Familiar Faces, Familiar Places

This past month there hasn't been a weekend that I've been home. Instead, I've been taking mini-trips around Europe visiting various friends. From Cork to Swansea, I've been re-covering familiar territory.

First stop on my February trips abroad was Swansea. A friend from London came along with me, so I knew I had to show her a good time. While Swansea itself is fun for a night out on the town (which I highly recommend if you're American- you'll be the talk of the girl's bathroom with your accent at any nightclub or bar on Wine Street), during the day you just have to get out and explore the natural beauty of Wales. My favorite accessible area (note: renting a car is probably a must to explore some of the more remote places in Wales) is Rhossili Bay.

You may remember, I've been before, and not so long ago.

But this time, the weather was much nicer, so we were able to get out and explore much further afield than the first time.

We hiked the mountain closest to the beach so we could see the bay...

...and the town below.

As you can see from my pictures, the weather was ever-changing, so we popped in for lunch and tea at the Bay Bistro

After warming up and getting a bit in the spring mood with the fresh flowers and sunshine on our table, we headed out for a walk along the cliffs. 

Unfortunately, spring is only just trying to come out in Rhossili. The wind was cold and extremely strong, we took refuge on the beach itself, which is huge. Walking along it, we came across the ruins of an ancient Viking ship. We just don't have things this old in the States, do we?

The next weekend I was in Cork to visit one of my lao tong and her husband. It had been about a year since I'd last been to visit them for their wedding, so it was high time I made another trip!

On Saturday we braved the very Irish elements to go to the Gap of Dunloe.

Anyone who knows me well knows how much I love the rain-- but I don't really like rain that blows sideways. It was also quite windy. So, as I always say, if you can't beat 'em, take a funny picture.

After Gap of Dunloe, lao tong's husband took us to Aghadoe Heights Hotel for a mid-day tipple. This happens to be a very special place for my favorite couple, as its where they got engaged. The view is fantastic from the balcony of the bar. I'm coming back for a stay very soon!

Finally, we made a pit-stop at Ross Castle in Killarney before being absolutely rained out.

I am starting to feel quite at ease in these homes away from home. After all, home is where the heart is, or so they say, and what's closer to my heart besides my friends and family?


Stiffkey, Norfolk

Remember the time I drove to Edinburgh?

Yeah, so do most people who were on the road.

I've gotten much better driving on the wrong side of the road since. Or, so I like to think. My travel companion for my latest adventure may beg to differ.

Looking at this parking job, you might, too.

At least I had a really nice ride, right?

Anyway, you're probably wondering where I was going in this sweet ride. I was off exploring rural beachside England, which, on the East coast of the country, anyway, is hard to find through the swamps and marshes that border the beach. 

I stayed tucked away in Stiffkey, which I would never have heard about if it hadn't been for the fact that I was going for a very special birthday celebration. (Not my own, we've some time for that!) 

Stiffkey is more like a hamlet than even a village, but like any self-respecting cluster of more than two homes in England, it has a pub. This particular pub, the Red Lion, is also a B and B, which is where I stayed. Without phone service. For three. Whole. Days. 

It was snowy.

It was windy.

It was glorious.

The weather didn't at first seem like it was going to cooperate. With visions of Copenhagen swirling in my head, I decided to try to take the bad weather on the chin- literally, by catching snowflakes with my tongue. Luckily, the snow didn't last for long, so out for a seaside ramble it was.

To get to the sea from Stiffkey, it's a little...technical. Through fields and country lanes you go. But then....

Very, very wet, very, very slick marshland for about a mile to the actual ocean. Did I mention there are huge ravines gouged out by running water? Beautiful, really beautiful, but I didn't really bring the correct footwear. Still, I think I managed to keep up okay. We even made it to the sandy part!

The next day, I declined to drive the narrow country roads to Wells on the Sea, the nearest "large" village to Stiffkey. So I was driven, like Miss Daisy, to the cutest little English town ever. As I remarked when I first saw it, it's the kind of place my mother would go gaga over.

Just a short- and much more accessible- walk from the town center is the beach, miles and miles of sandy and muddy beach that leads to the Atlantic. It was a cold, windy and clear day, perfect for a long, long beach walk, and some amazing pictures.

I decided that when I grow up, I'm going to summer in one of these little beach huts. Good idea?

Right beside the water is a manmade forest, made to absorb the mushy goodness of the marsh. Not only is it really beautiful, it hides your face from the cold, grabby wind. So couldn't very well give that a miss.

And it was a good thing we didn't, either, because we came across a rope swing that did not disappoint! 

This may or may not have been more scary than the driving in Central London to get to and from Norfolk!


Hej hej from Copenhagen

Leaving home was hard enough when I moved to Denver. And Paris. And London. And New York. And back to London. But the hardest thing is coming home for a long visit only to leave again.

This time, I was wise enough to plan something to look forward to on the other side of a teary goodbye at the airport and a long plane trip.

I left DC at dusk. I just love flying into (or, in this case, away) from the sunset. Not only is it a beautiful view from up high, I get to catch a bit of a nap.

I landed quite early in the morning in Denmark, so I took a quick nap in the aiport before venturing outside into the cold, grey day. It is light only a very few hours in Copenhagen in the dead of winter, it being so northern, so I figured I'd use the shroud of darkness as a good excuse to get a little extra shut eye. Plus, my travel companion hadn't yet arrived on his flight from London.

Once I'd gotten a little sleep, collected my bags and bought an $8 Starbucks latte (Denmark is extremely expensive), I found my travel mate and we made our way to our accommodation. We decided to stay in a flat we found on Airbnb. It was in the trendy neighborhood of Norrebro, just a 20-minute train ride from the airport. It was raining cats and dogs when we got off the train, so we actually wouldn't have minded staying on a bit longer, especially since we had to drag all my luggage through the streets and past the canal.

The weather wasn't too cooperative with us the first day, so we holed up in the apartment and slept off jet lag guilt-free. That doesn't mean we didn't get some really good pictures of the sun breaking through the clouds, or the sunset once we emerged dewey-eyed and ready for dinner.

We took a long walk along the canal to Restaurant Radio, which had glowing reviews as a good but less expensive than usual Danish restaurant. (Don't be fooled. It was still very expensive, but wellllll worth it.) The weather was ridiculously rainy and windy, but there were so many things about Copenhagen to be fascinated about that I didn't really mind. First and foremost, people just leave bikes leaning against buildings unlocked. And there are SO many bikes. A healthy and relatively crime free place!? No wonder everyone loves Denmark. 

Once we arrived at the restaurant, I learned that there's even more to love. Danish food (paired with organic Spanish wine) is amazing.

Hiding from the cold, we treated ourselves to a starter of seafood, a veggie main and an amazing grain-based dessert (pictured below)- as you can tell, I quite enjoyed it!

After more sleep (can't believe how much I slept, I'm getting old!), we woke to a sunny Saturday in Copenhagen, which can only mean one thing- touristing!

First things being first and all, we had to get more acquainted with Norrebro. We walked along the canal and wandered the streets a bit.

Note how obsessed both of us were with taking a ton of pictures.

Feeling a bit more adventurous, we crossed over the bridge toward central Copenhagen. First stop, the Rundetarn, and old astronomical observatory that now offers the best views of the city. The weather was slightly cantankerous, but we still managed to have a lot of fun on the loooong walk up and get a good view at the top.

 After the Rundetarn, we walked around the streets of Copenhagen. What struck me was how clean and orderly everything is in the city. As I mentioned before, crime doesn't seem to be very much on the minds of the populace. What does seem to be on the mind, though, is hipster fashion. SO many tight jeans and bright sneakers. Everyone also had very nice- and utilitarian- coats.

All the food looked amazing, too.

Another interesting thing is how new everything looks, especially compared to other European cities. I can't tell if they're just better maintained, or if there's a lot of new building in the city- or if its a relatively new city. 

We made a big circle, going by Christianborg Palace, Nyhavn and the King's Garden.

And we got back just in time to see a stunning sunset over the canal.

All that walking worked up my appetite- so my travel companion whipped up a traditional Danish treat, mackrel and scrambled egg on rye. And, of course, some good (very strong) Danish beer.

It was a great ending to a very active day.

We had to leave very early the next morning to go back to London, but I'll be back soon (perhaps in warmer, sunnier weather) to explore more of the city.