I’ve always loved the idea of relaxing tropical beach vacation. While there I would spend my days reading steamy hot romance novels while sipping icy cold drinks. Occasionally I’d look up to stare out at the crystal blue waters, and the scent of the ocean and suntan oil would permeate the air. After a while the sound of the palm trees rustling in the gentle breeze would lull me to sleep. Sounds good doesn’t it? There’s only one problem with this scenario…
Summer break is just around the corner and I’m still undecided as to where our family will travel. There are so many wonderful destinations, I’m having a hard time deciding. Maybe Italy for the coffee and art, or Spain for tapas and siestas, or maybe we’ll just stay home and be tourists in our own city? We’ve come nowhere near discovering all that Los Angeles has to offer.
I’m sure you’ve noticed the many amazing works of art on the streets these days? It’s hard not to when they are everywhere! Gorgeous works of fine art, and make no mistake that’s what they are, have been popping up in cities around the world. It makes sense! All those blank walls are perfect canvases, creating a world wide, never ending, always evolving art exhibition.
Its time for another edition of Faraway Files the fabulous travel blogging community, where travelers from all walks of life gather together and share their many adventures from around the globe. If you’re a traveler, a planner, or a dreamer this is the place for you, and if like me, you’re the main travel planner in your family then you’ll know that real world advice can make all the difference.
Atlanta, Georgia was never on my vacation destination list, but when I received an invitation to a girls only weekend I never hesitated. I’d never visited or researched Atlanta before, so I really had no idea what to expect. Here’s what I did know: I would be traveling without my kids, to explore a new city, with one of my best friends! What more did I need to know?
Turns out Atlanta has a lot to offer, and with stops in Virginia Highlands, Little Five Points, Decatur, Historic Downtown, Midtown, and Candler Park we covered a lot of ground. Of course having a hometown guide was invaluable, and because we visited many of her personal favorites at least one of us knew what to expect!
The Atlanta BeltLine
The BeltLine was the perfect place to get an overview of Atlanta. The addition of this mixed use redevelopment project, which takes advantage of the City’s existing railway corridors, is transforming and revitalizing the city of Atlanta in the best possible way.
The multi-use pedestrian friendly pathways are perfect for cycling, running, and walking, but the BeltLine is much more then just an exercise path getting you from point A to point B. With a skate park, shopping, restaurants and the South’s largest temporary public art installation the BeltLine is a destination!
Related: Biking & Art on the Atlanta BeltLine
The Historic Fox theater
The Historic Fox Theater has a long fascinating history, and in addition to the 250+ events, which take place there annually, the theater offers a variety of behind the scenes tours as well.
Originally intended as a meeting place for the Shriner’s organization the theater was built to look like the ancient temples and palaces of Egypt and the Far East.
The financial burden proved too much and shortly before it was completed the Shriners leased the theater to Willam Fox who turned it into a movie palace. The theater opened to a sold out crowd on Christmas Day 1929. The move was Steam Boat Willie, starring Mickey Mouse!
During our tour we had a chance to explore the 250,000 square foot building, including the theater which seats 4,665, and has a twinkling ceiling, The Egyptian Ballroom, and many other ornately decorated spaces.
By the mid 1970s the Fox Theater had fallen into disrepair and was facing demolition. The people of Atlanta realized what a great loss this would be and banded to gather to save The Fox.
Margaret Mitchell House and Museum
More than 75 years after it was released Gone With The Wind is still considered one of America’s most successful films. A life long fan of both the book and the movie, I was delighted to discover that we’d be visiting the home of book’s author, Margaret Mitchell.
Gone With The Wind was written almost by accident. Yes, one of the most famous books of all time, was almost never written. A journalist, who unexpectedly became confined to her apartment due to an injury, Mitchell spent her recovery reading everything she could get her hands on. When she’d exhausted all the library had to offer, her husband suggested she try writing a book of her own. She never planned to publish the book, but when someone suggested that it would never amount to anything, she decided to show them a thing or two… And the rest is history!
The Margaret Mitchell house is run by the Atlanta History Center. Tours are offered daily, check the website for detailed information.
After you’ve toured the home take some time to explore the museum, which has plenty of memorabilia including photos of the cast, premiere movie tickets, and even props from the set of Gone With The Wind.
Ponce City Market
The Ponce City Market is a trendy and fun shopping area located in what was once the Sears & Roebuck Company building. There are fun reminders of the building’s history throughout. Inside you’ll find multiple food choices, unique boutiques and plenty of insta opportunities.
The Market links directly to the Atlanta BeltLine and is directly across from the Historic Fourth Ward Park, making it a perfect place to stop for a quick bite or to meet friends and stay awhile.
The Atlanta Botanical gardens
Open all year round you’re sure to see and experience something different each time you visit the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. Visiting in the winter meant there weren’t as many outdoor flowers blooming, but that didn’t mean there wasn’t a lot to see.
The Chihully sculptures placed throughout the gardens provided a bright pop of color on a rainy winter afternoon.
The Orchid Festival was not only lovely, but provided the perfect backdrop for some fun group photos.
I wasn’t traveling with the boys this trip, but I know they would have loved this fabulous play space filled with so many things to discover and experience.
Shopping & Dinning (but mainly dining)
997 Virginia Ave. NE, Atlanta
Murphy’s Restaurant, offers traditional and regional choices. The food was delicious and the service was perfect! Welcome in!
Murphy’s Restaurant is located in a quaint little neighborhood with lots of fun shops like the Urban Cottage.
Leons Full Service
131 E Ponce de Leon Ave, Decatur
We loved our meal at Leon’s Full Service, which is located in a former service station. The vibe is hip, but casual, and they have an extensive list of local brews on tap. The food was delicious, but definitely on the heavier side.
Livingston Restaurant & Bar
659 Peachtree St NE, Atlanta
The Livingston is located in the Georgian Terrace Hotel just across the street from the Historic Fox Theater. They serve southern style cuisine with a modern twist. I loved my chicken and waffles, don’t tell my mom, but the apple fennel slaw might have been the best coleslaw I’ve ever had!
299 N Highland Ave NE Atlanta
Barcelona Vinoteca is a neighborhood wine shop/bar with a cozy vibe. Stop in for a drink, or bring a bottle home. The large pull down maps on the walls brought back memories of my pre smart board school days.
1136 Euclid Ave NE, Atlanta
Located in the heart of the Little Five Points, we stopped at the Yacht Club for late night drinks. This place is the definition of a dive bar!
Have you ever turned over the travel planning to someone else? Was it a success? Would you do it again?
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I’ve come along way from the timid unsure stay on the path traveler I once was. Not only have I become more brave then I once was, but my overall approach to travel has changed a lot. After years of family and solo travel I’ve finally found just the right combination of togetherness and alone time that allows everyone to get what they need out of our family vacations.
I’ve now added something new to our family vacations… personal days! Yes, togetherness is a great thing, but you can’t underestimate the value of a little personal time to recharge and regroup. Even when on vacation!
My most recent personal vacation day was a private walking tour through the city of London. As an aspiring photographer I loved this four hour lesson and photo tour around London. I chose The City of London and East London, but choose the areas that appeal most to you. You’ll get private instruction along with a walking tour which includes a nice amount of history. I admit that photography and history might be two things that my family are less than excited about, so this was the perfect choice for a solo adventure.
I met, Steve, my guide at the crack of dawn in a coffee shop, and we spent a good amount of time talking about photography and basic technique before we hit the streets. Hoping to come away from our vacation with what I felt would be iconic photos of London, I had some preconceived ideas of what I thought those photos might be. I might have gotten those ideas from looking at Instagram too much.
I soon realized that Steve’s personal style, and my preconceived ideas didn’t match up. I was privately concerned that I might not get out of this tour what I hoped, but decided to just go with it and see how it went.
I had the best time! Not only did I learn a lot about the places we visited during our tour, but I was opened up to a completely different perspective where my photos are concerned. I came away with a lot of new knowledge and some unique photos I am really pleased with.
Ruins of St. Dunstan-in-the-East
There has been a St. Dunstan-in-the-East church in this location since 1100, but when the most recent church building took extensive damage during the Blitz in WWII the decision was made not to rebuild. The ruins became public gardens in 1971, and are a popular place for photo shoots.
This unique and fun Street art installation represents the history of London! It’s inlaid into the pavement on Plantation Lane. You’ll find everything from major events and famous landmarks to both long forgotten and new Street names.
From the Ancient Romans to Harry Potter and everything in between the Leadenhall Market has had a place in London’s history since the very beginning. You might recognize it as the entrance to Diagon Alley from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Go early, or after hours for people free photos.
Damien Hirst ‘Temple’
It wasn’t all ancient history on this tour. This very large anatomical man created by artist Damien Hirst is part of the Sculpture in the City initiative, which places sculpture and art near some of the city’s most famous landmarks. The statue is made of bronze and weighs over three tons.
The Lloyds of London Building
The Lloyd’s Building is located on Lime Street on the former site of the East India Trading Company’s headquarters. Due to it’s unique architecture it was given a Grade 1 listing only 25 years after it was built. All of the building’s services including the lifts are on the outside.
Jamaica Coffee House/George & Vulture
The Jamaica Wine house is thought to be the site of London’s first coffee house, and is located in St. Michaels Alley, which is part of a labyrinth of medieval alleys and courtyards in the heart of The City. It’s just next to the George & Vulture a pub, which was popular with Charles Dickens, and is mentioned multiple times in his novel The Pickwick Papers.
St. Michaels Cornhill Parish Church
St. Michaels is a medieval parish church, which sits on the site of a Roman Forum from the first Century AD. The church was destroyed in the Great Fire of London, and the present church was rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren.
The Cornhill Devils
Fierce looking gargoyles, known as the Cornhill Devils, overlook St. Peter’s Church from the building next door. They were placed there after a land dispute with the church’s rector caused the architect to literally “go back to the drawing board.”
Christ Church Spitalfields
Christ Church Spitalfields was commissioned by an act of Parliament in 1711, which called for fifty new churches to be built. The churches would serve new settlers many of whom were French Huguenots. Only 12 churches were actually built.
One of our favorite London locations, I was delighted to revisit this area during the tour. Brick Lane, which no longer refers to just one street, but rather an area, has a long and fascinating history. I admit its the street art and food that draws me to this area.
The Royal Exchange was opened by Queen Elizabeth in 1571, and according to the sign I read is the heart of The City of London. I was interested to learn it’s one of the locations where a herald proclaims the new monarch’s reign. I found a tiny puddle in which to take this reflection shot outside the Royal Exchange because while we did have a lot of clouds during our visit we didn’t have much rain.
hilarystyle’s Travel Revelations:
- Real world advice from other travelers is golden.
- Mixing our days with self guided activities and guided tours means we are free to discover things on our own, but also ensures that we’ll get the most out our visit.
- I admit to a preference for small groups or private tours.
- We don’t have to be together every moment of our vacation, it’s okay to split up and pursue individual interests.
Tips & Advice:
- I booked my tour in advance through Harry Goat Photography Tours and Adventures.
- My tour guide was Steve Franck, and the tour was four hours.
- I chose The City of London rather than Houses of Parliament due to the ongoing renovations. You can choose from a variety of tours and locations both private and group.
- These are just a few of the locations we visited on our tour.
- Would you like to see some of these London locations on your own.
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Spring is officially here, or at least the calendar says so, and the flowers here in LA think so too. Everything is blooming like mad, and the air outside smells heavenly like a florist shop, so it’s hard to believe we’re expecting the “storm of the season.” Angelenos are famous for overreacting where weather is concerned, but this time it might just be a big deal.
I realize I’m writing about Christmas in March, but with good reason. Have you ever had an experience so unexpected, so absolutely magical that it stayed with you in vivid memory like it just happened yesterday? I have, and I just couldn’t wait until the festive season rolls around again to share it with all of you.