30 April 2015

National Geographic History Magazine | I miss the days of living in Bristol, the public history media capital of the UK, where I had unlimited choices of history reading material. I'm not one to pick up a magazine with any sort of celebrity on the cover (unless it's Emma Watson) and history magazines are so hard to come by here in the states. So when I was grocery shopping earlier this month I was shocked to see a National Geographic History magazine. The first ever issue happened to be this month, and I have to say the content is outstanding.

Kate Spade | Since moving back to Houston I've been really loving decorating my home office. Blogging is such a big part of my life and having a beautiful space to write is key for inspiration. That's where Kate Spade comes in. From agendas to stationary, Kate Spade has been my go to brand for beautiful office materials.

Fall Out Boy | Everybody went through a punk/rock phase. Mine was when I was 13, and my obsession was Fall Out Boy. I had seen them in concert twice before, but when I heard they were coming to the rodeo last month I just HAD to go. After seeing them live again I immediately downloaded their new album. American Beauty/American Psycho brings out the teen in me and I love it. If you are looking for something new to listen to, I highly recommend it. 

Audio Books | As I have mentioned before, my only new years resolution for 2015 is to read 50 books. While I am a major fan of traditional paper books (I need to get on board with Kindle, my bookshelf is overflowing) I downloaded my first audio book this month to listen to in my car during my hour long commute to and from work. Let me just tell you, audio books are way more entertaining than listening to the radio.

+ This month the lovely Van from Snow in Tromso stopped by to share with you life in Scandinavia, which you can read here. I've been reading her blog for ages and I was so happy to have her on my sidebar this month!
+ My friend Bobbi, a fellow sorority sister and American living in Bristol, did publicity for a hilarious Youtube mini series called Supreme Tweeter. Each episode is only about 7 minutes long so if you have a few minutes to spare check it out here!
+ I'm so happy with the results of my 2015 reader survey! Check out everything I learned here

Off the Beaten Track in England's Big Cities

27 April 2015

When visiting England it is easy to get caught up in the major tourist attractions offered. From the London Eye to Stonehenge, England is full of remarkable spots that are on everybody's bucket list. I have always been a supporter of visiting a destination's main attractions (they are usually popular for a reason), but sometimes it's nice to step away from those busy sites and see something special, secret, or less well known. Here are a few of my favorite 'Off the Beaten Track' spots in some of England's most famous cities!

Located in beautiful Kensington, the Church Hill Arms is a pub with an obsession with Winston Churchill as well as a Thai food restaurant with a love for indoor plants. Not only is the pub the prettiest thing you'll walk past while exploring Kensington, the inside decor is unique, interesting, and definitely worth the trip.

About 40 minutes outside of Bristol lies on of the most well kept secrets in the Southwest. Nine perfect picturesque styled cottages sitting around a green, Blaise Hamlet was built in 1811 and has been frozen in time ever since. Charge your camera beforehand because this is one of the most fairytale-like spots you'll ever see!

This tiny library located in Manchester's city centre is the oldest public library in the English speaking world. Your whole experience feels special, from the moment you are walked individually in by a member of staff, to standing in the same room where Karl Marx studied, to having the entire library to yourself.

Bath is home to literature, romance, and beauty. With so many wonderful tourist attractions, it's hard to spend time doing Bath the way the locals do. A must-see on a visit to this amazing city is Topping and Company Booksellers, a favorite amongst the locals. Why not pick up a book and read outside at one of Bath's many beautiful spots?

Scattered with beautiful Victorian structures, Shanklin Chine was the Isle of Wight's first ever tourist attraction. Forgotten after years of being a must seen destination, this gorge is a perfect stop for a walk through nature and history. Right next to the beach, Shanklin Chine is a unique inlet of untouched nature that is a must see when visiting the Isle of Wight.

Happy Monday!

2015 Reader Survey Results & What I Have Learned

23 April 2015

 When I posted my first reader survey about a month or so ago, my main goal was to figure out what the heck to do with this blog. Ever since I moved back stateside I have been struggling with finding inspiration. I needed my readers to tell me what to post. The results of this survey taught me something I already knew but needed to be explicitly said: I don't need to change anything. This survey helped me get out of that blogging hole I had dug for myself after moving back to the US. Y'all have helped me regain confidence in this little blog of mine. So here's what I have learned from the 2015 Of Golden Roses Reader Survey.

Question 1: How long have you been reading Of Golden Roses (formerly Bristol In My Pocket)?
The majority of y'all who decided to take this survey have been reading my blog for a year or more. How crazy is that?! I'm thrilled to see that people who have stuck around this long actually interact with this little blog of mine. Having said that, I have gained quite a few new readers recently, and to you I say WELCOME! 

Question 2: How old are you?
The main goal of this question was to confirm whether or not my mom and her friends were the majority of my readership. Surprisingly, it's actually people between the ages of 18-24, with 25-34 taking a close second! It was nice to learn that my blog appeals to people my age too!

Question 3: What are your favorite types of posts on Of Golden Roses?
Travel was of course most popular choice for this question. Travel posts are what I enjoy writing the most so I am thrilled that my hard work has actually paid off in that area. Some surprising choices however were 'life updates' and 'personal' posts, which took second and third place. I'm not a huge fan of sharing my personal life (LOL says the blogger) just because I feel so awkward sitting down and writing a post about my relationship or how I'm feeling right now (which is why most of my personal posts are jumbled thoughts and emotional rants). However, I might attempt to make more of an effort on the personal side. No promises ;)

Question 4: What kind of posts would you like to see more of?
Now this one surprised me. The majority of my readers have always been US based, which is why I was shocked to see my most requested posts were "US Travel". I always assumed people read my blog for that 'American girl living abroad' vibe. But since I moved back stateside I have been struggling BIG TIME in trying to find my niche. Learning that y'all want to see more US travel and personal posts was a huge relief. It has helped me gain confidence in this little blog of mine once more. 

Question 5: What would you like to see less of?
To everyone who said "don't change a thing", bless you. Seriously, stop being so sweet! But for those who were brave enough to tell me what you didn't like reading, I want to thank you as well. While I still feel I post for "me" and not really to please anyone in particular, I'm grateful for constructive criticism so I know how to improve on things other people might not enjoy as much as I do. 

Question 6: What country are you from?
It's pretty easy for me to find out where people are from who read my blog, but I was interested to see who was actually INTERACTING with my site. The US has always been my biggest readership but some interesting ones also included Spain, Germany, Ireland, Australia, and Slovakia!

Question 7: How do you find new Of Golden Roses posts?
It came as no surprise to me that Bloglovin was the most popular way for people to find my new posts. Bloglovin is my primary tool for reading other blogs so it only makes sense!

Question 8: What social media platforms do you follow related to Sara or Of Golden Roses?
Bloglovin is by far the most popular platform for my site. However, about half of you also follow my Instagram which made me super happy! I've been putting a lot of effort into Instagram lately I'm glad to see my work paying off!

Question 9: How easy is it to navigate Of Golden Roses?
97.5% of y'all found my site easy enough to navigate. I'll take it!

Question 10: Anything else you would like me to know?
I have the most wonderful readers! From personal stories about how my blog is "inspiring" to simple comments on how I could improve on the little things like font, I loved reading every single response!

Thank you so much for participating in this year's reader survey! You guys rock!

Happy Thursday!

Fun in the Sun | Bath, England

20 April 2015

One of the last things I had to do before moving back to the states was take one final trip to the wonderful city of Bath. Bath, a short 12 minute train ride from Bristol, had become my little escape. Don't get me wrong I loved living in Bristol, but sometimes I needed a quiet escape from the busy city.

When I flew back to England for my graduation in February, fellow blogger and best expat-friend Elle suggested getting our hair done in Bath. She had found a great salon and I was in desperate need of a pamper day, so really it was a no brainer. We started the morning off by attempting (and failing) to get pancakes on Pancake Day in Bristol. Word to the wise, it's actually quite difficult finding pancakes on Pancake day. So we headed to Bath hangry. Luckily, we were able to fulfill our pancake needs in Bath. The view wasn't half bad either.

After a much needed dye and cut at Melanie Giles, we hit the town. It's amazing what a new hair cut can do for one's mood! Bath is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever been to. Being able to hop on a train and explore whenever I felt like it was one of the highlights about living in the southwest of England. The best part about having a blogger friend? Being able to spend multiple hours walking around Bath trying to get those blog-worthy shots. Now enjoy these photos where I try to look blog-worthy but fail miserably. 

Check out some of my previous trips to Bath HERE.

Happy Monday!

Meet Van | Snow in Tromso

16 April 2015

I first began reading Snow in Tromso about a year ago. Van, the girl behind the blog, is a German postgraduate student living in Tromso, Norway (the third largest city located inside the Arctic Circle)! How cool is that?! When she's not studying, Van is posting amazing stories about life in Tromso, and beautiful pictures from her travels around Scandinavia. My favorite thing about Van's blog is the fact that she keeps it real. Yes she spends her free time gallivanting around Scandinavia, which is something some of us can only dream of! But living in a foreign country can be difficult and she's not afraid to tell  you exactly how it is. I genuinely love reading Van's posts, which is why I'm so excited to be introducing her to y'all today! And what better way to introduce a blogger than a little Q&A!

1 | Tell us about Tromso

Tromso is a little city in Northern Norway, about 350km north of the Arctic Circle. It's an absolutely beautiful and magical place and I've been living there for about 8 months now. I study in Tromso at the northernmost university of the world, which is as you can guess, a pretty unique experience. However I'm not freezing to death as soon as I leave the house and I also haven't seen any reindeer or moose yet so living in Tromso is not quite as arctic as you might imagine. After all, we're the city with the highest amount of bars and pubs in Norway (in relation to inhabitants of course) and temperatures rarely drop below -10 degrees.

2 | What is your hometown in Germany like? 

I come from a small town in rural Westphalia. Imagine countless little towns and villages spread in the plains a.k.a. the middle of nowhere where you need to drive for 45 minutes to get to the next highway and 3 hours to get to the next international airport. It's not that bad though. Actually my hometown is pretty nice. We not only have farms but also more than a dozen medieval houses, cobble stone streets and more than enough festivals and occasions where we drink a lot of beer - typical German so to say. 

3 | What are some of your favorite spots in Scandinavia?

Definitely Stockholm, the Gothenburg archipelago, Copenhagen and Northern Norway. Stockholm and Copenhagen are just two absolutely beautiful cities that you just have to visit at least once in your life! The Gothenburg archipelago is my favourite spot in the summer and there's nothing better than sunbathing on a little island off the Swedish coast! And Northern Norway offers you of course the opportunity to see the Northern Lights and the Midnight Sun so it's a nice destination anytime of the year!

4 | You are currently a postgraduate student of Northern and Indigenous Studies. What is the most interesting thing about your studies?

I think the most interesting thing about my studies, besides learning about native peoples from all over the world and of course contemporary issues in the High North, is to be part of an international program and that way, meet and make friends with people from all over the world. To learn more about different cultures and countries that I've never been to is a vital part of my studies, in and outside of the classroom. Furthermore there are not many study programs where you regularly meet in a Sami culture house, gather around a fire, drink coffee and discuss indigenous and Arctic issues. The University of Tromso is just such a cosy place where you feel instantly at home. 

5 | What has life as an expat taught you?

That you can find bureaucracy anywhere in the world and that no country is perfect - despite my belief before I moved abroad. However the most important thing I learned is to enjoy and appreciate life to the fullest as you might not live forever in a certain place and you also won't be surrounded by your favourite people forever. Expat life is a constant struggle of having to say goodbye to people and places that you love so you really need to make the most of your time in a certain place. 

6 | If you could pick one holiday/destination to do over again (good or bad), what would it be?
I would totally do my roadtrip around Southern Scandinavia again! I would have loved to spend more time in Gothenburg and the archipelago and it would have been nice to go on a day trip to Lillehammer from Oslo! I would also like to spend some time in Copenhagen and explore some museums and I wish the weather had been nicer so that I would have had more time to sunbathe at the beach in Malm!

Want to read more about life in Tromso? Check out some of Van's favorite posts!

Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

Happy Thursday!


4 Must-See Churches in Bristol, England

13 April 2015

Bristol is home to a lot of attractions. From ships to suspension bridges, its easy to get overwhelmed by the amount to see in this vibrant city. One of my favorite things to do in any new city I visit is spend time in its churches. Churches can tell you a lot about the city's history: the way the city was once laid out, the popular architecture of the time, even how large the city was hundreds of years ago! 

If you ever have the chance to visit Bristol, here are 4 must-see churches! Not only pretty, they are also are the most historically significant building in the city!

Admission: Free
Time Suggested: 2 Hours
Must See & Why: Eastern Lady Chapel as it is painted to reflect the medieval tradition of how churches looked.
My Post: To see a previous post on Bristol Cathedral, click here

Admission: Free
Time Suggested: 2 Hours
Must See & Why: The Lady Chapel, as it is a beautiful place to sit and admire.
My Post: To see a previous post on St. Mary Redcliffe, click here

Admission: Free
Time Suggested: 1 Hour
Must See & Why: The surrounding gardens, as you can not actually enter this ruined church.
My Post: To see a previous post on Temple Church, click here

Admission: Free
Time Suggested: 45 Minutes
Must See & Why: The crypt, which is home to some of Bristol's most important tombs.
My Post: To see a previous post on St. John the Baptist, click here
Further Advice: This church is not open on a regular basis. Best to call ahead and ask when it will be open. 

Happy Monday!

An Hour in Galveston, Texas

09 April 2015

Spring has officially sprung here in Texas! Although I'm already complaining about how hot the Houston weather is (I'm going to miss English summers), I'm loving being able soak up the sun whenever I get the chance. A few weeks ago my sister and her boyfriend came home from university for Spring Break. Taking full advantage of the weather, we headed to Galveston for the day. 

Galveston, Texas is only a short 45 minute trip away. To our disappointment, when we arrived on the island there was a coastal haze obstructing our view. Despite the fact the sun was shining we could barely see the water! So, we opted for a classic gulf coast lunch at the Spot, a famous cluster of restaurants on the island, then a quick walk on the beach before heading back home.

Having grown up in the Houston area, Galveston was always the perfect day-cation spot when I was younger. One of the 'older' cities in Texas, Galveston has been an important city, island, and port since 1839. European explorers however had been using Galveston Island as a stopping point in the 16th - 18th centuries before continuing on to Mexico and Central America. The island is a unique blend of Spanish, French, and Mexican history.

Galveston is most famous for being the location of the most deadly natural disaster in United States history. For those of you who aren't familiar, the hurricane of 1900 hit Galveston head on as a Category 4 storm. Winds reached up to 150 miles per hour, with somewhere around 8,000 people loosing their lives. With no warning systems in place at the time, the islanders had no idea what had hit them. Evidence from the 1900 storm can still be seen today. Residents of Galveston helped develop a seawall, protecting the island from the gulf. The wall, which now stretches over 10 miles, elevates the island more than 20 feet above sea level. Although nothing in United States' history has compared to the 1900 storm, Galveston has seen many hurricanes since, the most recent being Hurricane Ike in 2008 (or as I remember the two weeks we didn't have power or school).

Happy Thursday!

Why I Didn't 'Travel More'

06 April 2015

Since moving back to the states
one of the most frequently asked question has been 
"Why didn't you travel more?"

In the 17 months I lived in England I never went to mainland Europe. 
Heck, I only left the United Kingdom twice 
(once to visit my family in Texas, once for a trip to Ireland). 
But that doesn't mean I didn't travel.
That question absolutely infuriates me.
So my response, 
"I spent my time exploring the country I did live in". 

There's more to the United Kingdom than London, Bath, or Oxford.
There's an entire country waiting to be explored.
There are so many places I still have yet to visit in the UK. 
I didn't just want to travel to the UK, I wanted to understand it. 
And I was not going to pass up that amazing opportunity.
You can't understand a country by visiting it for a weekend or two. 

Living abroad allows you to understand your new country in a completely unique way.
Being an expat doesn't just mean you are experiencing another culture,
you are living it and allowing it to shape who you are.
It changed who I was for the better. 

Paris will always be there. Amsterdam too. 
There are so many places I want to visit, 
but I have the rest of my life to do so.
Living abroad is a blessing that should not be taken for granted. 

Polly from 'A Girl and Her Travels' has also written a lovely post about traveling and living abroad, which you can read here.

Happy Monday!

A Castle on a Hill | Edinburgh Castle

02 April 2015

On a brisk and sunny morning, after a much needed coffee, I marched up the Royal Mile to the most famous landmark in all of Edinburgh. Edinburgh Castle dominates the skyline anywhere you are in the Scottish capital. Beautiful yet menacing, there has been a human settlement on Castle Rock since the Iron Age. Still a functional fortress today, Edinburgh Castle is home to the Royal Regiment of Scotland and the Scottish Crown Jewels. The building has withstood cannon fire, English invasions, and civil war. High above the surrounding area, the castle has had a strong military advantage throughout its long history.

We found ourselves pleasantly surprised at the lack of people on our visit to the castle. I had visited Edinburgh Castle before, but a trip in June is very different than a trip in January. Although cold (very very cold), January offers fewer crowds and a more personal experience with every staff member. The castle is absolutely massive, and offers unique history exhibits ranging from Mary Queen of Scots to modern military. Like the Tower of London, it's hard to see everything in one visit. There's just too much! So bring a warm pair of gloves and your camera, Edinburgh Castle is a must on any visit to the Scottish capital!

+ Arrive right when the castle opens. There are no lines and you'll have freedom to wonder around without worrying about the crowds!
+ Allot at least 3 hours for the castle. I know that sounds a little excessive but there is so much to see!
+ Utilize the castle's free tours! Quick and easy to join, the tours give you an overall history of the site while simultaneously explaining the confusing layout. 
+Opening Hours:
Summer 9:30am - 6:00pm
Winter 9:30am - 5pm
+Admission: 16.50 pounds

Happy Thursday!