Six Ladies in the Big Apple (Part 1)

IMG_5571My mom, aunt, sister, sister-in-law, and I were so beyond excited to go on our NYC adventure and it did not disappoint!

Plans were made a few months ago to take my 9 year old niece to the Big Apple with “her favorite ladies.” We were there for a long weekend and felt like it was a very successful trip of sightseeing, laughing, eating/drinking and making memories.  My mom and aunt extended their trip because it was my aunts first time in the city and she wanted to make sure she did it all.  (Turns out as I type this, bad weather is coming and when they got a notice that their flight “may” be cancelled they decided to go ahead and extend their stay one more night!)

We landed on Friday morning, dropped off our luggage and went straight to the 9/11 Memorial and OH MY GOODNESS, this was so incredibly well-done. We went through the museum in approximately two hours and felt like we saw most of everything, however, I’m certain I missed some things and look forward to going back again. After all, I did become a member and if you want a tip to get in quickly, let me know!

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IMG_2436After the Memorial, we went straight to meet up with my sister/niece. My sister was waiting patiently with a Stella (or Stellar according to a certain few 😉) for us at a local pub and after sitting in traffic we were BEYOND READY for one!!!

After lunch we walked the city a bit, headed to Times Square, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Rockefeller Center. It was a great afternoon and I’m convinced I had everyone fooled that I was a city girl as I crossed the streets of NYC acting like I knew what I was doing/where I was going!

We had time to spare (and by time, I mean time for a drink) before our dinner reservations and stumbled upon Sardi’s, which is a restaurant/bar known for the celebrity caricatures surrounding the walls. The drinks were good and it was nice to get off our feet after a long day of traveling/sightseeing.

Dinner reservations were made our first night at Carmine’s – this family style Italian restaurant was highly recommended and they were so busy they weren’t even taking people on a wait list – for someone who doesn’t LOVE Italian (this girl 🙋🏼) I even thought it was EXTREMELY good!

Afterward our friend said she had always wanted to try the ice bar nearby, so of course I was like “OK, Let’s go!” (Obviously – that’s RIGHT UP my alley!) It was so much fun, we bundled up in parkas, gloves and FLIP FLOPS – wait, what? Yeah, I didn’t know we were doing that and had no other choice.  I was ok until most of my second drink was complete, which IN REALITY doesn’t make sense knowing that I had a few strong beverages in my system plus quite a few from earlier. Anyway, everything was ice (even the glasses and seats!) Unfortunately, they wouldn’t allow us to bring cell phones into the bar “for fear of ruining phones” although I’m convinced it was so they could charge for photos.

Regardless, here’s a photo pre-freeze: IMG_4535

And this is what I came home to that evening 😂

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Part II will be posted tomorrow, which will include our trip to American Girl, Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, Central Park, my .5 seconds of airtime and how my trip why my trip was ruined at the end.

Six Ladies in the Big Apple (Part II)

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After a restful first night, we were ready to conquer the day which included a hot brunch date and shopping at American Girl. This concept is so incredibly cute and extremely new to me!  We arrived early to get my niece’s American Girls ears pierced and hair done (it was in DESPERATE NEED!) The brunch was actually very cute, they had a chair for the doll to sit and join us, the food was unexpectedly good and complete with dessert that we didn’t even want because we were full.

 

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After American Girl, we made our way over to Battery Park to go to the Statue of Liberty. The weather could not have been better and my sister was smart enough to make reservations in advance so we were able to go up to the pedestal, which I’d highly recommend! Everything was perfect and we enjoyed people watching from above!

 

After the Statue of Liberty, we made our way over to Little Italy to have dinner at my sisters favorite restaurant, Da Nico Ristorante. If you are ever fortunate enough to go there, I’d HIGHLY recommend getting the mozzarella sticks – let’s just say, thankfully there were five other people sharing them with me, or I would’ve demolished the entire plate by myself (and the second we one ordered too 😝) SO GOOD!  The wine was an Italian wine that was only $28, so naturally, we had to order at least nfour bottles (not entirely sure, I lost count!)

I will definitely be at Total Wine this weekend hoping they have it! IMG_8801

Unfortunately we were enjoying our wine too much, that we missed going to see a Broadway show like we had originally planned, so we all decided to have a drink at Top of the Rock, well STRIKE TWO and that’s closed on Saturday nights (who does that?!?!) So my sister-in-law and I made the 17ish block trek to the Empire State Building and the views made it worth it, even if I was in heels the entire way (and a hurt knee!) IMG_6384

We took a cab back to our hotel, but we weren’t ready to go back, so went to a great lounge near the hotel, Whiskey Blue, this place was so cute, but we were only able to have one drink before it was time to call it a night! (Not to mention the cute wedding crowd came in and we were feeling a bit underdressed!)

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Sunday morning we woke up, got dressed and immediately made our way to The Today Show, they don’t come out on Sunday’s, but Willie Geist and Dylan Dreyer were waving to fans from the windows – it was really nice, plus we made our .5 second debut on the Today Show!

I SPY US!!!! 

We spent our last day at Central Park where we watched street performers, made our way to the sailboat pond, climbed some rocks and I even got myself a great picture that will proudly be displayed in my living room (picture to come after Christmas when I’ll be getting – thanks Mom & Dad!)

Had an amazing lunch afterward before we had to get ready to head back to reality.

THIS IS WHERE THE STORY GETS BAD:  My worst nightmare happened, I left my wallet in a cab 😩 yep, I’ve never done anything like that before, but we were stressed to get packed/checked-out and a lot was going on.  I’m still kicking myself over it, but everything worked out fine.  I jumped in an uber with my sister and got to the airport four hours early, put all my credit cards on hold and my mom gave me her credit card.  At the airport with no ID, but after a few thorough questions – I was able to get through security with three hours to spare!

THIS IS WHERE THE STORY GETS GOOD: I was beating myself up over this mistake. I only had $40 cash, but it’s just a pain to cancel everything that’s on auto-pay and I’m so naive I’m not even sure what someone could do with my other information. FORTUNATELY, I had a very honest cab driver who found my business card and called me immediately (so sweet) but he called my office and I didn’t get the message until I got to work on Monday.  Random fact: I hate the bubbles on my phone, so I turn off my emails (which show voicemails) while  on vacation because it stresses me out and wasn’t even thinking that the driver would find my business card.  Lesson learned!!! My mom extended her trip and the driver dropped it off to her! I WILL be taking a photo of my ID when I get it back, not sure if it will work, but can’t hurt to have it!

💞THERE ARE GOOD PEOPLE OUT THERE! 💞

Take Me Back to Asheville

Yesterday I was at the dentist to get a cavity filled (UGH!) and as I was waiting for the numbing to go into effect, the dentist asked me if I had gone on any trips this summer. I told him all the places I visited and how I wish I was going to the mountains this fall because I LOVE seeing the fall colors. We started sharing mountain experiences and things to do and I immediately mentioned zip-lining at Navitat – something I am proud to say I’ve done twice and will promote the experience to anyone who wants to listen (or in this case, read)!

I have searched endlessly for pictures and didn’t have much luck. In reality, there’s probably not many photos because we were all harnessed in and couldn’t get to our cell phones.  (Apparently now they offer photo/video packages – which would be amazing to have right about now.)

Anyway, I did find a few that were taken from the second time we went in 2012. We went originally in 2010/2011 on a girls trip, but talked about it so much, we decided to include the guys the second time around!

 

As I was reviewing the website, it look like a lot has changed, but still an AMAZING experience! At the time I went, I recall that it was the longest and highest in the country, I can’t find anything to back up that statement anymore, but regardless, it proves that this is an EXHILARATING experience! The longest zip is 3,600 feet (nearly 3/4 mile long) and speeds reach 65 MPH!

I have to admit, watching the videos online, reading the reviews and reminiscing about the experience, makes me want to go back and I am highly considering taking a random road trip SOON!

There’s so many other things to do in this great state (which I will hopefully write about soon), but this is BY FAR one of my favorite and since fall is here, I thought I’d share for others who are looking for an experience they’ll never forget!

Decisions

In 2005, I graduated college and told my parents I would help them by managing their UPS store until they found someone to purchase it. After a year, I decided I had to do something on my own and get out of the 1,500 SF retail space, so I found a job working in the insurance industry. It was by NO MEANS my dream job, but it was something to get me out in the “real” world and doing something on my own. Little did I know that this new employment opportunity would provide me the advantage to meet some amazing/lifelong friends from all over the country. This was one of the best decisions and worst decisions at the same time.

WORST DECISION because I was young and shouldn’t have cared about making a certain amount of money right away, I should’ve gotten out of Jacksonville and explored this beautiful country. I regret not working as a waitress in a foreign city and counting pennies until I could actually find my dream job. Charlotte, Richmond and Boston have always been a place I would’ve loved to live all for different reasons, but in reality I think I would’ve been happy anywhere on the east coast (I’m a family girl and need to be a short flight away and preferably in the same time zone).

BEST DECISION because I met and worked with some of the most amazing people from all over the country. We were our own family helping keep each other sane during major catastrophes. We worked crazy hours, but were young and had enough energy to go out in the evenings or spend time in each other’s hotel rooms/houses to decompress. Now it’s 11 years later and most of us are either out of that industry completely or doing a different job within that company. But the best part is we make an effort to see each other regularly and we are able to catch up right where we left off and LAUGH A LOT!

 

I spent the weekend in St. Louis with some of these friends, friends that I’m so fortunate will be forever friends. The weekend started off exactly as I would’ve expected…when my friends FINALLY found me outside of baggage claim at the St. Louis Airport, they were in the middle of traffic and hitting the car windows for me to jump in real quick, of course I did and instantly felt like I was in a tumbling class as I was trying to maneuver around a car seat and lots of luggage with my bag in hand!  After I was all settled in, I realized we were making our own route to access the unfamiliar interstates and within about five mins of being together I said “I can go home now”, because we had already laughed so hard. I’m so glad I had three more nights with these amazing ladies.

 

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Before the trip started, we were making weekend plans and of course they had me sold when they said “I’m thinking we will go to a few wineries in Hermann, MO.” Immediately I started Goggling these wineries in this small town of Hermann and was shocked to read that they had a trolley that costs $20/day and would provide transportation to/from these wineries. Seemed like such a great deal and if we would’ve had more time out there, we definitely would’ve done it, but we were so happy at our first stop, we didn’t need to. We stopped at Stone Hill Winery and they had a Harvest Festival going on with grape stomping, live music that you couldn’t help but want to dance to (things to learn: the cotton eyed joe dance and how to two-step – honestly I’m kind of ashamed of myself for not knowing these simple dances) and of course WINE!

 

After a busy morning on Sunday, I suggested going to the St. Louis zoo with my friends family. Immediately the kids were ecstatic, so there was no turning back! We only had a couple hours before it closed, but the zoo was so clean and FREE.  I was able to get my giraffe fix (I can’t get enough after my fascination with April the Giraffe) I’m so glad we went and were able to enjoy it as much as we could!

From grape stomping at a winery, LOTS OF EATING, pampering, family time at the zoo, and unfamiliar experiences with breast milk 😉 it was a great weekend. Can’t wait for two more friends from this same company (that make me laugh just as much) to come visit me at the end of the month!!!

 

Three Blondes in Portland – Part 1

Late July I went on a girls trip to Portland and had so much to write/review, that I decided to break the post up in two sections, so I don’t bore anyone too quickly – hopefully!

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As I’ve mentioned before, I love to travel and when a friend told me “you’d love Portland, it has everything you enjoy – breweries, hiking and waterfalls,” It wasn’t long before I was planning my next girls trip!

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I have two girlfriends who I traveled to San Francisco with a couple years ago and asked them if they’d like to join me on this Portland adventure and they agreed. Kristin was a last minute decision because she’s a traveling nurse and couldn’t guarantee where she would be working – but Kasey and I are so glad she could make it happen!

One thing to note:  I am VERY much a planner and had a full 3 page itinerary set up for this trip complete with links and “just in case” ideas. And yes, I even went to the extreme of mapping out the distance to certain locations and if we could walk or if we would need to uber.  (I am happy to provide my “itinerary” to anyone who is planning a trip to this amazingly weird city.)

I like to think the girls enjoy my eagerness/willingness to plan. I asked them for suggestions on what they wanted to do and I always sent out the itinerary with a disclaimer stating “this is just mere suggestions, nothing set in stone”

The suggestions included:

  • Pip:  Breweries, Waterfalls
  • Kasey: Wine Tour, Brunch
  • Kristin: Wine Tour

 

First off, I don’t think it matters how much you plan, the trip will never go perfectly and there will always be a “do you think we should do this” or “are we missing out on something” type of feel.

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Kasey – left; Kristin – middle; Me – end

Here’s how the trip panned out:

DAY 1: Flight left out of Jacksonville at 5:30 AM (this involved waking up at 3:30AM EST/12:30AM Oregon time) and unfortunately I can’t sleep on planes, so it was a LONG day! We all arrived in Portland (around 10:30am PST) very tired, hungry and a bit cranky.  Jumped in an uber with a VERY talkative man who was eager to tell us all about his city (which he wasn’t too fond of) and let’s just say after traveling for five hours alone, all the Jaber and negativity was not very welcomed!

The room wasn’t ready, so three tired blondes freshened up in the hotel bathroom and met up with a long time friend of mine who I’ve known my entire life. She happened to be working in Portland that day, so I was very excited when she was able to catch up with us for lunch!

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HUB:  We went to HUB (Hopworks Urban Brewery) – it was good, lots of beers on tap and I kept calling it very Portland-esque with bikes hanging from the ceilings as their decor.

There was nothing else to do around HUB, so we went back to hotel and room STILL WASN’T READY, so we starting walking around and exploring the city a bit.  Of course, the minute we sat down at a bar for a beer, I get a text alert saying our room was ready! GO FIGURE!

After cleaning up, we were advised by hotel staff to hit up Matador for dinner.

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MATADOR: A Mexican restaurant on the northwest side of town.  We  were NOT disappointed.  It was such a fun atmosphere, food was amazing and margaritas were fantastic!

After dinner/drinks, we headed back to the hotel – I got a beer to go from the hotel bar and we called it an early night, knowing we had a busy day ahead.

DAY 2: My planning was a bit ambitious as I had read a blog on someone who went to Cannon Beach and Multnomah falls in one day – they are in opposite directions from Portland and I knew it was going to be a long shot. We decided to change up the “itinerary” and do Multnomah Falls our last day so we could spend more time there and go to a decent happy hour on Friday. This was the right decision in terms of timing, but wrong decision because it was a long/hot hike and we didn’t have a place to shower before taking the red-eye home (hello hotel bathroom again!)

We rented a car and took a drive out to the coast. The crazy uber driver, told us we HAD to check out CAMP 18 – I researched it and it did not look like our kind of place, but driving out to the beach, we saw it and it looked cute and figured we might as well stop and have breakfast there.

CAMP 18:  Breakfast was nothing special, but then again – I don’t venture far from a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich.  But I am really glad we stopped there because the views were extremely pleasant and overall it was a very nice experience.

CANNON BEACH:  Ok, if you’re a Goonies fan, you know all about this place.  I, on the other hand, have never seen Goonies and didn’t know anything about that “rock” until I was planning this trip. The town was very quaint and cute, parking was ridiculous, but once we found a spot, we hit up the beach and well, that’s about it.  Not much else – granted, we probably could’ve walked around to cute shops, but at this point, we were still thinking we were going to Multnomah Falls and trying to prioritize our time. In hindsight, I probably didn’t need to spend a day going out to Cannon Beach – it’s about 1 1/2 hours from Portland and I live 15 mins from the beach, but at least we were able to put our feet in the Pacific ocean and take a few pics!

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VOODOO DONUTS: Tourist destination and I read on many reviews and from locals that Blue Star is the place to get the better donuts, but we figured we are tourists and wanted to try it out.  So glad we did, it was AH-MA-ZING!!! We pretty much got one of each and my favorite was the maple bacon donut – sounds so gross, but it was oh so yummy!!! We kept saying one bite of each and well. . .that didn’t happen. Calories don’t count on vacation, right?

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THE NINES:

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Like I said earlier, we didn’t do Multnomah Falls so we could go to a fun Happy Hour on a Friday and we went to a rooftop bar that was recommended called The Nines – it was a great time, but difficult to get a drink. Talked to some locals who recommended going to Ten Barrel for dinner/drinks – EXCELLENT SUGGESTION!

 

10BARREL:  Probably one of my favorite places there, it was crazy packed, but so much fun – of course, it’s a brewery, so I would love it!  The wait time for dinner was about 45 mins, but they called us about 25 mins later and the food was WELL WORTH the wait! Steak nachos were unbelievable and if we would have more time in Portland, I would’ve definitely made it a priority to go back!

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This picture cracks me up!

10BARREL:  Probably one of my favorite places there, it was crazy packed, but so much fun – of course, it’s a brewery, so I would love it!  The wait time for dinner was about 45 mins, but they called us about 25 mins later and the food was WELL WORTH the wait! Steak nachos were unbelievable and if we would have more time in Portland, I would’ve definitely made it a priority to go back!

 

NEXT POST:  DAYS 3-5 IN THE CITY MOST KNOWN TO BE “WEIRD”

Three Blondes in Portland – Part 2

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The fun continues. . .days 1-2 in previous post.

DAY 3:

  • JACK RABBITS:  Kasey and I went to brunch while Kristin stayed back and slept. She got quiche which she loved and I got the obligatory – bacon, egg and cheese sandwich (creature of habit)  It was the hotel bar/restaurant.  It was good and we both enjoyed the atmosphere and what we got, but came across Lechon and wish we would’ve gone here for brunch instead.

 

  • SATURDAY MARKET:  A suggestion made by my cousin and I loved every second I was there – could’ve spent the entire day and more there.  So much amazing pieces of jewelry, artwork, and things to do/see. We all got henna tattoos to satisfy my desire to never have a permanent one.

 

img_1092.jpgBREWERS FEST:  Well, if you know me at all, you would know that I was ecstatic to learn that this festival was going on the weekend that I happened to be there (and that wasn’t even planned). We went to the festival and I was highly disappointed. Maybe b/c I’ve been to things like this before and I thought this one wasn’t very well laid out – it was hard to tell what line you were in and what beers were being served and the fact that it was over dirt, made me feel like I wanted to get back and showered right away!

 

IMG_1096.jpgDESCHUTES BREWERY: We used up all of our tokens from the brewers fest and spent the evening at Deschutes Brewery with an old friend from high school/college who lives in Portland with his wife.  It’s amazing how you can go years without talking or seeing each other, but things automatically pick right back up where you left them! I have only great things to say about Deschutes – and would highly recommend.  Very popular because it has great food, fun environment and a wide selection of great beers.

SALT N STRAW: A well-known ice cream shop that has a line wrapped around the building. Kristin and Kasey had to try this stuff, I am not a sweets lover, so went to a bar while they waited for their sweet treat.  I just texted them to ask if it was worth the 30+ minute wait and receive a unanimous  “YES” response, so I’m guessing this place is a MUST!

DAY 4:

A GREAT OREGON WINE TOUR: Enough breweries, this is the day Kristin and Kasey were waiting for!!! We booked our tour with Wayne on A Great Oregon Wine Tour and I was sharing the front seat with him the rest of the day! He was extremely personable, knowledgeable and fun!!! The wineries are all in Willamette Valley – such a beautiful place – loved every winery just as much as the next and the views were absolutely stunning!

RIVER PIG SALOON:  This looked like it would be a great place for a Friday/Saturday night, but Sunday afternoon – not a lot happening, so we had one beer and decided to grab Thai food from the Red Onion, decor was that of a walk-in Chinese restaurant and the food was nothing special, so it doesn’t even get its own review!

DAY 5:

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MULTNOMAH FALLS:  I’m finally getting to see my waterfalls and well, they were amazing, but few things I wish I would’ve known. 1) Parking was absolutely ridiculous – apparently there’s another parking area, but no signs to indicate that.  We turned around and I’m pretty sure by the stare-down I got, that I cut someone off from getting a parking spot – but hey, gotta be quick.  2) It was so incredibly busy there, we should’ve gotten there right when they opened! 3) The hike up was a bit tiring, but I think that was a combination of beer, wine, and donuts over the previous four days :). 4) It was HOT HOT HOT!!! If you’re going to do this hike, I would not suggest it in late July. 5) If you stay for lunch, get the Merionberry Margarita – Oh Em Gee, I don’t think I’ve ever had one this amazing (and I’ve had my fair share of amazing margaritas)!!!

 

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Well deserved

 

HUBERS CAFE:  I heard about this place on “Best Bars in America” and well-known for their Spanish Coffee – I don’t even drink coffee, but I knew I had to try this out. Unfortunately Kasey and Kristin had to run a quick errand and weren’t there to watch him make my drink – equipped with fire and fancy tricks! I loved it! Since I am a slacker and didn’t take a video of it, you can click here to watch someone else’s video!

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Spanish Coffee

OVERALL VERDICT ON PORTLAND:  The city known for being “weird” definitely lived up to its  reputation, there were extremely strange people walking around the streets (although I’m sure they were incredibly nice) and no one seemed to care about a thing! There were many things I wish I would’ve been able to do, but unfortunately we ran out of time.  I will 110% go back and I look forward to doing the things I missed out on, but in the meantime, I will share stories from locals on things that we should’ve done on another post. (I took good notes.)

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