travel:: Puerto Rican babymoon, part 2

Although we didn’t venture too far away from our hotel during this quick trip to Puerto Rico, I did enjoy being able to explore the Condado Beach area. On one morning walk, we crossed the bridge heading over to Old San Juan and found part of this old fort, which is now closed to the public. We also saw a cute little public beach right off the street, and it included an outdoor gym, which we thought was a playground – haha. Maybe I’d be more inclined to work out if I got to do it on the actual beach?

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Panoramic view from our balcony::
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23 weeks and a few days — loving our Stella & Dot beach tunic for an expanding belly this season!
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Before dinner one night, we headed into Old San Juan to wander the streets and see the historic part of the city. I’d heard about these blue cobblestone streets, and they were so pretty in person! From what I found online, they were cast from iron slag, which is the waste from iron smelting, and were brought over in the 1700s. There’s your historical fun fact for the day.
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Old San Juan is apparently known for its feral cat population, which we noticed as soon as we started walking the streets of the historic area. They are not at all phased by people walking past them as they lie on the sidewalks or in doorways. We joke about the neighborhood stray cat at home being a “street cat,” but these guys are serious. Coco would be terrified.
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No better way to bid ourselves adieu than with a final meal at Ola — and a giant breakfast buffet, at that. I would love to have my yogurt and granola served in those adorable, chilled glasses every morning. Craig, can you help me out with that? 
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We had the most wonderful visit to Puerto Rico, and I can’t recommend our hotel enough. Everyone we met was so friendly and hospitable, the food we had throughout our stay was delicious, and the views of the ocean were beautiful. It was the perfect way to unwind for a few days and enjoy each others’ company on our last real vacation as a couple before baby girl arrives this fall. Eeek!

travel:: Puerto Rican babymoon, part 1

We’re back from our babymoon/anniversary trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico and feeling rested and happy! We haven’t been on a trip by ourselves that pretty much only consisted of relaxing by the pool and being lazy since our honeymoon 6 years ago, and it was much-appreciated. I’d heard such great things about PR, and I can see why. The weather was perfect (cooler than Atlanta, if you can believe that), the locals are so incredibly friendly, and the Condado Vanderbilt Hotel was incredible — top notch service… probably the best we’ve ever received while traveling.

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The historic property just re-opened in December after a very large renovation, and every aspect of the hotel is really nicely done. The view of the ocean from the lobby and lounge area is so inviting, and the moment we arrived, we were handed glasses of champagne to enjoy while we waited on our room to be ready. (Don’t worry — I only had a little.)

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We ended up eating lunch at Ola, the casual onsite restaurant, every day. We tried something new each time; the fancy wood fired pizzas, Cuban sandwich, and brisket quesadilla were among our faves. And I loved their slate plates. 😉
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This was our view for 3 days. There didn’t appear to be a lot of open beach along the coast, and our hotel was situated right against the rocks. We had a beautiful, unobstructed view of the ocean crashing against the rocks from our beach chairs, as well as from the infinity pool. (Craig wouldn’t let me near the pool with my phone, so no photos…)
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Our oceanview room, while not directly facing the ocean, did still have a great view of the water — and about a 15′ balcony along one side. The other side of the room had a view of the harbor and bridge leading over to Old San Juan. I loved that all the windows in the room (and bathroom!) opened up… something I don’t think we’ve seen in most other hotels. 
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Dinner our first night was at a trendy oceanside restaurant, aptly named Oceano. We got a great seat on the deck right off the beach, and we loved our meal. I really enjoyed the grilled pineapple starter I had, and Craig’s pork and corn dish was one of our favorite meals of the trip. 
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We may or may not have then gone back to Ola at the hotel solely for the purpose of eating this amazing Chocolate Bread Pudding dessert (complete with coconut sorbet, salted caramel sauce, nuts, and caramel corn). And we went back again the next night, too. I’m a bad influence. 
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Stay tuned for the rest of our Puerto Rican babymoon!

travel:: the Grand Canyon

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From Sedona, we drove up to the Grand Canyon National Park, which has been a longtime item on my bucket list. The 2.5 hour drive up to the park was really pretty, with a good bit of the first half being through the mountains. I don’t know what I expected, but I certainly didn’t think we’d be taking a drive through the forest in Arizona.

We aren’t incredibly outdoorsy people, so instead of staying several days to hike down to the bottom of the canyon and camp (and then hike back out!), we opted for a night at the historic El Tovar Hotel, positioned at the South Rim. You couldn’t get much closer to the rim unless you slept on the sidewalk. There are several lodges and cabins located in that area of the South Rim, but I really liked staying at El Tovar for our first time there. From the moment you step onto the large, rocking chair-filled front porch and enter through the wooden double doors into the lobby, you can feel the rustic, turn-of-the-century charm. The hotel was built in 1905, and I would bet that a lot of aspects haven’t changed since then. The rooms are somewhat small, but they’re well-equipped with modern amenities (even a Kuerig coffee maker) — and I loved the tile work in the bathroom.

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We arrived late in the afternoon and took a scenic drive out to Grandview Point (thanks to a suggestion from our Canadian friends in Sedona) to get our first glimpse of the canyon. It was so incredibly impressive — photos we’d seen just did no justice to how magnificent the sheer size is.

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Bright and early the next morning, we started our hike down the Bright Angel Trail, which was only about a quarter mile down from the hotel. Like I said… we’re not hikers. So going about 1.5 miles down into the canyon and 1.5 miles back out was PLENTY for us. Add in the high altitude, and we thought me might not make it out. I will say that it’s supposed to take twice as long coming back up, but we did it in equal time… so maybe we were going a bit faster on the way out than we should have. We must have looked tired, because there were several people who passed us and asked if we’d gone all the way to the bottom — HA!

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The trail itself, though, was quite peaceful. It was neat to just stop every so often and take in the grand view and how far we’d made it down. We decided afterward that we liked the hiking in Sedona better, but I’m so glad we did the GC.

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After cleaning up (we were COVERED in orange dust!) and checking out of the El Tovar, we hopped back in the car to make the 4 hour trek down to Scottsdale. Once out of the park, we came back by this bizarre little place called The Flintstones Bedrock City. It has been around for over 45 years and consists of a campground, diner, and theme park. Craig was just dying to check it out, so we took a chance on it and stopped for lunch. While the place was pretty deserted, the lunch was a nice little surprise. It was nothing fancy — burgers, hot dogs, and the like (all with Flintstones-themed names) — but it was well-made and much better than stopping at McDonald’s. We didn’t end up paying to go through the theme park, but I’m sure it would have brought back many fond memories of one of the best cartoon families there ever was.

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4 years + a beach trip to celebrate

As I’ve mentioned in a couple of my last posts, we took a vacation to St. Augustine, FL last weekend in celebration of our 4th anniversary. St. Augustine is one of my most favorite places in the world. My mom’s family has had a beach house there for over 30 years, and I grew up going there every year. We have so many cherished memories of spending time there with our family and friends. And one of the very best memories is having gotten married there on 6.6.09! I love the historic downtown and cobblestone streets, great seafood restaurants and funny biker bars, private beach and orange sand covered in colorful tiny shells, and really just everything about the area. So what better way to celebrate than bring 8 friends and a baby with us for the long weekend?

The trip started off a little rocky with crazy rain all the way to FL from the impending tropical storm Andrea. When we got to the beach house, the waves were some of the craziest I’ve ever seen there, and the tide was almost up to the walkway. I was more than nervous that we’d all be spending our trip cooped up inside, but the sun miraculously came out on Friday morning and saved the trip. So we stocked up on lots of food and drinks to entertain ourselves with for a few days of uninterrupted beach time bliss.

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Craig and I arrived earlier than everyone else on Thursday so that we could celebrate with dinner at The Columbia, our favorite spot downtown. There are several locations throughout Florida, but we’ve made a tradition of eating there every time we visit. Their white sangria made tableside, cuban bread, and Chicken Salteado dish are my absolute favorites.

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Our morning view from the back deck. Doesn’t get much better than this.
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Our baby friend LOVED his first beach trip!
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I think the guys really wanted to hang out in his pool with him.
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The family beach house.
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The boys found the toys.
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Such a beautiful little face!
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Dining on the deck at Cap’s on the Water. Oysters, fried gator tail, tasty cocktails, fantastic weather, sunset watching, and swordfish that wasn’t on the menu. Such a fun night.
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Neon!
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The last night called for a homecooked seafood feast — sausage/shrimp app,
grouper, mahi, swordfish, grilled corn, and salad — all prepared by the guys.
Best meal of the trip!
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Last weekend flew by way too quickly, but I guess that’s what happens when you’re having a great time, right? We couldn’t have asked for better weather, more laughs from playing late night games, better food, or more fun. I’m so happy we got to spend our anniversary weekend with some of our favorite friends. Till next time!

travel bug

I have my parents to thank for my travel bug, and I couldn’t be more thankful. I have so many fond memories of traveling all over the country with my parents and brother — beaches and mountains, a motorhome trip across the country to see Mt. Rushmore (and the Mall of America, which I was thrilled about!), California, Hawaii, Vegas, NY, Seattle, and the list goes on. I think traveling is one of the most wonderful things in life… seeing the world God created for us, experiencing how other people live, discovering and enjoying new cultures… and eating lots and lots of good food.

I dream of traveling the world with my handsome sidekick, and we’ve started documenting our US travels on a giant vintage map (idea courtesy of my favorite bloggers, Young House Love). Red pins mark where we’re traveled together, white pins mark Craig’s travels, and black pins mark mine. I can’t wait till there are more pins than blank spaces!

One of our most recent plans is to take a good old fashioned road trip. We’d thought about renting a Winnie and driving allll the way across the US, but we decided on something a bit more stylish and fancy. So off to California we’ll go for a combo trip to celebrate our 30th birthdays / 4th wedding anniversary next year! We’re planning to drive the famed Pacific Coast Highway for about 9 days in the spring, and I can barely contain my excitement!! The idea is to fly into San Francisco, which is one of my favorite places (I’ll be going next week for my 3rd Hoopla, the national Stella & Dot conference/giant slumber party/amazing weekend). Craig’s technically been to California, if you count skiing on that side of the mountain in Lake Tahoe. But I don’t know if that really counts.


From San Francisco, we’ll drive through Monterey/Carmel,  Santa Barbara, LA/Santa Monica, and end up in San Diego. I found an amazing whale watching excursion on little 6-passenger Navy Seal boats — so fun! I don’t know about those tiny boats floating next to the largest animals in the world, but they say it’s safe and I suppose I trust them.

If you’re a CA expert or have any tips on the famous PCH drive, please share! I have heard about something called the “June fog” and know that it’ll likely be pretty chilly earlier in the spring. Have favorite restaurants or little roadside motels we should check out?