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Posts from the ‘travel travel travel’ Category

Where are we headed next…?

mystery map2

Does it look familiar?

mystery page

Any clues?

mystery map

Any guesses…?!?!

travel book

We are thinking about jetting off to Québec City in August!!

I haven’t been to Canada since I was a young lass, and Tristan has never been. We have made a little agreement with ourselves to travel internationally once a calendar year. In 2009 we went on am amazing trip all around Ireland. In 2010 we took a blissful, relaxing trip to Jamaica… so now it’s time for a “city trip” with European flair for 2011… enter, Québec City!

I had been thinking about Canada as a possible destination for this year, and Québec City was recommended to me by my friend, Ursula. She is a German, who lived for many years in Canada, and now lives in the States. She will soon be moving back to Canada (near Toronto) and hey – I’ll just now have another reason to take another trip! 🙂

Out of all of my interests and passions, travel takes the cake. I can spend eons dreaming up itineraries for my travels, and mapping my course all over the world. Seeing the world is an amazing opportunity – and frankly, planning the trip excites me a great deal, too. I just plain LOVE IT. I live for the research and planning phase. I find it fun and thrilling. But, I’m kind of a dork. 🙂

I find trip planning a mostly therapeutic process (certainly not without its stresses here and there, no doubt). I adore learning about a new destination… even if I don’t end up going there.

Picking a destination can seem like the hardest task in the world. My list is 100 countries long! (Though really, you’d be hard pressed to offer up a destination to me, and have me turn it down. So make that 200 countries long!). I want to see EVERYTHING!

For example, if you know me, you know that India is destination #1 on Angie’s Travel wander-list. However, I haven’t been yet. Why? The timing has never been right. Going to India is such an undertaking, and I want to be able to be there for a month, if possible. I’ve always said I won’t make that journey in less than 3 weeks. And at this point, I haven’t been able to schedule that giant journey, during the proper time(s) of year, yet. Yet. I will get there. I know it.

During the past couple of years, Tristan and I have tossed around the idea of travelling to…. Ireland (check!), England (obviously, with my history there. I want very much to show him “my London”), Germany, France, Jamaica (check!), Greece (which was supposed to be our 2010 destination), and now Canada (with many other domestic trips taken together over the years). Tristan was not a traveler, until he met me – so we wanted to start out “easy”. Ireland was the perfect place to start our international journey together. And it was an amazing trip. We often talk about going back, renting a cottage, and just staying for a couple of weeks.

Personally, I don’t do tours. I did one when I was 16 years old – we saw 4 countries in 12 days. And although it was an amazing experience, and truly awakened my love of seeing the world – I never want to do that again. It was a very, very controlled environment, and well, that’s just not me. 😉

I can see doing a tour of sorts in only certain rare circumstances… Antarctica, perhaps. Or some countries with civil unrest… Egypt or Pakistan (which are both on my short-list). However, never would it be like it was when I was 16. I have to say, I have heard nothing but wonderful things about Gap Adventures, and when I want to utilize a tour service – it will be with them.

So, if you don’t do tours – you have to plan everything yourself, right? Right! Here are just a few things that I’ve learned over the years planning my trips, and trips for friends and family as well…

Connect with others. Trip Advisor. Frommer’s. Fodor’s. They all have reviews and travel message boards with people more than willing to help you answer any questions you might  have. Search for blogs about your destination. I did this before our Ireland trip, and now have a new friend…(Hi Dona!).

Research, research, research! Hit up your local bookstore (yes, they still exist) to page through some books you might want to buy. Also check out the best-reviewed books for your destination on Amazon. (Or, in the case of this Québec City book – get the only travel book published since 2008 that you can find on your destination! Hmm).  Obviously the Internet is a great resource as well. Even the tiniest B&B in rural Ireland probably has a website. Trust me, I’ve stayed there!

Learn to love maps. Yes, smartphones are great. As are GPS units. However, I never travel without paper maps/atlas. They are a godsend.

Go off the beaten path. I don’t think of myself as a “tourist”. In fact, you’d be wise not to use that word around me.  When you travel, immerse yourself in the local culture. Try to “live” where you are visiting. Patronize local restaurants. Find the local market and buy some new and interesting products. Ask locals for advice.

Learn the language! Tristan and I will both be learning/brushing up on our French, if we take this trip to Québec City this summer. I took French in 6th-8th grades, which was, um, like 20 years ago now. Tristan has never studied French before. We have the Rosetta Stone French Levels 1 & 2, and are going to utilize those.

It looks like we’ll be saying Au revoir!  in August. Time to get my plan on!

~

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Happy Birthday, Tristan!

Tristan at the Cliffs of Moher. (Ireland, 2009)

This is the 5th birthday of yours that we will be celebrating together. I had to stop and count because it seems like we’ve been together forever.  We missed your birthday our first year together, just by a couple of months.

I remember our first date, which we lovingly refer to as “The Awkward Seven”. For it was a day-date, first meeting type of thing, but we were both nervous and it was pretty awkward at the beginning. When I think back on it I think it’s pretty amazing that we ended up sticking it out, and are able to count our first date as our Anniversary. We’re kind of an unlikely pair… but after that first date, there was no looking back. 

Taking a break on Alcatraz island. (San Francisco, 2009)

I’m excited about our future together, and think 2011 is going to be a great year for us. There is no one I’d rather see the world with!!

Having crossed Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. (Northern Ireland, 2009)

Happy Birthday, my love! 

Sunset on Bluefields Bay. (Jamaica, 2010)

 

Love, me.

Blog Bake Sale!

Interested in helping out a good cause, and getting something delicious/pretty/or for your pup in the process?

Check out Sweet Tater’s bake sale on her blog tomorrow, Thursday 3/3.  It’s being held to help raise some last-minute money to help Katie (Sweet Tater) get her butt to Nicaragua in order to do some wonderful things for the people in a small remote community there. She’ll be living in a hammock for a week, and bathing in a river! Bless her. You can read more about her trip here.

Check out her site for a preview of the goodies that will be available tomorrow. You can even find Lilly’s favorite Crunchy Peanut Butter Pumpkin dog treats, homemade by yours truly!

My homemade Crunchy Peanut Butter Pumpkin Dog Treats

 

~

Paradise Found

Oh my goodness… our week in Jamaica was so lovely, that I don’t yet have words to describe it. (That, and I’m extremely busy and don’t have time to do an in-depth post right now!).

So, for now… our week, in pictures…

Our flight!

Sangster Int'l Airport - Montego Bay, Jamaica

Finding our driver...

A slightly treacherous journey to Westmoreland

We stopped at The Border Jerk along the way...

Almost there! I can see the bay!

View from our front door, Cottonwood Cottage

Our table in the Treehouse

Our private beach patio

Can you believe the view?

Jamaica, in flower petals

Naptime, during a rainstorm

In our beautiful bed!

Bluefields Bay

Nothing but flip-flops!

Our pool, (at The Hermitage)

Descending into the jungle!

Exploring

Our private beach

View of our room, from balcony

Thrilled to be here!

Flora and fauna

The many doorways of The Hermitage

One of many gorgeous sunsets

Our gazebo on the water

Tristan on the beach

Sooo many lizards!

Pina Coladas... poolside!

In the pool

Dinner at sunset

Our gazebo and beach area, from the stairs

Many books were read...

I loved all the trees so near to the bay

Having dinner on the Loggia

Jungle

Sometimes it rained, but it never lasted long.

Our open-air living room

Magical
All in all, we had an absolutely amazing time. We are definitely planning to return. This is “our place” now.
The happy couple
I have HUNDREDS of photos from the trip, here

A Charleston Wedding…

The Holy City

We were in Charleston last weekend, for a wedding! The groom was Tristan’s friend, (Brandon), and he served as an usher in the wedding. This was a completely Tristan-centric event (unlike the other weddings we’ve attended together), as I had only met most of the “gang” a few times over the course of our relationship. Given that, I wasn’t sure what to expect. However, a fabulous time was had by all!! I was honestly a bit surprised at what a good time I had. (which is always a good thing!). It was a weekend full of absolutely gorgeous weather. Charleston is one of my favorite places on earth, and I was thrilled to be there!

We left home bright and early Saturday morning, being Lilly-free after taking her to my parents house late Friday evening. It started out as a lovely drive, stress free, etc… and then, we hit Columbia. After a couple of minor hiccups, we rented a car whose A/C was WORKING, ditched my car at the Columbia airport (grumble, grumble), and made it to Charleston JUST in time for the wedding rehearsal. I dropped T off with his friends and went to check in at the hotel and unload our stuff.

We stayed at The Mills House Hotel on Meeting Street, which I had always heard was beautiful, but had never stayed at. (It is technically a “Holiday Inn” hotel, and thus I stayed away from it for that reason in the past; choosing instead to stay in independent inns or B&Bs). However, this was where the wedding party was staying, and it was beautiful. I’m happy we chose to stay there. (Though I doubt I’d return – opting instead for my usual places).

Mills House – it’s pink!

After the rehearsal was over, I picked the guys up and we headed back to the Mills House to get spruced up for the Rehearsal Dinner…

The dinner was at 82 Queen, about 25 steps away from the hotel. It was lovely dinner for maybe 25-30 of us, hosted by Brandon’s parents. We lingered for hours, and after we could linger no more, the guys went out for a drink at The Blind Tiger Pub. I was exhausted (thanks to my uber-busy schedule ALL the time) and headed up to the room to check email and check out Jane Lynch hosting SNL.

Sunday morning T and I decided to walk across the street to eat breakfast at Poogan’s Porch. After waiting about 15 mins for a table, and enjoying a mimosa at the bar, we were led upstairs to our table.

I had the Fried Green Tomato Eggs Benedict. Tristan had something along the lines of  “Down Home Breakfast”. We were both a bit underwhelmed. Nothing but the coffee was hot enough for my liking. (Again, during all of my time spent in Charleston prior to this trip, I had never eaten at Poogan’s. I suppose I should just trust my gut, and stay away from the ‘”touristy” spots, regardless of whether our room looked out onto their cute little porch, or not). It wasn’t BAD, by any means – but it wasn’t really good either. Oh, and we didn’t see their ghost.

After changing shoes… (I thought I’d be smart and wear my Avias to walk around town in, to save my feet for my heels later – MISTAKE – I ended up giving myself a blister. How the hell did that happen?!?!)… we headed out to stroll around Charleston and do some light shopping.

The Battery

Waterfront Park

Rainbow Row

I explored the market area  for trinkets for myself, and gifts for others. I ended up with a candle-holder for moi, but put the other souvenirs off until Monday.

Feet inexplicably sore, we headed back to the hotel for Tristan to start getting ready for the wedding. As part of the wedding party, he needed to be there 2 hours before I did. He got dressed, looking particularly handsome, and headed out. I followed suit, and met him over on the other side of the peninsula at The Historic Rice Mill for the ceremony.

Brandon & Laura

The wedding itself was beautiful and very moving. It was by far one of the most gorgeous days I’ve ever experienced. From the views of the marina, to the blue-blue skies, to the emotions expressed by everyone involved, it was a memorable one for sure.

First dance

After the ceremony we headed inside for cocktail hour, and the guys headed out to take more photos – this time with the bride. This was by far the most “uncomfortable” time for me during the weekend – when every single person I knew there was outside taking photos. I stood at the bar, vodka tonic in hand, willing the clock to speed up, and for Tristan to reappear. Awk. Ward. But, it passed, and life goes on…

We sat down for dinner, where there was some (comical) trouble with our table thanks to the wedding planner, and I finally got to have what I had been waiting all weekend for… Shrimp and Grits! It was divine. Tristan, self-proclaimed grits hater, was converted this weekend. (Ha!).  I plan to make a Grits and Roasted Veggie dish this weekend, with grits purchased in Charleston.

After dinner and cake, we headed out to the patio where we remained for most of the evening. There were drinks flowing, cigars smoking, mosquitos biting (me!), and lots of laughter to be had.

When it came time to leave the Rice Mill, we made plans to meet up back in town at The Rooftop Bar. There I was finally able to talk to the bride and reminisce. Now, we don’t know each other that well, but we do have former acquaintances in common from the past (like 2004, past). So that was fun. She was still rocking her wedding dress, and scoring free drinks. She was a very calm bride, and I admired that about her.

We left the bar before anyone else… because we are OLD now. 🙂

Monday… We slept in a bit (see the aforementioned drinking! ha!), ordered room service, packed up and checked out. After saying goodbye to some of T’s friends, we headed out to do some more shopping. I knew that I wanted to bring home pralines (world-famous!) for our parents; and that I wanted to get a gift for Gracie (who turned a year old while I was away!).

As afternoon rolled around, it was clearly time to head home… we were tiring out, and I was anxious to get home to Lilly! (I certainly miss her when I travel! But I knew  that she was in good hands, living it up with Bella).

All in all, it was a fantastic and busy weekend away. The bride and groom are in Belize on their honeymoon right now, and I wish them all the best. I hope that we can  get together with them again later this fall. Soon it will be our turn to go away… we leave for Jamaica in a week!

~

Bluefields Bay, Jamaica

We’ve postponed our trip to Greece and Turkey, originally scheduled for autumn of this year. It’s a lot to do with the troubles that Greece is having right now, and a lot to do with my desire to have a RELAXING vacation. (A vacation that is relaxing? Go figure!). As much as I love to travel and see the world… the trips I take overseas are anything but relaxing.

So, meet Bluefields Bay Villas in Jamaica. Scheduled for late October of this year. Greece will be next year… hopefully in the spring.

So 2010 is the year of Jamaica. We are sticking to our commitment to travel internationally at least once every calendar year. 🙂

Off to Jamaica!

New year, new decade

“Accept everything about yourself–I mean everything. You are you and that is the beginning and the end–no apologies, no regrets.” – Kissinger

 

As I sit here drinking the last of the Clicquot in a mimosa…my thoughts turn to the start of a new year. What will the new year, this new decade hold for me?

I find “beginnings” exciting – and the start of new year always seems like a fresh start, whether you need one or not.

I know it has been a bad year for many, but 2009 has been a great year for me. Tristan and I both have good jobs and are healthy and happy. We’ve clawed our way through the mire that is love/relationships/life and emerged on the other side, holding hands and smiling. We travelled to Ireland together in 2009. I am happyhappyhappy, and that is not always something I have been able to say.

This is the year that I am going to learn to knit, and to speak Greek.

(Tristan and I are planning on going to Greece in October, and I am already very excited. I make it a point to try to learn at least a little of the language of the place I’m visiting before I go… hence the Greek. Oh, and I’m determined to learn the Greek alphabet as well.  So at least I’ll be able to read signs! I think we will probably splash out and get the Rosetta Stone Greek Language program – it’s expensive, but I’m thinking it will be well worth it).

But I digress…  

I will be 32 this first year of the new decade. I must be more conscious of myself and my needs… Tristan says that my ‘New Year’s Resolution’ should be to be more selfish! I think I need to find more balance, between everything going on in my life. I find myself giving, giving, giving – and while I enjoy it, sometimes I need to take. More time for me… for exercise, for meditation, for writing. More time to see those that I love. I must get back to Illinois soon to see my Gram. Hopefully in February, for a long weekend if nothing else. Then in May I will be taking Tristan back with me so that we can celebrate her 80th birthday. She is an amazing person, and I love her very much. I don’t see her nearly as often as I used to… it’s been just over a year now, and that is too long.

There is a puppy for us on the not-so-distant horizon, which I am terribly excited about. After losing Kensie to oral melanoma in 2008, I think it is time.

My new raise begins on the 4th… huzzah and hooray for a raise, and a job that I enjoy.

In 2010 I will be optimistic, and not as critical of myself. I will focus on making myself as healthy as can be – for me.  

 Here’s to a wonderful, healthy, happy 2010!

The cool, grey city of love

San Francisco

Tristan and I went to San Francisco for 5 days last week, to celebrate the anniversary of my birth.

We stayed in Lower Nob Hill, (or Tendernob as some locals call it, because of it’s proximity to another area of town called the Tenderloin), on Sutter Street. I loved the area, and our hotel, The Hotel Carlton.

Hotel Carlton

I was surprised how much the 3 hour time change kicked my butt on the first night. After crossing the Atlantic more times that I can count, and being just fine with the 5 or 6 hour jump ahead, I was really caught off guard.

On our first full day we explored the city… walking down to Union Square from our hotel, to see the swanky shops… and the protesters. (There was a huge protest going on while we were there –  the hotel workers were on strike). From Union Square we took a taxi to Disvisadero Street to visit GAMESCAPE… a store right up Tristan’s alley. He browsed all things gaming/D&D, and surprisingly I found something that I wanted to buy! It was a game called “Snatch”… similar to “Scrabble” it seems, but quirkier. We haven’t had a chance to play it yet, but it looks fun!

From there we walked down the Panhandle, to Golden Gate Park. (It was quite the walk!)

San Franciscans will be quick to tell you… their Golden Gate Park is bigger than Central Park. We saw the Conservatory of Flowers… passed by the California Academy of Sciences and the MH de Young museum; but my favorite part of all was the Japanese Tea Garden.

Japanese Tea Garden

Buddha statue, at the Japanese Tea Garden

 It was an oasis of calm in the already serene environment of the park. We didn’t leave until it was nearly dark.  

The next day, (my birthday!), we rented a car… with the plan to spend the morning in Muir Woods. However, near the cool grey city of love – sometimes you get grey clouds – and lots of rain. We went ahead with our plan, driving out of the city and over the Golden Gate Bridge to Marin County. 

A foggy and rainy excursion over the Golden Gate Bridge

We drove past Sausalito and up into the mountains to Muir Woods. It was raining very steadily… and frankly bummed me out. This was going to be the only time we could see the Redwoods; and I envisioned that we would be taking a long walk in the woods together. We hung in there, in our raincoats – with me carrying my camera protectively under my umbrella – as long as we could.

Tristan, at Muir Woods

When we finally gave up, we were soaked to the core, a bit dirty and cold. We ended up back in San Fran turning in our rental car after only 4 hours or something. Oh well. It was beautiful nonetheless – I just don’t have all the photos I imagined I would.

After changing into dry clothes, having a restorative lunch and nap, we headed out to Chinatown.

Dragon Gate, Chinatown

 The very first store we came across, had my favorite Asian slippers! I used to buy them all the time in Chinatown in NYC – but the last time I was there I couldn’t find them. I searched high and low on the Internet for them – to no avail. I was thrilled to bits to find them here, and bought two pairs.

Chinatown

We explored Chinatown all afternoon…

That night we ate at the city’s best Indonesian restaurant Borobudur, which was lovely. For dessert we chose the “Pisang Bakar Keju”. A grilled plantain smothered in shredded cheese, condensed milk and chocolate sprinkles. Such a strange combination! Tristan thought it was super tasty. I thought it was pretty good, (as weird as it sounds), but I was full from our yummy dinner and didn’t eat too much of it.

Saturday dawned bright and blue… so we headed out to the Bay… Ghirardelli Square, Fisherman’s Wharf, the Embarcadero, etc. For some people-watching and shopping – before our cruise to Alcatraz around noon.

Sea Lions at Pier 39, Fisherman's Wharf

Arriving at Alcatraz

Alcatraz was really interesting… I had thankfully gotten our tickets ahead of time, as when we arrived at Alcatraz Landing, we saw that the next available boat to Alcatraz was on the following Tuesday! The boat ride only took 13 minutes, and then we found ourselves on “The Rock”.

Angie, behind bars

 

 

 

“Break the rules, and go to prison… break the prison rules, go to Alcatraz!”

  

We toured the prison ourselves, walked around the grounds, took photos of all the birds (it’s a bird sanctuary too, by the way) and then hopped on a return boat back to the mainland. We walked to the Boudin Bakery and had a sandwich on SF’s original sourdough bread.

Streets of Frisco

I loved being in a true city again… I miss living in that environment, so much. We found our favorite little neighborhood coffee shop, where Tristan went every morning to get us breakfast and a latte… And and our little neighborhood convenience/grocery store, Sutter Fine Foods, which we frequented every day. We discovered a cool, hip, high-class burger joint – Pearl’s Deluxe Burgers – that was close to our hotel.

We saw the homeless population there… you can’t be in SF and not notice; but it wasn’t to the overwhelming degree that I had imagined it might be. (Of course, we didn’t hang out in the Tenderloin either). Our hotel was next to the Raphael House – and we made a donation to the work that they do there for the women and children in the city that don’t have a place to live.

San Francisco skyline, as seen from our hotel window

I miss living in a city where you don’t need your car. The hills there are incredible… and killer! I thought I knew what the city was going to be like, but I really had no idea. Riding around in a taxi, you felt as if you were on a roller coaster. How anyone ever decided to build there, is beyond me?

All in all, it was a wonderful trip. We thoroughly enjoyed our time away, and new experiences. Now it’s time to plan our next trip!

Bye-bye October…

Wow. October was a bit of a blur. It’s nearly over, and I don’t have much to show for it. We did not yet make it to a corn maze as I had hoped… we just ran out of time.  I am still trying to get our framed Ireland photos hung (they’ve been propped up against the wall for weeks now).  I have managed the bare minimum of decor for Halloween (I’d like to do more), but I don’t have enough hours in the day.

The new baby was born on Oct 9th, and since then my work life has been a bit of a blur. (Photos of Grace are on my Flick site). Things are going to be a bit wonky there for me, until January (when S’s maternity leave ends). It is definitely taking some getting used to for me, as I am not used to having to schedule my days with J (50+ hours a week) around anyone else. Not to mention that J has just moved from two naps a day, to one. Inevitable and not unexpected, (he will be 2 years old next week, afterall!), just difficult to get used to on top of everything else right now, and exhausting.
My plan is to hit the bed tonight at 9pm (which is about 2 and a half hours earlier than normal), leaving the DVR to record my beloved Project Runway – but we’ll see what happens. I always manage to talk myself out of an early bedtime by the time it rolls around!

This weekend is the AVON Walk for Breast Cancer, which means absolutely no sleep for me! My Mom and I are working the event, for charity, and it is VERY intense.  Call times for us are 5 a.m. on Saturday, until 8 or 9pm; and 6 a.m. on Sunday until 4 p.m or so. A tired zombie I will be, I have no doubt. I am looking forward to it of course, but wish it was still a weekend away – so that I could catch up on my sleep beforehand!

The first week of November Tristan and I are off to San Francisco for 5 days to celebrate my 31st birthday! Neither of us have been there before, or to California for that matter. To be honest, SF is the only part of California that really interests me. I’ve been hard at work planning the trip, and booked our tickets out to Alcatraz last night. We are both very much looking forward to getting away! Can’t wait!