So Much To See...

Experiencing faraway places opens our insights into the world.
Here are some photos from my travels around the world along with some comments, tips, and anecdotes.

Let's go!

Tower Bridge London

Tower Bridge, London

Tower Bridge is iconic London. Located off the Circle Line at Tower Hill, this is a cannot miss landmark if you are planning a tour to England. There is a tour you can take to walk across the upper platform, but it is not terribly exciting or informative. The views are great though! 

Riviera Maya, Cancun

The stunning resort area of an otherwise depressed part of Cancun. We have stayed at the Dreams Riviera all-inclusive resort several times. There is really nothing quite as fabulous as staying at a luxurious hotel with views of the Mexican Rivera. Spectacular!

The Grand Canal, Venice, Italy

Venice is one of the most fantastic places I have ever been. Contrary to this photo, and everything you may have heard about it, the city is not completely engulfed in water. There are plenty avenues and streets you can walk around and explore. The buildings are obviously older than imaginable and the mystique of history creeps into every nook and cranny of this incredible city.

The National Monument, Scotland

The National Monument of Scotland was originally conceived as a dedication to those who fought in the Napoleonic Wars. However, without enough funds to construct it, the monument sitting high atop Calton Hill overlooking the capital city of Edinburgh, has gone down in infamy as “Scotland’s Folly”. It was started in 1826, yet almost 200 years later, it remains unfinished.  

Ellen Phillips Interior Design

Conwy Castle, Wales

To know me is to know that I LOVE British history. This is Conwy Castle in North Wales. Built by King Edward I in the late 1200s, amazingly, this is still standing. There is no guided tour here and admission is just a couple of quid. There are fantastic views and plenty of nooks and crannies to explore at your own pace.

a photo of a family at Paramount Studios

Los Angeles, California

It seemed strange to vacation in a place where I lived for over twenty years, but while raising our kids in Colorado we decided to take them back to our old stomping ground. Every trip to LA requires dipping a toe or two into the Hollywood atmosphere. What better place than Paramount Studios? Great fun!

Parliament House, Barbados

This building caught my eye when visiting Bridgetown Barbados. While still a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the government of Barbados no longer recognizes the Queen as head of state. The island of Barbados is a wonderful stop on a tour of the Caribbean. Amazing weather, beautiful beaches, and friendly faces all around. 

Tuscany, Italy

I took this photo from one of the tallest towers in San Gimignano (say Jim-in-Yanno), in Tuscany. This was not on our itinerary, but we were chatting with a couple while on a train to Venice and they mentioned it was a great stop. No kidding. Quintessential Italy. The views were something that I could not have imagined!

Atomium, Brussels Belgium

The absolute scale of this structure is fantastic. Designed and constructed for the 1958 World’s Fair, it was meant to honor the progress of science and the exploration of the atom. It’s simply a museum now. The bubbles each house some interesting vignettes. The Atomium is a great stop if you are in town! 

Viewing Platform, Empire State Building NYC

Manhattan is the most amazing city. While we were there, we took the time to head up to the viewing platform at the top of the Empire State Building. Art Deco at its finest! If you decide to go, do yourself a favor and get the City Pass. The lines were astronomical, but we just showed our tickets and were escorted straight to the elevators! 

Oxford, England

Oxford is a fantastic little city that has grown over time. A college town, it has a very laid-back feeling of old academia. Everything is old and creeky. If you go, do try to stop in the Sheldonian Theatre and the Radcliffe Camera. Both are great buildings – but then again, who am I to pick from this amazing scenery? It’s all wonderful.  

Fort Saint-Louis, Martinique

We have traveled all over the Caribbean, and although Martinique wasn’t my favorite island, this fort was stellar. Resting high enough to oversee the Fort-de-France Bay, this place holds a quintessential “Pirates of the Caribbean” feeling. I wish that I had done more study on this prior to my visit as the locals spoke mostly “French” and were not eager to assist any English-speaking tourists. I do wonder what the welcoming and friendly European French would think of their Caribbean counterparts.

trevi fountain

The Trevi Fountain, Rome

The time I spent in Rome afforded me some of my most cherished travel memories. The sites were something I couldn’t have imagined! The Trevi Fountain is smack in the middle of this bustling city, and just a short walk from the Spanish Steps. It is immense and although the story goes that it has been here since “ancient times”, a fountain was located here back then but not this one. The fountain as we know it today was constructed sometime around the mid 1600’s.  Still old, but not quite as ancient as many think.  

The Ruins at Altun Ha, Belize

Belize is a really interesting country to take in. From areas of abject poverty and colonies of rickety wooden houses to the incredibly scenic areas of the rainforests, Belize is a country that is worth seeing. We took a day to head over to the ancient Mayan ruins at Altun Ha. What a trek! In the humidity of a sweltering summer day, we encountered hills that were unexpected. The really cool thing about this site was that we were completely free to roam around and climb to the top of these ancient wonders! I thought they would all be fenced off, but nope! We found some stunning views from the peaks. Fabulous day! 

The White House / Washington Monument

So, Washington D.C. It’s a must see for every American, yes? I’ve been a couple of times to this amazing part of the country and there is just never enough time to explore the history nestled in this tiny area. We made it to the top of the Washington Monument this time to catch an amazing view of the White House just outside. My measly photos do nothing for the senses. What is there to post that hasn’t been found on the internet at nauseum? Something about this photo though, the amazing White House and all its history just sitting quietly in the background. Nice. 

petit trianon

The Petit Trianon, Versailles

Let them eat cake, will you just? The Petit Trianon is a hefty walk from the main Palace at Versailles & if you are in a hurry, you may miss it. It is deceptively small against the backdrop of the Palace and the nearby Grand Trianon, but the interior is quiet extensive.  Although this was originally designed for Madame Du Barry by Louis XV, it is Marie Antoinette with whom most associate with this lovely little chateau.

The Camera Obscura, Edinburgh

I gotta tell ya, this place is fantastic. No, that adjective isn’t powerful enough. The building itself isn’t tour worthy, but this museum is the most interactive, fun, curious, hilarious, informative, wild experience you can imagine. Located just down the road from Edinburgh (say Ed-in-bruh) Castle, if you go to the capital, plan a day here. Yes, a full day. You will be glad you did!

Image by Wolfgang Claussen 

St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City

Well, what can I say about this? No matter what your religion, this is a must-see. This structure is the most enormous building I have ever seen. Over 160,000 SF on the interior! Amazing! We took the time to wait and tour the Sistine Chapel as well. No photography allowed,…but what an amazing experience! 

Stanley Hotel Estes Park, Colorado

The Stanley Hotel, Colorado

This is such a fun place to visit. Estes Park in the Rocky Mountain National Forest is stunning. This hotel was the inspiration for Steven King’s The Shining. It’s not the hotel used in the film, but when you are there, you can see where his inspiration came from. Stay for a night or two- it’s great! It is a little commercialized, but fun.

Newport Beach Pier, California

The sun doesn’t always shine in California! I worked for quite a few years in Orange County when starting my design career. Newport is a great stop in an otherwise bustling area of Southern California. Although it is quite upscale, I like Newport for its beachy, laid-back feeling. Unpretentious, casual, and fun!

Regent Street, London

Another iconic London site is the crescent of Regent Street. Named for King George IV, as Prince Regent, the architecture is classic Georgian. This is one of my favorite shopping destinations when I am in London. While it is full of luxury retailers, there is nothing that’s unobtainable here. And it is perfect at night for just a nice stroll.

The Liberty Bell, Philadelphia

Honestly, this was so cool to see and it is much smaller than imagined. When I was just a kid, I recall my mother having a vinyl LP recording of the last time the Liberty Bell was rung. She would listen to it from time to time and it did absolutely nothing for me. Now as an adult, I get it. 

The Forum, Rome

I could have spent all day here. This was unimaginable. I have seen ancient Mayan ruins, but this site was just something so incredible. Perhaps it’s that Rome has such a European feeling or maybe it is stories that I have heard since I was a child, I don’t really know. The structures, although robust, seemed like they were made of chalk and would crumble at the slightest touch. Looking at this photo with people milling about like extras in a modern-day movie, it’s a juxtaposition of reality and history that I don’t often feel when I’m exploring historic places. I was absolutely lost in another world. Where am I, where is this, who made this? It was fantastic.

The Arizona Sunset, Phoenix

Phoenix, Arizona is a very underrated and overlooked city when it comes to vacations. I grew up here and know the layout very well.  We took family vacations here every year while our kids were growing up and honestly, I never tire of the amazing sunsets in the Valley of the Sun. 

Eiffel Tower France

The Eiffel Tower, Paris

Aren’t you glad I captioned this? If you go to Paris, please take a moment to go up to the top of the tower and look around.  The views are amazing, and it is quite an experience. Check out my blog post on how to quickly get to the top – without waiting in a four-hour queue.  Paris is absolutely magical! 

The Caribbean

The Caribbean is such a cool area of the world, I just love it. Maybe it is the history of the pirates, maybe it’s the exploration of “new” worlds, maybe it is just that the water is something so blue I can’t even describe it. I don’t know. We’ve explored quite a few islands; Antigua, Barbados, Martinique, St. John, Hispaniola, St. Thomas… They’re all amazing. If you get to St. Thomas (which is a tourist hot-spot) grab a cab, escape the crowds, & head to Megan’s Bay on the north side. Spectacular! You’ll be glad you did! 

Westminster, London

“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.”- Dr. Samuel Johnson, 1777. Great quote and I agree. I, for one, am never tired of London. Westminster is the hub of the city hosting the Houses of Parliament, Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben), & Westminster Abbey. Although this part of the city gets very touristy, it is a must-see for any visitor.  Check out my Westminster itinerary here!

Hovis Hill Shaftesbury

Gold Hill / Hovis Hill, Shaftesbury

My husband was born in this lovely little village in the Southwest of England. Known for this exceptionally scenic hill, Shaftesbury retains all of its quaint charm even now in the 21st century. It is very hilly and there are loads of pleasant parks and paths to walk. There is a tremendous sense of history here – a town untouched by time. Notice the authentic thatch roof on the cottage below! 

The Cathedral at Notre-Dame, Paris

This photo is one of my favorites – taken long before the fire in recent years. Notre Dame is beyond stunning. I presume one of these trips to Paris, I will get hit by a car because wherever I am, I cannot take my eyes off it. It is filthy with soot, but that only adds to the mystique of its long history. Although it is an imposing sight, the structure itself appears very small in comparison to other cathedrals in Europe.


So, when I set foot in new and distant locations, I’m not one to find a beach chair and work on my tan. Upon landing in the beautiful backlands of Honduras, we quickly scouted out a canoe and headed off down this canal. Amazing experience! I didn’t expect much scenery here, but rather expected a lot of poverty – and there was, but the Caribbean side of the country was lush and green. Stunning! 

The Grand Canyon

This is the crown jewel of the beautiful state of Arizona. I’ve seen this bad boy a few times but it is still fantastic to just look at in wonder. No matter how big you may imagine it to be – quadruple it. It’s just immense. I often wonder what the first explorers thought when coming to find this enormous, colorful canyon. Viewing from the rim is amazing, but for added adventure, treat yourself to a helicopter ride into the canyon for some amazing vantage points!

Miami Florida

Miami, Florida

Although I live in Florida now, we reside on the Gulf Coast, so getting over to Miami is a bit of a trek. This city is electric and I love this photo that my son took. He captured the vibe and the energy so well! Great city, great food, great beaches, great fun!

Basilica Immaculate Conception

Basilica of The Immaculate Conception, Mazatlan

On the western coast of Mexico is colorful Mazatlán and the crown jewel of this city is the beautiful Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. There is so much to do in Mazatlán, and its party atmosphere is so fun that it’s easy to bypass seeing this beautiful cathedral. I love taking in the local ambiance of the heritage when I visit foreign cities, so stopping here was an easy decision. The interior is amazing, but no photos were allowed.

Cruise Ship

Cruising, Anywhere

I love cruising – I honestly do. It doesn’t matter where the ship is going or where it is stopping, being on a cruise ship is such a relaxing vacation. We have sailed with quite a few cruise lines and been all over Mexico and the Caribbean. The best thing about cruising is that everyone is on vacation. There’s no traffic, busy lines (except at the buffet), no one is angry…it’s all fabulous. Next voyage: The Mediterranean!

Leaning Tower of Pisa

The Leaning Tower, Pisa

This was definitely a “bucket list” item. Pisa is easily missed on a tour of Italy because it is pretty far out of the way, but everyone should see this.  The tower was a sight to see! It is so far over I felt that too much noise would have brought it down. Everything about Italy was great, but Pisa was spectacular! 

Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire

My goodness – this was an amazing place to explore! Just an hour’s journey from central London and then a quick bus ride through the outskirts of Oxford proper is Blenheim Palace. Immense is a good adjective for this. I took the time to explore the history tour as I wasn’t familiar with the Dukes of Marlborough and I thought that Winston Churchill had a bigger tie to the family. This was just his birthplace and most employees didn’t really want to associate his name with their side of the family. Interesting! 

The Hall of Mirrors, Versailles

Loving history, as I do, the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace in Versailles holds a lot of emotion. The Treaty of Versailles was signed in this very hall ending the hostilities of the First World War. While the hall is a glorious exhibit for spectators today, the seemingly endless historical significance inside this narrow space is breathtaking. The paintings on the ceiling depict the many military & political victories of Louis XIV. I’ve seen the Sistine Chapel, but the Hall of Mirrors left me awestruck.   

Stonehenge, Salisbury Plain

We have visited Stonehenge a few times – not sure why. It’s still a bunch of rocks that we don’t really know much about. But every time I’m driving out to the West Country, it is a must-see. Overall, I would say that Stonehenge is smaller than imagined – though not as small as depicted in This Is Spinal Tap. I am always glad when we stop to check on it and see that everything there is status quo.  

A photo of a couple outside the Roman Colosseum

The Colosseum, Rome Italy

I had mixed feelings about walking through the Colosseum, but (literally) when in Rome… Having lived in LA for such a long time and being surrounded by movie sets and Disneyland, visiting the Colosseum was surreal. Knowing just how old it is and how much history was right here beneath my feet shook me a bit. A wonderful sight to see.  

Sacré-Cœur Basilica, Montmartre

Also known as the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, this fabulous church is set high on the hills of Montmartre on the north side of Paris. If you can stop and tour inside, it is well worth the time. The interior is stunning and the massive pipe organ is unreal. Take a moment to stop and enjoy the views from the hilltop overlooking the city of lights. Fantastic! 

El Yunque National Forest, Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is yet another fantastic place to visit. The history of this colorful island is so rich, so deep, there just isn’t enough time on a short vacation to explore it all. So, we chucked it all in and headed to the rainforest. This was the first rainforest I had ever seen and it was pretty awe-inspiring. If you have never had the chance to explore a rainforest, do take advantage of the opportunity. The world is in a bad way with global warming and the rainforests disappearing. 

Maui Sunset

Maui Sunsets, Hawaii

Hawaii was a destination that has always been on my bucket list, but somehow other places always won out. When we finally landed there I wondered why it took so long for us to take this trip!  Maui was stunning, although not as green as I had imagined. We rented a car and explored every inch of this amazing island. Waterfalls, beaches, resorts, and of course we took in a Luau! Every vantage point was just amazing. This is a photo from our hotel and in the distance is the island of Lanai. I can’t wait to get back!

Rocky Mountains, Vail CO

If you ever need to just get away and breathe, the charming town of Vail, Colorado is a great destination. Our family would vacation in Vail every year and it was a fantastic time to just escape life and taste the crisp mountain air. It is an upscale village with a comfortable down-home feeling. Perfection! John Denver had it right when he sang about the Rocky Mountain High. 

Statue of Liberty, New York

What can I say about this that hasn’t been said before? My take on this is that the only way to get out to see Lady Liberty this close is via a boat, and although sometimes it’s a bit touristy, it is a must-see. If this statue was placed anywhere but in close proximity to Ellis Island and knowing the history of the immigrants coming to America, it probably would lose its meaning.  

Mayan Ruins, Tulum

We have visited the Yucatan Peninsula a half dozen times or so. Although staying in the resort area is fabulous for a total R&R getaway, I do encourage you to venture back to the old city center and take a day trip to Tulum. Staying closer to the locals and experiencing their life for a snippet of time is enlightening. Walking around ancient ruins is even better. It truly is a full-day trip, but it’s worth the visit. 

The Jungle, Puerto Vallarta

Sometimes it is really fun to go off the beaten path. We have traveled to Puerto Vallarta a few times, but on one venture, we took some time to explore the area by renting a jeep. We headed into the outback and explored the jungle – without a tour guide – and it was amazing! The film Predator was filmed back in the jungle and some of the structures were still there. This one was turned into a super cool restaurant over the water. There were wild pigs and crocs all around us! It was one of the most memorable, fantastic experiences I’ve ever had.  

The Mission at Santa Barbara

I have always said this is one of my most favorite places in the world and it’s right here in America. The Mission at Santa Barbara is an incredibly special place for me as I visited it a few times in my life when I was at crossroads. Not necessarily bad times, but my life was turning, and I knew it. I came here and found something so incredibly centering about it. Peaceful beyond words. The mission is high up on the hillside and it overlooks the city and the Pacific Ocean. It is magnificent.    

Warwick Castle, Warwickshire, UK

Warwick Castle is such a cool place to visit.  It’s rather commercial now but the really captivating thing is that this castle from the middle ages is still intact. It is fully furnished and you can explore every nook and crevice on a tour for a couple of quid. It’s fun, informative, and well worth the trip to Warwickshire – which BTW is stunning.  Love!

Inside the Arc de Triomphe, Paris

We all know the famous Arc de Triomphe in Paris. A pivotal landmark at the end of the Champs-Élysées, its sheer size is quite impressive. Protected by a bustling roundabout fed continuously by a dozen avenues, this is perhaps an overlooked tourist site. There is a pedestrian underpass for safe foot travel to the arch and for a nominal fee, you can gain access to these fantastic stairs leading to the viewing platform at the top. At almost 300 steps, that equates to approximately 10 stories high! Quite a workout but worth every step!

Mount Rushmore, South Dakota

This monument is absolutely breathtaking. We have all seen it in photos, movies, and all over the internet, but to walk up and view it is something very special. The monument is at the end of a short promenade from the park entrance. It is also clearly visible from even the parking lot. I took this photo without much of a zoom at all. These four men, although not at all perfect, were so instrumental in paving this nation and the freedom we all enjoy. Their faces will probably be on this rock long after our civilization is gone.

Florence, Italy

Whenever you travel, remember not to get too upset if plans don’t work out as intended. We had planned to stay someplace – I can’t even remember – but we got lost and night was closing in. So we stopped at this stunning villa on a hillside in Florence, knocked on the door, and asked these total strangers if we could stay the night. It was just luck that the family could understand us, because very few Italians in the country speak English. Long story short – it was fantastic. One of the best nights ever. The scenery was amazing, the food was delicious, and the family was so kind to help us poor, lost Americans.    

Cover Video by Scenic Relaxation 4k

Travel Itineraries

Read more on my travel itineraries to help with planning your next fun getaway.

This page is growing and I’m adding more itineraries along the way. Contact me for help with your next trip or just let me know if these ideas helped you discover things you wouldn’t have imagined exploring! 

Day 2 - Arrondissements 1 & 8

The Old City Center 

a photo of the Louvre at night
One Final Word

Many people hate living out of a suitcase, but I love moving around.

Always having a trip on my agenda makes me very happy and content. It’s about exploring a new location, but sometimes I want to go back and see more of some places.
Here’s hoping that as we move into this post-pandemic world, travel opens up again.

The travel industry as a whole has been hit so severely. I have had a few conversations with hoteliers who lament about the low-capacity rates they are enduring, and it breaks my heart.
Be safe when you travel, respect the restrictions and quarantines, but get out there and see the world!

Ellen Phillips

Living a Beautiful Life

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