Archive for the ‘A Place to Lay Your Head’ Category

Edinburgh: In Hindsight

I’m delayed in the airport by an hour… somehow I’m not surprised. After a couple of flight cancellations and snow ravaging all UK airports, an hour delay seems like the least of my problems.

With my short jaunt in Edinburgh, hotel stays in the Old and New Towns, loads of sightseeing and a day trip to the Highlands, I crammed a lot into five short days and there are some things I would have done differently, had I known before-hand. Don’t get me wrong – everything was amazing and Edinburgh really is a fantastic city, but cities this beautiful come with loads of tourist traps! Here are a few tid bits I’ve gained from my recent excursion:

Getting to Edinburgh

Ohhh… Lord. After so many flight cancellations and delays, I would now opt for taking the train from London! Obviously your plan of attack for getting to Edinburgh is going to vary based on your current location, but be aware that there are a number of ways to get to the city.

1. Fly. Something I’m not fond of anymore, but it’s quick if you’re going from London (1 hour, 20 minutes). With EasyJet, BMI and other discount airlines, you can get some seriously good deals, too!

2. Take the Train! Virgin Trains, East Coast… they’ll all get you there, and most for under £40 – £50 if you book in advance! Sometimes they have some really great deals! Expect it to take 4-1/2 to 6 hours depending on the number of stops, but you’ll get to take in some of the English countryside and some trains (East Coast) even have wi-fi!

3. Jump on the Coach. With National Express, you can get funfares for as low as £12 – £15 if you book at the right time… they’re definitely good for the budget traveler, but be ready to spend a loooonnng time on board. 7 – 10 hours is a good estimate depending on the weather.

New Town vs. Old Town

My first temporary home, the Royal British Hotel, was in the New Town on Princes Street directly across from Waverly Station. Looking down the road, the street was very reminiscent of Oxford Street in London: loads of shopping mixed with a bit of culture (Royal Scottish Academy, National Gallery, etc.). A few minutes walk into the New Town, you hit St. Andrew’s Square where you can catch a bus to Rosslyn Chapel and visit the likes of Louis Vuitton and Harvey Nichols. Definitely a modern shopper’s paradise! [The picture below is of me on Princes Street in front of the Christmas markets.]

My second stop was Jury’s Inn in the  Old Town of Edinburgh, right off of the Royal Mile. Like I had mentioned right after my jaunt over, there is a palpable difference between the Old and New Towns. Instead of Harvey Nichols and H&M, you’ll run into St. Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh Castle and loads of kilt makers and Celtic jewelry stores. The roads are less perfectly paved and have more of the cobblestone and narrow alleys that you would expect of the old world.

[This shot was taken from the St. Giles area, looking down the Royal Mile in Old Town.]

Although it’s a matter of preference, I found the Old Town a lot more charming. Keep in mind, the invisible line that separates New from Old in Edinburgh is the rail station, essentially. If you cross through Waverly Station or cross over North Bridge, you can move easily from one area to another. If you’re on Princes Street or the Royal Mile, you’re pretty central!

Hotel Recommendations

Our two-day, unplanned stay at the Royal British Hotel was actually a pleasant surprise. Due to its proximity to the rail station, I wasn’t expecting much, but was quite surprised by the size and comfort of the rooms, the free wi-fi (never to be underestimated!) and cute café downstairs (Princes Street Café) where you can get a morning coffee plus a morning treat for £1.75. The prices were more than reasonable considering the last-second booking and the holiday season. You’re looking at between £51 – £65 per night and a comfortable size for two people.

Jury's Inn Room

The Jury’s Inn in the Old Town is also great, but for different reasons. My room was huge and my view was incredible. With three massive windows peering out into the snow-capped city, I really felt like I ended up with someone’s suite! The bathroom was also huge, with a full-sized bathtub for actually taking a bath (something I haven’t done in months)! It’s proximity to Old Town (the Royal Mile is in the hotel’s backyard) make it a prime location, plus it’s around one-third of a mile from the train station! The downside? Wi-fi is far from free. I had to rely on the web on my iPhone and the free wi-fi from the pub down the way [The Mitre] for most of my online needs. I would recommend this place for its comfort and spaciousness, but be aware of the internet situation – that was almost disappointing enough to nullify my love for this place. I got a great deal when I booked with Expedia (£200 for R/T tickets + 3 nights at this hotel), but a room here normally goes for £99+ a night.

Also, if you’re super budgeting, there are loads of hostels along the Royal Mile that would be worth checking out… do a bit of homework though, sometimes the £10 per night saved isn’t worth sharing a bathroom with 8 strangers!

Tourist Attractions

There are loads of attractions nearby: Edinburgh Castle, Camera Obscura and world of illusions, Haunted Tours, Rosslyn Chapel, Christmas Markets, Lyceum Theatre, Highlands tours, the National Gallery… the list goes on and on. So, if you’re here for a few days, what was worth the money? Well, that’s a matter of preference of course, but let me give you the down low on where I spent my money and where I would take it back, if possible. Keep in mind, in the winter the days are incredibly short with the sun disappearing entirely by 4P or 430P. With only a few hours of sunlight, you probably want to make the most out of every minute!

Freebies to Note:

There were a few freebies that I wasn’t aware of before heading to Edinburgh. I wish I would have known about them before my adventures, but they’re worth noting:

  1. A free tour of Edinburgh on foot! Although I didn’t partake in the tour, it leaves from the Starbucks in Old Town and it’s about 2 hours of sightseeing around Edinburgh. It’s definitely something that would be worth checking out early on in your excursion; good way to get acquainted with the area before undertaking your own adventures.
  2. National Galleries of Scotland. If this is anything like the National Gallery in London, it’s worth checking out. Plus, it’s free so even if it’s not exactly what you’re expecting, your only loss is a few minutes of time.
  3. Free ghost tour from Deacon Brodie’s Pub. Edinburgh is widely considered to be one of the most haunted cities in the world, so why not check out a ghost tour? There are tours like this that you can pay for (£5 – £10 depending on the company and length of tour), but there’s also this freebie! I probably would have checked it out if I were with someone… I didn’t want to scare myself silly while traveling alone. :)

Edinburgh Castle

£11 for entry with discounts for children & seniors but no discounts for students! If I had to go back and do it again, I probably would have saved the £11 and spent it elsewhere. You can walk up to the Castle and take some amazing pictures from the ticketing area without having to pay the entry fee. The views from the top are seriously gorgeous and worth the trek, but the money to get into the castle is only worth it if you’re with someone who loves the history that you’ll find within the castle. If I were with my dad, I would have been 100% more satisfied with the entirety of the situation. The pictures of the façade are what you want anyway, so only go in if you’re wanting to check out old chapels, museums, etc. See the amazing picture above? No entry fee required & it’s my favorite one of the bunch!

Camera Obscura

[If I were tall & had crazy cankles?]

If you have kids, this is a super fun little place! You’re looking at £8.50 for adults, £6.75 for students and seniors, £5.75 for kiddos (5 – 15) and under 5’s go in free! The building is comprised of five floors of illusions (holograms, crazy mirrors, optical illusions, etc.) with the top floor containing the ‘camera obscura’ where you can get a visual tour of Edinburgh in 15 minutes! It’s actually really cool and the views from top floor are superb! Some of the best pictures that I got of the city were from the rooftop. Check these out:

I mean seriously? How great are these pictures? I have a lot more where that came from — the views are really unsurpassed. I had more fun in this building & ended up with cooler pictures than I did at the Castle!

Highlands Tour

As your recall from my recent post, I undertook the longest day tour available in all of Britain a few days ago! From Edinburgh, we traveled all the way up to Loch Ness and Inverness, the capital of the Highlands. The tour was £34 (£36 for non-students) and comprised 400+ miles and 13 hours of tour time. The tour showed me a completely different side of Scotland, plus I got to do a Loch Ness cruise! How many people get to say that? I would say that the tour was definitely worth the money considering how much was covered and the quality of the tour guide. My only recommendation though would be taking Timberbush up on their 2 or 3-day Highlands tour, instead! I thought we covered a little too much in one short day — for a bit more money you can have a much more full experience.

Lyceum Theatre

I must say, just a few days ago I was so proud of myself for snagging my Peter Pan tickets for £11 with my student ID card! It seems like a great deal at the time considering adult tickets normally go for £22. Sadly, the play was not only a waste of £11, it was also a waste of three good hours that I could have spent elsewhere, taking in the sights. I don’t know if I had particularly high expectations or if the show was just a bit of a let down, but there are definitely better ways to spend your money. Some locally made Scotch, perhaps (Dalwhinnie)?

Christmas Markets

Who doesn’t love to feel like a kid during Christmastime? Ice skating, a German market, loads of fun Christmas goodies, a ferris wheel and mulled wine… Mmm… The whole area can be accessed from Princes Street (at The Mound) and it’s 100% free to meander! Bring some cash for mulled wine and Christmas treats, though!

Rosslyn Chapel

Ahhh… Rosslyn Chapel. Who has read the DaVinci Code and not wanted to visit this place? I had planned on visiting (you can easily access it by hopping on Bus 15/15A from St. Andrew’s Square in the New Town), but decided to save that for my next journey to Scotland. With my dad and Chris visiting within the next few months, Edinburgh Round II will definitely be in order and I would like to see something new! You’re looking at £7.50 for adult entry, £6 for students and seniors and free for under 16s! Not sure if it’s worth the money, but pictures of the outside at least are worth the £1 – 2 bus fee!

Hope some of that helps someone out there somewhere who’s interested in hitting up magnificent Edinburgh. It’s truly an amazing city…

Lots of love & Merry Christmas Eve!


Old Town Love!

Alex finally managed to get out of Edinburgh this morning around 10A, which left me with my first day of solo sightseeing. I started by hitting up a few shops on Princes Street (H&M, TopShop, etc.) to pick up some warmer clothing for my trip seeing as how I only had clothing intended for the Mediterranean warmth. Afterwards, I grabbed my luggage from the Royal British Hotel, where Alex & I stayed for two nights and moved them over to a hotel in the Old Town, where I’ll be staying for the remainder of my journey. I was actually a bit sad to be moving out of my Royal British Hotel residence — the people were great and the rooms were super comf for the price! Though the New Town really isn’t that new, there is definitely a stark contrast between Old Town and New Town. After crossing the bridge, I felt like I’d fallen through a rabbit hole into old world Scotland: narrow streets, cobblestone roads and kilt makers galore. The architecture is absolutely stunning and the shops were entirely too cute.

My hotel in Old Town is way better than I expected (despite not having internet). The room is massive, the bathroom is practically as big as my room in London and the view is stellar! Check this out (this is just half of my room!):

The view:

After walking down the main thoroughfare, the Royal Mile, I stumbled across St. Giles Cathedral (and a statue of Adam Smith)! The Cathedral was absolutely gorgeous and admission was free so I was able to pop in and take a quick look around.

I grabbed some tour information and am working on planning out the next three days of my adventure. I think I’m going to hit up Rosslyn Chapel first thing in the morning (10A) and then check out Edinburgh Castle in the afternoon from 1 – 5P or so! After that, I’m heading to the Lyceum Theatre to check out Peter Pan around 7P! I’m so excited to see all the history in the town — it’s seriously amazing! Thus far, I would have to say that Edinburgh is the most inspiring city I have seen. Just stepping outside and looking around is breathtaking — the history is palpable and the buildings are incredible. Plus, the pride Scots take in their country is pretty exciting — so many fun Scottish stores and proud, haggis-eating Scotsmen.

I’m still hoping to do a trip to the Highlands & Loch Ness on Tuesday and I’m leaving Wednesday to figure out what tickles my fancy. Despite the fact that my bones are frozen, I’m loving this town! Hoping to catch the Ghost Tour tonight at 930P. Edinburgh is supposed to be the most haunted town in the world… hoping I don’t get too frightened :)

Lots of love,

Want to see more pics of snow-covered Scotland? Click here to see the album! Also, keep up with my tweets in the Play-by-Play section to the right. I’ve been tweeting loads of pictures as my adventures continue!

Viva Munchen! {Part I: Oktoberfest}

Ahhh… back in London after nearly four days of German madness. Due to the fact that we had three(ish) days in Munich, we decided to spend one day at the beer tents, soaking in the debauchery that is Oktoberfest. Let me say this as a preface: even as a non-beer drinker, Oktoberfest is something all people should experience once in their life. We stayed at a place aptly dubbed “The Tent;”  inside of a massive tent (surprise) filled with glorious orange bunk beds. Some people opted for the cheaper alternative: bringing their own tent and sleeping outside.

The TentThe TentAlthough Germany gets a bit cold at night (even with three blankets and insane layers), The Tent was definitely a good choice; I paid a grand total 57 euros for three nights in Munich. I took 200 euros out at the airport, hoping that it would be enough for the four days, and actually left the country yesterday with nearly fifty euros in my wallet!

When we landed in Munich on Thursday night, Sarah & Lois (our Nova Scotian partners in crime/tour guides) led us down to the beer tents to expose us to the madness that would ensue on Friday. By 830P, of course, the scene was a bit calmer — many people had already gone home to pass out (or just walked into the street to pass out) so we managed a pretty good sneak-peek at the tents.

HippodromThe Hippodrom (complete with champagne bar) had been our dream tent. We managed to get inside and see the masses of drunkards enjoying themselves, but ended up hitting up two different tents on Friday due to the crazy line that formed Friday afternoon. I don’t know what my vision of the tents was exactly, but I was beyond amazed at the set up — it was like the biggest, greatest, brightest fair ever! The area was covered in beer tents, food stalls (pretzels, sausage, currywurst, nuts, etc.), and rides!

We spent Friday morning exploring the city centre and checking out some of Munich’s sights and architecture before hitting up the actual tents. We discovered that Munich has an obsession with H&M; we (seriously) saw seven within a quarter of a mile! Bargain shopper heaven, I tell you.

Munich CenterTown Hall{Their town hall was seriously amazing.}

After exploring, we finally felt ready to hit up the tents around 230P. We joined up with our two new Aussie friends that we had met at our hostel and hit up the Spatenbrau tent for some massively huge steins.

With Francesco from Napoli
We ended up finding a table surrounded by some seriously drunken/creepy Italianos and a few sweaty Danes; it was glorious, to say the least. Although getting hit on/harassed by drunkards is foreseeable, there is definitely a line between drunken banter and grossness. Unfortunately, Francesco from Napoli (pictured above) ended up being a super d-bag and developed a minor obsession with Alex’s shoulder/purse/general being. I’m not 100% sure what happened next, but some intense dialogue between said Italianos & our Aussie friends ensued and a mini fight broke out. Fighting is, of course, not desirable at tents of happiness, so we were evicted. The tent cops escorted all of us out of the tents. Francesco decided to make a break for it when we’d barely made it out of the tent; fortunately, one of our Aussie buds happened to be a cop and took him down so quickly it was amazing. It made for some amazing pictures and a truly impressive scene; you can try to piece this madness together:

Crazy Italian ManMark's Amazing Take Down!

Aftermath.Needless to say, we had to leave the area after some questioning.

We ended up hitting up another tent down the way where we witnessed at least three more fights (none nearly as amazing as Mark & Francesco’s). We ended up sharing a table with a group of seventeen year old Germans who proved to be hugely educational. First, they taught us how to toast properly:

To the titties, {raise stein to chest}
to the sack, {lower stein to nether regions}
tac-tac! {cheers!}

Sweet tee & cookie necklace.

Secondly, they taught us not to accept gifts from strangers. Earlier in the night we had been given heart-shaped cookie necklaces (see sweetness above) with German phrases written on them. The lady who gifted them to us prefaced the gifting with the following question: “Do you speak German?” After responding that we did not, in fact, speak German, she gave us said necklaces to adorn ourselves with. One of the kiddos at our table informed us that these cookies could be translated as such:

After sex, we do it again.

Needless to say, we had an all around amazing day at Oktoberfest. It was incredibly eventful from start to finish and we met some of the coolest people ever.

Stay tuned for Part II of our trip — an incredible trip to Dachau & our attempt to hit up the Erotic Messe.

Lots of love,

Signature Stamp - Shannon

When in London…

It’s now 930P, London time, and I’m sitting in my accommodation, typing away thanks to the internet connection that I just got working! I have now been in London for about six hours and have made it from the airport to my flat without any issues and got a permanent room assignment. The verdict? Not the biggest or the fanciest rooms, but definitely more spacious than I had anticipated and the kitchen is actually pretty sweet! The bathroom (W.C., I mean) and the shower are super tiny, but I think I can manage.

High Holborn Room ViewI am (obviously) in the process of unpacking still and definitely need to hit up a Primark & get some real sheets, but I have a twin bed, a desk (to the left) a night stand with a few drawers & loads of plugs. I just bought an adapter for about 5GBP at a local shoppe.

High Holborn Room View On the left (about five feet from the end of my bed) is a vanity with a sink and cabinets. The “closet” with the open door on the right is incredibly small. I have three jackets in there now with a couple of pairs of jeans and some shoes, but there is no way I will ever get all of my clothes in there. I’m trying to be as resourceful as possible, but I may need to hit up an Ikea!

ShowerTeeny little shower… the toilet is in a different room.

KitchenThe kitchen extends a bit further than this picture would allow, but it has a fridge, a freezer, a table, stove, dishwasher, cabinets, utensils, a microwave, a coffeemaker and an iron + ironing board! It’s totally equipped and it’s big enough for all of us to be able to sit and enjoy! Thank God — morning coffee is in the picture!!

After getting moved in, I definitely went into a bit of panic mode. My internet didn’t work and my iPhone isn’t configured to actually call anyone yet. Worse, the O2 shoppe and the banks are closed on the weekend (even on Saturday!) so it looks like I will be bankless & phoneless until Monday. Luckily, I did get my internet running so I feel much less overwhelmed and much more connected. I also snatched up an Oyster card for public transportation, a converter (to plug in my laptop) and changed some money at a cash point. I’m still a bit overwhelmed, but I think tomorrow will be much better when I’m on a normal schedule and get to explore. Plus, I am (hopefully) meeting up with a girlfriend to explore the city together, which will be nice. On the bright side, the weather is gorgeous — 70 and mostly sunny. Here are a couple of pictures of the area within about a half mile of me:

Street PhotoLondon PhoneboothShaftesbury TheatreThe theatre is literally across the street from my complex <3.

Time to put some clothes away and get oriented — hoping tomorrow is a better day!

Signature Stamp - Shannon

I Left My Heart in SF <3.


San Francisco is, hands down, one of my favorite cities ever. Although it’s not the cleanest and it doesn’t boast the greatest weather, there is a vibe throughout the city that cannot be replicated. The diverse population, the various districts and their cultures, and the fact that you have no reason to ever be bored with the innumerable things to do, definitely make it one of the world’s greatest cities. Although I had planned on spending this weekend in SF to take a jaunt down to Golden Gate Park, the Outside Lands festival that took over the mega-green pushed that idea to the wayside. Instead, my cousin, B., and I stayed in a little B&B in the Marina and spent our evening in the super-fun North Beach area. For anyone that hasn’t had the pleasure of experiencing North Beach, it’s a must! It is by far one of my favorite areas of the city with its Italiano vibe and amazing patrons. B. and I cabbed it the entire weekend so we wouldn’t have to worry about driving, parking or having a few drinks. Our first stop last night was Calzone’s on Columbus Street. B. had been raving about their amazing drinks the entire day, so we had to stop there to test out their fare. After a crostini appetizer & a Moscow Mojito (think normal mojito with limon vodka vs. rum — delish), we agreed that it was a great joint. Additionally, we met the cutest family from England (Newcastle, to be specific) and ended up chatting them up for a bit. They definitely solidified my excitement for the big move!



After a bite at Calzone’s, we moved next door to Figaro’s where we met our super-server/bartender Joel & his version of the Moscow Mojito. Though they didn’t have one on the menu, B. requested that he make something similar. After some bruschetta & another drink, we were happy with our experience. A plus for anyone that’s visiting: they (allegedly) have some amazing gnocchi. Although we didn’t stay for dinner, their food looked superb!


For our last stop of the night, we hit up a tried and true favorite, The Stinking Rose. Chris & I had dinner at The Rose about a year ago & it definitely made me fall in love with North Beach. You can smell the garlic from outside & the food is super delish! B. and I split the gnochetti entree for dinner & left there knowing that we were keeping vampires (and boys) away for life. Word of advice: bring a pack of gum/Costco-sized Listerine. If you’re a huge garlic fan, they even have a plain roasted garlic bulb on the menu! Mmmm?


After a decent-night’s sleep, we hit up a mass Sunday morning at St. Peter and Paul’s Church (also in North Beach) and B. and I were asked to take the eucharist & wine up to the priest — definitely the most involved I have ever been in a mass in my many years of existence. Although I do not consider myself the most religious of persons, the church was spectacular; more European than American in its design. Side note: This was clearly Joe DiMaggio’s favorite place — he was married & had his funeral at this church. Worth checking out!

After mass, B. and I explored a bit of North Beach before our fun-filled weekend was at an end. We popped into a little bakery called La Boulange on Columbus for a bit of coffee and were pretty surprised to learn that they serve coffee in bowls! We got ours to-go in standard paper cups but some of the in-house coffee drinkers were equally surprised to be sipping lattes out of bowls. Pretty cool, though!


Lastly, B. grabbed some goodies for the fam (cannolis & sweets) so she could go back bearing gifts. We had an amazing weekend from start to finish. Although our B&B, Edward II, was not the most spectacular of residences, for the affordable price & the location, it was worth the investment. Plus, we got to enjoy some breakfast before heading out in the AM!

A little weird to think that the next time I’ll be in SF will be when I’m saying goodbye to the US & hello to the UK!

Anyone have any amazing must-sees in San Francisco? Was anyone in SF for the Outside Lands festival?

Signature Stamp - Shannon

To see photos of the many adventures of Shannon & B. from this weekend, check here!

Traveling Like A Princess {on a Pauper’s Budget!}

Half of my excitement for the upcoming year is rooted in the fact that I’ll finally get to travel to all of the places that I’ve dreamt about since the womb: France, Italy, Spain, Portugal… the list can go on and on. Of course, the downside of travel is that it costs money. Even if we snag an amazing deal on airfare or on train tickets, we’ll have to find a place to stay. After looking around, I’ve found loads of hostels that work well into a student budget. For €15-30 per night, we can stay in a fun little place and bond with fellow budget travelers. Cool. It works. It fits into our measly budgets & we’re able to see everything the world has to offer on a budget. Here’s the downside: whilst perusing hotels and hostels on Expedia (or some other amazing travel site) you see the real hotels — the ones that don’t involve 10 people to a room — and you’re enticed. You want to stay in a real place for a bit. A place where you don’t have to bring your own sleeping bag to ensure proper hygiene. I get it. Here’s an option that too often gets overlooked: vacation homes.

For example, in my idyllic world of amazing travels (aka Summer 2010), I will be traveling to the French Riviera for a little sunshine action; to Rome, for a little artistic inspiration, and to Greece, for a little cultural immersion. I’ve found awesome rentals on a couple of sites (although you can surely find a slew of websites that have similar offerings): craigslist and HomeAway. Both sites have a pretty amazing selection at totally affordable prices — in fact, they’re so affordable if you’re traveling in a group, I find it more cost effective that hostel living!

Here’s some pricing to give you an idea:

French Riviera:

A two bedroom apartment with internet, TV & Wi-fi has two beds (a bunkbed) and a double bed in the Master bedroom. Four people could comfortably fit in this place (and I’m sure you can squeeze 5 or even 6 with couch space) plus you have access to a kitchen, showers, and a balcony overlooking Nice.

€600 for the week! If you assume four people share the place (although you could have more!), you’re looking at €150 per week per person, or €21 per night (about $30)! Even though hostels are probably equivalent, you get the luxury of having your own shared flat or house, plus Wi-fi, TV, and all the amenities of a home!

Next stop — Rome, Italy:

A two bedroom, two bathroom apartment that sleeps five is a short walk from the Colosseum. This bad boy has a Master bedroom and then a second bedroom with three single beds plus satellite TV (not that you’ll be watching TV whilst in Roma). Plus there’s room in the living area with a sofa that could accommodate an extra visitor!

665 per week! With five people comfortably sharing this place, you’re looking at €133 per week per person, or €19 per night (around $27.50)! Check out this view and tell me it doesn’t beat a hostel!


Final stop — Athens, Greece:

Of course there are many Greek islands that would probably better be worth a gander, but we’ll use Athens as an example! This darling home, in a well-connected part of Athens, has three bedrooms and sleeps 8 people. It’s near the beach, the downtown area and close to loads of authentic Greek restaurants and hangouts. There’s a market nearby to purchase local fruits & veggies to cook in the kitchen.

Check out some of these shots:

{Worth €12.50 per night, right?!}

600 – 700 per week! At €700, with 8 people, we’re looking at €87 per week per person, or €12.50 per night ($18.13)! Seriously! What a steal. At that rate, you can have just six people occupy the huge place and still keep your costs super low.


Those places are pretty high up on my list, but I’ve looked for homes all over Europe and have managed to find some really amazing deals if you have a group to travel with! There are some really beautiful places to stay in Lisbon, Florence, Istanbul, Austria, etc., if you take the time to look!  Look for a place with Wi-fi (and some places even have phones with free calls to North America!) and you’ll be well connected so you can have fun during the day and work on your dissertation at night!

Note: Word on the street is that Greece and Portugal are two of the least expensive places to travel. Although the scenery is gorgeous, their respective economies have allowed us to snag some really amazing places on the cheap. On top of saving money on the stay, you’ll be able to save money on food, drinks and cultural excursions!

Happy travels — let me know where you’ll be heading this year!

Signature Stamp - Shannon

Sunday in Carmel, CA

Day Two of Tiff’s Birthday Weekend.

So, after our kidnapping Tiff for her birthday and having a blast all day Saturday, Sunday morning we woke up and enjoyed the ‘breakfast’ part of the B&B at The Gosby House! Breakfast was served between 8A and 10A and was delish — definitely the benefit of staying at a B&B over a standard hotel. We had our morning coffee and juice to get us ready for a fun-filled day in Carmel, plus they had oatmeal, a vegetarian egg dish, bagels, muffins, fruit, English muffins and cereal!


Nana at Breakfast!
Nana at Breakfast!

After an early breakfast, we headed to Carmel-by-the-Sea to spend the day. Tiff had never been, so it was super fun for everyone! We arrived around 10A, so we were just in time to hit up a few of our favorite stores (Anthropologie and J.Crew) and spent a good hour in Sur La Table shopping for kitchen gadgets! If you’ve never been to Sur La Table — it’s like a Williams-Sonoma, but a little cooler <3.

We also hit up a number of art galleries to check out some really awesome art work: paintings, glass work, sculptures… amazing stuff. Plus, who can forget the amazing apothecaries, perfumeries and jewelers! We ended our shopping with a stop at Lush to check out the always-great handmade cosmetics. Tiff grabbed a lip balm and I got a  citrus-scented massage bar (basically a solid, portable lotion). All around great shopping day. We finished off our afternoon in Carmel by stopping in at The Grill on Ocean Avenue for a quick bite to eat (click here for the menu). In honor of Father’s Day, we made a mini toast to the best dad ever. We weren’t super hungry so Tiff and I opted to split the vegetarian sandwich (which was absolutely delicious!) and accompanying salad and the portions were huge! Mom and dad also split their turkey sandwich and added a bowl of chicken soup. We would have had major to-go food if we hadn’t split the entrees — half a sandwich and salad easily filled us up! Again, awesome service and a cute stop with a  little fireplace inside.

After our jaunt in Carmel, we decided to begin our journey back home. My mom, however, has an obsession with artichokes and had been begging to stop in Castroville (aka Artichokeland) for some artichokes on the way back! She had also been dying for a DQ soft serve, so we grabbed a few cones while passing through Capitola.

In front of the GIANT artichoke -- the epicenter, no doubt.
In front of the GIANT artichoke — the epicenter, no doubt.
Funnies thing ever.
Funniest thing ever.

Tiff and I were dying when we saw this sign… all she could say was, “Yeah… they don’t use illegal immigrants… Hah!” I have never seen so many artichokes in my life! The whole town is dedicated to artichokes — growing them, selling them and eating them!


DQ Mom 2

Mom wanted to stop at DQ, so we made it our last stop on the way back and grabbed a few cones from the DQ on Bay Avenue. Mom asked to make her large as large as possible and it ended up being as big as her head. Surprisingly (or not) she inhaled it and finished about the same time that my grandma and I finished our small cones!

Aside from the somewhat chilly weekend (60s in Carmel), the weekend was great. We all had an amazing time and it was super fun bonding. We’re planning our next trip now — deciding between Disneyland (maybe too packed for summer?), San Diego (wanna hit up the beach and the zoo!), or Las Vegas!

What do you guys think? What’s a good spot for a semi-inexpensive weekend family getaway?

Signature Stamp - Shannon


Facebookers: To see the entire album from Tiff’s birthday on Facebook, click here!