Author Archives: Ashley

2017 year in review

I began blogging regularly in this space in 2009, but 2017 was definitely the year that I wrote the least here. This was due to a lot of things, but generally just dealing with the emotional fallout of a year that included Brexit and Trump’s election meant that writing about my life just seemed completely uninteresting to me like….98% of the time. However, I do love a review, and in the hopes of having a fruitful and satisfying and protest-y 2018, I wanted to take the time to do my annual reflections, travel-wise!

January – This was the month we headed back to the States for the wedding of one of my best friends in the world. I did a reading and didn’t weep my way through it! And I saw lots of my other favourites too! Sadly, there was no snow. And we flew out as Trump’s inauguration was in full swing….blech.

ohio short north mural

Also, we came home in time for some fantastic protesting.

resist

February –

We went to Kew Gardens for the first time (it’s so lovely!) And also please look at how Jon’s beard looked on his birthday. Wow. Love it.

kew gardens orchid exhibition london

March – Another quiet month, all the way up until we got into a car accident, which really put a damper on the next oh….six months or so.

shoreham river adur

April – Tattoos and ramen and our second wedding of the year! Most importantly, I met a baby owl.

bone daddies soho

May – Jon and I explored Cissbury Ring for the first time and saw wild ponies, among other more adorable creatures. And we also spent some time rambling on the Seven Sisters and Birling Gap.

June – pubs and bikes and actual glorious weather IN ENGLAND, how crazy is that?! Lindfield’s Village Day was a big hit, as usual, and we spent a lot of time in the sun, even swimming in the sea a few times. Then of course things took a turn and it was freezing cold when we went for a film screening at Lewes Castle at the end of the month. Still stunning though.

July – My lady love and her boyfriend came to stay with us for a few days before we all headed to Paris together!

August – Another wedding, and a fancy one at that, on one of the hottest days of the year! Plus a few family bbqs to make the most of the sunny days.

September – Lots of great music in September. We went up to London to see Sigur Ros with friends (then had afternoon tea the next day), and then saw Lorde in Brighton. Unfortunately, this is when Bruce also started to get sick as well, starting a horrible rollercoaster of events surrounding whether or not he would live or die. In the interim, there were more nature walks, when he could handle it.

October – October sucked. Bruce had a very serious surgery and there was a very strong chance he was going to die, and the recovery from the surgery was really really stressful. But he did pull through! I had a birthday which, considering the circumstances, was fine. And Jon was gone for a lot of the month, in the States on a business trip.

November – My dad was here! He made his first visit abroad; got a passport and everything. We went to Cornwall, we went to London, we went everywhere. It was delightful. Then my friend Joe came for a quick visit around Thanksgiving. Also I got bangs. What a month!

December – The year wound down with lots of parties and lots of work, and then a huge surprise from Jon when he whisked us away to New York City to spend Christmas Day there with my mom. I was completely shocked, obviously. Then back home for a quiet New Year’s Eve.

And that’s that! Here’s to more exploration in 2018 – I didn’t see nearly enough of the world this year. And here’s hoping the world is a little less miserable than it has been, too. We can always hope.

2016 Review

2015 Review

2014 Review

A 72 hour Christmas Surprise in New York City

 

This year I had plans for a very chill Christmas break. Jon and I had both been working a lot and I was looking forward to ten full days of sleeping late, reading books, playing video games and taking country walks (and eating cheese…..lots of cheese). However, Jon had different plans, and on Saturday morning – the very start of our little break – he had me sit down and open a gift from him. The gift? Tickets to the Christmas Eve showing of the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall. We’ll skip the part where I froze and also asked if the Rockettes were coming to London, and skip right to the part where we flew to New York City, business class like some feudal lords or something. Can you believe it?! This guy. Look at that sneaky face.

Give me all your wine and all of your veggie delights, British Airways. Also your slidey-out chairs that turn into beds! 

But the surprises didn’t stop there! We landed in New York City and under the guise of waiting for a taxi, Jon managed to shock me again  – turns out he’d brought my mom to New York City too! I’d been worried she would be spending the holiday alone after ending a long relationship mid-year, but there she was, ready and rarin’ for her first visit to the Big Apple. It was nearly ten pm by the time we got to our hotel in Midtown, but we were all so excited that we dropped off our things and headed back out for a little wander down to Rockefeller Center. We even managed to time it perfectly and catch the gorgeous Christmas lighting special nearby. A great intro to the holiday season in NYC if ever there was one.

We were in town from the 23rd-26th, so it was all a whirlwind. There was lots of walking, lots of eating, and lots of drinking. 

A little Central Park walkabout. 

We spent some time at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Christmas Eve day. I can’t stop thinking about the Japanese art exhibition – this deer is actually a taxidermy specimen, then covered in glass bulbs of varying sizes. 

My mom had never been to any museum before, so it was really fun walking around with her – upon seeing her first real Picasso, she freaked out a little bit and it was very cute. Modern art she didn’t enjoy so much, unsurprisingly. We’ll get there!

Christmas Eve itself we walked down to Radio City Music Hall and took in the Rockettes’ Christmas Spectacular – essentially Jon planned the New York City trip that I’d dreamed about as a 12 year old girl. Those kicks! There was a section where all the dancers were dressed as Santa and it looked like there were hundreds of Santas everywhere. Both creepy and charming.

Then we headed to Dos Caminos for a traditional Christmas Eve meal of Mexican food and margaritas. Hooray! 

Christmas Day came, and we again did a lot of walking – even went to Times Square for my mom’s sake. A Blade Runner-esque dystopian nightmare, but still, so bright and shiny! 

Then we made our way to brunch at the stunning Fine & Rare. We split a delicious cheeseboard and munched on that while drinking cocktails and enjoying the jazz band that was playing. I could have stayed here all day.

However Jon had other plans, and eventually we got a cab to Hell’s Kitchen to make our reservation at PRINT, where we ate and drank until late in the evening before taking in the views of the Manhattan skyline at night from their rooftop lounge upstairs. My mouth is watering thinking about it. (The food, not the views)

Our last day in New York was the coldest yet – I haven’t actually experienced weather below freezing in maybe….5 years? So it was intense. We headed down to Battery Park and the 9/11 Memorial and then had breakfast inside the Oculus, which is a super creepy underground mall kind of thing that looks like a rack of ribs poking out of the ground. 

Then my mom was off, back to Ohio. She drives me crazy, and we almost murdered each other several times, but I love her and it was really lovely having the opportunity to see the city with her this way. (See below for my crazy eyes). 

With my mom gone and 9 hours left until our flight, Jon and I continued our explorations, stopping off at a great Korean restaurant for lunch, hitting up the library, and then making the executive decision to see the new Star Wars movie in Imax at a theatre in the Garment District.

Our flight was at 10pm that night and we got back home around 10 in the morning Wednesday. I slept nearly the whole way home, barely making it through the dinner service on the plane before zonking out. I don’t think we’ll be spending a Christmas like this again any time soon. (JON THAT IS NOT A CHALLENGE)

Now for a New Year’s Eve as quiet as I thought Christmas would be….and yes, there will be lots of cheese.

To read about a more summery NYC visit – go here!

Fighting autumnal nostalgia with American candy from Kingdom of Sweets

I think I’ve been away from the States long enough that very few things make me homesick anymore –  leagues less than the numerous things that did in the past, anyway. However, everything that does make me homesick happens right around this time of year. Autumn comes and I miss the riotous change of leaves in Ohio, the buzzing fun of Halloween, followed by the gorging and relaxing and extra long weekend that comes with Thanksgiving in November.

And of course there’s loads of American stuff I can’t get here, even if I want it. Nothing that it’s impossible to live without (I stock up on Annie’s Mac and Cheese on every visit Stateside, and eat my weight in vegetarian corn dogs, for an example of my frivolous tastes). And some of the things that can be found in the UK are wildly different in taste and flavor than their American counterparts, due to rules and regulations about those tasty tasty additives that American companies are so fond of! Compare British Doritos and American Doritos if you don’t believe me. It’s a THING.

With all that said, I was pleased as punch when Kingdom of Sweets got in touch with me to ask if it would be okay if they sent me a box of American sweets to help me feel a little less homesick this season. I said yes, with gusto, because mama didn’t raise no fool.

My box arrived last week and it was full of stuff I hadn’t seen in ages! Cookie dough bites (these were my childhood treat at the movie theater, and if my mom was feeling extra generous I’d get them with Sour Patch Kids and popcorn because I love to eat). I didn’t even know they still made them!

Nerds, Warheads, Gobstoppers, dum dums, a Butterfinger – I am currently up to my eyeballs in sweet treats and sugary goodness, and I am looking forward to tucking in!  If I am able, maybe I’ll save a bunch of it for Halloween eve and pretend I’ve just gone to a rockin’ costume party and/or gone trick or treating. But that’s several weeks away so let’s not kid ourselves. If you’re also a moderately homesick American – do yourself a solid and get some candy coming your way to combat the mountains of Mister Kiplings and Cadburys going around this time of year 😉

Camping with dogs in Kent at Badgells Wood

MOAR CAMPING! If you recall, last time we went to Fox Wood in Sussex for a very rainy weekend of camping fun. 

(Camping fashion by me, so fabulous)

This time we went with friends a bit further afield, an hour or so away, to Kent. Friends with dogs, specifically. Bruce, our dog, hates Dotty, which is very unfortunate, because look at how sweet she is! She also gets cold easily, poor sweet angel.

However we still had lots of fun despite grumpy pups, cooking all sorts of delights and taking some long walks. And the weather was much better this time around!

The walks we took may or may not have ended at a pub. They always have to end at the pub! Them’s the rules.

The dogs got along best when we took them off lead. Or, by “them” I mean Bruce because Dotty was good all the time, and Bruce decided that she wasn’t someone to worry about ONLY WHEN they were both running around, free from all tethering. Weird, but fine, and perfect for long walks in the forest and through the fields of Kent.

This was also my first go round on the North Downs – as denizens of the South Downs, I feel a certain amount of loyalty to our own land, but the North Downs are beautiful too – a lot more trees/woodland than down in the south. 

Busting out the hammock again! Bruce was…uncertain.

In fact our campsite was in a woodland, which meant it was quite chilly and dark. It was beautiful though, and I hope that next year we make it back again – maybe on a warmer weekend so we won’t be so cold the whole time, but hey, that’s the outdoors. 

Badgell’s Wood – two thumbs up from us!

Adventures in Sussex: Camping at Fox Wood

camping at Fox Wood sussex patching

Over the past year or so I’ve been drawn to the outdoors more than ever, feeling a yearning for the quiet of trees and rain soaked grass and a chance to turn off everything else.

A month or two ago I took advantage of a big sale at Halford’s and stocked up on cut price camping goods – this had been the main thing keeping Jon and I from heading out into the woods. We didn’t have anything! No tent, sleeping bag, cooker…nothing. Hooray for sales. I stocked up and did some research to find a good campground near-ish to us. 

The camping thing in the UK is different than the US version – far fewer rules around fire, far more rules around messing with the local flora! I was looking for a place that was dog friendly, that didn’t have too many families/kids, and that was close enough to our town that if things went downhill, we could drive home in the middle of the night with our tails between our legs. A test camp. 

We ended up at Fox Wood Campground and we loved it. The grounds were beautiful, there was a good mix of families and dogs and everyone else (us, hello, childless adults), and it was generally pretty quiet. I’m a grump, so really, that’s all I want. But seriously. Turn off ur dang electronic music old people, we know you have been day drinking all day and now your kids have decided to go to bed so you’re getting turnt, but I’m trying to sleep over here!

The best part of camping is food, and fire. Specifically combined. I made my famous chilli cheese fries, and introduced Jon to campfire smores. It also rained a lot, I’m not going to lie, so most of our weekend was spent trying to either make a fire, or keep the fire going. There was a LOT of time spent hiding in the tent while it rained heavily, reading and playing the ukulele and just laying around, listening to the rain batter the tent. 

Bruce had a good time too, although I must say that sleeping in a tent with a wet dog is not my absolute favorite thing…by any stretch. However, he was really well behaved and pottered around the campsite, growling at any other dogs that got too close. I think he liked it, in the end. 

I’m glad we’ve broken our seal on camping – and I’m hoping that next year we make it for a lot more weekends, probably starting in the spring. I’m even down for some winter camping, if we can find a place to do it. It’s England after all, it just doesn’t get all that cold in the south! 

Where do you go camping in the South East? Have you got any suggestions for me? Dog friendly please!

Paris is always a good idea (or, how to spend a week in the Marais)

For anyone who has read this little travel diary over the past 8 years or so, it’s no surprise that I love Paris – from my first visits while a dumb little baby student living in Dijon, the summer of 2005, up to now, it’s continued to be one of my favorite cities in the world. (And you can read about a few of those trips here and here and here if you want to. But like…no pressure, I get it).

paris 2017 travel blog

And this summer was no different! I was once again taking the ever-impressive EuroStar to Gare du Nord, but this time Jon and I were going to meet up with my friend Lindsey and her boyfriend. We’ve all been to the city before, and that meant we had a lot of flexibility in our trip – time to revisit favorite places, try some new things, and just travel slowly. No rush. No pressure. 

The weather for the week we were there was pretty spectacular. Thank goodness! I’m always happy to get some real heat on my skin – these damp English summers don’t really do it for me. It was hot for the first several days, followed by a big rainstorm on the second to last day/night (we even got separated from our friends for awhile because the intense rain meant we couldn’t make the run for it from the restaurant we were eating at to the bar we were all meeting at! Jon and I ended up getting a taxi to take us a full two blocks and we still arrived soaking wet just from sprinting to the cab and out again).

Of course a lot of cheese and bread was consumed, and wine was drank. How could we not?

A new experience for this trip was booking in a tour of the Palais Garnier, the stunning opera house in the center of Paris. The tour was okay – our tour guide went off on a lot of tangents and didn’t explain as much about the architecture as I would have liked – but it was still amazing, and just being inside was wonderful. Next life goal – actually go to see a performance here! (And if you want to tour the building, I’d suggest going in for the self-guided tour with audio guide).

The four of us spent a humid Sunday morning wandering around Pere-Lechaise Cemetary, checking out all the tombstones of residents both famous and not.

And Jon and I had some of the best cheese and wine of our lives when we spent an evening doing a tasting at Les Petits Crus, a little restaurant just a few blocks away from our hotel in the Marais. 

Another new thing on the list was a tour of Victor Hugo’s former home in Place des Vosges. It’s free, so for that alone I’d recommend popping in! The rooms are renovated/recreated in the way that they were when he was living there, and it was a really interesting way to spend an hour or so.

Besides those few new experiences, we spent most of our trip wandering, specifically around the Marais. This is half laziness and half just wanting a chill holiday! Plus, the Marais is a really wonderful neighborhood, with lots of interesting nooks and cranies to keep it exciting. 

Of course we also did two things that are essentials as far as I’m concerned – a trip to the Musee d’Orsay (because I love it and it’s the best) and a sunset picnic on the banks of the Seine, specifically near the Ile de la Cite, where Notre Dame is. Gorgeous. It seemed that all of Paris was out there on this specific Friday night. No surprise! 

Let’s see, what am I forgetting – we fit in some fantastic vintage shopping (if that’s your bag, check out FreeP’Star and Kilo Shop Kawaii, which has two locations), a visit to the L’Orangerie museum, which houses eight huge Monet paintings, and mostly just got to enjoy the privilege of being in Paris for a beautiful week in July. Dreamy! 

On our last day in Paris, Jon and I were left to our own devices as our friends had already left for their flight back to the States. We checked in our backpacks at the Gare du Nord luggage lockers, then walked north to Montmartre. It ended up being a jam-packed afternoon, as during our walk around the formerly bohemian paradise we saw a guy filming a video for his rap song, and an entire film crew doing a scene for what looked like a period drama. This alongside the regular hustle and bustle of the area made it a little more exciting than usual. 

Eventually though, our feet were tired. We made the 20 minute walk back to the station, camped out at the bistro across the street with two very large (possibly too large, if I’m being honest) glasses of red wine, and people watched until it was time to go through security and get our evening train back to a very wet and miserable England. It had to happen that way, of course, just to make sure we truly appreciated our time away. 

Good thing we did. (And if you’re looking for a lovely hotel in the Marais, I’d highly recommend the Bastille de Launay. It was perfect in every way).