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Vancouver

April 4, 2017

Here it is! Part two of our adventure in the Pacific Northwest. When we last spoke, A and I were loving life in Seattle and kind of dreading having to leave, even though we were both excited about exploring Vancouver.

I’m not necessarily one to believe in signs from the universe that you should or shouldn’t do something, but if I was, I think I would have called off the Vancouver leg of our trip before we even got there. Our plan was to take a 3-ish hour train ride from Seattle to Vancouver, but that changed rather quickly when we learned that a mudslide had made the tracks impassable. So our alternate transportation was a bus to Everett, WA and then a train onto Vancouver. A bit of a disappointment, but I was all hopped up on cold medicine and ready to go.

Long story (that involves some really annoying train companions) short, we made it to Vancouver and immediately set out to explore the city.  Remember when I mentioned that our first day in Seattle was a bit of a bust because poor A was sick? Remember how I followed that up with the promise that I got my revenge later in the trip? This is later in the trip.  After walking around the city for a few hours, I was really worn out so we headed back to the hotel for a quick nap before dinner.

I woke up 14 hours later, still in all my clothes and not actually in the bed, but just sort of human burrito-ed in the covers.  I missed A showering, changing, leaving to get food, returning, eating said food and watching a movie before he pried some blankets from my grasp and went to bed himself. 14 hours of sleep, y’all. But it’s apparently what I needed because we squeezed every last minute of fun out of our time in Vancouver.

We tried to visit everything: the Vancouver Aquarium, Rogers Arena (where the Canucks play), Stanley Park twice (stumbling across a shoot for Once Upon A Time the second visit), Granville Island, Gastown and Capilano Suspension Bridge Park.


Favorite spot in Vancouver: This is another hard one. I loved Stanley Park and the Granville Island market, but if I had to pick just one, I would go with Capilano Suspension Bridge. We were there almost right after it opened and had the place practically to ourselves. That plus the misty weather made you feel like you were in another world entirely and not just 15 minutes from a busy city. I’d highly recommend it.

Favorite restaurant: Is it inappropriate to say that Tim Hortons was our favorite restaurant? Because it totally was. Other highlights included Jam Cafe and Hy’s Steakhouse, but we kept coming back to good ol’ Tim Hortons.

Best tourist trap: We (and approximately 200 foreign exchange students) all fell victim to the tourist trap that is FlyOver Canada, a virtual flight ride that takes you through all the most gorgeous spots in Canada. But y’all, it was so fun! It only made me want to come back to Canada a hundred more times to visit all the perfect spots. And eat more Tim Hortons.

Best tip we learned: If your hotel has a concierge, purchase your attraction tickets from them. It saves you money and often lets you skip ahead of most lines. We did this for the Capilano Suspension Bridge and the aquarium, getting in long before the regular ticket lines moved at all.

I don’t think I ever got over the gorgeous mountain views while in Vancouver. Every place we went, I would say something to the effect of “I can’t get over those dang mountains!” I loved Vancouver and my first visit to Canada. We’ll definitely be back.

Travel

Seattle

March 28, 2017

One of the cornerstones of our marriage is traveling together and truly enjoying the experience. A and I both say that the other person is our favorite travel buddy and our most recent trip to Seattle and Vancouver definitely proved that.

A little backstory: we’d been planning this trip since probably January as it was our post-deployment vacation and two locations we’d always dreamed of visiting.  So imagine how freaked out I was when I woke up a few days before our departure with a 103 degree fever! Long story short: I got marginally better before we left, A got way worse and by the end of our trip, we were both feeling ok-ish. But we didn’t let a little cold/flu bug stop us from enjoying as much of the two cities as humanly possible.

Our first night in Seattle was a bit of a dud because despite it being St. Patrick’s Day, A was feeling really crummy so we stayed in the hotel. (Don’t worry, I got my revenge later in the trip.) But the next day, we were up bright and early (like 6:30 a.m. early) and off to explore the city. In an added wrinkle to our visit, the forecast called for rain every.single.day and the first morning in Seattle lived up to that prediction.  But come lunchtime, the sun was out, the sky was perfect and we enjoyed super weather the rest of our time in the Emerald City.

We hit all the high points including Pike Place Market, the aquarium, the Space Needle and not one, but two boat rides. Most of all, we loved walking around the city, trying so much delicious food and just gaping at how beautiful the area was, especially when we caught a glimpse of the mountains.


Favorite spot in Seattle: A and I both commented on multiple occasions about how beautiful the city was (and how we could see ourselves living there) so it’s hard to pick just one favorite spot. I’d say it’s probably a tie between Olympic Sculpture Park and Pike Place Market. If we lived in Seattle, I feel pretty confident we’d spend quite a bit of time at both places.

Favorite restaurant: We had some delicious food in Seattle, including excellent clam chowder. But the best food we had was Italian! Assaggio Ristorante served up the best Italian food we’ve had since Rome. It was amazing and made us wish we had far bigger stomachs!

Best tourist trap: We are not a couple to shy away from touristy transportation. If there’s a bus or trolley tour, odds are we’re on it. For Seattle, we turned to a boat cruise (with drinks!) to get our fill of cliche transportation.  And it was so much fun! I loved being able to see the city at a distance and the tour guide had a lot of great information to share about Seattle. I definitely recommend Argosy Cruises. Take advantage of the option to pair other attractions with your cruise tickets for added savings.

Best tip we learned: Get to Pike Place Market early in the morning! Everything officially opens at 9 (with a few exceptions here or there), but we were there closer to 8:30 and had almost the entire place to ourselves. Many vendors were already open (including the famous fish throwing stand) and the smaller crowds allowed us to browse at our own pace.

I don’t think either of us really wanted to leave Seattle, but before we knew it, the time had come to head to Vancouver. I’ll have more on that next week, but I’ll leave you with this teaser: a train, a mudslide and an entire night lost to exhaustion.

Travel

Homecoming Getaway Planning Tips

January 17, 2017

Each time my husband is gone for an extended period of time, we try to take a vacation together shortly after his return. I’m not sure that we intentionally started the tradition, but we are huge fans of it. I’ve found that it helps us reconnect more quickly and the us-time irons out those awkward “I haven’t lived with you in a while” moments. Plus when you’ve been apart for months at a time, you both deserve a reward!

For this deployment, we started talking about our homecoming vacation in June. I know that seems ridiculous, but having something to look forward in those days leading up to deployment is really important. We’ve chosen Vancouver and the photos alone should tell you why!

Homecoming Getaway Planning Tips

Pick somewhere fun. 

Why go somewhere if one of you is going to have a lousy time? Your homecoming getaway should be about both of you and offer things you both enjoy. This may require some compromise if you have widely different interests. A good rule of thumb is to keep things one to one; that way both of you get to have fun.

Treat yo’selves. 

Alright, so odds are you and your significant other have been separated for an extended period of time. You’ve probably saved money during deployment. Splurge a little bit on something you both love! Maybe it’s upgrading your plane tickets or having a fancy dinner or even sleeping late every day!

Make the most of your time. 

For my husband and I, we want to be out doing and seeing and exploring as much as possible. You won’t find us lounging by the pool or sleeping until 12. But if that is how you enjoy vacations, go for it! My word of advice would be to make the most of the time you have together. Whatever activities you choose, make memories together.

Minimize hassles. 

Traveling can be stressful if you allow it to be. Don’t let something that’s supposed to reconnect you as a couple become a source of conflict. Give yourself plenty of time to get to the airport (or in any layover you may have). Avoid changing hotels if packing and unpacking repeatedly sucks the fun out for you. Don’t rent a car if driving in a new city isn’t your thing. Keep it fun!

I am so excited to explore Vancouver with my husband! While A wraps up his deployment, I’m researching all the best places to eat, visit and stay around Vancouver. And I need your help! Leave any must-see/eat/do tips for Vancouver in the comments!

Travel

Savannah Weekend Getaway

August 16, 2016

I mentioned yesterday that A and I spent our dateaversary weekend in Savannah and I almost left it at that. But then I started going through my photos from the trip and I just couldn’t skip sharing them with you.

Savannah Weekend Getaway

Savannah is a bit of an amateur photog’s paradise. Gorgeous buildings everywhere, only minutes away from an island with a real lighthouse and more history than you could shake a stick at.  A was so patient with me as I went bonkers over railings and corbules and window trim. He held my bag while I snapped away at everything I could and completely altered our walking route when I just had to go down one more street in the Victorian district. Even our hotel had a ton of photo-worthy spots.

Savannah Weekend Getaway

If the scenery was great, the food was spectacular. I cannot recommend Vic’s on the River and b. Matthews Eatery enough. We ate dinner and breakfast, respectively and loved both places. We both ate as much seafood as possible. I am personally proud of my “three crab cakes in one and a half days” record.

Savannah Weekend Getaway

We explored the city in two ways: by trolley tour and by foot. I highly recommend the trolley tour, especially when it’s hot. You get to see more in less time, with a nice breeze and some historical context while still having the option to get off and explore at your own pace. We used Old Town Trolley Tours and totally found it to be worth the price. What was a tad disappointing was the ghost tour from the same company. For a city as haunted as Savannah, I was decidedly underwhelmed by my first ghost tour experience.

Savannah Weekend Getaway

On Sunday, we made the trek out to Tybee Island prior to heading home. This detour was so worth it! I couldn’t get enough of the lighthouse or the views from the top.  We opted to climb the 178 steps to the top and it was breathtaking (literally and figuratively) up there.

And now, no more writing. Just photo oogling.

Savannah Weekend Getaway

Savannah Weekend Getaway

Savannah Weekend Getaway

Savannah Weekend Getaway

Savannah Weekend Getaway

Savannah Weekend Getaway

Savannah Weekend Getaway

Savannah Weekend Getaway

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Savannah Weekend Getaway

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Savannah Weekend Getaway

Savannah Weekend Getaway

Travel

Dream Vacation Planning Tips

June 20, 2016
Dream vacation planning tips

We all have travel bucket lists. Those lists filled with exotic locations in faraway lands sit for ages on phones, notepads or even in your head, but all too often they only do just that: sit there.  We all get caught in the hustle and bustle of our daily lives and forget to take time for vacation (planning).

Since meeting A, I’ve done so much more traveling and learned not to view a dream vacation as an impossibility you’re only able to dream about.  With a little bit of planning, saving and work (yes, work), you can have that dream vacation become a reality.

Do your research

I know backpacking through the Andes Mountains sounds wonderful, but maybe after learning that you need to train for the altitude change, you decide a trip to the beach is more your style. It’s so important to research any potential travel destinations and the ideal activities you’d do there. It may change your dream vacation plans entirely or open up a new destination you’ve never even thought of! Research also allows you to get an idea of the best time to visit, how much you should plan on spending and any planning concerns (vaccinations, travel advisories, passport updates, etc.) Plus, planning a vacation is almost as much fun as going on it!

Set a budget and save over time

Just like with other big events (weddings, house purchases), budget is a HUGE factor in a dream vacation. After you’ve gotten a good idea of major costs like travel and hotels, you can put together a pretty realistic budget. In addition to the big ticket items, you should budget for souvenirs, food, admission fees and cab fares, plus a little wiggle room. And then the saving starts! Save a little bit at a time, whatever you can spare in your monthly budget, knowing that you are working towards your dream vacation. Skipping lunch out during the work week is a little easier when you know that you’ll get to eat lunch in Paris.

Pack for your activities

One of the worst feelings (for me, at least) is to get all jazzed about going for a jog through London and then realize that I can’t do it because my running shoes are still in North Carolina.  Make sure you pack for the vacation you’re actually taking! If you’ll do a lot of sightseeing, pack comfortable shoes. If you want to lay out all day on the beach, maybe leave the jeans at home.  Keep in mind if your destination will allow you to purchase common items once you arrive. If your dream vacation is a bit more rural, you may actually need the full first aid kit.

Don’t overbook

This is going to sound groundbreaking, but while on your dream vacation, you may want to leave yourself some time to relax.  I know! But trust me, if you plan every single second, you’ll wind up not enjoying things as much because you’re constantly in go-mode. Leave some gaps in your schedule each day for a longer meal, an afternoon nap or maybe a little extra sightseeing at your own pace.

Talk to the locals

Your guidebooks are great, but locals know where the party is at. Ask locals for recommendations on everything you can! They will take you away from the tourist-centric part of town and into the authentic culture of the destination. On our travels, we’ve had some of the best food, experiences and conversations because we (mainly A) have gone up to a local and started chatting.

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