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Babcia and Yia Yia!, Notes on Planning and Packing, Study Hall: Essays On Travel

Your Travel Wardrobe Is In Your Closet. Right Now.

You hear it all the time! Create a capsule wardrobe to be a successful traveler. It makes any potential packer think that they need to order and buy specialty clothes to only use when there’s a suitcase at hand. Not so fast! We, here at Babcia and YiaYia, think that you might be selling yourself and your closet a little short. That’s right, we think you probably have far more than you think to complete the perfect travel wardrobe.

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In fact, we think that you probably have clothes that you love to wear that could be the foundation for that super elusive capsule wardrobe that all the rage. But where do you even start? We’ve got some easy steps to help!

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Weed out what won’t pack well.

You already know all of the things in your closet that are high maintenance They wrinkle fast and never wash well. You probably pull them out once or twice a year. They probably won’t pack very well anyway. Additionally, you probably know what kind of weather your head toward so out of season stuff is not part of your packing equation.

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Choose a color.

You know the color. It’s your favorite one and you pair it with black and white all the time. Ours is blue. It goes with our complexions and never fails to photograph well. You probably have this color weaving in and out of every rack in your closet anyway.

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Set out your neutrals.

Black. White. Denim. The gang’s all here! These are the pieces that go with pretty much anything. These wardrobe basics are the foundation to your mix and match packing style.

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Edit out the cliche items.

It’s time to do a double take. Is there anything in your potential packing pile that screams tourist? Message tees? Super bold colors that scream “pick my pockets”? Shoes that say “I have no idea how to travel comfortably with style”? Now is the time to edit those items out of your capsule concept.

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Start to mix and match.

Now that you’ve got yourself focused. It’s time to start pairing items together so that everything you take pulls a double shift. We start with the amount of days from take off to laundry. Do you have seven days until laundry? Then you need 5 bottoms in cool weather and 6 bottoms in hot weather. (Why six? Try sweating all day and then trying to look refreshed for dinner.) Seven days also needs 6-7 tops. There are many people who will give you different numbers but sweat doesn’t lie. Match them together. Make those outfits. Then make sure each top has a different bottom that will make a new look.

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Minus one for dresses.

If you like dresses, simply subtract one for every dress you plan to pack. Just remember that every dress you take needs to pack well. It also needs to be useful. Dresses for a rafting trip won’t do you much good but an easy to use maxi dress might be just perfect for evenings in Paris.

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Weave in the layers.

No matter what the weather, we always pack a wrap, a cardigan, and a scarf. Sounds like overkill? Well, we find that we use every single item every single time. Wraps are perfect as a double for plane blanket or pillow. Cardigans cover up if it gets a little too breezy. Scarves can cover bare shoulders or shorts in a pinch if you need to cover up at a particular site like a church or mosque. The most important thing about these pieces is that they go with every single outfit we bring.

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Finish off with three pairs of shoes.

You are definitely going to need walking shoes. These will most likely be your bulkiest shows and you will most likely wear them on the plane just like us. Additionally, you are going to want a pair of shoes that turns all of your outfits into a smarter look for evening. This may be a pair of flats or sandals. The point is, they elevate your look somehow to give you a little oomph. Lastly, you may want to add in beachy flip flops or a second pair of walkers depending on your needs. The most important thing about any pair of shoes you choose is that they go with every outfit you just made for your travel capsule wardrobe.

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Take it for a test drive.

Now, weeks before your trip, take all of those picks and pack them up. Zip that suitcase closed and put it in the corner. Try not to open it for three or four days. Then, take it all out and decide if it’s a keeper. We promise you probably only need to change out a few items. You’re ready to make a shopping list of the very few things that may be missing.

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We bet you feel a lot better!

We told you! You DO have a lot of items to contribute to a great travel capsule wardrobe. While you may want to add in a few last items, your closet is already full of great pieces to travel with. One last tip: take things that you love but may be expiring soon. If you need to ditch them for a little extra packing space on the way back home, it won’t hurt too much. Happy travels!

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Study Hall: Essays On Travel, Travel With Alex: Europe 101

France 101: Traveling for wartime connections

Veterans Day is here. In our family, it is the kickoff to our holiday season. The holiday seems iconically American. However, Veterans Day started off 102 years ago as Armistice Day which marked the end of WWI and as the world started healing from The Great War, each nation involved created there own version of remembering. This makes the concept quite Global rather than quintessentially American and a great way to expand our horizons both patriotically and historically. Our own holiday evolved from commemorating 11-11-18 to honoring all who serve and have served. But make no mistake, there are plenty of countries that honor those who serve in their own way. I am lucky and grateful for the Veterans in my family. My dad, my husband, and a bevy of other relatives all served at one time or another. I even spent some time in uniform myself.

Finding our Ancestors for Veteran’s Day

One way other countries honor the military sacrifice is to remember the fallen. A great example of this is what you can find in France. This summer, I had the honor of meeting two veterans while I visited and the experience was life changing. My mom and I hopped into a sporty euro rental in Belgium and made our way west across the French border to an area out in the middle of nulle part- that’s French for nowhere. We were stopping to visit Private First Class Thomas McGovern. His address is one I can share: plot B, Row 18, Grave 11, Somme American Cemetery, Bony, France.

Somme

Thomas is my great, great uncle and died in the famous Battle of the Somme on September 27th, 1918. Visiting the cemetery is quite amazing. The superintendent escorted us out to the grave, among impeccably manicured grounds and explained to us the play by play of the battle and exactly what fate my uncle met. He produced a small container of sand from Omaha Beach to rub across the marble stone so that Thomas’ name was easily read. There, in the summer sun out in the French countryside, I became the first family member to come and pay my respects to him. I was all at once proud, connected, elated and humbled. It was a once in a lifetime experience!

Muesse-Argon

As our journey continued, I had someone else to check in with. The next day, we drove out to the Meuse-Argon American Cemetery to meet, for the first time as well, John McGovern. He is Thomas’ brother and, by heart breaking coincidence, he also perished on September 27th- just 46 days shy of the armistice. The cemetery that he rests in is shared with 14,000 other brave boys who put on a tin hat and stepped up to fight in an unknown world. Again, the sand, again two flags of pride and solidarity, again emotions that make one grateful and awestruck.

So on this Veterans Day, I say thank you to all of you who have served. I appreciate you all. And I encourage you put on a bright red poppy and be proud of all you have contributed to the greater good.

Maybe seek out those veterans who may not be as close as most. They may be just the thing for you and yours to learn so much about your own family and how they contributed to the greater good. There are 26 American Cemeteries overseas with over 130,000 brave Americans who are hoping a family member might visit. If you are interested, start your research with the American Battle Monuments Commission.

Poppies represent the spilt blood of the many lives that fought for liberty.
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Babcia and Yia Yia!, Study Hall: Essays On Travel

Trick or Treat Travel

Smell that pumpkin latte? Catch that last fall foliage report? Sick and tired of the hot, sticky weather that seems to never go away? Have no fear! October is finally here and with comes all the spooky fun we can muster up. So just how do we travelers get a chance to celebrate? Well there are lots of spooky travel options out there and we are ready to give you a sampling of all the dark travel industry has to offer. History of Halloween starts in Ireland. (Check out our show!) And there are plenty of tricks and treats to be had there. But we’ll leave the pumpkins and candy corn for the kiddos. In the mean time, let’s trick or travel!

There are so very many aspects of dark travel. From Madame Toussad’s death masks of famous criminals to walking the Spanish moss decorated cemeteries of the South, people have sought out the morbid corners of cultures around the world. What makes us so interested in the shocks and scares out there? We’ll leave that to the experts. In the meantime we have plenty tips and suggestions to keep you properly shakin in your shoes! Our first tip? Travel guides always have a spooky option.

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Cemeteries worth exploring!

Take the the walking tours in famous cemeteries. They have never been a disappointment and they have always been full of the most interesting stories. Not sure where to start? Check out this article about the 199 Cemeteries to see before you die. Or read on for a few of our top picks for cemeteries and more!

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  • Pere Lachaise Cemetery is a popular walk just outside of Paris. There are plenty of famous people buried here including Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf, and Oscar Wilde to name just a few. Use this Pere Lachaise Cemetery audio guide from Rick Steves to explore on your own!
  • Merry Cemetery in the Maramures Region of Romania is famous for its witty and often funny epitaphs on the graves of local residents.
  • Bone House at St. Michaels in Hallstatt, Austria provides a look at what happens when there is very little space for a cemetery in town.
  • The Kutna Hora Bone Chapel in Prague, well, just watch this video. Whew!
  • Rome‘s Capuchin Monks and their crypts: These monks have a unique way of taking care of their dead. It seems that hanging them up to mummify is what they think is the best course of action. Don’t believe us? You can check it all out yourself. These monks may give you a bit of a shock but they also provide you with the name of one of your favorite beverages: cappuccino!
  • ParisUnderground Catacombs: the French Revolution created all kinds of uprisings including those of the bone type! It seems that the non-religious revolutionaries forced churches to dig up all their dead and take them out of the city limits. The result? The catacombs are stacked with thousands of Parisian remains.
  • Westminster Presbyterian Church in Baltimore, Maryland is the home of the Screaming Skull.  It seems the minister was murdered here and every night his skull would start screaming.
  • Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah, Georgia is home to plenty of eerie experiences. You may run into the roaming girl, Gracie Watson, who died of pneumonia at 6 years old.  She has been seen playing between the tombstones and her statue has been known to cry tears of blood.

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The BEST Ghost Tours!

Check out all the different tours offered in castles and palaces sometimes they have great spooky themed tours at night when hardly anyone is there.

  • Salem, Massachusetts has so many walking tours for all ages and interests (and spook factor) that we’ll just leave you with a link to their clearinghouse of options. Our one piece of advice? Don’t go see the Hocus Pocus House. It’s overrated.
  • St. Augustine Haunted Pub Crawl
  • London’s Jack the Ripper Tour is a crowd favorite with an in depth look at the sensationalism surrounding the case.
  • Bremen, Germany’s Night Watchman Tour is one of the most famous in Europe as it has been featured by our old pal, Rick. Check out his take here: 

Those spooky Scots!

The British Isles have plenty of Haunted Castles, priest holes and murder holes to keep any dark travel junkie busy for months! Look for Edinburgh to have great ghost tours and plenty of closes to make the hair stand up on the back of your neck. I’ve yet to visit a castle that doesn’t have a ghost story attached to it somewhere along the way! Scotland certainly wins the spooky travel award in my book!

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