Long story short (believe me, it’s a long one), I won 2 free round-trip flights anywhere in the contiguous United States last year. We decided to go somewhere a good distance away to get the most out of our freebies:
We flew direct to Phoenix from Atlanta and arrived midday. We picked up our rental car and headed to the Hilton Squaw Peak Pointe Resort. They have a lazy river. It’s the only reason I picked them. We spent a nice relaxing afternoon by the pool, playing some miniature golf, and got ready for dinner.
We ate at the St. Francis. Guy Fieri has been there on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. We figured we couldn’t go wrong. We didn’t.
Adam got a burger. I got a pig dip. It was a French dip with a lot of pork: pork loin, prosciutto, cheese. It was delicious.
The next morning we woke up early since we were still on Eastern time and spent a few hours at the pool. Then we showered and packed the car to drive up to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
On the way, we saw lots of cacti, climbed up mountains, saw the beautiful Verde Valley
and detoured up 89A, the Red Rock Scenic Highway, to see Sedona
and Oak Creek Canyon.
We stopped in Sedona for lunch.
It was another 2 hours or so up to the Grand Canyon. We stopped in Williams, AZ to use the facilities and it looked like the small town from Cars. It was so cute. We got on Route 66 for our bathroom break. That was exciting.
The Grand Canyon was predictably indescribable. It was my second visit to the canyon and Adam’s first, but our reactions were the same. We were awestruck.
We stayed inside the park at Yavapai Lodge. Here’s the sunset over the canyon our first night.
We also saw a ton of elk. Tons of them. They were more common than squirrels. It was crazy.
For our second day at the canyon, we hiked 1.5 miles down Bright Angel Trail to the rest house and back.
Our elevation changed by 1200 feet. It took us about 2 hours in total but we were booking it. It was pretty easy on the way there. Hiking back up out of the canyon was a work out! It was a really interesting hike because you get to see the layers of rock change as you descend as well as the climate and vegetation.
It was a great experience. As a public service announcement, we each packed 2 big water bottles, 2 bags of trail mix, and Adam brought beef jerky. We were pretty well prepared for a 3 mile hike in mid-July.
Despite this, we had to stop a few times on the way up to catch our breaths and my bearings. It was hot, our altitude had changed significantly and we were truckin’ it uphill.
The park rangers say it’s supposed to take you twice as long to come back up. Well, it took us an hour to get down to the rest house and an hour and 10 minutes to get to the canyon rim. We’re bosses.
We decided not to go any farther down than the rest house because there wasn’t much shade remaining on the trail below us, hardly any water available, and we had to think of the increasing heat of the day and the increasing heat as you get lower in the canyon. We would’ve loved to go all the way to the bottom, but the park service strongly recommends hiking one way on the first day, camping by the river, and hiking back out the next day during the summer. It’s just too hot to do it all in one day.
That afternoon, after showers and rest, we drove to the east end of the South Rim and climbed the Desert Watchtower. From the top you can see the Painted Desert to the east and there’s a great view of the Colorado River at the bottom of the canyon.
Our last night at the Grand Canyon, we ate at the historic El Tovar Hotel. It was yummy. I think Adam had filet mignon and I had lamb chops. Yum.
And our stay at the Canyon was capped off by this beauty:
Too bad it wasn’t arcing over the Canyon… It was still gorgeous.
After the Grand Canyon, we headed south and back to Sedona. We decided to hike up Cathedral Rock with no idea what we were in for.
It was an amazing hike – extremely strenuous as you are literally climbing up steep rocks.
Once you reach the top – the saddle of Cathedral Rock – you feel like you’ve conquered something. If you’re in relatively good shape, you can definitely do this hike. It’s tough, but very rewarding.
What a view.
the Century Plant
After our hike, we were able to check-in to our hotel early for a shower and a change of clothes. We had a late lunch at a local pizza place and hit up downtown Sedona for some shopping.
We got a Christmas ornament for our tree. It’s a tradition of ours to get ornaments from the places we’ve been and some gifts for family, particularly for my parents since they had Mason while we were gone.
Our final dinner was at the L’Auberge Resort Restaurant.
Image courtesy of www.gogobot.com
I wish I had our own pictures to share but it was too dark. Our table was on a platform over Oak Creek. It was an amazing end to a whirlwind of a trip. We got to sip wine and eat great food while we listened to the water run over the rocks. We chose to have 3 courses – you can choose a 3 or 4 course meal. Adam had the pork belly with compressed pineapple, the corn chowder with lobster, and the halibut. I had a salad with cranberries, goat cheese and candied pecans, the corn chowder with lobster, and scallops with grilled Brussels, corn, chanterelles, and pork belly. It was delicious.
I’ve been a little discouraged by the slow progress on our bathroom and the fast pace of life in general. It was great to get away, recharge, see our beautiful country and spend time with one another without any distractions, no cell phones (I left mine at home accidentally), to-do’s, and renovations.
“Travel brings power and love back into your life.” – RumiRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
After I posted about our trip to San Francisco, Sonoma, and the central Californian coast last fall, I thought I could share how we plan our vacations and what we do to save money so we CAN go on a nice vacation.
We are in our late twenties, just getting started paying off a mortgage and school loans, but it’s all about priorities. Travel is one of our top financial priorities at this stage in our lives. If you want something bad enough, you make it happen.
He went for it. He got it. Plain and simple. We could all learn from Mason.
Here are some other situations, devices, personality traits that help us travel.
Our jobs have great vacation policies:
We are both blessed with jobs that give us 3 weeks of vacation a year. Adam has been with his company for 15 years, so his vacation rate will see a nice increase to 4 weeks next year. I know not everyone has a job where you can take time off whenever you want. For the most part, we can go somewhere at any time with proper planning.
The biggest drawback is if Adam is going to take a big chunk of time off – a week or more – we have to apply for it in advance. Sometimes, we apply for it almost a year in advance to guarantee that he’ll have enough days off in a row that we can go somewhere. He can always turn it back in, but if we don’t request it and the days get blocked off, we’re SOL. And with Adam’s current position, it’s not feasible for him to be out of pocket for more than 8 business days. This makes international trips tricky because so much of your time is spent just getting there.
St. Lucia for our honeymoon
In short, we have the days to take off, but we have to plan in advance and compete with Adam’s co-workers to get approval.
We have a credit card with reward points:
Credit cards with reward points are the best things ever if you’re financially responsible. 10 years ago it was a little scary to put everything on your credit card because you couldn’t track it carefully. Now that financial institutions and accounting software are so integrated, we have a nearly instant snapshot of our credit card spending. We pay for nearly everything with our credit card: groceries, gas, lunches, nights out, clothes, etc.
We especially use it for big purchases like our recent landscaping, living room furniture, and Christmas presents. We pay our credit card bill off in full every month so we never have to worry about interest or our credit score. Our credit card reward points make our bigger trips feasible. We didn’t pay for our airfare for our trip to California last year. We were able to use our points to purchase our 2 round-trip, non-stop tickets from Atlanta to San Francisco. It saved us about $800.
There are many options out there for reward-based credit cards with different reward structures, annual fees, credit limits, etc. Like everything financial related, do your research and find what’s best for you. Our credit card reward system has a ton of reward choices: everything from airfare, rental cars, hotel rooms, to kitchen appliances, magazine subscriptions, and a knife block.
I am a compulsive planner:
Advance planning – how we decide where to go
I plan vacations for fun during my lunch break, on a lazy Sunday, in my head during my commute. I also have a running list of the places we would like to visit. It’s a travel bucket list. I’m sure a lot of people have one of those.
Once you look at a long list of places, it’s fairly easy to prioritize them based on life circumstances, desires, whether you’ve been there already, whether or not it would be easier to get there as two childless people, or it would be a better idea to save that trip for the future kiddos.
Courtesy of The Harried Mom
Last year we decided to stay domestic because we didn’t quite have the money or the time off for an international trip. Adam had never been to the west coast and I really wanted to go to Californian Wine Country. Plus, San Francisco is one of my favorite cities. It was an easy decision.
We would love to do a ton of international travel in our lifetime, but we realize that we will only be able to do a few trips pre-babies. The rest will have to wait until we can leave the kids stateside (see ‘ya lata’!), bring them with us (which is so expensive), or wait until they’re out of the nest. When we factor that into our decision-making process along with the places we would most like to go with our current budget, we usually come up with a handful of locations. Once I narrow down the destinations, I craft rough itineraries of sights and activities to get an idea of how long the trip should be. If it’s longer than 10 days, we have to evaluate if we still want to go there and crunch everything in, if we should give something up, or if we should go somewhere else. Putting together a basic itinerary provides both of us with the information we need to say yay or nay. It’s so helpful.
I use Kayak to set-up alerts. Usually these are for specific dates since Adam has already requested off and been approved for his block of time. I track the alerts for a couple of months. I read somewhere that the sweet spot for purchasing international airfare is 34 days out, domestic is even closer at something like 25 or 28. We still try to cover at least half of our airfare with points if not all of it. But the amount of points it takes changes with the market. It’s good to track fares because you want to cash your points in at the same time you would buy a ticket to get the best deal.
It is highly possible that airfare could prohibit us traveling to that destination. It really does depend on where you go. We are fortunate enough to live in Atlanta and have a hub airport. There are so many places we can fly to direct or with one layover. Even so, if airfare makes up over half of the trip budget, we seriously reconsider.
I cannot stress how great of an invention tripadvisor.com is. I use it for all of our planning along with millions of other people. We get creative when it comes to accommodations. Sleeping and eating are the two main areas where you can really save some money, and we like to eat. We’re not fussy and we know we’ll only be in the room to sleep, so we don’t bother staying at chains or fancy places. Our requirements in lodging are as follows: great location, clean, has the basic necessities, safe, less than $200 a night or more (less than $150 is AWESOME), and it must have a ton of good reviews. Sometimes it is challenging to find something that meets those requirements, but it can be done. In California, we stayed at an old boutique hotel right in Union Square, Sonoma was a B&B right off the square,
and Carmel was a vacation rental by owner a mile from downtown. It ended up being this super nice studio cottage in this sweet couple’s backyard.
We’re planning an international trip and I’m only looking at family-owned accommodations – B&B’s and guest houses. It’s more authentic, you meet more people, and you have more money to eat, drink, and to buy keepsakes.
Like I said, I get compulsive about planning and that includes a budget. Since we’ve been on a couple of trips together, I have a good idea now of what should be included on our travel budget. We love to eat, so our food budget is pretty big. On the other hand, I gave us a lot to spend on shopping and souvenirs in California, and we hardly brought anything home. One thing I highly recommend is once you finish your budget, add a 10% cushion on top of that. With a little research, it’s fairly easy to predict the price of accommodations at your standard. I usually start with airfare, add in accommodations, food (after I’ve scoured forums for price ranges related to those locations), tours/activities, car or local transportation, shopping, and surplus.
It really is possible to travel if you can get the time off, save your pennies, and plan like a fiend! I get such a rush when I plan out a fun trip on a tight budget. I’m a nerd.
Anyway, that’s how we do it and will continue to do it. Maybe one day we’ll buy a sailboat and float around the world. That’s if we win the lottery.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
The overdue post on our vacation to California is here! My writing takes on a different tone because I literally took it from the journal app on my iPad. Enjoy my narrative and the accompanying pictures. We had a blast!
Thursday, September 20, 2012, 2:30 PM
Adam and I took BART from SFO to Powell Street station. It was a 25 min train ride. We had to walk a few blocks up hill with our luggage to get to our hotel, The Chancellor. So far we are really happy with it. Yes, the room is small. But everything is clean and working – except for the AC (edit – we discovered later that the hotel did not have AC). We just opened our window. Since it’s a balmy 55 degrees outside, it feels just fine. We also have a ceiling fan. So that will help. Our hotel is on Union Square. It’s a perfect location. We had lunch across the street at Scala. Adam had a hamburger and “5 something” IPA. I had a BLT with avocado and an Anchor Steam beer. We went to Walgreens afterwards to stock up on granola bars and snacks – and to get my toothbrush. Then we hit up the liquor store on Mason. Shout out to our little doggy! Now we’re back in the hotel catching our breath before we head down to the Embarcadero and the Ferry Building Marketplace. Once we’re done there, we have a Bay and Alcatraz tour at 645pm that leaves from Fisherman’s Wharf.
Friday, September 21, 2012, 5:17 PM
Last night, Adam and I went down to the Embarcadero. We went in Banana Republic on the way and Adam found a sport coat and white shirt. We’re going back this morning to buy them and take them back to the hotel room.
We went to the Ferry Building Marketplace and had a lot of fun.
There were a lot of local food vendors there: Cowgirl Creamery, Boccata (pork), mushrooms, teas, desserts, olive oil, etc. It was really nice.
We also walked the pier and took pictures of the Oakland Bay Bridge.
We walked a long way down the Embarcadero to Pier 39/Fisherman’s Wharf. We walked around it and took pictures of the bay, Alcatraz Island, and the Golden Gate Bridge.
We stopped for a rest and a drink in the Fog Harbor Bar and Restaurant. Then we made our way back to Pier 33 for our Bay Cruise and Alcatraz Tour.
We got some great pictures of the Bay and Golden Gate Bridge at sunset.
Adam also took pictures of the city and Coit Tower. It really wasn’t that cold on the ferry.
The Alcatraz Tour was neat. I’m glad that we did it. We took a 45 min audio tour that led us through the cell block, the administrative wing, and the D block where solitary confinement was.
The tour ended in the cafeteria. We saw the cells where 3 inmates carved around their vent with stolen spoons from the cafeteria. They also had a plexiglass door where you could look into the utility hall where they shimmied up the pipes and planks to the roof to make their escape.
After our tour we walked to Tony’s Pizza Napoleatana in Little Italy but the wait was too long and we were very tired from waking up at 5:45am EST. We trekked back to our hotel up and down hills and I crashed.
> Ferry Building Marketplace
> SF Bay
> Pier 39/Fisherman’s Wharf
> Little Italy
Friday, September 21, 2012, 7:12 PM
We had a full day of touring today. It’s been a lot of fun. The weather was amazing today. Mid-60s with a light breeze and clear skies. We started our day by eating breakfast a few blocks away at Angel Cafe. We had bagels and coffee. Then we made our way back to Banana Republic to pick-up Adam’s sport coat and shirt.
We walked around Union Square going in and out of shops. Then we started to walk climb Nob Hill and passed through China Town.
We found the Cable Car Museum and went in it. All of the sheaves and motors for the cable system are there as well as a small museum.
Then we continued on to Nob Hill, saw some great city and bay views and went in Grace Cathedral.
It was a beautiful church.
We walked across the park to the Fairmont Hotel and went inside it.
It had interesting yellow marble, plaster and gold ceilings, and crystal chandeliers. It was beautiful. After we got our fill of the Fairmont, we went to Nob Hill Cafe where we both had pasta for lunch.
After lunch we climbed more hills and went to Lombard Street where we walked down and back up to get different pictures.
The views from the top of Lombard are great as well.
We took a cable car back to our hotel.
We did everything we wanted to do today and more. It has been fantastic. We plan to grab some drinks with a college friend and her fiance. Then we have dinner at Restaurant Gary Danko tonight – one of the best restaurants in the city.
> Union Square
> China Town
> Cable Car Musuem
> Nob Hill
> Grace Cathedral
> Fairmont Hotel
> Lombard Street
> Riding a cable car
>Restaurant Gary Danko
Saturday, September 22, 2012, 9:21 PM
Last night we met our friend and her fiance at Bin 38 in the Marina District. It was nice to get to know him, catch up with her, and hear about things we should do in the city. I felt validated by all my restaurant and sightseeing choices! They recommended a lunch spot for us to go to in Sausalito.
After drinks, we had dinner at Gary Danko. Adam had corn chowder, pork belly and loin and a butter cake. I had crispy farm egg, duck loin and hash, and lemon souffle with raspberry sorbet. It was delicious and the service was impeccable.
We didn’t finish dinner until a little after 11pm so we cabbed it back to the hotel and went to sleep.
This morning, we slept a little later, got up and made our way down to the ferry. We stopped in the William-Sonoma on the way. It is 5 stories tall. It’s huge. On the way to the ferry, there were a couple of fully nude, as in nekkid, men walking up the street. They were old and it was gross. Adam and I couldn’t tell if they were protesting something or what. I really didn’t want to look too long to figure it out.
We took the 10:40am ferry to Sausalito.
We walked around over there and went in various art galleries.
It was so much warmer over there than in San Francisco. We went to the place our friends recommended for lunch, Bar Bocce. It’s right on the water and they have a bocce ball court. They had really good pizzas. We just beat the crowd. After lunch, we walked the marina and looked at a bunch of sail boats. Then we got on the 2:10pm ferry back to San Francisco.
We walked almost 2 miles down the Embarcadero to Fisherman’s Wharf where we stopped and had another drink at the Fog Harbor Restaurant. We got Adam’s dad a tee shirt at the Hard Rock Café – he collects them. We went on our way down the Embarcadero all the way to Ghirardelli Square.
We saw a cable car turned around on a turn table, explored Ghirardelli Square, and came away with 1/2 lb of chocolate squares and 2 scoops of ice cream in waffle cones: chocolate chip cookie dough for me and mint chocolate chip for Adam.
After Ghirardelli we wanted to take a cable car, but the line was ridiculous and there was a car up the street empty and it looked like it was having problems. We hoofed it back to the Cathedral and then cabbed it the rest of the way.
Tonight we have dinner at Frascati at 8:30pm. Tomorrow we’d like to see the Painted Ladies at Alamo Square and maybe the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park. We pick up our rental car at 12:00pm and plan to drive over the Golden Gate Bridge to the lookout point on the other side. From there we’ll go to Muir Woods and onto Sonoma.
Monday, September 24, 2012, 11:00 PM
I’m writing this after a long day in Sonoma. A long day with 5 wine tastings, a wine & cheese platter at the B&B, and an Italian dinner with a bottle of wine split between Adam and I. To say that this entry is laced with alcohol is an understatement. The ability to get drunk on such good drink with virtually no headache or sinus issues is saying something. I could do this everyday!
Let’s backtrack to Saturday night since that’s the last time I journaled. Unfortunately, I came down with a case of concrete-stomach-itis that prevented us from experiencing a potentially delicious dinner at Frascati. I hate it when this happens. It typically occurs when we’re traveling and I eat really rich food and walk a lot. Then I get a really tight stomach and I feel awful. I’ll keep the gory details to myself. Nevertheless, I was not up to going out to eat.
Adam gave me some anti-nausea meds that he’s had since his first year in pharmacy school. They were crumbled up into a powder. They tasted so incredibly bitter. Ew! He drugged me and then went out to San Francisco on a Saturday night (the night the Giants clenched their division I will point out) to find some food. 2 hours and 1 pair of eighty-year-old breasts later (true story), he came back empty handed and with an empty stomach. Wop wop. I felt so bad, but not that bad because I was halfway conscious. (Kids, don’t try this at home.)
Sunday morning, we woke up and took a cab to the Hollywood Cafe. We tried to cable car it from our hotel, but again, the cars were full and the lines were too long. Besides, the cab cost as much as taking the cable car. The Hollywood Cafe was delicious, but the food was so rich. I had Eggs Benedict Parma with prosciutto and mozzarella and Adam had an omelette. I could only eat half of mine – a wise choice since my stomach was still recovering.
We walked along the Embarcadero one last time all the way up Market to the Enterprise. Unfortunately, we went through a pretty rough part of town. Twice. Adam thought the rental car place was near the Civic Center BART station, when in fact it was just in the Civic Center neighborhood, bordering the Tenderloin district. I think I was a witness to at least 5 drug deals on our 7-8 block trek through that area of town. And I was trying not to look. It was scary. It reeked of marijuana and I wanted a cab or my mommy. Lesson learned. When you travel in a major city, take a cab to pick up your rental car. Chances are that it’s in a crummy part of town since rent is cheap. Now we know.
The good news – after a 5 mile walk, a mile of which was through a seedy section of town among junkies or worse – is that we actually got a black Ford Mustang convertible as a rental. We were afraid we would get a Chrysler Sebring or something. We were very excited to get the Mustang.
Once we got the car, we drove back to the hotel to pick up our bags. Then we drove almost back to the rental car spot to Alamo Square to see the Painted Ladies.
They are so purty. After the Painted Ladies, we drove to Golden Gate Park, found a free parking spot on a Sunday (miracle!) and went to the Japanese Tea Garden.
It was neat, but nothing to write home about. I don’t know if it was because I’ve seen a Japanese Tea Garden in Japan or if I was just ready to leave the city, but I was not that impressed.
Once we got back in the car, we realized the camera battery was dying (HORROR!). We stopped at a Radio Shack, but they didn’t carry batteries for our camera. I got an auxiliary cable for the Mustang so we could listen to our iPods. Adam came back around the block to pick me up and we headed out of the city via Hwy 101/Golden Gate Bridge.
The fog was very heavy, but Adam didn’t mind. He thought it was pretty cool that we were able to drive over the Golden Gate Bridge in our convertible. We stopped at a few lookout spots along the coast and at Fort Mason, but the fog was pretty heavy so it was hit or miss as far as pictures of the bridge go.
There was a fight between the wind and I. I was scared that the wind would win.
After the bridge, we headed to Muir Woods. We arrived there around 3:30 or 4:00pm and took the 1-2 mile trail around.
It was really neat seeing Adam see the redwoods for the first time. They are so incredibly massive. The bark is so thick too.
The forest was pretty cool – probably low 50s.
We stayed there for a little over an hour. We came back down the mountain and filled up the Mustang in Mill Valley. From there we drove to Sonoma. I think it was about 30 minutes.
We are staying at Hidden Oak Inn. It is essentially a bed & breakfast right off of the Sonoma Square. It’s really nice. I was afraid of staying at a B&B: having to make small talk with strangers and B&B owners, worrying about coming in late, or the general cleanliness of it all. So far, it’s been great. We’re going on our second night here and I really have no complaints. Adam wishes we had a TV in our room, but I don’t miss it one bit.
We had dinner at The Girl & The Fig last night. I had scallops and Adam had flounder. The food was great, but we’re pretty sure our waitress forgot about us. It was good, but not the best food we’ve ever had.
Today we had a great day. We had a continental breakfast at the B&B at 9:00am and set out for Russian River Valley. We had a walk-in tasting at Merry Edwards (very much in and out). We bought a bottle of pinot that is made from Meredith Estate vineyards. I couldn’t resist. Next, we went to Kendall-Jackson. Or so we thought. We actually ended up at the corporate offices. It was funny. Then we went to our scheduled picnic pairing at Copain in Healdsburg. The view was gorgeous.
The food and the wine were fantastic. We bought a blended red and white that is more of a red summer wine. It’s called P2.
After Copain, we took an hour drive to Napa to Frank Family Vineyards.
It was a gorgeous drive and Adam said it was one of the most fun drives he’s ever done with the top down driving through the wine country of California. That made me feel good. It really was spectacular. So relaxing, cathartic, beautiful. I could get used to this slower way of life.
Frank Family Vineyards was interesting. The guy that led the tasting was really nice and grew up in Napa. We learned that Frank is actually Richard Frank, the executive who worked at Disney for many years and co-owns USA Networks with his son. His other son is a head exec. at Dreamworks. Their wine was good. Adam bought a half bottle of port. It is aged/fortified with 30-40 year old Courvoisier.
We headed back to Sonoma and went to Wellington. We had their wine Sunday night at The Girl & The Fig. They were really nice. We bought that same bottle for my parents as a thank you for taking care of Mason.
After Wellington, we headed down the road by 2 driveways to Loxwood (recommended by the guy at Wellington). We had an enjoyable tasting. There was a young Asian guy at the tasting that we chatted with. We didn’t end up buying anything, but we had fun all the same. And then I got to drive the Mustang.
After 5 wineries, we decided to come back and get ready for dinner/relax/pay bills. We had a wonderful dinner at this Italian place before you get to the Sonoma Square. Our waiter, Pablo, was fantastic. Adam and I split a bottle of Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley. He had cannelloni and I had gnocchi. It was delicious. We sat out on this brick patio with string lights. The heaters turned on after sunset. There was plenty of wine, plenty of happy people, and the patriarch/inspiration of the family was around often refilling our glasses and asking if we needed anything. It was perfect.
Now Adam and I are off to the Sonoma Square to “bar hop” if that’s even possible and to meet some of the locals so we can live through them.
What a life!
Thursday, September 27, 2012, 6:19 PM
Greetings from Carmel-by-the-Sea! Adam and I arrived here on Tuesday evening. We had a nice night bar hopping in the Sonoma Square. We woke up Tuesday morning and had breakfast at the Inn. We packed up and loaded up the Mustang and headed to Glen Ellen (only about 15 minutes) to the Benziger Family Vineyards.
We had a tour through the vineyard, the crush pad, the insectary, the caves, and ended in the tasting room. It was a great tour. We were able to eat grapes off of the vines, learn about how they plant the same grape in 30 different spots, and what they do to be a biodynamic farm.
We set off for San Francisco after we left Benziger around 1pm. We stopped just north of Sausalito to eat at In-N-Out Burger. It was pretty good, but nothing spectacular. We drove back over the Golden Gate Bridge. It was still foggy so we didn’t stop to take any additional pictures. Adam took a wrong turn, so we went through the city again and saw some neighborhoods that we hadn’t seen before: Pacific Heights, Japan Town, and down near UCSF. We got on the PCH north of Half Moon Bay and took it all the way to Carmel. I had never taken it that far north and I’m not sure if I would recommend it to anyone. It was fine for a few miles, but most of it was very flat coastal views.
We arrived in Carmel around 7pm on Tuesday. We are staying in a stand-alone cottage in the back of someone’s yard. Crazy, but it’s really nice! I found it on VRBO. We have a full kitchen and bathroom and a king-size bed. Tuesday night, we drove a mile down the road into downtown Carmel. We had dinner at Pepe’s Italian Restaurant.
Wednesday, we walked around downtown Carmel and went in and out of the shops.
Adam got me a high heel permit at City Hall. (It’s illegal to wear high heels in Carmel-by-the-Sea without a permit.) We had lunch at La Bicyclette. Adam and I split a roasted beet salad and a pizza with butternut squash, arugula, and speck. It was delicious. Then we went to Point Lobos for an afternoon of hiking where we walked in one of only 2 native Cypress groves and saw some Sea Lions from afar.
We finished our day by taking 17 mile drive around Pebble Beach at sunset. We saw the Lone Cypress, some surfers, and lots of deer.
After that, we drove up to Monterey and had dinner at the bar at Schooners. It’s the restaurant in the Monterey Plaza Hotel. It was really good. Adam had short ribs and I had clam chowder (with real clams!) and a burrata salad (so good!).
Today, we woke up and took the PCH down to Big Sur.
We got out and took pictures at the Bixby Bridge without even realizing it was the Bixby Bridge. Whoops!
We stopped again on the way back.
We went to the southern end of Big Sur to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. We took a short trail to see McWay Falls right on the beach.
The beach wasn’t there until 1983 when a giant landslide just north of the falls spilled tons of dirt into the ocean. It traveled south and collected there.
There used to be a house on that point too. You can still see the foundation and some of the walls. We got back in the car and headed back to Big Sur. We ate at this restaurant at the tip top of a hill, Ventana.
It was good. We sat out on a beautiful patio on top of a cliff overlooking the Pacific. Unfortunately, we could not see the ocean because of the fog. But it was sunny and very pretty. (Edit: This is where Anne Hathaway had her rehearsal dinner the very next night. Her reception was at the hotel on the property. We had no idea.)
Now we’re back in Carmel. Adam took the Mustang to the garage in town to see if they could buff out these mysterious scratches. We don’t know how they got there and are wondering if they were there when we got the car. Once he gets back, I’m going to have us start packing things up. We have to leave pretty early tomorrow morning to catch our flight. I’m sad our trip is coming to an end. It has been such a great one.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Our 1 year anniversary was at the beginning of October. Crazy. We can’t believe a year has gone by either. It seems like yesterday that we were up to our eyeballs in wedding paraphernalia, rocking out with our closest friends and family at our reception, almost missing our flight out of Atlanta because the Ritz didn’t deliver our scheduled wake-up call. Yeah. The Ritz messed up. Who can you trust these days if you can’t trust the Ritz-Carlton? They felt real bad though. And about this time last year, we were having the best time ever on our honeymoon in St. Lucia.
I asked Adam if we could go back this year. I was only half kidding. He said no. Something about money and hurricanes and that St. Lucia will lose its luster if we overexpose ourselves… (I disagreed to all points.) But we still took a mini-vacay to celebrate the occasion.
We rented a lovely house in Western North Carolina on Lake Nantahala for the weekend. There was absolutely nothing to do in the nearest one-horse town of Andrews. Thank goodness. To be honest, we’re both pretty sick and tired of all the going, going, going we’ve been doing lately. It seems like we’re always working on the house, working at our jobs, or attending some function or another.
The house was great. It had a huge front porch with views of the lake and Smokey Mountains. The fall foliage was amazing! Check it out:
There was also a hot tub and a big screen TV. I hit up the Red Box before we left Atlanta with a nice selection of movies. We relaxed all weekend, watched some flicks, watched college football, read (I caught up on all my catalogues and magazines), and disconnected from the outside world (no cell phone service or internet).
We’ve decided to adopt the traditional anniversary gift practice. Well, at least for this year. It may get harder as we progress. Like once we get to steel. That’s year 11, so I have a decade to save up for that Corvette Adam wants. Or a tank. I guess Corvettes aren’t made out of steel. They wouldn’t go very fast. Oh well. I’ve got 10 years to figure that one out. The first year is paper and coupled with our mountain getaway, we decided to do gifts less than $50. I ordered this custom print from Etsy’s your very own artist.
We have this Peter Pan thing that everyone on the outside of our relationship probably thinks is super cheesy and they’re right. But it’s special to us. Adam and I did the long distance thing for a few years when we were dating and we’d always say on the phone at night that we’d see each other in Neverland (i.e. our dreams). So Peter Pan has become our thang. Adam even got me a first edition Peter and Wendy book as a wedding present. Yeah, he’s a really good gift giver. He’s so much more romantic than me.
He got me a Wedding Anniversary journal where you can jot down significant events for every year of marriage, what gifts you gave each other, memories from your wedding and the first year. It was super thoughtful. He filled out some of the questions in the book with his take on things which made me tear up a little. But that’s not all. He also wrote a note and sealed it like the memory notes I gave him in his wedding present last year. AND, he gave me a few frames of film from an actual Peter Pan film reel. How sweet is that? Now I’ve got to figure out the best way to display them.
It was such a nice trip. We really enjoyed relaxing, eating big breakfasts, drinking French press coffee, and curling up on the couch. Here are a few pictures of us on the mountain:
And here’s a little video of the drive down the mountain. Adam added some stock music because all you can hear otherwise is the phhhhhh of the wind. Can you say idyllic? So beautiful!
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About a month ago, we rented a lake house with 3 other couples on Lake Burton in the north Georgia mountains. It was so much fun! We boated around the lake all day Saturday, rode the Ski-bob, floated/swam in the lake, and laid out on the dock. At night we played card games and roasted marshmallows. It was such a nice getaway and a great time spent with friends. However, as a newlywed and lifetime lake-goer there are always lessons to be learned …
Life Lesson #1: For the sake of your marriage, don’t drive on unfamiliar, windy mountain roads that wrap around a body of water in pitch black. Come to find out I wasn’t the only one with white knuckles and rapid breathing out of our group of couples. All my girlfriends wanted to kiss the ground when they got out of the car. I never once said anything to Adam. Well, maybe once. But he could still hear my sighing and see me gripping the dashboard with one arm and the door with the other. Apparently, it wasn’t helpful. And driving on curvy roads in the dark makes the drive seem 3 times longer than it actually is.
Life Lesson #2: Speaking of a longer drive…Don’t trust your out-of-date GPS to get you to your backwoods destination in North Georgia with no cell phone service. It would be easy for me to blame Adam on this one. He’s the one that didn’t want to pay $50 to update my Garmin. Alas, I should have just printed out some maps or something. We ended up turning off the highway on the other end of the u-shaped road our house was off of. We had to drive 5 mph for 5 miles on a dirt road with ruts, no light and steep cliffs. It was scary. It was frustrating. We thought we were almost there. We had no cell phone signal to call to see if we were almost there. The gas light came on. Bugs the size of softballs were colliding with our windshield. We could see the erratic flight of a couple dozen winged rodents. And our patience was already gone.
Life Lesson #3: Don’t suck any lake water up your nose. The brain-eating amoeba may attack. I don’t mean to be insensitive. I think 3 people have died this year from amoebas that thrive in warm fresh water. It is a serious thing to be concerned about. Hopefully, the water in Lake Burton was too cold for them. It was less than 80 degrees. I think we’re safe by now. But I’m certain all of us sucked some up our nose except for the dog. Leo was the only one with any sense. We’ll keep you posted if we have any symptoms.
Life Lesson #4: Reapply your sunscreen after swimming, especially if you haven’t been outside all year because you’ve been painting the inside of your house. Good one, Meredith. My back was pretty red. You’d think at 25 years old I would have figured this one out by now.
Life Lesson #5: Don’t think you can hold on to the ski-rope handle when Ski-bobbing. Case in point:
And you’ll see that this is where I sucked water up my nose.
Aren’t Ashleigh’s camera skills Oscar worthy? She does offer quite the hilarious summary when she says “Mission Failed”, but my film editor cut that out.
Our lake weekend was fantastic. I think we tend to forget to take a break from our crazy lives. It was a much needed vacation and we’ll have a lot of memories. Memories of campfires and s’mores, Egyptian Rat Screw and Apples to Apples, good food, good fun, deadly microscopic water creatures, huge spiders, fish that bite your arse (true story), never-ending windy roads, and the 12th time’s a charm when boarding a Ski-bob.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
Last weekend, Adam and I flew to Washington, D.C. to spend time with Adam’s brother. We left Thursday morning and returned Tuesday evening giving us about 5 days to visit, vacation, and explore. It’s not the first time that we’ve been to DC and I’m sure it won’t be the last, which explains why our itinerary wasn’t your typical weekend jaunt in the nation’s capital.
Thursday – We arrived in DC at 12:00pm, ate lunch at this Spanish tapas place (it was yum!), visited brother’s office, and Adam and I left for our bed and breakfast stay in Fredericksburg, Virginia (thanks, brother-in-law!). After a grueling 2.5 hours in DC-metro traffic, we arrived at the quaint Inn at Olde Silk Mill. We ate dinner at a great Tex-Mex place, bought a bottle of screw-cap wine at the Giant, and watched a movie in our room. Sounds glamorous, right? It was perfect.
Friday – We walked around downtown Fredericksburg where Adam was a good sport traipsing in and out of half a dozen antique shops, saw some interesting businesses as well,
drove to Stafford and ate lunch at a small winery, had a yummy tasting at the winery and a tour,
drove back to DC to pick up brother and cousin,
drove to Laurel, Maryland to attend another cousin’s graduation party Maryland style – Crab Boil! I learned how to dismantle, clean, and eat Maryland Blue Crabs. It was an experience, but I don’t like to see eyes on my food – or other disgusting parts. Plus, it was a lot of work for not much meat. (Side note: there are conflicting opinions on the best way to go about dismantling these crabs. Use your discretion.) I played poker with the boys – er, men – and turned my chips in early to my husband since he bought his dear wife in at the modest price of $5.
Saturday – was supposed to be the end of the world, but we’re all still here. We drove back into the city and went to the National Cathedral
and a few grocery stores in preparation for goat cheese enchiladas with friends. We ate, drank, and hung out. We then hit up China Town and went to Clyde’s.
Sunday – We ventured into Baltimore and went to the Orioles vs. Nationals game at Camden Yards.
The Orioles eventually won, but they were losing for a while. I got my required cotton candy accompanied by a sugar high and subsequent crash. We drove over to Laurel again to have steak and potatoes with the aunt, uncle, and cousin – who went to the game with us as well. They were so gracious the whole time we were there – feeding us, hosting us, feeding us some more. Went back to brother’s place in DC and watched hours of hoarders on The National Geographic Channel. It’s horribly fascinating.
Monday – We drove to Old Town Alexandria and had lunch in the Butcher’s Block. My prosciutto, brie, and fig jam sandwich was fantastic, especially since I had a very good Belgian ale with it. We strolled down King Street and found this fabulous furniture store that has old French Country-style furniture. Their pieces were beautiful.
We may have to bite the bullet and order something for our new house. Even Adam was drooling over the reclaimed wood, iron handles, and rustic details. We met up with Adam’s cousin again and drove out to Mount Vernon, George Washington’s plantation. None of us had ever been there before, so it was a great idea to take a few hours and learn more about one of our founding fathers.
We ate dinner at the Capitol Hill Club – thank you, brother. I had a yummy filet mignon and shrimp. It was a nice night, so we drove over to the Jefferson Memorial and spent some time in awe of the sheer size of it.
Tuesday – We got a late start because Adam made us grist mill pancakes from grist that we got at Mount Vernon. That’s right. It’s probably (not really) related to General Washington’s original grist. We went up in the tower at the Old Post Office and stayed for awhile since they started blocking off all of Pennsylvania Avenue. In about 10 minutes, we saw Netanyahu’s motorcade traveling from the Capitol toward the White House. After that, we ate a quick lunch and caught our flight home.
It’s always nice to see family and we were lucky enough to spend a lot of time with a brother, some cousins, and an aunt and uncle. We cannot wait to get back up there, but I won’t be going until after the heat of the summer passes. Have you ever been to our nation’s capital in July or August? I swear it’s what hell feels like.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )