Cities to Visit in the American South

Or, how I learned to fall in love with a completely different part of my own country.

I’m a California girl, through and through. A Northern California girl, to be specific (after ten years in Southern California, the distinction is necessary.) The more I see of the world, the more sure of that I am.

When someone asks me where I’m from whenever I’m abroad, I reply without thinking: “California.” I realize, of course, that they’re looking to hear my country, not my state.

Most expect me to reply with “the United States.” And while I’m a proud American (well, most of the time,) I really identify so much more strongly with being a Californian and San Franciscan…and I’ve never been clearer on that than now.

I’ve also never been more aware that California is a bit of a bubble. So when I had the opportunity to road trip from Alabama to San Francisco (coincidentally, not long before the election last year) I pondered where outside my home state I wanted to visit. It was time (again) for me to see more of my own country.

 

Why was I so keen on pushing past my comfort zone in other countries and on different continents, yet unwilling to explore the expanse of land just to the right of me?

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Or, a story about creating your own happy place in a foreign land.

I have this strange ritual I repeat every time I land in Paris.

I almost don’t want to tell you about it, because I am aware that it’s random and a bit odd. But it takes me right back to some of the happiest moments of my life. So, I hold onto the habits (and even come clean with them here, to you.)

After dropping off my bags where I’m staying, is to immediately head to the nearest French chain grocery store — Carrefour, Monoprix, it matters not. The red lipstick and ballet flats emerge, and calm comes over me as I take to the Parisian streets.

I then proceed to pick up the same four things: a bit of both carottes rapées and celery rémoulade salads, (I told you this was random…) a wheel of cheese (the stinkier the better,) and a bottle of French red wine that’s under 10 euros. Perhaps I also get a fresh baguette.

This is my simple ritual.

renting an apartment in paris


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Where to Eat in Indianapolis.

(Because the way to the heart is the stomach, clearly.)

What it’s like to return to a place you once disdained, and discover that you quite like it after all.

Or, How I Finally Fell in Love with Indianapolis (and where to eat there so you will too.)

 

Two years ago, heck, even two months ago…if you had told me I’d be landing on the tarmac for a work trip to Indianapolis, I’d have laughed in your face and told you you were insane.

It’s nothing against Indiana. Some of the loveliest people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting have their roots in the Midwestern state. It’s just that the job I used to have, the one before all this blogging business, took me there on a semi-regular basis. And when I left said corporate career, just over four years ago, I had zero desire to ever return to the place I most associated with that part of my life. Just like so much of turning away from that path, I was certain I was leaving it in the past.

So as I stared down at the plane ticket bound for IND, I could hardly believe life had taken me back there. Travel writing might just be the most opposite pursuit from pharmaceutical sales. How did pursuing a completely different career take me to the same exact place?


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Where To Stay in (Central) London

So many choices!

It can be overwhelming to choose a spot to stay in a city as massive and diverse as London. As in any great city, there are many sides to it. Luckily, the multiple personalities of London can be experienced through its many neighborhoods. One great way to discover the city on a deeper level is to explore a single area in more depth. Choose a certain part of the city to base yourself in during your trip, and with a little wandering plus healthy curiosity…voila!

In truth I have spent most of my time in London staying with friends. Still, these are the best places I have stayed at across many of my visits, (and what I can vouch for that’s not a couch!) Coincidentally, they are all located in favorite parts of the city.

Here are my recommended places to stay, organized by neighborhood and described at different price points:


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A Guide to London’s Diverse Food Scene

You heard it here first…despite any preconceived notions about British food, London is one of the world’s best cities for food. Part of this is a revival of traditions and local flavors, and part is its embrace of authentic global cuisine.

On my most recent visit, I planned the larger part of my day around where I’d be eating. I sought out exemplary gastropubs, expanded my curry repertoire, and even sat down for my first formal English afternoon tea. What follows are my recommendations for where to eat whilst in London, tried, tasted, and true and sourced everywhere from food blogs and chefs to local Londoners.

As a general rule, you’ll want to make reservations (sometimes as little as a day in advance.) The formality of the reservations system is a bit more alive and well in the U.K. than elsewhere. It can’t hurt!

So without futher adieu…


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A Build-Your-Own Itinerary for Both First Time and Repeat Visitors

Ah, London. The global city with its uniquely British charm. There’s no place quite like it, and with each visit I come to know and love it all the more.

So when the call came to explore the city on a scavenger hunt-type challenge, I jumped at the chance. Flights to the UK from the US are at an all-time low (I once said I’d fly there in a heartbeat if I could fly under $600, and my friend flew out to join me from SF for only $400 roundtrip.) That combined with a (finally) favorable exchange rate for the dollar made for a visit in which London became more accessible than ever.

What follows is a collection of my favorite spots in the British capital — those I recently discovered on this unique latest visit, as well as tried-and-true favorites that I never skip. With so many options, you can choose-your-own-adventure based on your style and interests.


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Having just returned from two weeks (and lots of meetings) in the U.K. (posts forthcoming!) I’m more familiar than ever with the questions that follow when I mention the name of this blog.

The first response is usually, “that’s a fantastic brand!” or “how’d you get that URL?” followed by,

“What does part-time travel mean?”

It’s a great question and one that I presume everyone has a different answer to. Since I’ve been pondering this since before it was a term, I figured it was time I shared with you how the meaning has changed for me over time.


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Ah, the elusive travel question: how do you find cheap flights?

I realize that there is a plethora of travel advice attempting to address just this, but seeing as it remains one of your most frequently asked questions I wanted to write about how I find the flights that I do (on a writer’s budget, no less!)

For the first time in recent memory, the availability of inexpensive flights (particularly from the expensive city in which I live!) continues to surprise and delight me! When I think back to what I used to pay for certain routes (i.e. SFO >> London, which I wil be flying next week!) I am amazed at how much more manageable it has become to fly, particularly to Asia and Europe. Even if you aren’t based in a city with a major aviation hub, there are more deals than ever (random as they may be.)

What does this mean, exactly? ….We should all be traveling more!


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