2016 in Insta-Travel

London, United Kingdom

Based in London for most of 2016, I was able to take quite a few weekend and day trips around England and Europe. My favorite way of sharing these places with people was through Instagram, a tool that lets creatives and non-creatives alike do their best Ansel Adams in a few seconds. This post shares some insta’s from the traveling I did accompanied with a short anecdote or history lesson, in chronological order.

Cambridge, United Kingdom

Jon and I spent just one cold day in Cambridge as a stopover on our way back to London. It was a small, walkable town that felt very collegiate. I was hoping to be able to wonder around campus and pretend I was Vera Brittain, but area around the campus wasn’t particularly visitor friendly, with a lot of areas being designated only for students. These areas, however, are not marked on the maps, so it was difficult to navigate. You’d probably have a better visit if you knew someone associated with the university.  We did manage to eventually get to the Bridge of Sighs, named after a bridge in Venice, which I knew to look for after seeing a picture of Jon’s parents there in the late 70’s when his dad was a student. In the picture they are in a Punt boat on the River Cam below. Tourists can still rent Punt Boats to float down the river, but it was a bit too cold that day.

Copenhagen, Denmark

You can get very cheap airfare to Copenhagen in January, or so that’s what Jon told me when he asked one day “Do you want to go to Copenhagen?” I didn’t know a lot about Copenhagen, except that my favorite art teacher from High School studied abroad there in college, so I got a Lonely Planet guide. Our hotel was near Nyhaven, the row of colorful homes that serves as the go-to photo spot for Copenhagen pics. As soon as we arrived we walked to the Little Mermaid Sculpture. We were ill-prepared for the weather and quickly got soaking wet in the rain. But the upside is the normally crowded mermaid was almost empty. The next two days we walked around central Copenhagen at our leisure, visiting historical sites like Rundetaarn and Rosenborg Slot, the hippie commune of Christiana, and the National Museet.

Weymouth, Dorset, United Kingdom

Jon and I went to Weymouth to visit Chesil Beach and the Portland Bill Lighthouse. Jon told me about a book he read called “On Chesil Beach” by Ian McEwan that is being made into a film starring Saoirse Ronan. Apparently the author got in trouble with conservationists for taking a couple stones from the beach along with him while he was writing the book, so I didn’t take any…we went to the lighthouse, which is supposed to have a very nice view of the beach and surrounding area, but of course it was foggy that day. I didn’t really mind though, because it gave the lighthouse a very creepy, Stephen King-esque vibe.

Brownsea Island, Dorset, United Kingdom

Brownsea Island is owned by the National Trust The island is one of the few places in southern England where indigenous red squirrels survive. Most of the red squirrels have in England have died off after the grey squirrel from North America was introduced, which carried diseases that are fatal for red squirrels. Grey squirrels haven’t been introduced to Brownsea Island so they are still there. I saw one! They’ve got cute ears. The island has a really interesting history including being home to a pottery manufacturer, having a population of 270, and being used as a decoy to protect Poole Harbour during World War II. But my favorite bit of history I nabbed off of Wikipedia for you:

In 1927 the island was purchased at auction by Mary Bonham-Christie for £125,000. A recluse by nature, she ordered a mass eviction of the island’s residents to the mainland. Most of the island was abandoned and gradually reverted to natural heath and woodland. In 1934, a wild fire caused devastation after burning for a week. Much of the island was reduced to ashes, and the buildings to the east were only saved by a change of wind direction. Traumatised by the event, Bonham-Christie banned all public access to the island for the rest of her life. In April 1961, Bonham-Christie died at 98 years old and her grandson gave the island to the Treasury to pay her death duties.

Studland, Dorset, United Kingdom

I was standing on the Bournemouth Beach with my cousin Rachel in October 2015 and she pointed out into the distance towards the sea and asked “What’s that?” She was pointing to a rock formation called Old Harry Rocks. I visited the site on an extremely windy day, so I didn’t get too close to the edge, as people and dogs have been known to fall off.

Vienna, Austria 

Jon and I took a 3 day weekend trip to Vienna and Salzburg. When we got to the airport in Vienna there was a large image of the painting The Kiss by Gustav Klimt. My favorite teacher in high school was my art teacher, Mrs. Higgins, and I remember how she had spoken about the painting in such a moving way that it made me reconsider the small image in my textbook after a cursory glance. Jon and I found the real thing in a museum called The Belvedere. I immediately got in trouble for trying to take a picture. The signage wasn’t clear! Much of the painting is gold leaf and it can’t be truly appreciated in photographs anyways. It’s such a beautiful piece of art, definitely worth the overpriced Belvedere ticket.

Salzburg, Austria

My stepdad told me that when he got off the train in Salzburg he turned around and got right back on. I had the opposite experience, I loved Salzburg. It’s the city where The Sound of Music was filmed and it’s beautiful and idyllic. There’s a castle at the top of a hill that overlooks the city and has views of the Alps in the background. We visited Mozarts birthplace and the home he bought after experienced success. We went to the gates of the Nonnberg Abbey and where I did my best Maria Von Trapp impression.  I would have loved to visit the nearby town of Hallstatt, but that would have required a little more research and preparation than I put into the trip.

Warsaw, Poland

At least 50% of Warsaw was destroyed in World War II, and the area has undergone major rebuilding efforts. It was super lively when we were there, with active social squares and fire dancers at night. We waited in a crazy long line to go to the Warsaw Rising museum, which did a beautiful job of telling the story of the hardships the city and its people endured. On our last day we got some genuine polish pierogies, which pleasantly tasted just like the ones my family makes every Christmas.

Wembley, London, United Kingdom

We took a short trip to Wembley stadium for watch Sheffield Wednesday play Hull city in a bid to be promoted to the Premier League. Sadly (mostly for Jon) Wednesday lost the game. But, the atmosphere for the first half was really good. There’s always next year.

Sticker, Cornwall, United Kingdom

We went to the county of Cornwall for Jon’s cousin’s wedding. The weather was beautiful and the wedding was really nice. While we were there, we visited Tintagel, the castle where King Arthur was supposedly born. Well, he wasn’t born so much as he washed up on shore by Merlin’s Cave. My dad has always been a huge King Arthur nerd, so I knew I had to get my facts straight about it. Cornwall is a really nice area and it’s shore is dotted with beaches nestled between the cliffs. Our hotel overlooked a beach called Mawgen Porth that had a really nice walk by it, complete with flowers, cliffsides, ocean, and sheep. Is it even England if there are no sheep?

Wildwood, New Jersey, United States

I got to go to the beach with my best friends, the most beautiful and the smartest girls in the world, Rachel and Veronica. Despite having gone to Wildwood every year for the first 15 years of my life, I didn’t do my research and booked a hotel super far away from the boardwalk. But we are young and athletic (lol) and a little walking wasn’t going to dampen our spirits, which were through the roof. We enjoyed our beach day, got as tan/burnt as three white girls can manage, and got all dolled up and went out at night for a mini-bachelorette.

Crete, Greece

After our US-based wedding celebration, Jon and I went to Crete for our honeymoon. I tried to have a balanced trip of one day history and sightseeing, one day sleeping in and relaxing. We went to the Palace of Knossos, Spinalonga Island, Dikteon Cave, and spent two days on the beach. We bought some snorkels and watched the fish under the water, ate at a lot of the restaurants the resort and nearby town of Plaka had to offer, and we played some intense Marco-Polo in the private pool our room had.

New York City, New York, United States

After being laid off as a result of the referendum I had a really hard time finding another position in the UK. I came back to the US to interview in New York, Philly, and DC. While in NYC I took Veronica to the Met for the first time (whatt?) and, much like every other architect that rolled through the city, checked out the new Calatrava.

Poole, Dorset, United Kingdom

Wait, wasn’t she just in the US? That’s right, shortly after returning to the states I got a job interview in the UK so I turned around and flew back, which was a really hard decision for me. Jon and I took a weekend trip to his families house in Poole. There were some beautiful sunsets that weekend. We took a day trip to Lyme Regis and stopped at this beach at Burton Bradstock.  I didn’t realize how beautiful the lighting was until I looked at the pictures later. The area is known for having fossils, and I fancied myself a fossil hunter. I found zero fossils, but Jon found two without even really trying. That’s how it goes, isn’t it?

Washington, DC, United States 

Alas, after two interviews the position back in London did not work out for me. It was a really hard time for me, but I ended up coming back to the US and taking a position in DC. I was really sad to leave my apartment, my things, to lose the money we spent on my visa and health insurance surcharge, and most of all to be apart from my husband. Jon is still waiting for his visa to come to the US, and he will have to leave his job. I am grateful for all of the experiences and opportunities to travel that 2016 gave to me, but overall it’s been a really difficult journey. I’m hoping this year to start taking my architecture exams, and maybe to see a US National Park.

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