I'm a 37-year old Seattle girl who was bitten by the travel bug on my first tour of Europe in 2004. This personal blog follows my attempts to visit as many countries as I can, as often as my budget will allow. Since starting this blog in 2007, I've also worked as a freelance copywriter for an online travel publication. This only served to add even more must-see locations to my already extended list.
Follow me as I try to balance "real life" with exploring the world, all while trying to conquer a wickedly ironic case of homesickness.



Many people miss Big Ben and the British Museum after their visits to London. But do you ever wonder what little things an Anglophiliac Yank misses about London when she closes her eyes?

The soft clunking of hundreds of feet climbing the stairs out of the Tube.

The way all the city noise simply disappears the moment you step into the park or down a quiet side street.

The creak of old water pipes inside old walls.

Mature onion and aged cheddar crisps.

The compulsion to whisper inside older buildings, like you’d be disturbing the edifice itself to speak any louder.

Pushing the light switch down to turn the light on and up to turn it off again.

The soft beep of the Oyster Card reader followed by the forceful clunk of the turnstile doors.

The eery silence of a nearly empty Tube platform.

“Fuh heah or takeaway?”

The coo of four million pigeons.

Taking the lift to the first floor.

Clouds in a thousand different grays moving with haste along the sky, as if they’re late to something.

"Look Right"

A solid line of red buses, nearly touching nose to bum.

The milky green-brown of the Thames churning and chopping its way down the river.

A building façade elegantly encrusted in hundreds of years of dirt and grime, lending a sense of something bigger than yourself.

Carefully avoiding puddles gently cradled in uneven cobblestone and brick alleyways, quietly reflecting the sky above.

Odd, small, square door handles that inevitably confuse every American.

“Next on BBC One...”

Red light. Red and yellow light. Green light. Cars pour into the roundabout like water.

Befuddlement at travel agencies that sell packages to Athens, Dubai, Moscow and Capetown as weekend destinations.

Topping up your mobile so you can ring your mate.

Four Bella Italias in a single block.

Half-gallons of milk.

Curiously inquiring what it is about a certain street performer that has caused his crowd to be four times bigger than the others.

The gradual increase and decrease in the volume of a busker as you pass him in an underground Tube walkway.

Emptying your wallet of coins and carefully counting them, determined that this time you won’t just give up and break yet another 20 pound note.

Yanking the handle of a bathroom light dangling on the end of the cord.

The squeak of the brakes on buses you can’t even see.

Catching yourself on a brightly painted rail as the Tube lurches forward.

The rhythmic chu-chunk of the Tube train on the tracks.

Simultaneously feeling a breeze and the sun on your face as you walk through the park.

Peeling off the round sticker on the back of a Pret sandwich.

Riding a crowded Tube escalator, holding on with your right hand, digging for your Oyster card with your left, feeling the escalator l-l-lurch just a little bit.

Picking up a random abandoned newspaper on an upholstered Tube seat.

Forcefully pushing down the odd little button toilet flusher.

That weighty Tube exhaust that hangs in the air. (Yes, I actually miss that smell.)

M&S cereal.

A right cuppa tea, absolutely anywhere you might want one.


"In Defense of Tourism"

I just read a brilliant article entitled "In Defense of Tourism" by Peter Jon Lindberg in the January '09 issue of Travel and Leisure. In it, he delves intelligently into a topic I've grumbled about several times in this blog: tourist is not a four-letter word.

"In the urge to legitimize, singularize, and privatize our travel experiences, we trade the proverbial hell of other people for the hell of trying in vain to avoid other people. That's a terribly cool way to travel, and when I say cool I mean chilly, and when I say chilly I mean obnoxious." The travel industry, millions of travel bloggers and people proud to live by the "Be a traveler, not a tourist" motto are so quick to point out how travel-naive Americans can be. Only 28% of us have passports, and that is a sad statistic. Yet, instead of encouraging the home-bound to venture beyond their own borders, this industry chooses instead to establish some sort of elitist caste system ruled by the most hardcore, multilingual, back-door, off-the-beaten-path travelers out there. And I just don't agree that anyone less than this isn't allowed to hold the title of a legitimate traveler. To steal a phrase from the article, "Doesn't every traveler start out as a tourist?"

Lindberg goes on to point out that as he slowly let go of this high and mighty belief and allowed himself to join a few groups with his fellow tourists, he began to realize that certain touristy spots became that way for a reason: they had something to offer. And there were indeed advantages as well as fabulous experiences to be had when allowing yourself to accept the amazing community that is made up of your fellow travelers. For example, tour guides frequently know more about the history of a place than the average local, which in turn gives more substance to your personal understanding of the place. Additionally, group travel is inclusive as opposed to exclusive. While traveling throughout Europe with someone from South Africa, you're gaining not only a friend for life, but a taste of a whole new part of the world through their eyes. When it comes down to it, tourists and travelers really are after the same thing in the long run.

Don't get me wrong; I completely understand the difference between experiencing the true identity of a location and "National Lampoon's European Vacation". I'm most certainly not condoning standing in a museum line for five hours at a time and asking way too loudly and in English why no one has hamburgers. Those people drive me crazy, too. But I am also easily fed up with someone that writes off an entire chapter of travel just because they consider it too touristy. Some of my most treasured travel memories were in the company of other tourists: feasting and dancing under the stars outside Rome with a group of fellow tourists and newly cherished friends from Australia; standing over the fogged-in city of Stirling while hearing the empassioned story of the Battle of Bannockburn from an incredibly proud and rather misty-eyed Scottish tour guide; running my fingers over some of the oldest prisoner graffiti inside a Venetian prison, that I most certainly would have missed if my guide hadn't pointed it out. These are experiences you simply can't put a price on.

As Lindberg offers, "Rather than resenting your compatriots for the audacity of choosing the same vacation spot as you, cynical travelers...can learn, or relearn, something from the wide-eyed 'tourist' - from the sense of wonder and unmitigated joy he brings to those...moments that all travelers, no matter how jaded, long for. This involves surrendering to the inherent awkwardness of being a stranger in a foreign land, yet somehow losing yourself - and your self consciousness - at the same time. It means letting go of the suspicion, letting down the defenses, and allowing for a genuine response, even if that response is simply, 'Wow.'"


Merry Christmas to all

Happy Christmas
Mele Kalikimaka
Glædelig Jul
Joyeux Noel
Nollaig Shona
Froehliche Weihnachten
Kala Christouyenna
Buon Natale
Meri Kirihimete
Feliz Natal
C Pождеством Xристовом
Feliz Navidad
Boze Narodzenie
Felix dies Nativitatis
Nadolig Llawen
Gesëende Kersfees
Vesele Vanoce
Vrolijk Kerstfeest
Nollaig Chridheil

Or wherever else in the world you might be,
I wish the Merriest Christmas
to you and yours!


Racking up the miles

The mile-accruing is well under way! And it's a good thing; we're facing a major change in our financial situation, so we're going to need to use all the possible clever ways to keep a-traveling that we can find.

After a few phone calls to Alaska Airlines, we've ironed out some issues and determined we have a combined total of 36,000 miles. And we should be earning 2,000 more every month. That is 24,000 a year plus whatever miles are actually flown. And since we're looking at the East Coast of the US and Europe, those earned flown miles should hopefully be significant, as well. Provided we can avoid overly restrictive red tape, that is!

So now that we have the earning confirmed, I have to learn the ins and outs of redeeming said mileage. Thank God for my travel agent!


Robin Larkins update

Robin Larkins with Real World Rental in London, still withholding my deposit that was contractually due to me nine months ago, may have managed to shut down one website shining light on his company's fraudulent activity, but there is now a new site being run by yet another person awaiting even more money than the one before.

You can click on the Robin Larkins tag on this blog to read bits and pieces of my experience, but this gentleman's story and details are far more telling of this scam than mine. Anyone considering Real World Rentals needs to read every word on that site before signing on any dotted line.

And to think Mr. Larkins became indignant and threatening when his shady business practices were referred to as "fraudulent".


My travel list just grew exponentially

I just found TripBase. Someone has actually created a site for those travelers who ask themselves, "Where to next?" At first I was skeptical, but when I entered my parameters into the search engine and it spit out every single city on my to-visit list, I became a believer. I foresee myself wasting a great deal of time on this site...

Then I visited this site and found a whole mess of spots I want to visit, if for nothing more than to stay in these amazing hotels.


Venice afloat

I'm certainly not one to say whether or not Venice is actually sinking. Some say yes, some say no. I wouldn't be surprised if it is simply experiencing the same cycles it always has. But just in case, I will admit I've made donations to restoration nonprofits like Save Venice. This is a city worth preserving.

Flooding is common to Venetians and shouldn't come as a surprise to winter visitors to the beautiful city on the water, and this season is no different. With flood levels higher than they've been in the last twenty years, my heart goes out to those residents and shop owners that have a big cleanup job ahead of them and those visitors finding themselves just a little stuck.

But on the flipside, I can't help but find the quiet water-filled piazzas and back alleys serenely beautiful.


My shameful confession

Since being bitten with a chronic case of wanderlust in 2004, I've attempted to get on a plane and explore the world as much as financially possible. However (and this is the embarrassing part) I only just now signed up for a proper miles-earning credit card.

I wasn't entirely foolish; Hubby and I do have little piddly mileage accounts at multiple airlines from our various flights on different airlines. However, that hopelessly slow accumulation doesn't really help one make even a single free flight, does it? What's worse, I didn't even earn the last three London flight miles from British Airways since I never changed my surname after getting married. Not that they would have given them to me anyway with the bargain price I was paying...but I digress.

Hubby and I finally signed up to stash away miles like mad people with the best option for Seattlites: the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature. Alaska is a major hub airline around here, but the most important part is their membership in the immense Oneworld Alliance. This means our miles are going to work on 17 different airlines, including all of the ones we currently have miles accrued on. Plus, their perks, including one free domestic ticket annually and a$50 companion fare, really do make it worth it.

It may be an idealistic pipe dream, but I'm going to beg them to let us mass-dump all of our miles into this one account. We're then going to use this card to pull all our monthly purchases through. Our apartment complex will even let us pay our monthly rent with it! Paying it off every month will accrue no interest and no additional debt, but the miles should hopefully start piling up big time. It's time for Da Man to start working for us a little.


I have trouble standing

Now, I'm familiar with the Thrill the World concept. We have quite a massive Seattle following. And I must say I'm in major support of anything that encourages spontaneous public dancing.

However, this is the first time I've seen these guys:

Why can't I ever get on this Tube car? All I ever get is the way-too-much-to-drink football fan whose team just won a match and he's decided to sing "God Save the Queen" at the top of his lungs in celebration. Just once, I'd love the good lookin' English bloke standing next to me in a suit jacket to break out in dance simply for my public transport entertainment. Heck, maybe I'll be that American tourist who gets up and starts dancing with them!

Okay, I won't. Because let's be honest here; I have been known, in all my clumsy glory, to have trouble simply remaining upright on a wobbly train.

Sobering day for tourism

Today's attacks in Mumbai make me exceptionally ill.

My prayers go out to India and all those affected by this completely senseless, disgusting act.

Keep traveling; we can't let them win.


Robin Larkins, the plot thickens

Since posting my frustrations with Robin Larkins of Real World Rental in London, I have discovered 4 other people who've been waiting for a promised refund of deposit from this company. One such person, let's call him Mr. T, took action and created a website using Mr. Larkins' name as the URL. This site contained warnings to others, records of inconsistencies during phone conversations and emails between himself and the company, and a place for others in the same situation to possibly build a big enough case for a lawsuit.

This site finally got Mr. Larkins' attention, and he called Mr. T directly.

Mr. T has since gotten his money back after a long phone conversation filled with additional inconsistencies. However, Mr. T was repaid, and that's what really matters. In response, Mr. T agreed to transfer the ownership of the website to Mr. Larkins, which is why that URL will now take you directly to the Real World Rentals website.

Hearing that Mr. Larkins was finally budging on his stubborn lack of response, I immediately gathered my information and set about contacting him myself. And guess what? No answer. Again. I find myself in the exact same situation as before. It has been nearly 2 days since he claimed to Mr. T to be addressing my situation immediately. Nothing.

I won't stop recording this information, Mr. Larkins. I'm aware that you now have direct links to this blog and I certainly hope you are reading them. I'm going to continue to warn people about you until my money is in my account.

You have expressed frustration regarding defamation of character, threatening a lawsuit against us. But our contracts, the contracts you sent us, said you'd return our money within two weeks; it's been 7 months and 2 weeks for me. I'd say that falls under breach of contract.

My next step is to contact my editorial journalist friends in London and the travel community.

Check your email, Mr. Larkins. You have my information.


Deck the halls

Every time I see Rick Steves' European Christmas special, I'm practically packing my suitcase to spend the holidays in London before the end credits role. I want to go ice skating at Somerset House or the Tower of London. I want to go Christmas shopping under the hanging lights on Oxford Street. I want to hear adorable English children sing carols about Father Christmas. I want to experience a Boxing Day.

But then I really start to think about the logistics: cold weather, possible delays, probable higher costs, not seeing my own family for the holidays. Lord knows I've experienced the possible frustrations of London in a snowstorm. Is the festivity worth the extra effort?

What do you think? Yay or nay on holiday leisure traveling?


Getting excited!

I'm getting excited for next weekend's jaunt to Vegas! I feel like I don't deserve another adventure so soon after my last one, but I'm gonna enjoy it anyway! Warm desert air with zero-percent humidity, fabulous food, ridiculous oppulence everywhere, room service, the new and improved "Phantom of the Opera" on the evening of my birthday, The Blue Man Group, the Bodies Exhibition, the Bellagio fountains, driving out to the Grand Canyon in Arizona...I don't even care that the weather is forecasting cooler temperatures for that part of the country for that weekend. It certainly beats being at work!


Robin Larkins

It pains me to have to post this as my experience with Robin Larkins with Real World Rental was pleasant throughout my last holiday to London. However, he has failed to return a significant amount of money that he himself confirmed is owed to me. I have since learned I am not the only person he has failed to repay.

One such person has set up a site for those of us struggling to get due monies back from Robin Larkins with Real World Rental Co. in London. If you're frustrated and looking for a possible solution, please visit this site for more information.


Home Exchange

I've been doing lots of research recently on Home Exchange, and I'd love any feedback from any past or present members.

I'd also like to take a poll from any and all travelers. Our apartment is in a suburb 15 miles south of downtown Seattle, but still very central to many Western Washington sites and activities and only a handful of miles from the airport. Would you exchange homes with an apartment 15 miles outside the city central? What if it included use of a car?

Signs the Anglophilia may be taking over:

You’ve abandoned the word, “Hey” entirely. Instead, you find yourself exclaiming frustration or getting someone’s attention with a robust outburst of “Oi!”

Someone asks what the word “biccie” means, and though the proper mental image pops immediately into your head, you can’t actually recall the word “cookie”.

You can’t help but hear “SAUSAGE TIME!” in your head every time you see an episode of “House”, and Steve Carell will simply never be Ricky Gervais.

While watching Jeremy Clarkson’s hysterical review of the Ford F150 pickup truck on “Top Gear”, you don’t even realize it has been modified as a right-side driver until he points it out.

More than half of your Netflix queue was produced by the BBC.

You find yourself calculating pound to dollar, working out GMT/BST or converting Celsius to Fahrenheit without even really thinking about it.

You no longer think names like Hermione and Rufus are just cruel pranks British parents played on their helpless children.

Your kitchen contains McVitties, PG Tips, a couple Crunchie bars and a collection of random water bottles from Tesco, Pret and M&S.

You were genuinely thrilled when Boris announced TFL’s plan to install air conditioning units on several major Tube lines.

You actually know, against your better judgment, what happened on the last X-Factor and Big Brother.

You know who Emma Clarke is and why she was sacked. You also know Mariella Frostrup isn’t the name of some foreign food dish or new fangled clothing line.

You’re livid that the film version of “Confessions of a Shopaholic” is going to be set in New York City.

You find yourself comparing every chat-up line you hear to Jeff Murdoch’s ear bucket, and they all pale greatly in comparison.


The London I miss today

Why I miss London even more after a successful holiday somewhere completely different...this I will never understand.


Mahalo, Maui

I always thought the word
was overused to describe the Hawaiian Islands, but now I understand why. It's such a perfect balance of weather, natural beauty, wonderful people, fascinating culture and mindblowing activities. This was simultaneously one of the most relaxing holidays I've ever had as well as possibly the most stressful holiday I've ever had. I definitely got my wish to go somewhere warm and experience a level of much needed peace. However, I also faced many fears and pushed myself past many things I used to view as limitations. It was overall an incredible experience!

The Hyatt Regency Maui on the south end of Ka'anapali was spectacular. The flawlessly landscaped grounds did much to surround you with the island splendour. There are parrots, penguins, koi, hammocks, oceanfront massages, delicious food, plumeria and palm trees galore. And their pool area has been called the best on the entire island, with a huge main pool, a separate kid's play area, a rope bridge, a hot tub, a waterslide and a grotto bar. The food was superb, and the eating options are plentiful and add to the experience. There is even a mini shopping area with a Macy's. The Hyatt Regency is not by any means cheap, but we found it to be worth every penny.

We hired Maui Magic for our catarmaran snorkel trip, and we loved them! You can tell they enjoy their job, even when torment/teasing Jenny about being uncomfortable with sea life. They even managed to get me, terrified of deep water, out snorkeling by myself above the reef for a good ten minutes. We saw fish, coral reef, sea turtles, the most recent lava flow on Maui and teeny Molokini. It was my favorite of the activities we did in Hawaii.

Another vendor we used was Goofy Foot Surf School in Lahaina. I'd never even touched a surf board before, but I'd always wanted to try. And even though I really don't have a future in surfing, they did keep their word that I would ride a wave. I actually rode part or all of four waves, and I was the one that had to take a break! Their photographer snagged some fun shots of all of us, and the instructor was very patient with a newbie like me. But be prepared for major physical exertion!

The final vendor we used as Skyline EcoAdventures ziplining above West Maui. Now that I've done it, I can say they run a decent operation. But they don't provide much info beforehand, and that uncertainty didn't help my massive anxiety. For that reason, I intend to write up a detailed tip specifically on that vendor in the near future to help others that have or may book with the company to know more of what to expect. All in all, ziplining was just crazy! I'm not one of those that got such a rush and don't plan to do it again, but I'm glad I accomplished it and have that incredible experience!

Other than that, I can highly recommend wandering down the Ka'anapali beachfront boardwalk, shopping at Whaler's Village, open air markets and art fairs under the banyan tree in Lahaina and watching the sunrise over Maalea Harbor. There is so much of Maui we didn't have the time to see, I can only imagine Wailea, Haleakala and the road to Hana. And that's not even touching the other islands! Maybe next time.

Many people have asked me, "Which do you like better: Maui or London?" First of all, they're not even remotely in the same category; comparison is a little unfair. But to answer the question bluntly, I continue to feel like belong in London, city girl that I am at heart. But I overwhelmingly appreciate Hawaii for what it offers: stars twinkling above pink sunsets, the constant sound of ocean waves, the smell of plumeria trees, the call of the tropical birds, eating breakfast next to a waterfall, the warm breezes at night, the kindness of the people, the gentle slack-key guitar music everywhere... Aloha and mahalo, Maui. What an amazing week!


A thankless job

I've often watched flight attendants in wonderment at how stressful their job must be. I never traveled much when it was a coveted career to have; all my travels have been after the 9/11 downfall of airline quality. From my perspective, flight attendants are glorified babysitters or referrees constantly deflecting a mass riot in the most stressful circumstances possible. And all at 35,000 feet in the air. I could never, ever do what they do for a living. Not ever.

So I found this article to be very fascinating peek into just that. My heart goes out to them; they're stuck between their companies, pinching every penny possible, and their customers, being pinched.

In fact, I think I'll tip my attendant on my flight this week...


Ride the Seattle Ducks

Okay, confession: we native Seattlites make fun of these things. I mean, look at 'em!

However, a friend recently admitted her daughters have always wanted to ride one. And I figure it fits quite well into my Tourist In My Own City endeavour. So, I think I'm actually gonna ride The Duck.

And really, I might as well make a day of it, 'cuz I've never actually done The Underground Tour, either (though I have heard the rumours about the smell). But what a great opportunity to practice photography, as well!


No passport?!

Somehow, and I'm not sure how this happened, I've forgotten how to travel domestically. Sounds pretentious, right? I agree! Which is why I'm totally befuddled at my own confusion.

We fly to Hawaii in a little less than a week, and I've just started that pre-packing assessment. (Translation: just how bad is the mess I shoved into my suitcase and out of my sight upon my return from my last trip?) And it has only recently occurred to me that this is the first domestic flight I've taken in six years. SIX YEARS! All my trips since have been either international or very local. Even the LAX layover we had 2 years ago was en route to Mexico, so we still had to go through customs.

Fast forward to today; I'm going through my normal list of pre-flight to-dos and I keep finding all kinds of things that simply don't apply. I'm downright confused that I don't have to bring my passport with me on this trip at all. There's no need to find country calling codes or order currency. I'm totally insecure to arrive at the airport any later than 3 hours prior to our flight. And I can't quite wrap my head around not having to acclimate to insane jet lag.

I've actually forgotten how to travel domestically.

I am excited, however, that Hawaii still has a very different culture, language and food to experience. It's kind of the best of both worlds, and that's pretty darn cool.


Flight 001 travel boutique

I wish I had an irrational amount of money to blow at Flight 001.

That's it. Back to your regular blogging.



Our November Vegas trip is my first experience booking with Travelocity, and so far I like 'em! We're flying with a local airline - Alaska Airlines - that has caused me issues in the past, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to test Travelocity's allegedly fabulous, keep-you-ever-aware customer service.

Alaska did not disappoint; they've already changed our flight. Let's not get me started on Alaska Airlines. The point is, Travelocity has kept me up to date and informed every step of the way. The direct vendors of all the extras we booked through Travelocity have also already contacted me directly and confirmed our reservations and pick-up times. I only booked a week ago, we don't leave for over a month, and I already have everything I could possibly need for my trip, including a map of all the Travelocity kiosks all over Vegas where someone can help me directly if I have a question or concern while I'm there. Impressive!

So at this point in the game, I'm a big Travelocity fan, and not just because I love the roaming gnome!

(Just don't tell the few friends I have that work for Expedia...)


6 months = nothing

Interested in an update on my London estate agent fiasco? Well, here ya go: NOTHING.

Yep, that's right. Robin Larkins of Real World Rental Co. based in Fulham still owes me £750. Not only has he not wired it back to me 6 months after it was due and promised to me, he has stopped answering his mobile, while the girl at the other end of the office line continues to play completely unaware.

To add insult to injury (and something I never thought would be negative for me), the dollar is gaining a teeny weeny bit of strength back against the pound. So if he were to miraculously and ethically wire my money today, the deposit into my account would be $1,326. That's opposed to the $1,582 I originally paid and would have received back if he had wired it when he promised, the time frame stated in my contract.

Though losing $250 is better than losing $1500.

Originally, I thought perhaps the company was struggling with the estate market declining as it is. I actually would have understood and been satisfied with some sort of trade or credit arrangement with them if that was the case. But I just received a note from an anonymous person that was about to book with Real World before she read my warning. So they're obviously still in business, and I still haven't received so much as a phone call.

I feel helpless. I can't threaten him or even question him if he won't answer the phone. I'm 4800 miles away, so I can't just pop into the office and throw a grand American fit. I've tried looking into Her Majesty's Court services to file a complaint, but I can't use them if I don't have a UK address. I certainly can't afford a solicitor, especially with the exchange rate. I've been scammed, and I'm really, really, really cheesed off about it.

Robin Larkins, I hope you find this post and feel totally horrible about what you've done, or not done in this case. $1500 is quite a bit of money for us; we don't just want it back, we need it back.


Parenting for Wanderlusters

Now this is parenting plan I can get behind! In fact, it's already on our we'll-probably-be-parents-within-the-next-decade list of priorities.

In fact, if there are any parents that have continued to travel - especially internationally - with their kids in tow, please, pleeeeeease share your stories, anecdotes, financial advice, anything! I'm so open to feedback, you can see right through me!

The Telectroscope

How did I miss this? It seems, several months ago, there were enormous telescopes next to both London's Tower Bridge and NYC's Brooklyn Bridge, designed specifically so people on both sides can see and silently communicate with each other. Googling "telectrosope" will take you to many humourous stories of New Yorkers and Londoners (and most likely a whole lotta geeky tourists like myself) engaging each other nearly 4000 miles apart. I also think there's something really cool about giving people this new perspective of others, as well.

And seeing that our early 2009 travel list includes both NYC and a return to London, I wish it would have remained for another run. I really would have liked to mess about with that. Oh well...


Airline caste systems

When airlines started announcing their baggage fees, I wasn't surprised and took it in stride. These are tough times and the travel industry is struggling. I was all ready to do my part to band together, keep companies afloat, rah rah rah sis boom bah and all that.

Until I read page 36 of the September '08 issue of Travel and Leisure. It seems United (one of the first to initiate the above mentioned fee) is now partnering with Westin Hotels to provide oversize down blankets and hypoallergenic pillows.

Oh, that's nice, you think. They seem to be trying to make our experience a little bit easier, maybe a thank you for continuing to fly despite the fees, maybe trying to make our extra money seem worth it. Wait, what's this? To business and first class flyers only?

Yes, that's right. The elite group of people clearly not flying on a restrictive budget that are exempt from the additional fees are being pampered even further while economy class only continues to worsen in relation.

United Airlines, I work hard for every penny I earn. I forego many luxuries in order to get on your aircraft and endure 10+ hours of economy-class struggles in order to fly to other destinations. I'd weep with joy to fly in any class where I can actually move my legs while seated, but I simply can't afford it. So while you pamper the rich, this obviously expendible economy flyer will be taking her hard-earned cash somewhere else. And that goes for any other airline that does the same.

Visions series

In my humble opinion, some of the best armchair traveling DVDs are the Visions Series. Hour after hour of high quality aerial footage of many different European countries.

Yes, the accompanying music isn't the best I've ever heard, and sometimes the accent of the narrator comes into question. But I don't watch these films for those things.

I watch to escape, to step into a country I don't have the time or money to visit properly at the time. I watch to remember my holidays and to get ideas for future trips.

These DVDs have a sedative, calming effect, as well. I love to keep them playing in the background whenever I'm cooking or cleaning. They're perfect for Wanderlust sufferers everywhere! (If you want to call it "suffering", that is...)



"Traveling is the stuff that life was made for."

- Jackie Steves,
daughter of travel guru, Rick Steves,
upon return from her first independent European jaunt.

Touche, Jackie. Touche.


The bluest skies you've ever seen...

...are in Seattle. Or so the song goes. I figured with all the waxing poetic about London, it was about time I shared a little about my home city.


Vegas or bust!

It seems San Francisco will have to wait; our posh weekend in Vegas has been bumped up! It's been six years since I've been to Las Vegas, and I'm excited to get back in that fabulous desert air and see all the new developments. Plus, Hubby hasn't visited Vegas yet, so it will be fun to watch him experience everything for the first time.

We've decided to go to two different shows, each of us choosing one. I'm picking the new "Phantom" at the Venetian and Hubby chose The Blue Man Group.

And the icing on the cake will be a tour out to the Grand Canyon (brand new for me), and we're going to stop at the new Skywalk! I'm thrilled to walk out on it; Hubby...not so much.

Keep ya posted!


One eighty six?!

To any Americans that frequent Great Britain - the pound has been slipping against the dollar in past weeks, and it is now lower than it has been in the past 2 years: $1.86!

I'm seriously considering stocking up for my next trip. If I order £500 today, I'll save $60 compared to what I paid a year ago for the same amount.


My adrenaline wish list

Dangle my toes over the Cliffs of Moher, Ireland:

Stand at the bottom of Niagara Falls, Canada:

Climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Australia:

Absailing in Capetown, South Africa:

See the sunrise over Machu Picchu, Peru:

(To be continued...)
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