Sunday, 30 December 2012

An Unlikely Explorer Update!

Hello all!

It's only a day and few hours to the New Year and I'm sitting in a living room in New York. The living room is familiar and so is the family that fills it but this year matt is adding his considerable charm and adorable face to the mix. It's been a crazy christmas this year. We kept waiting for Matt to do a lot of christmas-y things and so it didn't feel like christmas until he landed on the 23rd. Since then it's been food and smiles and board games and barely any sleep and an awful amount of wrapping paper piling up in corners.

Even with our World Heritage Site dreams, life (and travel) wouldn't be worth it if we restricted ourselves to only trips to exotic locales. Even though we are close to New York City there won't be any time or chance to visit. Sometimes it's about family and relaxing. This trip it's been all about Matthew learning about my life and meeting my family (or, really, what's left of it). It's been lovely showing Matt the country outside of the cities and showing him how people really live here. My favorite thing is that he keeps commenting on how beautiful this country is. It's taken his new eyes for me to find the beauty in something that I've considered normal in my life.  So we're going to enjoy our time with American diners and movie theaters and American football. Besides, Matt still has time here when we get home and Washington D.C. is right on my doorstep.

I hope everyone has had an amazing holiday and that your New Year celebrations are fabulous and filled with hope for 2013. I'll be back with more travel stories next year!

Merry Christmas Everyone!!! <3
T xx

Friday, 14 December 2012

I Am Prone To Distraction

Hello all!

I feel awful.

I'm sitting here, late at night, making lists of all the things that need to be done before Christmas and I realized that it has been absolutely FOREVER since I wrote anything of any substance. I certainly haven't updated here.

I am a ball of guilt.

In better news, the Unlikely Explorers better half will be in the States for Christmas so there will be more to write about soon! However, it's unlikely I'll have time to post before the New Year

So, keeping that in mind, I figured we should do a quick recap of the wonderful in interesting things that happened for UNESCO World Heritage Sites (and us!) this year...

1) This year the World Heritage Convention celebrated it's 40th Anniversary! The World Heritage Convention was adopted in the November of 1972. Since then it's been responsible for identification, protection and conservation of natural and cultural sites worldwide. <- While that may sound a bit boring all written out, just think of all the beautiful places that would have been (and are under threat of being) destroyed.

2) During this banner year for UNESCO they have added 26 new sites making the current total 962!

3) The new inscriptions includes the first Palestinian World Heritage Site. For those of you who aren't completely aware of why this is huge- it's a step forward for any part of the UN to acknowledge Palestine as it's own independent state.

And for us...

The Unlikely Explorer blog was started! Matt and I got our first taste of (kind of) living together and traveling together which was amazing.

Those are our highlights! I know it's a short list but hopefully as the years pass the lists of amazing things that have happened will keep on growing!

To all my Jewish friends, Happy (end of) Chanukah!
To all my Pagan friends, have a lovely Yule!
Finally, to all of my Christmas lovers (Christian, Agnostic and ahem Atheist alike), Merry Christmas!!!

And to everyone ~ HAPPY NEW YEAR!!~

I hope to see you all in 2013 <3


Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Edinburgh: The City We Never See

First, I have to offer my deepest apologies for being so unreliable with the blog lately. Especially to Matt -I'm sorry. After my wonderful trip to Edinburgh, everything took a bit of a turn for the worse. From my awful extended travel (that story is coming up) to Hurricane Sandy putting a damper on things, it's been hard to get back into the swing of things. 

But, enough excuses! We now return to our regularly scheduled programming....

The City of Edinburgh was named a World Heritage Site in 1995. The Old and New Town's of Edinburgh combine the architecture of 15th and 18th centuries and show "the remarkable juxtaposition of two clearly articulated urban planning phenomenon." Indeed, I can say from experience that the best views of the city are from the very top of Arthur's Seat (the highest of the hills in Holyrood Park) or from inside the Castle - from each point you can see how seamlessly each part of Edinburgh comes together. It's hard to imagine it any other way. 

Now, I have to warn you, this post will be a little bit different. You see, Matthew lives in Edinburgh, I used to live there and I am planning on living there again. So it's not a place we consider a destination. To us, it's home.  

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Just a quick update.


I haven't died.

Or forgotten about the blog.

I'm just enjoying living a kind of normal life with my boyfriend. It happens so rarely that I'm actually loving just sitting around and cooking with minimal levels of snarkyness involved.

Jet lag sucks. I only just got my first good nights sleep.

I'm freezing. Like, I am a human icicle. I will not be leaving the house today. No thank you.

There is also nowhere else I would rather be right now. Nowhere.

I mean come on. Who would ever want to be too far away from this face?


Thursday, 11 October 2012

Next Stop!

So, now that I've gotten myself together and finally finished the posts about our lovely summer travels, it's time for take off again!

This time it's off to Edinburgh, Scotland :D

I guess we forgot to mention that Matt lives in a World Heritage Site. Or that I lived in a World Heritage Site for a few months. Or that we met in a World Heritage Site.

All of that makes Edinburgh our next great adventure. It should be fun to pretend to be tourists in a place we've lived. Matt knows it better than I do so we'll see how much he doesn't know this time around.

I'm so excited to be going back to him. Less than 24 hours to take off. Lets do this.


Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Blenheim Palace OR Why You Sometimes Have to Travel at the Buttcrack of Dawn

Sometimes, the only way to complete this type of an undertaking is to bite the bullet and travel early. Really f*@%ing early. I can't even remember how early it was but it was, as Matt and I heard it aptly described by a large man we passed while walking along the Thames, it was "the crack of a larks fart". Or something like that. I believe that it set the stage for our day. I recently read a post from The Everywhereist  (who I LOVE even though I don't know her) where she talked about how not every trip goes well. There will be fights even when you're with the one you love.

Our day at Blenheim was one such day. It was mostly my fault. As it always is. I don't always cope well with traveling far and early. It's something I'll have to learn to grow up about really. But, as always, Matt was brilliant and put up with me without getting too mad himself. It turned out to be an okay day in the end. Also, what made it bad had nothing to do with the location. So, bearing in mind that I was super grumps that day, I will try to tell you as much as I can without being bitter (please note - I will be bitter). This will be interesting. 

See how this picture is crooked?
Angry Taylor forgets she sucks at taking pictures and refuses to relinquish the camera.

Getting Lost in Bath OR The Best Day Ever

I am not a fan of day trips. I mean, I am... but I'm not.  The IDEA of spending a whole day exploring is exciting. The ACTUALITY of getting out of bed early and undertaking non-car travel is NOT my idea of fun at all. So, I was doing my best to stay optimistic about us spending an entire day traveling to Bath but I was constantly prepping myself for just being tired and wanting to come home. 

However, Matt and I LOVE Bath. I could live there. I never -not once that day- wished we were anywhere else.
The time goes on forever.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

(Almost) Completely Unrelated

Obviously I know that this is a travel blog dedicated to world heritage sites. However, I'd like to point out that not all world heritage sites are easily accessible without planes, trains or automobiles (and, in some cases I suspect, a camel). 

There are also a lot of places in the world we want to see that aren't WHS's and that's okay. That doesn't mean we want to see them any less. 

And so one fine day we grabbed our things, lovingly bickered our way out the door and headed to Buckingham Palace!!!!

"We're going to see the Queen! We're going to see the Queen!"

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (Part Two): The Never Ending Story (Post)

And... We're back. Part two of Kew Gardens. It is the never ending post. Like I said, this day was a massive day. I'm kind of feeling the fatigue all over again while I'm writing it.

I've sat here for the last 15 minutes wondering why I didn't just do one small post highlighting my favorite things. It certainly would have made life easier, and I'm sure there are people out there who don't WANT to read two posts about a Botanic Garden in England. Shocking. I know.

Then I decided that I don't really care. This is a place to leave memories, all of them, and hopefully get people interested in visiting these sites (with helpful hints for if/when they go).

Besides picking "favorite things" in this case doesn't make any sense. It's one whole continuous day and leaving bits out would feel choppy, incomplete and very wrong.

So, I will now unapologetically continue. But I will keep it as short and sweet as possible.

When last you left us, we had just finished lunch...

The other view from our bench. 
This is the massive lawn that appears to lead back to the Palm House. It doesn't.
Well, it might, eventually. But we couldn't stick to it long enough.

Friday, 7 September 2012

The Royal Botanical Gardens At Kew (Part One): It's Bigger on the Inside

For the past four days my darling boyfriend has been in Amsterdam. Without me. As in, I am still stuck at home, trying to make money and pull some semblance of purpose out of being a new graduate who doesn't quite know what she wants to do with her life (no, traveling the world with a beautiful man and not wasting any time working is not an option. Or so they tell me...) while he's enjoying a new city filled with amazing things (and two world heritage sites). 

I will grudgingly add that it's not his fault really. This is a trip he needs to do for his degree. Like a super grown up, undeniably cool, field trip. This still doesn't mean I'll stop pouting until he comes home  again. 

However, he did manage to call today and he made me realize that I need to put on my big girl panties and realize that while he is gone for another four days (who's counting?) I should get some work done. You know, all those blog posts/applications/one novel all sitting around mostly/partially/a little finished. 

My last post was about pack lunches. They are important. And what better day to take advantage of pack lunches than a sunny (mostly) day at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
The iconic Palm House.
Awesome shot by the mister. It was not so sunny towards the end.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Packed Lunches and the Importance of Sticking to a Budget (And why I'm really bad at it)

I have extremely extravagant tastes. I recognize this about myself. It's a running joke in my family that my father raised me that way in order to ensure that I wouldn't end up with just any old guy... and that it came back to bite him in the butt.

I know I am extremely lucky to have never gone without. But it's left me with a rather difficult time when it comes to budgeting. I get my heart set on certain things and never really pay attention to the price.

Matt is the exact opposite when it comes to a budget. Regardless of sharing my same luck, he's always very conscious of money, especially when we travel. Which was/is incredibly important when we're essentially running on whatever two college students can save up.

This also has to be the time that I inform you... I get really difficult to deal with when I get too hungry. This poses a bit of a problem because a lot of the places we visit don't have places to eat out. Even when they do it's hard to find a place that is both affordable and fits my specifications and Matt's (mostly mine).

This is where packed lunches come super in handy.

For places like Stonehenge and Kew (that post is coming soon!) we brought packed lunches and it saved us tons! It also allows you to eat whenever and wherever you want. It saves you the time you would spend trying to find, and agree, on a place to eat. It also saves you cash. This is very important, it also saves you cash.

Also, for those of us traveling out of the country and staying in a hotel, that hotel most likely will have a mini-fridge! Just find a local market and buy whatever you'll need for lunches there. It's still a lot cheaper than restaurants and cafe's. Even if the hotel doesn't have a fridge, buying lunch and dinner from markets and grocery stores still saves you money.

When it came to the end of my stay, I had found something online that I wanted to do for a special night out (I really can't remember what it was and it's not entirely important). I asked Matt if we could do it and he simply said, "We can't afford it." When I asked why we couldn't, he told me we'd spent too much on our other trips. I realized then that every time he'd asked me if we could find a different, cheaper place to eat, and I had (very spoiled- brat like) stamped my foot and said no, I was depriving both of us of another experience. And I felt (and still feel) horrible.

So, this is really more of a life lesson than it is a travel lesson but, it still applies. Always be aware of your financial situation and realize that if you continually opt for instant gratification you're going to miss out on bigger things in the long run. That's not cynical thinking, that's the long and short of it.

And while packed lunches won't solve all our money woes, they are a great first step :)

(plus you guarantee chocolate!)

T x

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Westminster Abbey (Also, Preparing Yourself for Crowds)

Firstly, let me offer my sincerest apologies for leaving the blog without love and updates for so long. This is the time of year when Matt and I have to go back to living separate lives together. He's gone back to school and I have returned home to... figure my life out? I think that's what I'm doing... at least I'm applying to grad school, which is something. 

Second, one huge apology to Matt. I know, darling, that my neglect of the blog has made you sad BUT IT'S BACK NOW xxx

Now that we've taken care of that lets get down to business (to defeat the huns). 

I may have mentioned before that this is my absolute favorite landmark in all of London...
This picture was taken by me. Clearly I am bad at this.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Oyster Card because... Pearls... and Something about the World

When Matt and I were on our way home from Westminster (post coming soon :D) we ran into a couple of American tourists trying to figure out the travel card system. And it wasn't until we were through on the other side of the gates that we realized that one of them already had a day long travel card but didn't realize it and was going to buy another, completely unnecessary, ticket.

I realize that I am also an American tourist but I'm extremely lucky to have Matt there with me at every turn as I explore not just the world but specifically his home. So when I first arrived in London two summers ago and he handed me something called an Oyster Card, it never occurred to me that other tourists (American or not) wouldn't know about it.
This is an Oyster Card 
According to Matt an Oyster Card is named after oysters because when you have it the world is your oyster or something like that. But the concept is pretty much that, Oyster Cards are not as easily lost as tickets, can be topped up whenever, and used as long as you want and you can go anywhere in London.You can also register this card so that if it gets lost or stolen you can get your money back.

 If you buy an Oyster Card in London (at any tube station, some London travel info centers or oyster ticket shops) you can purchase a standard pay as you go card for a small deposit. Whenever you are running low on funds for traveling you can top it up at any tube station and be on your way.

You could also order a Visitors Card online for a certain set amount (with a card fee). The best part about buying a standard pay as you go card is that when you leave, you can turn it in and get your deposit back. For full (and probably clearer) details you can visit their website.

Oyster Cards all come with holders similar to this:
They can have different designs though
I really, very highly recommend getting an Oyster Card. It's not hard to fit (or find) in your purse, clutch, wallet, or pocket. To pass through the gates to the tube you simply have to touch the card (you don't even have to take it out of it's holder!)to a yellow touch pad and it automatically pays the fare. This provides the added bonus of not having to worry about off-peak vs. peak times etc.

It's so difficult to learn the tube for the first time let alone try to figure out the (rather complicated) ticket system as well. I really hope that this helps make getting around to the amazing sites of London much easier.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Saturday, 14 July 2012

The Canterbury Tales Part 1 OR Always Pack Sensible Shoes

Always pack sensible shoes.

This is a lesson that I believed I knew but apparently I didn't. I am quite content to be a jeans and t-shirt kind of girl but I also like to look cute. Especially when I'm going to dinner with my absolutely darling boyfriend (which because of the distance is very rare). When I was packing for our "weekend" away, I knew I didn't have much room in my bag since I was packing for the two of us. So I decided to wear my "cute" shoes the entire time. I mean, why not? They make me closer to Matt's height and they're adorable. I'd worn them for long periods of time before and never had a problem. I was so very, very, very wrong.
These shoes are evil. Adorable, shiny evil.
These shoes may have been handmade by God.

Traveling wearing shoes that are cute is ALWAYS a terrible, terrible idea ladies. Unless of course you fancy making puppy dog eyes at your boyfriend as you pass an H&M and begging him to let you run in and grab some flats. Just a little tip.

But that's not what you're here to hear about is it? I'm sure you're all wondering about this...

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Map, Compass, Camera...

I would have to argue that, when traveling, the one thing you cannot leave home without is your camera. Toothbrushes and missing socks can (for the most part) be found where you’re going or at least in the airport. Your camera however, whether it’s a crappy little digital camera or a massive state of the art DSLR, can’t be replaced. And the whole point of traveling is making memories is it not? Obviously you don’t want to walk around with your camera permanently attached to your face but sometimes there are moments that, if you don’t capture them, you’ll miss forever.

When embarking on a journey such as mine (ours <3 really) part of the fun is capturing not only each site but also how we change from the first to the last. It’s going to take quite a long time to get from #1 to #936 (and lord knows there will be more added with each coming year).

At one point last summer, Matt mentioned that he’d love to have a Polaroid camera. I of course freaked because as far as I knew Polaroid had stopped making it’s film and the only way to find some was to scrounge around on eBay (this was before I learned about the impossible project). No me gusta. So I set about to find him an alternative.

I went to a quaint little photo blog that my friend directed me to and found this little beauty:

Friday, 6 July 2012

Stonehenge is like Disney World. No. Really.

Yesterday was the realization of a major childhood dream of mine. Ever since I first learned about Stonehenge I have wanted to visit. It's a place of magic, a place of mystery and a place of romance for someone like me who is in love with both history and fantasy literature. It's a dream location.
It was certainly an amazing day. We didn't just see our first World Heritage Site. We also learned a lot about what this whole process is going to be like.
(Please note this is a long post)

The ticket in!!!

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Update Wednesday :D

As promised here is your Wednesday update :D

First, I am going to change my updating schedule. I know. Terribly unreliable of me. However, it seems like there will be so much happening every week that it makes sense to just update at the end instead of in the middle. Every Friday will be Travel Story day and Wednesday will be for other miscellaneous type posts.

Matt is walking without crutches and so tomorrow morning we are off to Trafalgar Square to catch a bus to STONEHENGE!!! I'm a little sad that we can't see Avebury but it's really not a very easy place to reach unless you have a car so STONEHENGE is totally fine for now. Honestly though I cannot wait to see it. It's been a dream of mine to see it since I was little and now Matt is taking me. *SQUEE*

Next week we're off to Canterbury :)

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Away we go!

Matt is currently checking on what sites we totally can and totally can't see while we're together this summer. It's looking good for most of them :D

From now on I'll be updating once every Wednesday. Just to keep things simple. However, if we start doing exciting things on a regular basis then I will update as needed.

x T

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Moving the goal posts....

We're still hanging out at home but by the end of this week we should be able to get out by ourselves. Matt went onto the UNESCO site to look up some unrelated information and found something rather surprising. There are more World Heritage Sites added to the list. UNESCO have added 21 new cultural sites, 3 new natural sites and 1 new mixed site. Now instead of having a goal of 911 sites we have a shiny new goal of 936. All before we've even started. 

Barbados' "Historic Bridgetown and it's Garrison" really is my favorite edition. A nice trip to a world heritage site and then the sunning on the beach? Perfect much? Matt however seems to be most pleased about The Persian Garden in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Leave it to my darling to be happy about venturing into the war-torn middle east for some adventuring. 

You can find all of the World Heritage Site listings at their website. Each entry has amazing pictures of the sites and information on why they were chosen. 

Hopefully this weekend I'll be updating with some trip information and some pictures!

x T

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Getting to know the NHS

**Disclaimer for this post** While the original idea for this blog was keeping track of world heritage sites (which will still be a major focus don't worry), it will also be about life with Matt, handling a long, long, long distance relationship and about what it's like to try and move to the UK and adjust to life a new country.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Compromise, Compromise, Compromise

So, I hate - and I mean HATE - set tours, tour busses, etc., etc.

What happens to be the cheapest and easiest way to get to our first destination? A tour.

I'll admit, I pouted. I'm still pouting. But you have to do things you don't want in order to get some of these places I guess. Matt is pleased though... which is why I think I'm still feeling grouchy.

Anyway, our first destinations are... Stonehenge and Avebury!

Sunday, 10 June 2012

A little bit about UNESCO (written with a ridiculous amount of help from Matt because I don't know anything)

If any of you are like me, you aren't familiar with UNESCO or World Heritage Sites. You have probably never even heard of them. Here is a short little blurb with some links to serve as a little orientation...

Saturday, 9 June 2012

"Do you have your exit buddy?"

Unfortunately, Matt has - in british terms - "done his ACL". So while the poor thing recovers from his surgery, there isn't much anything to do but enjoy summer football (something that would never happen at home!) and plan trips :)

I am by no means an expert at travelling. I habitually pack too much, I get anxious and arrive to early, and any form of public transportation has me reach for Purell so often that I should buy stock.  That being said, I do have two thing that I KNOW I need every time I leave on an adventure...

(Shortly after) The Beginning

I'm at great risk of sounding cliché but it's often hard to know how to start this kind of thing. It's a very typical girl meets boy story. Except this time girl mets boy while she was on her semester abroad.  My name is Taylor. I'm a writer and a reader and now, surprisingly, a travel enthusiast.

For my abroad semester in college I decided to move to Edinburgh, Scotland all by myself.

Didn't really think that one through if I'm being honest. 

I arrived in the middle of the night in the middle of January in SCOTLAND. You can imagine how that went. I literally fell flat on my butt about 20 minutes after arriving. For the most part, I'm extremely shy. I spent most of my time traveling with old school friends (for the shortest amount of time possible) or just hanging out on my own. Great way to spend my time abroad, I know. As luck would have it I met Matt the day before I was supposed to return to America. And then my flight home was cancelled. Even though it was only for a day, that was all it took.

Matt is my opposite in nearly every way possible. He's more open minded, extroverted, adventurous and a Londoner born and bred. Loving him is making me come out of my shell.

Amongst other things, Matt loves to travel. His dream is to see all of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. He's already seen 200 but we've decided that since I'm here now, we might as well start over together. As a writer, I felt we needed a place to document all of our attempts (hopefully with more successes than not) to see all 911 in our lifetime. Well, this is it.

It's taken 6 transatlantic flights, 4 cities, and one year to get to a place where we can finally start our travels :D

One half love story and one half travel blog. I hope you enjoy.

Christmas in Edinburgh <3