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!

Don’t Plan Too Much

Travel

As a follow up to my last post, Plan Ahead, Avoid the Headache, I wanted to share the opposite problem for travelers to ponder, planning too much.

Flash to January 2010 and I am a nervous 18, almost 19 year old, planning their first trip to Europe. I was working in a small gift shop in Manitou Springs, and while the day was slow I would plan out, step-by-step how my trip was going to go. I mean step-by-step. I had the time I woke up, map directions and times to get to the first spot I wanted to see, approximate times for a lunch break, and what area or grocery store, or park bench I thought I should stop at.

This was a classic case of a bored mind finding mazes to run, and a nervous first time (solo) traveler trying to figure out how to maximize time in other countries. I had no freakin’ clue.

I landed in Germany in April 2010 and within a week everything had gone to hell. I was luckily staying with friends outside of Stuttgart, but the next part of my trip was delayed an entire week as all flights were grounded due to a certain Icelandic Volcano. When I say everything was grounded, I mean this volcanic ash cloud left 10 million stranded, cost airlines 1.7 billion in revenues…etc. etc. Thank you Eyjafjallajokull volcano! 

On a personal level it meant my two months of planned travel was also interrupted and I played a fast game of cutting out places in England and Ireland that I had planned to see. I split London into two chunks. I cut out the Lake District. I spent less time with friends in Diss. Then I met a Scottish guy and changed my plans for matters of the heart (this was also a flop). 

However, the lesson was that all my hours and hours and days of planning meant that I had failed to see that life, especially in traveling, gets messy and disruptive, and REALLY hates strict rules. I learned hard and fast that on long journeys you often just don’t know how your desires may change and that your heart may find a new path. 

I learned this again in 2013, when my funding for my study abroad was late and I was staying with family with no money. That same trip meant I would catch whooping cough and be bedridden for a week instead of going to Istanbul. 

Since then I have become wise to these tricks, or so I pretend, and I try to find a happy medium. A set of “plans” maybe a few tours, maybe some reservations, but ultimately I let things happen and I stay open to opportunity. What I have learned more than anything is that it’s important to enjoy the journey, not just the destination. 

Happy Travels!

Adventure of the Week- Amtrak Train Journey

adventure of the week, family, Travel

Earlier this month I took a road trip to Iowa to attend a cousin’s wedding. The first half was spent on the never ending drive through Nebraska with my great aunt Jayne, her granddaughter Ivy, and my stepdaughter Lily. We stopped at the Omaha Zoo and made a comfortable adventure of the journey.

To return from the wedding, since I needed to be back to work before Jayne planned to return, my stepdaughter and I could either fly, rent a car, or how we decided – take the train.

CALIFORNIA-ZEPHYR.jpg

The Amtrak’s California Zephyr runs through Iowa, and we caught it about an hour south of Des Moines. From there one journey’s overnight before arriving in Colorado around 7:00 a.m. making the train journey approximately 12 hours depending on delays.

The train was only around $130 for the two of us one-way in basic economy seating. We sat on the top floor of the double decker economy cars and with ample leg room and the ability to walk around it never felt particularly cramped on the journey. No it was not luxury accommodations and a bed would have been nice, but for one overnight journey it was a reasonable price and journey.

I would say if you were to journey much longer, then a sleeper car of some sort would have been ideal. If only to be able to stretch out properly and have some privacy. Amtrak offers Roomettes and Family Rooms, depending on one’s budget and preferences.

Naturally, train travel is not the fastest or most efficient, but the experience is worth having and it’s an economical means for some routes. Additionally, trains are not nearly as crowded as buses I have traveled on or even planes, meaning you feel less cramped and trapped by everything.

Here are some of my tips for making the journey more comfortable:

  • Pack light
    • Most train stations will not have the ability to check your bags, so you will have to carry on suit cases and they need to be small enough to fit overhead. A larger carry-on bag is ideal
  • Keep comfortable items closed
    • Have a smaller personal bag with you to have by you and your seat, here it is ideal you have things like books, phones, laptop, and a toothbrush or any night creams and other items you may want handy. This includes snacks.
  • Keep the kid(s) happy
    • I brought the Nintendo Switch from our house to keep Lily gaming until I felt we should sleep. She also had books, snacks, and other items to keep her comfortable.
    • My emergency kit for all kid-related items includes wet wipes, chapstick, lotion, hand sanitizer, and a game of some sort.
  • Wear comfy clothing
    • Like with a flight, wear items that are comfortable to sit in for 12 hours + and that are stretchy or okay for swollen feet, and other discomforts of travel.
  • Keep medicine handy
    • Sometimes aches and pains happen, as well as the inability to sleep, keep your medicinal items handy for easy treatment.
  • Walk around
    • The journey will be much longer if you don’t move around, so make sure you check out the dining car, observation car, or simply journey the aisles to get some legs stretched.
  • Avoid the food
    • This may be a no-brainer, but food on flights, and apparently trains, are not like the Hogwarts Express as I had hoped. Everything was overpriced, greasy, and lacked flavor. For my next train adventure, I plan on bringing my own oatmeal and other noms
  • Stay hydrated
    • The train offers water bottle/cup refill stations, take advantage of this to avoid buying bottled water. AND it’s ore environmentally friendly. (For other tips, check out Ditching Disposables.
  • Have Fun!
    • Travel can be hard, no matter the means, make it a time to enjoy things you don’t usually. Watch the sunrise, have a glass of wine on a train, talk about silly things with your kiddo, or write in your journal. Sometimes just being is the ultimate treat.

HAPPY TRAVELS!

Arepa Barn – Gluten Free Heaven

Allergen-free eating on the road, food, musings, Travel, wyoming

note: this restaurant closed in 2018

ArepaBarn

It is rare in this part of the world to find a restaurant that is catered to a specific type of regional food. Though it is increasing and improving with Thai, Ethiopian, Moroccan, Mexican, Chinese, Korean etc. becoming more and more common in Colorado. However, an hour North, into the Wyoming landscape, there is less and less diversity and more and more meat and potatoes.

This diet has served the people of Wyoming well for the last 150 years or so. It meant survival and energy to get through tough summers and tougher winters. Yet, as time marches on, more needs and tastes are requested and the landscape becomes that of new needs and peoples.

My parent’s recently stumbled upon a certain gem of Casper, Wyoming. The Arepa Barn in Casper, Wyoming is a beautiful story of an immigrant family from Venezuela sharing their passion for food in a local eatery. On top of the restaurant being a fantastic reflection of Venezuelan eats the entire place is Gluten Free!

 

Having an entirely Venezuelan restaurant us a great treat in most of the United States, having one that is completely Gluten Free, or any restaurant that is totally Gluten Free, is a divine treat.

I visited this temple to Gluten Free eats last weekend when I was visiting my mom and sidling sibling and I absolutely fell in love. So much so that I had asked my mom to bring me some arepas when she visits on Monday.

All around the dining experience, it ended up being one of the best of my life. I will let my Facebook review do the explanation:

Where does one begin? This was all around one of my favorite dining experiences EVER!
1) The owners were very attentive to our food allergy needs. I have only ever seen that level of care at FINE dining locations in Italy and Mexico!

2) The owners are super sweet and friendly, I felt like I was in someone’s home!

3) The food! OMG the food was so good. Every last morsel was devoured at our table. Arepas are their own treat, but the fried plantains, soup, and rice and beans took everything beyond. I can’t speak highly enough of how good everything was. It was 100% fresh and made to order, making it even better than I good have dreamed of.

4) ALL of their food is Gluten Free! And you would have no idea because it doesn’t taste gluten free! As someone with celiac, this was such a treat, and a rare occasion where I could order anything off the menu.

If you can’t tell, I absolutely loved it and if you head to Casper, Wyoming stop by and have one of the best meals of your lives! They not only cater to celiacs, but they offer vegan, vegetarian, and plenty of meat options for anyone’s preferences.

Location: 1040 N Center St, Casper, WY 82601

Website: click here

Facebook: click here

Happy Eats!

Road Trip Survival U.S.A.

Allergen-free eating on the road, colorado, family, new mexico, Travel, United States, wyoming

Growing up in the west, we take a lot of what the rest of the world would see as “road trips”. This could mean just a shopping excursion in the biggest city for 300 miles (Denver) or traveling state lines to get to family, friends, or just out of your bubble.

Growing up in a rural environment meant that we had to travel to get anything and anywhere. 30 minutes to the grocery store. 60 minutes to go clothes shopping. 120 minutes to go to a concert…. it took a while to get places. Then of course you had to return, usually the same day.

In some respects I feel like a road warrior, always prepared with a book and wet wipes for whatever may come my way. Yet I always cringe a little bit at the prospect of a five hour drive from where I live to my hometown. Thus, there are always a few things I bring along to make sure I can survive without going batty.

  1. Entertainment
    • This depends on the journey and if I am going solo or with family or friends. If I am solo, I bring out the audio books. Especially longer books I have been struggling to get to with my own eyes…..hello Ulysses. If I am going with a buddy I make sure we have a good song playlist.
    • Remember to download files to your phone or device as cell phone service is often unreliable or totally nonexistent in many parts of the American West.
    • If you aren’t the only driver, bring some physical books, movies, magazines, or anything else to help pass the time.
  2. Comfort Food
    • This doesn’t have to be food that’s bad for you, but rather something you enjoy munching on that fills in the gaps between meals. I personally love chips (crisps to you brits).
    • Don’t go heavy with your snacks, make sure it’s not something that will upset your system or leave you bloated and uncomfortable. I find vegetable based treats and minimal grease make the best combination.
  3. Plan You Meals
    • I often pack a car lunch of tasty meals so we don’t have to make extra stops. This is often breakfast or lunch, with the next meal being one we stop for.
    • This is often a sandwich of some sort such as an egg and bacon for breakfast, hummus and veggies for lunch, or peanut butter and jelly. I always plan for something that won’t sour and that will taste good in a few hours.
  4. Leave Extra Time
    • I feel that it’s better to be stupid early than late. Meaning it makes more sense to show up before you planned than to show up late and make a mess. If you can’t commit to a time, don’t make plans and show when you get there. This leaves frustration behind and makes the journey easier.
  5. Plan for Frustration
    • Life happens, especially when you are on the road. Maybe you’ll hit a traffic jam, or an elk jam (this happens) which means you may take longer to get where you are going. This is just a reality of driving through the U.S. of A.
    • Make sure you have an emergency kit in your car, a AAA membership and other things to make your emergencies less tragic.
  6. Plan Your Routing
    • This seems obvious but a lot of people don’t plan their routing ahead of their journey. Yet, when you look into say traveling Raton Pass in New Mexico, you learn that storms can make the journey a nightmare. Make sure you look into where you are headed, especially using local Department of Transportation Websites and other details to ensure a smoother journey.
  7. Bring Comfy Cozies
    • This means something different for everyone. For me, it’s a few things. I bring my down pillow from home (IKEA brand), a hoodie (maybe a little threadbare), and some favorite leggings. This means I have everything needed for cold morning naps, sleeping in questionable hotels, and for comfort during unexpected discomfort.
  8. Have Fun
    • Regardless of the reasons for road tripping, make sure you add some fun. Maybe it’s stopping at a silly museum, or a famous ice cream shop, but make sure you take time to enjoy the journey. Otherwise, why go?

Happy Travels!

 

roadtripSurvival