How many steps are you willing to take to make it to top? I am talking about to the top of the tallest brick lighthouse in North America. The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in Buxton, NC. You can’t actually make it to the very top, because the last 20 steps are reserved for the coast guard only. You see the old, tall, twice moved tower is still in operation, guiding ships safely through the “Graveyard of the Atlantic.”
So when my family decided we were climbing this guy, I wasn’t too concerned about the 248 iron steps to the top or the 30 mph+ winds that couls rip you off the top. Okay maybe a little concerned, I mean our rental house in Duck has two sets of 14 stairs and the 56 stair round trip is pretty discouraging when all you want is a bottle of water or to find your little cousin. Either way I convinced myself that it was nothing. I have been running 2 miles every morning so take that lighthouse.
I also want to add another honorary 50 steps. Why? Cape Hatteras is a mere hour and a half drive from our quaint beach village and once we arrived another hour and 40 minutes to make the trek. You can occupy sometime in the giftshop or museum learning how they moved the striped giant to save it from being eaten by the ocean. So like I said 50 honorary steps.
The climb itself started off dark and humid. Every 31 steps you reach platform with a window and cool breeze. I quickly passed the first few, but by platform 4 my heart was racing and I thought it might never end. I am pretty sure we made it to the top in inder 15 minutes and the view was fantastic. We all felt as though we accomplished an amazing feat and to tell you the truth the climb was fairly easy. Less than 20 minutes later we were in the car searching for lunch.
I am back in the saddle again and a red eye to Bermuda is the best way break my traveling self in. Typical travel to Bermuda will include a flight to one of the many east coast cities that provide direct flights to this off shore colony.
Late Wednesday night I hopped on my plane and snuggled in my red Delta blanket, it felt like a few minutes later that the Captain announced our descent to Atlanta.I stumbled half awake to the other end of the Atlanta airport and found myself a yummy bagel and iced coffee. Random Trivia: How does a true New Yorker eat a bagel?
I settled down at my empty gate for a long winters nap. Actually, this is one of the few times I have not been stuck in the Atlanta airport for more time than my layover. About an hour in to the wait my fellow travel companions started to appear. Lesley Carter of Bucket List Productions found my photo on Facebook and introduced herself. She was soon followed by Dave (Dave’s Travel Corner), Carolyn (Healthy Voyager), and Stefanie (Mommy Musings). I always cherish meeting fellow writers and travelers.
Three hours I was stepping into the Bermuda sun. The air was warm and inviting. My first experience was with the friendly customs officer who told me to the difference between a dark & stormy and a stormy & dark. The amount of rum, do you know which is a splash and which is a a lot?
Travel around Bermuda for visitors is by taxi, bus, or scooter. While waiting for more travelers, we braved the main road to get a closer look at the water. My driver was informative and friendly. He filled us in on the general facts of Bermuda.
1. White roofs, made of limestone, gather and filter rain water to fill each home’s personal water tank.
2. Scooters are not recommended unless you are an experienced rider and know how to drive safely on the left.
3. Bermudian hospitality consists of buying visitors a drink and then a few more.
4. Local business men dress traditional colonial shorts, knee-highs, collared shirt, tie, and blazer.
5. Most Bermudians shop off shore because of the high cost to buy imported goods.
I settled into my large Gold status room at the Fairmont Hamilton Princess and took a cozy nap in my king sized bed. I woke up refreshed and ready for cocktails. Fairmont Hamilton has a sister property in the southern part of Bermuda, the Fairmont South Hampton. The hotels run a ferry between the two properties a few times a day. We caught the final voyage and floated into “The Dock” in The Waterlot Inn. This is one of the oldest restaurants on the Island and they know how to treat you right. The evening was filled with the sounds of water lapping against the dock, a talented ukulele player, and travel talk. I left dinner exhausted and fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.
Not bad for my first day in Bermuda and getting back to travel. Do you have any thing you’ve let slip away? It’s always a good time to jump right in.
I like to sleep in the Oaks when I pass through and there are a few places I love to rest my weary, sometimes wine heavy head.
Paso Robles Inn:
As a member of the Historic Hotels of America, the Paso Robles Inn has been in service for over a century. They wanted to serve travelers along the El Camino Real with a bed and a hot spring. The traditions are still in practice in either the Deluxe Spa Rooms or two Room Suites where you can enjoy the healing powers of the hot springs.
My room at the Inn leaves nothing to be desired. I have all the amenities including a hot spring hot tub, fireplace, mini fridge, and flat screen tv. While my wine country immersion does not leave a lot of time to sit in my hotel room, the 45 minutes between wine trailing and dinner was just enough time for a soak in my hot tub. They aren’t kidding when they talk about healing powers. I went from wine soaked and travel weary to refreshed and awake. Just make sure you use the scented oils and rinse afterwards, because the mineral smell is strong.
The Paso Robles Inn Steakhouse has a great breakfast menu. I ate in their main dining room one day and in the Cattlemen’s Lounge the next due to Pioneer day overflow. I enjoyed the ranch size portions and the wonderful service. They have it all from giant fruit plates to a cheesy egg sandwich I gobbled down.
Downtime can be spent strolling the gorgeous grounds or kicking back and reading the copy of The History of the Paso Robles Inn: More than a Century of Pride by Ann Martin Bowler in every room. This book is well written with great historical facts and wonderful pictures.
I like traveling with my dog and sometimes it is hard to find a mid-range hotel that makes Oliver as comfortable as possible. La Quinta is situated a few miles east of downtown near a handful of wineries. The don’t charge extra for your dog and provide a large grassy area with doggy bags to walk your pup.
They provide a complimentary breakfast every morning and while it isn’t gourmet, the food is edible. I really enjoyed making my own waffles every morning and spreading my new pumpkin port butter from Jack Creek Farms. The dining area is the only place dogs are not allowed, due to health code, but you can always grab your food and eat in the lobby if you want to be with your pal.
The La Quinta has a wonderful wine gift shop and free wine & gourmet cheese reception each Monday through Thursday evenings from 5:30pm – 7:00pm. This weekday happy hour is just the thing you need to unwind.
I stayed here with my husband for our 6th anniversary and even though its a La Quinta it has at least 4 star quality. Our king size bed was plush and spacious. The suite came with a pull out couch and there was still more than enough room for Oliver’s crate. It is such a comfortable hotel to relax in between wine tasting and dinner.
Marc Goldberg first tasted the “magic” of Burgundy at 17, he courted his wife Maggie D’Ambrosia with a bottle of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti 1959, and a 1976 Hoffman Mountain Ranch Pinot Noir solidified their dream to make Burgundian-style Pinot Noir in the United States. Together with passion and a love for Pinot Noir the radiant couple started Windward Vineyard.
Marc describes himself as the Wine Shepherd. He believes the vineyard makes it and his job is to make sure nothing bad happens along the way. This may sound like a laid back approach to viticulture, but when dealing with the heart-break grape, Marc has his work cut out for him.
Windward Vineyard strives to stay true to the monopole style of Burgundy. This means they put an umbrella of protection over the vineyard from start to finish. In order to put Monopole on the label Windward must have complete control of their vines start to finish, use only estate fruit, and never sell a grape.
The estate is a small 15 acre lot and averages 2000 cases a year. Small production and low yield is a specific technique used to coax the complex layers of Pinot Noir into a sensuous Burgundy. Their 2008 Estate Monopole Pinot Noir is a wonderfully balanced wine, very fruit forward with Windward’s signature peacock tail finish. The Estate’s youngest wine, a 2010 Monopole,opens with minerals and strawberry and lingers over your tongue. I have to admit that I would be happy to enjoy any vintage from Windward.
Over the years Marc and Maggie have received a number of accolades including 2012s Paso Robles Wine Industry Persons of the Year. After meeting them and tasting their wines it comes as no surprise. If they aren’t working with the grapes, you will find the couple filling the tasting room with warmth and hospitality. They understand the community of Paso and promote the sharing of knowledge in order to help the entire region grow.
Marc and Maggie started the Pinot & Paella Festival which gives 100% of its proceeds back to the community. It is a sold out event every June, featuring more than 20 Paso Robles Pinot Noirs and 20 local chefs. It is a great way to promote Paso Pinots, the Paso Robles AVA, and give back to the community they are blessed to be a part of.
Windward Vineyard is a must stop in my mind when traveling through Paso Robles. It is a unique offering found in the region. Anyone itching to try a bottle before they can make it to Paso can purchase a bottle or 10 online.
Growing up in Cleveland, I remember watching Neil Zurcher and his “One Tank Trip” segments on Fox 8. He always found the coolest hidden gems in Ohio and my family went on quite a few of his journeys.
Lately, we have been trying to explore Southern California in the same way.
Husb had a quick job in Newport Beach and Oliver and I decided to tag along. We stopped by the local dog park while we waited and then headed to Balboa Island for an afternoon of fun.
I had read about Balboa Island on OC Dog Friendly and couldn’t wait to have a fun afternoon that welcomed all of us.
This sign was happily posted outside of CandlEssence, a wonderful candle store where you can watch them make the candles by hand. Seriously dogs(well my dog) and ice cream are two of my favorite things. Also, this is great marketing because people love when you let them do things other places commonly say no to.
I enjoyed this little Island town and their easy-going shop owners. We found a dog bowl filled with fresh water outside of almost every store. It definitely makes hot days and travel a breeze, when you aren’t worrying about dehydration.
Balboa Island offers a multitude of boutiques, dessert shoppes, restaurants, and fresh air. We had a great time and plan to go back soon for an overnight stay.
I found a really cute engagement shoot on Balboa Island featured on Done Brilliantly and was inspired by 50-Something Woman’s motivational early morning walk. We only spent an hour or two exploring Balboa Island, but I can see days of relaxing here in my future.
The Husb and I use Groupon on a pretty regular basis. I do agree with The Ball is Round in his post Marketing 101 that it is a good concept for consumers, but pretty weak for the retailer. Since discussing the reality of Grouponomics with some friends of mine in branding a few months ago, I have been torn in my desire to continue use of the site. Here’s the bottom line: I am a freelancer on a Ramen budget that likes to enjoy the good life. If I find a Groupon or other social marketing deal that I think is awesome I buy it. When I cash in my deal, if have a good experience I try to return to the business and continue to boost their revenue.
Most recently I got the Husb a Groupon for Barber Dollz in Hollywood. We try to find affordable haircuts outside of the normal best cuts. His hair is like a wild beast and needs professional help. (Side note: My fro is just as bad and we pity our future children.)Unfortunately, for their marketing strategy we won’t be coming back, it is too far over the hill for a regular place.
While the Husb sat in a chair on display for Hollywood Boulevard passersby, I took Oliver for a walk and checked out some history. Hollywood is an area most locals avoid at all cost, just like Time Square for New Yorkers.
Fortunately, the Boulevard is practically empty pre-noon and east of Highland. You won’t find the famous Chinese Theater or numerous street performers hawking photos for donations this side of Hollywood, but amidst the cheap souvenir shops, guys selling tours, and dirty lingerie stores you will find history, street art, and architecture.
The Hollywood Walk of Fame takes up just over a mile of Hollywood Boulevard sidewalks, but few walk the entire stretch. On this less traveled section Oliver and I found quite a few stars that I thought deserved more recognition than being in front of a sleazy underwear shop.
Oliver and I meandered the strip reading historical signs and checking out the sites. Luckily, Hollywood Blvd. has a decent amount of trees lining the street. I am avid supporter of not allowing my dog to pee on anything he wants including buildings, bikes, and other dogs.
I really enjoyed the different paintings of old stars including Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, and Tommy Dorsey. The artists and shop owners did a great job of making their overbearing gates a little more palatable.
I am sucker for old buildings and architecture. I fell in the love with the Warner Pacific Theater on my walk. The Theater opened in 1928 and grew with the film industry until it was forced to close its doors in 1994 due to structural damage.
Warner Bros. put their radio station KFWB at the top of the theater and its two towers reading Warner and Pacific are still scraping the sky.
The building was designed by architect G. Albert Lansburgh in the beaux-arts style that was very popular in America from 1880-1920. I found the intricate detail and Italian inspired features to be a gem in comparison to the backdrop of Hollywood.
I found Carol Burnett’s star right in front of the WPT and it was placed there by her personal request. Burnett worked as an usherette in 1950s.
The parking lot has been turned into an Urban Garden, by the Ecclesia Church, the current tenants of the WPT. Find out more about the garden here.
Rob Reiner’s star is right in front of the Urban Garden and Oliver felt like it was the perfect spot to people watch.
Next time that you want need to get out, check out an area you don’t normally visit. As long as the area doesn’t have a no dog rule, bring your four-legged friend and enjoy sites that you might take for granted. Oliver loved exploring a new places just as much as I did.
I leave you with a few abstract photos of the architecture I couldn’t get enough of.
During New Years Resolution talks, the husband and I decided to have goals. Short term and long-term for the year. One major resolution was to spend at least one night away from home per month. We love to explore, but tend to get caught up in day-to-day life and forget to get out there and appreciate our own backyard. We lived in New York City for 2 years and didn’t walk across the Brooklyn Bridge or experience the Roosevelt Island Skytram until recent visits.
January held many options for our traveling day, but we are also on a tight budget after the holidays, lack of work in the new year, and the unforeseen new car. My first vote was to revisit San Francisco and go to the Academy of Sciences free day. We ended up booking work on that afternoon and started making new plans for our adventure. Husb wanted to visit Joshua Tree National Park for a night of camping, but we didn’t have a dog sitter budgeted and the distance seemed like a daunting achievement towards the end of the month.
Our final decision was to camp at Leo Carrillo State Park just North of Malibu off of the Pacific Coast Highway. The drive takes between 45 min to 1 hour and they allow dogs. So we loaded up the car and headed out in the early afternoon. Oliver was so excited for his adventure because this campground is connected to one of his favorite beaches.
The Ranger was extremely friendly and let us drive around and pick our spot. The options were abundant because even though it was warm, not that many people camp in January on a Thursday night. Leo Carrillo has 135 campsites and one group site that accommodates up to 50 people. We chose a site that was hidden from the road by trees on a hill. (Note to self: every time you need something, you have to walk up or down the hill). There are only a few dog rules: leashed at all times, no trails, clean up after the dog, and never leave him unattended. The only rule that makes Oliver a little sad is the no hiking, he is an avid hiker.
After the tent went up, we spent the afternoon running up and down the beach with Oliver. Looks like someone else was doing the same earlier that day, although I’m not sure which way they were going.
The sunset was breathtaking and so cool to watch. Staring out into the ocean always makes me ready for another adventure.
We went back to our campsite and had a wonderful fire. Even though it was the middle of the week, some friends still came out to have kabobs and s’mores with us under the stars.Check out Beautiful Geometry‘s knock your socks off s’more tip. It is fun to go away from home for the night and experience new things without going to far. Remember that fire safety while camping with dogs is important. We tied Oliver’s lead just far enough so that he could not jump in the fire or burn his paws walking around it.
The fire died quickly and after a few rounds of Boggle by lantern, our pals packed up and headed home for the night. We followed Oliver into the tent and realized we had a problem: NO PILLOWS!
It is one thing to sleep in a sleeping bag on the cold hard ground, but it is quite another to get comfortable with out some cushion for your head. Our mental checklist for this camping trip went something like this:
3 kinds of alcohol
Obviously, we had our priorities. My family camped on a regular basis growing up, so all of our gear was packed and ready to go at all times. We still had a checklist and went over things just to make sure it was all there. Lesson learned on this practice round. We didn’t have things like wipes or hand sanitizer, pillows, and grilling utensils. I felt very foolish, but still had a blast. Luckily, we had more than enough supplies for Oliver and he was a happy camper.
The husband and I are huge supporters of road trips. We spent last fall driving over 7,000 miles round trip; two months of work in New York City, visiting family, and a little sightseeing. Somewhere around 5,000 miles we ended up in New Orleans on a quiet Sunday Morning.
Restaurants were just opening for breakfast in the french quarter and there was barely another soul in sight.
After breakfast, with the use of our smart phones and detective like search words, we were able to find Cafe du Monde. The cafe was featured in a doughnut special on the Travel Channel and we were dying to try them. The open air market was full of people and the air was full of Jazz. There was a trio blasting through the morning on the street corner and I finally felt like we were in The Big Easy.
The menu is easy; they only serve two things: drinks and Beignets. What is Beignet you might ask? A square of fried doughy deliciousness coated in powdered sugar. Need I say more? Oliver was so excited that I’m surprised there were only sprinkles of powder on his face.
One of my favorite places to take visitors is the Le Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles.
You can find them in the outdoor park next to LACMA. The park even allows dogs on a leash so if you don’t want to leave your pooch at home while sight-seeing he can come along on this trip.
Who doesn’t want to recreate a scene from an iconic movie or its sequel? Interested in seeing the same sights that Vada Sultenfuss saw on her coming of age trip to the city of angels. You can start at the Tar Pits.
Metered parking surrounds the park and from the stench of Tar you can sniff your way to the Lake. It is a former asphalt mine filled with runoff water, bubbling gas, and tar that seeps its way to the Top. If the view isn’t enough, the museum has set up a great scene where a momma Mammoth fights for her life while her baby screams in agony and her mate lets it all happen. Every time I witness this heartbreaking scene the only thing running through my head is Dude all you have to do is pull on the chain attached to her leg. The museum has the mammoth attached to the side of lake.
If you are itching to see the bones of over 280 species found on the grounds take a peek at the Page museum. Admission is $5 for children (5-12) and $11 for Adults.
Want to make a day of it? Make plans to visit the collections at the LACMA, second Tuesday of the month is free. Don’t forget to explore the grounds and visit the works by Rodin and Bourdelles installed in the B. Gerald Cantor Sculpture Garden. Try picking out a nice grassy spot on the northwest end of the park (farthest from the tar smell) and have a picnic. You can find food trucks parked along the south side of the park on Wilshire most afternoons.
At the beginning of December I received a life changing text message.
Awesome Family: Would you be available to go with us to Hawaii at the end of the month?
Me: (panic attack, what do I do, this family is super nice and Hawaii Oh My God!, yes I can nanny for a week in Hawaii. Maybe I should say no, ahhh) Yes I would love too.
The arrangements were made and I would travel to Hawaii for the first time with an amazing family on my first travel nanny position. Nanny work is one of my many Jack-of-all-trade positions and traveling with families was something I had been dreaming about for the past 4 years.
I was so nervous about packing and carry on regulations, but a handy trip to the TSA website helped me out with all of my questions. The family had asked me to bring a few activities to do with the girls during down time and I was in need of some travel size everything. I packed card games that I bought from a dollar bin like crazy 8s, matching games, and old maid. I also picked up a foam craft kit that for $6 gave us the creativity to do make photos with the stickers or color whatever we wanted. The girls were super happy and since everything was under $10, I didn’t mind leaving them behind to make extra room for souvenirs.
This trip to Hawaii was more amazing than I could have imagined. I was constantly blown away by the food, the people, the beauty, and the weather. We stayed at the Fairmont Kea Lani in Wailea, Maui. The resort was ocean side with multiple pools and activities. One of my favorite things was a wonderful walking path that connected all of the resorts and condos along the Ocean. Whenever I had time off this walk is where I could be found.
I was on the Island for work and so most of my time was spent at the resort. The children were old enough to enjoy themselves in the pool or at the beach, but a little to young to go on adventures like the Road to Hana or a Luau. This trip peaked my interest enough about Hawaii, that I am dying to return all of the Islands and explore the beautiful culture on the land and its people.I often felt like I was looking through the window at unattainable land.
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the entirety of this trip and what I did experience is beyond any price point that I could reach at this point in my life. I am truly grateful for this once in a lifetime opportunity. I did have one night off to myself and I used it to walk a few miles to the mall and have dinner. I treated myself to a Hawaiian must: the Mai Tai.
It was so sweet that I had trouble finishing the whole thing, but after dinner I experienced my favorite part of Hawaii. The night sky. I don’t have a fancy camera, so I was unable to take any wonderful photos of the sky but during arts and crafts I made a great sand art rendition. I laid on the beach in darkness, listening the waves, and staring at the sky for hours. The only thing better than staring at the night sky alone, would be staring at the night sky with my husband.
There is something so tranquil about Hawaii, which is strange because you are basically on a mountain of death. I fell in love with the essence of Hawaii and I am looking for someone to help me bottle it, please contact me if you have any suggestions. I am currently dreaming about moving there temporarily and it has definitely been added to a list of must visit. I owe the hubby a trip for sure.