Posts filed under travel

Capital Thrill | Our Getaway to Washington, D.C.

Sometimes when you try to “escape from it all,” you actually just end up dealing with some of life’s hardest issues a million miles away from being able to do anything. I think that, after years of traveling, I’ve learned that you don’t really escape from anything when you go away. If you’re a parent and traveling with kids, you know as well I do that you still have to wake up early even if you’re in a hotel with kids and you’re still “on" for every waking second during the day. If you’ve got a high stress job, you often are followed to your remote destination by gentle pings of emails piling up throughout the day- either for you to muddle through upon return or hack away at as you sit on a beach chair. Life is life- sometimes you just get to face it with it with a prettier view.

Over the weekend, Tyler & I met my parents and siblings in Washington, D.C. for a long weekend. We found flights for $350 and my family jumped at the option of having a fun weekend away without the kids.

First things first, we had a GREAT time. While you can’t escape life’s problems when you travel, you can give yourself some amazing opportunities. Like having long dinners with people you love that aren’t interrupted or shadowed by the pile of dishes in a kitchen. We all saw stuff that both a bit familiar (we lived there for a year as kids) and new (nobody has really been back since we were teenagers)- and it was all in the backdrop of a snowy and wintery city. 

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After a few days away, we woke up on our final morning to a phone call from a dear friend saying that Edie needed to go into see someone about her breathing. This, sadly, isn’t her first visit to the hospital for this… nor is it even her fifth or sixth. When it’s cold season, we split our time between our home in London and a paediatric unit of a local hospital. All is fine, but she’ll probably have some sweet asthma like her dad. So while it’s not terrifying, it is a horrible to be an ocean away on one of those days.

But, God was so kind, and put the two best people that I can think of in all of Europe to be there for her. My friend, Ruth, not only knows her so well… but is trained as a doctor and has a kid with similar breathing issues. The other person is our former au pair, Rebeca, who had flown in for the weekend to watch the kids. If you know her, you’ll know why I felt so okay with Edie being in the hospital without me, if Rebeca could be there with her. (She moved in with us when Edie was 5 weeks old, so she’s family!)

We spent the rest of the day feeling the knot in our stomachs tighten as she wasn’t getting better… and then, as we sat in a really awesome church, we got a text that she had stabilised a bit. After a few more hours, they decided she could go home and she was home before we had taken off on our (empty! Amazing!) Virgin Atlantic flight home.

After landing thirty minutes ahead of schedule, we made a mad dash to get home before the kids left for school. Our Uber rolled up just as the kids were about to leave. As we hopped out of the car, I saw Harrison had climbed up on the couch to peek out for his friends passing by. I went along the pavement and stood in front of him. He noticed the person standing below him, looked at me and just stared in my eyes for about 5 seconds in confusion. Then he yelled “MOM!” and hopped down to open the door. As we walked in, everyone inside cheered with excitement at our appearance before school. Including Edie- who was still in the same pyjamas from her day in the hospital, as she’d fallen asleep on the way home the night before. We got a big hands in the air scream and a big-diaper run to our legs. 

While traveling is great and one of the biggest loves of my life, I’m constantly reminded that if life at home isn’t pretty… there’s no special place anywhere that can make you forget. You can hide from the ugly even in the prettiest of places… but I’ll never stop trying to find them to make great new memories that are beautiful.

And I am also amazed at how tired you can be in just a few short hours after returning home to small children….


Our Favourite Things In D.C. Were…

LE DIPLOMATE: Great bistro that is so French, you’ll forget you’re not in Europe. The bread basket alone deserves a medal. The onion soup and cheeseburger are flipping delicious. And DON’T MISS THE PROFITEROLES.
1601 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20009 | (202) 332-3333

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1789: There aren’t many restaurants that I would dub “Colonial Chic,” but this one is and it owns it. You’ll feel as if you might be a guest of George Washington for a formal dinner that Martha has organised. The food is fab, and the ambiance is perfect. 
1226 36th St NW, Washington, DC 20007 | (202) 965-1789

EL SOL: This was recommended to me via Instagram as a delicious hole-in-the-wall Mexican food restaurant, and it was exactly that. And we loved every second of it.
1227 11th St NW, Washington, DC 20001 | (202) 815-4789

FIOLA MARE: This is an upscale Italian restaurant on the water. It specialises in fish, but they have a killer pappardelle with bolognaise sauce that might have been my very favourite thing. Get some of the ceviche or hamachi for a fab starter. Reservations and a posh outfit needed.
3050 K St NW, Washington, DC 20007 | (202) 525-1402

RASIKA: We went here for great Indian food one night. My family all voted it as their favourite meal. (Tyler and I are spoiled by Dishoom in London, sorry, but not sorry that it holds the trophy in our hearts for best curry out on the town.) It was good though and I would totally recommend it! The crispy spinach is a total treat and I could eat that entirely for my entire meal! 
633 D St NW, Washington, DC 20004 | (202) 637-1222

BLUE BOTTLE COFFEE: This Georgetown coffee shop was light, airy and the happy staff made it feel even brighter. The style is Scandinavian and cool, and the brown butter blondies are a great little treat with a cup of coffee.
1046 Potomac St NW, Washington, DC 20007 | (510) 653-3394

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DISTRICT DOUGHNUT: This is a chain with a few shops around town. It’s cute and the limited menu rotates seasonally. Look for items like creme brûlée- where they actually torch the top to make it crunchy! There are some good seasonal options, but I think the best walk away item for me was the cinnamon roll made out of donut dough. To be honest, I’ll never replace the classic American donut shop old-fashioned with any fancy donut shop find like these… but it was still a really great place to find yourself on a snowy Saturday morning in Georgetown.
3327 Cady's Alley NW, Washington, DC 20007 | (202) 333-2594

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RITZ CARLTON GEORGETOWN: While the rooms feel a bit corporate, the staff and living room lounge add great character to this well-located Ritz. You’ll be able to walk around Georgetown’s best streets and spots within a couple of minutes… and the apothecary jars full of candy, fireside s’mores, and happy hours with free hot chocolate (and all the necessary trimmings) make it feel very fun.
3100 South Street NW, Washington, DC 20007 | (202) 912-4100

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The things you recommended that sounded AMAZING (but we ran out of time to try):

OLD EBBITT GRILL: “Have the strawberry shortcake. Yes, for lunch. It’s that good.” (@vhiler)

LITTLE PEARL: “It’s the lunch spot owned by the Pinepple and Pearl, which is one of the best restaurants in DC. It’s also in a truly lovely little building. It’s a small menu, but everything is delicious.” (@stickynotes21)

FOUNDING FARMERS: “Fried Green Tomatoes and a burger!” (@eunamae)

IRON GATE: “Oldest restaurant in the city-bar is in an old carriage house. They have an outdoor patio with fire pits, blankets and a trellis. The restaurant itself is a 200 year old house. All the ambiance and great Greek tapas!” (@kahicks00)

FEDERALIST PIG: “I always get the veggie option, but it’s all amazing. The crispy spicy brussel sprouts!” (@elebusing)

TOKI UNDERGROUND: Recommended by two foodie friends. No quotes, but full confidence.

BLUE DUCK: Another name that was listed again and again!

BAKED AND WIRED: “Amazing cupcakes. Biscuits at breakfast are incredible. Great coffees, too.” (@kw4lsu)

TED’S BULLETIN: “The homemade poplars at Ted’s Bulletin are, quite possibly, the greatest American delicacy. 12/10.” (@sarayelichmiller)

CALL YOUR MOTHER: “Has the most amazing bagel breakfast sandwich or bacon-peanut butter-honey on a bagel or incredible pizza bagels or mind blowing latkes.” (@kcutright)



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on February 11, 2019 and filed under travel, family.

AK Girls Trip 2018 | The Highs & The... Even More Highs

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I wanted to do a big year in review post like I used to do (I even rainbow-color-coded them! Oh the luxury of spare time!), but when it came down to doing it… all I keep wanting to talk about is the Girls Trip we did in December. Not that the rest of my year was meaningless - it was actually amazing- but the trip we took in December was so incredible to me.

The whole idea of the week was get people together that wanted to make new friendships and have a lot of fun together. And when the actual week arrived, I (nervously!) showed up to meet 31 other women who had, almost all, flown across the ocean for this trip. I felt so embarrassed and shy- just having everyone there was such an overwhelming compliment. But once we started talking, any awkwardness I was feeling was gone and the party had started. 

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We spent the week adventuring around the Cotswolds, sleeping like princesses in the poshest manors & hotels, chatting and watching British holiday chick flicks as we drove around in a giant private coach, cozying up together and playing stupid games in pubs in York, closing down restaurants after dinners and making so many great memories. Everyone on the trip had a place- regardless of how different we might have been. We connected with people that came from where we did. We make friends with others who were in similar life stages. We just…. Well, we just all got along because it was a stress-free week doing awesome things with nice people.

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So many people have written and asked if I plan to do another trip next Christmas. I hope so! I’m just taking these trips one at a time. If people are eager to come, I’ll keep doing them. I price them as cheap as I can do make it affordable for anyone that wants to come… though the price is built for comfort. We kinda live like royalty on those trips, because I think that is what a vacation should feel like. So the answer is, I’m doing the summer girls trip and the couples trip. Beyond that, I don’t know. I’m just enjoying this for what it is now.

But the dream? Well the dream would be to have both all three of these as yearly staples. Not only for people that want to come, but I’d love for it to be repeat people that come back year after year. How fun would it be to have your little group of people that you have a standing date with every year? I love traditions and I love the idea of that. So that is the dream I have. We’ll have to see how it goes… but I just have to tell you, if they all continue on like the first, I’m gonna feel pretty lucky.

But now on to the good stuff…. More pictures.

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I mean, look at all of these happy people.

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Come on and be one of them. Join the Southern France trip that we are doing this summer from June 15-21. All you have to do is meet us in Paris and we have the rest figured out. It’s going to be amazing, and I could sell you on the logistics of why… but the truth is, its going to be amazing because of the people. This community has nice/fun/lovely women that are behind it and being a part of it in person is too good to miss!

If you went on the trip, go ahead and sign the virtual yearbook below in the comments section. I want to hear the best moment of the trip for you and, duh, the best thing you ate!



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on January 21, 2019 and filed under england, travel, trips.

Get Out of Town | Isle of Wight

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My childhood home back in Texas was one of those houses amongst my friends that we retreated to after many nights out. (And by nights out, I obviously and only mean awkwardly standing around our cars talking to guys in the Starbucks parking lot, wandering the grocery store in my mom’s giant poofy ballgowns from the 80’s, or wrapping/toilet papering someone’s house. Yes, I was super popular. Thanks for asking.) It wasn’t an especially grand home, but there was always a space for us to be there, no matter what else was going on, and there was always miraculously an endless supply of homemade treats mysteriously perched all over the kitchen. And the best part was, there was no unofficial barter that required us to hang out with my parents in return. (Though, being the late-blooming academic overachievers that we were, we actually did it anyway because nobody was gonna tell us that PaReNts~ArEnT~kEwL.) But there was something really special about coming home there as a student- both in high school and in college- with my friends…. Lucky me to have grown up in such a home.

Fast-forward a decade (or... two? Who’s counting), a few kids and a transatlantic move later… I no longer have that house to bring my friends back to here in London. And to be honest, I hadn’t really realised how far removed we were from that perk of life until we visited the Isle of Wight last weekend. 

My sweet friend Ruth invited us to visit her parents’ house with their family…. in April. So we finally found a date that worked in November (which I say less to brag and more to expose how regretfully overbooked our lives are) to celebrate Bonfire Night with them. 

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When we arrived, I immediately melted into that cosy feeling of HOME. Okay, not my home, obviously- but just a home that you’re really welcome in. (And okay, being a charming 17th century house in the countryside doesn’t really hurt.) The kids got right to work playing in the garden and wandering around the playhouse under the apple trees, while the ladies got busy on the enormous homemade chocolate cake and a giant pot of Earl Grey tea that was awaiting us. 

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Each bed had clean duvets and sheets puffed over the tops… and chocolates for us and wrapped presents for the kids. There were stacks of fresh towels, a baby monitor ready to use and baby gates that slid in and out of the wall to keep little ones from tumbling down steep stairs.

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We spent the weekend living as if we were family. (Thanks to friends that treat you as warmly.) Our kids played great together, the adults stayed up late by the fire drinking tea and chatting about any random thought that are brains come come up with after big days and enormous homemade dinners. Breakfast was warm breads from the Aga and a rainbow of homemade jam jars filled with treasure from past seasons in the garden.

On Saturday, we headed out to the blustery Compton Bay, where we found a surfing competition in full-swing. The waves were crazy from the weather, but a crowd of RVs with friends and family perched out the backs turned it from ordinary to extraordinary. The scene was complete with kids with wellies on and giant mugs of tea cheering on their dads below, judges chatting and laughing in their chairs as dogs climbed in and out of their laps, and friendly locals coming up to chat about our kids and where we were from. (Definitely not in London anymore…) My kids just stared off at the surfers below in the awe of the unordinary. What may have felt as normal as anything to everyone else there, felt exotic to us. 

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For lunch, we ate at The Cow. Like its name implies, the restaurant feels like a bit of a roadhouse and makes great burgers and beef dishes- like beef stew. (There are also veggie options, too. Actually, there’s just a lot to choose from!) I’d recommend doing the Burger Sharing Platter- where you get three of their smaller sized burgers and two sides. We shared between three people. In anticipation of a slice of chocolate cake back at the house when we returned, it was the perfect amount of food. We didn’t stay around for it, but there is a massive indoor/outdoor kids play centre. It’s got soft-play, giant jumping areas, and anything else that you need to occupy your kids and wear them out enough to fall straight asleep at bedtime. 

The next morning, after breakfast (warm, pain aux raisons from the oven, if you please) we headed to church in Ryde at St. James where they were having a special service for the 100th anniversary to the end of World War One. The church was really sweet and they were fabulous with the kids. (Viola walked out of Bible class with her own artistic rendering of a Leviathan, after they had talked about Job.) Afterwards, we had tea and custard creams in the church hall while we were chatted to by the regular members. 

The good thing abut going to the Isle of Wight from London is: it’s really an easy trip! Because our ferry wasn’t until 6 p.m., we had the whole day to linger over a homemade Sunday roast- complete with three roasted chickens, bacon-wrapped sausages, all the veggies… and a homemade cheesecake. The afternoon got drizzly, but that didn’t stop people from wandering out on a walk through the surrounding property, while others of us stayed back with babies, flicked through the endless cookbooks from the kitchen for recipes and ran loads of laundry with the main goal of getting to finish them off in their massive tumble dryer.

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The ferry ride back was easy and uneventful- only 40 minutes- and then it’s a two-hour drive back from there to London. All in all, it’s three hours to get you from London to the Isle of Wight making it a perfect weekend getaway for anyone looking to do something a bit extraordinary… without an extraordinary amount of travel. White cliffs and rolling hills await you. (Though I can’t guarantee that you’ll be lucky enough to have one of Granny Ali’s pots of tea and cake waiting for you, too.)

Though you can book a stay in the part of the property that we stayed in- The Brew House. It’s all attached to the same property and is really cute and cosy. It has two bedrooms, and the second has two twins and a baby bed. (Dream scenario for us!) You’ll find books and toys and a kitchen with everything you need in it to really settle in for a few days. 

Not only can I not wait to come back someday, but it also ignited in me the desire to have a home that can be such a warm glow of hospitality someday. Places like that are such havens in my memory, and I’m so grateful for the people who not only open their homes to others… but do it so beautifully. 


LOOKING FOR MORE OF THE BEST WEEKEND TRIPS FROM LONDON? 

Check out my other posts here or browse my travel guide to England.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on November 19, 2018 and filed under get out of town, england, travel.

Pack Your Bags | Honfleur, France

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You know those faded posters that would hang in your high school classrooms of far away places that seemed to be from a different world? Distant locations like Mont St. Michel or Machu Picchu that felt as if they were in a world that you’d never actually see, but the picture just seemed… well, exotic. Or maybe just exotic in comparison to the topic you were learning about as a fourteen-year-old student who had just returned from their lunch period. I remember staring at those places every day and just noting all the tiny details of them.

Well, Honfleur is definitely one of those places that seems like it was made just for posters and impressionist paintings… but it actually is very much a real place you can visit in France. In fact, I’ll add that you really should go there. It makes for a perfect spot to see when you’re on your way to Normandy from Paris. In fact, can I just be a bit bossy and tell you exactly how I’d play out the day if I was planning a trip from Paris? Okay, then, I will... if you insist.

First, depart Paris in the morning. Give yourself enough time to get a rental car and hit the road. Drive to Giverny for an early morning visit- right when it opens, if you can time it. Then leave in time to Honfleur for a late lunch. You’ll arrive into town, park in the main lot by the famous harbour (you can easily do hourly parking there), and walk into for food. Don’t dawdle on the front side of your trip around the photographic harbour- all the restaurants stop serving lunch at 2pm, so you’ll want to be seated before then to avoid disappointment. (And by “disappointment,” I, of course, mean having to eat at some yucky spot selling stale sandwiches and fried chicken. 

My recommendation for a great spot for lunch is l’Atelier. It looks pretty standard from the front, but the interiors and the terrace is the perfect spot to spend a lunch. (Or an afternoon over tea/coffee & homemade baked goods.) The menu is really short for lunch- maybe 7-8 items to choose from- so it won’t be a great spot for the pickiest of eaters. However, if you’re an easy eater and want to eat amongst actual Honfleurais, this is the spot for you. The menu, while brief, is perfect. Think daily specials like a courgette (zucchini) and goat cheese tatin, a vegetable pasta with parmesan cream sauce, or vegetable soup served with goat cheese, honey & walnut tartines alongside it. And if you can, don’t skip dessert and coffee. It’s definitely worth the extra 30 minutes. 

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This spot is also great for kids, as it has a big space alongside the restaurant for tired kids to wander around while the food is cooked. Plus, an adorable vintage high chair for your baby to sit in while you eat.

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After you’ve finished lunch, head to the harbour for a photographic walk around the coloured buildings. If you’re with kids, take a few spins on the gorgeous Belle Epoque carousel sitting on the edge of the water. (We love to get a seat in one of the cool vintage airplanes up on the top level!)

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Walk off the water into the main square in town. There you’ll see the famous Saint Catherine’s church that was built by ship-builders and has a distinct look from it. The inside of the church looks as if you’re standing underneath upside down boat as you walk inside. Admission is free and definitely worth a stop.

From there, well, the choice is yours, but I’d recommend doing a little bit of souvenir shopping in the form of salted-butter caramel hunting. (Normandy is the king of salted caramel. It’s the home of the famous salt from Isigny-sur-Mer and great cream from the cows, making it the perfect place for such a treat to be made.) There are several shops near the cathedral that sell it, but I’ll recommend the smaller the shop- the better their seemed to be. Look for shops that have homemade little wrappers and women working inside that actually made them. Those are the ones you’ll want to spend your money on and will haunt you until your next trip to the tiny town.

And at that point, well, you’ve probably seen it. It’s a beautiful town, but a small one. After you’ve done that, I’d hit the road and keep driving on deeper into Normandy. We’ve stayed in the town a couple of times and I’m not sure it’s worth the extra time there in comparison to some of the other nearby places you can get go. (Though I do dream of staying and eating at Ferme Saint Simeon someday…) If you’re staying in the famous town of Bayeaux, you’re about an hour away, or you could keep going another hour and stay at our very favourite stop, Chateau de Servigny

Have you been to Honfleur before? What was the best part of your day there? Or, more importantly, the best thing covered in salted-caramel you ate?


FIND MORE OF MY FAVOURITE THINGS IN NORMANDY HERE OR IN MY FRANCE GUIDE.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on October 29, 2018 and filed under normandy, france, travel.

Pack Your Bags | Glendalough & Wicklow National Park

The very first day of my very first semester working with students overseas involved me picking up a new group from the Dublin airport and taking them via private coach to visit the Celtic monastery, Glendalough, set in the gorgeous Wicklow National Park. Well, at the time, I didn’t know it was gorgeous. I had never been. I spent the entire semester guiding the group to places that were new to them.. and me. But there was something about it that gave me such an excitement- just like they had- to experience the place. It’s hard to replicate the first time you experience a place- and the joy/eagerness Tyler & I both felt wandering those ruins was pretty huge. (I think we were both marvelling at the thought that “this” was actually a job.)

Years passed and for some reason, we moved that day off the Ireland itinerary because it just felt a bit soggy during the dark days of November when we were going. We freshened things up a bit… and it got removed. But this spring, it felt right to add it back in during a trip that would bring us through in late spring. When we got there, it was all blue skies and bright yellow flowers lining the trails. 

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We got to see the incredible ruins and walk out to both of the lakes (about a 25 minute walk each way). Edie even took a killer nap- despite the struggle it was to push her stroller along the gravel path. Admittedly, I looked pretty pathetic- opting for a carrier or heavy-duty stroller the next time around! 

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This is such an easy day-out from Dublin. Be adventurous and rent a car to make the most of the day. If it were me, I’d recommend heading out in the morning and go there first. (You don’t need a reservation to visit the ruins, but the visitors centre can be crowded. If so, don’t worry- you’re not missing much. Unless it’s pouring rain, and then its a nice shelter.

Walk out to the two lakes, if the weather is nice. The views are gorgeous and will check off any boxes you have of cliche Irish scenery. It’s all you’d want- green, rolling hills  and serene lakes. Ah. Stunning! You’ll more of less feel like Hillary Swank in P.S. I Love You. (I make my students watch this movie on the bus ride the day before. And I still cry every single time, in case you were wondering.)

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After you’ve seen it all, you can either drive to the Wicklow Heather nearby for a pub lunch surrounding by relics of Ireland’s great writers or you can opt to drive a bit further on to eat in the cafe at Powerscourt Estate. The food is killer, the shops have so many great Irish brands and treats to take home, and the views of the gardens from the outdoor terrace are stunning on a pretty day. It definitely is my favourite option, in case you were curious.

If you’re looking for more of my favourite places in Ireland, look in my travel guide to Ireland for ideas and places we love!



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on October 1, 2018 and filed under ireland, travel.

Swiss Wedding Wows

Sometimes you sneak away for a little getaway, and sometimes you splash it all over Instagram like it’s the 4th of July. For those of you not following on Instagram (come on, though, you should, we have fun on there) you may not know that this weekend, Tyler & I left town for a crisp 48 hours away. We went to Switzerland for my dear friend Annie’s wedding to her Swiss mister, Alex. (You may remember the incredible day out on Mount Rigi we had together in June.)

With how crazy the last week was for us and how hard it is to leave the kids, it took us some time to get into the groove of getting away. The flight was delayed, the weather in London was meh… but once we finally got on the train in from Zurich’s airport into Lucerne- I starting getting really giddy to get out and show him all the best spots. (The Lion Statue! The Chapel Bridge! The boat ride out to Mount Rigi! Mill’Feuille for breakfast! Max Chocolate Shop!)

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We made the most of our time there: site-seeing, eating really well, spending Saturday at the most gorgeous wedding in the history of all time (this is a fact, sorry, not open for discussion), and staying out way too late for people in their 30’s with kids, and waking up to do our monthly budget on Sunday because we are people in their 30’s with kids. 

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I know, I know, that getting away with little kids is really hard. It was our first time to just make something with the two of us happen since we went to Hawaii in 2017, so I can’t really pretend that we get to practice this very often. But, it is really good and such a treat. It’s worth the hustle, pushing aside the extra money to cover childcare, and the endless-schedule arranging to make that time together actually happen. I can only tell you: it does wonder for your relationship to discover something new together away from the ordinary of the everyday. 

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Ooh! And as I write that, I realise that this is a perfect time to announce something new here. If you’re starved for time together and want to get away- Tyler & I are actually hosting a couples trip this May! I’ve only announced it on Instagram stories at this point, but want to share it here, too. We’ll be headed to Normandy from May 18-23rd. We are renting a giant chateau, seeing all the great D-Day and Norman sites, kinda acting like we are B-List celebs with a private chef, and splitting up the cost so we can all recharge and hang out together. There are a few rooms left, so if you’re interested, hopefully, you can join us. Hang out with us. Have a great time somewhere special that guys and girls seem to equally like. Enjoy getting away together with just the two of you. And make some new couple friends, too. (Who couldn’t use a few new friends at this stage of their life? I could!) The rooms are given away on a first-come, first-served. All are welcome. (Just be nice and normal, please. Ha!)

*Sorry, no kids on this trip! It’s for time-starved couples that need to reconnect… like us. Ha! (Italics)

For more information, email lauren@aspiringkennedy.com.

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Read more posts from our travels in Switzerland or look in my travel guide to Switzerland here.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on September 27, 2018 and filed under switzerland, travel, marriage.

Tuscany Day Trip | The Leaning Tower of Pisa

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is something that we both saw years ago and- while we liked it- had removed from our list of “must see’s” upon returning to Tuscany in the summers.

However, with kids, it’s an easy and fun option to do out for Florence. Plus, it was just under an hour door-to-Tower for us, so it makes for a great option for spending half the day out and half the day being lazy/doing something else.

You can take a train from Florence to Pisa really easily- they run often from Florence’s main station, Santa Maria Novella and are cheap. (Maybe €6 the last time I took it?) Once you arrive to the station, you can either trek across town following the signs or hop in a local bus or taxi. But we had a car, so we opted for driving right on up, parking in a paid lot about 300 yards from the tower and cruising in.

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What’s great about the tower is that you can visit it for free! Take all the classic “holding it up with one finger” pics that your heart desires for not a single penny. However, to climb the famous tower- you’ll need to reserve a time slot and pay €18. I’ve been there probably 8 times and never climbed up... and to be honest, I don’t feel like I’m missing out at all. (Do chime in below if you have climbed up and think I’m wrong!)

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We took loads of pictures- most mainly bad and hilarious. Then wandered down a side street stuffed with tourist shops and cafes in search of something along the frozen-dairy category for a great. We got popsicles at a little cafe and scooted back to the tower to enjoy them on the curb. (Fine dining with a view, of course.)

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After about an hour all in- we decided we had enough of the Pisa experience and headed out to the car park. A million men selling random trinkets will, of course, try to intercept you. We ended up with a hot pink fan for €1 for a certain 5 year old, and hit the road.

This is a really fun, cheap and easy day trip when you’re staying in Florence. With a gaggle of little kids, having a car made it really easy on us- but if you had a small baby or older kids, a train would be a fabulously simple route to the iconic tower, too!

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Find more of my favorite day trips in Tuscany here.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on August 22, 2018 and filed under italy, travel.

My Barcelona | El Nacionel

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Before I dive in to this incredible spot in Barcelona, can I just say: I LOVE SPAIN. It’s got so much of what I love about France... just cheaper, it has incredible architecture, the food scene is top notch and *cough* it has friendlier natives. (Sorry, Paris, you’re beautiful but can kinda be aggressive and emotional.) It just feels like how I remember what Europe once felt like... a bit less run over, a bit less homogenised. The Spanish culture still feels so incredibly in tact. (Or should I say Catalonian, since we have been in Barcelona?)

But enough about how incredible Spain is... let’s talk about a good place for lunch or dinner when you find yourself in Barcelona.

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My parents actually lead us to this place- “a market to eat in.” I had something like La Boqueria in mind, but when we turned off the main thoroughfare of Passeig de Gràcia  towards the tiny passageway to El Nacionel, I realised we were in for a total treat.

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While this is a bit like a market, it’s not the standard hodge podge of farmers and artisans selling food. It’s more like a posh food court with various places to eat in it.

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Get some delicious Italian, fresh seafood, French brasserie food or grab some Spanish tapas at their various little restaurants. Whatever you’re up for, there seems to be a pretty option for you there.

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The interior are perfect and the whole atmosphere is just airy and relaxed. The clientele is a nice mix of locals and tourists who look like they know what they are doing. Overall, I’d say that El Nacionel is a great spot for lunch in Barcelona after you’ve been wandering along and shopping along Las Ramblas. 

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When you’re done, don’t forget to grab an ice cone before you hit the road. The coconut is pretty delicious, if I do say so myself.

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Find all of my favourite places in Spain here in my travel guide.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on August 17, 2018 and filed under spain, travel.

My Barcelona | Hole

While we were in Barcelona, Tyler & I passed a cute little breakfast spot with people spilling out the front door and chatting over tiny tables sitting on cushions along the windowsill and wooden crates. Sunlight was pouring inside the cafe and the sound of espresso being made wafted out the open door. The scene seemed so pleasant and happy... and we wished we had time to stop and be a part of what was going on.

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But we had our kids with us and were marching along with our family to La Sagrada Familia, so on we went.

The next day, we waited (and waited) for our driver to arrive to take us to the port for our cruise. The driver called and was not going to be there for another forty minutes, so Tyler grabbed me and asked me on a lightening speed coffee date/run back to the place from yesterday.

My mom kept Harrison, we put the two girls in a stroller each. (Viola loves not having to walk when she has the luxury of a stroller at her disposal- ha!) And off we popped! As it always is the case, it ended up being about twice as far away as we remembered but we got there, ordered, got to hang out for a bit- enjoying the fact that we had actually pulled off making it back and trying the place that had looked so good to us both when we had past. I love that Tyler and I still have those moments after all the years and places we have been together. 

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And I think, maybe all those places and moments have fine tuned us a bit because Hole (the name of the cafe, as it turned out) was one of those really good spots that you’re glad to discover. The owner was nice, the coffee was good, they made incredible fresh squeezed juices that glowed bright happy colours, pancakes sat fluffily on top of each other with Nutella plopped on top and people chatted happily amongst themselves- just as we had thought the day before. 

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And then hoofed it back to the hotel in time to load up our bags.

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It was a nice little spot to discover and next time, I’m hoping to stay for a bit longer!

HOLE | Carrer de València, 352, 08009 Barcelona


Find more of my favourite places in Barcelona in my Spain guide.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on August 15, 2018 and filed under eat, spain, travel.

My Paris | A Private Tour of Versailles

 

You know that feeling you have when you're traveling and you stumble across some place new... there's a sense of excitement that pulses through you and, if you're like me, you feel like you need to start running, or finding the best restaurant or peeking into real estate offices to begin your new life here.

I love that feeling, and it wasn't until I found myself wandering through the city of Versailles last week that I felt it again for the first time in a long time. To my surprise, the feeling came back and I realised how long it had been since I felt this incredible feeling of the unknown. Most of the places we go to are familiar... like the feeling of seeing an old friend. It's a happy feeling, but a very comfortable feeling.

Anyway, I was in Versailles and we ended up walking 10 minutes past the Chateau and into the heart of town. There was a huge daily market and gorgeous cafes and streets. I couldn't believe I had been to this town so many times and, yet, actually had never seen the cute town here.

But I didn't realise the new view of Versailles had only just begun...

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VISITE PRESTIGE | VERSAILLE'S PRIVATE TOUR OF THE KING & QUEENS APARTMENTS

Okay, so there's a visit to Versailles and then there is THIS VISIT. I was traveling with a private group of clients and they jumped at the opportunity to splurge when I suggested this private tour of the king and queen's private apartments inside Versailles. I had never been on it before, but knew that a guided tour was a must- as the standard lines are just horrific; however, I had my socks officially knocked off by this incredible experience.

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The tour consisted of a private tour through the closed doors of Versailles. We had a docent walk through with us and a second person who carried the ancient keys to unlock the doors and open the shutters inside these dark, closed-off rooms.

You're walked into Marie Antoinette's bedroom where she would hang out with her friends during the day getting dressed and relaxing in between court appearances, you see the bathroom of Louis XIV and the spot where he took his baths and had his face shaved every morning. You see the fluffy bed inside Madame du Barry's apartments... whee the king would come down to visit his beloved mistress. 

You sit in the private opera house to discuss details with the guide, you wander around hidden stair cases and dawdle through empty corridors. 

You are lead and given access to places that you can only imagine. Away from the hustle and formality of the state rooms where events were held, you get to wander through the quiet spaces where they actually lived the meaningful moments of their lives.

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Meanwhile, we never saw another human during the entire two hour tour. We almost began to see the palace as our own... until it ended and found ourselves in the middle of the hoards of tourists. We quickly felt ruined by our incredibly posh beginning so rushed through to the gardens.

Oh man, what an experience. Definitely not the cheapest way to visit Versailles (the tour is €1000 and can include up to 20 guests); however, for a special occasion or a larger group it is an incredible opportunity to see Versailles in such a special way.

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And if you don't get that butterfly-travel-excitment from this day out in Versailles, well, I don't know what to tell you. 

 


Looking for help on a day-trip to Versailles from Paris? I've made it easy in my Daytrip to Versailles post here. Find more of my Paris favourites in my travel guide to Paris.

 



 

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

 

The Perfect Itinerary for Lake Lucerne & Mount Rigi

I’m typing this post underneath the fluffy down duvet on my bed as French television plays in the background and a half-eaten Toblerone sits on the nightstand beside me. I’m drowsy from a day of walking, but pretty sure I’m not just dreaming. I’m in Swiss Bliss. 

Today was one of those travel days where everything goes right. It doesn’t always happen, but when it does- oh man, doesn’t that feel good? We spent the day exploring the markets and old town of Lucerne and venturing up into the gorgeous Alps for a sunny lunch and leisurely wander around Mount Rigi. It was dreamy! 

To make the day even more LUSH, my dear friend Annie and her fiancé were in town and joined us. Now if you think that the only benefit of their presence was the pleasure of their company, you’re wrong. While it was so much fun, the other benefit is that Annie is a travel writer for National Geographic who knows the area very well and her fiancé, Alex, is Lucerne-born native who runs the Swiss Tourism Board for the US. I mean, could you have two more qualified people show you around Switzerland? I’ll go ahead and tell you, no- you can’t!

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While I can’t replicate their charm, I can share with you what we did while the memory is still fresh in my mind. I got to mooch off their kindness and friendship and now you can mooch off what I learned from them to plan a killer day during your trip to Switzerland!


The Perfect Lucerne Day Trip to Lake Lucerne & Mount Rigi

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We actually started with a little jaunt around the Lucerne’s market (open Tuesday & Saturdays), as we wouldn’t get another chance to enjoy it on our trip. The little market stands were dotted along the river and we ventured from each one buying ripe strawberries, juicy cherries and giggling at the semi-innappropiately huge white asparagus that was dangling all around us. 

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We bought almond croissants from the patisserie (an international weakness of mine) and strolled around until Alex pulled us off the main drag and into the historic streets of the old town that run behind the market. We nibbled and asked questions as we saw the painted facades the buildings and made our way towards the other other wooden bridge- which is both smaller in size and fame to Lucerne’s iconic Chapel Bridge. After crossing over and wrapping around the other side of the market, we landed right by the dock for the boats to take us to Mount Rigi. Everything timed up perfectly (as it does when you are with someone who knows what they are doing!), we hopped on board, and off we went!

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PRACTICAL INFO | Buy your tickets on board and ask for the combo return ticket. The combo ticket will get you the boat ride to Rigi’s docks as well as a train ride up the mountain. These cost 104 CHF each. Find the boat timetables here

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The boat was *so* nice. Like, a literally massive yacht but for passengers. We sat outside and basked in the sun as the boat dotted its way around Lake Lucerne dropping off and picking up passengers at various towns. In pretty weather, it honestly felt like a “pinch me” travel moment. 

When we arrived to Rigi, we walked to the train up the mountain and loaded up. The train ride took us up gorgeous Rigi to the backdrop of alpine houses and friendly cows. As you ascend, you’ll see local school boys hop off to go home from lunch on school days and locals chatting to the train drivers as old friends. 

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When the train arrived at Rigi Staffelhöhe, we hopped off- which was perfect as the clouds were sitting just above the houses for us that day. We walked over to Krauter Hotel Edelweiss for lunch… meanwhile letting our jaws drop in disbelief that we would be dining with this view, at the most casual Michelin-starred restaurant ever with food that came from everywhere we could see. 

PRACTICAL INFO | Book a table at Krauter Haus Edelweiss here to avoid disappointment. The views and the food are outstanding, truly. Allow for 45 minutes after you order until your food arrives- as they freshly make everything from scratch upon ordering. 

The menu offers a few classic items- the Rigi Burger, the Rigi Roll (beef rolled with pastrami over polenta and veggies), Raclette (obey melty cheese scraped over potatoes and served with crunchy pickles!). and seasonal gems like Asparagus soup and risotto…. Or casual standards like savoury crepes.

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After lunch, head for the walking trail that wraps up around the back of the restaurant. It will lead you to a gorgeous path that wanders you down towards a viewpoint called Känzeli. It takes about 30 minutes, but the views are panoramic over the lake and Alps and 100% worth your time.

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From the viewpoint, you can walk down to the quaint little village of Rigi-Kaltbald. From there, you can take the elevator down to the gondola and opt for a different route down. 

PRACTICAL INFO | The gondolas run approximately every half an hour (if it's a very busy day, they might run every 15 to 20 minutes). We were able to use our return ticket purchased for the train on this, too. Make sure you ask the boat ticket office if this is included in the same ticket you are purchasing just to be sure you get the right kind.

We took the gondola down, had our stomachs jump up into our throats a few times and then arrived down the mountain just in time to wander to the boat. We waited for about 20 minutes in the village of Weggis before ours arrived and shopped in the small souvenir shops stuffed with t-shirts and ice cream bars to kill time.

Then we hopped on board our boat- this time it was an old steam boat! Though, this boat was a bit more crowded, so we squatted on the deck and just pretended to be somewhere exotic under the hot sun.

We arrived back to Lucerne about an hour later, just before 5pm, and headed back to our hotel to unwind after a big, dreamy day out…. Complete with a stop by the amazing Max Chocolates next to our hotel first.

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That night, we laughed and smiled so much at our good luck to have the perfect day in Switzerland- it really couldn’t have been better!


Find more of my favourite places in Switzerland only my travel guide here



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on June 13, 2018 and filed under travel, switzerland.

Get Out of Town | Canterbury

The medieval town of Canterbury is filled with cultural history. Geoffrey Chaucer wrote about this gorgeous little English town in The Canterbury Tales, although there is no record of him ever actually visiting. When I think of a quintessential town on the English countryside, this place comes to mind. Cobblestone streets, massive stone walls, green grass, and cosy little bookshops. Sometimes there is even a little market set up on the street for fresh fruit and vegetables! And it’s a great day-trip option as the train runs regularly from London Victoria Station and is just under 2 hours.

 I thought I would jot down just a few of my favorite spots in this quaint little country town. 

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CANTERBURY CATHEDRAL | This cathedral is a highlight of Canterbury and has been one of the most-visited places in the world for ages. It is the house of the Archbishop of Canterbury. I recommend taking a guided tour through the cathedral. In addition to the fee for entrance (£10.50), the cost for the guided tour is £5 more… but let’s be honest: the guided tour makes the visit way better. Otherwise, who is going to point out the Disney stained glass windows to you? (Seriously! There are some!)

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DANE JOHN GARDENS | If you’re looking for a space to spread out with little ones, this is a nice spot tucked by the main city walls. With playgrounds, plenty of green space to roam (without the fear of traffic), and even a little maze to play in- this is a great escape in the nice weather. Bonus points for it being free, too.

WILD GOOSE | Enjoy eating small local dishes (think: bubbles & squeak, roasted shallots with goats curd over toasted bread, and lamb cutlets with pea puree) in Canterbury West Train Station alongside the Michelin-recommended restaurant, The Goods Shed. The converted train station has a  fresh update from its Victorian roots that makes the setting bright and lively.

STATUE OF GEOFFREY CHAUCER | This statue of the famous author of The Canterbury Tales is on the corner of High Street and Best Lane.

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TINY TIM'S TEA ROOM | A quintessential English tea room on St. Margaret Street... this place is perfect for a break after walking around Canterbury. They serve good tea and the biggest scones!

CHARITY SHOPS | Canterbury is full of charity shops with good finds for really cheap. The British Heart Foundation and Emmaus are two of many, but from my personal experience- keep your eyes peeled for some old Burberry trench coats, mismatched tea sets & antique books all priced for next to nothing.

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THE WALL | Be sure to note the stone wall that trails around Canterbury leftover from it’s medieval days. It is not a bad walk at all and the views of the city below are magical. (Plus, as it sits alongside the train station- it makes for an easy route into town.)

BURGATE BOOKS | This cosy little book shop right next to The Elves and The Shoemaker is a gem. It is so fun to browse through the books by British authors. You’ll be able to find some of your favorite classics here for probably less than £2!



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on April 13, 2018 and filed under england, day trips, get out of town, travel.

My Normandy | Chateau de Servigny

One of the hardest things about living in London with kids is the lack of space. To be candid, its one of the conversations Tyler and I have the most when discussing raising our kids here. We have so many memories of just wandering and exploring in our backyards. We have countless memories of quiet afternoons spent poking at roly-polys, riding bikes around, and just… well, doing weird kid stuff. Having outdoor space to roam as a kid is like having your own kingdom in which to conduct the weird experiments you concoct in your mind. You get to play out things that you imagined up that day at school. It’s not only a little laboratory for trial and error, but it also is a social ring in which kids can interact with each other without adult interference. 

And sadly, in 1300 square feet- you just can replicate that. And even at the parks, you often are keeping a close eye on your kid or having to force them to share their experience with someone else who may wander up. And while we love them having to learn to share and live with others, it does often interrupt their imagination and reroute the experience. 

All of that to say, the vast expanse of space we get when we travel is not lost on us or our children. There is little luxury in travel that we can really treasure than open space to roam and enjoy. (Okay, maybe a free spa with unlimited services…. I’m only human.) 

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The last time we spent the spring in Paris, my friend Stacy arranged for us to stay at the Chateau de Servigny on our trip to Normandy. It was so lush and we had the best time. With our size group this semester, it was actually cheaper for us to rent out the space than to do hotel rooms… so we were happy with our luck forcing us back here. Not only is it personally important, but it also has special significance as the treaty for the German surrender of Normandy was signed in the chateau! What a special place.

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If you’re headed to Normandy for a trip longer than a couple of nights, I think this is the perfect base for your travels. It’s location near St. Mere Eglise make it a perfect spot for D-Day Beaches and it’s about 2.5 hours away from the iconic Mont St. Michel…. Where I am, in fact, currently sitting in a cafe on as I type out this blog post. 

The Chateau has eight bedrooms that you can rent, a full kitchen, dining room, tennis courts, bathrooms, perfect sitting rooms and all the other amenities that can come with a privately rented chateau. We have a cook come in each night and she cooks us 3 course meals for €20 per person. It’s a fantastic value… especially when she tells you that the chicken she roasted came from her very own farm or her daughter works in the patisserie that made the triple chocolate cake you are eating.

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I really can’t say enough about what a retreat this space is for us. I hope you can come and see for yourself what special place Chateau de Servigny is.

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Looking for more on trips to Normandy? Find my France guide or read my previous Normandy posts.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on April 11, 2018 and filed under normandy, france, travel.

My Reykjavík | Barber

Harrison’s hair is perfectly suited for him: gorgeous and, yet, totally crazy. Ha! While we were in Reykjavik, it seemed to hit an all time-low with being constantly in his eyes, so I googled places to get it cut nearby.

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There were options that looked like regular hair salons and then I found the most dapper looking place with some tatted-up men cutting hair and figured that this was the place to go. For no other reason than it seemed fun and I figured it’d probably look about the same irregardless of where I went.

When we arrived, things were running a bit behind. The kind barber offered me a coffee but I declined. As Harrison grew restless, I tried to entertain him. I went with a weird story about a dragon who ate to many fish bones who met a frog with herbal tea... about the time I got to the herbal tea’s secret ingredient (flowers), his eyes shut and he was out for the count. (We just cut out his nap and he’s still adjusting!)

The barber came over, asked me if I was sure I didn’t want some coffee. I looked down at the passed out kid in my arms, decided to go with the moment of calm, and ordered a maccchiato.

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Ahhh. So nice.

Then a few minutes passed and it was time for Harrison to get his hair cut.

Except he was still asleep.

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Like realllly asleep.

Eventually, I whispered the magic words (“Do you want to play with my phone?”) and his eyes opened, he said ”yeah,” and sat straight up.

He is so funny and serious during haircuts. I love it so much and I was giggling at him staring at himself, making faces and watching the man cut his hair. He’s such a champ.

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When it was done, he got to pick some candy from a Darth Vader helmet and it was all done. 

And the best news was... he kinda looked the exact same after it was finished. Just without hair hanging all in his face. Mission accomplished.

Next time, I’m bringing in Tyler because they do men’s hair so well there and the whole experience was just really fun. If you’re looking for the best men’s haircut in Reykjavik, well- Barber may just be it. And with it’s easy location on Laugavegur, it’s definitely one of the more convenient ones!


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Barber | Laugavegur 66, 101 Reykjavík


Find more of my favourite places in Iceland and Reykjavik here.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Bath with Coffee | Mokoko Coffee

Last week, I took a group to Bath for the day. This little town is definitely one of my very favourite day-trips from London. It’s three hours away, so it’s definitely a bit further than I’d like- but if you aren’t up for driving, a train can be an easy way to get there mindlessly.

But I wasn’t going mindlessly, I was planning a class, chatting with students and taking care of a baby on our coach trip there. When we got there, the combination of a long bus trip and early AM start had me sliding into that blur of fatigue. Luckily, our first stop (the Roman baths) was within reach of some coffee. Some might fine coffee, at that. 

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MOKOKO, BATH

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This coffee shop sits just in the Abbey courtyard in Bath- giving it prime real-estate by the city’s two largest attractions: The Roman Baths & the Bath Abbey. Mokoko is, originally, a Bristol-bron shop, but has grown into Bath. 

Expect expertly-made coffee… with all the hipster trimmings. An oat-milk flat white, you say? No worries. They’ve got you covered. (I jest, but that was actually my order. Ha! Takes one to know one, I guess.)

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But what good is cool, delicious coffee if it goes unmatched with something delicious to eat? Good question. Luckily, Mokoko has window(s) full of homemade cakes arranged very alluringly. Try their Hummingbird Cake. It’s just so dang good. Or just go ahead and try them all. You probably won’t regret it.

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But you may regret not snagging one of the picnic tables outside on a sunny day. What a place to sip some coffee, eat some cake, and smooch your baby. Lucky me!

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MOKOKO | 7 Dorchester St, Bath BA1 1SS, UK

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*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Pack Your Bags | Dunnottar Castle

If you travel up towards Aberdeen, along Scotland’s eastern coast, you’ll have the chance to view one of the most postcard-perfect castles in Great Britain: Dunnottar Castle. While the castle now lies in ruins, it’s easy to see that it’s dramatic location along the rocky coast was once the home to a really special place.

The medieval castle, which was once captured by William Wallace, now lies in ruins. The history of this site runs deep- all the way back to the 3rd century- but today, the only things happening there are casual exploring of old stones and photos being taken along the way.

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Throughout the centuries, Dunnottar Castle has hosted many famous historical heroes- William Wallace, Mary Queen of Scots, and the future King Charles II… but it may be most famous for the 8-month stay of a small band of men that held out from Cromwell and saved the Scottish Crown Jewels.

Not only will you get the chance to peek in the partially standing castle rooms to give a glimpse at medieval castle life, but you’ll also be able to get some dramatic views of the coast below. 

The castle opens (in the summer season) at 9am and stays open until 18:00. (Last entry is a 17:30, so make sure you’ve given yourself enough time.) 

I’d give yourself at least 1.5 hours to visit Dunnottar, because the walk down and back up does take a bit longer than you may expect. As you can see, the walk to and from the castle isn’t for the faint of heart. It requires climbing 136 stairs each way… and while you may think that sounds miserable, I can tell you that if I could do it 8 months pregnant alongside a group of German senior citizens, you’ll be fine, too.

While this may be close to Aberdeen, it also makes for an easy day trip from St. Andrews, too. There aren’t many places to eat nearby, by there is a tiny food truck selling decent quality food items (fish & chips, Angus burgers, homemade fishcakes, etc). I’d recommend either packing a picnic, eating there… or heading on to the tiny town of Stonehaven for a picnic on the beach.


Looking for more places to see and stay in Scotland?

 

Find my previous posts here, or look in my Scotland travel guide.


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*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Overnight Train to Scotland (A Vlog!)

It’s been a long time since I did a vlog… like maybe 3 years, but for some reason, I’ve been in the mood lately to switch gears a bit and add this format to my site. I think because I’m starting to love the idea of falling down the rabbit hole of Youtube channels, it feels right to join the fun.

And besides, I thought for certain things/topics- well, it’s really just a more effective format of communicating.

So a few weeks back, I headed up to Scotland on the Caledonian Sleeper train. It runs nightly from Euston Station to Scotland. It leaves late (like midnight!) and gets in early (like 7am!), so you really have full days wherever you are coming/going from to enjoy without loosing much to travel.

I’ve taken it a few times before, and I’ve always liked it…. And I thought, since so many people seem to want to know what the easiest way to get to Scotland is from London, it may help to just show you what way I prefer. While I’ve done the others (drive, fly, train) many times before… and, to be honest, will continue to do in the future, I can’t help but prefer the sleeper train over the rest. It feels nostalgic and efficient to me… and when I’m not with my tiny kids, it’s the best way for me to get to Scotland.

So without further adieu, my vlog of my overnight sleeper over-party-for-one on the Caledonian Sleeper train. Enjoy!

And make sure to subscribe to my Youtube channel so you don’t miss any of my upcoming adventures. (Hmmm… maybe my “nesting” phase involves creating new blog projects, because I’ve been lining up so many of these for the weeks to come. Don’t miss out on what’s in store!)

Have you traveled between Scotland and London? How did you get there? Weigh in with your experience below and share what you liked/disliked about how you traveled. It’s always so helpful to share your experience, so please do!


Find more of my posts on traveling to Scotland here, and check out my full travel guides to Scotland & Edinburgh.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Pack Your Bags | Isle of Skye

Back in the day, you’d often find the two of us on the Isle of Skye each summer. In the days before kids, we would find ourselves enjoying the long summer days up on the Western coast of Scotland… and, to be honest, we made some really sweet memories. It’s been a few years since we made it up there- but this summer, we came back up for a few days to help with one of our student groups and we got to see just how special this place is with fresh eyes again.

The Isle of Skye isn’t the easiest place to get to if you visit Great Britain. For example. It’s not an easy day-trip from a major city… you’d need at least 4-5 days, in my opinion, to get up there and really make it worth your time. It may not be the best trip for a first-time visitor to the UK, but if you’re a repeat visitor looking for a way to experience this gorgeous country a bit deeper- this may be the perfect spot.


HOW TO GET THERE?

INVERNESS TO KYLE OF LOCHALSH |  The easiest city to use as your base for a trip to the Isle of Skye is Inverness. You could fly easily from London or take the cool Caledonian Sleeper to Inverness. From there, you’ll want to rent a car. (Luckily, there is a Hertz just outside the main train station or rental agencies at the airport to make this breezy.) Now, I don’t normally recommend renting a car if you visit Britain- as trains/public transport are so good- but this is area of the country that just can’t be done without one. The good news is: the roads are so empty, you’ll not feel overly stressed if you are used to US driving.

This route will take you by the famous Eilean Donan Castle that sprawls out over the gorgeous loch. You’ll be able to stop here and see the famous castle that has been pinned over and over again on Pinterest in person. Along the way, you’ll also get to enjoy the scenic lochs. Stop by Fort Augustus for a ride on Loch Ness to spot Nessie, too. If you take this way to Skye, you’ll be able to cross the bridge from the mainland to the southern part of Skye and then drive up.

 -  or  -

FORT WILLIAM & THE JACOBITE TRAIN | If you have a Harry Potter fan in your house, this is the option for you. First, take the overnight train to Fort William… or you can go during the daytime via a bit of a longer route. This tiny town has a cute high street tucked with small eateries and charity shops, but the main draw is the Jacobite steam train that departs every morning. This train, often referred to as the “Harry Potter” train, will chug you up along a scenic route to the coastal town of Mailleg. You’ll cross over the Glenfinnan Aquaduct (from the HP series), and land in Mailleg where you can eat lunch before hopping the short ferry to Armadale, Isle of Skye. 

Once you arrive, you’ll need to coordinate getting a rental car to meet you in Armadale. There are local “car hire agencies” that offer this service, and make it easy for you to arrive by ferry and leave with a newly rented car.


Once you arrive, you’ll have one of the most stunning landscapes to explore. (Find ideas on where to go on my previous Skye posts or my travel guide.) When you’ve had your fill of roaming in the wilderness, taking photos of hairy coos and cuddly lambs along the roadside, and stopping to climb along waterfalls- you can either relax at a country hotel (like the Flodigarry Hotel, where we stayed) or head into the main town of Portree for some socialising. 

The summers on Skye are magical, but be sure that you book early if you plan to visit. (Seriously, at least six months or you’ll find yourself scrambling for something decent.) 


If you're looking for more posts on the Isle of Skye, look here, or find more in my travel guides to the Isle of Skye and Scotland. Or take a trip through our Instagrams under my hashtag #KnightsSkye


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*images original to Aspiring Kennedy