Chardon | USA

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Chardon, Ohio – my childhood home. I spent most of my childhood here, from the age of 9 to the age of 18, when I embarked to university in Cincinnati – and never looked back. I have been traveling ever since, now living permanently in the great country of England. I haven’t come home for more than 2 or 3 weeks – but this keeps home a comforting and relaxing environment.

I was home for one week this time in the middle of July, which for this part of the USA means sunshine and heat, humidity and of course, the potential for strong storms. Proper storms as I call them – the equivalent in the UK is a small rumble in the distance.

I spent most of my days on our back deck, watching our adorable Golden Retriever dogs (Jac and Lilly) play in the backyard. Jac, the older of the two, moseyed around the lawn, stopping and sniffing when it suited him. Lilly, our puppy, has a lot more energy. She would bound around chasing balls I would throw to her, or grab rocks to play with.

It had rained a lot this year, so the grass, instead of being a dull and dead brown was a magnificent green. A green that glistened in the sunshine and that felt full and soft on your bare feet. I adored walking around barefoot. I would sit on the deck reading (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix for the third time) and would love the hot sun on my face. It was incredibly peaceful. Barefoot, reading, sunshine, and a glass of cold water. I could have stayed in that position for days.

When the family was home, we played a human sized jenga game in the yard, and had s’mores next to bonfires. I ate incredibly well – bbq ribs, hamburgers, fettuccine alfredo, Olive Garden’s endless salad and breadsticks, ranch dressing, mochas, Sam Adams… I came back much heavier than I left.

A Rant About Chicago O’Hare Airport

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This year, instead of going abroad for my summer holidays, I decided to spend a week back in the comfort of sunny Chardon, Ohio (also known as my family hometown). Mid-July, after a sunny week in London, I headed off on a plane for Chicago, to ultimately take the final leg of my flight to Cleveland.

Cleveland use to be a major hub of an airport, with (you’ll never believe this if you go to this tiny airport now) flights to the UK directly. DIRECT! What a thing of dreams these days. Hopkins International Airport only keeps the name alive through a flight to Toronto, Canada. A 45 minute journey on a 30 seater egg-beater with wings. Hardly international.

But I digress. My biggest complaint is with the Chicago O’Hare Airport itself – a nightmare for international travellers, whether American or otherwise. AVOID AT ALL COSTS!

Now, I fly British Airways (BA) on nearly all my international flights. This airline was my first in flying to London, and I had such incredible service for cattle class that I cannot be on any alternative flight without someone else booking that ticket for me. I will always recommend a BA flight internationally. They greet me with smiles and lovely British accents, great service, and good food. I flew their 747 jet (my personal favourite) out to Chicago. It was when I got off the plane when I was faced with the horror that is International Terminal Customs.

What the heck is going on here?! The queue for the citizens alone was nearly back into the plane. No signs. Not to mention anyone helpful to tell us what was going on. In the citizens lane, we were shuttled into this pen with new machinery that was to take our photos and basically do the work of the customs officer for us. Was it confusing? Yes. Was it poorly laid out with no directions on how to use the system? Yes. Was it manned by people who cannot speak nor understand much English? Unfortunately yes. Not the best place for them – cue frustration on both sides.

I got a photo taken with a big X marks the spot – and shuffled back to a customs officer anyways. A complete waste of time.

I had a lot of spare time before my next flight, because I knew from previous experience that Chicago’s International Terminal is a nightmare. But never was it THAT much of a nightmare. My seven hour layover was cut down to three by the time I resurfaced on the domestic side of the airport. No joke. I went straight to the bar to drown my sorrows in a cold pint of Sam Adams (excellent choice of beer if over on that side of the Atlantic). I had to readjust my speech once there… Doesn’t help that the majority of my adult life so far has been spent in England, I couldn’t think of the American equivalent for pint or another word for bill as the man behind the bar had no idea what I was talking about.

At the end of a long journey (coupled with a flight cancellation just after all of the above hassle), I was home and extremely jet lagged. Lesson learned: never fly through Chicago again if you can help it!

New York | New York

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So.. two of my colleagues are going to New York City. One for the first time, one for the second. I am so excited for them! But just talking to them both about what to see and do reminds me of when I use to live there many years ago. I lived first in Manhattan in Chelsea, and second in Hoboken on the Jersey side of the Hudson. I worked in Soho, and went out in the Lower East Side, Meatpacking District, and ate dinner in Greenwich village.

I never gave New York much of a chance, at first. I came to New York directly from London, and I missed London so much that it made me miserable. I use to cry on weekends and visit my local deli man for chocolate. I was super depressed in the great city. My only saving grace was my weekend runs down the Hudson River to Battery Park, where I would sit in the sunshine and look at the water thinking – you’re out there somewhere England!

I could go back now.  I remember fondly Highline walks, sushi, dumplings in China Town, old wine bars, the open air that was Central Park, great restaurants, and bars, and even better walks. It is so easy to overlook these things when you are there and dreaming of another city, but I think I did New York a major disservice.

So above are some photos from my time there – riverside drinks and kayaking on hot, sun-filled days! I do miss it – sometimes. x

Chagrin Falls | Ohio

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Nearby my hometown of Chardon, there is the lovely old village of Chagrin Falls. It was established in the 1800s, and is now an area known for its quaint boutiques and restaurants. The river walk is particularly wonderful , and the falls area is romantic and picturesque. So while we were home for the holidays, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to go!

Zan came up and met us for a walk and while there she convinced me to buy the book Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. And I cannot recommend it highly enough! I am already on book 2 of the series.

Christmas Holidays

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This past Christmas Ben and I had the wonderful opportunity to fly home! We stayed for nearly 2 weeks, travelling around Ohio and bits of Michigan seeing my family, celebrating the engagement, and eating wonderful American food. To say we left stuffed, feeling well loved and needing a diet change was an understatement! It was so wonderful to spend time with all of these great people that I miss so much!