Destination: Los Angeles

I’m writing this from my mom’s couch in New Jersey, and yet I still can’t believe that the roadtrip is over. Isn’t that how trips always go? One minute you’re in the planning phase, thinking that the day to leave will never get here, and then suddenly you’re back with a camera full of pictures.

Los Angeles was our final destination for the road trip. Both Jessica and I had been to LA before, and because of this didn’t have an overwhelming desire to spend more time there. Our encounter with the dreaded 405 on the way down to San Diego only further convinced us to avoid LA proper during our last few days there.

Instead we bummed around the small cities on the outskirts of LA–Santa Monica, Venice, Thousand Oaks, etc. where we spent time sunning ourselves poolside and eating way too much unhealthy food. In short? It was the perfect way to end our two week adventure.

So now I find myself back in New Jersey for only a few short weeks before the school year begins, trying to figure out how the heck two weeks could have gone by so quickly.

Although it’s only been two days, I miss my traveling companions dearly–sleeping talking, sarcasm and all. Once again I’ve realized how incredibly lucky I am to be able to do things like this. How many people get to skip out on real life for two weeks to drive around the West Coast with two truly amazing people?

So thank you to all the people that hosted us, feed us and entertained us during this trip. Even when traveling with friends hotels can get lonely. That so many people let us stay with them and share food with them was a treat. And thank you to my traveling companions. Everyone should be so lucky as to travel with two awesome Aussies.


Destination: San Diego & Comic Con 2011

This is my not-so-secret confession: I am a comic book nerd. As my mom continually reminds me I have about 2,000 comic books stashed away at her house (usually followed by an exasperated “When the hell are you going to take them to Virginia?!”). As a preteen/teen I loved Marvel Comics. So to find myself in San Diego during Comic Con was a bit of a thrill.

Landing in San Diego during the event was not planned, and comic book geeks being the devoted lot that they are meant that tickets had sold out last year. However, the event pretty much takes over the entire city which there was plenty to do and see outside of the conference itself.

The mayhem on the streets did not disappoint. The fans dressed up as various characters were wild. It was a blast trying to find favorites.

The event did take away from our ability to see San Diego as a city. Many stores and cafes gave up their normal identities in favor of ones that tied in to movies and TV shows (the SyFy cafe, the Cowboys vs. Aliens Saloon, etc.). Luckily my local friend (another fantastic hostess) showed us one of her favorite restaurants where we indulged in delicious Mexican food.

To top the night off, a random walk toward comic con took us past a movie preview where we got to meet the insanely pretty Carey Mulligan and the handsome Guy Pearce.

Oh, look at that cheesin’ smile on me in that first picture. So embarrassing. All in all San Diego was hilariously entertaining.

On the Road

Yesterday was the true road part of our road trip. In one day we had to get from Monterey to San Diego. We could have gone the boring way by taking the highway straight down the middle of the state, or we could cruise the slower but famous Pacific Coast Highway. How can you say no to that view?

It’s not an easy drive. The roads are harrowingly windy, to the point that we had to stop at an overpriced general store in Big Sur to load up on pretzels and Dramamine. It was the first time I’ve ever been car sick while driving. Geraldine, our car, chugged along while consuming way too much fuel (three petrol stops were required).

However, all of the car sickness and tank refills were well worth it for all of the wild things we saw.

Like miles of elephant seals.

And overly friendly squirrels.

And an inexplicable field of zebras(which thanks to Google we now know belong to the Hearst estate).

Overall, the drive took over twelve hours(thank you 405 rush hour), but was totally worth every second of it.

Destination #3: Petaluma, Napa & Sonoma

Another one of my favorite things? Introducing one group of friends to another. I love being able to say, “Hey, you are a very cool person, you should meet this other really cool person that I know.” It makes me really happy when people I know form a new friendship.

On this leg of the trip I got to introduce my traveling companions to some lovely former traveling companions, and man, was it fun.

We got to explore the achingly lovely town of Petaluma, California as well as venture off to the renown wineries of California.

This part of the trip felt especially decadent. We sat on stone patios drinking sparkling wines with a perfect view of rolling vine filled hills in front of us. We found tiny cafes and indulged in massive cheese plates that featured local produce. We drank good local beer, and played with one of the coolest 5 year olds I know.

We got to explore concept gardens, and enjoy the temporary warm weather that as been tough to find on the trip.

And for our good bye? An amazing breakfast of pancakes and fresh fruit followed by a concert performed by our generous and kind hosts.

What a fantastic way to start the California portion of our road trip.

Mount Shasta

Sometimes the coolest part of a road trip is the road.

A quick stop at a little look out point gave us this amazing view of Mount Shasta just as we crossed the border to California.

Liv clearly wins for best jump photo.

Destination: Portland

Yesterday we said good-bye to Seattle & our friends, and began the real driving part of our road trip. Our first destination? Portland.

What can I say about this city? It’s divine. We browsed the absolutely heavenly Powell’s City of Books, drank craft beer at a local restaurant called Clyde Commons, and browsed two farmers markets.

Our hostess in Seattle once said she could see me living in Portland, and after just two days there I have to say that I agree. I love the feeling of community there. I loved strolling through the markets, sampling the various foods, and talking to the vendors. I’m a sucker for a big city that feels like a small town, and that’s exactly the feel Portland has.

So our road trip is off to a pretty incredible start. Here’s to 10 more days as awesome as the first four.

Summer Road Trip: Seattle

For just about two years now I’ve had this dream of partaking in a road trip down the west coast of the U.S. I pictured a leisurely winding trip with no particular plan or route. I tried to sell friends and family alike on my idea, but could never sell anyone on it enough to book tickets. And then I got an email from Jessica, the best Aussie I know, that outlined her plan to return to the U.S. this summer. From that email our west coast road trip was born.

We’ve spent the past two days running around Seattle with our lovely native hosts. I’ve been amazed at how stunningly beautiful and green this area is.

The past two days have included visits to Pike Place Market, the original Starbucks and a tour of Jaime’s beloved UW campus.

All in all it’s been the best possible way to start my dream west coast road trip.

Seattle is yet another entry on my list of places I must see again.

Tomorrow we officially hit the road for our next stop-Portland, Oregon!

I’m so happy to have spent the past few days here with our loveliest of hostess/tour guide.

Final Moments in Paris

I’m currently sitting in the waiting area of my less than stellar hostel awaiting the arrival of the bus that will take me to the airport. If Russia went by in the blink of an eye, my time in Paris was an eyelash, something that briefly crossed my field of vision.

My time here was brief, but beautiful. I saw and did more than I thought was possible in just a few days, but there are still millions of things in this city that I still have to see.

I love this city, not for the massive and famous sights that everyone knows about. I love the random little bits of deliciousness that are one-offs, things to be seen or experienced once, and then never again.

And although my time here was brief, I have the thrill of knowing that I’ll be back in just a few months to experience Paris in winter.

So, adieu, for now, Paris. I’ll see you again soon.

A Day at the Parisian Markets

Usually when I find myself fortune enough to head over to Russia for the summer, I try to book a layover in a country I haven’t been to before so that I can experience a new place. This year, however, airline tickets were exasperatingly expensive. Paris and London were the two cities that fell within my budget for layovers so Paris it was.

I’d been to Paris before, and had been amazed by its beauty, but never felt like I’d really seen the city. Although I’d most certainly seen the Eiffel Tower, the Champs Elysee (and probably too much of it at that) and the Louvre, I felt like I hadn’t seen Paris properly.

This time I wanted a new experience. I wanted to see Paris properly, a Paris beyond the fancy shops. I figured the best place to start would be the Parisian markets, the ones where Parisians buy their fresh produce and daily breads and cheeses.

In a word? Incroyable!

It was a day of perfection. I wandered with no real plan, and kept finding lovely surprises. From delicious fruits that the vendors handed to me with calls of “Bonjour, Jolie!” to the most amazing freshly made chestnut creme crepes served out of little stands.

All the stories of rude Parisians that worry American travelers? Not here. Fish vendors laughed and posed for me as I tried my extremely limited French vocabulary on them.

The sheer variety of produce and products was amazing. From the standards of cherries, apricots and more cheeses than anyone could possibly imagine (according to my New Europe tour guide there are 370 different varieties of cheeses in Paris–awesome) to almonds still in their fruit fresh from Turkey. There were candied fruits, fresh fish and decadently sweet melons. Vendors sliced off pieces of everything for people passing by to try, but also to sample themselves.

On top of that, the people watching was incredible. The mixture of people there was incredible–little old ladies with their wheeling carts stocking up on onions and fresh fish mingled with the fashionably hip.

And it wouldn’t be Paris without the snippy little poodles all over the place.

It was the perfect way to spend my first day in Paris, and I’m starting to feel as though I’m seeing more of the Paris I’ve always wanted to see.