Books · Life · travel

Wanderlusting: London

Have you ever wished that you were anywhere other than wherever “home” is? I’ve been feeling that way a lot lately. Not that there is anything wrong with my life or where I live. More and more, I am just finding myself wishing that I were traveling and seeing new places. Call it a major case of restless wanderlust, if you will. I was hardly home from Portland a few days before I already felt that familiar itch start to creep up. “Where can I go next?” Is a question that pops into my brain on a regular basis.

Fortunately, there are some upcoming trips in the works to look forward to. (I’ll be visiting New Orleans for the first time in Janurary, and heading back to NYC for BookCon in June.) I am also currently saving for a trip to Europe next Fall-Winter. I have been dying to visit various places in Europe since I was a teenager. And you know what? It’s time to finally make it happen. I’m tired of waiting.

I’m not 100% positive where I will end up on my European excursion, but there are a few places I am really leaning towards. One of them is London. What’s so exciting about London, you ask?

Interior of Shakespeares Globe Theatre Southbank London England. Image shot 2006. Exact date unknown.

For starters, it’s home of Shakespeare’s Globe Theater! I’ve been a Shakespeare fan since high school and would absolutely love to get a taste of what it was like to actually see one the bard’s plays in an authentic setting. (This is actually a reconstruction of the original Globe. Sadly, the original theater burned down in 1613.)

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I’m told that Charing Cross Rd. is a must for any bibliophile, as it’s lined with bookstores, selling both used and new books. (In case you don’t find what you’re looking for on Charing Cross Rd., here’s an entire map of all the different bookstores in London. *swoons*)

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The Sherlock Holmes museum!

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All the Harry Potter things! For example: Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross Station, the Warner Brother’s studio tour (you can go behind the scenes and see how the movies were made), Harry Potter and The Cursed Child…need I say more?

Of course, there are all the usual tourist attractions in London, as well. Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Kensington Gardens, The British Library, etc. Not to mention, all the food I have yet to try! 🙂

Books · food · Life · travel

My Weekend in Portland, OR (Part 3)

I’m going to be honest, getting back to work this week was a struggle. I still can’t believe Portland was a whole week ago. 😦

On day 3 of my trip I slept in a little and let myself recover from all the exercise I got the day before. With the time changes and daylight savings happening all at once, my sleep schedule was pretty thrown off. After acquiring coffee and something light to nosh on, I explored the downtown a little bit. That early, before the streets get crowded with tourists, it is quite lovely to look at.

By the time lunch time rolled around I had ventured my way to the Nob Hill/Alphabet District, which was about a mile from where I was staying. The walk there alone was so peaceful with all the pretty old houses and churches, trees, street art, and laid back vibe. The main street was lined with interesting shops and fun food places (and coffee, of course) to check out. I spent some time perusing the main street, but only after I ventured over to my intended stop: Salt & Straw.

Salt & Straw is a super popular ice cream place that I’d been dreaming about for months, almost as much as I was dreaming about doughnuts. They’re known or their homemade, unique flavors. There’s usually one or two “weird” flavors on the list, as well. The menu was creative and there were lots of flavors I wish I could have tried, but sadly my stomach is only so big. The seasonal offerings were all Thanksgiving-themed flavors, including turkey salted caramel. I didn’t want to order a whole scoop of this, but I just knew I had to at least sample it while I was there. (Because where else am I ever going to find turkey ice cream?!) The flavors I actually ordered were sweet potato casserole and almond brittle. Both flavors were delicious, especially the sweet potato! The turkey spoonful that I sampled, however, was quite odd.

After stuffing myself with ice cream I made my way to The Meadow, which was also on my list. The Meadow is a super fun gourmet salt, chocolate, and bitters shop owned by Bitterman Salt Co. As a foodie and former employee of a spice/salt shop, I was super excited to finally check it out. Just look at the walls of chocolate and salt:

 

When I finally ventured back to the Pearl District/downtown area I was in need of something other than dessert, so I headed over to one of the food pod areas. There are various places throughout the city that have food cards and food pods lined up. I love the whole food truck thing, as it’s easy to get to try different types of foods for relatively cheap. I went with a pod called The Eggy Pocket, which sold Jian Bing. Jian Bing is a Chinese street food, consisting of an egg crepe and some kind of filling. Mine had vegetables and Chinese sausage in it. It doesn’t look like much, but it was really good.

I spent my last afternoon sipping on coffee from one of the dozens of local coffee shops in the city. (The counter culture coffee scene there is huge.) Of course, I paid one last visit to Powell’s, as well. I’d share a picture of my final haul, but I actually didn’t get to take one…The store is actually shipping the rest of my books to me because I was running out of room in my bag. Hehe.

I had such an amazing time exploring Portland. I’m already trying to figure out when I can go back and visit (*coughmovetherecough*) because there are still so many other things I want to see/do there. If you’re a book lover/hipster/foodie/artsy type, like myself, you should definitely check it out someday.

(Check out Part 1 and Part 2 here)

Books · food · Life · travel

My Weekend in Portland, OR (Part 2)

Before I write the second post about my Portland excursion, let me just tell you that the post-vacation blues are starting to sink in. It’s always rough returning to reality after spending a few days away, exploring and enjoying yourself. (I want to go back! *sad face*)

I got up early on Saturday and made my way over to one of the local coffee shops to wait for the rest of my tour group. I’m not normally one for group tours, but I really wanted to go see the beauty that the Oregon mountains and the Columbia Gorge had to offer. We visited Multnomah Falls (the tallest waterfall in Oregon), a few smaller waterfalls, Vista House (the fanciest rest stop I’ve ever seen, with the world’s prettiest view), a fish hatchery, and just drove through the amazing Fall scenery of the mountains. It was only a half day trip, but it was a perfect 4 hours.

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After the waterfall tour I returned downtown and fed my grumbling stomach. I’d lie and pretend that I ate something healthy for lunch, but after all that sightseeing and hiking, I needed another doughnut. For my second visit to Blue Star, I tried the pumpkin creme brulee doughnut. (The little syringe sticking out of the top had some kind of boozy cinnamon syrup in it.) Don’t worry, I did eat food other than doughnuts that day. For dinner I headed over to Lardo, a highly recommended sandwich place that I’d been hearing about for months. I ordered a pork meatball bahn mi, which may have been the best damned sandwich I’ve ever inhaled, I mean eaten, in my life.

Of course, on my way back to the Air BnB that night I took a detour to Powell’s again. This was my haul from day 2:

Part 3 coming soon! (Check out part 1 here.)

Books · Life · travel

My Weekend in Portland, OR (Part 1)

Last night I got back from an amazing long weekend in Portland, OR! To be one hundred percent honest, if I wouldn’t be abandoning Boyfriend and my fur babies, I would never have come home. (Obviously, I would have had someone send my books to me. I’m not that crazy.) I fell in love with everything about Portland – the scenery, the people, the food, and the culture. I may or may not have already put the bug in Boyfriend’s ear that we need to move there.

I have so much that I want to share about my trip that I don’t even know where to begin. This will have to be a multi-part post, so bear with me.

Day 1: After a long, early morning flight I arrived in Portland a little after 11:00 a.m. As I wasn’t able to check into my Air BnB until 3:00, I decided to head straight to the downtown/Pearl District area and get a feel for what it was like. Exploring a new city is always such an exciting experience for me; this time was no different. After months and months of planning and reading about Portland, it was interesting to compare the picture in my head to reality. Downtown and the Pearl District were exactly as I expected: like a cleaner, less chaotic, more artsy version of New York. There were so many fun shops and restaurants, and cool street art to look at that I hardly knew what to check out first. My stomach dictated that I look up one of the places on my list and find lunch, so that’s exactly what I did, only to follow up with one of the most important reasons for visiting Portland: DOUGHNUTS.

There are a lot of popular, “must try” doughnut places in Portland, but the one I had my eye on was Blue Star. Blue Star has “doughnuts for grown ups.” Common favorites get fancy, more mature spins on them like the Valrhona Chocolate Crunch, Blueberry Bourbon Basil, Hard Apple Cider, and PB&J (filled with marionberry-habanero jelly). For my first taste, I went with Raspberry-Rosemary Buttermilk…and YES, it was worth every ounce of hype.

After getting situated in my Air BnB and dropped my bags out I headed back to the streets to find my #1 destination: Powell’s City of Books.

It wasn’t hard to find, considering it’s an entire city block. That’s right, an entire block of books. I can’t even begin to describe the excitement I felt when I walked into Powell’s and saw how freaking huge it was. Never before have I seen so many books in one place in my entire life.

There are 4 floors, each consisting of different rooms, which are designated to specific genres. The first thing I saw when I walked in was the cooking section. Row after row of beautiful cookbooks. *swoons* After about 30 minutes I had to force myself away from the cookbooks just to go investigate the rest of the store.

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I’m pretty sure if I did that evening I would have been fine with it. Nothing will ever top that euphoria I experienced when I first explored Powell’s after dreaming about it for so many years.

I wandered around Powell’s for about two hours that first day. I could have stayed even longer, but I already knew I’d be back the next day. This was my first haul:

After Powell’s I ate a delicious dinner at a restaurant that specializes in handmade pastas. After that, I journeyed back to the Air BnB and slept pretty hard. It had been an exhausting, yet super awesome first day of the trip.

Part 2 coming soon! 🙂

Life · mental health

Table for One, Please

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Something interesting happened to me this weekend that I would like to share.

On Saturday, I woke up early and drove to Asheville. I had planned to go a few weeks ago, but due to the hurricane, I had to put my plans on hold. Saturday turned out to be the perfect day for a drive through the mountains. The weather was cooler, but still warm. Hints of red and yellow have begun surfacing. providing a picturesque backdrop for my visit. Once I got there, I did my usual thing: Visited my favorite bookstores, browsed through the vintage clothing shops, drank lots of coffee, and ate lots of delicious food. Part of the reason I had wanted to go there was to try a restaurant that I’d been meaning to try (but never remembered to make reservations to).

When I showed up for my lunch reservation the hostess seemed confused. “It’s just you?” she asked. “Yep,” I responded, happily. I know that busy restaurants don’t always like to “waste” tables on solo diners, so I happily offered to sit at the bar. This turned out to be a great idea, because it gave me a great view of all the cooks in action. It was the best view in the house! After ordering my lunch, I happily pulled a book out of my purse and read in between glances at the beautiful plates of tapas being prepared before me.

As soon as I sat down, I caught the glances of a few of my fellow diners. They, too, seemed confused as to why I was sitting in this nice restaurant, with only a book for company. I did my best to ignore those people. I even made sure to smile at them when they caught my eye. I was enjoying my dining experience and my solo day in the mountains far too much to be worried about what those people thought.

This is not the first time this has happened to me. Nor will it be the last. The irony, however, is that only 4-5 years ago, I never would have even had the courage to set foot in a restaurant by myself. I, too, used to be one of those people who only did things with someone else. Eating in restaurants, taking a trip, or going to a movie were things that you did with friends or a significant other. Only weirdos and people who didn’t have any friends went out by themselves. That misguided notion left me feeling bored and lonely for a very long time. Even though I was married at the time, we had very different schedules, which meant that my husband wasn’t always around to do things with. So, I just didn’t go out . Instead, I sat home and sulked over the fact that I couldn’t do all the fun things I wanted. As a result, I missed out on a lot of things.

When I got divorced, I was terrified of being “alone.” Of not having enough people to do things with. Of being stuck at home all the time. Of being lonely. Etc. Then, one day, it hit me. The problem wasn’t doing things alone. The problem was that I had no idea how to be alone and enjoy my own company.

Fast forward to now: I take day trips by myself often. I’ve gone to NYC by myself and have a few more solo trips in the works. I have no qualms about going to restaurants, coffee shops, stores, parks, and movies solo. And the best part is, I enjoy doing these things. Sure, I still do these things with Boyfriend or friends (it’s not healthy to be alone all the time), but I am often content to just do my own thing. Pushing myself to do all these things has made me appreciate time spent by myself. I’ve learned more about who I am – the things I truly like and want, what my boundaries are, how to push those boundaries, and how to enjoy life more. Honestly, whenever people give me funny looks for saying that I did ________ by myself, I feel a little sorry for them. I wish that everyone could learn to be content in their own company or, at least, stop judging others for it.

Are you comfortable doing things by yourself? 

Life · travel

Backwards Wanderlusting: Greenville, SC

Today’s Wanderlusting post is going to be a little different than the previous ones. Rather than write about a place I’m dying to visit, I’m going to talk about somewhere I’ve visited recently. Call it a backwards wanderlust, if you will.

This weekend Boyfriend and I took a day trip to Greenville, SC. I’d heard lots of good things about downtown Greenville before and given that it’s only a two-hour drive from Charlotte, it seemed like a no-brainer that we should pay a visit.

Downtown Greenville is an incredibly charming place with beautiful brick facades, greenery, and that small-city charm with big-city destinations. I fell in love with the place the minute we stepped out of the car.

The main street was lined with fun shops selling clothing, jewelry, kitchenware, antiques, and, of course, books. There were also hotels, theaters, and restaurants and coffee shops galore.

 

We had brunch at this fantastic restaurant I’d been wanting to check out, called Husk. It was a farm-to-table place that specializes in fancy Southern fare. (I had the shrimp & grits, which were sooo good.) Afterwards, we hit up a local coffeeshop called Coffee Underground, which also has a small theater attached where they host comedy events regularly.

We paid a visit to local bookstore, M. Judson. It was a small, fun little bookstore with a bakery (called Chocolate Moose – love the name) attached. I would have liked a bigger selection of books, but it was still worth a visit.

In the middle of downtown is Falls Park. It was a beautiful park with a waterfall, walkways, art, and flowers. We had fun crossing the rocks and playing in the stream. 🙂

Lastly, we made our way to Springwood Cemetery to take a look. I absolutely love old cemeteries and enjoyed walking through the paths, reveling in the quiet beauty of it all.

It was a fun day trip! I look forward to going back in the near future to check out a comedy show and try some more of the amazing restaurants.

Books · Life · travel

Bookish Wanderlusting: New Orleans, LA

Last time I talked about a place I was wanderlusting over, we talked about Portland, OR. (Ironically, I managed to plan a trip there after writing that post.) Today we’re going to lust after another city that I’ve been wanting to visit for quite some time: New Orleans, LA.

When most people think of New Orleans, they probably think about bourbon and Mardi Gras beads. While the nightlife there abounds, there are plenty of offerings for those who love literature and other forms of art.

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New Orleans houses several bookstores, including the famous Faulkner House Books (housed in the apartment where Faulker lived in 1925). There’s also Crescent City Books, Kitchen Witch (specializing in cookbooks), and Beckham’s Book Shop…to name a few.

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There are also a few annual book festivals to attend, such as Book Lovers Con, Tennessee Willliams New Orleans Literary Festival, and Saints and Sinners (LGBT) Literary Festival.

You can even find literary influence at some of the restaurants and bars. Backspace Bar and Kitchen combines Creole food and literary-inspired cocktails.

There are plenty of other things to do in the Big Easy, if you don’t want to spend the whole time searching for literary influence. For example, you can tour the French Quarter with all it’s statues, antique shops, and well-known restaurants (Antione’s, anyone?). Or, you can attend a burlesque show (right up my alley!) or visit one of the many jazz clubs that line the city.

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I don’t see myself spending a ton of time in New Orleans, but it’s definitely on my list of places to check out someday. If not for the beignets, alone. 😛