Contact Us

Use the form on the right to contact us.

You can edit the text in this area, and change where the contact form on the right submits to, by entering edit mode using the modes on the bottom right. 


123 Street Avenue, City Town, 99999

(123) 555-6789


You can set your address, phone number, email and site description in the settings tab.
Link to read me page with more information.


The Journal

A Nashville photographer's story blog.

Filtering by Category: Adventure

Travelogue: Round Top, TX

Amy Roberts

If you'd told me last June how our lives would change in the space of one year, I would have been afraid. Afraid, because the balance of highest highs and lowest lows is so dramatic when I look back over the last twelve months. We have mourned the loss of two grandparents and one friend, witnessed our families shift and shuffle homes and lives, and have been to the other side of the world and back. Oh, and I graduated college. :)

It's been a hard one. So when my mother-in-law Emily mentioned that she was visiting her sister Sharon in Texas, I asked if I could come along. This was odd for me, because I hate the idea of imposing, but it was a gut feeling. My very bones knew I would need this, and that it would be good for me. (This was probably due to my thorough knowledge of how amazing Emily and Sharon are, especially when they're together.)

For four days, I wandered around shops, restaurants, and homes with these two, and I have never felt so restored by travel in my life.

Normally, I narrate trips in a journal-entry style and include everything about where I went and what I did. But that doesn't feel right for this post, because it wasn't about what we did. Our itinerary was loose at best, and some evenings we really didn't know what we'd do, if anything, until we felt like it. The places were great, the food was awesome, and the inspiration was everywhere (Texas knows how to vintage).

But at the heart of the trip was celebration and community.

It was like we were collectively feeling out our gratefulness for being alive, having survived what we've survived, and being with each other in this breath of time and transition.

And while we did that, we, you know, shopped and slept and ate tons of tacos.

Okay, maybe the tacos were just me.

So this post is a bit different. I'm just going to throw out some words that capture what I'm trying to get at, because to write it out would make four days into an actual novel. It's not because I don't want to write it, either. It's just that I've spent a few days trying to write it, and it's too much of a feeling to write. So, the words that feel the closest are:


Adventure Tonic
Communal Peace




Glean from this what you will. And, to fill in for the words that I still haven't said, enjoy the images I was thrilled to capture, which I think are each worth way more than a thousand actual words.




Round Top, TX

Image by Stacy Allen


I will interject here, because I was so happy to meet Stacy Allen at our beautiful B&B. She and her family were adorable, and she was generous enough to swap photo shoots with me and give me a couple lovely photos (these are tagged with captions). Her minimal blog is littered with stunning images and amazing tips, so please check her out, and if you're ever in need of a B&B in Texas you should consider The Vintage (not sponsored in any way).


I will always remember this trip as a feeling.

A good, good feeling.


There's a bit more on my Instagram Story Highlights, which is where you'll always find my in-the-moment updates when I'm on an adventure. How do you travel? Do you pack it in, or focus on the R&R?



Travelogue: Shanghai

Amy Roberts

First things first: The hospitality of the people we encountered in China was absolutely staggering.

Our flight from Yantai (read my post about that leg of our trip here) to Shanghai was at 7:00am, so we were up by 4:00am to be sure we had plenty of time at the airport. We were travelling with our friend, Wenbo, which was an incredible experience in itself! We had met his roommate, Kay, maybe twice in the States, but when Kay learned we were visiting Shanghai he immediately offered to have his family meet us there (and show us around, and lend us their only car...!). Kay's parents greeted us at the Shanghai airport, took us to our hotel, and helped haggle for our rooms (a new concept for us).

Once we were settled in, we all went to lunch at a restaurant that specializes in Yunnan province food, where we had some of our favorite food of the whole trip. Scrambled eggs with lavender buds, black fungus with greens, rice, some kind of barbecue... it was all incredible.

After lunch, we hit the pavement and headed toward a small, older area of the city. Right away, we found a beautiful Buddhist temple and, as it was on our list to tour a temple at some point on our trip, we stopped and looked around.

The temple was home to lots of kitties, who lived with the monks in a mutually advantageous situation. They kept the mice off of the food offerings which worshipers would lay on the altars, and they got a home and fancy pillows to sleep on in exchange. It was pretty clear how much they loved the monks, too - they followed them around everywhere!

It rained off and on while we were in Shanghai, and one this afternoon became one of the highlights of our trip to China. After visiting the temple, we ducked into a small, sweet-smelling tea shop, where we spent about an hour being served tea by a very kind woman who owned her shop and took pride in its independence. As she showed us the tea ceremony, she spoke to us in Chinese and our friend translated for us. Her tea was hands-down the best tea I've ever tasted. 
This was also during our second week in China, and I had been traveling with two men for the entire trip. I remember wishing desperately to have some female interaction which wasn't an aggressive sales pitch or a request to take a photo. This hour with this woman, as her grown sons wandered around her shop, filled that gap in a tiny way. I was grateful, even though I couldn't really tell her directly.
As we looked through the teapots available, since I had planned on buying one and hadn't found what I wanted yet, we saw one which wasn't quite straight (not the one in the picture, that was HER teapot). She said this other one was imperfect as it was made by hand, and no one had wanted it. Our friend was really confused when our eyes lit up at its teeny indications of human touch. He pointed out the things that made it imperfect, and frowned when we said, "We know, that's what makes handmade things so special!" Home it came, along with tea of several sorts, quickly jotted-down instructions for brewing, and a happy, grateful memory.

We continued walking the ancient strip, the clouds threatening to break into rain. We were eating meat on stick when it started pouring, so we took refuge in a crawfish shop, where we chatted with the staff (I say we, but I mean Wenbo) while eating crawfish (Wenbo and Justin actually ate the crawfish) and sipped on Tsingtao beer until the weather cleared.

The day ended with a moon bridge sighting and a lot of happy feels.

The next day, we ate lots of food and looked around in some of the nicer shopping areas. We weren't all that interested in buying a lot, but we were thoroughly entertained by the excess of badly translated phrases printed on most of their popular clothing. I came home with one which says fittingly "More Less." I'm not really sure what they were going for in terms of translation, but it feels like the right idea for Meanderblog values, don't you think?

From there we headed to Shanghai's famed waterfront area called The Bund, which abuts the Huangpu River and offers a skyline you'll never forget. We saw it during the day, though the weather was still very heavy and there was a thick grey fog obscuring our view. Still, it was really quite spectacular.


We ate at a lovely fancy buffet, where we had a booth near a window that looked out onto the river below.

On our way back, we took another look at The Bund, this time all lit up for the evening. Stunning!

Our last day in Shanghai was just as wonderful. We spent some time in the well-known Tianzifang district, another ancient part of Shanghai which has been transformed into a hub for food, craft, and architecture. After hours exploring, we breezed through a city park and flew back to Beijing in the evening.

This is merely a highlight reel of all we experienced in beautiful Shanghai. Thanks for coming along with us! The next and final installment of our adventure through China will outline our day trip to Suzhou, the loveliest leg of our journey. 'Til next time,



Travelogue: Beijing

Amy Roberts


The Travelogue series narrates my adventures journal-style. 

"The air burns our eyes."

Not to start out on a sour note, but that's one of the first things I wrote down in my journal when we arrived in China. I learned later that some of the grey haze that tinged the light in the broad day was cloudy weather, but not all of it. Before we left our home-grown Tennessee town, we had wondered to each other whether we would notice the infamous air pollution in the world's third largest city.

We did.

Our friend and guide, Wenbo, was about to take us through this massive city. But one of the programs that his father works on at the China Agricultural University is aimed toward helping absorb the smog that drives even spiders out of the city. China's capital is truly a marvel, and they're doing their best to care for their citizens and repair the environment at the same time (which is more than we ca...). Whoops! Did I write that out loud?

After a pair of red eye flights that totaled about seventeen hours, we walked out from under the airport's hanging sign, flashing simply "Foreigners," and blinkingly slipped into the back of Wenbo's car. The car swerved from its place into oncoming traffic! Wenbo wove like a crazy person in and out of lanes, honking loudly and carving an aggressive path to the freeway.

"Now you will learn how to drive in Beijing" he said to us with a grin.


The Great Wall

The next day, despite our massive case of jet lag, we headed to The Great Wall of China to kick off our trip with a bang. As we got further from Beijing, we began to see mountains we didn't realize were there, because they had been hidden in the haze of the city.

They were other-worldly - lumpy mounds of earth's meringue pulled up to a peak and baked under a China sun. They were stunningly beautiful and filled with flocks of birds. Our drive was beautifully scenic and passed through several villages. At one of these we stopped for gas and shopped along the mountainside streets, where I bought a beaded bracelet made from the wood of a peach tree, designed to keep away evil spirits. Couldn't hurt, right?

After about an hour's drive, we made it to the village where the entrance to The Great Wall was. On our way in, we bought fresh hawthorn fruits and cherries to snack on as we walked - something we discovered Wenbo was very fond of doing to keep hydrated. I bought a hat to help block the sun, and - would you believe it - I haggled for it! I hate haggling as a rule, but it's the only way to buy much of anything in China. The woman was so kind and couldn't believe it when I chose the simplest hat they had, but I gently waved my hand "no thank you" as she cocked her head and pointed to brighter hats with lace and flowers. We laughed at each other and ourselves and didn't mind that any words we spoke fell on ears that couldn't understand them. 

Then we saw it, and it sank in. We started up the steps of The Great Wall of China and we knew we were walking on the work of ancient hands. It was a staggering, humbling feeling to be that small and brief in the midst of mountains and feats of humanity both very huge and very old.

I was vastly unprepared for the amount of steps involved, and the late June sun was intensely hot; nonetheless, The Great Wall was a joy to visit. Part of this could be because we went to a lesser-known section and found the wall nearly empty (you can find out how we did that on my post here).

And it was beautiful.

Pictures will never do justice to the way the ancient stones snake along the ridges of the mountains. At the section we were visiting, the original wall could be seen dipping in and out of the reservoir that filled the valley. We walked halfway around the lake and then took a boat back through the water and to the car. What an amazing way to start our time in China.



Buns and Other Meanderings

This was a very special day.

This was the day we learned about China's best kept secret and fully understood the entire Kung-Fu Panda saga in one go.


Italics, caps, and bold all completely required there. We ate stuffed steamed buns for breakfast at Qingfeng Bun Shop, and it's honestly the thing I crave most now that we're home. I got to try mushroom + veggie buns (the best!) plus sweet pumpkin soup, which reminded me strongly of grits in a mild-flavored, squishy sort of way.


Fun Fact: Often in China you will be asked whether you'd like a drink OR soup with your meal - these are viewed as interchangeable there, and it actually makes a lot of sense for a country without potable water to expand their qualifiers for hydration.

I just... there are no words. I don't think of myself as a foodie, but that soft, fluffy bun with a tacky outside and a savory inside dipped in spicy garlic sauce was absolute heaven. Chinese buns are the best ever.


Ok, now we can move forward.

Fun Fact Which Was Learned The Hard Way:
The Forbidden City is closed on Mondays.

So, wouldn't you know it, the day we went to see the Forbidden City was on a Monday. After lamenting our spilled milk, we realized we were still able to go to the top of the Tiananmen Gate and look out into Beijing's sprawling skyline and Tiananmen Square.

Tiananmen Square - the Monument to the People's Heroes and the Mao Zedong Mausoleum behind it.

Since we couldn't see The Forbidden City quite yet, we grabbed a tuk-tuk ride - a cart attached to a motorcycle - to the next best thing (which turned out to be the first best thing IMHO): Jingshan Park, where we knew we could at least see it from a distance.

Our tuk-tuk ride was one of the highlights of our trip for me. Not only did our driver confirm our suspicions by admitting that, had our Chinese friend not been with us, our trip would have cost ¥60 (about $9) rather than the more reasonable ¥20 (about $3). He was also very charming and wanted a picture at the end of our ride (I wanted one, too). 

It was the best form of travel we experienced and gave us no motion sickness because we were too busy having a blast and clinging to our seats to notice.

Fun Fact: The only reason we braved a tuk-tuk ride was because we had a friend with us who knew the ropes. We had read about potential scams related to tuk-tuks aimed toward foreigners, and we knew we were prime targets. Be careful and be informed, and have fun!



Jingshan Park

Jingshan Park was originally a private imperial garden and was part of the grounds of The Forbidden City, but it was opened to the public in 1928. It sits atop Jingshan Hill to the north of the city, which was made by human and animal labor during the Ming dynasty with the soil gathered from the moat at the south side. This was done not only to block cold northern winds and fortify the city, but also to fulfill the requirements of Feng Shui. 

If you're interested, there's an excellent two-part documentary on Netflix called China's Forbidden City from the Smithsonian Channel which I watched before we left.

The hill features five peaks, each crowned with its own pavilion. Several of these house large Buddhist statues and the higher ones give you a taste of the views to come. It's not until you reach the very top, though, that you get to see the entire Forbidden City perfectly squared off from the center point of Beijing.

I loved this park. The lush greenery made the paths almost exclusively shady, and the view was magnificent. At the top, we sat and rested for a while as we watched the birds swoop out into the city below. Peaceful, beautiful, and ancient - yep, that's what we went to China to see.

This day was also a day of public transport, something Justin and I aren't very accustomed to using. We rode in a private car, a bus, a taxi, a subway, and a tuk-tuk all in one day! It was really great fun.

After the park, Justin and I were really beginning to suffer a bit from our jet lag and worn out feet, so we stopped for a meal (eggs with black fungus, cucumber with garlic, and egg drop soup) and then went to our hotel to launder our clothes in the sink and hang them out to dry overnight.

Fun Fact: While there are washers in China, there are few laundromats - and dryers aren't really a thing. Everyone hangs their clothes to dry on a line, and as the price of getting our clothing cleaned for us at the hotel was astronomical (about the same as the U.S.), we went to the store and bought hand washing detergent and washed our clothes in the sink. This saved us a ton of money, but it was tedious and made us really appreciate our grandmothers as we rung out each piece with blistering hands. After our first batch of old-fashioned washing, we were much more economical with our clothing and totally slept naked (TMI? ha!) so we wouldn't have to wash any more than we had to. That actually turned out to be an ok system, though, so I would do it again.

These chill evenings and our many bus/train rides were made even more relaxing with Audible Audio Books. This summer, I listened through the entire Lord of the Rings Trilogy plus The Hobbit. It was really great fun for a bookworm like me to be listening to a fictional epic adventure while living one in real life.


The Forbidden City

"We feel like we are almost used to China now."

This log entry turned out to be only slightly true, but by this time on our trip we had fallen into a very tentative rhythm.

  1. Get up (much harder than it sounds).

  2. Eat something for breakfast (whatever was handed to us, usually).

  3. Ask Wenbo what we were doing that day (because he was the language-speaker and therefore the plans-maker).

  4. Go do that thing and try not to get sick or overheat.

After our failed attempt the day before, we decided to take the train ride again to The Forbidden City before we ran out of time in Beijing. We thought leaving early would get us inside quickly, but when we arrived just after 9:00am, there was already a massive line of people spilling out onto the sidewalk. It turns out there's not really a great workaround for avoiding crowds in The Forbidden City.

80,000 people are allowed into The Forbidden City every day, and by 10:45am 33,000 had already gone in. It was hot, crowded, and just stunning. Everywhere we looked there was sacred decoration and historical significance.

Fun Fact: They have interactive maps with earphones which you can rent in any language imaginable. These were worth it, but I recommend just one person get one and relay the info to everyone in your group - otherwise, your maps will be slightly out of sync and you'll end up waiting around while everyone's recordings finish.

1420. That's when this sprawling puzzle of gates and thrones and walls began housing the emperors of China, during the Ming dynasty. 1420. That's a very long time ago, folks. How incredible to stand there and see the work of ancient hands preserved in a monument of accomplishment.

The Imperial Garden was my favorite bit. I admire how revered the natural beauty of these rocks is in Chinese culture. Often we would find displays of just really nice stones, which I found extremely charming.

The Forbidden City is infused with the number nine. Most doors (like this one) have nine rows of nine knobs. The highest single-digit number, nine is made up of three threes; nine nines is 81, a number whose digits add to make nine again (eight plus one is nine). It's a circular, harmonious, eternal number, associated forever in China with the majesty of the emperor.

Our time in the Forbidden City was amazing, but we had other things to see in Beijing, so we headed out a little early and went by cab to the famous Hutong villages - something I'd been really dying to see.



Hutong Village

We ended up at an ancient Hutong village called Nán Luó Gǔ Xiàng (南锣鼓巷) which is famous for its shopping and food.


This is what I was so excited about! I drank in every ancient stone, every artisan vendor, every street food chef. We stopped in at a silver shop where we got to see smiths meticulously working metal into delicate engraved jewelry by hand.

Each alleyway was enticing. We spent the entire rest of the day here until our feet just gave out entirely.

When we'd had enough and the sun was sinking, we got another cab to take back to the car.

I have to include here that the next day we got Starbucks, China version! I got something called The Macha Earl Grey Jelly Frappachino, and I want frozen tea drinks every day from now until I die. We also went with Wenbo's father to try a special Chinese delicacy - puffer fish.

Fun Fact: Puffer fish is fatally poisonous if not cooked properly. Even once it's cooked, some of the poison remains in the broth of the soup it's served in - not enough to kill you, just enough to make give your tongue a tingling sensation as you eat. Chefs must be specially certified to make it, and they are required to try the first bite of each fish and wait forty-five minutes before serving it to customers. In case they, you know, messed it up.
EDIT: Unfortunately, we found out once we got back to the USA (and had access to Google) that puffer fish are being fished into extinction for these type of dishes around Asia. So, we won't be doing that again.

On our way to the ticket station for our train ride the next day, we swung by to see Tiananmen Square lit up at night. Just lovely.


The Summer Palace

On our last day in Beijing, we we pressed for time. It was rainy, so we forwent the Temple of Heaven (heartbreaking!) in favor of a quick visit to The Summer Palace before catching our train to Yantai.

It turned out to be one of my favorite stops during our entire trip.

We went up the mountainside to the palace of kings - or emperors - from the very deep past. The kind of past that feels alien when you play the stories in your head like a movie.

Some of these places still feel a bit alien today, and walking through them feels like you're walking through a picture book. And you keep having to remind yourself it's real - real, in the same way the past is real but so removed from anything you've ever lived that it's easy to say, "Oh, yes. That's a story from the past," and move on never having felt that it really had any form or tangibility.

This place gave me that lovely sad questioning feeling, when you think you might be a little afraid of dying after all, when you realize you'll never realize how small you are, or what words like "truth" and "real" even mean, and it's ok because no one else knows either. I cherish those moments, because I think they make life deeper.

The train station was an hour away and we still had to pack, so we headed back to the hotel before we really wanted to. 

We left Beijing in the hopes of seeing the sea in Yantai with our imaginations filled to the brim with new material that we'll never finish remembering.

In the next installment of this series you'll read about our experience in Yantai, a city we wouldn't have visited had we not gone to China with our close friend Wenbo, and one that had some of our most unique experiences.

Have you been to Beijing before? Let me know what tips you might have in the comments below!