Travel Mishaps When Life Gives you Lemons…

I’ve been happily planning our family’s next big trip and I’m pretty excited about it! After a year of dreaming, pinning, reading blogs, and saving some instagood ideas I’ve finally booked my flights and accommodations!  We’ll be heading to London for two weeks over the Christmas holidays, a dream come true!


Now that our flights are booked, its time to narrow down, prioritize and finalize some of those fun ideas I’ve been thinking about all year. I’ve been booking tickets and tours, researching day trips, and making plans… secure in the knowledge that even with the most careful and organized planning I won’t get to do all of it… something will go wrong.


Yes, you read that right. Something will go wrong, something always does! The key is knowing that even though I don’t know what that something is or when it will present itself we make the best of it when it does.

As the saying goes:

“When life hands you lemons, you make lemonade.”


The boys and I put together this list of travel mishaps, most of which we now laugh about. Have you ever had a travel mishap? Were you able to make lemonade, or were the lemons just too sour?

Lost In Tempura

Life’s given you lemons when you think your dinner check will be on the very reasonable side but actually ends up costing as much as all the other meals on the entire trip combined! Whoops, we made a mistake with the conversion from yen to dollars…

That said…

Japan with kids #japanwithkids

Our meal was fantastic, in fact it was hands down the best meal we had the entire trip! Tempura in Japan was incredible and nothing like anything we’d in the States. The batter was light as air, the house made sauce was divine, and we learned a new way to enjoy tempura, a squeeze of lemon and a pinch of salt. It had been the perfect way to end what we all considered the vacation of a lifetime!

TempuraWant to read more about that incredible dinner or about our other Japanese adventures? Check out these related posts:

Japan! Adventures in Cuisine!
Japan! Tokyo… No Wasabi Kudasai!
Japan! Planes, Trains & Automobiles!

Last Chance for Gas

Life’s given you lemons when you’re driving a diesel car, but you put gas in the tank. Whoops! Having never driven a diesel it was news to us that American diesel cars and pump nozzles have different shapes preventing such a mistake from happening,

That said…


Not having a car meant cancelling our trip to the Dingle Peninsula, which although disappointing, turned out to be more than okay as we spent a lovely day wandering in the Killarney National Park. Located just across the road from downtown Killarney and about one block from our hotel it was just steps away. No car needed! The weather was somewhat unpredictable, but the boys loved walking into the wind and rain! The park path twisted and turned through forest and meadow and at the end a castle!

Killarney Ireland

Want to read more about our adventures in Killarney National Park or about our other Irish adventures? Check out these related posts:

Ireland! 50 Shades of Green!
Ireland! Along the way… Cork!
Ireland! Three Days in Dublin!

High Wind Advisory

Life’s given you lemons when you’ve traveled half way around the world to see the famous Benagil Sea Cave (listed as one of the world’s most beautiful places), and high winds, during the entire visit, prevent you from ever reaching the cave, which is only accessible by boat.

That said…



We ended up at the Praia da Marinha, listed by the Michelin Guide as one of the ten most beautiful beaches in Europe and as one of the one hundred most beautiful beaches in the world! The entire time we were there I kept thinking how amazing it was and that this couldn’t be real! The high winds and surf prevented swimming, but we relaxed on the sand, dipped our toes in the water and took many photos.

#beachbumTo read more about our visit to the Praia da Marinha or about our other Portuguese adventures check out these related posts:

The Algarve! Pinch Me! Is This real? 
Portugal! DETOUR… To The End Of The World!
Portugal! Beautiful Lisbon!

Every Cloud has a Silver Lining 

Life’s given you lemons when your night sky photo tour of Monument Valley is foiled when an unexpected storm complete with rain, wind, thunder and lightening suddenly blows in.

That said…

Monument Valley Utah #monumentvalleyEven with the heavy rain keeping us indoors, we spent an enjoyable evening in our little cabin and got some great sunrise photos instead.

Monument Valley Utah Arizona Family Travel #familyroadtrip

To read more about our visit to Monument Valley or the successful night sky photo tour in Bryce Canyon check out these related blog post:

Soaring Over Monument Valley
Exploring Bryce Canyon National Park Day & Night

Just Be Nice

Life’s given you lemons when fellow tourists behave badly. Our visit to the Las Vegas Neon Museum would have been perfect, but for the rude behavior of another guest. His strange and threatening attitude put everyone on edge, including the guide.

That said…

Things to do in Las Vegas with Kids Neon MuseumWe loved seeing the signs, and learning about the history of Sin City. The museum staff were kind and even refunded our admission.

Things to do with kids in Las Vegas Neon Museum

To read more about our visit to The Neon Museum, and our other adventures in Las Vegas check out these related blog posts:

Las Vegas The Neon Museum
Las Vegas: Beyond the Strip
8 Things to do in Las Vegas… with Kids

Planes, Trains & Automobiles

Life’s given you lemons when your kid throws up before during, or after a plane flight. My little one has thrown up in just about every airport, plane, or taxi from Paris to Rome, and everywhere in between. If there’s anywhere he hasn’t thrown up my older one took his place.  Whoops, there went the retainer!

That said…

Dublin Rental Car Agency

There’s nothing like a little throw up to speed up the check in process.

Travel with kids #travelwithkids

To read more about… ha ha! Okay, maybe you don’t want to read more about that, but here are some fun and thankfully unrelated posts:

Much Ado about Paris!
Roma! La Città Eterna!

Sour Lemons

Sometimes it’s just not possible to make lemonade no matter how much sugar you add to those sour lemons…


Life’s given you sour lemons when you go to load up the car after a fun weekend in Santa Barbara, and find it crawling with thousands of ants! I’m not sure anything could have prepared us for that! Four hours and a through cleaning later, we set off for home. Needless to say the ride wasn’t our most relaxing.

santa barbara-0901

Related post: Santa Barbara!

Food Poisoning 

Life’s given you sour lemons when your toddler falls ill with salmonella on the flight home from Hawaii and instead of heading to your house from the airport you head to the doctor.

What’s The Matter?

Life’s given you sour lemons when one day after you arrive for your vacation you fall ill with a rare and difficult to diagnose virus. Spending your vacation in the hotel room instead of out exploring, now that’s just rotten!


New Orleans! Lets Eat Lunch & Talk About Dinner!

Even though things don’t always turn out as planned, I’ll still take the occasional lemons if it means we get to have lemonade in the end!

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Travel Mishaps #familytravel


Wanderlust is Calling! Travel Resources & Inspiration Hilarystyle


Generalife Gardens Alhambra Spain

It’s no secret that exploring the world and everything it has to offer is something I love and want to do more of (hence this blog), but realistically I can’t always be traveling… So how do I keep my wanderlust at bay? I admit it’s not always easy, and some who know me, mainly my husband, might say I fail miserably.

Relaxing in the Generalife Gardens of the Alhambra Granada Spain 2015

Feed Your Wanderlust

Feeding my wanderlusting spirit is a full time job! Have I mentioned, I love my job!? Eating out and cooking food from favorite destinations, or places I dream of going is a fun way to satisfy my wanderlust. In fact, we’ve picked destinations based solely on a meal!

Our first family trip to New Orleans came about while planning a ski trip in Tahoe. Sitting in a New Orleans themed restaurant planning, we realized, why not New Orleans? We went straight home and booked our tickets! To this day we’ve never made it to Tahoe, but we do visit New Orleans every year.

Taken in City Park during our most recent visit to NOLA in April 2017.

Interested in visiting New Orleans? I’ve written a “few” Articles:

I love fish & chips, and they’re a nice reminder of our  visits to London, a favorite destination of mine. We make regular visits to The Wee Chippy, on Venice Beach, and although they don’t offer mushy peas, it does help keep that particular craving satisfied.


We love the food in Spain with two of my favorite items being Manchego cheese and chorizo. I keep a steady supply of both these items in the house at all times!

I don’t know how “Spanish” the Spanish Latte at Menotti’s is, but I do love the coffee in Spain, so this is a nice reminder.


Cheese is easily my favorite food! My local market has a great selection and I was pretty excited to discover they even had Blarney Castle cheese?!


Cork Blarney Castle
Here we are at Blarney Castle in 2016

Blogs & Books


hilarystyle blog header tim

Of course I don’t only write a travel blog I also read other travel blogs, which not only helps with planning, but they’re also great for “visiting” places I may never make it to, and for inspiration and advice!

I met  up with my fellow Blogger, Cory, from Fifi & Hop in New Orleans!

I’ve discovered many wonderful blogs, and have come across real world advice which I know I’ll use. In fact, I already have!

I’ll be traveling throughout Nevada, Utah, and Arizona in a few weeks, and I booked rooms based on Oregon Girl Around the World‘s blog. Thanks to Tanama Tales, I learned I’ll need advance reservations for the Las Vegas Neon Museum, a place I definitely plan on visiting.

Travel Blogs I read frequently:

Clare from Suitcases and Sandcastles writes about family travel. Her photography is stunning, and her destinations are wide ranging, they include everything from remote Greek Islands to The Hundred Acre Wood (otherwise known as Ashdown Forest)!

Katy from Untold Morsels  writes about her family’s travels with an emphasis on food and unique places to stay! After reading about her stay in Amsterdam I’m definitely putting houseboat on my list!

Lorelei from Caliglobtrotter is a California girl currently living in Germany. I love reading about her adventures, especially the many castles she visits! Her photography is amazing, and now I know how to pronounce Ljubljana! (Pronounced: Lub-lee-yana)!

Erin of Oregon Girl Around the World currently lives in Copenhagen, but we’re both from the PNW, and I love that we connected with eachother via blogging! She’s full of fun and eco-friendly ideas!

I always look forward to reading posts by The Adventures of Daisy the Bus, written by Jonny a father of four, who loves to travel to places off the beaten path. He paints a lovely picture with his words, his photos are pretty great too, and I have wanted to visit just about every place he mentions!

Cory of Fifi & Hop, who I was lucky enough to meet in New Orleans, writes about her family’s adventures on the East Coast and abroad! I especially loved her post on Tuscany, I was ready to book a flight after reading it!

I love reading Joy Loves Travel who seems to have some similar interests to my own! Her info on Belgium came in handy prior to my own visit there.

Dannii Jane of A Beautiful Thing writes a lifestyle blog, but features her adventures in and around London and Europe. Thanks to her we found ourselves in Camden during our last visit!



I admit I have a guidebook habit. As soon as I learn I’ll be going somewhere, or even if it’s just a possibility I’ll pick up the guidebook(s). I also love travel magazines, the big glossy photos, Best Of lists and the off the beaten path recommendations all feed my passion to see more of the world!

Though not a book, Instagram is great for inspiration, and I have discovered not only far away places, but many fun ideas much closer to home.

Some of my favorite Instagrammers:

⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ 🇬🇧 Photo: @cleeve_04_ 🇬🇧 ______________________________________ Good evening from the very edge of the known Northern Roman Empire – Hadrian's Wall, Northumberland, England. I absolutely love this shot..but some of you might be thinking "eh? what's this?"… let me explain. On becoming Roman Emperor in 117AD, Hadrian set about making the Empire more secure, separating Roman and Barbarian territories. This was the result…Hadrian’s Wall was the north-west frontier of the Roman empire for nearly 300 years. It was built by the Roman army on the orders of the emperor Hadrian following his visit to Britain in AD 122. A World Heritage Site since 1987, Hadrian’s Wall is an astounding feat of engineering. The concrete alone is a marvel.. Roman concrete (as seen in the core of Hadrian’s wall) was made by pouring liquid mortar (fine volcanic ash) over a layer of broken stones, allowing it to harden before repeating the process. It's stood the constant battering from rain and snow for thousands of years! Hadrian's Wall leaves a lasting impression on any who visit, including writer George RR Martin who used it as inspiration for his own Wall in the bestselling books and hit TV series, Game of Thrones. This is probably one of the few places I recommend going when the weather is a bit wild. Sunshine isn't the same… dark clouds adds to the atmosphere. I've uploaded a story from my recent trip there… a very brooding atmosphere. I don't know who that figure was standing at the top near the end of the footage…when I walked back up, there was nobody in sight and I could see for miles. A visitor from the past? Or had I had one too many warming whiskeys in the nearby cosy pub? (And yes…this was the location used in the Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves film with Kevin Costner and Morgan Freeman!) – Beautiful shot by @cleeve_04_ 🇬🇧 Want your Photos of Britain to be featured? Follow us and then add the tag #photosofbritain and tag us in the picture too! 🇬🇧

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wander 🌎 wonder Photo Credit: @london #WRDSMTH #WRDSMTHinLondon #flashback

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🌎Interlaken, Switzerland 🇨🇭 📸Photo by: @veronique.yang

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Preserve your Wanderlust


I’m sure I’m not alone when I say I have TOO many photos on my computer and no idea how to manage them all! Recently I’ve started creating photo books using not only my travel pictures, but the text from my blog posts as well. They look lovely, and make great keepsakes.


We don’t just shut our photos up into books on a shelf, we love to print them out for display too! Some of our favorites from near and far are hanging in large format around our home. We love it when people come to visit and ask about the different locations!

These 20 x 20  London dessert prints hang in my son’s room!

It’s not all about photography! We love a good project, and have created various pieces of art around the house, which represent loved places. Most recently I painted this “graffiti” Union Jack flag using spray paint and resin. I’m practicing for those Venice Art Walls! We can’t forget about the around the world furniture projects!



Lego Destinations


We’re big lego fans in our house and we get excited when sets are created that represent places we’ve been!

This rather large Lego Tower Bridge lives on top of my guidebook shelf!

We built this Tower Bridge set over the winter holidays. I’m anxiously awaiting my Houses of Parliament set, which should keep me busy this summer, while planning what I hope is a Christmas trip to the UK.

Be A Hometown Tourist

#gettycenterviewWhether or not you’ve lived very long in a place, I guarantee you haven’t done it all! We’ve had such a great time this past year playing tourist in our own town, and with all that Los Angeles has to offer, I see no signs of that slowing down!

In case you’re interested, here are just some of the articles I’ve written about our recent discoveries in and around the Los Angeles area!

The J. Paul Getty Museums 

8 Reasons VENICE Should Top your LA List

50 Things To Do in Los Angeles

The Museum of Ice Cream Los Angeles

The Hidden Staircases of Silver Lake

Downtown Los Angeles Graffiti & Mural Walking Tour

InstaLA! 15 Places to Snap Those InstaGood Pics

InstaLA! Part 2: #WallAntics

Tourist In My Own Town

One Amazing Day in LA!

Warner Brothers Studio Tour

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

The Last Bookstore…

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Brides & Wedding Traditions From Around the World


June is  wedding season, so…

Catherdral of Toledo-8227

I’ve been married for 16 years, but the romantic in me still gets excited when I see a bride, and for some reason even more so when I’m traveling! Maybe because someone once told me it’s good luck to see a bride? Or because I still remember how happy I was on my wedding day and I’m reminded of those feelings? Or maybe because I know what’s coming… ha ha!


Wedding traditions vary from country to country, but apparently the lure of the white dress is universal, as I’ve seen them everywhere from New Orleans, Louisiana to Tokyo, Japan!


I always try to snap a photo when I see brides, and the following photos are collected from the past few years of travel. Please do keep in mind that these photos are usually taken from a distance, a moving car, or a hotel window, as I wasn’t actually invited to any of these weddings. Along with the photos I’ve included some fun facts and wedding traditions from around the globe. Of course I’m including my own wedding photo… Let’s hope all these lovely couples are still as happily married as I am!

Toledo, Spain

This photo was taken in 2015 at Ayuntamiento Plaza just outside the Catherdral of Toledo, one of the more beautiful cathedrals I’ve ever visited. Toledo is known as the City of Three Cultures, which includes Muslims, Christians and Jews.


Popular in many parts of the world Spanish brides also throw their boquets with the idea that the one to catch it will be the next to marry.  A Spanish variation on the same theme is to pin an upsidedown corsage on unmarried female guests. If the corsage is lost during the festivities that lucky lady will be the next to marry!

Tokyo, Japan

This photo was taken in 2014 during breakfast in lobby of the Tokyo Penninsula Hotel. It was quite early in the morning, so I was somewhat surprised to hear wedding music and then see a bride appear, but I got this picture just as she was almost out of sight!


Quick Change

In Japan the bride will often wear multiple outfits during the ceremony and reception, as many as four, sometimes ending with a western style party gown, which signifies her return to everyday life. Guests at a Japanese wedding will give gifts of money to the bride and groom in small paper packets called mizuhiki.

London, England

I took this photo in 2013 during one of our many visits to London. We had just finished the Tower Bridge Experience, which by the way is a fascinating attraction! This seems like a lovely, although crowded, place for wedding photos.


Royal Icing

Many of today’s most popular white wedding traditions can be attributed to Queen Victoria. It was Queen Victoria’s wedding cake, that first used the icing known today as “royal” icing. Hence the name royal… I love that!

Paris, France

This shot was taken in 2016 outside Notre Dame de Paris just after we climbed to the top!

Paris France

After our 2016 visit to La Madeleine, a beautiful church commissioned by Napoleon, I decided to take a quick lap around the building, and came upon this lovely bridal couple!


Wedding Cake

A croquembouche is a tower of delicious cream filled pastries held together with delicate strings of caramel. These delicious towers are often served at a French wedding. I read that the idea originates from guests bringing small cakes and other treats to wedding celebrations and piling them high on the table.

Amsterdam, Holland, The Netherlands

Having only just arrived in Amsterdam during our 2016 Europe trip, we were on our way to the hotel when I looked out and saw this bridal party! Our taxi was speeding past and I stuck my camera out the window!


Bridal Showers

A popular tradition in the United States, the bridal shower originated in Holland. When a Dutch bride’s family was too poor to provide a dowry, or if the father did not approve of the match her friends would “shower” her with gifts that were often included in the dowry.

Traditional Dutch Wedding Clogs

Belfast, Northern Ireland

This photo was taken during our 2016 visit to Belfast, from inside the Titanic Belfast Museum, which is apparently a popular wedding venue. We loved our visit to this museum, and what an amazing backdrop!

Belfast Northern Ireland

A traditional Irish wedding toast:

“Friends and relatives, so fond and dear, ’tis our greatest pleasure to have you here. When many years this day has passed, fondest memories will always last. So we drink a cup of Irish mead and ask God’s blessing in your hour of need.”

The guests respond: “On this special day, our wish to you, the goodness of the old, the best of the new. God bless you both who drink this mead, may it always fill your every need.“

New Orleans, Lousiana

This photo of a Second Line Parade was taken from my hotel window in 2016 at the Omni Royal Hotel on Royal Street in the French Quarter!


Weddings in New Orleans have a special added flare, especially weddings in the French Quarter! The Bride and groom might arrive at their reception via horse drawn carriage, or by leading a second line parade preceded by a jazz band! Now that’s making an entrance!

Second Line Parade

Staying the French Quarter is always interesting, and no matter night or day, you never know what you might see when you look out your window!


While second line parades stem from African American jazz funerals they have evolved to become part of many celebrations in New Orleans. The second line parade at a wedding signifies the befinning of the new life between the bride and groom. Don’t be surprised if you see one these cheerful wedding parades leading the entire wedding, guests and all, from the church to the reception.

This photo was taken during our 2015 visit from my hotel window at the Hyatt French Quarter in 2015.


Ribbon Pulling

While I haven’t seen the ribbon pulling tradition in action, I find the idea fascinating. Similar in tradition to the bride tossing her boquet the cake’s frosting has “meaningful” charms hidden within, each one attached to a ribbon. Female guests pull the ribbons to find out their future fate. You might pull out the heart signifying true love, but then again you may get the button, symbolic for old maid…

Costa Mesa, California

This photo was taken just the other day while the boys and I were running errands and enjoying treats from Susie Cakes at the South Coast Plaza Mall. While I don’t think I would chose this location for my wedding photos, I always enjoy seeing a happy wedding party!


Did you know?

Los Angeles is the most popular city in California to get married? Popular wedding trends in the Golden State include eco-friendly ideas, rustic chic, farm fresh to table fare, and free form flower boquets.

Speaking of flowers… fellow blogger, Katy from Untold Morsels, had her wedding flowers wrapped up and gifted to her guests at the end of the reception! That’s a wedding favor I’d like to have, and eco-friendly too!


This is a picture of my wedding photo because apparently I didn’t see the future of digital, and I turned down a cd with my wedding photos on it… hindsight is truly 20/20.


If I had to do it over again, I’m only talking about the wedding folks, I might like to have a destination wedding! Maybe in one of these amazing places, or maybe I’d do everything exactly the same… Anyway… if you’re wondering, our wedding and reception took place in Downtown Seattle in the atrium of one of Tim’s favorite buildings, what can I say he’s an architect. Some of the traditions we included: Something old, new, borrowed and blue, a first dance, and cutting and eating the cake together.


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Highlights… & Hindsights Making The Case for Repeat Destinations

I’m currently, ok always, considering my next vacation destination, and with so many amazing places in the world it’s hard to decide. Should we commit those precious vacation days to repeat destinations, digging deeper into what a city has to offer? If we do, what about all those wonderful new places just waiting to be discovered?

Sailing ships! A highlight of our Paris visit!

When traveling, I’m torn between wanting to wing it and not wanting to miss anything, which definitely helps makes the case for repeat visits to certain destinations. For example, our recent trips to Paris, London, and Edinburgh were all repeat visits, we’d already checked off many of the main attractions, which enabled us to explore more freely. One point for repeat visits!

Our tour of the Houses of Parliament was a definite highlight!

That said, one of my favorite things about traveling is the discovery of the new. The surprise and delight you feel when discovering something wonderful in a new place simply can’t be beat! These moments are one of the reasons I love to travel, the highlights of our adventures! One point for new destinations!

We missed out on Arthur’s Seat during our first visit to Edinburgh.

However, being new to a place can at times be a hindrance. No matter how much research I’ve done, there are times when things don’t go quite as planned. Whether it’s accommodations, location, food, or timing, these are what I like to refer to as the hindsights of our adventure. These are things one can only know after time spent and often it’s too late… Another point for repeat destinations.

This view from our hotel window in Bruges was a highlight!

Of course not everywhere has a hindsight and some places are just plain full of surprise and delight. I love surprise and delight! Looks like another point for new destinations!

Northern Ireland Antrim Coast
Flying to Glasgow from Belfast we were treated to this fabulous view!

So, it looks like a tie between old and new, which means I’m no closer to working out where in the world, we’ll go next, but in the meantime, here are some of the highlights and hindsights from our summer 2016 adventures in Europe!

Highlights & Hindsights

Dublin, Ireland

Highlight: Guinness Factory Tour

There were many wonderful moments during our visit to Dublin, however it was our visit to the Guinness Storehouse that came out as number one! Which speaks volumes, since I don’t even drink beer. All four of us absolutely loved this experience and if you should find yourself in Dublin I highly recommend you go.


Hindsight: Popular attractions require advance planning

Our planned a visit to the  Kilmainham Gaol Museum went awry when we couldn’t print our tickets and unfortunately we missed out. We ended up visiting Malahide Castle instead, which was delightful, but lesson learned.

Cork, Ireland

Highlight:  The Blarney Stone

For more than 200 years people have been kissing the Blarney Stone and after some debate (it is the world’s germiest attraction) Simon and I decided to join the club!

Cork Blarney Castle
The Blarney Stone

Hindsight: Touristy doesn’t always equal bad

If only we’d known how much we were going to enjoy exploring Blarney Castle, we would have given ourselves more time.

Killarney, Ireland

Highlight: Killarney National Park

We spent three nights in Killarney, the gateway to the Ring of Kerry and the perfect little Irish town! Quaint, friendly and picturesque, it was exactly what I had pictured an Irish town to look like!

Killarney Ireland
Ross Castle is located inside Killarney National Park

Hindsights: Whoops, attention to detail is key!

Putting the wrong fuel in our rental car meant a drastic change in our plans. Instead of a visit to the Dingle Peninsula and Skellig Michal we spent a lovely day wandering in  Killarney National Park. If I ever find my way back to the west of Ireland a trip to the Skellig Islands will be my first order of business!

Limerick, Ireland

Highlight: King John’s Castle

We weren’t sure what to expect at King Johns’ Castle, but I do love a good castle and we had to stop for lunch anyway so why not just eat lunch at the castle?

King John’s Castle

Hindsight: There was none!

This was a bonus stop on our way to Galway, and we were delighted with the way this midday stop turned out!

Galway, Ireland

Highlight: The Cliffs of Moher

The spectacular Cliffs of Moher are a definite must-see if you’re visiting the West Coast of the Emerald Isle.

ireland cliffs of moher
The Cliffs of Moher

Hindsight: Allow time for unexpected adventures

There is a walk along the cliff tops , but we were running out of daylight and weren’t really dressed for a hike, so we satisfied ourselves with a good long look over the edge.

Belfast, Northern Ireland

Highlight: Everything about the entire visit

Our visit to the Antrim Coast in Northern Ireland was by far the best day of our 12 day tour of the Emerald Isle, if not our entire summer abroad!

#dark Hedges

Hindsight: We should have stayed longer.

Having no idea how much we would enjoy our visit we only booked three nights, but easily could have spent twice that many exploring Belfast as well as the amazing natural beauty along the Northern Coast.

Glasgow, Scotland

Highlight: Mural Trail

A very happy accident, we discovered Glasgow’s Mural trail on our way to another destination!


Hindsight: Glasgow deserves more time!

Two days just wasn’t enough in this walk friendly city brimming with architecture, art, music, and shopping!

Inverness, Scotland

Highlight: Urquhart Castle on the Shores of Loch Ness

Having missed out on a visit to Loch Ness on our previous trip to the Highlands, we decided to make it a priority. A highlight was exploring the ancient ruins of Urquhart Castle, located on the shores of the lake.


Hindsight: So much more than a monster!

Our visit here was wonderful and exceeded our expectations in every way.

The Highlands of Scotland

Highlight: Eileen Donan Castle

A last minute decision to see Eileen Donan Castle did not disappoint. It’s no wonder that Eilean Donan is the most photographed castle in Scotland, it’s setting in the middle of three lochs is stunning!


Hindsight: The Isle of Skye

There is never enough time in this magical country. We got a small taste of what the Isle of Skye has to offer and I’m definitely going back for more!

Edinburgh, Scotland

Highlight: Everything

Have you ever visited a place that felt so right, so special that it was almost painful to leave? Love at first sight? That’s exactly how I felt about Edinburgh from the very first moment.


Hindsight: I’ve realized my Edinburgh list will never be completed

Although we didn’t have time to go inside the Writers Museum, we did spend time in the courtyard reading the tiles, which are inscribed with lovely quotes written by some of the city’s most famous writers. All of them about Edinburgh of course!

Hadrian’s Wall

Highlight: A dream come true

I know that for some, what basically amounts to a crumbling brick wall in the middle of nowhere England might not be interesting, but for me, a history loving anglophile, this was an absolute dream come true!


Hindsight: Walk the Wall Hike

It’s quite popular to “walk” the Wall and I would have liked to, at least for a little while, but serious rain was threatening and after a few minutes the boys abandoned me for the shelter of the Housestead’s Museum.

York, England

Highlight: York Minster

It made sense that the center piece of York, York Minster, the largest medieval Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe, would be our first stop. We were not disappointed!


Hindsight: There wasn’t one!

The rain fell hard and steadily during our visit, but thankfully we still managed to enjoyed this lovely city.

Nottingham, England

Highlight: THE Nottingham!

Yes, that Nottingham, home of Robin Hood and his band of Merry Men!


Hindsight: Sometimes the weather wins

Sadly, extremely heavy rain put us off from a visit to Sherwood Forest.

London, England

Highlight: Camden Market

My highlight is also a hindsight!  I can’t believe the Camden Market wasn’t already on my radar, It’s right up my alley and reminds me a lot of Venice Beach, California. Fun & quirky!


Hindsight: Top of the Shard

With my love of photography, I regret that I didn’t take the time to visit the observation deck at the Shard. Greenwich is also high on my list for next time…

Brugge, Belgium

Highlight: Beautiful Medieval Town

I was delighted by the incredible beauty of Brugge, a quaint little medieval town. I immediately fell in love and spent the better part of my three days there taking endless photos.

Bruges Canal

Hindsight: Why didn’t we eat more chocolate?

The question is: With endless chocolate shops around every corner, why didn’t we visit more of them? I’m afraid that’s a question, I’ll never know the answer to.

Ghent, Belgium

Highlight: Graffiti Street

Wanting to see something a bit off the beaten path and big fans of street art, we were excited to learn that Ghent has a dedicated graffiti street called Werregaren straat. We really enjoyed this and loved the idea of a dedicated place where anyone can express themselves freely.


Hindsight: Maybe next time…

Elliot really wished we’d had a can of spray paint or two, so he could contribute.

Amsterdam, Holland The Netherlands

Highlight: Everything about our visit!

A lovely and walkable city with no shortage of interesting sights and streets to wander we made the most of every minute of our visit in Amsterdam.


Hindsight: We visited Amsterdam and didn’t ride a boat or a bike, what?!

We made the most of every moment while visiting this fabulous city, but still ran out of time before ever stepping onto a boat, or peddling a bike. We did see some windmills though! If I had to do it over again I would stay on a houseboat!

Zaans Schans, Holland

Highlight: Windmills

I felt I couldn’t visit Holland without seeing at least one windmill up close and personal! I know, I know, that’s a very touristy thing to do, but hey, sometimes I’m a tourist!


Hindsight: Why didn’t we rent bikes here?

If we ever find our way back to this wonderful place we will be sure to rent bikes. The wide pathways and lovely scenery would make for a perfect bike ride!

Paris, France

Highlight: Sainte Chapelle

As I emerged from the doorway into the main part of the chapel my mouth literally fell open. I was completely surrounded by jaw dropping beauty. How did I not know about this amazing place?


Hindsight: Accommodations

While there wasn’t really anything wrong with our hotel, I’ve yet to really hit the nail on the head as far as Paris lodgings go… hopefully next time!

Versailles, France

Highlight: Marie Antoinette’s Gardens

My favorite part of the day was our visit to the Petit Trianon, the home away from home of Marie Antoinette, who apparently wasn’t so enamored with the main Palace and preferred to spend her time elsewhere.


Hindsight: An evening visit might have been better

We should have considered going later in the afternoon for the musical fountains show and evening fireworks. We might have been able to beat the crowds, and the heat.

London, England

Highlight: Hyde Park

London’s parks are the perfect way to spend a sunny afternoon just like the locals do! They are beautiful, vast and filled with activities for every interest.


Hindsight: Do we really have to go home?

Even after six weeks of travel, I wasn’t ready to go home.

Nothing makes me happier than discovering new places with my family and sharing them with all of you!

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London: An Afternoon in Kensington


#southkensingtonAfter Six weeks of travel our amazing adventures through Ireland, the United Kingdom, Belgium, the Netherlands, and France, were coming to an end, and it was time to head home, but not before one last hurrah! What better way to end the trip of a lifetime, than strolling around in my number one favorite city: London!


Wanting to explore somewhere new, we chose Kensington, not only was it a neighborhood I hadn’t spent much time in, but we had an early flight back to the States and its proximity to Heathrow was a big plus. Our hotel, The Kensington, was walking distance to Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, the Museum of Natural History, High Street, and many other interesting sights and restaurants!


Speaking of restaurants, arriving, from Paris, just in time for lunch we discovered the Hereford Arms, a friendly  pub and restaurant with excellent service and even better food. I had the best tarter sauce I’ve ever had there, and after weeks traveling throughout the UK, thats saying a lot! Seriously!

After lunch we walked up and down High Street enjoying the beautiful flower arrangements, poking in and out of the various shops and galleries and stopping to take photos. Our little one had recently discovered he actually enjoys reading, so we picked up a copy of Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone for the flight home.

Hyde Park & Kensington Gardens

#princealbertmemorialWanting to make the most of our very last day, Simon and I decided to explore Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, which were walking distance from our hotel and are conveniently connected to one another.  London’s parks are the perfect way to spend a sunny afternoon just like the locals do! They are beautiful, vast and filled with activities for every interest.


We wandered through the parks taking photos, hunting Pokemon, and stopping along the way to admire The Albert Memorial, Royal Albert Hall and the interactive Peter Pan Statue.


One of my favorite things to see is the Serpentine Gallery, but in past visits my boys have enjoyed both the Princess Diana Memorial Playground and Diana Memorial Fountain.

The fountain was an especially big hit as the day we visited it was quite a warm afternoon, however the playground’s Peter Pan theme is really charming. Who wouldn’t want to take the helm of a giant pirate ship, hang out in a tee pee , or play sentry on the walls of a fort!

The Serpentine Gallery

#serpentinepavilion2016As I mentioned I really enjoy, the Serpentine Gallery and our  first stop within the Park was the Gallery’s Summer Pavilion installation. If you haven’t had a chance to see this, I highly recommend it! The exhibition is different each year, and showcases the designs of up and coming architects via the building of unique and temporary structures located within the Park. This was my second visit to see this exhibition and if given the opportunity I would go every year! Depending on the year’s design, visitors can go and in and out, enjoy drinks and snacks, and even climb onto the structure. While most years the exhibition features only one structure, this year’s featured some smaller buildings as well.


Highlights and Tips:

  • The many activities within the park differ depending on the time of year, so consider repeat visits.
  • Admission to The Serpentine Gallery is free.
  • The Pavilion Exhibition is a summer installation and changes every year. Check the website for the most current information.
  • Kids 12 and under can enjoy the Peter Pan themed Diana Memorial Playground with adult supervision.
  • Go ahead and dip your feet into the Diana Memorial Fountain. Its permitted!
  • The Peter Pan statue is interactive, so consider bringing a smart device.
  • Did you know you can take a guided tour of the Albert Memorial?
  • Kensington is a great place to stay if you have an early morning flight out of Heathrow.
Until next time, London…

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Paris: The City of Love A Photo Tour

Sometimes referred to as The City of Love, Paris is definitely moving up on my Favorite Cities list, but it wasn’t love at first sight. In fact, It wasn’t until my third visit, that I really came to realize what, many other people already feel: I love Paris! I know that with so many amazing places in the world it can be hard to commit precious vacation time to repeat destinations, but sometimes it’s those repeat visits that really show you what a city is all about.

In Paris there are…


Lovely views around every corner.

The Pantheon…

Paris France

Is a place I’ve still never stepped foot inside. Its first on my list for next time!

How much love is too much…

Paris France

Over 1 million locks of love have been removed from Paris’s bridges! That’s 65 tons of love!

Speaking of Love…

Paris France

I just love it when we see a bride and Groom!

What’s that smell…

Paris France

I love cheese, but the boys weren’t too keen on the smell.



They had no complaints about the cookies!

A perfect afternoon…


is made up of, Street performers, Berthillon glace and a little rest along the banks of the Seine on the Ile de Sainte Louis.

Once upon a time…


The Rue Mouffetard was a main road in and out of town. One of our favorite places! You’ll find a mix or tourists and locals alike on this pedestrian friendly market street.

Graffiti or art…


Street Art! We were delighted to discover among other street art pieces this C-3PO Chewbacca piece by the elusive French street artist, Invader.

You’ll find yourself surrounded by beauty…


Sometimes in the most simple of forms. From the Metropolitan signs…


and bicycles…

Paris France

to corner flower shops, and


The many corner cafes.

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Much Ado about Paris!

After 5 weeks of travel… the Pièce de Résistance! Paris!

#parisWe’d arrived, and as we drove down the boulevards lined with beautiful architecture, endless cafes and world famous monuments I was struck by just how much I love this city! Having checked many of the city’s biggest tourist attractions off on a previous trip, I decided this visit would be about new experiences. Taking it one step further, we threw  guidebooks to the wind, and decided to wing it!

La Joie

#parisWe spent a lot of our time wandering and in doing so found ourselves enjoying the unexpected. I noticed golden details on many of the buildings and wondered if they’d always been there? We marveled at how every street corner is something special. We hunted Pokemon and sailed tiny boats in the Luxembourg gardens and had the best time. Why hadn’t we done that before?! We saw the Water Lilies at the Musée de l’Orangerie, marveled at Sainte Chapelle, climbed the bell towers of Notre Dame de Paris, and so much more…

The Monuments

La Madeleine 

#lamadeleineLa Madeleine was commissioned by Napoleon and is located on the Rue Royal in the 8th arrondissement. The church is beautiful both inside and out, and provides a fabulous view of the Place de la Concorde. We wandered in just in time to hear a choir singing, and it was simply amazing. Louis XVI was originally buried here before his body was moved in 1815.

Tip: To really get a feel for just how many and how big the columns are, consider walking the colonnade. La Madeline is a popular place for weddings and you just might see a bride!

Sainte Chapelle

#saintechapelleHave you ever been to a place and were so surprised by its beauty that your mouth literally fell open? This is exactly what happened to me when I visited Sainte Chapelle. I was completely surrounded by jaw dropping beauty. This is a place I firmly believe deserves to be on everyone’s must-see list when visiting Paris. No photo can really do it justice, you’ll just have to go and see for yourself.

Tip: To skip the line at Sainte Chapelle purchase your tickets inside the Palace of Justice, which seemed to be less crowded.

The Palace of Justice

#palaceofjusticeAdjacent to the  Sainte Chapelle and beautiful in its own right is the Palace of Justice. Once the Palais Ile de Cite, it was home to French royalty until the 1400s. Later it became a revolutionary prison, at which time Sainte Chapelle became a place of final confession and prayer for those condemned by the tribunal. One such person, was Marie Antoinette and there is a memorial to both her and Louis XVI in the Palace.

Notre Dame de Paris

#notredameNotre Dame is one of the few places we visited on this trip that wasn’t new, however we’d never climbed the bell towers, so we made an exception. To say I loved our visit to Notre Dame would be an understatement! Some places just deserve repeat visits, and Notre Dame is on that list.

Tip: The entry to visit the bell towers is located on the OUTSIDE of the Cathedral, on the left side of the West façade. This is separate from the entrance to the Cathedral’s interior.


Musée de l’Orangerie

#LorangerieIf you’re short on time, or even if you’re not consider a visit to the Musée de l’Orangerie. Monet’s Water Lilies, given to the museum by Monet himself, as a symbol of peace, are probably the museums most famous pieces, but there are many other wonderful artists on display. The museum’s layout was very efficient and we were able to see everything before our little one lost interest. Afterwards we enjoyed ham sandwiches in the cafe gift shop!

Tip: Go early! If you’re one of the first to enter you’ll have a few moments to enjoy the Water Lilies before the room fills up.

The Gardens

#luxembourggardensNo visit would be complete without time spent in one of the city’s many famous gardens. So much more than just a pretty backdrop, surrounding some other famous place, they offer a welcome respite from the bustle of city life, or if you’re a traveling family a great place to relax and regroup.

Jardin du Luxembourg

#luxembourggardensThe Jardin du Luxembourg, located in the 6th Arrondissement offers something for everyone. Whether you’re looking for a quiet place to relax or something a little more active. We loved sailing the little wooden boats on the pond, but also enjoyed the playground, and the many statues and fountains throughout.

Tip: You’ll find the wooden boats just next to the pond. They are available to rent for €3.50 an hour.

Jardin des Tuileries 


Due to its proximity to the Louvre, the Jardin des Tuileries might just be the most famous garden in Paris, so there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself here. If you’re visiting in the summer look out for the Fete des Tuileries which takes place every very summer from June to August. I loved seeing the stark contrast between the carnival rides and the centuries old gardens. Lots of fun photo ops here!

Tip: Entry to the Fête des Tuileries is free, however there is a fee for the rides and attractions.

The City of Light

#eiffeltowerOn our last night in Paris, knowing that it could be many years before I return to the City of Light, I had a sudden desire to see the Eiffel Tower lit up one last time. Having no car, we decided to hire a taxi and asked the driver to take us somewhere we would have a great view. I guess he decided the best view was just under the Tower itself! The Tower was red, white and blue to honor the victims of the Nice terror attacks, which took place earlier in the week. Other monuments we drove by included, Les Invalides, the Arc de Triomphe, and Montparnasse.

Tip: Don’t miss out on one of the best parts of Paris, the city’s lights! Our taxi fare was around €40, which included the time we took to get out for photos at the Eiffel Tower.  

Day Trip

Chateau de Versailles

#versaillesWhat better place for those “life of royalty” daydreams than the Chateau de Versailles? Even on an overcast day the golden gates of this world famous palace can be seen shinning brightly in the distance. As you wander through the palace you’ll find yourself surrounded by opulence.

A stroll in the almost 2000 acres of Gardens features among other things a Grand Canal, which is over a mile long, groves, the Orangerie, and at least 50 different fountains.

Tip: Purchase your tickets in advance online. Arrive early! The gates open at 9 am. If you can, be there before they open.


Enjoying the local cuisine is an important part of any city visit! Here are three of our most memorable all located within close proximity to some of the most famous places in Paris.


#minimsdeparisMinims, the brasserie version of the famous Maxim’s de Paris, is located on the Rue Royal. We enjoyed, not only the food, but the restaurant’s Art Nouveau style. Eating here felt very Parisian!

Tip: Minim’s is located on the same street as La Madeleine.


#invictusrestaurantWe enjoyed everything about our meal at Invictus. A cozy restaurant with only a handful of tables, the chef personally took our order! The food was excellent and we had a lovely evening!

Tip: Invictus is just blocks from the Jardin du Luxembourg. A reservation if recommended.

Cave La Bourgogne

#CaveLaBourgogneCave La Bourgone, recommended to us by a local friend, is located at the end of the Rue Mouffetard, one of the oldest streets in Paris. We enjoyed this traditional, tasty and reasonably priced brasserie so much , we’ve been twice!

Tip: First wander the Rue Mouffetard, a pedestrian friendly market street, and end at Cave La Bourgogne where you’ll enjoy a quintessential Parisian meal while you gaze out at the lovely square along with all the locals.

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Les Jardins de Paris


With so many famous landmarks in Paris it can be tough to decide, but no visit would be complete without time spent in one of the city’s many famous gardens. So much more than just a pretty backdrop, surrounding some other famous place, they offer a welcome respite from the bustle of city life, or if you’re a traveling family a great place to relax and regroup. Aiming to spend less time planning, and more time wandering, the gardens of Paris fit our bill perfectly.

Jardin du Luxembourg

#luxembourggardensOur first stop upon arrival to Paris was the Jardin du Luxembourg, conveniently located just three blocks from our hotel. With no particular destination in mind, our initial intention was to wander straight through, but as soon as we saw the little wooden boats on the pond, we changed our minds!

Simon, teen that he is, wasn’t sure this would be fun, but before too long he was just as into it as the rest of us! Each ship represented a different country and we were excited to see that there was also a pirate ship! However, it was already in use when we arrived. When eventually the rain chased us off we found shelter at a nearby gelato place.

Returning here many times during our visit I loved the many statues and fountains within the gardens, while my boys enjoyed hunting the many Pokemon who apparently live there. Not interested in statues or Pokemon? Don’t worry, you’ll find there is something for everyone! There are plenty of spots perfect for contemplation, the reading of a good book, or a cat nap. Feeling a bit more active, there are tennis courts, bocce courts and playgrounds.

Tip: You’ll find the wooden boats just next to the pond. They are available to rent for €3.50 an hour.

Location: The 6th Arrondissement between Saint-Germain-des-Prés and the Latin Quarter

Jardin des Tuileries 


Due to its proximity to the Louvre, the Jardin des Tuileries might just be the most famous garden in Paris. While we didn’t find time for the Louvre on this visit we did find ourselves in the gardens. In addition to the usual offerings the gardens host a carnival each summer from June to August. I loved seeing the stark contrast between the carnival rides and the centuries old gardens, buildings and statues.


Tip: Entry to the Fête des Tuileries is free, however there is a fee for the rides and attractions.

Location: The 1st Arrondissement between the Louvre and the Place de la Concorde

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Sainte Chapelle

Have you ever been to a place and were so surprised by its beauty that your mouth literally fell open? Were rendered speechless? This is exactly what happened to me while visiting Sainte Chapelle in Paris.


In hindsight I wondered how could I have overlooked such a wondrous place? After all I do pride myself on being a knowledgable traveler. With almost unlimited information available it’s hard to believe I had never heard of these places, which played such important roles in French history, Sainte Chapelle and the Palace of Justice. That said, I’m giving myself a break because while I do appreciate love my expansive collection of guide books, I also think that an important part of being a good traveler is the ability to wing it, go with the flow and embrace the unexpected.

The Palace of Justice (photo taken during our 2013 visit)

So, it was while we were doing just that, winging it on our last day in Paris, that we decided, as we happened to be walking by, to enter the Palace of Justice. The ticket clerk asked if we also wanted to see Sainte Chapelle … sure, “why not?” we said, completely clueless.

Sainte Chapelle

#saintechapelleConfession: It wasn’t immediately upon entering Sainte Chapelle that I discovered her jaw dropping beauty, I blundered around a bit first. Wondering, Is this it? It’s so small, there must be more? What am I missing? Turns out a lot!

Noticing the items for sale at the souvenir counter had photos of what looked to be a lovely, but obviously different place. I decided to enquire, “This is lovely, but is there more?” I don’t remember exactly what he said, but it amounted to: Yes, just over there through that tiny hardly noticeable nondescript door over in the corner .

Sainte Chapelle Paris France

As I emerged from the doorway into the main part of the chapel my mouth literally fell open. I was completely surrounded by jaw dropping beauty. No photo can really do it justice. The Stained glass was shimmering in the sunlight, the golden paint on the ceilings was glowing, I know I gasped in surprise and delight! I couldn’t get enough, and even joked that a place this beautiful could actually get someone to convert!



Saint Chapelle, is showing her age and is currently undergoing a lengthy renovation, however in my opinion this faded splendor, as I like to call it, only added to her charm.

The Palace of Justice

Even on a sunny day the light inside the Palace of Justice was dim.

Adjacent to the  Sainte Chapelle and beautiful in its own right is the Palace of Justice. Once the Palais Ile de Cite, it was home to French royalty until the 1400s. Later it became a revolutionary prison, at which time Sainte Chapelle became a place of final confession and prayer for those condemned by the tribunal. One such person, was Marie Antoinette and there is a memorial to both her and Louis XVI in the Palace.

Stretching their legs a bit inside the Medieval Hall at the Palace of Justice.
The memorial to Marie Antoinette and Louise XVI is through these curtains.

Tips and information:

  • To skip the line at Sainte Chapelle purchase your tickets inside the Palace of Justice, which seemed to be less crowded.
  • The medieval hall and exhibitions representing the revolutionary prison are fascinating and tied in perfectly with our recent trip to Versailles.
  • There is a lot to see and learn here, but we were able to see everything in about an hour, which appealed to my little one.
  • Sainte Chapelle was commissioned in 1238 by Louis IX to hold his collection of holy relics including Christ’s crown of thorns. The chapel sustained damage during the Revolution and the crown of thorns along with other surviving relics were moved to Notre Dame de Paris.
  • Like Notre Dame, the chapel was restored by the architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc.
  • The impressive stained glass inside the chapel, of which 2/3 is original, tells the story of both the old and new testaments.

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