London: Shoreditch Design & Shopping Walk

Shoreditch Design Walk by Natalie ParkerShoreditch Design Walk by Natalie ParkerShoreditch Design Walk by Natalie ParkerShoreditch Design Walk by Natalie Parker

I spent one of my Saturdays in London wandering around Shoreditch, looking for design stores.

Okay, I confess: I never wander.  I walk with purpose and always know where I’m going.  It’s an affliction.

The Plan

My plan of attack for the day:  start at Old Spitalfields Market to check out the vendors and the area stores, make my way toward the Old Truman Brewery and Backyard Market, have lunch at some point, walk up Shoreditch High Street to Material, then bus down to the Design Museum if I had time.  While not technically wandering, I stopped at any store that looked cool along the way.

Shoreditch Design Walk by Natalie ParkerShoreditch Design Walk by Natalie ParkerShoreditch Design Walk by Natalie Parker

The Results

I had a love-at-first-sight moment with Oliver Bonas.  Bright colors, homewares with clean lines, cards, furniture, and more.  I thought about moving in.  I snapped a pictures of these quirky chests and sent them to my mom so we can make one (they don’t ship internationally).  I got out of there with a scarf and a couple of cards.

I almost tried on some clothes because the Old Spitalfields vendors were awesome.  But I was cold and couldn’t bring myself to do it.

I stumbled onto BoxPark and Tusch und Egon, contemplating for a while how I could pack home a beautiful modern fire extinguisher.  The shopkeeper told me they can’t be packed, even in the cargo hold.  Rats.

Double rats: I didn’t realize there were more BoxPark shops upstairs!  I really should learn how to wander.

I found a solar-powered dashboard corgi at Maiden and quickly snapped it up for the corgi-lover in my life.

I stopped to admire all the street art and got to see my very first Bansky!

I had an argument with myself at the Backyard Market about taking off my scarf to try on a necklace (it was cold).  The necklace won!  I bought it and a lovely hammered ring from Boém.

My patience rewarded, I found the street food vendors near Backyard Market and got a fresh juice and halloumi wrap.

Finally, I bused across Tower Bridge and walked to the Design Museum to check out the gift shop.  I’m not sure it was worth the trek since it was so out of the way from the other shops.  However, my opinion was probably influenced by the fact that it was cold and very windy on the walk there.

Not a bad day’s work!

Shoreditch Design Walk by Natalie ParkerShoreditch Design Walk by Natalie ParkerShoreditch Design Walk by Natalie Parker

If You Go

Click here for a map of all the locations I visited (peach pins are stores).

Websites: Oliver Bonas | Old Spitalfields Market | InSpitalfields | Backyard Market | Boém | BoxPark | Tusch und Egon | Maiden | Material | Design Museum

I traveled solo to London for the month of April on a business trip.  I kept myself entertained on the weekends with a few adventures that I’m sharing here.  Click here to see all of my travel posts grouped by destination.

Finding Paper & Design Stores When Traveling

Dublin Creative QuarterI love design shopping on the road.  It’s one of the best ways to see unique items I won’t find at home.

I’m always on the lookout for shops that sell stationary, gifts, goods by local artists, or well-curated home goods.  Put another way: cool stuff that I don’t have to try on.

It can be challenging to find stores that I want to visit.  If only Googling “cool design-y stores” would work!

How to Find Cool Shops When You Travel

Search your favorite crafty bloggers who travel.  There are tons of crafty ladies who travel.  I visit my favorite blogs and search for a city to see if they have any recommendations.  I found Material in London from Kelly Purkey.

Mine the websites of your favorite paper designers.  Many paper goods designers will list stores that stock their products.  Rifle Paper Co.’s stockist list is a gold mine for this — I used their list to help suss out shops when I had an afternoon to myself in Portland.  Sugar Paper also publishes a list.

I love a museum gift shop.  Museum gift shops are always so well-curated.  There’s nothing wrong with hitting up the shop if you don’t have time for the museum!  Modern art and design museums are especially good for this.

Trust the brain at Google Maps.  If you find a store you like and search for it on Google Maps in your browser, Google will show you similar shops in the area.  It’s not always perfect and works way better with restaurants, but it does help!  Note: I’ve only seen this work on a desktop browser, not on the mobile version of Maps.

If all else fails, Google it.  Sometimes I’ll search “paper store” or “stationary store” just to see what I get.  That’s how I found this great paper tour of Paris by Damask Love.

Do you have any tried and true secrets for finding good shops?  Please share!

Weekend in Dublin: What We Learned

Dublin What We Learned by Natalie Parker

On our last night in Dublin, we lingered over tea after dinner. While heading to a pub after dinner sounded great in theory, we both couldn’t stomach another fermented beverage. As we sat, we talked about what we learned on this trip.

I started What we Learned when we were passing the time at the end of our Christmas trip to Europe. It’s officially a blog-thing now that I’ll share after every trip. It’s a fun way to talk about those bits and pieces that don’t get blog posts on their own.

What we Learned, in No Particular Order

Sometimes there’s a service charge, sometimes not. Look at the receipt and tip 10-15% if there isn’t one. 10% is standard, 15% is generous.

Charging for tap water at a restaurant is normal.. Expect to pay around one euro.

We got really really lucky with the weather. I think we have weather karma stored up after that awful cold trip to Paris a couple years ago.

Coors Light with ice is a thing. If you order it, it comes with a glass of ice (isn’t it like drinking just water at this point?). We saw quite a few locals imbibe this way.

Dublin is a backpacker’s paradise. Tons of lodging options and cheap eats.

There’s free wifi everywhere, including pubs, public buses, the airport, tourist attractions, and even some restaurants.

Grafton Street isn’t worth your time. Shop the Creative Quarter.

Even we can get tired of going to pubs. And that’s really saying something.

Our T-Mobile international data plan is still the best thing in the history of ever. Like ever.

American bar food is really popular, especially wings. We saw wings on the menu at lots of pubs and even at a nice restaurant!

We might be okay with eBooks. Real books are heavy.

The River Liffey is extremely tidal. It was amusing to see how much it would rise and fall during the day.

The beers in Dublin have much more flavor than those in London.  We have no idea why.

There is a surprising lack of coat hooks for a country where people need to wear coats.  We miss the ubiquitous coat hooks inside restaurants and bars in Germany and Austria.

Even if we can fit all of our things in one suitcase, it’s not the end of the world to pack in two small suitcases and enjoy the extra room.  I got to bring a second jacket and another pair of shoes as a result!

And that about wraps it up for our weekend trip to Dublin!  I hope you take a trip to Dublin soon!

To see all my posts about Dublin, just click Travel at the top of this page and scroll to the Dublin section.  Learn how to plan a trip to Europe for the weekend (even coming all the way from California) here

Weekend Reading

Tea and Computer by Natalie Parker

One of my favorite things to do on Sunday morning is to avoid running sit in bed, grab my tablet, and read the link round ups that many bloggers publish.  Such cool stuff all over the internet!

I often wonder how my fellow bloggers find such cool stuff.  Then I realized I should pay it forward when I find cool stuff.

Here is my collection of (mostly travel related) reading:

I can’t tell you how excited I am about how the City of Paris is finally doing this.

While I already have Global Entry, I’m pretty curious about this new app.  Will it speed up customs in the US?

This all female air crew is totally inspiring.

This is a fabulous tutorial on using Google Flights!

Everything on this list is so true and I would do well to remember it sometimes when I travel.

And if you need something to read this summer or on your next trip, check this out!

Playing with the New Google Photos: Animations

Dead Sea Sunset by Natalie Parker

I took the plunge and decided to try the new Google Photos.  I’ll put comprehensive thoughts in a future post, but I wanted to share one cool thing today: animations.

As Google ingests all 30,000 photos in my collection, every so often it will take similar photos and animate them!

You must enable this feature by clicking on Settings and turning on Suggest New Creations.

I love seeing this surprises pop up.  At the top of this post is the sun setting over the Dead Sea.

Or, perhaps you like baby monkeys?  These two are from a national park in China:

Monkeys in China by Natalie Parker

It handles sports pictures really well:

Cal Football at Northwestern by Natalie Parker

And pictures of koalas:

Koala at Taronga Zoo in Sydney by Natalie Parker

One of my favorites is from our wedding day.  Our photographer took a bunch of pictures of us on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, trying to get the effect of people zooming by us.  I don’t think the pictures were that successful by themselves, but the animation really shows the effect:

Wedding Day on Telegraph Avenue Berkeley

I see just a few nit picky downsides:

I can’t control what is animated and what isn’t.  Sometimes it splits items into two animations when really everything could have gone together.  EDIT: I’ve learned I can create my own animations using the Photos mobile app.  I haven’t found that option on the web version.

I can’t edit for brightness and color.  If I haven’t edited some of the photos (often they are dark), the animation will use unedited photos.  Once the animation is created, I can’t edit to punch up the color.  If I really wanted an A+ looking animation, I’d have to delete, edit, and reupload the pictures then hope Google selects and animates them again.

For example, I really really want to fix the brightness so this little penguin looks like he did in real life (on bright white snow!):

Penguin moving by Natalie Parker

Or fix the brightness on this set of me sliding down the snow in Antarctica:

Sledding in Antarctica by Natalie Parker

But, all in all, I love these!  I’m not sure what I’m going to do with them since I can’t exactly put animations in a scrapbook.  We’ll see!  What would you do with these?

Tasting Whiskey and Clearing Customs at the Dublin Airport

Dublin Airport
Tasting whiskey and clearing customs:  two things that don’t have much in common.  Both, however, occur at the Dublin Airport, so off we go!

Tasting Whiskey at the Airport

We were told that the best place to do a whiskey tasting is at the airport.  We allowed ourselves extra time to grab a bite and look around.

After security, there was a huge whiskey shop with three whiskeys available to taste.  Mr. P tried some stuff he’d never heard of and made a purchase.  After the Customs Preclearance, there was a tasting of some smaller Jameson labels.  Bottles of all sizes are available, including small variety packs that are great as gifts.

There was a huge variety, including stuff not sold outside of Ireland.  Jameson even had a label that is only sold at the airport!

Whiskey Tasting

US Customs Preclearance in Dublin

The Dublin Airport has a US Customs Preclearance Facility.  Translation: you clear customs before boarding your flight.  When you land in the US, you collect your bags and exit like it was a domestic flight.

A few thoughts about the Dublin Preclearance

The order of operations is this: check-in, security, food + duty free, preclearance (including another bag x-ray), tiny duty free, gate.  There was no passport checkpoint to leave Ireland as there sometimes is in other countries.  If you’d like to eat something or shop, do it before going to preclearance.  Check out the departure board — it will say when to head over.

There is Global Entry at the Preclearance Facility.  Don’t bother taking a customs declaration form if you have Global Entry.  But, you may have to remind people you have Global Entry as you move through the lines.  Our Preclearance experience with Global Entry took about 10 minutes total including the security check.

Allow time for preclearance, especially if you don’t have Global Entry.  What irks me about the preclearance thing is that it’s not well advertised.  Things in Dublin ran pretty smoothly, but I’ve heard horror stories from other countries where flights were delayed by hours because of passengers stuck in preclearance.

Bottom Line

It was a pretty interesting and entertaining airport experience in Dublin!  We loved spending our weekend in Dublin and think you should too!

Mr. P and I recently spent a long weekend in Dublin and I’m writing a bunch of posts about the trip.  Click here to see a summary of our trip and for links to all the posts.  Learn how to plan a trip to Europe for the weekend (even coming all the way from California) here

Photos by Stefan Krasowski and Nico Kaiser via Creative Commons license.

Dublin: Day Trip to Howth

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Mr. P and I decided to spend our last day of the Dublin weekend on a day trip outside the city.  Most people I talked to and most articles I read recommended it.

Why we decided on Howth.  We had a few choices.  We could have gone to the Cliffs of Moher, but that would have been a grueling day and a drive literally to the other side of the country.  Looking at options nearer Dublin, Howth was the easiest to get to:  we could get there directly on the DART train.

What we did.  We slept in, ate breakfast, then meandered our way to Howth.  We walked out to the pier, around the waterfront, up the hill a bit to town, ate lunch, then walked a bit toward the cliff walk.  At that point, it was 5pm and we wanted to get the train home to pack and rest a bit before our dinner reservation back in town.

Where we ate.  We looked at a bunch of the restaurants on the pier and decided to go with the Brass Monkey (all chuckling about the Beastie Boys aside).  It had some of the best online reviews and was very busy.  The food was absolutely fantastic, if a tad expensive.

Tips for Visiting Howth

It’s pronounced “Howth” with an O like “both.”  Just so you can sound like a local.

Get there early, earlier than we did.  I don’t regret sleeping in, but we could have used more time to explore the cliff walk.

Make time for the cliff walk.  The cliffs are beautiful and doing the loop takes about two hours.  Get there in the morning and do the loop before heading back to down for lunch.

Because it’s easy to get to, lots of people go.  Another reason why we probably should have gone earlier.

Get a DART Train before Connolly Station.  We got on at Tara Station and got seats for the ride.  Connolly Station is a major transfer station and a ton of people got on there and didn’t get seats.  The train takes about 30 minutes.  More tips on Dublin public transit here.

Buy a return fare for DART.  This is a general rule for mass transit — buy your return fare before you leave the station so it’s a breeze to get on the train to go home.

There are food options for every budget.  Even though we had a sit-down lunch, there were a few take away options, including a fish and chips stand that was very popular.

Mr. P and I recently spent a long weekend in Dublin and I’m writing a bunch of posts about the trip.  Click here to see a summary of our trip and for links to all the posts.  Learn how to plan a trip to Europe for the weekend (even coming all the way from California) here