Posts Tagged With: friends

Tuscan Vineyard Trailride

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I don’t think I can count the number of hours I’ve spent in the saddle. I can, however, remember every single destination trail ride. Riding a few miles up from our starting point at a barn in Colorado comes to mind. This trail ride kinda tops them all in terms of scenery.

I booked Kate and I a ride through Fun in Tuscany. It included pick up and drop off in the center of Florence, as well as a wine tasting/food pairing lunch (after the ride, of course).

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Our trail guide

The stable was located a little over 30 minutes from our pickup point and surrounded by some of the most breathtaking countryside I’ve ever seen. We drank a few cappuccini as we waited on a patio, and sampled different kinds of honey. I never thought a honey tasting could be all that interesting… but the group we were with discussed in-depth the differences in each type… the hazelnut honey was my favorite. yum.

The previous tour was late getting back, so we hung out in the barn area, saying hi to the old goat. Just from the barn, the view was amazing. The tour guide helped the less experienced people up into their saddles first, and gave them brief instructions on steering, stopping, going, etc.

Kate and I, as we had the most experience, were at the back of the line. When I mounted from the ground and comfortably picked up my reins, he just blinked at me and said, “You’re good.”

Even though I was slightly bummed I wouldn’t be close enough to the tour guide to test 20160614_122018any of my Italian horse-related vocabulary… there’s something to be said for being at the back of the line on a trail ride. You don’t have to be nose-to-tail. We got to walk around a farm, through a slightly wooded area, and right down into a vineyard, going between rows of grapevines. It was sunny with a slight mist, which made the temperature PERFECT.

Of course, Kate and I would have been happy with a 5-hour trail ride, but it was so relaxing to sit in a saddle, in a quiet vineyard, after we’d been averaging 7 miles of walking a day through crowds of tourists. Instead of our feet being sore, now it was our riding muscles.

I’ve never spent this much time in a vineyard, but I definitely didn’t get tired of our tranquil surroundings! By the end, Kate and I were scheming of ways to get hired as the next trail guides. I wouldn’t mind riding that trail every day.

The wine-pairing lunch was just icing on the cake at the end. I now know how to look like a snob at my next wine tasting, as well… And I’m still dreaming about the lasagne they served us. Overall? On a scale of 1 to 10, the day was about a 15. Definitely recommended!

 

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Holy vineyard view, Batman!

 

 

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In Which I’m a London Tour Guide Once More

I’m always in favor of taking a free walking tour. But since I figured I was a local for 5 months or so that one time a few years ago… I could handle showing Kate around without the guide. And there’s something about missing your second home for two years that makes you eager to revisit even the tourist spots.

I had scouted out some great looking cafes on Instagram earlier in the month, so we left our little Notting Hill AirBnB for Farm Girl Cafe, which was a 10-minute walk down the road. If you’re ever in Notting Hill, I highly recommend it. We ended up going twice in the week we were here! The lavender lattes are A+.

From there it was time to show Kate some Royal London! The first stop was, obviously, the Mall and Buckingham Palace.

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It’s amazing how little the crowds of tourists get on your nerves after 10 hours of sleep! Yes I know we were tourists too.

With the jet lag gone, my internal London map and sense of direction was back. We managed to catch the tail end of the Changing of the Guard Parade. (Which I really recommend over squishing up against the palace fence with the rest of the tourists to catch the actual changing of the guard… The parade is much more interesting. There are fewer people to make you claustrophobic, and more ponies! Ponies are always a bonus.)

I gave the tour guide spiel I’ve now memorized about why Green Park is green (3 guesses) as we took a detour through it, and re-lived some of my Longines Global Champions Tour excitement as we passed Horse Guards Parade. We took a stroll through the National Gallery, both of us gravitating toward any artwork that contained horses. (Painters used to have a really hard time with the head to body size ratio.) I mentioned how the lions in Trafalgar Square resemble Cocker Spaniels from the mane down.

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Classic London Tourist, in her natural habitat.

Then, naturally, it was time for some fish and chips, because we were starving. And because London is not just about the royal post codes, we took a bus up to Camden for Poppie’s. I think they will always have my favorite fish and chips… Their sticky toffee pudding isn’t bad either. Camden has a completely different vibe, which I was ready for after dodging tourists most of the morning.

And as became habit for Kate and me over the next few weeks… we went back to the flat, took a late afternoon nap, and then ventured back out for a picnic dinner. With Pret, of course! We parked ourselves on a bench in Kensington Gardens to people watch and enjoy the fantastic weather. Really, London weather has always been good to me on the whole.

As it got dark we continued to walk around to get a glimpse of a few landmarks all lit up. The Royal Albert Hall at night really is gorgeous. I think I did a pretty good job as tour guide. Even if I knew there was some history I knew I was forgetting. I got to revisit some places that have some pretty good memories attached to them. Which is almost everywhere I’ve set foot in Central London, really. So if anyone needs a personal tour guide of London in the future… Take me!

When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life. – Samuel Johnson

 

 

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Stonehenge and Bath

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Me, Lily, Amie. Photo cred and best group selfie taker award goes to Amie!

I cannot believe I neglected to post about my day trip to Stonehenge and Bath. Two of my bucket list items crossed off, and no blog documentation? I must have been going crazy. Or, you know, I was just in the midst of writing my 20+ blog posts for work at that point in my 4 month adventure.

Amie, Lily, and I loaded up on the bus on a cloudy British morning for a perfect day. Traffic was kind of horrible, but we still had plenty of time to listen to our audio guides once we hit Stonehenge. Stonehenge was, actually, much smaller than we all expected it to be. However, I predictably geeked out a bit and captioned all of my Instagram and Facebook pictures with Doctor Who quotes. From the season 5 two-part finale, of course. Hello, Stonehenge! Who takes the Pandorica takes the Universe!

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With traffic once again on the slow side, it took us awhile to get to Bath. But once we did, I decided that even with the tourists it was all so picturesque I might be able to live there for awhile.

We were all three excited to see inside the Roman Baths. We were warned off touching the water, though I’m pretty sure none of us would have wanted to touch the lime green standing water anyway. The history and other artifacts that were in and around the structure were all fascinating. The waters were believed to have healing powers, though I would bet they also used to be less, well, green.

We all chipped in to share a glass of the (not green, but not entirely clear) “healing” hot spring water from the area. It tasted a bit like eggs. I suppose I’d choke it down if I really did believe it had healing powers.

So then we got the taste out of our mouths with some tea and scones at the Pump Room. We finished off our day walking around Bath before hopping on the coach to head back home to London. (I miss saying that. Home to London.)

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Behold, the greenest water I have ever seen.

“Now, the question of the hour is: Who’s got the Pandorica? Answer: I do.”

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Ask Me About Free Walking Tours

Free. Walking. Tours. What’s not to like? You get to explore a fabulous city in the most up-close way possible with some of the most entertaining tour guides you will ever meet. After this summer, I am officially a walking endorsement for Sandeman’s New Europe tours (and any other tip-only walking tours – looking at you, York, Venice, & Rome).

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I met my first London friends (as well as the Bathrobe Crusader – look it up, haha) on my first London tour.

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I (along with Angela, Laura, and Lily) got one of the most entertaining history lessons in Dublin.

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No group pictures were taken on my Venice & Rome walking tours – but they were both fantastic. So many iconic sights!

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I took my parents on the London walking tour when they came to visit – and I was just as entertained the second time around.

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Dad & I were the only ones to show up to the non-Sandeman’s York tour in the cold rain. (This one deserves its own post.)

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Dad & I also went on the Edinburgh tour – where we ended up buying tickets for a guided tour of Edinburgh Castle for all three of us the next day.

Some of my best traveling stories from 2014 happened during or because of a free walking tour. I think I remember more history from one 3 hour tour than any semester of class. It is also an excellent way to get in some great exercise without realizing it. And it is always a treat to see a new city from the perspective of someone who lives there. So if you’re ever in a city with Sandeman’s, go!

“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” – Lao Tzu

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Making Friends in a Foreign Country

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risking life and limb to reenact the Abbey Road cover

Being in a foreign country by yourself makes for a unique social experience. The type of friendship that takes weeks or months to develop back home in the States takes about two hours when you’re abroad. What is this phenomenon? Is it shared experience? Is it gravitating towards other expats? Is it a different mindset? Is it fear or loss of inhibitions?

I think it could be a little bit of all of the above. Before arriving in London, I read somewhere to say yes to everything, and b aggressively friendly in order to make friends abroad. I guess I kind of took that to heart, because I went from being by myself to suddenly having a facebook group full of friends overnight. I’ve already been on a pub crawl, to dinner, shopping in markets, exploring public transportation, and even to Abbey Road, with girls that feel like good friends. Somehow, getting almost run over while trying to get a fantastic picture of your Beatles-moment is funny instead of traumatizing when there are friends nearby. Someone is rearranging their trip to the Harry Potter Studios London tour so I can tag along, and I have jumped into a weekend trip to Brussles during the last minute planning stage. There is no awkwardness, no wondering if I’m annoying others with my constant requests to go find something to do, and a degree of comfort I usually don’t feel with people I have known for less than a week.

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Me, Lily, Amie! Photo cred to Amie.

I have made a conscious effort to say yes to everything I think I can reasonably afford, and so far everything has paid off! We all know that we’re in the same boat, I guess. The same things brought us all to London, and we’re all looking to have an unforgettable experience. Regardless of the reason, I am thankful for this phenomenon because I know some of the memories I’m about to make couldn’t happen without these girls and the other people I have yet to meet. So, if you ever find yourself alone in a foreign country, remember: the key is aggressive friendliness. Become a stage 5 clinger, even. Because others secretly want to be aggressively friendly, too.

 

 

 

 

“A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.” Tim Cahill.

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