Euro Trip – Part 2 Budapest

Part 2 of my Euro Trip extended into Central Europe and commenced with an easy 2.5 hour train ride from Vienna to Budapest.

Arriving at the train station in Budapest we immediately felt the difference between Vienna and Budapest. There was no doubt about the fact that we were in a different country now! It has to be said that arriving at the Budapest train station and leaving the Budapest station are two very different experiences. They don’t exactly put their best foot forward at this train station for arrivals. My first impressions of Budapest was that Vienna seemed more how should I put this? Kempt? and Budapest had more…charm? We’ll go with charm. I know that’s expected but I guess I just wasn’t ready for it.

I was so excited about finally being in Hungary! As a freshman in college I worked in an office with a Hungarian woman. She had the coolest demeanor and interesting accent and the stories about her annual trips back home to Hungary piqued my interest about the country and its history.During the early 2000’s I studies abroad and Budapest was THE place for students to travel to party it up, but I opted to visit Prague instead (glad I made that choice since a few years later the Czech Republic picked up the Euro and became less affordable). Budapest had managed to allude me for decades and finally I was there! Albeit my visit was going to be just a brief 24 hours I wanted to make the most of it.

We made our way from the train station to the Corinthia Hotel near the Grand Boulevard. The Cornithia Hotel is a 5 star luxury hotel but we didn’t stay in the main hotel building. We were shown to our “Grand Residence” which was located behind the hotel across a small service alley. I just kept claiming we were staying at the Grand Budapest Hotel.

After checking in and putting our bags in our rooms we went out for a bite to eat and ended up at Café Vian where we sat outside and enjoyed an al fresco meal. I ordered the chicken paprikash with dumplings. It was about $8-$9 and delicious. I think I would easily be able to eat that meal every day and be a happy person. We chatted up the young waiter who was equal parts friendly and helpful. He shared with us that we should never hail a cab in Budapest and opt to call for them and to pay our fare with exact change because some sneaky taxi drivers take advantage of unsuspecting tourists and return their change in Serbian currency instead of the Forint. Looking around as we sat outside I kept noticing how beautiful all the buildings were. The architecture is so historic and impressive, but it seemed the grandeur of the paint colors wasn’t coming through on a lot of buildings due to years and years of grime and dirt. I kept saying I wanted to take a power washer to the facades of the buildings.

After our meal,, we took a walk down to see the Parliament building and the Danube. The Parliament building in Budapest is one of the world’s largest and most beautiful buildings and it’s  also one of Europe’s oldest legislative buildings. It also happens to be the largest and tallest building in Hungary. I’ve seen the Parliament building in London and a few others in other cities, but this was the first one that really impressed me. It’s size and grandeur is mesmerizing.

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As we walked past Parliament and approached the Danube river, the sun had begun to set. The weather suddenly became more breezy and cool. Pest was bustling behind us and Buda was glistening and smiling at us as the boats were making their way up and down the river. I  likened the scene to standing on the shores of the Vltava river in Prauge looking across the Charles bridge, up towards Prauge castle. Prauge felt more still with while Budapest was alive with all the movement around us. Cars with their headlights on were driving across the bridge and on both banks of the river, a café was playing lounge music while cars were honking, river cruise passengers were walking around and the city felt alive.

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Views over and across the Danube

On our walk back to the hotel we walked past street vendors selling Kürtoskalács but since we just had eaten dinner there was no room in our tummies. Looking back in hindsight I wish I had purchased one and saved it to enjoy the next day on the train ride back to Vienna.

After a short rest in the hotel I wanted to get back outside and soak in the Budapest night so my friend and I decided to go for a walk. We noticed a chain of coffee shops called California Coffee Company and couldn’t resist ourselves. I mean how cliché are we? Tourists from California going all the way to Hungary to patronize a place called California Coffee Company! They had a poster of some kind of popcorn coffee in the window that drew us in, but we chickened out and didn’t try it. We grabbed coffee and tea “to go” and continued our walk through the streets of Pest, without a destination in mind, not quite sure where we were going. We somehow ended up walking down the tree lined Andrássy Avenue, past the Opera house and the high end shopping stores. Since it was after 10pm the shops were closed, the Opera House looked closed and the street was quiet and abandoned, so I had to use my imagination to picture how busy this street may have been just a few hours ago. Having visited the Opera in Vienna I was far more impressed with this Opera House because since it stood alone the details stuck out. The Opera House in Vienna felt shoved in among other buildings and I couldn’t really take in the structure as a whole.

Next on our walk, we bumped into the Gozsdu Courtyard which was a little walk street or alley jampacked with bars and restaurants. (I later learned this area used to be the Jewish quarter.) It felt as though this is the place locals go at night. It was bustling!  We didn’t intend to find this place but we did so I grabbed a Hot Dog and got my Vegetarian friend Chips on a Stick from Hot Dog Cold Beer (loved that straightforward name) and continued our explorative walk whilst snacking. Our next stop was for gelato and then we made our way back to the hotel.

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The next morning we walked over to Café Gerbeaud and enjoyed a fancy breakfast then walked over the bridge, to the Buda side of the city where we got lost. I had wanted to take a certain bus line that would have looped us around the entire Buda side of town, but we had trouble finding it. Here’s a picture of us with our maps and tourist book trying to get ourselves unlost.

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Since I was so limited on time (I had to get back to the hotel and get my bags and make my way to the train station) we took a bus over back over the river and just walked around Vaci street aimlessly and of course we unintentionally bumped into St. Stephen’s cathedral. I can’t even begin to compare this to the cathedral of the same name in Vienna. They’re both built in such different styles but both are beautiful in their own right and worth seeing.

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After we had arrived back to our hotel, I grabbed my suitcase and backpack and bid farewell to my friends who would be staying on in Budapest an extra day to check out the public baths, the ruin bars, and a street festival before going on to Prauge and then Munich for Oktoberfest. I took the train back to Vienna and then took a taxi to the airport and boarded an airplane to go visit my father in Armenia! It was bitter sweet leaving my friends. I was having such a good time with them, but I am always excited to see my father so I was eager to get to him.

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I finally got to visit Budapest, but my 24 hour trip was just an appetizer. I would love to return with my father and my husband and maybe do a Viking River cruise since we kept running into people from these cruises in both Austria and Budapest. There is still so much to see, do and eat in Budapest. I would love to explore Buda, check out the ruin bars, taste the Karavan street food offerings and try the Kürtoskalács. Until we meet again….

Euro Trip – Part 1 Austria

When I was single, I would go on extended trips at the drop of a hat and always worried about what would happen if I one day married someone who didn’t share my love and passion for travel. Well, on date #2 with my current husband, we talked about my love and need for travel and he admitted he wasn’t big on travel but he also explained that he wasn’t the kind of man who would stand in his partner’s way of exploring the world just because he didn’t want to. We’ve been married for 3 years and to his credit he has been traveling with me, but I’ve also embarked on a few trips without him. One of these happened back in September when a few girlfriends and I went off to Europe.

The first stop was Austria. I had visited Vienna once before, about 10 years ago. I had a really long layover so I took the train from the airport into the city and spent almost the entire day walking all around the city, taking in the beautiful architecture sitting on park benches and watching the locals until it was time for me to get back to the airport to catch my connecting flight. I always felt like I had unfinished business in Vienna.

The day we arrived in Vienna, we checked into Schick Hotel am Parkring. This hotel was right across from Stadt Park and part of the reason we booked it was because of the views offered from the rooms. The rooms were spacious, the beds comfortable, the bathrooms modern and I can’t say enough about how lovely, helpful and warm the hotel staff were. I felt safe, welcomed and looked after in the way I do when I stay with family.

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Vienna rooftop views from our hotel room balcony

After settling in we decided to go for a walk to check out the neighborhoods around our hotel and get our bearings. Just a few blocks away, we ran into a Viennese wedding and a couple left turns later we stumbled upon St. Stephen’s Cathedral. 14269207_641306306054248_648864200_nThe first evening we ended up having our dinner at Medusa. I was nervous because we hadn’t researched and just picked it based on walking by and glancing at the menu. We were all very impressed with our choice and enjoyed our al fresco meal.

The next morning my roommate decided to go for an early morning walk while the rest of us got ready. I wish I had been ready to tag along because she went to the  Naschmarkt which sounded like a place I would have probably loved. There is so much to see and do in Vienna that we split up. I’ll admit that I hadn’t done my reasearch so I didn’t have a list of things I wanted to see or do so when my friend suggested we go to the Schonbrun Palace I agreed without even knowing what I had just agreed to. We took a hop on/hop off bus tour which took us right to the palace. We sat in the cafe facing the palace to have our morning coffee. The picture below doesn’t do justice to the size of this palace. It’s gigantic.

As we sat in the cafe, drinking our Viennese coffees, noshing on some pretzels and sausages, we perused the visitor brochure and I read the entire Wikipedia page to learn about the palace. How on earth did I not know about this place? Mozart played here when he was 6 years old, JFK met Khruschev here and it’s a UNESCO heritage site. Boy was I glad my friend suggested we visit Schonbrun! To think this enormous estate was just the summer residence for the Habsburgs. My friend suggested that instead of going into the palace we just go walk through the free gardens in the back since we were a bit limited on time. Being the super go with the flow, easy traveler that I am, I agreed. When we walked around the palace, both of our minds were blown. We were not prepared for what lied behind this palace.

My friend was taking pictures galore and asking me why I wasn’t taking a single picture. I told her that no picture I took was going to compare to what I could see on google images. The gardens were also massive with hidden cafes, statues, fountains, gazebos, mazes, labyrinths, a palm house, a gloriette and A ZOO!!! There is so much to see! I couldn’t believe that some locals were there for their daily jogs! Anyone can come and visit, walk or jog through these botanical gardens for free! We have to pay so much money back home to visit places like these. They also host outdoor concerts here. I think we probably only covered 8% of what there was to see here before we had to head back to catch our bus back into the city. We got to see a lot of Vienna by riding that bus.

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While we were in Vienna we rented a car and drove out to Melk, Mauthausen and Linz. Melk was an adorable little town, but the standout for me was the visit to Mauthausen. Once again when one of the girls on the trip suggested going there, I didn’t really have an objection, though I had no idea why we were going out of our way to visit a concentration camp. Apparently the employee at the car rental place shared my sentiment. She didn’t understand why 4 American women would want to go to such a sad place. After walking around with the self guided audio tour, I was moved to my core and grateful to my friend for suggesting we visit.

The silence at Mauthausen hangs heavily. The air is heavy too with the weight of the atrocious things that happened here. Walking around learning about the living conditions and what life was like for the people who were brought here during WWII with the self guided audio tour was very sad. I mean, we learn about this event in our history courses, but they don’t tell us nearly enough…I felt myself almost losing it when I saw the rooms where they conducted medical experiments and walked through the crematorium and saw the ovens. How can humans do such things to each other? The scariest part was that these people didn’t see anything wrong with what they were doing and took roll daily and kept meticulous records. The exhibits in the museum are chilling. There is so much about the holocaust we don’t learn in school.

My initial reaction to this place was wishing it didn’t exist. I wished the place would have been razed to erase every memory…but that would be wrong. Places like this need to remain to remind us all of what we as humans are capable of doing to other humans in the absence of tolerance.

To balance out the heaviness of Mauthausen we lightened things up by also going to the Opera where we watched La Fille Du Regiment and then enjoying a traditional Viennese Breakfast the next morning at the infamous Cafe Central which was actually a place I had found before the trip on FourSquare that I wanted to visit.  Cafe Central is almost 150 years old and Stalin, Freud, Lenin & Hitler used to patronize this place. Being such a history buff I will admit, I was geeking out a bit. I’m so glad we came because the coffee here was the best I had in all of Austria and I had been craving a soft boiled egg and croissant and they had those exact things on the menu to satiate my craving.

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Our last night in Vienna we wanted to have a nice dinner out so at the recommendation of the staff of our hotel we went to Motto am Fluss where I enjoyed the best Weiner Schnitzel I’ve had in my life that basically ruined me for life. No other WS is going to compare to the WS at Motto am Fluss.

 

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The first time I left Vienna, I felt like I had unfinished business and I’m happy to report that when I left this time, I felt the exact same way. Auf Wiedersehen Vien… Until we meet again Vienna.

 

Self-Awareness

Have you ever heard or read something and thought… “that’s me!”? I had one of those moments while watching a TEDTalk by Pamela Meyer. This TEDTalk focuses on how to become a lie spotter and offers tips on how to tell the difference between honest and dishonest people.

When I heard her say the following, I had to bring up the transcript because I immediately identified with it.

An honest person is going to be cooperative. They’re going to show they’re on your side. They’re going to be enthusiastic. They’re going to be willing and helpful to getting you to the truth. They’re going to be willing to brainstorm, name suspects, provide details. They’re going to say, “Hey, maybe it was those guys in payroll that forged those checks.” They’re going to be infuriated if they sense they’re wrongly accused. And if you ask someone honest what should happen to whomever did forge those checks, an honest person is much more likely to recommend strict rather than lenient punishment.

YES!!!! I love being cooperative and  don’t understand the motivation of uncooperative people. I always want to get to the bottom of things, offer suggestions, options for resolution, and I want to address things and put them to rest.

Last week, someone at work took something they hard heard me say and went and told someone else. Not a big deal, but I felt it wasn’t necessary so I wasn’t too keen on her making my comment the subject of her gossip. I know I can’t control people’s behavior so I always just adjust my attitude or approach. In this case, I opted to begin avoiding her. When she noticed, she asked me if something was wrong. I told her what was bothering me and she clammed up and didn’t say another word so the conversation ended. We haven’t spoken in months. We used to speak, IM, email and text all throughout the day. It’s odd to me that she knows exactly what I’m upset about but she hasn’t owned up to it, admitted it was wrong, apologized, or shown any remorse by acknowledging that perhaps in hindsight she would have handled it differently. In fact, she told another colleague of our that she stands by what she did….The irony is that a week before she was infuriated that someone else was questioning the validity of how she felt about a particular exchange the two of them had. In that instance, she thought her feelings were dismissed and their validity questioned. Her opinion was that her feelings were valid regardless of what that person thought but I guess she doesn’t feel MY feelings are valid and she doesn’t feel compelled to extend me the same courtesy she expected that other person to grant her. I attribute this to her “white privilege” and as an ethnic Caucasian with a hyphenated identify living among non-hyphenated identity white people in America I find this hypocritical.

What I’ve learned about myself through this situation has surprised me. This person who is older than me and should be more mature who considers herself “very self-aware” is actually clueless. I now see how my culture and life perspectives have lead me to where I am and how differently I would have handled this if I were in her shoes.

In another situation this week, I was in a meeting and we began talking about a wrongdoing. The people in the meeting knew exactly who had committed the “crime” yet although I kept suggesting different alternatives for what we could do to address the situation no one was on board with doing anything to address the situation. I always considered myself an honest person, and it’s gotten me into trouble. I’ve learned the hard way that not everyone wants to talk about the elephant in the room. I’ve learned that some people aren’t comfortable with addressing the hard topics or embracing reality and the truth and they prefer to just avoid difficult conversations and confrontation. This TEDTalk reinforced all this… but now I need to find another TEDTalk that could help me learn how to deal with all this.

I now understand that I’m the type of person that seeks resolution and closure while others are ok with leaving things unaddressed. I would like to learn how to be ok with leaving things unresolved … got any tips?

Genius Ideas… (post #3)

I was texting Cousin S about the hassle of boarding my dog every time we travel. We’re fortunate that our little guy’s vet operates out of a facility that’s not only a vet office but also a hospital and they board and it’s a couple blocks away from John Wayne Airport so we often drop him off before we take off and pick him off after we touch down. In the text exchange I was venting a bit about how all our friends and family who keep offering to pet sit for us live 45-60 miles away so drop off and pick up wouldn’t be convenient at all given the ridiculous traffic here in Southern California. Then I had the Genius Idea of Pet Uber! Imagine if I could request a car to come and take my dog to my brother-in-law’s house and then do the same to get him back home. Our dog loves car rides and even has his own seat belt so he would be the best passenger. He wouldn’t try and make small talk, he’d just stay in his spot looking out the window.

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It turns out that if we lived in NYC we would already have this service! It’s called Pet Chauffer now if we could only get this service expanded to Orange County.

 

Genius Ideas…(post #2)

With it being Olympics season and all, cousin S had posted something on Facebook about Gagik Tsarukyan the president of Armenia’s National Olympic Committee. Her post read something like this…

Cousin S: “Sure he evades taxes, houses lions and tigers and plants trees in Bentleys(rumors I’m sure) but he’s probably the reason most of these Athletes from Armenia made it to Rio.”

Now, one would assume she was TRYING to exaggerate things to make her post dramatic by writing such absurd things, but I couldn’t stop laughing because it’s all true and that is not even the half of it.In addition to being president of Armenia’s National Olympic Committee, Tsarukyan also happens to be one of the most corrupt rich men in the tiny, poor and struggling nation of Armenia. His credentials include entrepreneur, boxer,  wrestler, and word-champion arm wrestler, political leader, National Assembly member, philanthropist, father of 6, tax evader, animal breeder, alcohol brewer/distiller, businessman, furniture and pharmaceutical sales, oligarch, masonry, etc… Seriously check out his Wikipedia and YouTube his daughter’s wedding to grasp the ridiculousness that is Gagik Tsarukyan.

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When my fathered retired, he decided to leave the country and go somewhere he could live comfortably on his social security pension. He repatriated to the country his parents were born in and happened to settle in Arinj, Armenia the village where Tsarukyan was born. Well, Tsarukyan hasn’t traveled far from the neighborhoods he grew up in and now resides in a hilltop compound overlooking the village of Arinj. We can see the large permiter walls that surround his mansion from my father’s house. A few years ago while visiting my father, I was telling him that my jetlag was causing me to have hallucinations. I told him that early in the morning while I was still half asleep I was hearing a roar like sound and asked him if it was his dog. Disgusted, he said “it’s not your jetlag… you really did hear a roar. It’s Tsarukyan’s Lion!” I mean W.T.F.????

Her post was so funny that I suggested we start a satirical media outlet like The Onion, but the stories we would post would be actual truths and facts that are so out of this world that people would assume they were embellished for entertainment. GENIUS IDEA #2

 

 

Genius Ideas…(post #1)

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I have a cousin (we’ll call her S) who is 6 months my junior. When people say “we grew up together” when describing their relationship with someone, I don’t quite believe them because I’m not really sure they TRULY grew up together the way my cousin S and I grew up together. We went to the same pre-school, same kindergarten, same elementary school, same junior high, different high schools but we did carpool to college. We have been coworkers at 2 different places of employment, we were in the same youth group and served on the executive board of said youth group. We have traveled together, vacationed together… even read a book simultaneously cover to cover sitting side by side. So you see when I say “we’ve grown up together” we really have.

Our entire lives S and I have come up with genius ideas that we tell each other and we wonder why no one has thought of them before. Here’s how a typical conversation (which really happened today over text message) goes with us.

Cousin S: “There should be an app like Uber that sends 2 drivers. One to drive you home and one to be a designated driver who can drive your car home behind you”

Me: “OMG! Yesssssss! Genius! Why don’t they already offer this?

I was once telling a colleague at work about a few of the ideas we have come up with and  she said that she never comes up with anything creative and often wonders about the innovative minds who think of all the great inventions and apps etc… I just know my cousin and I are those people! Based on the amazing ideas we come up with, I think we are gifted.

However what we lack is the time and resources to make our ideas come to life. Recently, when I spouted off yet another genius idea, cousin S suggested we create a message board of some sort where we can post all of our brilliant ideas so others can see them and execute them. Therefore, I’ll be creating numerical posts under this title to help us memorialize all the ideas we come up with! #YoureWelcome

Let’s get political. I wanna get political.

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I don’t think I’ve ever gotten too political or partisan on here and I promise not to start, but yesterday was Super Tuesday and everything leading up to the June 7th Primary seems to have been about the Primary and now it’s all about the results and what’s going to happen in November. CAN WE TALK ABOUT THE HUGE WHITE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM WITH THE GIGANTIC CORINTHIAN COLUMNS???

Since Justice Scalia passed away in February, the highest court in this country that is supposed to interpret the laws we are governed by has mostly been ineffective coming up with split decisions that are getting handed down to lower courts!

Senate Republicans are delaying, stalling and refusing to hold a hearing for President Barack Obama’s Justice nominee Merrick Garland. They’re claiming there shouldn’t be a hearing or nomination during an election year. Historically this has never been a reason to stop this process before and SIX Justices have been confirmed in election years in our country’s history so let’s get this show on the road shall we? In my opinion President Obama picked wisely. He picked someone who can bring the two parties together, however I am utterly baffled by why the GOP isn’t going for this considering the alternative of having Hillary Clinton nominating someone far more liberal OR Donald Trump nominating Judge Judy!

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My post on LifeWithLilRed

Hi everyone!

One of my blog posts, “The Accidental Lip Facelift” is featured over on the lifewithlilred blog today as a guest post! Hop over and check out her blog. She’s on vacation for now, but she’s featuring some awesome guest blogger posts while she’s away.Thanks Sarah! Can’t wait to read about your vacation!

 

I Support June 5th!

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A couple months ago, I sent the following email to 15 of my girlfriends.

I’m taking a poll to see if you are a fellow supporter of June 5th?

In recent years I’ve lapsed, and not properly engaged in any festivities to show my support of June 5th so to rectify the situation I’ve reserved a party bus for an Orange County brewery tour on June 5th. Please let me know if you are interested in joining me on June 5th to collectively show our support of June 5th.

In support, Lori

I was humbled with pride when 12 of them responded back within 24 hours to pledge their support to June 5th. I followed up with this email.

Thank you all for your prompt replies and for your support of June 5th. It looks like we’ll be rolling deep with a crew of 12! The party bus will be at my house at noon. The cost is $35 per person and we will visit 3 breweries. Tastings are on our own. This is going to be a ton of fun!

Now…. You’re probably wondering, “Wtf is June 5th?” This story goes back about a decade, to a random weeknight, when a friend and I were at a bar in Hermosa Beach and found ourselves among a group of lively drunkards who were all there to support June 5th…. We still have no idea what they were supporting, but we joined them, pledged our support to June 5thand the rest is history!

If you must find something associated with June 5th to support I offer you a few options:

  • On June 5th 1832 a rebellion broke out in Paris in an attempt to overthrow the monarchy of Louis Philippe! (DOWN WITH LOUIS PHILIPPE!)
  • On June 5th 2001 Tropical Storm Allison made landfall along the upper Texas coastline and dumped large amounts of rain over Houston costing $5.5 billion in damages and making Allison one of the top 10 costliest tropical storm in U.S. history (if your name is Allison or you dislike Texas this may be something?)
  • On June 5th 1878 Pancho Villa the leader of the Mexican Revolution was born. (VIVA LA MEXICO?)
  • If you’re a fashionista…. Salvatore Ferragamo was born on June 5th 1898
  • If you’re a fiscal conservative… Suze Orman came into the world on June 5th 1951
  • If you fancy yourself a fan of the funky bunch…. June 5th 1971 gave us Mark Wahlberg.
  • Religious? June 5th is a Christian feast day. Who doesn’t like a feast?
  • If you fancy yourself an environmentalist, June 5th is World Environmental Day

If none of these struck you, I’m sure The Google can help you find something…..See you all in a few weeks! CHEERS…. to June 5th!

I was even prouder when one of my friends said she found out that June 5th is small business appreciation day because we would be supporting 4 small businesses with our celebratory outing!

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  1. Craft Brew Tours
  2. Barley Forge Brewing
  3. Good Beer Company
  4.  Noble Ale Works

I can’t say enough good things about Craft Brew Tours and how easy it was to set up the entire thing through a couple emails. This company does brew tours in Orange County, San Diego and the South Bay. Our driver’s name was Brandon. He showed up on time, the party bus was clean and comfortable. He kicked things off by serving us a sample of a brew from a San Diego brewery and off we went!

oBarley Forge our first stop, set the bar high. I fell in love with a dark and delicious coconut stout! This brewery has a full on food menu and free popcorn & water. We spotted families playing board games with their kids and a teacher correcting papers. This place won me over!

What cracked me up was finding out that somehow my friends had bribed convinced Brandon to make a detour to Sidecar donuts! So that became our second stop where we picked up a few donuts to sample.

Out next stop was Good Beer company in dowtown Santa Ana. The employees here were nice, the beers were very tart and biter for our group, but we played some jenga and enjoyed ourselves. The final stop was Noble Ale Works in Anaheim where we enjoyed some food truck grub and Man’s Milk : / (I wish it was called something different.)

Overall, June 5th was successfully celebrated, I had a great time with my friends and Craft Brew Tours earned our repeat business!