Our Toddler Beach Bucket List

bucketlist

Luna recently returned from her second annual family vacation to Hilton Head Island, SC. This summer vacation was a different animal compared to last summer. Last year, Luna was a 6-month old not-crawling-yet baby. This year she is a fearless running wild toddler with a will to jump in deep water at a moment’s notice. Meaning? This year’s beach trip was the best (and sometimes scariest) one yet.

Luna had such a good time that I decided to compile a bucket list of her (well, my) favorite beach activities.

  1. Watch the sunrise on the beach. Luna and I did this a few times because someone likes to wake up at 5am, but one morning we shared a special sunrise time with some of our favorite people and we added champagne.
Champagne sunrise!
Champagne sunrise!

2. Let the littles swim naked. Luna’s favorite skinny dipping time with during the sunrise.

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3. Take lots of bike rides and stay active. We rode bikes every single day around the island, and while it may not look like it, Luna loved being pulled around in her private cart.

She is clearly overjoyed...
She is clearly overjoyed…

4. Buy a puddle jumper and let them swim. Luna LOVES her puddle jumper. She begs to wear it, and I love it even more. Luna went swimming in the pool and in the ocean every single day.

I swear she normally looks more graceful
I swear she normally looks more graceful

5. Get a little dirty. What else would you do on the beach if not play in the sand?

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6. Dress that baby in white and force them to take a photo on the beach. You’ve just got to do it.

classic
classic

7. After the photo, let them just be their silly selves and get that new white dress all broken in.

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8. Finally, spend as much time with your crazy family as possible. Even if it means learning weird new yoga poses. This is one of the few times you are all together and that everyone gets to bond with that toddler of yours. Embrace it and enjoy it.

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Anyone else have any fun beach traditions or activities to share?

Cheers!

Finally, a Unique Family Beach Photo

Another year, another big Hilton Head family vacation. It’s our favorite week of the year and while I was nervous about having a wild toddler around a pool and an ocean every second of every day, I still had the best week of the year at our favorite beach house. Seeing Luna enjoy the beach as much as her parents makes us as happy as clams…as does the many various family members who beg to watch her every waking second. #yay #freetime

I’m positive that every single family who takes a beach vacation, spends at least one evening taking advantage of “magic hour” to capture the classic family-in-the-sand photograph. We do it every year and as often as we try to mix it up and get a bit creative, but every year they look likes this…

2013 vs 2014 (and one person is missing!)
Top is from 2013, bottom from 2014.

Of course, nothing is wrong with these photos. They’re adorable, traditional and bring back great memories. However, they aren’t exactly unique or exciting. So, this year we FINALLY mixed it up a bit. It took a few of us to put our heads together, and what we came up with is now my favorite group Hilton Head photo.

Soooooo…..here we are!

Hilton Head Island 2015 family photo
Hilton Head 2015

I mean, how could we not take a photo in the most enormous shower? AND, how could we not wear towels in the shower?

Happy Summer yall!

Cheers!

P.S. I must apologize for my very looonnnngggg blogging vacation. I did not want to be gone this long. It’s just a lot harder than I expected to start a part-time job, be a mostly-stay-at-home Mom, write and keep up our adventures. To be honest, I usually write at night when everyone goes to bed, but lately I have just gone to bed! (Or maybe watched some OITNB, which is kinda disappointing this season, right?) I’ve missed you! I’ve missed my Internet life and I’ve missed this creative outlet!!! I WILL find my way back. Pinky Promise!

Texas Memories

During our recent trip to Texas, my main goal was for Luna to live it up with her Grandparents and family that she so rarely gets to see. I let her stay up later than normal, eat more junk than I ever let her eat and basically let my parents do everything with her. They fed her, bathed her, played with her, walked with her… which basically means I was on vacation all week. Wahoo! Seriously, though, she had a blast with her Texas family!

Luna spent a lot of time getting messy. There is only a short period of time that a human can run around naked, rub food all over their face, eat dirt and look adorable while doing it. I want Luna to get the most of this time in her life, and I think we’ve been successful so far! One of my fav activities in Texas was one suggested from a friend. We used plain greek yogurt and food coloring to make edible finger paints! It was one big fun and super messy activity. She loved it!

ooooh my, those baby blues
ooooh my, those baby blues
Our sweet cousin had way too much fun playing with Luna and "helping" her paint!
Our sweet cousin had way too much fun playing with Luna and “helping” her paint!
"painting" Luna's face and body
“painting” Luna’s face and body
mmmmmmm
mmmmmmm

I’m sure this will probably set her up for a life-long habit of eating paint, but hopefully she’ll learn the difference between toxic and non-toxic.

We spent a day on the coast with the family and Luna’s boyfriend, Orion, too. Once again, we got a little messy and a little naked.

dirty beach baby baby in water baby butt beach

We made some unforgettable memories in Texas! Luna is one lucky little girl to have so many Texans who love her so much! Can’t wait until next time!

Cheers!

Yes, It’s Hard

beach with family

For the last eight years, I have been asked time and time again if it’s hard to live so far away from “home”, from my family. The answer has always, and will always be, yes. It is not easy to live so far away from my parents, sister, other relatives and many close friends (they are in Texas, I have been all over the place, but currently Tennessee). I miss them constantly, but I also choose where I live for so many reasons (that would be a whole different post). It’s hard, yes, but THANK GOD we make it work. Thankfully, we have phones, texts, video chat, Skype, email, Facebook, etc etc. We make it work, and more importantly, we still make lots of efforts to see one another as much as possible.

side by side

Last week, we were in Texas. Oh how nice it is to go home and be spoiled and loved on by your parents. That’s one plus side of living far away….lots and lots of love and attention when you get together! We drove all night so Luna could sleep and knocked on my parents’ door bright and early at 6:30am. My Mom immediately took over with Luna and told us to catch up on our sleep. If you insist!  She was more than happy to get some much needed quality time with her Granddaughter. I retired to the living room couch where I lightly napped. Between napping, I spied. I spied on Luna and her Honey (my Mom). I spied because I didn’t want to interrupt or spoil the precious moments unfolding before my eyes.

honey walk

The two of them ate breakfast together at the tiny Mickey Mouse folding chairs and table my Mom bought. Honey taught Luna to color, and Luna taught Honey the joy of taking the crayons out of the bag one at time, and putting them back into the bag one at a time…and out…and back in…and so on, and so on. They ran all over the house, keeping each other on their toes. They snuggled in the recliner and watched cartoons. Honey blew bubbles for Luna to chase around in her PJ’s. They loved on each other as if they lived next door to one another and played side by side on a regular basis. I can’t tell you how full my heart felt as I watched them bond.

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There were many many full hearted moments that week. Seeing my parents be Grandparents is really special. I hate that I can’t see it everyday, but maybe it makes it even more special this way, more appreciated, no moment taken for granted. (Though, my fingers are still crossed that they will one day move to Tennessee!) I also got to see my nephew, who I haven’t seen since Thanksgiving! Having my nephew and Luna together was the best!

bath with micah

cousins

Then, there my cousins, aunts, uncles, friends, babies, babies and more babies! Every trip to Texas is a crazy whirlwind of visiting one person after another. There is never enough time to see everyone I want to see or see enough of the people I do get to see. Texas just has too many awesome people living in it! (That’s right, that Texas pride never fades, nor does its modesty.) While we may have been ready to get home and get Luna back on a normal schedule, we weren’t ready to say goodbye.

beach day

beach hat

So, yes, it’s hard to live so far from “home”, but we make it work. While the distance may be hard, staying connected isn’t. Sure, it takes a little work, but doesn’t everything worth anything take some work?

reading with pawpaw

Until next time, Texas…

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Cheers!

Toddler Tips at Disney

We love taking Luna everywhere, but we were definitely most excited about taking her to Disney World..the place where we met, dated, fell in love, got engaged and got married… it’s a second home to us. Clearly, visiting Disney (any Disney park) never gets old to us. Every trip is a great trip, but going with a baby is definitely a different kind of trip…in a very good way.

Everyone told us to wait to take Luna. They told us she wouldn’t like it, she won’t remember it (so?), it will be too stressful and so on and so on. Being us, we didn’t listen and took her anyways, and I’m so glad we did. Not only did she love it, but we enjoyed every bit of it too. Sure, we didn’t get to ride every single ride we wanted, but who cares. We’ve ridden them all a hundred times anyways. It was worth missing any ride to watch Luna hug Minnie, dance to classic Disney hits, play on every single slide and her eyes light up as she watched Disney Jr. Live. It was magical, as they say.

If you love Disney and want to take your toddler to Disney, do it. Luna was so entertained that she never once had a meltdown, that says a lot. Just take it slowly, make a plan, but don’t freak out if everything doesn’t go accordingly and most importantly, follow these tips:

1. Pack accordingly. Bring a stroller and pack it with snacks, water, toys, bubbles, regular diaper back stuff, a camera, sunscreen and you’ll still have room for souvenirs. Luna napped in her stroller everyday and was soooo nice to have something to carry all of our stuff as well!

*I recommend a stroller fan too!

stroller

2. Let the kids make friends. Disney is packed full of babies, toddlers and kids. Luna is not shy so she was thrilled to run up to other children and see what was happening. It was pretty darn cute to watch the toddlers interact, and kept them entertained if we were waiting in line. While waiting for Disney Jr. Live one adorable little boy gave one of his brand new Mickey suckers to Luna and they were instantly bff’s.

sucker

3. Let them be free. When riding the bigger rides we used Disney’s “rider switch” option, which allowed 2 of us to go on the ride, while one waited with Luna. Then the one who waited go to go through fastpass, and bring one of the previous riders with them. While the one person waited with Luna we just let her run free. It’s her favorite thing to do at the moment. She LOVED running around the parks, looking through the shops, exploring, watching the water fountains and climbing every single obstacle she came across.

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4. Let nap time happen anywhere.

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5. Visit all the kiddy shows and rides that you use to skip. Disney Jr. Live is probably the one show we have never seen at Disney World. I have to admit, it’s pretty cute. I wouldn’t see it on my own, but I loved how much Luna loved it. She was dancing, clapping and totally into the characters on stage. Hot dog, hot dog, hot diggity dog…

clubhouse

6. Take them on rides! There are A LOT of rides that are appropriate for babies! There’s Dumbo, Small World, Peter Pan, Winnie the Pooh, Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, Jungle Cruise, the TTA, the flying carpets and that’s just to name a few! Luna seemed to enjoy the rides too. She was getting fussy right before Dumbo, but the second we started flying she was happy as can be.

flying dumbo

7. Seek shade! Florida is hot. We were worried about Luna (and ourselves) getting sunburned and overheated. Luckily, there are MANY shaded areas to hangout and cool off. One of my favorite spots is “The Seas” at EPCOT. After riding the Nemo ride, we hung out around the aquariums for a while. Luna clearly found it very peaceful.

manatee

8. Use your hotel pool. We never ever spent time at our hotel pre-Luna, but this time around I couldn’t wait to get back to the hotel and swim. We stayed at Coronado and they have a great pool, baby pool, playground and sandbox area. Luna had a blast!!! I’m pretty sure she still thought she was at Magic Kingdom.

pool

9. Take lots and lots and lots of photos! Your kids will only be this age at Disney once and you are going to want to remember all of those magical moments. We took a good combination of posed and candid photos. I love this moment that Bella caught on camera s we rode the TTA.

tta

10. Be cheesy and pack those Disney outfits. I’m always cheesy, so it’s no surprise that Luna, me and Bella had Disney outfits for each and every day.

minnie baby

11. As I’ve said before, plans do not always go accordingly, and that’s fine! I was really excited about having a character lunch with Luna at Crystal Palace, but Luna fell asleep before we got there and woke up after we left. No biggie, we just got all the characters to pose with the sleeping baby. Plus, I actually got to eat my entire lunch in peace!

pooh

12. Meet some characters.. Let’s be real, Luna does not actually care about them (minus Minnie), so I was not going to wait for hours and hours to meet someone like Elsa. However, it was worth getting a fastpass and waiting 5 minutes to meet Mickey, Goofy and Minnie on our last day. She wasn’t scared and seemed to like them.

goofey

13. Find the play places. There are quite a few “playground” type areas. The best was at Dumbo. Instead of waiting in line you actually go to an air conditioned indoor playground. They give you a buzzer and it buzzes when it’s your turn to get on the ride. BEST. IDEA. EVER.
dumbo

Hope this helps! Let me know your own tips for going  to Disney with a toddler!

Cheers!

I Conquered Everest! (The race, not the mountain)

As you may have heard, we went to Disney World a couple of weeks ago and IT WAS AWESOME! We have been dying to go to Disney since having Luna, and we found the perfect excuse to plan a trip: a race. Several months ago, we signed up for the Expedition Everest Challenge. So, not only did we get to spend 4 magical days at our home away from home, but we also got to experience a magical run and after party. I think Disney runs might be my new obsession!

run disney

The Expedition Everest Challenge is a 5k through Animal Kingdom at night with obstacles and a scavenger hunt! I’ve got your interest, right? It was an extra special race because it was the 8th and final challenge. Why? I’m not sure, but I believe it has something to do with the Animal Kingdom expansion… Anyways, to prepare for the run we picked out Winnie the Pooh themed costumes. I was Pooh, Bella was Piglet and Husband was Christopher Robin. (BTW, I don’t know if Husband will ever allow me to dress him in costume for a race again… apparently Christopher Robin isn’t super cool. Whatevs. It could’ve been worse, my original plan was the three kittens from Aristocats.) We also prepared by doing Insanity Max 30 and running almost never. It’s so hard to stick to a running schedule, am I right?!

kittens
You’ve got to admit, it’s a cute idea!
Here's what we went with instead...
Here’s what we went with instead…

our group

Even without running we totally kicked butt! We ran our fastest 5k ever at 22 minutes and 51 seconds! Husband placed 15th out of individual men, Bella placed 7th and I placed 8th out of individual women. I am super proud of us, and impressed with Insanity Max 30 for keeping us in good shape. It was very intimidating to start the race in the first heat. We were surround by individuals and teams who have placed or won the challenge in previous years. Some had run every single year. We were shaking in our tutu’s, but we managed to keep up with the pack and it was a blast!

Before the race began
Before the race began

We ran through the parking lot, through the park, through three (albeit mediocre) obstacles and across the finish line. At the finish line we were handed the usual bottle of water, a cool towel and a clue! That’s right, the challenge was only halfway over. We were to solve the first clue, run to the second, give the correct answer, receive the second clue and so forth. It was not easy to keep running, but we pushed through it and took a few breaks to solve some serious clues. There were a total of 6 clues and at the second finish line we had to hold up the “hidden Yeti” with our 6 solved clues in order to cross and receive our medals. It was exhilarating and so much fun!

We did it!
We did it!

Then, the after party. We celebrated at the post-race private after party in the park. The Dinoland and Asia sections were open for us to enjoy. There were characters, open food and drink stands and rides! Yay, for rides with no lines! We rode Expedition Everest, Dinosaur and Kali River Rapids. It may have been a mistake to get soaking wet on the rapids considering it was chilly out and night time, but it was still worth it to be in Animal Kingdom at night during our own private party.

We conquered Everest!
We conquered Everest!

We didn’t get back until almost 2am. (Wild night for us lame parents.) After spending the entire day at Magic Kingdom and running all night we were EXHAUSTED! It was definitely a night to remember. In fact, it was such a good time that we are already planning our next Disney Run: The Disney Princess Half Marathon!!! (And, by “we” I mean me and Bella. Husband is thrilled to be the babysitter.) Who’s with me???

There were characters all along the course cheering us on and Mickey and Minnie were at the after party.
There were characters all along the course cheering us on and Mickey and Minnie were at the after party.

Also, who has advice? I am SO not prepared. Good thing I’ve got 9 months to whip myself into running shape!

Cheers!

Minnie Mouse Love

tta

We are home from our first Disney vacation with Luna, and I am very tempted to say it was our best trip yet, and considering, we met, got engaged and got married there, that’s saying a lot. We love Disney, but seeing the magic through our daughter’s eyes makes it much more magical than I ever imagined. We spent our three days at the parks doing lots of what we thought Luna would like (and a little of what only we would enjoy). I had not doubt that Luna would enjoy running around, dancing to the music and looking at all the sights, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that she not only enjoyed, but interacted with the shows, rides and characters. Her favorite  (and our favorite) part of the trip was by far, the moment she met Minnie Mouse.

My mini Minnie!
My mini Minnie!

Luna has a small stuffed Minnie Mouse that she has loved since she was just a couple of months old.  In fact, it is the first object she ever smiled at. I have said for a while that she loves Minnie Mouse in general, but Husband has refused to believe that she actually recognizes Minnie Mouse. That is until we went to Disney World.

pink minnie
Waiting for Disney Jr. Live

 

Every. Single. Store. we went into had rows and rows of stuffed Disney characters. There was Mickey, Goofy , Donald, Pooh, Simba, Nemo and of course, Minnie. Luna would scan every aisle until she came to Minnie. She then instantly pulled Minnie from the shelf and ran with her to either me or her Daddy. This happened, not once, but in ever single store and gift shop.

picking minnie big minnie stuffed minnie

Obviously, I convinced Husband to buy her one. I mean, how can you not buy this girl a Minnie Mouse during her first trip to Disney?

stroller minnie

Then, the most magical moment of all happened. Our last day at Disney was spent at EPCOT. We decided to use one of our fastpasses for a character spot. We were somewhat apprehensive about spending time in line for Luna to meet characters that she would most likely be terrified of, but we decided to give it a shot, and I am oh so so glad we did!

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minnie kiss

She met Mickey and loved him. Next, was Goofy. She loved him too. Finally, the grand finale was her supposed favorite character, Minnie Mouse. We slowly set her on the ground about 6 feet from Minnie and nervously waited to see what would happen. Luna’s little eyes lit up when she spotted Minnie. She ran to her, arms out and hugged that giant mouse! Minnie “kissed” her head, held her hands, hugged her and interacted with her for a good three minutes before we stepped in for photos. It was magical!

meet minnie hey minnie

Minnie Mouse was the highlight of our trip, but I have SO much more to share! Stay tuned for Disney tips and tricks as wells as some adorable photos!

all mickeys

Chees!

Pretty Churches

During our trip to the UK we visited lots and lots of old churches and cathedrals. Husband especially loves touring old churches. There is so much history, architecture, art and intrigue. The United Kingdom had some especially beautiful old churches, and we were lucky enough to spend lots of quality time in them.

york hubs

When we visited Westminster Abbey in London they were about to start services and weren’t allowing visitors, sooo we did the only logical choice and told the guard we were going to services, which we did. We sat and and listened to the choir and services start, but Luna wasn’t exactly enjoying it or sitting quietly, so we left after about ten minutes. Unfortunately, that was the only time we had in that famous Abbey, BUT have no fear, we made up for all of that lost time in the York Minster, my all time favorite cathedral, er minster? Does anyone know the difference?

york minster

The York Minster is HUGE. Huge and gorgeous. We spent hours and hours covering every inch, brick and stained glass window. We toured the basement, which goes 2,000 years back into the Minster’s history. Husband and Dad-in-law climbed the winding staircases to the top of the Central Tower. (I had to stay back thank to some baby and “it’s too dangerous for kids” rule.) I spent a lot of time in “the orb” It’s a new exhibit that gives you a very rare opportunity to see some very cool, very old ancient stained glass. I’m not typically a huge fan of stained glass, but I found a whole new appreciation for it after spending time in the orb, and in the Minster for that matter.

york mins more minster minster faces minster ceiling church minster roof

In Scotland, our favorite Cathedral, and Husband’s all-time fav church, with the St. Giles Cathedral. St. Giles is over 900 years old and is located in the center of The Royal Mile. It’s dark, mysterious and has some incredible stained glass windows. However, the most interesting part of the church is the Thistle Chapel. This little room caught Husband’s attention because it was off limits, due to theft. Obviously, he was intrigued and determined to go in, after a little research and a convo with one of the workers, the doors were unlocked and we were taken in right before closing for a little private tour.

stained glass more glass little room

I REALLY wish I would have immediately written down everything we were told because it was so interesting, but of course, i didn’t write down a single word. Here’s what I do know… The Thistle Chapel is a room created for the Order of the Thistle (Scotland’s great order of chivalry). There are 16 members of the Order. Each member has their own stall in the Chapel with their own “heraldic device” on display. After one member dies, another is invited to join the Order. The room is full of the most detailed and intricate carvings and designs. There are many symbolic details, and some silly ones too…like an angel playing the bagpipes. It was a cool room, made cooler by the fact that we got a private tour.

special room

Oh, so many gorgeous details.

arches

Where will our next ancient Cathedral be?

Cheers!

How to Pack a Diaper Backpack (video!)

I have been debating creating YouTube videos for the blog for a VERY long time now and am happy (and relieved) to say I have finally done it! It has been a long few days of recording, editing and learning new software, but it has paid off. My first topic? Well, it was actually requested by one of you!

One of you asked that I share what I packed in Luna’s diaper bag while traveling through the United Kingdom. I loved the idea and then thought, why not make it a video?

Hope you like it!

If you have any requests for future videos or blogs, let me know in the comments.

Cheers!

The Big Three

My happy little traveler.
My happy little traveler.

While we were in London, we took a few trips outside of the city to checkout lots of bucket-list type attractions. Our longest day trip was an 11-hour bus tour that took us to Windsor Castle, Stonehenge and Bath. It was a lot to cover in one day, but the rushed trip was very much worth it.

Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle

We booked the tour with Viator. They picked us up at our hotel, bright and early. We were ready with our cameras, snacks, packed diaper bag and carrier.  The first stop was Windsor Castle and it was about a 2-hour drive from London. Windsor Castle is gorgeous. My favorite part was Queen Mary’s enormous and elaborate doll house. I’m talking BIG. It took a good 15-20 minutes to look at quickly. I wonder if any kids were ever actually allowed to play with it… Interesting fact: Queen Victoria was often called the “Widow Of Windsor” after Prince Albert’s death because on the rare occasion that she was spotted outside she was always dressed in black and mourning.

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We rushed through our tour because poor Luna had broken out in horrible hives all over her torso for the second time in a week. I realized she was wearing the same wool shirt both occasions so we quickly scoured through a couple souvenir shops and bought her a touristy London kids cotton tee to wear.

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Next stop, Stonehenge! To be frank, I was not super excited about looking at a bunch or rocks. The fact, that Luna was refusing a nap (shocking, I know) and being a grumpus didn’t help. I wore Luna in her carrier out to the rocks and was blasted with the craziest winds. She was screaming and I just did my best to keep bouncing and to cover her with my scarf, neither of which helped. Too bad too, because those giant prehistoric mystery rocks stacked on each other were very impressive. They are a part of UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites, which is a good list to check off if you travel. After a few photos, Luna and I spent most of our time in the gift shop playing with stuffed sheep and trying the wine samples.

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Our final stop, and longest drive, was to Bath. In my opinion, they saved the best for last. Bath, yet another World Heritage Site, is gorgeous. The yellow stone, Georgian architecture and the river that runs through it is stunning. Just the sight of the city as you are getting close is breathtaking. Sadly, we didn’t get a lot of time to explore the city of Bath because we focused our time there at the Roman Baths. Somewhere around a million years ago, give or take a few, Romans turned bath into a spa town. They used the natural hot springs to create lots of baths and fancy places to hangout and relax. These Romans had the right idea. I just wanted to go back in time and hop into these hot springs while I walked around listening to the audio guide with my scarf and coat wrapped tightly around me. That hot water and skinny dipping sounded heavenly.

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So, drinking the water from the hot springs is  said to be "healing".
So, drinking the water from the hot springs is said to be “healing”.

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It took almost 3 hours to get home, but it wasn’t horrible. The entire day was fast and furious, but considering it was the only way we would have possibly been able to squeeze all 3 sights into our itinerary, I’m thrilled we did it. (Plus, even with all the driving, we still managed to get more than our 10,000 steps in for the day.) If you are ever in London, I highly recommend taking the day trip to all three sights. unless, you have lots of time. If you have the time then I would suggest spending a full day in Bath. I would love to go back and spend a day exploring!

Guess we will have to plan another trip to England one day…darn.

Cheers!