Windows on the world

Arty colorful kitchen
Kitchen of the Airbnb with Yoshi and Yello

Yesterday was a long travel day. Longer than I expected. By the time we arrived at our final Airbnb we had been “in motion” for 8.5 hours. This included a ride to the train Doune station, a train ride to Edinburgh, a tram ride to the airport, some time eating lunch there, a short flight to London Luton, a train ride to the tube station. A couple tube transfers later, we finally made it to Canary Wharf, up three sets of stairs to a lovely and artistically decorated renovated warehouse flat here.

attract fun
mantra on the mantel of this Airbnb

Having been out & about among people for so long (and in such confined quarters on the tube) with people, I was feeling ready to shut out the world, not visit with our hosts. Hopefully they understood. My introvert self wanted to retreat, spend time alone or just with my husband. On day 13 of this vacation, I now feel relieved we will be going home tomorrow. I miss my own bed, our quiet townhome, our kitties who will no doubt be a bit miffed with us for being gone for 2 weeks.

every-moment.jpg
This applies to our trip.

I enjoy doing the Airbnb experience because it gives you a window on people’s lives in another part of the world. While I am not wild about the times we have had to share a bathroom (about half of the lodgings on this trip), I still think the experience beats staying in a standard, traditional hotel. You must read the descriptions carefully and the reviews to make sure a place fits your needs.

On the eve of returning home, sitting in this lovely apartment and enjoying some solitude, I would still do the trip this way. I may be a little more selective on locations, and try to stay at least 2 days (sometimes 3) in each, instead of the few where we only had one night en route. Given the limitations of not driving here, I would say I did fairly well.

I may have a little “armchair” sociologist in me, getting this window on another person’s life and home, getting fuel for my future stories and books I will write. And part of me enjoys the adventure of not knowing exactly what we will find each time. Not only do you save some money off the expense of regular hotels, but you also gain the benefit of receiving an inside look at some of the real ways people live.

I am taking home with me a treasure trove of new experiences, ideas, inspirations and some lessons as well. How grateful I am for all of it.

Cheers,

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Unsung art
Unhung art from the living room of the final Airbnb in Canary Wharf.

 

 

 

 

 

Far from the madding crowd

Landscape at Milton
Landscape from a nearby hill. 16 Sept 2018

Yesterday we arrived at the Milton of Cambus Farmhouse Airbnb (in Doune, Scotland) that I had booked on Saturday when I decided that another two days of train trips to get back to London from Edinburgh was too much.

As we arrived, I realized it was the best decision I had made for this trip. Feeling a bit weary of train travel, these two introverts on the road on day 11 were feeling in need of open space, field of sheep and cows, fresh air and time away from crowds. Here at the farmhouse we received those wishes.

Cows at Milton
Cows, rather curious about us. 16 Sept 2018

Our hosts, Rosemary and David, have been so kind. Knowing that we lacked transportation, they picked us up at the airport and even offered a lovely dinner for a small fee, even though they do not usually provide that. We are the first guests that have arrived without a car, and they seemed so willing to make us feel at home.

My only regret is that we do not have longer to stay here. They are travel writers, and they publish a number of Simple Guides and Safari Maps covering places here in Scotland as well as East Africa. Their books on the Maasai Mara region and Kenya are beautifully illustrated and get me thinking about traveling there, even though this area was not high on my list before.

We told them last night how this experience of staying with them is “breaking the curve” on every Airbnb (and regular B&B) experience we have had so far. David explained that they have often had such good treatment while traveling, and they like to provide what they would want to their guests, as much as possible. What a lovely way to look at hosting.

Sheep at Milton
I tried to get closer to the sheep, but they were not fond of strangers, so they ran in the other direction when I approached.

During this trip we have had 6 other Airbnb hosts, and they varied widely in the quality of what they were able to offer. Some were limited by the space and neighborhoods they had, so that was not within the control of the hosts. Some were highly interactive and others more withdrawn and absent.

As introverts, we do not need or want constant conversation with our hosts or other guests at the Airbnb. But I think it is important to feel welcome, or at least feel as though we are not an imposition on the host. Learning some history about an area or receiving suggestions about local activities is a precious part of hosting. Feeling welcome and cared for is such a great gift.

We fly back to London today for our final Airbnb in Canary Wharf before returning home this Wednesday. I am so grateful for this time and for our journey together on this trip. I am sure to process it and write more in the coming weeks. For now, I am just grateful we have had time away to rest and relax. I am starting to miss my cats and my own bed.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Sheep on hill
It is idyllic countryside, here in Doune, Scotland. I will miss it when we leave. 

Travel notes to self

Hello Friends,

My usual Saturday share is on holiday as I am traveling on my honeymoon/1-year anniversary trip with my husband until the 19th. As I work out final travel details for this trip, I thought I would reflect a bit on the best and hardest parts of this trip so far, and what I am “filing away” for future reference.

We had a lovely visit to Loch Lormond, Glencoe, Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle and Loch Ness yesterday. I definitely recommend a visit to the Scottish Highlands if you travel here – the beauty of the landscape is worth it. We used Timberbush Tours, because I found a brochure in the train station in Glasgow that offered some options we could consider. Definitely worth trying to book a few days in advance or a couple weeks, since a couple of the tours we considered were already full for just one day in advance.

It was definitely a satisfying day though quite long, starting at 7:45 a.m. to meet the bus and not returning to the city center until 7:30 p.m. at night. But the drive was worth it. My hubby got some excellent photos and I will be sure to share them in future posts.

Urquhart Castle
Castle Urquhart, taken September 14, 2018.  Use only with attribution to mexi-minnesotana, please.

This morning I woke up thinking about how to modify our trip to perhaps cut one long(er) train trip out and replace it with a short flight. We have one night in Edinburgh, one night in Manchester and two nights in London reserved via AirBnB for the final days of our trip. I realize that having only one night in a place versus two can feel too rushed on a trip like this.

In our first 6 nights here, we had two nights in each location, and that felt like a good pace, time to settle in and also time to explore. Then we only had one night in Liverpool, and I could have used two. Arriving in Glassgow I felt very tired and trip weary.

I am researching a change to two nights in Edinburgh, and two nights in London, canceling the visit to Manchester and flying directly from Edinburgh to London, making it a shorter trip back. I am considering that idea, though it looks like our Edinburgh host does not have a second day available so we would still have to find a 2nd night there.

What I am learning is that my exuberance in seeing so many places needs to be balanced with our need for rest and relaxation on a trip. I think in the future, I will try to book 2-3 nights in each place and be more selective about the number of locations we visit. It is so hard to choose! I want to see everything and go everywhere!

But in the end, I do not want to arrive home exhausted, feeling like I need a rest to “recover” from my vacation. So I will make mindful choices after this trip experience and with our needs and desires in mind.

Cheers & happy weekend, all.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Liverpool to Glasgow

Hiya friends,

We left Liverpool on Thursday to come to Glasgow, Scotland. On Friday we have a tour of Loch Ness, Glencoe and The Highlands scheduled.

Liverpool, England
Liverpool, England – taken Sept 12, 2018

I wish we had planned for more than one day in Liverpool. It was fascinating and a very picturesque city. We visited the International Slavery Museum. It was a sobering reminder of the history of mistreatment and dehumanization based on color and national origin.

I shall have more to say about that in the future but at the moment, I am suffering a little trip fatigue. Two long days of train travel and then being in charge of the tour and transportation set ups have left me a bit tuckered out on Day 8 of 14. Thankfully I think the “arranging” is mostly done. We have 2 days in this AirBnB so a little rest from luggage hauling.

I love travel, but all the decisions can be a bit taxing. Two long days of train travel in a row took more out of me than anticipated. At least Friday, getting to the tour company start is the only arrangement we have to make. With Uber restored on my phone, that should be do-able.

Happy Friday, friends! I will share some photos this weekend if we get some good ones.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Wellness Wednesday – pack your snacks

Hello All,

While I am traveling, I am reflecting on wellness practices that I use during my trips (anything lasting longer than about 3 days). In situations where you will be navigating time changes, or spending time on trains, where there is some schedule uncertainty, it may be wise to pack some snacks.

Pack your snacks
My packed snacks are on the bottom in Ziplocs. I also discovered the most excellent Sea Salt & Black Pepper cashews at the Tesco market here in Salisbury.

I am not opposed to some “trip fasting” when you don’t get to eat a meal at the usual time. We all carry more than adequate stores of fat on our bodies (at least most of the Western World) that we can survive many days (indeed weeks) without food.

However, given the uncertainty of meals and the fact that many train stations and  cafes are stocked with carbs and sugar or foods likely fried in trans fats, I like to have healthy alternatives stashed in my backpack. I like mixed nuts because they pack a lot of nutritional value in a fairly small space. I am not a perfect minimalist when it comes to travel, but they take very little space. A small handful of nuts can go a long way when you’ve missed lunch and are on a delayed train. My hubby notices that I can get a little “hangry” when it has been 5+ hours since I’ve had a good meal.

This is less urgent in recent years since I’ve typically fasted overnight for 12-14 hours,  and one day a week I fast for 16-18 hours by skipping breakfast on Saturdays when I attend morning yoga. My body has become sufficiently “keto adapted” that I do not typically have any problems with low blood sugar. However, it is the mental game sometimes, not the physical one, that can get us into trouble.

When traveling, your mind can be taxed to capacity, particularly if you are unfamiliar with an area. You have been calculating currency conversions in your head. Your train is late, so you missed the connection. Your wi-fi isn’t working on the train and you are running out of clean laundry.

Any of these circumstances are fairly benign. But added up, they can make you feel fatigued and cranky. So you do not need to add to the problem by yelling at your spouse or allowing your tension to boil over. Even if I never access my snacks on a typical travel day, just knowing they are there helps me avoid “famine brain,” which can stress me out unnecessarily.

Sometimes hunger is true and physical. It is best to wait for this physical signal in order to eat, if we do not want to add extra weight. Sometimes our hunger is actually more of a emotional issue. We may hunger for rest, or connection with our partners. Eating is the solution in these cases. However, for me, my primitive brain seems to do better when it does not have to work overtime to solve any scarcities.

Do you pack food for travel? What are your favorite trip snacks? 

cristy@meximinnesota.com

Together at Stonehenge
Photo of me with my hubby at Stonehenge on Sept 11, 2018. There is a fine cafe there with delicious steak pasties and cheese and onion pasties which we had for brunch before our tour.

Gratitude, my lovelies

On Sunday night, after I had walked my dear husband for over 20,000 steps according to the counters on our phones, I took him out for a nice dinner. I had the intention of walking the 90 minute coastal path from Cremyll to Cawsand, but we got lost once, adding steps. Since the path was winding, I believe it was a bit longer than advertised, and took us closer to 2.5 hours.

We headed down to the Barbican with our tired legs after a rest at our AirBnB, finding a steakhouse on the far side of the Marina (even more walking). No matter, once we were there we were treated to a feast.

The meal was delicious, but even more so, the service was excellent. Our waitress (Elizabeth) took such good care of us for the evening, and she kept calling us “my lovelies” when asking if there was anything we needed. I told my husband how much that tickled me – I enjoyed being called “my lovely.”

Just before bringing our dessert she asked us where we were from, admitting that she could not quite place our accents. We sheepishly confessed were were from Minnesota in the U.S., after saying we sometimes like others to think we are Canadian (you know the ugly American phenomenon?).

Happy anniversary board cropped

She asked if we were celebrating anything, and we mentioned our 1-year anniversary coming up, along with my husband’s 50th birthday next month. Those are the main reasons for our epic trip, of course. It’s not like we do this every year…though if I can find a way – I will return!

So for the final dessert she brought out beautiful dishes – one with “Happy Birthday” written in chocolate sauce and one with “Happy Anniversary” written on it. It was so very kind and thoughtful of her to find out why we were there and to take the special effort to make us feel so welcome. But we dearly appreciated it, and I am sure it will be one of the more memorable evenings of the trip.

It reminded me that when someone takes the time to make you feel welcome and appreciated, I respond in kind. I realize that this was her job, but she went several steps further than needed. Sometimes it may be an extra smile you give to someone, or a thoughtful and kind deed. But no gesture, in my view, is ever wasted.

Does it make your heart happy to delight others? In what way can you delight someone you love today? 

 

Barbican to Cornwall

Window onto the sea, Cornwall
Window from Cornwall

On Sunday we took the Plymouth Ferry from the Barbican to Cremyll. I was excited to arrive in Cornwall. This is where my Grandfather (Jim) was born, and where my great Grandma Tizzie (Elizabeth) and great Grandpa (James) lived before they emigrated to the New World. Great Grandpa died when Jim was very young. He’d been a coal miner, according to his marriage certificate. It is probably not a mystery why they chose to leave England. Opportunities in the early teens of 1900’s were slim where they lived.

Welcome to Cornwall
Cremyll upon disembarking the Plymouth ferry

Tizzie raised her two boys mostly on her own. She was a proper English woman, though not of noble birth. She loved her tea and scones.

She was a practical woman, and I believe she was thinking of her health and wellness when she re-married in her 70’s to a man in his 50’s. It was a bit scandalous at the time, but given that she lived well into her 90’s, I believe she chose well.

I dearly love this coastline and the English countryside. So far, this has been my favorite part of the U.K. trip. While in London, it was fun to see the historical sties and to enjoy the city life. But I much prefer the more open spaces and the charm of the coastal towns of England.

Mount Edgcumbe Castle
Mount Edgcumbe in Cremyll, England

There is plenty of history here, and Saturday evening my husband and I found the Mayflower steps, where the Pilgrims first set sail for the new world in 1620. I love thinking about what that might have been like, to get on a ship to a land which scarcely anyone (except the First Nation people, who already lived there) had seen.

I thought about the courage and blind faith of people who sought religious freedom and better opportunities for their families. I considered all of the things that could (and did) go wrong on board the ships. Disease, storms, failures of navigation, starvation aboard ships, and all manner of risks beset travelers in those days.

Cawsand from the Coastal walk
Cawsand, Cornwall: view from the Coastal walk

With odds like that, it is a wonder that so many made the journey. Tossing caution to the wind, early immigrants dreamed of a future that would hold more freedom their past.

It makes me distinctly proud of my heritage and the people who brought me here, particularly my grandparents. I consider the brave choices that they made that allowed for the privilege of my life as it is and I am profoundly grateful. It makes also me sad that today we seem to have a political climate that seeks to isolate rather than welcome immigrants today.

Since I am a mix of English, Swedish, Mexican, possibly Spanish and some German ancestry, of course my bias is that mixing cultures is a good thing. I realize not everyone feels this way. But I hang onto that vision of the “new world” that my ancestors held in their minds as they traveled.

Then I contemplate how we might extend this privilege to more people in a world that is more polarized than ever, yet globalized at the same time. I do not have the answer. I just wonder if it might be possible. What do you think?

cristy@meximinnesotana.com