Tybee

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My favorite time to go to the beach is during non-peak seasons when the weather is cooler and the beaches are empty. No need for a swimsuit and no fighting against a crowd of people. When I was in Savannah a few weeks ago, I took a day trip with my best friend to Tybee Island, one of my favorite beaches, and spent the afternoon walking along the water as the tide receded. There was something magical about having the place to ourselves. I’ve said for a while that after I finish school and work for a while, I want to move to a small coastal town and open a bookstore/cafe in a seafront cottage. Those daydreams are easy to picture on a day like that one, when the beach is empty and a cold wind is coming off of the waves.

But for the time being, I took in the calming solitude and crashing waves and guarded myself against the chill with my new bomber-sweater combo that I picked up at Civvies, the same vintage shop from my last post, and it served me well as we danced around, snapped some photos, and lounged in the sand.

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– Lauren

Traveling Finds

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One of my favorite things about my university experience was meeting people from all over the United States who made traveling on a student budget with my friends possible. Throughout my three years as a college student, I’ve travelled across the United States and the United Kingdom, and the vast majority of those travels were made possible by friends opening up their homes to us and saving us hotel expenses.

As I mentioned in my last post, I did some traveling along the east coast in between my graduation and Christmas, and one of the places I ended up was Savannah, Georgia. I’ve been to Savannah several times, and it’s one of my favorite cities because of its moss-covered oak trees, historic buildings, and proximity to the beach. And the best part is that because my roommate’s family is from the area, we had a free place to stay.

Downtown Savannah has tons of cool, independent shops, and one of my favorites is Civvies, a secondhand clothing store that I visit every time I’m in town. I love to visit vintage clothing stores when I visit new cities, not only to supplement the conscious wardrobe I’m trying to build, but also because vintage shops curate their merchandise differently depending on what’s popular in the area and the particular style and aesthetic they are trying to achieve with the store. This time around, I picked up this loose-fitting, greenish-grey, velvet turtleneck that’s perfect for the winter months.

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What’s your favorite vintage shop?

– Lauren

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Objects of Beauty

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I’ve lived in Alabama my entire life, which is something I used to complain about a lot when I was growing up. I was bored of small towns and couldn’t wait to leave, and it wasn’t until the past few years that I really started to appreciate the place where I live, its history, and the interesting and worthwhile things it has to offer. Like this furnace built after the Civil War for the production of pig iron that’s been made into a historic landmark and is perfect for an afternoon adventure. It’s hard to explain this change of heart. Maybe it has to do with the traveling I’ve done lately. The more I’ve travelled, the more I’ve realized that every place I go has something to teach and offer me. Or maybe it’s that, after high school, I figured myself out a little more and found meaningful friendships that have tied me here, emotionally if not physically.

My best guess, though, is that I’ve come to understand better the beauty in collecting small moments, the unassuming afternoons in small-town Alabama, that time my best friend and I decided to climb trees on campus and got reprimanded by campus police, taking the cat to get donuts at 1 am. I’m constructing my narrative out of bits and pieces I collect along the way and are small enough to fit in my pocket.

Now, I keep a running list of places in my state that I want to see and day trips I want to take, and one of my favorite things to do these days is check places off of my list with lovely and creative friends, find the best places to get coffee, and write it all down in my journal.

I like the idea of museums, that they are essentially the constructed narratives of human experience, but that they are perpetually incomplete. No matter how many objects are collected, they will never encompass the vastness and breadth of human experience, but curators continue to curate and buyers continue to buy. I think life is like that too. We go along collecting these bite-sized memories, these objects of beauty that construct the narratives of our lives and we discard others. We snap photos and write poems and tell stories and decide how to remember them. I guess what I’m saying is that lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my role as curator in a narrative that has the potential to be worthwhile regardless of place. I think the whole idea is pretty perfect.

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Like my last post, my entire outfit sans shoes was stolen from my roommate who stole the flannel from her brother and the dress from her cousin. It’s like a nesting doll of ethical fashion. I like it.

– Lauren

 

Serenbe

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I stumbled upon Serenbe one night when I read on Twitter than one of my favorite poets was doing an artist in residency program there. Curious about this artistic community that I had never heard of despite its close proximity to my home in Alabama, I did a quick Google search. Intrigued by what I found and with the realization that I had no Spring Break plans, I texted my mom and suggested a girls’ trip. We booked the cabin the next day.

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Serenbe is a sustainable farm and art community located just outside of Atlanta. Situated on about 60 acres of land, it houses cabins for guests, a farm-to-table restaurant, farm animals, a garden, hiking trails, and a residential community. It sounded like the perfect, relaxing vacation for my week off of school.

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The majority of our stay was spent exploring the grounds, hiking, seeing the animals (including a very friendly pig), browsing the shops in the little town, sitting on the back porch of our cabin, and eating at the cutest bakery.

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I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of slow living, recently, which is definitely a difficult concept to practice as I’m in the midst of the hardest classes for my degree. These days, I feel like I’m in a constant state of stress (not to sound dramatic or anything), so spending some time out in nature and (mostly) unplugged was just what I needed. At the risk of sounding like a bonafide Romantic, I have to say that there’s nothing quite like hiking through the woods on an early spring day. The perfect weather, the way the sunlight seems to have gotten little brighter, the greenness of everything. I couldn’t help but think of a poem by one of my favorites, Alfred Tennyson (a Victorian, as irony would have it), called “Early Spring.”

“For now the Heavenly Power

Makes all things new,

and thaws the cold, and fills

The flower with dew;

The blackbirds have their wills,

The poets too.”

Check out the entire poem here.

What’s your favorite spring thing?

– Lauren

Minneapolis

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In December, while on my DCNew York girls’ vacation, I found out that some poems I’d written had been selected to be presented at a conference in Minneapolis. Since my university funded my trip – and I’m never one to turn down a free vacation – I spent the first week in March braving the cold and exploring Minnesota for the first time.

The conference lasted from Wednesday to Saturday, and because my presentation was on Friday, I had three full days to explore the city.

My favorite place by far was North Loop, the warehouse district to the north of downtown Minneapolis. I found it while on the hunt for some locally-owned businesses and fell in love. Old industrial buildings – be still my beating heart – have been converted into independent shops. One of the shops – The Foundry Home Goods – stocks all-natural and fair trade home goods from artisans both local and international. There’s even a nice, cuddly dog that hangs out in the store all day. My absolute favorite part of North Loop, though, was the Bachelor Farmer, a locally-owned cafe, where I had some really good local coffee and tried beets for the first time. I ordered an open-faced sandwich with cheese, beets, nuts, and honey, and it was so good. So. Good.

Also, it snowed, which doesn’t happen very often down South. Since my southern self couldn’t handle the cold weather, I kept my hands tucked inside my coat pockets and got hardly any photographs.

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My week in Minneapolis marked my first trip of 2016, and I’m looking forward to some upcoming vacations within the next few months. Stay tuned for some posts about my Spring Break trip coming up soon!

What’s your next vacation spot?

– Lauren

New York

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Dear New York,

I quite like you. I like the way you light up at Christmastime. The trees and lights on everything make this girl’s heart smile. I like all your stuff. The buildings. The parks. The museums. There’s nothing quite like strolling through the Met on a cold, rainy day. I like the culture and the fact that you can see a different play on every night of the week and that you could never run out of places to eat. I like that you have more than four cool coffee places. I think the Subway isn’t nearly as efficient and logical as the Tube, but I like that it’s there. There’s something beautiful in the way it connects us, brings us closer to one another. I like that almost all of my favorite books come from you. I like that artists sequester themselves in teeny tiny apartments in your most hidden corners and create things worth creating, things that make the world beautiful. I like that you inspire them to do so. I like that those same people set up shop on the sidewalks or on Subway platforms and delight us with their songs. I like that I would never have to drive a car. Like one of my favorite female protagonists, I’m very fond of walking. I like that you’re a conglomeration of anything and everything. Historic churches are embedded between glass skyscrapers, and overheard conversations take place in a muddle of accents. I like how every person in this impossibly crowded place is grappling with the same things. How in the world are we supposed to do this thing called life? I like that none of us knows. I like that we’re figuring it out together. I like that people like you. That even after I leave you, there’s something that makes me want to come back.

Until next time, New York.

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– Lauren

DC

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Hey there!

2015 has been a year full of traveling. I started my travels on New Year’s Day with a day trip to Atlanta, and throughout the year, I’ve been able to visit Albuquerque, NM; Louisville, KY; Pensacola, FL; Navarre Beach, FL; Lookout Mountain, GA; Ruby Falls, TN; and Savannah, GA. I also spent a month in the UK and visited Oxford, London, Bath, Manchester, Stratford Upon Avon, Dover, Canterbury, and Edinburgh. And to finish off the year, I took an impromptu girls road trip to Washington DC and New York City.

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The first leg of the trip was in DC. We arrived around 3 pm and our first order of business was to find a bookshop. Capitol Hill Books is located in the cutest little town home. Before you even enter the store, you can tell that it’s any book lover’s dream – even the windows are occupied by stacks of books. Inside, it’s a little labyrinthine and claustrophobic, but when it comes to bookstores, that’s just how I like it. I bought a copy of Slaughterhouse Five for $4 to read on the drive back home.

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Afterwards, we drove to the National Harbor to see the Christmas decorations. We checked out the light show in the Gaylord Hotel and saw the giant Christmas tree near the water. We browsed some stores and ate some cupcakes before calling it a night.

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We stayed in Maryland about an hour outside of DC, so the next morning, we caught the train into the city for a day of exploring. We started our day at the National Gallery, where we saw pieces by Titian, El Greco, Monet, Van Gogh, and Rembrandt, to name a few. The art history student in me was in heaven. My favorite painting I saw was Van Gogh’s Roses.

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We couldn’t go to DC without getting our American history fix. After the National Gallery, we ate lunch and headed to the National Archives, where we saw several influential United States documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights.

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The next museum of the day was the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. We walked around the exhibits for a while before getting free tickets to go into the butterfly room, which is essentially a small greenhouse-like room full of  butterflies that are free to fly around as you walk through it. I definitely recommend checking it out, and if you don’t want to pay to see the exhibit, tickets are free on Tuesdays.

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The last thing on our list was a night tour of the monuments and historical buildings. We saw the national Christmas tree, the White House, the Capitol, the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials, the Washington Monument, the MLK Memorial, the Korea and Vietnam Memorials, and the Iwo Jima Memorial.

Before this trip, I had never been to DC, but I feel like I was able to see a lot of it in a short amount of time. I would love to go back some day and see some of the less-touristy sides of the city. Overall, I am really excited about all the places I’ve been able to visit over the past year and look forward to the ones I’ll get to see in the upcoming year. As of right now, my first trip of 2016 will be to Minneapolis, MN in March.

Where are you traveling in 2016?

-Lauren

Canterbury and Dover

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One weekend during my stay in England, I took a trip to Canterbury and Dover, and of course, the literature student in me was incredibly excited to see two places of such literary significance. I took a bus from Oxford to Canterbury, which arrived in time for me to spend the afternoon exploring the town and attending an evensong service at the cathedral. The next morning, I took a formal tour. Canterbury Cathedral was my favorite church I saw throughout my entire time in England for multiple reasons, among which is its connection to The Canterbury Tales. Of course, its beauty had a lot to do with that as well. I cannot believe that a building like this one could have been built without modern technology. I highly recommend taking a tour.
IMG_5995IMG_6054IMG_6037IMG_6082As soon as my tour ended, I grabbed a quick lunch and got back on a bus, this time to Dover. Dover is on the coast, and on a clear day, you can see France from the shore. I was excited to see Dover purely because it is the setting of Matthew Arnold’s poem “Dover Beach,” but it is also home to the secret war time tunnels.

The first thing I did once arriving in Dover was drag my friends around in search of the best spot to see the cliffs. As the bus dropped us off near the tunnels and the castle, we couldn’t actually stand on the cliffs, but we were close enough to see them and take pictures, and that was good enough for me. Then we climbed to the top of Dover Castle. Finally, we went on a tour of the war tunnels after waiting an hour to get through the line and almost missing our bus back to Oxford. Personally, I didn’t find the tour of the tunnels incredibly interesting. My favorite part of the afternoon was simply walking around with my friends.IMG_6086IMG_6092IMG_6098IMG_6128
IMG_6165IMG_6131Overall, I enjoyed my visits to both places and am glad I had the opportunity to cross them off of my list. However, I do have some tips for travelers. As for Canterbury, I found it a very uncomfortable place to be at night. During the day, the streets are lively and feel completely safe, but at night, it felt a little sketchy. Whereas in Oxford, I felt that I could walk around alone at night (I didn’t, Mom. Don’t worry), I went out of my way to make sure a male friend could walk me back to the hotel in Canterbury. That could have been the specific area I was in, but I would recommend going out in groups and staying at a hotel in a central location. As for Dover, the wind is ridiculous. Ladies, go ahead and put your hair up and don’t wear a dress.

Stay tuned for more study abroad posts!

-Lauren

My Favorite Places in London

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Hey there!

Remember that time I said I was going to write a series of blog posts about my study abroad adventure over the summer and then proceeded to write zero posts about my study abroad adventure over the summer? Yeah, me too.

Aside from Oxford, where I stayed, London was the place I explored the most. It was so easy to hop on the train to Paddington after class and spend the afternoon in London. I saw all the typical touristy things like Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, Big Ben, and the National Gallery. I watched a play in the West End and toured the Tower of London. Incidentally, my favorite places I visited in London were places I visited on the same day. One Saturday, some of my friends and I headed into London and spent the entire day climbing to the top of St. Paul’s Cathedral, browsing Tate Modern, wandering around Shoreditch, fighting the crowds at Camden Market, and visiting the Arsenal Stadium in Islington.

St. Paul’s Cathedral. To begin the day, our program director paid for us to tour St. Paul’s Cathedral.  I saw a ton (and I mean a ton) of churches over the course of the trip, and after Canterbury Cathedral, St. Paul’s was my favorite. The architecture and intricate detail were so incredible. Photography wasn’t allowed inside the cathedral, but part of what makes it so memorable is the view from the top. According to the internet there are 528 steps (approximately 365 feet) to the Dome, and climbing them is hard work. If you’re claustrophobic or very scared of heights, I would not recommend climbing to the top, because many of the staircases are winding or extremely narrow. If you’re only slightly scared of heights, like me, definitely do it. From the very top, you get a breathtaking view of London. Warning: after you climb back down the stairs, your legs will be shaking for a while (even if you’re in good shape), but it’s so worth it.

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Tate Modern. As we walked across the Millennial Bridge to Tate Modern, the first thing I noticed was the live music being played along the Thames. One of my favorite things about England is that  admission to museums is free. There are so many great museums in London, but Tate Modern is definitely my favorite. I love modern art, and seeing so many amazing works of art throughout the course of my trip may or may not have provided the impetus to my adding the art history minor I had been considering for a while. I saw some of my favorite works at Tate Modern, including Lichtenstein’s Whaam! and Warhol’s Marilyn Diptych.

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Shoreditch. After leaving Tate Modern, we took the Tube to Liverpool Street and walked to Shoreditch. As soon as we reached Shoreditch High Street, there was no doubt that this was the trendiest place we had visited so far. There is amazing street art everywhere. I live in a place that does not allow displays of public art (which is tragic), so it was really cool to see the colorful buildings and fun murals. We even saw a Banksy. In addition to ogling over the art, we ducked into a vintage shop and tried on the most ridiculous outfits we could find. If I could offer one bit of advice about shopping in England, it would be to shop in vintage shops. They’re a little pricier than charity shops, but some of my favorite clothing finds – a green faux-leather midi skirt and men’s denim Ralph Lauren polo shirt that had been tailored into an empire baby doll top – were from vintage clothing shops. Afterwards, we asked a local where we should eat lunch and ended up trying Turkish food for the first time. Also, Shoreditch is home to the famous Brick Lane Market.

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I don’t have any photos of the last two places we explored. If I had to describe Camden Town in two words, I would choose crazy and stressful. It was so crowded I could hardly move around. However, there were some really cool stalls in the market where we picked up some souvenirs. Finally, we went to Islington to see the Arsenal Stadium. When we got off the Tube, I was confused for a moment. Islington was so calm and quiet, I didn’t think we were in London anymore. We walked around the stadium for a while before grabbing dinner at a sushi restaurant. Tip for American travelers: when you pay for your food in cash, pay with exact change, because lots of places assume any extra cash is a tip, and trust me, it’s really awkward to explain to the waiter that you weren’t actually tipping them and that you want that money back.

Clearly, this day was a busy one, but on the bright side, we got to see some really amazing places and got really good at navigating the Tube.  The train pulled into Oxford late that night, and by the time I made it back to my room, I was dead on my feet. Regardless, this day was one of my favorites of the entire trip.

Stay tuned for more posts about my trip!

-Lauren

Savannah, Georgia

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Hey there!

In addition to the Tybee Island trip I mentioned in my last post, I spent a good deal of my fall break exploring downtown Savannah and the Isle of Hope. The weekend we were in town was the weekend of the Savannah College of Art and Design Film Festival, which our full schedule prevented us from attending, despite our best intentions.
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Savannah, though it’s known for its history, ghost tours, and oak trees, is a city full of details. There’s art everywhere you look, random cobblestone streets interspersed throughout downtown, and the most amazing buildings. _MG_6891One of my favorite places we visited was the Wormsloe Estate, because the trees are an actual work of art. The estate is a popular tourist destination and is also featured in several movies. The photo doesn’t do it justice. I spent a lot of time messing with all the settings on my camera, thinking that if I could get them right, the photo would turn out as incredible as the trees themselves, but I eventually accepted that no matter what I did, it wasn’t going to happen. _MG_6976

As it was Halloween, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit a cemetery. I went to Bonaventure Cemetery the last time I was in Savannah, so that’s where we ended up. The cemetery is huge, so we weren’t able to see all of it. We only stayed for about half an hour before deciding to head to the beach, but it made for some good photos. _MG_6979_MG_6984_MG_6987_MG_6994_MG_7002

All in all, road trips are fun. Road trips with friends are even better. And road trips with friends in beautiful places are the best. I’m so glad fall is here, and that in it, I can find some of my favorite days.

-Lauren