Oh 2021. A year filled with uncertainty and also–almost bewilderingly at times–hope. After moving from Hungary to Germany in late 2020, we spent the majority of the new year in lockdown (or some version of it) until the summer. Thankful for these protective measures even if it meant being a little bored at times–both things can be true after all–and making any kind of new destination a special treat.
Similar to 2020, a majority of our planned adventures were eventually cancelled. A combination of Covid unpredictability, health and safety concerns, along with the occasional geo-political strife created a new intentionality when it came to booking any travel; we knew that most likely we wouldn’t go and that was fine. So I included a little of our around-the-neighborhood-adventures in this post.
This year, restrictions and precautions became just another aspect of booking travel. Double checking the rules, making sure documents were up to date, bringing the correct masks, and remaining flexible as regulations change (sometimes in the middle of your trip) are just part of reality right now. And I’m so thankful for it. If it means being extra cautious for a giant plate of latkes and applesauce, your girl is down.
Travel in a pandemic is very much a #firstworldproblem and I am grateful for every occasional (safe) journey outside of my town.
Wandering around Germany, nearby France, visiting the United States for the first time in a few years (seeing friends and fam), and planning a dream trip to the Baltics (how many years in the making?!) with a good friend made 2021 such a special travel year for me.
I’m so thankful for the ability and privilege to see new places and to be able to do so safely.
This year was also incredibly special as I had the opportunity to really explore topics close to my heart: the ideas of collective memory, how we choose (or not) to memorialize the past, the culture surrounding historical narratives in different places, and how this shifts and changes over time. From the sea islands off the coast of the Carolinas to monuments in the borderlands of the Baltic states, I’m so thankful to not only physically see and experience these sites, but also for the folks who patiently provided me the space to to do so.
I wanted to provide a warning that this post also includes photos and descriptions of memorials and historical sites referencing genocide and war. Be kind to yourself and what you can take on ❤
Here is my 2021 Travel Year in Review:
Along with the occasional bizarre holiday display in the main square of our village:
Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany:
St. Helena Island, United States:
Avenue of Oaks, St. Helena Island (United States):
Coffin Point Praise House, St. Helena Island (United States):
Chapel of Ease, St. Helena Island (United States):
Hill of Crosses, Šiauliai (Lithuania):
Hubbard House, Ashtabula (United States):
Museum of the Riga Ghetto and Holocaust in Latvia (Latvia):
Ninth Fort, Kaunas (Lithuania):
Rabbi Meir Garden, Rothenburg ob der Tauber (Germany):
Salaspils Memorial Ensemble, Riga (Latvia):
Sibelius Monument, Helsinki (Finland):
Sojourner Truth Memorial Marker, Akron (United States):
Vilnius Palace of Concerts and Sports (Lithuania):
Walls That Remember, Vilnius (Lithuania):
Elizabeth’s, Akron (United States):
Central Library Oodi, Helsinki (Finland):
Rahva Raamat, Tallinn (Estonia):
National Library of Latvia, Riga (Latvia):
St. Helena Public Library (United States):
National and University Library, Strasbourg (France):
Burg Eltz, Wierschem (Germany):
Burg Frauenburg (Germany):
Burg Frankenstein, Palatinate (Germany):
Kadriorg Palace, Tallinn (Estonia):
Burg Lichtenberg, Thallichtenberg (Germany):
❤ ❤ ❤
Reading: Olga Dies Dreaming (Xochitl Gonzalez) Listening: Neon Bible (Arcade Fire) Watching: Ozark Season 4 (Netflix)
At the top of my Dream Destinations list since I first saw Sofia Coppola’s 2006 film Marie Antoinette, I absolutely loved wandering through the Palace of Versailles. The French government allowed Coppola to film on location and I hoped one day to visit not just the Palace, but more importantly (for me) the grounds, and the Queen’s Hamlet.
An all-day adventure, I am so thankful for the opportunity to visit Versailles last summer. It was super-busy inside, but we spent a majority of our time wandering the grounds rather than touring the buildings. This isn’t the best plan for everyone, but I’m glad this was the route we chose.
A beautiful day spent away from the city, definitely visit the Palace of Versailles if you find yourself in Paris.
Get ready for a little French history, too many pictures, a vehement defense of Coppola’s film, and a discussion on the politics and sexist treatment of Marie Antoinette.
Where are we?
With only a long weekend in Paris, we dedicated an entire day to the Palace of Versailles and the decision was absolutely worth it. We traveled from our apartment in Montmartre to Versailles–about an hour commute by metro–and even glimpsed a view of the Eiffel Tower as we switched train lines. Taking the metro was definitely the cheapest and preferred method of travel, even if the journey was a little longer than if we would have gone by car.
We also booked our tickets wayyyyy in advance, which I recommend as they sell out–especially in the summer–and as we purchased prior, were able to skip (the very long) entrance queue. For us, touring the Palace was nice, but so crowded that it made even the largest indoor spaces feel claustrophobic; I much preferred walking the grounds and seeing the gardens, Hamlet, and the Grand Trianon and Petit Trianon. Pro tips: You can spend all day here, so pack snacks, sunscreen, and have a travel plan! There’s a lot to see and time can move quickly as you walk the grounds.
The Palace of Versailles:
The Palace of Versailles (Château de Versailles):
The Hamlet of Marie Antoinette (Hameau de la Reine):
The Grand Trianon and Petit Trianon:
A Defense of the film Marie Antoinette (2006) and the last Queen of France:
“With its commentaries on gender, women’s agency, reproduction and female friendships, Marie Antoinette is surprisingly deeper and more feminist than many realize. Sofia Coppola created a lush and sumptuous indulgence for the eyes. More importantly, by humanizing the doomed queen and adding modern touches, Coppola reminds us of the gender constraints women throughout history and today continually endure.”
Kearns, Megan. 2012. “In Defense of ‘Marie Antoinette’: Sofia Coppola’s Re-Imagining Surprisingly Feminist.” The Opinioness. Available here.
I first saw Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette in 2006 and immediately fell in love with the music, costumes, and story of France’s last queen. The film was met with mixed reviews–including an entire booing of the movie by French critics when it debuted at Cannes–and people both loved and hated the 80s-inspired-occasionally-true-take on Marie’s life.
Like many movies drenched in pink and/or including songs by Bow Wow Wow, but definitely most stories about the lives of teenage women, the film was largely written off as superficial and cliche. Critics of Marie Antoinette complained about the lack of substance in Coppola’s film:
“The politics of Marie Antoinette have to be read through the costumes, through the fascination with the objects, because it’s about a woman being turned into an object that is traded among this hierarchical, patriarchal society, and this very strange world she’s thrown into. She’s a child, and completely unequipped to deal with these things. I think Coppola’s fascination with adolescence in transition moments obviously drew her to this story. But it was infuriating to see that all people could say about it was it was this frivolous, ridiculous, MTV/New Romantics-style music video that was modeled on Coppola’s own life. It was pathetic! Is that the best you can do as a critical reading? It deserved more.”
Aylmer, Olivia Lindsay. 2019. “Reevaluating the Gross Misunderstanding of Sofia Coppola’s Cinematic Oeuvre.” Dazed. Available here.
As flashy as the movie can be–and it is almost on that Baz Luhrmann Moulin Rouge level–the underlying complexity of the characters, their modern-ish costumes, and contemporary music allow viewers to connect more with the historically-adjacent story, rather than if the plot was purely historical.
“Marie Antoinette is the story of both a woman denied a voice—as evidenced by the fact Antoinette (played with a cheerful determination by Kirsten Dunst) doesn’t have a substantial line until nearly 40 minutes into the film—and those okay with maintaining the status quo. (See: Louis XVI, played with perfect distraction by Jason Schwartzman, who rather played with keys than be bothered to engage with his wife.)
‘This is ridiculous,’ Antoinette tells her attendees during a protracted morning dressing ceremony that requires the highest-ranking royal in the room to help her dress. ‘This, madam, is Versailles,’ she’s informed.
Even when an angry mob forces her family to flee Versailles (they would be become the figureheads for France’s debut and social problems and were eventually executed in 1793), Coppola shows Antoinette as woman who has earned her place in the royal hierarchy, but is still not understood or fully valued.”
Studarus, Laura. 2018. “Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette is a Tragic Feminist Hero.” CR Fashion Book. Available here.
For me, the simple dialogue portrays the struggle of a person as conflicting and controversial as Marie Antoinette. On one hand, she is the privileged queen of France, with more wealth and perceived freedom than any other woman in the country. However, she is also held to the same stifling standard as other Frenchwomen of the time, albeit with the most publicity. Her purpose is to have children and society requires her to be passive with a reliance on men, as well as an expectation of dependence and maintaining the status quo of this role she often resented.
“As feminist historians have been persuasively insisting for years now, the queen met with this fate because she was a foreign woman who repeatedly overstepped the boundaries circumscribing French royal—and feminine—behavior.”
Weber, Caroline. 2006. “I Don’t Want Candy: The Uses and Abuses of Marie Antoinette. The George Washington University: Columbian College of Arts & Sciences. Available here.
Here’s the thing: Marie Antoinette’s story can be seen as just another poor-little-rich-girl tragedy, but honestly should we feel sorry for a queen that seemingly ignored the famine and injustice that gave rise to the unrest ultimately ending with her execution?
Yes and no.
Like most women during this time, Marie was valued for her body and what her body could produce: an heir to the throne. She was publicly blamed for the seven years it took to consummate her marriage, while her husband, Louis XVI–more concerned with hunting and making keys–largely escaped accountability for the couple’s failure to have sex. Under pressure from her family and the court to adhere to the standards of the day, Marie mostly conformed to the ridiculous expectations set for her as Queen: accept the status quo, look pretty, and have children. She also pushed those same boundaries, ultimately leading to further vilification by the press.
While her cage was gilded and her life privileged, Marie Antoinette suffered the same restrictions as other women during her time. Sexism in pre-revolution France was as much a part of society as most places across the world. Seen as “passive citizens” women could not vote, hold political office, and were dependent on men to make decisions “in their best interests”; their roles were focused squarely in the home and banned from the political sphere. Even greater pressure was put on the Queen–who was already deemed untrustworthy because she wasn’t French–to uphold that expectation.
“’She was a girl surrounded by grown-ups who wanted things from her and judged her, and she didn’t exactly know what people expected from her,’ Ms. Dunst said during a lunch break, in sweats and her pink-cheeked Marie Antoinette makeup and giant hair. ‘I could relate to that kind of loneliness.'”
Hohenadel, Kristin. 2006. “French Royalty as Seen by Hollywood Royalty.” The New York Times. Available here.
The film is largely apolitical–meant more as a look into the life of a queen at Versailles–but Coppola does use the minimal discussions on politics to her advantage. Louis XVI casually continues to provide funds to the Americans for their revolution as a way to stick it to the British but at the expense of his own treasury and citizens. France continued to hemorrhage funds to support the American Revolution–raising taxes on the poor as the church and nobility were exempt from these increases–and Marie’s perceived extravagant spending was seen as the cause of starvation in the country. As the French Revolution loomed, blame was largely (and unfairly) placed on Marie as the source for a majority of the country’s problems: debt, famine, and the privileges enjoyed by the elite at the expense of the poorer classes.
Newspapers published false stories of the Queen’s affairs with her closest friends and attributed her “deviant” behavior as stemming from her German background. During the Women’s March of 7,000 people to Versailles, many of the protesters discussed bringing the King to his rightful home in Paris, while calling for the execution of the Queen.
“When money is tight, they don’t stop spending. And yet Marie Antoinette is the ‘Queen of Debt.’ It’s easier to blame the woman you’ve told to be dripping in diamonds for dripping in diamonds when the coffers are dry…
Marie Antoinette becomes what she was always going to become: a spoiled rich woman with no sense of how the world worked outside her palace.”
Saxena, Jaya. 2018. “Does Marie Antoinette Hold Up?” GQ. Available here.
Following her capture and trial, Marie Antoinette was pronounced guilty of depleting the treasury and treasonous behavior of working with the enemy. The charges of engaging in orgies at the palace were dropped. Polite to the very end, her last words were to the executioner: “Pardon me, sir, I did not do it on purpose,” as she accidentally stepped on his shoe.
Marie Antoinette is a conflicting figure. While she saw charity work as vital, she overlooked and was ignorant to the oppression of her people. Like every other royal of the time, Marie Antoinette was extravagant, privileged, and wealthy. She did not want to lose her position or yield to the demands of the revolution. But she was also cast as a villain: she refused to tolerate many of the traditions of the royal family in France, was seen as a foreign spy by the citizens of her country, and displayed her own independence through fashion, building her own space in Versailles, and taking on a bigger role in government, much to the disdain of both the court and citizens of France. She was a child bride used as a pawn for peace among bitter rivals and was unfairly demonized for stepping outside of society’s predetermined role of mother and wife by continuously speaking up to various councils as her husband failed to act.
“The whole point of the French Revolution was that no one in Versailles knew what the hell was going on outside of Versailles. It’s not just a story about a beautiful queen, but the way we trap women with our expectations, and punish them when they live up to them.
I’m no Marie Antoinette apologist. We should still eat the rich.”
“Saxena, Jaya. 2018. “Does Marie Antoinette Hold Up?” GQ. Available here.
Obviously Marie Antoinette had many shortcomings; we shouldn’t forget the level of entitlement possessed by the Queen of France. However, like many women in positions of power even today, she was unfairly demonized by those who saw an independent woman operating outside of society’s predetermined role and expectations of her as a threat. Feminism, particularly white feminism, fails to address the intersectionality of race, class, and ability. I do not mean to over-represent the struggle of a rich, white woman as the face of feminism here, but merely to show how history–as defined by patriarchal powers–unfairly represents women during their time and the impact of that narrative today.
It should also be noted that the French Revolution failed to implement any policies that protected women’s rights; equality was denied by the ruling party–the Jacobin Club–that rejected social reform for women in large part due to the perceived meddling of Marie Antoinette in political affairs. Male supremacy continued and was further perpetrated by the Napoleonic Code.
At the same time, the newly independent United States of America was codifying sexism and racism in the Constitution.
Currently: Listening: Floodlines (The Atlantic) Reading: Sun and Rain (Ana Ros) Watching: Mrs. America (Hulu)
Last summer Chris and I spent a long weekend in Paris for the World Cup (USA vs. Chile). We had fun exploring the city while also attending our first women’s soccer football match.
This was my first time in Paris–only my second time in France–and because of our limited time in the city I was forced to narrow down what we could see on our visit. With a day spent in Versailles and a second at the match, we were pretty limited with what we could fit into our remaining day and a half in the city. Sadly, the catacombs were closed on our only available day for a tour, so that will have to be scheduled for our next trip to France’s capital.
I’m so thankful to have the opportunity to not only visit, but also see the US women play in person. Paris is beautiful (no shocker there) and I was admittedly a little overwhelmed by the sheer size of the city and all there it is to do. Here’s the thing: You can definitely feel the pressure to “check items off the list” but my recommendation is to pick what is both feasible and interesting for you and go that route!
Where are we?
The largest and most populous city in France, Paris is known for its architecture and art, along with being one of the most expensive cities in the world (second only to Singapore in 2018). There is so much to see and do! We used the subway system as much as possible not only to save money but also sustainability things; opened in 1900, the metro is the second busiest in the world with over five million passengers daily.
Known as “the City of Light” for both the role the city played in the Age of Enlightenment and literally as one of the first European locations to use gas lighting on a large scale, the area of Paris was first inhabited by the Parisil, a sub-tribe of the Celtic Senones around 3rd century BC and was first named Lutetua.
In 1901, the city’s population grew to over two million inhabitants including a number of artists from around the world–painter Pablo Picasso and author Marcel Proust–and after WWI, the city continued to be a mecca for artists: Josephine Baker, Allen Ginsberg, and Ernest Hemingway, among so many others. African American artists including Baker and acclaimed author James Baldwin found Paris to be an escape from the segregation and injustice they faced in America during this time.
On June 14th, 1920, the Nazis marched into Paris and ordered French police to arrest the city’s Jewish population. 12,844 people were detained (including over four thousand children) for five days before being sent to Auschwitz; none of the children survived. Today France has the largest Jewish population in Europe, although with growing anti-Semitic violence in the country, many have relocated to other countries in the past five years.
With over 1803 monuments, 173 museums, and 450 gardens and parks throughout the city, Paris offers something for any visitor. Thankfully, we saw a couple of monuments, gardens, and of course cemeteries, while in the city. Paris is first in the world for number of libraries–830!–but unfortunately I wasn’t able to visit any; add it to the list for our next visit!
One of the best aspects of visiting Paris was merely wandering around the city, of course my favorite pastime. Meandering the beautiful streets, armed with coffee and a list of eventual destinations, I loved spending our long weekend here.
Jardin du Luxembourg (Luxembourg Garden):
Shakespeare and Company:
Place Josephine Baker:
The Moulin Rouge:
Notre-Dame de Paris:
The Eiffel Tower:
Cimetière de Montmartre (Montmarte Cemetery):
View from the Seine:
World Cup Match:
Restaurants & Pubs:
Treize au Jardin:
Currently: Reading: Busted in New York and Other Essays (Darryl Pinckney) Listening: Blunderbuss (Third Man Records)
This spring a couple of friends and I traveled to the Hungarian city of Esztergom. Known for its history and beautiful architecture, we had a fun afternoon exploring the old buildings and enjoying delicious food.
Esztergom is known for its Basilica, which is both the largest church and tallest building in Hungary; this last piece of information was unbeknownst to me when I enthusiastically agreed to a mid-week adventure.
Here’s the thing: my fear of heights has caused me to bail many a staircase in Europe.
While there were a couple of tricky, anxiety-inducing moments, I not only climbed the Basilica, but even completed the outdoor walkway around the dome–a huge accomplishment for me! It helps to have supportive friends encouraging you to work through your fears.
That being said, I literally never want to be that high, walking around a huge dome on a narrow, outdoor path, absolutely ever again.
Esztergom is a lovely city with beautiful views of the Danube. We only visited for a couple of hours–plenty of time to walk through the Basilica, castle ruins, and grab lunch– but you could definitely spend the whole day exploring this city, one of the oldest in Hungary.
Where are we?
Settlements in the area have been dated back to the end of the Ice Age (!!!), about 20,000 years ago. In 901, the Magyars conquered the Pannonian Basin and the (mostly Slavic) people who lived there. The ruling prince of the Hungarians then named Esztergom his chosen home. Esztergom Castle was built and became the only royal palace in Hungary until the Mongol siege of the city in 1241. During this time, Esztergom was the center for the Hungarian state and religion. Over time the ruling of this area changed hands, although the city remained an important place for commerce and Catholicism.
Basilica of Esztergom:
Mária Valéria Bridge & Víziváros:
Esztergomi Prímási Pincerendszer:
This was a lovely trip to see more of Hungary and I’m so glad we had a chance to visit before Kristin and Casey moved back the US.
Read more about Casey’s amazing travel adventures here. Kristin’s beautiful photography portfolio can be seen on her site. Stay tuned for the Heather and Ashlyn podcast coming soon 😉
Reading: Shut Up You’re Pretty (Tea Mutonji) Watching: Unbelievable (Netflix) Listening: Buried Truths Season 2 (WABE Atlanta)
This spring we traveled to Stuttgart, Germany to attend the FIG World Cup for my birthday. My first time in Stuttgart, the trip included three of my travel favorites: library, pubs, and a cemetery (plus bonus this time–my first elite gymnastics competition). I saw the queens of the sport (Simone Biles AND Aliya Mustafina) along with wandering this beautiful city.
We stayed a little outside the very center of Stuttgart and I preferred that location over the touristy area of Schlossplatz. Our street had so many adorable restaurants and shops–definitely recommend staying near the Lehen neighborhood if you don’t mind putting in the extra steps on your Fitbit.
Pro tip: Stuttgart (and Germany in general) has great public transport available and journeys are MUCH cheaper than an Uber ride (save that money for extra spätzle!) Our way home was pure Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: bus to the train station, train to the airport, plane to Vienna, car from Vienna to Hungary. All a part of the lovely adventure.
Where are we?
The sixth largest city in Germany, the area of Stuttgart is spread across a number of hills. Commonly described as “zwischen Wald und Reben” (“between forest and vines”) due to the close proximity of the Black Forest and the city’s numerous wineries, Stuttgart is definitely a walkable city with some elevation–getting those calf muscles working!
Stuttgart was founded in 950 AD by Duke Liudolf of Swabia (the root of the name derives from the Swabian word Stuotgarten meaning “stud farm”) for the purpose of breeding warhorses. Swabians are Germanic peoples native to the Swabian region of Germany, an area that is now present-day Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria.
Like most German cities, the population and physical landscape drastically changed during WWII. In 1933 the Gestapo occupied Hotel Silber, a site used to torture, detain, and transport political prisoners. The Old Synagogue was destroyed during Kristallnacht (the Night of Broken Glass) and in 1934, the Nazis began to arrest members of the Jewish population of Stuttgart; many were deported to the prison camp in Welzheim or to the Dachau concentration camp. From 1941-1945, more than 2,000 Jews were sent to Theresienstadt, Auschwitz, Riga, and Izbica; only 180 survived the war.
Stuttgart was heavily bombed by Allied forces throughout the war. On September 12th, 1944, the Royal Air Force dropped over 184,000 bombs on the city. The attack completely destroyed Stuttgart’s center and killed 957 people. Overall, the city was hit by 53 bombing raids, which leveled nearly sixty percent of the city and killed 4,477 of Stuttgart’s inhabitants. Following the end of the war, the rubble in the city was used to build Birkenhopf, an artificial hill that is now the highest point in Stuttgart and a memorial to those who died during WWII.
We we only had a weekend in Stuttgart, but I think you could spend at least a week in the city and still not see everything on your list. I was bummed to miss the botanical gardens in Wilhema and the Ludwigsburg Residential Palace, but incredibly thankful for the opportunity to see all we did during our visit.
Restaurants & Pubs:
Paul & George:
Misch Misch Coffee:
Little Italy Stuttgart:
Bonus: Stuttgart World Cup
We attended my first ever elite competition while in Stuttgart (best birthday present ever, Chris!) The World Cup was AMAZING and our seats were great. Unfortunately, my camera is terrible, so these potato-quality photos don’t really do the event justice. In an effort to practice mindfulness and being present, I also only took a a few photos. I’m always trying to document everything, so I tried my best to relax and enjoy the event in real time. I’m.so.glad.I.did.
The competitors included Simone Biles (USA), Ana Padurariu (Canada), Elisabeth Seitz (Germany), Lorette Charpy (France), Aliya Mustafina (Russia), Hitomi Hatakeda (Japan), Kim Bui (Germany), Zsofia Kovacs (Hungary), and Carolyne Pedro (Brazil).
This competition was so fun to experience in person! Of course it was amazing to see Olympic champions Biles and Mustafina compete–Simone literally tumbles feet higher than anyone else and Aliya’s bars are one of the prettiest routines in the world–but also so cool to see athletes newer to the scene (Padurariu’s beam was fantastic and she looked as if she was having the time of her life, Charpy’s beam and bars were awesome, and the powerful Pedro finished her day with a great floor performance).
For me, I loved seeing the German athletes compete in their home country. Two-time Olympian Bui is still competing (and looking amazing, especially on bars) at AGE THIRTY. She is currently earning her Master’s Thesis in–wait for it–immunotherapy treatments for cancer patients, specifically engineering protein cells to combat the disease (!!). Elisabeth Seitz, a two time Olympian herself, rocked the arena on both bars and floor to take the bronze medal.
❤ Stuttgart. So, so thankful.
Reading: Every Day is for the Thief (Teju Cole) Watching: The Case Against Adnan Syed (HBO) Listening: Reveal: Lasting Impact (Center for Investigative Reporting)
I LOVE GLASGOW. This January we traveled to Scotland’s most populous city to fulfill our teenage dream of seeing Cake play a live show. Wintertime Scotland may sound intimidating, but so worth it.
Pro tip: If you’re cheap like me, traveling off-season is a great way to save money on transportation and accommodations (flights and apartments are usually a lot less expensive) meaning more funds for whiskey and postcards. We’re walkers–our favorite way to travel around a new city is on foot–so we definitely packed our winter-wear for this trip. For me, this meant double leg warmers and wearing something other than flats.
This is a really long post but Glasgow is too amazing to not discuss #allthethings. Get ready for a an extra intense history overview and too many cemetery pictures.
Why “a life less ordinary”? This quote was written on the floor of the entrance to Hillhead Bookclub, where we had dinner our last night in Glasgow. Is this also an excuse to reference Danny Boyle’s 1997 film starring Ewan McGregor, Cameron Diaz, and Holly Hunter? Am I pressuring you to listen to the soundtrack that includes the best version of REM’s Leave? Yes to all those things.
Where are we?
Glasgow is the most populous city in Scotland and known for its industrial landscape. While the origin of the name is under debate, it is believed that Glasgow is derived from Middle Gaelic, meaning “green basin”. The city has the largest percentage of Gaelic speakers outside of the Highlands and Islands. Although the indigenous language is not recognized by the United Kingdom or European Union, Gaelic is an important part of Scottish culture and history.
A great source of fishing, the River Clyde and the surrounding areas were settled by many different communities near Glasgow. In the 6th century, Christian missionary Saint Mungo (you know, THE St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries in Harry Potter) established a church where the current Glasgow Cathedral stands.
Walking through the Merchant City area, I was surprised to see a sign for Virginia Street; ever the pochemuchka (the Russian word for the one who asks too many questions) I had to learn more about the connection between the American south and Glasgow.
Many of the streets and buildings still bear the names of the Tobacco Lords, the group of merchants that made the most profits from transatlantic trade (and some owned plantations in the New World too) although there have been calls to hang plaques to tell the full story.
Glasgow became a central trading port following the Acts of Union in 1707–the treaty that combined the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of Scotland–and played a large role in transatlantic trade and slavery. A central part of the triangular route, much of Glasgow’s wealth was derived from slave labor:
“There are 19 recorded slave voyages which left from Glasgow’s satellite ports of Greenock and Port Glasgow over a sixty year period from 1706 and 1766 – with these direct voyages estimated to have carried around 2 to 3,000 people directly into slavery.
Yet Glasgow was far, far from being an innocent bystander in the slave trade.
The very reason the Tobacco Lords became successful – and why the city prospered as a result – was because they were able to monopolise the produce grown by slaves on the plantations of Virginia, North Carolina and Maryland, namely tobacco and sugar. So much so, in fact, that for 50 years from 1740 to 1790, Glasgow became the hub for the world’s tobacco – at times trading more than all the English ports put together.
A trade built almost exclusively on forced slave labour. ”
Williams, Craig. 2018. “The History of Glasgow and its Relationship with the Slave Trade.” Glasgow Live. Available here.
While the city profited from slave labor in the New World, many Scots and the University of Glasgow played a large role in the abolitionist movement. Following American independence, Glasgow continued to grow during the Industrialized Revolution, which saw steel making, shipyards, and heavy industry further the development of the city. After WWII, economic decline led to de-industrialization of the city.
Glasgow is known for its architecture; there are a large number of historically and culturally important buildings throughout the city. During the Industrial Revolution, many of Glasgow’s red and blonde sandstone buildings were covered with a black layer of soot from industrial pollution and furnaces. The Clean Air Act was passed in 1956 and many of the city’s 1,800 buildings were restored to their original appearance.
In 2013 “People Make Glasgow” became the official motto for the city.
University of Glasgow:
The People’s Palace:
The Glasgow Cathedral and Necropolis are absolute must-sees if you’re planning a trip to Glasgow.
Glasgow Botanical Gardens:
More Beautiful Places:
Restaurants & Pubs:
Innis and Gunn:
Papercup Coffee Company:
++Special shout out to the Old Ship Bank pub in Glasgow too! We stopped by to use the bathroom and ended up hanging out with an older gentleman named James, a native of Glasgow, for hours. He told us about the history of the area, current politics, and his excitement for a date he had scheduled for the next day. The pub was awesome and just felt so Glasgow… that’s the only way I can explain the atmosphere. The entire space was filled with people who just returned from a funeral and, according to James, this is “typical” for natives of Glasgow.
Voltaire and Rousseau:
I ❤ Glasgow
Don’t forget that you can download the MWA Map and have all of my food/pub/sites/bookstore recommendations with you whenever you travel.
Currently: Reading: Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture (Roxane Gay) Watching: Big Little Lies Season 2 (HBO) Listening: Burn it all Down
Our December adventure continued as we flew from Lisbon to Seville. Lonely Planet’s Top City of 2018, we wanted a warm, relaxing place to visit between the blizzards in Ohio (where we were prior to Portugal) and the cold weather in Hungary. This was my first trip to Spain and I LOVED so many things that Seville has to offer: beautiful architecture, good food, a ton of walkable green spaces, and the site for Game of Thrones‘s Dorne.
Where are we?
Located in southern Spain, Seville (pronounced Suh-vee-yah) is known for its well preserved historical sites and streets lined with beautiful trees filled with bitter oranges. The city is over 2,200 years old (!!) and the landscape shows the impacts of the many cultures that have influenced the development of the city over time. The earliest signs of humans living in the area dates all the way back to 8th century BC when Seville was still an island (geology that I am not even going to try to explain #knowyourlimitations).
Originally founded by the Romans (and named Hispalis) the area was renamed Ishbiliyya following the Muslim conquest in 712. Muslim rule ended in 1248 after the area was taken over by the Christian Kingdom of Castile under Ferdinand III. The transitions between cultures and religions can be seen in a number of buildings throughout the city.
In 1478, the first tribunal of the Spanish Inquisition took place in Seville. Following Columbus’s expedition to the New World, Spain became a political powerhouse. Due largely to its location on the Quadalquivir River, in 1503 Seville was the only city given the monopoly for trade with the Spanish colonies and taxation of goods (and people) through the port. This was the “Golden Age” for Seville as the economy grew due to the the imports from the Spanish colonies, particularly gold and silver. By the 16th century a number of factors ended Seville’s Golden Age: the Great Plague of Seville killed nearly half of the city’s now booming population, the New World port monopoly was broken when the city of Cadiz was also given access, and the loss of the Spanish colonies in America.
I wanted to share the lesser-known story of the people that were forcibly sent from America to Europe and sold into bondage. The first victims of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade were brought from Cuba and sold in Seville: the indigenous Taíno were not only the first New World natives to meet Christopher Columbus, but also the first of the Caribbean indigenous groups sold as slaves in Seville. The colonization (and resulting genocide) of the New World was profitable for Spain (and Seville).
I know, I know, this is a pretty heavy history introduction. I promise this post has a lot of fun information too, but I also wanted to include these important historical stories as well. They’re important and they matter.
Seville’s official motto is N08DO: “No me ha dejado“, which translates to “She (Seville) will not abandon me.” You can see the sentiment across the city.
Canal Walk Near Arsenal:
Torre del Oro:
Parque de María Luisa:
Plaza de España:
Alcázar de Seville:
Restaurants & Pubs:
Taqueria La Lupe:
La Tradizionale Pizza:
Taberna del Dragón Verde:
And, of course, ice cream:
Highly recommend Seville! We had so much fun wandering the city and snacking on churros (just don’t eat the oranges!).
Last winter we had the amazing opportunity to travel with our two favorite exploring friends, Heather and Karl, on our now annual European trip. Chris and I had just spent nearly a month in the US and were able to tack on (always the planner!) a short trip to Portugal and Spain before heading home. Our vacations together are very much walk around+drink wine +play cards+make fun of Philip Rivers and this was no exception.
Lisbon is a beautiful city to just simply walk through. I like to think of myself as a constant wanderer with an eventual destination. Thankfully, Heather is also in a similar mindset (typical conversation: “what kind of succulents are these? Do you think there is gelato nearby? Wonder what kind of recycling streams they have here?”) much to the chagrin of Chris and Karl, who as Heather says, are always in a hurry to get nowhere.
Where are we?
Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in the world and archeological artifacts show that tribes from all the back to the Neolithic period inhabited the area. The history of the city is absolutely incredible. While Lisbon is recognized as the capital, this designation has never been confirmed officially; its simply the “de-facto” capital of Portugal as the designation was formed through constitutional convention, rather than written form (any other Poli Sci nerds out there fascinated by this? Just me?).
Located right at the mouth of the Tagus River, Lisbon is the westernmost capital of a mainland European country. During WWII, as Portugal remained neutral, the country’s dictator, António Salazar, allowed spies from both the Nazis and Allies in Lisbon. The connection supposedly inspired Ian Fleming, the author of James Bond series. The capital also houses the world’s smallest bookstore, although I missed that when I was there.
First Soccer Match:
Wandering this Beautiful City:
Praça do Comércio:
Rua Nova do Carvalho:
National Azulejo Museum:
Speaking of Tile:
Castelo de S. Jorge:
Copenhagen Coffee Lab:
The Time Out Market:
The Saj Bakery:
The LX Factory:
So happy to experience this amazing place with awesome friends.
Last year Chris and I spent our 11th wedding anniversary in the absolutely breathtaking city of Bled, Slovenia. Once again, I never thought that Slovenia would be at the top of my list of travel destinations, but the country is so beautiful and fun that I would recommend planning a trip here ASAP. We randomly stayed in Bled the weekend of Bled Days, the most famous event for the city.
Where are we?
History of Lake Bled:
The city of Bled is located on Lake Bled, situated in the northwestern corner of Slovenia, 30 miles from the capital Ljubljana,and south of the Kawawanks mountains. The lake has a really interesting geological history (nerd alert) and was formed by both tectonic and glacial movements. During the Pleistocene Era (2,588,000 to 11,700 years ago), the Bohinj glacier developed the landscape around Bled, while the tectonic activity formed the valley for the location of the lake. Erosion caused the softer ground to be worn away, leaving behind the topsoil that now holds the lake’s island and castle.
Earliest human activity near the lake can be traced back to the Bronze Age; Old-Slavic settlers arrived in 7th century. The first written mention of the town occurred in 1004 (!!) when the German King Henry II gave the land to the Bishop of Brixen for their assistance with the Church; Bled remained under the lordship for 800 years until the settlement fell under Austrian rule in 1808.
Passed back and forth between Brixen and the Austrians (and following the fall of Austria-Hungary in 1918), the settlement and the castle were given to the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Tito, the Yugoslav king (and later president) used the castle as his home. In 1919 the castle and lake were sold to hotel owner Ivan Kenda, which marked the first time the settlement was officially owned by a Slovenian. The Germans annexed this portion of Slovenia during WWII and following the war, Bled became an official town in 1960.
I’m pretty meh about castles (I know, I know) but Bled Castle was a beautiful sight to visit. Pro tip: Make a reservation with the castle restaurant (more on that later!) and you can tour the castle and museum for free. It’s a steep hike up to Bled Castle, so dress like you’re going on a hike, not like you are attending an anniversary dinner at a castle (me).
Bled Days includes handmade arts and crafts ( ❤ ), street food vendors ( ❤ ), music ( ❤ ), and a finale where they release over 15,000 candle eggs onto the lake ( ❤ ❤ not sure how that works waste-wise but it was beautiful to see). The event happens each year at the end of July and is definitely worth the extra cost and tourists! They also put in a lot of effort to make Bled Days a zero-waste event, which was really interesting and cool to see.
Church of the Assumption:
Originally a temple for the Slavic Goddess of Love Živa, the pagan population was forced to replace Živa with the Virgin Mary when the community inhabiting the Bled area converted to Christianity in 745. The Slavic temple was replaced, and in 1465, the Gothic Church and Tower were built on the tiny island.
The Bell Tower and the Ringing of the Bell hold a special legendfor the Church:
Once upon a time there lived a young widow in the castle of Bled. Her husband was killed by robbers and his body was thrown into the lake. She was so inconsolable that she gathered all her gold and silver and cast a bell for the chapel on the island, in memory to her husband. But the bell didn’t arrive there. The bell, the boat and boatmen sank during a terrible storm. The desperate widow sold all her property after this accident. She offered the proceeds for the construction of a new church on the island. She left Bled and lived the rest of her life in Rome as a nun. After her death the Pope had heard of her misfortune and of her good deeds during her life as a nun, so in memory to her he decide to make a new bell. He said that anyone that rings the bell three times and believes in God, his or her wish would come true.
Restaurants and Pubs:
Public Bar and Vegan Kitchen:
While I’m not vegan, when I saw this amazingmenufrom Public Bar and Vegan Kitchen, I knew I wanted to stop by for lunch. I don’t have a lot of vegetarian options here, so it’s nice to find a spot with a couple of veg menu items. Chris and I shared the house burger and it was too much to eat between the two of us.
Absolutely one of my favorite meals in Europe,Bled Castle has a great (and seasonal) menu with affordable prices. They also had an extensive variety of local wine and beer, not to mention a view that overlooks the entire lake.
We stumbled on Okarina our first night in Bled. They were nice enough to seat us less than an hour before closing (ugh I hate being that person) and we enjoyed our dinners. They have a diverse menu–so there is something for everyone–and a really nice atmosphere that was needed after walking the lake’s super-busy edge.
Red n Black Bled:
Located right next to our Air BnB, we stopped by Red n Black Bled for a quick breakfast of coffee and toasties our first morning in the city and ended up coming back each morning! Our server was AMAZING. She was incredibly kind and their ridiculously simple menu of either make-your-own porridge or toasted bread with veggies or meat was totally fine with us.
We ended up hanging out to watch the FINA Summer Games (ironically being held in Budapest). Sometimes you just need a good old pub in your life.
Troha Pub Bled:
We stopped at Troha Pub Bled after our Pletna tour of the island. The pub has a gorgeous view of the lake and the castle, along with reasonable prices. Their menu also includes an impressive 3-liter mojito, although we didn’t try it. Apparently, Troha is THE nightclub of Bled but it was a super chill spot when we stopped by in the afternoon.
Considering it was right next to the edge of the lake, Kult Klub was one of our first stops in Bled. They had a great selection of Slovenian craft beer and the outside seating was great as the sun was setting. We, unfortunately, weren’t there when they had live music, but we enjoyed hanging out listening to the crazy pop star Bled Days had performing that night.
Trešpank is a super cool shop located near Red n Black. The owner repurposes bicycle parts into new things (including belts!) and sells a ton of different handmade products including postcards, pottery, clothing, and jewelry. I stocked up on a stack of crazy postcards before making the trek up to Bled Castle.
Galerija Mikame is a super cute store on the edge of Lake Bled that boasts a ton of different art, jewelry, pottery, and postcards from Slovenian independent designers. The guy working in the shop was amazing and he told us a ton of fun facts about Slovenia. I asked why he thought Ohio had the greatest population of Slovenians outside of the country and he responded: “I think it’s because we only like farming and working in factories, you know?” I picked up a reclaimed wooden ring from Brlogarka, a beautiful Bled painting by Ajda Primožič Lima, anda couple of hilarious CartsyFartsy greeting cards.
Currently watching: Big Little Lies (directed by Jean-Marc Vallée)
Currently reading: Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown
Currently listening: Live in Detroit by The White Stripes
This spring Chris and I spent a couple of days visiting our lovely and amazing friend Kelsey in The Hague, Netherlands. We also traveled to Amsterdam to see one of our favorite bands, Pokey Lafarge & the South City Three. Chris had visited Eindhoven before, but this was my first trip; it was great seeing Kelsey for the first time since New Years!
Where are we?
We flew from Budapest to Eindhoven, then took the train to The Hague. The public transportation was awesome; the trains and buses were super clean and organized. SO MANY BIKES EVERYWHERE. It was awesome to see infrastructure that promoted walking, biking, and public transport over driving.
The Hague: The third largest city and the capital of South Holland, The Hague (Den Haag) is located near the coast. First mentioned in 1230, the city was heavily damaged during WWII and was largely rebuilt after the War. The Hague is also known as the “International City of Peace and Justice” due to the city’s hosting of multiple peace talks and conferences since the late 1800s.
Located north of The Hague, Amsterdam is the Netherlands’ capital and largest city. Originally a small fishing village established around a dam on the Amstel River in the 1100s, the city soon became one of the most important trading ports for the kingdom. Amsterdam has 165 canals (combined has a length of over sixty miles!) and 1,281 bridges throughout the city.
Bonus video of Ryan Koening playing the hell out of the spoons.
Restaurants & Food
The Hague: Beachclub Indigo
We had an amazing brunch at Beachclub Indigo. A gorgeous walk down the beach, the restaurant had a ton of burger options and seating right on the water. My first 2017 beach trip!
Amsterdam: Pancakes Amsterdam
After our train ride to Amsterdam all I wanted in my life was Dutch pancakes. We stopped at Pancakes Amsterdam before wandering around the city and loved it. They had a variety of sweet and savory options, as well as a cute atmosphere to escape the rain (because of course it was raining).
Kelsey introduced me to mint tea and I am officially a fan. Rather than using a tea bag, you place a ton of fresh mint leaves into a glass of hot water and let them steep for a couple of minutes. So good.
The Hague: Kelsey’s House
Our all time best meal in the Netherlands was hosted by Kelsey’s roommate. Raising money for a non-profit (she was in this super cool non-profit certification program) her roommate hosted a home-cooked five course (TWO DESSERTS) meal for a dozen people in their apartment. WOW. It was absolutely amazing. Lovely wine, out-of-control cooking, and wonderful people–what else can you ask for? I wish I had taken pictures of the food but I was too busy being the emoji-with-hearts-for-eyes brought to life.
Breweries & Pubs
Amsterdam: Cafe ‘t Smalle
Our lovely friend in Pápa, who spent a summer in Amsterdam a few years ago, recommended Cafe ‘t Smalle as a place to stop right on the water for a quick drink and snack. She mentioned that she had always wanted to visit the small cafe but never had the chance during the summer she was abroad. Thankfully we were able to visit while in Amsterdam! It was so lovely and right on the canal.
Amsterdam: De Prael Brewery
Having a friend who works at a brewery definitely has its perks, among them being great recommendations for craft beer in the Netherlands. We LOVED De Prael and ended up trying a couple of their beers while in Amsterdam.
Amsterdam: The Beer Temple
Whoa, the Beer Temple was such a great place to stop on our way to the show. Their selection is enormous, with beer even from South Carolina! We overheard a group talking about beer from Mt. Pleasant, SC and were both thinking “wait, whaaa?” before realizing they also carried Westbrook as well. I don’t even know the last time I had their Gosa, so it was an unexpected surprise.
The Hague: Kompaan
I can not say enough amazing things about Kompaan. They have great beer, amazing food, and an awesome atmosphere. This was probably the best beer we’ve had since moving abroad and it was really special to share this with Kelsey. The atmosphere reminded us both so much of Holy City Brewing, which made me a little homesick, but so cool to see what other countries are doing in terms of developing new beer. From the clever names, to the genuineness of the staff, and the quality of the food and beer, Kompaan is a must.
The Hague: Huppel de Pub
Huppel de Pub was a solid post-Guardians-of-the-Galaxy-2 viewing stop. They had a ton of great options (including Kompaan) and a really comfortable atmosphere.
The Hague: Instock
Sadly we weren’t able to eat at Instock while visiting, but I wanted to mention the super cool work they’re doing in the area of food waste. Their chefs use food surpluses that would otherwise be taken to the landfill and make amazing meals from them. They source mostly from grocery stores that don’t sell their “ugly” produce, which is fruit and veg that is perfectly fine but not the prettiest of the bunch (think tomatoes that aren’t cute enough for a BLT but just fine for sauce or a banana too bruised for purchasing but perfect for banana bread). Their menu changes with what’s available and they serve breakfast, lunch, and (four course) dinners. When one third of food is wasted, operations like these help break this linear cycle. The Hague: Zaal 3
We visited Zaal 3 for a super cool event they were hosting that combined local beer and used records. I scored Buddy Holly and Elvis records (I finally have Suspicious Minds! My favorite as a kid!) while enjoying beer sourced from the area.