A Note on Trip Planning

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Voluntary or not, planning a trip starts the moment that you let your wanderlust take over for even a second. You begin to imagine the types of places you want to go, the things you’ll do, the experiences you’ll have, what you’ll eat. You begin to plot out the sites that you couldn’t live without missing, and how your very Instagrammable AirBNB would sit in the perfect spot. Suddenly you start to notice hints of your dream destination everywhere; it invades your thoughts, your dreams, and your conversations. Until one day everything changes…because after months of dreaming and hoping you’ve FINALLY gotten your ticket.

At least, that’s how it went for me. Two years ago Tokyo was barely on my radar. It was just a city that I saw in photos and on TV shows. It was the birthplace of a style we’d learned about in Intro to Fashion called Harajuku; it was the setting of many magical Miyazaki films that I’d watched with wide eyes. Until I moved to the West Coast, traveling to Asia didn’t even seem like a moderate reality. You see, living in the Southeast meant that Europe was a convenient travel destination—it felt accessible, airline tickets were more reasonable, the time difference was manageable. Even closer than that was Mexico, but Asia? That shit felt far. Too far.

A couple of months after I moved to Seattle two of my coworkers went to Japan for a month. They returned with stories that sounded made up, fantastical souvenirs, and many tasty candies. It was then that I began to feel thirsty for Asia. I started to see bits and pieces of Japanese culture everywhere. Slowly (and hungrily) I began to familiarize myself with different kinds of Japanese cuisine in Seattle; I made friends with people who had been there before and were under the “I love Japan” spell that I’d grown accustomed to hearing about. My Netflix queue gradually went from Kimmy Schmidt and Planet Earth to Anthony Bourdain and Jiro Dreams of Sushi, and my Amazon wish list? …I’m sure you can imagine. Exactly a year from my friends’ return I exited the tab where I’d just finished watching Lost in Translation, got on Kayak and booked a flight for six months later.

(Maybe it was the sparkling, panoramic shots of Tokyo at night that tantalized me, or maybe it was ScarJo. The jury’s still out).


Choosing a destination for travel is only the first step in planning your trip. The next step, in my opinion, is identifying why you want to go there. What’s driving you to go to this new place? Is it the historic sites? The culture? The serene beaches? The pancakes? Identifying the reasons you want to go somewhere new will help you shape your itinerary for a supremely custom travel experience. It will be more memorable and enjoyable for you than one that simply covers the bases of that new place (especially if, frankly, you just can’t be bothered to care about some of those bases).

As many of you know, I get more excited about food than I do about most things. The opportunity to try new foods using cooking methods that have been honed for many generations, feeling it’s cultural and historical significance, it’s so life-giving to me. It’s why I’m going to Japan. I may miss some of the statues and the temples, but I certainly won’t miss Chanko Nabe in Ryogoku or “Ramen Street” in Tokyo Station.

Pro tip: An important question to ask yourself is, “When I get back, I will regret if I miss…” what? Answer that question for yourself before you leave so you know that you’re prioritizing all the things you really care about.

Once you’ve determined the WHY of your trip the rest of the planning should come fairly easy. If you’re finding it hard to come up with ideas, do some research. I think travel blogs are a really reliable resource. Take inspiration from some of the adventures the bloggers had, things they ate…but don’t be afraid to  follow their lead and seek out some of your own travel secrets. Also, check out Youtube for video travel diaries and insider information.

One of my favorite travel blogs, Cup of Couple,  just went to Japan, check out a video from their trip below:

IMPORTANT: As much as I preach about curating my own travel experience, I have a pile of books in my room that I’ve been pouring over for the last few months. Not only do they offer insight into things to do, but some also include cultural information and maps. V HELPFUL.

Some of my favorite Japan resources:

*Don’t be afraid to reach out to people who know a lot about what you’re interested in (Authors, Restaurant Owners, Etc). They can often offer up the most unique, fearless travel advice.


Traveling to a new place doesn’t have to be a checklist of obligations and tourist traps.  Make your trip memorable by making it your own, and even making it up a little as you go. A little spontaneity never hurt anyone—only made things more exciting.

One week left until take off!

Sayonara

(I’ve been practicing)

Milan, Italy | Photo Diary

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The moment when I realized I’d left my cell phone on the table was a moment that was full of emotion–first silently and then loud. Profanities bounced off the walls of our tiny AirBNB apartment as I paced and retraced my steps of the afternoon in my brain.

Finally after going through my mental rolodex of curses, I determined that the only place it could possibly be was at the tavern with the slightly-too-sweet tiramisu. We were all the way back across town in our apartment and for a moment I thought “I can do this trip without my phone.” Then reality swung a punch and I realized “no, you absolutely cannot you fool.”

With a pit in my stomach and eyes to the ground I saw the pavement blur by as began to run (with little to no dignity or faith and a shortage of breath) to where I hoped my phone still remained.  Back down into the metro I’d go, barreling onto the train and then back off again; speed walking under the shade of the duomo, across the piazza, down the narrow alleys and finally stumbling into the kitchen of the tavern.

I probably could’ve come across less panicked (it probably seemed like I’d left my child there) but the servers understood, even through my broken Italian, what was going on. After the longest two minutes of my life, the owner finished his phone call, reached behind the counter and handed it to me with a smile. I have never been so happy in my life. Bless you sweet, sweet Italian man. May you be forever blessed with lots of happy customers to your restaurant of checkered tablecloths and delicious lasagna. Please take care of your bee problem on the patio. Sincerely, Lauren.

There will never come a day when Italy does not hold a special place in my heart. Since my first visit there in 2011 I’ve known that the Italian lifestyle is one I can get behind. Schedules are more relaxed, there’s always pizza (or calzones), sentences sound like songs rather than statements, being surrounded by centuries old architectures with one million stories to imagine, dinners that run late into the night, wine continually flowing and.. the men. The Italian men, ya’ll. My kryp-to-nite.

 

And next time I’m in Italy? The south. I’m aching to see the Amalfi coast, Sardinia, and the secret panini places hidden in alleys in the smallest towns. They’re always the best.

Speak to you soon!

 

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South of France | Photo Diary

sofPROMOcannes8cannes14cannes10 monaco3cannes13monaco2nice1The South of France was like stepping onto a movie set; everything felt so glamourous.

When we traipsed off the train in Cannes, it was almost too easy to fall into the lifestyle of the quaint, french resort town. Every morning was spent lazily, draped across the furniture in the den sipping coffee and checking emails until hunger took over. After preparing our breakfasts of quiche and fresh mango, we’d open the big french doors and take our plates out to the glorious balcony that overlooked Rue d’Antibes (the main street in Cannes).

Around early afternoon we’d embark on adventures for the day. We hopped a train to Monaco and picnicked in the park and to Nice to link arms and chasse down the boardwalk. Sitting in beachside chairs facing the Cote d’Azur, we imagined the luxurious lives awaiting others in the oceanfront penthouse suites above. (Fear not, between popping into the shops and exploring the alleys, we found plenty of time for wines and cheeses.)

Each night the sunsets appeared to be painted onto the sky and they echoed across the pristine panes of the windows that paneled the romantic buildings lining every avenue. The south of France is as beautiful as we hoped. We finished the days almost just as we had started them: on the balcony. Wine in hand and the aromas of dinner wafting through the french doors that lead back into our charming AirBNB apartment.

As a million stars filled the sky and were uninterrupted by any big city lights, all I could think about was how perfect the easygoing nature of the south of France had been for us. Paris was calling and after a few days we’d be thrust back into the familiar routine of fast-paced traveling. For now, it was okay to take it slow. After all, traveling isn’t about how many extravagant attractions you see or how many trip-advisor recommended restaurants you eat in. It’s about the moments; it’s about the experience; it’s about the little things.

In the long run, they’re what you remember most.

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24 Hours in Vienna | City Guide

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Guten Tag! While I’m currently writing this blog from my couch in Milan, I only arrived here from Vienna yesterday. Finis (my best friend) and I spent a few really lovely days there and I was so excited to share what we saw and did! Even though we were there for four days, I thought I’d narrow it down and tell you about our favorite things in the form of a 24-hour guide for Vienna.

Vienna is in eastern Austria and has a history rich with culture and wiener schnitzel. The home of several renowned artists and political figures, there’s definitely a lot to see within the city. These days, Austria’s bustling with locals and tourists alike. A destination for viennese culture, lovers of classical music and adventure–Vienna is worth a visit.

ACCOMODATIONS:
While Vienna does offer a lot of hotels, we opted to go with airBNB for our time there. We stayed in a really lovely apartment (found here) that was a five minute walk from the Museumsquartier and the Naschmarkt. This was a great area to be in because of how accessible it was to those spots, but also for how close it was to the metro.

*I definitely recommend airBNB for wherever you may be going! It’s a great way to stay somewhere cool for likely an affordable price*

24 HOUR GUIDE:
MORNING
EAT: European breakfast often consists of coffee and a pastry or toast (perhaps with ham or cheese), and that was also the case with Austria. Our favorite place we went was called Cafe Sperl, located near the museumsquartier. The dark wood interior of the room juxtaposed with the light flooding in through the windows made for an elegant but comfortable atmosphere. We sat down at a table near the front door and perused the menu; I decided on the apricot cake (house made) and a latte. Within minutes our table was decorated with beautiful pastries and coffee presented to us on a silver platter. The cafe offers newspapers for its guests, as well as free wifi, and is a charming place to spend a morning.

*YOU SHOULD TRY: Wiener Apfelstrudel | Viennese Apple Strudel.

DO: After grabbing some morning fuel, head over to the Museumsquartier for some culture. The huge square behind the gates is a great place to relax. We visited the Leopold museum: “…one of the world’s most important assemblages of Austrian art. At the heart of the collection are masterpieces of Viennese Art Nouveau, in particular by members of the Vienna Secession founded by Gustav Klimt, and representative works of Austrian Expressionism” -MQ website

The mumok (modern art) looked awesome, although we didn’t get to visit that one. I also heard really great things about the Albertine Museum and the Freud Museum (in a different part of town)  Across the street from the MQ is the national library and it is gorrrrgeous. Floor to ceiling with all the books you can imagine. Definitely block out some time for that as well.

AFTERNOON:
EAT: From the MQ, the Naschmarkt is only about a five minute walk. After sashaying down the aisles of fresh product, local goods and pastries, find a restaurant to stop in for lunch. The variety is vast, spanning everything from traditional Viennese cuisine to Japanese to Italian. If you can’t find something you like within the market there are a lot of delicious options on the streets bordering the market as well.

DO: Hop on the metro and head over to the Leopoldstadt district to visit Prater, an amusement park. The park is most known for it’s giant ferris wheel, but there were some other gems in there as well. Not only are there rides, but there are games and biergartens galore inside the gates. Note: if you don’t like clowns…look out.

Afterwards, jump on back on the metro and head to Stephansdom (St. Stephen’s). This gothic/romanesque cathedral is gorgeous on the inside, but the multicolored roof is a conversation starter in itself.

The cathedral is located in the first district of Vienna, Innere Stadt, which is home to important historic landmarks such as the Erzbischöfliches Palais, the University district (lots of bars and restaurants here), the Burggarten and the Volksgarten, the Palais Pallavicini, the Hofburg palace and SO many other things. Just strolling around (with a map…or a guide) will give you an amazing taste of austria’s history and culture.

Shopping is through the side streets, but most notable on the Kärntner Straße and the Graben.

EVENING:
EAT: While we were headed to the grocery one day we passed a restaurant that had a killer interior called Mark’s, and vowed to go back for dinner. We kept our self-promise and made our way back that night; upon sitting down at a table on the outside patio I knew we had made the right choice. I ordered a spritz (always über refreshing) grilled calamari atop lavender risotto+vanilla butter with a garnish of baby carrots. The flavor isn’t even something I can talk about because of how interesting and delicious it was! Finis ordered the Salmon and it was divine; served with an israeli cous-cous and a bacon, olive jam. Wunderbar.

DO: Vienna is full of exciting nightlife that appeals to a variety of different scenes. Unfortunately I was working most evenings so I had to skip this part, but I did run across a really killer guide with more advice on that topic here.

OTHER CITIES ON MY AUSTRIA BUCKET LIST:
• Salzburg
• Innsbruck

(Hopefully some day I’ll be able to check those out.)

In the mean time, as I told you, we’re in Milano now indulging in the three p’s of Italy: pizza, pasta and paninis. We’ve done some exploring today so I’ll have updates to you soon!

 

Ciao!

 

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Concrete Jungle | Cincinnati Photo Diary

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Wanted to share a few more photos from my trip to Cincinnati OH last month. I’ve got on more entry to the photo diary to post, but then it’s off to the beach!

Posting has been a little sparse recently and here’s why: things are so crazy that I feel I may be actually going I N S A N E. Between moving, tying up loose ends in Nashville, getting ready for the beach next week and then heading up to Seattle immediately after that–my head is spinning. So much excitement and adventure awaits!

But I’ve got to admit, my week at the beach that’s on the horizon is what’s keeping me going right now.

I’ll get a (late) playlist up just as soon as I get some time.

 

Have a great week!

 

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Findlay Market | Cincinnati OH City Guide

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Top 10 Reasons you should visit the Findlay Market in Cincinnati:

10. Buckeyes. If you’ve been to Ohio before, then it’s probably been recommended to you to try these sweet, ohio-specific, treats. Buckeyes start out with a creamy, peanut butter center that is dipped into chocolate which then hardens into the perfect shell. (It’s better than Reese’s, guys.)  Not only are there buckeyes available, but other sugary surprises like macaroons, homemade fruit tarts, and SO many cookies.
9. Fresh Flowers. One of my favorite parts of any farmer’s market are the buckets of fresh flowers set out for people to admire and purchase. The bright colors are so hard to resist and the temptation to buy some for the table is always too much to fight. The cool thing about the Findlay market was the selection of air plants and unique, decorative plants. I was really taken with this little fellow who had purple chiles growing off of it’s vines and I hope to find another one like it some day.
8. Butchers. You’ll never have more desire to throw a backyard end-of-summer BBQ than you will when you see what these guys have got for you. So many brats and steaks that looked like prime cuts.
7. Produce. There was such a wide variety of fruits and vegetables available at Findlay! I was truly impressed by how many different things each of the venders was offering.
6. Local artisans. On Saturdays at the market the fun spills out the doors of the main building and into an outdoor area that houses artists from all over the city! You’ll be able to find cool mementos, decor and vintage items that you otherwise might be rare to run across.
5. Belgian Waffles. I was specifically told to find “the waffle place” in the market, so you better believe that (after finishing a slice of to-die-for bacon+spinach quiche) that I did. The menu was written on a chalkboard hanging on the wall above the waffle irons: nutella waffles, waffles with fresh fruit on top, crepes…all of it sounded like the best decision. I settled on one with fresh fruit and a dollop of whipped cream. The verdict: delicious. The texture was a marriage of crispy, sugary cinnamon roll and hot, crunchy waffle.
4. You’ll feel like you’ve somehow escaped to Europe. Surrounding Findlay Market are streets lined with houses that are painted in the brightest of hues. Flowers cascade out of window boxes making the buildings, that were once run down, come to life.
3. Cheese. One of the first food counters I saw inside the market was selling fresh cheese. This wasn’t your ordinary cheese display case, though; it was filled with cheeses from all OVER. Through the glass I saw manchegos, bries, mozzerellas, goudas, parmeseans…all sourced locally or from around the world. The selection offered was diverse, the man behind the counter was well-versed and the overall prices were super affordable, just in queso you were wondering.
2. The History. Findlay Market was built in 1852 and has been a running market since 1855. Throughout the market bits of history are inlaid within the mosiaics, the table tops and the walls themselves.
1. People watching. Get yourself out there on a Saturday, grab a coffee and watch the floodgates of Cincy burst wide open with people from all over: parents and kids, out-of-towners, farmers,  old, young, artsy, business, everyone from everywhere. Local musicians performing their sultry saxophone solos on corners and the hum of friendly conversation make up the perfect background noise for such a diverse and bustling place. Sit there all day if you want, not a second of it would be wasted.

One more Cincy recommendation and a full city guide coming to you later this week!

Speak to you soon!

 

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Countdown (On moving to Seattle) | Monday Playlist

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I can’t believe it’s already been a year since I moved into my house in Nashville.  I can’t believe it’s already been five years since I moved away from my home state of Arkansas to start a completely new chapter of life that has shaped me more than I can explain. College, friends, people who introduced me to hot chicken.. it’s been a doozy. Although this won’t be my sappy “I’m going to miss you Nashville,” post  you can rest assured that one will be coming at some point in the next few weeks. Why? I’ll tell you.

For those of you who don’t know, in a few weeks I’ll be uprooting from this amazing town I’ve been calling home and relocating to the pacific northwest. Seattle! There are a lot of things on the horizon for me and it’s just a move I know I need and want to make. It’s certainly not that I’m hot happy in Nashville, I love it here; Everything just fell into place so quickly and seamlessly and there has never been better time for relocating. I’m so excited for a new wind of creativity and inspiration; a regular diet of coffee and poutine (thanks canada); and new people and experiences that await me.

Before I get there, though, I’ve got a trip to the beach in two weeks and a trip to europe in a month. This playlist is called countdown for more reasons that I can even explain. So here it is! Monday playlist: Countdown.
 

 
Speak to you soon!

 

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Krohn Conservatory | Cincinnati, Ohio City Guide

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Cincinnati may boast beautiful architecture and an up and coming restaurant scene, but it also boasts some of the most beautiful parks I’ve been to. After spending the morning snaking through the city’s allies, Rachael and I were longing for something a little more alive than a concrete jungle, so we opted for a real one instead.

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Krohn conservatory is a greenhouse, about five minutes from downtown, that houses over 3,500 plant species from around the world. The building, another example of the recognizable art deco style that so boldly ornaments many other buildings in the area, is fully glass and surrounded by an army of flowers dressed in every color of the rainbow. The conservatory is a site in itself, but it sits right in the middle of several other parks worth spending time in, as well.

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I think my favorite part  was either the room full of succulents or the room with tropical vegetation. If you know me at all, then you know how I feel about desert plants–I have five and they are my nearest and dearest friends plants; so you can imagine the amount of time I spent oggling the many species of cacti and aloe. The tropical room housed so many bright colored, interestingly shaped flowers that I was simply entranced by it all. I know this post has a lot of photos, but really…this wasn’t even the half of it.

Highly reccomend checking out the Krohn conservatory if you’re in Cincy! Beautiful way to spend a day (especially a rainy or hot one). More tips on visiting the city/photos come in the next week!

 

Speak to you soon!

 

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Charleston via Iphone | Photo Diary

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1. My first impression of Isle of Palm was surreal. After being on the road all day ALL I wanted was the sand and the surf. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the salty air was the elixir that would get me through the rest of day.

2. Brunch at Toast! Of Charleston. I went to Toast twice; the first time offhandedly and the second was planned. My first trip there I was there during Sunday brunch. After doing a quick sweep of the menu I decided on a mimosa and a dish called Eggs on Meeting Street: a poached egg perched on top of a crab cake and a fried green tomato with remoulade and the most pillowy biscuit I’ve ever eaten…divine, okay? The company at Toast wasn’t bad either.

3. There was tile work everywhere in Charleston, especially on Kingstreet. Talk about a city with attention to detail.

4. Because, once again, I could not get enough of the beach. One of the best parts of the trip was just grabbing a quick picnic at whole foods and camping out on the sand until the sun went down. People watching was on point–but mostly I was excited about the puppy watching.

5. Black Tap coffee was entirely too charming and delicious. An iced coffee there was the perfect break to walking around in the hot sun all day (and also a break from a chapter in the story called: I locked my keys in my car. Woops).

6. Breakfast in bed because the berries were too vibrant not to capture.

7. Sunny flowers on rainy days.

8. My trip down to Charleston was a self proclaimed #coffeeroadtrip. I stopped at a stop in Chattanooga and a shop in Atlanta. The shop in Atlanta was called Octane and it was by far the smoothest cup of Ethiopian coffee I have ever had. Octane is a café and a bar, so needless to say I can’t think of any better place to be watching the World Cup right now.

9. I could’ve strolled down King Street alllllll day. And I did. And I got a really unappealing sunburn (pun intended)…(the pun is always intended you guys).

10. Another shot of the sunset over the sea at Isle of Palm. Perfection.

11. Milk and Honey was the other shop I stopped at on my way to Charleston. Before I had even gone inside I was in love. How can you deny such a cute store front? The inside was just as charming with the same honeycomb tiling and beautiful typography all over the walls. I’m crushing haaard on their branding. (And also their honey latte was the sweetest of treats).

12. Being on the beach alone was never lonely. No, it was really introspective for the most part. Just taking time to really absorb how the waves work and and massive it all is. It’s crazy. I recommend taking a personal moment or ten by the waves some time. You’ll get more sorting out done in your brain that you bargain for.

All of these photos were from my instagram which you can follow at @lacunningham!

I also updated my personal portfolio today and I would love for you to go take a look!

 

Speak to you soon

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Park Guëll, Barcelona | Spain Travel Diary

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• Wearing a jumpsuit from Necessary Clothing (similar here) •

It’s always interesting to experience a place that you have seen on a screen, made of thousands of tiny pixels, so many times. You go with certain expectations of what it will look and feel like, and sometimes your experience is even made or ruined by those expectations.

Park Guëll is a place that I’ve seen a million times on the internet. I anxiously counted down the days on the trip until we would get to pay Gaudi’s masterpiece (one of several) a visit. With an open mind I took in the sight of the mosaic covered grounds;  the flowers spilling over the walls echoing the vibrancy of the tiles; and the colorful, breathtaking view of Barcelona from the overlook.

While the initial impression was more than magnificent, it was what you saw when you looked past the big details, and instead focused more on the intricacies that were true signatures of Gaudi’s work. Some of them were only  visible for an instant, so catching sight of one felt like a whisper from Gaudi himself; a secret that not everyone gets to know. Those details are what make seeing a popular place so special. Those details are what make visiting a place like that worth it.

Mosaics, like pixels on a computer screen, come together to form an image and make an impression. There was certainly one left on me. Thanks, Gaudi.

A final few waves of Barcelona photos to go and then an announcement of a new adventure!

 

Speak to you soon!

 

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