My Cardiff Top 5

Cardiff, the capital of Wales, was a only a small town until the 1800s, though its origins date back to Neolithic times. In the 19th century, the Cardiff port began to bustle and the city grew until it became the largest in Wales. Today, it’s known for it’s bustling metropolitan area, and it’s capacity to preserve Welsh culture. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Cardiff, and have compiled a list of my top five places to go if you find yourself in this beautiful Welsh capital.

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Cardiff Central Square, 2014. c. Leah Putz

 

Cardiff Bay

Cardiff Bay the area surrounding the water fed by the two rivers in Cardiff. The area around the bay is beautiful, with many shops and restaurants nearby, and is a focal point for many events in Cardiff.

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Cardiff Bay, 2014. c. Leah Putz

 

Cardiff Story Museum

The best way to get to know a city is to explore its history, especially a city with as long and rich a history as Cardiff. Thankfully, you can visit the Cardiff Story Museum to learn all about Cardiff through the ages, complete with numerous artifacts and objects to view.

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Wales Millennium Centre, 2014. c. Leah Putz

Wales Millennium Centre

Fans of BBC show Torchwood will recognize the Wales Millennium Centre. Comprised of multiple shops, restaurants, and arts centers, it’s the perfect place to stop and shop in the Cardiff Bay area as it also features the Cardiff Bay Visitor Centre.

 

Bute Park

Once a part of the Cardiff Castle grounds, Bute Park is a whopping 130 acres of park and gardens. It was originally landscaped in the 17-1800s and sits near Cardiff Castle and along the River Taff. The park is dotted with sculptures, bridges, and immense natural beauty that is rare to find in the heart of a city.

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Sculpture on the street in Cardiff, 2014. c. Leah Putz

 

Cardiff Castle

If you’re going just about anywhere in the UK your trip isn’t complete without a visit to  a castle, and Cardiff is no exception. The castle, which was built by the Normans in the 11th century, can be found in the city centre, along with a Victorian mansion. It’s not only a main attraction of the city of Cardiff, but of Wales as a country as well.  

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Seattle: My Favorites

What immediately struck me about Washington is how green it is. I could even notice the difference from the plane before we landed; I spent the last 20 minutes or so of the flight admiring the evergreens from the window.  It was my first time on the west coast and I instantly had a good impression.

The lush landscape isn’t the only thing that struck me about the natural beauty of the Seattle area. Only about a half hour from the city sits the Snoqualmie Falls. The Falls, which are giant and surrounded by gardens and walking paths, are simply breathtaking. If you have some extra time and are staying in Seattle, I highly recommend taking a field trip out to Snoqualmie to enjoy seeing the Falls.

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Snoqualmie Falls, 2017. c. Leah Putz

However, there is plenty to see in the city as well! Obviously, the first thing that typically comes to mind is the Space Needle, which I saw from the highway as I was coming in to downtown Seattle. It was a particularly cloudy day, and apparently the view isn’t really worth the cost when you can’t see the mountains due to the clouds, so I was content to admire the Seattle staple from afar.

Rather than seeing the city from above in the Seattle, I decided to see it from below, and did a tour of the Seattle Underground. The thing I loved most about the Underground tour was how much history I learned. Going in, I didn’t really know anything at all about Seattle’s history, but the tour taught me all about it’s origins, the fire, it’s time as the ‘gateway to the Eukon’ and much more. The origins of the Underground begin with the Great Seattle Fire that destroyed much of downtown Seattle in 1889. The city was going to have to be rebuilt, and the citizens decided to rebuild the city higher than before to avoid many of the flooding problems they had been having. During the rebuilding process, the Underground was created at the level of the original streets and left open as a sort of underground shopping district before it was condemned in the 1920s, only to reopen in 1965 as a tourist attraction.

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View of a skylight from the Seattle Underground, 2017. c. Leah Putz

After coming up from Underground, my aunt, my cousin, and I began heading towards the famed Pike’s Place Market. The walk was only a few blocks, but we passed the Harbor Steps, the Seattle Art Museum, and many other amazing points of interest. The market was just as I’d imagined it- I got to see the workers throw fish, got the enjoy the fresh scent of the sea, and got to admire the beautiful yellow tulips that are planted all along the outside of the marketplace building.

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Pike’s Place Market, 2017. c. Leah Putz

Right across the street from Pike’s Place Market the first ever Starbucks still stands! The door has ‘1912’ painted on it which is a bit surreal, as well as the logo being uncensored. Considering how long the line was, I didn’t purchase a drink at this particular store, but I did grab a coffee at the airport on the way home to enjoy a Starbucks coffee on Starbucks’ home turf.

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My aunt and cousin outside of the first Starbucks, 2017. c. Leah Putz

The Holy Grail of Scotland- Duone Castle

I’m happy to admit that Scotland is probably my favorite country I’ve ever visited. I’ve loved every trip there and almost as soon as I leave I start looking forward to the next opportunity that will bring me back to it’s rolling green Highlands and magical landscape. And most definitely my favorite site I’ve been to in Scotland is Duone Castle.

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Gates of Duone Castle, 2014. c. Leah Putz

You see, I love Monty Python. I mean, I really love Monty Python. The first time I saw ‘The Holy Grail’ my mind was blown, and I was certain I had just discovered the funniest movie in all of human existence. I’m still of this opinion. There is nothing to me that makes me laugh so hard, even after seeing it a hundred times. Just quoting it (and believe me, it’s incredibly quotable) can have my friends and I in stitches. It is without a doubt my favorite comedy, and has been since I was probably about 8 years old.

Knowing this, it’s not a surprise that Duone Castle had me fangirling and squealing with excitement like nowhere ever had before, because Monty Python filmed a majority of the footage of ‘The Holy Grail’ in or around Duone Castle. The comedy group had little to no budget for the film, which featured several different castles in the script. They could only afford to rent out one castle, and thus filmed every castle scene in Doune Castle, simply dressing up different rooms to make it look like a whole different location in the movie. Nearly every room is recognizable for a ‘Holy Grail’ fan, and the Castle gift shop is full of Monty Python memorabilia (including a large bottle of beer cleverly called ‘The Holy Ail’).

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Standing in the kitchen where Monty Python filmed many of the ‘Castle Anthrax’ scenes, 2014. c. Leah Putz

Since I visited back in 2014, the castle has become even more popular with tourists, attracting not only Monty Python fans, but fans of Game of Thrones (some Winterfell scenes were filmed there) and the Starz series Outlander, in which the castle portrays the MacKenzie home of Castle Leoch.

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Duone Castle courtyard, 2014. c. Leah Putz

Television and movies aren’t the only reason to visit Duone Castle, though. In remarkable condition for a building that over 800 years old (thanks to Historic Scotland), the castle gives visitors a glimpse into medieval life, and was formerly a hunting lodge for Scottish monarchs. One of the most striking aspects of the castle is the fully restored Lord’s Hall, which now appears just as it would have when the castle was inhabited nearly a millennium ago.

View of the serving room from a high staircase and Castle toilet, 2014. c. Leah Putz

So whether you’re a fan of Monty Python, Outlander, Game of Thrones, or Scottish history, you must put Duone Castle on your bucket list.

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Top of Duone Castle and the Scottish countryside, 2014. c. Leah Putz

Top 10 Things to do in London for First Timers

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London Bridge from the River Thames, 2016. c. Leah Putz

River Cruise with Afternoon Tea

Taking a river cruise on the Thames is a great way to get another view of London, as well as learning a bit of her rich history. It provides excellent photo open opportunities as well as the chance to sail beneath the famous London Bridge. Book a tour that provides afternoon tea as well to get a taste of British culture.

 

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Tower of London, 2016. c. Leah Putz

Tower of London

Built in 1078 by William the Conqueror, ‘The Tower’ is one of the oldest buildings in London. From its perch upon the Thames, the Tower has witnessed history for almost 1000 years, from the murders of two young princes, to the imprisonment and beheading of a queen, and much more!

 

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Trafalgar Square, 2016. c. Leah Putz

Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square is a large public square in Central London that is within walking distance of many major attractions, including Big Ben and Piccadilly Circus. There are many public sculptures, museums, and restaurants off the square as well, which makes it an excellent stopping point.

 

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Side Entrance of Westminster Abbey, 2014. c. Leah Putz

Westminster Abbey

Fans of the royal family can’t miss Westminster Abbey, where most recently Prince William and Duchess Kate had their nuptials. The Abbey is also the burial place of many well-known royals, including Queen Elizabeth I and her half sister Queen Mary (better known as ‘Bloody Mary’). The Poet’s Corner is also interesting to see as it’s the resting place of many of England’s literary greats, such as Charles Dickens and Geoffrey Chaucer.

 

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St. Paul’s Cathedral facade, 2015. c. Leah Putz

St. Paul’s Cathedral

Visit St. Paul’s Cathedral to see and climb one of the highest domes in the world. The cathedral has held the funerals of Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher, the jubilees of Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II, and the marriage of Prince Charles and Princess Diana.

 

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View of the Houses of Parliament from the London Eye, 2014. c. Leah Putz

London Eye

The London Eye is one of the newest attractions on this list, having been just built in 2005. As Europe’s highest ferris wheel, the London Eye offers excellent and fare-reaching views of London.

 

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British Museum, 2014. c. Leah Putz

British Museum

Two million years of human history from all over the globe is housed at the British Museum. World-renowned artifacts held there include the Rosetta Stone, the pediment from the Parthenon in Athens, and much more!

 

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Buckingham Palace, 2014. c. Leah Putz

Buckingham Palace

What better way to take part in British culture than to see the home of the Queen? See the famous Royal Guards and tour the palace to get a glimpse of what life in the royal family might be like.

 

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Hyde Park, 2014. c. Leah Putz

Hyde Park

Hyde Park is perhaps the largest and most well-known park in London. It’s home to the Princess Diana Memorial Walk, as well as numerous beautiful gardens. It’s also home to the Marble Arch.

 

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Tower Bridge, 2016. c. Leah Putz

Tower Bridge

Often mistaken for London Bridge, Tower Bridge is one of the most recognizable landmarks in London. Built in the late 1800s, the Bridge has a Tower Bridge Exhibition to be seen in the engine rooms for a small fee, or you can stroll across the bridge free of charge!

Edinburgh- a Haunted City

If you’re intrigued by the paranormal and love traveling to places with a dark and ghostly history, look no further than Edinburgh, Scotland! The Scottish capital has a reputation for being one of the most haunted cities in the world. The city’s history is full of violence and tragedy, from wars, to an infestation of the black plague, and many more, so it’s not surprising that Edinburgh is rumored to have paranormal energies.

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Greyfriars Kirkyard, 2014. c. Leah Putz

Greyfriars Kirkyard has been proclaimed the most haunted cemetery in the world. Established in the 1560s, the cemetery is home to thousands of graves, and countless restless spirits. The entrance to the graveyard is marked the by headstone of Greyfriars Bobby, a dog who slept on his master’s grave in the cemetery for 14 years in the 1800s, until his own death. The cemetery itself is made up of vaults, tombs, and mausoleums. Many of the graves have mortsafes (iron cages) to deter grave robbers, who had become a serious issue in the early 1800s. The cemetery has many notable residents, but the most notorious is Sir George MacKenzie, who has become the MacKenzie Poltergeist. For those who dare to enter the cemetery and the MacKenzie mausoleum after dark, beware, for many have reported leaving with scrapes, bruises, and sometimes worse, all at the hands of the MacKenzie poltergeist.

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Greyfriars Kirkyard, 2014. c. Leah Putz

But not just the cemeteries in Edinburgh are ghostly- beneath the buildings in the Old Town sits Mary King’s Close, which has had a reputation for being haunted since as early as the 17th century. According the legend, the hauntings began with plague victims being quarantined and left to die in the Close. The Close is now a tourist attraction, presenting an accurate representation of Edinburgh as it was from the 1500s-1700s.

The Edinburgh Vaults have generated such buzz that  they’ve been visited by the show Ghost Adventures! The Vaults were built under the South Bridge arches in 1788, and functioned for a period as taverns and storage spaces, and became Edinburgh’s slums. Today, most of the vaults are closed. The few that are left open are used for ghost tours, concerts, and private events. I toured the Vaults with a Ghost Tour, and though I didn’t myself have any paranormal experiences, many visitors have reported strange sounds, cold patches, and there are countless eerie photos from the area.

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Orbs in the Edinburgh Vaults, 2014. c. Leah Putz

TIME magazine has ranked Edinburgh Castle #3 on their list of Top 10 Most Haunted Places. In 2001 when a large scale paranormal investigation of the castle took place, over half of the participants reported experiencing some sort of paranormal phenomena. The castle, having been built in the 12th century, has seen its fair share of war, executions, and death. Today, it is Edinburgh’s most visited tourist attraction, and many of those visitors report paranormal experiences, including seeing apparitions. Greyfriars Bobby is a regular sighting, as well as a headless drummer boy, and a piper.

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Edinburgh Castle and Princes’ Street Gardens, 2014. c. Leah Putz
So if you’re feeling courageous, head to Scotland, and brave the haunted streets of Edinburgh. Who knows, you might meet someone from another century!

6 Reasons a Fairy-Tale Fan Should Visit Germany

As a lover of the Grimm Fairy Tales, my time spent in Germany was wrapped up in imagining I was inside one of their stories. Marburg and Kassel are to this day some of my favorite cities I have visited, and I look forward to going back to Germany one day to explore more of the places I’ve compiled on this list. Without further ado, here I present 6 reasons that a Grimm Fairy Tale fan must travel to Germany!

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Marburg, 2013. c. Leah Putz

 

  1. Neuschwanstein Castle

If Neuschwanstein Castle looks familiar to you it’s not surprising, as Disney used the castle for inspiration when building Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty castle. The castle’s opulence, as well as its high position overlooking the beautiful countryside, make it easy to imagine you’re inside a fairy-tale! If you don’t have a chance to visit Neuschwanstein specifically, it’s okay. West Germany is covered in castles, and any one of them is a magical experience to tour.

  1. Marburg

Nestled in West-Central Germany sits Marburg, the city where the Grimm brothers collected many of their stories. Both Marburg and the brothers left a lasting impression on one another. Jacob and Wilhelm studied at Marburg University, where their appetite for literature and culture was awakened.

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Me in Marburg, 2013. c. Leah Putz

 

  1. Rapunzel’s Tower

Jouney to Trendelburg to stay at Hotel Burg and see Rapunzel’s Tower! Rumor is that Rapunzel was locked away in the very tower that stands connected to Trendelburg Castle today, and you can climb to the top and catch a far-reaching view of the German countryside. The castle doubles as a hotel as well, complete with a restaraunt and spa, making it a complete package of all you could ever want!

 

  1. “Talking Mirror” in Lohr am Main

“Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?” Any fairy tale fan would recognize this signature line from ‘Snow White.’ According to legend, the story of ‘Snow White’ stems from the real-life relationship between Maria Sophia Margaretha Catherina von und zu Erthal and her strained relationship with her ‘wicked’ step-mother, Claudia Elizabeth con Reichenstein. Claudia owned an ornate mirror from Lohr, who’s mirror’s have the reputation of always speaking the truth. The mirror worked it’s way into ‘Snow White’ as the magic mirror on the wall. This mirror, known as the “Talking Mirror,” is available to be seen at the Spessart Museum in Lohr am Main.

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Kassel, 2013. c. Leah Putz

 

  1. Kassel

Kassel is the epicenter of all things Grimm. The brothers lived there and worked at the Hessen State Library for many years. Today, there are many reminders in Kassel marking the city as the Grimm hometown, including a Brothers Grimm Monument, guided Grimm and fairy-tale tours, and the Bruder Grimm Museum, which houses an original copy of the Fairy-Tales, which is annotated by Jacob and Wilhelm.
1.Fairy-Tale Road Trip

Rent a car and hop onto the road to follow a 370 mile route running from Hanau, Germany to Bremen, Germany, covering a large chunk of Western Germany. The route is dappled with historic sites from the lives of Jacob and Wilhem Grimm, as well as sites that may have served as inspiration for their collection of Fairy-Tales. If you coast along this path, you’ll be able to see not only the fairytale gems on this list and many more, but the beauty of the German countryside as well!

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Kassel, 2013. c. Leah Putz

A Historic Gem: Stirling

Stirling, Scotland, otherwise known as ‘The Gateway of the Highlands,’ has a history stretching all the way back to the Stone Age. It’s position at the border between the Lowlands and the Highlands of Scotland made it an desirable point of conquest, attracting both the Vikings and the English over the course of history. The most well-known battles taking place during the Wars of Scottish Independence at Stirling Bridge in 1297. The film Braveheart may come to mind, and rightfully so, as in Stirling nearby in the village of Bannockburn William Wallace and Robert the Bruce attacked the English.

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River Forth, Where Many Battles of the Wars of Scottish Independence were Fought, 2014. c. Leah Putz

One of the most wonderful things about Stirling, to me, is that this rich history hasn’t been forgotten over the course of so many hundreds of years. I came to Stirling intending to just pass through and head further north immediately, but when I got a sense of where I was, I decided to stick around and explore for a bit before continuing on. From my experience the citizens are eager to share what Stirling has to offer with tourists. On the way into Stirling from the nearby village of Duone, my cab driver pointed to the river near Stirling bridge and said “There’s the spot where William Wallace ambushed the English army.” He also pointed out the Wallace Monument, which holds William’s sword, and mentioned that there’s a statue that bears “striking resemblance to Mel Gibson” of Wallace near the monument.

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Wallace Monument and the Highlands, 2014. c. Leah Putz

Speaking of the Wallace Monument, a hike up to the top of Stirling hill, where the Stirling Castle is perched, lends a breathtaking view of both the Monument and the surrounding jagged hills that are so characteristic of Scotland. Stirling Castle itself is also a thing of majesty, being one of the largest and most historically significant castles in all of Scotland, and is considered a Scheduled Ancient Monument by the U.K. Among the events that have occurred at the castle are the crowning of Mary Queen of Scots in 1542, and a failed attempt to take the castle from the English by Bonnie Prince Charlie toward the end of the doomed Jacobite Rising in Scotland in 1745.

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Stirling Castle and cemetery, 2014. c. Leah Putz

I found my time strolling aimlessly through Stirling incredibly enriching and well spent. Just down from the castle the heart of the Old Town (called locally Top of the Town) survives, giving Stirling a distinct and medieval look. I also stopped by the Church of the Holy Rude, which has stood near Stirling cemetery since 1129. I tried to take everything in, admiring how much history was beneath my feet, and still standing.