In Search of Orcas… and Dave

After almost three years of talking about taking a trip to the San Juan Islands to see Orcas we finally made this trip happen! This wasn’t an easy trip to plan by any means, but I highly recommend it!

We began by booking our flights into Seattle Tacoma International Airport. Next, we had to figure out how to get ourselves from the airport to San Juan Island which was the island we had decided to stay on. We knew we didn’t want to rent a car because making a reservation to get your car on the ferry seemed tedious. We researched different ways we could get from Seattle to the Anacortes ferry terminal which is a couple hours away from Seattle. After exhausting all other options we decided to just take a Lyft or Uber and walk on to the ferry. The cost of the ride from the airport to the ferry terminal wasn’t too bad split 3 ways.

Although Anacortes is an adorable little town, the actual ferry terminal is a few miles away in the middle of nowhere. Luckily we arrived just in time to catch the ferry. The ferry ride to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island was about an hour and the scenery was beautiful!

Once we had arrived on the island we decided to start things off with a drink, so we climbed up to the rooftop bar of the Friday Harbor Crab House and toasted to us!

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One of the first things we decided to do was hop on the Jolly Trolley for a tour around the island to get our bearings. It was such a great way to sit back and hear all about the history of the island and the lifestyle of the people who live there. Being driven around the island in an open trolley allowed us to see so much! We got to see the High School, the International School, the different Inns and businesses, the San Juan Vineyards, the Alpaca Farm, The Lavender Farm, Roche Harbor, The Lakedale Resort, The American Camp, The English Camp, the airports, the Cattle Point Light House and my Favorite Lime Kiln State Park (aka Whale Watch Park).

The trolley’s comprehensive route really allowed us to get a feel for the size of the island and its topography. I was surprised to see the hills, valleys, lakes, cliffs, and beaches. When we got to the other side of the island near Lime Kiln State Park we found ourselves under a rain forest like canopy. Temperature wise, it was cooler on this side of the island. We hopped off the trolley at this stop where our phones welcomed us to Canada. In this part of the island, you’re closer to Canada than you are to the United States. We followed some walking paths and trails over to Whale Watch Park from where we could see Victoria B.C. and the stunning Olympic mountain range and the Cattle Point Light House. Looking out towards the horizon all I could think about was how beautiful it was. It was sunny and clear and the peace and quiet were delicious.  It was a huge bummer that while we were at Whale Watch park, we didn’t see any whales.

After reconnecting with nature a bit we hopped back on the trolley and headed back into town. We had rented a perfect little studio apartment that could comfortably sleep 5. It had everything we needed and the location was perfect. We were about 50 feet from a bakery, a cheese shop, 2 restaurants, a farmers market and a craft fair. We were only 2 blocks away from the grocery store, shops, restaurants, trolley and shuttle stops and the ferry terminal. The apartment had a deck with two distinct patio areas. One for our studio unit and one for the 1 bedroom unit next door. We got to meet the two women who were staying in the other unit and they were a real hoot!

Our second day on the island we went whale watching! It was my first time going out on a boat to go whale watching and this was the main reason we planned this trip… but we didn’t see any whales. It’s actually quite hilarious since the whale watching boats down in Orange County where I live have been posting non stop photos on Instagram all summer of all the amazing whales they’ve been spotting and I traveled all the way to Washington State to see none! We did see an adorable seal and got to witness seals feasting on a “bait ball” which is basically a school of fish. To fill our need for all things whale, we went to the whale museum where we at least got to see whale bones.

Our last day on the island we decided to go somewhere we hadn’t been yet to picnic. We had really been enjoying the cheese from the shop across from our apartment so we went to King market, purchased some supplies, packed ourselves up and took the shuttle out to the British camp. There we discovered a vista point where we got a 180 degree view of the snow capped mountains, the water and the hillsides. After our trail walk we located a table and settled down for a picnic under the trees.

Coming from a concrete jungle where life moves at a very fast pace, I appreciated the pace of “island life”. I kept longing to live in a place like San Juan Island where you have no choice but to live a simpler life at a slower pace. Everything is not accessible to you at any given time  here. There is no Costco or Target. I don’t think Amazon offers same or next day delivery and if you want to leave the island, you have to plan around the ferry’s departure schedule unless you have your own boat or airplane.

Another island-ism we came across was the fickleness of business hours. For example, the business hours of the adorable coffee shop called The Salty Fox where we got our daily coffee and tea, were only from 7am-2pm so if we wanted a latte at 6am or a chai tea at 3pm, we were out of luck! We also learned that there was nowhere on the island to rent a DVD and the only place that sells DVDs closes at 9pm. Let me also mention that when we did go to purchase a DVD the next day there were only about 2 dozen options to pick from. We also discovered one night, that the restaurant across from our apartment called Cynthia’s where we had a lovely breakfast on the back patio was closing early one evening because they hadn’t gotten a single customer for dinner and although they had posted business hours, the bakery beneath our apartment never opened even though we saw a baker inside.

There isn’t much to do on the island after 9pm. Things begin winding down around 10pm and it’s pretty quiet by 11pm as we witnessed the night we decided to walk over to the new brewery that also happened to be just one block away from our apartment. I did notice however that when we were dilly dallying over a piece of pie at the Cheesecake Café & Bakery despite their business hours ending at 9pm and it being 9pm, they weren’t trying to get us to leave, but when we noticed the time we did shake a leg to let them get out of there.

On the final day of our trip we decided to catch the first ferry out. This meant rising before the sun. It was dark, quiet and very still. I’m so glad we did this because we got to watch the sunrise as we said good bye to the San Juan Islands and journeyed back to Anacortes.

Once we got to Anacortes, we grabbed coffees from a cute place called Calico’s Cupboard then rented a car and set off for Seattle where we casually stalked Dave Matthews. I had pretty credible intel on where we could find him. We started by driving by what my intel told us was his house several times. There was a van out front with hoses leading into the home and the door was wide open. Assuming he was in town and may have gone out for coffee to allow the crews to do whatever they were doing, we went by the two coffee shops my source reported he frequents. We even parked near the supermarket she shops in but didn’t go in. We didn’t find him. Luckily it was around 10am by this time and we didn’t see it fit to drive by his daughter’s school. Had it been closer to 8am I worry that we may have crossed the line by jumping into bushes in a schoolyard to catch a glimpse of him during drop off. After a quick stop by the Public market, we were back on the road to the airport to head home.

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Hygge Fail

Earlier this year, I heard about the Danish concept of hygge. It immediately resonated with me and I began to wonder why everyone isn’t on the hygge train. Just look at this list of what hygge encourages us to infuse more of into our lives.

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Hygge is all about coziness and creating relaxing indoor and outdoor experiences void of our electronic devices. It’s about long walks to connect with nature, dim soothing lighting, candles, warm beverages, fires, books, loved ones, oversized sweaters, soft blankets, fuzzy socks and cuddles with our furry pets.

I’ve been trying to be more intentional in my marriage. I want to be a better wife so I’ve been looking for new and different ways to bond with my spouse.  I figured I would try and bring elements of hygge into our home. However, doing this isn’t the challenging part. The real test would be getting my productive husband on-board. He likes to keep busy while he’s at home. I like to lounge around when I’m home. This creates a divide i our home. He’s usually off fixing, cleaning or improving something or cooking us a delicious meal while I’m laying in bed reading, sprawled on the couch watching tv or … honestly? I don’t know what the heck else I do… oh! I know… writing a blog entry!

About a week ago, I proposed that we switch of the TV and our phones at 8pm and spend an hour outside in our patio with some twinkly lights, candles and either some herbal tea or wine. I figured maybe we could read books, talk to each other, just enjoy the silence or if he’s up for it, maybe we can play some backgammon. When I proposed this idea to him over a text message mid-day while we were both at work he responded with “OK”. I almost couldn’t believe it!

Let me tell you how our first attempt at hygge went. It was more like 8:45 when we turned off the TV and put aside our phones to go spend some time in our patio. I made us both some tea. He opted for chamomile and I for peppermint. He didn’t want the twinkly lights on, so I lit a couple candles instead. After a couple minutes of observing how silent it was our dog decided to join us in the patio which made all the neighbor’s dogs sense his presence and they all started barking non-stop. I began reading my book and within 5 minutes my husband had fallen asleep and in another 5, so had I. HYGGE FAIL!

After dozing off in the patio, I woke up and decided we should go to bed. By 9:30 p.m. we were in bed, lights off, floating back to sleep. I guess the lesson I learned was that when we put away our phones, turned off the tv and the lights our bodies got the signal that it was ok to shut off and go to sleep. We were both obviously tired and in need of extra sleep and due to our conscious effort to try something different we both got an extra 1.5-2 hours of sleep that night which to us is valuable.

I’ve found this 7 Day Challenge, but I’m taking it as a 7 week challenge. Last week I tackled item #1. I’m female so tackling item #2 this week won’t be a problem at all. I’m actually going to order said candles that I have saved in my amazon cart after I complete this blog entry. Week 3 which will be the first week of August I’ll have to create something. We’ll see what I come up with…..

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There is so much information available on the internet about hygge I love reading all about it. What’s your favorite element or aspect of this concept?

 

Oh hi Ojai!

 

Living in Southern California I sometimes forget that there are so many places within a 4-8 hour travel radius that I can explore locally.

I been hearing about “Ojai” since I can recall, but for some reason I figured it was faar away and I associated it with Calistoga, probably because it also has a very famous spa/resort. In December an organizations I belong to announced that our annual Southern California conference was going to be held at the Ojai Valley Inn and Spa. I was confused and wondered if we were having a joint annual conference with our northern California chapters. Imagine my surprise when I looked at the map and realized Ojai was closer than Santa Barbara!

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend the conference, but I did mentally note that Ojai would be visited in 2017! When I put my mind to something, I make it happen. A couple weeks ago my cousin and I drove the 1.5 hours from  her house to Ojai. The drive was nothing, yet we were transported to a place that felt other wordly with a small town country feel, beautiful trees, mountains and peace & quiet.  We had an agenda packed with rest and relaxation and that’s exactly what we did.

The Ojai Valley Inn  is a beautiful place set in a….wait for it…. valley….. and surrounded by sprawling lush green golf courses. When you’re there you can’t help but feel relaxed. It’s like summer camp for rich families. I say that because it’s super kid friendly, it’s pet friendly (you can follow their adorable ambassador on Instagram), there are all kinds of activities like yoga, painting, stretching and biking. You can visit Libbey’s marketplace around the corner from the Linus bike stand and create a custom picnic basket and you’ll get a blanket and map showing you all the great picnic spots around the grounds. Speaking of Libbey’s you MUST try their coffee. It was so good I brought a bag of their ground beans home and I’m drinking a delicious mug of their coffee now. You can also opt to bike into town for provisions, lunch or shopping. We really wanted to do this and had planned on it, but happened to be there during the two hottest days of the year. With 100+ temperatures we opted for more pool time.

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Speaking of pools. We visited 3 different pools and there is a 4th we skipped because it was the kids pool, but I wanted to visit it when I read that they show movies at that pool in the evenings. The pools are salt water, the atmosphere is pretty quiet so you can talk, nap, read and the staff doesn’t judge you when you order a Miami vice and side of bacon.

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Our room looked like your average inviting hotel room, but the bathroom was heaven. I could have spent an entire day in that bathroom had I remembered to pack some bubble bath.  This picture doesn’t even begin to do it justice. It was far more spacious, had a stand up shower with beautiful tile work and the lighting had options for bright or dim settings. The beds were also super comfortable. We read our books, took long naps, went to bed early and never once turned the television on.

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We spent half a day at the infamous Spa. Having been to a handful of other spas in L.A. & Orange County,  I was expecting a bit more for the prices they charge at this spa. The women’s locker room was cramped & super basic. There wasn’t a quiet room where you can take a nap or read. I was really looking forward to that. The spa cafe was a real bust and the area where you wait to be called for your service was small, overcrowded and co-ed.  When people are in ill fitting robes and all greasy from massages and facials you really don’t want to be seen. My reflexology massage was great, but my hydro-facial left a lot to be desired. I wouldn’t visit this spa again.

We only had two meals at the resort. We weren’t impressed with the overpriced food so we went into town. That may sound like an inconvenience, but it’s only a 2 minute drive and you can also walk or bike there. Our best meals were at Suzanne’s Cuisine and Azu.

While you’re in town make sure to walk around. There are so many interesting shops and areas to explore. I recommend grabbing some ice cream or frozen yogurt or maybe a coffee and pastry to accompany some people watching. What I found bizarre was in between the golfers, pregnant women, senior citizens, and kids there were a couple bachelorette party groups! This I have not been able to figure out because Ojai is a quiet sleepy town. There’s no where to go out & dance, but they got dressed up anyway. There’s really nothing to do in Ojai after 10 p.m. unless I missed something. I mean there’s live music at the resort on the lawn at night if you want to sing along to “Sweet Caroline” and you can make $40 smores while other people’s kids run a muck all around you, but what bride-to-be wants that?

I’m really glad we took advantage of Ojai’s proximity and crossed this off my bucketlist. Up next for summer 2018… CALISTOGA!

Here are a few tips if you’re thinking of planning a trip to the Ojai Valley Inn:

  1. Pack bubble bath to take advantage of the bathtub
  2. Pack shampoo and conditioner their products were tiny and not the greatest
  3. Ask for a room with a fireplace or balcony
  4. Ask for a room that’s NOT on the ground floor (kids running upstairs wasn’t cool)
  5. Don’t hesitate to have your meals offsite
  6. Don’t go in July when it’s over 100 degrees
  7. Consider a mid-week trip (rates may be better & it might be less crowded)
  8. Don’t plan your day around the “pink moment” we weren’t impressed
  9. Buy more than one bag of Libbey’s coffee beans to bring home
  10. You can self park close to your room (highly recommended Saturday nights to speed up checkout & departure on Sunday)

If you have tips or recommendations for a trip to Calistoga, I’m all ears! If you’ve been to Ojai let me know what your impressions were.

 

 

On This Day…Fun Facts

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I keep hearing that the 4th of July is a celebration commemorating the United States of America proclaiming its independence from Great Britain through the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

 Here are a few ironic fun facts about this:

  • The first Independence Day celebration wasn’t held until 20 years later in 1796.
  • While proclaiming independence from Great Britain, the authors of the Declaration of Independence were writing things like, and I paraphrase here, that all men are created equal with unalienable rights among which are life liberty and the pursuit of happiness despite the fact that women didn’t get suffrage nationwide until 1920 and one of the authors Robert Livingston was a representative of New York and slavery wasn’t abolished in NY until 1827.
  • The American Revolution was still being fought until 1783

Other noteworthy events for the United States that have taken place on July 4th include:

  • 1803 The Louisiana Purchase is announced
  • 1831 “America (My Country ‘Tis of Thee)” is 1st sung in Boston
  • 1836 Wisconsin Territory forms
  • 1846 Texas votes for annexation to United States
  • 1863 Boise, Idaho founded (now capital of Idaho)
  • 1863 General Lee’s army withdrew from Gettysburg
  • 1863 Vicksburg, Mississippi surrenders to Union forces
  • 1881 Booker T. Washington established the Tuskegee Institute
  • 1884 Statue of Liberty presented to US in Paris
  • 1959 America’s new 49-star flag honoring Alaska statehood unfurled
  • 1960 America’s new 50-star flag honoring Hawaiian statehood unfurled

Other events that took place on July 4th that don’t call for sparkler celebrations:

  • 1779 Occupation of Greneda by French troops
  • 1810 Occupation of Amsterdam by French troops
  • 1866 Firecracker thrown in woods starts fire destroying half of Portland, Maine
  • 1898 French liner “La Bourgogne” collides with bark Cromartyshire & 560 die
  • 1925 Dreyfus Hotel in Boston collapses, 44 die
  • 1940 British destroy French battle fleet at Oran, Algeria, 1267 die
  • 1969 Ohio Fireworks kill 18 and destroy over 100 boats on Lake Erie
  • 1970 100 injured in race rioting in Asbury Park NJ
  • 1988 US Navy shoots down Iranian civilian jetliner over Gulf, kills 290
  • 1989 14 year old Drew Barrymore attempts suicide (thankfully she didn’t succeed)
  • 1990 400 NKOTB fans treated for heat exhaustion (wonder if they’re trying to go to any NKOTB cruises as adults now)
  • 2003 Kobe Bryant is arrested for sexual assault (scumbag)
  • 2013 12 people are killed and 60 are injured in a wave of shootings across Chicago (this has become so common now in our country, don’t we have like 1-2 of these a month now?)

Just some food for thought to keep in mind today as you enjoy sparklers, illegal fireworks that freak out my dog, beer, cancer causing hot dogs and sugar laden ice creams contributing to this country’s obesity problem (I just watched the documentary Sugar Coated.)

I was listening to Country music while composing this message. David Nail’s “Whatever She’s Got” to be exact because I’m patriotic. #America

Totally Tardy to the Podcast Party

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I was totally tardy to the Podcast Party. I’ve been hearing people talking about Podcasts for over a decade but I didn’t understand the allure. Was it like talk radio? Was it like books on tape? I didn’t get it.

Two years ago all any of my friends were talking about was the podcast Serial. I was told I HAD to check it out so I did. Serial became the first podcast series I downloaded and listened to and I was hooked! I remember laying on my couch with a cozy blanket with the fireplace on and a warm cup of tea in my hands listening to the podcast and being lost in the story of Adnan.

I became intrigued by Podcasts and began to wonder what else I was missing. The next podcast I began to subscribe to was KCRW’s Orange County Line in which they interview OC Weekly’s editor Gustavo Arellano about different topics of interest to Orange County. This podcast is only about 4 minutes long so it wasn’t satiating my need for information on all things Orange County so I also subscribed to OC Weekly‘s own podcast OC Speakly and soon after that The City Square too.

Keeping with the Orange County theme, the next blog I discovered was Reality Life with Kate Casey. I learned about this one after bumping into an Instagram post in which Kate Casey was spoofing a celebrity photo. It turned out she does a series of these photos and while these are funny they aren’t the best thing about her Instagram account. The best part in my opinion, and what got me to click “follow” is the series of posts about her daughter in which she uses the hashtag #gives30percent.  These are my favorite and make my heart smile because I love quirky kids who march to the beat of their own drum. When I told a friend of mine about these hilarious posts she informed me that she was familiar with Kate because Kate has a blog called LoveandKnuckles in which she recaps reality TV shows and she also told me about Kate’s podcast in which she talks to her friends about reality TV shows and even interviews reality TV stars.

Yesterday, a friend and I drove down to San Diego to visit another friend who told us to listen to episode one of S Town on our drive back to Orange County. We tried, but instead of captivating me like Serial did, I was left wondering WTF? I don’t think I’ll be listening to the rest of this series unless one of you convinces me otherwise.

The number of podcasts I subscribe to has increased to six. The next podcast I will be checking out is Potterless which I just read about on Desperately Seeking Lifestyle.

What podcasts do you listen to? Got any recommendations for me?

 

When Barcelona Beckons…

We arrived in Barcelona by train. Our hotel was in the Poble Nou region of town which to me seemed to be a little off the beaten path, but I’m so glad we booked there because the view from our penthouse view of the city with it’s backdrop mountains and the Sagrada Familia jutting out in the center of all the buildings was outstanding. The room across from ours, my father’s room had ocean views so we had the best of both worlds.  Stepping out the front door of this hotel we could walk straight down one walk street past shops and restaurants to the beach.

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My father currently lives in a landlocked country and having lived in coastal locations for the majority of his life I always love seeing his reactions to being near the sea. I loved the beach scene in Barcelona, especially in the Barcelonetta area. People were out and about, walking, biking, laying out and enjoying life. It reminded me of the years I spent living a block from the beach in Hermosa Beach. The MareMagnum area sort of reminded me of the Redondo Beach Pier but what much nicer. What Barcelona had that we don’t out in California was the historical buildings the Las Ramblas spilling over with tourists and the gigantic yachts docked in the marina.

My biggest regret while we were in Barcelona was saving our visit to the Mercat de la Boqueria for the day after Easter and not realizing that it would be closed. I was quite bummed about missing out on that. We also royally messed up by not going inside the Sagrada Familia, not going inside the Gaudi buildings we walked past, not visiting Park Guell or any museums. Our time in Barcelona was so short that we concentrated on seeing as much as we could and soaking up as much as we could without spending too much time on any one thing.

 

On our Iberia flight back home I watched another Spanish Language film. This one was called “Tengo Ganas De Ti” about a guy coming back to Barcelona after having been away in London. He meets a girl and falls in love with her, but then runs into his former love he went to London to get away from.  I really loved this movie and came to learn that it was a sequel to another film called “3 Metros Sobre El Cielo” which was about the same guy and his first love. I haven’t watched the prequel yet but it’s on my list.

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Madrid – Best Thing I Ate

I can’t stop thinking about the food we ate in Spain.

When I talk to people about our trip and broach the topic of food, I feel compelled to tell people about the best thing I ate. I’ve gotten asked if it was the suckling pig at Botin. No! I didn’t find it fitting to eat anything that was still suckling when it was killed for my consumption.  I was asked if the best thing I ate were the churros con chocolate from San Gines. While the churros and chocolate were good, they didn’t change my life. I also got asked a lot about the Jamon. I think people just enjoy saying Jamon because they get to pronounce it as Ha-moan. Jamon is great, there’s no disputing it, but I only ate it in places where I didn’t have to see the pig thigh being shaved in front of my face.

Oddly enough the best thing I ate was Pan con Tomate. I would have never guessed that I’d enjoy a piece of bread with squished tomato smeared on it. Perhaps I liked it because I was abstaining from bread and tomato for the 2 months leading up to this trip?

Pan con Tomate is a traditional Catalan breakfast so I would have assumed we would have happened upon it in Barcelona, but we kept bumping into it in Madrid. I’m not complaining.

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Image from Spoonwithme.com

It still astounds me how something so simple managed to rock my world. Five basic ingredients:bread, olive oil, tomato, salt and garlic that’s all it is. If I could physically afford to eat bread every day without starting to resemble the Michelin man, this dish would be a staple in my daily diet.

Although pan con tomate was the best thing I ate in Madrid, bigtime props and an honorable mention also have to go out to Patatas Bravas!

Exploring Madrid

It was a random weeknight in November, I was at home and grabbed my phone which was on silent and noticed a friend had called, left a voicemail and texted. I began to think something was wrong. Wondering where the fire was, I called him back to discover he wanted to let me know about discounted airfare to Spain he found on SkyScanner. He had booked a trip, his sister was booking a trip and within minutes we were booking a trip & so was my father!

Four long months later, my husband and I took a nonstop Iberia Airlines flight from LAX to Madrid. It was easily one of the best flights I’ve been on. The staff seemed like they actually enjoyed their jobs, the food was good, the seats were comfortable and the in flight entertainment well,… it kept me entertained. I don’t go to movie theatres on land because I don’t want to get shot or get in a fight with someone who is chewing their popcorn super loudly so I use my time on flights wisely trying to catch up on movies. On this flight I watched “Sing” about cartoon animals trying out for a talent show, “La La Land” which in my opinion didn’t deserve the real or fake awards it got, and a hilarious Spanish Language Film titled “Villaviciosa De Al Lado”. I found it amusing that this movie was based on actual events considering it was about a winning lottery ticket sold at a brothel and so the men who went in on the ticket couldn’t claim their winnings without outing themselves as brothel visiting Johns.

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When we arrived at the Madrid airport we took an Uber to our hotel. Yes! There is Uber in Madrid. Locating the unmarked Uber pick up area outside the terminal was an adventure that made me feel like we were on the Amazing Race, but we figured it out. In Madrid you can request an Uber One which is a bit pricier but gets you a Tesla Model S with a fancy driver dressed up in a suit!

The first hotel I had booked was the NH Madrid Ribera del Manzanares in Arganzuela. I booked this hotel because I wanted our first few days to be in a quiet and peaceful neighborhood away from the bustling and loud city center. Although this hotel was within walking distance to a lot of attractions it’s considered to be away from the city center so price wise you can get more bang you get for your buck!

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This hotels was beautiful. The lobby was spacious, the rooms were large by European standards, the beds were super comfortable, our windows opened so we could get fresh air and hear the birds. I really enjoyed staying at this hotel. I also have to give a special shout out to the staff here. I had to change booking details prior to our arrival and they had no problem accommodating my request over email and sending me a confirmation. We also forgot an item in the room which with a simple email they were able to recover and hold for us. The Vicente Calderón football stadium was a 5 minute walk away and we were able to walk to the Royal Palace, Plaza Mayor, San Miguel Market and even to La Latina from our hotel too. We also had the added benefit of being among the locals and having our morning lattes in cafes void of tourists.

Our trip to Spain happened to be during Semana Santa, the Holy Week between Palm Sunday and Easter. Our first day in Madrid was Jueves Santo (Maundy Thursday). A lot of streets were blocked for different religious processions during which a few different saints are brought out of churches and carried around town to the beat of drums. It seemed like all the locals were out and about or watching out of their balconies and windows. The sight of these processions reminded me of a hilarious scene in the movie I watched on the airplane where one of the guys in the procession kept farting. If you’re lucky you’ll see a procession that looks like this.

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If you’re not so lucky, you may run into a procession that looks more like this.

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I’m not quite sure why I found these KKK-esque costumes so jarring considering I’m Armenian and my holy people dress like this.

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After a few days in our quiet hotel we moved to another hotel in the City Center right off the Gran Via. This place wasn’t nearly as nice as the first, yet it cost the same. We spent our days in Madrid walking around the city, taking siestas, visiting Plazas, drinking beer and sangria, admiring shop windows, dinning al fresco, listening to street artists playing Spanish guitar, observing the locals dressed in their football jerseys going to the stadium and local bars to watch their teams, and just absorbing as much of Madrid as we could.

Madrid Plaza

Madrid Langos
Fidel y Fernanda died in vain. We didn’t order them nor did we eat them.

 

 

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I really loved Madrid much more than I thought I would. I wish we had planned to have 2 more days in Madrid. There were still so many places I wanted to visit. My biggest regret was not visiting the Temple of Debod considering we sat in the entrance of the park it’s in after visiting Plaza de Espana!

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I didn’t want our time in Madrid to end. However, what softened the blow was that we were BARCELONA bound!

 

Business In The Bay With Some Built In Play

Last week, I flew up to the Bay area for a business trip. After wrapping up the business portion of my trip, I took a ride into the City to check into the Grand Hyatt near Union Square where I would be meeting a friend who was flying in to meet me for a weekend of leisure.

My favorite part of the trip was the half hour I spent in the Grand Hyatt’s lobby waiting for my friend to arrive so we can check-in together. It was such a warm and relaxing space near a fire place with the cool rainy weather outside. It gave me some time to myself which I used to catch up with reading blog I follow. It was kind of cool to see that two bloggers who I follow were sharing posts about their recent trips to SF.

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Right as my friend arrived, the rain stopped. We decided to go out and grab a late lunch and begin our explorations. We walked over to 398 Brasserie which was the perfect spot for us. Next, we took another Lyft ride down to the Embarcadero to the Exploratorium. I’ll admit. I was very apprehensive about this activity because it had been a rainy day and I was sure there were going to be a lot of children there. My wish was to visit the Exploratorium during the “After Dark” program where the museum opens after hours for adults only with libations but in the end we had a great time despite the presence of OPC (Other people’s children). If you’re ever in SF and visit the Exploratorium, try the cold brew coffee in their cafe. It really was the best cold brew I’ve had in a while. I couldn’t stop announcing over and over that it was the best cold brew coffee I had ever had. Our next stop was the Ferry Building stopping along the way to take silly selfies with the Bay Bridge, Coit tower and the Trans America building as our backdrops. After a quick stroll through the Ferry Building we returned to our hotel to prepare for dinner.

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We decided to go to Cockscomb in SoMa for dinner. We had an off putting interaction with the young hostess which made me really want to dislike this place. However, our waitress was excellent and our food so delicious that I had to adjust my attitude and not let one run in with a negative sourpuss ruin our evening. After our meal we hopped over to The View which I think will be the one place I recommend to anyone who ever visits San Francisco. The views of the city from up there are the best I’ve seen. It’s located on the top floor of the Marriott Marquis. This has got to be one of the largest hotels in SF. Not only was the lobby bustling, but so was The View lounge. Perhaps the key is to get there early. We got there around 9pm on a Saturday night. After a quick lap around we found seats and got to enjoy the views, but l would like to return during daylight savings when the sun sets around 5pm and enjoy the sunset views. Our next stop was the Starlight Room to see what the views were like from up there, but after you’ve seen what The View has to offer the look and feel and views from the Starlight Room were a tad underwhelming.

On Saturday morning, we walked over to The Pineapple Bistro inside The Alise. I love all things Pineapple so this was a no brainer breakfast stop. I loved the look and feel of the lobby of the Alise with its gold undertones. The food and pineapple themes cocktails we had were outstanding and our server was so friendly I wanted to befriend her and hang out with her all day. This hotel and the Pineapple hospitality group officially won my heart. Just look at some parts of their philosophy. I’ve underlined all the things I love.

We’re unscripted, unassuming, and are under the impression that saying please and thank you the good old fashioned way isn’t a novel idea.

Corporate and stuffy have no place here. Unique and real do.

And where others are continental breakfast. WE’RE CUPCAKES AND POPCORN. 

They’re literally about cupcakes! Guests are offered pineapple cupcakes and coffee daily. Um.. sign me up! They pride themselves on their oversized towels, which I appreciate since the ones I’ve come across lately at hotels resemble table runners and aren’t big enough to wrap around myself. They offer fuzzy slippers that you get to take home which my husband would love! They have complimentary water, valet parking, umbrellas, earth friendly housekeeping and a smoke free environment. As if all this wasn’t enough to earn my business, they’re pet friendly and offer complimentary bicycles to ride around town!

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Image from The Alise’s website

Our next stop was the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate park. Once we stepped inside I remembered that I had been there before, however after going to the butterfly section I told my friend that this was the best $8 I had spent all weekend. I could have stayed in that butterfly room all day watching the butterflies. I told 2 of the employees tending to the needs of the butterflies that they had the best jobs in the world.

After walking through the park a bit & visiting the De Young museum gift shop (not the museum, just the gift shop…) we caught a ride down to the Warming Hut in the Presidio where we grabbed warming beverages and enjoyed the spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge. It was almost hard to believe that a mere 24 hours it had been raining like crazy. The weather was so crisp that although our feet hurt we took a long walk towards the Palace of the Fine arts while enjoying views of Alcatraz, the city skyline, and all the sail boats that were out in the water.

bridge

After the meandering walk, we had an long lunch in the Mission at Foreign Cinema. Again, we didn’t know what to expect but the service and food impressed us. After being out and about and walking so much I needed to get myself back to the hotel to shower and rest before our evening activities so I did that while my friend went out for some coffee/shopping. That night we were in the mood for a steak dinner with a view so after a quick Yelp consult we were off to Leatherneck Steakhouse and Lounge located on the top floor of the Marine’s Memorial Club . The Marine’s Memorial Club is really worth a mention. It’s a hotel, a club, a theater, a foundation, a venue, a living memorial, a throwback to servicemen and wars that were. It really was an odd yet unique place. We shared an elevator with a large group of senior citizens all heading to the second floor theater and our way out I spotted a poster announcing that in April Vicente Fox the former President of Mexico would be speaking at the Marine’s Memorial Club. How awesome is that? The steakhouse itself was superb and the views were better than those at the Starlight Room. I wonder if many people know about this little gem?!?! Being in the theater district naturally our next stop was the Library Bar at The Rex where right after we grabbed drinks from the bar and took our seats, a cabaret show let out and the crowd that filled the bar was pure people watching GOLD.

As always, I enjoyed my time in the Bay area immensely and wished I had a couple more days to enjoy the sights and sounds of San Francisco and the surrounding cities, but alas… until next time City by the Bay…..