Where the Elle Have I Been?

Monday, June 29, 2015

You know how nothing of particular excitement will be going on and then suddenly a year's worth of work/school/fun/life/sad/happy things will happen all at the same time? Yeah, that about explains the month of June for me! I know people say this every month, but I'm trying really hard to wrap my head around the fact that it's about to be JULY. How that happened, I'll never know.

So I guess I'll start by address my blog silence over the past few weeks! I've never, ever been good at sticking to a regular posting schedule on this blog. If you follow me on Instagram, you'll know I haven't been at home much. I thought of churning out some scheduled blog posts to roll out during my absence, but I wouldn't have my computer with me and my phone would have questionable wifi access, so I didn't like the idea of a bunch of posts going up and me not being able to respond to any comments. Plus, I've never loved the idea of posting for the sake of posting. I'll go weeks with being inspired and writing for hours, and then weeks of a creative dry spell. If you are a special rare blogging butterfly who can do it all, I salute you!

Let me sum up a few of the main bits that have been going on...

  • The primary reason for my blog silence is that two of my best, best friends came over to England! I'm talking we have been attached at the hip since elementary school. We spent the first week between Bristol and London, showing them the West Country and making a much needed pilgrimage to the Harry Potter Studio Tour in Leavesden. Yes, again. I hadn't been back since the addition of the Hogwarts Express, one of them had never been and the other had been 3 years previously, and these are my fellow extreme Potterheads - so it was at the top of our list!
  • Friend #1 hopped across the sea to spend a holiday in Ireland with her dad, while Friend #2 and myself hopped over to mainland Europe for a fast and furious romp of France, Italy, Austria, and Germany! We had an absolute blast although our feet may never be the same again. Blog posts will most definitely be headed this way once I get through the task of sorting through all my pictures.
  • I have a heavy, heavy heart about the horrendous shootings in Charleston, South Carolina. I had literally just done a post about how wonderful the city is. I am heartbroken over the events that occurred, but inspired and lifted by the community's determination to not let hatred win. #CharlestonUnited
  • I received all of my final marks for my essays from the spring term and submitted my dissertation synopsis, so all I have left is writing the actual dissertation. No pressure, right?
  • Finally FINALLY - I got a job! Finding a job - even a part time one like mine - when you have a student visa is no joke, there are so many strict rules you have to abide by that you really have to go the extra mile to convince employers you are worth it. I think it's a really good fit for me and will keep me the right amount of busy where I'll still be able to spend plenty of time in the library ;)
  • Coming soon to a blog near you....Elle drinking wine...Elle drinking Butterbeer...Elle drinking real beer.....uhm...I mean...Elle experiencing life-enriching, educational, and historical travels throughout Europe. 

Being away from my computer for a few weeks and out in real life with the best of friends was just what I needed. I did have a rude awakening when I returned home to see pages upon pages of unread emails, unwatched YouTube videos, and unread blog posts on my Bloglovin' feed. Eep! 

What have been your favourite things on the web or blogosphere the past few weeks that you think I should catch up on? 

7 Charms of Charleston.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

In the summer of 2013, I packed up my car and moved six states away to a city I had never been to before for an internship. From the second I arrived to the sad day I had to leave, Charleston South Carolina had me falling in love on a daily basis.

Let me count the ways...

1. History
One of the things I've always been a bit jealous of compared to other countries is that while the U.S. has it's own unique and interesting history, it's just not as...old. As silly as that sounds, I always found that the modern looking buildings and suburban neighbourhoods just never held the same magic as a building that had seen centuries. I think the oldest buildings in my hometown date back to the 1920s - practically a newborn in the eyes of Europe! With its East Coast location and especially thanks to the harbour, Charleston is one of the lucky U.S. cities that has been around nearly since the beginning. The building codes are so strict that even if a house is brand new, it will be designed to fit the aesthetics of the classic Charleston-style homes of the 1700s. The city was founded in 1670 by King Charles II of England and boasts plenty of history - the Civil War began here and played an important role throughout American history.

2. The food 
"If you don't leave Charleston a few pounds heavier, you did something wrong." Has been my promise to all who have asked me for tips. With a new restaurant every time you blink your eye and a pop up market or food truck around every corner, you will not go hungry here. You'd guess that Charleston is home to great Southern food (and you'd be 100% correct), but what you don't expect is the mind blowing seafood, steaks, crepes, donuts, brunch, sushi, innovative/experimental dishes, the best cocktails you'll ever drink - I could go on and on. The Lowcountry region - the low lying, coastal areas in South Carolina including Charleston - is especially famous for shrimp 'n grits and you can NOT leave without trying it. While my list of favourite restaurants could fill an encyclopaedia, the MVPS have to go to Poogan's Porch for an excellent Southern meal, Hominy Grill or Lowcountry Bistro for the best of the Lowcountry cuisine, Black Tap for coffee, Caviar & Bananas for picnic supplies, and Folly Beach Crab Shack for some seafood and a beer post-beach time. Agh, that was agonising to narrow down.

3. Natural beauty
Charleston is a full-fledged city, but even on the busiest of days downtown, you'll never feel claustrophobic or overwhelmed. With parks every few blocks, flower boxes beneath every windowsill, palm trees, sweeping Spanish moss dotted every few steps, and the ocean a stone's throw away, you feel like you're on constant vacation. A short drive out of the peninsula will land you at a number of beaches, forests, acres of gardens, and hidden gems like the Angel Oak tree.

4. Plantation houses
While they appreciate their grandeur, some people feel uncomfortable about the idea of visiting Plantation homes and I understand why. South Carolina has a deep history intertwined with slavery and the slave trade due to its important harbour, and the thought of prancing around a beautiful building where people were so horribly enslaved can feel odd. I think Charleston and its historians have done a great job of not only preserving the history of these homes and the prominent families that lived there, but pay homage to the nitty gritty of the reality that went alongside them. In particular, Boone Hall has still-standing slave cabins that they have transformed into an educational and very moving memorial space to learn about the humans that lived, worked, and died there. A few of my top plantation houses to visit in addition to Boone Hall are Magnolia Plantation & Gardens, Middleton Place, and Drayton Hall.

5. Outta control sunsets
Before you think *groan* "Sunsets - really? Isn't that so Instagram circa 2011?" There are sunsets and then there are sunsets. Come sundown, the Charleston sky turns into a brilliant watercolour painting of oranges, blues, and pink. My pick for watching a sunset over the Chucktown? Head to the South West corner of Sullivan's Island's and snag a spot on the beach. Be sure to stop by Poe's Tavern on your way out for the best burger on the island!

6. Quaint cobbled roads
There's just something about tiny cobbled streets. After living in Texas my whole life, land of the giant asphalt or dirt roads, stumbling upon these adorable roads and alleyways in downtown Charleston during runs or walks was an unexpected joy. The downside of these little streets is what has been fondly coined "The Charleston Shuffle" - enduring the constant tripping, stumbling, and stubbed toes due to the uneven and bumpy roads, particularly on your way home following a night out after a drink or...two.

7. The joy of walking
My #1 bit of advice I tell people who are visiting Charleston is to simply take the time to walk. Strolling around the streets of the Peninsula south of Calhoun Street, or better yet - South of Broad Street in the evenings, with the smell of magnolias floating in the air is hands-down my favourite activity in Charleston. You will see the most beautiful, charming homes full of detail and Southern beauty you will have ever seen in your life. It's hard not to want to jump across the fence and explore the perfectly manicured backyards.

Have you ever visited Charleston? 

Monsters, Mountains, and Massacres.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

During my trip to Edinburgh, I wanted to take advantage of being in Scotland and visit the Highlands while I had the chance. The Highlands are a sparsely populated, very historic, extremely beautiful region in the northern half of Scotland.

You could spend an entire 2-week holiday in the Highlands alone, adventuring and hiking through the many glens, lochs, and mountains. The tour I went on is not for the faint of heart, covering over 500 miles of road in 12 hours, but perfect if you don't have a lot of time and want to see some of the best bits. I've done separate posts on Glen Coe and Loch Ness, but here are a few of the highlights...

Druimuachdar Pass, our official welcome to the Highlands after departing Edinburgh.

Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Great Britain - although the summit is rarely seen without cloud cover.

Loch Lubnaig.

A very shy but adorable Highland Coo, easily noticeable with it's bright orange fluffy coat.

If you get the chance to visit Scotland, I highly recommend a trip up to the Highlands. You learn so much about Scottish history and you leave feeling inspired to wear some plaid and go on a hike.

You Go Glen Coe...Coe.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

(I was really proud of myself for this title/Instagram caption.)

Glen Coe is one of the most iconic and beautiful spots in the Scottish Highlands. Additionally, it's been featured prominently as a backdrop in the Harry Potter movies, including Quidditch scenes, Hagrid's Hut, the Forbidden Forest, and many more. Hogwarts is located in Scotland, so I don't think it's terribly far away...

It's one of those places where photos do it very little justice. The mountains, of volcanic origins, are astounding to look at, the perspective of how big they are is really mind-numbing. Even the air feels different as you breathe it in - one of the girls I befriended on the tour remarked how "fresh" it felt, and I agree. It was so pure and quiet and incredible all at the same time.

While Glen Coe is beautiful and peaceful nowadays, it hasn't always been that way. Imbedded in its history is a terrible massacre of the clan MacDonald by the clan Campbell on orders of the King, burning homes and murdering dozens of men, women, and children during a blizzard at 5am. Apparently this massacre was George R. R. Martin's inspiration for the infamous "Red Wedding" scene from Game of Thrones. To this day, there remains a grudge against anyone with the last name of Campbell - even the local inn has a sign on their door banning anyone with the name to stay.

Can't you just picture broomsticks or a dragon popping around the corner?!

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