Sunday, August 4, 2013

Travel Wish List

There are really so many places I'd love to visit, but here are my big wishes (in no particular order) for the next several decades.

1) Visit all 50 states (31 down: check out for my "jump kick" pictures.  I have been to a few states that aren't on here (Penn, Georgia, West Va to name a few)
2) Canada (next month!)
3) Thailand
4) Europe: England, Germany, Austria, Italy, France, Spain
5) Australia
6) Africa
7) Central & South America
8) Virgin Islands
9) Galapagos Islands

Where do you want to go?  Where have you been that you loved and think I should go? 

Summer and Fall Travel Plans

We have a lot going on this summer.  Okay, so it's August.  Most of you are thinking, "summer is over."  Not here in Southern California.  The weather is just starting to be cheery enough for me to think it's summer and not spring.

Already this spring and summer we went to Hawaii for a week and to Las Vegas for several days. Check the labels to search for information on these two trips.

Next up on the list:

1) My sister and brother-in-law visit next week.  Okay, so we aren't traveling anywhere, but we will be exploring some new things with my family.  We will be going to Universal Studios for the first time for instance and taking them to local restaurants and beaches.

2) San Francisco at the end of August.  I am so excited to revisit Fisherman's Wharf, Ghirardelli Square, and Market Street.  We are going to eat dungeness crab and bike over The Golden Gate Bridge.  We didn't have time to eat crabs on our last trip to San Francisco, so I am looking forward to chowing down this trip.  On one of our last visits we biked from San Francisco to Sausalito.  The numerous vistas of The Golden Gate Bridge were stunning. I can not wait to do this again!  I highly suggest you do this trip on your next visit to San Francisco.  Rent a bike from one of numerous places around Fisherman's Wharf, then bike one way to Sausalito and take the ferry the other way.  Something new to explore: Alcatraz.  I have been to San Francisco three times, but never made it a priority to take a tour of Alcatraz.  I have since heard from multiple friends that it is a great tour. Sam and I are both looking forward to exploring the old prison.

3) At the end of September we are going on our first cruise- to Alaska!  It leaves from Seattle, Washington, goes to 3 ports in Alaska and ends in Canada.  I am so excited for this trip.  I have never been to Alaska, Washington state or Canada.  So many places to check off my travel list in one trip!  I really need to sit down and research what to do (and what to eat!) in all these places.

4) In October, we will be visiting Palm Springs for the first time. I have been told there isn't much to do in the area, but I'm okay with that. I am looking forward to relaxing at the pool and spa.

5) We visit family in Virginia in November.

6) In January, we revisit Palm Springs with Sam's family.

Next spring, we are hoping to plan a trip to Yosemite.

Any ideas on what to do on these upcoming trips?

Road Trip USA and our next big road trip

Sam and I are starting to dream up another epic road trip.  While browsing Pinterest, I found an infographic with a link to Road Trip USA.  Are you familiar with this site?  It lists 11 road trip routes across the USA and what to do along the way. This is a good way to start brainstorming a road trip.

I think the coastal trips look fantastic.  I have driven (or be a passenger along) much of The East Coast. Last year, for our first anniversary we drove from Miami, FL to Key West.  In a convertible.  It was amazing. I am also quiet fond of the Carolina coast.  Though a trip from Washington D.C to Boston, MA is filled with traffic, it has a lot of history along the way. If you choose to do this route you can end up exploring the museums and monuments of D.C, the food, theater and museums of New York City and the history and culture of Boston. I can't imagine driving the entire East Coast in one trip.  I think it would be more manageable broken up into parts. However, I speak as an East Coaster. If you are from else where, you may want to do all of it, or much of it, at once.

Southern California has been our home for the last 10 months. I have driven the coast line from San Diego to Carlsbad, San Clemente or farther north numerous times. It is unbelievable how much untouched beauty there is along the road. There are so many quaint beach towns along the way. I am very much looking forward to traveling farther north along The West Coast over the next year.  I have heard the drive, particularly north of LA is stunning.

Our next long road trip will be planned around some of the amazing National Parks here on The West Coast. We will drive north along the coast, hitting Redwoods, Crater Lake and Olympic National Parks. We are also hoping to explore Yellowstone and the Tetons on this trip as well.  Sam is a huge fan of Glacier, but we aren't sure we will have enough time to make a detour to see that park as well.

What are some must do's along The West Coast?  Any favorite National Parks? I am looking forward to seeing the diversity of this beautiful coast.  Stay tuned for more information as we continue to plan. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Griddle, Los Angeles, CA

Expect a wait if you check out this West Hollywood hit. It is worth it.

Make sure to bring your appetite! The portions are huge and the menu is extensive.  All you really need to know is that you should order some french toast or pancakes.

Or both.

The pancakes come in stacks of three. And they are as big as your head. It is not on the menu, but you can order one or two pancakes.

We had the Oreo filled pancake called "Dark Magic." Pretty spectacular stuff.

What could be better than an Oreo filled pancake?

How about chips a hoy crusted french toast?

This was fantastic! Definitely the rest french toast I have ever eaten. I know I keep saying that. But that's only because each place is better than the last.

Please go here (with a large appetite) if you are in the area. Enjoy something sweet for me!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Cellar, San Clemente, CA

Last night Sam took me on a date to The Cellar. We had passed it multiple times as it is a few blocks from our apartment. I had always wanted to stop by (it has a quaint patio, wine, cheese and accesories for sale and sometimes live music playing), but had not made time to do so until last night. 

Happy Hour is from 4-6 PM. There were some wine, beer and food specials. I enjoyed a $5 glass of pinot noir and Sam had a $5 glass of Chimay white.

The cheese plate was fabulous. We had 3 different cheeses each paired with a little treat. The first was a cheese made from cow's milk prepared in brie style. It was very creamy and was served with Spanish almonds and raw honey. The next cheese was a goat cheese served with a pepper jelly. Last, was a blue cheese served with fig and almond bread.

We also enjoyed the burger which is dressed with bleu cheese, roasted peppers, and bacon.I have a hard time not ordering sweet potato fries when they are near, so we added that to our order as well. 

These were the best sweet potato fries we have ever had. Ever. Seriously. 

They are served with just the right amount of sea salt as well as cheese (the brown looking stuff on top seen in the picture) and


The honey really brought out the sweetness of the fries. Why had I not thought of this before?!

If you like wine, cheese and good food make sure you stop by The Cellar if you are in the area.  They have a great selection of wine and cheese for purchase in their shop. If you don't have time for a meal run in to check out the shop and grab something to go. Enjoy!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Aria, Las Vegas, NV

My husband and I just returned from a stay at Aria.  The hotel and casino was built recently. The lobby, casino, and rooms are modern and tastefully decorated. The casino is bright (and doesn't stink of smoke) unlike some of its older neighbors on the strip. The rooms themselves are decked out with remote EVERYTHING. From the curtains to the lights and music, everything can be changed with the touch of a button or an on screen control.

There are plenty of food and drink options on the property. We rarely left the hotel (with the exception going out for shows and tours) because we found so much to eat and see at Aria. The crepes at Jean Philippe Patisserie are not to be missed (the sandwiches are good, too!).  Our favorite crepes were the chocolate and the nutella.  Julian Serrano serves great tapas and sangria. From 4 PM to 5:30 PM, the sangria and 11 of the tapas are half off. The sliders, meatballs, lamb chop were my favorites. We also had the calamari, tuna cones, and raspberry tuna skewers. This restaurant serves three different types of sangria- red, rose, and white. We tried the red and rose. The red was one of the best red sangrias I have ever tasted. The rose was light and refreshing.

The fitness facility is huge with plenty of cardio equipment, free weights and Cybex machines. The treadmills overlook the pool and have tv's mounted to them. Swipe your card at the desk when you arrive and grab a towel and bottle of water.

Be sure to get to the pool early if you are visiting at the end of the week or weekend. The pool started to get crowded on Wednesday and Thursday was much busier.  I imagine it is packed on weekends.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

702 Helicopter Tours, Las Vegas, Nevada

You only turn 30 once.

We went to Hawaii for my 30th for over a week.  Sam wanted to save some dough and go somewhere closer to home for his 30th.  He picked Las Vegas.

This was our third trip to Vegas together (his 4th total) and I wanted to do something special.  I spotted a helicopter tour on Travelzoo.  702 Helicopters had great reviews on TripAdvisor so I bought the deal ($69/person) and some how managed to keep it a secret until his birthday.  I paid extra for a private tour and for transportation to and from the airport. It was so worth having the tour to ourselves.  The transportation had us biting our nails because they definitely forgot us. After several phone calls, a white limo arrived 20 minutes late. Because we had booked the transportation with the company (they contract it out it seems) they held our spot in line and we didn't miss our flight.

This was pretty much the coolest thing we have ever done. Okay, so snorkeling in The Keys and Hawaii is pretty cool. We loved sailing on a catamaran in Santorini. But, this? This was epic!

The tour is a quick 15 minutes, but the ride takes you down the strip on one side, around the bottom and then back up the other side, ending with a close look at the Stratosphere.  We had a blast!

My only regret? Not forcing Sam to bring his nice camera.  The photos that follow were taken with my phone.  The first of which is us in the limo on the way to the tour.

The Neon Museum, Las Vegas, Nevada

Last night we visited The Neon Museum in Las Vegas. It is north of the strip, passed downtown. This is perhaps one of the coolest things to do in Las Vegas, Nevada. Sam heard about it via one of The Property Brothers. I surprised him with tickets for his birthday trip.

Las Vegas is an ever changing city.  The neon signs of the past and present are a good way to show this change. The hour tour is $25 and depending on the time of year may sell out quickly.  I suggest buying tickets prior to arriving at the museum.  From our hotel on the strip (Aria) it was a steep $31 (including tip) cab ride to the museum.  Thankfully, a friend of mine did the 8 PM tour, so we caught a ride with him back to the strip, saving us thirty bucks.

If you are going at night you may want to wear closed toed shoes and watch where you step. In summer months, bring a bottle of water or you can purchase one for $1. It was hot when we arrived for our 7:30 PM tour and we had forgotten water, so we opted to purchase a couple of bottles.

Many of the tour guides are volunteers. Our guide, David (or Dave, I'm not sure), was fantastic. The amount of information he packed into our hour tour was amazing.  I could not believe it when he mentioned this was only his second tour!  What a wealth of information!