Get your butt to church.

Some one recently brought to my attention that my love of churches (and cathedrals) is a some what unusual one considering I am NOT religious whatsoever. Not that there is anything wrong with being religious it’s just not who I am. But I do love going into churches. I think they are an amazing source of inspiration. I genuinely think that everyone should stop in at least one church when visiting a new city.

I know there will people reading this being like ugh I’m not going to spend my vacation time walking around to churches. I totally understand that, but hear me out. Churches were the hub of communities for centuries so they can reveal a great deal about the city they are in. Then there is the masterpieces of architecture that most churches are. Plus they often house the most spectacular works of art: in the form of paintings, stained glass and much more. the-original-ecce-homo-st-010Churches were often showcases of the masters and architects of their time. I love that about churches. I mean granted the art work focuses on one subject matter, but the variance in approach and skill is one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. I mean hey everyone remembers the botched retouch of the fresco. So why not go see the amazing craft presented in these churches before someone else’s grandmother gets a hold of some paint brushes.

Ok so somehow I’ve convinced you to go to church (haha, it is probably best if it’s not a Sunday!), but where do you start? Glad that you ask! I’ve compiled my top 5 favourite churches for you to check out for yourself. So these are in chronological order for me, not most favourite, because that would be too difficult. Also I didn’t want to spend weeks going through photo albums, hard drives and photo folders to find my photographs of these places, so I am using other people’s.

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(Photo © Whitney Curtis)

Cathedral Basilica, St. Louis, MO

This little gem of the Central West End is one that I remember from being a little kid. Like I said I’m not really religious, nor was I raised particularly religiously. This was a beautiful place for a person of any age or religious background. Once you walk through the doors the inside is a warm, glistening gold. Then once you look closer you see that the ceiling is not just gold but a collection of mosaics. These mosaics were completed in 1988 and collectively contain 41.5 million glass pieces and since is covers 83,000 sq ft it is the largest mosaic collection in the world. Which ain’t too bad for a little ol’ church in the middle of Missouri. If you ever get to St. Louis you should go and spend time looking up at all the amazing detail this ceiling has to offer.

 

img_2097Notre Dame, Paris, France

Ok so Notre Dame itself is amazing! BUT my love for this church definitely comes from a little Disney movie that I doubt anyone besides me  has actually seen.The Hunchback of Notre Dame came out when I was 6 and I was obsessed to say the least. For my 7th birthday, my dad made me not one but two Notre Dame themed cakes. One was the shape of the outside, while the second was a stained glass window made of cake and sprinkles. Now that I’m an adult I think way to go Dad that was no easy feat, also come on 2 cakes, sort of adorable overkill. When I finally did get to Paris I made sure to get to get to the Cathedral as soon as I could. Any place with gargoyles and flying buttresses is cool to me. What is a flying buttress? Well it’s the weird arches sticking out of the back of the building that essentially hold up vaulted ceilings. Plus gargoyles, did I mention gargoyles?! This Cathedral is beautiful inside and out.

2634238499_c5c4c2ccac_zGedächtniskirche, Berlin, Germany

The Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche is a church in Berlin located in a  big shopping area of Berlin on the Kurfürstendamm. The church was built in the 1890s and was partially destroyed in a bombing raid. A portion of the church still remains, but there is a new church that was built alongside the former portion. The new freestanding tower is a hexagon and built with a bunch of blue glass bricks. The tower is often lit from the inside and shines through out the night. The inside envelopes you in the blue. My favourite bit is the balance between the old and the new that is so evident from the outside.

sacre-coeur-2Sacré-Cœur, Paris, France

Ok for this one you don’t necessarily need to go in side. Of course you can, it is stunning on the inside. But I think the beauty of this church lies on the outside. It sits on the top of the hill of Montmartre which is the highest point of the city. From a distance you can see this beautiful white building sitting above the city. Then once you get to the top of the hill and see all of the intricacies and details of the building it is mesmerising. Then you turn around and you get one of the best views of Paris that you will ever see.

sagrada-familia-dreamstime-1Sagrada Família, Barcelona Spain

This is probably an obvious one. Inside, outside, Gaudí’s creation is a masterpiece. Each facade is a completely different work of art and one that needs to be marveled at. Seriously words can not describe the beauty that is this church. Then you go inside and just wow. The stained glass, the columns, the vaulted ceilings, every millimeter has been painstakingly thought out and created. It is definitely worth the hefty price-tag. Make sure you spring to go up the tower. Here’s my post about Paris and Barcelona.

dsc04649aOk so after this long post I do need to say it’s not all about the churches. I just find them to be the most easily accessible to the public. While I was in Paris I had the opportunity to the Grand Mosque of Paris. It was equally as inspiring and moving as any of the churches that I listed above. The amazing tile/ mosaic work was like nothing I’d seen before.

I guess what I’m trying to say with all of this is that even if you aren’t religious whatsoever (like me) take a minute and look toward a nearby religious centre (especially the old ones). They were the center of communities and have very inspirational architecture and art. Plus it’s a chance for all of us to step away from our computers for a little bit.

 

America for the Holidays: St. Louis

img_5165I love St. Louis. It is my hometown and even though no one has ever heard of it, it is a city worth visiting. It was Colin’s first time in my hometown and seeing where I grew up. I’ve been to his childhood home a lot and I just wanted him to like it.

For a city with just under 3 million people it’s a small town where you see people you know where ever you go. Mostly that means avoiding eye contact and walking past people you’ve known for years. But this trip I arranged to see people I really wanted to plus some ridiculously touristy stuff and it was one of the best times I’d had.

So the touristy stuff. Well we did the Arch, Wash U, the Budweiser Tour and the Art Museum. Sort of. The Arch was closed for repairs, well you can go into the museum but not up in the Arch. And being that I’ve visited the Arch loads… what is the point of that?! So we just went to see it. Then Wash U the tour was on me and my friend Amy. She took us around the Kemper Art Museum on campus and showed us a few of her favourite things. While I just walked Colin around the main campus. I love Wash U and it felt great walking around campus again. The Budweiser Tour is a classic for people visiting St. Louis. I know what you’re thinking Budweiser, yuck. But in the Brewery it tastes better, crisper and more expensive. Plus the tour is free and you get a free beer out of it. My favourite part of it is the Clydesdales and the Dalmatians. Yes the horses and dogs are the best. I mean the one Clydesdale’s was at least a foot or two taller than I was. They are impressive and gorgeous creatures. Last tourist stop was the St. Louis Art Museum. Like lots of other stuff in St. Louis, the museum is free. Much like the Art Insitutute of Chicago SLAM recently added a modern art extension. The museum is great and getting to go with Colin and my mom is just what I needed.

Like I said previously a great deal of the trip to St. Louis was for friends and family. Plus it was Christmas. I love Christmas with my family and this was lots of family and puppy time. Ok Riley isn’t a puppy, he’s like 5-6 or so. We played board games, ate lots of food and laughed a lot! Meeting with my friends was no different. There was a Christmas pop up bar and my friend Kelly was determined to get us in there. With wrapping paper every where, fairy light all around and Christmas themed cocktails, it was definitely worth the wait.

Being that Colin had never been to America before, he wanted to go through as many American cliches as possible. Those ranged from eating at a diner late at night, going to dive and regular bars to various foods. I think we covered Corn dogs, hot wings, dinner food, breakfast food all while in St. Louis. I even made gooey butter cake from scratch. As far as going places I think my favourite was the bowling alley. We dragged my mom along with us and although she said she had never been bowling, she beat us. It was embarrassing, but so much fun. The trip to St. Louis was a great time and I think Colin really enjoyed it as well. He even said St. Louis was his favourite of the 3 cities we visited! 😀

 

America for the Holidays: Chicago

Every Christmas means the same thing for me: heading to St. Louis to go home. This year it was different, because I asked Colin if he wanted to come with me. Since he had never actually been to the States, well ever, I thought it was right for us to make this trip a bigger one then just a quick trip to St. Louis. That meant first stop was Chicago.

After a ridiculous day of traveling which consisted of 3 flights, 2 buses and a taxi (all of which were delayed), we made it. We got to the hotel really late or is it early if it’s 2 am. Either way we were exhausted and hopped right into bed. The hotel was called Freehand and it was half hostel half private room hotel. It has a cute little bar downstairs and everything fits in an eclectic style with an almost native American feel. But really it was a hipster hotel located in a great part of town and I would definitely recommend it!

The weather in Chicago this time of year is always cold, but this trip it was something different. The second day we were in Chicago the weather report said the HIGH was -18C (-0.4F) and the low was -26C (-14.8F). That meant that we planned our trip around the cold.

Our first day was meant to be the warmest day so that was the day of walking outside. Being that we were in Chicago, we ran to the Bean first thing. The Bean is one of those tourist attractions that doesn’t really get old. The high shine reflects the skyline and the people and it just photographs amazingly. Right next to the Bean is the Art Institute of Chicago and that was our first stop from the city pass that we bought. 5 tourist destinations for $98. I love the Art Institute and I haven’t really been since the modern wing was complete. I realise that was ages ago, but I don’t go to Chicago that often.  Next we went up to the Skydeck which is located in the Willis Tower (former Sears Tower). This is the view deck with the little glass boxes that hang off the side of the building. We were determined to get a photo from inside the box. The professional photo ended up being so cute that we paid $30 for those crazy 3 photo packages. But oh well it was cute.

Did I mention it was cold? Yeah it was freezing or below freezing actually, like way below. But that wasn’t going to stop us. We decided that the Shedd Aquarium and the Field Museum was the best place to stay warm. I’ve loved the Shedd since I was little, mostly because I have a love for Beluga Whales. The two are so close to each other that the little time we spend outside didn’t seem all that cold, which is great because Chicago is beautiful in the snow.

The last stop on our tourist tours was 360 Chicago. It’s the 94th floor of the John Hancock building. The views from here were spectacular. The views may be better because from here you can see the Willis tower.

In between the times of tourist attractions were some shopping (of course) and meeting with some friends. I love Chicago and I tried to convince Colin that it’s an amazing city as well. The time there was great and I’m glad I got to experience it with him.

You’re driving on the wrong side…

Or is is the right side? Who knows. But when my mom came to visit I knew it was time for a little road trip! I rented a car from Sixt (btw they were always super helpful and reasonably priced, so would definitely recommend them). We hopped in the car and drove up to Luss on Loch Lomond. I’d never been to Loch Lomond and I heard that it was beautiful so it was really about time. As we drove up everything was gray, dark and foggy, so I thought uh oh this wasn’t going well. But once we got close the fog had burned off and the sun came out. It was absolutely beautiful and I couldn’t believe the views. We walked around Luss for a while and thought it was time to stop for lunch. I drove us down to Cameron House and we had lunch in the bar. Cameron House is really cute it massive and decorated in lots of tartan and oversized furniture. I really liked it, but of course as expected it is on the expensive side. After lunch we headed across to Stirling so that my mom could see Stirling Castle. I never been there either, but I knew it would be a treat for my mom. The drive to Stirling was quicker than expected and once we arrived the castle was still covered with just a little bit of snow. The castle is really nice and well maintained. I really enjoyed the visit there. I know that my mom did too.

Sail Week Croatia: Scedro

So I’m 95% sure these photos are after we left Scedro and not on the way there, because I got my well deserved sleep in Scedro. But I wanted these photos in a different place from the rest. Scedro was a really quiet bay where we stayed the night, we didn’t do much per se, but with this bunch you can’t really be bored. These photos are from a different bay where we all stopped for lunch and a swim. I had a Garmin underwater iPhone case so I was able to take really cool underwater photos of Pete swimming.

The rest of the sailing trip continues here.

(Missed previous Croatia posts? They start here)

Sail Week Croatia: Korcula

Korcula is supposed to be the Birth place of Marco Polo, who knows if that is the case, but it was our next stop. It was one I wish would could’ve stayed at longer to explore more. It was a great stop. We stopped in the Marina and our Skipper had arranged a wine tasting, which was nice because there were very few times he seemed to think about us. But this time he really got it right. We all cleaned up and dressed up, had a quick wander of the town which was sweet and reminded me of an Italian town. The winery was adorable and we tried white, rose and red wine along with various potent liqueurs and snacks to nibble on. The night ended with a trip to Boogie Jungle which was a night club “in the jungle.” We climbed into a party van/taxi with a shag roof and disco lights and ended up in the woods some where. Yeah it wasn’t much of a jungle, but it was a fun night of dancing with cabin mates. 😀

The rest of the sailing trip continues here.

(Missed previous Croatia posts? They start here)

Sail Week Croatia: Mljet

Mljet was the next stop in our adventure and it seemed to be the most “adventurous” day according to the itinerary. This day seemed to fit the bill. There was sailing (like actually with the sails up 🙂 ), kayaking, mountain biking, paddle boarding and swimming. I was smart enough to stay away from the biking, because I would’ve fallen of the bike and died. Ok yes I’m being dramatic, but I would’ve injured myself for sure. So I stuck to kayaking which I thought had lower odds to me hurting myself. Before Kayaking we hopped on a boat and headed to an island within the National Park which had a beautiful small monastery. The monastery was partially converted into a cafe and gift shop, but the stone work and turquoise water made for an impressive scene.

The rest of the sailing trip continues here.

(Missed previous Croatia posts? They start here)

Sail Week Croatia: Sipan

The first stop on the sailing tour was the quiet island/ city of Sipan. We had a great day sailing and bonding then arrived in a tiny little city where we sat and had a fancy group dinner. I’m not going to lie I normally hate doing group tours and group dinners, because it’s either forced or a nightmare for the restaurant staff. But our dinner was complete with delicious plates full of appetisers, that we didn’t actually order,  and great chat about life. Sipan was covered in stray cats that watched me while I ate, which was less then ideal. The dinner was amazing and the Island of Sipan was a good and chill first stop.

The rest of the sailing trip continues here.

(Missed previous Croatia posts? They start here)

Croatia Rocks: Thursday

Thursday Ok so the closing party was Fatboy Slim. I’m not sure what else I can say about this. It was one of the most amazing nights of my entire life. With a great show, really cute company and dancing till sunrise, I really could not have imagined a better night. That being said I’m just going to post these photos already below.

Well that is it for Croatia Rocks, time for the drive down to Dubrovnik!

(Missed previous Croatia posts? They start here)

Croatia Rocks: Wednesday

Wednesday started off with a little adventure we got sick of going to the same beach, which seems totally spoiled now that I’m sitting in Edinburgh freezing my butt off. We drove down the island, got lost in a tiny little town and ended up going down a dirt road to an amazing small beach. It had a bar, but seemed to only have a few tourists. So with bottles of water and a few snacks we were set for the day.


 

Wednesday

Then again the night shows were what we’ve been looking forward to for weeks. We got a little bit disappointed when I talked to the VJ who was announcing all of the acts and he told me Years & Years weren’t coming. But it followed with Clean Bandit giving the best performance that anyone could imagine. They were fantastic and even played through the rude guy that through a cup at the back up singer.

After Clean Bandit, Hannah Wants was a nice 180 from large band to her being all alone on stage. She was completely in control of a huge audience. She was fantastic.

Check out the next day of Croatia Rocks here!

(Missed previous Croatia posts? They start here)