Saturday, May 31, 2014

Viva Las Vegas

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have noticed I creeped over to the United States last weekend.

I went to Las Vegas for four days, primarily for business (more on that, later). Yet, I also got to have some fun.

I got in late Thursday night, and I chose to stay at a hotel farther up the Strip. I actually had a view of the famous Stratosphere from my room.

On Friday morning, I tended to some business. But, I then found myself by the pool. 

My brother, Ben, lives in California. He came in to spend the day with me for some sibling bonding! 

We soaked up the sunshine before heading out to see the casinos. We rode the roller coaster at New York, New York...which I do believe I passed out due to being so afraid.  We took in the Dueling Pianos Bar, caught the fountain show at the Bellagio, and just had a lot of fun catching up! 

Ben and Me
Ben left the next morning which meant I got to decide how to spend my last full day in Nevada. I started out by grabbing a pedicure. Post traveling around Europe, it was much needed.

From there, I went on a Hoover Dam Tour! I have always wanted to see the Hoover Dam in person being a history nerd. It was an incredible tour, and I don't say that lightly. One of the best day tours that combined the normal tour of the generators inside the Dam. 

Lake Mead

At the Hoover Dam


Hoover Dam

Returning to Las Vegas, I took a night-time tour to see all the light shows, casinos lit up, and to learn more about the history of the City. 

We started at the famous Las Vegas sign!

Viva Las Vegas
Then, we stopped at the Golden Nugget and Freemont Street! What an experience!

Golden Nugget

Freemont Street

World's Largest Golden Nugget
And, finally, we got to see the volcano show at the Mirage and the fountain show at the Bellagio! 

Volcano Show at the Mirage

Bellagio Water Show 
I left fairly early on Sunday for the airport as I had a 10 hour flight back to London. It was a quick, fun, and exciting weekend! I hadn't been to Vegas in 10 years, so it was nice to go back.

And, stay tuned...I'll let you in on another secret on why I was in Las Vegas! 

Friday, May 30, 2014

Bulgaria Day Trip

While I was in Bulgaria, I got to take a day trip to the countryside! One of my favorite things to do is being able to observe the way people live throughout an entire country. And, at the same time, there are some real gems hidden across the Bulgarian county-side! 

The morning was an early one. I grabbed some breakfast at the hotel before the tour company picked me up. Luckily, the group was fairly small that day. Myself and three other women plus the tour guide. It got to be much more customizable due to the small group! 

About two hours post being picked up, we started up the curvy mountain roads to Rila Monastery. When I say curvy, I mean the type that caused me to get motion sickness. I ended up having to put my sunglasses on, closed my eyes, and then chugged a bottle of water. But, the drive was worth it!

Rila Monastery
Rila Monastery is listed on UNESCO's World Heritage List. Built in the 10th century, Rila Monastery is known as largest Eastern Orthodox monastery in Bulgaria.  At one time, there were more monks than there were rooms. However, today, there are only nine monks in residence. 

Oldest Part of the Monastery 

Say Cheese!
We toured as much as we were allowed to see. Inside the main building, there were numerous relics from the original building of the monastery.

While we were there, we also tried the "famous" bread made at the monastery. Sadly, I likened it to fried dough from a state fair. Still had to try it though!

Post viewing the monastery, we stopped at local "famous" restaurant. Known for their access to a fresh water stream from the mountain ranges, we all dined on the trout. 

Re-engergized, we headed to Melnik for our last stop of the day.  

Melnik used to be a huge city and served as a seat of the Ottoman Empire at one point.  It is roughly 15 km from the Greek border (no small trip, that day). Apart from the fact that only 450 people now live in the city, Melnik is famous for its wine. We got to tour a wine cellar, sample our way around the city, and see how people live in the town. It has to be one of my favorite memories of Bulgaria.

Wine Cellar



Old Ottoman Empire Building
It was an amazing day trip to the country-side. If you're in Bulgaria, make sure to get outside of Sofia! 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Sofia, Bulgaria

Last Sunday through Tuesday, I my last solo trip for a bit to Bulgaria. Not a country on most people's bucket list, but for was. Having been a history major in college, I've been wanting to see Sofia for years, and I knew I needed to make it happen before departing in June. 

I took an early flight out of Heathrow airport. 

Can I just say how thankful I am to Starbucks for being open that early? 

Although, I could do without getting my name misspelled, for once.

I stayed at the Hilton in Sofia which ended up being fairly close to everything including being across the street from the National Palace of Culture. Around the building of the National Palace of Culture were numerous monuments and memorials remembering the time the country was under Communist rule. 

National Palace of Culture
Old Guard Post from the Communist Period 
Gas Masks
The majority of my first day in Bulgaria was spent exploring the city. I did get lost at one point.

Streets of Bulgaria
Taste of America
I eventually stumbled upon the government area and got to see where the Prime Minister resides, the National Bank, and many government buildings that were built during the Communist period.

Apart from the government corridor, I was also able to view the famous Russian Church as well as the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. I wondered inside the Cathedral, and as it was built during the Ottoman Empire period, it reminded me of the Hagia Sophia (Turkey) in many ways. I could have looked at the frescos all day.

The Russian Church
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
Finally, through my exploration and getting a tad lost, I discovered the old Roman ruins as well as what was an old public bath house.

Old Roman Ruins
Public Bath House
Stay tuned for the blog post recapping my day trip to the Bulgarian countryside!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

London Musings

Apart from a very long week of travel, I wanted to share what I've been up to in London.

As part of my goal of seeing more of London before I leave, I've been taking walks in new areas and exploring. I've also just been enjoying some of my favorite things that the City offers.

I took in three performances. 

I finally got to see Les Mis live. 

Miss Saigon returned to the West End for the first time in 15 years. This was an amazing performance and well worth opening prices. 

Handbagged is a parody play on the relationship between the Queen and Margaret Thatcher when Thatcher was Prime Minister. I was on the floor laughing the entire time. 

Last week, I went and had high tea with my friend, Chelsea, at Bond and Brook. 

The MPA had a picnic last week as a study break. Alyssa and I were fully enjoying the sunshine! 

And, my friend and sorority sister, Steph, was in town. She just graduated with her masters from Syracuse. I hadn't seen her since we graduated in 2012, so it was a fun evening!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Lake District Day Trip

On Saturday, I finally got to the Lake District in England. It's been on my 101 in 1001 list as well as my bucket list for as long as I can remember. 

So, I finally bit the bullet and bought a day trip. I went with the day trip as I truthfully had no time to plan a trip as well as figure out transportation. Because we all need to be driving on the other side of the road sounds like a disaster in the making. 

My day started off bright and early at Euston Station. My tour group caught a train to Oxenholme Station. Thankfully, I slept on the train to make up for those few hours I missed. 

On our arrival, our guide shuttled us to Lake Windemere.

We also got to see Wray Castle. Unfortunately, as I soon learned... it's not actually a castle. It was just called that based off a man building it for his wife. I didn't get a chance to go inside, but it still took on the Medieval appearance from the outside. 

Nearby, there was also the memorial that Beatrice Potter built for Norman Warne following his death.

From there, the tour group headed to Hill Top. Hill Top was the home of Beatrix Potter, and the area was a source of inspiration for her stories. 

Gardens of Hill Top

Hill Top
The house was preserved and had numerous exhibits of her drawings and writings. 

I also checked out the backyard and houses down the street to find a few treasures. And, I did manage to see one bunny rabbit, so maybe it was Peter?

Post Office Box from Peter Rabbit's Almanac 

Anvil Cottage from the Tale of Samuel Whiskers 
Tom Kitten's Gate

For lunch, we visited Hawkshead. William Wandsworth spent a period of his life in the town. 

Post lunch, the group was ushered off to Lake Coniston for a cruise. This area truly reminded me of the Finger Lakes in Central New York.

Lake Coniston

Lake Coniston
And, finally, we ended the last bit of our touring at the famous Tarn Hows. It was an amazing overlook spot for the Lake District. Next time, I would love to wander around the trails.

It was a very long day of touring, but it was well worth it. I know I only saw a bit of the splendor of the Lake District, but I know I'll be back. If you're in London and haven't been, I completely support your decision for taking the same tour that I did!