Bruges in Pictures

(Fair warning: the videos in this post have a lot of cursing in them.)

Someone recently told us that they thought Bruges was beautiful but like a museum. We didn’t really know what they meant and had no preconceived notions about the town. (Well, not many, at least. All I ever think of when I hear “Bruges” is Colin Farrel’s thick Irish accent saying, “Bruges is a sh*thole” and Voldemort saying, “It’s a fairytale town, isn’t it? How’s a fairytale town not somebody’s f***ing thing?”

 (Sorry for the NSFW language but this movie is pretty funny and all the best quotes have many F-bombs.)

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Paris avec mon amour

A lot of people don’t like Paris. Whether it’s bad experiences with rude French people or confusion on the metro or witnessing homeless guys peeing on the side of a building, plenty of dirty or frustrating experiences can ruin a trip to the City of Lights.

I’ve had my fair share of hair-pulling moments, dealing with French bureaucracy or trying to get myself understood (or ruining a family trip), but for the most part Paris and I have always gotten along. I love everything about it from the old cobblestone streets and 19th century architecture to the tiny cafés and numerous crêpe stands. I love speaking in French, even when I stumble, and walking along the Seine on a sunny day. I love cheap, delicious French wine, and eating croissants every morning. I love the layout of the city, how easy it is to find your way from one arrondissement to the next, and getting purposely lost in the winding side streets. Continue reading

Barcelona: First Impressions

We arrived on Wednesday, Aug 10. It’s been a fun, but not over-taxing, four days. We’ve seen some and still have some of the big sites to see (up next: la Sagrada Familia and Park Güell) but have walked nearly 29 miles and feel like we’ve seen a lot of the city. We’ve hung out in our quarter (el Gótico, el Raval, la Barceloneta, la vila de Gràcia). We have four more days, and lots more to see, but I wanted to go over our first few impressions of Barcelona. Continue reading


Souvenir, French for memory. A recreated, remembered retrospective that relives only in your mind.

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Remember that time we went to New York City, just the four of us, the first time we’d been just us in so long, and remember how we saw old friends, and danced all night at that bar mitzvah, and saw Something Rotten twice, and walked the High Line park, and drank all that wine at the French wine bar, and Moothor hugged that actor at the other wine bar?

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A recent discussion on Facebook made me think about the souvenirs we buy during our trips, the trinkets from vacation, the gifts for other people. Why buy anything at all from these places? The cheap tourist stuff is probably made in China, and what good does a magnet from Puerto Rico do anyone? What’s the point of a souvenir? Continue reading

Janet and the Bikini

This post comes from my grandmother Mary Bell’s memoirs Squatter’s Rites: 101 Travel Stories for the Vicarious Traveler. She wrote them during the late 90s, her stories taking place as far back as the 40s. They were never published, but instead typewritten and saved in a 3-ring binder. As I go through her collection of travel stories, I’m sharing some of my favorites with you!

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Amy Borris & The Perilous Solvers: The Book I Wrote in 4th Grade

I’ve always wanted to be a writer. My dreams of being a published fiction author recently went through a reboot, allowing me to focus on non-fiction writing both for my job and in the form of this blog.

But fiction has always been my first love. Even as a 10 year old in Mrs. Greer’s 4th grade class, I wanted to write. At that age, my favorite books were the Boxcar Children and the abridged version of the Mysterious Island by Jules Verne; my favorite movies were Indiana Jones (and the Last Crusade, in particular), the Swiss Family Robinson and most Disney flicks; and my favorite show was Scooby Doo (just setting the scene here).

10-year-old Ashley craved Adventure (in the great wide somewhere….) I hadn’t yet been much of anywhere, save for the 12-hour roadtrips from 727 to 615 that we took a few times a year. I’d not yet been to Europe or the Caribbean. I didn’t remember being in Mexico. My only travel experiences were done through the pages of books, literary and much more affordable.

But 10-year-old Ashley was not satisfied to only READ these adventures. No. She wanted to WRITE these adventures. And so she set out to write a novel, at the wise and experienced age of 10 (or however old you are in the 4th grade).

That book was titled: Amy Borris and the Perilous Solvers. It told the story of a young Amy Borris, tomboy and entrepreneur (with, very auto-biographically, dirty blonde hair and two different colored eyes), and her adventurous group of friends who, like the Baby Sitter’s Club and Boxcar Kids before them, solved mysteries. Aside from the leader (Amy), there was the best friend (Samantha aka Sam); the prissy-pretty one (Missy), the smart, nerdy one (Whiz), the mystery-loving goofball (Sherlock), and the dog (Buster). They went on all sorts of mystery-solving adventures and this one, the one at the heart of my first-ever novel, was set in (of all places) AFRICA.

I never did finish this novel, though the climax is still fresh in my brain (and borrows liberally from The Last Crusade). I remember I had sequels planned. The Perilous Solvers were going to go to Europe and New York and Australia! But first they had to survive their perilous (and did I mention adventurous?) trip to Africa. As biased as I am, I think I understood structure pretty well at that age, and had a knack for cliffhangers; once the fire hits the village in part 8 the action is kind of non-stop.

What follows below is the UNEDITED beginning of this novel. 8800 words (quite a lot for a 10 year old!) and this was the early ’90s so the double space after a period was still in vogue. (Ug.)

I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I have in rediscovering it:)

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