Ljubljana

After a very long delay at London-Stansted, my mom, sister, and I were finally off to Ljubljana!

Slovenia is immediately charming. The mountains and valleys, approachable people, lovely traditional-style houses, and perfect summer weather (not too hot, not too cold) make the country so welcoming! We moved in to our hotel, the Pri Mraku (“at dusk”) in the center of the old town. There was a pride event going on that weekend and ABBA was echoing through the stone streets– it was like heaven. ❤ Unfortunately we missed the town’s production of Mamma Mia that was happening the week before.

Ljubljana is very walkable, with bars, restaurants, and shopping all in close range. The beautiful blue Ljubljanica river runs through the middle, and is crossed by many bridges, the most famous being Tromostovje, the triple bridge. Ljubljana’s beer is Union; It struck me as very Heineken-smelling (you know that distinct smell! 😉). Later our tour guide Barbara told us Union is now owned by Heineken. I wonder if they share hops… is that a thing!?

There aren’t many must-see attractions in the city, which is why I liked it. The whole place is easygoing. Ljubljana seems like a very livable city, and (if I can one day imagine myself learning Slovenian😳) I can very easily see myself living there. The Slovenian people struck me as progressive, friendly, and excellent masters of language. Almost everyone I met spoke at least three language including perfect English.

I had a bit of anxiety about the language actually… not because no one could understand me, to the contrary– I had American princess guilt for not knowing their language! It’s embarrassing for me to travel the world and expect people to understand my language. With 4 meagre months of Russian under my belt I could decipher some of the more related slavic nouns, but everything else is completely indiscernible to me. After Barbara helped us master “please, thank you, good day, and good evening,” I relaxed a bit.

Everywhere we traveled the locals seemed tickled with our attempts at Slovenian, Croatian, and Bosnian. In contrast, i’d had similar feelings of language anxiety in France on my past trips, but the attitude of the people you’re trying to communicate with makes a big difference; the Eastern Europeans I encountered had more positive and gregarious energy when dealing with Americans!

Ljubjanski Grad “Ljubljana Castle” is a beautiful place to spend the afternoon. You can see all across the city, and across the whole country it would seem (Slovenia is smaller than New Hampshire)! There’s a lovely restaurant Na Gradu “within the castle” which served a delicious vegan dinner, complete with dessert: apple strudel sorbet! 😍  A perfect welcome to the country. To get to the castle you can ride the funicular or hike (it’s not too strenuous). The zmajski “dragon” is the symbol of Ljubljana; it’s featured on the city’s flag and on the beautiful art nouveau Zmajski Most “bridge.” There are many legends about Jason and the argonauts and Ljubljana’s dragon; you’ll hear them from tour guides all over the city.

My family and I also enjoyed a little boat cruise up and down the river. The city is really very small, and it’s amazing that just a couple miles upriver will bring you to the countryside! We even saw some wildlife from the boat. 

 

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London

My trip began here in my small town in New Hampshire. I never realized until I moved away to Savannah, GA how lucky I was to live near the world’s busiest airport: Hartsfield-Jackson International. When I was living in Atlanta I would hop on Marta and be at the gate within an hour for my nonstop Delta flight, but living in the middle of nowhere presents its own challenges, including 4 free car rides from friends, a bus, and 2 layovers. My outgoing layover was in London, and since I had never been to Britain before, I decided to add a mini 5-day vacation before my Rick Steves tour.

I was in London June 13-18, just one week before the Brexit decision. I stayed in an airbnb between the Pimlico and Victoria stations. I really enjoyed exploring the sights on the first day on my own. I just walked all around, soaking up the iconic landmarks like Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, St Martin-in-the-Fields, Buckingham Palace, the Millenium Bridge, and the Tower of London. The St Martin-in-the-Fields orchestra is a favorite on my local classical station WCRB, and visiting this church was high on my list! I even got to go to Bogorodytsye Dyevo, one of their free afternoon Great Sacred Music concerts celebrating Russia Day.

I also used Happy Cow to find vegan meals, and London has so many! Some standouts were Itadaki-ZenCampbell’s Canal CafeThe Gate Restaurant, and 222 Veggie Vegan. I also defeated jet lag by taking a suggestion from Sam Brown (remember her!?) to abstain from caffeine for two days before traveling, then directly inject espresso into your arm vein when you get off the plane. 😉 Joking, but seriously I drank a lot of “soya double macchiatos” during my trip.

One of the things I liked the most about London is its free museums. I visited the Victoria & Albert (great Asian art collection), the Tate Britain, Tate Modern (you had to pay for the featured exhibits), National Gallery, and the British Museum. British Museum was…. well, I’ll let this article explain: The art world’s shame.

Once my mom and sister arrived, we had an awesome adventure day visiting all the Beatles sites we could! First stop was the Beatles Coffee Shop at the St John’s Wood station. I couldn’t help but have the Rolling Stones’ song Play with Fire stuck in my head as we got off the train (conflict of interests, I know). We walked to that iconic crosswalk on Abbey Road and had so much fun dodging commuter traffic to take pictures and videos. Next we went to Baker Street to check out the home of Sherlock and Watson! Next door to 221B is another Beatles memorabilia store with mostly shirts and keychains. We then walked to the Marylebone station to recreate the opening scene of Hard Day’s Night where the boys are running from their rabid fans. Savvy Paul hides behind a newspaper.

London was a bit too grimy (loud and ugly construction projects were ubiquitous) and cold for me. While I love the myriad veg food choices, cultural diversity, and somewhat convenient public transportation, my head would be spinning if I chose to live there. Great for a visit, though! We’ll see how easy visting London will be once the divorce with EU is final in the coming years.

Casa Axis Mundi

Casa Axis Mundi in Vallodolid, Mexico is on my wish list. It’s a vegan bed & breakfast! I’m really wanting to travel to the caribbean and gulf after reading A Salty Piece of Land, which takes place mostly on the Yucatan. Also, living through my first winter in New England requires its own reward. 😌