Monday, January 26, 2015

"That's NOT a Beaver!" Favorite Things I've Seen on My Travels

I've been privileged to visit some pretty amazing places. And I've also been privileged to see some pretty interesting and amusing things. There's no way I could possibly tell you about every wild, crazy, goofy, fun thing I've ever seen while traveling, but going through my photos I've found some things that have brought a smile to my face many times. So, here are just a few of my favorite things that I've found while on the road. Hopefully one day I'll be able to do a Part II of this once I get back to traveling again!

The Hobbit Door

My friends and I found this charming little door on our way to class one day in Dingle, Ireland. My friend Christine* had found something similar when she visited China and they'd dubbed it "The Hobbit Door" so it only felt right to name this one the same as well. 

My friends and I got quite a few stares from the locals while we were taking each other's pictures in this little doorway. I suppose it wasn't as unique to them as it was to us!

This has got to be one of my favorite pictures from my time in Dingle, it really captures that carefree "YOLO" spirit we all had at that time. We just wanted to have fun. 

I have yet to figure out what the purpose of that door was, nor have I ever found one like it, even in Ireland. 

The Nutria

As I saw it swimming under the water, I got excited, thinking it was a beaver. Then as this THING climbed out of the pond in Hermann Park (Houston, Texas) and I saw it's long, skinny tail, I grabbed my then-boyfriend's arm.

"That's not a beaver! That's not a beaver! That's NOT a beaver!" I kept saying over and over again. 

I had never seen anything like THAT before. I'd seen rats in the dumpsters at the hardware shop in my hometown, I'd grown up with possums frequenting the pump at my childhood home, but I'd never seen anything that huge, that dark--like a monster rat on steroids.

My then-boyfriend (a Houston local) went on to tell me that it was in fact a nutria, which is (according to Wikipedia) a large semi-aquatic river rat. 

The picture isn't the best quality; I was a good distance away from it and wasn't about to attempt to get any closer. 

This "Closed" Sign in Dingle

Maybe it's just me, but this Elvin substitute for a "Closed" sign cracked me up when we were in Dingle, Ireland. I can't even remember in what shop door it was hanging, I just remember having the impulse to take a picture. This sign needs no words or explanation, it speaks or itself. 

A Pig Topiary

Have you ever found a bush shaped like a pig? I found this amazing work of horticultural art in London, just as my friend and I were returning to our hostel after walking the length of London.  I don't know why, but I thought this little trimmed bush in the shape of a pig was amazing. If anyone recognizes it, please tell me either in the comments or Tweet me @calleysofalley because I'd love to know where exactly in London it is/was. 

A Stan Musial Signed Baseball

It's no secret that I'm a St. Louis girl, raised right across the River, so it comes as no surprise that I'm a huge St. Louis Cardinals fan, as well. I found this baseball at Mike Shannon's Grill in Edwardsville, Illinois. 

The greatest Cardinal ever, Stan Musial (or Stan the Man, for those who really bleed Cardinal red) is a true hero here in Cardinal nation. If you're a fan of baseball and its memorabilia, Mike Shannon's is a great place to go, both the Grill location in Edwardsville, IL and the Steaks and Seafood location in St. Louis, MO. 

Welsh Street Signs

I spent around four weeks in Ireland on this particular trip and by the end of those four weeks, I could almost make out the directions in Irish on the street signs. And then we got to Wales and...I had no clue. I mean, there's not even a vowel in some of those words! I've always prided myself on being able to pick up languages quickly, but...Welsh was beyond me. 

Still, I loved the challenge of finding a street sign (or any sign) and trying to make some connection between the Welsh name and the English translation below it. I'd love to learn Welsh, personally, and I take great pride in wearing my Bangor University sweatshirt, and pointing out the Welsh word for university: Prifysgol.

This Guy

I found this handsome gentleman on Fisherman's Wharf in Monterey, California. You can see this guy, and others like him up close and personal any day of the week. There's quite a few statutes and memorials dedicated to those who made this small fishing village what it is today. 

From his beard to his yellow rain slicker and hat to that MASSIVE catch, this guy was one of my favorite things I saw around Monterey (aside from the seals and the sea lion that climbed up on the dock right next to me! See my post "Five Things to Do in Monterey" for that one!). 

When I look back at this picture I can almost hear the lonely sounds of the sea lions and smell the salty water and the smell of clam chowder wafting on the breeze...

So, those are some of my favorite things I've come across while traveling! What are some of yours? Leave your remarks in the comments and as always you can Tweet me @calleysofalley.

Until next time! Cheers!

*all names have been changed

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Doing London In A Day (It CAN Be Done!) + Photos!

For being such a large city, London is incredibly compact in terms of it's historical landmarks and popular sight-seeing activities. So it is entirely possible to see many of London's iconic features in one day. My friend and I definitely made the most of the one full day we had in London by getting up early and setting off (on foot) towards our various destinations. 

We had settled upon the Youth Hostel (YHA Earl's Court) in Barkston Gardens for its proximity to my one chosen destination, Kensington Palace. My friend, Christine* and I had already decided we would visit Kensington Palace first and then set off and see how far we could get and how many places we could see. 

First of all, if you plan to do London in a day, I would recommend going in the early summer months (we went in mid-June) so you have the extra hours of sunlight on your side. During those months you have until 9 p.m. or so until it starts getting dark, which extends your day and gives you time to see more sights. So, here's the list (and photographic tour!) of places my friend and I managed to see in ONE day in London. I've since Google mapped it and determine we walked about 17-18 miles from our hostel to the Tower of London and back again. Check out the places we visited below and use this to plan your own trip to London (although when you go I hope you have more than one day to play the tourist!)

Destination #1: Kensington Palace

Destination #2: Royal Albert Hall

Destination #3: The Prince Albert Memorial

Destination #4: The Wellington Arch

Destination #5: Buckingham Palace 

Destination #6: The Queen Victoria Memorial

Destination #7: Westminster Abbey

Destination #8: Big Ben 

Destination #9: The Battle of Britain Memorial + The London Eye

Destination #10: London Bridge

Destination #11: The Tower of London

Destination #12: Tower Bridge

Destination #13: St. Paul's Cathedral

Destination #14: Trafalgar Square

Destination #15: The Mall

Destination # 16: Harrod's Department Store

So, there you have it! Have you ever done London in a day? How many places did you see? Tweet me your stories at @calleysofalley !

Again, I apologize for not posting lately! I'm hard at work studying for the Illinois Bar Exam in February, but that trip will give me some time to tour around Chicago and get you guys a great post!

Until next time, Cheers!

*names have been changed