2016: My Year in Travel

I try not to make New Year’s Resolutions at the beginning of every year. I don’t enjoy putting pressure on myself to lose X amount of weight or eat less of this or that. I try to live my life day to day and while I do make conscious efforts to go to the gym, maintain a healthy weight and cook (mostly) balanced food, I do my best not to wait until January 1st rolls around to do so.

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New Years Eve 2015!

BUT, I knew 2016 was going to be a big year for me. Even before it started, I had quite a few travel plans lined up both work and wedding-related. So I made a secret resolution to try to escape from normalcy just once a month during 2016, whether it was by plane or car, just going somewhere different. Even if it was in my New Hampshire backyard or my home state of Massachusetts.

I’m happy to say I kicked that resolution’s butt.

I’m not a “travel blogger” by any means. In fact, I haven’t written much about my travel experiences, but I consider myself a traveler through and through. I love seeing new places, experiencing new cultures, foods, people. And if I’m being completely honest, I love the touristy crap as much as the next person (give me ALL the museums!)

I was very lucky growing up because my family traveled a lot. My dad worked for two international airlines during his life, benefiting my mom, sister and myself with European adventures most kids don’t get to have. I didn’t know it at the time, but those experiences would instill in me a travel bug that would only get stronger as I got older. And while it’s true that I would almost always rather fly than drive (and lots of whining ensues if we do drive), I’ve never turned down an opportunity to travel.

Back to 2016. It brought with it new a country, a few new states, and a vast amount of cities I had never seen before. While I could write a post that goes on forever about every single thing I did and probably bore you to tears, here are the highlights over the course of the year.

January. 2016 started with my first ever trip to California. I knew I’d be hooked the moment I got there. My husband, who was my fiance at the time, joked that we’d probably not get married because I’d fall in love with Cali and never come back. (Spoiler alert: I did come back.) I headed to LA just after the new year for a business trip to the Golden Globes where my company took on the title of Official Confection for the awards show/ (I know, I know… my job sucks.) Though we did work almost the entire time we were there, we did have 1 extra day after the awards before flying home to do some site-seeing (and eating…)

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    Breakfast at the Wanderlust Cafe in Los Angeles. It’s kind of out of the way, but trust me, it’s worth it.
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The Weinstein-Netflix Golden Globes After Party 2016

February. A low-key month. I surprised Sean with a quick trip down to Boston to have dinner at the Top of the Hub to celebrate his 30th birthday. It wasn’t exactly “jet-setting” off to a new place but later that month we also went back to Boston to attend the Boston Wine Expo, which many of you know, is one of my favorite local events of the entire year. We stayed at Aloft Boston, which was new last year (and has since gotten pricier) but it has a super modern vibe and comfy accommodations. Be sure to stay tuned next month here on the blog, as well as my Twitter and Instagram for chances to win tickets to the 2017 Boston Wine Expo February 18-19!

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The Top of the Hub is a great place for a special occasion, but if you’ve never been there, keep in mind it’s definitely high-end and on the expensive side.
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A snapshot of the 2016 Boston Wine Expo!

March. I boarded a flight for another first: Nashville. My boss (who also happens to be one of my closest friends) has family there so we spent a long weekend at her dad’s house and hit all of the typical Lower Broadway bars and hot spots during the trip. We also had breakfast at the famous Loveless Cafe which was every bit worth the 2 hour wait. They have super cute shops to pass the time and I brought home Tennessee-made products as souvenirs which is always something I strive to do when I’m in a new place. No offense to those “Made in Taiwan” trinkets, but those are less my style. Her dad even got us tickets to the Grand Ole Opry where we sang along to Old Crow Medicine Show’s “Rock Me.”

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April. Yet another first: Salt Lake City. This was a work trip but work trips when you do social media and event planning for a chocolate company are never boring. We sponsored a lounge at a blogger conference and also hosted a special dinner for local influencers. It was a hit! I love planning these types of events because it brings so many cool people together and not only are we able to bond over the world of social media but also chocolate. Always a win-win situation.

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Highly recommend Bambara if you find yourself in SLC. Fantastic food and a wonderful staff. Our Lindt Influencer Dinner could not have been better.

May. Two words: Bachelorette Party. Two more words: Portland, Maine. And not just any bachelorette party, MY bachelorette party. My sister (who was my Maid of Honor) and my bridesmaids threw me an EPIC weekend in Portland complete with a low-key sleepover night in with pizza and games, a full day of beer tasting and touring and other special things at Allagash Brewing Company, an amazing dinner at The Old Port Sea Grille and night out where I danced my shoes off at probably the diveiest but most fun bar we could find , and then even more amazing food the next day at DuckFat (get the poutine!!) before rounding out the weekend getting coffee and The Holy Donut for the ride home. Brides, if you are looking for a destination for your bachelorette party, Portland is a must!

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Myself and my beer-loving, bachelorette-partying friends at Allagash Brewing Company at the end of our tour.
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Half a dozen donuts = #WeddingDiet

June. Then I got married. Yup, crazy. They tell you it’s the best day of your life and also the fastest and it couldn’t have been more true. Our wedding took place in my hometown church where I grew up and then our reception was at a country club in a quaint Massachusetts north shore town. It couldn’t have been more perfect.

© Jillian Knight Photography 2016 www.jillianknight.com
Wedding Photography by Jillian Knight Photography

We chased the wedding with 11 days and 10 nights at the all-inclusive Couples Resort in Negril, Jamaica. The smaller of the two Couples Negril resorts, it was intimate without being too small or cramped and we had a ridiculous amount of fun. We splurged on a suite which I highly recommend for a honeymoon in paradise. It opened right out to the gardens, was just a short walk to the beach and had a deck complete with a hammock that we laid in to relax and read during a few afternoon rain showers.

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Hammock time!
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Stick your flag in the sand, get a drink. I could get used to this.

In between laying on the beach every morning (bottomless mimosas in hand) and sailing every afternoon, Sean and I also got to explore some of the beautiful island of Jamaica. We spent one morning ziplining and visiting a local mineral spring and another entire day on a special excursion:the Black River safari, rope swinging into the stunning YS Falls and touring the famous Appleton Estate Rum Factory. I couldn’t recommend that all day excursion enough if you ever find yourself in Jamaica. It was quite a drive from our resort but our driver was not only super friendly but pointed out lots of interesting things during the day.

sailing

honeymoon

July. We headed down to Connecticut for a good friend’s wedding. I don’t get to Connecticut much even though it’s only a few hours and 1 state away, but we had a really fun time at the wedding and got to spend it with all of my wonderful dance friends, who by now, are more like family. Plus, we figured out that all of our dress colors made a rainbow. (Just missing the bride who would’ve been the perfect white cloud at the end of this rainbow!)

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August. Another trip, another first. Our good friends invited us to stay with them for a weekend on Martha’s Vineyard and Sean and I jumped on the chance right away. Neither of us had ever been to the Vineyard before but after spending a few days there, I couldn’t believe I waited 28 years of my life to visit. We spent a day at Long Point beach, visited local brewery Bad Martha (which I loved), and enjoyed dinner at The Port Hunter, where the host came over and de-boned my friend’s whole fish dinner in 10 seconds flat. We had snacks and beers at Offshore Ale, late-night drinks at 20byNine, and visited the lighthouse at Gay Head. All recommended for a wonderful weekend away.

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The most perfect day on the Vineyard.

September. This was a crazy month, but not in the travel sense. I took on TWO new dance jobs and got promoted at Lindt. My life went from full time wedding planning to somewhat on the quiet side during the 2 months following and then ramped right back up again into the high gear, fast-paced life that I’m much more used to. But before all of that craziness kicked in, Sean and I got the chance to go down to the Newburyport/Salisbury area of Massachusetts, which is just south of the New Hampshire border, to visit one of our favorite summer spots, The Deck, which also happens to belong to an old friend of mine. They’ve recently expanded their main deck overlooking the ocean and we enjoyed beers, calamari and homemade guac during one of the last really nice days of the season.

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Not a bad place to spend the last of summer.

October. Back to Salt Lake City for work yet again, this time to sponsor the Better Blog Retreat with some of the most influential bloggers in the food and lifestyle space. This conference is much smaller than the one we did earlier in the year in SLC and we hosted a LINDOR Hot Chocolate Bar. It was the perfect afternoon pick-me-up and it was fun to see everyone’s chocolate concoctions. Pro tip: the best hot cocoa is hot milk and 2-3 LINDOR truffles melted and mixed in. Bonus points if you splash in some whipped cream vodka, because why the hell not?

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Just another day at the office.

November. Once a year, Sean and I drive north to spend a few hours in Ogunquit, Maine. It’s a really special place to us for a number of reasons: it’s the spot Sean took me on our first date back in August 2012. The following summer we went back just to walk around and enjoy the ocean and the town. No surprise by now, but it’s where Sean got down on one knee in 2014 and asked me to marry him and where we took our engagement photos in 2015. 4 years later, we took our 5th trip to the Marginal Way walk in Perkins Cove and while it was way colder than year than the 68 degree day when he proposed, it was every bit as special.

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Perkins Cove in Ogunquit, Maine
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The same walk we took on our first date, the day Sean proposed, and for our engagement photos.

This year was also the first time that I did not spend Thanksgiving in Maine with my family. Instead, we took a road trip down to Maryland with Sean’s parents to visit my sister-in-law and her husband. I’m not really a car person and  dreaded the 8-10 hour drive the week leading up to it but thanks to downloaded movies, a few books, and my friend Dramamine, the drives down and back weren’t bad at all!

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Thanksgiving in Pennsylvania and I didn’t even have to wear a winter coat!

We toured Washington D.C. two of the days were there, and had Thanksgiving itself in Pennsylvania with my brother-in-law’s family. We also stopped in PA on the way home to pick up my in-laws’ new Yorkie puppy, Tucker, so it was a multi-state trip and so much fun.

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The whole fam in the Library of Congress.

I got particularly excited about the Julia Child exhibit in the American History Museum. While the rest of my family explored the FOOD section, I hovered around the kitchen and all of the things that went along with it. Safe to say I was fangirling hardcore.

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Julia Child’s Kitchen!!!

December. Maine & Rhode Island both for friend/family/Christmas-related things. Quick ttips in both directions, and nothing particularly huge to write home about, but still a fun few weekends to round out what was probably the busiest (and best!) year of my life so far.

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Our 1st Christmas (Eve) as Mr. & Mrs!

The big question is… how do I top this in 2017? Well, I may not have as many trips on the calendar (yet) but I have a few ideas up my sleeve. I think it’s high time I make my way back to Europe; 5 years is too long to be away. So far, here’s the line-up:

January. California!! Back to the Golden Globes for the 2nd year (we leave this coming Wednesday!) for more fun in the celebrity backstage lounge, throwing an influencer event in West Hollywood, and ending the night at the Weinstein-Netflix after party. Then, when my team flies home the following Monday, Sean is flying in to spend the rest of the week exploring LA, Anaheim (including a Ducks game and DISNEY LAND!), and San Diego with me.

February. No major traveling, but we are spending a weekend in Boston for the 2017 Boston Wine Expo (more details to come!) Be sure to check back in January for a chance to win tickets to this year’s event – it’s going to be another awesome year. And if you just can’t wait for a chance to win tickets, use code BLOGGERTASTE17 at your ticket check out for a special discount.

March. 2 confirmed trips this month! Going back to Nashville for the second year in a row and taking my college dance team to nationals in Anaheim at the end of the month. (GO SNHU!)

April. A trip to Texas for work that may or may not include a quick stint in Waco to visit my favorite HGTV couple, but we’ll see…

May. Down to Cape Cod for a friend’s wedding!

June. One weekend we’ll spend in the seaside town of Gloucester, Mass. for a childhood friend’s wedding and then another weekend down in Providence, Rhode Island for a fraternity friend’s wedding. All the love!

Summer. Potential trip to Kansas to see Sean’s grandparents for a long weekend. Maybe a road trip to Burlington, Vermont to celebrate my 29th birthday and our 1-year anniversary?? TBD.

Fall. England?? Paris?? Buy a house in New Hampshire?? I guess we’ll see what happens!

At this point, I think I’ll make another not-so-secret resolution for 2017 to once again escape the everyday once a month. Even if it’s just to another corner of New Hampshire, I don’t foresee this travel bug going away any time soon.

2016, you were amazing. I can’t wait to see what 2017 has in store!

If you have LA, Anaheim or San Diego recommendations for things to see, do, eat, please send them my way!

Follow my adventures on Twitter, Instagram, and of course, Snapchat (@marietorto)!

A look back at 2013

I know I’m not the only person who said this, but 2013 flew by. It was an incredible year for me and I’m a little sad to say goodbye to it. To honor it, I’m looking back on all of the amazing (and sometimes sad) things that happened during it, complete with lots of photos!

2013 started with this guy. At the time, we had been together a whopping 5 months, but I already knew he was a different kind of special.

The first moments of 2013!
The first moments of 2013!

I continued to work for Boston.com as a sports production intern, covering everything from football to hockey, including the Bruins playoff run. Watching games from the TD Garden 9th floor Press Loge is something I will never forget.

I miss these passes.
I miss these passes.
I also miss this view...
I also miss this view…

I went to my first Muse concert and loved every second of it.

May or may not have had many beers at this concert.
May or may not have had many beers at this concert.

covered the Boston Marathon and left the finish line minutes before the bombings. Thinking about that day still shakes me to the core.

<3
Boston Strong

I ran 1 single road race: the Beach-to-Beach 5K in Marblehead for my third year in a row. Not my best, not my worst, but my only. Running and I weren’t close this year apparently.

Nice bright red face there.
Nice bright red face there.

I danced in my 5th DanceWorks Boston show and choreographed my 5th piece, “World Spins Madly On“.

My beautiful dancers.
My beautiful dancers.

I ended the internship I loved on a high note and accepted my first full-time “big girl” job offer a few weeks later with premium chocolate company, Lindt & Sprungli, working in their USA headquarters in Stratham, New Hampshire. Yes, there is chocolate around me all day, every day.

Lindt USA.. where it always smells like chocolate.
Lindt USA.. where it always smells like chocolate.

BUT I managed to not gain weight in the 6+ months I’ve worked here. Happy dance.

We knew each other a whole year… and that same weekend, I shot a gun for the first time. Irony?

<3
Nice knowing ya for a whole year!
Pretty cool even though I didn't hit anything.
Pretty cool even though I didn’t hit a single disk thingy.

4th of July was complete with this awesome ‘Merica flag cake.

I can't wait to make this again!
I can’t wait to make this again!

I turned 25 in true 25-year-old fashion. On a party bus with my friends.

Party bus!
Party bus!

I moved to a different state (New Hampshire) and in with this guy.

Putting in contact paper like a pro on our first night!
Putting in contact paper like a pro on our first night!
So cute & crafty. Salt dough!
So cute & crafty. Salt dough with help from Sean’s mom!

And celebrated being together a whole year.

Roses. My fave.
Roses. My fave.
#mush
He’s my fave too. #mush

We road-tripped to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to visit Sean’s sister Chelsea and her boyfriend Scott. And had an unbelievable time.

Only 4 more hours to go ...
Only 4 more hours to go …

I went on my first real business trip to Savannah, Georgia.

View from my hotel room.
View from my hotel room.

I dressed as a shark to Sean’s Sharknado for Halloween.

"You are the shark to my Sharknado."
“You are the shark to my Sharknado.”

We went to the MSPCA at Nevin Farms’ “Cat Adopt-a-thon”, rescued a beautiful 3-year old tiger-striped tabby, named her Sophie, and fell in love with her.

How could you not love that little face?
How could you not love that little face?

My family went to my cousins’ new house in Maine to celebrate Thanksgiving for the first time. Many hours of football and eating commenced.

My cooking and baking marathon for Thanksgiving! 2 pumpkin pies & honey oat loaf later...
My cooking and baking marathon for Thanksgiving! 2 pumpkin pies & honey oat loaf later…

I got into the Christmas spirit early with twinkle lights and an American Girl doll Christmas tree. Next year, it’ll be much bigger.

Twinkle lights & snow
Twinkle lights & snow

I had a wonderful Christmas.

Traditional Christmas Eve photo!
Traditional Christmas Eve photo! Also – I’m short.

And finally, we dressed up for New Years Eve (another big shout out to Sean’s mom for costuming us!) and attended a Gatsby-themed party. (And suffered no hangover the next day!)

Circa 1920s for NYE!
Circa 1920s for NYE! Hair courtesy of my new hair wand curling toy.

2013 was fast and fun for me, with so many memories, I probably missed a few. I danced, I laughed, I cried, I loved. I could not be more thankful or happy in the place I am in right now.

Cheers to you, 2014. You have some big shoes to fill.

Recapping 2012… A Year I Never Expected

I had much of this post written before December 17th. I am going to leave what was written originally as is but add a little something up here first to give a little more context to my 2012…. I feel this post is better late than never.

On December 17th, my grandmother passed away. It was sudden, unexpected, and devastating. Mere days before Christmas, a fatal heart attack that no one saw coming was ultimately to blame. Surprisingly, I managed to keep myself together for most of what followed, only breaking down in the hardest moments, trying with everything I had in me to keep my tears hidden.

My Nuna was the most generous person I’ve ever known. Anything I ever wanted, she was willing to supply. She was the reason our Christmas tree had unnecessary but always welcome mounds of presents under it on Christmas Day, why I always had an “emergency $20” in my wallet (that was almost ALWAYS spent on non-emergent things) and why I had a life-size princess Barbie doll (remember those things?!)

She was also stubborn, but in the kind of way that made you thankful for traditional things, like the exact right way to make a turkey on Thanksgiving and why, to this day, I sit closer to my steering wheel in the car than is really necessary because “it’ll protect me.” No, it will probably make things worse, but things stick when you’re a little kid.

I miss my Nuna more than I can possibly say. I am thankful that I had her for almost all of 2012, but 2013 and on will not be the same without her.

My little sister, Nuna and me... Little kid fro and all.
My little sister, Nuna and me… Little kid fro and all.

Now, onto what I had written before. Happy New Years everyone!

Remember when I wrote the post, “2012 Will be Great?”  Well, it was.

But not before it was absolutely horrible.

2012 became a year that I never expected. Last December, I had my whole life planned out. A special relationship to me ended and I thought things would never be the same.  They aren’t – they’re better. Things change, people change, and everything happens for a reason. I think I’ve finally grasped that concept.

But 2012 had many great things. Many amazing things. Allow me to tell you about them.

– I ran my first 5-miler.

First 5-miler on New Years Day 2012.
First 5-miler on New Years Day 2012.

– I ran my first 10K.

First 10K, March 2012.
First 10K, March 2012.

– I spent my summer at the London Olympics.

London2012... The best summer of my whole life.
London2012… The best summer of my whole life.

– I turned 24 on the top of the Eiffel Tower.

Happy 24th Birthday to me!
Happy 24th Birthday to me!

– I watched two of my childhood friends get married.

Photo courtesy of the Groom's Facebook page.
Photo courtesy of the Groom’s Facebook page.

– I met a guy I would get to know while I was away for 7 weeks… and fall for him… hard.

This is my boyfriend, Sean. I suppose its time for all of you to be introduced.
This is my boyfriend, Sean. I suppose its time for all of you to be introduced.

– I was in 2 DanceWorks Boston shows and choreographed 2 routines for it.

My routine, "Deadly", featuring the 7 Deadly Sins.
My routine, “Deadly”, featuring the 7 Deadly Sins.

– I finished my Master’s Degree. (FINALLY!!!!!! Master Torto has a great ring to it.)

The face of a Master.
The face of a Master. You know you’re impressed.

– I got a part-time, paid internship as a Sports Web Producer at Boston.com.

I changed in a lot of ways.

When I look back on 2012, I realized how much my life has changed and I honestly don’t think I’d change a single second of it. Even though parts of it were incredibly difficult and there were times when I wanted to give everything up and just live in my own misery, I pulled through it. I am happier than I have been in a long time.

Here’s to 2013 and everything it brings. I haven’t really made any New Year’s resolutions but here’s one: blog more. Good plan.

It’s been three months?!

Hello again!!

Apparently I took a completely unscheduled hiatus from blogging and now all of a sudden, it’s November.

I never really meant to stop blogging for all this time.  Life just got away from me there for a while.  If you’re just dying for a not-so-short-but-still-sweet recap of what’s been going on with me for the last 3 months, buckle up… you’re in for a bumpy ride.

I last left off leaving for Paris.  It was incredible.  I spent the first few minutes of my 24th birthday on the top of the lit up Eiffel Tower and it was nothing short of spectacular.  Keesa, Matt, Justin and I spent the rest of the day lounging out front of the Eiffel tower with two bottles of wine before getting on a plane back to London.

Happy 24th Birthday to me! The Eiffel Tower was my present but I couldn’t fit it on the plane home. Darn.

Fast forward a few days…the London2012 Olympics were beginning, I was knee deep in school and internship work and life was surreal.  Though stressed, I was happiest than I had been in months, partly due to completely unrelated circumstances that I will get to in a bit.

So the Olympics… yes, well, let’s just say I’ll never be able to watch them from my couch again.  Yes, I will be finding a way to get to Rio in 2016, hopefully by then I’ll be an Olympic correspondent for… something… anything.  Just get me to Rio.

Yes, that is Ryan Lochte and yes, I was that close to him. We chatted… Let’s just say its a good thing he’s an Olympic athlete cause the kid’s got rocks in his head.

So let’s back up a bit… before leaving for London I was pretty much a miserable wreck.  Long story short, my boyfriend of a very long time broke up with me.  I was blindsided, devastated and, in the midst of the worst and hardest semester of my entire life, fell completely apart.  I considered dropping out of school, I considered giving up London, I considered being a moping, miserable person for the rest of my life.  And for a few months, I was.  But I stayed in school and committed to London because let’s be real here… what was the point of throwing away the $60,000 I had already spent on my grad program and the trip of a lifetime?  There wasn’t.

I buried myself in my school work, dance and being with people who really did love me.  I cried every day, multiple times a day for weeks.  I listened to sad music, ran a lot of lonely miles and talked to anyone who would listen.  I didn’t believe it when people told me that life would get better, that there was someone out there who would love me unconditionally, someone who I was supposed to be with.  This was in March.

Dance (and dance friends make everything better.)
Best Friends. No shame.

My BU friends took the brunt of the emotional roller coaster simply because I saw them every. single. day.

This dinner was for cheering me up. I also carbo-loaded for my 10K the next day. It was awesome.

A few months went by and soon, I wasn’t crying anymore… or at least not as much.  I finished my semester with one of the highest GPAs of my entire academic career and was now looking ahead to the summer.  London: getting away, doing everything for myself, letting nothing hold me back.  And I was scared as all hell to go away for 2 months so that pretty much trumped all other emotions at the time.

This is how I get good grades. No, but really.
And Keesa was one of my roommates in London. Best matchup ever.

June rolled around and soon, I was mere days from leaving.  But before I hopped on a plane to Europe for the summer, my family and I went to the wedding of two of my very good childhood friends.  Together for 7 years, throughout high school and college, they got married in our church and had a beautiful reception on the water in Nahant.  Though slightly emotional, it was one of the best nights I had in a very long time.

Aren’t they the cutest?
Photo courtesy of Sarah’s Facebook….

I even met someone… but more about him another time.

Spoiler alert: This is where the previously mentioned “happy, unrelated circumstances” comes into play.

He seems nice…

Three days later, I boarded my plane, took off to London and went to the Olympics.

The End..

Kidding.

Is that the end of the story?  Hardly.  Let’s just say I not only got to go to the Olympics this summer, but I also got to know someone very special from 3,000 miles away.  But I’ll leave it there for now.

My Summer in London: Off to Paris!

I can’t believe it’s been 12 days since my last post!! I’m currently working on one encompassing everything I’ve been up to since July 6th, but at the moment, I’m slightly preoccupied…

Tomorrow morning, at 3:20am, a bus will take me, Justin, Keesa and Matt to Luton airport.  I don’t know about you, but I only know what 3:20am looks like because I’m usually up on Skype or g-chat until 4am… But to actually have to be a functioning human being who is traveling to another country, I should probably take a nap or go to bed super early or something.

Not likely.

We’ll be spending the next 4 days in the beautiful city of Paris.  Think of it as a mini vacation in the midst of my program here.  We had spent the past 2ish weeks taking a special topics class on the Olympics, took our final this morning (aced it) and I have one package already done that should be posted on boston.com sometime next week.  We’ll be going nonstop for the 3 weeks after Paris in full-blown internship mode so after already being here for a little over 3 weeks, a getaway to France is more than perfect.

The last time I visited Paris, I was 9, and as much fun as I’m sure I had there being hauled around by Len & Shirl, I am bouncing-out-of-my-chair excited to get to experience it again in a different way.  The four of us are even considering a day trip to Versailles on Saturday.

And the best part?  It’ll be my birthday while I’m there… Oh hey, how did you spend your 24th birthday?  In Paris… no big deal.

So the next time you see me, I’ll be a little older, probably none the wiser and hopefully full of good French wine.  Always gotta have wine..

Look out Paris, not sure you’re ready for us…

Trouble? Not us…

…or them.

Paris is doomed.

My Summer in London: Where I’m Living, What I’m doing

Hello again!  This time from Courtfield Gardens in Kensington.

Home Sweet Home until August 14th!

I moved into my flat on Monday after a weeklong vacation with my family.  Courtfield Gardens is a mere 25 minutes away via tube  and I quickly settled into my 3-bed room with two roomies, our own bathroom and an accessible kitchen.

It’s a lot bigger than it looks and I love it.

On Tuesday, my special topics class on the Olympics started.  Three hours a day Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and our schedule looks a little something like this:

3 weeks of class + 3 weeks of internship = 6 fast weeks

Essentially, I’m putting together a presentation about Women and the Olympics, shooting and editing a ton of video and stills, and have my first few weekends free to travel Europe and explore all that London has to offer.

Instead of sleeping after class, because let’s be real here…. I’m hardly doing any of that for one reason or another… I decided to go down to a local dance studio for an advanced contemporary class.

Not only were both the class and the instructor amazing (I was drenched in sweat within the first five minutes and could hardly move the next day), it had a familiar name making me feel right at home.

A little piece of my DanceWorks family here in London ❤

DanceWorks London… who knew?

When I got back from the class, my friends were ready to get a drink and check out some of the local nightlife.  We decided on the Courtfield Pub about 10 minutes from our place.

Me and Keesa!

The only boys in the program… they have it made.

On Wednesday, our group made the journey on the tube to West Ham to take an Olympic walking tour.

This is Pepe, our tour guide. He really enjoyed his stories but we learned a ton.

We walked for about 2 hours, learning about everything from past Olympics to how and why London was chosen over Paris for the 2012 Summer Games.  Apparently everyone thought that Paris would get it over London, including all of England, and when it was announced that Paris lost, the French didn’t take it so well.  Go figure.

To see the Games, get off at the Stratford tube station and go straight to the park. You’re welcome.

For now, the area surrounding the Olympic Park is still pretty accessible but within the next few weeks, security will tighten and getting anywhere near the entrance will be impossible without tickets or the highest security clearance.

This way to ultimate sporting glory…

See?

Big fence, very legit.

This is the viewing tower and the main Olympic arena…

Doesn’t get more badass than that.

Since it was the 4th of July on Wednesday, there was no way that we were going to not celebrate, despite the fact that we’re in England.  If anything, the irony made it that much better.  We got ready, had a drink or two, and found a bar in Covent Gardens called Roadhouse that we heard would be full of other Americans we could party with.  It was.. and we had a blast.

Future journalists of America celebrating America.

Sometimes we let Justin think he has game…

Just kidding, Justin. We love you!

Matt decided to bring the American flag along for the ride.

AMURICA.

It was, by far, the best 4th of July I’ve ever had.

Despite staying awake until an ungodly hour, we decided to dedicate the next day to being as touristy as possible.  Our solution?  The Tower of London.

Torture chambers, the Crown Jewels. Classic England.

Before going inside the fortress, we checked out the Tower Bridge, beautifully adorned with the Olympic Rings.

Breathtaking right?

Within the walls of the Tower of London, we joined a guided tour with a Beefeater.  I think we got the best one the Tower has because we learned a ton and laughed the entire way though.  He was informative, clever and knew how to keep the audience engaged.  A+ Mr. Beefeater.

Let’s be friends.

We saw the Crown Jewels, took a tour through the Torture Towers and checked out the Royal Artilleries.

The White Tower… home of devices like “The Rack”.

Sometimes Matt likes to play with ancient weapons.

That is focus.

Today included things like a gym session with Justin (who made me run a 7:30 mile to the gym and I thought I was going to die), shopping on Oxford Street (oh Primark…), a much-need 2 hour nap, froyo, wine and Despicable Me…. a terrific way to end one of the busiest weeks ever.

I want to know… How are things in the States?  I heard it’s super hot in Boston!  What else should I check out in London and what would YOU like to see in a London-themed giveaway here on the blog?

My Summer in London Week 1: Family Vacation

Greetings from London, England!!!!  (Warning: Lengthy post ahead…)

It only took me a total of 15 hours to get here from the time I left my house at 2pm US time last Tuesday afternoon to when I arrived at my aunt’s place in London at 10:30am Wednesday England time (5:30am US time.)

Bye bye America! See you in 7 weeks…

All-in-all, the travel day wasn’t horrible.  6 hours from Boston to Frankfurt on Lufthansa’s business class is an extremely luxurious (cough cough SPOILED) way to travel.  My dad works for Lufthansa so it just makes sense and all….

We landed in Germany at 5:30am their time before boarding a much smaller airplane for the 1 and a half hours to London, where the time changed again, back 1 hour.

Hello business class.. thanks for the unlimited drinks for 6 hours.

Now, I’ve traveled abroad a lot in my life and jet lag isn’t something that normally hurts me too much, but this time around, it was BRUTAL.  I don’t know if it’s because we left the USA so late in the day or if it was the 3 hours getting from Heathrow to my aunt’s house because of a massive line at the UK border or the amount of luggage we had or the time on the tube but either way, I was dying for sleep by noon.

Happy to be in England, dying to get some sleep.

After taking the fastest hour-long nap of my life, we were back up and off to one of my favorite places in all of London…

Oh Harrod’s… I could live in you.

I proceeded to practically run around the store, buying things like Harrod’s brand red wine.  Don’t judge me.. this is good stuff.

What are the odds these bottles of amazingness make it back to the USA? Answer: Not very good.

The rest of my week looked a little something like this:

My family’s place where we stayed for our vacation… freakin’ massive and beautiful.

On Thursday, we visited Windsor and saw the castle where the Queen is currently residing.  We didn’t actually get to see her, but we did get to see her guards and their stellar hats.

The Changing of the Guard at Windsor Castle.

We tried some on just for fun.

Lookin’ awesome.

Friday….Stonehenge and Bath!

I like taking dance photos in front of historic landmarks… Sorry I’m not sorry.

Stonehenge was beautiful, albeit a bit chilly but by the time we got to Bath, the weather changed completely.

The Roman Baths in Bath…

We toured the Roman Baths and checked out Bath Abbey.  Bath is the setting of one of my favorite books, Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, so it was incredible being there where the story takes place.

Bath… I could live here.

That night, my cousins took me and my sister out to experience the London nightlife.  Ever met an Irish kid you couldn’t understand because his accent was so thick?  Now I can say I have…

This is Gabrielle.. She’s an expert in what we like to call “photo bombing”….

One night club in particular looked slightly familiar..

O’Neills? I thought we left you back in Salem….

Later that night, I decided it would be smart to stay up until 2:45am thinking that I’d get to sleep in the next day.  My dad, however, had other plans, strolling into my room at a casual 7:00am to inform me that I needed to get up RIGHT THAT MINUTE because we were going to miss the 8:21 train to Oxford.  Fail sleeping in.

Oxford included a tour of the gorgeous Blenheim Palace and scoping out Oxford University’s campus.

Who’s moving in with me?

The rose garden of Blenheim was by far my favorite.

Reminds me of the Secret Garden.

By the way, I got a new camera…can you tell?  No more iPhone photos for me!

Did I mention how much I love roses?

100 British pounds to whoever can name what movie this courtyard was featured in…. Hint: It’s one of my favorites series of all time.

Oxford was the shooting location for……………..

After falling asleep on the train ride home, my family went to dinner at one of my favorite spots in London: Kandoo.  This hole-in-the-wall Persian place is BYOB and serves incredible food.  Even my mom, the pickiest eater in the entire world, loved it.

Best Persian food ever.

Today I finally got to sleep in and didn’t wake up until… noon.  With my parents out of the house (they decided to go back to Bath and spend a few more hours there), Melissa and I printed a map, got some tips from our cousin Ali and hit the streets of London for our own pub crawl.

I have a map and a beer. Go.

First up, The Beehive..

First stop.

Then, The Marylebone, which ended up being my favorite stop of the day.  I recommend the Passionfruit Bellini.

2 for 1 cocktails all day Sundays…. I will be back.

Third, The Prince Regent, where I had my first-ever glass of Zinfandel.  I usually stay away from this type of red because I’m biased towards Merlot, Cab and Malbec, but this one was surprisingly delicious.

Bar #3

Our last stop, the Barley Mow, was cute too.

Last stop…. NOT.

About three seconds after we left the Barley Mow, we got a call from Ali who told us to come to a bar called The Globe to watch the Italy-Spain “football” game with her, Gabby and bunch of their Embassy friends.

Fun place but super crowded for the game.

…And then Ali spilled her full beer all over the place and our new friend Derek laughed at her.

Whasamattawithyou????

All-in-all, a successful pub crawl around London and a great way to end my first week here.

Post-pub crawl success.

So that’s my trip to London up until this point.  Tomorrow I move to BU London at Courtfield Gardens in Kensington and have orientation before starting class on Tuesday!  Once I’m settled in, I promise more pictures and maybe a few more posts so they aren’t as long…

Cheers!

I want to know… Have you traveled or studied abroad?  What’s your best advice for getting around London and/or Europe?  I’m dying to get to Paris and Rome but I’m not sure of the best way to go about it… help!!