Yesterday, after more than 12 hours traveling via plane, train and automobile, we arrived in Austin, joints sore from long walks, hair windblown from the coastal breeze and thoughts of San Francisco still bouncing about our cerebral cortex
The trip was short, less than 100 hours, but in the name of a one-year wedding anniversary, we crammed as much sight seeing, street walking, photo taking and wine drinking in as possible. Observe, below, our 4-day itinerary.
Thursday: We arrived at the Hotel Mayflower (a delightfully charming, nearly 100-year-old hotel in Nob Hill complete with manually operated doors) around 2:30 (yes, just in time for our dentist appointment) and immediately set out about town. I’ve always believed that the best way to get your bearings about a new place is to explore, get lost, and explore some more. So we set afoot through San Fran’s most notable neighborhoods: Chinatown, North Beach, Fisherman’s Wharf, Union Square, Downtown and Market Street. The trek was long, but indeed the best way to get our wits about the city.
Friday: After a restful sleep we awoke at the crack of early to get to Muir Woods National Monument just as the park was opening. For nearly 2 hours we had the park and its thousand-year-old trees to ourselves. The serenity of the forest combined with the gargantuan trees and perception that you were walking through a piece of American history provided Heath with what he dubbed a “top 10 life moment.” From there we put the pedal to the metal and headed north to Sonoma to add some wine to our woods. A luxurious lunch at a curbside cafe, wine aplenty and hills upon rolling hills of vineyards made the trip to the home of California’s bear flag truly memorable. The day ended with a tour of UC Berkeley where we walked the campus and envisioned scenarios where treks to class required a light jacket rather than a light layer of salty sweat as is customary with campus romps at UT. Oh to live in a place where the average annual temperature is 60 degrees…
From there we headed to what would be our home for the next three nights, a delightful bed and breakfast we discovered through airbnb (an awesome service that hooks travelers up with rooms in the homes of locals at a fraction of the cost of hotels) located in the mission neighborhood. The space was great and proved to be a much-needed getaway at the end of our fun-filled but exhausting days in San Fran.
Saturday: We began the official celebration of our anniversary with a walk to Golden Gate park which afforded us terrific views of some of San Francisco’s best residences, gardens, parks and neighborhoods. Once in the main park we toured the botanical gardens, the DeYoung museum, and the California Academy of Sciences which boasts a living rain forest, planetarium and aquarium. Heath’s science-oriented brain had a literal field day. Once his inner lusts were satisfied, we walked down Haight Street to Ashbury to indulge my cravings for an experience that’s equal parts funky and shop girl. The vintage record stores, locally owned boutiques and funky clientele reminded me of Austin’s South Congress Avenue. (At one point during our tenure down Haight, a local hooked his iPod up to speakers on a rooftop and performed a little jig to 2Pac’s “California Love.”) Exhausted after hours of walking, we celebrated the evening with wine we purchased from the previous day’s vineyard and takeout from a Chinatown eatery.
Sunday: El fin, if you will. With one day left to go, we went to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art to take in works by Picasso and Matisse as well as other quirky pieces of modern art and photography. From there we traveled to the beach for the obligatory and romantic barefoot walk in the sand along the sea shore, then to the Golden Gate Bridge to finish the trip off right.
Fare thee well, San Fran. We shall return.
Well, we did it! After a long time of being all talk and no action, Heath and I finally settled on our summer vacation spot…San Francisco!
The dates have been set and the plane tickets purchased. Now all that’s left to do is decide on exactly which activities will be filling our days between July 7-11 (with a little one-year anniversary celebration slipped in the middle). Perhaps we will visit the Golden Gate Bridge, sample the flavors of wine country, indulge in Chinatown‘s finest cuisine, hike beneath the Redwoods at Muir Woods National Monument, do some shopping in Sausalito, or all of the above.
I’m ashamed to say I’ve never been to California, or to the West Coast at all, and am looking forward to this trip with anticipation similar to that of a toddler on Christmas Eve. With so much opportunity in the horizon, the most difficult part of the trip will be determine exactly where we go, what we do and who we see. Got suggestions? Send them our way. No plan is too grand or too meager to be left undiscussed.
California, here we come!
This weekend we headed to Nacogdoches, home of the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks, to support Heath’s sister Megan as she performed in her senior recital. A skilled flautist, Megan put on quite a show for Heath, myself and more than a dozen other friends and family members that had us tapping our toes in rhythm and sighing in disbelief at both her stamina and melody making abilities. Job well done, Megan.
After being thoroughly entertained and blown away by Nacogdoches’ most skilled musician, we took a walk around campus to experience a day in the life of a Lumberjack.
Heath really liked the trees.
It turns out there is no such thing as too much purple at SFA.
After the recital comes the heart of any family gathering—in this case, a hearty dinner at Clear Springs Cafe.
…Followed the next day by a stroll with Gramps and Elouise at The Azalea Gardens.
The walk included a requisite tree ring counting, obviously. (This is Heath and Gramps we are talking about.)
As all adventures tend to do, this one ended too soon but was filled with fun and family and afforded us a much needed change of pace from our usual Austin antics.
Check out a great story by Melissa Mixon in the Austin American Statesman.
You can read it here.
Hope you enjoy it as much as we did.
Mint juleps, fried chicken and horse races; that was about the extent of my knowledge on Kentucky before our Thanksgiving adventure.
Turns out, Kentucky is pretty. Really pretty. That was a delightful surprise. Southern Kentucky is teaming with rolling green hills capped by hundred year-old farmhouses and rustic barns that reminded me of a Grant Wood painting. A few hours into our drive the landscape switched from provincial towns in a sea of farmland to the Daniel Boone National Forest. White fences and old churches were traded for Beech Trees and Kudzu vines as we drove further and further east toward Appalachia. About six hour after crossing the Kentucky border, we were approaching Hyden.
Five Fun Facts about Hyden:
∙ Hyden is part of Leslie County and sits along the middle fork of the Kentucky River.
∙ It was originally settled in 1817 and the population has since grown to a whopping 350.
∙ It’s primarily a coal mining town, but also produces a healthy amount of timber.
∙ Hyden is the birthplace of the Tim Couch, the overall first round draft pick in the NFL in 1999. (There is a road named after him, appropriately called Tim Couch Pass, yuck it up.)
∙ In 1978 Richard Nixon made his first post-resignation public appearance in Hyden, a place he knew he would still have support—he did.
It may seem odd that the former Austin dwellers, live music patrons, rock climbing enthusiasts, and Mrs. Pac Man aficionados would end up in a tiny coal mining town east of the Mississippi, but Laura and Casey seemed in their element in their cabin in the woods. Their home is the stuff of children’s dreams: a tree house on the mountain side, complete with moat and filled with knick knacks they’ve either acquired in their travels or been gifted to them by the locals. Old carousel horses, a massive assortment of VHS classics and deer antlers all had their place in the Gregory/Papendieck domain.
Our hosts were gracious and gave us a brief glimpse into their Kentucky lifestyle. Laura, as captain of the kitchen, treated us to meals fit for kings, making everything from macaroni and cheese to breakfast tacos from scratch. Casey would entertain with his the uplifting twang of his mandolin and both acted as tour guides through the mountains where he spent several hours climbing rock playgrounds, trekking along the ridgeline and falling clumsily into massive piles of leaves.
[Laura is a talented crafter. Check out some of her art here.]
Kentucky was a delightful departure from the holiday hustle and fast-paced flow to which we are accustomed. We cooked without a microwave, soaked up the warmth of a wood-burning stove and drank moonshine brewed in a bathtub. Backwoods behavior? Maybe. Refreshing retreat? Probably. Triumphant trip? No question.
While most of our peers traveled north Texas way for the holiday that celebrates all things food, Heath and I took on a separate adventure; namely, traveling to Kentucky to visit blue grass music phenoms Laura Gregory & Casey Papendieck of The Bloodroots Barter. Laura is a high school friend, turned college roommate and Casey is her partner in crime who also presided over our wedding ceremony. They’ve made a nice burrow for themselves in Eastern Kentucky and now seemed as good a time as ever to pay the handsome pair a visit.
The drive to Hyden, Kentucky is a hefty 20 hours. Clearly, this road trip called for a scenic stop or two to a) relieve the puppies who joined us on the Appalachian adventure and b) stave off insanity.
The drive is actually remarkably pleasant. The majority of the trip afforded us with traffic-free roads winding through transforming deciduous trees.
Our first stop: Texarkana. We had a pleasant lunch with Nannie (complete with bread pudding and roast beef sandwiches) and then took a little pit stop down the road for a visit with Heath’s Aunt Lisa and Uncle Roger, where the puppies had a grand time swimming with catfish, meeting their first horses and making a mess.
[Sparky wonders what’s wrong with those swimming dogs. It’s cold. They are crazy.]
From Texarkana it’s roughly a 4-hour drive to Memphis, which is where we set up the proverbial camp for the night. This stretch of road, while pleasant, caused a fair amount of head scratching as it was laden with imposing bible-oriented billboards that preached biblical versus I was unaware of from my rearing in the church. Towering billboards held messages like “save the child, use the rod.” But that’s neither here or there—yet certainly worth mentioning as we were made aware that Northern Arkansas is indeed far from home where child beating is generally frowned upon.
This was my first time to return to Memphis as an adult and Heath’s first trip period (it should be noted the trip afforded Heath his first glimpse at the Mississippi River; Mark Twain would be so proud).
We stayed in a hotel walking distance from the famous Beale Street where we spent most of our evening. Since my tenure at Community Impact Newspaper taught me that people love bullets, I will summate the highlights of the experience in short hand.
- We explored the city, camera in hand, and came across some preteen acrobats tumbling down Beale street in exchange for dollar donations. Needless to say, we obliged them for their bravery.
- Dinner at Silky O’Sullivan’s included what the server told us was a traditional Memphis meal of locally brewed beer, dry rub ribs, sausage and sharp cheddar and oysters on a half shell. (This was also a first for both Heath and me. To quote my favorite warthog, they were “slimy yet satisfying.”)
- From Silky’s we crossed the street to the Rum Boogie Cafe which drew us in with the soulful Joe Cockeresque band whose reverberations could be heard from the street. Autographed guitars of some of the bar/music venue’s more famous patrons were suspended from the ceiling, which was cool at first until I spotted a James Blunt autograph above a doorway. Womp.
Memphis was indeed a success with it’s bitter beers, mellow night life and toe tapping tunes, but the trip was still young. Details of the second half will be revealed in time. Until then, enjoy these titillating images.
It appears I broke the cardinal rule of blogging: not updating enough. Perhaps, though, I can be forgiven? In the hustle and bustle of bachelorette parties, auto break ins, rehearsal dinners, weddings and honeymoons, I fell behind on performing my internet duties. But never fear! I have returned and am ready to elaborate on the last of those aforementioned events, the honeymoon (or as they say in Mexico, luna de miel).
We ventured to the beautiful Puerto Vallarta for our week of post wedding relaxation. This was Heath’s first time out of the country, and my first opportunity to see interior Mexico, or rather, a Mexico other than what is on the other side of the Texas border. It. Was. Amazing.
We stayed at the all inclusive Grand Velas, an upscale, beach front resort with the friendliest (and maybe the most beautiful) staff ever who let us torture their ears with our terrible Spanish. In addition to butchering the Spanish language we also had the opportunity to do some eating.
There was no shortage of amazing dining options at the hotel. And since eating is one of Heath’s favorite hobbies, we were happy to indulge in all of them. We ordered amazing room service meals to our private terrace, dined in three upscale restaurants at the hotel: Lucca (specializing in Italian), Frida (Interior Mexican) and Piaf (French), ordered seafood delivered to us beach side on trays, and gorged ourselves from the expansive seaside buffet, Azul. Food ended up being one of the most exciting parts of the trip.
[Often, the restaurants would surprise us with honeymoon desserts. It was a delightful treat.]
In addition to eating we also enjoyed partaking in beach activities including boogie boarding (waves sometimes up to 10-15 feet), kayaking, beach volleyball, beach soccer and long beach walks. Beach, beach, beach! This was also our first beach trip together, (SHOCKING!) so we thoroughly enjoyed all aspects of beach life from the pink sunsets to the sand in your underpants.
While the hotel was amazing and had almost anything you could dream of needing during a seaside adventure, I couldn’t help but want to venture into the city. We ended up choosing the worst day to go because it was the same day a cruise ship docked in town. This not only means bigger crowds, but local merchants also drive up their prices because they know it’s the only chance the tourists will have to shop. Luckily my terrible Spanish wasn’t as terrible as I thought. I was able to barter and get a semi good deal on an awesome purse and earrings. Heath churned out the word “pelicano” to purchase, or “comprar,” a hand-carved pelican sculpture. We named him Angel-Miguel after our favorite staff members at the hotel who kept calling us Ken and Barbie.
Of course, after the city visit we were happy to spend the rest of the trip appreciating the beauty of the resort, getting massages and mingling with the other families taking in the beauty of Mexico. Viva la Luna de miel!