Tybee Island

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Hey there!

Since my freshman year of college, my roommate and I have been talking about taking a trip to Savannah, Georgia over one of our school breaks. However, break after break came and went, and we never did anything to make it happen. With the realization that I would be graduating in the spring (which is no longer the case), we decided that it was now or never. We got some friends together, loaded up the car, and drove six and a half hours to Georgia.

One of my favorite things about the trip was our visit to Tybee Island, which is undoubtedly the most beautiful American beach I’ve ever seen. In my opinion, October is the perfect time of year for a beach trip. It’s not crowded, and the weather is perfect, which makes walking along the ocean, finding starfish in the tide pools, and spending time with great friends even better.

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What’s your favorite fall vacation destination?

-Lauren

Why We Should All Be Tourists

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Something I’ve noticed in my day-to-day life, but particularly during my time in England, is the negative attitude regarding tourists that, personally, I feel is a little uncalled for. I have friends who won’t take photographs on vacations because they don’t want to look like tourists. Several shopkeepers have sighed at me while I struggled to count out the correct amount of a currency that is unfamiliar to me. And multiple times as I was meandering through the streets of London, several people pushed past me on the sidewalk, annoyed with my pace.

Though I understand it can be frustrating for a native when visitors in your country interfere with your daily routine or prevent you from catching your train because they have no idea what they’re doing, those instances shouldn’t outshine or overpower the many valuable aspects of tourism.

I think back to a conversation I had with the boy who served me ice cream on my first day in Oxford. I expressed my delight at the beauty and history of the city, and he said, “You get bored with it after a while.” As an outsider, I could not fathom ever being bored with the incredible architecture, cobblestone streets, and cute little shops on winding side roads. But the more I thought about it, I realized that I do the same thing with my own hometown. It’s so easy to become desensitized to your everyday norms.

A tourist is defined as “a person who is traveling or visiting a place for pleasure.” Essentially, a person who delights in being in a new place and observing everything it has to offer: its food, history, architecture, and culture. Aside from the obvious economical aspects of tourism, that is its advantage.

Sure, tourism does a lot for the economies of certain places, but the value of being a tourist goes beyond that. Tourists aren’t numb to the gems around them in the way that many locals are. They allow themselves to be enthusiastic about things like architecture or the fact that the tax is already included in the price listed on the menu. They have no qualms about marching up to a red phone booth and posing for a picture, while the locals walk by and roll their eyes. They are willing to try something new at every restaurant instead of settling into a rut. Tourists know how to experience more fully the time that they have within a place. They can see its value and want to soak up every bit of it that they can.

Shouldn’t that be the way we always seek to live? As a friend recently told me “to live deep and suck the marrow out of life”? Tourists understand something that most natives do not, and that is that moments are precious and that every place in the world has something to offer us. Those moments and lessons and offerings should be wrung out as though from a sponge until you’ve gotten every little bit out of it that you possibly can.

So, no, ice cream guy. I don’t think I could ever get tired of the way the sun sets over the spires of the Oxford colleges or the fact that there is a tea room on every street corner. The mild summer weather and waiting for pizza from the truck outside Christchurch will never not be wonderful, and playing Taboo and laughing with friends in a pub will always make my heart happy. And if I’m going to trip as I walk down the street, I’m glad that it’s on cobblestone. I’m happy to be a tourist if it means that I experience life every single day as fully as I can, that I live it and wear it out like a favorite sweater or a beloved pair of socks.

Here are some shots of me being a tourist during my first weekend in London.

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Oxford Study Abroad

My month in England has sadly come to an end, and over the past few days, I’ve found myself scrolling through my own Instagram feed and Facebook album, trying to relive the memories. For the month of July, I studied at Worcester College at Oxford University, and when I wasn’t taking classes I was exploring Oxford and taking trips to various places within the United Kingdom. It was an absolute dream. Throughout the entire trip, I visited London, Canterbury, Dover, Stratford, Bath, Manchester, and Edinburgh, and with the help of my very beat-up journal, I plan to take you through the most incredible month of my life.

Worcester College, where I stayed and studied, is situated on the largest grounds of any Oxford college. The gardens are immaculate, so much so that there are certain areas where you can’t even walk on the grass. However, the open grounds more than make up for it. There was a small lake with swans and Romantic willow trees as well as large grassy fields to lounge and study.

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After I got settled into my room at Worcester and took a quick tour of Oxford, the first thing I did was go on a walk to University Parks and the suburbs to see J.R.R. Tolkien’s house and a bench where he often sat. One of my favorite things about Oxford that I discovered over the next couple of weeks is its rich literary history. Going into the trip, I knew that many world-renowned and canonized writers had come through Oxford, but the fervor with which Oxford celebrates its literary history was incredible to me. For example, every year on the first Saturday of July, Oxford celebrates Alice Day, which recognizes Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. People dress up in costumes; carnivals are held in the meadow; and there are even Alice-themed afternoon teas. And bookstores around town have special displays for Oxford writers, such as Lewis, Tolkien, Carroll, and Wilde.

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Afterwards, I stopped by The Eagle and Child, favored pub of C.S. Lewis and Tolkien. It was here that they would catch up and read each others’ work. The pub is decorated with various Lewis and Tolkien-themed things, which serve as yet another celebration of literature in Oxford. It’s perfect in every way.

Stay tuned for more posts about my month in England!

-Lauren

Delightfully Vintage

IMG_5980Hello from England!

I’m currently studying abroad at the University of Oxford in England, and between classes and weekend trips and exploring Oxford, I’ve been pressed for time to write. Oxford is an incredible city, full of history and art. The architecture is swoon-worthy, and the literary history is so rich. I’m in heaven. I’m only here for two more weeks, so I feel as though I have to pack as many experiences into a short amount of time as I possibly can. To try every restaurant and coffee shop and pub, visit every museum and library, and find every off-the-beaten-path treasure. Time is passing too quickly.

And of course, I’ve been doing some shopping, mostly at vintage and independent shops, where I’ve managed to find some really great things. My favorite purchase I’ve made so far is probably a green faux-leather midi skirt that I found at a vintage shop on Cowley Road. That being said, I am pretty keen on my new Oxfords. English summers are pretty mild compared to what I’m accustomed to. Since I’ve been here, the temperature has gotten above 75 only once or twice, so a leather skirt was perfect for my recent trip to Canterbury.

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 Skirt – Vintage / Oxfords and Sunglasses – Independent shop in Oxford / Purse – Vintage

IMG_5978Stay tuned for more posts about my study abroad adventure!

-Lauren

My Airplane Essentials

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I’ve been traveling quite a bit more than normal lately.  Between flying out to conferences and taking road trips with friends and spending days at the beach, I’ve been getting outside my normal routine and seeing new places. As I’ve mentioned a few times in previous posts, I’m studying abroad this summer in Oxford, England, which means I’ll be spending lots of time on airplanes.  I’ve flown an adequate amount throughout my life, but I would by no means classify myself as a professional flyer.  However, I thought I would share with y’all my in-flight essentials that make those long flights just a little more bearable.

When you fly, you’re allowed to take two non-checked bags onto the plane: a carry-on bag and a personal bag.  In my carry-on bag, I like to pack the things that I might need during the flight or in the airport (changes of clothes) and the things that are too valuable or fragile to pack in a checked bag that may or may not get lost (camera, laptop, etc.).  This is the bag I put in the overhead compartment during the flight.  In my personal bag, I pack everything that I know I’ll need during the flight and want easy access to.
IMG_5071For this bag, I like to use either a backpack or a large tote bag.  This one from Forever 21 is great because it snaps closed, and the sides unzip to create more space.  IMG_5077The first thing that comes to mind when I think of in-flight essentials is entertainment.  I have to have things to occupy me for those hours, because I have a hard time sleeping on planes.  If the flight is long and the plane is big, there will probably be screens on the backs of the chairs so you can watch movies.  I also like to bring several magazines and books to read and a journal to write in.  Travel journaling is a great way to document memories from your trip.  Finally, I prefer to have an iPad in my personal bag, rather than a laptop. iPads are much less cumbersome and are great for downloading books, magazines, movies, or television episodes.

IMG_5079In my experience, airplanes tend to be cold, so I always bring a cozy sweater or cardigan (mine is from Urban Outfitters).  This can be worn onto the plane to maximize bag space.  Next, I’ll bring my bag of liquids.  TSA has very specific rules of how to pack liquids, which you can check out on their website.  In this bag, I pack my contact solution, moisturizer, chapstick, makeup, etc.  I also take face wipes just in case my skin starts to feel gross. Depending on the airline, you may be able to take prepackaged snacks, so I usually pack a couple granola bars.  Additionally, I bring both earbuds and over-the-ear headphones.  I prefer over-the-ear headphones, but after a few hours, they begin to hurt my head, and they’re also not very conducive for sleeping. That’s where the earbuds come in.
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Obviously, a wallet and a passport are necessities.  In my wallet, I’ll have some cash (just in case I need to pay a cab driver), my insurance card, and my debit cards.  It’s also good to make copies of your insurance card and your passport just in case you lose them, and put the copies in a different bag. Lastly, I like to have sunglasses in my bag for when I get off of the plane.

Not pictured: chargers, neck pillow, tea

Electronics chargers are pretty self-explanatory.  No one wants to run out of things to do on the flight.  Neck pillows are a must.  Space is limited on planes, and the chairs don’t recline very far, so neck pillows do wonders for naps.  My last airplane essential is tea.  Airport food is expensive.  If you bring your own tea bags, you can get a free cup of hot water during a layover and make your own tea instead of buying coffee.  Then you can use the money you would have spent on that for your actual trip.

What are your travel essentials?

-Lauren

Lazing in Louisville

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If you had asked me a few weeks ago to name some cool vacation destinations in the United States, Kentucky would not have made the list. However, after my recent trip to Louisville, I have to say that it’s one of my favorite places I’ve ever visited. As I mentioned in a previous post, I went with a friend to the Kentucky Derby. Going into the trip, I fully expected my favorite thing about it to be the Derby itself, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that I enjoyed the town just as much as the Derby. The coffee and restaurant scenes are incredible, and local art and music seem to have a big presence there. I found myself saying over and over throughout the trip, “Everything’s just so cool!”

Side note: Because I wasn’t allowed to bring my camera to the Derby, I didn’t bring it to Kentucky at all, which was so so foolish.  All photos were taken with my iPhone and edited with VSCO, so excuse the quality.

The Walking Bridge

There is a walking bridge over the Ohio River that connects Kentucky to Indiana. During the day, people walk across the bridge for exercise or leisure; some people ride their bikes across it; and musicians sit on the benches and play music for tips, which I love.  From the bridge, you can look out over all of Louisville, and at night, it is lit up with colored lights.

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Silver Dollar is a really cool restaurant and bar that is located in a renovated firehouse.  It combines all the things I love: old buildings, good food, and cute decor.  I ordered the fried catfish, and my friend got the chicken and waffles. Both were incredible.  We loved the restaurant so much that we went twice, once for dinner and once to sit on the patio and drink Mexican cokes.   IMG_3350Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

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On our last day in town, we stopped by Gralehaus for brunch.  They serve really good lattes and biscuits, and the outdoor seating area looks like it came right out of an issue of Kinfolk.  Again, a combination of everything I love.  I would definitely recommend stopping by not only for the good food and coffee, but the cool atmosphere and Instagram opportunities. Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset IMG_3420 Sweet Surrender

You can bet money that if there’s a dessert store in my general vicinity, I’ll make a visit.  You can bet even more money that if there are fairy lights on the deck of said dessert store, I’ll definitely, no doubt about it make a visit.  I was pretty full after my dinner at Silver Dollar, but I couldn’t resist picking up a macaron from Sweet Surrender.

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I love record stores and listening to music on my record player, so I had to browse Guestroom Records, right next to Sweet Surrender and across the street from Silver Dollar.  They have a $1 record section, where I picked up a Nat King Cole record and Elton John’s Greatest Hits.  They also have free stickers, and if that doesn’t convince you to go, I don’t know what will.

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Nord’s Bakery is a donut shop.  Need I say more?  If you tell them it’s your first time visiting, they’ll give you a box of free donuts in addition to your purchase, which is such a nice gesture.  I ate way too many donuts over the course of the trip, but they were just so good.  Way better than Krispy Kreme.  Seriously, have you ever heard of a bacon donut? Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset Quills Coffee

Probably my favorite thing about Louisville is its coffee scene.  Y’all know that I love coffee and independent coffee shops, of which Louisville has several.  Our first morning in town, my friend and I stopped by Quills upon recommendation, and we weren’t disappointed.  I ordered the Cafe Miel, which if I understand correctly, is specific to Louisville.  The decor is also right up my alley.  On the walls, there are prints from a local letterpress and band posters. Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with c1 preset 21C

21C is a modern art gallery on the bottom floor of a hotel in downtown Louisville.  It’s open 24 hours, so you can walk around at any hour of the day.  There’s also a restaurant on the bottom floor, so if you’re into really expensive, really small meals, you could do that too. We went on the night of the Derby, and it was packed.  Some sections were blocked off for Derby parties, so we couldn’t see everything, but the things we did see were really cool.  Below I included pictures of my two favorite pieces.

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The Derby was the whole reason for the trip, so of course I had to include it.  I don’t know very much about horse racing, but getting dressed up and hanging out at Churchill Downs is a fun experience regardless.  My friend and I brought blankets and found a grassy spot where we could watch the races. It was an all-day event, and I, of course, got a sunburn, but I think the Derby is definitely worth doing at least once, if only to feel really fancy for a day.  Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with m5 presetWhat are your favorite places to visit?

Quirky Albuquerque

As I mentioned briefly in a previous post, I recently had the opportunity to spend a week in Albuquerque, New Mexico to present a paper at a conference.  Before I flew out there, I had no idea what to expect.  I had never been west of Houston, so my perceptions of New Mexico relied heavily on stereotypes and the one half of a Breaking Bad episode I’ve seen.  Needless to say, what I expected was not what I got, although I did see quite a few cowboy hats.

Being from Alabama, I can honestly say that had it not been for this conference, I probably would have never found myself wandering around New Mexico, but I’m so glad I did.  Not only was the conference incredible, but I had the chance to experience a place within my own country that is vastly, and I mean vastly, different from where I live.

My hotel and the conference were located Downtown, so in between panels, seminars, and presentations, I got touristy and wandered around the streets with my camera.

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One thing that’s really cool about Albuquerque is that there are murals, street art, and mosaics all around Downtown that speak to the history, culture, and personality of the city.

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The architecture in Albuquerque is much louder than that in Alabama, and the colors of the buildings are vibrant and fun.  I never actually went to this theater, but the architecture was so fun and stereotypically New Mexican that I had to snap a picture.

IMG_4958 Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset Whenever I travel to a new city, I like to scope out some good local coffee.  After listening to an amazing panel on pathways to publication, I explored the streets and found an amazing coffee shop called Espresso Fino.  The yellow exterior was what caught my attention.  It’s not only eye-grabbing but it fits in perfectly with the city’s bright, fun color scheme.

Since I am on a lifelong mission to find the best chai latte in America, I ordered the chai latte, and it was great.  Also, after the shop has brewed the coffee, they give the grounds away for free so people can use them for gardening or composting.

All around the city, there are these beautiful blossoming trees, which made it feel like spring even though, to an Alabamian, it was still quite chilly.

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Another cool place I visited was Old Town, which just a few minutes away from Downtown. Old Town is where many Native American shops and good Mexican restaurants are located. The architecture is very western and pueblo-esque, which is something that I had never seen before aside from television.  I couldn’t help but pick up a few souvenirs and take a visit to the oldest church in Albuquerque, the San Felipe de Neri Church.

Since most of my time was spent at the conference, I didn’t have time to do much else, but I really enjoyed the parts of the city I was able to see.  I can say that I’ll definitely miss the food there.  Native American fry bread has probably made the list of one of my favorite foods.

What are your spring or summer vacation destinations?