Travel, Travel Series

Europe – London

Charming Southampton

Once we said good-bye to the lovely Queen Mary 2, we set off on the first leg of our European adventure by train from Southampton to London. We had wrestled for quite some time about just hiring a car and visiting some of the wonderful bookstores in Wales; however, we knew The British Museum alone would eat an entire day.

Artists’ Colourmen – London

Having been to London, I tried to let this leg be all about what my husband, Wayne wanted to see. Plus, I always have so much fun visiting places through other people’s eyes! One thing we did all across Europe was visit every interesting-looking art store we happened upon. We found a gem right up the street from The British Museum. I picked up some new sketch pens that I carried around for the next two weeks without using even once. ::shrugs::

I think I have 200 pictures from inside The British Museum that I’m happy to bore anyone with if they ask, but since the Rosetta Stone gets asked about most, here it is – not nearly as large as one might picture. Plus? Doctor Who money!

In addition to museums, we did a lot of your typical touristy stuff, like paying way too much for lunch at Harrod’s, riding the tube (Mind the Gap!), and enjoying traveling by both double-decker bus and by taxi.

If you’ve never been to London, don’t even bother with an Uber. Taxi cab drivers in London are the best in the world. They know absolutely everything and are the friendliest people you’ll ever meet. And don’t you just want to say you’ve ridden in a hackney carriage? #BiggerOnTheInside However, weather permitting, walking London rocks.

Now I’m told the weather can be dreary in England, but I’ve never experienced that, having enjoyed lovely weather each visit. I think we had some clouds and sprinkles one day out of four; however, even on a cloudy day, the gardens around London are beautiful. One of the benefits of being your own travel agent is really getting to make the trip your own, so I purposefully booked a hotel right around the corner from Kensington Palace so I could see those gardens every day.

If I had any advice to give on travel in London, I would suggest:

  1. Four days is not nearly long enough for London. Next time we go for more than an airport layover, we’re taking two weeks, at least, with one whole week in London.
  2. Do a river cruise, for sure. You see things from a perspective hard to obtain otherwise.
  3. Take a taxi cab. Seriously.
  4. Get out of London. The United Kingdom in its entirety will take your breath away.
  5. T2 in London has tea that is NOT AVAILABLE in the United States. If I knew then, what I know now, I would have shipped myself a CASE of the Scots Breakfast tea.
  6. If you can time it right, see a play at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.
Cruising, Travel, Travel Series

Europe – Queen Mary 2 Transatlantic Voyage

In 2019, Wayne and I took a trip to Europe with our dear friends, Tess and Donald. Because I have a love of all things Art Deco and because, well, it’s a freaking OCEAN LINER, we decided to take the Queen Mary 2 across. Because we desperately needed some downtime from work and life, we completely unplugged the entire voyage. And, since I wasn’t carrying around my phone, we don’t have a ton of pictures. One morning, Wayne got up crazy early to get some pictures of the ship, so it looks like we were the only people on the ship! But OMZ the Art Deco! :::swoons:::

Some notable differences between a Cunard ocean liner and other cruises:

Tess and Donald
  1. The service – While we didn’t actually have the place to ourselves, QM2 does not feel crowded like a cruise ship.
  2. The decor and general upkeep – Art Deco gorgeous! I may have to redecorate my entire house now. #inspired
  3. Activities – Some of what we did: watercolor painting lessons, fencing lessons, participated in a fashion show, had proper afternoon tea, enjoyed a book club, indulged in the Godiva lounge, sampled port flights, went ballroom dancing (well, watching really – everyone was so good!)
  4. PLUS: The spa, the pool, and (yes, it really has one) the planetarium.
  5. A whole new meaning to “formal night” – There are parts of the ship (basically all but one deck) you’re not allowed to enter on formal nights if you don’t have the proper attire. They’re not joking.
  6. Entertainment – With the exception of one (omg they were really really bad) singing duo, the entertainment was great. I don’t recall other cruises having guest lectures.
  7. Alcohol – or lack thereof. One of the things I hate most about a Carnival cruise? Drunk people. Not on QM2. While most do enjoy a snifter of brandy or a martini after dinner, getting drunk would simply be gauche.
  8. The Roaring 20s:

Would we have changed anything? Not much.

  1. We went from NYC to Southampton on the first week of our trip. We all agree if (when) we go again, we would take the Southampton to NYC direction after visiting Europe, instead. Going from west to east, you lose an hour each day. Plus, Wayne and I were spent two weeks in Europe after the week-long voyage. We could have used the rest on the way home! And going east to west, we’d have one hour added each day; thus, we would have skipped the jet leg completely.
  2. Spend more girl time!! Tess and I were overly (unnecessarily) concerned about our husbands getting bored and didn’t get to spend that much time just the two of us. The first thing we wanted to do when we got back was plan our next girlfriends’ cruise (no offense, boys)!
  3. Select the second seating – We had the first seating, and with the formal nights, I had to be in the salon by around 3 PM to be ready for dinner. That really cuts into the day.

If you’re considering a transatlantic, and you’re not going all out for a Royal or Grand Duplex Queens Grills suite, I recommend a standard balcony room at the Britannia level. We were on the fence about Britannia club or Princess Grills, but the food is all the same and the service at all levels is white glove.

It was about 40 degrees freezing, no one else up on deck. The photographer laid down on her stomach IN A DRESS to get this shot.

Random Thoughts

What’s next?

I’m back!! W00t! My husband, Wayne and I are both back on social media after a crazy long hiatus. Truthfully, we have endured the most difficult couple of years in our entire lives. I’ve been silent for various reasons, but I think we’ve processed enough to be able to share and, hopefully, use our experiences to help others. I’ll get into all that eventually.

Living Proof Live 2015

But first, something positive. No period of time is all bad, just like none is all good, so I have a lot of various tidbits and interesting things I’m looking forward to blogging about. Today I’m super excited about two different Beth Moore events coming up this fall. If you have never heard of Beth, I highly recommend looking into her work. Her bible studies have made a tremendous impact on my life over the years. I don’t have a clue how just yet, but I am certain Beth will have some kind of influence in shaping my path on a project or event or “thing” I’m feeling led to do. That still small voice says the time is near and I’m excited to find out what it is!

So this fall, the first bit of awesomeness is Lifeway Women Live – a conference happening in Greenville, SC in August. While I’m looking forward to hearing Beth Moore, one of my other favorite and most influential writers, Priscilla Shirer, will also be there — as will Jen Wilkin, Jackie Hill Perry, Kelly Minter, and Jennifer Rothschild.

The second :::squee!!::: is a Living Proof Live New England Adventure. What a great new way to see Boston, Portland, and Bar Harbor, plus I’ll be seeing Saint John, New Brunswick (Bay of Fundy) and Halifax, Nova Scotia for the first time. And while Royal Caribbean is probably my least favorite cruise line (one of these days I’m going to get around to writing that post comparing various cruise lines), my time on the boat will be extraordinary, if not life changing.

Girlfriends’ NYC Trip – Erika, Grace, Donna, and Morgan

Sharing in both of these adventures is my sister-in-Christ, Grace, one of my dearest friends. We have been traveling together for more than 10 years now and we ALWAYS have a good time. This is going to be amazing!!