The joys (and dangers) of having a Pinterest account is the wide variety of information it gives for things to do and places to see when traveling to new places (or returning to some favorite places).  When my mom, bowling team and I travel to Louisiana, we only have two nights in New Orleans which brings up the saying, “So much to do, so little time”.  Pinterest, as well as the internet, has helped us determine our top choices for sight seeing.

jackson square 1

New Orleans is a great city for a history nut.  The Jackson Square, pictured above and named after the famous President Andrew Jackson, is home to an open air balcony where artists tend to show (and potentially sell) their artwork, and the square is also the location of the oldest cathedral in the United States: St. Louis Cathedral.  Their website provides information on the history, mass times, and the opportunity to hold a wedding.  An open balcony provides the chance for artist to show off their artwork and visitors a chance to appreciate/buy it.

oak

Plantation tours are also a rich history experience, and no tour should be the same.  The Top Ten Plantation Tours website briefly describes 10 plantation tours available in or around the city, then provides a link for further information.  Bocage Plantation website states this plantation is closed until further notice.  Upon further research, I found out the home and land were sold at an auction in 2012 with no information on it reopening.  The Oak Alley Plantation (pictured above) dates back before the Civil War with historical structures from that time period still intact and open for the tour.  A tour at this location costs $20 and gives a visitor access to the house that still houses some belongings from the original owners, other structures on the property and the gift shop.  For a traveler who wants to peek into centuries worth of history, a plantation tour is one of the best ways to go.

bourbon street music

The main thing I want to experience is MUSIC.  If we go to New Orleans and don’t experience that, then we haven’t traveled in my opinion.  Piano bars, street corners, jazz bands, House of Blues, the possibilities are endless.  The House of Blues website provides information on upcoming concerts as well as a full menu.  Seafood, cajun, “Jambalaya Bayou Bowl”.. when in the gulf, you might as well eat their food!  Bourbon Street is a famous attraction filled with tourists and bands during the day and an interesting side of tourists at night.  Some of my friends and coworkers that have already traveled to the city have stated that Bourbon Street has a smell mixed of “pee, puke and alcohol”.  As long as we stay in a large group and alert of our surroundings, I don’t see any problem with traveling to Bourbon Street.

No matter what we do or see, I know New Orleans will be a great time, and I can’t wait for June!

Until next time… “the world is a book and those who do not meet only read a page.”

Posted by Sarah Steed, filed under Louisiana, Travel Prep. Date: April 27, 2017, 4:07 pm | No Comments »

20  Apr
For Rent

Before the prep for my New Orleans trip started, I would’ve only thought about booking a hotel room while on a trip.  Renting a home for a vacation only seemed real in movies such as The Holiday, until now.  In fact, the practice of renting a house for a few days seems to becoming more and more popular.  For a large group like we have with the bowling team, it seems much cheaper and easier as well to book a house that can sleep up to 10 compared to renting a hotel room for 3-5 people.

The house the bowling team and I rented is here, seemingly in the heart of New Orleans.  The house has seven beds, a full kitchen, washer and dryer, internet access, and two TVs: most of those things are hard to get even in a hotel room!  Even though I haven’t ever rented a house for a vacation, I can’t help but think already of how the house outways the options for hotels.

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1. Your own space: you’re not hearing the screams of little kids next door, or running down the hall

2. You don’t have to wait for the hotels to serve you a full breakfast: with your own kitchen, why not go grocery shopping and fix your own breakfast?

3. The hotel spaces always seem congested especially when you have up to four people trying to use one small bathroom.  This house has 2.5, and even though there’s about nine of us, it already seems like a castle!

Another blog site lists a few more reasons of why one should rent a vacation home instead of a hotel:

4. The “rent with a view” is something that didn’t pop in my head right away, but is so true!  I haven’t looked at many pictures of our house, but the listing provides location details, and it seems we’re staying right on a main street close to Bourbon street.  Can’t complain with the center of New Orleans being at your doorstep, can we?

5. $$$$: I’ve mentioned the cost a little bit before, but the listed website mentions it in more detail: when you book a house for a vacation, most of the time all “hidden fees” that you’d find in a hotel are listed right on the website.  Cleaning fee, security deposit, etc: all of that you can calculate into your budget without the worry of having to add more at the end.

 

Hey, the other blog list suggest Hawaii as a cheap option for home rentals as well: luau anyone?

Posted by Sarah Steed, filed under Louisiana, Travel Prep. Date: April 20, 2017, 1:42 pm | No Comments »

14  Apr
Final Countdown

They’re not kidding when they say time flies.  In two days, I’ll be a whole MONTH away from my first trip to the UK!  I think I’ve been dreaming about going to Ireland since before I was 10…and in less than six weeks, it’ll come true!!

The scary part is…I’ve barely thought about packing.  Sure they talk about it in the travel study class, but when it comes to leaving class and going home to start on it?  Nope.  The most I have accomplished is having a bunch of suggested packing lists pinned to my travel board on Pinterest and a few organizers that I’ve bought laid out in my room.

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This contraption is what I call a “shower organizer”.  Purchased at TJ Maxx for $20, this organizer has four zipper compartments, 2 of which are removable.  At the top is a hook which allows travelers to hang the organizer on their bathroom door or, if permitted, the back of a shower door.  Buying this little contraption instigated a “practice pack” and list writing session in order to determine what I could and should eliminate from my luggage.  The first compartment is rather flat, so I plan to make that my “first aid compartment”.  Things like tweezers, band aids and such aren’t too bulky or large and won’t make it difficult to zip or close the organizer.

The second compartment (but the first that is removable) was great for storing my basic hygiene supplies: toothbrush, toothpaste, flossers, Q-tips, and makeup remover wipes.  The third compartment (and second removable compartment) had just enough space to store any medicines I may pack: prescriptions, Excedrin (for my nasty migraines- that’s the LAST thing I need over there), Aleve and a sleep aid like Melatonin.  Finally, the fourth and largest compartment is going to be where I store my face wash and lotion, shampoo/conditioner, and contact solution.

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This little bag was also purchased at TJ Maxx and cost around $8.  It’s small enough for easy packing, but has a generous divider which can make this bag great for storing my makeup supplies.  Things like my brushes and primer can be stored on one side with the actual makeup (eye shadow, mascara, etc.) on the other.  With a twelve hour flight to the UK, I’ll definitely be tossing this organizer into my carry on bag for whenever I need to freshen up my zombie look!

Hopefully this weekend I can manage to do a more thorough practice pack and provide a more in depth packing list for any travelers that will find it useful :)

“Pack your suitcase and go”.

Posted by Sarah Steed, filed under Travel Prep, UK. Date: April 14, 2017, 4:22 am | No Comments »

08  Apr
Loch Ness

Throughout the semester my travel study class has assigned group projects.  I know, group projects are like the Grinch when you’re in college: they can sometimes suck the fun out of everything, right?  I have to say (as a common complainer of these) that the travel study group projects have been very useful and actually fun!  It’s been great to meet new people as well as study the places and culture of the places we’ll be visiting now within a matter of weeks!

For the latest group project, each group researched a city/area/attraction we will be attending.  All presentations provided a historical background on the attraction as well as information on our tour.  My group studied Loch Ness near Inverness, Scotland.  This area is home to the famous legend, the Loch Ness monster.

monster blog

Although the monster has never been scientifically proven to exist, a couple of sightings have been recorded in the past century.  Those who claim to spot the monster say it looks like a strange whale body with a dinosaur shaped neck and head.  Odd shaped photos like the one above have been shared a few times since the first recorded sighting in 1933.

loch blog

Our tour for this attraction takes us on a cruise of the loch which stretches over 20 miles and 700 feet deep!  The cruise offers Wifi, food and drinks and shelter in case of nasty weather.  A tour guide provides history on the loch and monster while a live sonar searching for the monster runs in the background during the tour.

Following the cruise, we will be able to explore the nearby Urquhart Castle.  The castle itself was the center of political uprising between England and Scotland in the 1300s before being abandoned.  This tour will give us the opportunity to explore the castle ruins and get a front row look at the Medieval tour including a former prison cell.

urquhart blogThe tour will end at the Loch Ness Visitor Center before the travel study group moves onto a different Scotland location.  This travel study is turning out to be a great experience for history lessons while staying relevant and exciting.

Til next time….

~Wanderlust~

 

 

Posted by Sarah Steed, filed under School, Travel Prep, UK. Date: April 8, 2017, 6:45 am | No Comments »

07  Apr
Decisions…..

While the idea of being the UK is exciting enough, I have to say the events I’m looking forward to the most is the days we have to ourselves.  The travel study is a group of about 30 students and 2 instructors who have done a great job so far setting everything up, but I think we all will be ready for a day (or a few) whenever the opportunity arises.  The itinerary is set up so we have at least one night or day to do as we please in each country.  We have the opportunity to explore both Edinburgh and Oban, Scotland; we have an evening free in Belfast (I’ll be spending that listening to Irish music! :), and we also have quite a few free evenings in Bath, Cardiff and London, England.

For our free day in Oban, we had two options to choose from: We could choose from the Three Isles Exursion which is a full day tour of the three islands surronding Oban, Scotland in a “near perfect horseshoe”, or we could spend the day exploring more of Oban and visiting the Sea Life Center.  At first I thought the idea of exploring islands all day would be boring compared to the chance of feeding seals at the Sea Life Center, however after more research I changed my mind.

The first island in this group is Staffa, famous for its Fingals Cave, which are built into the island and surrounded by naturally curved stumps.  The website promises tourists the chance to explore the Cave further if the weather permits.  Meanwhile, the islands of Mull and Iona both house historical structures.  Iona is home to an ancient cathedral and accompanying cemetary as well as a bird sanctuary while Mull (pictured below) houses an old castle

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For anyone else interested in checking out this gorgeous land mark, the website that I found most of the information from can be found here.  The cost for an all day tour of the three islands is $70.  I think this will be one of the many highlights of the trip…. time to start packing :)

Posted by Sarah Steed, filed under Travel Prep, UK. Date: April 7, 2017, 4:13 am | No Comments »

When I was 10, I asked my grandma to buy me the first four books of the Harry Potter series because I thought “they looked cool”.  They sat on my bookshelf for three years at least, until my mom finally made me read them.  I was hooked after the first chapter of the first book, and I have been hooked ever since.  One of the very last days of my UK travel study will be spent at the Warner Brothers Studio- the Making of Harry Potter in London.  Everything I’ve read online about has said it may be “pricey, but it’s perfect for any Harry Potter fan”.

Diagon Alley

Part of me wants to explore every inch of the website in order to prep, but the other part wants me to save some surprises for when I get there.  Some of the attraction’s highlights include studio tours where fans can go behind the scenes of the “Boy Who Lived”.  Replicas of sets seen in the books and on screens such as Hogwarts’s Great Hall, Diagon Alley (pictured above), Dursley Home, and the most recent added attraction: the Forbidden Forest can make a visitor feel the stepped right back into one of the movies.  After the tours, many fans enjoy getting their picture taken on Platform 9 3/4 before purchasing the famous Chocolate Frogs or Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans in the gift shop.

The entire itinerary for the travel study is seemingly set up to “save the best for last”.  Our last four days of our trip will be set in London, including this tour.  The upside?  I have something to focus on throughout the trip when I get homesick.  The downside?  I have to be sure to budget my money so I can get everything I want in the gift shop!  Luckily the Warner Brother Studio has a Gift Shop website with all of their merchandise and pricing listed.  Since I am not familiar with the different currencies in the UK, this has been a great tool to have for budgets.

The trip count down has turned into months and now weeks.  I’m afraid to say “I can’t wait to be in the UK already!” so many times because one day I’ll wake up and I’ll be back home.  Until next time….

“Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times…if one only remembers to turn on the light”-Albus Dumbledore

Posted by Sarah Steed, filed under UK. Date: March 6, 2017, 5:06 am | No Comments »

24  Feb
Cajun

Every time I travel there are two things that are EXTREMELY important to me: what are we going to see and what are we going to eat?  I LOVE FOOD.  I have my favorites, but I love trying new things.  For our Louisiana trip, the bowling team and I have been starting to look up tours and where to get the best Cajun food.  One tour group we have been looking at (Cajun Encounters) is a three hour city tour of New Orleans that also takes us through one of the cemeteries and gives credit towards another Cajun Encounter tour.

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I originally thought the Cajun tour would include a food voucher or something, but it doesn’t seem to.  Not to worry though, since we’ll be in the heart of New Orleans for three hours!  During this tour google search, I also typed in the “best places to eat Cajun food in New Orleans”.  Not surprisingly, there was more than a handful of resturants listed.

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Right now I am a little partial towards the first option: Resturant Revolution.  From their menu online here, http://www.revolutionnola.com/restaurant_revolution_menu.html#lunch they have a wide variety of choices.  It looks like the typical breakfast from home has been mixed in with the southern style seafood, but they still offer “plain” options (basic eggs, basic scrambled eggs, etc).  For anyone over 21, their wide selection of wine and cocktails seems to be a good reason to flock there as soon as we land in New Orleans!  And on that note, I think it’s time I go cook MY lunch! :)

Til next time,

 

“We travel not to escape life, but for life to not escape us”

 

 

Posted by Sarah Steed, filed under Louisiana. Date: February 24, 2017, 4:47 pm | No Comments »

Here we go!  Having three trips to go on this summer is both exciting and nerve wracking.  There’s so much to do, but the fun part is talking about all of them at once.  One day I can be talking about my travel study, and the next day I can be making plans for Louisiana or Montana.  That’s kind of what happened this week.  My mom and I sat down and made the first “set in stone” travel decisions for our Montana road trip.  Screenshot (24)

The date has been (tentatively) set, so now we can start making the travel plans.  For the longest time, my mom and I have talked about flying out to Montana.  The bride, my friend McKenzie from high school, and her husband are both in the army so they’re still a little reluctant to send out invitations, and we’re a little reluctant to book a flight.  Montana has always been a dream destination for my mom, and I knew flying wouldn’t really give us the scenery views like we would have liked.  So I said, “let’s drive”.  It took a little convincing because of the distance and time (since Mom has WAY more vacation time than I do!), but it wasn’t that hard.

My favorite part of road tripping is getting to see all the scenery you miss when you fly.  The route we have planned on the way out to Montana will take us through northern Minnesota, North Dakota and down into Montana.  We have never seen North Dakota so that will give us new sights, but our main goal is to get to Swan Lake in 2 days while hopefully avoiding any mountain highways at night.  The way home, though, will be a mix of new experiences and deja vu.  This route will take us through a corner of Wyoming, South Dakota, and southern Minnesota.  In 2006 we drove the same route for another road trip, but this time we want to see the Corn Palace, which we didn’t see back then.  Another stop on the way home will honor my favorite book series when I was little.  Little House on the Prairie.  Although I have pretty much grown out of the series, I’m still a history nut so visiting the Laura Ingalls Wilder musuem in Minnesota will be a fun learning experience!

I’m excited to keep planning and keep writing!  Til next time…

“If traveling was free, you’d never see me again”

Blog Post

Posted by Sarah Steed, filed under Montana. Date: February 19, 2017, 11:10 pm | No Comments »

18  Feb
Ghosts?

Confession time: one of my favorite TV shows right now is the Bachelor (corny reality TV, I know, but it’s so addicting!).  A couple of weeks ago the contestants and Nick were going on trips all over the world, and one of their trips was to Lousiana, which is my second trip for the summer.  It was excciting to see them there because I was able to get an insight of what I would be experiencing in a few months.  The scenery was gorgeous- the historical plantations, the bayous, and the downtown scene!  However, the one thing that got me freaking out in excitement was the ghost tour that was shown.

Back story: each fall, my coworkers and I go through a haunted house and they scare the S–T out of me!  However, I’m a huge history nut, love ghost stories, and I LOVE hearing historical ghost stories/figures.  So going on a ghost tour while on vacation would be my idea of fun.  I have an opition to go on a ghost walking tour in London, but I still want to experience something like that in Louisiana.  According to the travel book my mom ordered and my Internet research, some of the top choices for experiencing a haunting are:

  • The Old State Capitol building in Baton Rouge
    • https://www.vacationsmadeeasy.com/TheBLT/17HauntedPlacesinLouisianaYouNeedtoSeeforYourself.html
    • I’ve read some brief history on the Capitol building and its ghosts.
  • St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 in New Orleans
    • http://www.saveourcemeteries.org/st-louis-cemetery-no-1-tour/
    • An above ground cemetary filled with some historical figures (world class chess champion, Revoluation figures, etc).
    • Located near the French Quarter, with a tour that lasts between one and two hours.  Cost is $20.00 per adult although reviews suggest taking your own (free tour) vs a tour guide.
  • The LaLaurie Mansion in the French Quarter in New Orleans.
    • https://www.prairieghosts.com/lalaurie.html
    • “For more than 150 years, and through several generations, the LaLaurie House has been considered to be the most haunted and the most frightening location in the French Quarter.”  (Maybe I’ll pass on this haunting….)
  • The Myrtles Plantation.
    • http://myrtlesplantation.com/haunts.php
    • One of America’s most haunted houses (without the horror ghost stories it seems)

The benefit of having so many months to prepare for this trip is figuring out which places to go see!!  There’s so much to see in so little time, so I guess we’ll see where we wind up…

Don’t listen to what they say.  Go see.

Posted by Sarah Steed, filed under Louisiana, Travel Prep. Date: February 18, 2017, 7:23 am | No Comments »

So I want my blog to really focus on the pre-travel.  A few travel blogs that I’ve found talk about the packing list, but I think it’ll be a lot of fun to make everyone who reads this just as excited as I will be!  In the future I’d like to share information on places I’ll be staying, visiting, eating, etc.

For this post, I want to talk about applying for my passport.  It was a scary thing even if it doesn’t seem like it!  Obviously, it’s the first major thing you have to do for a trip abroad (besides applying for a program in my case).

The first thing I had to do was fill out the online form.  (Available on the U.S. Department of Travel website: https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/212239.pdf)  Double check all information you need, and make sure it is correct prior to submission/printing.  Applicants may have to know parents’ information (maiden names, birth places, etc.) as well as their own.

After I had printed out the online form, I had to take it to the local courthouse.  I chose to go to the courthouse because they take the required photo, accept payments and send the forms out for you.  One stop shop so to speak.  However, one thing I wish I had known prior was that they charge a handling fee (even for a simple photo!).  While it was annoying, having it all taken care of was really nice.  Now, I just have to wait!  When you turn in your application, the courthouse gives you a website so you can track your passport: extra bonus!

So, after this adult move, there are some things I wish I had done different or knew about:

-They do NOT accept cards.  Not credit cards, not debit cards.  So either have a checkbook or lots of cash.  I had my checkbook thankfully, but it would not have been fun to have to go withdraw cash somewhere.

-There are processing fees.  One was $12 for the photo.  I have heard Walgreens also takes the photo, but I figured the courthouse would be the safest route.  Another fee was $30, I believe.  That was for the application and mailing the forms, then mailing them to you.

-DOUBLE CHECK YOUR ADDRESS.  That sounds so stupid, but I managed to forget a number on my online application and almost didn’t catch it when I handed it in.  They don’t forward passports, so make sure to track it!

-They keep your birth certificate (and mail it back).  You need to bring your original birth certificate with you, but it also gets mailed out with your application.  It gets sent back sooner than your passport, but it’s always nice to know.

 

Hope this information helps someone out there!  Until next time….

 

-Make it Count

Posted by Sarah Steed, filed under Passports. Date: February 11, 2017, 6:34 am | No Comments »