This post brought to you by Aruba Tourism Authority. All opinions are 100% mine.
I have a travel Bucket List — there are just SO MANY places that I want to visit. And since I have my passport (finally) renewed, I've also renewed my list. With an upcoming trip already planned to Costa Rica, my interest has grown for Aruba (several friends have recently traveled there for honeymoons and destination weddings and what-not and to say my interest is piqued would be an understatement).
I'm an activity-based traveler; I enjoy the combination of things-to-do on both land and water, and I generally just like to stay busy. I especially like a place that has history. My Aruba travel plans would include: the Aruba Aloe Factory, the Archaeology Museum… Ostrich Farm (!!!). I would probably do a lot of hiking in Arikok National Park and the Indian caves too. There are so many cultural events scheduled throughout the year too — Caribbean festivals, regattas, music festivals… it's no wonder the country attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists. I'm pretty sure that Carnival (starting November 11 at 11:11) would be an amazing time to visit too (although the Pajama Parade closing ceremony in San Nicolas sounds like a grand time).
You just can't beat the view of turquoise waters (thinking: horseback riding on the beaches and kayaking). Aruba seems like a place where I wouldn't get bored, but also have the luxury of relaxation (in secluded beaches!!!) when needed.
Have you done Aruba travel? Tell me your favorite reason why I should go (and what time of year)!
When the boyfriend and I realized that we haven’t gone camping in over two years, we had a standing date to do that some time in September. Our original intention, since we tent camp, was to do Ohiopyle again, but our interest was piqued by the suggestion of heading to the Finger Lakes (blame all the boyfriend’s random work trips to Buffalo).
More than anything, I just wanted to unplug. Like, literally.
Naturally, the boyfriend found us a campsite with electricity options… which came in handy when he didn’t charge the batteries in advance for the air mattress.
This was a first-time trip to the Finger Lakes for both of us. And in anticipation of this mini-vacation, I had ZERO idea that planning would be so overwhelming. I mean, there are HUNDREDS of wineries, it seems. And then there’s breweries and cheese and distilleries to make your travels even MORE interesting. We were given wonderful suggestions from friends for neighboring lakes Cayuga and Keuka, but were mostly left to our own decisions for Seneca (where we were staying).
And, holy hell, WE DIDN’T EVEN MAKE IT TO THE LAKE ITSELF. There is so much to see and do.
The drive took us around five hours (at least, to explore Keuka, first), but I couldn’t resist stopping in CUBA on the way up: HOME OF THE CUBA CHEESE SHOP AND ITS DELICIOUS CURDS AND AGED CHEDDARS, OH MY! (PS: they deliver)
The Hammondsport area was home to Chateau Renaissance, the Finger Lakes Beer Company and Dr. Frank’s winery.
Chateau Renaissance HAS CHAMPAGNE (and yes, they can call it that), so that’s how we celebrated our arrival. Our case was started with a bottle of their Demi-sec. They had some delicious fruit wines too (sadly, out of their cranberry on our visit).
Oh, look! Chickens!
Finger Lakes Beer Company had some awesome brews, and we took a growler of their IPA back to the campsite. They also make a nice wassail, which was unexpected.
The brewer gave us some suggestions on where to find some craft bottles in the area — one of which, a totally random FOOD store. But his selection was impressive, and we came home with several local bottles that we can’t otherwise find in PA. Also, GEORGE!
Dr. Frank’s was swanky in comparison to the Chateau (which would seem backwards, right?) But the boyfriend gleefully took me down random side gravel roads to the home of a winery with a fantastic view.
It was just a beautiful day… until “those dry people” showed up. Man, those vineyard employees have got to take some snobby shit, for sure. I just cannot see being a snob about ALL THAT AWESOMENESS. Also, totally random, but the guy sampling for us totally looked like my ex, Claymation. The hell? Their Rkatsiteli and Lemberger were enjoyed by both of us (and two varietals we’ve never had); two more bottles for the case!
There was one more stop before taking off for Sampson State Park (yes, we started early, so that we would still have plenty of daylight to put together the campsite): Fox Run Vineyard on Seneca Lake. They have a small cafe and market in addition to their sampling room, so we ordered one of their featured wine & cheese board options (Option 2) to enjoy the gorgeous day on their lovely patio. No bottles taken home (although I really enjoyed their Arctic Fox), but noted that we HAD to visit the Lively Run cheese farm for more of that Cayuga Blue.
As for the camping portion, I was mostly disappointed to see our campsite filled with campers. Luckily, since there was power at each plot, we didn’t have to hear generators and motors throughout the night.
Sidenote: what the hell is going on with that canopy?
The tent was put up in no time (ahem, thanks to me), and aside from air mattress issues, the realization that we were camping… finally… was a total relaxing moment. Even for that skunk that wandered over to our tent (we were situated back against the woods and made friends with a variety of critters). He ate our roll of toilet paper as a “welcome to the neighborhood” communication, I presume.
And then the air mattress popped in the middle of the night. The end.
Err… actually, two more days to go.
If sleeping for 10 hours on the last night of vacation is any clue, this vacation was SO EXHAUSTING. But exhausting = fun, right?
If you can believe it, this was my FIRST trip to Washington, D.C. Naturally, there was a lot to see and do.
In only four days.
Our vacation was planned around a two-night reunion concert (Friday and Saturday) at The Birchmere (friends of the boyfriend), which didn’t really leave time for going out-out on the weekend. But left us plenty of time to explore the city AND for me to drive up to Baltimore to attend league practice with Charm City.
The weather cooperated… my shoes did not. I packed ALL THE WRONG SHOES. Again. (shocker) I swear I have shin splints. Ladies, seriously, I need comfortable walking shoes or boots.
Museums & Sight-Seeing
When in D.C., you must visit the iconic structures. While I was sad to see the reflective pool under construction, we visited the White House (what you can see of it anyway), Lincoln memorial, Capitol Building, the Nation’s Penis*, Vietnam Wall, Library of Congress… the popular attractions. Somehow, we missed the MLK statue. And we ran out of time to visit Arlington Cemetery and the Pentagon. We were nothing short of ambitious.
We also went to several of the Smithsonian museums — American Indian, Air & Space and Natural History — as well as the International Spy Museum. That last one was super cheesy (think: Hatty from NCIS: Los Angeles narrating the welcome video), but totally worth the admission price (all the Smithsonian ones are free, which is remarkable). What we thought we could cover in half an hour, you could easily spend a COUPLE hours. The collection was a loose translation of the word “spy,” but cool, nonetheless. By Sunday, we were museum’d out.
Food & Beer
These are always hot points for us when traveling: where can we drink small craft beer and where can we get a good meal (something interesting or unique, natch). A combination of both typically helps, and ChurchKey was by far our favorite. A few friends suggested Pizza Paradiso, but it fell flat (on the pizza aspect; the beer list was perfect).
I’m so glad we were told to eat in the cafe at the American Indians museum because it was AWESOME. I truly enjoyed trying the native (HUGE) meal for lunch… it was a lot of corn, but I didn’t hate that one bit.
I adored the Eastern Market — quirky, vibrant AND filled with food vendors (there were several artists, crafters and jewelry kiosks outside the market). The only unfortunate part was the cafe inside was not serving breakfast for Sunday brunch. I can’t even… We picked up a hunk of cheese, prosciutto and croissant to have a mini picnic while waiting for a table for brunch (hour wait… *groan*). WHICH ended up only being about 15-minute wait for our table (sweet)… but over an hour wait for our food (NOT sweet). With the leftover nibbles in my purse, we had a sweet al fresco snack time near the steps of the Library of Congress. Did I mention that the weather was AMAZING?
And then there was Pinkberry
Yes, I went to Pinkberry TWICE in one weekend for its delicious frozen yogurt desserts. I’ve had frozen yogurt before, of course, but theirs is different… GOOD different. And the shops stay open until 11pm.
My favorite areas
While we stayed in the ‘burbs (because of its location near the concert venue), we took the Metro into downtown and its neighborhoods — and walked everywhere in between. The subway was incredibly easy to figure out and there are a couple iPhone apps for it too (which we learned about on our last day). My favorites ‘hoods were: Logan Circle, Eastern Market/Capital Hill area, Chinatown and Georgetown. I mean, there’s probably 100 other neighborhoods that I’m not aware of — or likely walked through, thinking they were one of these.
Overall, D.C. is such an easy drive from Pittsburgh, and we’ll likely drive there again soon. There’s plenty more to see. And I still have ACTUAL PEOPLE there that I want to visit.
*Oh, c’mon! The Washington Monument is totally a penis on purpose.
If there is something I have learned in the last few years about vacationing, it’s that a) I very rarely wear heels (save for travels with a specific event planned in advance, like a wedding), and with that I can never pack enough flats; b) I will not workout/exercise; and c) I will always overpack… for ALL THE WRONG TEMPERATURES.
Meanwhile, I planned for a week of 60s and got a beautiful, comfortable set of days in the 70s (at one point in the UPPER portion of that 10-spot) — NOT THAT I’M COMPLAINING. But I definitely suck at packing and general “planning of the weather.”
Charleston, South Carolina is beautiful; I loved sight-seeing from horse-drawn carriage rides, walking along the mix of old brick alleys and slate sidewalks, gawking at the massive homes and drooling at the old architecture. And learning about earthquake bolts.
We did enjoy a lovely traditional Thanksgiving meal (since we stayed at a townhouse instead of a hotel), but I especially loved discovering all the great places to eat and drink around town. An amazing, culturally-rich city… and almost vacant of tourists this time of year (save for the few Cleveland Browns fans we spotted — heh).
The week was bracketed by 10-hour car rides, which I could have done without.
Or perhaps with a lot more Xanax & Dramamine, extra puke bags and UNsmashed Moon Pies. Speaking of those delicious flavored marshmallowed bastards, Charleston has a WHOLE STORE of Moon Pies.
Put one in a microwave for five seconds and thank me later…
My senses and skin tell me that I’m now in the midst of allergy season. Case in point: another phantom rash and much of that stuffed head/sneezy/itchy eye syndrome.
Me thinks I touched one too many gross, dirty things this weekend. Some of which are listed below.
a) the dirty rest stop bathrooms along our road trip route from Pittsburgh to Terre Haute, Indiana
b) the lively hipster bar in Columbus, Ohio with the giant flying cicada looking bug that wanted to kill me and one awesome beer list
c) getting Rick-Rolled at my friend’s after-party in her apartment… and then we all sang “More Than Words”
d) drinking Pirate Piss with the Marcon peeps at their after-after party (the invite said “toga” yet we were invited as “civilians”) in the hotel… on our floor
e) hotel porn, FTW! err, on the TV… for $35. Wait… Not. Winning. #bushleague
f) Absinth and the Kinsey test are the necessary pieces to ANY good cookout/party
g) lazy tubing on the local creek/river (where I acquired said phantom rash)
h) ice cream (“that’s a ‘dip’ not a scoop, ma’am”)
I love road trips for many reasons, but driving through Ohio and Indiana is probably the most BORING (and that’s likely our last trip by car to Indy…. ever). Thank the Jesus signs for that liquor/beer store around Indianapolis. On the highway, you see a number of random things like vintage cars and beheaded roadkill, but then there are… the people (and their cars):
This part of the midwest, of course, there are many god-fearing Americans, so you’ll see many signs of Hell on your route (literally). As well as one gigantic skateboard (towed on a flatbed behind a semi-truck) or one large cow statue (pulled behind what appeared to be a large ice cream truck) and these:
How was your Memorial Day Weekend?