Passport to Paris

UGH the jet lag is real…. I think it’s finally starting to set in as I’m writing this! This past week I had an incredible opportunity to travel to Paris for a long weekend getaway. Now that I’m back I’m trying to do everything I can to get back to a functional routine and writing this post seems like the perfect way to start! 

This entire trip starts with a tremendous story. One night, shortly after Thanksgiving, I received a text from a good friend of mine in LA saying she found round trip tickets to Paris for quite literally an unbelievable price (round trip from LAX for less than $400, cheaper than a flight home to Iowa!) My friend then proceeded to ask, “Who wants to go with?” Being that the trip would only be a few weeks away and having to hastily decide in order to take advantage of flight prices made me both incredibly nervous and extremely tempted. I began to think my way through the logical steps.  First, check the bank account and then check the amount of PTO I’ve acquired. Next, I make a phone call to my mom fully expecting her to be the practical one and reel my crazy thoughts back in (as one does when they call their mom in moments like this.) However, much to my surprise that wasn’t her response at all. It was actually something along the lines of When are you going to have this opportunity again?”  So true… 

Hearing her say that, I knew my mind was already made up! So, I went home and booked a round trip ticket–there was no turning back! A few days later 6 women in total (many of us having never met before) had booked their tickets and started planning the trip of a lifetime! 

First night in Paris at the Eiffel Tower

Many people I’ve talked to have said they only spent a few days in Paris and that that was enough. After having been now, I can attest to that! We arrived in Paris late Thursday afternoon and left Tuesday afternoon arriving back in LAX Tuesday evening. (Time changes will always be confusing.) Four and a half days was perfect in my opinion! It was enough time to see the city and cross majority of the things off my list without feeling too rushed. By the end, I was exhausted and ready to return home. 

Next we had to find a place to stay! After looking into hotels, hostels and Air BnBs, considering there was six of us, Air BnB seemed like the best option! Paris is divided into different districts and with help from a friend of a friend going on the trip, we had the best insight into the perfect locations. We ended up staying in 2, from which everything was perfectly walkable. Contrary to popular believe, the Eiffel Tower is actually not centrally located so when planning your trip, you may consider staying in a more central neighborhood like we did. My favorite thing about Paris is how easy it is to get around. Whether you want to walk, take the subway, or Uber, all options are readily available and easy to navigate even if you don’t speak any French! 

Like most major European cities, I’ve noticed so far, you can get by with only speaking English. However, it’s always important to me to at least try and speak the language when interacting in public at a restaurant for example No matter where you’re traveling to, I challenge you to at least prepare a few words such as…

  • Hello
  • Goodbye
  • Yes/No
  • Thank you 
  • Sorry
  • Excuse me
  • Bathroom 
  • Check/Bill

I attempted to learn a little French before I left using a free app called Duo Lingo! Although it was helpful to learn some phrases, it’s important to practice consistently in order to retain any of it… I wasn’t very diligent and realized all I could remember was how to say “cat” and needless to say, that didn’t come up in conversation very often.

When I travel, I’m just as much about seeing all the sights and main tourist attractions as I am about finding happy accidents and things off the beaten path. One of my favorite ways to get acquainted with a new city though, is to take a hop on/hop off bus tour. It’s an affordable way to make it to all the main attractions in a city in a short amount of time. It also always helps me to get the lay of the land and realize where things are at in relation to another and not to mention its essentially “free” transportation that you would have paid for to get around anyway! Tours like this are offered in most major cities in the US and Europe. My favorite has always been City Sightseeing or Big Bus tours! We got a two-day pass that included two different bus routes as well as a river boat tour. 

My favorite path less traveled spots included the covered passageways that have been transformed into little shops and restraunts. I also fell in love with the small vendor booths known as Riverside Bouquinistes, that line the river around Notre Dame and contain collections of old prints and books as well as other trinkets and paper goods.

Paris being the city of love was the perfect place to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Although not with our loved ones and out on a girl’s trip, we still made sure to celebrate. We went to an amazing restaurant, Matignon (located in 8, an area equivalent to Rodeo Drive or the Upper East Side). It was surely a group date even the Bachelor would have approved of! Afterwards we hit the town for a night out and wound up at a Spanish inspired spot complete with Latin music and dancing. The whole night scene was lively with places that stay open all hours of the night. There was a lot of influence from other cultures depending on the bar, so there’s no reason to not come across an Irish Pub that feels too close to home or a place that feels so foreign you don’t know where to start! 

Arguably the best part of traveling has to be trying all the food! Part of the fun of it for me is ordering but not always knowing what you’re going to get! France is no exception! The bread is outstanding, the desserts are worth every bite, the onion soup is unbelievable… but my favorite French cuisine has to be steak and pommes frites (French Fries) What an unexpected pair but man is it good. 

On our last night I treated myself out to a restaurant that came highly recommended, le Relais de l’Entrecote. Not only is it delicious but it’s a genius business idea, really! It’s a beautiful, higher end restaurant that you’ll most likely have a wait to get seated (but it’s totally worth it.) Once you sit down you can order a drink but there’s really no menu. The entire place only serves one thing- steak and frites. I got a wonderful glass of red wine and was then treated to a side salad and baguette while I waited for the main course. The waitress then brings the steak and fries from the kitchen, takes them over to a serving station and then prepares the plate for you. (I sat right next to her station, so I got a first-row seat at how it’s done.) She brings you ½ your steak covered in a sauce that’s a cross between au jus and a very subtle pesto along with an order of fries. Meanwhile the other ½ of your steak is covered and resting on a heated tray and when you’re ready she’ll bring a fresh order of fries straight from the kitchen and the other ½ of your steak… two meals for the price of one! Then if you’re really looking for the whole experience, you can select from the extensive and incredible dessert menu (which I couldn’t read a single thing.) I let the waitress pick for me and wound up getting the most incredible two-part chocolate cake (one half is like a brownie and the other a fudgy, very rich flourless cake topped with mint whipped cream.) I left there having never felt so full and got all that for $40 dollars. 

Getting the money shot with your 7 euro cappuccino… priceless

That being said… Paris was actually way more expensive than I thought especially compared to other places like Rome. A double espresso shot would be 5 euros when I could have just got a Starbucks cappuccino at home for cheaper… still it seemed worth it. Overall, it was very comparable to the prices we pay in LA (very expensive to drink cocktails and dinner is typically in the $25-$35-dollar range.)

 Something else that reminds me of LA, the traffic. Although it’s not as densely populated with cars, 15 miles can take you an hour to drive. For example, I always thought Versailles was much further away but when we looked it up, it was only about 15 miles from where we were staying but it’d take over an hour to get there by car. We ended up taking the train all the way there and it couldn’t have been easier! 45 minutes and $3 later we found ourselves standing outside the Palace of Versailles, one of the places I’ve always dreamed about visiting since studying it in Art History classes in college. This was my favorite place we went to during our trip! The palace itself was a little underwhelming but the palace grounds were spectacular, even during off season. I loooooved visiting the Estate of Trianon (something I didn’t even know existed) and I’m now convinced my dream house will resemble Marie Antoinette’s Queen’s Hamlet. You could spend days walking through these parks and still never see it all and if your feet are too tired to go on you can always rent a bike or golf cart to zip around! I would love to go back sometime in the late spring, early summer and see everything in bloom and fully landscaped!

Overall, I’m so glad pulled the trigger and went. It taught me that not everything in life has to be planned and well thought out.  Sometimes just taking a risk can pay off in ways you never even dreamed of. Seeing the world, experiencing history firsthand and learning about other cultures makes traveling so worth it and so important to me. I hope everyone has a chance to explore new places and see the things they’ve dreamed of in real life. 

February Followup

Hey, it’s me again… yep I’m still here despite not having made a post since October! There has been so much going on as we transitioned from 2019 into 2020 that I’ve barely had time to take it all in myself let alone share any of the stories with you! 

However, now’s my chance to bring all my thoughts from these past few months to life and share them with you. This year, I’ll be approaching things a little differently with the blog. I’m beginning to come to terms with the fact that I really can’t do everything and that means picking and choosing what I spend my time focusing on. There are so many experiences and opportunities both past and present that I can’t wait to share, but as my goals continue to change the blog posts might change a little bit with it. 

To put all these thoughts in perspective here’s a look at what kept me busy this past year and a preview of what’s in store for 2020! 

Goal setting has never been more important to me than it is now.

One thing is for sure, goal setting has never been more important to me than it is now. Writing things down somehow gives me comfort in the fact that I have things I’m working towards as well as holds me accountable to make sure I actually get things done. It’s the most rewarding feeling to look back on a year and all the highs, low points you overcame, and accomplishments you’ve made this past year. 

If you haven’t had the chance to do any formal goal setting yet–there’s plenty of time. If you don’t know where to start, I highly recommend you check out my post about goal setting February Fresh and read about Hilary Rushford’s Elegant Excellence to get your mind thinking about both the big and little things you’re wanting to accomplish! 

Looking back on my list of goals for 2019, although not every goal was accomplished it’s important to realize just how much progress was made. I’ve made an effort to stop referring to my goals as a “plan” and have tried even harder to refrain from “planning” too much of my life out in general.  

Goals change, shift, and evolve throughout the year. Things may come up and get in the way or change your perspective.  It’s always important to look at your list as guidelines and ideas rather than super strict parameters.

Be realistic but also don’t be afraid to think big! When making a list you need goals that are easily attainable if you dedicate the time to them and some goals that will challenge you and push your comport zone. For instance 2018 was a huge year for me with a lot of major life changes and decisions, so my focus for 2019 was about more interpersonal goals and about maintaining a healthy lifestyle in LA. 

My favorite planning supplies: Erin Condren Planner, Moleskin Journal, Papermate Felt tip Pens, and Sharpie Pens!

Here’s a brief overview of the goals and results from this past year:

  • Run a 5k: Checked this one off in April when a friend asked me to run one with her! Signing up and paying is a great way to hold yourself accountable. 
  • Book 5 Freelance Clients/projects: This past year I was fortunate to work with some amazing new clients and well exceeded 5 projects! One in particular certainly stands out and I hope to soon share the story of The Strength Shop with you all!
  • Pay off at least ½ of my student loans: After attending a networking/speaker event…. They convinced me this is not something to put off, so I ripped off the Band-Aid and took care of it all at once! No more student loans!
  • Read a book: Easy to do when your friends start a book club…and here we are 6.5 books later.
  • Visit home at least 3 times: Done, but I wish it could be even more!

Now for the goals that have yet to be accomplished….

The goals you don’t accomplish are just as important as the ones you did! It’s crucial to take a look at this list and realize and reflect on “why didn’t this one happen?” Then try and figure out if it’s still one that’s important to you and worth continuing to pursue.

  • Create a successful morning/evening routine: While progress was made at times, it’s not super quantifiable and hard to really say. It is still in need of some work. 
  • Try something new/learn a new skill: I tried LOTS of new things that would satisfy this goal, but they weren’t necessarily the activities that came to mind when I wrote the goal down. I needed to be more specific. 
  • Launch a creative Passion Project: I spent a lot of time thinking about this one and looking for something that I was actually passionate enough to put the work into…

When I actually figured it out, I was too scared to actually move forward with it. 

Well no more, you heard it here first–this year my main goal is to drive that passion project forward and not let fears and uncertainties keep me from going for it!

Do you have something on your list of goals for the year that you really want but you’re afraid to make it happen? Maybe it’s changing jobs or starting your own business? Maybe it’s moving somewhere new or maybe it’s wanting to try a new exercise class…. Whatever the situation may be… We’ve all been there. Part of why I love Hilary’s goal setting process so much is because the thought process you consistently going through always ends up at the same place, “just start.” 

Starting is the hardest thing! No matter what the goal is, finding the courage to start it and go for it is the biggest roadblock you face but once that part is over, imagine all the amazing things that can follow. I’ve had this realization before but yet it still held me back this past year. I now know the outcome I’m looking for more clearly and I know I’m capable of making it happen so there’s no more excuses. 

So, for me my major goal for 2020 is getting my Passion Project off the ground and turning it into a business. I plan to share information about this passion project every step of the way as well as progress as it relates to other goals with hopes to not only hold me accountable but keep you on track to exceed your goals this year as well! 

The rest of my goals this year have been divided up into categories: personal, health, relationships, hobbies, and career! Some specifics that stand out include: 

  • Analyzing and fine tuning my financial budget 
  • Move to a new apartment
  • Focus more on my breathing
  • Cook a new healthy recipe once a month
  • Maintain working out at least 3 times a week
  • Continue Personal Dates at least once a month
  • Play more games (board games/card games) 
  • Travel to 3 New Places (city/state/country)
  • Read 10 Books
  • Actually take a lunch break at work by sitting with coworkers or going for a walk
  • Write at least 12 new blog posts for Day of Jae

Having a list of your goals is only the first step. Make sure you keep the list handy and accessible. Check back in with it multiple times! Don’t be afraid to change, rewrite, or add to the list. You’re the only thing holding you back from making any of these things a reality. Commit to the ones that matter and go after it! 

For three years I’ve been doing this, following the same process and every time when thinking about the biggest goal on my mind, and someone asks, “What’s holding you back?” my answer has always been… “not starting.” Trust me–start now and thank yourself immensely next February.

Thoughts & Theories on El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie

I now interrupt my prepared blogging schedule to bring you a special edition post about a new movie that is officially out and available on Netflix today (10.11.19) El Camino, A Breaking Bad Movie

WARNING:
THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS

If you plan on watching El Camino, please watch the movie first then follow up with my blog post and please offer your commentary and thoughts based on what I’ve shared.  

ATTENTION: If you haven’t seen Breaking Bad, please watch the series before watching El Camino. They are very much reliant on one another and this is NOT a stand-alone movie.

TIP: It’s been 6 years since the series finale aired, if you haven’t seen the show in some time, I suggest you refresh your memory and watch at least the last 2-3 episodes! 

Ever since attending the world premiere Monday night (and if I’m being honest even some time before that in anticipation of the event) my mind has once again been consumed by all thing in the Breaking Bad universe. I’ve been waiting day racking my brain, over analyzing every detail I could remember, and just waiting for a moment to share my thoughts with you! Now’s my chance. 

Some Thoughts

The opening scene we flash back to Mike’s (Jonathan Banks) final scene in the show and him having a conversation with Jesse (Aaron Paul.) All though the scene feels a little out of place and really tested my memory, Vince Gilligan not only gives us an opportunity to enjoy a favorite character and relationship for a few moments longer but also does his traditional foreshadowing of the events to come. For a minute, I found myself forgetting where we left off and buying into the whole “beautiful moment by the river” which contrasted really nicely and had me jumping out of my seat when we jumped back to the present. 

Back at Skinny Pete (Charles Baker) and Badger’s (Matt Jones) place we get a more intimate moment seeing Jesse struggling with getting back to reality. Something that stands out to me in this moment is the emphasis they put on the scars on his back and face… I’ll come back to that later. Once Jesse emerges from the shower, he appears to be back to normal. PTSD to survival mode, it seemed like a quick transition but I’m also ‘okay’ with the decision to not linger on it more. Skinny Pete and Badger finally get all the lines they deserve and many that have me laughing every time! 

Perhaps one of the most interesting moments in the whole movie in my opinion is as Jesse starts to take off Skinny Pete hands Jesse his signature stocking hat. A gesture that speaks louder than words, but when you pair it with what he says about Jesse being his “hero” it takes it to a whole different level. I’m still internalizing this scene. I think Skinny Pete’s help here gives Jesse the will to survive and is just the encouragement he needs to remember what he’s fighting for. Without someone so actively fighting in his corner and motivating him to push on vs. turning himself in (which comes in to play later on also) he has a force driving him forward. 

Next we get a whole deeper look into a relationship I 100% didn’t expect. The whole premiere I was wondering why everyone was obsessing so much over Todd (Jesse Plemons.) He’s easily the worst character in Breaking Bad because of Season 5 Episode 5 and if you still don’t know, yes, the one where he shoots the kid… However, we get to see a whole lot more Todd. How is it that the same guy that can murder an innocent child and be fine with keeping a human locked in a cage also the guy who will send down ice cream, cigarettes, and volunteer to stay home and look after Jesse all weekend? Still not a sweetheart but the conflicting actions that seem to have no degree of difference in emotions for him—so interesting! 

It’s here in these next few flash back scenes that I do enjoy getting to learn a little more about the El Camino itself and some of the other significant events that have taken place. Right off the bat I wasn’t buying that the apartment was Todd’s. If the pastel colors didn’t give it away, the kitchen table sure did and the snow globe collection really sealed the deal. What I am confused by is the story that she was the maid and found the money and that was the motivation for killing her. I think it’s a lot more likely that he needed that location/apartment specifically for whatever reason and decided to kill her and take it. Why? Well besides the interior decorating, he didn’t really have an idea of what would be in the cupboard (a collection of things an old lady is a lot more likely to have than a twenty-something-old guy. Although don’t get me wrong I do feel that he’s been living there based on the out-of-place random collection of very modern furniture. 

Now the true crime junkie in me was very concerned with the question, “Why’d he chooses to strangle her, more specifically with the belt.” For that he would have most likely snuck up on her from behind, not attacked her in the middle of an argument. It’s also the kitchen so knife seems like a heat of the moment choice, but again nosy neighbor might have heard maybe that’s why? Probably not worth lingering but how the rest of this plays out with the rolling the body and “moving” her to the car—priceless moments! My final thought on this poor dead woman that I have so many questions about. When the “police” officers come to visit the nosy neighbor tells them that he’s met the guy that’s living there and basically isn’t a huge fan of Todd (who is?) but this leads me to believe that either that lady has really been dead for a while long enough for people to assume she moved out and someone moved in OR it really is Todd’s apartment…. Still not buying it though. 

Burying the body‑now why Jesse gives the gun back… well if he would have shot Todd the story obviously would most likely have not led to the ending, we see in Breaking Bad. Obviously, I believe it took more than just pepperoni pizza to sway Jesse’s mind. However, I think it’s more than just Jesse thinking that Todd’s uncles would still manage a way to get after Brock. I think its kind of back to the idea of Jesse feeling like although life is seemingly as bad as it gets—he doesn’t have much to fight for anymore. Everything he loves and knows and cared about at that point has been taken away and it’s arguable that Todd is the only person he has in that moment. 

Looking for money I thought for sure it would be in the pool but then we kept getting shots of the chimney… the refrigerator door, honestly the last place I’d think. You’re telling me the same guy the hid money in books also thought to hide money in the fridge door? I don’t really think so, but maybe!

Unfinished Business

Moving on to some unfinished business. From having to pay debts carried over to the first get-a-new-life attempt to reencountering the welders/DEA agent/ assholes.  It’s in these scenes we see the damage 5 season of Breaking Bad has done on Jesse Pinkman. From staying calm and outsmarting situations thinking 5 steps ahead while having a gun to his head, to trying to strong arm his way into convincing the Vacuum guy to give him a break… all characteristics that remind me of someone else I know. 

Speaking of Walter White (Bryan Cranston) the motel diner scene gives me all the feels! From seeing our beloved characters transition and flash back to their season one selves naive and optimistic we’re really reminded just how far they’ve come. This moment and transition amazes me in these two’s acting abilities to be able to change and rethink back to all those years ago where they started and who they were! 

The conversation though is what intrigues me and opens a few questions. What will Jesse do one day when it’s done? When he has a chance to do something special with his life? I certainly doubt exercise science is where he ends up. Even more confusing is Jesse’s response letting White know that his family will get what they have coming. Potential foreshadowing? Or simply speaking to every decision Walter made during the show FULLY came back to bite his family in the butt? I prefer the first option… more to come! It was based on this statement that I hoped we’d get a peek at modern day life of Skyler, Flynn, and Holly but then I remembered. This is only a few days later not years like in real life. 

Transitions

This brings us to Jesse breaking into his parents and more genius thinking of coming up with the perfect plan to get them and the undercover cops away. You know the first thought here is if he only needs $1,800 surely, he could get the cash or valuables around the house to amount for that much but instead, he gets the guns and gets out. Which we learn is part of a much bigger, premeditated plan. At the shop is when I feel Jesse has transitioned into his full-on Heisenberg mode. Why go back when he doesn’t presumably need the whole amount? Not only does he have nothing to lose but he’s seeking revenge. Like Heisenberg he can’t handle letting the Welder’s get away with the pain they caused and the turmoil they brought into his life. Jesse isn’t ok with letting the welders feel like they got away with something most likely motivated by the main guy’s taunting as Jesse leaves “Todd’s” apartment and remembers him. 

I love the old western style shoot out and getting outsmarted by the sense of betting, genius! The whole scene seems so true in nature to some of the shows biggest moments and did not disappoint, explosion and all. 

So now we’re in Alaska, alas the place Mike recommended (about time Jesse listens to something Mike had to say.) With one final question to answer we see Jesse hand over a letter to be delivered to Brock and then seemingly we’re supposed to trust that it’ll be delivered, and Jesse can go on living his new life. The scene is beautiful, white, quiet. Jesse seems restored refreshed and is in an uncharacteristic white turtleneck sweater. Either he’s really is restored to a new identity and life or this is really an ironic ending. 

Theories

Here. We. Go. The ending does not follow anything we’ve come to expect from Gilligan. It’s too neat. It’s too wrapped up and perfectly presented, somethings fishy. Somehow although all our questions have been answered, I feel left with less resolve than the ending of the TV show. 

Looking back at the scenes and being excited to watch the movie again, I’m reading between all the lines and pauses and honestly, I don’t think this is the last we’ve seen of Jesse Pinkman. The scars that I mentioned before, I don’t feel as if we learned the cause. I don’t believe they were caused by the running and trying to break free from Todd’s lab. The conversation at the Diner with Walter White—there’s got to be more to it. Then if that’s not enough the first trailer shows Skinny Pete in with police discussing where Jesse ran off to. That’s a lot of work to go to just to film a trailer…. Then there’s the ending of the full, main trailer where we hear what we assume is White’s voice (for the record, I do believe he’s actually dead though once they confirmed on the radio news when Jesse was in the car.) 

I feel like we’re missing the other side of the story, the side Hank would tell if he were still alive, the side of the pursuit. I also feel like were missing out on the grief of the family although they did seem to consider their “dad” and “husband” as being dead before it was a reality.

I know this is a stretch, but it also seems to me like a conscious choice to name it “A Breaking Bad Movie” instead of “THE Breaking Bad Movie.” And really stretching it out even further listening to reviews from the premier and reading different articles. Aaron Paul says things referencing hopes for a long relationship with Netflix and “if I only worked for Gilligan the rest of my career, I’d be the happiest man in Hollywood.” Suspicious…. 

Please share ALL your thoughts with me and send me things to support, disprove, inspire, anything! Clearly, I can’t get enough! 

Premiere

Finally, I’d just like to share some photos from the premiere and say it was 100% worth the experience. I feel so fortunate to have gotten to experience this movie this way for the first time and laugh, clap, and jump with a room full of fans. It was truly something special and I’m so glad I get to share a sliver of that experience with all of you! 

All this being said I really enjoyed the movie! I’m such a huge fan though that I would have taken any ounce of these characters in any version they’d deliver. 

Cross Country

Well the leaves are starting to change, the temperature is starting to drop (it may still be 79 degrees but that’s a drop) and that can only mean that Summer is coming to an end. Although the change in LA isn’t near as dramatic as Fall back home in Iowa, it still brings a new energy that I find inspiring and fuels me to start something new. In preparation for that change, I have one final chapter to my Summer Scroll Through and the granddaddy story of them all Emory and I’s big cross country adventure. 

When it comes to traveling, I must admit I’m one who prefers to jump on a plane and be at my destination in a fraction of the time.  However, a cross country road trip adventure has always just sounded so romantic and exciting. Emory is not stranger from driving from Iowa to LA usually making the trip all on his own.  I knew I couldn’t make him drive back again by himself. Plus, I had never really seen much of what’s between California and Iowa. Both of these factors inspired me to tag along for the ride, but I had a few ground rules of course! 

  1. I wasn’t willing to sleep in the car (Air BnB please!)
  2. I didn’t want to drive straight there. 

So, we decided to make a vacation out of it—five and a half days’ worth of driving and exploring from Los Angeles to Iowa. Knowing we would be traveling in the middle of August (the hottest month) we decided to forego Emory’s typical route through all the National Parks and head North then cut over.

Half Day: 

We left after work and headed up the coast towards the Bay Area. We decided to take the scenic route (about 7 hours) and drive up the coast and the PCH and recreate our earlier Summer adventure. The drive was beautiful as always and traffic could have been a lot worse. Taking this route did add and additional 1-2 hours than the inland trip would have but we would argue it was worth it. If you find yourself making the drive DON’T stop for gas in Santa Barbra (take our word for it) and DO stop for food in San Luis Obispo (we stopped at Mo’s Barbecue this time.) We finally got to San Francisco late and completely exhausted. We stayed in a boutique hotel we rented via Air BNB called The Bartlett. It was super cute and trendy, however not the cleanest nor friendliest staff. All things considered though when you take into account, we were staying in one of the most expensive cities, we weren’t complaining. 

Day One: 

We headed out about 9:00 am the next morning on a journey to squeeze as much of San Francisco in in a day as we could. Emory had already been, but it was my first time. We headed down to Fisherman’s Warf and grabbed beignets and cappuccinos for breakfast at Frankie’s at Pier 43. Oh my goodness though, people were eating fish and chips that early in the morning, but it actually looked and smelled incredible. So much in fact we went back to Frankie’s for lunch! Not only was it affordable but they claim to have the best fish and they’re right. I have a feeling this place will be a staple anytime I find myself in SF! 

After breakfast we caught a street performer act and walked through the Musse Mecanique, the antique penny arcade. Grandma predicted my fortune, we walked down Pier 39, got a great view of Alcatraz (which I didn’t realize was so close by the way) as well as a great view looking back at the city. After watching the seals, we decided it was time to go find the main attraction, the Golden Gate Bridge, at Crissy Field. 

Immediately as we got close to the bridge the most perfect sunny day transitioned to foggy, misty, and overcast like magic! We pulled over, snapped a few pictures and continued on our way.  Before leaving the bay area, we checked out Muir Woods, which was even foggier and cloudier! After a close run in with poison oak we decided we didn’t have time for a hike and instead just enjoyed the view. Look what we found?! Another Hawkeye fan with a Subaru… What are the chances?!

Back in the car for the next leg of the journey! We left around 3:30 in the afternoon driving from Muir Woods to Lake Tahoe.  Four hours’ drive through winding mountains, an incredibly bad traffic jam at the worst placed stoplight, and a pit stop at the Eldorado National Forest later and we arrived at our second destination, Lake Tahoe.  

Day 2:

Finally, a day with no driving and a chance to relax. Funny and sad how excited I was to just enjoy a day with no driving considering all the driving we had done thus far hadn’t gotten us any closer to our final destination. We were also excited because neither of us had been to Lake Tahoe. We started our day where any adventure tends to begin, Starbucks. I must admit though, it was more out of necessity for wifi access than anything! Next we started driving around the lake and made our way to the Eagle Falls trailhead. FYI there’s a Lower Falls (that is right off the road and no hike required) and the upper falls. It’s a very mellow and short hike to the upper falls but then the keeps going for a great look out of Emerald Bay and eventually opens to a beautiful lake view. 

After the hike we had a picnic lunch at the Camp Richardson General Store and a scoop of sorbet at the Ice Cream shop! I felt like we had traveled back in time to summer camp in Parent Trap or Wet Hot American Summer

After freshening up we had plans for a sunset boat cruise tour of Emerald Bay complete with wine tasting and a charcuterie board! We had an amazing time being out on a boat, watching the sun go down, and meeting another incredible young couple that were visiting from the Bay Area. After attempting to find real food on a Sunday night, we headed back to the apartment and rested up for a big day of driving. 

Day 3:

Back on the road and ready to make our way through the desert. Leaving Tahoe, we quickly drove through Reno, Nevada and then cut across the state to Utah (another 7-8-hour drive.) We took a much-needed detour and stopped at the Bonville Salt Flats. After a few attempts at some doughnuts in the Subaru, watching a U-Haul haul down the speedway, and tasting the salt it was back on the road again. Along the way I of course made us stop at the first Jimmy Johns I could find for lunch and before long we made it all the way to Salt Lake City.

Once we got to the cutest Air BnB I’ve ever seen we headed to downtown Salt Lake which was beautiful and incredibly charming. We walked around Temple Square and then scootered to The Green Pig Pub for dinner with a view of the of the city-county building. 

Day 4:

Although this would be the second longest day of driving on the whole trip—it was worth it to see some familiar faces. We started with breakfast at Earnie’s Sports Deli in Orem with a college friend before another 8-hour drive. We made a few stops off the side of the road like the site of an old mine explosion, to see the Colorado River at the No Name exit, and the Colorado Sign just to name a few! 

Being ahead of schedule we did decide to stop in Grand Junction, Colorado for lunch at Rockslide Brewery and to check out a few antique shops while we walked off our beer. Before long we made it to Denver! Finally! This leg of the road we were fortunate to get to stay with friends. The same friends I stayed with in July mentioned in my Destination Denver post. Now after two years of not seeing each other we were fortunate to see each other twice in less than two months! We went out for dinner at Blue Moon Brewery at which we ran into another friend unexpectedly AND had the most amazing beer flights and pickle burgers. Now, I’m not much of a beer person but with beer flavors like Mexican hot chocolate, cold brew coffee, and a mango wheat (which you can buy at stores and I highly recommend) how could you not enjoy them! 

Day 5: 

Sadly, it was time to leave and time to get home. Day five’s motto was all drive and no play because a ten-hour drive through mostly Nebraska is not something to get excited about. However, with home being the final destination it was enough to keep us moving forward. Emory was a champ at this point, doing most of the driving and soon enough we were back in our great state of Iowa. 

To wrap up one of the most amazing trips and 37 hours of being in a car, I had a weekend at home with my friends, family and love ones. As well as a chance to relax, golf, drive through Ledges State Park, and eat at Jimmy B’s of course (my favorite barbecue place EVER in Boone, Iowa.) 

The trip flew by and dragged on all at the same time but overall, I couldn’t be happier with the experience. It gave Emory and I a much-needed adventure before going back to long distance. It was filled with many firsts in cities that will always hold special memories. Most of all though, the trip couldn’t have happened without its primary sponsor, Dramamine. (Ok it wasn’t really sponsored by Dramamine, but it should have been because it’s seriously the only thing that kept me alive!!!) 

Now Summer is officially over and we’re headed into my favorite time of the year. This Fall I still have a few more goals to accomplish before a New Year’s deadline! I’ll also be very busy with some exciting projects at work and I’m looking forward to a girls’ get away trip, a visit from my parents, and ALL things Halloween. 

Stay Tuned! What are you most looking forward to this Fall? 

Destination Denver

We are already in September… How is that even possible? Not only are the days just continuing to fly by, but so is the time to accomplish all the goals you’ve been working on this year.

*Hint* Maybe now’s a good time to check in with where you’re at? *Hint*

(with your goals that is)

One of the goals I shared in February Fresh was that I wanted to visit and explore a new state. I always love to travel and go on trips, but thinking realistically, I knew I wasn’t going to have the funds or time to plans some huge worldly vacation, so instead I kept it simple and had a tremendous experience crossing Denver, Colorado off the list. 

I know we just celebrated Labor day but here I am still daydreaming about my trip over the Fourth of July to Denver. For years I’ve been hearing people express their love for the state of Colorado, but me being one who doesn’t participate in Winter Sports and has never really experienced the mountain life was skeptical that I’d enjoy a trip like that. Now I can proudly say, I was so wrong and the only though I left with was, “Why didn’t I come to Denver sooner.”

Have you been to Colorado before? If so leave me a comment of your favorite city or activity to do in Colorado! I just might have to plan another trip back! 

So how did I decided to finally commit to going and seeing this state I thought I had no business being in? Simple, one of my best friends from college moved there after we graduated and to visit a friend is worth it no matter where the destination. My group of college gal pals decided we’d all plan a trip together so that we could catch up and see what’s going on in one another lives. It’s an interesting experience making friends in college, knowing nothing about one another but before you know it you spend every day of the next four years living together. Then you graduate and all go your separate ways and start on the next chapter of your life. 

For me, it’s been a challenging adjustment seeing us all go separate directions and into different time zones. At the same time though, I always look forward to our next phone call filling one another in and as we learned in Denver, it’s really fun having a good excuse to go and visit somewhere. 

So, we booked it—a trip to Denver over Fourth of July weekend. Honestly when we were thinking about doing it over a holiday weekend obviously there’s a perk of having extra free days off from work, however I thought the flight would be crazy expensive. Denver’s airport is a huge hub though for a lot of connections making it actually pretty affordable. Also having a place to stay is always nice and helps cut down on the budget as well. If you don’t have someone to stay with, I always recommend checking out Air BnB’s because you can find some unique places and amazing deals like this one.

Plan Your Own Long Weekend Getaway:

With this itinerary inspired by our Summer trip to Denver

Day 1:

Day 2: 

  • Grab brunch at Snooze in Denver’s Union Station Downtown (Don’t forget to make a reservation beforehand!) 
  • Drive out to Idaho Springs, Colorado and hike St. Mary’s Glacier! (Work off all that breakfast you just ate.) 
  • Catch a concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater

Day 3: 

  • Drive up to Boulder, Colorado and walk around downtown.
  • Hike and explore the Flatirons
  • Treat yourself to some Sweet Cow ice cream (dairy-free options available!) 
  • Catch a Rockies game at Coors Field

Here’s the breakdown of our trip!

Day 1:

Our first day all together (July 4th) we explored the West Highlands neighborhood where our friend lives. It turns out that Denver is a big fan of observing the Fourth of July because a lot of businesses including restaurants and breweries were all closed for the day. We ended up at a local barbeque restaurant for lunch and followed by going to the Great Divide Barrel Bar and other breweries the rest of the night. Denver is known for their craft beer scene, and other than a lot of them being closed there was still plenty to go around. Whether you’re a beer connoisseur or not (which I’m not) you’re sure to find at least one you’ll like. Knowing we had Day ahead of us we called it a night after having dinner with a few fireworks, and it was a good thing we did because is stormed the rest of the night. 

Day 2: 

We started off the day heading to downtown to Denver’s Union Station which is a must-see place when visiting. It’s the most beautiful train station I’ve ever been to and that’s saying a lot since I’ve been to NYC’s Grand Central Station. It’s surrounded by so many unique and adorable shops and restaurants. Our Brunch club reconvened at Snooze, an a.m. eatery and it wouldn’t be brunch without a Bloody Mary and a coloring page! 

After our morning fuel we made our way up into the mountains where we did the famous Saint Mary’s hike just outside of Denver. One thing to keep in mind when taking on this hike, the parking lot was ridiculous! Of course, it was extra packed considering it was a holiday weekend but it’s also extremely rocky and you’re going to need a bigger car! While our SUV made it work it would have been preferable to have something a little bigger. The hike itself was perfect! A moderate uphill (or should I say mountain) It’s about a mile and a half hike round trip and features a few views that are worth climbing for. Once we got to the top, we were greeted by a beautiful glacier fed lake and a mountain top full of snow even though it was a warm 60-some degrees. On the way back down, we took a little detour to see the waterfall—what a rush that was. 

The day was still far from being done. We headed bag to get ready and transition into our big event of the trip—a Red Rocks concert. That night we went to see the Avett brother play at Red Rock Amphitheater. I can promise you, it’s an experience I’ll never forget! First things first, if anyone ever tells you it doesn’t rain/storm/hail in Denver, they’d be wrong! However, sometimes the unexpected can somehow make something that much more special. As we’re waiting in line to get into the concert, it starts to downpour. Before long the rain turns to thunder, lighting, and eventually hail. After the storm clears and the weather delay was over. We were left with a double rainbow and a stunning sunset. Seeing a concert in the Red Rocks is unlike any concert I’ve ever been too. The sound quality is outstanding, and the view is even better. As the concert went on, we laugh, we sang along, we made so many memories, and we got pounded with more and more rain. Ponchos quickly became our new best friends and the best money ever spent. 

Day 3:

The previous day was so jam packed, we all agreed we needed to take it easy. We walked to the Cozy Cottage, a little house with a beautiful patio that has been converted into a café. I’ve got to say; it was so nice being in an area and community that it so walkable again. That’s one of my least favorite things about LA and the area I live in specifically is you can’t really walk anywhere. 

After brunch we drove to Boulder to visit another friend from college’s stopping grounds. We explored their downtown ped-mall area and checked out another brewery, Oskar Blues, of course!  (The Boozy Sparkling Waters are delicious and dare I say better than a White Claw.) 

Day 4:

It was an early morning check out for all of us as we all headed to the airport to go back to our respective cities. The trip was full of scenic views, fresh air, delicious food, tasty beer, and best of all—reminiscing with friends. We’re all making arrangements to visit one another throughout the next year so stay tuned for another LA weekend and Chicago land visit. It also didn’t take me long to make it back out to Denver for a second time—more on that coming soon! 

Lessons from the trip:

  • Staying in touch with friends (especially across the country) is hard but extremely worth it. Make sure to make an effort to keep the people that matter most in your life actively in your life no matter the distance. And yes, that means sometimes that means just booking a plane ticket.
  • Denver is an incredible city. Although I don’t necessarily see myself living there, it surprised me in every way. It has a little something for everyone and while that little something is most likely being outside or drinking beer—what’s not to love? 
  • I’m inspired and might even…maybe…be considering…. thinking about… learning to ski. There I said it and now I can’t take it back. 

Again, share with me your favorite places in Colorado or anything that should be added to my to-do list for the next trip. I’d love to hear about any memories you have from any of your trips! Comment below!

Cars, Castles & Clesi

I’ve taken a little hiatus these past few weeks, because I have a special visitor staying with me this summer! He’s in LA for the Summer for an internship and between that, my work, and getting adjusted to each other’s lifestyles, we’re staying very busy. We have managed to have some fun since he got here a little over a month ago and I’ll continue to post on Instagram and Facebook our various adventures.

Two weeks ago, we even made time for a little weekend getaway and headed up north for the weekend. I’m excited to share the details of our trip and would highly recommend that you take your own version of this mini road trip. Whether you need a weekend getaway driving distance from LA or the Bay Area or whether you’re looking for a unique, small-town vibe vacation to California. Our trip started in LA and headed north to Paso Robles, Cambria, San Simeon, San Luis Obispo, and Santa Barbra. There are plenty of other places on the way so if you have any recommendations or you’ve already done something similar, please let me know in the comments below!

Friday:

The whole idea for this trip started when we we’re invited to a family friend’s graduation party from Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo (SLO.) We left Friday evening once we both got off work. Around 6:00 pm we hit the road and it took us about 3 hours to hit San Luis Obispo where we stopped for dinner at Woodstock pizza! (Would highly recommend loading up on your favorite toppings and creating your own personal size pizza!) Even at night, we could tell San Luis Obispo was going to be something special, but we were saving that for Sunday.

As you can imagine on graduation weekend, a lot of the hotels were incredibly expensive in the area and even affordable Air BNBs were hard to come by. We ended up booking a wonderful Air BNB in Paso Robles just another 30 minutes from SLO. (Our Air BNB was perfect, and I would highly for one or two people, and I would be happy to pass on that info as needed! Let me know!)

Saturday:

The next day we started semi-early with an incredible breakfast in the Paso Robles town square at a café called Andrea’s on Pine. Most of their menu is new every day and cooked fresh that morning. So be prepared to remember a long special list and try something original that is sure to impress. (We split a strawberry lemon coffee cake. Emory had a berry French toast bake and I had the best quiche I’ve ever had!) Following breakfast, we took a little stroll around the square and walked through the little farmers market.

Then we set out in destination of the Hearst castle however, along the way we passed the charming town of Cambria and we quickly decided to make a detour. The Cambria Lions Club was hosting a car show and chilly cook off. The whole town seemed to be out and about, and we went around to some shops and got to know some of the locals.

From Cambria we then made our way to the Hearst Castle.  We knew we were getting close when the coast came back into view and the pasture was filled with not only cattle, but also Zebras! (Yes Zebras! Not something you see every day that is for sure.) I had had many people recommend that we stop by the Hearst Castle and I think Emory and I would both agree it worth it and should be at the top of your list!

The Hearst Castle created and originally owned by William Hearst, or Hearst Publishing. Although, it’s not technically a castle —it might as well be and it’s easy to see how it got the name. Part of the property including the main house has been donated to the State of California and is now recognized as a state park. During your visit, you can select from a number of different tours. Emory and I did the Great Rooms tour (the standard tour) and it took about 2 hours total (1 hour for the tour and the travel time to get to the top of the hill) We chose not to book our tickets a head of time for a few reasons:

  • We didn’t want to be rushed and miss our reservation
  • They charge a steep online reservation fee of $8 per ticket
  • You can look up how many tickets are still available online (which there were plenty of at the times we wanted to go.

The Grand Rooms Tour takes you through the main property showing you the most famous common rooms. Between the architecture and the priceless artwork collections that includes Egyptian era statues and 15th & 16th Century tapestry and paintings you feel as though you might as well be in a classical European Castle once inside. After the tour you’re allowed to explore the grounds of the property as much as you’d like so Emory and I probably spent another hour taking pictures and taking in the views.

With a little time to spare still, we made our way to San Simeon just down the road to see the Elephant Seals. It was about 3:30 in the afternoon and most of the seals were beached and napping. Some went for a swim, some got into arguments with one another but most just laid there throwing sand on themselves. Regardless it was pretty incredible to see, and I could have stayed there a lot longer especially if they were more active, but we had to get back for the graduation party.

The party took place at Clesi Wines, a smaller winery in Templeton (about halfway between Paso Robles and SLO.) We tasted a variety of the wines (all of which were delicious) and spent the evening catching up with friends and challenging one another to competitive games of bean bags. This area of California is quickly becoming known for its wine and with over 400 wineries is even considered the “New Napa” to some. It’s definitely on my list of places to come back to whether with Emory, my family, or even for a girls get away! I would love to spend more time wine tasting but with that many to choose from, how would you ever?!

Sunday:

After a generous amount of wine, the night before, we slowly made our way to San Lui Obispo again to begin our adventure back. For breakfast we wanted something a little heartier and more familiar and decided to stop at one of our favorite guilty pleasures, IHOP. Let me say—that was a mistake! While they got us right in despite being very busy for Father’s Day… it was the worst IHOP experience we’ve ever had… Oh well we left with full stomachs in the end and that was the primary goal. Also, the IHOP is located close to the Madonna Inn (which is my dream hotel for a girl’s trip see why here.)

Next, we headed to down town SLO and walked around to various boutiques and shops. We stopped by the San Luis Obispo Mission and walked down the little “river” walk. Of course, it’s not a trip to SLO if you don’t stop and partake in the grossest tradition there is—the bubble gum alley. People come from everywhere and add their blob of gum to the wall. Watch where you step and don’t back up too far whatever you do!

Getting back on the road we took a route that took us through the Los Padres National Forest stopping along the way at various look out points and taking some mini hikes to stretch our legs! It was really the most beautiful day outside, but I was amazed at how we went in and out of the clouds while going up and down the mountains.

The last stop on the list was Santa Barbra (which looked nothing like the Santa Barbra I remembered when I visited with my family a few years ago.) We stopped by a few shops and had to try some famous McConnell’s Fine Ice Cream. The dairy-free flavors for me and the Cornbread Cookie and Honey flavor for Emory was worth the 45-minute line-out-the-door-wait. Then we had the pleasure of battling traffic the 2 hours back to LA.

The trip was truly a wonderful experience and I’m so glad we decided to go. Like I said I can’t wait to go back and would love to know if there’s anything we missed that you’d suggest for next time? Have you ever been to any of these places before? Of the places we went, which would you most like to go to yourself? Comment below!

Born to Blossom

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This Spring, I witnessed something truly spectacular, my first Super Bloom in California. This year we received so much rain in California that it caused the wild flowers to bloom like crazy throughout the whole state. Everywhere you went was covered in green grass and the hills, road sides, mountains and even the deserts were transformed and painted with vibrant colors. I’ve never seen anything more beautiful.

 

Last fall, you may recall the wild fires that devastated part of Malibu. At the time, I had not returned to Malibu since the fires until I had some visitors come to town and we decided to check things out. We hiked the Escondido Falls trail and I couldn’t believe how the land that was burnt to a crisp only a few months earlier has already grown back to be more beautiful than ever.  All the rain also presented us with a wonderful water fall and the most pleasant morning hike!

In Late March and Early April, the Painted Ladies butterflies were also migrating through Los Angeles and everywhere you went, including the park across the street was fully surrounded by thousands of these butterflies.

Being stuck in traffic has also never been better. On beautiful breezy afternoons, driving through the Valley suburbs with your windows down, your car quickly fills with the scent of fresh Jasmine or other flowering trees that line the street. No tree can quite compare to the Japanese Cherry Blossom that blooms right down the street from me at the local Japanese Garden sanctuary.

The most incredible view of all though, had to have been to see the California Poppies in full bloom in Antelope Valley. These State flowers create such vivid fields of orange that they’re almost blinding to look at. The fields are overwhelming and truly worth the hordes of people that drove to see them.

When we visited the poppy reserve, we made a whole day out of it and also visited the town of Lancaster. We walked their BLVD and ate at a delicious Mexican cantina, Don Sal, and also visited the Prime Dessert Woodland Preserve (which is free and open to the public!) where we saw the Joshua Trees blooming (a lot less exciting visually, but still a unique experience) and jack rabbits easily mistaken for cayotes even!

As California prepares to enter “June Gloom” in just a few weeks, I’m going to hold on to these incredible memories as much as I can and try my best to look forward to a little more rain and the beauty if brings with it.