of a day I went from being dead set on moving to Orlando to realizing moving back to Ohio was the perfect decision for me. I NEVER thought I would move back to the Midwest, but now I couldn’t be more excited!!

I paid a deposit on a really cool loft right downtown. No matter how long I stayed in London I would never (like Taylor Swift Never, Ever, Ever) be able to afford to live in anything like what I’m getting in Dayton (yes, I know Dayton is not considered one of the world’s greatest cities). For one thing, it just doesn’t exist in London. A big apartment with floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall windows? Yeah right! I have air conditioning, a garbage disposal, a dishwasher, a real refrigerator, a freezer, and a personal washer and dryer – all things that generally don’t exist in London residences and I’m getting all this for less than I’m paying for my closet room. My loft building also has a private relaxation room for yoga, a cool gym and a patio area with grills for BBQs! It’s also close to a cute Farmers’ market in an old train station.

Dayton-2nd-Street

2ndStreet-flowers

I AM SO EXCITED!!!!!!!!!!!

I still really want to live in Orlando! But I am committed to making smart financial decisions now, and although I’m pretty sure I’d be fine in Orlando I know that moving to Dayton is a really smart decision and would probably make me happier because the things that are important to me are easier to get in Ohio, and that’s where my family is.

maya

There are many reasons why Ohio is perfect at the moment, but the top reason is that I’ve spent five years away from my family and at times couldn’t see them for a year and a half. That’s too long! I can’t cram seeing everyone into two weeks once a year. Some members of my extended family I get to spend only a day or two with a year. With the exception of last Christmas, for the past five years I’ve missed every single holiday, every birthday, every family reunion, everything.

The other big reason Ohio is good is because I’ve come to hate super big city life so much and I just can’t take it anymore. Riding to work a couple weeks ago sandwiched into someone’s back sweat patch was the last straw for me. There are no more pieces left of my soul to die, and I’d like to feel like I have a soul again.

I’m tired of never being able to do anything because 8 million people are already doing it, or having to pay a premium for everything simply because it’s London. I’m also tired of having to travel at least an hour to see any of my friends. In Dayton, you don’t have to worry about anything being packed or things being overpriced, and living downtown means everyone in the city will be 20 minutes away or less. Dayton’s not a bad city, but it’s also not what I’d call exciting or cool. It’s just a pretty average Midwestern city, although it has a surprisingly good food scene! I don’t want an “exciting” city right now. I want to be able to see my family, live a good life, and eat good food.

This was definitely good food. Thin crust Italian pizza and a watermelon martini at Serendipity Bistro in downtown Dayton.

Serendipity-pizza

watermelon-martini-serendipity

I’ll really miss my friends in London and I’ll definitely miss my job! I have such a great job and I love my colleagues. I also love having 28 days of vacation per year. Every job I look at in the US is advertised as having a “generous” vacation allowance, and then they say something like 10-12 days. I don’t know why Americans insist on working to death. People are so much happier and work more efficiently when they’re well-rested and happy! Also, every single American I talk to is super jealous of my six weeks of vacation per year (plus all the public holidays as well, so it’s something like 35 days).

Speaking of six weeks, only six more weeks in London! My mom is coming to visit for my last two weeks, and I’m taking her to Florence and Pisa, and then we’re going on a second trip to Switzerland where we’re renting a car and also driving up into the Black Forest in Germany.

Just before she visits I’m going with two friends to the Lake District because I really want to climb Scafell Pike so I’ll have hiked the three highest mountains in the UK! Last year I climbed Ben Nevis, in April I did Snowdon, and now Scafell Pike! I’m so excited!

snowdon

My friends are trying to help me think of an England bucket list. I had started making one, but the only thing that was on it was “try Ribena,” which I did.