… to Paris!

4:45am came way too early. We woke up, packed our bags, and got on our first bus to Dover, England at 6am sharp. We had a boxed breakfast on the bus and it was either really good or I was early hungry. The bus ride was about 2 hours long and I slept on and off the whole time so it went by pretty quickly. We drove through the hilly countryside and even though it was overcast, it was still very beautiful. There were several beautiful farms and vineyards (I think they were vineyards) along the way. Everything was very lush and green.

We arrived in Dover about 8am and while we waited to board our ferry, we went to the little gift shop and cafe outside. It was freezing outside so no one really wanted to be out there for more than a few minutes anyways. They unfortunately did not have any Dover keychains but Victoria bought some blankets and hot chocolate for us!

Dover is not only a ferry port; it’s also known for its white cliffs… appropriately named the “White Cliffs of Dover.” They were gorgeous but with the weather being what it was, they were a little difficult to see. We got some decent views from onboard the ferry but again, we mostly stayed inside even then because it was so cold.

The ferry ride was about an hour and a half long, landing in Calais, France. We played cards with Greg and Abby (we taught them Rummy!) for a bit. Victoria started feeling really sea sick so she went to the ferry shop and bought sea sick wrist bands to try and help. Greg, Abby, and I played a card game called “Idiot” until we docked. I hadn’t played the game in forever and had forgotten how fun it was.

We docked in Calais at 12pm (11am England time… we hit another time change) and boarded our official tour bus that we’re using for the rest of our trip (well, until Greece) and met our driver. I fell asleep on the bus and woke up at the first pit stop for bathroom breaks. We tried to watch Eurotrip on the bus but Marlene (our tour director) couldn’t get it to play in English so we started Madagascar 3 and I fell back asleep under the warmth of my new blanket! We stopped for lunch around 2:30pm in Asheville, France at a popular rest stop called Sanef: think a smaller version of Buccee’s. It had several fast food restaurants, bathrooms, a gift shop/convenient store, and large seating areas to just relax. Victoria and I weren’t hungry so we didn’t get anything but the food everyone else got looked pretty good.

The big new thing was that it was the first time (and certainly not the last) on this trip where we couldn’t read or understand any of the signs or people. Some things were also written in English but for the large part, it was foreign. It’s definitely a weird feeling to not feel like you can communicate with the people around you! I’m thankful for my Google Translate app and am hopeful that it will help minimize the language gap a little bit.

Anyways, we boarded the bus again around 3pm and took off to Paris! We arrived to our hotel, the Campanile, at 5pm. It was the smallest hotel room I’ve ever seen but also so cute. Of the two hotels we’ve been at, both haven’t given us washcloths and both have had showers/bath tubs that are unreasonably high to step into. It must be a Europe thing?

At 6:30pm we took the bus to our formal dinner. It was freezing and still rainy but everyone still dressed up… we were committed. The bus took us all through Paris, giving us our first glances of the Eiffel tower, arc de triumph, Champs Elysées, and many other areas. It was really exciting to see the Eiffel tower for the first time and I’m looking to actually getting to see it and take pictures tomorrow! Our bus driver successfully navigated the craziest roundabout I’ve ever seen before we parked at dinner down the street at Chez Clément.

We enjoyed a delicious 3 course meal and a few glasses of wine! Everyone was so overwhelming full afterwards.

After dinner we headed to the Seine River for our boat cruise. We got to see so many amazing things on the river; I wouldn’t even be able to list all of them (I took a ridiculous amount of photos). The big things were obviously the Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower, which was so gorgeous lit up! A lot of people stayed inside the boat because of the weather but Justin and I stood outside at the back and made it work: no amount of poor weather was going to keep us from seeing everything! My shoes and dress were soaking wet (and why is my scarf ALWAYS messed up?) but I would say it was worth it!

Tomorrow we have a planned bus tour of several of the popular sites followed by some free time in the afternoon. We’re excited to try the typical French food like croissants, French fries, and French toast… all of which apparently did NOT originate in France (Austria, Belgium, and Belgium respectively, in case you’re curious). In the evening, we have our first “excursion” – about 7 or 8 of us are going to see the Moulin Rouge. That should be very interesting and different but since we’re here, we might as well go! When in France.

After the amount of walking we did yesterday it was nice to have a relaxing travel day today, even though it was a late night. I still have yet to have a good night’s sleep but the naps are helping and I’m feeling good!

Looking forward to tomorrow!


… to London (day 2)

Our second day in London was just as amazing as the first, if not more. We saw so many things and walked over 16 miles!

The day started with breakfast at the hotel. They had a full buffet of eggs, pancakes, Chinese food (???), and a large assortment of pastries and other goodies. We were not expecting a feast for breakfast so not only was it a nice surprise, it was a nice way to kick off the day.

We were then introduced to our tour guide, Simon. He guided us through a walking tour to many of the big attractions. He talked fast, walked fast, and moved fast but we had a lot to do in a short amount of time so it was fine by us. We had to wear headsets to hear him so we definitely looked like awful tourists (my giant camera doesn’t help) but at least we all were tourists together!


The tour started at Kensington Gardens. We had gone through there yesterday but he took us through some areas we hadn’t seen yet. I still did not get to see the Peter Pan statue! The weather was a little chilly and overcast but made for a great walking experience because we stayed cool.

We went to Hyde Park next and saw the Princess Diana Memorial and took a short break. The memorial was great and the park was beautiful. There were so many different areas of it with some amazing flowers, ponds, and statues. learned about Speakers’ Corner where people gather on Sunday morning to say whatever they want. It originated because back in the day, it was an execution site and before they executed someone, that person got to say whatever they wanted to say. Apparently the term “one for the road” originated there too because people would get drunk the night before their execution and literally take one for their walk over. Morbid, but the more you know!

We walked through the rest of the park, through the Wellington Arch, and up Constitutional Hill on our way to Buckingham Palace.

Buckingham was CRAZY. They were having an event called ‘Vitality’ which is a series of races (think 5Ks, marathons, etc.) so not only were all of the tourists there, all of the racers and event items were there. Several parts of the roads were blocked off but we still got to see a lot. Because of the event though, there was no changing of the guards so we did not get to see that. We actually didn’t get to see the guards at all because the gate was crowed to probably 15 people deep!


We headed up ‘The Mall’, passing the Clarence House (the official residence of Charles and Camilla), cutting through Green park, through Westminster on our way to Westminster Abbey. Westminster and Westminster Abbey were amazing. The buildings and greenery (and weather) were all so beautiful. By this point, everyone was getting pretty exhausted so we took another short break and managed to squeeze in our first group picture.

Big Ben was up next! Again, another very crowded spot so we took pictures mostly from a distance. It was a beautiful building! We also HAD to get the stereotypical red phone booth pictures. Duh.

The tour’s last stop was a train ride over to the Tower of London and the Tower Bridge. We just took a few pictures before ending the tour with Simon.

By this point, it was lunch time and we had the rest of the afternoon/evening to ourselves. We joined up with two of our friends from the night before, Greg and Justin (it is worth noting that like us, they like to keep moving and not waste time deciding what to do next), and took off down the River Thames toward the Borough’s Market. They came to London a few days in advance and had already seen a lot of the sites and were more familiar with getting around so it was nice to have them somewhat guiding the way. It turned out Borough’s Market is closed on Sundays but there were still a few places open so we had lunch at Whiskey Ginger and it was delicious.

We walked back up the river, crossing the London Bridge, and took the Tower of London tour. I wasn’t sure it would be much of anything but it was actually great (thanks Jessica for the recommendation). We had a short tour from a Yeomen Warder and he was quite the hoot. He definitely did not hold back with the cultural jokes and it was hilarious. We then toured the rest of it by ourselves and visited every tower there. It was a very impressive place!

We really wanted to go on the London Eye so we headed there next. When we got there, the line was incredibly long. We asked someone at the front how long they had been waiting and they said over 45 minutes… and they weren’t actually close to getting ON the ride yet… so that, combined with the cost, gave us a good reason to skip it. I know it would have been awesome but because we skipped it we were able to go see so much more. We also got some extra pictures in front of Big Ben, so that was another bonus.

We crossed back over Westminster Bridge toward St. James’s Park (yes, they have it on the map as S apostrophe S… those Brits) to the Churchill War Room. Everything closes by 6pm on Sundays so we just got to walk by it but it was still cool. We walked down House Guards Road and Downey Street and got to see several of the government buildings and the Prime Minister’s official residence. We continued up Whitehall road (which I LOVED!) and ended up Trafalgar Square to the National Gallery. Again, we did not have time to go in as seeing everything in that museum would have taken hours. Plus, the guys had already visited it! From the outside, it puts the Houston museums to shame so I can only imagine the inside.

The last big stop on our list was Piccadilly Circus. It reminded me of Times Square in New York. It was busy, touristy, and just all-around crazy. We got our typical tourist gifts (re: my keychain) and took a ridiculous picture with a man in a UK-flag covered suit.

By this point we were starving, thirsty, and exhausted. We had walked so much and it was already 7pm. We took the train over to South Kensington because the guys recommended an amazing cookie place but, to no surprise, it was closed! We grabbed dinner at Comptoir Libanis, a Lebanese canteen. None of them had tried Lebanese food before but we all really enjoyed our meal. We were so thirsty and asking for refills that the waiter finally just brought us a pitcher (smart man). We asked to split the check though, which apparently is not a thing they do in Europe, and I don’t think he liked us after that.

We had seen SO many waffle and ice cream shops on our walk that we decided after dinner that we had to try them. Just around the corner was a place called Wafflemeister and it was delicious. I had a waffle topped with chocolate gelato and dark chocolate syrup and oh my gosh it was AWESOME. I get the craze now. We were freezing and tired but we stood there and ate the heck out of those things!

It was a great way to end the day! Tomorrow we depart for Dover, England at 6am via bus, take a ferry across the English Channel to Calais, France, and then travel by bus again to Paris! It is going to be a long travel day but hopefully we can get some rest on the bus. Plus, after the amount of walking we did today, it’ll be nice to just relax for a day!

Until then,


… to London

It was quite the adventure getting here but we made it! Our plane was delayed about an hour and a half due to weather and we had some seriously terrifying turbulence for the first 15 minutes or so but it eventually all smoothed out and we had a great flight. Victoria slept probably 4 hours and I slept about 2… not great. We had sleep aids but it was just not in the cards for us. I watched 3 movies: “Burnt” which was good, “Brooklyn” which was great, and “Room” which was amazing. I started “The Intern” but we landed when it was about halfway through (it was just okay). The plane was freezing but they gave us blankets and pillows so that helped a lot.


Our plane dinner was… dinner. We both got the chicken and it wasn’t half bad. We weren’t sure if the side was potatoes or grits though and that’s never a good sign.

We also got a decent breakfast right before landing.

As we landed, the pilot informed us that the local temperature was 44 degrees… Fahrenheit. WHAT? Neither of us were prepared but by the time we got outside, it had warmed up quite a bit. Here we are looking ROUGH after the long flight.

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We made it through customs pretty quickly and picked up our bags (both made it!) and headed toward the hotel.

We took the Heathrow Express over to Paddington where we struggled a little bit to change trains but eventually got it sorted out. Google maps was pretty helpful but we had to cave and use the information desk, something we should have just done right away.

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The subway there was insanely busy but we were clearly not the only tourists pulling around large luggage. Getting my suitcase through some of the terminal gates was a disaster because of how wide it is but I managed. I was taught never to pack more than you can carry so the weight of it was no issue when I had to carry it up and down flights of stairs. Anyways, we transferred lines and finally got off at High Kensington Street. As we exited, a guy approached me and grabbed my bag and offered to carry it upstairs for me. I politely declined and he, while still holding my bag, insisted. I declined a little more firmly and he let go and ran off. Did someone try and steal my suitcase?! That would have been an awful way to start the trip!

The train station was pretty close to our hotel so we walked over, checked in our bags (our room wasn’t ready yet), and went to grab a quick lunch.

We were both hungry and exhausted so we ate one of the first things we saw: fast food Chinese at a placed called Wasabi. Our best move? Probably not.

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Our room was finally ready so we checked in around 1pm. By then, we were both SO spent. Victoria showered and I took a short nap before we forced ourselves to go stay active to keep us awake. First on our list: Kensington Palace.

It was about a 15-minute walk from our hotel which was actually great because the weather was AMAZING. It was seriously perfect. We walked around most of the garden and toured the palace for a couple of hours. I was determined to find the Peter Pan statue but we ran out of time before I could. Hopefully we can go back tomorrow and I can look again!

The garden was so beautiful and there were so many little trails and paths to go down, with new scenery at every turn. I was surprised at the number of people just lounging around but even more surprised at the number of dogs running around off their leashes! They sure were cute though and it made me miss Elliott of course.

We had to meet the tour group at 6pm so we headed back to the hotel, freshened up, and then went to the lobby. Our group is about 25 people, most from Illinois (University of Illinois) and Texas (University of Texas… ahem). There were a few other stragglers like us but most everyone is fresh out of college which means Victoria is the youngest and I am the oldest. How. Fun. For. Us. In reality, it wasn’t all that bad and we both enjoyed talking to everyone. After introductions, we went to the Goat Tavern to try traditional Fish and Chips and had a great time. It was delicious!

The group started to disband slightly after dinner, some going back to the hotel, some going to party on their own, and others heading out to another Pub called Greyhound. We went to Greyhound with our new t.u. friends and I tried popular English drink: Pimm’s. I don’t know what was in it and this computer is too slow to look it up but it was pretty good. Clearly, because I drank it all.

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We’ve had SUCH a long day and I have no idea how long we’ve been awake at this point but it was seriously the best day. London has been great so far and I am so excited for tomorrow because we’ll be seeing so much more of it!



PS. I apologize for any spelling, grammar, or formatting mistakes. It is late and I am tired! Shout out to my brother-in-law for letting me borrow an old laptop so I can store and post pictures for everyone!


… to the Airport!

Alright folks, here we go!

This was quite the week. I wrapped up/handed off everything at work and crossed everything off of my to-do list, slowly but surely. I also enjoyed some delicious and fun ‘bon voyage’ dinners with my family. I love spending time with my family and will definitely miss them while I am gone, especially my sweet nieces. Do not even get me started on how much I will miss Elliott.

Mom and Robert treated me to Churrascos on Tuesday night. Thank you both for a fabulous meal!


Thursday was also my last day in the office. It was so weird to have no emails and it will be even more weird to not be there every day!

Thursday night, Dad and Suzette hosted a potluck BBQ get together at their house with Jessica/Justin/the girls, Alex, Kelsey, and my grandparents. My grandparents also got me a St. Christopher (the patron saint of travel) charm!





After dinner I headed back home but not before a quick pit stop at a nearby bar to say goodbye to some friends!

That brings us to today: departure day! Amber dropped Victoria off at my apartment this morning and said final goodbyes. We then headed to my Dad’s house to drop off Elliott and be on our way. I got a little emotional leaving Elliott… no surprise there. He let me snuggle him this morning but I think he was trying to hold me hostage by sleeping on my jeans…


After a quick stop at Chick Fil A we headed to the airport where we stood in line for 55 minutes just to drop our bag off. It was a little ridiculous but I had checked in and reserved our seats yesterday so I wasn’t worried. I was more worried about not getting to the terminal in time but we made it work. Shout out to my dad for driving us and waiting in line with us.



Security was much quicker so we had plenty of time to get snacks for the plane. Victoria and I are both so excited and ready to get going! It’s raining so fingers crossed we have no delays and everything goes smoothly.


We land around 7am in London and have a full day planned before we meet up with the tour group that evening!

Thank you to our family and friends for all being so supportive and excited for us!

Bon voyage!


… to Europe!

Apparently, I blog now.

In a few days, Victoria and I will be headed to Europe for 24 days! I have been wanting to go on a trip like this for several years now and I am so excited that it is finally happening. My to-do list is longer than a CVS receipt but I know it will all come together and be the trip of a lifetime.

The tentative agenda for this week is to clean, finish laundry, pack, have family goodbye dinners, get in extra snuggles with my sweet Elliott (that’s my dog, for you new readers), and finish 100 other little tasks… all of which have to happen between the hours of 4pm-midnight because I somehow have managed to not get fired from my full-time job for taking a month off of work (a million ‘thank yous’ to my awesome bosses and co-workers for putting up with this). Here’s hoping I get everything finished before Friday and that this week stays as stress-free as possible.

A few years ago my brother had brain surgery and we learned very quickly that it was beyond exhausting to repeat the same story to every person we ran into. To remedy that, we started a Facebook page and casually coerced every person we know to “like” it to stay updated about his progress. It turned out to be the best idea of all time* so I decided to take the same approach with this trip and just blog as-I-go. Plus, I respect your Facebook walls and Instagram feeds and do not want to spam you with trip updates (but let’s be honest… I will obviously still post some things there).

My brother’s Facebook page now serves as a mini diary of events we can look back on and I think this will be a great way to diary this trip. I’ve had carpal tunnel AND cubital tunnel surgery so writing the old-fashioned pen and paper way is not my most favorite and definitely not the most comfortable. I’m 27 and can type like nobody’s business (just ask my freshman year roommate who always complained about my “loud” typing) so let’s give this thing a try.

I’ll update as often as I can without interfering with the activities we have planned. Check back later!


*okay, not of ALL TIME. Cooler, more important ideas have occurred. 

I knew about the trip for months but Victoria’s parents and I kept it a secret from her. We made this board for her to unwrap as her graduation gift, revealing the trip’s details.