We had a really great summer. Technically we have a week and a half left of summer, thanks to the September start of school over here. The first part of our summer was spent sleeping in, the kids reading book after book, sewing, playing with fabric, hanging out with friends. The first part of our vacation was a week of camping. More on that soon! But the second part was a vacation in the British Isles. Thanks to Wikipedia, I can say that is an impressive number of of islands including the UK, Ireland, and Northern Ireland.
We spent a few days in each of Dublin and Belfast, took a ferry over to the UK, and spent just over a week in London, ending with a few days in Paris before heading home. It was all a lot of fun and I thought I’d share some tips.
The biggest thing in any vacation is to plan, plan, plan. Of course planning is the most important when it comes to a trip, and this includes being organized. We’ve been talking about the trip for months now but didn’t really start buying tickets and making reservations until a few months ago.
If you are a little flexible with the dates you are traveling, you can search for the best price for the flight or train you would need to take. We flew over (our only option, I was not interested in riding a ferry for hours) but we were a little flexible in the dates so I picked the cheapest flight. The same goes with the train, check which dates are the cheapest and plan around that. We are a family of five so transportation and hotels were our biggest cost.
Hotels in Europe are different than in the US. The majority of them will not let you have more than two or four people in a hotel room, so for a family of five we would need to get two hotel rooms. There was only one hotel in London that had a deal on the website that offered the first room at regular price and the second at fifty percent of that cost. We went with apartment rentals because it was cheaper in a lot of ways. We stayed in a StayCity apartment, the Malone Lodge and Apartments, and two apartments through AirBNB. This also allowed us to cook food, which is another way you can save when on a trip, and wash clothes without worrying about emptying a hotel washer or dryer.
We are tourists of course and I love doing the big bus tours. We did one in each city and I think these are great deals since you get to see a large part of the city. You can also use the buses for your transportation, building in time since they are a slow way to get around. Check online for things you want to see or do because they will usually offer discounts. The big bus tours offer anywhere from 10-15% off. Other tours offer the same range of discounts. Double check how your tickets to the tours will be delivered and also accepted by the company. We had tickets that we had to print, others that were delivered to a phone via text message, and others that we had to claim at the ticket office.
Leave yourself open to extra tours or experiences. I’m not a spontaneous person, not really. I like to have a plan, at least a broad overview, of what is going on. We had the big bus tours planned in advance but still had other times open, in Belfast that extra time left us to go up the countryside to the Giants Causeway. This was a stunning sight and a trip we were all excited to be able to take.
I love a good list. I saw this over at Molli Sparkles and figured it is a good jump back into things since I’m finally home.
1. I don’t like novelty fabrics. Yet I have a stack of charms and really want to make a Polaroid quilt.
Charms – headed for a Polaroid quilt. Or a rainbow quilt. Or both (there are a lot of charms!)
2. I don’t pre-wash fabrics.
3. I can sew a quilt top really fast – and then it lives in a stack on a bookcase.
4. I usually have a love-not love relationship when I sew. I love the fabric and pattern when I start, I go toward not loving during the process, maybe I love it, maybe I don’t, when I finish. And then I love it again when the quilt is completed.
5. I can be a procrastinator. I find that I work well close to the deadline, so maybe that’s not procrastination, but just really good planning.
6. I enjoy the ironing (I know I’m supposed to press…oops) during the process, from the hst’s up to a block up to the finished product. Ironing clothes – nope.
7. I didn’t know fabric or quilt designers until the last couple of years. A lot of the time I still don’t, but sometimes I do get caught up in the “ohhh it’s fabric by my favorite designer, must have all of it now.”
8. I’m still not sure I know how to do the stippling free motion quilting when I FMQ. I mean it’s easy, and I’m sure I am doing it “right” and it always looks good, it just feels odd.
9. I love cutting fabric. I love going through my stash and finding the perfect fabric for what I am working on, ironing it so I can cut. I prepared a lot of my own quilt kits before we moved over here and it was so fun to see it all together.
10. Sometimes I desperately miss sewing with others.
Hands down – my long weekend in London was amazingly fun! This will be pic heavy so I’ll probably break it up into a couple of posts.
I didn’t leave home until the late afternoon and even with the time difference (why is there an hour difference between France and the UK?!??), I arrived with plenty of time to get to the hotel before getting a good night’s rest before the hustle of the weekend. But since I rarely check the weather report I didn’t realize just how hot it was going to be! My hotel room was tiny and hot and there was just the smallest of breezes in the room – and by smallest I mean if I stood near the window I felt a touch of air. The lightest touch ever.
View from my window, I think I was on the top floor.
Friday morning I had breakfast and walked down the street to find something to do or see. I ran into a tourist shop and thought I fixed my phone so I had data but I never figured it out. At least they were able to tell me that Starbucks was across the street and a few doors down, so I used their wifi. I don’t obsessively love starbucks, but I do like a vanilla chai tea when I can have one.
I walked down to the V & A Museum, and admittedly I don’t know a lot about what is at a specific museum so this was a great stop for me. I walked the fashion exhibit (though I didn’t see the wedding dress exhibit) and took a few pictures. I passed the Museum of Natural History and the line was CRAZY long. I saw the fashion exhibit as well as a jewelry exhibit. I also stepped into the miniature portrait room, but my alarm went off for lunch so I had to get out of there and get ready for the afternoon.
Museum of Natural History
Hanging in the V&A
Clothing through the years
And so I grabbed lunch and my things for my first class and went to the Baden Powell House to register. I was greeted by Trash (who also made my nametag!) and registration was just a minute. We received amazing goody bags (pics to come!) and everyone was so happy and excited that the energy of it went to everyone. The main hall we were in was not very full and it was air conditioned which was such a nice break from the heat! My first class was Petals with Brioni and even if we took a mandatory break when the electricity blew, I finished as far as getting my petals down on the block!
Before ironing them in place, I played with the placement a few times until I got what I wanted.
I love this and I’m thinking I’ll make this a panel of a tote bag. The method of doing the petals is quick and easy and I’m thinking my granddaughter (my niece’s daughter) needs one! The class was good and Brioni was a fun teacher. Here is a quilt she made, I admit one of my favorite things about this is that she quilted around the petals to keep them down and of course that is the quilting too. Oh and on top is the hat of happiness!
Friday evening I went to dinner with new friends and had a bacon cheeseburger for the first time in ten months. It was delicious. I can’t remember everyone I was with for dinner, but I am thankful that all (I think all, at least most) of us have connected on instagram! I met people I have been friends with on instagram and also new friends. The modern quilt guilds had a lot of people at the retreat so it was nice to hear about their groups and activities.
After dinner we went back to the BP House and worked on quilt tops for the Siblings Together donation that was made. I’m not sure how many quilts were donated (it was A LOT – over 20), but at the end of the night there were a handful of quilt tops that needed to be finished so someone volunteered to take them home to finish. I am hopefully going to participate in a ST bee that makes quilts to donate.
That’s just a day! It was so fun, a few of us visited in the hotel after the sewing was over for the night and once again I slept in a hot hotel room. Next year I need an air conditioner or a fan or a few of us did talk about renting a place closeby. I loved the energy and how welcoming everyone was. It was a little scary to go by myself but I figured I would just meet people. I had no problem finding someone to have lunch with or visit with at any time.
Whew, I’ll be back shortly with the rest of the weekend!
I leave today to attend the Fat Quarterly Retreat in London!
I am very excited. I feel like I miss out on retreats and sewing with other people since we move so often and now are living overseas. I don’t know anyone here who sews, though I have found a couple of fabric shops, and a shop that teaches sewing. That shop seems to focus on clothing and bags, though they do have classes for kids. I am hoping to find others that sew, but I need to work on my french so I am able to communicate with people and at this point speaking the language is more of a priority between the two.
The classes I picked sound great – at first I signed up for familiar things and then I thought okay why take a class on something I am very familiar with! So I am taking screen printing, an applique class, a quilt math class (I’m hoping to learn a few tricks!), how to design with an ipad app, and a class called modern knots. I think I am most excited about the applique class in the hopes of learning something new to help me love this technique (or at least like it enough to make a few projects).
Mug rugs for the swap!
Strips to swap
I can’t find my box of embroidery floss anywhere! Of course, who knows if it is good anymore (does embroidery floss get old and ruined?) because I admit I’ve had a lot of it since before I was a teenager, so over 20 years. Oops.
I fly in a few hours and I had a heck of a time reserving a taxi once I land. I’m just going to play it by ear and see what happens.
I have been making so many quilt tops that I really wanted a good finish. I have a few bags that I want to make so I decided to just get to work. One of them is the Aeroplane bag. I mostly wanted this so I had something to carry my sewing machine in, even though I have only taken it to a couple of places and don’t see myself taking it anywhere else. I just jumped into my fabric and started cutting the pieces I needed. I ran into a problem because I didn’t have any thick stabilizer. I went to three stores here but none of them had any. Luckily for me, my husband happened to be in California when I was cutting my fabric so I sent him to JoAnn’s before his flight back here.
I went from just that picture – the part of the main panel and the straps – to finished in a day. I sewed alllllll day long. It was awesome. I was tired by the end, it was after midnight.
I still have a little bit of hand sewing to do, around the zippers. And then I am all done! I love this bag. It was very easy to sew. The hardest part for me was coming to the end and being sure that the outside main panels lined up correctly. I did have to take out the seams on one side of the zipper and resew to get it lined up a little better. This is a great bag, I can’t wait to need to take my machine somewhere, but I will probably use it on one of our vacations as well.
We’ve been here for so long and I finally went somewhere! My daughter, my friend Jessie (and her boys), and another friend Leigh all had a long weekend in Paris. It was SO fun. You never know how much you need other adult conversation until you have it, until you get to have it.
How we got there: flights within Paris are cheap! Okay, the train would have been SO much cheaper. But it was very last minute for my daughter to join the trip, and I already bought an airline ticket for myself. And when I say the train is cheap, it would be maybe 50 euros, if you pay attention to the times you are traveling. We were at the tail end of the train strike, but it wasn’t over yet, so I didn’t want to risk anything and thus the plane ticket.
Where we stayed: AirBNB apartment! It was tiny. There was a couch that turned into a bed, and a bunk bed with a trundle. The bathroom was very tiny. The kitchen had enough space for us to stand around and visit, or sit at the small table and visit. But really, probably almost all places in Paris are tiny. It was fine for us, but I couldn’t stay there with my family simply because of the bathroom.
What we did: stayed up all hours visiting. Okay, we also walked a lot, walked up a million steps to the Sacre Coeur, sat on the top of a big bus tour and saw many tourist sites, had dinner by the river, and of course enjoyed the wine. We started out late both days, the first day the latest, but I think overall it was a fun time.
I loved that we were able to get away for a few days. It did take a couple of days of napping for me to feel rested again, and I take that as a sign of a great visit.
Walking along the River Seine
The Louvre, as seen from our tour bus
The steps of the Sacre Coeur
Recently I realized I’ve been blogging for almost ten years (in the fall it will be official). I started with quizzes and three or four sentence entries. I really cut back on blogging over the past few years, but after we moved overseas I realized how lucky we are to have connections online. Even with being very active on instagram, having a blog allows me to ‘talk’ to people. It at least allows me to get my words out. When you live in a country that you don’t know many people in and you don’t speak the native language very well, you soon feel the need to find someone to talk to.
I had a podcast once (the website redirects here now) and I loved it. I just binge-listened to Within A Quarter Inch and that spark to podcast lit back up. I loved podcasting, even if I listen to the episodes and feel like I was awkward. I would love to podcast again, and so I am thinking about it. I am thinking about how different my life is here and what fun a podcast could be. I love a conversational podcast, I watch a couple of video podcasts that are interviews and they are so great.
I think I’d like to find someone to podcast with me. The time difference that I’m in makes that harder for my friends in the US though. I have the desire to get all of my ideas out and to do something with them.
And just for the enjoyment of it, a picture of macarons that a friend taught me to make.