Day Trips – to go or not to go?

Caribbean, Cruising, europe, France, Ireland, italy, mexico, Scotland, Throwback Thursday, Travel, United Kingdom, United States

There are times in life where preconceived notions have to be put to the test and nothing has challenged me more than the subject of day trips (in regards to travel anyway). Well before I started venturing into the world on my own I had in my head that the best way to travel was to travel with no rules, no script, and no one telling you where and when to do things. I thought of all the school trips and family vacations I had been dragged around on and knew that there was no way I wanted to travel in a massive bus with less than knowledgeable guides trying to sell people on things. No, I wanted to explore on my own and find the best things without rules. I wanted to wander and forge my own path and take the path less taken and be amazing! All without any knowledge or experience!

In 2010 I obsessively made my own plans and scheduled in times to pee and blow my nose and shove an apple in my mouth. Read more here. Which in reality all went to shit within one week, because of nature, thank you Icelandic Volcano. The truth was that I had no idea how to plan or manage two months, let alone a week, or a day traveling because I didn’t have a clue. My trip went okay, I saw plenty of things, but I also learned where to worry and what to forget, and how to get help when I needed it.

Fast forward to 2013 and a study abroad trip opened my eyes to the value of guides in foreign countries, especially when you don’t speak the language. What I realized is that no matter how many signs or guide books or snippets I read, I was missing valuable information whenever I looked around at the world, the castle, the street, the odd carving in a wall. I missed the stories, myths, and legends that made different corners of the world remarkable. It was then that I realized that, in fact, guides are invaluable and important people when visiting a city for the first time.

Even in a day of endless information and content, guides offer insight, and an intimacy that no amount of paper and signs can ever give to an experience. Having a guide walk you around Florence will allow you to truly experience the details of the experience, versus aimlessly wandering trying to make sense of everything that is around you. Having a guide takes you to the best gelato, or the tastiest lunch in a town, and it lets you better understand the people that are hosting you in their home. Since 2013 I make sure every trip has at least one tour, but I am very selective on how and where I take these tours. Here are some of my fast tips on selecting the best tour for you and your travel companions!

  1. Start with researching and finding as many tour providers as you can that will cover what you need. This includes group and private tours, and companies like Viator, or independent companies that you find.
  2. Review all of the itineraries and inclusions, then figure out what seems like a reasonable price for the tour either for a large, small, or private tour and then decide what is friendliest for your budget.
    1. For private tours you will likely need to email guides, and explain what you want. However, they will be able to fully customize your adventure from the locations seen, the time spent in each place, and the routing taken. This is definitely worth paying extra for, if you can afford it.
  3. Read up on the vehicles being offered. This seems silly, but sometimes something will be listed that won’t actually work with your family of six, and two car seats. Read up, email with questions, and call if you have any concerns.
    1. My husband can attest to the discomfort of small Mexican vans for 5 hours of driving to Chichen Itza, I majorly failed on researching that one. My short self is now much more mindful that 6’4” doesn’t fit in cars as well as 5’2”.
  4. Read as many reviews as you can, either through TripAdvisor, Facebook, viator, etc. this will give you a better idea of what to expect and what to watch out for. Remember, most people will complain before they complement, but it’s important to check all the resources for consistency and safety.
  5. Ask your travel companions about their preferences. Sometimes they won’t care, but brain storming may mean they think of unforeseen issues, or other ideas to make the trip better.
  6. Ask an expert for advice! This is especially important if you are working with a travel agent for your trip. They will likely have direct connections to some of the best guides and experts in an area, and if they don’t they will know who to ask for help.However, experts can be other people like friends that know the region, a hotel concierge, or your credit card concierge and travel departments!
  7. Make a choice – yes you have to pick. It’s far better to pick SOMETHING and not have the best tour, but get to SEE something versus never going at all. I say this because so many people hesitate to take a tour and then they don’t ever get the experience they should have tried for. It’s scary to put trust in another company or guide, but I promise that it’s worthwhile more than staying behind.
Advertisements

Wandering Relatives

colorado, europe, France, History, Scotland, Travel, United Kingdom, United States

Sometimes it feels like a cliché to say such and such thing or personality or idea is in “one’s blood”. At times this attitude has been used for a variety of horrific crimes on humanity. It’s been justified to cause pain and harm, promote superiority, or enhance nationalistic nonsense.

I’m cautious to say anything is “in my blood” when in fact one could consider DNA and relatives as a major contributor to disease, intelligence, talent and skills, preferred foods, and probably more than we even know. Yet it is far from an only determining factor. One’s nurture is probably as much, if not more important than nature. Yet there is no undeniable connection that a part of our existence is determined by genetic factors.

With all of this in mind, and with hesitation, I acknowledge that some part of me loves the sensation of exploration and adventure, and that part is inherited. Inherited from grandparents, and a grandfather that has never set down roots even as he ticks towards 80. Inherited from parents that chose to pack horse ride from Washington state to Colorado for their honeymoon (they had to give up in Oregon because my mom was having morning sickness…thanks to me). My dad’s parents traveled on road trips every chance they got, original weekend warriors before it was cool, between state lines to national parks and camping adventures. These grandparents also camped in the Maroon Bells on their honeymoon, after one night at the Brown Palace in Denver.

My family home was full of National Geographic magazines and picture books from other distance places. Some of them were okay to be books, moments frozen on paper in ink. Some of them my family actively spoke of visiting. For my family, it was escapism in tough times, in poor times, or portals to relive past adventures.

Other aunts and uncles were prolific travelers, other cousins have lived overseas for most of their adult lives in England and Germany and Haiti and Rwanda and Japan. Travel a branch of the tree and someone’s kid was living abroad. Many of them I have never met or spent real time with, some of them are only known from Facebook profiles and stories. Our family tree branches far and wide, beyond oceans, and continents, and to wild places many would dare not visit. Their wonder and excitement was no doubt fuel for my own desire to go beyond and explore.

If I go back further in my family myths and legends, there are great great aunts that took a cruise around the world. There are 400-year-old relatives in the roots that left everything in the Netherlands and England to come to the “New World” to establish Puritan rule. There are Ulster Scots that left British overreach to fight them in the American Revolution. There are poverty stricken Scottish peasants that left to try something better in a new home. All of them have a story on uprooting, all of them faced immeasurable challenges and stories on the way, all of them are connected to me, whether by culture, or something deeper.

I don’t always know how to explain my love of exploration; I just know it has always been a part of me. There are flashes of memories of me reading National Geographic. There are pieces of playing pirates on the backyard picnic table. There are snips of me digging in the dirt for rocks and semi-precious stones. If I remember anything from growing up in the woods, it was that I was always looking for something to do and always seeking out something interesting. This trend has been a true part of my adulthood and I doubt I will ever leave it behind.

Take Time to Enjoy Travel

adventure of the week, europe, France, italy, Scotland, Travel, United Kingdom, United States

I see this same scenarios time after time in my job:

My client wants to travel overseas and check off some places on their bucket list. They have one week, three kids, and they want to cram as much culture in their little brains as they possibly can. They want to see ALL of Italy in a week.

My client is taking his dad to Europe, his dad is 80 years old, they want to see ALL of Europe in three weeks.

I research their top places and assemble a schedule that I think is ideal. I find options that match their budget, and activities that all extra time if someone needs a break or a coffee or if a train is late. The savvy travelers agree to my suggestions. The wild ones try to break records, or so it seems, on how many countries they can visit in no time.

While a week, or three weeks seems like a long time, the truth is there will never be seeing ALL of anything in a week, or a month, or a lifetime. It is literally impossible to see everything Rick Steves tells you to, or eat at every Michelin restaurant. It’s just not something that can be done. Besides, the best travel experiences are the unexpected, the moments when nothing was planned, and the stars seem to align. It’s when you actually take time to ENJOY traveling that good things come together.

My favorite meals, or my most loved memories don’t come from the days I planned out hour-by-hour they are finding randomness on this planet we call home. Sometimes it has been a funeral procession or a wedding. Other times it has been making friends with a child or getting lost on a side street. Sometimes it was simply sitting in a train station and people watching while I ate a sandwich. I saw the Queen of England when I just wanted to enjoy being in London in a park. I made friends while hanging out at pubs and hostels. I have always fallen in love with cities I never expected to, or never planned to originally visit.

When one takes time to slow down and breath in their time in a new location, then one REALLY understands the heart and soul of why people travel. It’s a cafe in Paris, or a bakery in Dublin, and taking the time to eat a pastry or drink a cup of coffee. It is a club in Edinburgh or a pub in London that opens up conversation and connection. It’s never when you have museum after museum planned. It’s never when you follow a massive group from sea of people to sea of people. It is always the in between.

As I have seen more and more of the world over ten years I have moved from racing to one place and another, and instead I have craved more of the in between. When I mentally picture a trip back to Paris, I see a mosey instead of a rush. When I mentally picture a visit to China, it’s sitting on the Great Wall and listening to others speak in awe. I imagine crying at finally seeing the Pyramids of Giza and sitting in the sand as I feel the centuries of life in front of and around me. I want the cups of teas and messy foods as much too. I want making friends and photographs of new connections too.

So, dear reader, slow down your plans. See two cities instead of five. See one less museum, and add in a park. Walk everywhere you can so that you can absorb the essence of what is around you. Speak to everyone you can so that you know the people better. Try new foods that would otherwise freak you out. Most importantly, live it all, as much as you can.

Happy Travels!

Planning for the Unknown

adventure of the week, Caribbean, colorado, europe, Florida, France, italy, mexico, Nebraska, new mexico, Scotland, Travel, United Kingdom, United States, wyoming

We live in an exciting time of where we have endless information at our fingertips through social media, news sources, books, and endless other methods. At any given second I can go on my phone or online and see what is happening in many areas of the world. In real time I can explore what is happening at a place I plan on visiting.

This is awesome and equally problematic.

From a travel planner perspective, we use the most up to date, thorough and well-researched information at our disposal. Coming from reliable sources like travel guides, national tourism boards, official websites, rail aggregators and other “first hand” knowledge sources. For the rest of the public, their perspective on a new place comes from a video or social media post, perhaps a news article from a well-reputed magazine. Guess what fails to be in the articles and videos? Thorough information on how to get to, explore, or enjoy a specific region.

No doubt this is not a problem that content creators have to fix alone. Because when well-meaning Conde Nast makes a list of places to see before 2020, they don’t expect people to just cherry pick and randomly show up to Machu Picchu. They do think that people research or look into the complexity of getting to Machu Picchu on train, or foot, or bus. But many don’t, because in our world of instant gratification people don’t always understand that other parts of the world have more layers to their exploration.

Like any good history geek I love researching an answer for myself or my clients. I look at the stories that made up a place. I look at train schedules. I call locals to get information on schedules that I can’t find online. I look at sunset and sunrise times to explain to a client when they can get that perfect view. I check weather patterns to explain what they should pack. I love this research. Granted, I get a little more in the weeds than is necessary, thus, I encourage you to find a balance as you set off into the world.

Here are my tips for researching unknown place.

  1. Go to the library or book store and buy the most recently published guide on the area that you are interested in.
    • Pro-tip: ask the bookstore clerk if an updated version of that guide is coming out BEFORE you travel and ORDER it so that you have the best vetted information for your actual trip.
  2. READ the crap out of that book. Make copies, take pictures with your phone, make notes. Learn everything you can so you know what needs to be done when you’re boots on the ground in Argentina headed to Patagonia.
    • Pro-tip: I use sticky notes in a color coordinated pattern to mark places of interest or areas I am headed to. That way I know where to get information quickly. For example, I will use a large sticky note to mark a region and write the name above the edge of the page. Then I know green stickies are dining in Delhi, pink are activities, etc.
  3. Ask Around to people that travel and see if someone you know has been to such and such place and ask them for recommendations. This might save you time, money, and stress when you know someone else was able to enjoy the same vacation or trip you were planning.
    • Pro-tip: vet all the information you get to make sure it’s accurate and safe. Make a list of suggestions and then read up on what your friend/family suggested.
  4. Read reviews with a grain of salt. Reviews offer TRUE experience feedback, but remember that people are more likely to complain online versus compliment so sometimes complaints will reflect a slanted view, good or bad, of a company.
    • Pro tip: if you see complaints ask yourself if it matters if “the room is small” “if the restroom only had a small shower” or if “the price was insane” because sometimes what bothers someone else will not matter to you.
  5. Utilize hotels and locals by asking questions on dining, activities, weather, and how to enhance your vacation! No one knows better than locals on where to eat, drink, and enjoy your best life.
    • Email your hotel, tour guide, or organizer well in advance so that you have time to get a response and make arrangements to enjoy the best parts of wherever you are going.
  6. Plan for emergencies and extra time. There is nothing more frightening to me than having someone with a schedule that has no extra time built in. Why? Because if one thing goes wrong, like a train delay or a volcanic eruption (true experience from yours truly) you won’t have any time to make up for time lost. I always suggest having at least one back up flight or one back up train between you and when you need to be somewhere. YES you may have more wasted time, but you WILL be less stressed about your travels. Cool bonus: people watching is always enjoyable.
    • Pro-tip: don’t cram everything into one trip. Pick your favorite options and stick to a simpler plan. You will feel less stressed and exhausted, and when you slow down truly magical things happen! There is a reason why EVERY tour company offers some free time on varying days and afternoons because they need extra time for the unplanned and everyone needs to slow down.
  7. Teach yourself the customs, some key phrases, social norms, and other details before you go. Nothing will make you feel more insecure than thinking you have pissed someone off or that you are awkwardly getting through life. Read up on dos and don’ts and mentally note how to behave.
  8. Most importantly, have fun! Laugh off your mistakes, learn as much as you can, and don’t sweat the small stuff. In my experience, things work out and you always have a phenomenal time!

HAPPY TRAVELS!

Women in Travel

History, Travel, United Kingdom, United States

Even in 2019 I sometimes get a second look when I gush about my love of traveling alone. While it’s no lie that there is an inherent risk to traveling solo, male or female, it is not enough reason to scare me home.

Any and all life is an inherent risk and I know my fellow women travelers have acknowledged this as they have adventured into the world. At the end of the day, it’s more worthwhile to take the risk and fail, than to stay home and do nothing.

Amelia Earhart would not have flown and been the first woman to cross the Atlantic with a plane had she decided to follow the naysayers and stayed home. Sacagawea would not have been immortalized for her lifesaving translation and support to the Lewis and Clark expedition, and they would not have survived without her.

Nellie Bly helped change the face and conditions of mental health but she also broke the notorious record of “Around the World in 80 Days” and did it all in 72 days, 6 hours, 11 minutes and 14 seconds to be precise. All of this was accomplished in 1889 before the modern comforts of travel that we know today. Bly traveling by train, ships, horseback, rickshaw, mules, and maybe some luck! She broke a record at the time, and for countless generations she has inspired women and girls to push themselves into records and goals.

Jeanne Baré was the first woman to circumnavigate the globe in the 1700s. She did this hiding as a man and with her lover working as botanists as they sailed the world working for the French government. Eventually she was found out, but instead of nasty repercussions the Navy saluted “this extraordinary woman”  with a pension and encouragements.

Countless other women broke the mold to live the lives they wanted. Some simply did work in their home towns and did some travel on the side, like Margaret (Molly Brown).

Let’s not forget Mary Wollstonecraft and her writings on Switzerland in the 18th century. Then there is her daughter, Mary Shelley, who lived abroad for many years, and had her own mishaps and adventures in Europe. They did the best they could in their time to bring their own lives depth, and share their growth with others.

My own love for travel started with books and stories of these such great individuals. They defied everything that they had been brought up to believe they should be. It’s not just for them that they lived their lives but for countless others that they inspired. It is because of them that millions of women have decided to move forward on their dreams, their goals, their fight for rights.

Traveling is not just about seeing the world. It is about learning oneself along the road. It is about finding confidence and inspiration. It is learning that you can in fact do everything for yourself. You can in fact be safe and stable. You can in fact be a solo woman traveler and explore the world on your own.

Happy Travels!

Don’t Be An Ugly American

Caribbean, Cruising, europe, History, italy, musings, Photography, Scotland, Travel, United Kingdom, United States

One of the things I hate most when I travel is seeing people be an “Ugly American”. Well really you could insert anything after “Ugly” (but for a magical reasons Canadians aren’t on this list). Regardless, my point is that the world was not designed and created to make Americans more comfortable in moving through it. AND if you want to move through it, then you owe the world some respect and humility.

On my travels I have seen numerous moments of “Ugly” in Scotland to Mexico and Haiti and in between.

On my first trip there was an American couple with a bus tour sitting at the cafe and museum at Urquhart Castle complaining that the castle was “too ruined to enjoy”. Mind you this castle is in one of the most picturesque places along Long Ness and that most people would give their right arm for such a trip. But no, because this castle was not up to their expectations, they were bitter about this excursion.

On the cruise my husband and I took in 2015, some of my favorite people truly ended up being the staff that were from all over the world. One server was from Poland, the head chef was from Trinidad, the housekeepers were from Venezuela. All of them were lovable and funny and smart and made the experience absolutely fabulous and luxurious. Guess who didn’t? A lot the “Ugly Americans”. Some people got so drunk that they attacked a vintage Aston Martin that was on board. I heard others berate the staff over petty things like not more dessert or sushi or whatever else. At stops people would complain that locals asked them about money or to take them on tours. Others complained when a location was not Americanized enough with sidewalks or marked roads etc. Mind you we stopped at places like Haiti, Jamaica, and Cozumel, Mexico. News flash, the world isn’t built for Americans.

This is not to say that all Americans are bad travelers or malicious in their journeys. It is to say that if you are lucky enough to travel outside of your hometown, be on your best behavior. Unless someone is seriously threatening you, or REALLY harming you, there is no need to be angry or bitter or cruel.

In fact, most of the people that work on cruises or at resorts or in industries along the tourist trail work six days a week or more and maybe have a break once every six months. Imagine if you had to work those many hours or did not get to see your family but once or twice a year.

Other stories are endless that you hear. When I did my study abroad in Italy students (some from my school) did things like urinate on the Duomo in Florence. In the years since, there are stories of students breaking a priceless statue trying to take a picture, and others till flipped a police car for shits and giggles.

Another point, especially if you are new at traveling, don’t hold onto insane expectations of how the world will be. Read some of the history of a place you are visiting, ask locals for stories, read signs in the museums you visit. See, if the Americans had taken some time in Scotland to understand why Urquhart Castle has seen better days they would know something on the English Civil War and Oliver Cromwell. They would know that most castles from that time were destroyed because of a Puritan regime, and then they might know how that connects to their own American history.

At the end of the day, be grateful. Be so very grateful that countries and people and ancient ruins open their doors each day to millions of foreign visitors. Be grateful that there is money put aside by governments to preserve these places and reduce entrance fees so you can see the Uffizi and the Colosseum. Be grateful that we live in an age when it’s cheaper than ever to travel between countries. Be grateful that you are well enough financially and physically to go to these places. Be grateful.

Travel Gear on a Budget

europe, France, italy, Travel, United Kingdom

Many people say that a good suitcase can change your life. This is undoubtably true. The appendix to that statement is that it doesn’t have to break the bank.

As someone that yearns to be in the road I travel several times a year and spend many weekend away. I need a suitcase that can hold up to planes, trains, and automobiles.

My main suitcases were a gift for graduating from my undergraduate degree. It’s a classic set from Samsonite, and it serves me well. This set details for around $200, but the quality makes it worth every penny.

I have gone through a lot of suitcases over the years. Sometimes bought, sometimes borrowed. Many times they come home from a month abroad with broken sides and ruined wheels. Yet with my adventures with my Samsonites I have found it still comes home as sturdy as when I left. It’s soft sided so I worry less on the smacks of careless baggage handlers and every scuff doesn’t show. It’s one of the best gifts I have ever received!

Yet for small trips I always go for my thrift store found leather duffel which is the perfect size and looks refined compared to most duffels. While it’s not high end, it’s effective and it looks nice for business or professional settings.

Nest in my list are leather bags bought on trips or collected over the years. All of them cost $130 or less and they have all been lifesavers. My laptop bag was an Italian market find that I bargained from $250 to $130 for, and I plan on it lasting me another 30 years. My purses are blends from The Sam, Italian Leather finds and clearance section bargains. All have over the shoulder straps and look nice for many settings. The best part is everything fits in them with room for a book and/or my DSLR. This makes them perfect for a plane or train… or automobile (ok I’ll stop).

For footwear, more times than not I pick my Toms or something equivalent. They’re lightweight and easy to wear for many an occasion. If it’s summer/tropical I throw in the Birkenstock’s or Chacos. If I have a dressy event I bring one pair of heels that match everything (always go black). I love blending lightweight with practical to reduce luggage but also look smart.

Men have it easy with the clothing game, but women need not kill themselves with unrealistic outfits. I always suggest making sure everything matches everything else in your suitcase. Pack less than you originally wanted to, and bring more underwear than you think you’ll need. When buying new items look for cloth that doesn’t wrinkle, and things that fold up small. Layers will be your best friend.

Most importantly, leave room in your budget to pick up stuff along the way that you see as practical for you. This will most likely be a neck pillow or blanket, that can then make the rounds for the next 20 trips!

Happy Travels!

Do a Lot With a Little

Allergen-free eating on the road, europe, family, food, France, geek, Ireland, italy, Travel, United Kingdom

I have never had what I would consider a lot of money or resources. I grew up in my grandparent’s house. My family lived below the poverty line. Since moving out of my childhood home I have been in school and/or working in jobs that don’t pay more than $34,000 a year. I sometimes do some work as a photographer or web designer to make ends meet. It has never been a lot. I have never had excessive means.

However, even with a little, I make it stretch. I take the advantages that have been given to me and make it work. This is, of course, been an immense lot of luck, and stubbornness, and sacrifice. However, it has meant that I have been able to do more than many at 27.

For my first trip to Europe, I lived at home and worked almost seven days a week for $8 an hour, at a crappy little fossil shop with sketchy owners. I did that for eight months, and then cheaply wandered around Europe crashing with friends, old and new, and hosteling when I needed to. I ate apples for lunch, and cooked in dingy kitchens to save cash. I walked instead of taking taxis and buses. I made it work. I took the advantages of free places to sleep and turned it into a longer trip, another museum, a nice meal.

In 2013 on my study abroad I headed to Italy on the most economical program I could find. I ate at the apartment for the most part, picking up in season produce at the markets. Savoring every sweet little strawberry and succulent squash. I bought $2 gelato on my way to classes for my “lunch” and euro store (same as a dollar store) nuts for a snack. I would scour the city for food deals on dinners. €15 three-course meals meant I could eat and drink on the cheap, street vendors served €2 polenta for a real treat. I bartered to cut down on souvenir costs. I stubbornly walked away to save another €5. I took advantage of every meal and treat that the study abroad program offered, knowing it would save me money.

2015 was the start of my M.A. and I hosteled, while others stayed in hotels. I packed lunch or ate cheap soup in the cantina at the college instead of eating a sandwich nearby. I traded books at the hostel and did my laundry in the basement. In an extra three weeks of travel I only stayed three nights in a real hotel, a 3-star Ibis. I was gifted gluten free bread from a fabulous bakery in Dublin. I bought few souvenirs and savored toast and tea and packets of oatmeal.

Don’t get me wrong, I love food. I LOVE food. However, I love seeing the world more. I love diving into museums and cathedrals and tours. I love eating cheap food that locals love, from chippies and markets, and food stalls. I like finding fresh veggies and fruits to suck down locally. I like fancy things, and fine meals, but if it means I can try three restaurants for the price of one, I’ll take more over the one.

I find this philosophy trickles into everything I do. I shop second hand clothing stores so I can afford a better quality item for much less. I shop grocery store sales, and closeout items for a better deal. I coupon and wait for deals to get the items I need. I scour for off-season travel deals and seasonal items to hit the clearance sections. Some find this cheap. I find it a means to live a fuller life.

I don’t hoard this bounty either, I gift to others, and donate like crazy. Monthly I probably get rid of at least one if not more trash bags of stuff. It consists of clothes my stepdaughter has outgrown, shoes we are bored of, and books we have read. I recycle and reuse, I pass it on and upcycle. I take a little and make a lot.

End note: I have been extremely lucky and I am fully aware not everyone can do this.

Memento Mori

Throwback Thursday, Travel, United Kingdom

I have a habit of seeking out odd things. By odd I mean things like mummified cats (not the Ancient Egyptian kind), Surgeon’s museums, and Operating theaters.

I like searching out the oddities in the world, the weird places that get missed by the tourist trail. Some of it’s a love for seeking out gems that no one else knows, and then it’s the dark little goth girl from high school.

Since I began exploring the world on my own I have made an effort to see the odd spots that delight my heart.

No doubt just about every castle has its own horror stories. It’s easy to forget that castles were often involved in wars, jailings, beheadings, affairs, murders… you get the idea. Needless to say, the fairytales and kid’s history lessons play down these facts.

Yet, beyond the subtly macabre I have visited some outright dark museums.

Edinburgh Surgeons’ Hall Museum

I visited the halls and spaces of this museum in 2010. I missed it in 2015 due to its renovation but from all accounts it’s still as glorious as ever and reopening this year. For more information, click here.

The museum is attached to the historic and vital University of Edinburgh’s Medical School. Not only does it celebrate almost three centuries of work and education, but also medical marvels and a collection of items for educational purposes.

My personal favorite pieces were the vast selection of body parts in formaldehyde and wax preserved pieces with vein and other details.

(C) Surgeons’ Hall Museum

Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret

This fantastic museum is hidden in the attic of St Thomas’ Church in Southwark. The location is home to years of medical institutes and knowledge such as the original site of St Thomas Hospital, which was found around 1100.

In the 19th century the attic was made into the Herd Garrett and Theatre that has been preserved until today. The theatre was in fact used for students to learn from. All of those that were operated on were women and no form of anesthesia was used due to the lack of its invention.

While the history is dark, and no doubt people suffered, it was this work and the study of medicine, that helped us get to a much better today. For that alone, it’s worth a visit. For the fact it’s one of only a few operating theatres left in the world, entices further.

The Garrett itself is a magnificent display of what prescriptions, lotions, and potions looked like in centuries past. Some of the gems I most particularly love were are their collection of “tools of the trade” and old prints on how they were used.

What are your favorite macabre locations?

Make Sure You’ve Got the Docs

adventure of the week, Allergen-free eating on the road, Caribbean, colorado, Colorado Events, europe, Florida, France, Iowa, Ireland, italy, mexico, Nebraska, new mexico, Scotland, Travel, United Kingdom, United States, wyoming

So many times I hear this classic “I didn’t know I needed a Visa”.

Here is the truth, you ALWAYS need a Visa.

“What?” You ask. Because in London they stamped your book and you were free to go as a US citizen. This is totally true, but that stamp, at customs and border, was your visa. No pre-registration and paperwork needed. Just the stamp.

Here is the thing though, sometimes the stamp doesn’t happen. And a big reason is that your passport may not have at least 6 months left on it for you to enter a specific country. Or more depending on where you are headed. In fact, many airlines won’t even let you board the plane if your passport is low on time. Meaning that week in Paris may be thrown away if you’re not prepared. This happens a lot.

Now for countries where you need advance permission, it’s vital to learn who needs what and what is needed. Meaning: countries like China may take longer and need you to buy plane tickets before you travel. Vietnam only takes a few days to process. Some countries only need a form when you land and a $50 fee. Just make sure you find out and find out at least a month or more in advance so you have time to plan.

Where do you find these details? Embassy websites and through the US state department’s website on travel: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages.html

Don’t forget to also check warnings on places you are traveling to. https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/traveladvisories.html/

Even consider registering with the state department in case you go missing. https://step.state.gov/step/

Other needs? Check with a travel agent or specialist that can at least point you in the right direction. Read a travel guide on your preferred country and ask around to others that have been to such locations.

Most of all, plan ahead, and have fun!

Happy Travels!