Everyday Emily

Travel Tales: 6 Things That Happened in Madrid

Madrid, El Hecho Bar, Spain

1. Airbnb After-party

There are sooo many upsides to using Airbnb that it can come as a bit of a shock when you eventually have less than perfect experience.

In Madrid I stayed in the La Latina neighbourhood, a fun area that comes alive at night with music and bars overflowing with friends. I arrived into La Latina from rainy San Sebastian to a wall of heat and humidity and completely overdressed.

After getting the street wrong for the Airbnb, hitting the wrong buzzer and then crying a little I eventually found the old wooden door which lead to the correct location. I rang my host and waited…and waited…ignoring my phone calls he eventually buzzed me in and I made my way inside to be met by a majorly hungover host. As he showed me round the place he admitted that his partner was away so he through a huge party for him and his friends, so I had just walked in on the middle of the morning after. Semi- conscious friends draped over sofas and a vast array of drugs scattered on the coffee table, I wanted to turn and run to the nearest hotel. My room, although looking pretty neat and tidy compared to the apocalypse outside, had the distinct smell of a sweaty man that had maybe passed out drunk and been removed 10 minutes ago.

Despite being a little bummed and planning a scathing review in my head, I decided to instead brush it off as a funny travel story and stop being such a loser. Funnily enough, once the hungover friends scooted home, the place became actually became a really calm sanctuary in crazy Madrid.


2. The Best €30 I Spent in Madrid

As a bit of a control freak I usually have the activities of my holiday nailed down before I’m leaving Portland, but this trip I decided to let go A LOT, to go with the flow and plan the day before or the day of arriving in the new place.

With limited funds, a lot of Madrid to see and some pinxos to work off I opted for a city bike tour with Bravo Bikes  For just €30 the 3 hour loop includes visiting all the main tourist sites, so you get a good feel for the city and where you might want to re-visit on foot, oh and a little stop in Retiro Park for a quick drink and snack.

With a group consisting of me and two of the keenest Germans I’ve ever met, Kaspar our tour guide kitted us out with a bike, helmet and water and took us off for a gentle ride around Madrid; stopping to fill us in on history and local knowledge. Very kindly Kaspar takes photos of you throughout the tour so you don’t have to. He then emails them to you later on that day, perfect for the solo traveller.

During the loop we stopped to pop our head in the world’s oldest (continually running) restaurant Botin. As waiters casually set up for lunch I wandered down to take a peek into their insane wine cellar and I even got to stick a little suckling pig in the oven, a pretty unique experience!



3. A Walk in the Park

The bike tour took us briefly through Retiro Park (Parque De El Retiro) in the centre of the city, I wanted to return to see more and enjoy the beautiful weather Madrid was having. I packed a picnic from the local supermarket and along with my fully charged iPad I walked through the winding streets to the park.

The most picturesque of park sites was the Monumento a Alfonso XII surrounded with marine green water with bright blue skies and predictably loved up couples getting all romantic on the rowing boats, it’s a pretty magical place. I chose a little cafe to side of the fountain and watched the world go by for a few hours. I wandered through the park eventually getting to the Crystal Palace (Palacio de Cristal)  which I have to say I was a little like a massive, empty green house. I sat down in one of the many rocking chairs and had a little doze.

The park is a great place to have a little sunbathe or there are plenty of shady spots for having a picnic out of the midday sun. The park is clean, huge and there are ice cream stands on every corner, for buying *ahem* water.


Everyday Emily Tourist

4. The Touristy Bits

I did more than my fair share of touristy things when I was in Madrid, some were particularly terrible, like the paella and The Sofia Reina museum, so dull. Then there was the good stuff like, the Palacio Real beautiful regal interiors and exteriors. A lot of the palace was open for visitors and each room was fancier than the next. I didn’t spend as much time as I would’ve liked in there as I got hounded by some Spanish dude wanting to take me out to dinner. I got the creeps and told him I was late to meet my boyfriend, then made a hasty exit to the armour room across the grounds.

Palace Real, Madrid, Spain, Everyday Emily

I spent one sun down getting some disappointing photos of the Templo de Debod, which is perched high above the city and offers jungle like views across Madrid, like seriously, why so jungly Madrid? I stayed and watched the sun go down, trying to get a perfect glowing picture but the best I got was this guy worshipping the sun. I’ve included a supremely derpy picture of me at the Templo during the day photo so you can see what you’re supposed to be looking at!



Other touristy sites worth a visit are, Plaza Mayor, San Miguel Market and the Gran Via.

5. Shoes to Line Up For

Walking from the Airbnb up to the fabulous Plaza Mayor I noticed a curiously long line outside a simple red shoe shop. I’m not usually like ERMAGERD SHOES! but I had been eyeing up a striped pair of espadrilles, for that traveller street cred, so later that night, still intrigued by the massive line I looked them up and found Casa Hernanz.

Open since 1840 Casa Hernanz is a family run rope business and their most popular item, the oh so Spanish espadrilles. The shop is open twice a day 9am-1.30pm & 4.30-8pm, later on Fridays and don’t even think about them being open on a Sunday. Sometimes if you get there super early I hear there’s no queue, but on my last day I slept in and decided to hit the queue around 12 and lined up for 1 hour.


The choice is pretty overwhelming, so I opted for a simple blue and white striped pair and made sure I took a photo to show the man behind the counter. Be prepared to lose your shit as everything is so cheap, leading to temptation. If I didn’t have a back pack with me I would’ve bought 2 more pairs, easily. The woman in front of me in the line bought 8 pairs, 8! Also worth noting that they don’t speak much English, so be sure to practice your Spanish numbers and colours before you head in.


6.Taking Cookies from Nuns and Other Things I Should’ve Done

I crammed a lot into my 4 days in Madrid but there’s a few awesome things I missed out on that if I could go back I’d do.

a. Getting some cookies from these baking nuns of Madrid  (Las Carboneras)
b. Prado Museum
c. Getting a table at El Club Allard

Emily x

Travel Tales: 4 Things That Happened in San Sebastian

Monte Urgall from the streets of San Sebastian

1. Taking the Mole (Euskotren)

Pre-planning train journeys in foreign countries is hard  and I got more than a little stressed when trying to plan my journey from Biarritz to San Sebastian in Spain. There was a huge lack of information online if there was a direct train to the city centre or if I would have to do a dreaded bus journey (me +buses = vomit.) and the information I found was confusing. Turns out that journey is very quick, easy and cheap and went a little something like this:

a. Take a local 30 minute train from Biarritz to Hendaye (pronounced EN-DYE-EH)  Pro tip: Grab a window seat on the right of the train for fabulous coastal views.

b. Get off at Hendaye, walk out of the station and to the right of the car park is the entrance to the Euskotren or if it’s a busy day just follow the crowds.

c. Inside the entrance is a ticket office, buy your ticket (mine was €4.60) and board to San Sebastian/Donostia (Basque)

The train I got on was extremely busy, me and my backpack got in the way a lot so I would suggest if you’re travelling with large luggage to be sensible and stand out of everyone’s way by the doors. Also, be sure to have the basque spelling of the stop you need, I ended up getting off at the wrong stop and faced a very sweaty extra 10 minutes walk with my backpack, no fun.

This line is sometimes called the Topo which translates to mole in English!

Zurriola Beach view from Airbnb Apartment

2. Getting Lost, Airbnb Style

My Airbnb in San Sebastian was a single room in a large flat, centrally located and with fabulous views looking right out onto Zurriola beach. Like many Airbnb’s the host rents out their other rooms and they may not share that info with you. It’s definitely worth checking unless you want a late night corridor run-in with a stranger whilst running back from the bathroom at midnight.

Also worth paying good attention to is the way in and out of your temporary dwelling, how to use those new house keys too. I got totally confused one morning by a locked cupboard which I swear was the way I got in the night before, much to the amusement of my host’s 98 year old grandmother who lived in the apartment too.

Zurriola beach at night, San Sebastian, Donostia

Pinxos bar in San Sebastian

3. Pinxos!

Sweet jesus where do I begin to explain the incredible food culture of San Sebastian?

When I first ventured out of my Airbnb cave, I walked into the first bar to see it COVERED with little bites of food. They’re laid out like the best wedding buffet you’ve ever seen or very similar to my 7th birthday party spread if you happened to be there. The first thought that ran through my head was “Ummm how long have these been sitting here? food poisoning” and ordered an omelette and coke, big mistake. Later, as I ventured further into the old town I started to realise it was a San Sebastian thing and hovered round the bar long enough to get handed a plate and dug in. 3 bites were enough for me in one sitting, but little did I know I was doing it all wrong in spectacular tourist fashion.

Turns out there’s a proper way to eat all these delicious treats and it doesn’t means stuffing yourself in one bar. I booked myself onto a food and drink tasting tour, guided by Keith an American expat, he walked my group around his favourite pinxos bars and explained how to properly pinxo!

Pinxos bar in San Sebastian old town

a. Each bar has a speciality pinxos, ask for it and order that with a local drink.
b. No plates! Grab a napkin and dive in, don’t worry the barman is keeping tabs on what you ate.
c. Once you’re done, throw your napkin on the floor, pay and go to the next pinxos bar.
d. Repeat until full and drunk. Locals will flit from one bar to another at lunch and for early dinner, before a bigger meal later.

The best tip Keith gave was when looking for a good local pinxos place, look at the floor. Locals, when finished with their Pinxos will chuck their napkins straight on the floor. If the floor is covered in napkins, you know you’ve got a good one.

I recommend doing this tour on your first day in San Sebastian, just to avoid any further pinxos related embarrassment.

Donostia locals eating lunch time pinxos


4. The Tourist Things and the Thing I Forgot to Visit

The Basilica of Saint Mary of the chorus, San Sebastian, Donostia

San Sebastian is a perfect place for a weekend away in Europe and probably no longer than a weekend. I mean, I wouldn’t be bummed out at all if Nilesh said we were moving there tomorrow but for me it’s a perfect for a 2/3 night stopover with enough attractions and food to keep you entertained and full.

I mainly did a lot of strolling around the old town and dipping in and out of pinxos bars when I got hungry. I spent a lot of time along the promenade at La Concha beach, a perfect place to eat an ice cream and people watch for an hour or so, then a dip into the rows of shops behind the Hotel de Londres. I also spend a few hours in the local aquarium, which I’m sorry to say was pretty dire despite the walk through glass tunnel with sharks and turtles.

La Concha Promenade San Sebastian Donostia

I spent a sunny afternoon walking a good 40 minutes up to the top of  Monte Urgall for the best view of San Sebastian. A bonus once you get up there is the sweet little museum about the history of San Sebastian. Once through the museum you’ll head out to Jesus and that spectacular view. Rumour has it there’s a bar tucked away behind Jesus with more stunning views, but I didn’t see it.

Monte Urgull statue of Jesus overlooking San Sebastian Donostia

View from the top of Monte Urgull San Sebastian Donostia

Absolutely regretsys for not making it out to Monte Igueldo and this very old and run down funfair on the other side of La Concha Beach, it looks so wonderfully kooky!

Monte Igueldo San Sebastian Spain

Emily x

PS. This last photo is not mine and I can’t find owner. If you happen to know, shoot me an email for fab photo credit or removal.

Travel Tales: 4 Things That Happened in Biarritz

A grey street in Biarritz France

1. Airbnb Time

A 5 hour train journey through the French countryside brought me second stop, the costal town of Biarritz. I stayed here at a sweet cottage named Lilac, a little ways out of the town (read:cheap) I liked the pool to hang out by and enjoyed the 20 minute walks into the town and 30 minute walks uphill after dinner.

The owner (Jacqueline) kindly picked me up from the train station in her little blue Citroen Saxo and filled me in on her Biarritz life. I liked her very much as she constantly cracked up at my horrendous rusty French and was incredibly curious over why, as a single woman, I would want to travel alone. She eventually decided it was a pretty cool thing to do.

Airbnb Lilac. Bed and Breakfast in Biarritz, France

2. France and the (not so) Gluten Free Girl

Jacqueline provides a French breakfast every morning consisting of a fresh baguette, jams, butter, cereals, juice etc. As I have been gluten free since 2013, I was pretty intrigued to see what would happen if I ate a piece of French bread. In the US any gluten I eat goes *ahem* right through me, but I’d when I lived in Portugal I’d had zero issues with pounding pao con chorizos on a daily basis. I weighed up the pros and cons and figured that I should TRY a slice and prayed I’d feel ok in 24 hours. Oh my sweet goodness the taste of that baguette was heaven and happiness and after a few hours of feeling fine I gave in and ate the ENTIRE thing, well I might as well go out with style.

24 hours later and lucky for me I survived and had none of my usual “glutened” side effects. Gluten was back on the menu…for now. Pass me that croissant!

Biarritz France Plage de la Cote Basquesm, Surfers waiting

Biarritz France, Plage de Biarritz

3. Surfing, Biarritz Beaches and that Crazy House

The days I had in Biarritz were mostly grey with spots of sunshine which meant I was able to explore most of the city on foot. Biarritz and the Plage de Cote Basques in particular reminded me of Peniche and surf castle. Especially so while being tucked up watching the local surfers, from Le Surfing, just about the most stylish surf cafe/restaurant I’ve ever seen. I tucked myself away in there for the morning, drinking tea and catching up with emails and messages, hiding from the grey weather. As the sun made an appearance I ventured back into the town.

Biarritz in May was a lively place to visit and enough to keep me entertained for a few days. Full of boutiques, surf shops , bars and grand old hotels, I’d like to bring Nilesh here so he can surf and I can shop! There’s also fantastic walks around the coastline that take you from the more family friendly Plage De Biarritz (above) along the cliff tops past the Sea Museum (major regrets for not visiting, seallllls!) and onwards to the more rugged Plage de la Cote Des Basques for more surf action.

Biarritz ,France. Villa Belza on a sunny day

Along that walk, perched on the cliffs between Biarritz’s two beaches is the most incredible castle like house. Called Villa Belza it has a pretty rich history, built in 1889 it’s been a Russian restaurant, a hotel, then eventually split up into private flats. As much as I’ve scoured the internet for internal shots of any of these private residences I can’t find anything. I’m left imagining those views, they must be pretty special.

4. Dining Alone Armour

One of the hardest thing about travelling alone (there’s not many) I discovered really early on… eating alone. No one to make conversation with or to discuss food options with, no one to share your funny stories of the day to. In Portland I’m spoiled for dinner companions most nights of the week but for the next few weeks I would have to eat dinner alone and find ways of being ok with it.

The funniest thing is the concern on the faces of those serving you, or the diners next to you, the scrunched up faces and heads bobbing to the side. I’m not sure why it was quite so shocking to see a young woman dining alone, but it was and the stares at first made me feel uncomfortable and threatened, which swiftly moved on to feeling empowered and strong.

For those first few meals, my simple trick was to order a glass of wine and bring out my kindle. No wifi connection and delving into Facebook, just a good old book to keep me company and wine to make me feel a little less self conscious.

Biarritz France, Airbnb Lilac Sunset

Emily x

PS Thanks to Kareena @ Olive and Willow for the Le Sufing inspiration.

Travel Tales: 4 Things That Happened in Paris

Eurostar Terminal Kings Cross St Pancras

1. Eurostar Jump Seat 

Starting in London I took the Eurostar train service from Kings Cross which drops you off a few hours later at the Gare Du Nord in the centre of Paris. I cannot properly express my love for this journey, to me it feels romantic, old fashioned and the fact that it drops you off in Paris , well, that just kills me. That day’s journey didn’t end up so whimsical as it turned out the forward facing seat I thought I booked ended up being a backwards facing seat. Rather then arrive into Paris barfing, I spent the entire journey in that emergency seat by the loos, a classy start but hey! needs must.

Eurostar journey, London to Paris, Everydayemily

2. Anne, Chris and the Introvert

Not wanting to spend a small fortune on a hotel or hostel for one night in Paris (90 Euros for a hostel bed!) I asked a friend if I could stay with his mum for the night and lucky for me she agreed. Anne is an artist and lives with her composer husband Chris in an old fur making factory close to the Gare Du Nord, seriously doesn’t get more bohemian than that! I’ll forever be grateful for that sofa bed in Anne’s studio, the delicious meal she cooked and the conversations we had. I’d class myself as an introvert and shy away from new people, so this first solo travel interview was good for me to let go and relax a little. I guess I learnt quickly that I have more of an extrovert in me then I think and I should let her breathe a little on this journey. In summary, Chris + Anne = lovely, lovely people.

3. Getting lost, finding your self or a friend

With just one afternoon in Paris I decided I wanted to stretch my legs along the Canal Saint-Martin, mainly chosen because it’s the one location of Paris featured in Ameile that I hadn’t visited yet. Being a 10 minute walk from Anne and Chris’s stepped outside and headed in the totally wrong direction. Coming fresh from America, with its neatly laid out grid-like streets, a couple of wrong turns later and I found myself lost in Paris. Confused with the winding streets I admitted defeat, eventually choosing a cafe with the classic red and wicker brown chairs, to smash down an omelet, coke and connect to the wifi or WEEE FEEEE as the Europeans say.

After those fabulously awkward first few moments of ordering in shaky French ( JE VOUDRAIS OMELETTE)  I began to feel the first pangs of doubt. Scared and uncomfortable I started questioning myself, “Why am I here?” when I hear an American accent from the table behind me and unashamedly ordering in English, music to my ears! I turned around all bright eyed, naive traveller “Hey! where are you from?” she responded “Oh a little town called Portland Oregon…” I laughter ensues and I flash her my Powells book back like a passport and invite her to come and sit with me. Now you may think I’m crazy but I’m a believer in angels. People watching, guiding and helping you along the way and here she was, my Portland angel. When she started telling me how she’d just arrived from working in Calcutta, India I could feel myself welling up. You see that’s where my Grandmother grew up, my grandmother who passed away last October and would be watching over me, throughout my journey. Someone was telling me that you’re not alone and heading in the right direction, just when I needed it most.

Paris Canal Saint-Martin Spring

4. Canal Saint-Martin

Finally reaching my destination, the canal was not too busy on that sunny Monday afternoon. Couples with bottles of wine and pastries sat amongst young groups of kids laughing and even a bunch of drunk dudes getting their bits out for the world to see (and laugh at!) I sat down for a while to take in that atmosphere, it all still felt unreal and if I’m honest, I felt kind of lonely. I took myself off for a long walk along one side of the canal, then crossing one of the bridges to walk along the other side. I managed to take some photos before my phone battery started to die, which forced me to return to the flat incase I had no maps and got lost again- note to self; buy Mophie.

Canal Saint Martin Afternoon Stroll Shops

Emily x

NB- It’s August 19th here in Portland, Or. I’m slowly working through around 3,000 photos and a million heart warming memories from the Grand Euro Adventure. For myself (and maybe a few others) I wanted to share my experiences through the few blog posts and photos over the next few weeks. Enjoy and please, ask questions if you have any- Em x

My 5 Solo Travel Rules

My 5 Solo Travel Rules

As I left for my first ever solo trip I started thinking about the responsibility I now had to take care of myself. Not that I don’t do that daily, I mean in that “out of my comfort zone” way that happens when you travel. I like to cram in a lot when I visit a new place so it was important to me not to fall ill, or feel run down if at all possible. I needed to make sure I was taking good care of myself in the simplest form and being the best traveller I could be.

In the same way we get in the good habit of thinking “KeysWalletPhone” before we leave the house in the morning I thought “what should be my good habits?” After thinking back over previous trips, and the successes and failures they brought, I narrowed everything down to 5 travel rules:


Oh so obvious and simple yet something on previous warm trips I’ve failed to do and regretted. So every morning I’d buy the biggest bottle I could carry and drink/refill throughout the day. Some places I visited (eg Rome) had free water fountains all over the city and kudos to you if you remember to bring a travel bottle.


When I did a 2 week road trip around Cali/Arizona/Nevada I learnt the hard way that not getting healthy food or enough sleep equals housing several mouth ulcers and cold sores. For me, taking the biggest, most expensive multivitamins I could buy really helped cover my arse on the days when I ate pizza for breakfast, lunch and dinner.


Bathrooms when you’re travelling can be few and far between and I’m that kind of girl that would rather sit in the car and snooze for 10 minutes then get out and use the rest stop. So I made it a rule that if I saw a bathroom, I’d go, no matter how gross. The last thing you want to be worrying about is finding a bathroom in a strange place, when you can’t speak the language.

This tip is really handy after carrying out tip number 1 all day.


I met a lot of different hosts throughout my travels, most of whom were awesome and I wanted to show them how much I appreciated them. So I brought along with me a box of thank you notes for a personal touch. I’d try and write genuine notes that were longer than a few sentences and mentioned the highlights of my trip. It’s such a simple, old fashioned way to let the host know how grateful you really are and not just a they’re not just a website rating. I even left one for the cleaners in the one hotel I stayed at, I really hope it brightened up their day.


My favourite advice to give others (cause it makes me feel oh so smart) is something I overheard at work a few years ago. It’s the best piece of advice I can give to anyone with a smart phone who can’t afford to keep switching on their data roaming!

Simply, it means saving a map to your phone’s memory, then being able to use that map even if you don’t have wifi (feel free to jump in and correct me there techies)

To do this:

a. With a wifi connection go to Google Maps and find the city you’re about to visit/visiting.
b. Find the area you wish to visit and zoom until you can see the surrounding street names.
c. Go to the search bar and type in OK MAPS and save the map. Now it’s available offline for use whenever.
d. If you want a more detailed map, you can zoom in and explore the map yourself and this will also be available to use whilst you are offline.

This trick has saved my bacon more than a few times in some strange places while trying to find my Airbnb or just making sure a taxi driver isn’t taking me in the wrong direction. Just remember to do this the day before you arrive in a new area and you’re golden.

Emily x

Picture above of me in Salzburg, Austria, June 2014.


DUMBO Manhattan Sunset Silhouette.jpgBefore my big adventure began, Nilesh and I flew to New York to meet up with his twin sister for a week of quality time and our favourite activity- wandering around aimlessly until we stumble upon something good.

New York City under a plane wing
We’re both lucky enough to have been to NYC a few times and like every big city there’s always something new to do.. I’m not sure I’d ever get bored there, but I’m sure I’d be skint constantly!

For this visit a friend very kindly put us up in her DUMBO apartment. It was a pretty incredible place to stay, in fact I feel so spoilt by that place it’s going to be very hard to go back and stay in a normal hotel! We’d never been to DUMBO before so I so happy to be away from the craziness of the city and happy to be in what felt like a local village with coffee shops, small restaurants and a that killer view.

DUMBO Manhattan Bridge
The weather flipped between torrential rain and glorious sunshine which made for interesting walks around the city.
Whenever Nilesh and I find ourselves in a new city or an old fave like New York we tend to walk everywhere, until our legs give out. This time we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge (always a great jumping spot) all the way up to the Met. Stopping in the West Village to show Nisha our favorite places, pretty brownstones and up to the Meat Packing district, walking along the High Line.

Jumping Dancing Brooklyn Bride Mulberry Alexa
Jumping on Brooklyn Bridge
On the Sunday of our trip we all walked to Smorgasburg which moves from its usual location in Williamsburg to Pier 5 The Brooklyn Bridge Park. I’m sure you’ve heard of it thousands of times before so I won’t dwell, other than to moan about the lack of Gluten Free options! I settled for a Masala Dosa and we almost got into a fight over who was waiting longest for a bench to eat our goods.
It was a gorgeous walk along the river to get to pier 5 and the people watching was incredible. If you like staring at beautiful hipsters and a mass of naughty corgis and french bulldogs all hippo-like and waiting for scraps this is where you should be.

Before we left we invited some good friends over for a Pizza/Game of Thrones night and show off the beautiful view. Everyone else got take out pizza from Juliana’s (the real Grimaldi’s!) and I got my all time favourite meal from my favourite gluten free restaurant in the city Risotteria (270 Bleecker). Everything on their menu is GF and they make these incredible breadsticks that are so close to perfect, chewy bread that I would chop off my pinkie for their recipe. I really don’t miss pizza after giving up gluten over a year ago, I’ll settle for a creamy risotto any day.

After saying a teary goodbye to Nilesh (still kinda hard to believe) I had a super rainy day to myself in DUMBO. I ran between several book stores, cafes and trendy clothes shops looking for fun things to take traveling, temporarily forgetting about the whole “pack light” thing. Lucky for me I couldn’t find anything so settled on a fancy pen and headed off to JFK before I could think about buying a new pair of trainers.

Brooklyn bridge view from DUMBO apartment
Dumbo apartment block with Brookyln Bridge

As always, we’ll be back soon NYC.

Emily x

Filed under: Wonderland, tagged with
Leave comment 

The Vacation Between Visa

Solo Female Travel Backpack Eurostar
52 Days, 5 Countries, 14 Airbnb’s, countless trains. A grand European adventure.

The email came from the lawyers in late January. After lots of legal jargon I filtered out the important news- you cannot work until October at the earliest. Urgh.

While it wasn’t a total surprise, I was hoping I could be back to work in the Summer. So here I was with another very long stretch of doing nothing ahead. So I settled into a bleak February in Portland and the envitable Winter depression. I was paralyzed by overthinking “You should volunteer again!” “Take cooking classes!” “Gym everyday, oh how fit you’ll be for Summer!” and of course my body responded by curling up in a ball over a heating vent and watching Sex and The City re-runs. When your whole self worth revolves around work, it’s crushing when it’s taken away.

In those hazy and sometimes snowy February days I found my escape via Pinterest and the thing I found myself pinning most was Europe.

Last year I had started to make a list of the places I wanted to visit in Europe if I ever moved back to England. All these places seemed so exotic since I was now living in the US.
Oh Paris, how beautiful you are! A few years ago it would’ve been “Yeah, that dirty town we visisted that time in college and my boyfriend back home was cheating on me with those goth chicks” or “Spain so pretty and full of drunk Brits fighting between the girls flashing their boobs”
All the tackiness forgotten, I decided that if I couldn’t work I was going to use my savings to see Europe, see those pins in the flesh. Paralysis lifted.

I settled on May and June as a good time to visit Europe. Not crazy hot, not freezing cold and hopefully less touristy then the expensive Summer months. Just far enough in the future not to be scary and close enough to be excited about. I already was planning to visit NYC in April, from there I book my flights back to London then hot foot it to Paris.

Where (the hell should I go?)

I was having a really hard time matching up my wish list with a feasible trip around Europe. I wanted some sun, some culture and a little beach time. Not impossible for Europe, just an overwhelming number of options.

After a week of getting frustrated at trains and destinations not matching up I moaned to Nilesh “You don’t understand” I’d jabber, there’s no direct trains from Barcelona to Lyon! How effing ridiculous!” and the classic ” I want to go everywhere but I cant decide where to go!”
So one Saturday sweet, patient Nilesh said ” I know! Let’s get a map, that will help you visualize it”

Of course Portland, Oregon has a dedicated (and awesome) map store in the SE Neighborhood From this simple map and some numbered pins the journey started to piece together.

Through just looking at the map, looking at my pins and recommended places from friends the journey planning was finalized at:

1. London to Paris (1 night)
2. Biarritz (2 nights)
3. San Sebastián (3 nights)
4. Madrid (4 nights)
5. Sevilla (4 nights)
6. Barcelona (3 nights)
7. Aix en Provence (5 nights to relax)
8. Nice (4 nights)
9. Cinque Terre (4 nights)
10. Florence (via Pisa) (4 nights)
11. Rome (3 nights)
12. Sorrento (via Naples) (5 nights, relax/day trips)
13. Venice (2 nights)
14. Salzberg (3 nights)
15. Munich (2 nights)
16. Paris (3 nights)

As I hate to fly it was a really easy decision to train it everywhere. The European train network is fantastic and has endless travel possibilities if you look hard enough. I booked all my trains online and in advance as it worked out cheaper than buying a Europe Rail Pass, which happens to be quite expensive for a British girl spending dollars.
I was careful to make sure that most of my tickets could be printed in advance to avoid having problems with my credit card abroad and seat61.com was an absolute winner in helping me figure out how to book it all.

Day by day I tackled one or two destinations, booking trains and then then Airbnbs as I’ve mentioned before, my favourite was to stay in new places. I tried to stick to a budget of $50 a night for rooms, however in most places that was pretty impossible so I inevitablely spent more.

What (if?) -
It took until the end of March to have everything booked and as I wasnt leaving until April that left plenty of time for doubts to seep in. What if I miss my train? What if the room I’ve booked in Venice is a scam? How am I going to get a taxi from Aix TGV to my Airbnb at 11pm?
Enough time for me to take all those worries, sit with them and then think about how being out of control can be a good thing, stop worrying!

How (to pack!)-
How the hell does one pack for 2 months (and then a whole separate trip to England) away from home? Especially in those late spring early Summer months?

I tried, I tried very hard. Colour co-ordinating my dresses and jumpers to my shoes, trainers for hikes, little boots to liven up a pretty dress, you name it, it was on that spare bed of ours waiting to be packed away. Then comes the sad relaization as you fill your back pack that it just aint all gonna fit. In fact you can only pack half of what you have and then see what beauty products you can live without. Half of my main bag is filled with a toiletry bag of goods, first aid kit, shampoo, conditioner, moisturiser, Sunscreen etc etc. Pack wisely, be ruthless and remember you can buy things as you go along, budget allowing.

So far, my favourite little booties snapped a heel one night in Madrid. I cant tell you how upset I was over something so trivial, but these boots were the best. What I’ve learnt (the hard way) is bring things that are not new , but not well loved. Spending an afternoon in Barcelona shopping for boots when I could’ve been seeing some cool things is crumby.

Above all remember that you’re carrying this on your back and you’ll need to be able to lift it above your head. Travel light!

Why (are you doing this alone?)

Is the question I’ve been asked by everyone.

My answer is always a different version of this. Sometime you just need a moment to look at your life and how it runs. What’s going well and what can you improve. I guess I’ve always been lucky enough (in my adult life) to have people to look out for me. To cook for me when I’m hungry, to find fun things for us to do when we’re away from home. So much that I relaized that I’d become lazy. Letting others take the lead, doing all the hard work while I took a back seat

I’ve always been happy in my own company and the thought of being alone doesnt scare me like it does others. The option is always there for me to walk into a bar and start talking to a stranger, but only if I feel like it.

I intended to get a little lost, get sad and uncomfortable and then realise that I can take care of myself and that everything will be fine. Even if I come away changing nothing I believe that traveling alone makes you:

1. Appreciate what you have.
2. Realize you’re a badass.

Emily x

Filed under: Inspiration, Wonderland, tagged with

Happy Monday

Everyday Emily Happy Monday

Portland treated us to a sneak peak of Spring this weekend and boy did it feel good to get some sunshine for 5 minutes. Someone said it was going to hit 70 degrees on Friday, I’m reserving judgement on that one until Friday morning when I’m slipping into a sundress and cursing my English complexion.

A long time coming, I know, but here’s some happy photos for pinning, re-blogging or just enjoying on your Monday.

Also, you might want to listen to this bad boy and if you don’t like it, we can’t be friends, ‘kay?



Have a wonderful day.

Emily x

Top photo from Best Made all others via Pinterest.

Friday I’m In Love With…

Vancouver Harbour Bikes

To say I’m a little bit in love with Vancouver is a mistake. To say that I’m head over heels cuckoo crazy in love you’d be getting warmer. I could continue but you get the gist, I want to take it home to my parents, marry it and live happily ever after.

The city comforted me in my hour of need, the sun shone throughout and it provided me with a few (incredibly stunning) bike rides around Stanley Park to keep me going. Not to mention the food, the shopping and the incredibly happy locals always willing to give direction towards a good brunch spot.

It also allowed me to take some pretty pictures of it whilst prancing about in hot pants and reserving judgement of my celulite.

Thank you Vancouver, you’re swell and only 6 hours away which means we’ll be back very soon.



Vancouver Winter Olympics Torch

Emily x

(All pictures taken by me, August 2012)

A Quick Saturday Catch Up

Bloggers block is a bitch. I sit at my computer for hours, getting ideas, starting to write, then deleting it all.

Still, let’s catch up shall we?

Here’s a quick narcissistic Instagram post on what I’ve been doing since I last saw you.

1. Here I am riding a sweet bike around Stanley Park  Vancouver BC in the glorious sunshine, post visa interview. Nilesh drove up from Portland (11 HOURS) to spend a few days with me whilst I waited for my passport to be returned. The Loden (where we stayed) has 2 bikes available for its guests (in 2 hour slots) so we jumped at the chance to cruise around town, happy as larry.

2. September and we’re back in PDX. Here’s our beloved Daisy Doodle sitting on our new porch in North East Portland. We’ve moved a little further out of town but it’s worth it, we have a 2 bedroomed house, a gated front porch for Daisy.  It’s just like this scene from Portlandia, we’re so lucky to live here and the Summer was  as beautiful as everyone promised it would be.

3/4. A few weeks into starting my new job and my brother calls (he never calls, so this is wierd.) He’s getting married in seven weeks and wants me to be a bridesmaid, of course I’m thrilled and we head back to surprise Nilesh’s family and see every member of mine. I slip into a pink dress and don’t feel silly at all.

Instagram Catch Up 20125/6/7. October rolled around pretty fast and we had a visit from Nilesh’s twin sister and then their folks. Together we took an epic road trip from San Fran, through LA via the pretty coastal road. We stopped to do a little Gangnam Style before a horse trek to the beach then onwards to Vegas where I fell in love with the roulette wheel and a little circus act called Cirque Du Soleil, it totally blew my mind.

Before October was done we found time to significantly embarrass Daisy and paraded her around work in that little dinosaur outfit. Despite her sad expression she told me she loved all the attention and plans to wear it again next year, what an angel.

8. December arrived and before we left for England I decorated our fireplace in the most festive and twinkly manner.

9/10.  We flew in to London, I spent a week seeing friends/family and trying my best to avoid contracting the Norovirus that was sweeping the nation. London put on a grand Christmassy display and didn’t rain (much.)

11/12/13. I rounded off Christmas with a loooooong journey back to Devon/Cornwall to see my folks and family. Of course I made sure that we popped into Charlestown and St Ives which despite all my little travels, I still love more than anywhere in the world.

14. Back to London and we saw the New Year in with Nilesh’s sister and our friends Rob and Hayley at a cozy French restaurant in South London. Ate ourselves stupid, wore silly hats and danced to Luther Vandross. After thinking I was going to go somewhere exotic, this ended up being just what we needed. Good friends and family.


Feel caught up?

Great! More tomorrow.

Emily x

Web Analytics