Literary London Travel Guide

As you all will have recalled (because I expect you to memorize everything I write on this blog goshdarnit! — JK.), I set intentions for each leg of my travels this summer. My intention for England was to explore literature, as I was there to do a creative writing programme at the University of Cambridge. My three days in London allowed me to make the switch from writing to reading (to do a literary refuel if you will) by visiting copious amounts of bookstores and literary monuments…in other words, this is a post about why London is an English major’s heaven.

Daunt Books

Daunt Books is organized by country, which is insanely cool. I love a well-organized bookstore!

Persephone Books

Persephone Books is a publishing company with a storefront that sells books by Twentieth Century women writers. Their storefront also has an adorable section entitled “Books We Wish We Published.” (A feminist literary must!)

Exploring Cultures of Rest: Tea Time

Series Description: This new series of blog posts revolves around cultures of rest and what it means to take time out of the day – to pause and recharge – so that one can be their best self the rest of the time. I am not saying that the glorification of busy is unique to the United States. I am saying, rather, that being busy has been glorified in the United States and there are many cultures around the world that build rest into the day in a way that a 9 to 5 work schedule does not. They build rest into the day through culturally specific rituals. 

After my first trip to the UK, I wrote a post on this blog about just how much I love tea time. This second trip the UK did not disappoint and I fell in love all over again with this specific ritual of rest that happens from 2-5 (and according to this infographic, after as well).

Where to Tea Time in England

Fitzbillies (Cambridge)


Fortnum & Mason (London) 

Tea Time Checklist

  • tea
  • milk / cream
  • clotted cream
  • jam
  • scones or a baked good
  • a good book or good company

 

Cambridge, England Travel Guide


I got to know Cambridge pretty well this summer through doing the University of Cambridge’s two-week-long creative writing intensive. I fell in love with this manageable, yet extremely cosmopolitan city. The historic colleges, enchanting bookstores, expansive shopping centers, and excellent coffee culture drew me in. Here’s my guide if you ever find yourself in this lovely scholarly city.

CamYoga

It’s a yoga blog so I must begin with the yoga. I went to a Jivamukti class at CamYoga my second week there, and the lovely flow hit the spot!

Sweaty Betty

Sweaty Betty is a British yoga clothing brand and while they have amazing stores in NYC, they preview a lot of their clothing in their British stores, and also have an underground yoga studio where they offer free classes on Mondays.

Heffers Bookstore

I am obsessed with Heffers. They have a whole section of the classics with special beautifully-crafted covers. Sadly, my carry-on couldn’t fit two different gorgeously-covered Pride and Prejudices, but alas, I left with a beautiful copy of Villette by Charlotte Bronte.

Fitzbillies

It took less than 24 hours for me to become a regular at Fitzbillies: a restaurant + bakery + coffee and tea shop that is everything fantastic about Cambridge compressed into a lovely bustling cafe.

Outdoor Market in the Square

In the middle of the most urban area of Cambridge is a lovely outdoor market with incredible (and cheap!) dumplings, more books, jewelry, and crafts.

The Fitzwilliam Museum

This museum has a fantastic collection of Impressionist and Fauvist art. It’s under construction for the next year, but it’s still a must-do.

Exploring Cultures of Rest: Aperitivo

Series Description: This new series of blog posts revolves around cultures of rest and what it means to take time out of the day – to pause and recharge – so that one can be their best self the rest of the time. I am not saying that the glorification of busy is unique to the United States. I am saying, rather, that being busy has been glorified in the United States and there are many cultures around the world that build rest into the day in a way that a 9 to 5 work schedule does not. They build rest into the day through culturally specific rituals. 

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As far as people go, I’m fairly low-maintenance. Scratch that; I would more readily refer to myself as middle-maintenance. But high-maintenance? I’m often too independent to a fault for that. That said, the one thing I get fairly high-maintenance about is being brought drinks. This refers to all sorts of drinks: coffee, tea, wine, beer, seltzer, you name it. I took a 5 Love Languages (Dr. Chapman) quiz about a year ago and one of the five – one I deeply appreciate – is “Acts of Service.”

Can vacuuming the floors really be an expression of love? Absolutely! Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on an “Acts of Service” person will speak volumes. The words he or she most want to hear: “Let me do that for you.” Laziness, broken commitments, and making more work for them tell speakers of this language their feelings don’t matter. Finding ways to serve speaks volumes to the recipient of these acts.

When I am brought a beverage, either in the morning or before dinner time (especially by a lover), I feel overwhelmed with a sense of deep ease. The ritual of coffee tells me that the day is beginning and there’s goodness to come, and the ritual of sitting down with a glass of wine or seltzer with some grapefruit juice squeezed in tells me that the day is over and there’s not much more I have to do except relax. That feeling – especially after a busy day – is a truly amazing one. The fact that it’s before dinner and the only expectation is to sit around and watch the sunset is and feels beautiful. That is aperitivo, the culture of rest we’re exploring today.

This article from HuffPo explains it phenomenally.

Aperitivo originates from the Latin verb aperire which means ‘to open’; the idea being that the drink opens (or stimulates) your appetite.

I have loved resting into the aperitivo ritual while in Tuscany. At 7:45pm every evening, we all pour ourselves a drink – alcoholic or non-alcoholic (it REALLY doesn’t matter!), sit around the sunset and enjoy one another’s company. It’s a daily ritual for slowing down nested into another ritual (dinner), which I so appreciate.

So pour yourself a drink, or demand that your partner does as an act of service. Lean back in a chair. And rest.

Exploring Cultures of Rest: Riposo

Series DescriptionThis new series of blog posts revolves around cultures of rest and what it means to take time out of the day – to pause and recharge – so that one can be their best self the rest of the time. I am not saying that the glorification of busy is unique to the United States. I am saying, rather, that being busy has been glorified in the United States and there are many cultures around the world that build rest into the day in a way that a 9 to 5 work schedule does not. They build rest into the day through culturally specific rituals. Screen Shot 2017-08-02 at 1.34.26 PM.png

 

 

 

A riposo, like a siesta, is Italy’s midday nap. I witnessed how it affects society yesterday while in Pienza, a lovely medieval Tuscan town. When we arrived at 2pm, most clothing stores had signs that said they were closed until 3:30. They were closed because, like in many areas around the world – especially regions that get very hot in the middle of the day (yesterday it was over 100 degrees by that time), businesses shut down so that the body can carry out its natural rhythm of sleeping through the hottest parts of the day.

riposo is usually taken after lunch as a way of digesting what for many is the main meal of the day. Waking up from a riposo feels luxurious and rejuvenating. It also just makes sense in my body and it allows for the day to be and feel expansive – almos to feel as if there are two days in one. So what are you waiting for? (You certainly don’t have to be in Italia to take one.) Eat a delicious and nourishing lunch. Find a place to lie down. Close your eyes. Rest.

10 Reasons to Go on a Yoga Retreat

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DISCLAIMER: I, of all people, know how hard yoga retreats are to afford and how even mention of them can trigger the big green monster inside. That said, yoga retreats come in many shapes, forms, and locations and, like everything, I do believe that there really is something for everyone (post forthcoming on how to plan to attend or to create a retreat that works for your lifestyle, budget, and time off). Here are some reasons why yoga retreats can be so beneficial in the frenetic lifestyle we’re faced with today.

  1. Connect with like-mindedful people. A yoga retreat is an opportunity to be unself-consciously yoga-obsessed. In regular life, I surround myself with people who aren’t as obsessed with yoga as I am and who most definitely don’t believe in concepts like the chakras or Ayurveda. This retreat is like heaven because I get to get my yoga nerd talk out of my system so that, quite frankly, I don’t have to resent my friends for not wanting to listen to my yoga babble.
  2. Restore the body. I am taking a big breath in as I write this one. There is pure freaking magic in practicing yoga twice a day. Breathing that deeply for increasing chunks of time only does a body good. That, combined with the large amounts of physical rest a retreat provides time and space for (i.e. relaxing by the pool, sitting for long meals, eating nourishing food, etc.), restores the body to its fullest potential.
  3. Rejuvenate the mind through active pursuit of hobbies and passions. My one big tip for yoga retreats: bring books! Read a lot. Take a lot of photographs and work on your photography skills. Bring a journal! Write. Bring a sketchbook! Sketch. Pursue the hobbies and passions that make you, you and allow for you to be your best self and live your best life (because that’s also what retreats are for).
  4. Heal the heart. There are multiple people on the retreat I’m currently on who are dealing with the devastating effects of breakups. One of the reasons I am on this retreat is because I am coping with my boyf moving away (i.e. to another continent) for a year. The openness and rawness that yogis bring to a retreat allow for healing. That, and the fact that a lot of emotional healing is physical as well, means that retreats that fuse together the powers of mind and body can do wonders in facilitating the healing process.
  5. Travel to a new place. Retreats are held everywhere – from upstate New York to Cuba (my dream is to lead a retreat there!) to Italy to Virginia, there’s really a retreat for exploring most new places. Traveling on a yoga retreat means bringing wellness in to focus the travel experience.
  6. Ease major life transitions. I am currently going through a few fairly major life transitions (mainly concerning job and relationship). They are very overwhlelming to deal with when confronted with the frenetic nature of the day-to-day. Using a yoga retreat to pause, reflect and offer gratitude allows for spaciousness during the compression brought on by transitions.
  7. Experience cultures and rituals of rest. This is my biggest takeaway of all the places I’ve traveled to. In Latin America and Spain, we have siestas. In the United Kingdom, we have teatime. In Italy, we have reposito and apertivos. Find the specific rituals of rest and make them part of your personal retreat routine.
  8. Take advantage of time off in a structured way.  I don’t know about you, but sometimes when I am confronted with an entirely unplanned day, I stand there in shock of having nothing to do and oh, my goodness, what am I going to do with all of this time?! A retreat is a truly beautiful way to build in activities so that you can just be along for the ride.
  9. Try something new. Along with being along for the ride, yoga retreats are an amazing time to try something new, be it a handstand, a different style of yoga altogether, or even slacklining, take advantage of your companions’ talents and learn from them!
  10. Reflect; catch up with your life. As mentioned previously, it’s really hard to reflect on life when living the mundane of it simultaneously. Going on retreat allows one to keep living life, but to also take the break from typical routine necessary to reflect on all the rest that happens when living a full life.

Have you been on a yoga retreat? Do you have any tips n tricks on how to do it up right? I’d love to hear them! 

Where in the World

 

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I am writing this at an old wooden table, sitting on an old wooden chair, with the above lush landscape directly in front of me. Gorgeous doesn’t even begin to cut it. Breathtaking might.

I recently realized that in the midst of the working two jobs, test-taking and friends-visiting madness of July, I haven’t made it super public that I’m spending this whole month of August out of the U.S. of A doing the things that nourish my spirit: yoga, writing, and exploring new places. So I’m using this post partly to brag about being in Italy right now facing the picturesque view and also to articulate just what it is that I am doing during a full August off, and why.

The best way to explain this is also my favorite way to plan for a yoga class: through themes. Each leg of this five-week trip has a different theme. I’m sharing them below.

Italy: Pleasure

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photo via cocceto.com

I am currently in Tuscany on a yoga retreat with the talented Francesca Bove and a dozen-plus lovely yogis. It’s only day two and so far, I went on a run / walk through the hills surrounding the villa we’re staying at, dined on a breakfast of fresh-cut prosciutto, eggs and muesli, took an hour-and-a-half-long yoga class, and sat by the pool to read and nap. The theme of this trip is pleasure because too often pleasure gets misused in the work-hard, play-hard culture New York City immerses itself in. Pleasure, in a relaxed way, means (for this trip) not only drinking a glass of wine with dinner, but going on a wine tour. It means eating slowly to taste the most subtle flavors of artisan olive oil…and attending a tasting at the vineyard it’s made at. It means practicing yoga with an abundant view of the Italian countryside, and it means putting sunglasses on during savasana and letting the sensuous sensory experiences Italy is so known for marinate so that there can be space to take it all in.

England: Literary

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photo via britishtours.com

Right after this retreat, I’m going to England to take two continuing education creative writing courses at the University of Cambridge. This year, when I took Teaching of Writing as part of my graduate program, I had a lot of feelings surrounding wanting to make sure that I am a teacher-writer / writer-teacher, and not only a teacher of writing (I’m studying to be a middle school English teacher). In other words, I want my practice as an educator and as a writer to disrupt the narrative of “those who can’t do teach” and change it to “those who can do teach.” I also have an extraordinarily hard time writing in New York City, and I’m sitting on quite a few works in progress. I would say that I need to carve out the time, except for the fact that with my working-grad school schedule, the time just simply doesn’t exist, and I’m starting to think that small geographic changes to encourage creativity can be a good thing. We can do it all…just not all at once, after all. But back to my plans for the trip! While I am spending the weekdays intensively writing and attending plenary lectures, I’ll spend the first weekend in Oxford doing a tour of the medieval literature that was born there and hopefully getting enough free time to go to the Bodleian Library for the Jane Austen exhibit! That second weekend, I’ll be in London (yay!) and plan on going to the British Library, as well as both Daunt and Persephone Books!

Finland: Design

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photo via finland.fi

I’ll be spending my last 10 days of this trip in Finland with my boyf who’s moving there for the academic year. He’s moving there to study wood architecture and I’m traveling there so that we can experience Finnish culture together before his courses begin. Finland has a magnificent history and practice of design in both broad and specific ways. Finnish society seems to set itself up for success using infrastructural and architectural design. During this trip, I want to attend some art festivals going on and explore the amazing architecture throughout. I want to focus on something that I really do believe is the backbone of how society functions: design. I want to be able to carry that knowledge with me into all that I do because it can only help when we see the world through a variety of lenses including though not limited to pleasure, literature, and design.

The First Day of Summer + International Day of Yoga

I started off the longest day of the year extending my waking hours even further by waking up at 5:39am to catch a flight to Indianapolis. While I was productive on my flight, I was productive with a purpose: I did the work I needed to do (and which I fully enjoy) so that I could take some time off during this vacation, and return recharged. This is only too appropriate as I intend for this to be the theme of my whole summer. I want to be disciplined Monday through Friday during the times that I am in my home city so that on weekends and during my whole month of August in Europe (Eeeeeeeee! – More on that later!), I can gallavant, rejuvenate, and enjoy the simple pleasures of life.

Today is also International Yoga Day and I am grateful for the reminders I’ve gotten on Instagram (I’m having a wee bit of FOMO concerning not being at Yoga in Times Square, but ya can’t be everywhere at once). Those Instagram reminders are what reminded me just now to do some sun salutations, which should be my go-to after being on a plane, but somehow isn’t always. I did some sun salutations, truly felt the spirit of summer in my bones – in my joints – and am now settling down to tell you, dear readers, my summer plans.

These plans that I am about to share are not concrete ones – there will be a variety of separate blog posts for that, including transforming this site into a travel blog for the month of August! Instead, the plans I would like to share now are broad; they’re more intentions – things that I would like to do – simple pleasures to invite in – that will bring about (I hope!) the feelings of summer: joy, ease, rest, and warmth. This summer, I would like to…

  • Say YES to the beach, and more! A few years ago, I read Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes (oh, hay, Scandal). At the time, I had to dismiss some of her methods; it was impossible – working two jobs and attending graduate school – to make “yes” my default answer; in fact, I had to say no more. But this summer, I want to take advantage of the opportunities that arise when saying “yes” more often, especially when those opportunities involve going to the beach!
  • Go to the Farmer’s Market weekly. I want to start shopping at the farmer’s market. I love the Union Square Green Market, and the farmer’s market near Columbia, but I’m definitely open to trying some more out.
  • Walk the city. For obvious reasons, I walk so much more in the summer than I do any other season. This summer, in the United States and when I go abroad, I want to fully embrace flaneuserie.
  • Relish in yoga clothes. Whenever I can this summer, I intend to be either in a swim suit, sun dress, or yoga clothes (I want the latter to be the majority of my summer wardrobe). I want to develop a chic yoga clothes look, and take care in my appearance, which can be hard to do in sweaty New York, but can be an invaluable way to start the day off with positive self-esteem. But most importantly, I intend to be in yoga clothes because I intend to be doing more yoga and teaching more yoga (I already have!).
  • Enjoy time with friends. Time to pop the rose with good company, y’all!

Now tell me, what are your summer plans that are more like intentions?

Previewing Summer Reads on Spring Break

One month ago today, I was lying on a beach in Isla Mujeres, Mexico. I vacationed with my dear friend E and we had similar expectations regarding the trip (which is crucial for traveling with friends). Basically, all we intended to do every day was eat guacamole, go to the beach, read, and drink a marg or two. I made it a true spring break in which I left anything that was school- or work-related in NYC. What I necessarily did the most of that trip was read for pleasure. While I have a summer reading list that includes a lot of career-related literature (that I am electively choosing, though!), I am so excited to read for pleasure this summer and to massively tackle my Goodreads (love that app!) “Want to Read” list.

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During my Mexico trip, I read and recommend so, so, so highly:

Flaneuse: Women Who Walk the City by Lauren Elkin

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Read with caution: it will make you want to travel and leave the comfort zone of one’s natal city immediately. A snapshot from my journal from the day I picked up this book (in the figurative e-book sense, that is):

I am thinking of Ta-Nehisi Coates and how he wrote of his time at the Mecca (Howard University) and how, in Between the World and Me, he would hole himself up in the library he loved so much. He would sit there, with a book and a notebook, and riff — superimpose — his own thoughts onto what he read. And I am now at Hu Kitchen and I just luxuriated with a matcha cupcake and Earl Grey tea. My Kindle is out and I am reading a sample chapter of Flâneuse. I am enchanted by the idea of flânerie, just like I was in 2012 when I took Anthropology of Cities at Wesleyan and read Baudelaire for the first time.

milk and honey by Rupi Kaur

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The only way to write about this book is through responding with poetry.

and then sometimes.

i think poetry.

is the only way to make sense of a nonsense.

world.

— finishing milk and honey by rupi kaur

— emulation

— resonance

 

 

 

The Big Life by Ann Shoket

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It was like reading Seventeen Magazine all over again…but updated to fit my present circumstances. This book gave concrete, no BS career and career-life balance advice that I have already started to bring into my own career situations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BUST Magazine

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This is by far my favorite magazine. I feel like as a teenager, I spent a lot of time looking for magazines that represented my generation and what we believe in as much as BUST does. With DIY sections to the most amazing interview with the amazing Solange, this is the perfect beach read magazine!

Travelogue: Weekend in Chicago

Last weekend, I went to Chicago and had an unadulterated blast. We did so much in so little time and caught up on sleep. What I love so deeply about traveling is the way time seems to slow down and speed up and take on a life of its own all at once. That weird stretching and tightening of time was the making of a phenomenal mini-vacation. Here’s what we did:

Art Institute

I’ve been to Chicago before and knew that this time, I needed to go to the Art Institute. The spaciousness and quality of the museum represents what Chicago is all about: all the goodness cities have to offer without the cluttered feeling they often give off.

Bad Apple Brewery

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image via Pinterest

This place had an overall awesome vibe with an insanely lovely waitstaff. It made me really realize I wasn’t in New York anymore. The burger I had, too, was extremely satisfying (it was topped with fig puree and goat cheese!).

SoulCycle

The Hip Hop Saturday class we took at the Southport location (which is in such a cool part of town!) was absolutely phenomenal. Kirsten opened class with my fave track from the new Kendrick Lamar album, and it was at that moment that I knew I was in for a kickass ride.

Amazon Bookstore

I didn’t know that these existed before coming across this one! I love going to bookstores as a core way of exploring a new city, and this concept store (basically, it’s Amazon prime, but with physical books) was not a disappointment in the least! They also had a Stumptown Coffee Roasters inside (score!).

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams

Confession: I’m not a huge ice cream person, but the #basic in me is a major lover of frozen yogurt. Jeni’s, which is known to have the best ice cream in the midwest, has their own way of making froyo: with buttermilk! In case you can’t tell by the joy on my face, it was absolutely delish.

Violet Hour

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We went for before-dinner drinks at the chicest cocktail bar I have ever been to in my entire life: Violet Hour. I went there during my first trip to Chicago, and it was classy AF.

Big Star

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Image via Groupon

Right across the street from Violet Hour is Big Star, where we went for delicious tacos and an avocado-pumpkin seed salad that had me smacking my lips. It was an overall joy-filled time!

Intelligentsia

En route to the airport, we had to stop at Intelligentsia because a major way to know a city is through its coffee (in my humble opinion). When I walked in, I had a sudden desire to be a freelancer there.

Where’s your next weekend vacay? Care to share the fun places you go?