Love at First Sight in Seville

You can fall in love at first with places as well as people, right? 🙂 It was love at first sight for me in Seville.

One year ago, we arrived late in the evening, after driving from Barcelona, to find the area surrounding our AirBnB blocked off to cars. Jenny used her impressive skills of persuasion to sort us out with a police escort.

After arriving in true style, we went to rooftop of the block of flats that we were staying in to look down on the reason for the surrounding area being blocked off. Feria de Abril!

It was the last night of the fair and so we had little choice but to take our weary selves to it. I’m glad we did. The atmosphere was incredible and I most definitely need to go back again one April.

 

Catching the Beads in NOLA

It took me a while to figure out why there were beads draped over the houses, tree, and fences when first arriving in New Orleans. We’d arrived soon after Mardi Gras, an annual carnival-like celebration that New Orleans has become famous for throughout America.

It took me even longer to figure out the reason why drunken souls were so enthusiastically throwing beads off the balconies along Bourbon Street. After a few hurricanes, I thought it was a quirky tradition of the City and smiled alongside others as we caught the beads that were being thrown down to us. I didn’t find out until I was back in the UK that ladies traditionally flash in exchange. 🙂

New Orleans was definitely a party City and full of life. I’m told it’s one of the only places in America where you can drink in the street. It’s also known as the home of jazz and I loved the live music that I was able to catch during my stay.

That Other Kind of Risk

This post is inspired by the Daily Post’s Discover Challenge, Risk.

I was happy when I saw the title of this week’s Discover Challenge. Risk. Brilliant! I got this! In my head, I immediately started weighing up posts about the time I went skydiving and solo adventures around the world.

It turns out Michelle was challenging us to take that other kind of risk. The kind that involves being vulnerable and sharing parts of yourself that you’re not comfortable with. The kind of risk that I’m not so good at.

I’m getting better though.

I will take Michelle’s post as a reminder that the bravest risks require an open heart and as inspiration to face vulnerability head on.

We’d all benefit from taking that other kind of risk more often.

Road Trip to the Grand Canyon

My team at Automattic, who just so happen to be named Phoenix, planned a meetup in January of this year to Phoenix, Arizona. Phoenix in Phoenix!

It’s always been a dream of mine to see the Grand Canyon and I took the chance to loop in a visit a week before our meetup with two of my team mates, Sarah and Brooke.

Day 1: Hello Phoenix

I travelled from London Heathrow and arrived in Phoenix in the evening. I handle jetlag pretty poorly so was grateful that my fellow road trippers were there to pick me up at the airport and that they had armed themselves with my favourite American sweets, Birthday-flavoured Oreos and Nerds. 🙂

Day 2: Sedona

After some toast (we were road tripping with the toast ambassador, herself), we set off for Sedona the next morning.

The views from the road were beautiful and lived up to expectations of the Wild, Wild West. The vast desert landscapes were dotted with cacti and backed up with canyons. We spotted the famous red rock canyon walls of Sedona from a few miles off.

The place we stayed was called the Sacred Red Rocks, it markets itself as a “destination for the spiritual pilgrim” and was truly peaceful. Sedona itself has a hippy, new-age feel. I wish my camera was good enough to pick up the stars as I can’t find the words to describe how clear and beautiful they were in the Sedona night sky.

Day 3: Hiking Red Rock Canyon and Flagstaff

Brooke was the experienced one of the group but Sarah and I kept up while hiking the Red Rock Canyon. 🙂

Although we were road tripping as a group, Sarah was the only one of us who could actually drive. Brooke and I also turned out to be hilariously bad navigators. Sarah troopered through somehow. She had to make her way along windy uphill roads in the snow on the way to the next stop in our trip, Flagstaff, and was amazing.

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Views on from the road on the way to Flagstaff. I had never experienced views quite like this.

Day 4: Grand Canyon or Bust

The big day! We were excited to be setting off to the Grand Canyon’s South Rim on the fourth day of our road trip. Once again, it had been snowing pretty heavily and Sarah made her way along tricky, icy roads.

We were, however, greeted with bad news upon finally making it to the entrance of the Grand Canyon’s South Rim. The ranger quickly let us know that we wouldn’t be able to see the Canyon that day due to the snow.

This was our only chance! We had to make our way back to Phoenix the next day and we were sad at the thought of coming all this way for nothing.

There were two choices: 1. Head back 2. Stay to view what we could of the park. As we’d come all of this way, we decided to stay.

Despondently, we got the bus around the park and then walked up to the Grand Canyon so that we could at least say we’d been. Guess what!? We could totally see it! In fact, I think the snow made it look even more awe-inspiring.

Day 5: Williams and Out

We woke up from a successful trip in Williams, a town nearby the Grand Canyon, and made our way back to Phoenix to get set for our team meetup.

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The Wild Wild West.

Day 6 and Beyond.

Automattic has over 400 people spread out all over the World and working remotely. It may sound strange but, despite the distance, the teams that work together are very close. We spend all day communicating in text, .gifs, and emoji on our internal P2s and Slack channels.

Meetups are our chance to see each other in person. We work, learn, laugh, and bond. Some highlights from Phoenix in Phoenix for me: S’mores by the fire, Old Town Scotsdale, the drama that was #underweargate, and getting our nails done together.

All in all, I had a lovely two weeks in Arizona and am so happy to be able to cross “Visit Grand Canyon” off my bucket list. I also feel incredibly lucky to have been able to spend the time there with such a wonderful group of people. I’m looking forward to the next all-company meetup in September.

Seeking Words of Wisdom

These photos are from 2013, when I was lucky enough to visit Japan with my sister. My sister (on the utmost right) and a couple of her team mates are reading the “ema” at a shrine just outside of Tokyo.

“Ema” is the name given to the wooden plaques that people write their prayers on and leave to hang in a Shinto shrine.

Across the shrines we visited, we must have comes across hundreds of these plaques, in many different languages. I felt a little like I was peeping in on the personal hopes, wishes, and dreams of strangers by reading, but it was also calming to find so much positivity in them.

Missing Windy Welly

It was always a dream of mine to visit New Zealand and I took the chance to spend a month there in late 2014. Two of those weeks were spent in Seatoun, an eastern suburb of Wellington. I’ve been looking through a lot of old photos lately and they reminded me of some of the reasons I loved Windy Welly, as the city’s affectionately known, so much:

  • Wellingtonians. Everyone I met seemed to have a smile on their face and all the time in the world to help out. There wasn’t a rush. The calm and laid back ways of the people I met made me take a step back, too. I also got a sense that they really cared about each other and the City. All of this was accompanied with colourful creativity, a sense of adventure, and humour.
  • Welsh Dragon Bar! Marketed as the only Welsh bar in the Southern Hemisphere, I visited Welsh Dragon bar on the day Wales played the All Blacks. I felt comfort and happy to experience a slice of home all of the way from the other side of the world, it almost made up for the fact that we lost. 😉
  • Middle Earth. From the lady who threaded my eyebrows to a friendly waiter, so many people had a story to tell about how the Lord of the Rings and/or The Hobbit had worked their way into their everyday lives during filming. I was staying within walking distance of Weta Cave, a mini museum from the special effects company that brought those two films, as well as many others, to life. I’d recommend a trip there to anyone who finds themselves in Wellington.
  • Bays For Days. You’re never too far from beautiful blue in Windy Welly which, in addition to the City being built up on hills, meant stunning views. Seatoun Beach, Scorching Bay, and Oriental Bay were highlights for me.
  • Cuba Street. Cuba Street is made up of a trail of vintage shops and quirky cafes. It’s known as a place for artists and other creative folks to gather. Buskers are one of my favourite parts of any City and I found them here. 🙂
  • Maori Culture. I made multiple trips to Te Papa, the National Museum of New Zealand. The museum is free to enter and there’s so much to explore! I found it particularly fascinating to learn about Maori culture and loved coming across sign that told me I was in a “Maori Speaking Area” while out on a walk one day.
  • Walking Trails. I surprised myself by the amount of walking I done while in Wellington. The views and catching sight of little blue penguins made it worth the while.

Wellington definitely felt like a home away from home and there’s so much that didn’t have time to explore. Fingers crossed I make it back one day!