all in a day’s work.

“Our work will at least have distracted us, it will have provided a perfect bubble in which to invest our hopes for perfection, it will have focused our immeasurable anxieties on a few relatively small-scale and achievable goals, it will have given us a sense of mastery, it will have made us respectably tired, it will have put food on the table. It will have kept us out of greater trouble.”

–Alain de Botton, The Pleasure and Sorrows of Work

The Ways With Words literature festival in Southwold, England.

It was a week of meeting heroes. The writers whose work you read and feel like yes, they get it–that they’ve just explained the world in a way that couldn’t make more sense or resonate any deeper with your own sensibilities.

Two weekends ago I was in Copenhagen for the Travel Bloggers Exchange’s first conference in Europe, taking a two-day workshop with travel writer Andrew Evans. I’ve loved following along his journeys since early this year when I found out about his Bus2Antarctica trip: 42 buses, 10 weeks, and 3,500 tweets of Twittering his way from DC to Argentina to Antarctica. Sitting in his class was surreal–seeing the person you’ve watched in videos posted from the road suddenly right there in front of you, talking about what makes a good story and walking alongside us to Copenhagen’s main rail station to get ideas for a piece. Weird.

And then, last weekend, I had the chance to visit the seaside village of Southwold where the Ways With Words literature festival was taking place. As I said in an earlier post, there was one name on the event’s docket that drew me there: Alain de Botton. And apparently an event hall packed with grey-haired retirees had been drawn there, too. I felt like a little kid that had been dropped off to hang out with Grandma and her friends all day.

When Alain came on stage, it was that same strange moment of seeing someone in the flesh who has before existed only on paper and in videos. His session was focused on his latest book, The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work, and he talked–among many, many other things–about the minutae of office life, the search for meaning in the modern world, and the idea of the sabbath as a check to megalomania, that we as humans are tempted to think that we run the world, but that–perhaps surprisingly–the world doesn’t fall apart if we stop working. Of course there’s always something more that we can do, but we have to acknowledge our limitations. The world is bigger than we are.

And he was incredibly funny about it all, slipping in witty jokes and asides that the audience loved. I think I missed at least five punchlines because of their laughter, predicating his jokes. One of my favorite lines was:

“To announce to the world that you’re in the wrong job is almost as painful as coming out. You gather your loved ones around to tell them, everyone’s looking rather nervous, and your sister runs upstairs weeping.”

As usual, I had pen and paper out during Alain’s talk and even dared so much as to take a photo during the question-and-answer at the end. And–as always–I was amazed at how powerful the presence of a notebook is. From my tour of New Zealand’s Parliament building to the Colonial Cottage Museum in Wellington to a visit to White Island volcano, taking notes is about the surest way of attracting attention. “Are you writing for school?” I was often asked in New Zealand. But here in Southwold, the question was, “Are you a journalist?” At least three people stopped me after the session. “Are you a reporter?” one woman asked. I assured her I was not and she said, rather disappointedly, “Oh, I thought I might see the photo in the Standard tomorrow.”

One day, right?

On my way out of the festival, I weaved through the crowds gathered in the anteroom where all of the speakers’ books had been set out. Alain stood behind his book table and just as I passed by, there wasn’t anyone speaking with him. “What the heck?” I thought and, shocking even myself, strode right up to him, thanking him for his talk. He was incredibly humble, asking me questions about where I’m from and what I do. When I told him I study in London, he asked, “Were you in the neighborhood today then?”

“Well, not really,” I said, intimating that I’d come just to hear him.

“Wow, I’m honored.”

Well, what can I say…you’re Alain de Botton?

Alain de Botton, on the right.

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seaside on a saturday.

“Brightly coloured beach huts are an essential part of the British coast. They go together with ice creams, sandcastles and the unreliable British weather to form part of our experience of summer by the seaside.”

–Seasidehistory.co.uk

Catching the bus for Southwold, I am distinctly aware of being the youngest on board. By about four decades at least. Every other white-haired passenger wears oversized polarfleece zip-ups produced by brands like “Arctic Storm.” I’m sporting a black leather jacket. But that doesn’t mean I’m not loving this trek to an out-of-the-way seaside town of no more than 1,500.

At an intersection, signs point the way to places like Spexhall (2.5km), Bungay (8km), and Beckley (9km) and it’s nice to not have any idea of where I’m going. Each little place we pass through, places like Blyford and Wenhaston Village, is lined with cottages with names that hang next to their doors on painted signs; names like Honeysuckle, Driftwood, Fern, Daisy, and then, questionably, Post Office Cottage. A row of terraced houses is painted in such a way that it resembles the inside of a carton of neapolitan ice cream. This is an altogether lovely corner of the country, I think to myself.

By the time we arrive in Southwold, my nostalgia is moving with full force and I make straight for the beach. Two months in the capital have left me itching for salt in the air and gulls squawking above. Maybe it was a week my family once spent at the beach over Thanksgiving when I was seven years old, but there’s something about being near an ocean in the winter that always gets me. Walking along the shore, it isn’t so much about the warmth of the sun and the swimming anymore, but a fundamental state of being, the openness and a briny chill in the air.

I quickly grow obsessed with the beach huts that line Southwold’s promenade. They’re nothing more than your standard backyard shed with a little porch tacked on the front, except they seem imbued with all of the character and personality Americans normally give their beach homes. Each hut has a name and is painted in distinct and vivid colors–bold primaries, funky teals and fuschias, and quiet pastels. Apparently they date as far back to the early twentieth century, when British conservatism and modesty was at a high. Changing in public was strictly forbidden, so city councils began providing the huts as changing rooms. Many are outfitted with small stoves, so that no one will have to sacrifice afternoon tea for a day at the beach.

There’s an old man working on the door of a hut named Nollers Nock. I walk up to him and ask frankly, “Is this yours?” When he realizes there’s someone standing there, I have more questions. How do these work, I ask him, do you sleep here or just hang out during the day? Do people own or rent them, are they passed on from generation to generation?

“Oh, yes, this one’s been in the family since the 1960s I’d say.”

“And is that how it normally works?”

Before he can answer, a woman’s voice from inside the cabin calls out, “Not as much as they used to be.”

“Sorry, voice from the deep,” she says again, poking her head out of the door, holding a curtain rod in her hands onto which she is in the process of sliding gauzy material.

I leave them to finish their improvements in peace and soon pass a family, little Tom and Rachel all bundled up. Tom has a small red spade which apparently Rachel wants back, despite the larger blue alternative her mother holds out to her. As usual, Tom sets off waddling down the sand like a goose with a limp, Dad and Rachel running after him.

“Don’t snatch it from him, please, Rachel,” her father exhorts. “Remember what we talked about yesterday? He just needs a bit of time to warm up before he hands it over.”

Rachel isn’t so understanding.

I make a final loop down the beach and then, full of sea air, pop into the Boardwalk Café for a coffee and a place to eat my lunch. From my seat at a long counter facing the ocean, I can see the lighthouse and the very top of St. Edmund’s church. There’s an old man wearing a naval cap sitting at the end of the bar from me. He reaches into his fleece and pulls out a pair of binoculars that hang on a string around his neck. He stares out through them towards the horizon for such a period of time that I start to wonder if maybe I’m missing something.

But then I look again at the rows of brightly colored beach huts, at the fisherman gathered under large umbrellas at the end of the pier, and at the muted sunshine glinting through the clouds onto the surface of the sea, and I know that no, I’m not missing anything.

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how UK travel is like internet dating.

“One of the gifts of being a writer is that it gives you an excuse to do things, to go places and explore.”

–Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

I’ve recently taken to comparing travel within the UK to Internet dating.

It’s one thing to spend a few hours getting your itinerary together–buying regional train tickets, noting their times and working out local bus schedules–and yet it’s another thing altogether seeing how it works out in reality. In a similar vein, seeing someone online is a nice thought. You can learn a couple of things about them and view their (undoubtedly enhanced) photos but the real test (not that I would know…) comes when you meet them in person. Will they measure up? Will they follow through with everything they promised? You can only hope for the best, right?

And so I set out for the seaside town of Southwold this morning fearing for my life.

Well, perhaps not life–no need for the melodrama, I suppose–but at least my sanity. The last time I attempted a “day trip” in the UK a few weeks ago, things didn’t end so smoothly. It turns out London Midlands rail service isn’t quite as punctual or efficient as her online profile leads you to believe. As the train delays began stealing precious hours from my life, I began cursing their inane scheduling shortfalls. Leave it to be said there was no shortage of weeping and gnashing of teeth before that night was through.

Nearly a month ago, though, I came across a tiny blurb in Lonely Planet magazine mentioning the Ways With Words literature festival being held this weekend in Southwold, England. Although I might’ve happily gone along no matter how illustrious a line-up they had on, one particular speaker arrested my attention: Alain de Botton. With his books often said to cover “the philosophy of everyday life,” he’s a phenomenal writer and thinker, but–and maybe this is obvious–it was his book, The Art of Travel, that had me hook, line and whatever.

But after my trip home from Liverpool spiralled into a disastrous, nearly seven-hour mess of a journey, I started thinking this week: is Alain de Botton really worth all this fuss? Is visiting an obscure village on the east coast of England actually worth the risk of losing more hours of my life to the incessant failure that is UK transport? Last night, my flatmate Claire had a good laugh predicting things wouldn’t end well for this trip. “You know you are so not going to make it there! Buses hate you!” she said, tearing up with laughter, all the while fueling the fires of my inner panic.

In the end, I ran the risk anyway–but not without great trepidation. A 5am wake-up call got me out of bed and fumbling around for several layers of warm clothing–something about visiting a coastal village on the edge of the North Sea in November sounded slightly more threatening than a trip to the beach for, say, spring break in Miami.

My journey from Surbiton to Liverpool Street Station was remarkably unremarkable–both train and bus proved capable of holding to a schedule. My train from Liverpool to a town called Halesworth 100 miles away also not only left on time, but arrived exactly on target as well…I hardly knew what to think. The last test, however, was the local bus, No. 520 from Halesworth to Southwold. I waited outside the Halesworth train station with my fingers crossed so hard they hurt. And sure enough, at 10.09am on the very dot, a big yellow bus flashing “Southwold” in red letters miraculously appeared around the corner.

Just like it said it would.

I could have wept with joy. I’d come prepared. I’d brought my laptop, plenty of writing to work on, Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, and a full roll pack of milk chocolate digestives, just in case things got truly desperate. But for once, over-preparation was totally unnecessary.

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how travel bloggers spend their saturday night.

“This is a new kind of adventure. I want to capture a sense of remoteness and send it back home. It’s about traveling in real time with the online community in my backpack, connecting travelers everywhere to my footsteps.”

–Andrew Evans on “Where’s Andrew,” his new project for National Geographic Traveller

Maren’s eyeliner graffiti on the bathroom wall of Jolene’s.

We’d been blaming David for everything. As one of the only people in our group actually from Copenhagen, it was David who took the lead as we set out trying to find a place to eat Saturday night after the TBEX (Travel Bloggers Exchange) Europe Conference came to end. As an employee of Momondo, the conference’s chief sponsor, he shouldered full responsibility for our empty stomachs. We headed south to Vesterport, past the city’s red light district, and the harder it became to find somewhere, the more we blamed him. If a pub was too big or too small, if it was too empty or too full, David was our scapegoat–and he playfully took it personally. “I give up!” he shouted in faux exasperation. “You are all too critical!”

After a brief dinner of goulash and bread (Hungarian soup that’s way better than it sounds), we ended up at a bar in the city’s meatpacking district called Jolene’s, its name pulsing onto the dark sidewalks in bright pink neon letters. The place was dead–no one but a lone bartender and the DJ setting up his decks across from the bar. We soon filled a back room, where mismatched couches and chairs sat in front of a wall papered with safari animals–elephants, zebras, giraffes, the like. Twinkling fairy lights had been strung around exposed silver ductwork on the ceiling, a needlepoint crossstitch hung on the wall and candles glowed on a table. It had the kind of funky ambiance you always hope for in a place.

Jolene's bar in Copenhagen's meatpacking district.

After we settled in with our drinks, David pulled out his iPhone and announced, “Momondo is going to do its first narrative tweet!” We’d all been in a workshop that afternoon called “Storytelling 101” given by Andrew Evans, a well-known travel writer whose most recent tour de force was a voyage to Antarctica via a 10,000-mile bus journey from DC to Argentina. Although the trek would have been remarkable in its own right, Andrew used it as an opportunity to practice, as he calls it, “real-time storytelling”–utilizing social media tools like Twitter to report directly from the road: tweets, blog posts, photos and even videos like this one of a rare black penguin.

But it isn’t just reporting…in many ways, it’s still writing. In the workshop, Andrew encouraged us to be creative with our posts, sharing how he’s even taken to crafting his tweets into haikus–working within, rather than against, the confines of Twitter’s 140-character limit. Here’s a couple he posted just yesterday:

“In Copenhagen/ November dawn comes too late/ The day ends too soon.”

“Danes inside Denmark/ Sport tight black leggings, high-tops/ & star trek Haircuts.”

As someone who’s always eschewed Twitter, finding it something that merely duplicates the Facebook status updates we’re already posting everyday, I left the workshop somewhat inspired…and actually itching to get my hands on an iPhone. I liked the fact that tweets can be more than just “I’m in London and loving it!”–that we can actually utilize it as a tool to engage creatively with wherever we are–be it at home or on the road. As Andrew said, “The jury’s still out on Twitter.” It’s up to us to use it as we see fit.

And so it was in a bar called Jolene’s on a Saturday night in Copenhagen that a group of aspiring travel writers/bloggers tried their hand at the same, all from the suggestion of David. He handed me his phone and I, along with a London-based Aussie named Justin and a Berlin-based American named Cheney, whipped up a haiku of our own. Here’s what we came up with:

It was a proud moment for all of us, but we didn’t give it a lot more thought until Maren, cofounder of TBEX and GoGalavanting, and Dylan the “Travelling Editor” suddenly walked into the bar. “How’d you find us?” we asked, amazed that out of all the bars in Copenhagen, they’d come to Jolene’s. But it wasn’t so random, after all. “The haiku tweet, of course…it was like a treasure hunt!” We could’ve tweeted something as uninspiring as, “TBEXers–meet us at Jolene’s!” Instead, we took a few extra minutes, soaked in the atmosphere around us, and wrote something both creative–actually still informative.

And to think it had been David’s idea…for once, we weren’t blaming him for this.

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double-life.

“This is our decision, to live fast and die young
We’ve got the vision, now let’s have some fun.
Yeah, it’s overwhelming, but what else can we do
Get jobs in offices, and wake up for the morning commute.”
–MGMT, “Time to Pretend”

9.19am.

In a beautiful display of clockwork precision, SouthWest Trains’ fast service to Waterloo pulls up to Surbiton station. The doors open, a few passengers disembark, and I find a seat–preferably in the quiet zone–settling in the for the commute. Eighteen minutes to London. Zero stops. Priceless.

I won’t lie that when people ask me if I’m here working or studying, I love being able to say, “Both, actually.” I love my return to student life–having an excuse to spend hours in the library again, being able to attend workshops and masterclasses, going to lecture, brown-nosing professors, thinking about essay topics and what Diane Ackerman’s use of imagery in The Moon by Whale Light says about her as a narrator.

But, oddly enough, I equally love going to work. I’m in my third week now and all systems are go. It’s been strange picking up exactly where I left off, working with the same bosses and colleagues at another university in London. I’m back in their health and social care department–which couldn’t be further from my own personal interests, but I’ve found that dealing with it for just twenty hours a week is a welcome break from the la-la-land world of creative writers. The first couple of days were weird–but when is your first day at any new job not marked by an awkward sense of, “What am I doing here again?” By my third day, though, staff members had started to realize I’m here, available, and actually not annoyed when they have work for me.

I’ve been hired on a ten-month contract to work especially on a series of government-funded projects. All of the departments within the faculty are in the process of switching their course modules from fifteen credits to twenty credits. This “translation exercise,” as the switch is officially referred to, requires updating all the course documents and paperwork…which is right where I come in. I spend my three days each week tidying up documents, fixing stray bullet points and going crazy over Microsoft Word’s imbecilic automated formatting system. But at the end of the day, this is precisely what I was looking for–a well-paying job with hours more suited to my schedule and with a bit more responsibility to show on the resume than “bartender at a gourmet pizza restaurant-turned-nightclub.” A girl can hope for a little respect, right?

And as I float between the life of a student and that of an office worker, I’ve found what I look forward to most in each day is my commute. Starting at ten every morning means I miss the hectic hour between eight and nine–and more importantly can get a window seat–but there are still enough suits and jackets around to have that corporate feel in the air, me looking on as Paisley Tie #4 makes a call: “Hi Jackie, it’s David. I’ll be in the office by half past. Cheers, love.”

When the train pulls away from the station, I settle into my seat. I read, I write, I think, or sometimes simply watch the the view outside my window. It isn’t the discontinuous journey of riding the Tube, stopping every two minutes and doing everything in your power to ignore the beeping of the doors opening and closing, opening and closing.

Instead, it’s an uninterrupted moment of fluidity, of trees melting into trees as I transition from one world to another. Essentially, it’s a pause–the time we never give ourselves. When do we ever take fifteen minutes away from our desks, from our laptops, from our lives, to just be still? I recently read an article in the New York Times titled “Your Brain on Computers: Digital Devices Deprive Brain of Needed Downtime.” It addresses the fact that in our new age of mega-technology, we never have any downtime away from electronic devices. We fill every spare minute–“micro-moments,” as the article calls them–checking email, checking voicemail, checking in and up and everywhere but out:

“Cellphones, which in the last few years have become full-fledged computers with high-speed Internet connections, let people relieve the tedium of exercising, the grocery store line, stoplights or lulls in the dinner conversation. The technology makes the tiniest windows of time entertaining, and potentially productive. But scientists point to an unanticipated side effect: when people keep their brains busy with digital input, they are forfeiting downtime that could allow them to better learn and remember information, or come up with new ideas.”

It’s the kind of research I know I’ll be quoting to friends at the pub, defending my decision to not use a smart phone. As a writer, especially, I don’t want to lose those moments where inspiration may strike–but hits the person next to me instead because I’m too busy flicking through my phone to hear that little idea pop into my head.

9.34am. The automated recording of a woman begins to play, telling me we’ll be arriving in Waterloo in two minutes. If I’m reading, I close my book. If I’m writing, I jot down a few final notes and put the cap back on my pen. I rummage in the front right pocket of my messenger bag for my office-issued ID card and slip the royal blue lanyard over my head–a final act to mark my move from student to worker.

Let the office games begin.

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hunting for history.

It’s all about baby steps, right? It may not be big, but here’s an article I recently wrote for Cheers!  a newsletter published by Kingston University specifically for its contingent of North American students.

Hunting for History: the top 5 traditions to see in London…for free!”

In a modern city like London, it’s easy to forget just how much history there is all around us. Between the museums and markets, gardens and green spaces, there’s never any shortage of things to do. But I’ve found that experiencing the traditions that still exist today is what has made my time in England most meaningful and truly different from my North American upbringing. Coming from a country whose written history begins only in the early 1600s, the rich traditions British culture is steeped in is something I try to remember and take advantage of whenever I can. And with so many great traditions to experience for free in London, the only thing that’s left to work out is logistics.

1. Old Bailey Public Galleries

The gilded arms of Lady Justice are extended wide over the dome of Old Bailey, a set of scales in her left hand and a sword in her right. Inside the Central Criminal Courts, the principle of blind justice that she stands for is carried out on a daily basis. Your seat in the Public Galleries will give you a bird’s eye view of the courtroom–the twelve members of the jury, the high-backed, green leather seats, and the UK Royal Coat of Arms hanging above the judge–with the Latin phrase Honi soit qui mal y pense reading, “Shamed be he who thinks ill of it.” The black-robed solicitors wear wigs with curls that look like wood shavings and address the judge as “My Lord” or “Your Honour.” Their proceedings are rooted in the original medieval court founded in 1585, but were more firmly established in 1673, when Old Bailey was constructed after the Great Fire of London. Although it has undergone several transformations and reconstructions since then–with the present building dating from 1907–the court’s commitment to justice has remained the same. The open public galleries are an excellent way to experience a different legal system at work.

How to get there: From Kingston, take a London-bound Southwest train to Waterloo. Then, take either Bus 4 to St. Paul’s or take the Waterloo and City line to Bank, switching to the Central Line to St. Paul’s. Old Bailey is a short walk from the station–follow signs to the Central Criminal Court.

Note: You are not allowed to bring any electronic devices into the Public Galleries–that includes mobile phones, cameras, iPods, etc. Either leave them at home or at Bailey’s Cafe Deli across the street. They charge £2 to hold your items during your visit.

2. Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace

“Say hi to the Queen for me,” rang the words of several of my friends before I left for England. While I might never get close enough to the Queen herself for such a conversation, it is possible to witness the troops that are responsible for protecting her and her home in London. The Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace is one of the most well-known traditions you simply can’t miss while living in the UK. When you watch the guards march deliberately and exaggerated, their right arms swinging like the pendulum of a grandfather clock, their bearskin hats standing stiff and their red coats as bright as winter berries, you’ll be witnessing a tradition that’s been in place since 1660. When the royal residence was moved to Buckingham Palace in 1837, the sovereign’s household troops stayed at the old St. James Palace and since then, have continued to march down the Mall to relieve the Old Guard.

How to get there: Take a London-bound SouthWest train to Clapham Junction and then change to Southern rail from Clapham to Victoria. Buckingham Palace is a short walk from Victoria station–just follow the signs!

Note: From Spring to Autumn, the Changing of the Guard takes place everyday at 11:30am, however from Autumn to Spring, it alternates every other day. Consult the schedule on http://www.changing-the-guard.com/ before planning your visit and be sure to turn up early to secure a good spot in the crowds.

Related events: You can also view the Household Cavalry. The Changing of the Queen’s Life Guard at takes place daily at 11am (10am on Sundays) and the Daily Inspection at 4pm.

 3. Evensong at Westminster Abbey

Crossing the threshold of Westminster Abbey is a step into the past, your footsteps echoing on the marble floor as you approach the High Altar. Light is diffused through the rose windows and the organ’s strains fill every corner of the Abbey’s many filigreed arches. When the choir begins, it’s easy to think there’s no sound more beautiful on earth. It’s been this way since 960, when Westminster Abbey was first founded, but the present building wasn’t constructed until 1245. The history of evensong at the Abbey begins with the arrival of Benedictine monks in the tenth century, and the daily worship they began continues today. Attending evensong is not only a free way to view the inside of such a historically significant building, but also a chance to be part of a tradition that stretches back into an earlier millennium.

How to get there: From Waterloo, take the Jubilee line to Westminster. The Abbey is right across the street from the Underground station.

Note: Consult the Daily Services schedule on http://www.westminster-abbey.org/ for service times. Evensong is held at 5:00pm daily during the week and 3.00pm on the weekends.

4. Debates in the Houses of Parliament

Soft afternoon sunlight filters through rows of stained glass windows, reflecting off the exquisitely gilded throne in the House of Lords. Oral Questions have just begun and from your seat in the Public Galleries, you can see that the padded, red leather benches on the floor of the House are filled to capacity. Unlike MPs who meet in the House of Commons, members of the House of Lords are not elected and are unpaid, but the role they play in lawmaking and legislation is still crucial. Parliament began meeting as two distinct houses in 1341, but a number of acts throughout the centuries have revised and refined the role of the House of Lords. Visiting debates in either the House of Commons or the House of Lords is not only a rewarding look at a different system of government, but also a way to view a beautiful, historic building–from the the detailed mosaics in the Central Lobby to the vaulted ceilings and statues of St. Stephen’s Hall.

How to get there: From Waterloo, take the Jubilee line to Westminster. The Houses of Parliament are a short walk from the Underground station.

Note: Only UK residents can reserve tickets to visit the debates. Overseas visitors must arrive early to queue. For more details regarding sitting times and dates, visit http://www.parliament.uk/visiting/attend/debates/.

5. Key Ceremony at the Tower of London

“Halt! Who goes there?” the armed sentryman calls out. You can hear the jingle of the keys as four soldiers approach escorting the yeoman jailer, the light from his lantern dancing against the fortress walls. The jailer confirms that he holds the keys of Queen Elizabeth and they are allowed to pass. This brief exchange is one of London’s oldest traditions–the Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London. For nearly 700 years, the ceremony has taken place every night–no matter the weather and even during the worst bombing raids of World War II. The soldiers and jailer walk away from Bloody Tower, their arms swinging and boots stepping, and lock both the outer gate and that of Byward Tower, securing the fortress for yet another night. Our guide for the evening, a yeoman warder named Colin, tells us this is one of the oldest and shortest ceremonies in the world. “It’s pure history, people don’t realise you are a part of history here.” Don’t miss your chance to be a part, too!

How to get there: From Waterloo, take the Northern Line to Embankment, and then change to either the District or Circle line to Tower Hill. The Tower of London is just opposite the station.

Note: The Tower of London website advises requesting tickets up to two months in advance. Visit their website at http://www.hrp.org.uk/toweroflondon/whatson/ceremonyofthekeys.aspx for more details about how to request tickets.

Good luck on your hunt!

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NaNoWriMo.

“NaNoWriMo is all about the magical power of deadlines. Give someone a goal and a goal-minded community and miracles are bound to happen. Pies will be eaten at amazing rates. Alfalfa will be harvested like never before. And novels will be written in a month.”

As confused as I was by that crazy jumble of letters? Be confused, no more, but join me in marking the start of National Novel Writing Month. November may be the month of hitting the polls and tuning into the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, but for over 100,000 people, it’s also the month in which to hammer out 50,000 words of a novel.

No joke, this is a real organization that’s been around for over ten years. The “What” of this ordeal is quite straightforward: “Writing one 50,000-word novel from scratch in a month’s time.” But it’s the answers to “Why” that I loved:

“The reasons are endless! To actively participate in one of our era’s most enchanting art forms! To write without having to obsess over quality. To be able to make obscure references to passages from our novels at parties. To be able to mock real novelists who dawdle on and on, taking far longer than 30 days to produce their work.”

I’m not sure if my travel writing thesis counts as a “novel,” but I’m tempted to get a head start on next summer and join in on the fun that’s taking place right now…


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