Vancouver

After flying to Toronto for our close friend’s wedding (gorgeous!!) we stopped in Vancouver for a few days on the way home to celebrate my birthday.

We took the train from the airport to the Four Seasons, our blissful home base for 3 days where we treated ourselves to an upgraded full suite room. I’ve heard getting a full suite is a good idea when you have kids, so after they fall asleep you can close the door and enjoy a glass of wine together (or whatever you fancy). Obviously this wasn’t the case for us this trip but, let’s just say we were practicing for when this babe gets here!

We dropped our bags and dashed to happy hour in the lobby, splitting the calamari and a flatbread. I also ordered a cucumber mocktail that was so good I didn’t mind the missing alcohol.

Next we actually hit up the gym…! Usually if we use the gym while away it is in the morning, but when you’re pregnant – and happy hour is over with one good mocktail – it’s not a bad way to spend an hour. Shoutout to the Four Seasons for providing complimentary workout clothes for both of us.

The plan was to originally go Mike & Ashley style and do a food crawl that night, but the time difference caught up with us and we opted for dessert and HGTV back at the hotel before turning in for a early bedtime.


I was still on east coast time on Wednesday and woke up at 6:30am ready to start the day. Bundled up, we walked to Nemesis, Vancouver’s #1 voted coffee shop. I ordered a black tea that had a mild, nutty toasted flavor. It was so good – and usually I don’t have that much to say about a tea’s flavor profile – plus the perfect companion to the chilly walk down to the harbor.

We hopped on an aquabus for a quick jaunt across the harbor to the Granville Public Market. Oh how glorious this place is! We arrived right when it opened at 9am, making our experience a lot more enjoyable as there weren’t huge crowds. There are so many good food stands that we decided to scope the place out before making any purchases. In the end we did a morning/breakfast food crawl sampling a fresh berries; splitting an egg, spinach, and cheese bagel; and then indulging in lattes and donuts from Lee’s.

We explored the island and walked off our hearty breakfast after, being sure to also buy a little onesie for the baby. So fun and cute! Then is was off to the main adventure of the day: the Capilano suspension bridge.

Looking pretty nervous on our first crossing!

This basically is like it sounds, one big suspension bridge over a river that gets you from one side to the other. The set up on either side is pretty cute and made me feel like we were in a little winter wonderland. It wasn’t very crowded when we were there either, and the holiday lights were already up so it felt extra magical.

Once you cross over the main bridge, there are a set of smaller bridges going between various trees. There’s also the cliff walk, which is just a narrow pathway close to a granite slab. If you have a fear of heights, this probably isn’t the place for you!

While there, we had a very romantic lunch in the cozy cafe. We were the only ones in the place so it felt intimate, particularly with the fireplace and twinkle lights.

There is a convenient free shuttle back to the city (and great to rest after so much walking). As an afternoon pick-me-up, we went back to the same dessert place from the night before, called Thierry, for coconut drinking chocolates; basically very rich, thick hot chocolate that became our obsession in Vancouver.

After a lot of walking, foot massages sounded like a great way to end the day. We found a place called Queen’s Feet and for $40 we each got a 50 minute reflexology foot massage. Not bad if you’re okay with a no frills spa experience, which, at that point, we were.

In true Canadian fashion, we wanted poutine for dinner. Opting for a slightly healthier – and likely trendier – version, we went to Meet, a vegetarian place in Yaletown. I ordered a side of guac with it and a sparkling water + splash of grapefruit juice beverage. I’m (obviously) loving places with good non-boozy options.

After our gravy, fries, and cheese curds, we walked back to the hotel for more HGTV and macaroons in bed! (So.much.HGTV. …but also so fancy with those macaroons.)


We kicked off my birthday with croissants and hot chocolates at Thierry (again). I wrapped up my first trimester blog post and hit publish. Then is was time for a quick photoshoot to try to get a cute picture of the bump for our instagram baby announcement (I know, I know, soooo millennial).

Lunch was at Burgoo and it was the coziest soup and sammie spot. We each got grilled cheeses and tomato soup. Major comfort food on a chilly day.

Walking was our main way of getting around, and one of my favorite things about the city. We averaged 15,000 steps every day we were there. After lunch we walked down to the harbor for tea and cake overlooking the water. Pretty romantic!

On a whim, we rented bikes after and toured Stanley Park. Unexpectedly the bikes were electric which was great! It’s fun just to crank up the speed on a hill and fly up it.

Totem poles in the park

Mike made dinner reservations at Hawksworth and I went full American ordering a steak and fries for dinner (both were delicious). For dessert we got candy cap ice cream and learned after that is was actually mushroom ice cream (better than it sounds).

We ended the night back at the hotel with, you guessed it, more HGTV. 🙂


We walked to breakfast the next morning and then got one last fix of liquid chocolate at Thierry.

In summary: walking, cozy meals, and gallons of chocolate pretty much summed up the trip. Cheerrrrs!

St Barts! (honeymooning part 3/3)

When we booked our honeymoon, St Barts was the destination in my mind. Disney World and Saint Martin were great, don’t get me wrong. But I couldn’t wait to get on the island that is allegedly littered with celebrities and take in all of the luxury it had to offer.

I could see the difference between Saint Martin and St. Barts immediately when we stepped off of the 45 minute ferry we took between the two islands. Instead of having to rent a car like we did in Saint Martin, our hotel had arranged transport for us. And despite being later than our estimated arrival time, there was still a shiny white van waiting to swoop us up when we got there. This wasn’t your standard carpool minivan either; it was all tan seats, A/C blasting, and a cooler of Evian water waiting for us. It was let us help you with your bags and closing your door and is it too cool in here? Too hot?

Honestly it was so nice, looking back I’m shocked they didn’t have something more outrageous for us, like flavored oxygen tanks to make breathing more pleasurable… (which, if they did, I would have opted for pineapple flavor, obviously).

We arrived at Hotel Christopher after a somewhat fairytale-esque drive across the island, with everything being bright and pristine and smaller than what we’re used to in the states. Naturally the staff greeted us with welcome cocktails and directed us towards a changing room, where we got in our bathing suits to enjoy the pool while we waited for our room to be ready.

We dipped in and out of the pool, alternating between reading, chatting, and huge iguana sightings. At some point we spilt a yummy lunch of freshly baked bread, the creamiest burrata, truffle ham, kalamata tapenade, and artichoke hearts.

We were “Sir’d” and “Madam’d” to our room, where we read some more and dozed off on our patio. When we woke up – slightly burnt from sleeping in the sun – I was ready to explore the island. I felt a touch of cabin fever from being at the hotel for so long and wanted to go into town for dinner. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize the location of our hotel didn’t allow for easy walking. Our options were to take a €30 cab into town or to eat at the hotel restaurant, which looked really nice in it’s own right. We decided to stay and enjoyed burgers and peach cocktails by the sea.

The next morning started with a hunt for chocolate croissants and coffee. Part of the reason we picked St. Barts for our honeymoon was to experience the laid back island vibe with a bit of European flare. In short, I was really looking forward to the cafe scene! Sadly the chocolate croissants were sold out by the time we picked a place… wah, wah, waah.

Instead we ordered iced cappuccinos and grilled ham & cheeses, because why not? and spent the afternoon exploring different beaches around the island. Some highlights were the baby goats we spotted on one beach and our picnic lunch. The ocean was so incredible. too; clear, blue, and warm. Perfect for hours of swimming and long walks on the beach. Hehe 🙂

It was a blissful day that we ended with a trip to a local store for breakfast the next morning (having learned not to rely on the cafes after all) and getting a pizza to go for dinner. It sounds simple but sharing a bottle of wine and pizza back at the hotel was one of my favorite moments.

The loot

On our final full day there, Mike wanted to go surfing so we packed up the rental car with hotel-provided beach towels and an umbrella and set off to find a broad to rent. We ended up at St. Jeans for the entire day. Mike was able to surf while I lounged on the beach, reading, eating snacks and WATCHING PLANES TAKE OFF AND LAND.

As the afternoon was winding down, we went for one last swim to a platform you could sit on in the middle of the deeper part of the sea. We ended up meeting another vacationing couple. After chatting for a while, we exchanged numbers and agreed to meet up for a drink later.

Delighted and drowsy from a day in the sun, we went back to the hotel to shower and change for our last dinner there. Word to the wise, if you find yourself in St. Barts and you want to go out for dinner, MAKE RESERVATIONS! Many of the restaurants base their food ordering for the day based on the number of reservations they have that night. So despite a place not looking crowded, they might literally not have food for you to eat there. We experienced this at 2 restaurants we attempted to eat at, which was frustrating but we finally hit the jackpot with a canceled reso at Bonito.

Bonito is an open restaurant, up on a hill that overlooked the harbor. The food was very French (read: very good, very small portions, and very expensive). It was a lovely last meal, the fancy atmosphere fitting the occasion.

After dinner we met our new friends for a beer and, of course, instagram handle exchanges to stay in touch (hiii, Jenna!;)

We had an early departure the next morning back to St. Martin for our last night before flying home. Overall St. Barts was as exquisite as you can imagine. I’m glad we went there for our honeymoon – a trip of a lifetime – and indulged in all the island has to offer, but I don’t know if we would go back…

Comparing the two islands, to me, is like this: St. Barts is more caviar and champagne, while Saint Martin is calamari and Corona. St. Barts in where you go to relax, but Saint Martin is where you get the stories. Overall both islands where great – one more glam, one a bit more girt – and I’m glad we experienced each of them.

Mike on our last night in Saint Martin, with a parrot he walked right past a few times before noticing

Saint Martin (honeymooning part 2/3)

We left Orlando ready for some r&r and island time. After an early flight we arrived in the Caribbean, specifically on the island of Saint Martin, which is somewhat confusingly both a French and Dutch territory. We decided to spend 2 nights on the French side, then ferry over to the island of St. Barts before coming back and spending our final night on the Dutch side.

We didn’t book transport prior to our trip but luckily rented a car without much trouble to get us to our hotel. There are very few places you can actually walk on both Saint Martin and St. Barts so a car was key. It was a good thing Mike drives a stick and we live close to San Francisco, because manual was our only option and Saint Martin is hilly.

Driving to our spot

We arrived at Grande Case Beach Club and treated ourselves to a welcome cocktail and shared calamari + a Caesar salad since our room wasn’t ready. It was nice to be right on the beach, kicking off the 2nd part of our honeymoon. The water was such a clear, pretty blue, I couldn’t wait to hop in.

We were able to check in shortly after. I was very impressed with our room, which had fresh flowers scattered around, a bottle of wine to enjoy later, and a patio that opened up to a private beach for hotel guests. Without question the first thing we did was take a dip in the ocean.

Not having eaten much that day with an early wake up call and traveling, we were ready for dinner shortly after. We decided to try the hotel restaurant and it was one of the best meals I had there! Even more impressing was that it was all cooked in a small camper as the hotel kitchen was still under construction from the hurricane damages. This – among other things like chipped concrete and a few patches of dried out vegetation – were signs that the island was still recovering.

Mike’s whole fish he ordered (that they nicely deboned for him table-side)
The camper kitchen

We walked to the little down town area after dinner for a drink at the Blue Martini. (At the time, I didn’t realize that is was rare to be able to walk anywhere on Saint Martin – or St. Barts – so we took this walk for granted.) The Blue Martini was everything an island bar should be; outdoors, not cramped, nothing too fancy with good spirited bar tenders and live music. We stayed for 2 drinks and did what you’re supposed to do on your honeymoon, just enjoy each other’s company!


Another glorious thing I took for granted when we were at Grand Case was the free breakfast the hotel provided in the morning (foreshadowing that this was not so on the next island we went to $$$). We enjoyed coffee/tea, croissants, and fresh fruit seaside before packing our stuff and heading out to explore.

Our adventure of choice that day was jet skiing. Equal parts fun and anxiety-filled for me, 100% thrill for Mike (when he was able to go fast without me jamming my fingernails into his ribs hahaha). Once our hour on the jet ski was up, we bobbed around in the warm ocean water for a bit, which was quickly becoming one of my favorite ways to spend our days (aside from gloriously reading for hours at a time and enjoying delicious wine and food, of course).

This might be weird coming from anyone else but I’m sure “on brand” for me: one of my favorite things to do when traveling is going to the local grocery store. And I knew I wanted to hit up a few with that French influence on the island. Hi, all of the cheese and nom fresh ingredients!

You can take the girl out of California but you can’t take the Cali (avos!) out of the girl…

We bought a small sampler of different cheese, some grapes, and nuts before promptly going back to our hotel, opening a bottle of wine to pair with our local goods and sitting right by another beach to enjoy the waves again. Ahhh, bliss.

The view of our private beach

For dinner we sauntered over to a gorgeous French restaurant downtown and enjoyed freshly baked bread, more wine, fresh fish, and seasonal vegetables. For such a gorgeous place, I was surprised it wasn’t packed. We chatted a bit with the owners who mentioned they were just starting to make their slow recovery from the destruction of the hurricane. It’s a small drop in their economy but I’m glad we contributed and spent our money there. Plus, we learned about the best spot to go to from our conversation with the locals: a rum bar just next door.

Omg, this rum bar! Looking back it was our favorite night. When we first arrived we were the only ones there, which meant all of the owners attention. We learned about rum made from molasses vs. sugarcane and all of the different places it came from. Then we got real bold and asked if we go off-menu, ordering a sampler instead of one drink each. The owner agreed. We gave him creative liberty to pour us his choices. And then we learned how to properly drink rum.

Smell. Swirl. Sip.

Waft to smell, inhaling from one nostril and then the other by alternating which one you cover. Swirl to see the legs (similar to wine). Sip. Hold it on your tongue. Savor. Swallow.

Pour more. Repeat! (Bonus points, of course, if you’re enjoying your honeymoon and away from the daily grind.)

We walked back after our rum flight happy and content, crossing paths with a little black cat that I loved and wanted to take home. Not one for the superstition of bad luck, I fell asleep without a care that night; looking forward to the next day and our final stop on our honeymoon, St. Barts! **post coming soon**

BUT HOW CUTE!!?!?!?

Disney World (honeymooning part 1/3)

The Monday after our wedding we flew to Orlando to experience Disney World. It was my first time here, but Mike grew up going to Florida and seeing Mickey & co for spring break.

We stayed at the Port of New Orleans – French Quarter and overall, we were impressed. It had the magic of Disney but was relatively affordable. Particularly at a place like Disney – where you won’t be spending much time in the hotel – as long as it’s clean and convienetly located, it’s win.

My favorite part of the hotel was the NOLA inspired food there. On the shuttle from the airport, we received a text telling us our room number before arriving (Disney magic, friends!) so Mike was able to go drop off our stuff (accessing the room with our ✨magic bands✨) while I ordered food on our first night there.

Fried chicken, mac n’ cheese, beans and rice, with shrimp and veggies!

After dinner, we grabbed a cocktail and hit up the hot tub for a little bit before it closed. With full day of traveling under our belts, it was a nice way to end the day. Even though it was still on the early side for us, being on California, we went to sleep shortly after in preparation for a packed next day.


Despite going to sleep early, we still slept right through our alarms on Tuesday (maybe we were still recovering from all of the wedding festivities?!).

Mike loves going to parks from opening to closing, so it was a bit stressful that we’d already missed a hour at his favorite place, Typhoon Lagoon. We arrived at the water park only 1/2 hour later after quickly getting ready and running out of the door.

Hack: call a regular Lyft to save money vs. the Mini (mouse) van Lyfts they promote

The Mini Vans are cute but not worth the extra cash

Typhoon Lagoo didn’t disappoint, despite our late start! The wave pool was the best and we spent most of our time treading water in the deep-end where there weren’t as many people. Of course we also gave the lazy river and a few slides a go, before it was time to go to the next park: Epcot.

My lovely friend Lauren gave me a ton of good information about Disney World, like making dinner reservations 90 days out and when to get our fastpasses, so a special shout out to her before I dive into our Epcot experience (her and her husband’s favorite park).

First up was the new Frozen ride, which I am glad we had a Fastpass for. The ride was cute but not worth the 2 hour lineup for it. I’m also stating to wonder… how many slow-moving boat rides can Disney make?!

Having not really eaten breakfast, we were ready for lunch quickly after. We went for tacos + margs in Mexico and it was really nice to just sit for a bit. We enjoyed the water views and the breeze in that hot FL sun. The company wasn’t too bad either. 🙂

Next we walked around and went on some more rides but were really just killing time before our next meal. Hah 🙂

Dinner was at Le Cellier, the Canadian steakhouse. People raved about this place. And, being that I married a Canadian, we had to go. Sadly we were both disappointed with the food. The experience was great; it was nice to go to a fancier sit-down restaurant in Disney World and our server was kind (obviously, he was from Canada), but we were more impressed with the bread basket than the filets. Not the best sign. My recommendation would be to go here for the dessert and to try ice wine but save your money and eat dinner somewhere else.

After dinner we finished “walking around the world,” which was my favorite part of Epcot. Everything is cute and clean and I just loved seeing it all.


On Wednesday we were up early and at Magic Kingdom before it opened. Now, I am a Disney Land girl all the way. I spent many summers driving south to spend a few magical days with my grandparents and mom there. This to say, I was excited to experience Magic Kingdom because I heard it was the most similar to Disney Land.

First up was, of course, Space Mountain. Space Mountain holds a special place in my heart because it is a family favorite (probably like many other families). The story from the first time I rode it goes like this: I was with my grandparents and my mom waiting for probably hours to ride Space Mountain. I guess as a small girl I was pretty nervous about riding a roller coaster in the dark and kept telling my Grandpa about my concerns. It worked out that he sat in the row behind me and, the same as I do today, I was screaming my head off the entire ride. My grandpa felt pretty bad during the ride, thinking, I made her go on this ride she hates and is screaming through the whole thing.

The punchline is, when we got off the ride I immediately requested we go on it again. 🙂

Ok, back to our honeymoon! After more rides, we went to lunch at Jungle Navigation Skipper Canteen, which was one of my top 2 favorite places in Disney World. It was a nice air conditioned break from the heat and the menu had the most vegetables I saw there.

Hack: bring a reusable water bottle and ask for cups of ice throughout the day to fill it up and keep you cool while walking around

I also added lemon slices from lunch to our water

Next we made the game day decision to go back to the hotel room for a dip in the pool and an afternoon nap. Much needed!

We went to dinner that night at Be Our Guest, which I heard was hard to get reseverations for so I was proud of our planning. This restaurant is in the beasts and Belle’s castle, which was cool to see, and they have a 3 course prefixed menu. The big draw though is the “grey stuff” you get for dessert. It is indeed delicious (after I figured out what it was! I can’t enjoy food or tastes that I can’t place).

Turns out I must have gotten my fill of Disney Land when we went a few years ago because I was ready to leave Magic Kingdom after dinner. We went to the Boardwalk in the search of souvenirs but quickly aborted mission for something a little more lively! Cue Disney Springs. Ah, this place was actual magic for this soon to be 30 year old.

We grabbed a beer and caught the last few songs of a live band. It was kind of sad we’d already eaten because it looked like there were some amazing restaurants, including a wine and oyster bar. The real highlight was when it was time to go back to the hotel and we wanted to take a ferryboat. We walked to the pier and caught a skipper just in time to hop on the last boat heading our way.

Maybe it was the excitement of perfect timing or maybe it was the beer but for whatever reason, Mike and I loved that boat ride home.

Husband!

Our last day was spilt in between Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. Animal Kingdom was a jammed few hours on rides between our fast passes, some short lines, and opting to go as “single riders” instead of together to bypass waits. If you’re fine going solo on a ride, I recommend trying the single riders hack. It is such a time saver!

In my opinion, the actual gem of the day trip was lunch at Sanaa that afternoon. You have to leave the park and go to Animal Kingdom Lodge – which, let me just pause for a second and say loveeee. If we ever go back, I want to stay here; for the lodge’s atmosphere and also because I want to eat at Sanna and have their bread service for lunch everyday.

The bread service is it, people. Fly to Orlando, eat here, and you can go home right after.

On top of the amazing food and aesthetics, you get to watch different animals walk around in the courtyard while you eat.

After lunch it was time for Hollywood Studios and a 85 minute line up to go on the Tower of Terror. Normally fast drop-down rides aren’t my favorite but I can handle (somewhat) Tower of Terror, which is good because it’s Mike’s favorite ride!

Per usual, I screamed (and death griped my seat) the entire time.

We rounded out the day with a few more rides before going back to the hotel and packing for our early morning flight to the Caribbean! **post coming soon**

Loved Disney with my PRINCE

(cheesy, i know. but real talk, Mike is obviously Eric from Little Mermaid, right!!?)

NYC

Manhattan; city of dreams, hangovers, and an endless list of things to do, places to eat, and boroughs to explore. Armed with 3 of my closest girlfriends, I made it my mission to cram as much of it as I could into 3 days during my bachelorette party.

I arrived Thursday afternoon after an uneventful flight and was immediately assaulted by the cold as I exited JFK. Shit, I thought as I jammed my hands in to the depths of my pockets, how am I going to do this weekend? My breathe was visible and my body shaking until I finally got into my Lyft.

$50 and 50 minutes later I was at The Ace. I stayed at The Ace last November when I went to Chicago and decided it’s funky little vibe was perfect for a girls weekend in the city.

I knew my friend Melissa was already there but I wasn’t fully expecting to walk into a room decorated with all things bachelorette. There was champagne, a flower grown that had a veil attached to it, streamers with tiny unmentionables dangling from the walls, and more.

Melissa and I caught up while we got ready for dinner and waited for my other friend Morgan to arrive. As a side note, getting ready with your friends is probably my favorite part of being a girl. So.much.bonding happens!

We ate dinner at abcV, which I am going to say is equal parts amazing and perplexing. I guess it is a carpet store, but there are also two restaurants there? It’s like Anthropology and Urban Outfitters had a love child, then decided to add trendy AF restaurants to the equation. Essentially every girl’s dream.

When we sat down we were instantly greeted with glasses of bubbly (cute!) (because my friends are the best and called the restaurant ahead with word of my LastFlingBeforeTheRing). Of course abcV was tapas style (#trendyAF). We ordered veggies and hummus, avo lettuce cups, fried artichokes, and the tofu. After our plates were cleared and our stomachs (almost) full (are tapas ever really enough food tho?) we were delighted with a complimentary matcha creme brûlée dessert. Yum like, woah.

Next up? Cocktails! We wondered over to Dear Irving but there was a wait. The hostesses recommended we pop into the bar directly downstairs until she had a table ready for us. So there the three of us went, to sit in a dark, cozy, deliciously-New-York-feeling bar drinking Manhattans. As you do.

On Friday morning we woke up with one collective thought: bagels. We hit up Black Seed Bagels, which has a nom poppyseed bagel. After carbing up, we went to Chillhouse for coffee and manis. What a gem of a place! It looks pretty unassuming from the outside but it is cute inside. Coffee was necessary at that point and in between strokes of nail polish, we sipped our java and marveled at how great Chillhouse was.

I can see this place getting packed on the weekends, which would decidedly make it a little less chill, but we were lucky to go on a Friday morning and were basically the only ones there.

With fresh nails, we calculated that we had just enough time to walk down Broadway to Wall Street before Lauren arrived at the hotel that afternoon. We dodged 1.5 miles of busy New York sidewalks to see the Charging Bull and The Fearless Girl statue. The latter felt particularly special as it was International Women’s Day.

After some pictures with both statues, the cold and being outside for around 2 hours was wearing on us. We went back to the hotel to get ready and wait for Lauren to arrive for our 5:30pm drink reservations at The Rainbow Room at Rockefeller Plaza, which has gorgeous views of the city and Central Park. We sat at a table facing the park and shared a bottle of wine and a few appetizers. It was the perfect way to kick off the weekend with everyone finally there!

After, we walked to dinner at Fig & Olive, which might have been my favorite eatery of the weekend. We started with the burrata, goat cheese, and prosciutto crostinis, and then spilt the sea bass, lobster ravioli, and risotto. Once dinner was a wrap, we went back to the hotel for a outfit change 😉 and the hunt for another perfect NYC bar. After a few tries, we finally nailed it with Oscar Wilde. This place was everything I wanted on a Friday in New York; it was trendy with good drinks and music. Plus we scored a table in the middle of it all.

We ended the night with french fries, vodka sodas, and some classic mirror pix back at our hotel.

Saturday started with coffee at the cutest cafe Melissa knew about called Felix Roasting Co. This place is coffee lovers oasis. Plus, they have their own house made nut milk on tap! We were running behind to make a 11:45am walking tour at The High Line so hopped in a cab to get there on time. (Shout out to Lauren for hailing it like a champ.) For the next 2 hours we walked suspended above Manhattan’s meat Packing district, learning the ins and outs of the old railroad turned city park.

Luckily the weather wasn’t too bad, even somewhat nice if we were lucky enough to steal a few minutes in a spot of sun. The walking tour was a highlight of the weekend for me. Our guide had a lot of great information and insider stories that he shared with us. The High Line is also just beautiful. There is something special about being somewhere tranquil in the middle of city madness.

We went to The Park for lunch, which was another gem of a find. Unfortunately though, I got a salad that left me feeling nauseaus. Not fun! I was bummed because we were in Greenwich, my favorite part of the city, and I just couldn’t rally… So many cute streets and bars left unvisited! Lauren, Morgan, and Melissa were saints and took me back to the hotel for a 2 hour nap in the middle of our last day there. I felt pretty bad that we had to go back but the rest could have been good for us all, and the fuel we needed to party that night.

I woke up feeling better and ready to hit the city again. We had dinner reservations at 8:30pm, which is absurdly late for this west coast chica, but right par for the course in New York. I love visiting Manhattan but could never live there partly because of the constant hussle and late night social scene that pluses through the streets and avenues. On a typical night, when New Yorkers are just starting their evening, I am ready to start calling it a night. Ha.

Of course being that I was on vacation with 3 of my girls, I was all in for a late night out. After dinner at Acme (which was delicious and definitely recommended), we walked to Whiskey Town, a dark little bar in Greenwich Village.

So this is what I’ve learned about going out when you’re a little bit older and in a relationship: the places that are actually fun to dance at are fewer and farer in-between. Look, I know I’m not even 30 yet but I still don’t want to spend my night with a whole bunch of kids who just become of legal age to drink. I was one of those annoying early 20 years olds once, I don’t need to relive it by proxy.

Prior to the trip, when we were trying to figure out where to go on Saturday night, my one request to my friend Lauren was that is was like this bar/club, Razzoo’s, we went to for her bachelorette party in New Orleans last summer. We wanted good music and no sloppy drinkers. Whiskey Town basically fit this bill! …Which meant, we stayed there all night.

Some, more adventurous souls, may have wondered to another bar in search of other scenes or people to meet, but not me. I was content holding down our spot – right by the DJ with barstools (for our coats) and a ledge (for our drinks) in close proximity all night. We took turns buying rounds and running to the bathroom (“breaking the seal” is as real as it was when I was 21;). We danced and shouted (both lyrics to songs and in an effort to communicate).

I wore my flower crown veil and fielded inquires about the wedding. As well as the general “are you getting married?!” question you get a million times when you go out in public wearing a veil to a bar.

And when it was all said and done, it was time for …pizza. Late night, after the bar, huge New York slices of za.

Melissa was the first to leave on Sunday, on an early flight back home to Toronto. I gave her a messy, sleepy hug and got back into bed until 11am when the rest of us had collectively set our alarms. Initially we had brunch reservations for 10am but when we got back to our hotel at 5am, it was without a question that we canceled them to sleep in instead.

When we were finally up, showered, and packed, we had just enough time to walk a few blocks to Scarpetta, a divine little spot located in the NoMad hotel. The twinkle lights and live jazz music make Scarpetta feel like a fairy tale. …A fairy tale with good coffee and avo toast. (Which, in my opinion, is better than being saved a prince!)

Despite the cold weather that weekend, New York was a blast. A huge shout out to my ladiiies for such an incredible trip. Next up? The wedding!

CHICAGO

The week after Portland I flew to Chicago for work. Oh, what a town! The food scene there is like nothing I’ve experienced before. Every.single.thing. I ate was delicious. I probably came home a few lbs heavier but there are no regrets (just mourning for the yummy pasta and pizza and burgers and burrata (so much burrata)).

I touched down Tuesday evening and immediately meet my manager/friend for dinner at the hotel we were both staying at, The Ace Chicago. Inside, we found an equally chic and cozy restaurant called City Mouse, where we split an order of grilled carrots, burrata, fried artichoke, and octopus. 😋

We had a productive working session as a team on Wednesday, complete with another yummy lunch. That evening I got to try RPM Italian, Bill and Giuliana Rancic’s restaurant. This might not be cool to say, but I love celebs. I’m not into reading trashy magazines about them but I do like following my faves on instagram and going to their restaurants when I can!

In theme with Chicago itself, everything I had at RPM was delicious. We started with the Giuliana salad (will have to recreate), and an order of the burrata and fried artichokes. For our main meals, we tried the lobster ravioli and the chicken parmesan. The standout for me was how good and fresh the pasta was that came with the chicken parm. In all honesty though, the whole meal was carb-y, cheesy bliss.

img_20181114_194149.jpg

Ok, so aside from all the nom food… it was COLD in Chicago. I know, I know, when I went it wasn’t even as bad as it is going to get BUT this California girl was freezing nonetheless. That night I actually went to bed thinking, well at least it isn’t snowing… 

And, of course, guess what I woke up to on Thursday morning… snow.

We spent the day working from City Mouse; with a pretty view, hot tea, and cozy soup and a grain bowl for lunch. Not too shabby!

mvimg_20181115_084417

img_20181115_124936

I worked a half day on Friday and then MIKE ARRIVED! Our first stop was the bean (or Cloud Gate). I don’t know why I’ve always wanted to see this landmark but there is just something appealing to me about that steel shaped giant bean! It was so cool to see it in person. Next time I’m in CHI, I’m making another stop here but in the early morning when it isn’t so crowded.

Also, it was freezing…! So we left after about 5 minutes. Hmm.. maybe a summer trip is in store?

img_20181116_145954

img_20181116_150128

mvimg_20181116_150657.jpg

Next up was a drink at Cindy’s in the Chicago Alethic Association Hotel. Cindy’s is a convenient ~5 minute walk from the bean. We didn’t have a reservation (I learned resos are key in CHI) but luckily were able to slip into two seats in the back.

This is another place that seems like it would be cool in the summer, with their rooftop patio and gorgeous views. Although there was a fire pit outside, we opted to stay indoors. The cocktails at Cindy’s were good but the company was better. It was good to see Mike after a few nights away!

img_20181116_155354

img_20181116_153958

Like I mentioned, Chicago is a reservation city! (Which I actually prefer because, based on my experience, they do sit you within five minutes when you have one – unlike California where reservations don’t really mean anything.) It was still early but I knew we had to figure out dinner. Mike did some Googling and found this place called The Deerborn, which was recommended to us (by the big G) because it was “similar to OCK” (our favorite restaurant at home). Let me just say, Google can have ALL OF MY DATA just for this recommendation alone.

I don’t know enough adjectives to rave about this place with due justice.

In classic Ashley and Mike form, we ordered a few things to spilt. Starting with the French onion soup (which we now want to make at home) and the mezze platter, that included dolmades, hummus, tzatziki, babaganoush, and the best flatbread to soak up all the dips in. It was basically my dream … on a platter.

To be sure we were nice and full, next we ordered the mac and cheese and maple fried chicken. I’m salivating just thinking about it. Also, we’ll be saying screw it to the turkey next year for Thanksgiving. We’re making maple fried chicken (and mac n cheese, and an epic mezze platter, and onion soup).

IMG_20181116_191054

On Saturday we walked to a cafe nearby to caffeinate for the day. My go-to, to-go order is an almond milk cafe au lait and, as to be expected in the magical city of all good food and drinks, wasn’t disappointed once. I’m also a huge almond milk snob and ask to see which one they use before placing my order soooo double points to Chi-town.

IMG_20181117_100603

Next we decided to bear the rain and hit up the Christmas market. What a mistake! We didn’t even do a full loop before we left and sought shelter in the mall nearby. Ok it was time for pizza. DEEP DISH PIZZA.

img_20181117_112749
The roasted nuts weren’t even worth the rain.. 

00000portrait_00000_burst20181117112805555

Everyone I asked recommended I go to Lou Malnati’s for the best deep dish in town. We got there around 11:30am and I’m glad we did! It takes about 40 minutes for them to make your pizza (which is expected for deep dish) but when we left, the waiting area was packed.

We ordered a pie with spinach and mushrooms, despite the menu mentioning it isn’t truly deep dish unless there is sausage on it. Which I can say, I wholeheartedly disagree. Our pizza was deep-dish-delicious sans sausage. It was ooey and gooey and buttery crusty. Oh, and the tomatoes on it. Perfection in every bite.

img_20181117_124049

Ok, we’ve made it to the part of the blog post program that I am going to stop talking about how frickin’ good all of the food was and tell you my favorite part of the trip (if you can believe it wasn’t the noshes).

Two words: Paper Machete

Actually, four words for more context: Green Mill Paper Machete

img_20181117_142232

The Paper Machete at Green Mill was recommended to me by a colleague. When I was bummed that Second City tickets were sold out, she told me to go here and to be early!

The show starts at 3pm. We got there at 2:07pm and snagged the last open table by the stage. One beer for Mike. One martini for me; gin please.

The band rehearsed. I complained about how loud it was (I have v sensitive ears) and started to wonder if this was really the best use of out last afternoon in the city…

The showed started and before the first act was over, I knew. I knew it was going to be real good and real raw. I was ready for the ride.

The Paper Machete was a 2 (ish) hour live magazine where performers acted out various current events. The first was a monologue my the First Lady, Melania; so good and so funny and such a relief to know most of the audience was Democratic.

There was also a pianist, a trio of female singers, a few other skits sprinkled in between, and the headlining band (which I still think was a little too loud but it was fine). Mike and I were belly laughing almost the whole time. I also fanned out at the end and asked to take a picture with the girl band (one of the members had already gone home though, boo!).

img_20181117_173619

Buzzed (from both the martini but also creatively from being around such talent) we left hungry and ready for dinner. Remember when I said Chicago is a reservation city? Well, we didn’t have any for dinner that night. Whomp, whomp.

We tried a few places near the hotel but most had a 2 hour wait. A little defeated we walked up the stairs in the SoHo house to the Chicken & Farm Shop. They sat us immediately and I was nothing short of suspect… Why wasn’t there a wait?

I still can’t answer that question because um, this place was reason enough to go back to Chicago. We ordered the collard greens, chicken nuggets, mac n’ cheese, and the best burger I’ve ever had that was infused with bone marrow that should be how all burgers are ever made…!

On our last morning in Chicago, we got ultra touristy and went to the Skydeck. Basically we stood in line for 1.5 hours and paid $50 for 60 seconds in a glass box 110 stories up.

img_20181118_114631

img_20181118_114549

I was a little nervous I would be scared to step out onto the glass floor, but felt so rushed I didn’t have to think about it. We shared the box with another party and we were both trying to cram as many pictures in one minutes as possible. It’s actually pretty chaotic. I wouldn’t do the Skydeck again but it was worth trying something new!

img_20181118_114523_1

After that, it was a wrap. We hurried back to the hotel to pack, hit up Ballast Point for one last pint, and we were on our way to the airport.

Chicago, you stole my heart (my stomach and my skinny jeans). I can’t wait to see you again.

img_20181118_114952-effects

Portland, OR

The best birthdays I’ve had have been the no-fuss kinds; filled with good food, friends, and family. Throw in a weekend away and it’s golden.

I turned 29 last Wednesday and, after celebrating with Mike, a bottle of wine, and stuffed pasta shells, we were on our way to Portland early Thursday morning. Friends from Santa Cruz flew in later that night and friends from Washington drove in on Friday morning.

Since we all wanted to stay together, we opted to stay in an airbnb in Vancouver, WA vs. staying directly in Portland. Our airbnb was pretty baller but with 6 people and all the money we spent on XL Lyfts, I’m not sure I would pick suburbia over downtown again.

 

After some avo toast at home base, Mike and I headed into the city to enjoy our day together. Our first stop was a gem that my manger recommended called Knot Springs. You. Guys. This place. An oasis in the outskirts.

img_20181108_121032-e1542255502904.jpg
“Ya. Basic.” (quote of the weekend)

We treated ourselves to a 2 hour “soak,” forgoing any spa treatments or workout classes that are also offered there. We were greeted with plush, trendy patterned towels and a cup of hot custom blended tea. Then we showered (required before getting in) and were given a tour of the tubs. The whole idea is to alternate between warm, hot, and cold water to revitalize your system. (There are a whole bunch of other benefits they list but I forget them!) We spent the next few hours dipping in different temperatures of water, trying our hand at some light yoga in the sauna, and enjoying the industrial views (I know that sounds like a contradiction). Not a bad way to spend a Thursday afternoon!

img_20181108_140553

img_20181108_161825

We stopped for beers and fried pickle spears at Wayfinder after. Mike is picky about his fried pickles and prefers spears to chips. So, whenever we see spears on the menu, you can bet we’re going to get them. Wayfinder had good beer and looked like a cool spot to go to in the summer but it had nothing compared to our next stop, Product Row Cafe.

mvimg_20181108_163341
cheers!

Mike and I love a good food crawl, and initially, that was our plan for the night – small noshes at multiple restaurants – until we sat on the enclosed patio at Produce Row Cafe…

The twinkle lights were dreamy. The wooden tables and wall paneling gave the place a rustic feel. The DJ playing mellow tunes set the right vibe.

…Plus, the cocktails and the company … intoxicating. 😉

00100sportrait_00100_burst20181108183155550_cover.jpg

We left full of nom food and good spirits.

The next morning we walked to a nearby coffee shop called Brewed Awakenings. I love when I find local spots that use good ingredients like this place did. I ordered a coconut milk cafe au lait and sipped it on our walk back. It was creamy dreamy and had the added bonus of keeping my hands warm while we got our steps in on the walk back. It was a chilly weekend up north!

img_20181109_090646

img_20181109_093310

Caffeinated and dressed in layers, it was time to head into the city for some sours. I love a good sour beer, and they paired perfectly with the baked brie we ordered as a snack.

We stopped at one more place (with legendary artwork in the bathroom, pictured below) for another round before walking to an event called My People’s Market that celebrated a diverse marketplace of multicultural vendors.

received_349498535819733.jpeg
those cat pix tho

At the market we sampled wine, tasted ginger cotton candy, and browsed different booths with things from T shirts with political messages to essential oil rocks.

Next we filled up on bread, fresh olive oil, pasta, soup, salad, and all good Italian things at Nostrana.

mvimg_20181109_175154

img_20181109_180101
My girls ❤

received_326575094802240.jpeg

On Saturday morning we explored the Japanese Gardens, which was as gorgeous as expected (and also had the biggest leafs I’ve ever seen). Aside from the chilly weather, it was fun to wonder around the gardens together, with plenty of pictures sprinkled throughout the adventure. 🙂

received_2169802176673649.jpeg

img_9617.jpg

img_20181110_124444

Next up it was time to warm up. …with sake and sushi (staying in theme of the day, obviously). We made our way to Bamboo Sushi and I had some of the best rolls I’ve ever had. The honey miso roll… drooling just thinking about it. Plus, what’s better than miso soup on a cold day?

We ended our day with adult slushies and karaoke at one bar (as you do) and then at dinner at Bye and Bye, a vegan restaurant that I was pretty stoked to go to. I ordered the BBQ platter that came with BBQ tofu, black-eyed peas, and collard greens. The food was good (!) but I think the atmosphere would have been better for lunch as it was pretty dark in there.

received_2196598970360001.jpeg

received_1180852462064300.jpeg

00100sportrait_00100_burst20181110191208389_cover
Love Mike here lol

One more XL Lyft ride and we were back at the airbnb ready to hit the sheets (hi, weekends with late 20/mid 30 year olds!).

We’ll all be reunited again at mine and Mike’s WEDDING! ……in 6 months… what? time is flying. …should we have adult slushies at the wedding? 🙂

SPAIN

Earlier this month, I flew out to Malaga, Spain (birthplace to Pablo Picasso) for a work trip. As to be expected, the tapas and wine were plentiful. The town squares were beautiful; complete with marble floors, palm trees, and fountains. There were castles and cathedrals to explore; new trendy stores housed in old historic buildings; sea breezes and siestas.

img_20180910_201835

3

We arrived on Sunday, after flying from San Francisco to Paris to Malaga. Our hotel was only a block from a canal that runs through the city, which made for easy navigating. After unpacking and showering, we met a few colleagues at El Mesón de Cervantes.

2018_0915_16084500

img_20180909_185533

img_20180911_141318

The restaurant was a short 10 minute walk from the hotel and rated well on trip advisor. We started with wine and olives. Something I loved about Malaga was that instead of a bread basket, you get a olive bowl to start your meal when dining out. We also ordered grilled octopus, Iberico ham, mushroom risotto, and salmon.

IMG_20180911_222517

img_20180909_192523

The company was good, the food delicious, and the wine flowing. Not a bad first night there!

…That was until I got back to my hotel.

We got back around 11pm, which was around 2pm in California. I Facetime’d my mom for a little bit before falling asleep. Sadly, I only stayed asleep for about 4 hours before waking up pretty distraught. I am prone to homesickness and being solo on this trip hit me hard.

Fortunately, I was able to chat with my mom and Mike again, since it was still early at home. Unfortunately, not being able to sleep on my first night was some cruel foreshadowing to how the rest of my week would be.

I finally fell asleep around 6:30am and, with a start time of 9:30am on Monday, felt pretty worn-down during those first meetings! Particularly because I didn’t sleep on the flights to Spain either.

Thankfully I was able to take a quick nap before dinner that night. Siestas were the real deal in Spain. Like the locals, we ate most dinners late and stayed out after for drinks a few nights. Naps in the middle of the day equaled survival.

2018_0915_16081900
The restaurant we had dinner at on Monday

On Tuesday our meetings were in a new location, which meant figuring out how to get there early in the morning with little sleep (I seriously could not fall asleep there at a decent hour). We were lucky to have the canal to help navigate the city but unfortunately, there was construction near the co-working space we had booked. A lot of Google Maps action on this trip! Eventually we made it to the location and settled in for a day of meetings.

I tried to squeeze every minute I could out of the schedule to catch some shuteye. This often meant skipping breakfast before meetings in lieu of sleeping in. In between meetings, I had a chance to step outside and grab a coffee from a cafe recommended to me by the co-working space organizer. She raved about the churros and chocolate at this place and although I really wanted to try them, I was feeling rundown. Instead I opted for a banana from a small fruit stand nearby (also stocking up on oranges for vitamin C) because I knew that was what my body really needed.

I was able to head back to the hotel midday and, on the way, grabbed a nourishing hummus bowl for lunch. Eating healthy while running on little-to-no sleep was a top priority for me.

img_20180911_141829

I caught a few Zzz’s before heading out again to explore a castle in the town. As one of my colleagues described it, the castle offered layers and layers of history; a history lasagna, if you will. I was excited to check this bad boy out but sadly, after a steep walk up to the enormous brick building, we discovered the entry fee had to be paid in Euros, and not credit card.

Wah-wah-wah…

Back down the hill it was. (We did get a few pictures at the top though so, still a semi-successful trip.) And time for (more) tapas! My friend Keely and I chatted over beers, olives, ham and melon, Spanish cheese, and spicy potatoes. The food was so good but arguably a lot before heading to a team dinner. 🙂

img_20180911_190353
The outside walls of the castle

IMG_20180911_184219 (1)

img_20180911_190349
Views of the port

On Wednesday (half way through the trip) I succumbed to my lack of sleep and skipped the morning session of meetings. Because of my role, I was lucky to have the flexibility to do this; and gratefully so, because it was the little nudge I needed to make it through the next few days. Ah, what your body and brain can do after 6 hours of sleep…!

I met up with everyone for lunch at a foodcourt in a nearby mall and let me tell you, this food court was not your standard strip-mall nosh-mill. This place was fancy. Who doesn’t love a foodcourt with some swagger?

After lunch, a few of us grabbed espressos. We were handed legit stay-here-and-sip mini shots.

“…Um, excuse me? Can we please get these to go please?”

“No. No take away. Sit, sip, and enjoy.”

Wait, wha? Such a cultural difference. This cafe actually did not have to-go cups. You were meant to stay there and enjoy your coffee, not rush off to your next meeting. Similar to when I was in New Orleans, where things just move slower, I was like, this is annoying. I was also too timid to ask for almond milk anywhere in fear of my California stripes showing… Instead I drank everything black, which I don’t normally do. All this to say, it took some grit to pound my espresso and make it back in time for the next meeting.

Having the luxury of enjoying a coffee without taking it to-go is nice in theory but, in execution, I’m more of a let’s get this java on the road kind of girl.

img_20180912_141414

That evening we went to dinner at Recyclo Bike Cafe, where – like the name suggests – there are a bunch of bikes decorating the walls. I picked this place for 2 reasons; 1. it was a 5 minute walk from our hotel and 2. I wanted to take pictures for Mike, who loves bikes.

IMG_20180912_204227

I had been eating a lot more meat than I normally do so wanted to stick to something veg for dinner. I opted for the black beans, avocado, and feta tacos. They didn’t come on a standard corn tortillas, but more of a corn bun (pic below), which turned out to be very filling.

img_20180912_211739

After dinner we walked to the port to see the ocean. I was all for getting steps and hopefully tiring myself out. We saw some cool sights; both historic and modern. Our evening ended with a stroll on the beach and then back to the hotel (for another sleepless night… boo!).

IMG_20180912_225603 (1)

MVIMG_20180912_225531

IMG_20180912_225055

IMG_20180912_232103 (1)

MVIMG_20180913_000436

Thursday was our last day before leaving on a very early flight on Friday. Not sleeping finally caught up with me and I woke up with a cough and a running nose. Plus, I woke up late which is always freakin’ stressful, let alone when you’re not feeling well.

I got ready in a flash – brushed my teeth and hair, threw something on that resembled an outfit, filled in my eyebrows – and hustled to the meeting location; walked along side the canal, detoured for construction, finally there.

Cough, cough. Tissue for a running nose. Trying not to be disruptive…

Eventually it was time for lunch. I wondered around the allies nearby and came across a cute vegan cafe. I ordered a burger and asked if they had french fries or, “chips?” (mentally wondering, is it only “chips” in the U.K. or here too?). After a fews rounds, and with the help of a nice Italian tourist who translated a bit for me, the cafe owner explained she made herself a batch of sweet potato fries that I could have a few of. She turned one in her finger and told me “just olive oil, salt, and garlic.”

A small part of me thought, this would not fly in America with our restaurant/food laws… That voice was quieted quickly. When in Rome Spain! I was walking back to the office shortly after with the best vegan burger and homemade sweet potato fries (chips?) I’ve had in a long time.

img_20180913_133542

I tried to solider through afternoon meetings but ended up leaving early. I slept for a solid 4 hours back at the hotel and woke up feeling much better. Just in time for our last dinner in Spain.

We walked down to the port again. Olives and beer to start. Fish dish after fish dish followed, tapas style. I was feeling better but not 100% and ended up eating a lot of bread instead of trying to stomach the clams.

I went back to the hotel to pack after. And, instead of trying at another failed attempt of sleeping, decided to just stay up until 5am when it was time to leave for the airport.

img_20180910_195054-effects

We flew home via New York. It was a relatively easy flight, and I was pretty excited for a full night of sleep when I got home. Despite being tired and a little homesick, Spain was a trip of a lifetime for me. Maybe one day I’ll be back!

From wine country to camping

So you know all of the times I’ve mentioned hiking Half Dome in the past few months? Well, it was a bust. Sadly, Yosemite was closed down because of fires the weekend we were supposed to go.

The group of friends we were going with made last minute reservations at Camp Nauvoo in Placerville. Mike and I decided to meet them there for the weekend but enjoy the 2 days we’d taken off in wine country.

I’ve been wanting to stay at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn for some time now and, with an already planned few days off, we booked a room. We arrived Wednesday evening, greeted with glasses of bubbles to kick things off. Then we found a cozy spot in the lobby. Generally I think hotel lobbies/bars are underrated. Mike and I love ordering a drink (and maybe a few noshes) and just hanging out in the lobby. The seating is usually plentiful and comfy; you don’t have to travel far (just a few steps from your room); and who doesn’t feel like a badass charging your final bill “to the room?”

img_20180808_211831

On Saturday morning, our biggest accomplishment was clocking some hours on our wedding website. Over coffee and tea, we wrote “our story,” listed our favorite places to visit and eat near our house, and outlined wedding logistics for our guests. A fun thing to do together and – added bonus – something off of our To Do list.

Next, we thought it was a good idea to walk into town to a local market for some picnic ingredients and then to a winery. Overall our picnic was fun but the walk there was a sweltering one.

img_20180809_142321-e1534443675666.jpg

The heat was all but forgotten once we had our snacks and wine. We were supposed to be wrapping up hiking Half Dome at that point… I’ll say vino and charcuterie aren’t bad alternative plans.

img_20180809_150247

We took a Lyft back, changed into our bathing suits, and headed right for the mineral pool at the Fairmount. My biggest complaint about this hotel was their only hot tub was in the spa area, that you had to pay to use. I was initially annoyed when I found out about this but, pleasantly, the regular mineral pool was like a bath (love it) and felt silky smooth. I didn’t miss the hot tub after all.

After a dip, we laid out and caught up on some reading, which is one of my favorite vacation activities. I dozed off for a little bit and woke up hungry. We went back to the hotel to shower and change, anticipating heading to the hotel restaurant for dinner.  Sadly the menu didn’t look that great… Instead we walked over to Cochon Volant BBQ, which is a cute hole in the wall eatery with good BBQ, cold beer, spicy sauce, and sub-pare sides.

Mike and I spilt an order of the Carolina pulled pork, coleslaw, and mac n’ cheese fritters. We ordered 2 pints and sipped slowly on the patio in-between bites. (Sad I forgot to take a picture!)

We ended the night with a game of corn hole on the hotel lawn. It was one of those perfectly warm nights that follow a dreadfully hot day.

The next morning I woke up early for a free yoga class in the gym. Rule of thumb: never pass up a free yoga class! I felt so great after spending a full hour tending to it (#YogawithAdriene) that morning. If only I could make that happen every morning…

img_20180810_075548

Not wanting to research another place to eat, we went back to the same restaurant and ordered the same breakfast as the day before. Then we went for one last dip in the pool before packing up and heading out to part II of our vacation.

Next up? Camping. We arrived at Camp Nauvoo much later than anticipated because of traffic. Most of our party was already there, fully immersed in camping. We piled our stuff in these carts the camp provides and trucked everything up a hill to camp. After pitching our tent, we caught up with a few friends there before dinner.

39023258_10106295343867230_2101590887355121664_n.jpg

Every year on this annual trip the meals are broken up between groups. The “Friday group” made Indian for dinner that worked out better than I think we all expected. We went to bed on the earlier side. I read once that sleeping outside can help reset your sleeping schedule and I think it’s true. I always sleep well camping.

I woke up early on Saturday and attempted to shower but the water was freezing. Wah! Baby wipes it was…

After a quick breakfast (and a cup of much needed coffee; one of the perks at Camp Nauvoo is their keurig) we were off on an adventure to a nearby swimming hole.

39062198_10106295345528900_1333627129690062848_o
Trying to figure our how to get down

A steep climb down a sandy hill and we were the only ones at this swimming hole oasis. The rocks were a little slippery, and the water took some getting used to, but this place was pure feel-like-a-kid-again magic.

img_20180811_152021

We splashed around, ate sandwiches, and drank rosé for about a hour before skirting our way over rocks and through waterfalls to a deeper section. There was a mossy flat rock that we all sat on and watched people from another party rope swing. Of course Mike wanted to join in on the jumping fun, which I was pretty nervous about. And since we’re getting married (!) he had to take my feelings into account… 😉

In the end, I knew if Mike felt safe doing it, he would be fine. So he jumped. And he jumped. Again and again, he climbed up there and made my heart stop for a few seconds every time. Haha

I, on the other hand, kept my booty on that moss covered rock the whole time. Over the years I’ve learned most things are more mental than physical. Physically, I knew I could jump and be fine! Mentally… I didn’t trust myself to actually let go. And that’s the last thing you need on a vacation; some chick dangling (crying) from a rope swing, stuck suspended in air because she couldn’t let go.

img_20180811_152011

img_20180811_152027

We eventually retraced our steps, climbed up the hill, and drove back to camp. We had pasta for dinner, played a few games, and slept under the stars one last time.

…Until next year (beach camping here we come)!

39040901_10106295343732500_6173944462125826048_n

Shirley Canyon Hike

In May Mike and I tried to hike the Shirley Canyon trail in Squaw Valley. We weren’t able to finish the hike because of snow at the top and a looming storm. The weekend was still fun but we made a plan to come back and conquer the trail before we are set to hike Half Dome in August.

This past weekend was the chosen one. On Saturday we left our house at 7am and drove up to Tahoe. We arrived just after 10:30am, grabbed a quick snack for fuel, and headed to the trail. It was hotter and a lot more crowded this time around. We even contemplated turning around because there were so many people at the start of the hike. Luckily, the crowds dispersed eventually… The trial has a lot of sections that you have to climb over boulders or granite slabs and I found it stressful to have people around or behind me.

In the end I’m glad we didn’t turn around but holy, this hike was hard. When we made it to the point where we turned around last time, I thought we were about 3/4 there. Sadly I was dead wrong. We were maybe halfway at that point. I swear, the Shirley Cannon trial can be alternatively named the Trail that Seemingly Never Ends. At this point, basically every person we crossed paths with had the same sentiment as us. We were all like, will we ever make it to the top?

We eventually got to Shirley Lake, a glimmer of hope and motivation! At this point, we were covered in dirt, we had reapplied sunscreen numerous times, and – while we were well hydrated – we were cutting it close to running out of water. No big deal, I thought. We are so close anyway. We’re basically there. 

Wrong again. So, so wrong.

1726fe01-8180-4f81-accd-667e2d181d09

img_20180728_132019

img_20180728_132031

About 30 minutes – a many inclines – later, we were finally at the top. Lucky for us, making it to the top of this hike means you have access to a pool, hot tub, beer, lunch, and a free tram ride back to the bottom.

Overall, our hike took longer than we thought it would. We only had about 2 hours to spend up in paradise. We ate quickly and jumped right in the pool. Ahhhh. It felt incredible to be done with the hike and just chillin’ out. We dipped in the hot tub after and then decided to catch the first tram down before the line got outrageous.

I’m not opposed to hiking Shirley Cannon again. It is a really beautiful trail, despite it being a long way to the top.  I think half of the struggle was not knowing how much time we had left though. Next time we do it, I will know what to expect; which I think will make it more manageable.

e030d814-f843-474d-8504-cd1fc4c086b5
The pool at the top!

We checked into our room at the resort around 4pm. I didn’t want to take a nap but of course, fell victim to sleepiness. I dozed off for about 45 minutes and woke up with a headache. Bummer!

We had reservations at a new Italian place on the resort grounds and I was determined not to let my headache ruin our dinner. Likely against the advice of a doctor, I ordered a glass of wine and took an ibuprofen.

Luckily my headache quickly went away. I almost never take medication so I think my body responded to it strongly and almost immediately. I was thankful to be able to enjoy the evening with Mike. Especially because our food was so good! I will never pay for anything but house-made pasta in a restaurant again! Ha.

We started with complimentary bread and olives (such a nice touch!) while we sipped our wine, enjoying the gorgeous mountain views. For an appetizer, we spilt an order of the calamari and each got a pasta dish for dinner.

img_20180728_184852

img_20180728_184947

After dinner we had a nightcap in the hotel lobby while listening to some live music. Romantic!

img_20180728_203201

Having had a long day, we went back to our room around 10pm. Mike crashed but I wasn’t ready for bed (maybe because of my nap?). Instead I indulged in a bubble bath, the rest of my wine from dinner (is that weird that I nursed the glass that long?), and a book. Not too shabby.

IMG_20180728_222224_881

Obeying our Squaw tradition, we started Sunday with coffee/tea and a hot tub sesh. After showering and packing up, we met my grandparents nearby for an early lunch. We left the Tahoe area around 1:30pm and didn’t get home until 7:30pm! There was a huge accident that added about a hour to our ETA.

We also stopped in Pleasant Hill to try Urban Plates for dinner. I follow Ashley Pitt over at A Lady Goes West and she raves about this place. I will say there is a lot to rave about. I ordered a plate of organic chicken, Brussel sprouts, and mac n’ cheese (with a side of bread included), plus a glass of a red blend for $21. It was a good way to end the weekend.

img_20180729_180131