July 10, 2019

Cardiff on a Budget

Cardiff Wales

After coming back from my study abroad, the number one question people asked me is which place that I visited was my absolute favorite.  I mean Germany was home, but Cardiff, Wales takes the cake! Even homeless people are nice, which may seem like an odd statement until you encounter homeless people in other European places (I'm looking at you Berlin).   Fun Fact: I've had a welsh itinerary planned for a decade.  Now, did I actually use that? haha... no. We were really only in Cardiff for about two days, but all that to say I was super excited to finally go to my ultimate bucket list destination.  Cardiff is hands down one of the least expensive places on my travels too, which is always a bonus when you're a gal on the go with a small wallet.  I wanted to give y'all my list of what to do in Cardiff, so that way rather than searching Pinterest and reading tons of different posts, you can have one comprehensive guide to Cardiff on a budget!

1. Bute Park: I know the name certainly causes some jokes, but this park is like walking into a fairy tale! It is so whimsical, with tree carvings, flowers everywhere, and it is right next to Cardiff Castle. One thing I didn't get to do but really wanted to, was ride the bike trail that begins in Butt Park. So if you get the opportunity I highly recommend it! 
Bute Park

Bute Park

Bute Park

Bute Park

2. Cardiff Castle: Speaking of Bute Park, as I mentioned, Cardiff Castle is right next to the park.  This castle is very unique compared to others in Europe because it is a mix of different time periods all in one building! There is also the highly photographed Keep where you can see the entire city from the top! There was even a rainbow while I was up there! I'm telling you Wales is magical! Additionally, there is a museum at the castle where you can learn about the Welsh military.  Needless to say, it was interesting reading about the American Revolutionary War from the point of view of the opposing side. 
Cardiff Castle

Cardiff Castle

Cardiff Castle

Cardiff Castle

Cardiff Castle

Cardiff Castle

3. The Arcades:  Shopping in the arcades was so much! It was exactly how I pictured shopping in Europe to be like! I really enjoyed this one shop called the Pen and Paper (at least let's hope I am remembering the name right!) I got a good chunk of my souvenirs from that store! Also, at the coffee shop in one of the arcades, finally someone explained what a flat white was to me! I know... I was an uncultured American!

4. The Cardiff Central Market: Calling all flea market lovers! This is you're number one stop in Cardiff if you enjoy a good market with fresh food, artisan crafts, and just overall seeing the culture of the city! Hands down, the best welsh cakes in all of Cardiff were at this market!! Speaking of welsh cakes, that brings me to our next item...
Cardiff Market

5. Welsh Cakes: Close your eyes and imagine a muffin and a cookie making love and reproduce the worlds most delicious baby... actually on second thought don't actually picture that... Anyways, welsh cakes traditionally are raisin filled, but you could find a lot of different flavors all over the city, like chocolate chip. I found them delicious, especially when warmed!
Welsh Cake

6. National Museum of Wales:  This museum has a little something for everyone.  If you're with children, then they will go crazy for the natural science portion because it is very interactive.  But if your an art connoisseur like myself (cough cough) then the galleries are where you'll find your happy spot! They even had monet when I was there!
Cardiff Nation Museum of Wales

7. Cardiff Bay: There is so much to do and see down at the Bay! First of all, Torchwood didn't let me into their headquarters! Can you believe that?! (For all you Doctor Who fans out there hopefully you caught that joke) At the bay there is the Millennium Centre, Mermaid Quay, the first Nordic church, a trail system, a miniature Olympic park, and a cute coffee shop! We spent easily about 4 hours walking around the Bay and seeing everything and probably could have spent more time there, to be honest. Looking out into the water, I half expected the lady of the lake to give me Excalibur it was so enchanting! 
Millineum Centre

Cardiff Bay Coffee

Cardiff Bay

Torchwood tower cardiff

Cardiff Bay

Cardiff Bay

Cardiff Bay

8. Drinks and Eats: The following is my list of places to eat or get a drink if you're on a budget but also really wanting to experience some fun and good food: Kongs Arcade Bar, The Libertine Cocktail Bar (I got delicious tea there and it is all jungle themed!), Cream's Italian Gelato, Chilli Flames Chicken, The Cambrian Tap. All of these are located just across the street from Cardiff Castle.  Additionally, another good restaurant that was closer to our Airbnb was Organicafe.
Kongs Cardiff

Creams Cardiff

If you can't tell from my last name, my heritage is Welsh so getting to hang out in Wale felt very magical.  Also if you want to experience the beauty of Europe on a budget, Cardiff is an awesome place to start! 

May 29, 2019

Trip to Stonehenge

Seeing Stonehenge has been on my bucket list for as long as I've had a bucket list!  This of course means, that as I was planning my fall break explorations of England and Wales and I saw how close Stonehenge was to Bath I, of course, added it to my itinerary.  I was a tad bit apprehensive about the experience at first because I had seen a Facebook post all about how dirty and crowded Stonehenge was, but I am happy to report that was not my experience!

 I read a lot online while researching for this post on how you need to book your tickets in advance.  This might be the case if you're traveling to Stonehenge during peak travel times, but we went mid-October and bought our tickets from Scarper Tours the morning of the tour. The tickets cost 40 pounds and included a ride to Stonehenge from Bath and back, plus 3 hours at the site.  Bath to Stonehenge was roughly an hour.  For someone like me who had never seen the British countryside before, I loved the ride! 

Once we arrived at the stones, Scarper Tours gave us audio devices so we could listen all about the historic stones which were a great way to really get in-depth information all about what archeologist have uncovered about Stonehenge.  There is also the English Heritage visitor center which has even more information and artifacts about Stonehenge.  The visitor center takes about an hour to walk through and read everything so I would keep that in mind if you have a time limit. Between the audio devices and the visitor center, you can really get an in-depth understanding of the significance of the stones. 

We were lucky because the weather was cloudy and freezing, meaning that other than the 7 people that were on our tour no one else was at Stonehenge.  Ok, yes it would have been amazing to see it on a beautiful sunny, warm day but I am actually happy we saw it when we did, because there was virtually no crowds, the grounds were clean, and I really got to focus on the beauty and history of the stones.  I mean, I've spent years learning about them in school and to finally see them in person we amazing!! I've heard a lot of people saying they were underwhelmed by Stonehenge, but I thought it was wonderful and mystical.  All of that to say, going on a day with bad weather, might actually mean you have a better experience.

Additionally, since we were staying at the cutest Airbnb in Bath, that evening we got to explore the city a little bit.  I know there is a lot to see and do in Bath alone, so it is definitely on my list of place to go back.  We ate a really tasty pub.  I got a Yam with avocados and peas, which doesn't sound appetizing, but was delicious! After eating we just got some coffee and walked around the city until it was late.  The next morning we headed off to Cardiff, so we didn't get to experience much in Bath but that just means I'll have to go back! 

5 Things Since My Mom Died

It is crazy to realize that it has been 9 years since my mom passed away suddenly.  I talked more about the realities of losing a parent when you're a teenager in this post, but I thought for this year I would talk about some aspects of who I am now that my mom wouldn't know about.  

What got me thinking about this was the Jonas Brothers released a parody of their song the "Year 3000" called "Year 2019" and it was hilarious for starters! However, it got me thinking about how much life has changed in the past decade. In particular, things that I love, enjoy, find funny, or have done that my mom wasn't alive for and wouldn't know about (we are disregarding for the purpose of this post, any potential that people who have passed on can watch over us, although I do believe that).  It's crazy to see how much things really change in 9 years, and it was really interesting to think about all the stuff in my life that wasn't apart of it when I was a freshman in high school. So, here are 5 things my mom wouldn't know about me or my world I live in now. 

1.) How to Train Your Dragon Series:  Y'all, this movie franchise is my favorite! I saw the second movie 8 times in theaters and the third one 5 times! I adore the animation, the music composition, and most importantly the way the story is told.  Plus each movie's theme aligns with aspects of my own coming of age journey.  Anyone who knows me knows that this is my all time favorite movie, so it is interesting to think about how the series hadn't even begun when my mom passed away.

2.) Landscape Architecture:  As y'all know, I just graduated with a degree in landscape architecture, and will begin working for an amazing firm in June.  Landscape Architecture and Texas A&M University have provided me with so many amazing life experiences, such as doing research in Costa Rica, living in Germany, speaking with Congress in Washington D.C., and interning at three great firms.  I love what I do, and I'd like to think I am pretty decent at it as well for a recent graduate.  When my mom passed away I was only 14 and had my heart set on being a sequential artist.  In all fairness, I did pursue that career at Minneapolis College of Art and Design for a solid semester before transferring, but my mom probably wouldn't even know what landscape architecture is.  Although, I am 100% sure she would have really liked the field and hopefully been proud of my success within it. 

3.) World Travel:  As y'all may have noticed recently, I've done a lot of traveling in the past year. Ten countries to be exact.  When my mom passed away, I hadn't hardly even been out of the state of Texas.  Now I've lived in Minnesota, Germany, and spent time in a million other places. Heck, I use Airbnb enough they gave me discount coupons! I think it would be awfully fun to tell her about all the crazy, fun, culturally enriching adventures I've been on.

4.) Media:  It is crazy to me to think about how Instagram, snapchat, etc. weren't even around when she passed away.  Now people make money off of those apps.  Also, Game of Thrones had not even begun and it's the biggest show of the century! Same goes for Pretty Little Liars and many more big shows! Katy Perry was still an upcoming artist, and now she's a bit of a has been.  It just interesting to see how much the media has evolved and what has been popular in the last 9 years since she passed away. 

5.) Cherry Blossom 56 Blog:  Finally, my blog wasn't even around! I started this as a creative outlet sophomore year of high school (let me do you a big favor and suggest you don't go back that much and look at those posts).  Now it's not only a fun, creative expression, but I actually make money off it! I would like to think my mom would have enjoyed reading my blog, and been subscribed to my email list. 

Those are just the five things that really stood out in particular for me of things that have been impactful in my life over the last 9 years since I said goodbye to my mom.  I don't talk about her much because I often think I have no claim to miss her because I was only 14 when she passed, but I hope she'd have been interested in who I have become as a person as well as who I continue to grow into.  

Things to Do in London

Things to do in London

Howdy! It has been a hot minute, but I'm back to talk more about my European adventures from last semester. Today we're gonna cross the pond and explore London! London was by far one of my favorite cities I had the chance to visit.  I liked it so much in fact, that I went twice! Well, in all transparency, the second time was really the only trip I had been planning.  The first-weekend trip was the result of the Eurowings blind booking.  It was very surreal going to London.  I grew up watching Dr. Who, which if y'all have read my blog for a while then you know how much I love that show.   I have dreamed of riding the London Eye since I was 9 years old.  To finally go to London not once but twice, was actually a dream come true!

Of course, being a college student on a budget does mean that I have some pretty fun suggestions of what all to do (plus just things I experienced which make for good stories).  Lucky for you, I have composed a list of all my must-sees while in London.  So let's keep calm and carry on to the list!

1.) Riding the London Eye:  This was an absolute must for me.  As I previously mentioned, I've been dreaming about riding the London Eye for 13 years!  I'm sure I have readers younger than that! Riding the eye was around 37 pounds which is roughly 46 USD, so it is pricy.  Some of my friends I was with thought it was overrated, but my boyfriend and I loved it. You can see so many cool sites from the top of the Ferris wheel! Plus, if you are lucky like me, your pod on the Eye will include a little boy who had a few too many beans (the musical fruit)... yeah... I try to block that part from my memory.  You do have to buy your ticket beforehand and schedule the time that you'll ride.  Even with that, it was still around a 30 min wait.  We rode at night time, so I can't say for certain if it would be a faster wait if you did the day.
Price: 46 USD

London skyline

London Eye

London Eye at Night

2.) Eating Fish and Chips:  Can you really go to London and not eat fish and chips? For the Americans reading, it's pretty much just fried catfish and french fries.  Honestly, not something I would eat again, but if you're waiting for the London Eye, there are conveniently located (aka tourist traps) fish and chip shops all around.  Speaking of chips though,  on our way back to the hotel my boyfriend and I stopped at a Five Guys and he literally orders all the fries they had in the fryer. I kid you not.  The boy working the register was like "Mate, do you want the fryer too?!"  Hopefully, Noel wasn't the first American the poor guy had met, otherwise he'll think we all live up to the stereotype of eating a large number of fried foods!! (I feel the need to add that Noel, is mister bodybuilder and can eat all those fries without gaining weight. I look at a fry and I gain weight...)
Price: Varies

Fish and Chips

3.)London City Pass:  The London City Pass is around 90 USD for a 2-day pass, which is expensive I know, but it gives you free admission to a lot of big tourist stops, plus reduced rates at others, transportation on the Big Bus that also points out different sites along the way.  You can hop on and off whenever you feel like it. You'll get to see Big Ben, Parliament, Buckingham Palace, St. Pauls (100% recommend St. Paul's even if you don't do the Big Bus Tour. It is spectacular!), the National Gallery, and the British Museum just to name a few. We did this both times and it was definitely worth the money... Well not the second time, but that's because there was a protest and someone was stabbed and the whole tours shut down... but hey at least I have a good story! The following pictures are just a plethora of some of the things you can see.
Price: 90 USD

castle hotel in london

London Parliment

Tate Modern Museum

St. pauls london

Trafagal Square

St. Pauls

london protest

4.) Millenium Bridge: Harry Potter fans this one is for you! After you go visit St. Paul's (which again is a must!), you can head on over to the Tate Modern Art Museum by way of the Millenium Bridge, aka the bridge the dementors destroy in the seventh movie/book.  While my friend Lauren went back to London with her boyfriend, the bridge was lined with wands!
Price: Free

millenium bridge

millenium bridge

millenium bridge

5.)Changing of the Guard:  If you wake up early and head over to Buckingham Palace you can watch the iconic changing of the guards.  The guard mounting begins at 10:45am and lasts around 30 mins.
Price: Free
buckingham palace guards

buckingham palace

6.) The Shard:  If you want to see All of London, drink Champagne, and overall feel fancy (and maybe have your British Flag confiscated if you're me.) then a trip up The Shard is a must.  This 70 story highrise hotel was one of the activities that were included in the London City Pass for free.  When you are at the top your pretty much get a 360-degree view for 40 miles.  I'm not sure if we just got extremely lucky on timing, but we didn't have to wait at all
Price: Free with London Pass or 40 USD without the pass

the shard

london skyline

7.)  The Globe Theatre:  Romeo, Romeo, where art thou Romeo! The Globe theatre is the home of William Shakespeare.  You can take a 40 min tour for around 22 USD, but check the times in advanced.  This was one stop we had a lot of trouble getting a tour at just due to timing.  Along with a tour, you could also purchase tickets to actually see a play! Definitely, something I am putting on my bucket list.
Price: 22 USD

globe theater

globe theatre

8.) Kings Cross & Platform 9 3/4:  Harry Potter fans, can you really go to London and not attempt to ride the express? If you head down to Kings Cross (which chances are if you're taking the tube you'll stop there at some point) then you can actually take a picture at "Platform 9 3/4" from Mon-Sun 8am-10pm.  However, I didn't actually take a photo with the trolley.  Noel & I were planning on taking an overpriced picture (15 pounds which at the time was roughly 19 USD).  Instead, we went into the gift shop, bought our house pens and took a photo outside of the brick wall. We still spent less and went home with a useable souvenier! Plus it was approx. a 2-hour wait in line and we wanted to see other things that day as well.
Price: Free - 19 USD

platform 9 3/4

kings cross

9.) Oyster Card: Speaking of Public transit, if you are traveling around London, the cheapest way to get around, is to buy an oyster card and put the necessary money on it that you need. If you buy the London Pass that I previously mentioned there is actually a deal to get an oyster card for much cheaper, but the great thing about these cards is that you can refill it easily with money, and you never spend more than 7 pounds per day if you in central London (zone 1-2).
Price: 5 USD flat rate for the card + travel money

people holding oyster cards

10.) Camden Market: Shopaholics, this is the place for you!  If you want designer items at cheap prices well come get your knock-offs! I got a Fjallraven Kanken bag for 15 pounds when at Urban Outfitters they are 90 pounds.  Now granted, it's a fake but literally, everyone thinks its real.  Plus it has held up beautifully.  Camden Market also has a lot of artist booths and delicious street food.  They are open from 10-6pm and easily reached on the tube or bus.
Price: Free to look

camden market boat

camden market

camden market

11.)  Hyde Park: Y'all, if you go anywhere go to Hyde Park! I loved this place! It seems like Central Park but in London.  There are birds that will land on your shoulders, the Princess Diane Memorial is located here, there are wildflowers, and gardens, a pond, restaurants, etc.  It's also extremely easy to get to.  We just got off the tube at Knightsbridge and then walked across the street. I highly recommend taking a stroll in the morning around Hyde Park.
Price: Free

hyde park plants

Princess Diana Memorial

hyde park birds

hyde park birds landing on people

12.) Bakers Street:  Calling all Sherlock fans! You must go down Bakers Street and visit the Sherlock Holmes Museum.  It is located at 221B Bakers Street, is open from 9:30-6pm, and takes around 1 hour to walk around.
Price: 19 USD

bakers street

sherlock homes statue

13.) Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park:  Ok, y'all know how obsessed with the Olympics I am. What if I told you there is an Olympic park that is also a Landscape Architects dream?! Well, there is, and I can not stop suggesting this place to people.  It is wonderful!! There are so many beautiful plants going on plus history of the 2012 Olympics.  I absolutely adored it and can't wait to go again.  It's massive and honestly took the entire day to explore.  Plus there is a shopping mall right next to it, so if you want to shop some European only stores, this is the place to go!
Price: Free

Olympic Rings

Olympic Park

feet on rocks

Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

Honestly, what all I went a saw is only a small piece of everything there is to do and explore in London, but hopefully, it gives you a taste of some really nice budget friendly places to visit during your stay.  Let me know where your London must go to place are in the comments! Also, here is a checklist of things to see in London!

London Checklist