Excuse my French, but I’m in France

I’m just sayin’.

So, I finally got to Paris. I wrote about it here, and our itinerary is posted here. I’ll write more about it later, but in the meantime, please enjoy these snaps. Bucket list item, checked.

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Chelsea’s Adventures in Oxfordland

originally posted on notreallyoxfordwomen!

We packed a lot into our first week. I’m still waiting until it calms down so I can do wild things like sleep or buy a curling iron. Exciting stuff! Here’s just a tiny overview of a few faves from the last week. Loads more to come!

Oxford

Pubs & Food

Saturday was the quarter finals of the World Cup and (spoiler alert from several days ago) England trounced Sweden! It’s the first time England’s gone so far in the cup in ages, so the city was abuzz with excitement! We had an impossible time finding a pub at which to watch the match—everywhere was stuffed to the gills with people spilling outside and watching through the windows. They’re playing again Wednesday (against Croatia) and we’re camping out at St. Aldate’s nice and early to watch!

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The Covered Market is so, so cool. It’s like a tiny version of Farmer’s Market in L.A.

Pro tip about (at least this area of) England: every. bloody. place. has. vegetarian options. It’s absolutely incredible. Even the morning English Breakfast buffet could please a vegan. Just note that it’s soya milk, not soy! Also, figure out what the hell Pimm’s is before you come here.

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Other pubs/restaurants that we’re falling in love with every day: The King’s Arms, The Crown, The White Horse, Turf Tavern, The Old Tom, The Varsity Club, George Street Social, The Lamb & Flag

Still to try: The Wig & Pen, The Eagle & Child, O’Neills, The Bear Inn, The Oxford Retreat, The Trout

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Shops

You can’t go to England without making a pilgrimage to Boots. It’s like a Sephora-meets-CVS, and it’s the nearest chemist to school. We’ve been getting our groceries at Tesco & Sainsbury’s. I got a tattoo at Oxford Tattoo and it was the best experience I’ve ever had. 10/10 would recommend. And Blackwell’s! What can I possibly say about Blackwell’s that hasn’t already been said. You remember the song “Almost Paradise“? It started playing in my heart when I walked in. It’s 3 floors of wall-to-wall, ceiling-to-floor books, and I’m moving in there ASAP.

Sights

Holywell Cemetary was spooky af. Go at dusk! Here’s a list of graves. The Martyrs’ Memorial should make your list. The Bodleian Libraries are so gorgeous it’s unfair. The Radcliffe Camera is an extreme photo op. And well, everything here is perfect, so just walk around and ogle the buildings!

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Wales

Tintern Abbey, Chepstow Castle, Raglan Castle

Cymru for life. These ruined medieval relics are stunning beyond belief. Granted it was about 4,000 degrees Celsius, seeing these living legends was an unmissable experience. Get thee to the land of the dragon!

Abergavenny

The Hen & Chickens pub is clearly the local watering hole, and we were so lucky to have stopped in here. We met an Irish ex-pat named Collin and a mysterious vest-wearing Welshman who went by the name of Reality Jones. There is no way to really capture how magical our Wales experience was…suffice it to say that I’m definitely going back, and I’m probably getting a Reality Jones tattoo. P.S. Welsh cheddar and cole slaw sandwich. Iconic.

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In my next post, I’ll go off about coffee and food in Oxford (hint: it’s very good).

Only 16 more days! It’s going by way too quickly!

-chels

Sunday Kind of Love: UK Edition

We leave for England in 4 days! I’m so excited and grateful for this opportunity. I’ve never taken a Transatlantic flight (I’ve only left the country five times, to Quebec and Cancun), so this is a major bucket-list item checked off! As I may have mentioned before, Annie and I will be living and studying at Wadham College at Oxford, but we have plenty of excursions planned (including day trips to Paris and Brussels!)

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The Headington Shark, image via flickr

This is a(partial) list of what we’ll be up to on the island:

Wales

Tintern Abbey

Chepstow Castle

Raglan Castle

Abergavenny

England

Travel tattoos at Oxford Tattoo

Hamlet at The Globe

Stratford-Upon-Avon

The Bodleian Library

The Roman Baths in Bath

The Victoria & Albert Museum

Tate Modern

Kensington Palace

Blenheim Palace

Afternoon tea at the Barbican

Cuban Night at the Windsor Racecourse

Join the Oxford Alcademics at Raoul’s

I’m sure we’ll check out at least some of these 15 Things to do in Oxford

See you stateside in August!

Bucket List: Paris

One thing that has remained consistent in my life for the past 20 years, truly the only thing, has been my passionate desire to visit Paris. My father encouraged my brother and me to learn French as children (which worked on me but flopped big time with my brother) by reading us bilingual picture books, and ever since, I have been fascinated by French language, history, and culture. And croissants. Who doesn’t love croissants?

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ugh, I know I’m not supposed to like Kanye anymore, but c’mon (image source)

I started taking French in school when I was ten and continued through college. I even took a French film course sophomore year! Jules et Jim, La Femme Nikita—all the classics! I’m pretty sure that my basic existence inspired Childish to rap “I’mma be on these tracks like indie girls on Amélie“. I read (and loved) the book How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are. Trust me, though, Francophilia is hardly a sympathetic condition. Revealing that you speak French at a party is like revealing that you have whooping cough—no one wants to be around you after that. So I’ve been quietly biding my time, waiting for my moment to finally hop the pond and visit la Ville Lumière.

But what’s the biggest obstacle to any dream? Money, honey. International travel is expensive af (or at least it has been presented to me that way), and until a few months ago, I was a broke college student working a retail job. I mean, now I’m a broke prospective grad student working a retail job, so, not much better, but we’ve got that wedding nest egg squirreled away and my credit score is on the rise! #tmi

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i’m drooling. i’m swooning. chateau versailles (image via pinterest)

So, why bring this up now? After 20 years of futile dreaming, why put a Paris trip back on the table? Well…my parents. Let me explain. My mother’s husband has family in Germany, so they recently appended a few days onto their trip to visit Paris. That’s correct—a woman who know zero French words and has no interest in coffee, wine, or fattening food has been to Paris. That was a bit of a dagger in the back, but she deserves to travel, right? She works hard! Then, my dad revealed that this year, he wants to turn 50 in Paris. It has also been his lifelong dream to go there (apple, tree), so he’s in the early stages of planning a trip for his birthday. 50 is a big occasion!

Since I’m the tech-savvy one in the fam (which is a sad, sad reality), I’ve started browsing for flights and AirBnbs in order to help him get a realistic picture of the expense of the trip, and what I’ve found has shocked and delighted me. A trip. To Paris! Is totally doable! You can get round-trip flights for under $600 if you don’t mind stopping in Iceland! AirBnbs go for as cheap as $50/night! I haven’t even begun to factor in the cost of meals, nor have I converted Euros to dollars (the exchange rate is super close right now), but still: with each Internet search I become increasingly hopeful about my chances of making my dreams a reality.

Turns out, the touristy stuff that one simply must do is all super affordable!

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are you goddamn kidding me with this beauty? jardin des tuileries, paris, fr (image source)

There are so many more free or inexpensive things to do in Paris, which is super inspiring to the broke among us! The money saved on attractions can go towards food! According to Pinterest, eating vegetarian/vegan should be a breeze there—for all of my Francophilia, classic French cuisine just doesn’t do it for me!

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notre-dame cathedral (image source)

 

So, when are we going, guys? Tomorrow? All I ask is that I see Paris before I die, so let’s pack our freaking bags! That might be the most stressful thing of all—how to dress in the world’s most fashionable city. My wardrobe is not worthy!

À bientôt, mes chèrs!

—DellaBites

8 U.S. Cities I Want to Visit (Part III)

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these! These Boston winter months have me itching to travel to somewhere warm. It’s actually the first day of Spring today, but the snow on the ground hasn’t gotten the memo. Almost none of these destinations scream “tropical paradise” but all the same they’re far, far away from the Northeast dwelling I’m so eager to escape. So, let’s explore a few more!

[insert sarcastic use of the word “wanderlust”]

Atlanta, GA

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#1 on the list this time around is Atlanta, GA. I had no idea it was so cool. When you’re raised up North, you’re taught to kind of roll your eyes at the South. Or at least I was. Civil War hangover, maybe? Who knows. In any case, I hadn’t the foggiest that Hotlanta was blowing TF up. John Lewis? Donald Glover? Stuff Mom Never Told You/Unladylike? I have got to go check out the locale that spawned such greatness.

A cursory Google search will net you hundreds of incredible activities in and around Atlanta. MLK’s home, the Margaret Mitchell House, the High Museum—the list goes on! (Definitely revealing my dorky-ness with those examples.) And food! Pinterest/Buzzfeed and the like have vouched for the abundance of amazing eats in ATL. And you know me—anywhere I can get a vegan or gluten-free donut is great in my book. I can’t wait to check Atlanta out!

P.S. As a person who lives a stone’s throw from Gillette Stadium, even I was rooting for Atlanta in the Super Bowl this year.

Mobile, AL

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I know, weird choice, right? With all the Jeff Sessions nonsense going on, you think I’d be afraid to go near the Cotton State. The Yellowhammer State? Get an official nickname, Alabama!

However, I guess Mobile is a mini-NOLA in the making! I mean, look at that pretty place in the photo above! I don’t know much much about Mobile, but it seems like they have very cool museums and a thriving arts community. The entertainment district on Dauphin street seems like the place to go for nightlife—give me all of the daiquiris and live music! In terms of wildlife, it’s alligator country! I am deeply, deeply terrified of gators, but for those braver than me, you can visit Alligator Alley and actually interact with the beasties!

And, just like NOLA, where I actually was fortunate enough to travel last year, they celebrate Mardi Grad in Mobile! Pencil me in for a trip on February 13, 2018!!

Telluride, CO

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As promise, Telluride is finally getting a shout-out. I grew up skiing, and I’ve been itching to get back into it. I haven’t skied in over a decade! Revisiting my past love in Colorado, which is basically skier Mecca, would be 2 dope 2 handle. In addition to slopes, it looks like they have a beautiful historic town center, great bakeries and bars, and all around tiny-town adorbs vibes. It’s surrounded by National Forests, and you can stay in literal huts on the mountainsides. Telluride seems like the sweetest getaway spot!

Phoenix, AZ

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One might say that I am a desert enthusiast. There is, in my estimation, no better climate—dry heat during the day, cool at night. Cacti everywhere. Infrequent rain! It is one of the many absurdities of my life that I am not a desert-dweller. I mean, that view above?! It almost makes me want to own hiking boots. Almost.

I have to admit, Phoenix wasn’t really on my radar, but the lovely authors of the blog New Darlings live there, and they make it seem like a slice of paradise. I’m a sucker for any destination that combines great eats & great coffee with gorgeous nature! I’ll buy those aforementioned hiking boots in order to see the astonishing views on Camelback Mountain, just as long as I can get a cortado afterwards, of course. Phoenix, in addition to its regular art museums, also has a Musical Instrument Museum! That’s a sure-fire way to convince my husband to travel there if I ever heard one! Next winter or spring, we have got to plan a trip!

St. Louis, MO

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Did you know that St. Louis has its own signature style of pizza? Move over, Chicago! In all seriousness, St. Louis seems like a really cool, yet totally unassuming city that I truly hope to visit one day. I mean, Jon Hamm is from there!

A good friend of mine went to school in Missouri, and now I’m kicking myself that I didn’t visit. There’s so much cool stuff to do there! The iconic Arch, the *free* zoo and art museum, big name productions at The Fabulous Fox, and of course, the number 1 most important thing about any travel destination: food! I hear that they also have sports games there, but you won’t catch me wasting valuable tourist time watching baseball.

Now to frantically research AirBnBs and plan a long weekend there!

Detroit, MI

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this picture, though, am i right?

[insert comment about how I only care about Detroit because of Detroiters here]

Okay, now that we’ve gotten that business out of the way, uh, nope! I mean, having a cool TV show about your city certainly helps (see Atlanta above), but I don’t need Comedy Central to inspire me to sojourn to the birthplace of Motown! There’s the Corktown District (which has/had a bar called Bill Murray?!), breweries like HopCat to sample, Historical Museums to tour, and a giant market district.

Maybe when I finally visit, I can append a few days onto my trip and finally see “The Cleve”—any 30 Rock fans in the house?

Santa Cruz, CA

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Okay, okay, so I have technically been here before, but I firmly believe that anything you do before the age of ten doesn’t count! Santa Cruz has everything—breathtaking vistas, water sports, farmer’s markets, a cliff walk, a distillery, wine tours! My most deeply-held desire is to move to the West Coast, and Santa Cruz has all the trappings of a perfect place to settle. And it’s less than 2 hours away from San Francisco!

Santa Cruz seems like a perfect, idyllic paradise, and I can’t wait to go back!

Brooklyn, NY

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Chelsea, you live in Boston and you mean to tell me you’ve never been to Brooklyn? It’s an afternoon’s drive. Ease up! I’ve only been to NYC once, and I didn’t leave Manhattan. That’s right, the girl who has managed to visit Tallahassee, FL twice doesn’t know the first thing about any of the five boroughs. The Beastie Boys are appalled by me. Most of my engagement with the Empire State has been upstate (Syracuse & Ithaca).

Perhaps I’m about a decade behind the “Brooklyn is cool” trend. I think the hipster cities have cycled through Austin and Nashville by now, too. However, there’s still a ton of cool shit going on there! You can catch a show at The Bell House (2 Dope Queens tapes there a lot!), eat at restaurants with obnoxiously minimalist names like Egg and Diner, take a brewery tour, etc. Also, it seems to be where everyone who is “NYC-based” actually lives. Despite the borough and its inhabitants being dragged in that Lana Del Rey song, it still seems like a totally aspirational spot where I can get a great cup of coffee or cocktail—my two main objectives when visiting any new city.

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My goal is to travel to at least ONE of the locations from this list, or parts I & II this year. I managed to make it to NOLA last year, as I mentioned—this year I’m thinking Savannah & Palm Springs? Time will tell. Thanks for indulging my travel fantasies!

8 U.S. Cities I Want to Visit (Part II)

New Orleans, LA

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NOLA is pretty much a no-brainer. I can’t believe it wasn’t first on the original list, tbh. History, music, Cajun food? Sign me up. You can throw your own parade with a police escort in New Orleans! It seems like such a vibrant, colorful city, and by all accounts it shouldn’t be missed. You can even stay in haunted hotels!

I’ve actually missed two opportunities in a row to go there (our cousin’s company hosts a retreat there), due to lack of funds & time. Next year, if they do it again, we’re GOING.

Palm Springs, CA

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image via A Beautiful Mess

Okay, so my father is convinced I’ve been here before but I’m pretty sure that’s not true. Fancy hotels? Desert heat? Mid-century architecture? Sinatra? How do I not already live in Palm Springs? Bonus points that it’s only about 45 minutes away from my grandmother’s house. I’ll definitely be swinging through town next time I’m in Southern California…

Louisville, KY

 

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So, in the same week last year I watched a documentary about the Louisville Orchestra AND actually met someone from Louisville! Trust me—you don’t meet a Kentuckian every day in Boston! From all accounts, it is exactly as adorable and cool as I envision it being. Also, nearby bourbon distillery tours? Kentucky Bourbon Ale is one of my favorite beers.

Louisville is about 3 hours away from Nashville, which might make it a little too far a destination for a honeymoon day trip…but we’ll see.

Omaha & Lincoln, NE

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This one’s a twofer, since these cities are only about an hour apart. Omaha has been on my radar for a decade, because it’s famously the home of Saddle Creek Records. You know, as in Conor Oberst? It also gets name-checked in a great Rilo Kiley song, “The Execution of All Things”: let’s go to Omaha to work an exploit the booming music scene.

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Lincoln, Nebraska

Lincoln makes an appearance on here because my best friend attended a conference there last year and said that it was surprisingly awesome! I’m also a sucker for capital cities—state house tours, anyone?

Boulder & Denver, CO

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Denver, Colorado

So, I guess by now you’ve deduced that The Stand by Stephen King is one of my favorite books. How else would a New Englander have even heard of Boulder?

I included these cities together because they’re about a half an hour apart (sorry, Telluride, you’ll have to be in Part III). Colorado seems like a land from a fairy-tale. I mean, look at that picture. How is that even real? I don’t think I’ve ever seen the Rocky Mountains apart from flying over them, but it’s always been a dream to view them in all of their majestic glory. My knowledge of America’s topography is (apparently) so limited that I’m now realizing that the Rockies feature in at least 2 of my other listed cities.

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Downtown Boulder, CO

Boulder is apparently a “hipster’s paradise,” which to me signals coffee, tattoo parlors, and craft brews. I’m in!

Cleveland, OH

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Okay, in truth, I only want to go here because of that episode of 30 Rock. And because the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is there. Apart from those two tiny nuggets of knowledge, I’m clueless about the entire state of Ohio. But, as they (definitely don’t) say, cluelessness is the mother of exploration!

I will say, this post was originally written before the RNC, and now with the open-carry laws and stuff I’m a little wary…

Philadelphia, PA

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I’ve actually been to Pennsylvania three times but never made it to either of the great cities it boasts (Philly & Pittsburgh). I’m something of a history nerd, and Philadelphia is such a historical hub (much like my hometown). I feel like it’s mandatory for every American to the Liberty Bell, or to tour the rooms where the Declaration was drafted.

I’ll pass on the cheesesteak, though.

Walla Walla, WA

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Walla Walla is a city in the southeast corner of Washington. One of the colleges I wanted to apply to is there, and it also made an appearance in one of my fave YA novels from my younger days. I can’t say that there’s any specific reason that I want to go there. It’s just one of those names that sticks in your mind, and I’ve heard that Eastern Washington is stunningly beautiful.

Where else should I roam? There’s so much America to explore!

—DellaBites