The classic view of Tower Bridge. We hopped off the bus at Westminster Cathedral, crossed the Thames and walked the south bank which took us past London Bridge, the Globe Theater, book fairs, street performers, shops and pubs. It was far less crowded than the north bank.
A side view of Bath Abbey. Bath has a dynamic pedestrian shopping and dining area surrounding the Cathedral and Roman Baths. After a morning of shopping and sightseeing, we met old friends and had a delicious lunch at Jamie Oliver’s Italian restaurant.
The Temple Bar district is a lively entertainment area. Our apartment was around the corner from this bar and we felt very safe exploring this area at night. There were more American tourists in Dublin than any other place on our journey.
The highlight of my trip was returning to West Terschelling, Netherlands, the birthplace of my grandfather. This small North Sea island is still home to most of my Dutch relatives.
These are the North Sea dunes on Terschelling. Our island family rented the bus and we toured the beach while family and friends sang island songs to us. We stopped along the way for sandwiches and drinks.
We toured the city by canal boat one day to escape from the sheer madness of the cyclists! Amsterdam is, to me, one of the most beautiful and sophisticated cities in the world and I cannot wait to go back.
The final night in Amsterdam was filled with crazy experiences like this one at the Ice Bar. The temperature was -9 F. We barely lasted 15 minutes but we were the last to leave.
My readers are the most phenomenal people. I thank my lucky stars every day that anyone reads this blog. Because this little site of mine includes TRAVEL, I like to feature great destinations that I’ve been to. But what about all the great trips you all have taken. I followed Mary Gorter on her 3-week family vacation via Instagram stories and was secretly wishing I was there. When I reached out and asked if she would share her dreamy trip, she was happy to contribute as today’s guest writer.
Enjoy her amazing experience. If you have a question for Mary, please leave a comment. xoxo – Tanya
P.S. I launched the first 2017 GIFT GUIDE yesterday. Page all the way down to the bottom in case you missed it.
Destination: London, Bath, Dublin, Terschelling and Amsterdam
Although I could write a book about my 3-week family vacation, I will instead share a few tips that made our trip run more smoothly. We started in London and worked our way to the Netherlands. I was traveling with my parents and loved every minute of our journey. Here are a few key tips for how to navigate through three weeks of travel.
How to Pack: We decided to do only a carry-on and a backpack. Before you panic like I did when my mom first told me, I highly recommend this if you are doing more than a couple of destinations. We had to carry our own luggage through many airports and train stations (sometimes carrying them up and downstairs). We also had to fit them in taxis, trains, boats and buses. I have no idea how I would have managed a huge bag. Also, it’s Europe and with fashion—anything goes. Plus, we had laundry facilities at each place we stayed (but actually figuring how to use them is another blog entirely!). Tanya has added some lovely links for wardrobe suggestions.
Air: When planning our trip, we picked London as our first stop since we have been there before. There are direct flights from Dallas to Heathrow but if you leave from anywhere that requires a connection, I highly recommend giving yourself at least 3.5-4 hours between domestic and international flights. I know that sounds like a long time but trust me, with delayed flights and enhanced TSA security, it’s more relaxing to be early and have time for a cocktail and shopping than it is to be hurrying from gate to gate.
The great thing about Europe is that once you get there, it is extremely affordable to get to any other European city. We flew Ryanair and EasyJet to our other destinations. Tip: Print your boarding pass beforehand! We thankfully knew this but others were not so lucky and had to spend $30 to print their boarding pass at the airport. This is why they can charge as low as $25 for a flight because they add extra fees for everything—checked bags, seat selection, food, drink, etc.
Lodging: Another thing we chose to do for this trip, when we weren’t staying with family, was book TripAdvisor lodging and Airbnb instead of hotels. You get so much more for the money. If you have three or more traveling companions, it is so much more comfortable and you get to really feel like a local. The hosts are always helpful with details such as the best transportation options to and from an airport.
Getting around: Finding a location in the middle of the city or near a train/bus station will make a world of difference. In London, our flat was across the street from the underground so we were able to get anywhere we wanted quickly and easily. Tip: If in London, download the Tube Map app. It will save you time and energy. Also purchase an Oyster Card at your arriving airport ($30 for our 4-day stay). This card is used to travel by train, underground and bus. Dublin on the other hand does not have an intercity train so make sure you are centrally located. Also, I recommend getting an unlimited text and data plan on at least one of the phones so you can use Google Maps, Uber and others to get you easily from one place to another.
Eat: We aren’t big foodies so this was never something we really planned our day around. We would explore all day and when we were hungry, we would stop at a fun pub or small restaurant and we never had a bad meal. We had a lot of fun searching for the oldest pubs in each city!
To Do: In my opinion, the best way to see the highlights of a city is to do the On-Off Bus and/or canal tours. I know this seems very touristy but even though this was my 6th trip to London, I still enjoy taking a tour though the city this way. They are all guided tours so you are able to learn the history of the landmarks as well as get around to the must-sees. Tip: When booking the Hop On Bus tour, book them for two days. This gives you one day to see everything and one day to hop on and off. It’s hard to do both. Also, its Europe so there’s a good chance there’s going to be a rainy day and it’s the best way to just sit back and tour the city.
I hope you enjoyed our little journey. xo – Mary
Mary grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas and attended the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications. She is now the Executive Assistant to Dallas Interior Designer, Jan Showers. Before joining Jan Showers & Associates, Mary was an Au Pair in Bristol, England and then returned to the U.S. where she traveled extensively as a Mobile Marketer for Hollywood’s Production Inc. Mary’s love of different cultures and experiences is beautifully captured in many of her photographs.
Photo: via Mary Gorter