A look back on 2012. Happy New Year!

2012 has been a great year. I finally started my travel blog to document my trips and got to go to a lot of great places!

I went skiing in Killington, VT last January with friends.

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I visited my parents in Naples, FL in March.

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Spent Memorial Day weekend in Southern California checking out LA, Santa Monica, and Orange County.

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Moved from Quincy to Somerville in June. I was living with two of my best friends from high school Liz and Krissy in Quincy for about three years. Kraig and I moved in together in June to Somerville. I’ve been a South Shore girl my whole life, so I’m still getting use to living NORTH of Boston. I really love being near so many cute restaurants and bars. Also the commute to and from work is a lot easier. I’m also happy to say that Kraig and I are loving living together! ๐Ÿ™‚

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I spent a wonderful July weekend in Burlington, VT.

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Went camping in Cape Cod with friends in August.

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Went to California a second time in August and September to drive along the coast. We went to San Francisco, Monterey, Carmel, Big Sur, Sonoma, Napa, and Mendocino. We GOT ENGAGED in Big Sur, CA!! The wedding date is still TBD, but it’s 99% chance of beingย  a Boston wedding in Fall 2014. We’re having a longer engagement to allow plenty of time to save for things like a sick honeymoon!

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I visited and met Kraig’s Grandmum near St. Augustine, FL in September to celebrate her 90th Birthday. I got to go swimming in the warm water in late September! I thought I already said goodbye to the ocean for winter, but I was wrong.

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2012 has treated me well. I’m taking my annual trip to Naples, FL this March again, but that’s the only trip I have planned for 2013. I’m also going to two weddings in the fall in the Midwest. I’m hoping I can sneak up north again this winter and summer and maybe sneak in some other trips too!! Happy New Year everyone! ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m spending my NYE at a friend’s murder mystery party. See you next year!

The rest of our time in SF – September 5th to September 9th, 2012.

Our time in SF is kind of a blur to me now. We had a lot of fun walking around and eating. We took a trolley ride.

Trolley

Trolley

Got some irish coffees at a place that Kraig’s mom kept telling us aboutย  The Buena Vista Cafe.ย  I don’t think I would go here to eat, but it was fun getting a world famous irish coffee. ๐Ÿ™‚

Irish Coffee at Buena Vista

Irish Coffee at Buena Vista

Walked around Golden Gate Park. Golden Gate Park is HUGE compared to the parks we have in Boston. I wore flats and this was a mistake. I should have worn sneakers or something more substantial.

Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park

We did some bar hopping with friends and ate dinner at Greenburger’s. I got a cheeseburger and a salted coffee caramel milkshake that was out of this world.

We picnicked on wine, cheese, and crackers near the Palace of Fine Arts.ย  I have this thing where I obsess with drinking wine in parks and finally checked this off my list of things to do. There were plenty of people lounging on the grass around here eating food and soaking up the sun. We also saw a bridal party taking pictures here.

 Exploratorium, Palace of Fine Arts

Exploratorium, Palace of Fine Arts

We walked around Presidio, Lovers’ Lane and then over to Crissy Beach.ย  Crissy Beach was very cool. I can’t imagine growing up near a beach that is too cold to swim in. Brr.

Crissy Beach

Crissy Beach

We ate at a variety of other places, but I was too hungry to take pictures.

Bi-Rite Creamery is suppose to be a really good ice cream place in SF, but I didn’t think it lived up to the hype, crowds, or long line to get an ice cream. MASSACHUSETTS (okay New England) knows how to do ice cream. California does not. I guess shouldn’t brag about my ice cream tasting skills though.

We got pizza and beers for dinner at Little Star Pizza. They have thin crust and deep dish pizzas here. We ordered the deep dish pizza and both thoroughly enjoyed it. I’ve never been to Chicago before to have true deep dish pizza so I don’t have anything to compare it to.

We had brunch with Kraig’s cousin Maggie at Brenda’s French Soul Food which lived up to all the hype. I had been looking forward to getting brunch here for MONTHS.ย  We shared a Beignet Flight for an appetizer which is sample of each Beignet (donut) flavor. For the life of me, I can’t remember what I had as my main meal, but just remember thinking it was delicious and wishing I could order everything on the menu. This is what happens when you blog months after your trip, you forget everything you ate! ๐Ÿ™‚ Oh, but I could never ever forget those Beignets!

We also grabbed lunch at Claudine one day because we were starving, in the area, and that’s what yelp recommended. It was a cute little spot, but only if you’re nearby. The bartenders actually measure out the amount of wine they give you. Come on! Give me a Murphy glass of wine! A Murphy glass of wine is a large glass of wine. Not quite as large as the one on Cougartown, but you get the idea. No, I don’t really watch Cougartown, but think this is funny.

We got lunch one day at Tacolicous and ordered tacos and margs for lunch. The place was packed with people watching some game on TV that I wasn’t paying attention to. It was a young, fun atmosphere. It was also interesting to be sitting next to a couple on one of their first dates.

Overall, I thought San Fransisco was very cool. Here are our SF pics.

Our trip to Cali was a good one. I think out of all the places I’ve seen in California, BIG SUR is by far my FAVORITE. It was just so beautiful and relaxing.

Happy travels!

-Katie ๐Ÿ™‚

From Mendocino to San Francisco – September 5th, 2012.

This was the view from our room at North Coast Country Inn.

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We only spent one night in Mendocino and were going to be returning our car rental upon our return to SF so we wanted to be able to walk through some redwood trails before getting rid of our car. Phil suggested for us to make a stop at Anderson Woodsย  to see some Redwoods and then we could checkout Korbel Winery after.ย  This was a great suggestion because I read up that Anderson Woods is a lot less crowded than Muir woods and we didn’t have enough time to go the official Redwood National Forest that is way up north in Cali.

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Look at how small we’re compared to the trees!

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While these redwoods were very impressive, I still think the trees we saw at Mt. Rainier and The Olympic Peninsula are my favorite! Can you tell the difference between a Redwood and a Douglas Fir? I think I finally can. ๐Ÿ™‚

After our walk through the Redwoods, we made a stop at Korbel winery for a free tasting and some food from their cafeteria.

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And finally made it to San Francisco to stay for a few days!

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Kraig was pumped because he said it’s never been this clear when he’s seen The Golden Gate bridge before.

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We had to check into our apartment rental in Pacific Heights that we found on vrbo.com and tripadvisor. After we checked in, we grabbed some groceries and returned our car rental. By the time we finished all of that and got back to the apartment it was around 8:30 PM, so we just ordered takeout from nearby and freshened up for bed after a long day of traveling and exploring.

Time to cease SF tomorrow.

September 4th, 2012 – Mendocino, Man.

Time to say goodbye to wine country and head north to Mendocino.ย My brother recommended we check out the Russian River Brewing Company while we were in CA and I’m so happy we did. They had a great selection of beers and mouthwatering food like beer bites and pizza.

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Hmm what should we drink?

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How about one of almost everything?RussianRiverValley2

And some Drew Bites.drewbites

We didn’t have enough time to visit any of the wineries in the Russian River Valley on our trip, but maybe next time. That seems to be my answer for anything I miss when I travel now.

I don’t really recommend fueling up on beer, pizza, and beer bites for a LONG, twisty, turning, potential car-sick inducing drive to Mendocino, but at least it kept us full.

We made a stop at Bodega Bay on our drive too. This picture is so dark.

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Compared to these two pictures taken at the same time.

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The roads started to get a little too windy for my taste, but the views made it worth it.

Drive to Mendocino

Drive to Mendocino

We finally made it to North Coast Country Inn to check in.ย  Phil was our host here and was very friendly and down to earth. He upgraded us to a room with a king bed and big jetted tub! You also get a complimentary chocolate and mini bottle of local wine in your room. Phil also puts out a huge spread of food for you in the morning. Kraig and I have stayed at plenty of bNbs, but this was one of the best hosting experiences we’ve had to date.

North Coast Country Inn

North Coast Country Inn

You can walk across the street to the Whale Watch Inn and take their steps to the beach for “customers only” or people sneaking in from across the street like me.

Steps that walk down to the beach

Steps that walk down to the beach

X amount of steps (I can’t remember how many) will lead you to the beach!

Gualala, Mendocino

Gualala, Mendocino

The fog was pretty cool. There were people camped out along the beach that you can see in one of my album pictures below. ย  In case anyone is interested we had dinner at Bones Roadhouse down the street from our BnB. I got a cheeseburger and Kraig got the brisket. I’m pretty sure we stood out like sore thumbs around here, but the British couple made us be the less interesting people lol. This is a no frills place, with friendly staff and decent food! Not the type of place I’d seek out, but worth checking out if you’re in the area.

Supposedly Mendocino or Gualala is a fishing community, but there sure were a lot of luxury sports cars for a fishing town. I found out later from our BnB owner that we were in WEED TRIANGLE, USA!! WOO! lol. Kind of cool/interesting, but also made me paranoid that I would annoy drug dealers when I drove 30 miles an hour. Wait I think I annoyed everyone driving 30 mph down the scary roads of Mendocino. Oh well. Check out the rest of the pictures below and notice the naked lady flowers outside our bNb! Groovy. ๐Ÿ™‚

Next stop = SF!

September 3, 2012 – Biking through Sonoma.

Kraig talked me into biking through Sonoma so neither of us would have to operate a rental car while under the influence of wine tasting. I’m very happy we did this because it gave us more time to enjoy the views and let us burn some of the wine off that we were consuming! We grabbed a baguette, grapes, and cheese from a grocery store in town and then rented our bikes from Sonoma Valley Bike Tours & Rentals for the day. They handed us a bike trail map of the area with difficulty levels listed. We decided to stick to the easy route and began our trip. We didn’t have to schedule any of our tastings for this day in advance, so it was a nice go at your own pace kind of day.

Our first winery stop was Gundlach Bundschu. We went into the lovely air conditioned wooden bar area for a $10 6 pair wine tasting.ย  The gift shop is in the same room as the tasting room, but didn’t interfere with the tasting atmosphere.

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This place is to be pronounced as GunLock BunShoe. I found this little tip helpful in remembering the name of the Vineyard and how to pronounce it. Very clever of them! All the people working behind the bar were laid back, down to earth, and friendly. They did not rush or pressure you at all to buy anything.

Gundlach Bundschu

After our tasting, we decided to purchase a bottle of the white Gewurztraminer to enjoy with our food outside at the picnic tables.

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Gundlach Bundschu4What people don’t tell you about wine country is all the yellow jackets/hornets that are creeping around outside in the picnic areas. They’re everywhere trying to get your wine and food, so I had to eat my food ASAP because I’m afraid of yellow jackets. I also realized while I was biking that my engagement ring was way too big for my finger, so I had to start wearing it on my middle finger for the rest of the trip.

Gundlach Bundschu3After lunch we headed to Buena Vista for another tasting. Another nicely air conditioned tasting room. Ahh. The woman giving us our tasting also filled up our water bottles with WATER without us even having to ask! How could she tell we were biking and parched? ๐Ÿ™‚

BuenaVistaOur last stop was Ravenswood. Pretty much everything tasted good here. We started talking with the guy serving us here and asked him how anyone affords to live around here. He said pretty much…they don’t and explained that a lot of nearby houses were vacant or rentals.

Ravenswood1Some random horses we biked by.

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After we returned our bikes, we got ready for dinner at the girl and the fig.

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I have been super excited to go to this restaurant for a really long time expecting one of the best meals of my life, but I was a little let down. I felt like the service here was not that great and they were rushing the dining experience. The restaurant was very cute and the food wasn’t bad, but just not living up to the standards I had imagined after all the rave reviews I’ve seen about this place in the past on other blogs.

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I decided to button up to hide my sunburn.

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Kraig enjoying his wine.

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I’m willing to give the girl and the fig another shot someday. We ordered off the prix fixe menu, so maybe this had something to do with it or they were just having an off nite.

Good night Sonoma.

September 2, 2012 – from Carmel to Wine Country

Time to pack up our bags and head to Wine Country!

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For some reason we thought it would be okay to drive over The Golden Gate Bridge to get to Wine Country on a holiday weekend.goldengatebridgefog

I don’t know what we were thinking because there was a ton of traffic and we got so hungry waiting in all of it we had to make a pit stop in Sausilito for sandwiches from The Sausilito Bakery & Cafe. We were also running late for our first vineyard appointment, but luckily we were able to push back the time for our tour tasting. Sausilito was so gorgeous and reminded me of PTOWN USA BABY!, BUT… we didn’t really take any pictures because we said we’d come back when we were on our SF leg of our trip. By the time we got to SF at the end of our trip, we returned our rental car and didn’t feel like dealing with any more driving. So anyways…back to wine country.

We finally made it to Cakebread Cellars in Napa around 2:30/3 PM,ย  pounded plenty of free ice cold water in the main lobby and then got to sample 6 different wines in a small group setting outside.ย  I ended up purchasing a bottle of the 2010 Chardonnay which is funny because I don’t normally go for Chardonnays. It was so hot this day that I was just craving a white wine.

Cakebread Cellears Napa

Most vineyards seem to stop doing tours around 4 PM, so we only had time for one vineyard on our first day. We headed over to our BnB in Sonoma to check in and make use of the pool and hot tub. We stayed in The English Garden Suite which was perfectly suitable for a couple or individual.ย  Another plus of this BnB is that they have a free wine and cheese hour, so we got to munch on those treats while relaxing by the pool.

Places tend to close early in wine country.ย  After we freshened up, we stumbled upon headed to Maya Restaurant for dinner. A convertible really GIVES you color people. This is sunburned tan for me.

beforedinner Since we drank so much wine during the day, we decided to continue our margarita tradition of the trip while munching on chips and salsa before dinner. I got the tortilla soup which was pretty good. We got to eat outside and our waitress was very nice. She did not rush us at all which is something I always appreciate about a place. Time for bed so we can cease Sonoma the next day…by bike. ๐Ÿ™‚

September 1, 2012 – Hike at Point Lobos State Reserve.

Our third day in the Monterey area started off with a hike along the coast at Point Lobos State Reserve.

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Look really hard. Can you see the two deers below?

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Don’t mind the dorky outfits below.

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We checked out Carmel River State Beach and had a quick lunch at Hog’s Breath Inn which is a dog friendly restaurant.ย  There were a lot of cute dogs outside on the patio enjoying their time there with their owners. For some reason I can’t remember what I ordered for lunch here, but I’m pretty sure Kraig ordered the reuben and it was yummy. Next we did some wine tasting at Trio which is a hip spot with wine, art, and fancy olive oils. We purchased two bottles of winey pine and then headed back to our room for some relaxation after a long day. For some reason we forgot to take pictures during this part of the day.

After a few hours back at our hotel, we started to get hungry and antsy so it was time for margaritas and pizza on the rooftop at Starlight. We tried taking several pictures on the rooftop at Starlight, but they all came out blurry. The bartenders here were friendly with a good sense of humor. They also laughed when we told them we were going to Mendocino later in our trip with a response of “Mendocino Man” in a stoner voice.

Starlight

Goodnight Carmel.