Reaching toward all points of the compass in search of adventure
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First Impressions – Paris

Have you ever had one of those trips that you’d planned for so long that, once it was actually upon you, you were totally incredulous that is was even happening? Sort of like a dream – you’ll wake up and still have a week till you leave. This was going to be that trip for me, I could feel it. Paris was just a myth.

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My husband Ben and I were celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary (a year and a half late). He had always spoken about how he would love to take me to Paris some day and share the places he loved from his time there in his early 20’s. I had never been to the City of Light. This is where we decided to celebrate ourselves and the 2018 winter holidays. We gave ourselves 11 months for planning. I don’t know about you, but I can stay excited about a trip for much longer than that. Ben, however, was not excited until about a month out. This made the planning for me a bit tedious. What did I do to combat this humdrum mood of his? I just let him be and planned this one 90% on my own. He was so busy with work and I wanted to keep up my mood and my momentum.

It really is a lot of pressure to plan a trip exactly how you want it and know that another person is depending on you to plan something they will love too. But I promise you, it is possible! It’s like baking a cake – do it with LOVE (cliche, I know). Since this was an anniversary trip I got to plan with the accomplishment of 10 (11.5) years of marriage in my mind. And since it was Paris, there was really very little I could get wrong. But 11 months is a long time to research, book, cancel, re-book, and second guess yourself.  That’s okay. Plan with your love of whatever is prompting you to travel and everything will fall into place (and whatever doesn’t, it was not your fault).

The trip solidified into a night in Paris by the Eiffel Tower, eight days on a boutique river cruise along the Seine, five more nights in Paris, taking us from December 19th to New Year’s Day. What a magical holiday it was going to be.

San Jose to Heathrow; Heathrow to Charles de Gaulle. I highly recommend British Airways. Both flights were very comfortable, even in economy. Plenty of legroom, very attendant staff, and even tinted windows. I also could not get enough of Heathrow Airport in London! It’s not the easiest to navigate, but they sure know how to catch your eye and your wallet while you wander around in search of your gate. Just make sure you have a nice long layover.

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Us joking about how I sometimes get sick on planes

Once we landed in Paris, we took the Metro into the city center. It was fast and easy. Until we got off at the wrong stop. After seeing that the escalators back down to the rails were not working, I vowed to not carry my luggage back down by hand. No worries, Uber can save the day in Paris! It also turned out to be a great way to see the city and take in a few sights. Our driver’s name was Ben, same as my husband, and he was happy to point our all for the sights and answer my litany of excited questions as I caught my first views of Paris from his backseat. The first thing I saw when we got off the train was Notre Dame Cathedral. I just about peed my pants!

20181219_192930In the Uber, we saw the Louvre across the river, the Musee d’Orsay, and the Grand Palais. But I was totally unprepared to see the Eiffel Tower out of the window. I mean, I knew it was going to be there, but it still took me by surprise. Bright and tall and demanding your attention.

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Just a few short blocks from the tower, we were dropped off at our accommodations for the night. We were staying at the Hotel Eiffel Seine. Decorated with Gustav Klimt prints and a classic Art Nouveau style, the hotel welcomed us warmly. They even have a resident cat that lounges in their lobby. Our room had a view of the Seine river and a busy street corner featuring public art works and people selling tiny miniatures of the Eiffel Tower for your desk or your keychain. The room was small in a European way, but very comfortable. There was a French balcony that I hung out of to greet the city I’d been waiting so long to get to. Cherry on top of this hotel, you ask? Free European breakfast when you book through them! They have, by far, THE BEST orange juice I have ever had in life. I am not exaggerating; I don’t even like juice very much and this OJ was beyond delicious.

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Lobby of the Hotel Eiffel Seine
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Balcony view

The night was young so we asked the concierge for a dinner recommendation in the area. He sent us to an off the main drag locals’ haunt – Comptoir Principal. Our first Parisian cafe experience. I tested out the little bit of French that I know and failed miserably. Our server didn’t speak much English, but we stumbled along together. I have a gluten intolerance that makes dining a challenge for me, especially in places where I can’t exactly read the menu. If you have a food allergy, be sure to learn whatever phrases you need to know to order smartly in whatever country you’re visiting. In France you can say “Je suis sans gluten.” This means “I am gluten free.” At this, I must take my own advice. The dish I ordered seemed like a safe bet, alas, it was not. Ben ate a fair portion of my meal. Nonetheless, our meal was very tasty.

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Comptoir Principal

We went for an after dinner stroll around the most famous landmark in the city so we could get an up-close look. The Eiffel Tower was just a few blocks away and the night air was calling.

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Made for the 1889 World’s Fair, the tower was designed by Gustav Eiffel. He also designed the interior support structure for the Statue of Liberty. What a guy! The Eiffel Tower has become the quintessential symbol of Paris, drawing visitors from around the globe to ascend its 324 meters. And though I’m happy to climb to great heights for a view, the view I would have been looking for would have been the structure I was in. I was content to look up from below at the amazing sight that had been criticized so harshly at the time of its construction. It it truly spectacular. Bonus? She’ll sparkle for you if you ask real nice.

 

We were off to an amazing start.

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Iceland – Part 1

So when you look at Iceland on a flat map it doesn’t look that far north or anything. But when you look at Iceland on a globe, it’s more like “damn, that is like the Arctic Circle!” In fact, just two longitudinal degrees short of the Arctic Circle in the capital of Reykjavik. I had the chance to visit this northern island with more livestock inhabitants than people, and I obviously was not going to pass it up.

I flew into Keflavik Airport on the red-eye and waited around for my co-adventurer, Kara (AKA Bae, bestie, wifey, giiiirrrrrll), to fly in from Dublin. I was feeling super intimidated to make my way solo into Reykjavik so I thought to myself, “three hours at the airport isn’t that long.” And if you’ve ever been to Iceland, I already know I should have gone to the Blue Lagoon for an after flight soak; this was my one bit of wasted time in my eight days in country, and after three flights I was bone tired. However I totally should have gone because while I was ordering a little nosh from a coffee counter, someone stole my jacket! At no point on this adventure did I feel unsafe, but a word to the wise: airports are not always full of welcoming locals, sometimes they are full of shifty thieves from who knows where; watch your things. I’ve never started a trip in a deficit like that, so I had to reach deep for some optimism and hope whomever is wearing my jacket actually really needed it (though I doubt it, and I hope they get out of the universe what they put into it).

Moving on, Kara landed, we screamed like little girls and got a car into the city. We spent the evening walking around Reykjavik, going into shops and eating traditional fish soup at Islenski Barinn which I highly recommend for the soup and sweet potato fries.

This is the picture I took of Bae sending a pic of me to her mom so that I could send this one to my mom.

So, after getting an evening of bestie catch up time, Kara went to work all week and I was on my own in a wild land as far north as I’ll probably ever get in my life. What to do?

Day One: The Golden Circle Tour

The Golden Circle is like Iceland Tourism 101. If you’ve never been to Iceland and you’re based in Reykjavik and you don’t have a car, reserve a seat with one of the myriad of companies that does a tour picking you up from your hotel. I chose East West Concept Tours and was SO happy with the experience! It is a smaller company that only does tours of 16 people or less. I was on a tour of four people with Ivar as our driver and it was amazing. We got so much personal attention with our questions and even got to make a few extra secret stops because we were such a small group. Small group tours are also a great way to make new friends when you‘re travelling solo (hey, Jason!). Here’s my Golden Circle hitlist:

  • Collecting ice cold glacial waters direct from a spring at some secret spot Ivar stopped at. When people ask what the best thing to eat in Iceland is, I say the water!
  • Þingvellir National Park – the site of Iceland’s first parliament and the rift between the North American and European continental plates.

  • Efstidalur Farm – a dairy farm that has a restaurant and an AMAZING icecream shop. And you can even visit with the baby cows!!! Needless to say, I ate the ice cream.
  • Geysir Hot Spring Area – so this is where the geysir is that the word geysir came from. This is a very active geothermic area with bubbling pools all over and an erupting geysir to boot.
  • My first visit with Icelandic horses – a hardy breed of little horse, they were brought to the island by Norsemen in the 9th century. Now Iceland has laws so that no other horse breeds can come into the country, so when in Iceland, every horse you see is a pure bred Icelandic horse.
  • Gulfoss Waterfall – a very dramatic stepped waterfall dropping through a canyon cut by the Hvítá River.
  • Faxafoss Waterfall – a serene setting with a wide waterfall that you might even see salmon running in.
  • Friðheimar Tomato Farm – acres of greenhouses growing tomatoes just below the Arctic Circle where tomatoes should not grow; really a feat of engineering defying nature. After a long day of sightseeing it was lovely to sit down in their restaurant over a hot bowl of fresh tomato soup and a bloody mary made with green tomatoes. They have tons of fresh baked breads to go with your soup and they even had gluten free bread for me!

I finished off day one with an evening walk and dinner in Reykjavik with Kara. Highlight though? That had to be the INCREDIBLE sunset we got to watch at 11PM. Being so far north you get something like 20 hours of sun in the summertime in Iceland. Getting to watch the sun go down an hour before midnight was the perfect end to a great day in Iceland.

Stay tuned for Iceland Part II!

A Country within a Country – Vatican City

Forty four hectares; 1,000 people; an Egyptian obelisk dating back to 30BC; a basilica with a Constantinian frame dating back to 329; a chapel adorned with frescoes by Michelangelo; an independent city state since 1929 – the smallest in the world – under the jurisdiction of the Holy See, led by the Pope; the seat of the Catholic Church. Amazing that someplace so very small could become larger than life in it’s meaning with all of these attributes. Welcome to Vatican City.

First things first, people, when you visit The Vatican: cover up those shoulders and knees, ’cause RESPECT. Though I’m totally sure that if Jesus or the Pope were there they’d just invite you in as Godly hospitality turns no one away who wants to be there. This dress code is actually a basic rule for the majority of Catholic facilities in Italy, though this was the only place I saw it enforced, and even then, it was by a tour guide and they helped the person find some things to cover up with. I myself came dressed to meet Pope Francis, which I will tell you, I did not. However, I did see an abundance of really glorious things in the largest church in the world.

When you tour Vatican City you see the majority of the cultural and historical sites of a entire country, albeit very tiny, in just a few short hours. There are the Apostolic Palaces, St. Peter’s Basilica and Square, the Sistine Chapel, Vatican Museums, and everything else the small population needs to make a country run – even its own post office!

I highly recommend paying the little bit of extra money for a guided tour that let’s you skip the line and go in with your tour guide at your designated time. Mom and I spoke to some people who were in line for three plus hours!! And you learn so much more by taking a guided tour; it is well worth it. Our tour first took us through the gorgeous Vatican Museums, which had so much more to see than just paintings of cherubs, nativities and crucifixions. There were incredibly intricate tapestries, frescoes, and even modern art by artists including Dali and Picasso.

This is a tapestry, y’all!!!

I had two favorite parts of the Museum Galleries. The first was the Gallery of Maps.  The walls of this great hall are frescoed with 40 maps of the different regions of Italy that were mapped out at the time of Pope Gregory XIII (1572-85) and were drawn by the geographer Ignazio Danti. The maps line the hall from the floor up to the ornate arched ceiling. It is walls of blue and green and gold, and displays the genius of the scientists and artists of the time.

My other favorite part was seeing Raphael’s Rooms. Pope Julius II (1503-1513) had his papal quarters painted by the Renaissance master Rapheal between the years of 1508 until his death in 1520. One of my most favorite paintings is frescoed here in one of these rooms. The School of Athens depicts ancient philosophers demonstrating their expertise and knowledge, to include Plato, Aristotle, and many more, even Raphael himself.

 Rapheal’s School of AthensThe Fire in the Borgo -School of Raphael

We moved on to St. Peter’s Basilica. Completed in 1612 after over 150 years of reconstruction, the church is the largest in the world and sits perched at the top of St. Pete’s Square, surrounded by a marble colonnade designed by the great Italian sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Inside the Basilica is all marble and gold and glory, like the heavens opened up and did their own interior design. The baldacchino, also by Bernini, is said to sit above of the tomb of St. Peter himself and devotees make pilgrimages to the basilica all the time.  Along with this spiritual site, people travel from far and wide to also see Michelangelo‘s masterpiece Pieta sculpture, completed in 1499.

Michelangelo’s Pieta

Mom at the Holy water font

On from there, we visited the Sistine Chapel, whose ceiling and alter wall are covered in frescoes by Michelangelo depicting Biblical themes such as the Creation of Adam and the Last Judgement. Alas, the Vatican does not allow photos in the Chapel. You just have to be in the space and appreciate it for what it is – a great Renaissance masterpiece.

Of course after such an amazing and meaningful time, mom and I had to refresh ourselves with some gelato. A guide steered us to a shop called Gelateria Old Bridge that serves huge portions to nuns. I think they were kind enough to serve us nun sized portions as well.

Click through the gallery below for more pictures from our day at the Vatican!

Roman Oldies

So, here’s what’s crazy: oversleeping in Sorrento, sprinting to a the train that gets you to another train, having way too many bags to manage, ubering in Rome (not for the faint of heart or non Italian speakers), checking into a hotel that is really just one floor of an apartment building (it was super, btw, more later), riding the Rome subway and not getting lost… All of these things were crazy, and they all happened by lunchtime. The one that really got me though, was the fact that after you get out of the subway station you are literally across the street from the COLLOSEUM! Serisoulsy, you walk outside and it’s just right there! In your face. I wasn’t ready; on the contrary, I was shook.

So mom and I had booked a guided tour of the Colosseo, Foro Romano and the Palatine Hill for our first afternoon in Roma. The frantic morning of travel had left us little time to think about our expectations of these antiquities. Construction of the Colosseo began in 72CE under the Emperor Vespasian. The elliptical Flavian Amphitheater was built over the site of emperor Nero’s manmade lake east of the Palantine Hill, part of his Domus Aurea or Golden House. Nero was rather tyranical, he was extravagant and over taxed the popolo, had people murdered, and also (maybe) did nothing while Rome burned to the ground over six days in 64CE. So when Vespasian came into power, got rid off all the badness that was Nero, and built the Colosseo on top of his old pool to host and entertain tens of thousands of Romans. Blows your mind, right?

So for the rest of the day, Mom and I got to explore these amazingly ancient places that’d we’d only read about in history books. We strolled ancient Roman roads; stood where gladiators stood; saw the site where Julius Caesar was stabbed; walked around ancient temples dedicated to gods and godesses and love; explored the ruins of an emperor’s palace. What a great day. It was also a very hot day. Also, Colin Kaepernick was touring the Forum that day too! #AmericanHero #ibethewasthereforme #daaaaammmnnnn #bodygaurddidhisjob.

Here are just a few of the interesting facts I learned about the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill that day.

  • The Colosseum was built in under a decade on the site of an actual lake. It could also hold upwards of 80,000 people!
  • These ancient structures were damaged mostly by earthquakes and the plundering of marble in the Dark Ages.
  • There are a ton of connections between the Colosseum and the Catholic church.
  • There were a countless number of fights between gladiators and exotic animals, such as bears and elephants.
  • Gladiators weren’t super cut guys – they were kinda chubby because the padding was helpful in case they got stabbed. Precious vital organs and all. Makes sense.
  • The fights between the gladiators were more staged than anything – no one wants to invest years of training and money into a fighter and then just have him die in the ring. It was more like pro-wrestling!
  • The Forum was the center of the city for ancient Rome, political and economic.
  • The ashes of Julius Caesar are interred in the Forum!
  • Most of the important political leaders in Rome built their homes on Palatine Hill, including Augustus, first emperor of the Roman Empire.
  • Everything is made of marble…more marble than you can ever imaging in one place.
  • It’s where Kaep likes to hang out and get historical.

By the end of our first day in Roma we were completely exhausted and our minds were saturated with so much information. We hadn’t learned that much in like two days! All of it was so much more than we anticipated and it was so completely amazing.

We made our way back across the River Tiber to our hotel on the Vatican side of town. We stayed in great accommodations called Colonna Luxury Suites, run by my favorite man in Rome, Franco – so helpful, so kind, and the rooms were really clean and quiet and perfect, and right up the street from a subway stop and VATICAN CITY. And there was even breakfast included, and great gelato right out the door. For dinner, we went full Roma and had so much pasta and anchovies and wine. I highly recommend the spaghetti carbonara at Trattoria Ai Villini, a very homey local feeling place where Michela Mancinelli will make you feel like family. It was a fantastic start to a Roman Holiday.

Click through the gallery below for more photos from our first day in Rome!

 

Andiamo in Italia!

Wow, what a whirlwind the last four days have been! I can’t believe that it has ONLY been four days!! Italy is amazing. I am in love. It’s a good thing I left Calvin at home or else I might never come back. This is an incredible country and I’ve only seen a little bit of it.

I’ll do individual posts for the things my mom and I have been up to in a few days (it’s after 2am and I really want to get some shut eye), but here’s a quick overview:

We had the most challenging travel day ever – a trans-Atlantic flight, a tube train, a regional train, a commuter train, finished off with about a mile of walking all of our luggage along cobblestone streets – to get to Sorrento. Totally worth it the time, sweat and bruises. We have been staying Sorrento since Thursday and we couldn’t have asked for a better landing pad. It was so easy to jump on a train, boat or bus to every other stop on our list for the area.This seaport town is super lively with beautiful views, friendly locals, walkable streets, tons of restaurants, and more gelato shops than there are Starbucks in NYC. So. Much. Gelato.

Arrival day gave us the afternoon and evening to wander around Sorrento and settle in. Some much needed downtime. And gelato.

Day two we took the ferry to Capri, a posh little island off the coast. Lots of limoncello was consumed. We also walked along a path built by the ancient Greeks!! The views were incredible, and so was the gelato.

Day three brought us to Naples. What can I say about Napoli? This ancient city gave me life!! I promise to write a nice long post about it and everything we were blessed enough to see. BIG shout to to my uncle, Steve Henry, for making the most amazing day happen! We visited churches, Roman baths, funerary chapels, saw The Veiled Christ (ohmygosh!!), ate the best pizza, spent the afternoon walking the ruins of Pompeii, and did it all while learning so very much from our own docent/critic/story teller, Diana Gianquitto. The day was perfect. And also, we had gelato after dinner.

After such a crazy day three, we took day four to relax. We hopped on the bus over the mountains to the town of Positano on the Amalfi coast. It’s an upscale beach town with narrow winding pedestrian streets, tons of shops, tons of boats, houses and buildings built into the cliff sides, and really good gelato.

Also, tonight, there was a football match between Napoli and Juventus. Napoli won and the whole town of Sorrento has been going nuts in celebration! And by that I mean riding around on their scooters and honking their horns. It is wholesome and joyous and total perfection.

This is our last night in the town of Sorrento and I’m actually really sad to leave. We couldn’t have asked for a better first leg of our mother-daughter journey. But we’ve got to pack up and be on our way, because tomorrow WE ROME.

Spring Break 2018: Part 3, Sedona, AZ

The third leg of spring break meant some much needed R&R for me and Ben in Sedona, AZ.

Sedona is just one gorgeous red rock and limestone formation after another. Maybe it’s the vortexes and energy of the area, but I just feel so at home here. I like to think that every creature that calls the desert home must be so very strong. It takes a lot to live in the desert and actually thrive in it. That’s part of why I love it so much.

We hiked Brin’s Mesa to Soldier’s Pass on a perfect day, just stretching our legs after Havasu. Had a soak in the hot tub. Drank too many margaritas at Elote. It was my definition of relaxation.

 Sedona is one of my favorite places EVER. I completely plan on retiring here as soon as financially possible.

Spring Break 2018: Part 2, Havasu Falls

The second leg of spring break took Ben and me on an epic hiking adventure to Havasu Falls.

This is seriously a bucket list kind of thing to do. The hike is ten miles into the Hualapai Canyon with a 2,000 foot drop in elevation. BTW, the challenge is not getting in, it’s obviously getting out. I love hiking, it’s one of the activities that makes me feel like my best self, so I was really excited for the physical challenge. Also, this was a rehab milestone for me. I had pretty serious surgery on my ankle last summer and was completely off my feet, non weight baring, for three months and then in physical therapy for months afterwards. I was only about a month and a half out of PT when we did this trip! It was a huge accomplishment for me and I am so proud of myself!

Hualapai Canyon leads to the village of Supai, belonging to the Havasupai Tribe. It is a gorgeous part of the country where you have to be dedicated to the land as any resources not coming from it must be brought down the canyon by mule train.

Once you get past the village, you’re onto the waterfalls. The falls here are an amazing clear blue. They get their color from the reflective limestone at the bottom of the creek beds. It is mesmerizing to say the least. The first falls you past are Little Havasu Falls, then Havasu Falls, then on to Mooney followed by Beaver. We only had one night in the canyon, so we didn’t make it to Beaver Falls. That extra hike will have to wait for next time, and hopefully we’ll make it all the way to the Colorado river. 

The hike down to Mooney Falls is totally precarious. I told Ben I was going to write a book about it titled How to Die a Horrible Death. I was miraculously less scared than he was as I had just recently had a snack and was grateful to not face my demise on an empty stomach. The ladder and chain system is slippery and old and definitely not for the faint of heart. It was totally worth facing the fear. What a payoff!

The campgrounds don’t have designated sites, so it’s catch as catch can with finding a good spot, and it can get very crowded. We picked a nice spot closer to Mooney Falls next to the creek. Full disclosure, I only camp if I can’t get back to indoor plumbing and a bed after a long hike. I don’t complain or anything, I just scream if I find any kind of bug in the tent. Ben works hard to treat me like a queen when we camp in order to get me to continue camping with him. I’m lucky.

We spent our morning relaxing by Havasu Falls and making new friends. The water was even warm enough to get into and wade or swim. And if you get there early enough you can beat the crowds and have a peaceful time before everyone starts their days of water play.

The hike out took about five hours, but we took our time enjoying the desert landscape of the canyon. The hike really was my favorite part. And when we finished I felt SO GOOD!!! #startedfromthebottomnowwehere #nothingcanstopmeimallthewayup. This was a great adventure!

Spring Break 2018: Part 1, Grand Canyon

Spring break in Arizona….I need to split this post up. Here is part one.

Ben and I accidentally left for spring break a day early!!! Silly us, thinking we had an extra day. So the plan was to drive from Monterey, CA to Seligman, AZ and stay a night along historic Route 66, get up super early, make the drive to the Havasupai trailhead, hike down the canyon, camp, hike up, make our way to Sedona for some R&R. So what do we do with the extra day? Stay home? Absolutely not. We got in the truck and decided we’d figure it out along the way. Lucky for us, we got to stay in Seligman for an extra night, taste some local flavor, chat with kind people, and spend the next day walking the South rim of the Grand Canyon to warm up for the next day’s hike.

I had never been to the South rim of the Grand Canyon, only the North rim (which I prefer). Either way, if you every have the opportunity to get to the bottom and visit Phantom Ranch, please do so, it’ll change your life. Evenso, the views from the South rim are absolutely spectacular. Also, there is a lot of geological information to learn as you walk the rim trail. So we had a nice leisurely afternoon just enjoying the views and each other’s company in one of our favorite places.

 

Seattle for the Win-ter

At the end of February I got to join my bestie, Kara, on a trip to Seattle. I had never been to Seattle, so I was excited to try someplace new. I had my days to myself and no car, so I did a ton of walking. We stayed at the Motif Seattle which is in a very nice location for shopping and Pike Place Market and the Seattle Art Museum. It was a cold visit, so I was grateful for the physical activity to warm me up while I was out and about.

Day one took my to the Capitol Hill neighborhood for some coffee and shopping. My favorite shop in the neighborhood was Glasswing. Very cool and easy fashion, interesting jewelry and succulent plants all over the place. I spent a solid hour in the little shop. And of course, when in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, I had to stop by the Starbucks Reserve Roastery. Honestly, I’m not much of a coffee drinker, but I went here three times, it was that good.

Day two took me sightseeing around town to classic Seattle attractions. I visited the Olympic Sculpture Park, which has pieces by artists like Richard Serra and Alexander Calder. It was an amazing place to wander.

Quite possibly my favorite attraction in Seattle was the Chihuly Garden and Glass. It was GORGEOUS. I have seen a lot of Chihuly, having lived in Saint Louis and Las Vegas, but this was the best Chihuly exhibit I have ever seen. There was so much, and it was so colorful and beautiful and amazing.

The Museum of Pop Culture was also a good time. Totally awesome architecture leading to room after room of pop culture, from movies to music to tv. There was an amazing exhibit of photos of David Bowie and an extensive Jim Henson retrospective exhibit when I visited. Worked for me, I can watch Labyrinth all day long.

Day three was a visit to the Pike Place Market with my girl PJ who moved to Seattle a few years ago. Best part of it was catching up with an old friend. I did see them throw the fish though.

THE BEST thing I did in Seattle was to visit the Seattle Art Museum with Kara on our last morning in the city. They had an incredible exhibition titled Figuring History, featuring artists Robert Colescott, Kerry James Marshall and Michalene Thomas. It was three different perspectives about the Black experience in America and how we tell our own history. Truly inspiring and honest. If you ever get the chance to see this exhibit as it travels DO NOT MISS IT.

And for a great art experience that’s free, head to the Frye Art Museum. They have a salon room that is totally peaceful if you catch it at the right time. You can just sit and stare at paintings for hours.

Lastly, when in Seattle, please visit Salt & Straw and eat lots and lots of ice cream. It will make your life better.

Kicking the Year off in San Francisco

Sometimes the trip you need to start off the year is a quick one to visit with friends that don't live too far away. After a much needed break from travel after the holiday season, February took me and my guy just a couple hours north to San Francisco. It was an easy time with friends, a day boat trip out to the Farallon Islands and a morning walking around Sutro Baths. Couldn't have been a more pleasant way to get the year started after a long stint of not sleeping in my own bed.

The Farallons are an island group about 26 miles off the coast of San Francisco. The island is affectionately known as the "Sharks Teeth" because in the fall you find a long concentration of great white sharks. Being that we were there in the late winter we caught a couple of humpback whales and plenty of birds. There are no permanent residents on the Farallons as they are protected as a nature and bird preserve. A few scientists rotate in and out to study the wildlife on the island. A lonely life.

Sutro Baths was a swimming pool complex built in 1896 in the Land's End area of San Francisco. You can now explore around these ocean fed pools by foot, but I doubt it'd be ideal to swim in them. Adjacent to the baths is a system of paths that connects to Land's End. The paths are lined with Pacific cypress trees and when the light shines through them just right it's pure magic.