travel light

travel light

A Look Back at London

Tower Bridge (built between 1886 and 1894) spans the River Thames and is one of London’s most recognized landmarks.

Climate change activists were out in force in Trafalgar Square, blocking the streets, but otherwise demonstrating peacefully.

Chinatown offered us colorful streets to wander and a welcome break from the more traditional English pub meals we’ve enjoyed.
An evening of entertainment and laughter at The Savoy Theatre.

We topped off our stay with a visit to Kew Gardens. The UNESCO World Heritage Site covers 326 acres and features the largest and most diverse collection of plants in the world. We were smart to wear our hiking boots – from Kew Palace (top left) to the spectacular greenhouses, there’s a lot to see…regardless of the season.

Tomorrow morning we’ll pack up our memories and head to Heathrow to catch our flight home. It’s been quite a trip.
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Park Bouncer Busts Us

The deck chairs scattered about St. James’s Park were just too irresistible on Sunday afternoon. We’d been on our feet for hours, wandering through London’s Chelsea district, through the Victoria and Albert Museum and making a quick pass by Buckingham Palace. We scanned the perimeter of the park for an empty bench…with no luck. The chairs looked far more comfortable but there was a catch.

We hoped we could sneak a few free minutes of R & R before being discovered.

No such luck. The eagle-eyed Park Bouncer spotted us immediately and made a beeline over to collect his deck chair cover charge.

Reg displays our £3.60 entrance fee and we settle in to soak up some sun.
ThIs young man was quickly spotted and, unwilling to pay the price, was sent packing.
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Prior Park Landscape Garden

The Palladian Bridge represents historic elegance.

Wandering beyond the city walls of Bath we discovered the beautiful Prior Park Landscape Garden. Originally designed in the 1700s, the garden spills down a hillside below the Prior Park Mansion (now a private school). Meandering paths lead through woodlands and around lakes.

On a clear day one can take in stunning views of Bath far below. Weather was not so kind to us.

Restoration work is ongoing in an effort to return the garden to it’s original glory.
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Towering Over Bath, England

For centuries, Bath Abbey has soared above the skyline of Bath, England.

What a treat it’s been to spend these last three days in Bath, England. Our backpacks sit empty on the floor of our apartment, our belongings strewn about, as we explore the nooks and crannies of this historic city.

We can’t seem to avoid stairs, climbing 212 steps to the top of Bath Abbey.

Our guide allowed us a few stops on our tour to the top of the Bath Abbey Tower. After a short lesson on the history and workings of the bells, we were led into a side room where we saw and heard for ourselves just how powerful the bells are.

The next stop had our group crowded together in a cubbyhole behind the tower clock. We learned the clock was once kept illuminated by fire, carefully watched by one whose job it was to keep the fire burning…without allowing it to ignite the entire Abbey. Apparently, this was highly paid, but rather boring work.

An inside look at the Bath Abbey clock.

Eventually, we made our way to the top where we enjoyed 360 degree views of the city. Spectacular!

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Almost Heaven – West Virginia

That's how we feel about the weather we've had during our stay here in Morgantown. I was a little intimidated by the never ending landscape of bare trees surrounding us. Chris explained that the fall color had come and gone quickly last month, so I was prepared for winter weather. Instead, we've enjoyed beautiful sunny skies, with today being the best day of all.

Monday Chris took us to Coopers Rock State Park where we hiked out to an amazing spot overlooking the Cheat River below.

We visited Valley Falls State Park, located along the Tygart River. Yellow dots on the trees led us on a hike up to an outcropping of rocks, then back down to the river.

Our stay in West Virginia has been great, but the weather forecast is promising that the Polar Express is on the way. Bitter cold is expected within a few days, so it's time to say goodbye to the kids and head home to our milder climate.

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Morgantown – it’s more than football

A trip east was long overdue for us. What a treat to pack in our roomy carry on suitcases rather than a 30 litre backpack! We landed in Pittsburgh last Friday and drove south to Morgantown, West Virginia where our son Chris lives with his girlfriend Gail. This is a big college football town, so we strategically planned our visit to coincide with a Mountaineers away game.

Dinner at Black Bear included live music provided by an acoustical guitarist. Reg got to see the statue of his longtime hero, and I found a tree dressed to keep warm this winter.

Chris set us up with a room at The Lakeview Resort, a golf and events center where he works, and assured us that all would be quiet this time of year…however, the joint was hopping Friday night when we arrived. It seems that ” The Men of Las Vegas” we're putting on a show for 600+ screaming women (of all ages), decked out in heels and sequins and (probably) armed with fists full of dollar bills. Fortunately, not much kept us awake after traveling through Portland, Chicago and Pittsburgh airports on our journey.

We've had a great stay at The Lakeview Resort. Next time I might have trouble keeping Reg off the golf course.

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The Ziplock Method

Our luggage is designed to both roll and carry as a backpack.

As we checked out of our San Baronto apartment this morning, our host commented (again) on our lack of luggage. She couldn't believe that we each brought just one piece of luggage for a three-week trip. With a roll of her eyes, she described the “other American couple” who had checked in three days after us with what must have been a cartload of baggage. We couldn't help but feel (maybe just a little) superior!

Would we do it again? You bet! How did we do it? I scoured the Internet for tips on traveling light. With some thought, planning and a wash-and-wear wardrobe, you can do it too!

You can spend a lot of money on actual packing bags and envelopes, but simple Ziplock bags were the secret to our success. I bought a box of super-sized bags at our local grocery store (I love Raley's in Oakhurst!). These were great for Reg's clothes (which are larger than mine) and worked well for my pants. The regular size bags, that you probably all have in your kitchen drawer, are perfect for socks, underwear and worked well for my T-shirts.

 

 

You'll fit a lot more in a bag if you roll your clothes.

 

 

 

 

Roll everything! I really did roll everything, sliding each piece into a bag with the same type of item. Pants in one bag, shirts in another, socks and undies in a third. Stuff them full.

 

 

 

 

It's surprising how flat your Ziplocks can be.

Once your Ziplocks are packed, zip them closed nearly all the way, leaving about an inch open. Then, find a hard surface (a wooden chair works well) place your bag on the chair and promptly sit on the bag. Once all the excess air is out, and before you stand up, zip your bag closed. You should have a perfect vacuum-sealed bag ready to fit neatly in your suitcase!

 

 

Most hotels and apartments offer an iron and ironing board if clothes need a quick touch-up.

 

You may develop your own technique, but we found this to work well for us. The Ziplock Method allows me to find exactly what I need without rummaging through my entire suitcase; something that has always driven me nuts! Happy Travels!

I love a tidy suitcase!

 

Categories: Italy, travel light | Tags: , , , | 8 Comments

Will it all fit?

Yes, Sue fit our stuff into two carry-on bags and we made it to Rome today in time for morning coffee near our apartment just a few steps from the Tevere River and easy walking distance to the Vatican, Colosseum and other major sites. Sue stands at the beginning of our apartment's street, Via del Pellegrino. Narrow cobblestone streets took us past more pizzarias and bars than we could count. A couple glasses of Chianti helped us choose the perfect restaurant for dinner.

 

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Sure-Footed Canyon Plunge Thrills Teens

Thinking back over the years, we should have paid more attention to our first “travel light” experience. It was the spring of 2006, and Andrew was graduating from high school that June. Brad and Chris were two years behind him, entrenched in life with their friends and various activities. Time was running out for family vacation memories.

Our mules were well trained for this photo op!

How could we generate enthusiasm from our three teen-aged sons for a weeklong trip? With a little outside-of-the-box thinking (and five cowboy hats) we found ourselves astride the mules at the Grand Canyon, facing downhill! After a short “pep talk” informing us that mules are not the easiest way to experience the Grand Canyon and that if anyone wanted to back out, “now is the time to do so,” we headed down the Bright Angel trail behind our guide Patrick. We were bound for Phantom Ranch, a beautiful but rustic guest ranch at the bottom of the canyon, where we would spend the night and ride up the next day.

Checking in the previous day, we were each handed a plastic bag, only slightly larger than a hot water bottle. We were told whatever personal belongings countered able to fit into the bag could make the journey with us down the canyon for our overnight stay. We all carefully decided what was important and then tried to squeeze in just one more thing.

Despite the lack of luggage, I think this was one of our most memorable vacations. On the ride back up to the rim, a fellow traveler asked our boys to each rate the trip on a scale from one to ten. After two days of sitting atop a mule, no electronics and only the endless canyon views, we were thrilled to hear ratings of nine or ten from all our kids. We're learning…take less and see more!

 

 

 

 

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No More Checked Luggage!

It was just last year, upon returning from a two week trip to Scotland with our good friends Doug and Kathy that Reg vowed, “No more checked luggage!” Having left Edinburgh bright and early, we landed at the Newark airport amidst renovations, airline mergers and general chaos. Worried, because our friends were having trouble securing seat assignments for the last leg of our flight, we nervously paced around the luggage carousel, watching the clock and awaiting our baggage.

Sue and Reg with Kathy and Doug in Edinburgh

Once in hand we quickly headed for the line leading to the domestic terminals. This was where we were asked if we had any food to declare. Honest to a fault, Reg announced he had half a bag of digestive biscuits and we were immediately routed to another line set up for agriculture inspection. “Why didn't we just eat them?” I wondered as Doug and Kathy vanished from sight…

In the end, we passed inspection, managed to find our friends, get their seat assignments and we all made it home safely. So, was it the checked luggage or the love of digestive biscuits that led us to this obsession with traveling light? I'm not sure, but I do know that on our next trip, we will not be “trying to smuggle” food back home!

 

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