March 27, 2024

My 4 Efficient Travel Must-Haves

Even though my speed and rate of travel have considerably mellowed over the past few years, I still maintain my standards of travel efficiency! These items are my favorite go-to's for making sure my trip is full of light-hearted experiences and not weighed down by carrying stuff everywhere.

1. Samsonite Carry-On Roller Bag

I basically never check luggage anymore. It's expensive and all it means is I packed more than I can really carry. So I stick to carry-on roller bags like this Samsonite one I picked up after my other one broke (after it was checked!) in January this year. Easy to handle, keeps me lightweight, and has enough space for my necessities.

2. Backpack vs. Tote Bag vs. Daypack 

I could go on for DAYS about backpacks, tote bags, and daypacks. Having received numerous sports backpacks over the years, I have had lots of options to tryout and see what works the best for me. Typically, if I don't take the aforementioned roller carry-on bag, then I will take a medium-sized backpack, like this Mizuno backpack that would carry everything. 

Another option for when I plan to be away for three to four days, is my Nike tote bag. I think it was designed as like a "workout purse," but I find it's the perfect bag for an extra pair of shoes, maybe 1-2 outfits, and toiletries, with great pockets and can be fully zipped shut. I have the light blue version, but the black would probably look a bit sleeker in the airport.

Finally, I find my ACES Drawstring Bag is the best daypack option to throw into any of these larger bags for when I don't need to carry around as much. I can pack a water, snacks, notebook, book, pens, whatever, and it won't be exhausting to haul it around all day long.


All in all, deciding which bag(s) to build your journey into is the start of your adventure and will make a huge impact on how your days go. Let me know in the comments which bag(s) you prefer to bring with you!

3. Walking Shoes

I have been buying these super reliable Nike shoes for over fifteen years! Not only are they the most comfortable, light-weight and soft sneaker I have ever found, but they can also double as a chill workout, jogging, or coaching shoe. Knowing how sport tends to follow me around, it is very important that my "walking shoes" can fulfill my more intense activity expectations. My favorite thing about these shoes? They come in A LOT of colors! This one Amazon link alone has 16 options! I don't have official statistics, but I currently have three pairs of various stages of wear, and I believe I have had at least ten other pairs at some point. 

4. Pullover & Leggings

Obviously, weather plays a huge factor in what we should or shouldn't pack for our trips. However, I find that time and time again, no matter the season, I have some sort of long sleeve pullover and a pair of leggings with me. In the winter, these serve as sleepwear or loungewear options, and in the summer, they are perfect for a surprisingly cooler night. Both items can be used with other clothing I bring with me, and they are the perfect back-up travel apparel as well. I've linked another great ACES product here because it's a sweatshirt with a hood — crucial for any unexpected precipitation! 

I have always loved my Nike leggings, and highly recommend them still. They have great fit, longevity, and keep me warm and cool as needed. You can find them in several color and length options, and they also function as a casual pant to any top.

There are several other items I usually include in my packing lists, but these four (seven?) are my starter kit. This is a post with clear affiliate links to Amazon and ACES products I really have and use for my trips. I hope it helps get you thinking about your travel basics and maybe even leads you to some fun new items! 

Sound off in the comments below which items you never leave home without!

Happy travels!

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February 19, 2024

Coming Back for Córdoba's Courtyards

I always knew I wanted to return to Córdoba.

It was just a matter of time.

The first taste of this beautiful place was back in 2015, due to a canceled flight and a few extra bonus days in the south of Spain. As soon as I began walking around the gorgeously saturated palette, I knew one day was never going to be enough. 

But other trips and adventures took priority over the years, and we all felt the black hole of travel experiences during the pandemic.

Late summer 2022, I did a full week on my own in Granada, Spain (another extension of that aforementioned 2015 trip). That week could have gone to Córdoba, of course, but I wanted my Córdoba experience to be very specific.

I want Córdoba in May, during their unique-only-to-Córdoba festival.

So, here I am, nearly ten years later, planning my long-awaited reunion with one of the most colorful and historical cities in Spain.

Córdoba is not the easiest place to get to, but it is situated between several airport options. I elected to fly in and out of Madrid (despite the closer airports in Seville, Málaga, and Granada) to profit from a few extra days at the end of my trip to spend in Spain's capital city. I found great tickets on the Spanish Renfe train system between Madrid and Córdoba that work with my schedule, and I'm looking forward to watching the center of Southern Spain pass by my train windows.

Once I got my dates and transportation finalized, I referenced my go-to site for accommodation: Over the past decade-plus of traveling around Europe, I have found the site has evolved very well to offer the best array of options. It even includes the types of lodging that used to only be found on AirBnB, for example, and the discounts run deeper the more times you use the site. Additionally, there are tons of verified reviews from many more previous guests, and I have really felt like my experiences have matched what the site has stated.

This hotel in Córdoba will mark my 50th stay with Booking!!! For privacy purposes, I will just say I am super excited about the location being just a fifteen-minute walk to the beautiful Mosque-Cathedral. 

But the festival!

The whole reason I have waited for the right May to return to Córdoba.

The Courtyards Festival of Córdoba (Fiesta de los Patios de Córdoba) is essentially a garden patio contest that is open to the public. So. Many. Flores!!! The plants and flowers that can be grown in Córdoba's warm climate give it an incredibly rich vibrancy that contrasts with the classic whitewashed adobe structures. It will be like wandering an enormous city-size greenhouse, all against a typically clear sunny blue sky! 

In between enjoying the courtyards and imagining some sort of fun mystery novel in the setting, I am also looking forward to taking my time in and around the town. The Roman ruins, old churches, bright plazas, and bustling mercados will all be a wonderful part of every day.

Ultimately, I am aware of the fact that I am literally going to spend quite a bit of time in a city because of garden décor, and I am leaning into it! I think one of the greatest advantages of aging is understanding what one really wants to do with their opportunities, and being able to make it happen.

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November 6, 2023

GPS My Posts with GPSMYCITY, Round 2

I've got several of NEW blog posts that are linked to maps within the GPSmyCity app! Subscribing to the entire app or downloading the articles earns me a percentage of the profits for my writing.

Whether you download none, all, or some, it's great to be able to share some of my fun travel experiences through GPSmyCity!

You can check out all of my linked posts here: Christy Swagerty.

New posts include: 

SPAIN: Madrid, Granada, Palma de Mallorca, Alicante, Toledo, Valencia, and Sagunt.

FRANCE: Strasbourg, Nice, Deauville, Lyon, and a few more Paris Museum posts!

GERMANY: Baden-Baden and Hamburg.


There will be more to come soon!

GPSmyCity is not sponsoring this post, however, I will receive about half of the commission from these blog post in-app purchases. 
Thanks for reading and sharing!
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August 22, 2023

Strasbourg in 3 Hours

I had always wanted to go to Strasbourg since my 6th grade country report on France. While researching the "what-to-see-and-do," I began to understand there was not going to be a "wow factor." The sites are pretty basic for a French or European city; a few grand churches, pretty sidewalks, commemorative statues, and shopping.

I'm okay with not being "wowed," but I didn't expect Strasbourg to gently befriend me, leading me down quiet streets, across unique bridges, and through ivy-covered corridors. Strasbourg was a pleasant friend to wander with; never intimidating, always inviting. 

Picturesquely situated along the Rhine River, Strasbourg is a city of captivating charm, where history and modernity intertwine in a symphony of architectural wonders. If you find yourself with just a few hours to explore this quaint city, fear not—Strasbourg's main sights are easily navigable on foot. Let's detail a delightful 3-hour walking tour that showcases the essence of Strasbourg's beauty and culture.

La Petite France: 0:00-1:00

Embark on your journey at the heart of Strasbourg's enchantment, La Petite France. This medieval neighborhood boasts charming half-timbered houses, flower-draped balconies, and narrow cobblestone lanes that evoke a sense of fairy-tale magic. Stroll along the riverbanks and admire the reflections of these whimsical buildings on the tranquil waters. The Maison des Tanneurs, a former tannery turned into a quaint restaurant, stands as a testament to the area's rich history.

I spent half an hour on a bench by the river, soaking in sunshine and fresh air. I ordered my lunch off of French chalkboards, trying the local tarte flambée, and a dry white wine. 

Strasbourg Cathedral (Cathédrale Notre-Dame): 1:00-2:00

As you move towards the city center, the towering spires of the Strasbourg Cathedral come into view. This masterpiece of Gothic architecture is a true marvel. Spend some time marveling at the intricate façade, where ornate sculptures and statues tell stories of religious history. Don't miss the opportunity to climb the 332 steps to the cathedral's viewing platform, where panoramic views of the city reward your efforts.

The astronomical clock inside the grand Strasbourg cathedral had a most intriguing detail. The "time teller" figurine at the center of the clock was a skeleton! This is quite a distance from the typical jolly old man, cuckoo bird, jousting knights, dancing jesters, or whatever other icons of cuteness you can think of. It made me stand there an extra minute, wondering what the significance of that chosen symbol was - "Death controls our time?" "No one will escape death/time?" "Dead men tell no tales?"

Place Kléber: 2:00-3:00

Head to Place Kléber, Strasbourg's central square, and the heart of the city's shopping district. Here, modernity blends seamlessly with tradition as locals and visitors mingle among shops, boutiques, and bustling cafés. The monumental Christmas tree that graces the square during the holiday season is a sight to behold. Take a leisurely stroll around the square, soak in the atmosphere, and perhaps enjoy a quick bite to refuel for the next leg of your journey.

Barrage Vauban: 3:00

For your final stop, make your way to Barrage Vauban, a historic dam and bridge that offers captivating views of Strasbourg's skyline. This architectural gem also serves as a pedestrian walkway, allowing you to cross over to the other side of the river and take in the stunning vistas. As you stand atop the dam, watch the river flow beneath you while admiring the city's beautiful houses and bridges reflected in the water.

The tasteful blend of German and French cultures actually make for a weed-free version of Amsterdam: similarities of river canals, foot bridges, Germanic architecture, bicyclists everywhere, and the tram tracks underfoot and wires overhead.

In just three hours, your walking tour of Strasbourg has taken you through so many of the sights that capture the city's essence. From the quaint charm of La Petite France to the grandeur of Strasbourg Cathedral, the bustling energy of Place Kléber to the serenity of Barrage Vauban, you have experienced a condensed yet enchanting journey through this captivating city. As you conclude your tour, you will leave with a deeper appreciation for Strasbourg's history, culture, and architectural beauty—a testament to the city's ability to offer a delightful experience even in a short span of time.

Strasbourg is a perfect day trip from Paris, or a relaxing home base for exploring the Alsace region in France and/or the Rhineland in Germany. If you don't speak any French, it's probably better for you to sleep on the German side, and use the simple over-the-border trains to access the delightful river island that is Strasbourg.

Strasbourg in 3 Hours on iOS & Android
Find the rest of my navigational GPSmyCity app article cities HERE (newest) and HERE (older).

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