Monday, May 14, 2012

For the Love of the Rain

“Some people walk in the rain, others just get wet.” – Roger Miller

It’s raining again in London.  I’m lying on the couch, listening as the rain rat-tat-tats outside my window.  The rain in England constantly surprises me.  I expect it to be insistent and hard, matching the continually grey skies.  I do not expect the rain to be indecisive, falling half-heartedly and intermitedly.  Fading in and out as though indifferent to its purpose.

I am a child of the California rain.  In the land of movie stars, the rain is transient and soft like cotton candy – a delicious treat that melts away in an instant.  My love affair with the rain began in California.

Let it rain collage

Friday, April 20, 2012

Travel Rules - Does foreign etiquette apply to visitors?

Several years ago, Diesel and I spent two weeks in Rome.  Even though it was October, it was surprisingly sultry.  Anyone that knows Diesel knows that the man runs hot.  Not just that, but he literally radiates heat when he gets too toasty.  As a result, he rarely wears more than a t-shirt and shorts unless he has to.  And for our visit to Vatican City and St. Pauls Basilica, I insisted that he wear pants. 

After all, the Vatican has a strict dress code that specifies no skirts above the knee, no bare shoulders, no shorts and no bare feet.  The last thing I wanted to do after waiting in the massively long line was to return to our rented apartment for him to change.  Grudgingly, and with no small amount of grumbling, he acquiesced and we headed off to Vatican City.

And that was where I got into trouble.

A Swiss Guard in Vatican City.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

7½ Things that have surprised me about living in London

Moving from California to London was a major life change in many ways, but I have realled enjoyed it.  And the time has flown.  Last week marked four months since I moved to London.  In honor of the occasion, I thought I would share a list of the things that have been the biggest surprises about living in the UK.

1. Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
As an American, I know very little about the British royal family.  However, one of the first things that I noticed about them was that Queen Elizabeth was married to Prince Philip.  Not King Philip, but Prince.  I was perplexed.  Shouldn’t Queens be married to Kings?  I always thought that was the way of royalty.

Well, it turns out I was wrong - or, at least partially wrong.  Since Queen Elizabeth is the sovereign (i.e. she inherited the crown), traditionally her consort remains a Prince so as to not outrank her. 

If the crown had come to Philip, and he was married to Elizabeth, he would have been king and she would become Queen.  But when the crown passes to a female, their spouse traditionally remains the Prince-Consort.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

4 Things The Hunger Games Taught Me About Traveling

Unless you have been living under a rock, you have probably heard of the The Hunger Games trilogy in both book and movie form.  While most of us will never have to fight to the death with 23 others, there are still several themes in The Hunger Games that are applicable to those of us that love to travel (and live).  Besides the scathing indictment of reality TV (which I wholeheartedly agree with), these are some of the lessons that directly apply to those of us with wanderlust in our hearts and perennially itchy feet.

If it feels wrong, run
Ok, running may not always be the answer, but you should definitely trust your gut.  If something feels off about a place or a person, it probably is.  Chances are that the feeling of unease is your survival instinct, and not your paranoia, that is telling you it’s time to be moving on. Unlike the actual Hunger Games, travellers don’t need to put themselves into dangerous situations to “win”.  A traveller wins by enjoying the experience, trying something new and making it home safe and sound.

Team up for survival
Being self-sufficient and traveling independently doesn’t mean that you can’t interact with others.  Whether they are locals or fellow travellers, we can all gain something through our interactions.  It can be something as simple as a recommendation for a great restaurant or site that is off the beaten track or something deeper like a shared meal or experience.  These kinds of interactions serve to enhance the travel experience and (hopefully) lead to more meaningful interactions with the destinations you visit.

Expect the unexpected
In traveling, as in life, things never go exactly according to plan.  I think of it like planning a wedding – no matter how hard you try, something is destined to go wrong. 

If you prepare yourself for things to go wrong beforehand, it will be much easier to take issues in stride when they pop up.  And remember, if everything went perfectly it probably wouldn’t be much fun anyways.

When all else fails, adapt
When your allies are killed off, your flights are cancelled and things generally go to hell, it is easy to throw up your hands and give in to self-pity or anger.  Instead, try to concentrate on the unique opportunity you are presented with. 

Just like a knife only becomes sharp when it is rubbed against the side of a stone, we only grow as people and adventurers when we are challenged.

Lost in a city?  Enjoy seeing a side of the town that most travellers don’t have a chance to see. 

Encountering delays or difficulties?  Roll with the punches and enjoy the extra time you have in a location.  A lot of people will never have the opportunity to be where you are.

And besides, things are good because no one is trying to kill you (hopefully).

So next time you are travelling, remember The Hunger Games.

And may the odds be ever in your favor.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The best little bakery in Paris

To be fair, I may not be 100% qualified to make that judgement.  However, Boulangerie Bazin was my absolute favorite bakery in Paris.  And based on the constant line - out the door and up the street - the local Parisians agree with me.

The croissants were, in one word, AMAZING: light as air, crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside. 

Ooh la la!

The only thing that would have made them better was if they were just out of the oven, and still warm.  Although considering that I didn’t purchase them until 11 AM that might be asking a little much.

Everything else looked top notch too.  If I had a better command of French - which is currently limited to "croissant, s'il vous plaît"- I may have ordered half of the shop.  As it was, the extra croissants, pan au chocolat and brioche I picked up barely lasted the day.

Boulangerie Bazin specializes in Bazinette aux Graines and is just a block from the Marché d'Aligre market in the 12th arrondissement (district) of Paris.  The Bazinette is named after the proprietor of the shop, Jacques Bazin, and contains flax seeds, sesame seeds and poppy seeds. 

However, if you want to try one of these beauties, make sure to get there early.  Or else all of the locals who are in the know will snatch them all up.  So make sure to stop there on your way to Marché d'Aligre (which is also definitely worth a visit) and stock up on all of your favorites.

Bon appetit!

Boulangerie Bazin
85, bis rue de Charenton (12th arrondissement)
Métro: Ledru-Rollin
Tel: 01 43 07 75 21
(Closed Wednesday and Thursday) 

Do you know of any fantastic bakeries in Paris (or anywhere else for that matter) that I have to check out on my next visit?  Tell me about them!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Travel Lust - Sucky posts, tourism boards and crazy people

Travel Lust is a weekly compilation of my favorite travel related articles from the previous week.

Are you afraid that your blog posts suck? - I think all bloggers are afraid of this, but the author gives you reasons why you don't have to be a perfectionist to write good blog posts.

How to Work with Tourism Boards - One day I hope to have the guts and the following to attempt making pitches to Tourism Boards.  In the meantime, it's good to learn from an insiders perspective.

Stuff Parisians Like to Say - Ah Paris, I may never understand you.

Tipper - I'm not even going to try to deny it.  I am going to be one of those crazy old people.

Have you seen something you think I might like? Tell me about it! I’m always looking to discover interesting new articles and other fun stuff.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Paris and Performance Art

I have a confession to make.  Everything I know about performance art I learned from Sex and the City. You know the episode I mean - where Carrie meets Aleksandr at a performance art show and they return at 3am to make sure the artist isn't sleeping or eating a Big Mac. Yeah, that one.

My take away from that episode? I don't get performance art.

Now, I'll be the first one to tell you that avant-garde and progressive artists, both in the art and the fashion world, go over my head. Their pieces just aren't my style, and I can live with that.

However, performance art perplexes me.

This weekend, I was walking around the Centre Pompidou in Paris and I entered an exhibit and immediately saw a gentleman writhing on the floor. In the half second that I hesitated before rushing to his aid - thank god I hesitated - I realized he had a crowd. I was witnessing my very first, live-and-in-person performance art piece. And it was kind of a let-down.

I'm not sure who this artist was, or what point he was supposed to be making, but all he did was slowly roll around on the floor of the gallery. It was actually quite bizarre.  I watched him for a while until I became vaguely uncomfortable and moved on.

The rest of the exhibit shared the theme of performance art, but instead of live viewings, these were all recordings projected onto makeshift screens.  Most seemed to involve dance - and I can understand that. Even the sailors-dancing-with-giant-robots kind of dance.

But one projection stopped me in my tracks.

There she was, naked from head to toe. Not even veiled in the thinnest layer of modesty.

Performance artist in Paris’s Centre Pompidou

She nal optimist, ort stamps, ket! travels, meet likeminded individuals and placate my constant wanderlust recordings projected was rolling around a stage that had two dozen bottles suspended over it, slowly dripping olive oil. The stage was slick with the liquid and caused a certain amount of slide to occur with every movement and gesticulation. But the kicker? She was naked, so every third second or so she flashed her gumbo pot at the camera without the slightest hesitation or ounce of shyness. And all that was before she started stroking herself.

When making a ruling on pornography, Justice Potter Stewart of the US Supreme Court once said that he was not be able to define pornography, but “[he knew] it when [he saw] it". And this friends, was pornography.

I will be honest; I did spend a bit of time watching this projection. But how could I not? Maybe that's all performance art is about - shock value.

But if it is, I'm afraid I'm still missing the point.  Maybe I really can learn all I need to know about some things from Sex and the City.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Travel Lust - Backpacks, Bulgaria, Bloggers and Kony

Travel Lust is a weekly compilation of my favorite travel related articles from the previous week.

Places to See in 2012 - Extended Edition - I am seriously considering a trip to Bulgaria after reading this.

5 Reasons to Network Regularly with Your Fellow Travel Bloggers - Something for me to keep in mind.

On Backpacks and Babies - An Auto-Cartography - One of the most well written travel stories I have ever read.  Inspiration in both content and technique.

I am a Visible Child from Northern Uganda - Invisible Children's video about Kony has been all over the place lately.  This is a response from someone who grew up in the shadow of Kony's legacy and is worth reading to get a better sense of how Ugandans feel about this video.

Have you seen something you think I might like? Tell me about it! I’m always looking to discover interesting new articles and other fun stuff.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Its a banner year - Why you Should Head to London During the 2012 Olympics

Mention the upcoming Olympic Games and most Londoners won’t bother to conceal their groan.  Between the soaring costs, delays to daily commuters and general over-crowding there is no shortage of topics to complain about.  However few Londoners mention any of the myriad of benefits and opportunities that come with being in London year's Olympic Games.

Cultural Events

London is a bustling metropolis that hosts countless events every day.  To mark the occasion of London hosting its third set of Olympic Games (previous Games were hosted in both 1908 and 1948), 2012 will be a year of sponsored cultural events.

Billed to be the largest free celebration of the 2012 Olympic Games, London Live 2012 will be taking place at three of the most quintessentially London locations: Hyde Park, Victoria Park and Trafalgar Square. Large state-of-the-art screens will be erected in all three of the locations that will be broadcasting all of the medal events.  There will also be live music, outdoor arts and opportunities to try out a number of Olympic and Paralympic sports.

Special Celebration Concerts will be held in Hyde Park and timed to coincide with the Opening and Closing Olympic Ceremonies. Ticket prices and headline acts for these concerts are still TBA.

One of the more innovative happenings this summer in London is the River of Music.  Along both side of the Thames in central London, groups representing all of the Olympic countries will be performing music native to their homelands.  I can only imagine how they will represent the USA…country music perhaps?

Coinciding Events

Those more interested in the literary world than that of athletics should note that 2012 marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens.  This anniversary is being marked by museum exhibitions across the city.  Fans of the author may want to check out the Dickens and London exhibit at the Museum of London.

If Shakespeare is more you style you might check out the World Shakespeare festival which runs from April through September.  The festival will encompass almost 70 productions, along with supporting exhibitions and events, and will take place in seven different locations around England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Not to be outdone by any mere authors, 2012 marks the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.  This is the celebration of Queen Elizabeth II’s 60 years as monarch.  To mark the occasion, the country’s second longest reigning monarch is touring the country to see her people.  While the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee is being celebrated throughout the Commonwealth countries this year, the event will culminate in Great Britain with a four day holiday that coincides with the Queen’s birthday in early June.  Additionally, a number of museums and historical sites are hosting special exhibits in honour of the Queen’s reign – including a special display of the Queen’s diamonds and jewellery in Buckingham Palace.

The Games

Of course, one of the best reasons to be in London this summer is for the Olympic Games themselves.  Even without event tickets, opportunities abound to enjoy the games first-hand.  Various events from the torch run through the city men’s and women’s marathons, and the triathlon cycling and running will present opportunities to cheer on competitors for free as these courses traverse the city.

Not interested in dealing with the crowds in London?  That doesn’t preclude you from catching sight of an Olympic Event.  The Road Cycling races are taking place in the Surrey countryside and will present a picturesque setting in which to enjoy this year’s games.
London 2012 countdown clock in Trafalgar Square

For more information on the London 2012 Olympics and the various events that are happening, check out, and .

Friday, March 9, 2012

Travel Lust - Making friends in Nepal, throwing down in the Lego store and enough books to keep me reading for years

Travel Lust is a weekly compilation of my favorite travel related articles from the previous week.

Is the American Dream holding you back? - I really like this blog and this article in particular.  It really makes me think about what I am doing now and if working for one of the largest financial institutions in the world is really how I want to be spending my time.

How to Make Friends in Nepal - As someone who is naturally shy, I find that this is excellent advice on meeting people while traveling and while at home.

The 50 Greatest Travel Books of all Time - I love to read.  I love to travel.  'Nough said.

Tourists and Travelers - A- Different Outlook - This distinction is something that I have been thinking a lot about lately and it is nice to see that I'm not the only one.

Dick Move Lego Store Lady and Thank You New York - The continuing adventures of the Everwhereist!

Have you seen something you think I might like?  Tell me about it!  I’m always looking to discover interesting new articles and other fun stuff.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Incident with the Lady on the Escalator

I had a car before I moved to London from Sacramento.  I went wherever I wanted to, whenever I wanted.  Even if that meant just driving around endlessly when I was pissed off and needed to think – a gas guzzling habit that I picked up from my dad.  To be honest though, I was excited about the prospect of selling my vehicle and relying on public transportation in the UK.  In fact, I thought it would be fun and somewhat glamorous to take the tube every day and leave the navigation up to someone else.  Now instead of fighting my way through traffic and dealing with other peoples' road rage, I get to read on my way to work.

The aspect of public transportation that I never gave much thought to was other commuters.  To my pleasant surprise, I find it endlessly entertaining to watch people on the tube being themselves.  Sometimes it is inspirational - like the teenager who gave up her seat for the old man with the cane and severe limp.  Sometimes it is thought provoking - what happened to that girl to make her sit alone and cry through the last ten stops?  But sometimes I see something that makes me stop in my tracks.

The London Underground has some of the longest escalators I have ever seen.  Some seem to travel several stories to bring people either down into the depths of the earth or back up to the surface.  With these long rides, certain etiquette has been developed (and it always surprises me how well it is observed).  Those who step onto the escalators and stand there, enjoying the ride, stay on the right hand side.  Those who wish to charge up or down the escalator so they can reach their destination a minute or two faster pass on the left. 

And that is how I ended up witnessing what will now be referred to only as “the incident”.

I was standing on an escalator, admiring the colourful ads and waiting to be deposited on the train platform.  A number of people were walking down the steps on the left hand side, including a twenty-something Asian girl.  She made it two steps past where I was standing when her pencil thin stiletto landed awkwardly on the ridged edge of the escalator stair.  Immediately her ankle crumbled and her body began twisting forward. 

I barely had time to gasp at the possibility she was in for a very painful (and long) header down the stairs, when the young man who happened to be walking behind her grabbed her by the shoulders and pulled her backwards. 

“Ahhhhhhh.  Ahhhhhhhhh.  Ahhhhhhhhh.” She began to scream as she landed roughly in a seated position. These were the shrieks of someone who thought her life was in danger, not someone who had been helped by a Good Samaritan.  She confirmed my thought when she turned around a half second later. 

“What do you think you are doing,” she spat. If looks could kill, this would have been acid in the face.

“You were falling…” he trailed off shakily. 

Mouth agape, I watched the woman huff loudly, stand and hurry down the escalator before any further harm could be inflicted on her person.  Shortly after the young man followed, a bewildered expression on his face.

I wish I had said something to the young man.  It upsets me that someone who was honestly trying to do a good deed would encounter a reaction like that.  I would be surprised if this guy doesn’t have second thoughts before trying to assist someone in the future.

But what really bothers me is the girl.  Really?  You fall down and are shocked that someone puts their hands on you to assist.  In some ways I want to feel badly for her.  I mean, what must have happened in her life to make her so suspicious of strangers?

I would like to say that this would never have happened at home.  I would like to think that I come from a place that has people who are more understanding.  Except that I know it could have happened.  Maybe not in the exact same way, but with its own unique California twist.  Oh well.  The only thing I know for certain is that I will never understand people.  But I do have a lot more time to watch them than I used to.

I also know that karma is a bitch.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Travel Lust - Obscene Gestures, Awesome Words and Surprising Tokyo

Travel Lust is a weekly compilation of my favorite travel related articles from the previous week.

Pinterest - Not an article per se, but my newest adidiction.  I love the possibilities that exist within Pinterest to create pin boards with travel ideas, photography tips and hundreds of other things I haven't even thought of yet.

20 Awesomely Untranslatable Words from Around the World - A list of words that have no direct translation into English.  My personal favorite it cafuné, what a perfectly lovely word.  It makes me want to learn Portuguese.

Things Not to do Abroad - Good advice for the frequent traveller.

Seven Things That Surprised Me About Tokyo - I was in Japan once....kinda...well, my airplane landed there, but I didn't actually make it onto terra firma.  Once day I will though, and I will be armed with these fun facts.

Have you seen something you think I might like?  Tell me about it!  I’m always looking to discover interesting new articles and other fun stuff.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Mind the Gap! Navigating and Surviving the London Tube System

Navigating London public transportation can be a daunting task for the uninitiated.  One of the brilliant things about London is the extensive network of public transportation that can cheaply and easily deliver you to destinations all over the city.  The London Underground – which is playfully referred to as “the tube” – tends to be the most well known of the various transport systems.  Don’t be put off by the complexity of the system, the trains access all areas of London and in most cases are cheaper and faster than taking a cab.  With these tips, even newbies will soon be navigating their way through London like a pro.

Vigilance is Rewarded

Some of the trains are fantastic - they nicely announce every stop, they let you know what connecting lines come into each station and they inform you if some of the doors won't be opening (which usually effects the first two sets and last two sets of doors when long trains enter short underground stations).  Other trains are, well, silent.  A little bit of vigilance will go along way towards making sure you don't miss your station and have to waste time retracing your steps.

Additionally, don't make the assumption that just because you plan to stay out late that the trains will still be running.  Avoid an unpleasant late night surprise and know when the last train will be leaving on your line.  Armed with this knowledge, you can either cut your evening short or be sure to have enough cash on hand for a cab.

Maps are not to Scale

The secret that no one mentions is that the Underground maps are not to scale.  The first incarnation of the modern London Underground map was designed by Harry Beck in 1931.   Beck straightened the railroad lines and adjusted the position of stations to limit crowding on the map and maximize its ease of use.  This trend has continued to the present date, and while the map is now very user friendly, it can be misleading at times.  Traveling from Bank to Mansion House?  Don't take the Central Line to the Circle Line - just walk down the block and you are there.  Fancy a trip from Regents Park to Great Portland Street?  Forget riding the Bakerloo to the Metropolitan, you are practically right there already.  The lesson here - just because you can take the tube doesn't mean that you have to.

Personal Space is Scarce

Be prepared to get up close and personal with your fellow commuters on the Tube.  Trains can often be packed to the brim (take my advice, do whatever you can to avoid the Jubilee line at rush hour). People can, and will, look over your shoulder to see the games you are playing on your phone, or to share the novel you are reading. As such, Tube rides are inopportune times to read or write dirty text messages or death threats. It is best to leave these kinds of tasks until you have a little more elbow room.  Besides, it’s best to keep your plan to take over the world a secret until you are ready for your big reveal.

Also, make sure to keep an eye on your belongings.  Pickpockets can and will steal from those who are not paying attention.  This is especially true during the busy periods.  When you have strangers pressed up against you on all sides, it can be tricky to identify if someone’s hands begin to wander towards the expensive smart phone hanging out of your pocket.

Never Eat Soggy Waffles

Considering all of the years I spent in school, there are very few things that I learned and still put into use on a frequent basis.  One is a little song I learned in first grade that helps me remember how to spell “because”.  The other is Never Eat Soggy Waffles.  Besides being excellent gastronomic advice, this is a mnemonic school children are taught to remember to what each point on a compass refers (North, East, South and West).  I find that using this tool to determine the direction I'm traveling is a huge help for when I get to a crowded intersection that splits off to the East and Westbound trains.  I never want to be the inconsiderate doofus that is blocking traffic while they try to consult their map to determine which direction they need to go.

Still intimidated?  Try using an App to map out your journey.  My personal favorite is Tube Deluxe and my be the best 99 cents I've ever spent.

For more information on the London Underground, ticket prices and train schedules, see