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From the Mountains to the Sea (and Everything in Between): 2014 in Review

What a year. After the whirlwind that was 2013 (a year that included an awful pregnancy, two hospitalizations, the hellacious birth of my daughter, a rough postpartum experience, a house flood, and the death of my grandfather), I needed 2014.

Thankfully, 2014 was a huge improvement on 2013, and, over the last twelve months, I've had the opportunity to see so many wonderful things. My freelance writing has kept me busy (and in enough money to keep traveling!), and my daughter has blossomed from a barely crawling six-month-old into a running, thriving 19-month-old.

Let's take a look back at the year, shall we?

What to Consider When Planning a Multi-Generational Trip

What to Consider When Planning a Multi-Generational Trip | CosmosMariners.com
Maybe the grandparents want to take everyone on a cruise--but the kids think they'll be bored.

Perhaps you're thinking of a beach vacation with friends who are in different stages of life. One couple is worried about leaving their toddler, while another couple is counting how many bars they can hit the first night.

Possibly, you're considering a cross country trip with your teenagers and their eight-year-old cousins, only the teenagers think their cousins are smelly and annoying.

Planning a vacation, stay-cation, or once-in-a-lifetime trip is already hard enough. When you throw in nap schedules, moody teenagers, set-in-their-ways grandparents, and frazzled parents, that dream vacation may end up looking more like a nightmare.

Whatever the ages and life stages of your potential travel partners, I'm here to tell you that it is possible to go on a trip where everyone ends up happy. Doing so will require a bit more planning, but you may end up having the greatest time ever.

Have Essentials, Will Travel

Travel Essentials | CosmosMariners.com

There are trip basics (you know, your toothbrush and clean underwear and the like), and there are the things that absolutely cannot leave home without.

If I got in a bind and forgot my toothbrush, I can usually locate one fairly easily no matter where I am in the world (you know, unless I'm doing my monthly climb on Everest or my weekly jaunt through the wilds of Antarctica--the usual places). But there are those other things that I can't just run to the closest store and find.

And that's what we'll focus on today.

The Ultimate Guide of Things to See and Do in London

As I've mentioned just a few times a million times here on the blog, I'm in love with London. My first trip was in 2003 where I fell head over heels for the city, and I headed back for a study abroad session while in college. My love runs so deep that I devoted two years of my life to studying the post-World War II novels set in London as a part of my master's thesis. 

It stands to reason, then, that I'm the first to sing the city's praises. And that's pretty easy to do because London has SO much to see and do. Here's my ultimate list for the things to do in and around London.

The Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show at Walt Disney World Resort: A Review

The Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show at Walt Disney World Resort: A Review | CosmosMariners.com

Walt Disney World 2014: We came, we saw, we had a blast.

One of the goals of this trip was to try new experiences at a place that I've been to dozens of times (check out my bucket list to see what we wanted to do). And one of those experience was to carve out a date night with Landon.

5 Charleston Activities to Get You in the Holiday Spirit

Shrimp Boat display at the James Island County Park Festival of Lights
With a nickname like the Holy City, it's no wonder that Charleston is a great place to spend Christmas. We might not get snow or ice, but we make up for the lack of traditional holiday weather with an array of fun activities. If you're lucky, you might visit while the temperatures are in the 70s, and you can break out your favorite Christmas shorts!

10 Inspiring Movies for the Wandering Soul {Guest Post by She Wrote a Book}

When the travel bug starts to bite, but I can't jet off for whatever reason, I have three tried and true methods to help that itch: 1) pour over my old guide books, 2) dive into a city via a well-written novel, or 3) curl up on the couch and pop in a DVD set in some glamorous place. 

It turns out that Michelle of She Wrote a Book has a love of travel and movies, as well! Today, she shares ten amazing movies that will help you travel without ever leaving your living room.

10 Great Books to Read If You Love London

10 Great Books to Read if You Love London | CosmosMariners.com

Anglophile. Bibliophile.

I've come by those titles honestly, as I received two degrees in Literature, taught English at the college level, studied abroad in London, and completed my M.A. thesis on post-World War II British novels. I know you're dying to hear more about my thesis (ha!), but we'll have to table that discussion for another post.

Sometimes I really, really miss London. But, most of the time, I can't just get on a plane and make my way to merry ol' England for a few days. Instead, I do what I do best and bury my nose in a book. These ten reads make me long for the winding alleyways, layered history, and warm pubs of my favorite city.

A Grown Up's Guide to Walt Disney World

A Grown Up's Guide to Walt Disney World | CosmosMariners.com

So many people think that Walt Disney World equals a kids' only zone.

But let me assure you: it is not.

You can be a perfectly respectable adult and still enjoy the House of Mouse sans kids (don't they need to go visit Grandma and Pops anyway?). As an adult, I've been to Disney no fewer than eight times without any kids--I just hopped on the parent train 18 months ago--and I've had a fantastic time on all of those trips.

How to Visit Disney World Like a Local {Guest Post from Orange Blossoms & Sunshine}

Ashley and Jenny, the two lovely ladies behind Orange Blossoms and Sunshine, know a thing or two about Disney World. So, while I'm riding Expedition Everest for what will hopefully be the twentieth time in a row, they're going to share some of their tips for making the most of your Disney World vacation. 

Walt Disney World Bucket List

While I'm no stranger to the wonderful world of Walt Disney, my daughter is. At 18 months, she's about to embark on her first ever trip to the most magical place on Earth, and I'm just a little excited.

(That's pretty much the understatement of the century. I've been planning this trip since before she was born.)

How to Dress at Walt Disney World: Look Like a Princess While Staying Comfortable

How to Dress at Walt Disney World: Look Like a Princess While Staying Comfortable | CosmosMariners.com

You're probably thinking, "It's a theme park. I shouldn't have to dress a certain way."

And I would agree with you wholeheartedly. As long as you're more or less covered, I say rock your vacation wear as you see fit.

However, in my many years of visiting Walt Disney World, I've come to find that certain wardrobe choices will grant you wildly different experiences. Here are my tried-and-true tips for making sure that your clothing doesn't keep you from loving every minute of the magic.

The Flowering Bridge of Lake Lure

When I was planning my trip to Lake Lure and Rutherford County (NC), I kept hearing about this flowering bridge that I had to visit. Based on different descriptions, I couldn't get a grasp on what this bridge looked like: was it just a bridge with a few flower arrangements on it? Was it a bridge that was somehow completely constructed out of plants?

And most importantly: was it worth all of the hype?

On my last morning in Lake Lure with rainclouds threatening to spoil my trip to this mysterious bridge, I headed across the street from the Geneva Riverside to explore.

What awaited me was certainly a beautiful botanical project, but (even more exciting to me) the Lake Lure Flowering Bridge is also a wonderful example of palimpsestic (there's your word o' the day) history.

Lake Lure Flowering Bridge, Lake Lure, North Carolina | CosmosMariners.com

The bridge in question has served to ferry visitors across the Rocky Broad River to nearby Chimney Rock since the 1920s. When, in 2011, it became apparent to those who run the community that a larger, more modern bridge was required, the residents were reluctant to tear down the original one.

After much discussion, the original bridge opened on 2013 as a pedestrian foot bridge where the public could sit and read on one of the many benches, enjoy the view of Chimney Rock, or simply admire the beauty of the plants and trees on the path.

Lake Lure Flowering Bridge, Lake Lure, North Carolina | CosmosMariners.com
Britton and I on the Flowering Bridge. To the left is the newer bridge and in the background is Chimney Rock.

I love finding unusual, homegrown sites like this: you can tell that the community has put an incredible amount of work into the project, and it really is unlike anything I've seen before. Mixed among the expected wildflower sprays and pruned trees are whimsical displays featuring vintage furniture, garden gnomes, recycled plastic toys, and stained glass.

Lake Lure Flowering Bridge, Lake Lure, North Carolina | CosmosMariners.com

If you were a gardener, you'd probably spend hours here. But even as someone who can barely tell a rose from a daisy, I found the bridge awe-inspiring and delightful.

Lake Lure Flowering Bridge, Lake Lure, North Carolina | CosmosMariners.com

The Flowering Bridge is free and is run by the Friends of the Flowering Bridge, a local organization. Visitors are welcome to walk the bridge, sit by the lake, and take pictures.  Make sure to sign the guest book!