It is finally August. I can hear a collective groan from anyone still in school or in the northern states where our summers are brief and fleeting, but I get my husband back soon y’all. I can’t wait for summer to be over this year.
I’ve been stay as busy as possible lately to help the days fly by. From weekend trips to reconnecting with good friends to a healthy mix of both. Just over a week ago for my best friend’s 25th birthday – three of us gals went to Victoria, British Columbia for an epic girl’s weekend to celebrate.
Victoria is a gorgeous, modern city at the tip of Vancouver Island with trendy restaurants, adorable shops, and a European flair. I already am hoping The Mr. would be up to revisit in the fall because there was so much I didn’t get to see in our two-and-half days there.
This city is in Canada, so make sure you have a passport.
As mentioned above, Victoria is on an island. The only way to get there is by way of water or by air. Commercial flights, sea planes, cruises, or ferries. Technically, you can “drive” if you’re willing to “drive” your vehicle on to a ferry. Coming from the Tacoma, Washington area – it made the most sense for us to take the Coho ferry line out of Port Angeles, Washington. We drove from Tacoma to Port Angeles, found a lot to park our car, and then walked on.
This was also the most inexpensive method. $18.50 one way, or $37.00 round trip.
The ferry has beer and wine, so feel free to start your weekend right once you board with a nice plastic cup of bubbly. The ferry ride takes about 90 minutes. It drops you off right in downtown Victoria at the bustling waterfront.
If you’re not using Airbnb yet, please do yourself a favor and make an account. More often than not, Airbnb saves money and gives you a more authentic experience wherever you’re travelling. Marko’s 3rd floor apartment in Victoria’s Old Town was the perfect place for our girl’s weekend.
The building and grounds of Parliament are so beautiful, it’s worth at least walking around and snapping a few photos. The three of us wanted to know more about the history, so we did the free guided tour as well. The inside of the building is stunning. Not a single ornate detail was missed in the architecture or artistry of this building. Definitely worth the 40 minute tour.
2. Check out the Empress (and indulge in high tea if you’re feeling fancy)
The Empress is one of the most beautiful hotels I’ve ever seen a part from maybe The Plaza in New York City. It also comes with a hefty price tag for both its rooms and its Afternoon Tea. We opted to not do tea here. It was $75 a person. I’m sure it’s more than worth it, but we were eating out for every meal and getting drinks all weekend so we opted to save money with a different, cheaper tea room (see below!).
3. Or save money and do High Tea at the Venus Sophia Tea Room instead
The Venus Sophia Tea Room is located in Victoria’s China Town and it was ADORABLE. We did the afternoon/high tea.
4. Check out China Town and Fan Tan Alley
So many little fun restaurants and shops in Victoria’s China Town and Fan Tan alley
5. Explore the shops along Government Street (& maybe grab a drink at a pub like Irish Times)
6. See Parliament at night
7. Take a water taxi to Fisherman’s Wharf and explore the cute water homes/restaurants
Victoria’s food scene is unreal. It has the second highest restaurants per capita in North America (after San Francisco). My recommendations are simply based off where we went. There were plenty of places we couldn’t get seats or walked by and wished we weren’t so damn full. This is in the order I was the most excited about the food and/or drinks:
The birthday girl enjoying a beer at The Drake (on the same street as our Airbnb!)
And of course, we ordered poutine as often as possible.
10/10 recommend a weekend trip to Victoria if you have any interest in food, a trendy urban waterfront city, or want a little taste of Britain. It was such a fun weekend.
Anything I’d do differently?
“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste it, to experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”
– Eleanor Roosevelt”
Until next trip,
First things first: a huge shout out to the fantastic people following along on my new Wanders & Words Facebook page. If you haven’t followed it yet, I’ll be keeping the page updated with my latest blog posts, travel or wellness articles that peek my interest, and maybe a few memes about marriage. Seriously, it made my week to see 40 people in 24 hours choose to follow along on this blogging journey of mine. Back to Laguna Beach…
Southern California is every bit as dreamy as all the TV shows and movies make it seem. I visited for the first time, and proceeded to fall in love, last October when the Mr. and I took a vacation there. We split a week between San Diego and the greater LA area. The weather hovered in the 70’s with sunshine every day we were there. Desert-like mountains lined the horizon behind both cities while stunning, sandy beaches were just a short walk from each place we stayed. I knew I’d be back.
An opportunity for a trip to Orange County came this spring when I was reconnecting with a friend from Fairbanks. She’d relocated to a city outside LA and invited me to visit. It was her suggestion to spend the long weekend in Laguna Beach.
If you plan to visit Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, or any of the areas in and around Orange County – I’d recommend flying into John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana AKA the Orange County airport. This airport is smaller, easier to navigate, and most importantly you don’t have to deal with the traffic of LAX.
I flew Alaska Airlines from Seattle and found a ticket for just over $200, only $30 or so more than the tickets to LAX.
My friend did have her car, and unfortunately for those without, I think it may have been necessary. We were able to check out a lot more beaches, explore more of the town, drive up and down Highway 1, and visit the “Top of The World” hiking area. Laguna Beach does have Uber and that may be sufficient, but you definitely can’t walk everywhere.
We stayed at a quirky little place called The Art Hotel. It was motel-style and on the northern edge of Laguna. It’s not fancy by any means, but it’s in an idyllic location and a great deal for the price. It’s on the land side of Highway 1, but crossing the street and walking a couple blocks down into the adjacent neighborhood will put you directly at Crescent Bay Beach and Crescent Bay Point Park. The hotel is about a mile from Downtown Laguna. We took an Uber to downtown and back one evening so we could drink and it was just a few dollars each way.
The hotel has parking (big plus!) and a small pool and patio. The owner was extremely helpful and provided us with a map, her favorite beaches, and food recommendations. The art around the hotel, everything from murals to paintings, was also beautiful. My friend is a graphic designer and really appreciated all the pieces.
There are hotels more centrally located to downtown Laguna or on the ocean side, but $180/night in Laguna Beach on a weekend in June was pretty hard to beat.
Let’s be honest. If you’re planning a trip to Laguna Beach, there’s a good chance it’s for the beautiful beaches. We were able to check out a handful in the three days we visited, but these three were my favorites:
Goff Island Beach | Next to the Montage
Crescent Bay Beach | Across the street from our hotel (The Art Hotel)
1000 Steps Beach | Across the street from the Laguna Beach hospital. Good luck with parking. Oi.
Btw – this is my gorgeous California-living friend, Teresa. She’s not a big fan of social media or selfies, but she puts up with me 🙂
Almost all the restaurants below were recommended by a coworker of mine. There were plenty of other places we were encouraged to try by people we met, but didn’t have the time or room. These were the highlights for me:
Besides beaching it and eating, I didn’t do a whole lot else. But here are a couple of ideas…
A good friend, beautiful beaches, fab food, and strong drinks is basically my love language when the husband is away. Plus it was affordable, especially for any folks on the West Coast. Flights from Seattle to California are so cheap, I’d visit once a month if I wasn’t constantly making other plans.
In another life, I was definitely a California beach bum…
You can find this Laguna Beach travel guide and all the travel pieces I’ve written at the travel archive by location page.
“California is always a good idea.”
After a four hour call with my husband today (deployment life, y’all), I looked at the calendar and truly realized for the first time how much of 2017 has gone by. Summer is nearly half over and fall will be upon us, especially in Washington, in no time.
Considering how angsty my last post and the last few days have been, I took a moment to remember how many AMAZING things I’ve done so far this year.
– Girl’s weekend in Austin
– Woodinville wineries for Galentine’s weekend
– President’s day weekend spent exploring Washington with a college friend
– Playa del Carmen, Mexico
– Omaha, Nebraska
– Mobile, AL & Pensacola, FL
– A handful of hikes around Washington
– Laguna Beach
– PNW Road Trip: Washington + Oregon + California
And that’s just half the year, and doesn’t even include M coming home!!! 2017, regardless of what else happens, you’ve been damn good to me.
One of my favorite parts of this year to date was my most recent trip around the Pacific Northwest with my roommate/best friend.
Funny story about how this trip came to fruition. In January of this year after The Mr. had officially deployed and I was feeling particularly lonely and discouraged, I started to plan – obsessively. Any one who knows me knows I have a strange need to constantly plan things. I plan vacations, weekends, parties, my errand schedule that evening, the next 8 years of my life, etc. It’s an illness.
Well in January, I randomly decided to plan and book campsites at two bucket list destinations of mine in the Pacific Northwest for 4th of July weekend. I booked a campsite at Crater Lake and a campsite at the Redwoods. I then proceeded to go on about 10 other trips (see above) and completely forgot I’d ever booked these until early June when I had this faint memory (and thankfully credit card receipt) of these camp sites.
I asked the roomie. The roomie was down. In a two week window I planned the camping check list and meal planned (are you seeing a theme yet?), and then we went on our way.
We left at 4:30 am on Saturday, July 1. Road tripped and camped for 4 days and 3 nights. We visited 2 national parks and 2 state parks and as you’ll see from the above map added the ONLY In-N-Out in Oregon to our route because, of course.
Pros: Basically as close as you can stay to Crater Lake. Large campground with all the amenities you could need (a general store, a restaurant, the visitor’s center, gas, etc.). Nice size sites and good ground for tent set up. Bear containers for food.
Neutral: Fellow campers are close by. I would argue this could be a pro or a con depending on your fear of wildlife and annoyance at a true “outdoor experience”.
Cons: Bear containers for food = bears. There was still a few feet of drifted snow around our campsite in July. The only campground we really had to deal with mosquitoes. Plumbing of their indoor toilers was an issue throughout the whole campground the morning we left…
Pros: This was my favorite campground. It was like a mystical, fairy forest. There are redwoods throughout the entire campground (one was at our site!) and the sunshine pouring through these massive trees rising to the heavens created the most whimsical lighting while camping. Medium sized campground with less amenities but Crescent City is 10 miles away. Great site & ground for tent. Best bathrooms + SHOWERS. On the gorgeous Smith River with an adorable rocky beach. A perfect spot to set camp as you explore the Redwoods and Northern California coastline.
Cons: Again, a bear container because there can be bear activity. Minimal bugs. A couple at a nearby campsite had zero respect for how loud they were being late into the evening or the next morning. No details necessary, but there were kids at this campsite. Like – come on.
Pros: The most private campsite we had with our own little driveway and trees hiding us from our neighbors. No bear containers. Trails from the campground directly to the dunes. It’s a very small campground and felt a lot less busy/crowded than the other two.
Cons: Very windy when we first got there, which may or may not be a theme on this part of the Oregon Coast. The ground was also a little tough drive the stakes into. We had a nice cold beer after we finally managed to set the tent up here. Toilets are outhouses and there are no sinks/mirrors/showers.
Smith Rock State Park I’ve visited before, but just love the incredible views and the uniqueness of the terrain, so had to share with my roommate. We explored this park to break up our 7 hour drive to Crater Lake the first day.
Crater Lake National Park was a dream. So much more incredible than all the photos I’ve seen of it. Coming up on the first view of the lake completely takes your breath away. It’s in the middle of nowhere and there are just a couple of one lane roads in and out of the park, so make sure you have everything you need (water, gas) and what direction you’re headed.
Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park may have been my favorite park. I wanted to pick Crater Lake due to its sheer beauty, but the Redwoods were so much less crowded and honestly, just magical. The size of the Redwoods were beyond my wildest imagination, and the effect they created in the forest below with the lighting was so incredible. Exploring the Howland Hill Road at 6pm was perfect because most of the traffic had dissipated and it felt like we were alone in this wildly unique forest. I kept saying how it felt like we were in the Lord of the Rings. I was waiting for an elf to jump out.
Siltcoos Beach in the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. I am actually not sure if this was a state or national park. I wanted to love the pretty dunes, but it was SO INSANELY WINDY. We could barely stand once we were on the other side of the dunes. The wind gusts were practically blowing us over and it must have dropped 10+ degrees. We maybe spent 5 minutes here, and I am pretty sad about that. If it works out to go again while I still live in the PNW, I’d like to redo this park. We’d also spent 3 exhausting days driving, exploring Crater Lake, the Redwoods, and the Oregon coastline. I think we were just exhausted by the time we reached this park and weren’t willing to deal with the wind.
If you use this camping list or meal plan for your own camping trip or for reference, let me know in the comments! My dream job is to plan vacations. Except it’s 2017 and we have the internet, so my dreams of being a travel agent have long since passed. But I’ll still find some personal joy if any of you find my obsessive planning of value.
Now after that mouthful of a post, I’m off to enjoy the limited sunshine the PNW has to offer this weekend.
This is the first Saturday in weeks I have nothing to do. No trips. No visitors. No excessive errand running or cleaning. I refreshed Instagram like five times before I made the decision to do something fulfilling with my new found free time – blog about my Austin trip!
In mid-January over Martin Luther King Jr. weekend my roommate, a friend from work, and I made our way to Austin, Texas for three days. We wanted a break from the rain and snow of winter in Washington, and this lively Southern city seemed like the perfect destination. We knew very little about Austin beyond it being the Live Music Capital of the World. Luckily I am about as Type-A as they come and genuinely enjoy doing lots of extensive research on trips I have planned. For an initial visit, we feel like we hit all the spots a winter weekend in Austin can offer.
We flew from Seattle (SEA) on Delta with a short layover in Salt Lake City (SLC). From Austin (AUS) we flew Alaska on a straight flight that lasted about 4 hours. Both airlines I love and always recommend.
We stayed at the The Radisson Hotel & Suites in Downtown Austin. If your priorities are location, location, location – this is the hotel for you. We didn’t rent a car for the entire trip and this hotel was a short walk or ride share from everything. The lobby, pool area, and concierge were great. The rooms are a little outdated, but the floor to ceiling windows were magical. We spent one night with ice cream propped in front of the massive windows watching a thunderstorm. Overall, a very nice hotel for our stay.
Day One: Brunch, Barton Springs, & Dirty 6th Street
We were exhausted after getting in around 1am, so let ourselves sleep in the first day. First things first on day one – a late brunch at Jacoby’s recommended by an Austin local I follow on Instagram. The dreamiest little ranch-to-table restaurant on an edgier side of town. We shared a pitcher of mimosas and I ordered the Braised Beef Benedict to get a taste of their locally sourced beef. Yes, my life was changed.
After Jacoby’s we took a RideShare Austin (Austin does not have Uber/Lyft – but this service operates essentially identically) to the Barton Springs area where I’d researched hiking and swimming opportunities. Our driver was a wealth of knowledge about the city and explained how gentrification was creating these hot spot restaurants, bars, and shopping and driving out lower income Texans who could no longer afford their rent. It honestly felt like a history lesson and I was so impressed! I haven’t had an Uber driver that kind or informative in Seattle. He also had a few great suggestions before dropping us off at the start of the Barton Greenbelt hiking trail.
The hike was a beautiful rocky trek along the river. Despite still being within the city limits, it definitely felt like we’d left the city behind. Greenery, rock formations and swimming holes lined the trail. Along with about a million dogs. Austin is such a dog friendly city. I loved it. We hiked in and out about 5 miles total, before taking a dip in the Barton Springs Pool.
The Barton Springs is an outdoor swimming pool from a natural spring that stays a consistent 68-70 degrees year round. We went on a mid-50 degree day. Feeling ambitious and cold, we hesitantly walked in and found it pretty refreshing as long as we kept moving. I’ll be honest – we didn’t last long. After about 30 minutes, we decided it was time to warm back up at our hotel.
After a quick dip in the hotel’s heated pool post-outdoor unheated spring, we got ready for a night out on Dirty Sixth Street. It’s iconic and not to be missed for a first time in Austin. The street was a short walk from our hotel and completely enamoring when we reached it. Bar after bar and restaurant after restaurant as far as you can see. Live music spilled out every door and hype guys stood outside the doors pitching the best deals. It reminded me of Bourbon Street in New Orleans without the alcoholic drinks joining the patrons out in public. Certain bars were a little tacky and I can see it not being everyone’s scene. Personally, for the live music alone, it was worth it! But of course this was a girl’s weekend and we weren’t trying to remain sober…
We started with a roof top dinner at the Iron Cactus and then proceeded to jump in and out of bars that caught our eye, my favorite of which was The Jackalope. Ah. Good times.
Pros of the night: Cheap drinks (I love Texas). Southern hospitality/kind people.
Cons of the night: A little too much to drink.
Perfect end to our first day.
Day Two: Room Service, Shopping in SoCo, & Rainey Street
Yet another slow start this morning. Due to our inability to get out of bed, we ordered room service and felt all fancy. The Radisson has some fantastic eggs, bacon, and toast on their in-room menu.
Once we were out of bed, we made our way to to the SoCo District for shopping. SoCo (South Congress street) is composed of restaurants, shopping, food trucks, and even a few music venues. Despite drizzling rain, it was 70 degrees so we walked the mile to the shopping area from our hotel. We also walked across the iconic Congress Avenue Bridge to get there. Unfortunately our ride share driver said it isn’t bat season, so we didn’t get to see the bats at all during our visit.
After our day spent shopping & eating (highlights include TOM’s Roasting CO, Uncommon Objects, & Guero’s Taco Bar), we went back to our hotel to relax before heading to dinner & drinks on Rainey Street.
A 180 from our previous night on Sixth Street, Rainey Street is a historic area of bars and restaurants – mostly created from bungalow style homes. A lot quieter than Sixth and with a slightly older crowd, it was just what we were looking for on our last night.
This was the night we decided to stay in and opted for pints of ice cream and a front seat to the thunderstorm from our hotel room. Washington doesn’t get many (if any) thunderstorms, so the lightning and thunder across the downtown sky was such a treat. A successful day two!
Day Three: BBQ, Winery, & Goodbye
Our last day in Austin wasn’t entirely spent in Austin…
We had a rental car reserved and drove out to the hills for wine and barbecue.
First up was breakfast at Forthright where I had possibly the most delicious avocado toast of my life. Then we picked up the rental car – which was a personal adult accomplishment for me! I have never rented a car and been solely responsible for driving. My only other previous rental was in California this fall and M drove the entire time. The rental went so smoothly. We had it for 4 hours and paid less than $50. No unnecessary insurance or charges. Thank you, Enterprise!
We drove from downtown Austin to the Duchman Family Winery. A gorgeous estate (we used this word a lot to describe homes/businesses in Texas because everything is so BIG) about 45 minutes from where we were staying with a fantastic tasting room and excellent wines. We did their recommended tasting and had a delicious mix of whites and reds. I was really sad I had only brought a carry-on so I couldn’t buy a bottle to bring back. We spent a long time just talking and walking around the winery and it was so nice. Rural Texas was so much more beautiful than I imagined. Hills and trees and wide open spaces.
After the winery, we were starving. We made our way to the the Salt Lick BBQ and oh my god – we were not disappointed. Smoked meats hanging around a fire greet you as you walk in and long wooden tables were filled with patrons on a Monday in the late afternoon. We could tell it’s usually a long wait to get served and we were lucky to be seated right away.
I had ribs, brisket, beans, coleslaw, and bread. I fell deeply in love with Texas in that moment.
After we were full of wine & BBQ, we drove back to Austin, dropped off the car, and headed to the airport.
Such a perfect, fun filled weekend in this charming Texan city. It was so much more artsy, up-and-coming, and fun than I had hoped. We kept saying on the plane back how we couldn’t have planned it any better. I definitely hope to visit the city again, maybe for SXSW or Austin City Limits.
Hope this is a helpful guide for anyone who plans a trip to ATX!
Yesterday morning I looked at my phone in surprise in the grocery store to find a weary sounding voicemail from my husband half a world away and right there in front of the eggs, I began to cry. Free flowing, salty tears as I hurriedly tried to finish grabbing the rest of my groceries so I could sob in my car in peace. I was even short with a confused Fred Meyer employee stocking shelves who asked if she could help with anything, and implied in both the grocery related and non-grocery related sort of way. I apologize for my shortness ma’am and wish I could tell you in person today. Missing my fourth call in a row from my deployed husband was too much to deal with at 9am on a Saturday morning.
Don’t even get me started on the state of our nation and the current administration’s executive orders filled with fear mongering and hate. I am growing weary of calling out the injustice on day nine. Before even missing his last call, or getting to the grocery store – I had seen people from countries who arrived legally in the United States being detained at airports across the nation and my heart had already been breaking.
I decided mid day yesterday after spending about two hours trying to put away groceries and make myself breakfast in between teary breakdowns and calls to my cell provider (confirming the straight-to-voicemail calls had nothing to do with me), I had to find good this weekend. I had to choose joy and goodness. The sadness of the world and in my own life was wearing me down too much.
I sought out a friend’s advice and concluded I had to step back from the news. Before doing so, I sent a donation to the ACLU and wrote both of my senators for all the humans in this world who don’t have the privilege of stepping back because their lives are so deeply affected. I then avoided Facebook and current events. I sent my husband a straight forward email so he absolutely knew I wasn’t intentionally avoiding his calls. I ate my delicious, wholesome breakfast. I prayed. I turned on Netflix to a show that removed me from reality. I took a deep breath.
A few hours later – the good part. That afternoon he called via WhatsApp using terrible wifi that went out every 30-45 seconds and repeatedly dropped our call. It was first time I had heard from him in days and he called back again and again. And again, until we were able to finish a half way decent call. We made plans to Skype the next day. I heard him laugh. For the first time in days, I felt whole.
The goodness continued today with a winter hike planned with my roommate/best friend. We drove out to the mountains and spent four hours navigating an icy death trail, laughing at our luck and lack of preparation, in awe of nature in the winter, and sharing inside jokes at the misfortune that awaited people started their hike as we returned. It wasn’t even a good hike, but it ended up being such a good time. We decided after that much tension and near death experiences, we deserved a treat. We devoured pizza and drinks*.
Upon reaching home, I received the request to video message and eagerly awaited the shared desktop computer he was using to work. It was then that I saw his handsome face, the newly grown mustache, his hair so much longer than I remembered, and the always familiar grin. Goodness. Joy. All of it. We caught up for nearly an hour as he fought sleep to talk to me just a bit longer. We talked about our current situations, the short term future, and our plans after we reunite. I asked how we were going to make it through. He said we always find a way. We said goodbye. I wasn’t sad. We would find a way.
I saw today that resistance and protests have erupted all over our nation’s airports and immigration lawyers courtesy of the ACLU are fighting for people’s rights. It’s not a solution or a reversal, but it’s a start.
From yesterday morning to now, joy felt impossible. I am not sure if it was prayer, or nature, or his laugh. My guess would be the last.
I am hesitant to share the nitty-gritty parts of deployment. The parts that feel so raw and new. I don’t want people to see me as anything but composed. The independent, stubborn wife with a full time job and her own life. But life breaks me down. The choices of our nation’s leader are breaking me and the distance from the one person in the world who can make it better just by his pure empathy or his constructive, thoughtful conversations is a world a way and can’t discuss it. I definitely do not have it the worst right now, but there are days that feel much worse than others.
Tonight I think I’ll light a candle, put on a face mask, return to that TV show not based in reality, and bask in our phone call until the next time we can talk. I’ll get back to writing my representatives, donating what I’m able, and staying informed – tomorrow.
“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”
– J.K. Rowling (The Prisoner of Azkaban)
*Yes, Pizza. Whole30 restart is tomorrow. This is actually A LOT harder than I thought it would be.
I was 13 years old when I asked my mom if I could use my babysitting money for a subscription to New York Magazine. I put my hard earned cash into those little envelopes the magazine companies would send out with a free magazine hoping to entice you to fifty others. I checked the box for New York Magazine and eagerly awaited its arrival.
The pictures and the city splashed across its glossy pages were unlike anything I had ever seen growing up in rural Minnesota. I was enamored. Urban sprawl and lights and fashion. Everything was happening in New York. I naively began researching boarding schools hoping I could find one with cheap enough tuition for the middle class white girl from Minnesota. When that didn’t work out, I set my sights on Columbia University. Reality set in my senior year when I actually had to apply to colleges and none of my applications were sent Columbia or NYU’s way.
No, it wasn’t until much later at twenty-four years old when I was Skyping my good friend who had gone to college on Long Island and I decided I was just going to make this happen. I was going to see New York City with her as my tour guide since she still worked on the Island. We booked the tickets and the lodging, planned our daily itineraries, and off I went Memorial Day Weekend of 2016.
Stepping off the subway in Manhattan the first time after riding it from where we stayed in Queens will be forever engraved in my memory. It was like the pictures of the magazine jumping off the page and surrounding me. Bryant Park where they once held fashion week, the New York Public Library from the Day After Tomorrow, Fifth avenue’s designer stores where the wealthy shopped. It was all real. As were the busy, head down, scrambling to their next destinations New Yorkers and the awe-struck, staring at the buildings scraping the heavens tourists like myself. The character of the city took my breath away. The infamous buildings and streets used in so many movies and television shows. The expansiveness of it all; from a bird’s eye view the city spread out for miles upon miles. We attempted to conquer as much of it as we could in three and a half days with 90 degrees and some serious humidity.
For lodging – we had a great experience with our Airbnb in Queens. Definitely felt safe and it was cheap. For my night alone, I opted for a hotel I’d absolutely recommend and stay in again – the Archer Hotel just south of Midtown. Fantastic customer service from all the staff. Great roof top bar. Centrally located. Very clean. Especially awesome bartenders who were friendly and chatty with the party of one Washington girl despite how busy it was.
Before sharing my itinerary, I’ll note that I hadn’t seen my friends in YEARS, so a lot of our evenings were spent at our Airbnb catching up instead of out of the town. This weekend plan could definitely take advantage of more of the night life, and it could could even squeeze in more of the tourist staples – Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, etc. But for me personally, strolling the streets and taking the city in was often more than enough.
A Long Weekend in New York City
The perfect little weekend in NYC. A weekend I am too eager to recreate again soon. I did come to terms with the fact that although the city was amazing to visit, I actually don’t regret not living there. Conversations about rent, the job market, and congestion worse than the Seattle area pretty much sealed that deal.
A lovely place to visit, but I’ll keep it that way. Hopefully again and again and again.
“One belongs to New York instantly, one belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years.”
― Tom Wolfe
I read the travel writing compilation of Don George before I left on this trip. His book, “The Way of Wanderlust” struck a yearning in my heart for places I’d never considered visiting until he wrote about them. From hiking Kilimanjaro to relaxing in the Cook Islands to exploring hidden temples in Cambodia. George’s words have a way of making one feel as if you’re right there with him, and upon snapping out of the trance, an intense urge to buy a plane ticket immediately.
Reflecting on Costa Rica, I wish I could describe this country as perfectly and poetically through the written word. Unfortunately I feel my favorite memory from the trip has to be accompanied by pictures to tell the story accurately. Maybe one day I’ll be a great travel writer, or maybe I’ll always need the pictures…
It was hot. Nine in the morning and the sun was already beating down with such ferocity I knew my cheap straw sunhat and sunscreen applied over an hour ago were doing little to protect my skin. We had also been trudging along the beach for the past fifteen minutes, so sweat had began to form at every crease of my body. I glanced up to Michael, about 10 feet in front of me, diligently marching towards our final destination, surfboard in tow. He’d insisted on grabbing it before we entered the park, so I had little sympathy for his struggle as he shifted it between arms every couple of minutes.
Looking past him, I could see the end our of trek. The Whale’s Tail in Parque Nacional Marino Bellana. At low tide Playa Hermosa and Playa Uvita, two beaches along Costa Rica’s southwestern coast, joined to form the infamous Whale’s Tail. From the moment I saw the aerial view on one of the many travel blogs I poured over prior to our trip, I knew I had to see it for myself.
I wiped my forehead and adjusted the backpack on my shoulders. Many around us were making the same trek to the end of the Whale’s Tail, but some had plopped down right on the narrow stretch of beach for a break. I envied them. They didn’t have a husband on a mission. I picked up my pace and briefly wondered how many Pina Coladas I was walking off.
After five or so minutes, the soft, wet sand began to be sprinkled with rocks and I looked up from watching my feet to see we’d reached the end. The rocky, tide-pool filled end of the whale’s tail. Michael had come to a stop and as I tried to maneuver around rocks to reach him I understood why. Our flip flops were no match for the jagged, soaked terrain. We’d planned to walk to the very end so he could surf and I could sun bathe, but there was at least 500 ft to go and no chance we’d make it unscathed.
“So much for that,” he said begrudgingly and I sighed in agreement. “Well, I saw some bigger waves back where we entered in the park. Let’s just go back there. Closer to food and drinks. Maybe you can find some shade.” I grimaced thinking of the walk back, but knew my face was already beat red. Without another word he turned around and walked away. A bubble of anger rose up in my throat. I was disappointed enough by our anti-climatic whale’s tale adventure, but his disinterest in anything but surfing was beginning to piss me off. I stubbornly contemplated sitting down right there among the tide pools to take in the turquoise ocean crashing into the black rocks of the tail’s end all by myself. I glanced back to see how far he’d made it and instead, I saw the view.
The stretch of beach that led us out to the tail had already begun to disappear back to the ocean. But each time the waves retreated, the jungle, mountains, and marshmallow clouds before me reflected in the wet sand. To describe it as simply “stunning” would be a travesty. Frozen in place and humbled by the earth, it hit me.
Walking out on the Whale’s Tail to stare at the ocean wasn’t the point. One could stare at the ocean from any position on shore. Travelers walked out on the Whale’s Tail to look back. They walk out into the ocean to see the land from a different perspective.
I stood for a few moments longer before Michael called to me. He pointed up at the mountains with a delighted expression. I smiled in spite of my annoyance just moments before. Sharing this with him, with the person I love more than any other, was so much more important than being bitter he rather surf than meditate. I jogged to catch up with him – a feat considering the sun only blazed more fiercely as we approached mid-day.
We walked in sync back to the main beach together, silently sharing our awe of this place we had the privilege of visiting. Just before we veered right to settle into our palm tree hangout, I saw it. The very point where the beaches met. The very tree from which the whale tail grew each morning and disappeared each afternoon at high tide. My head must have been down on the walk out to have missed it, so focused on the destination I’d forgotten to enjoy the journey. Or, I had simply needed a new perspective.
I snapped the picture. Michael yelled back to say he could see the perfect spot up ahead. I turned away from the edge of the world and find that weeks later, it is forever seared in my memory.
Thank you for the memories, Uvita. Pura Vida.
“Now more than ever do I realize that I will never be content with a sedentary life, that I will always be haunted by thoughts of a sun-drenched elsewhere.”
I am probably in the minority when I say I did not visit a foreign country until I was 23 years old, and my first was Canada. A lovely, diverse country I’m sure but fairly anti-climatic when in search of experiencing a new culture. I grew up in Minnesota after all. We both hold our vowels equally long and wear parkas 9 months of the year.
Costa Rica was my first true foreign experience.
– Hardly anyone spoke English. M thankfully speaks Spanish pretty well and was able to act as a translator for us, but I wish I’d brushed up a bit as I was hopeless.
– Driving was unlike anything I’d ever seen, with cars and motorcycles weaving in and out of traffic with little regard for the bicyclists and walkers on the sides. Speed limit signs seemed to be a suggestion and it appeared to be a game of how close you could get to the on coming traffic when trying to pass. I was more scared while riding in our shuttle from Uvita to San Jose than I was at any other point in the trip (even when walking through an area notorious for poisonous snakes).
– They don’t automatically serve water with your meals and nearly every server acted confused when we asked for “agua” with our alcoholic beverages.
– Despite Costa Rica being the third world* we saw just as much wealth and “middle class” homes as we did shanty tin roof set ups. I admit we only saw the Puntarenas, San Jose, and Arenal areas but there was less poverty that I’d imagined.
– Tipping isn’t the norm, so the few people we chose to tip practically hugged us with gratitude.
– “Browsing” a store does not happen in Costa Rica. Every store we visited had personal shoppers that asked you what you needed and sought to help you find it quickly. If we would politely decline their help, the person would proceed to follow us around the store and if we quietly spoke to each other about something like a hat – our friend would pipe it in with the price or that they had it in another color. I had a feeling this has more to do with theft then anything…
– Everyone seemed #BLESSED to live there. We didn’t run into one cranky Costa Rican. The guides, drivers, and hosts we asked about living there spoke of Costa Rica as if it was the best place in the world. They had no intention of leaving and seemed humbled to call it home. The beauty of the country and the positivity of its citizens makes it easy to see why Costa Rica is the happiest country in the world.
*I feel it’s important to comment on referring to Costa Rica as the third world. I was aware before I went that it was a less developed country, but I actually didn’t do significant research on how developed it was or wasn’t until after I returned. Costa Rica has a growing economy, a great healthcare system, clean water, the lowest homicide rate of any other Latin American country, and a successful democratic republic government. But, it also has one of the highest poverty levels in the world and has a lot of work to do with infrastructure. Calling it the “third world” still seems outdated and inaccurate. It’s a less developed country, but its economy is growing and tourism helps.
It was difficult driving by tin roof establishments that span a city block to arrive at our luxurious hotel situated on a cliff side overlooking the ocean. But that hotel employed ALL native Costa Ricans from the hosts, servers, cooks, masseuses, maids, grounds keepers, etc. Just as we try to buy and eat local in the United States, we did the same while in Uvita. Everything I read online predicted the country thriving in years to come.
Overall, for my first taste of culture shock I am humbled and thankful I got to experience it in this beautiful, joyous country. Below you’ll find a few moments I captured on camera when I realized I wasn’t in Kansas anymore…
Costa Rica Pt. 3 will be all the pretty views. I promise.
“Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow.”
― Anita Desai
Til next time,
Paradise is a place on earth. I found it here.
Uvita, Puntarenas, Costa Rica.
We had talked and talked about taking our honeymoon for years. Before we were even married, I fantasized about the dreamy, tropical vacation I wanted to take with the mister. Unfortunately finances and the reality of starting a life together set in after we said “I do”. Living in Alaska, establishing my career, and making sure we had enough plates to eat off of trumped a plane ticket to the Carribean. Making our honeymoon a reality was put on pause.
After the first year, we thought maybe we could squeeze it in. I had earned vacation time. We had all necessary furniture. We’d even saved a bit of money. But plane tickets from Alaska were a nightmare and the impending move we’d have to make within the following year kept creeping up on us as we put it off. Once we knew we had a giant move to Washington to save for and the potential unemployment I’d be facing, it was put on hold our second year of marriage as well.
Then we moved. I found a job within 6 weeks. We made overdue trips to see respective families. We saved a bit more. We looked up destinations with the airline we could get the best discount with (Alaska Airlines is everything and I will rave about them until the end of time), and we found Costa Rica.
A Central American country tucked farther south than the Carribean with limitless adventure. The Mr. isn’t a fan of lying on a beach and tanning for a week straight. He likes to do things. And frankly, I do now too. We did research. I mapped it out and planned our time and activities. We booked the tickets. We booked the hotels. We made it happen.
It seems silly, right? Everyone takes a honeymoon. But we were kids when we got married. 21 and 20 years old. People our age who get married drive 2 hours to cabin in the woods for a weekend, but we knew we wanted to do this right. We worked our asses off to save for this trip. We saved so much that we have leftovers for our next adventure.
Travel is pointless to some people. It’s trivial to others who do it often. But travel is everything to me. It invigorates me. It brings me joy beyond measure. We made this happen. We took our “belated honeymoon”. A 3 year anniversary gift. A tropical vacation. Whatever you want to call it.
My favorite moment was the first morning we arrived. Drinking Costa Rican coffee on the deck of our villa overlooking the jungle and ocean. It was barely 7 am. The sound of waves crashing against the beach was audible from where we sat and the sound of jungle around us was alive and brimming with birds and animals alike. In my fraying college t-shirt and shorts, sunscreen already freshly applied I turned to Michael and said, “We’re here. We made this happen.”
He grabbed my hand, gave it squeeze, and smiled. “We did.”
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”
― Augustine of Hippo
I’m a bit behind with travel posts (and every other type of post) but in an effort to catch up I’m sharing our trip to New Orleans and Mobile, Alabama today. In case you’re interested in where else I went in 2015, feel free to check out this slightly incomplete list:
My husband’s family is from Mobile, Alabama. It had been about two years since we ventured down to the deep south and we figured Christmas was as perfect a time as any since both of us were holding steady jobs and flights were quite reasonable from Washington. PLUS after an incredibly rainy start to the Washington winter, we were stoked for warm weather and sunshine.
Naturally it rained the entire week.
But on the plus side, it was in the 70’s most of the time!
The week was filled with lots of family and food (& libations). My favorite combination. As much as I want to travel the world, I do adore family. My family. His family. It’s always fun to be with family [for a regulated amount of time].
We flew into NOLA and we were able to convince my in-laws to spend one night with us hitting up Bourbon Street. I loved it. The energy of the city on a random Saturday in December was unlike anything I’d ever seen. We had delicious Cajun food and fun drinks New Orleans is known for (Daiquiris for days!). It was a bummer we didn’t have more time in this Southern city as I would have loved to experience more of the city’s history beyond the infamous French Quarter. Luckily, we’ll probably find ourselves in New Orleans again.
Probably my favorite photo/find of our night in New Orleans was this cheeky lady.
We gave her $6, just in case.
Overall, I had an incredible night. I don’t think anyone comes away from this city disappointed. New Orleans lives up to all the hype and more. The little gem of a photo below was snapped by my sister-in-law as we finished up bar hopping at our hotel’s bar.
The sunglasses I was forced to wear like I was Cyclops along with my inability to eat basically anything the following day was 100% worth it.
Stop shaking your head mom & dad.
After about 20 hours in NOLA, we road tripped over to Mobile, Alabama. Cute nephews, warm weather, and Christmas celebrations took up the next few days!
And food. So. Much. Good. Food.
My husband’s dad and brother organized an AMAZING crawfish boil. Crab, shrimp, corn on the cob, potatoes, and crawdads! I literally didn’t eat one potato or corn cob because I wanted to make room for all the shellfish…
Of course we also made a pit stop at Raising Cane’s for lunch one day because when in
Rome the Gulf Coast.
After 8 days, we were ready to get back to our chilly Washington and “us” time. That’s my favorite part about visiting family. No – not leaving. The feeling where you are content from your time spent together, and simultaneously ready to return to your own life.
Although I am still missing this view…
Thankful for a bonus family I enjoy and who allow us to have somewhere unique and warm to visit.
“Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city.”
― George Burns
Have a happy Tuesday, friends!