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I was so excited to go to Stonehenge. You would think my excitement derived from my love of archaeology (in which I have a degree) and you would be somewhat right. But I was mainly excited to go to Stonehenge because of Doctor Who (and now I have also revealed myself to be a huge nerd).

But here’s the thing about Stonehenge…it looks how it looks. What I mean by that is, if you have seen a picture of Stonehenge, you’ve basically seen Stonehenge. That’s what it looks it. There is nothing new or unique that you gain from actually being there other than being able to say that you visited Stonehenge.

Now, should you happen to visit Stonehenge on one of the solstices, this would be a different story. Stonehenge acts as one very large astronomical calendar, with the rocks falling into alignment with the sun on the summer and winter solstice. These days are hugely popular and bring many tourists to the area.

Now Stonehenge does not have a museum or much written information available in the site. There is an audio guide, but I thought it extremely dry (granted, it seems that most audio guides are). There is also a small visitor center selling pictures of Stonehenge (when you could just go outside and take a picture of Stonehenge). So all in all, there’s not much there.

If I had made a special trek just to see Stonehenge I would have been very disappointed.  However, I took a tour from Bath that included Stonehenge, Avebury, and a number of cute villages in the Cotswolds. I would highly recommend you do something similar if you want to see Stonehenge and are without a car.

And if you decide to visit Stonehenge on the solstice – good luck. There are some crazy people out there

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November 5, 2015 1 comment
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Lisbon, Portugal is a beautiful and vibrant city. It has a laid back, ramshackle charm that is very unique. The locals are incredibly friendly and every where you go you will hear shouts of “obrigado” which means, “thank you.”

But Lisbon really comes alive after dark. Everybody is out walking and shopping, drinking, eating, and having fun. There are the more touristy things to do – go to a fado show or nightclub – or you could be more like the locals and just stroll. The people watching is fantastic.

When I visited Lisbon, I stayed in a cool Airbnb apartment just off the Largo do Carmo, a sweet little square with good restaurants, jacaranda trees, hot guys in uniform, and a ruined nunnery – all the makings of a great setting.

By day this area was full of tourists. But come dusk and it starts to mellow out and the locals come for a drink and to let their children play in the darkening square. I remember being amazed that parents would let such young children be out so late, but things didn’t really seem to kick off until after 9:00 PM. Children would all play together in one big group, skateboarders used the nunnery entrance to show off their skills, and the adults gathered to drink and talk.

Even though I was an outsider, there was a wonderful community feeling, one that just made me happy I was able to sit and observe.

I didn’t spend all my evenings in the Largo do Carmo. I joined in the wandering crowds going in and out of stores in the popular streets and just sat and watched different scenes of nightlife unfold. But passing an evening in the Largo do Carmo is one of the activities I remember most from my trip for its laidback, family-friendly ambiance and warm feeling of inclusion. If you are ever in Lisbon, I highly suggest you give it a try.

November 3, 2015 0 comment
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There was one part of my France trip that I was more excited about than any other – canoeing the Dordogne and visiting the opposing castles. You see, during the 100 Years War, the French and English built castles on opposite shores of the Dordogne River. The castles are usually considered “paired” – one English to one French.

Today, you can visit the castles by land or, more excitingly, by canoe, traveling the Dordogne river. There are many canoe outfitters and tourist companies who will drop you off and pick you up at various stops along the river. You just canoe from one castle to another, hiking up to each one, and paddling on to the next.

I wanted to do this – badly. But remember what I said about all that rain in Spain? Well apparently is had been raining a lot in France too, and the river was far too high and fast to boat. How high, I learned the hard way.

Unable to take the river, I decided to follow my travel guru and personal hero Rick Steves’ advice to walk the river path between Beynac and Castlenaud. The signs submerged in the river should have been a clue. But oh no, I kept going. Water across the path – I took off my shoes and waded it. More water, kept going. Finally I got to a point where a whole field was flooded and the water was moving fast. I waded up to my knees before I realized  – this was not going to work. So I walked across some fields and out to the road and walked to Castlenaud that way. Was I sad about the river – hell, yes. But the way I made the trip makes for a pretty good story and a day I will never forget. Disappointment happens on trips – what matters is your ability to make the most of it.

October 27, 2015 0 comment
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You’ve heard the saying – the rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain. While I can’t speak to that statement, I can speak to my experience, which can only be summed up as – the rain in Spain falls mainly…EVERYWHERE. I mean it. I was in Spain during April and May and it rained for a full 90% of the days I was there. Call it a bad year or maybe I’m the goddess of rain, but the sky opened up pretty much every single day. It even snowed.

Not only was it rainy, it was also unseasonably cold and windy. I had packed for the 80 degree days Spain was seeing prior to my arrival but boy, was I in for a rude awakening. I bought – and the wind promptly destroyed – 3 umbrellas before I just gave up and decided to be wet.

You may wonder where I am going with this. While you could take away from this, “wow, Spain sounds miserable in April and May,” what I am actually trying to say is: expect the unexpected. I hadn’t packed warm clothes or rain gear because I was expecting warmth and sunshine. If you are going on a long trip, plan for all kinds of weather or else you will have to spend your precious travel time either wet, miserable, or buying weather-appropriate clothing.

But most importantly, learn to have a sense of humor. I may be a rain goddess, but I can’t control the weather. And the weather sure tested me, but I WAS IN SPAIN! Who cares if it’s raining, right? Laugh it off and have another sangria. Or 3.

October 18, 2015 0 comment
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