I’m finally getting around to selecting and editing about a million 500 pictures from my past month in Europe. I know I should be better about editing photos so they don’t pile up, but I’m just having too much fun on my trip, and sometimes the trains don’t have wifi that I can use to edit while I’m riding to a new destination (first world problems). However, thanks to a super rad, wifi-enabled train from Stockholm to Gothenburg, I now have a bunch of photos edited and ready to share. Thx uber-cool Swedish train.
The first stop on my trip was Paris, and I was just sososo happy to 1. be in Europe in general, and 2. be back in Paris!! Last time I was in the city, I only had one full day, so I was extra excited to spend a few more days and see the sights. One of my favorite parts of Paris aside from the wine, cheese, and pastries is how much there is to see and do. It’s also one of my favorite places to get pictures with all of the romantic scenes and flower + produce markets around town. Ugh ♥
Here are some things that I did + some restaurant recommendations:
Eiffel Tower (duh) – make sure to drop by after dark, get a nice seat, and catch the twinkle lights! I believe they go off at 10:55 and 11:55 in the summer, and it is definitely worth a visit. Don’t forget a bottle of wine or prosecco and a picnic blanket!
The Palace of Versailles + the gardens + the horse carriage museum !!
Au Pied de Cochon – their French Onion soup was really good, but I think weirdly enough their green bean salad is what won me over. Also they have their own signature song!
The street shops along the Seine – knick-knacks, art, books, etc. Some of my favorite art in my house I bought two years ago from an artist selling his drawings on the sidewalk in Paris.
One of the many cafes along the Seine – stop by for a glass of wine or coffee after checking out the shops. I’ll be the first to admit that the coffee is definitely not my favorite, but the atmosphere is worth it. Also, I didn’t have a chance to try any specialty shops out (boooo), but I’ve heard Paris has a really cool specialty coffee scene.
Shakespeare & Co. – I think this may be my new favorite bookstore – I walked in serendipitously not realizing how well-known it is! But lucky me, I found it and discovered its diverse range of genres + amazing history.
Monet’s Gardens in Vernon-Giverny – one of my favorite parts of my trip was getting to visit Monet’s house and gardens! The gardens themselves are filled with an amazing variety of flowers, plants, and trees. Monet’s house is absolutely beautiful, and I completely fell in love with the kitchen. Plus you get to check out a bunch of his paintings!! Just take the short train ride over to Giverny, it’s such a lovely half-day trip.
Notre Dame – I didn’t get to climb to the top, but I totally recommend going if you can! If you like churches, the inside is very pretty.
The Louvre – I went to The Louvre at night when it was less busy – while I didn’t stay for very long, I managed to wave hi at Mona and check out the Winged Victory of Samothrace!
Restaurant Aux anysetiers du Roy – probably the best Boeuf Bourguignon I’ve ever had evereverever in my life – it’s a one-woman show around there, so try to go before or after rush hours.
BRIEZH Cafe – crepes!! Of course make sure to get some good crepes while strolling around Paris – my choices were the ham & cheese and the caramel apple, and they did not disappoint.
Street markets – one of my other favorite parts of Paris is strolling through the street markets looking at pretty produce, charcuterie, cheese, and flowers! – one time I had a chocolate croissant from a walk-up bakery, and I swear to god it changed my life. I haven’t found that market bakery since *cries*.
I have now been on my big European adventure for about three weeks (posts coming soon!), and I am having the absolute time of my life! It was taken me a while to write this post, because I’ve been trying to think of the right words to say. When telling both loved ones and strangers about my big adventure, the reactions are usually along the lines of “Be safe!”, and more importantly, “Wow, you are very brave!”. And I totally agree – I am brave for traveling by myself for four months! However, bravery does come at a cost: I have anxiety, and it is absolutely present in my travels. To outsiders, I am very courageous and nonchalant about traveling alone, but inside is a completely different story. I am brave, but that bravery is fueled by my anxiety.
The anxiety is not always present. If it were, I would be at home in Reno right now typing on my computer in my own bed rather than from my hotel room in Interlaken. Rather, it only makes itself known in random times at random places. One night, I may be super excited to go have a glass of wine and nice dinner by myself. The next night, I may feel a slight tightness in my throat and quickening of my pace over sitting alone at a restaurant while everyone else is surrounded by friends and family. The worst is when I have to travel to a new city or country. Will I make it to the airport on time? Will I miss my train? What if my alarm doesn’t go off? What if I booked my ticket for the wrong day and I don’t realize it? Etc. etc. etc.
Traveling solo can be very intimidating, especially when you don’t see other solo travelers along the way. While I see all kinds of examples of people traveling alone online, I have yet to really meet others who are taking it solo as well. And that’s fine! Just because others aren’t traveling alone doesn’t mean I can’t meet new people and have a fabulous time. I am the type of person who likes doing things by herself. However, it can get lonely, and it can be difficult to meet other people when many are on vacation with a group of friends. Traveling solo can be very intimidating, but I find that the more I do it, the easier it gets, and the more I enjoy it! And since I’ve been taking it on for a couple weeks now, I wanted to share a few tips on dealing with anxiety while traveling alone that I’ve learned along the way:
1. Plan, plan, and then plan some more.
One of the best ways I’ve been able to conquer my anxiety is to plan out my days in advance. To start, I book my airbnb at least a couple of weeks in advance (but I would recommend a month or two or the good ones get taken). Then, I book my plane ticket if I need one. For trains, I book them a couple of days in advance or the night before. Then I determine how I will get from the train station to my airbnb. I make sure that I have contact with the host and that I know where I am going. After that, I figure out what general things I want to do in each city. I wouldn’t recommend doing this months or weeks in advance, but I like to end my night by determining what I will do the next day*. Normally it goes something along the lines of: coffee/breakfast, walking around the city taking pictures, lunch, visiting a museum, shopping, break at the hotel to freshen up, dinner and wine, and a slow stroll back to my airbnb where I do yoga and watch a movie before bed. Of course, this changes depending on what I’m doing for the day, but you get the gist.
Plus! I’ve noticed the more I travel, the less I feel like I need to plan. I’ve found amazing things serendipitously by not over-planning! Also, there’s just some things that don’t need to be scheduled to the T (see no. 7), but this is a good thing to do in the beginning if you’re really nervous.
*Tips: Most of the time, I plan my day the night before or as I go throughout my day. However, for certain attractions, like the Vatican and Colosseum, I like to buy in advance or you will wait hours in line. It also can be cheaper to book online, especially for tours! Sometimes, it’s more expensive (some websites charge online fees), but I’d much rather pay 4 euro than wait in line for 3 hours!
2. Apps are your friend.
I have found a TON of helpful apps while exploring through Europe. First, I loooove maps.me! The night before I leave for a new country or city, I download the map for that area, and then I can access directions without using wifi or data! However, make sure to download the map in advance using wifi, and have your addresses available on your phone or journal.
I also have really been loving Google Translate. Again, download in advance, but you can then use it to translate without wifi while you are at a restaurant or looking for directions. (Very helpful when you can’t read the menu or street signs)!
Along the way, I’ve also downloaded Whatsapp to contact local tour guides, and occasionally I’ll download an app for an airline or train company which I delete and re-download as necessary.
3. Have a routine.
Ok, so don’t plan out every single thing you’ll do every single day, because it’s very unrealistic. Also, that would get very boring, and traveling is all about experience! But I do like to start my day with coffee and end it by journaling – I think that writing in a journal is soooo important while traveling, especially if you’re at it alone! Having something that I know I will do every day, such as writing in my journal, helps keep me calm and on track.
If you don’t want to journal (but pls do), then you could do yoga, watch the same TV show every night, start your morning with the same breakfast, etc. Whatever it may be, having something to ground you can be very important.
4. Do things that remind you of home.
One of my favorite things to do at home is get coffee by myself and people watch. And Europe is a great place to people watch. Every day (or most days), I like to go to a cafe, order a cappuccino, and watch the locals and tourists interact with each other. I also like to carry some stuff that reminds me of home – a necklace my dad gave me, one of my favorite scarves, a picture of Reno, etc. When I’m feeling homesick, these things help me feel a little better.
Also, a phone call to your mom does wonders.
5. Leave money to do something for YOU.
As a new college graduate, I understand that money does not fall from the sky. I definitely save when I can. However, if you’re having a really stressful day, something isn’t going right, or you’re just so homesick you can’t stand it, having an extra $50 to do something special can really set your trip back on track. I had one stressful day while I was here where I honestly thought I’d miss my plane from Lyon to Rome (the trains were running late), I couldn’t find my airbnb, my luggage was falling apart, I thought I would miss my tour of the Colosseum, I couldn’t find a place to print my tickets because it was Sunday, I watched a lady faint and have to have CPR done, and just stress after stress after stress. Once I got settled into my airbnb, took my tour of the Colosseum, and had some time to breathe, I enjoyed a nice (more expensive) dinner, and everything was okay. I even got to see the Spanish Steps! I wouldn’t use your extra stash any time something happens, but if it gets really bad, letting yourself get a massage or drink a nice bottle of wine will help you enjoy even the bad times.
6. Remind yourself why you’re traveling.
Any time I think it’s too much, I think to myself, “Will you regret it if you stay or if you give up and go home?” Obviously, I’d regret it more if I went home! So, I’m staying. I’d rather have a panic attack on the beach in Greece than at home in Reno. I’ve been having an amazing time, and I don’t want to give that up over a few minor setbacks!
PLUS, I’ve noticed that I get more stress BEFORE something happens rather than while it’s happening. Once I’m doing something, I realize it’s not that bad! For example, I thought I was going to lose my mind over getting on planes, trains, and automobiles every few days, but it’s actually very simple as long as I plan everything out.
7. Go with the flow.
I feel a little hypocritical saying that, because I am SO NOT a go-with-the-flow type of a lady. However, in places where I don’t have a museum tour scheduled or anything planned, I like to just take things as they come. I still look up restaurants and things to do, but mostly I like wandering around the city, stopping in stores when I want to, finding a restaurant or bar where the locals hang, and ending up somewhere amazing by accident. Even though my brain wants me to know what’s going to happen all the time, letting go and just enjoying always ends up being so much more fun.
8. Learn how to be alone.
Again, I’m pretty good at doing things on my own, but sometimes it can feel isolating. At times, going to a restaurant by myself seems overwhelming, and I just want to do takeout instead. However, I always force myself to go out and explore the city and cultures. Plus, I always have way more fun once I get myself out in the world! If you get worried about being alone at restaurants, bars, or cafes, I recommend bringing a journal, book, or something else to do if you need the distraction. If you’re brave, strike up a conversation with the table next to you (I’ve met very nice people this way!). If you’re walking throughout the city, take in your surroundings and notice things you wouldn’t if you were traveling with other people. Enjoy the experience of going to a museum or concert alone. Just ask another traveler to take your picture. Traveling solo is so rewarding, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
However, if doing things alone really freaks you out, go to a quiet restaurant with not very many people or visit a small park and take a walk. Then work your way up. You can also practice at home before you go – I learned how to be alone at bars by going out by myself for a drink on the weekends!
Overall, traveling can be very stressful, but I’m so glad I’m doing it. The best thing you can do is trust your gut, and push your boundaries a little (or a lot if you’re comfortable!). Always remember that if you’re having a bad time, you can go home, and you didn’t fail – it just wasn’t for you. However, once you start traveling, I think you’ll find that your worries will disappear. My anxiety has even decreased since I’ve been here, and I’m sososo excited for the rest of my trip! I hope these tips are somewhat useful. Pics of my beautiful travels coming soon!
XO Sara Lynn
*Song of the Day: Your Hand Holding Mine by Yellow Days
I’m currently in the process of planning my big trip to Europe, which is both extremely exciting and overwhelming! On one hand, choosing the cities I want to visit and the things I want to see has been a huge motivator, but then I get anxiety attacks about Airbnb bookings and the thought of searching for a travel insurance provider. There’s so much to think about, lots much to do, and of course graduation before I can even get excited about this trip. If you have any recommendations, send them my way!
In the midst of all this planning, I have also been attempting to take day-trips close to my home on my very limited time off. Whether it’s visiting a cute antique shop and eating Basque food in Gardnerville or trying out a new beach in Lake Tahoe, I love having the opportunity to learn more about my state and the surrounding areas. This past weekend, I decided to head over to Nevada City, CA for coffee, lunch, and a quick hike. I’ve passed the Nevada City exit time and time again on my way to San Francisco, and I finally decided to check it out.
Nevada City ended up being entirely different than I expected. It’s such a cute little town with fun shops, a cool coffee house where the locals hang out, and plenty of restaurants. I think I’m even going to head back there next weekend if I can get off work in time!
A few minutes out of town itself is a quick, simple hike called the Independence Trail. It’s probably one of the greenest places I’ve ever seen with velvety, moss-covered rocks, and an an amazing waterfall at the end. The minute you reach the waterfall there’s a beautiful, windy bridge and the mist sends a chill in the air, so I recommend tying a jacket around your waste (which I did not). As you can see, I was 100% not dressed properly for hiking, as that was not on my agenda for the day, but again, it’s such a simple hike that it’s practically just walking. I would only recommend wearing hiking boots or tennis shoes as it can get a little muddy out there.
I’ll update you with recommendations for Nevada City next time I visit. It’s such a fun day trip if you live in the Northern Nevada/California area!
Jeans: Lucky Brand – Smoking Slippers: Sebago – Fringe Blouse: Thrifted (similar) – Sunglasses: Ray Ban
Over the weekend, my friends and I made the 2.5 hour drive to Apple Hill, a large co-op of orchards, wineries, and markets that CA and NV locals frequently visit once fall makes its breezy return. Although I had heard about it many a time in previous seasons, I had never actually made the trip until this year. And yeah, I’ve been missing out! It’s the pumpkin-patch-apple-picking-fall-crazed-plaid-scarf-wearing-hard-cider-loving-redhead-fringe-girl’s dream. Although if we’re being honest, it takes no convincing to get me to go anywhere with beautiful greenery and fresh produce.
Although there is a whole entire map of places to visit in Apple Hill, we visited a few favorites like Kid’s Inc, Rainbow Orchards, and Jack Russell Brewery (not listed on the map). Kid’s Inc has the most beautiful, green field overlooking their orchard, and it’s the perfect place to have a picnic and enjoy a hard cider from Delfino Family Farm. If you’re looking for a good place to buy unique pumpkins and a variety of fruits like apples, pears, and nectarines, Rainbow Farms has so many options at a great price! They also have the best apple cider donuts and gallons of fresh pressed apple cider. After our pumpkin-search, we visited a local orchard to grab a few apples – they were pretty picked over, but we still had fun hiking around the orchard with our little picker and buckets! We ended our day at Jack Russell Brewery, which is not associated with Apple Hill but is right next to all the apple-fun. There is both a brewery and a “cave” that serves wine, hard apple cider, and mead. My friends enjoyed the mead-hard apple cider mixed option, but I was more interested in the hard blackberry apple cider. Everything is made on-premises, and I love that their ciders are dry unlike many store-bought brands. They have the most lovely patio for relaxing and enjoying your drink overlooking their farm and llamas!
My only recommendation would be to bring a picnic lunch or some snacks! Although there are plenty of amazing apple dessert options, the food is pretty limited. We went on a Friday, so it was a little less busy, but I’ve heard they have lots of food options on the weekends – however, it is pretty standard fair food, and there are so many beautiful places to bring a picnic basket!
As I’ve mentioned countless times in the past, visiting San Francisco for the weekend is one of my favorite things to do, especially since I live so close! I will be posting updates with all of my best SF recommendations as I continue to visit. Stay tuned for my favorite restaurants, bars, activities, and places to go!
The last time I was in The City, I dropped by Haight-Ashbury to hit some of my favorite spots. Haight-Ashbury has an incredibly unique art culture and history, so I always try to stop by if I have the chance. In addition to going to some of my favorite stores, I have been learning more about the neighborhood restaurants, coffee places, and other local spots. As soon as the Uber dropped us off, I grabbed a capp at Stanza Coffee Bar and went to this really cool art store called Mendel’s to pick up some fabric. I always try to stop by Mendel’s when I’m in the city, because they have a huge variety of art supplies you can’t find in run-of-the-mill places. Afterwards, I went to one of the most unique thrift/vintage shops, Decades of Fashion, just to check out what they had in stock – if you love vintage clothing or unique costumes, definitely stop by! I also made sure to hit one of my favorite record stores, Rasputin Music, which has a large variety of CDs, records, and DVDs, both old and new, classic and recent. After a couple hours of shopping, we were pretty hungry and looking for restaurants close by. I had never eaten at a restaurant in Haight-Ashbury before this trip, so I was excited to see what the neighborhood had to offer. Trusting solely on Yelp reviews, we decided on what turned out to be an amazing French restaurant called Zazie, just a few blocks up on Cole St.
Zazie is located on a quiet street in a narrow space, that I believe is an old apartment building. The ambience is classic French bistro, with yellow walls and pretty wooden tables. They have many of the French favorites, breakfast, lunch, and specials including the pancakes I got! I had poppy pancakes with lemon curd and strawberries, and they came with a side of potatoes. I also got their house tea, which was amazing! Other orders were the Croque Madame and the French toast, which were both delicious (based on the few bites I had!).
After brunch at Zazie, we drove over to Golden Gate Park to enjoy the beautiful NoCal weather. Golden Gate Park is one of my favorite places in San Francisco, so I definitely wanted to take a long walk, especially after a few stressful weeks at home. Previous to this trip, I had walked past the Botanical Gardens in Golden Gate Park multiple times, but I had never actually gone in. This time, I thought it would be fun to walk around since the tickets are fairly inexpensive, especially if you have a student ID! The Botanical Gardens were beautiful, with all kinds of unique plants and greenery. It was a very peaceful way to spend an afternoon, especially in the busyness of the city.
Later that night, we walked around near the beach and enjoyed a quiet dinner (can’t remember the name of the restaurant – if I see it next time I’m in SF, I’ll update).
If you need any more recommendations, feel free to reach out! San Fran is one of my favorite places to go, so I have lots of things to share!
For a list of my favorite coffee places in SF, click here.
Signs of fall have slowly been inching into Reno one-by-one. Many people would disagree with me, as it’s still in the 80s and 90s during the day, but as an early-morning barista, I know the true story. It begins when I wake up in the morning before anybody else, and grab a sweater on the way out the door, because it’s 6:00 a.m., it’s in the late 50s, and my tank top isn’t cutting it. I head to work, and still groggy, brew the drip coffee first thing. I grab a mug, letting it warm my hands as I turn on the grinder. The sunlight finally appears as I switch on the open sign, and Reno starts to warm steadily. The kicker of this situation is that Reno is always at least a little bit cool when it’s dark outside. That’s what makes it the perfect place to host bonfires and sit on the porch late into the night mid-July. However, there’s a different feel to the air when it starts turning into fall. It’s slightly colder, and the air smells different. I don’t know how to explain it, but I know it when it appears.
Although I absolutely love fall, it also signals the beginning of classes, which I will be attending in just a few, short days. Naturally, I’m already missing summer and all of my little adventures. A few weeks ago, I visited Vegas for my brother’s graduation party and to help my parents move some stuff into their new house in Reno. I had recently been told about the 7 Magic Mountains, an art exhibit by Ugo Rondinone located in the middle of the desert, by a friend from the Nevada Museum of Art where I regularly volunteer. Hearing about it, I knew I had to go. Huge, brightly colored boulders in the middle of drab, dry Southern Nevada desert? Amazing.
The drive out to the 7 Magic Mountains is super easy but a little confusing. Just take the I-15 South to Sloan Rd., turn left onto Las Vegas Blvd, and drive for about 15-20 minutes. However, you won’t see the exhibit itself until the last minute – this is the confusing part. You’re driving and driving, and all you see is flat desert. Then, a tiny hill, and then…suddenly there’s an enormous, rainbow sculpture right to the left. Luckily, there’s a parking lot right out front. After a short walk, you’re looking straight up at overwhelmingly large, neon rocks.
Now, I went to the 7 Magic Mountains in the midst of Vegas summer, when heatwaves radiate off of the pavement late into the afternoon, and you get an instant sunburn walking to your car. While the exhibit was amazing, it was absolutely not the best summer activity. But Vegas fall? Beautiful! This would be an amazing Sunday afternoon activity in late October/early November. If you will be traveling there, please take a break from casinos and drinking, and go see this! Locals of course should take the trip – Nevada culture is flourishing and so important to support!
Unfortunately, the 7 Magic Mountains have already been vandalized (this is why we can’t have nice things), but they are still breathtaking and worth the visit. However, because of this, I want to give my little spiel on art: Artists work incredibly hard to improve this world through beauty, whether it’s painting, music, dance, sculpture, or any other medium. Please be respectful to their art, support it, and love it. Spread the word. Help your community by supporting local museums and events. If Reno can change as drastically as it has in the past few years, many communities can also.
Click here for more information on the 7 Magic Mountains.
As I’ve mentioned many times on this blog, San Francisco is one of my favorite places to visit. The foggy weather, public art, trendy restaurants, and bearded men get me every time. Plus the coffee. Because, as you also know if you’ve been following me for a while, I LOVE COFFEE. Like, a lot. So naturally, I have to write a post about my favorite coffee places.
Before I begin, let me first give you some of my qualifications. 1. It usually has to be specialty coffee. I say “usually”, because of the “never say never” rule, and I can’t promise that I’ll never write about a non-specialty coffee shop. For more info about specialty coffee, see here. 2. I have to be impressed by not only their coffee, but also by their employees and atmosphere. That may not be fair, since really it’s all about the coffee, but there’s something to be said about the other aspects, too. If I’m visiting a coffee shop on vacation, I probably want to hang out for a little while, and the atmosphere and employees should be pleasant. 3. I have to want to visit again. I’ve been to specialty coffee shops that I’ve thought were okay, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to visit again. To make the list, it has to be a place I want to spend a lot of time at.
And there you go! The list will be pretty short, because not all the places I visited were list-worthy, and I also didn’t get to make it to all of the shops I planned on visiting. However, I’ll update this list as I continue to visit SF 🙂
P.S. These are in no particular order.
1. Beacon Coffee & Pastry
If you’re staying near Fisherman’s Wharf, Beacon is a short walk away from most of the hotels and shops. It was about an eight minute walk from our hotel, so not the closest, but definitely close enough for this coffee snob. Their beans are roasted by Sightglass (see below), and they have great espresso drinks and a few snacks. If you’re looking for a close, relaxing place to spend your morning before a day of shopping or tourist-ing, this is a great choice. (Oops! I forgot to snap a pic).
Stanza is a cute, minimalist coffee shop in the middle of The Haight. I love Haight Ashbury area, because they have really good food, some great thrift shops, and a killer record store that always has amazing finds. I had never seen a specialty coffee shop there until this trip (I’m not sure how long Stanza has been there), so I was thrilled to see one! My recommendation would be a cappuccino. Served the only specialty way, with silky foam.
Tip: They have another location in The Mission as well.
This was my second trip to Sightglass, and I loved it just as much the second time as I did the first. I have only been to their 7th Street location, but I imagine their other locations are just as beautiful. The cool part about their 7th Street location is that it is where they roast their coffee, and there are 2 stories, so you can watch the action happening below. They had Ethiopian coffee, which has been difficult to come by this summer in Reno, so I was beyond stoked. They also have really great espresso drinks. Plus, they have cool swag for sale – it’s where I got my amazing Chemex pin pictured above!
Tip: They have locations in The Mission, The SF Farmer’s Market, SFMOMA, and soon on Divisadero!
Four Barrel is probably my favorite SF coffee to date. Their Valencia shop has a lot of energy, local art, cool staff, and (of course) amazing coffee. Honestly, it’s a good thing I don’t live anywhere near this neighborhood, because I would spend all of my tip money (unless they want to hire me? Yes? YES?!). Anyways, aside from their fantastic marketing, mugs, and (duh) coffee, they have adorable coffee roasters. I watched them dance when they weren’t looking (Creeper Confession #2). However, I don’t think they would mind my watching.
Side note true story: They had this mug in their shop for the longest time that I loved, because it really embraced my personality. Right when I decided to buy it, they went out of stock. SO MANY TEARS. See mug here.
Tip: They have locations at The Mill and in Portola!