Travel Tips

Pull Over And Have An Adventure | California Photography by Rachel Abrahams

Before going to California, the number one question I was asked was "Are you planning on driving the Pacific Coastal Highway?". I was told repeatedly how it is beautiful and definitely worth taking the extra time to drive it. We decided to drive it from Los Angeles to San Francisco and it was absolutely worth every minute of it. Some parts were isolated, other parts were nerve wracking (high cliffs and teeny weeny ledges for the car), and almost all of it was gorgeous. We didn't have a detailed plan other than wanting to be at a certain point before sunset so we took full advantage of stopping wherever we saw beautiful sights. My husband was fantastic and kept scouting great photography locations to explore.

Not too long into the drive, we came upon this beach. It was isolated and there was only one other car there so we pulled over to explore. There was a large drop off from the road down to the sand and without my husband's assistance (both down and up the drop off), I never would have been able to get down onto the beach to explore. It had everything you expect from a beach on the Pacific Ocean - rocks, huge piles of seaweed, driftwood, and the water was so COLD. Not like Florida ocean water - this was wet suit required cold water. Plus, I'm a big (Floridian) wuss when it comes to cold water.

I am proud of the fact I was running around in capris and flip-flops while it was 50 degrees on the beach. That didn't bother me. Swimming in it would.

It was so lovely to be on this beach, scouring for treasures, with no one really around. The wind was blustery and the sun was strong. This situation was an example of something I read once that said to take pictures no matter what the light is like. As photographers, it is repeated over and over to us to always take photos in the best light - which is typically around sunrise and sunset. Well, I didn't have that option and had to work with the sun light directly over the water and the ocean reflecting it like a huge mirror onto my camera. The article was right - just take the photos. Don't miss out just because the light isn't perfect.

My favorite aspect of traveling is seeing how different things are where you visit and I could not get over how FLUFFY the seagulls were in California. Are they seeing some specialty bird hairdresser we don't have in Florida? Maybe it's all the celebrity beauty treatments and some weird seagull keratin feather treatment? These guys actually looked cuddly. Of course, I still can't stand birds so they didn't look cuddly enough to actually try to get near one. The day that happens, the people close to me know it's time to check me in for old-timer's disease or senility. I've tried but birds and I don't mix. Trust me.

Although it felt really isolated in this nook of a beach there were two houses within view. I cannot even imagine what a gorgeous vantage point they have every day. I waved in their direction in case anyone happened to see this little redheaded hobbit climbing around the rocks like an idiot. If someone did see me, I guarantee they were placing bets on me falling. FYI - I didn't. Well, I nearly did trying to climb back up the drop-off to the road. Hubby saved me though so it doesn't count.

What's the best place you discovered while meandering off the beaten path? Would you (or have you) dare(d) to swim in the arctic cold of the Pacific Ocean waters without a wet suit? Am I the only one who isn't a fan of birds?

Eiffel Tower To Your Hearts Content | Paris Photography by Rachel Abrahams

Eiffel Tower To Your Heart's Content | Paris Photography by Aspiring Images by Rachel

What's the first icon everyone thinks of when imagining Paris? That's easy - the Eiffel Tower.

It's also the number one request I've gotten for photos since I traveled to Paris and I thought it would be fun to just go all out - go big or go home - and post only Eiffel Tower photos. These are all completely different in their styles and I feel like one of these photos will make someone happy.

This was our first time seeing the Eiffel Tower while walking around Paris, delirious from jet lag and our bodies thinking it was still 3AM back on the East Coast of the US. Turned the corner, while searching for some food to nosh on, and - BLAM - there she was. Awesome right? Now, imagine living in one of those apartments where you can see it all the time?? I'm assuming that takes some lotto powerball kind of money, so I guess I'll just keep on dreaming.

After finding our nosh (aka breakfast at pink chairs), we then wandered over to see the Eiffel Tower. It was really close to our hotel and we knew this would be the moment we knew we had officially ARRIVED in Paris. It was fairly early and we had several hours to kill until our hotel would be ready. The grass was soft, the sun was shining, and there were minimal crowds. We sat and just relaxed, taking it all in. Well, the other two people sat down and I kind of stood, laid on my stomach, and rolled around like a turtle on its shell trying to get up because of myrecently broken tailbone. I just couldn't travel to Paris without making it more of an adventure, I guess.

The hardest part about photographing an iconic structure like the Eiffel Tower? Figuring out how in the blue hell to do it differently than everyone else who has ever taken a photo of it. I kept looking at it just trying to find something different and inspiring. I also kept in mind I had two people traveling with me, who weren't photographers, so I had to keep my obsessiveness to a somewhat minimum so they wouldn't be throwing me and my camera into the Seine River.

Did you know you can actually eat INSIDE the Eiffel Tower? There's a restaurant up there that lets you see Paris from an aerial view. It was gorgeous and when the flashing nighttime sparkle lights lit up the Eiffel Tower, the interior of the restaurant was like a crazy disco of lights since we were right there inside the action. I highly recommend eating at Le 58 Tour Eiffel if you get the chance, especially if you don't know if you'll ever get to go back to Paris. Yes, it's touristy. Yes, it's pricey. Yes, the locals will probably say you are wasting your time and can find better food elsewhere but then you get to go home and say you ate INSIDE THE EIFFEL TOWER. Sounds awesome, right?

I will say, it was an adventure explaining to the server I am a vegetarian. He kept offering me the chicken and I declined politely. It was very confusing for him to fathom why I would not be eating the meat in any of the dishes. Eventually, he brought my dinner out with chicken on the side, which I shared with my hubby. He didn't mind getting my extras. It's how we roll.

On our last day we shopped for souvenirs and then we walked along the side of the Eiffel Tower where there were beautiful shaded areas under the trees, benches to relax, and some peace away from the bedlam of tourists. It was really a nice spot to see the icon without the hassle and I would say several locals were taking full advantage.

So, there are some of my many photos of the Eiffel Tower.

Which photo is your favorite? If you won the powerball lotto, where would you buy a home? Are you like I am and will eat/do the touristy thing so you can brag later you did it? Have you read about the 10 Things I Learned While In Paris?

20131112-105355.jpg

The Beauty and Heartache of the British Museum | London Photography by Rachel Abrahams

AspiringImagesbyRachel-London-BritishMuseum-Entry-Daylight

When I was in college, I had the most amazing opportunity to study abroad in London while completing my degree. The program was based on my degree, International Affairs, and we spent a majority of our time in London working with the House of Parliament and its members, understanding the government process. While that was definitely amazing, the absolute gem of my time there was living on the SAME STREET as the British Museum. It was so close and, being a broke college student, I made sure to spend a lot of time there - especially when my program was over and I had some time to experience London on my own without a curriculum schedule to dictate my time.

Living in a tiny beach town for most of my life, my experience of museums was piddly compared to the grandeur and extensive history hidden within the British Museum. Of course, the outside was astounding but when I walked in the space opened up to reveal a beautiful glass ceiling and open interior leading to the wings where the historical items are housed. It was not what I expected at all.

At the time, I wasn't sure when I'd ever get to come back and spent hours perusing every inch of the museum practically memorizing the exhibitions. I learned so much and devoured every inch. I've since been lucky enough to go back to London to visit multiple times and on my last visit could finally attempt to capture the beauty within. After my first visit to London, I would come to learn of the controversy that surrounds some of the items housed at the British Museum and the requests of the countries where they came from, in the hopes of getting the items returned.

This did color my affection a bit when I returned knowing countries like Greece, Nigeria, Egypt, China, and more are requesting to have these items returned to them and questioning how they were acquired by the British Government. The list includes items like the Parthenon Marbles (aka Elgin Marbles) from Greece and the Rosetta Stone from Egypt. It's caused quite a bit of controversy and it's hard to tell how much longer some of these items will remain at the British Museum.

Something else I discovered at the museum that had nothing to do with the artifacts? The Horrible Histories book series, which although intended for kids is AWESOME from this supposed adult's perspective. I found it in the book store within the museum and have been hooked ever since. I'll be honest - history class was definitely my least favorite. Even lower than math and that says something for me. These books are written with such a great sense of humor and I highly encourage any child or adult to check them out. I've reviewed several on Goodreads and get comments often about my reviews. Every time I returned to London, I'd look for more books to burden my suitcase with but now (HALLELUJAH) they are available on Amazon.com. My collection has grown but is still incomplete. I'm working on it. That and my Asterix and Obelix comics collection (from France) but I'll leave my geek addictions for a different blog post.....

What is the best museum you've ever visited? Is there a historical artifact you saw in real life and couldn't believe it was there - in 3D? What other activities do you do to help save money while traveling (especially in expensive cities like London)? Any other comics and book collection aficionados/geeks like me?

London Lights Up at Christmas Time | London Photography Christmas Lights Photography by Rachel Abrahams

AspiringImagesbyRachel-LondonLightsandBuses

I wanted to post these photos before Thanksgiving but figured there'd be a "Thanksgiving hasn't even happened - slow down!" backlash, so I waited. The thing is, London doesn't have a Thanksgiving holiday so the Christmas lights start "switching on" in mid-November. So, to Londoners a post about the Christmas lights in November would be totally normal.

The lights are pretty great to see. Coming from a small area where our biggest decorations typically are Holiday-themed lamp posts and individually decorated houses running up the monthly light bill, these lights are gorgeous and fabulous to see.

Each year, there is a different theme to the London Christmas lights. Typically, they center around a big holiday movie that's being released or a traditional holiday theme. These photos are from 2011 and the theme was the movie "Arthur Christmas". If you haven't seen the movie, it's really cute!

It's wonderful to walk around the different areas that have the Christmas lights set up. There are activities planned around the "switching on" of the lights, in addition to their being located in some very popular streets including Oxford Street, Covent Garden, Regent Street and Southbank Centre. Some of those streets don't use the movie theme and have generalized Christmas lights. It's all beautiful, in my opinion. Especially the stars, because I have a thing for stars.

In addition to the lights, Trafalgar Square has a beautiful (and HUGE) Christmas tree. For multiple nights after the tree is lit, there are caroling groups that perform underneath it. With the National Portrait Museum behind you, the tree, Nelson's monument (including the lions), and the classic Big Ben in the distance, it all makes for a magic and surreal evening. We went to visit the tree and see the carolers back in 2006 and happened to pick the evening where The National Deaf Children’s Society was signing to Christmas songs. Fast forward 5 years to 2011 and the night we pick to see the tree - The National Deaf Children’s Society was there again! We couldn't have planned it if we tried.

As you can see, the lights typically go across the roads and are a wonderful vision above the hustle of traffic and bustle of shoppers. Since it's the city, people move quickly here and several times I had to tuck myself away against a wall or lamp post to ensure I could get the photo and not get trampled in the process. This was also the trip where my husband decided I needed to wear a brightly colored coat because my black one (and my hobbit height) added up to a lot of anxiety for him to keep track of me. Thankfully, he's heads and shoulders taller than the average height so he could typically find me. Our next winter trip to NYC, I bought a red pea coat so I could be a beacon of color for him.

Of the places I've visited for Christmas in my life, I can say my favorites have been London, New York City, and Walt Disney World. I will be visiting California for Christmas and may end up adding some new cities to my list.

Now, I know some folks might disagree with me so I wonder: Where in the world is your favorite place to see Christmas decorations and feel the holiday spirit? I have a feeling your responses may cause me to add some new cities to my bucket list.

P.S. In case you were wondering, my husband is 15 inches taller than me. Yes, he is that tall and I am that short. I love it.

P.P.S. If you'd like to see the lights this year and the activities, check out Visit London's site with all the information.