(s)mitten

Tucked against the foothills of the San Bernadino National Forest, Redlands is a hidden gem sprinkled with independent coffee roasters, vibrant wall murals, a striking juxtaposition of trees (pine and palm alike) and a charming small town vibe. This is where Lauren and I found ourselves on a recent Sunday, there to accompany a pretty rad couple on their wedding day. We had such an amazing time photographing Mel and Danny’s quite perfect ceremony and reception at the Mitten Building, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to join in celebrating their love.

 

Here are a few favorites to share:
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Be cool and pop over here to stay up to date with Lauren’s beautiful work.

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Breath of Fresh Air

Seattle, you’re a dream.

Thank you for a much-needed weekend of nature, city, memories, and fresh air. Here’s to our next rendezvous…

 

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The Lark

 

Happy Birthday, Babycakes.

We recently celebrated a dear friend’s birthday on a Sunday at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, situating ourselves amongst the tombstones to nosh on cupcakes and bagels. All reservations aside, the afternoon was incredibly peaceful and surprisingly joyful as we loved on our birthday girl. Despite a near-death experience with an aggressive swan, I walked away feeling like cemeteries might actually be the perfect locales for a quiet afternoon with friends.

I guess I’m 2 for 2 with cheerful jaunts through cemeteries!

 

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Happy birthday, babycakes.

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Château de Sceaux

Temperatures in Southern California are rising into the 90s and all I can do is reminisce about fall in Paris last year. Scarves, boots, auburn trees – it all served as a reminder of the season we were leaving and the one we were quickly approaching. There’s been no shortage of change for me this autumn, but as usual it seems the weather has not quite gotten the memo.

 

When Emilie and I were studying abroad in Paris together, one of our absolute favorite adventures was visiting Château Vaux-le-Vicomte just outside of the city. On our return trip to Paris a year ago, we knew we wanted to set aside at least one day to visit another château in the area. This time, we took the RER out to Sceaux, built for Louis XIV’s minister of finance, Jean-Baptiste Colbert. Most of Colbert’s original estate, however, was destroyed during the French Revolution. The grounds that were originally designed by the famed André le Nôtre were used for crops and all of the contents of the château were sold for the benefit of the nation.

 

The château as it exists today was restored by the duc de Trévise in the style of Louis XIII. Since 1922, Château de Sceaux has been open to the public living in the surrounding city of Sceaux. It was such a nice, fall day and I particularly loved to see the grounds populated with families and joggers enjoying one of the last few days of nice weather before the rainy season.

 

Paris Château de Sceaux

 

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Scottish Highlands | Day 2

After a quick breakfast at our loch-side hotel in Ft. William we were off to the nearby train station for the start of our second day in the highlands. This was when my brother and I came face-to-face with a very significant part of our childhood: The Hogwarts Express. Jacobite Steam Train Ft WilliamIn reality, this is an extension of the West Highland Railway that runs from Ft William to the coastal town of Mallaig. Dating back to 1901, this steam train was built to allow for easier access to the Scottish Atlantic coast. By 1967 all regular services were halted and steam trains would be replaced with modern locomotives. Nearly 20 years later, British Rail brought the steam train back to life to encourage tourism and generate income. For the next several decades the lined continued to operate under several different names, finally settling on The Jacobite as a nod to the local connections to Jacobite political events. I am sure that with the use of this line for the Harry Potter movies this train has experienced an incredible surge in activity. The company in control of The Jacobite actually provided Warner Brothers both with the train used as the Hogwarts Express for each of the films and with the Ft William – Mallaig line for filming.

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The views from this journey are absolutely spectacular. Harry Potter fan or not, this is such a worthwhile trip and an amazing way to experience some of the more remote corners of Scotland.Jacobite Steam Train Ft WilliamJacobite Steam Train Ft William Mallaig GlenfinnanJacobite Steam Train Ft William Mallaig Glenfinnan ViaductJacobite Steam Train Ft William Mallaig GlenfinnanJacobite Steam Train Ft William Mallaig GlenfinnanJacobite Steam Train Ft William Mallaig GlenfinnanJacobite Steam Train Ft William Mallaig GlenfinnanJacobite Steam Train Ft William Mallaig Glenfinnan

In Mallaig we had the opportunity to spend about an hour and a half exploring the little town and grabbing a bite to eat (fish and chips, of course).Jacobite Steam Train Ft William Mallaig GlenfinnanJacobite Steam Train Ft William Mallaig GlenfinnanJacobite Steam Train Ft William Mallaig GlenfinnanJacobite Steam Train Ft William Mallaig Glenfinnan

Then it was back aboard The Jacobite for our return journey to Ft William…Jacobite Steam Train Ft William Mallaig GlenfinnanJacobite Steam Train Ft William Mallaig GlenfinnanJacobite Steam Train Ft William Mallaig Glenfinnan

Back in Ft William, we began our journey back down to Edinburgh with a few stops along the way — including a chance to see that stark, gorgeous, eerie stretch of the A82 used in Skyfall when Bond and M drive up through the highlands to Bond’s childhood home.

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Looking at these pictures again makes me seriously long to be in Scotland again!!! The highlands are like nothing I’d ever seen. If you ever have the chance to go definitely make time to see this if at all possible. The tour we took was hosted by Highland Experience Tours and we could not have asked for a better time.

Ahh, Scotland, you’re just so beautiful!

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Scottish Highlands | Day 1

I’m not usually one to chase after a large, group-style guided tour. I usually prefer to take things at my own pace, allow experiences to unfold in an organic way, and have a general rough framework for a trip but allow the rest to fall into place naturally. However, I will be the first to admit that there are some situations and places that call for a guided tour of some sort. Knowing that my family and I wanted to get up to the highlands and Loch Ness and such, I began searching for a tour we could take from Edinburgh. After some internet research I came across Highland Experience Tours. This company had tons of options to choose from, but I was particularly drawn to one of their 2-day tours that would take us on…the……Hogwarts Express.

Yep. The Hogwarts Express.

Okay the tour actually included a ride on a Jacobite steam train from the 18th century, but this also happens to be the train that is used in the Harry Potter films during the students’ journey to Hogwarts.

Harry Potter aside, this tour looked like it promised to show us everything we wanted to see. We’d start from Edinburgh and make our way Northwest through Cairngorm National Park, Inverness and Loch Ness, the severe yet breathtaking landscape of Ranoch Moor and everything in-between. This ended up being the absolute perfect way to spend two of our days in Scotland. Our tour guide was a wealth of knowledge and Scottish history, and he would narrate our drives through misty mountains and sweeping vistas with stories of warfare, gore, and folktales. I would definitely call this a highlight of our entire trip.

We began at the Forth Rail Bridge, which dates all the way back to 1890. This bridge was constructed at a great cost – 7 years, 10 times as much metal as the Eiffel Tower, and a jaw-dropping 98 lives. One man fell beyond retrieval, and the only solution for his comrades was to lower him poisoned food in order to grant him death as humanely as possible. (His body is still somewhere in the depths of the bridge…!)Scotland Forth Rail Bridge

Our first stop was Dunkeld, a small town north of Perth. We walked to the Dunkeld Cathedral and learned about the Battle of Dunkeld in 1689, when the outnumbered Cameronian Regiment fended off the Jacobites by securing themselves within the cathedral. The Jacobites sought shelter in the abandoned thatch-roof homes of the village. In the middle of the night, the covenanters went around to their former homes and quietly locked the doors. They proceeded to set fire to the village and miraculously won the battle against forces that had been so superior to their own.Scotland Highlands DunkeldScotland Highlands DunkeldScotland Highlands DunkeldScotland Highlands DunkeldScotland Highlands DunkeldScotland Highlands Dunkeld

Next was a quick stop at the ancient burial ground of Clava Cairns. Very few of these centuries-old structures have remained in-tact in Scotland due to the Victorians taking a great interest in these sites and claiming their contents for themselves, however this particular one is well-preserved. Dating back 4,000 years, Clava Cairns is an example of a circular burial chamber exhibiting prehistoric rock art. We then hopped over to the battlefield at Culloden, the site of another battle between Jacobite and government forces.Scotland HighlandsScotland HighlandsScotland HighlandsScotland HighlandsScotland Highlands Culloden BattlefieldScotland Highlands Culloden BattlefieldScotland Highlands Culloden Battlefield

Our last stop of the day was probably the biggest. Loch Ness. No, we did not see Nessie😦Scotland Highlands Loch NessScotland Highlands Loch NessScotland Highlands Loch NessScotland Highlands Loch NessAfter a short catamaran trip on the loch we arrived at Castle Urquhart, originally a medieval fortress but used between the 13th and 16th centuries as an important stronghold in the Scottish Wars of Independence, then as a royal castle, suffered quite a bit of destruction in the 17th century to prevent use by the Jacobites, and is now one of the most-visited castles in Scotland.

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We then made our way to Ft William for the night, passing Scotland’s tallest mountain, Ben Nevis, along the way.

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Few! We covered a lot of ground and this is only the half of it! I know I mentioned the Hogwarts Express, but I just don’t think I can fit everything into one post. That’s up next, I promise!

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St Andrews

Over the past few years I’ve come to realize that I love re-visiting places I’ve traveled to almost as much (and maybe sometimes a little bit more) as I love visiting someplace new. There’s something special, insightful, and nostalgic about re-entering a city after a while to discover the ways in which you’ve both changed or remained the same. I also absolutely love introducing people I love to the places I’ve been, and this was exactly what I had the blessing of doing with my family in Scotland. I was so excited to introduce them to Edinburgh, and I also knew that I had to take them up to St Andrews for a day sometime during our trip. When I first visited St Andrews I was instantly drawn to this pristine little seaside city that exists primarily as an aloof and prestigious university town. All of this changes when the world of golf descends on this corner of Scotland for the Open Championship, which has been played at St Andrews more than 27 times, thus designating it “The Home of Golf.”

Though it is by no means a major passion for either of them, my parents have been recreational golfers for years. Our trip to St Andrews, though, confirmed that for golfers of any degree there is truly something special about this place. When we rounded the corner towards The Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews I could see my dad’s excitement mounting. Once we made it to the links we all just had to stand there and soak it in for a few minutes.

 

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We OF COURSE had to hop over to the beach to come face-to-face with that magnificent opening sequence from Chariots of FireSt Andrews ScotlandSt Andrews ScotlandSt Andrews Scotland

Something that I hadn’t yet done was tour St Andrews Cathedral and St Andrews Castle. The cathedral was a pretttyyyyy breathtaking. This was once the largest church in Scotland, and was the last structure of its size to be built for 600 years. Today the substantial remains of the cathedral tell the story of an abandoned religion left to crumble. In 1559, Scottish clergyman and leader of the Protestant Reformation John Knox delivered such a fiery and moving sermon in St Andrews parish church that the cathedral was cleansed and ultimately abandoned two years later. After being replaced by a parish church as the chief place of worship, this former headquarters of the Scottish Church was left to fall into ruin.

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A short walk from the cathedral, St Andrews Castle is another impressive landmark that similarly bears the scars of wars, harsh Scottish weather, and sieges. As the Scots love their grim history, the museum docent was quick to advise us to take a look at the “bottle dungeon,” which I didn’t snag a picture of but oh boy does it bear mentioning. This prison was an airless pit carved into the rock the castle was built upon. Local miscreants would be lowered into the cell with no hope of escape, light, or fresh air. Makes me cringe just thinking about it.

With that said, here are some pictures of our bright, sunshine-y day at St Andrews Castle😉

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Seriously, I can’t believe how blessed we were by such amazing weather in Scotland!

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