thejessence

The energy of the mind is the essence of life. – Aristotle


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Cheers, slainte, salut

If I had access to unlimited funds, you would not be able to pin me down because I would tie up any loose strings and travel the world.

The world is an exciting adventure. Right now, I have a total of 13 countries under my belt (that doesn’t include airport only stops) and have many more to go.

A few months ago, I got the chance to revisit a few of my favorites and add a new one to the list. It was a quick trip, with a little taste of each, but a savoring of previous visits and new craving for more.

Tower Bridge

(Photo by: Jessica McBride) It’s not London Bridge, it’s Tower Bridge.

London was my first big city experience. I went there before I went to NYC or LA. It will always be a favorite on the list and the place I’ve visited the most.

The highlights of London are hole in the wall pubs and the Tower. Make sure you get the house-made cask beer and take the tour with the Beefeaters. After your tour, go see the Crown Jewels.

Then you can awe at how Jim Moriarty in the BBC series Sherlock, electronically broke in to the Tower. “In a world of locked rooms, the man with the key is king. And honey you should see me in a crown.”

Eat some fish and chips. Word of warning, the fish may have the skin still on it. Fearful of British dishes? McDonalds is 100 percent better than the traditional American establishment. Drink an orange Fanta. It’s not fake orange, it’s more of Orangina without the pulp. You’ll be Googling ways to ship it to your house.

St. Paul's Cathedral, London

(Photo by: Jessica McBride) Grab some tuppence and feed the birds at St. Paul’s.

I’m also a big fan of going to the cathedrals. If you only have time to go to one, go to Westminster Abbey. It is the burial place of many, many renowned Brits, as well as monarchs and other royals.

You’ll feel creepy stepping on the cracks in the floor to avoid stepping on someone’s burial place.

St. Paul’s is great too. Mary Poppins fan? This is the church described in her song, “Feed the Birds.”

My favorite place on earth is Scotland. Well, as a native-born Texan, I’m required to say Texas is my favorite place, with Scotland a close second.

Bagpiper

(Photo by: Jessica McBride) As you walk down the Royal Mile, the sounds of bagpipes fill the air.

Whether it’s Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness or the Isle of Skye, I love it all. It feels like home. Someday I will live there. #LifeGoals

This round I went to Edinburgh and was there during the 2017 Fringe Festival. Get you a good Scottish ale and walk the Royal Mile. The lad who sold me a coffee and oat white stout said you’re free to walk the street, drink in hand as long as you’re not being a ****. Might check to make sure that’s true outside of the festival though.

Edinburgh Castle is mandatory. It’s on a volcano. You’ll feel like royalty. If you’re into history, it’s a phenomenal artifact and great stories. Mary, Queen of Scots. No, she’s different than Bloody Mary.

Not into history? The views from the top of the mount are fantastic. You’ll see all of Edinburgh.

Edinburgh Castle

(Photo by: Jessica McBride) Edinburgh Castle is a lot of walking, but well worth exploring in the cool, damp air.

I know there are a ton of Outlander fans out there. The story book comes to life in Edinburgh. Sure, you need to go to Inverness too. But the winding streets and closes that pull you back to older times make it all real. You’ll be singing “Skye Boat Song” the entire time.

This round I added Ireland to my list. But to be honest, I don’t remember anything aside from Guinness.

The beverage was always just ok. Not bad, not great. A foreign beer that everyone knew the name of.

Guinness 1

(Photo by: Jessica McBride) In Dublin? Go to Guinness.

But since I enjoy tasting new beers, especially those dark and malty, I think you naturally have to pay a visit.

After the experience, I will tell you that if you’re in Dublin, skip everything else and go to the Guinness brewery. You’ll spend almost an entire day there learning about it. It’s not just a history lesson where you read boards of information about how it’s made. It’s an experience.

The standard ticket comes with the small tasting. During the session, instructors will walk you through how to drink the beverage and the subtle notes you’ll notice as you take your gulp.

If you’re lucky, you’ll be in the room with women who don’t like beer. Make friends around you and offer to take their shot glass sized beverage off of their hands.

Pay the extra money to take the pouring class. It’s well worth it. You’ll learn how to properly pour the beverage and get to drink your pint.

Guinness 2

(Photo by: Jessica McBride) My husband also like the Guinness brewery. Slainte!

The brewery even has food such as beef stew made with the brew and potato and leek soup. All foods that pair magnificently with Guinness.

Needless to say I have a new appreciation for Guinness and get it more often here in the States.

The brewery even has some different options at the bar at the top if darkness isn’t your thing. If I remember correctly, there was an IPA and lighter options.

Ranking Ireland, honestly, I don’t have it in my top three. Now, I was in Dublin. For a day-and-a-half. I saw Guinness and ate some wine gummies. It’s green and the buses tell you the stops in Gaeilge. Don’t worry, they shout at you in English too.

Maybe I go back to see the country side and castles and eat some potatoes. Until then, I’ll remind myself with Guinness. Slainte!

Eiffel Tower

(Photo by: Jessica McBride) Word of warning when visiting the Eiffel Tower. Be wary of pick pockets.

The first time I went to France, I experienced a filthy, smelly Paris at the beginning of the Iraq War when freedom fries were a thing. Literally, people threw trash in the street gutters and water rushed through them twice-per-day to sweep the trash away. I saw people peeing in the streets.

Very few people attempted to speak English and would get frustrated when you would butcher their language to order food.

I did remember the food being wonderful, so I knew it would not disappoint entirely the second round.

French bread > American bread. There’s just something that makes it better. Maybe because it’s actually real food? Maybe because it doesn’t have preservatives?

Paris also has such a thing as pastry shops. I have yet to find somewhere comparable in Texas or Oklahoma. I’m not saying they don’t exist, just I’m unaware of their locations.

French Pastries

(Photo by: Jessica McBride) Patisserie is your new French word of the day.

We’re talking real pastries. Wonderful pastries. This round I made sure I got my fill. Get you a crepe too. There’s all kind of fruit and chocolate varieties.

The lady at the patisserie shop was very friendly. Her voice so musical.

The pasta and Asian cuisine did not disappoint. It was some of the best I’ve had (well outside of Italy for the pasta).

Everyone we met were wonderful people, even if the communication barriers were limited. France moved up on my list after this trip, and on some days it breaks the top three.

It could be because Paris was bidding to host the Olympics. I guess we’ll find out after the next visit.

Of course, everyone goes to the Eiffel Tower. You can purchase a ticket to go up to the top. I think the experience is just to be around it.The lines can be long and the foot traffic around the exhibit can be intense.

When in Paris, one must visit the Louvre. Put on your walking shoes and stroll around. You’ll see everything from art to history. Just knowing the facility was once a palace is cool enough for me.

Les Mis fan? You could very well pass the Saint Michel subway stop on your way to the Louvre to see artwork depicting the revolution in all of its glory. You might even hear the people sing.

There’s more than enough entertainment to spend a week in each of these places, not even including the rest of the museums, historical monuments and cultural exhibits in their respective countries. More importantly, there’s something for everyone, regardless of what you enjoy to do on your travels.

All in all, I encourage everyone to hop on a plane or cruise ship and get outside of the U.S. Take an adventure and get a glimpse inside the lives of people that are not your own. If nothing else, traveling will give you a different perspective of your life here in America.

 

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Silent Symphony and Magic

Have you ever sat in silence and just listened to the noise? The ticking of the clock, the deep breath of a puppy fast asleep, the wind as it winds through rows of houses, the creeks and pops of a shifting structure, the blood pumping through your ears, all creating the symphony that literally is the sound of silence.

I doubt many of us experience silence any more between our smartphone addiction and the constant compulsion to be entertained.

For almost a year now, I’ve been preoccupied with the ‘Outlander’ book series by Diana Gabaldon, which mostly takes place in the 1700s and leaves me endlessly wondering how I would function in a time outside of my own.

The necessity of entertainment is replaced with the essential function of living. Binge watching Netflix is replaced with making sure there is food for dinner. Everyone has a job to do, and time is not to be wasted.

Luckily, I don’t have to worry about churning butter, boiling water to wash the clothes I’ve been wearing for the last week or even spending 30 minutes trying to light a fire.

I do have to be concerned with not eating or wearing the same thing two days in a row, and keeping up with everyone else’s daily “struggles” on social media. #FirstWorldProbs

Even my dogs’ purpose would shift from serving as household enjoyment to hunting and aiding in the home’s survival. However, it’s difficult for me to picture two miniature dachshunds doing anything except squeaking a fuzzy toy and snuggling on a pile of blankets.

It’s almost terrifying to imagine a world of silence without the technology and bustling lifestyle we’re used to today. How does one survive without contacts to correct your vision, a microwave to heat up a bite to eat or a television to sustain a level of noise to mute the silence?

I wouldn’t know the first thing about baking bread from scratch, butchering a chicken, gathering edible plants or building a fire without a match or lighter.

I can tell you how to turn on the XBox with voice commands, flicking the light switch to the ‘on’ direction, which button to press on the microwave based upon the food you want to eat and how to update your status on Facebook. I can’t tell you how any of this stuff actually works.

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” -Arthur C. Clarke

 


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With A Suitcase and One Foot On the Train

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Outside of my hotel window, looking out on the Mississippi River in New Orleans. Photo by: Jessica McBride

I sat on the carpet surrounded in darkness in my hotel room in New Orleans, in front of my floor to ceiling window, listening to House of the Rising Sun and eating peanut butter M&Ms.

Luckily I had come back with something other than the putrid pee smell of Bourbon Street and peddlers selling their various wares.

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My fried fish po’ boy, chicken and sausage gumbo and tabasco infused mayo. Photo by: Jessica McBride

I guess there’s a reason gambling men went to New Orleans. The first moments into the French Quarter made me want to run back to the shelter of my hotel and not venture out until it was time to fly home.

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Nothing more French than a fleur. Photo by: Jessica McBride

But, the street performances were beautiful, and my French connection to the city was enough to take hold. OK, and the beignets.

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By the way, Cafe Du Monde is open 24 hours. Photo by: Jessica McBride

In the picturesque ideal of southern charm and big city vices, I also visited the World War II museum. Highly recommended by the way. Spend the extra money and see the 4D presentation of the war narrated by Tom Hanks. After 30 minutes, you’ll come out head high, chest out, bleeding red, white, and blue with tears running down your face and a new perspective of the stars and stripes.

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Photo by: Jessica McBride

As in all my other travels, there is too much to see and so little time. I think that’s a good thing. It’s a draw to a place where the experience pulls you back for the long lasting memories.

Once you catch the travel bug there’s no cure for the syndrome other than a regular dose of adventure, sight-seeing, and voyages. It’s also extremely contagious, just ask a few of us sufferers.

Seeing how others live and view the world and life gives you an appreciation and understanding that is indescribable. It also makes you value and miss the home that you have built with those you love. I think that’s the most potent component of seeing the world.

Sometimes we need a reminder to appreciate the ranch dressing and Dr. Pepper back home.

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A canon, a Scot, a Catholic church, in a historic French city that only a beautiful American sunset can bring together. Photo by: Jessica McBride

 

 


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Power of the Pen

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I am deeply interested in the progress and elevation of journalism, having spent my life in that profession, regarding it as a noble profession and one of unequaled importance for its influence upon the minds and morals of the people.
-Joseph Pulitzer http://www.brainyquote.com

I’m a fan of the Toby McGuire Spider-Man movies. If you ever needed a reason to question my movie choices, you have found your ammo.

Film aside, I have a different point to make. Fairly early in the first movie Uncle Ben tells Peter that with great power comes great responsibility.

The duties of a journalist can be summed up with this statement. As a writer I have the power to influence your opinion. Not only does my writing intrigue you with the title and headline, but it gives you an angle from which to view someone or an issue.

Journalism gives you an informational background from which you form your opinion. In essence, I have the power to tell you what to think.

“I am deeply interested in the progress and elevation of journalism, having spent my life in that profession, regarding it as a noble profession and one of unequaled importance for its influence upon the minds and morals of the people.” -Joseph Pulitzer
ww.brainyquote.com

I must be responsible with this power. I must make decisions not on the basis of my own beliefs, but on the information my reader needs to know. It seems like you would just sit down and write, but it takes effort and a conscious decision on what information is extraneous and what will move the audience to understanding.

Some journalists do just write, and that’s ok. The greater good that comes from journalism is achieved when writers are allowed to share the information they’ve experienced with their readers.

Charlie Hebdo may draw cartoons, and you may or may not agree with them. But to censor outlets such as this will prove to be a great disservice to the industry and readers.

Je Suis Charlie.


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Plague of Terror

It has come to the point that saying Ebola in a clinic is equivalent to shouting bomb on a plane.

Let me preface my opinion by saying that Ebola is a medical emergency that we need to research, treat and wipe off the map. We need to take the threat seriously.

However, living your life in a state of paranoia because of the illness is ludicrous. Yes, it’s scary; but there’s nothing you can do about it other than stay away from Africa.

Americans should be more worried about flu, measles, tuberculosis and HIV.

There are individuals calling for the cessation of flights from Africa. That seems like the solution until you realize that most people flying out of the infected areas are hopping to Europe or another location prior to landing in the U.S.

There are individuals calling for extreme screenings at airports. A test for Ebola isn’t instantaneous. Without barging on someone’s privacy, screening for fever and asking simple questions is about the limit.

I admit that it is scary that Ebola has entered the U.S., and I know that officials have failed in areas. But the only way to truly fight the disease is to let health experts figure out what is going on, learn from their mistakes and do what they need to do to prevent it from getting out of hand. A few may end up with the disease; that’s to be expected.

I watch the news in the morning and receive news alerts throughout the day about somebody was on a cruise with someone who might have been in the vicinity of someone who has/had Ebola. Really? The media is blowing the entire issue out of proportion and the readers are relishing it. It’s almost like a bad horror movie. I almost hope the zombies are next.

My number one annoyance is that people do not read the entire news article or do not research the full issue before they start belligerently posting their terrorizing social media updates about how they just know it’s going to spread and we’re all doomed. Maybe it will. I’m not saying it’s not possible; I’m saying that as far as the experts know it shouldn’t get out of control in the U.S. Your fear is more contagious and is the epidemic we need to cure first.

Your fear is justified. It’s a scary situation. However, know the facts and understand what is truly going on. The majority of people are misinformed and as a few politicians and columnists have already stated, the fear mongers are running rampant.

If you don’t know the whole story, don’t discuss it like you’re a professional on the front line. If you know pieces of what’s going on, try to fit them together to see the whole picture.


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There’s a Reason They Call It Happily Ever After

Recently, I celebrated two years of being married to my best friend. It’s hard for me to believe it’s already been that long, but they say time flies as you get older.

We’ve watched friends date and break up. We’ve watched friends who we didn’t think were meant for each other develop a relationship. We’ve watched friends that we thought were made for forever fade faster than jeans.

My father always said that love was a choice. He said that it wasn’t a fuzzy feeling that you act on, but a constant choice to love a person for forever.

I recently read the ‘Divergent’ series, and one of the characters decides that a loving relationship is the decision to forgive and keep forgiving that person.

I have to say, these beliefs explain my view better than I ever could.

I never said that the decision or choice is easy. Every relationship has its problems, and it’s always about how you get through them together. Randy and I have faced easy and tough decisions; and we’ll face even tougher ones as time goes on, but one thing I can say is that we decide them together and we know that we are both better for that.

I think when you take a step back and acknowledge that love and relationships are constant decisions, it makes understanding relationships easier. I feel our relationship has always been easy. We don’t have to force ourselves into a mold or fight and argue on a daily basis. We just… well, live. It’s like breathing.

I’m sure other couples have their own advice; maybe it’s even better than mine.  But at the end of the day, if you are happy and constantly in love with the person that you come home to every day; then you must be doing something right.


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The Fall and the Rise

I remember.  But then again it’s fuzzy.

My sophomore year of high school I had band first period.  There was a TV in the band hall, but it rarely worked.  We were practicing our marching music.  Actually, I’m not real sure why we were in the band hall at all.  Usually we were out at the practice field.

The day began just as any other day, but about 15 minutes before class ended the TV came on; and from there, I would watch TV for the rest of the day.

It was mostly confusing about what exactly was going on, but I gathered something bad in New York.

I arrived in French class just in time to watch the first tower fall.  I would watch the second fall in the same class.  No one really talked.  I think everyone was just trying to comprehend what was going on, and wonder if our little border town would suffer the same fate.

Class by class, we did nothing.  We talked, we watched the TV.  No instruction was given.  Sometimes teachers would chime in making statements like, “the world will never be the same,” or “your life will forever be effected.”  I didn’t realize what exactly that meant at the time.

Kids cried.  Most were just quiet.  The border was shutdown.  The air force base was shut down.  Kids that lived in Mexico or on base frantically tried to call their parents to figure out how they were going to get home.

For those of us that were old enough, we remember exactly where we were and exactly what we did.  I wonder if the effect was anything similar for generations before during the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

I can’t imagine being in either place on Sept. 11 or Dec. 7.

Years later we still remember.  We watch video clips and are immediately taken back to that very day.

On that day, we realized we were all human.  We realized that could happen to any of us.  We realized we weren’t invincible.  We realized some would lose their lives.  We realized that some of those might be close to us.  We realized that families would suffer.  We connected as a group in those moments and bound together unlike anything I’ve ever seen.