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Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Happy Halloween 2023

Every year in October, I run 31 days of Halloween posts on my Facebook page. I love posting about cool, creepy, haunting things you can do (or avoid) on your travels and October is the best time to really post all those things. If you missed any of my posts or just aren't on Facebook, I like to do a round-up here for all those things. Enjoy 31 Halloween posts:
Every year in October, I run 31 days of Halloween posts on my Facebook page. I love posting about seasonal things you can do (or avoid) on your trips
1: Whatever happened to the Bermuda Triangle? For a long time, we heard a story every few months of people disappearing into it. Between that and quicksand and killer bees, I feel like a lot of horror stories from our younger days weren't actually anything.

2: You probably already know that I love a good cemetery. By "good", I mean old and interesting. I've been to a lot of unique ones, but none as colorful as many of these unique cemeteries across the world. 

3: There's nothing scarier than being robbed on vacation. If you get pickpocketed, you should do these things immediately. It won't - and shouldn't - necessarily ruin your whole trip. Being knowledgeable and prepared is important.

4: What are some awesome things to do in October? Well, whether you're looking to get scared, go on an adventure, snuggle up at home, or get outdoors, there's a whole list of destinations that specialize in your travel style for fall.

5: Watch your back and your children in Australia, because there's a child-eating monster stalking the wetlands. It's called the gu-ru-ngaty, the mirree-ulla, the banib, or more commonly the Bunyip and it has origins in Aboriginal stories. It's blood-curdling scream might be the last thing on hears or can haunt you for the rest of your life.

6: Have you ever heard of a ghost island? It's on maps, but doesn't actually exist! They may have existed at one time or been fabricated by the mapmaker, but why are they still on modern maps?

7: I love to read a spooky book, and like other books, they can really give you some travel vibes. If you just finished a book with a great backdrop to the story, maybe you want to pack a bag and go visit the place the book was set. You can! Here are 12 places from popular fiction

8: This time of year we think a lot about the supernatural, ghosts, and spirits. If you want to expand your mind with some magical places that are hotbeds of spiritual activity, here are 12 destinations to put on your list.

9: Corn mazes can be fun and challenging and good exercise. I avoid the nighttime ones where people are trying to scare me when I'm already scared, because it's dark and the corners are full of strangers. If you enjoy being scared and want to really test your limits, here are the scariest corn mazes to get lost in in America.

10: Do you visit every National Park while traveling around America? They can have some gorgeous views, interesting history, and cool animals, but they can also be downright spooky. Get creeped out at these 8 National Parks.

11: People have always thought blood was either a cure or a cause of plenty of things. Shockingly, this has endured, especially people using blood as a medical solution. Don't try this at home, but one of these cures includes making and consuming blood jam, first notated in 1679. Sounds really iron-y to me and also makes me glad we have doctors who know things now instead of trying to "balance your humors" and blame things on miasma (bad air).

12: Paris may be known as the most romantic destination, but it also has a bloody and creepy history. Nothing confirms this more than all the scary things that have been pulled out of the Seine and other French rivers. You'll absolutely never look at the city the same way again after reading this.

13: Friday the 13th came and went this year, unlike these passengers on on this Swedish train. They say "Only the dead get off at Kymlinge." This abandoned Metro station is now steeped in myths, one of which claims that The Silver Arrow train that stops there. Though the station is usually locked, because it might still be finished at some point, you can still visit it from the nearby village.

14: Hell isn't real. Or is it? Many cultures believe in the underworld and demons and such, and most have their own version of it, including how to get there. There are 17 places that are said to be the actual Gates of Hell, and maybe you want to go check them out yourself. I've been to the St. Louis Cemetery in Louisiana, but unless it's markedly more scary at night, when you can't actually visit, I wouldn't believe it belongs on this list more than any other destination.

15: Not all creepy things happen in October. In fact, some happy during the prettiest part of the year: Spring. The sun is out and so are the monsters. Start planning your trip now, unless that movie Midsommar scared the you-know-what out of you. Supposedly, that was meant as a dark comedy to the guy who wrote and directed it. I'd hate to see what he considers actual horror.

16: I live in the middle of Bigfoot country. Do I believe he's real? Maybe. I saw Harry and the Hendersons growing up and I saw how well they could hide at the end of the movie. So many sightings can't possibly be all faked, could they? There's an entire show devoted to finding the elusive creature(s). If you also believe he's real, you can go on your own hunt on this tour. 

17: The Blair Witch Project was actually based on a real legend, or more specifically, several different legends, but one in particular was a big contributor. The legend of the Bell Witch. I remember my father telling me about the Bell Witch of Tennessee and being glad I hadn't heard about it sooner. 

18: Argentina has a lake monster, like Loch Ness. This one is found in Patagonia's Nahuel Huapi Lake and the plesiosaur-like creature is called Nahuelito. While it may or may not exist, it's fun to think we have some cool dinosaurs that survived all this time.

19: Imagine getting ill on vacation and having no idea why and not getting better, because doctors misdiagnose you and then you almost die. This is some good info to remember if this happens to you and doctors don't know what they're looking for. You might have a bacterial infection called H. Pylori.

20: The ways cops get people to confess to crimes now can be cruel and/or unethical, but it's nowhere near as odd as when they used a skeleton to scare people into telling them everything. It's so crazy, but also effective. 

21: Across the world, and throughout history, there have been some real interesting things used as currency. One of the weirdest, in my opinion, was when Medieval England used eels to pay for things, including rent. 

22: One of the places I've wanted to go after I visited the Paris Catacombs was Portugal's Chapel of Bones. A portion of a larger 16th century chapel, this one has walls and a chandelier created from bones. 

23: Forests are mysterious places and can often be scary if you aren't familiar with it. You may have heard of the suicide forest in Japan, but not the haunting ghost forests of Maryland's eastern shore

24: One of my worst fears is being scammed on vacation and getting stuck in a destination with no way of getting home or having no money for the remainder of my trip. Well, this tour operator is scamming travelers and this is how you can avoid being a victim.

25: A pristine beach that you can throw down a blanket or towel and just lounge as much as you want sounds lovely for most people, but what if you rolled up to your favorite beach, or the nearest one to your vacation accommodation, only to find out a ton of dead fish had just washed up on shore, making it impossible to enjoy? That's what's happened in Texas.

26: I've driven through Tonopah, Nevada at least a handful of times on my way to or from Las Vegas. The little city is cute and has a great cemetery (sorry), so nice places to stop and eat and/or shop, and a few hotels, including the crazy Clown Motel. I've never stopped, because I don't love clowns. A friend stayed there and the photos ensured that I would never stay there, because having a painting of Reagan from Poltergeist on an entire wall is a no go. If you're intrigued, check out this video of the ghosts of the Tonopah Clown Motel.

27: October is a month to acknowledge spooky, mystical, and ghostly things. Many people are superstitious, at least on some level. Every culture has their own specific superstitions and there are so many that involve water. Have you heard of any of these water superstitions and do you believe in any of them?

28: Books can take you to a lot of places: your favorite magic school, the den of anthropomorphic woodland creatures, into outer space...the hospital. Wait, what? In the 16th and 17th century, wallpapers, clothes, and even book covers were dyed with questionable substances, one of which was arsenic. 3 books that were tainted with arsenic were found in a Danish library could have some not so great consequences if touched or breathed near.

29: Ghosts can be found haunting plenty of places, including hotels and schools, but some places are teeming with spirits. These historic hotels, abandoned penitentiaries, and ancient lighthouses are all said to have some supernatural residents roaming the grounds. They are the most haunted places in every state, so no matter where you are, you can go ghost hunting.

30: Everyone knows the story of Dracula. In fact, you can sign up for Dracula Daily and read the book one chapter at a time, directly to your email (almost) each day. But who knows the actual origins of Dracula? Forget Vlad the Impaler. A 19th-century cholera outbreak in Sligo may have been Bram Stoker’s chief inspiration.

31: Happy Halloween!  Real horror stories generally have their roots in reality. You can be part of your own scary story if you don't do some good research before you book a place to stay. For the record, I still use vacation rentals with high success, but there are a lot of failures. Here are the worst Airbnb horror stories from Reddit.

I hope you enjoyed this series, because I always enjoy putting them together and learning some things along the way, too. Enjoy some candy and costumes today, if you celebrate. If you don't, enjoy whatever else you're doing instead.

Share a spooky travel story of your own in the comments.

Saturday, October 28, 2023

Common Travel Nightmares

I don't worry about too much when I am on vacation, but I'm a thorough planner and Eric and I are pretty good about having a plan and not separating without knowing where the other will be at any given time. I've shared with you in the past my literal travel nightmares. Generally, we roll with other issues, because not everything goes as planned, so while it might be disappointing, it's not a nightmare for us, but it's interesting to see what other people consider a nightmare:

I don't worry about too much when I am on vacation, but sometimes things happen and you can decide if it's an adventure or a nightmare.
photo credit

We just went on a trip where it rained almost the whole time and we had to change plans, because it sucked to be outside for long periods. Our rental car was cancelled before we arrived when we went to San Francisco earlier this year. We've stayed in some gross hotels, and once slept in our car at a campsite when there weren't any vacancies. I've been sick on vacation, gotten hopelessly lost, had a fight with my travel companion(s), missed my flight and had to fly standby,  and had such choppy water that our cruise ship couldn't dock. We had our rental car broken into on two trips, and only the first seemed like a nightmare, because Eric had to spend half the day at the police station, where they had to find someone who could speak English well enough to take his statement, and his phone had been stolen, so I had no idea if he was okay or not until he returned to the hotel. 

The point is, things will happen that you didn't, or couldn't have, planned for, and what matters is how you deal with it. Few things will make or break an entire vacation and be an actual nightmare. You can learn a lot from things when they go wrong. Luckily, we've never had a real emergency on a trip, and when things get cancelled or we've had to pivot, those have been some of our most interesting days. One example is when we went to London, there was a tornado overnight (I wish I was making that up) and trees were down all over the city, so we missed our train to go on a tour of the Cotswolds and we ended up going to Kew Gardens, which was also closed, getting breakfast at a lovely coffee shop, and then exploring Holland Park for half the day. 

I hope your trips don't end up being nightmares and you learn to roll with the punches when things aren't great. Remember to take some time apart from your travel companion(s) and to eat. Everything feels like the worst thing when I am hungry and I'm mean and take everything personally. Have some high protein snacks with you while you're out. 

What bad things have happened to you on vacation?

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Packing Light for Fall Travel

It's that time again. Most places are starting to get cooler, or it will be when you are on your fall or holiday travel. Even when you have to pack larger pieces than for your summer trips, you can still pack light. I'm a big proponent of layering when I travel, since you never know if the weather will be unseasonably warm or colder than you expect. Don't fret though, because you can still pack light and bring everything you need for any kind of weather.

I'm a big proponent of layering when I travel, since you never know if fall will be unseasonably warm or colder than you expect. #falltraveltips

When we traveled to London and Paris in late October, the weather ranged from cool, crisp fall air to freezing temps with rain. It could have been miserable, but learning from my previous trip there, when all we had packed were winter clothes. The first 3-4 days were so warm out that I didn't need a coat and seriously wondered if I'd have to buy some short sleeve tops in order to not get heat stroke. Needless to say, nobody wanted a repeat of that. So, the next time, taking all my knowledge into account when packing, I chose several lightweight sweaters that I could layer other things with and went from there.

If the weather tends toward cold, cold, cold, your pictures are basically all going to be you bundled up in your coat and you aren't going to see anything you've got on underneath anyway. With this in mind, it makes even more sense to bring as little as possible. You'll just need enough to keep you from getting bored and to go between laundry - think of it an excuse to take a break and relax a few times on your trip. Watch a movie, catch up on email or play a game. I bring the same thing for one week as I do for two. Three lightweight sweaters, a cardigan, two tanks and two tees that match your sweaters. Throw a dress, two pair of stretchy jeans or other comfortable pants and two pair of shoes. 

Keep in mind your travel outfit. I usually wear my favorite pair of jeans (with stretch), a tee and a cardigan, one pair of the shoes I'm planning to wear throughout my trip and keep my jacket and a scarf in easy reach. This way if it's cold, I can put more layers on, and if it's hot, I can remove my cardigan. I swapped out a regular tee with a lightweight long-sleeve one above, and you can see my jacket in the corner.

jeans | dress | cardigan | l/s shirt | t-shirts | tights

A pair of black jeans can double as nice pants for a night out, but a breathable dress can also work. Make sure to pack a pair of heavy tights in case it's really cold and you need some extra protection. Tights are multitaskers. When the weather is colder than expected, like a freak snowstorm, you can throw them on under your pants. I tend toward thinner skinny jeans, because the stretchy ones are comfortable, but may not be as warm as traditional jeans. For this reason, that extra layer might be necessary.

Make sure your tops all mix and match, so you don't have items that only go with some things in your bag. I like neutrals, like black and gray that I can add a pop of color to. You may end up like me and have to wear three layers at once, so if you bring three different color sweaters and three different color/patterns of tanks and tees, you're going to look like a bag lady. I like to go with solids for one layer and some patterns for the other. Above you have 3 long sleeve options and two patterned t-shirts. If you have to layer, these will all work together. The dress is also reversible (this one is sold out, but these are longer and you can wear alone or with a sweater), so you can make at total of 22 outfits with these pieces. You also have the added warmth of your cardigan and/or jacket.

yup, lots of photos of us just wearing coats and hats or scarves.

Look for shoes that will go with everything. I went to Europe the first time with a pair of flats and tall packable boots, but I love the look of a short boot and a loafer. Make sure you have enough room for your foot to breathe in your boot and that both pair are comfortable to walk in all day long. I loved the boots I took, but they were a smidge too tight, or I overdid myself on the 478965322 stairs in Paris, because I left with a stress fracture in one of my feet. Boo. But at least I didn't notice the pain until the night before we were going back home. Maybe suck it up and wear your flats when hiking up 40 jillion steps, just in case. In Edinburgh, where everything is somehow uphill, I wore these great booties from Arcopedico that kept my feet happy and warm and aren't tight, but still have awesome support.

Look at the weather before you leave, to be sure you're dressed for your destination. A pair of gloves and a hat are always good companions, because you'll be thrilled if you have them and need them, or miserable if you leave them at home and have to shell out money for them. We actually had to purchase another hat and scarf for Eric on a trip, who didn't think he would need them. Then again for both of us when we went to Philly and it was so cold and windy there was no way to handle it. Unless you're hoping for a lame souvenir, throw some in for everyone traveling. It'll make your life easier.

What is your best Autumn packing advice?

Saturday, October 21, 2023

Some of My Favorite Spooky Places - Part 2

In my last post, I took you through some of my favorite spooky places, but there are so many, I decided to break it up into two posts, giving you more inspo for your fall travels, or to build your own creepy stops into your existing trips.

I want to take you through some of my favorite spooky places, giving your inspo for your future fall travels. #halloweentravel

Some places are creepy or spooky to some and completely normal to others. I visit a lot of cemeteries and undergrounds, but there are places that have so much history that they feel creepy to others. I find I have a mix of such things.

Colonial Williamsburg

While not spooky upon first glance, Colonial Williamsburg is steeped in history, much of it not great. Everything is frozen in time here and the ghost tours are really interesting. I grew up going there most summers, so I have a soft spot for strolling the streets and interacting with the period actors, learning about the history of the area...and watching Shakespeare for some reason.

Abandoned buildings have a dilapidated beauty to them. They are fascinating and present so many questions, even places that are not entirely abandoned, because they've become a part of the parks services. There's an audio tour and small art exhibits at this old prison that tells so many stories it's hard not to get spooked and feel so many different things for the people who were placed here, no matter their crimes. Eastern State gives you a good inside look at the prison system in the U.S., even if it hasn't been used for 50+ years.

Lone Fir Cemetery
Again, I love a cemetery. This beautiful one in the middle of Portland, Oregon has such a variety of headstones and tombs of notable people who lived and died in the city. You can spend several hours visiting with the dead here and Portland's usual drizzly day just adds to the atmosphere. You can even take ghost tours around Halloween, or regular tours throughout the rest of the year. 

The Mütter Museum
This museum had been on my list for a long time and when we traveled to Philadelphia, I knew I would go there. You can't take photos inside, so I can't show you any of the things inside, but trust me when I say that if you're fascinated by medical oddities, then you will love exploring this place. From bones, to drawers full of things people have swallowed, to tumors. They, somehow, have it all. Is it gross? Some of it. Is it awesome? 100%.
The Pharmacy Museum
On the same note, if medicines are more your thing, visit the first apothecary shop (pharmacy) in the U.S. It holds a wide variety of cures and artifacts from old medical practices and voodoo rituals, including ghastly instruments used in the past for dentistry, many by the former owner, a dentist known to conduct grisly experiments on patients. Though the daily "tours" are interesting, they can get quite crowded and you won't be able to look around while they occur. Try to go at a different time, so you have the room to see everything. It's also said that the museum is haunted, but I didn't see or feel anything on either of my visits. Of course, I was really into the exhibits, so it's possible I wasn't aware of anything trying to get my attention.

Mary King's Close
Old Town Edinburgh, Ireland is full of little alleyways that lead to other buildings, shops, and restaurants. These are called closes. Mary King's Close was once the second widest street in Edinburgh, only matched by the Royal Mile. This seems like a feat when you visit, because it's probably only 6 feet wide. This small alley used to be the main street for housing and was 11 stories high on both sides. During the day you'd find stalls on either side selling wares and also stairs going to people's front doors. 

Mary King's Close has remained unchanged for the last 400 years, except for the electricity and safety measures added, and can be found underneath the streets of Old Town. As such, you are not allowed to take pictures, but that just makes it that much more authentic. Learn about the poor people of Edinburgh and how they lived, including those who contracted the plague. Your one-hour tour teaches you about Plague Doctors (and how they avoided contracting the plague by sheer luck/superstition), what life was like in the Close, the ghosts that might still reside there, and the man who had the first indoor toilet.

I have a lot more spooky things on my list for when I travel in the future, so I'll definitely bring them to you when I get to them.

Share your favorite creepy places in the comments.

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Some of My Favorite Spooky Places - Part 1

Often when we travel, we look for non-traditional activities and attractions. Sometimes this leads us to a cemetery or a ghost tour or a haunted building. It's easy to find these things in most destinations you visit, so we are always doing something that other people find odd. We have fun, which is kinda the point of traveling and doing it with another person or other people. 

Often when we travel, we look for non-traditional activities. Sometimes this leads us to a cemetery, a ghost tour or a haunted building. #spookyvibes
An elaborate gravestone in Pere Lachaise

Here are some of my favorite spooky places that might be something to add to your travel list:

Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris
Paris may be the City of Lights and be known for romance, but it has a lot in the way of spooky stuff. Now, I love a good cemetery, especially one with as much history as Père Lachaise. The tombs and headstones are so ornate and beautiful, it's almost as if there are hundreds of tiny churches on the grounds. I have been lucky enough to visit twice, seeing different parts each time, and feel so peaceful saying hello to strangers and admiring their graves, hoping that at least a few that I've stopped to spend a little extra time are just waiting for a visitor to come by. (The guy in the title pic seems to be waiting for someone to come chat.)

The Catacombs
I've also been to the Catacombs in Paris, though it's been over a decade now. I was thrilled to be able to snag tickets and wander among those that didn't have much choice of where their bones ultimately ended up. It appears that a lot of care went into stacking them though, and they get visitors each day. People have said it's haunted down there, but aside from it being dusty and kind of dark, I didn't feel like someone else - who wasn't on my tour - was with me. It's pretty beautiful down there. 

The Resting Place of Edgar Allan Poe
This is not the last cemetery on my list, and it's not even that creepy, especially if  you visit during the day, which is the only time it's open. Of course, I say this, and half of my pictures had this weird glaze to them, so maybe some ghosts were with me after all on my stroll around the yard. This small graveyard outside of a church in downtown Baltimore has both the original burial site of Edgar Allan Poe and then the new and more impressive headstone. 

One of the homes of Edgar Allan Poe

Poe lived and wrote in a handful of houses during his career. This one in Philadelphia is a historic building. they have not added modern lighting or heating to it, so you're basically walking around in half darkness, which makes this little house even creepier. You can really feel how this atmosphere could contribute to spooky stories like the Cask of Amontillado and The Black Cat. 

Chislehurst Caves outside of London
Take the Underground to the Orpington station and you're almost there. Chislehurst Caves housed families during the war and then became a concert venue for amazing bands and then was a filming location for Dr. Who. Now you can visit with a guide (so you don't get lost in the tunnels) and walk through all those iterations. Yes, it's very cool, but it's also dark and echo-y and spooky, made even moreso by us being the only people on the tour. We made a friend of our tour guide and still keep in touch. 

These are just a few of the spooky places I have enjoyed. Stay tuned for a part two, because there's no shortage of weird, wacky, and creepy places for you to visit when you travel. Share some of your favorites in the comments.
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