Thursday, November 27, 2008


This year I'm thankful for more than ever, I’m thankful that/for…

I have a job. And a good one!
I’m healthy
family & friends- new & old
I live in my favorite city! London
my long hair & straight teeth :)
I’m happier than ever
I walk to work
I found an awesome flat & new London friends
being awake to all my blessings
my new church HTB
funny conversations with my grams
I’m young and single (& a girl!) in the big city
friends who call or visit
Facebook which keeps me ridiculously connected
how can I forget my Fav gadget- I'm even using it now to log all this before I forget! My iPhone!!

Most of all I'm thankful for all the amazing opportunities life’s thrown at me & that I was brave enough to run with them!

Cheers to all- American or not. Have an amazing day & don't forget to be thankful for your blessings.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Halloween 2008 London Style!

This year it came down to the LAST minute, I was pretty sad when I didn’t think I was going to end up dressing up or having Halloween plans. But never fear, my friend came through with two parties, and my boss just happened to have devil horns, light up red wings, and a wand laying around! I knew I had to get it together when a German guy was texting me “come on Ashley, if the German is dressing up the AMERICAN girl has to!”

Next thing I knew I’d rushed around picking up costume supplies and taken the tube to Oval (South London). Party #1 was great, lots of good food, cute decorations and crazy costumes. After a bit we hopped on the tube and headed north, time for party #2. This one was way far North, probably the farthest north I’ve been actually. The tube ride there was quite interesting, we sat with a few Gladiators who had to use their swords to cover their…since their skirts weren’t really cutting it. Turns out there are a couple Kentish Town tubes…one west one regular and we of course were at the wrong one! We hopped in a cab because a fake cop and little devil really shouldn’t be roaming around lost too far in the cold.

It turned out to be a great evening; and according to a friend, we went farther in one night than she’s been in London in a year!

Lovin' London- at home in Bayswater

Half way through my 8th week in London and still loving every second of it! Since I last wrote I’ve done nothing but work and play…and loads of both!!

When I last wrote I was in the midst of the awful flat hunt. I am happy to report that I not only found a place but I’ve lived here almost a month already! I love my new abode. Unlike what I’m use to (tiny apartments in NYC or my lovely loft in TN) I actually live in a house (flat)! It’s 3 stories, 5 bedrooms, and I know my NYC friends will be jealous because we have a washing machine and a garden!! They come standard here (washers, not gardens, we are lucky to have such a big garden), but in NYC it’s like striking gold to find a place with one! So I’m still a bit elated when it comes to having a washer, I take nothing for granted these days. Especially not sunny mornings when I’m walking to work through Hyde Park, God that’s the best!

*Pics of the new flat, flatmates preparing for our big holiday party, and our garden!

Walking to and from work is one of my favorite things, and I’m so glad I found a home within walking distance! I figured out last week that it doesn’t even really save me any money, but it doesn’t matter because that 40 minutes of fresh air before and after work makes all the difference during the crazy busy work week.

The flat is in Bayswater, close to Notting Hill, 3 minutes to Hyde Park, 2 minutes from two different tube stops, there are numerous grocery stores within a few blocks, and just about any variety of food you could desire.

Back to the 5 bedrooms part…yes that translates into I have 4 flatmates! I live with a British bloke, American guy, Aussie girl & an American girl. It’s a nice mix and everyone has such busy schedules that we sometimes go days without even seeing each other. So that’s it! I’m waiting on the rest of my belongings to be shipped from Tennessee then I’ll be completely at home. Its kind of nice only having a few suitcases worth of stuff, it makes you realize how much extra junk you accumulate over the years.

*Most of my new flatmates... 1st Pic-Lauren and Shannon. 2nd Pic- New bf Kaitlin and flatmate James. I'll have to get a pic of Mike!

One last thing, I’m sorry my American friends…I don’t know if I’ll ever come back. I’ve felt completely at home here since the second I landed, and it’s only growing on me…

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Love at first sight…

One week in…and happy as can be! Thee years ago, when I moved from Tennessee to NYC on my own I was a wreck. With no friends, making pennies, and starting from scratch at my very first job. Ha, those weren’t the days! Of course looking back I wouldn’t change a thing. I quickly made friends, got promoted and fell madly in love with marvelous New York City! By the end I walked miles on end just for fun, I could kick your butt at any class offered by the NYSC, get to the airport with my eyes shut and point you in the direction of the best sushi, pizza, Mexican or blueberry pancakes in town.

Arriving in London was a million times easier, I’m home! I spent my first weekend trotting all over town with, my savior, Dawn (BTW, I already have friends!). It was great having a friend tag along to meet all the random flat shares. We saw places in West Hampstead, Bayswater, and Fulham. Each one was better than the last. The first place was a bit dodgy and far from the tube…one bathroom for 5 people, yikes. The next flat only had 4 people but all Dawn could ask was, “Do you guys have a cleaner? Or are you thinking about getting one?” Ha, NEXT! Flat #3 was also quite a trek and although the living room and kitchen + private garden were great the house had 7 flatmates! Welcome to London.

My favorite neighborhood so far is Notting Hill/Bayswater, but the going is tough in this area. This is almost harder than sorority rushing. You show up at a flat, get a tour, get interviewed, and then are ushered out the door as the next potential flatmate arrives to vie for your room! It’s crazy and exhausting. I didn’t get the one place I’ve really wanted so far and for no good reason…I don’t even know why. Apparently I didn’t pass the test.

I’ve seen four flats since and the two today were good options. I can live a little farther out then I wanted, but still close to work in Notting Hill, with a couple; or in a penthouse in Maida Vale with three flatmates! I don’t have much time to ponder, by tomorrow afternoon I have to tell them whether or not I’m interested, then they’ll decide if they are interested! Ahh.

Back to why I love London, because it sure isn’t for the crazy flat hunting adventures. I’ve already been here two weekends. Time really flies. My first weekend on Saturday night we re-lived Slushy Sunday’s at Dawn and Toby’s- only it was Saturday and nothing was thrown at the wall, oh wait, just the poor innocent Mac J but that’s another story. Later we met friends at Eclipse and sipped the watermelon specialty! I had no idea the amount of work that went into the drink until I ended up at the other Eclipse the following weekend, Jim and I were quite entertained by the crafty bartenders cutting, mixing and shaking.

After the absolutely gorgeous weekend (I brought the sunshine! My first weekend was so sunny and warm!! I don’t want it to end…) I started my new job at CNN. It was a busy week and there is a lot to learn. I’d feel a lot better if I wasn’t rushing off every night to see flats all over town. But I’m settling in and managed to make time for drinks Wednesday and Thursday…what can I say, you know me the social Gemini. I work with the Middle East and Africa and randomly met one of my clients out and about Thursday after work. He (the son of an African President) just happened to be at the same bar; probably because, I shouldn’t have been there with drinks at £12.50 a pop (for my American crew that’s $24! I know, yikes, but you can’t take it back if you said you’d visit-start saving).

In my one week and counting I’ve seen part of a Vols game, ventured out in the rain, gotten lost at least every other day, ok maybe once a day, been to a museum (because it’s about the only thing you can do for free!), made lots of new mates and tried to get everyone I know to join Skype-- because its just so fun!

Cheers! Cross your fingers that my next blog is about my new flat!!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

OMG I almost forgot- today is my 25th birthday!

I haven’t been too good about keeping up with my blog lately, as I didn’t stop traveling once I got back from my adventures abroad. I will eventually finish blogging since I still want to tell everyone about my good times in London, Barcelona and my last days in Germany; but I’ve been on the go since my feet hit American soil.
I caught up with all my Tennessee friends, visited the fam in Alabama (saw my nephew graduate Pre-School! SO cute),

spent 5 fabulous days at the beach with 15 of my closest high school friends (I know can you believe we still all love each other that much!), and now I’m playing in Sarasota with one of my best friends from college!

As I hit this quarter life ‘crisis’ period in my life, I don’t have any regrets about the past or fears about my future. I’m actually pretty excited about being 25 and can’t wait to start the next chapter as soon as I figure out where it’s going to be! Since I can’t sit still for more than a day it’s hard to say where I’ll end up, and everyday a new idea comes along. Yesterday, I spent a few hours researching Abu Dhabi in the Middle East. I never imagined in a million years I’d even be considering such a place to move…especially not alone at 25. But you know what, it actually looks pretty amazing and if I get the job I just might pack up and try my hand. I’ve been dealt great cards this far and I only see my odds getting better. Besides I’m not sure you can go wrong in one of the richest cities in the world!
Alas, my crazy non-stop, flying by the seat of my pants lifestyle is about to slow down. I am starting a freelance job in Tennessee next week. I don’t think it’s settled in yet that in just a few days my 4 months of traveling will end. Actually, it will never end, just slow down a lot. I’m still planning to hit a few more cities this summer and I’ll be a glob-trotter my whole life!
So cheers to turning 25 and loving my life! I also have to give facebook a little plug! How crazy is it that by 9:20 am on my birthday I’ve already gotten 11 happy birthday wall posts and they just keep coming! Gotta love it!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Staying afloat in London: Rain Rain Go Away

They say it rains a lot in London-- unfortunately they weren't kidding.  Why did I decided to travel in the rainiest countries, during APRIL of all months? I think there has been more rain than shine on my trip.  Thankfully I've got enough shine to outlast this bad weather and I'm looking forward to the nice summer back in good old Tennessee.  I'm in London for 10 days and it's rained everyday :( Yesterday was the nicest day by far, but there was still a little down pour when I was leaving the Battersea Park.  It was so sad, the day had been gorgeous, warm and sunny, it made me remember why I loved London so much.  The park was packed! Millions of kids were running around playing football and riding bikes. I don't think I've ever seen that many kids in NYC! Central Park is more of a big kid playground, Battery Park in NYC usually has all the kids, but no where near this many.  Maybe London is a better place to raise kids than NYC??  Who knows. I still love London, but is it for me? I'm not sure.  

If you're traveling to London don't forget to pack all the right gear: rain coat, shoes that can get wet, an umbrella (though I've heard some people just gave up on carrying one and since storms are usually pretty short. They just wait them out- not my bag baby but whatev).  

Maybe that's why all the museums in London are free? So people can enjoy the art while they wait out the storms?  I know that's what we usually did when we weren't riding around on the double decker buses so we could at least see the sights while staying dry.  The only problem with the bus was, we'd settle in on the top deck and then the windows of the bus would start fog up! Loads of people seemed to have the same idea. You can't really enjoy the views when you have to keep wiping the window clear (at least London has a lot of free daily newspapers so I could use the face of the slime ball Austrian man who kept his kids locked in the cellar's face to wipe the windows- yuck what is happening in the world?).

When the sun finally comes out in London-- stay outside as long as you can!! (I'm obviosly not out there right's not raining but it sure looks like it's going to soon...)

Friday, April 25, 2008

On the way to Amsterdam: Pit-stop for FLOWERS!

4/19/2008 Keukenhof: Lisse, Holland

My family planned a two week holiday to show my cousins some of Europe’s highlights, starting in Amsterdam. I hadn’t ever been to Amsterdam so decided to train up and meet them while they were there. I was apprehensive about going on my own so this was the perfect opportunity. On the train ride up Saturday morning I overheard two American boys talking about doing drugs, women, eating brownies on the plan ride over, and how they’d warned all of their friends they probably wouldn’t email/contact them until after 4/20. 4/20?!?! OMG, I pulled up my sleeve to check my watch and sure enough I was on my way to Amsterdam just in time to celebrate 4/20/2008. Nice. At this point I’m thinking the city would be extra crazy but turns out 4/20 is just an American ‘holiday’ if you can call it that! None the less I was in for a treat.

[Side note] I took a 7:40am train to arrive in Amsterdam at 1:25pm and you wouldn’t believe the amount of alcohol that was consumed on these trains as early as 9am…respectable looking everyday people just drink beer and wine here like it’s water.

We spent the first day at the Keukenhof, which is a flower ‘museum?’ outside Amsterdam. Not sure what it would be called- basically it is tourist central and full of amazing flowers which were blooming all around. There are acres and acres of tulips, daffodils and masses of other incredible flowers.
*Cousins- Tammy and Cora
*Plus Matt in this one...
*My family- Uncle Michael, Aunt Dianne, Cora & Matt
*OMG in heaven again! Just leave me here, actually don't TOO MANY TOURISTS!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Some say I’m brave for traveling the big bad world alone- I’d say sometimes TOO brave…oops

If you don’t have time to read the whole thing- skip to the real story at the end…

I’ve stayed in hostels all over Europe: London, Paris, Nice, Rome, Barcelona, Vienna, Munich….and the list goes on. But I have never had a night like I did in Amsterdam and hope to never experience anything like it again.

I had heard of the Flying Pig hostels before and when I saw a flyer for it in Munich I decided that’s where I’d stay my last (and only-thank God) night alone in Amsterdam. There are three locations, I picked downtown so I could easily walk everywhere including the train station. So far so good. I checked in Monday morning and deposited my belongings in the luggage room for safe keeping and spent the day lounging at the Vondelpark! It was awesome, lots of biking and walking trails, green areas to chill, and ponds/streams running throughout.

At the end of they day after I’d seen all the sights on my list I ventured back to the hostel. I grabbed my stuff and hiked up the steepest stairway to my room – 204 bed #4. As I was on my way up I realized I couldn’t recall it saying anything about female only? I have been staying in places where you can choose mixed or female only with 4-20 beds per room and I’ve been staying in the most expensive rooms with 4-female beds. This hostel was the most expensive yet and cost €34 per night for a bed in a 4-person room. I’d been paying around €21 per night in other cities so I expected this to be a pretty nice room. Ah, to the contrary- the nastiest room yet. Is it too late to go home today? I don’t know where to start –first of all I don’t enjoy being called ‘Piggy’ and there are signs everywhere in the hostel:

“Too loud to sleep Piggy? Buy earplugs for €1 at the front desk”
and by the breakfast room… “No smoking during breakfast, unless of course, you are on fire”

Back to my room, gross, there is stuff everywhere and the other three beds are occupied already. There are rolling papers and indication of what happened earlier on the table. I’m starting to question the female part more and more now…then I step into the bathroom. Yikes, it’s horrible.
There is literally a squeegee in the shower- I am suddenly transported back to when I was 17 and worked at the community pool where we’d use those to clean the bathroom showers. [Note to Self: Not showering in the morning.] I try to open my locker to put some of my stuff inside, but no luck, its jammed shut. I flop down on my lovely bottom bunk and ponder what to do next. I unload my gear and head downstairs in search of dinner and hopefully new friends. When I got back from dinner I met a nice Australian bloke- Peter. We had a beer at the hostel’s bar and around 11:30pm I turned in for the night.

The real story begins---

I enter my room to discover I am definitely in a co-ed room. There are three guys, two in bed (one practically passed out and the other reading); the third is standing by the window holding something he is getting ready to light. Looks like I’m in for a treat.

The guy at the window turns to me, “You the fourth?”
“Yep, lucky me.”
“Oh, right then, is this ok?” He holds up his joint. I am honestly a bit relieved at first because I hate cigarettes so much that I was going to be pissed if all my stuff got smelly.
“Sure – but it’s the only one, right?”

And they carry on smoking their joint, asking me questions: Where are you from, what is your name, etc. Turns out they are from Paris but I don’t care to ask much more. I’m not sure what to do. It’s too late to ask for a new room and they seem nice enough. I am in Amsterdam and there is no way I’m going out looking for a new place to stay at midnight (if this is what is taking place in my room- who knows what’s going on in the streets).

Now they are high and going to bed. Perfect. What if they later decide they want to get in my bed? I am never around people smoking pot and I don’t know what is going on in their heads. I dig out my cell (like it’s going to do me much good- but just incase), lay out clothes for the mornings so as soon as I wake I can make a mad dash outta here and I miraculously fall asleep. I admit I was a little scared, I felt uneasy about being in a locked room with three high strangers…20 something year old druggies, but I slept until 8am none the less. Thankfully everything turned out fine, I awoke unharmed and was gone before they even stirred the next morning. I am glad to say that was my last hostel for a while, PHEW! Thank God!!

Red Light District- it Lives Up to if Not Beyond Reputation…

After dinner we decided it was inevitable we had to take a stroll through the Red Light District (RLD). I was actually surprised to see that the street we ended up on, with clear glass doors marked by a red fluorescent light above and red curtains on the door and windows, was bursting with girls who were actually pretty hot. (Don’t get me wrong not all of them but the majority were pretty girls.) They dress scantily clad in tiny bras and panties. I saw it all in just one little alley, a guy being ushered in- curtain shut, a guy being ushered out, girls giving everyone who passes the come and get me stare…, girls lying on the bed chatting on their cell, you get the drift. These girls make great/quick money but I won’t be quitting my day job anytime soon. Shoot, I just realized I don’t even have a job- well you know what I mean!!

The next night I was sent by someone at the hostel to the row of restaurants by the Waag (an old medieval building) which happens to be on the opposite side of the RLD. I was a little hesitant at first, but eventually I made my way to that area of town as dusk was settling in. This time I was on a different street and when I stopped to see the Oude Kerk (church that is now a museum) by the Waag I realized I was in the wrong part of town. These girls were not hot, AT ALL…they were much feistier and I’d compare one I saw to a bulldog pinned up in the yard. When they guys walking by didn’t want to play she growled and kicked her door with her trashy black boot.. yikes, I had to get out of there ASAP. So apparently the RLD has zone like NYC or any city for that matter, I was in the ghetto of the RLD and last night I had seen 5th Avenue high class shopping. And that’s the RLD in a nutshell!

AMSTERDAM: 4/20/2008

I started my day at the Anne Frank Huis (Museum) in Amsterdam. Pretty interesting, it had been about twelve years since I read Anne Frank’s Diary and forgot what it was all about. There isn’t any furniture left in their house and I wasn’t allowed to take pictures so you’ll have to check it out yourself, def worth a visit if you are in Amsterdam. As tragic as their lives were I’m glad that Anne at least got her wish of becoming a famous writer and now people around the world read her diary. After the museum, my family and I rode around Amsterdam on one of the canal-buses. These are a great way to see the city! Plus you’re on a boat- what could be better?! Our next stop the Van Gogh Museum! This was really fascinating too! I love art but never studied any of the greats and had no idea Van Gogh went crazy and killed himself, or that he didn’t even start painting until he was 27 years old. There’s still time for me! Ha, from what I’m learned at all these museums most of the great artists don’t have great lives…so I think I’ll keep art as a hobby. *Sint Nicolaaskerk Then it was back to the boat! I rode around the city a while longer, passing under all the bridges and through the old streets full of apartments before meandering the streets by foot getting lost in the alleys. There are tons of outdoor cafes, coffee shops, smart shops, clothing shops, and book stores everywhere you turn.

*The Amsterdam Central train station
*The spot on the canal where you can see under 7 bridges!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Munich by night...It's all I managed to see!

Munich (München) – Home of October Fest- but the Beer flows all Year!
I arrived late in Munich and checked into my hostel. I had a cute little Canadian roomie who was rushing around, getting ready to go out. Having not gone out in ages, not exactly true, but I’d been traveling alone four days now and really needed to get out, next thing you know we’re on the subway headed for the world famous Hofbräuhaus. It’s very well known but I only heard of it that night! When we got there it was full of rowdy groups drinking and toasting (Prost! -in German) with their 1 Liter (jugs) of beer.

We circled the room looking for seats and settled in with two German girls at a table in the middle of the main room. Later the German girls made friends with a group of British guys and our party kept growing…
I have to admit that I did not step foot in a single museum or tour any of the palaces in Munich. I took a tour one morning but it was so cold, the rain was actually more like sleet, and I had trouble concentrating on the facts (plus it was hard to see all the tall buildings from under my hat and hood!). After lunch and once I had thawed I spent the afternoon wandering the grounds of the Schloss Nymphenburg which was very picturesque. There were tons of locals out jogging and swans everywhere. It was a really nice park that you could walk around for hours taking different trails through the forest and around the ponds. On the way home I decided to stay on the tram around town to see the sights (cheap and warm!)

From the tram I saw a Mexican restaurant and just had to go there! I had already past so a few stops later I got off and transferred to take the tram back in the other direction. After I ordered the table next to me invited me to join them as they spoke English and two of the three spoke German. We quickly hit it off and I had a great dinner and drinks with my new friends! (P.S. by the end of dinner I rolled an RRR for the first time in my life! Ha, thanks guys!)

The next day I took a day trip to the Neuschwanstein Castle – 2 hours south of Munich. It was a great day and touring the castle was one of my favorite parts of the trip. King Ludwig II put so many ornate details into the castle that made it unlike anything you’d ever seen (unless of course you’ve seen the Disney castle which copied his design!) he wanted to live in a fairy tale and that is exactly what he achieved.

Back in the city I met up with my new friend Marco and his buddies for dinner and drinks at a sports bar that tourists would never find! I love hanging out with the locals, even if they try teaching me dirty Bavarian slang! Holydeviphe! (no idea how to spell it!)

Basically I used Munich as a home base to take day trips and enjoy the nightlife -it was perfect!