7 Renegade Travel Tips From a ‘Chief World Explorer’

Friday, 18 October 2013
*The following is a guest post from my friend and all-around legend, John Beede. John is a motivational speaker, author, entrepreneur, and adventurer. He goes scuba-diving with great white sharks in South Africa, skydiving in New Zealand, and rock climbing - he recently got back from climbing Mt. Everest.  

His next adventure is to get the best job around the world - Jauntaroo's Chief World Explorer. Out of the 3,000 that applied John has made it into the Top 50 and he needs your help to make it to the Final 5!

If you find these tips entertaining, useful, or downright offensive, please support the author in becoming 'Chief World Explorer' by clicking the red ‘Like’ button at http://LikeJB.com. No registration. Won’t even post to Facebook. 

UPDATE: Although John Beede unfortunately did not become Jauntaroo's 'Chief World Explorer', he is still travelling the world and giving talks. To find out more about John Beede please visit climbonsuccess.com

John Beede 'Chief World Explorer' on Mt. Everest's summit
John Beede on the summit of Mt. Everest

1. How to Become Hero to 30 Strangers in 1 Hour 

This is my favorite technique when visiting a new place. Visit 5 bars, pubs, or clubs during daylight hours. Ask for the manager and tell her, ‘I’m organizing a pub crawl for 20-30 guests tonight. I’d like to make this one of the stops, what kind of deal can you give me, per person, for drinks?” Aim for $2.00USD or lower, depending on the country. This is a deal for the bar because they’ll get an instant party upon your arrival (I’ll explain how to get the people in a moment) Being OK with pitchers will come in handy. Repeat this process at 4 or 5 locations and create your lineup. 

Now head a hostel. Tell the front desk, “I’ve got a pub crawl set up for tonight and I’ll give you $5 bucks for every person you guys sign up.” Explain necessary details. Repeat at 3-5 hostels. Also, personally round up people you meet at your own accommodations. 

Charge $20, in advance, for a drink at 5 stops. This is a deal for the bar, a deal for the hostel, a deal for other travelers, and you become everyone’s hero for the night. Oh, and if you’re following my math, you profit $5 per person, so, with an entourage of 30, you’ll profit $150 bucks for your trouble! 

John Beede 'Chief World Explorer' in Costa Rica
Whitewater rafting in Costa Rica.

2. How to Accidentally Upgrade to First Class

I ran the Denver marathon and had a flight the very next day. While boarding the plane, I was so sore that I accidentally fell into an empty first class seat. People were walking down the aisle so zombie-like that I figured I’d just wait for them to pass. Soon, I realized… “nobody is asking me to get up!” To my delight, the flight attendant came by, “Sir, may I interest you in a glass of champagne?” 

“Why yes you may. In fact, champagne is of highest interest to me, ma’am. Thank you kindly,” I replied. It was a pleasant flight with a lot of leg room… 

Take what you like from this little accidental anecdote. Just know that you ever find yourself too sore to stand, with a smile and some moxie, you could get an upgrade to first class… 

John Beede 'Chief World Explorer' in Tarifa
Kitesurfing in Tarifa, Spain

3. How to ‘Hire’ Local Tour Guides 

Connecting on social media, especially couchsurfing.org and globalfreeloader.com is an awesome way to meet a local tour guide who will show you around. Here’s the trick: DON’T ask for a place to stay. Just offer: “I’m coming to (Berlin), and I’d love to see something that locals do. If you’re going to be going to dinner or drinks with friends over (these dates), I’d love to join you for a bit to see how (Berliners) live. Drink is on me! Let me know…” 

Send to a dozen or so people and someone will bite. If you’re cool in person, they’ll show you around the rest of town and may even offer a place to stay! 

John Beede 'Chief World Explorer'

4. Coupon-Free Discount Transportation 

On the plane, in baggage claim, or by the airport taxi stand, look for people with backpacks. SMILE and say, “hey guys, I’m a budget traveler, trying to get to the city, wondering if you’d be interested in sharing a cab?” Sometimes they’ll have too much luggage, too many people, or they’re just grumpy, but I’d say this works 60% of the time. 

Failing that, here’s another trick. See that fancy hotel offering free shuttle service to their customers? Tell the driver, “hey, I’m not staying at the hotel, but it’s really close to where I’m going, can I give you a X dollar tip if I can catch a lift there?” Whereas X = half what it would have cost you in a cab, train or bus. You never know unless you ask. 

John Beede 'Chief World Explorer'

5. Employ the “Give Get Free” Technique 

If you can give value to a hotel, restaurant, or city attraction, you can often score free or highly discounted room, board, and entertainment. 

Here’s what I mean: write positive online reviews for a hotel (offer a package of several 5 star ratings across many review sites), feature a restaurant on your YouTube channel, or write a blog post about the sweet adventure you had on Captain Jim’s Alaska Fishing tour. Sidebar: Captain Jim really was a great guy… until he shot a 90 pound halibut between the eyes with a rifle…. 

6. Score Free Flights, Hotels, Airport Lounge Access 

There are heaps of credit card offers out there which will score you free flights and 5 star hotel stays. Refer to thepointsguy.com for the best deals to suit you, but I will throw in my vote for the Southwest Airlines Visa. Also, the American Express Platinum card has a fee but pays itself back multiple times over with free global entry, free airport lounge access, and more. You really don’t know what you’re missing out on. 

John Beede 'Chief World Explorer'

7. How to Make it Actually Matter 

Having a lot of passport stamps but not becoming a more compassionate and worldly person is like being the rich guy with no friends. Don’t be ‘that guy.’ Instead, let me suggest how you can make your travels significant. 

The first few trips you take, everything will feel new, amazing, and you’ll get some great photos, memories, and updates for your social media. Then, the novelty of travel wears off and you start to forget where you are half the time. Worse, you can’t even figure out why you’re there. 

This is why I advocate volunteering. This does not necessarily mean paying thousands to a voluntourism company, though it could. Moreso, it means connecting with a meaningful cause in a place that is not your home and becoming a part of something bigger than yourself. Sarah Carrol created volunteeringforfree.org, a directory of low and no-cost worldwide volunteer projects where you can truly make a difference. Pick one that inspires you. Trust me, this is the best way to have travel make it’s mark on you. 

Jane Austen Book Club: Mansfield Park

Tuesday, 17 September 2013
Mansfield Park (1814) was Quintessentially English's Jane Austen Book Club's novel for August. In previous months I have finished Jane Austen's novels long before month-end but with Mansfield Park I really struggled. I found it really hard to get interested in the story and once I put the book down, I would forget about it. Fanny Price might have been the paradigm of wholesome values in the 1800s, but for my modern perspective she is a timid goody-two-shoes!

Unlike Austen's previous heroines, I found it incredibly difficult to sympathise with Fanny, there is not one ounce of her character that I could take in a modern light. The most obvious example of her "goodness" is when she refuses to take part in the play as she believes the content is inappropriate (it contains adultery) and that her uncle, Sir Thomas, would not approve. Even her cousin, Edmund, who dreams of being a vicar agrees to take a role in play. True he only agrees after he finds out that Mary Crawford would play his love interest, but still, come on Fanny!

Billie Piper as Fanny Price in ITV's Mansfield Park (2007)
Billie Piper as Fanny Price in ITV's Mansfield Park (2007)

Besides the fact that Mansfield Park has an annoying heroine, Jane Austen's third novel is also her most controversial. Like Jane Austen's early works, Mansfield Park is a social commentary on the gentry-class but what makes this novel controversial is it's illusion to slavery.

Sir Thomas Bertram, the wealthy owner of Mansfield Park, is also the owner of a sugar plantation in Antigua. Although not expressly mentioned in the novel, it is clear to readers that the estate of Mansfield Park was made possible through slave labour. When Sir Thomas leaves for a year to deal with the problems at the estate in Antigua, the rest of the characters seem perfectly oblivious to the situation. You would think considering their entire livelihoods rely on how things go in Antigua they would care a bit more.

To be truthful my favourite part of Mansfield Park was finally reading about the namesake of Harry Potter's Mrs. Norris. J.K. Rowling said she named Argus Filch's cat after Mansfield Park's Mrs. Norris because the cat "is similarly odious and is hanging around in the background a lot."[1]

Mrs Norris with her owner, Argus Filch
Mrs. Norris with her owner, Argus Filch

With Mansfield Park done and dusted, it's time to move on to Jane Austen's fourth book and fourth month in Quintessentially English's Jane Austen Book Club - Emma. I started reading it last night, three chapters in and I already prefer it to Mansfield Park!

Q: What did you think about Mansfield Park?

Erin x

Quintessentially English's Jane Austen Book Club

London's 10 Best Kept Secrets

Thursday, 12 September 2013
London is the political, economical, and cultural capital of England, with a vast history that stretches back thousands of years. Visitors to London will, of course, want to visit the usual haunts such as: Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Tower of London, and the Royal Parks. But there is so much more to London that your average tourist guides don't cover. 

Last week, Marriott London Hotels contacted me and asked if I would be interested in hosting an exclusive infographic with my readers about the secret London that most tourists don't know about. Of course I said yes! So here they are, London's 10 Best Kept Secrets;

  1. Transport for London's Lost Property Office, Baker Street. This little-known museum houses anything and everything that has ever been left behind on one of London's tubes, trains, or buses.
  2. Pineapple, Camden. Not your typical London pub, Pineapple hosts a vintage market on Sundays and Bring-Your-Own-Cheese Thursdays.
  3. Mount Street Gardens, Mayfair.  Mount Street Gardens allows you to escape the hustle and bustle of central London in a bit of green space.
  4. Burger and Lobster, Ascot Race Course. Growing in popularity, this quirky restaurant gives you a taste of the high life at £20 per head!
  5. Daunt Books, Marylebone. This Edwardian-era bookshop is the perfect escape for any literature lover. The books are arranged by country allowing you to travel the world without ever leaving the shop.
  6. Experimental Cocktail Club, West End. Book your spot before 5pm Tuesdays to Sundays then negotiate with the bouncers. Seems like a lot of trouble for a cocktail but I'm told this place is well worth it!
  7. The Royal Mews, Buckingham Palace. At the back of the Palace you will find the home of the imperial horses and the carriages used for important state occasions, including the 4-ton Gold State Coach which takes 8 horses to pull.
  8. The Palm Tree, East End. Darts lovers head to The Palm Tree to see a special dart board known as East London Fives which is split into just 12 segments, which feature the numbers 20, 15, 10, and 5 three times each. 
  9. The Laughing Halibut, Scotland Yard. Around the corner from Scotland Yard, this chip shop is known to be one of the best chippies in town with queues reaching around the corner. Don't be surprised to find an off-duty copper or two!
  10. London Friday Night Skate, Hyde Park. Remember when roller rinks were all the rage? Well London has a massive one known as Hyde Park! The Friday Night Skate is a weekly skate around central London.

Infographic: London's 10 Best Kept Secrets

Q: Have you been to any of London's best kept secrets? Do you have a London secret yourself?

Erin x

*This post is sponsored by Marriott London Hotels, to see the full infographic and interactive map please visit the Secret Guide to London. I only collaborate with companies if I believe their product to be valuable to my readers. All opinions are my own.

Travel Tuesday: Lunch at La Co(o)rniche

Tuesday, 27 August 2013
This summer Luke and I returned to Pau in the southwest of France after a nearly four-year absence. We flew in to Bordeaux, as direct connections to Pau from England aren't as frequent as they once were. We were happy for the detour to Bordeaux as it gave us the opportunity to catch up with Guillaume, a former colleague of Luke's.

Guillaume insisted we were his guests for the day and as the weather was so lovely Guillaume decided to take us to one of his favourite restaurants. Our destination was about an hour away from Bordeux in the seaside resort of Pyla sur Mer.  La Co(o)rniche is a Michelin-starred restaurant famous for its seafood and views of the Dune du Pilat, the highest sand dune in Europe.

Q: Just how high is the highest sand dune in Europe?

A: 105 metres high, 2700 metres long, 500 metres wide, 
and 60 million cubic metres of sand!

I didn't know what to expect but the ambiance was amazing and the meal was spectacular! Luke and I split the Assiette de la Mer (oysters, prawns, langoustines, clams, mussels, winkles, and whelks) which we washed down with a lovely Bordeaux rosé. The moral of the story, if you're in the Arcachon area, you need to visit this restaurant!

La Corniche - La Co(o)rniche, Pyla-sur-Mer
Guillaume and Luke
La Corniche - La Co(o)rniche, Pyla-sur-Mer
Dune du Pilat at La Corniche - La Co(o)rniche, Pyla-sur-Mer
Dune du Pilat
La Corniche - La Co(o)rniche, Pyla-sur-Mer
La Corniche - La Co(o)rniche, Pyla-sur-Mer
 Erin x

Linking up with Found Love, Now What  and A Compass Rose for Travel Tuesday

Catching Up With The White Queen

Friday, 16 August 2013
Thanks to the BBC's adaptation of Philippa Gregory's The White Queen, this summer England has been thrown into Tudor madness! I myself was turned into a Max Irons fan girl in episode 1, rejoiced at the return of Princess Leia hair in episode 2, and marveled at the power of blowing into a bowl of water in episode 3. Since then my weekly reviews have stopped as I had visitors from France and then went to France myself, both of which kept me from my Sunday night viewing pleasure and I've been playing catch-up ever since.

The Cast of BBC's The White Queen

Last night I caught up with episode 6, Love and Death, on BBC's iPlayer and I'm hoping to catch up with with the remaining 3 episodes prior to the series finale this Sunday. For those who missed my White Queen reviews, here are 6 things I missed from episodes 4-6;

6. Warwick goes out with a bang! In episode 3, The Storm, we saw Warwick (James Frain) and his trusty lapdog, also known as George (David Oakes), fleeing to France after one of their many revolts failed. In episode 4, The Bad Queen, Warwick has only one choice left, he must unite with Margaret of Anjou (Veerle Baetens), the Lancastrian Queen. This alliance gives Warwick immense power, he's practically running the country with mad King Henry VI (David Shelley). Unfortunately this is short lived and the mighty Earl of Warwick falls in battle by episode 5, War at First Hand, after killing off his own horse to prove to his men he would not run away. Truth be told I mourned the death of the horse far more than Warwick.

Lord Warwick (James Frain) in The White Queen

5. Isabel and Anne have some serious daddy issues. Who could blame them? In episode 3, Isabel Neville (Eleanor Tomlinson) lost her baby while en route to France. In The Bad Queen, Warwick marries off Anne Neville (Faye Marsay) to Edward of Lancaster, in order to cement his deal with Margaret of Anjou. One must remember this was the 1400s and a daughter's purpose was to be married off in order to improve her father's position. Still I don't think all 15th century fathers were as ruthless as Lord Warwick. Alas with Warwick dead and gone I don't see these girls' daddy issues resolving any time soon, no matter how much therapy they were to go through.

Episode 4 of The White Queen - The Bad Queen

4. It's a Boy! Elizabeth (Rebecca Ferguson) finally gives birth to the son her and Edward IV (Max Irons) have been longing for! Everybody celebrate for there is now an heir to the Yorkist throne! The problem is the birth takes place while Elizabeth and her family are seeking sanctuary at Westminster Abbey, not exactly the most royal of births. This baby boy was in fact Edward V, one of the two princes in the Tower (of London).. but more on that later.

The White Queen - The Princes In the Tower
BBC History

3. Lady Margaret, a York? War at First Hand begins with King Henry VI on the throne and Margaret Beaufort (Amanda Hale) brings her son, Henry Tudor, to receive his blessing. The Yorks aren't willing to go down without a fight and both sides begin assembly armies with Margaret's husband joining the Yorks! He is seriously wounded in battle and dies shortly after but not before telling Margaret to make peace with York. Instead, Margaret writes to Jasper Tudor, a man whom she has long harboured romantic feelings for. However she is rejected and only then does she see the need to make peace with York by re-marrying to one of Edward IV's closest advisers, Thomas Stanley (Rupert Graves).

Rupert Graves is Lord Thomas Stanley in The White Queen

2. Richard + Anne Forever. Throughout the whole of The White Queen there has been sexual tension between the two. Who could forget the excited look on Anne's face when she thought her father was arranging for her to marry Richard (Aneurin Barnard)? Or the dismayed look when Richard discovered Anne had been married off to Edward of Lancaster? With Edward VI back in power, poor Anne is considered a traitor by some and is locked away by George, who seeks to control her and her inheritance. Even Isabel sides with George and helps to keep Anne imprisoned. Enter Anne's knight-in-shining-armour, Richard, who whisks her away under cover of darkness and marries her. In yo' face George!

Faye Marsay is Anne Neville and Aneurin Barnard is Richard Duke of Gloucester

1. Edward - how could you?! My first disappointment with Edward IV (Max Irons) occurred at the end of War at First Hand, when Edward and his brothers smothered King Henry VI with a pillow. In episode 6, Love and Death, I was even further disappointed by his actions after he takes up with a new mistress, Jane Shore. Now I realise in reality Edward IV was not a faithful husband to Elizabeth Woodville. He is known to have had numerous mistresses but I'm not hoping for reality in The White Queen. Elizabeth is left heartbroken after finding Edward and Jane Shore in bed together and remains hurt, especially after learning that the evening before her confinement he is off canoodling the other woman. It takes the death of their baby son and Elizabeth's mother, Jacquetta (Janet McTeer) to bring the two together. Still, if I were Elizabeth I wouldn't take Edward's excuse of "you know I wouldn't be a faithful husband but I love you so much" very well.

Max Irons is King Edward and Rebecca Ferguson is Queen Elizabeth in The White Queen
Q: What have you thought of The White Queen? Are you still watching?
 Erin x

Order your copy of The White Queen from
Quintessentially English's Amazon Associates Store.

Jane Austen Book Club: Pride and Prejudice

Wednesday, 7 August 2013
Welcome friends to the second installment of The Quintessentially English Jane Austen Book Club! We started in June by reading Jane Austen's first novel, Sense and Sensibility, and will be reading another Jane Austen novel each month until November when we finish with Persuasion.

Thanks to Bonnie Rose, Gina, Holly, and Lindsay for linking up their Sense and Sensibility blog posts last month. I enjoyed reading every single one of them! General consensus of Sense and Sensibility is that while everyone enjoyed the novel, it wasn't anyone's favourite.

For July, we read Jane Austen's second and probably most beloved novel - Pride and Prejudice. Published in 1813, this novel was one of the few that received recognition in Jane Austen's lifetime and continues to be a favourite in modern times. In 2003 when the BBC conducted a poll for the UK's Best-Loved Book, Pride and Prejudice came second, only losing out on the top spot to The Lord of the Rings.

Modern interest in Pride and Prejudice has resulted in a number of adaptations, most notably the 1995 BBC television miniseries starring Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy and 2005 feature film starring Keira Knightly as Elizabeth Bennet. Besides adaptations, Pride and Prejudice has also inspired other works which borrow characters and/or themes from the story.

When I sat down to write this month's Jane Austen post I decided rather than giving my thoughts on the story, characters, and themes, I would do something I bit different. I decided instead to explore the lasting impact of Pride and Prejudice in the stories it has inspired. There are hundreds, if not thousands, to choose from but these are my top 5 based on popularity or ingenuity.

5. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is a modern adaptation of Pride and Prejudice in a series of 2-8 minute videos on YouTube. The story enfolds in vlog (or video blog) told from the perspective of Lizzie Bennet (Ashley Clements) with appearances from most of the main characters.

It makes my list of top Pride and Prejudice-inspired stories because of its brilliant portrayal of a classic story in a modern format. Prior to beginning research for this post, I had not heard of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, but have since watched a couple of episodes and absolutely love it. It's cute and mindless, good for some lunch break viewing!

 4. Lost in Austen

Lost in Austen (Gemma Arterton, Jemima Rooper, Elliot Cowan)
Lost in Austen is the story of Amanda Price (Jemima Rooper), a devoted Janeite, who finds herself transported to the world of Pride and Prejudice thanks to a portal in her bathroom. Elizabeth Bennet and Amanda switch lives, and it is up to Amanda to ensure the events of Pride and Prejudice unfold as they should.

Like The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, Lost in Austen takes a classic tale and adds modern insights to it with the added fun of a magical portal in a bathroom that will take you to the world of your favourite book. Could you imagine? My portal would definitely lead me to Wonderland, but I wouldn't mind spending some time lost in Austen!

3. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a 2009 parody novel that combines Pride and Prejudice with elements of the modern zombie genre as popularised in films such as Shaun of the Dead. The plot is pretty similar to the original, the Bennet family live in a rural English village where their primary concerns are marrying off their five daughters and “defending themselves against wave after wave of the remorseless, relentless walking dead,” says author Seth Grahame-Smith.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

Well Seth Grahame-Smith you have my attention! Who wouldn’t want to read this literary mashup of 19th century manners and zombie horror? I’ve already added this, its sequel (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After) and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters have all been added to my GoodReads want-to-read shelf. Perhaps next year we’ll continue The Quintessentially English Jane Austen Book Club but instead of the traditional Jane Austen, we’ll read the parody novels. Is anyone up for it?

2. Death Comes to Pemberley

Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James
Death Comes to Pemberley is a murder mystery novel based on Pride and Prejudice by P.D. James. The story begins six years after the plot of Jane Austen’s original novel. Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet are still married and living in Pemberley when, you guessed it, a murder occurs.

I debated between Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Death Comes to Pemberley for the second spot in my list and, as you can see, Death Comes to Pemberley won - the reason being that Death Comes to Pemberley does not simply add to the original plot but is a completely separate story borrowing only the characters. Death Comes to Pemberley has also been added to my alternative Jane Austen Book Club reading list.  

1. Bridget Jones's Diary


Bridget Jones’s Diary is a 2001 film based on Helen Fielding’s novel of the same name and by far the most renowned interpretation of Pride and Prejudice.  Helen Fielding based her novel on Jane Austen’s original story and 1995 adaptation. There are several allusions to the original Pride and Prejudice in Bridget Jones’s Diary; 

  1. The Darcy in both stories comes across as pompous in the beginning and almost loses the girl as a result. 
  2. Mark insults Bridget to his mother within earshot of Bridget. In Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Darcy insults Elizabeth to Mr. Bingley within earshot of Elizabeth.  
  3. Daniel Cleaver lies to Bridget about a dispute between him and Mark, claiming that Mark stole his fiancée when, in fact, it was the other way around. In Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Wickham attempts to run away with Georgina Darcy and then lies about Mr. Darcy and the whole affair to Elizabeth. 
  4. Bridget works at Pemberley Press, an obvious allusion to Mr. Darcy’s Pemberley. 
  5. In the film Bridget says "It is a truth universally acknowledged that as soon as one part of your life starts looking up, another part falls to pieces." This is homage to the famous opening lines of Pride and Prejudice.

When it came to cast the updated Darcy, Helen Fielding only had one man in her mind – Colin Firth, who played Mr. Darcy in the 1995 adaptation. In fact, one of the screenwriters of Bridget Jones’s Diary, Andrew Davies, also wrote the BBC adaptation.

The Pride and Prejudice veterans in the film and the multiple parallels with the original novel make this the undisputed winner of top Pride and Prejudice inspired works.

Switching gears from Pride and Prejudice, it is now August and we are currently reading Mansfield Park. You can still join in on the fun so go and pick up a copy from your local library or Quintessentially English’s Amazon Associates Store! Be sure to join the #JaneAustenBookClub  conversation on Twitter (@essentialerin) and Facebook!

 Q: What did you think of Pride and Prejudice? Can you think of any other Pride and Prejudice inspired stories that should have made the list?

Erin x

Travel Tuesday: Holidays Begin in Duty-Free

Wednesday, 31 July 2013
One of the many perks about living in Europe is the availability of low-cost flights to a wide variety of destinations across the continent. The downside of these flights is the timings are usually out of your control and often are first thing in the morning. Luke and I benefited from one such flight on our recent trip to the south of France (which I’ll be taking about in a series of blog posts over the coming weeks).

On this occasion our flight left London Luton Airport for Bordeaux at 8:00am, which means we had to wake up pretty early to get to the airport on time. Anyone who knows me will know how much I love my sleep, so the idea of waking up even earlier to put on make-up before a flight is not something I'm prepared to do. The only problem is a make-up free face can sometimes make for some pretty horrendous first photos of the holiday. Never fear there is a solution that allows you to get the best of both worlds – sleep and make-up and here it is:

Put your make-up on at the airport!

I don’t mean just putting your make-up in your carry on and putting it on once you get past security. In most international airports there is this wonderful section called Duty-Free where you can purchase a wide variety of things from gifts to alcohol. You can mostly get these same items at home but somehow they seem like must buys in the two hours you have to wait between security and boarding.

London Luton Airport Duty Free

One of the things you can get in most, if not all, duty-free sections is make-up, thus making it the perfect solution! The duty-free gives you the opportunity to go make-up free to the airport and arrive with a made-up face at the destination.

I’m always on the lookout for a new foundation or mascara but I usually end up disappointed after I buy. Putting my make-up in the duty-free gives me the chance to test new items I’ve previously been interested in without having to purchase. The products I tried were;

  • No7 Triple Protection Tinted Moisturiser
  • Dior Rose Petale Blusher
  • Rimmel Scandaleyes Mascara
  • Burberry Body Perfume

At first I felt a bit guilty walking around the different stalls and doing my make-up but I soon noticed there were actually several other women doing the exact same thing. I did end up making a purchase of mascara because I liked it, surely the exact reason for testers in the first place!

I feel no shame in putting my make-up on in duty-free and next time I travel I’ll do it again! Yes ladies and gentlemen, from no one the holiday begins at duty-free!

First photo of the holiday at La Co(o)rniche in Pyla-sur-Mer

Q: Do you have any silly travel tips to share? Have you ever used the duty-free section to put on your make-up?

Erin x

Found Love. Now What?

Our Love Story

Monday, 15 July 2013
Tomorrow Luke and I will be returning to Pau, France to attend a friend's wedding, after nearly four years of being away. Pau holds special significance for us as it is the place our relationship began and I thought I'd take this opportunity to share our love story.

In January 2009 I left Las Vegas to study abroad at the Université de Pau in France. Whilst there I lived with a French woman named Domi and her son, Yann. It was Domi who told me about an English stagiaire who worked for her that she wanted introduce to me. Sure enough, when I checked my Facebook that first night I found a message waiting in my inbox.

Hi Erin,

I stumbled across you on the Pau study abroad group. My boss has just taken in an American called Erin and I put two and two together.

Hope you're settling in and getting on with Domi.

If you want to be shown around or need any advice I'm happy to help. I've been here 4 months and my flatmate is French so we could be useful. Lol.


PS Domi has my number
Luke and I met that Friday and while I wouldn't call it love at first sight (I don't believe in it) there was a definite connection from the moment we met. We began seeing each other soon after and it was just casual. I was going back home to America and Luke was returning to England after our time together in France after all.

L'Esprit in Pau
The first night we met at L'Esprit in Pau. Paul-Etienne (L) is our friend getting married.

I don't think either of us ever thought it would turn in to anything serious but much to our surprise it did. We're not sure exactly when, perhaps it was when we went to San Sebastián together, you can read more about that here. Next thing we knew I was going on holiday with him to meet his family and my parents were flying over to France to meet him! As my host mother often teases, meeting Luke certainly didn't improve my French.

Park Güell or Gaudi Gardens in Barcelona 
Meeting Luke's family at Park Güell (Gaudi Gardens) in Barcelona

Place Clémenceau in Pau
Meeting my parents at Place Clémenceau in Pau

After my time in France, I spent a month in England with Luke before I returned to America to finish my university degree. Leaving Luke in England was one if not the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. I sobbed from the moment I walked through security at London-Heathrow and didn't stop until I landed in Las Vegas.

Having a long-distance relationship was hard, anyone who has ever had one can tell you that. We missed each other a lot and it's difficult to be apart for special occasions. Even when I was enjoying myself I always knew one thing that would make any occasion better - his presence. I never felt like we weren't going to survive the distance. I think a lot of people are sceptics when it comes to long-distance relationships, I myself used to be, but for the right person anything is possible.

In June 2010 I graduated from university (with a BA Honors in Film Studies and French might I add) and after what seemed like an eternity, made the move across the pond to England. You know the story from there.

...and they lived happily ever after at Disney's California Adventure
Luke and I at Disney's California Adventure (December 2012)

Q: What is your love story? Do you have a place that has a special meaning to you?

Erin x

Things I Miss About America

Thursday, 4 July 2013
In honour of the Fourth of July, or Independence Day if you prefer, I thought I'd share a list of the things I miss about America. Don't get me wrong I love living in England but any expat will tell you there are things they miss about their home country. Here are my top 5 things I miss about living in America and to all my American readers...

 5. Radio. If you listen to the radio in England, your choices seem to be Top 40, Top 40 or Classic FM. I miss having a choice on the radio and I especially miss my classic rock stations!

BBC Radio 1

4. American Food. You may laugh and think "what's that?" but I'm serious. Besides the abundance of sushi (read my post 'I Love Sushi') I miss frozen yogurt or froyo, Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing, In-N-Out Burger and good Mexican food. Just to name a few!

In-N-Out Burger
Luke and me at In-N-Out Burger on our last trip to Las Vegas.

3. Driving. As practical and useful as public transportation is and as good as Luke is as my chauffeur, not driving can be a pain in the bum sometimes. Now I realise this is something I can control as I do have the ability to drive. However I have no idea how to drive manual (which most cars in the UK are) or drive on the left. There is also a cost issue involved, putting me on the insurance is going to be a bloody fortune!

Luke driving in America.

2. Customer Service. 'The customer is always right' is not a phrase the English understand and 'service with a smile' you can forget about that! I remember when I first moved to England I used to say hello to the shopkeepers whenever I entered because I felt so awkward at not being greeted.

Customer Feedback
Ingimage | Royalty Free

And the number 1 thing I miss about America...

1. My family and friends. This goes without saying really. The hardest part about being an expat is being a part from your loved ones. I don't think any expat would disagree with me on that one. The problem now is when I move back to America, and it will happen at one point, I will miss my family and friends here. 

A few of my friends and me at my surprise 'Bon Voyage' party!

I'm linking up for the first time with for The Expat Diaries 
with Chelsea (Lost in Travels) and Rachel (Postcards from Rachel).

Q: What do you miss about your home or what would you miss if you left?

Erin x

The White Queen Review 3 | Witches & Revolts

Tuesday, 2 July 2013
Sunday was a perfect English summer's day spent laying out in the back garden with a gin and tonic, listening to the roar coming from Silverstone race track where the British Grand Prix was taking place. Of course a warm Sunday in June wouldn't be complete without a BBQ with venison sausages and bacon-wrapped chicken. After such a glorious end to the weekend I usually get a spot of the "Sunday blues". However I believe I've discovered the cure and that is the third episode of BBC's The White Queen, based on Philippa Gregory's novel series The Cousins' War.

Jacquetta Woodville (Janet McTeer) and Elizabeth (Rebecca Ferguson)

The year is 1469 and Queen Elizabeth (Rebecca Ferguson) has taken refuge in the Tower of London with the rest of the Rivers family. King Edward IV (Max Irons) is being kept prisoner by Lord Warwick and his brother, George, at Warwick's home. Their plan is to discredit Edward IV in parliament and put George on the throne. Unfortunately things don't go their way and parliament stays loyal to Edward IV. Edward  thus released and returns to his good lady wife in London.

What was already a strained relationship between Elizabeth and the two plotters has now completely disintegrated. She sees Lord Warwick and George as traitors and seeks revenge for their actions towards her beloved Edward and of course the deaths of her father and brother which occurred in the previous episode. Edward IV, on the other hand, is willing to forgive and forget. He believes the two are sorry and will not attempt to revolt again, besides he is looking to bring peace to his kingdom.

So eager is Edward to ease tensions that he even invites Warwick and family (which includes George who is married to Warwick's eldest daughter Isabel) to London for Christmas. Family at Christmas can be awkward even at the best of times, but this is too much. While Edward IV may be willing to forgive his kinsmen, Elizabeth makes it clear that she has not and never will. Case in point, the awkward conversation with Countess Warwick and her two daughters.

Warwick has not given up his plots against Edward IV so easily and he is starting a rebellion again not even half-way through the episode. This time, desperate to further her son's claim to the throne, Lady Margaret Beaufort joins Warwick's rebellion with Jasper Tudor, Henry's guardian. The rebellion fails and the traitors must run for their lives.

You can watch the episode 3 of The White Queen on BBC iPlayer here. Here are my 5 unmissable things we learned from The White Queen this week:

5. Crimping was not just popular in the 1980s. Newsflash crimping became trendy in the 1400s, or at least The White Queen's version of the 1400s. And I'm not the only one to have noticed, even Glamour Magazine remarked on The White Queen hair dresser's love of crimping!

It's not just the crimping that has people talking about The White Queen, it's also Rebecca Ferguson's incredibly long wig! Apparently it was even the longest real hair wig that the wig studio had ever made. And do I really have to mention the Princess Leia hair buns we witnessed in episode 2? Please see my episode 2 review for more detail.

4. Warwick should give up this king-making malarkey. It seems every time we see Warwick (James Frain) and George (David Oakes) they are plotting some rebellion or other. It's just a shame they appear to be so bad at it. They'll rub their hands together and smirk like comic villains and say the revolt will work this time. Next thing we know they're riding back with their tails between their legs saying "We've failed". Even the involvement of the House of Lancaster can't help them win. Then again, had they not involved Lancaster they might not have failed, but more on that later. The episode ends with them running away to France. Just give up boys and let Edward IV continue to be king!

3. Lady Margaret is a master schemer. When it comes to schemers Lady Margaret Beaufort (Amanda Hale) has proved herself to be one the best. This week she took Jasper Tudor's advice and asked her husband to send an army to join Warwick to overthrow Edward IV. When he refused, she then manipulated her husband to take her to see her mother. There she tells her brother that the Lord needs him to build an army for the rebellion. Poor boy, he ends up being killed by Edward IV when he goes to confess the revolt. I mean really Edward, there was no need for that! When the rebellion goes pear-shaped, as all of Warwick's rebellions do, all parties involved must flee. But not before Lady Margaret and Jasper share a passionate kiss. What happened to "thou shall not commit adultery" Margaret? Did you forget about that commandment in all your scheming?

2. I would not like to be a king-maker's daughter. Isabel Neville (Eleanor Tomlinson) is Warwick's eldest daughter and married to George. Really she's just a pawn in her father's political game. Her father is determined to have her Queen, if only so he can rule through them. So confident is he in his victory that he goes as far as sending the coronation robes to Isabel. Of course these are quickly whisked away again when he fails, as he does. I don't think Isabel is sorry to see the coronation robes go, she's cottoned on to her father's games and doesn't want to be Queen. She doesn't just have her father's scheming to deal with, did I mention she's pregnant? "

Unfortunately, she's not able to have her baby in the safety of her own home. Thanks to her father's failed revolt the entire family must flee to France, forcing a very heavily pregnant Isabel on to a ship. She could barely handle the carriage ride, let alone a ride across the channel. The crossing of the English channel is rocky at the best of times but they have a storm to contend with. In the saddest moment of the entire series, Isabel loses the baby but it's okay, George says, they can have others. And who said romance was dead?

1. The Woodville women should have attended Hogwarts. In the previous episodes it appears that Elizabeth and her mother Jacquetta (Janet McTeer) might have some magical powers. For example, Elizabeth pulls the crown ring out of the river, a premonition of her marriage to King Edward IV in episode one. However the Woodville women go from being seers to full-on conjurers of the elements in episode three! Did you know that blowing near a bowl of water could cause such a storm?

I thought these powers were just a bit of artistic license taken by Philippa Gregory but apparently not. It seems that Jacquetta was put on trial for witchcraft in 1470. In 1484 Richard III revived the allegations of witchcraft against Jacquetta, claiming that she and Elizabeth had procured Elizabeth's marriage to Edward IV through witchcraft.

Q: What was your favourite scene in this week's episode of The White Queen? Who do you think is the better schemer - Warwick or Lady Margaret?

Erin x

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