Tuesday, October 2, 2012

London! (The itinerary!)

We're going to London later this month! I'm so excited!

Air New Zealand had some amazing round trip fares for direct flights out of Los Angeles to London, so we jumped on the opportunity to visit two friends that are living there. It's been over a year since I've seen SD, and it's been over FIVE years since I've seen CH! I've never flown Air New Zealand before, but so far it's been a great experience with them - they have a really, truly fantastic customer service line, are friendly and never rude, and gave us free London Passes with the purchase of our tickets! The London Pass is going to come in handy, too, with line jumping and free entry to a ton of attractions. 

So, what do we plan on doing? 

Nothing, and everything.

I want at least 1 day of this trip to be dedicated to not having any plans. In the other two trips I've taken this year - New York and the Wild Wild (Mid)West, our days were packed to the gills with stuff to do. Must see this, must do that, must eat here. So this trip? Not a whole lot of that. I want some quality time with BF. I want some really fun, casual times with our friends. And I want to actually be able to soak in a true idea of what London is like!

There are, of course, things I want to see - Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, the London Eye, the London Tower and Tower Bridge, St. Paul's Cathedral, Harrods, the rugby museum, the bridges. Maybe Windsor Castle. Maybe the Chislehurst Caves. A coworker told me that the Soane Museum can't be missed. There's a DaVinci Code tour that looks my inner nerd thinks sounds awesome.  And there are bike tours and boat tours and canal tours and seven new attractions... the list goes on and on. 

On the top of my "musts" list - afternoon tea! I love, love, love tea, and I feel like it's a quintessential thing to do while visiting London. Not sure where we'll end up, but I'll be sure to post about that later! 

And someone on a TripAdvisor recommended this "marvelously cheap" outing for visitors: "Take the Docklands Light Railway from Bank station in the direction of Lewisham. Get off at Island Gardens and walk through the historic pedestrian tunnel under the Thames. Pop out in Greenwich and stroll around - perhaps eating a picnic in the park or going to the Maritime Museum (free)." It sounds good to me! 

All I want out of this trip is great escape - good, relaxing time with BF and my friends, and to feel completely NOT stressed when we get home. And I think we've got a pretty good plan (or, non plan?) to make that happen!

So, have any of you been to London? Is there anything out there that we shouldn't miss?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Wild Wild (Mid)West: Mount Rushmore & Custer National Park

The morning of our last full day of our trip we headed out early so we could see as much as we could of Mount Rushmore and Custer National Parks. And, since we didn't take all of the traditional routes for this leg of the trip, I'm going to talk about the highways we took, too, in case anyone is interested in our route!

We headed south on 385  from Deadwood through Hill City to get to the monument, because my stepdad has family in Hill City, and we wanted to check out the Black Hills Institute museum. We didn't end up making it to the museum, because we wanted to make sure we had plenty of time to see everything else, but if I had more time, I'd definitely stop in! And if I had kids, I wouldn't dream of missing it - they have a T-rex skeleton!

 A kid fishing in one of the picturesque lakes along the drive.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Wild Wild (Mid)West: South Dakota and the Black Hills

On day 4 of our trip we got a rather late start, as we'd been up late at the Sheridan WYO Rodeo and Street Dance. But we made it onto the road by 1pm, and drove pretty much straight to South Dakota, with a short detour to see Devil's Tower, WY. 


Devil's Tower from the road. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Wild Wild (Mid)West: Driving across northern Wyoming

Once we had dismounted our horses, we took our sore rumps to the car for the longest day of driving of the trip - the exit of Yellowstone to almost clear across Wyoming to Sheridan, WY. And we had a schedule - we had a rodeo to go to!

The drive from east Yellowstone to Cody, WY was one of the prettiest parts of our trip. President Teddy Roosevelt called the drive the most scenic in America, and it definitely lived up to the hype. 


On the road to Cody, WY

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Wild Wild (Mid)West: Horseback riding at Pahaska Tepee Lodge

One of the best parts of our trip out west was the morning we did a two hour horseback ride through Shoshone National Forest in Wyoming. We started out at 9:30am and headed up a trail that took us up to 10,000 feet. The employees at the stables were really nice, even though there had been a miscommunication about what time we were starting the ride. 


Our horses: Weatherby, Bear Claw, Blimpy, and Rapid

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Wild Wild (Mid)West: Yellowstone

Visiting Yellowstone was incredible. Pretty much everywhere you looked was amazing! My biggest regret from our trip was that we didn't have more time to spend there... I'll definitely be returning someday, and will spend a lot more time! We got a decent taste of the park, but there were so many hikes and sights we missed!

Nearly there!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Wild Wild (Mid)West: Montana Grizzly Encounter

The Montana Grizzly Encounter was absolutely awesome. After we got lost outside of Bozeman, we didn't have a ton of time, but wanted to do something cool and "Montana-y." And the Grizzly Encounter totally fit the bill!

It was an easy drive outside of Bozeman - only about 10 minutes on 191/90 East. It cost $7/person to get in, and you could spend as much or as little time as you wanted watching the bears. I think we stayed a little over an hour, which was plenty of time to check out the grizzlies! 

The two bears that were in the enclosure were Sheena and Brutus. Sheena is a 26 year old female who was born in captivity and through some random circumstances ended up spending 13 years of her life in a 6'x4' cage until she was rescued by the organization. She only tolerates Brutus, so no other bears are allowed out while she's out. She also doesn't let humans touch her. Brutus, on the other hand, is a 10 year old male who stands at 7'9" tall. He was raised with human interaction, and sometimes works on movie sets!

Sheena meandering to the water and Brutus sniffing some wildflowers.

Wild Wild (Mid)West: Bozeman, Montana

Finally, I'm getting around to writing about our trip to Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota!

We started the day off super early, as the only direct flight from LA to Bozeman the day we flew was at 8am. As per our habit when flying out of LAX, we left early enough to hit Randy's Donuts on the way - it's the best donut place in LA, hands down. Yeah, that's right, I said it. 

 The coconut donuts from Randy's Donuts are the best EVER!

Monday, July 23, 2012

The First 70

I'm back from our amazing road trip to Yellowstone and Mount Rushmore! It was a great trip which I'll go all sorts of into soon, but at the moment, I wanted to bring up another topic.

The state of California is in a budget crisis, as many are, but on the list of cuts are the closing of 70 state parks across the state. A group of filmmakers went on a 120 day tour of these parks and created The First 70, a documentary to highlight the beauty of the parks scheduled to close. 



 
 
As a California native, this topic bums me out - there is so much to see and do in our state and it breaks my heart to know that these parks are closing! In addition, one of my favorite parks, Limekiln State Park, has already closed. Limekiln is a simply stunning park - it's on the Big Sur coast and has a campground with spaces in the redwoods and on the beach, and miles and miles of amazing hiking trails and historic sites. There are waterfalls, lime kilns  where mined limestone was quarried for many buildings in San Francisco to be built. It's also a favorite vacation spot for my mom and me, and it's going to be sorely missed by us.

Check out the documentary, make a donation if you're so inclined, and check out images from the incredible parks that are scheduled to close. Visit the Save Our State Parks website for more action items, or check out the list of closures to see if your favorite state park is in danger. And for more information on each park, check out State Park Closure Trip blog, a blog run by another woman visiting all of the parks slated for closure.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Wild Wild (Mid)West - Montana, Wyoming & South Dakota Road Trip

Even though I technically live west of Montana, Wyoming, and South Dakota, the upcoming road trip we have planned there reminds me of the "wild wild west."

M and I were taking a drive a few months ago and decided we wanted to take a road trip. But not just any road trip - a road trip to somewhere 1) we'd never been, and 2) that was completely different than California or the East Coast. Then we remembered we'd never seen some of the great "American" sights like Yellowstone and Mount Rushmore (which both scream road trip, no?) and voilĂ , a trip was born. 

I meant to write about our itinerary ages ago when we actually booked the trip, but stuff (like my real job) got in the way, and now it's right around the corner! SO. Here's a rundown of what we're going to be doing!

DAY 1 – BOZEMAN, MT

 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Travel blogger line?

I have a question for any travel bloggers that may have randomly stumbled upon my (very) little read travel blog: To what extent is it acceptable to "borrow" ideas you find on other sources and make them your own? And, if you borrow an idea, should you always link to the original source(s)?

I recently stumbled upon an article called "8 Quirky Towns and Villages Worth A Visit" on the website All Women Stalk. (I absolutely LOVE that website, by the way!) I thought the article was really cool - little towns all over the world that were fun and different - and started researching the towns listed in the article. 

When I got to VlkolĂ­nec, Ruzomberok (in Slovakia), I stumbled upon another, very similar article as the one that had gotten me started: Frommer's "10 Towns that Do Things Their Own Way." 

And I realized the AWS article is comprised of 8 of the 10 small, quaint towns listed in the Frommer's article. 

It made me think, and wonder. Seriously, though. Is this a common practice? Is it appropriate? I really don't know what the boundaries for travel blogging are!

I guess if it had been me, I would have tried to gain inspiration from the Frommer's article, and then create something of my own. Or, I'd have gathered a few articles on unique places to visit, and then done my own research on the ones that jumped out. 

Maybe it just bothers me because they're the exact towns, in nearly the exact same order. Or because I commented on the AWS linking to the Frommer's article, and the comment was deleted. 

But if any other travel bloggers out there read this - please tell me what you think! Is this crossing some travel blogging line? Or am I just a product of my high school English teachers pounding the "reference your sources" line into us?

Friday, May 4, 2012

New York: Dylan's Candy Bar


Where do I start? 

This place is quite possibly the best candy store I've been to in my life! Three floors of deliciousness, and so much variety you barely know where to start! By the bulk, by the bar, by the chunk, it was a wonderland of childhood dreams. 

Let's go by floor, shall we? 

The entry level floor was like a Sweet Factory on crack. Cases and cases of candy - sour candy, chocolate candy, chewy candy. The best part? You could buy gummy bears BY. THE. FLAVOR. Yep, that's correct. I got an entire bag of pineapple gummy bears, and enjoyed every single one of them.

Color wheel of chocolate - each color was a different flavor! I ended up grabbing a pack of bars to bring back as souvenirs! 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

New York: By Night!

Since M spent a good portion of the trip working, we did a lot of our wandering and sightseeing at night. Which actually worked out really well for us, because New York by night is really awesome. For some reason, most nights we ended up eating dinner on the Upper East side, so we walked back down to Chelsea to our hotel more than once, and got lots of chances to check out the sights by night!

FAO Schwarz!  Kind of bummed we were never there when it was open to check out all the toys!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

New York: Central Park

I knew from the moment I booked my trip that I would be spending an extensive amount of time in Central Park. I had a huge list of things I wanted to see there, and actually made it to most of them! 

I made two rounds around Central Park on my trip - one with X after a Sunday brunch, and one with M when she was finally off work on Monday... and both trips were awesome and different. 

Strawberry Fields and the John Lennon Imagine mosaic - it was ridiculously crowded and took me a good 5 minutes to get a shot of just the mosaic without any weirdo tourists sitting on it. Why do you need a photo WITH the mosaic??

Monday, April 30, 2012

New York: The Sights!

Admittedly, I had a very ambitious list of things I wanted to see while in New York last month. While I didn't manage to do EVERYTHING, I think I covered a good amount of stuff, plus some extras that were unexpected! 

I was in New York for 5 days - Thursday through Monday. The first two days, I spent the majority of in my office, then meeting up with M when she finished work. We went sightseeing at night - it was a really cool perspective of the city.


Wednesday, February 29, 2012

New York City - What To Do & See?

I leave for New York in a week! I can't believe that I'm FINALLY going to be able to scratch NYC off of my "must see" list... But now that it's almost here, I'm having a really tough time pinning down what I want to see and do while we're there. A couple friends have been helping me refine this list, and here's what we've come up with so far!

Central Park
There are about a thousand things I want to see in Central Park. Fortunately for me, Central Park has an awesome, comprehensive website, full of things to see and do, activities, and even a list of the trees and flowers you'll see there. Maybe I'll rent a bike so I can see more of the awesome things the park has to offer. Some of the things on my list? Belvedere Castle, the Azalea Pond, the Blockhouse, the Lake and the Loch and the Gill and the Pool Grotto, Harlem Meer, the Charles B. Stover "whisper" bench, Nutter's Battery Site, the Mall and Literary Walk, Strawberry Fields, and the Turtle Pond. And that's not even getting started on the bridges: the Oak Bridge, the Bow Bridge, the Gapstow Bridge, and the Balcony Bridge! Whew! Yeah, pretty sure I'm going to need an entire day to dedicate to the park.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

In the works...

I've been feeling the travel bug lately - like crazy.

And, I'm happy to say that I've got not one but TWO trips in the works now!

The first is a super quick, overnight trip to San Diego for our anniversary next week. We're going to spend to go down, see BF's aunt and uncle, check out the museum where BF's uncle has some items on display, and spend the night in my favorite part of San Diego - the Gaslamp District!

I booked our hotel today, and it was awesome because I used my Hotels.com Welcome Rewards credit towards our hotel - so we'll be paying less than $100 for a night! The Welcome Rewards program is pretty cool - you book 10 nights in a hotel through them, and you get 1 night free (based on the average you spend on the other nights)! We decided to splurge a bit and booked a more "luxury" hotel, so the credit went towards the total, then we paid the balance. Works for me!

The second trip is one I've been daydreaming about for years - New York City! I've been traveling for years, have been to four continents and lord knows how many countries, heck, I've even lived abroad... but I've never been to New York. The closest I've come was our East Coast Road Trip from a few years back when we drove on the outskirts of New York on our way from Boston to Virginia. And now, my opportunity has finally arrived!

M is going to be in New York for work, and I found a round trip flight for $240 (American Airlines, JetBlue and Virgin America ALL had this fare) - so I immediately booked it. I'll be there for 5 nights, and the best part is we won't have to pay for hotels! The first three nights are covered through her work, and then we'll stay with my friend for the last two nights! I can't think of a better way to see NY - a great mix between visiting friends and working.

What trips do you have coming up that you're excited for?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

#SOPASTRIKE

I couldn't figure out how to black out this website (also I don't have the time to learn right now), but I felt that I needed to post something in support of the protests going on today.

PLEASE take a moment if you haven't already to educate yourself about these bills. The way they're currently written would essentially end the Internet as we know (and love) it.

Here's a video that gives a fairly clear explanation of PIPA & SOPA:

PROTECT IP / SOPA Breaks The Internet from Fight for the Future on Vimeo.

Read about why Wikipedia went black today, check out Reddit.com, go to this site to see what you can do to help, and be sure to click on the top image (or just go here) and sign the petition for our Congress members!

I try really hard to make sure to give credit when I use something on this site - I link photos to the websites I got them from, I link information, I link quotes and videos. But, see all those sites I just linked to? If SOPA were in effect, my site could be "blacklisted" from the Internet if any of the sites linked above had a link on them that infringed copyrights! Please take action if you find that as outrageous as I do!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks

A few weekends ago, BF and I were bumming around the house and randomly decided to drive up to Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks.

I know, so spontaneous!


It was already 4:30pm on a Saturday, so we hurriedly packed overnight bags, grabbed Emma's bed, and got on the road. We were on the road by 5pm, and on the way up we found & booked a dog friendly motel by the entrance of Sequoia National Park (Buckeye Tree Lodge Trip Advisor review) - and we had such a nice stay!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A weekend wedding in Las Vegas

Back in October 2011, BF & I went to Las Vegas for one of my best friends' wedding.

It was a quick, but memorable, trip - BF had never been, and it had been over 7 years for me. Neither of us are huge fans of the desert. We don't really gamble, we don't drink all that much, and neither of us are keen on crowds. But SdlTC (gosh, even her initials are a mouthful!) was getting married there, so there we would be!
Awesome view of the strip from a club at the Palms!

In the end, the wedding and surrounding events were awesome and fantastic, but our stay in Vegas wasn't all it was cracked up to be.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Oh, Canada! (Or, My Toronto Trip!)

Last October, I went to Toronto on somewhat of a whim. See, M's company was sending her there for work, and she asked if I wanted to go. I had always wanted to see Toronto (especially since they shoot a couple of my favorite TV shows there), and thought - why not??

So off to Toronto we went!

View of the city skyline from the waterfront.