Birthday in Santa Fe

[I finally sorted through the photos on December 10th so it’s been over two months since this trip! This now seems so long ago but oh well, posting this draft with pictures has been on my to do list, so I can finally cross this off today!]

Currently sitting outside of our casita right now! It’s 8am in Santa Fe (so 7am in California) and I’ve already taken my morning walk around the property, so now I’m just enjoying the nice outdoor weather and the wifi that reaches out here. I haven’t seen a single person with a laptop on the premises, and very few smartphones. So maybe I’m breaking an unspoken rule of this spa resort where adults are meant to relax. Oh well!

Robyn and I are at Sunrise Springs for our birthday weekend, mainly because she received a three-night stay gift certificate after writing a review on the place following her earlier New Years Eve stay. Of course I demanded that she use her free stay with me, thankfully she agreed. So here we are!

We flew out on Saturday morning and arrived in Albuquerque around 2pm. It takes an hour to drive out, and we had initially planned on heading straight to Santa Fe. However, upon landing, I sensed that I would get pretty hangry during the drive, so I started yelping places to eat in Albuquerque while en route to the rental car location. OF COURSE I searched for Mexican food – though there were actually a surprising number of Asian restaurants that looked pretty decent, I think because there’s a university nearby so there was more diversity in food selection. Most of the places on yelp only had like 100 or 200 reviews – and then after a few “next pages” over, I randomly found a place that had like 1600 reviews! So of course we headed there – Cocina Azul!

The place did NOT look like a restaurant at all from the outside, but it owned like three different parking lots on the surrounding blocks, so clearly it’s a local favorite. We arrived at the restaurant around 3pm but there were still quite a few people in there. One of the top dishes were enchiladas, which I don’t really like, but I’m always tempted to order because I keep thinking maybe I’m just one good enchilada away from loving them. I ended up getting a chile relleno, another top pick. New Mexico is known for having green and red chile served with its dishes, so I had to have that – Christmas style! (which means having both at once). My dish basically tasted like a big pepper stuffed with cheese, meat and more diced up chile peppers and there was also some sort of fried egg white situation involved. The primary taste was cheese and shredded beef though, so I loved my dish! I also got a glass of horchata which was decent – basically just more sugar to my day. Robyn got a bowl of pozole. (no pictures for this, just imagine Mexican food)

While we were sitting there, Robyn noticed a wooden logo that hanging above the bar that also popped up in a magazine I was flipping through. I guessed that it was a logo for a brewery, which was correct! And that ended up inspiring us to drive over to the nearby brewery, Marble Brewery, after we finished up our meal.

Since it was like 4pm, the brewery wasn’t too busy. It had a cool indoor space, an even cooler outdoor space, and a rooftop deck that we never bothered to venture to (it looked warm up there). Their t-shirt prints were cool but not well proportioned to the shirts (too small) so we ended up buying two glasses as souvenirs (and for me, a stolen coaster!). I think my new favorite travel thing is to collect interesting coasters at bars. It’s the cheapest souvenir you can find – because it’s FREE!

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Finally, off to our actual destination! I was asleep for most of the drive – I hadn’t slept very well the night before. I am pretty certain there wasn’t very much to see on the drive. The last leg of the trip was through some fairly narrow backroads, at first I was a bit like … where is this supposed resort?! But suddenly a small driveway appeared and we arrived at a giant gated complex!

There was a guard at the complex who asked for our names. I thought it seemed like he was just testing our response to gauge whether we really seemed like guests or not, but in the minute that it took us to drive to the front desk, he had actually called ahead to reception so they knew our names when we walked in. What service!

Got checked in pretty easily. Someone accompanied us to the room and we couldn’t say no because they didn’t even tell us our room number. You know I hate to have to tip something like being shown to a room especially when my luggage is so light. Technically Robyn tipped because I don’t carry cash, so I shouldn’t complain too much. After the guy’s show and dance, FINALLY we had our room to relax in!!!

The first thing we did was flop onto the bed and then scan their list of resort activities. All the activities pretty much ended at 6pm so we couldn’t do any on our arrival day. But the activities were pretty repetitive between Saturday, Sunday and Monday, so no big loss. The ones we decided to do were puppy play, cat play, and archery (which we did all on Monday). There weren’t many others that interested me at the time – they have a rotating list so there were some that weren’t currently offered that I would have loved to do, like horticulture or culinary activities. Oh well! We had plenty to do anyway.

We eventually gathered ourselves to go for a walk around the property, checking out the gardens and the pools before the sun set. Then we decided we’d just eat dinner at the resort’s kitchen which was perfect – neither of us were very hungry since we had eaten Cocina Azul not too long ago, and I didn’t really want to drive out again as the resort seemed a bit far from anything. Despite saying we weren’t that hungry, we did still order three things – mushroom fritters (basically fried balls of mushroom, pretty good, certainly unique!) a caesar salad (there was no part of the salad that was at all reminiscent of a caesar salad – it was made of arugula, not lettuce, had no croutons, had a parmesan cheese crisp rather than normal cheese, and was tossed with some sort of reddish dressing instead of caesar dressing. I don’t understand it lol), and the main thing I had been craving all along – a cheeseburger!

The dining room was actually pretty crowded when we arrived – we got what looked like the last two-top in the room. Food was all decent and we were pretty much one of the last tables remaining at then end of the night. After dinner, we took a short walk around the premises to check out the greenhouse (very cool!), the gym (never came back here again) and peer through the fence of the puppy pen where we could hear a puppy running around. Maybe we watched an episode of Succession after heading back to our room, but all I know for sure is that Robyn was asleep in bed well before midnight!

Next morning, we woke up with the plan of making it to the restaurant by 7:50am so we could beat the 8am rush. Well, we did make it by 8am, but there was NO morning rush. haha plenty of tables to choose from. Well … there were only a few two tops available and every single one of them was bathed in sunlight! I ended up getting the seat with sun in my face. Breakfast is included with the stay – I wasn’t entirely sure how it worked as we had to order from a menu, but it turns out we could order anything and it was entirely covered! I left very full every morning, but of course in hindsight, I do irrationally think, should’ve eaten more!

For the first breakfast, we shared a terrible fruit smoothie (which tasted like frozen, blended up orange juice) and corn meal pancakes – Robyn got a breakfast burrito for herself and I got a oat & quinoa porridge (I thought I’d kick the weekend off to a healthy start). Food was just ok – pancakes were my favorite of the items (actually to be very specific, the pancakes were just ok but the syrup was fantastic). We also ended up getting house coffee but the next days we would get lattes!

Sunday was our Santa Fe day. Soon after breakfast, we left to drive into town (about 25 minutes away) and got to Meow Wolf by 10am which was when we had reserved our tickets (I also later found out this was the opening time). We arrived on time, around the 60th percentile to arrive I’d say.

Not sure how to explain Meow Wolf – I call it an indoor, immersive art installation/maze. Robyn calls it a collection of Burning Man exhibits. It was certainly more interesting than I was expecting! We ended up spending nearly three hours here! It is definitely a place for all ages – kids love it and even some pretty old looking people were getting around. I think my favorite parts included a black and white room which felt like you were in a B&W cartoon, the hallway to the bathroom which had all sorts of things paint in glow-in-the-dark paint on the walls, and some sugar confectionery figures encased in glass. The coolest parts of the building included a drying machine, a fridge and a fireplace, which were all secret passageways to other rooms. Also, there’s a small open space that is likely the stage for concerts (though the space was so small I don’t quite understand how they’re able to fit enough people on the floor for a concert – they have pretty decently sized acts come through!). And a more central room where they’d built a treehouse with platforms going across as the second level. Again, very cool! Lots of photos.

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We exited around 1pm and debated getting food at the truck stationed in the parking lot but decided to try and make it to some artisan art fair that was located at the Santa Fe Railroad Yard (also the site of their farmers markets, which wasn’t open on this day). The art fair was pretty much the size of a large public space room. From here, we planned out our next stops –

1. I HAD to eat something and didn’t have time to look for a proper sit down meal so I typed in “donuts” into yelp and found Whoo’s Donuts. Robyn was amenable to make a stop here, though she did immediately nix my idea of walking 0.7mi away and demanded that we drive (which was in all fairness, was the sane option as it was already VERY hot). It took some time to find Whoo’s Donuts as it was tucked away in a weird location, but we found it! We were the only patrons the entire time we sat here (it was a bit late to be eating donuts), and the donuts were decent. I initially had my eyes on four different donuts, but we only got two – a blueberry lavender and a chai glaze. I wish I had skipped the chai glaze (as it just tasted like a regular glazed donut) and instead tried their white chocolate lemon pistacho (there was also a cherry coconut and a boston cream donut, my next two choices). Ah well, it was a perfect amount of food for us to get the energy to soldier on!

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2. Now ready to continue with our day, we headed to downtown Santa Fe and managed to snag really good, central (and free!) street parking. We were close to the bookstore we’d wanted to stop by – Iconik – which is also a popular cafe. We were in here for quite a while, the bookstore had a great selection! For some reason I’ll always remember this weekend as the weekend that Demi Moore’s memoir came out. Then we just started wandering around. I like this downtown area, it doesn’t feel too touristy yet and there isn’t too much of the same thing over and over, which can sometimes happen in other downtown areas. There’s also quite a bit of street art fairs and art galleries in Santa Fe.

3. We eventually started getting hungry and crazily, there weren’t THAT many places open to eat even though it was only like 4pm on a Saturday!!! We ended up walking about 0.7mi to get to our restaurant of choice, Palacio Cafe. This was the one place I’d found on Yelp that I had bookmarked that I REALLY wanted to try, mainly because it had really high ratings at 4.5 stars and 600+ reviews. I’m glad we came, this one of the best meals of the trip! Our server was so friendly with us. I ordered myself a house lemonade (haha he said ‘we have a house lemonade’ and I said ‘hm … can I get an agua fresca instead?’ and he said ‘so … a house lemonade?’ and I said ‘… yes …’) and a ground beef & cheese burrito covered in chile – SOOOO good. Robyn got herself steak tacos and we were both very happy.

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4. We then continued our walk around the area, mainly going into gift shops. I got a pretty cool ceramic balloon for my parents to hang in their garden! We eventually started petering out and decided we’d leave the downtown area and hit a few more stops before going back to our hotel, but first …

5. Kakawa Chocolate House! This had REALLY high reviews on yelp … so I was expecting a lot more. But it was just ok. I thought we’d have like chocolate tours or chocolate samples or something, but it wasn’t that generous. House is a generous term for the establishment – I mean it does kind of look like a house from the outside, but it is clearly a store meant to shuttle consumers in and out without allowing people to loiter for too long. The chocolate WAS very good – I remember getting a horchata (my favorite), a peanut butter bar (delicious), some sort of marshmallow caramel that I didn’t even try, and then … hmm … I think there was a peanut on the outside and unfortunately their website doesn’t list their products individually so I may never remember the fourth!

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6. Then we decided we’d drive out to Santa Fe Brewing Company. Robyn was a little uncertain about adding this as a stop, as it’d already been a long day, but I said, let’s just drive by and see! And I’m glad we did! But FIRST we made an unplanned pit stop at a Trader Joe’s that we passed en route so we could pick up crackers to go with the champagne and cheese plate that Robyn’s mom had gifted us. We ended up deciding to just get enough snack provisions to round out a dinner for ourselves that we could eat dinner in our hotel room – rosemary crackers, an additional cheese (Iberico, my new fave), and a green tea/lemonade for myself. It was a fantastic idea!!! We knew we wouldn’t be hungry enough to warrant a dinner at the hotel restaurant again, and also wouldn’t want to drive out again late at night, so this was PERFECT!!!

7. Post Trader Joe’s, we made it out to the Santa Fe Brewing Company! Another cute spot – very large premises. Turns out they neighbor a concert venue. I ordered a cider for myself and a beer for Robyn and we ended up sitting on their outdoor rooftop deck, where we just spied on a fellow patron’s two giant Great Danes, while trying to stay warm in the wind. Another perfect pitstop!

We finally finished our drinks and made our way back to Sunrise Springs. We’d end up going to the pools for a night time soak, then eating our dinner of cheese and crackers with a fabulous setup in our room where we propped the laptop up on the bed and stationed our chairs at the edge while watching Succession! I am again, pretty certain we were asleep by midnight yet again lol

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Our majestic dinner

Oh dear that was just SUNDAY!

Monday! Ok actually this day is light because it’s mainly resort stuff. I ended up waking up early and going outside for a walk, with the intention of getting some sunrise photos. It turns out that there’s very few areas on the premises with a clear open shot of the sky. But I did get a great walk in, with lots of shots of the property! There weren’t very many people out, especially at like 7am haha. First I circled the usual resort walk from our room to the dining area to the pools, and then I ventured beyond the perimeter into their hiking area. I was afraid of getting lost – I guess in a way I did because it turns out I never even got to the TRUE hiking area, I was just in another adjacent walking area! I eventually made my way back, though I did need a clue from a worker who pointed me away from the teepee I had stumbled upon. When I arrived back in the room, Robyn had just finished getting ready (what perfect timing!) so we could immediately bounce off to our breakfast.

This day, I decided to try the sourdough avocado toast – DELICIOUS! Robyn got … ok I can’t remember what now (looking at the photo, maybe it was the same order), but we also shared the blueberry french toast. At this point of the trip, I’d tried everything that looked interesting on the breakfast menu – sourdough avocado toast, french toast, pancakes, and the oatmeal.

Ok – that’s where I left off. It’s now nearly three weeks post-trip and I’m currently sitting at a cafe where I intended to do some CPE study but have instead ended up reading through this draft again and wanting to finish it up! I’m actually really surprised I had written so much of the trip – I thought I had left it off at Albuquerque! Let’s see how well my memory serves me …

After breakfast, our first scheduled activity was puppy play! This is a very cool idea – the resort brings in dogs in training to become therapy dogs and the benefit is that these dogs will be able to get used to meeting lots of strangers and different faces. The whole goal is to get them to not be afraid of new things/faces/sounds. They even have tons of random props laying around the puppy play house and they tell guests that they can use these to make noise so the dogs learn not to get startled – like dropping cookie trays on the floor! When Robyn came to this resort the first time, I think the puppies she saw were already like several months old, so not true puppies, but this time they were only 8-weeks old! And very cute! There were four black English labs and their mom was there too. It was cute but if you know me, I am not really a dog person and having puppies jump and nip at me was overwhelming. I left with a giant chunk of my right knee having been “nipped off” by a dog named HAL. TRAUMATIZED!

After this, we sat by the chicken coop while I continued to press a paper towel against my bleeding knee. We eventually went back to just lie around our hotel room, but before we knew it, the next activity was CAT PLAY! What I’ve learned from this weekend is that I am slightly afraid of overly excited dogs, and I think cats are much more manageable and suited to my personality, but cats are kind of boring. The cats were kept in a little airstream trailer – we had to walk back out to the edge of the perimeter (to where I had just done my morning walk a few hours ago) to where the trailer was. Two other people joined us and we basically spent like 45 minutes just holding out cat toys. Cute! But it did make me realize that the cats have no interest in the humans holding the toys.

After this … I have a feeling we rounded out the next few hours by eating more of our cheese and crackers in the room while watching another episode of Succession. I vaguely remember the archery activity started at 2pm. My first archery experience! This activity taught me that I have ZERO upper body strength. The instructor did say I had surprisingly good form considering this was my first attempt. The problem was that I could never remember how to swiftly aim and shoot the arrow after drawing back, so I’d spend a ton of energy keeping my bow drawn, which requires a lot of muscle. I definitely reached the peak of my archery ability pretty early into the hour. After a while, my fingers and arms were too sore from keeping the bow drawn, and my aim got progressively worse. Overall though, it was a great experience and I remember being sore for about two days afterwards. It kind of just inspired me to want to exercise more because I could see how practicing archery would work out a lot of great upper body muscles. Of course, now it’s three weeks later and I’ve done nothing.

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looks gross but I never order hotel food so I feel like it still needs to be memorialized

After this, we went back to our room for MORE SUCCESSION! We also ended up ordering food for pickup from the kitchen (I was willing to spend money on a meal but not to pay tip to some employee to walk it to our room!) We got baked brie (yum – a lot of cheese this weekend!) and a salmon stir fry (fine, filling, hit the spot). Our next activity was a scheduled hot tub session that Robyn had booked! So if you stay at the resort, you have access to four spa pools of varying temperatures (and a swimming pool and hot tub that we never used). When Robyn was here the first time, they were still building out private hot tubs you could reserve for a fee – these are more conventional hot tubs but they’re enclosed, private, and come with a fireplace and a shower. Though I blanched at having to pay extra for something that we already had access to, the private tubs were (obviously) a more luxurious amenity and pretty fun. Also, Robyn’s mom had surprised us with a $200 gift certificate and it turned out at the end of the trip we had spent exactly $200.66, so if we hadn’t had this hot tub experience, we wouldn’t have cleared the $200 mark!

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Robyn had picked a time to be in the hot tub right when the sun set which was fun. After this, we went back to our room and I remember it being like 8:30pm or something … we were now hungry but didn’t want to eat in the hotel restaurant but there was VERY little open near us at this hour!!! I ended up finding a Mexican “food truck” that had very few but very high review on Yelp.

This ended up being another one of my favorite meals!!! It was about 7miles away from the resort, on the way but not in downtown Santa Fe. The “food truck” was more of a truck stationed in a parking lot. It was open till 10pm, one of the very few places to be open past 9pm. And it was DELICIOUS! Thank goodness Robyn speaks passable Spanish – she ordered. I had to google most of the menu. This was the kind of place that made me sad that I didn’t have the stomach capacity to try everything on the menu. They had tortas which I love, but I wasn’t hungry enough for bread.

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We ate on the tables outside, in the light of the food truck. It was weirdly a perfect ambiance for the end to our birthday weekend. Super casual but delicious. I really wanted to snap a photo of the entire place but felt self conscious. Another testament to how good this place was – there was a never ending flow of Mexican men who kept coming, ordering, and waiting in their trucks for food before driving off, even though it was like 9:30pm!

After this, more Succession, then sleep. The next day, we had our flight back home, I think it departed at 2pm? So we had to leave the resort by 12pm. I woke up early again, took another solo morning walk around the premises, then our last breakfast. Since it was a Tuesday morning, it was the emptiest restaurant seating yet. For this last breakfast, we opted for our faves – Robyn with the breakfast burrito and me with the sourdough avocado toast. Split pancakes. Having had the toast twice in a row, I was incensed to find that this second toast was WAYYYYY smaller than yesterday’s. I mean, in the end, I was still full and it was still a breakfast already covered by the gift certificate. BUT STILL! Ah well.

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Got to the airport with a reasonable amount of time – we had initially mapped our route to get gas and get a coffee from a cute cafe Robyn had found. Unfortunately, I ended up mapping us to the second cafe location – it was only a five minute difference from the original, but by the time we got to the area, Robyn was getting bothered that we might not have enough time to return the rental car and get onto our flight. So we skipped the coffee! Which I’m glad we did, because we didn’t need it. Glad we made our flight!

And that’s the whole trip!

Lol while on the plane, there were three different times that I thought “ooo the Grand Canyon!” – I’m not sure if ANY of these are the Grand Canyon.

Day 6: Seattle

Ok I’m exhausted – AGAIN! But not exhausted enough I guess because it’s 2:35am and I’ve decided to blog about the day! It’s so late because my 9:40 flight ended up taking off at 11pm. BAH to Delta! Also, very weird, but when I went to scan my boarding pass, the airline attendant told me to stand to the side and printed a checked luggage tag for me. I thought to myself, I didn’t want to check in my luggage … but I thought maybe overhead was completely full. So I just dutifully put my suitcase next to all the other luggage, didn’t ask her anything or put up a fuss, got on the plane and then saw that almost the entire overhead bin was empty!!! I was so annoyed but didn’t bother trying to get my luggage back. I was just worried that they might lose it, or that maybe the attendant had thought I was someone else and tagged my luggage incorrectly. In the end, I have my luggage and it maybe only took an additional 5 minutes, so I can’t stay mad.

Today we woke up in our Greenlake AirBnB. I had yet another full, deep sleep but my mom apparently had woken up at night and was unable to sleep. I’d planned to meet up with Caroline at her apt at 10am, and my mom and I woke up around 8am. I thought we’d have plenty of time to get ready and check out, but my mom ended up showering TWICE that morning, so we still ended up arriving late! haha

Well goodbye Seattle! The second airbnb was a converted basement, and the amenities weren’t great quality so it wasn’t my favorite (but at least they provided amenities!). Easy to check out though, and we were only a mile or so away from Caroline’s apt, which was perfect! Well it would have been, except my cell phone’s GPS wasn’t very precise so I kept getting lost after missing several turns.

Caroline ended up spending practically 6-7 hours with us! Which was awesome – I feel like I haven’t seen her since basically her wedding! (That may not be true – maybe we met up in socal). She showed us around her apt, and then I drove us over to Ballard. Haha, she used to love driving, but now she also hates driving in Seattle. The streets just weren’t built for having SO many cars on the road, and there’s SO many SUVs parked on the edges, so it’s hard to see if there are cars coming when you’re trying to turn onto a street.

We went to Ballard Farmer’s Market first – this was my favorite farmers market of all time but honestly it seemed a LOT smaller this weekend! Also, the weather was too hot for my liking. We did a quick walk and ended up getting golden raspberries, a DELICIOUS olive bread, and a cardamom bun to share. There was ALSO a Seafood Festival which had stuff like lobster corn dogs and salmon baos and paella, but Caroline doesn’t like seafood and my mom and I aren’t that into food trucks. The only thing I got was a mango lemonade.

Then we walked over to Ballard Locks, which I’ve never been to before! This ended up being surprisingly fun, and we spent quite a bit of time here. Lots of pictures of boats! And then we walked over to the adjacent gardens, and there just also happened to be free summer concerts on the lawn! Very cool.

Then we drove over to Un Bien for lunch. I’m glad we got to try this location out. I was worried my mom would be sick of sandwiches, but by the time we ordered, she was already so hungry that she didn’t mind at all. We ended up ordering a scallop and a fish of the day (mahi mahi) sandwich, while Caroline got the #1 Caribbean Roast. My final verdict – I don’t think there’s a significant difference between Un Bien and Paseo, but Un Bien might be more flavorful. Maybe the bread is better? I think what SHOULD happen is a blind taste test! Since I didn’t get the tofu sandwich, hard to compare!

I had debated taking us to Theo Chocolate Factory but decided we didn’t have enough time. So I dropped Caroline off (cries!) and then my mom and I headed to the Costco in the international district to get gas and see what sort of Seattle-specific items they had. I’m really surprised this is the closest Costco to Seattle. How is there not a city Costco?!

I’m glad we didn’t go to Theo because my mom would have panicked while we were in the airport, but we probably could have gone to Theo and made it to the airport if we had rushed. Now I have no souvenirs to take to work! Oh well. Instead, I ended up at the airport at like 6:30pm, when my flight was scheduled to take off at 9:30pm and ended up leaving at like 11pm!!!!!! GAHHH!!! After I waited for my mom to get on her flight, I ended up just sitting by my gate and watched two episodes of Big Little Lies.

2,942 total pictures taken on mom’s phone

605 total photos taken on my phone

716 miles driven

20.5 hours in car

$1,935 in expenses – 47% for flights and rental car, 44% in lodging, 9% in food!

Day 5: Bellevue, Snoqualmie Falls, Greenlake!

I’m exhausted. But I feel like I really want to write all my Seattle blog posts while I’m actually in Seattle. This is going to be tough because I’m already behind on two posts and I have a feeling that the other two that I wrote just peter out at the end because I was so tired and pretty much fell asleep with my hands on the laptop. (Post trip comment: I did a decent job of drafting all my posts before returning home, but now I have so many photos on my phone that I never have time to sort through them and post them along with my blog, which is why they never get published until weeks later. I have no idea how I was able to do all this back in the day!!!)

Today was actually supposed to be my ~ relaxing ~ day and it was … but we still did so much!!!

We were staying at the Embassy Suites in Bellevue – technically our most expensive stay but I wouldn’t say it was the best lodging on the trip. That honor goes to our first night’s stay in a Ballard AirBnB. We arrived at the Embassy Suites around 10:40pm and the parking lot was FULL. We luckily snagged a spot way in the back of the lot, and it was a TINY spot. I’m pretty sure we only got it because another car had passed it up, otherwise we’d have been SOL. There were a ton of small cargo trailers in the parking lot that took up multiple spots – and at the sight of those I was like, oh god, there’s a band staying here.

The hotel itself feels like it’s geared towards work conventions. It is HUGE. It feels a little … used … like everything has a “been used” shine to it. When we entered the lobby, I think partially because of the design, it really felt so raucous inside. Especially because it was practically 11pm and it still sounded like people were running around having a party! I remember thinking, oh god, have a bunch of kids decided to stay in this hotel for the night? Or is a wedding taking place here?

Our room was #202 and it just happened to be right next to a stairwell and pretty close to the front lobby and the breakfast area, so my mom and I felt like it ended up being a great spot. Especially because the elevators here were SO. SLOW. The room was HUGE and also we walked into a very well air conditioned suite. By the time we had arrived, my mom and I were kind of snippy at each other – Mt Rainier day was probably our most tense day of the trip.

We dropped all our stuff around the rooms. My mom said she wasn’t going to go to the hot tub because she was too tired, and I was a little miffed because I had kind of rushed to get us to the hotel at least before 11pm, and it turned out the hot tub was open till midnight, so that felt like such a win! I honestly now ONLY choose hotels with hot tubs for my parents, so I kind of wanted to be like WTF I PAID FOR YOU TO USE THE HOT TUB!!!! But I didn’t want to create another snippy argument so I just said, fine, but if you want to go I will go with you. It only took like ten minutes for my mom to decide that she would muster up the energy to use the hot tub, which was what I was expecting because she would NEVER give up that amenity!

It turned out to be a great decision – although we did get into a HUGE fight at the hot tub as well – but she came back to the room happy and said the next day that she was glad she had gone to the hot tub.

Ok how did that even fit in with the beginning of this day?!?!?! What was I even trying to say … well whatever. This stay at the Embassy Inn was my mom’s most deepest sleep. I actually sleep really well at every place, so I can’t pick a best sleep location. I probably first woke up around 5:30am but kept lightly sleeping until 7:30am when my mom first stirred awake.

So off we went to breakfast … ahh I always try but I honestly never remember what time we started things. The breakfast here is marked as “exceptional” which I think is given to any place with an omelette bar … but there was also SO many people at this hotel, it kind of cheapened the feel of it. I ate A LOT of eggs today for breakfast. There was a general hot buffet of regular eggs, bacon, a biscuit and potatoes, which I got in addition to a whole omelette. Honestly, this is a lot of the same stuff that Hampton Inns serve (my family’s choice hotel chain), but this place served them at far larger quantities in nicer serving hot trays.

We had a nice morning – a somewhat slow morning because I wanted to really feel like we made the most of the room, so we both took showers in the morning and just took it easy. My mom even went on a morning walk while I was showering, which was when she saw that there were a TON of old style motor vehicles lined up at the front of the hotel. Major bummer is that she didn’t take a good picture of them lined up. But we did go downstairs to take some pictures of these cars and the hotel. Unfortunately, most of the vehicles had already left, but we went to take a picture with one of the straggling vehicles and ended up talking to the owner’s wife!

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Mom asked for a picture and they were like “sure” and she went “WITH YOU!” which they weren’t expecting

APPARENTLY, and I find this so cool, they were part of a 28 car caravan of these Ford car collectors and they had decided to drive from New York to Seattle together!!!! Just her and her husband in this little car! Well actually I don’t know who’s driving the trailer, but I realized then that all the trailers I had seen were not belonging to a band, but to all these (I’m assuming) white people driving Ford vehicles cross country!

She confirmed that it was indeed very loud to ride in the car – there are no enclosing windows – it’s pretty smelly from the gas tank, and the cars only go up to 35 mph!!! And she didn’t even know anyone in the caravan, they’d just gotten together to do this as a 110th anniversary of when Henry Ford himself drove the car cross country! I find this so crazy but interesting and when I’m less tired, I intend to try and find these people through social media. I have low hopes though, because I imagine everyone in this caravan is probably too old with no real taste for social media.

OMG LOOK AT HOW LONG I’VE BEEN WRITING AND THE DAY HASN’T EVEN STARTED

Ok well we checked out and then I drove us about 10 minutes away to the Bellevue Botanical Garden. Every time my mom and I travel anywhere, I always check to see if there is a botanical garden that we can go to. It turns out this is a free admission place! We kept looking for a ticket office and felt really weird about walking around until I noticed on the map that it was admission free. What a treat!

I’m sure everyone in Seattle and Bellevue thought the weather today was perfect, but it was SOOOOO HOT to me. I think it was up to 80 in the afternoon. This made the botanical garden a little less perfect – ideally it’d be overcast and my photos would be beautiful! We arrived here around 11:30 so there was quite a bit of sun cast down on the flowers.

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This botanical garden is beautiful, truly, especially because the weather allows a ton of interesting flowers to grow here, like alpine flowers and perennials. SOO many flowers that aren’t in most botanical gardens! I ended up giving my mom a quota of 20 flowers that I’d take close-up shots on her phone. Though she didn’t end up hitting 20, it was hilarious to watch her debate whether to ask me to take a photo or not on her phone.

I mean, it’s a botanical garden. What else can I say?! I had told my mom to bring snacks but she didn’t think we’d stay here longer than 30 minutes so she only brought her beloved beef jerky. WELL. We stayed here for THREE HOURS!!!!!

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Since the arboretum has free admission, I think they make money by having guided tours for a fee. So we saw a TON of groups going around, getting a tour. My mom and I both aren’t really the type to take tours though – I never listen and my mom claims she doesn’t really understand English (but I just think she doesn’t have the patience to go at someone else’s pace).

From there, I then drove us to get food at a place I had yelped called Greek Pita. I was looking for fast food Mediterranean and this was it! But it turns out my mom didn’t really like it, because she was expecting thinner sliced meat and our pita sandwiches had chunky meat. She also didn’t tip, even though I had told her to, so at the end of the meal she felt too awkward going back in to use the restroom. I had told her to tip and felt really weird that she hadn’t, even though it was a counter service kind of place. Unfortunately I only had a $5 and a $20 on me, so I dropped a $5 in the tip jar – making sure my mom didn’t notice – and used the restroom HA

From here I then drove us to Snoqualmie Falls. Originally my plan for the day was that we’d stop here, and then continue through to Snoqualmie Pass and do a long hike. But after Mt Rainier, I didn’t think we had it in ourselves to do another long hike, so I told my mom we would just do Snoqualmie Falls and then head to Seattle after. Especially since we had our morning hotel relaxed start, taking our time with the breakfast, and then we were at the botanical garden till like 2pm, this worked out well!

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You can see the lodge right at the top

Snoqualmie Falls is apparently Washington’s most famous waterfall. The place is close to Seattle and Bellevue, is a landmark, and has a nature tinge to it, so of course the parking lot is PACKED. It took quite a while to just get into the parking lot, because everyone is searching for a spot when they are finally able to get in. But as we kept driving through the parking lot, it turned out there were a TON of free spots in the upper lot! Meanwhile, people would slow down and follow people to their cars and then just sit and wait in these super narrow driving lanes, so no one could go around them. What a mess!

You walk over a pedestrian footbridge from the free parking lot, and then you pretty quickly see the falls! My mom was like, what that’s it?! I guess it really is just a short trip! But I had read there was short 0.6mi hike to go down to the foot of the waterfalls. The walk down somehow felt like it took so long. It was pretty steep and crowded. We stopped first to look out at the waterfall, and then you could head a bit back and get river access, which was fun too. The walk back felt so short – though we did take a small break on a bench to eat the cherries my mom had brought. We also stopped at the Shalish (?) Lodge & Spa, which is the hotel that was built right at the top of the waterfall. Of course, this meant a trip to the hotel’s gift shop and then the bathroom. The bathroom was SOOO nice despite being SO close to this super popular tourist attraction. I guess people didn’t venture this far. The towels there were the very absorbent kind that very fancy restaurants stock, and it turns out my mom took like 10 of them, which is a pretty sizeable stack.

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View of the falls from the river access point

Then off to Seattle! This was a 45minute drive – we decided to head straight to the Paseo in Fremont again for sandwiches. Luckily they hadn’t run out of bread – but what I hadn’t realized until now was that Paseo is under new management since when I went years ago, and the old owners started their own new store called Un Bien!!! SO we’ve been going to the WRONG PLACE!!!!!!!!!

Oh well – my mom still loves the sandwiches. Even though I didn’t know about this management change, I did think that my tofu sandwich wasn’t as amazing as I had remembered it. This time, we got the alaskan cod (my mom’s new favorite – but by the end of the trip her favorite turned out to be the scallops) and I got the #2 Paseo Press which is pork shoulder w ham and cheese. Normally I only ever get the tofu sandwich, but I knew my mom would prefer to try something new. I didn’t mind it, but it’s WAY too much meat for my mom and me.

Off we went to our airbnb! I picked one right next to Greenlake. I must make the obligatory, “there’s SOOO many more cars now in Seattle!!!!” I kept thinking, if I had lived in Seattle in 2019 as opposed to 2010, I don’t think I would have loved the city nearly as much. It was much easier to drive around back then, like the streets were of course confusing, but at least traffic wasn’t as horrendous as it is now. It’s a lot more stressful now with so many more cars on the road.

The place we’re staying is a converted basement. It actually still looks pretty nice, and is very cozy, but compared to our first night’s stay, it doesn’t feel QUITE as nice. We dropped our stuff off, quickly put some water bottles and the IPA that had been rolling around the car trunk into the fridge, and then set out to go walk around Green Lake!!!

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I lurve Greenlake. SO many memories!!!!!! I don’t have a clear memory of this, but I’m sure I ran around the lake at least a few times. We even took a detour to visit the old house I had subletted. My mom told me not to tell her which house it was, so she could see if she could identify which one it was. I didn’t remember the number exactly, but I was able to identify which house I had lived in – though I will admit I wasn’t 100% sure and had to check to see exactly which house it was. The house I’d stayed at is currently for sale!!! omg I should look up the listing

https://www.redfin.com/WA/Seattle/7464-4th-Ave-NE-98115/home/307248

OMG listed for sale 2011 for $524K and last purchased in March for $975K!!!!!!!! This is why I can’t move to Seattle anymore. The price increase is just too ridiculous for me to wrap my mind around.

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My mom couldn’t remember which house it was

Anyway … must move on. We then walked back to Greenlake to finish our night walk. We started running at certain points and probably finished the loop around 10pm. It wasn’t completely dark outside, and there were a handful of people still out as well, but it was slightly spooky. I remember it being A LOT more creepy if you were out in Greenlake at night years ago though. I was really impressed that my mom could sense when we had to exit out of the loop to head back to where the airbnb was. I have absolutely no sense of direction for this kind of stuff.

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So back to the airbnb! We finally opened up the IPA that our first airbnb had gifted us. It was nicely chilled which was fine. My mom actually drank her entire glass, whereas mine is still sitting on the table! Now we’ve been having our own decompression time, and I’m downloading ALL HER PHOTOS which is like 3,000!!!!!!!!! Ugh I really hate filtering her photos, it is SO MUCH of the same thing. But I guess that’ll be my next project!!!!

Day 4: Mt Rainier

We woke up in the Ramada at Olympia. They served a breakfast, pretty similar to what they serve in Hampton Inns. There seemed to be a baseball team staying at the hotel. Compared to our Boulder Hampton Inn stay, which was almost spookily empty, there were a LOT of people at this hotel. We had a pretty filling breakfast and set off! The delightful thing for my mom was that this hotel had bagels that were CLEARLY the Costco bagels, and she was very happy to take one with her.

I guess nothing interesting happened at the Ramada? I honestly can’t even remember what our room even looked like at this point in time, just ONE DAY LATER! Man … this vacation was really fast paced.

Ok so I knew I wanted to get to Mt Rainier early, mainly to secure parking. But as I was driving there, I started thinking to myself that it seemed unlikely that the parking lot would fill up, since it was Friday, plus if they’d discontinued the free shuttle service, that must mean people are able to get to Mt Rainier without much issue. WELL we finally arrived at the parking lot at 11:30am – I think we left around 8:50am, I have honestly NO IDEA where 40 minutes went, since Google Maps said it’d be a 2 hour drive – and there WERE a ton of spots in the lower parking lot! But we then had to go back to the car an hour later and at 12:30pm, there were ZERO spots left. Craziness.

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My favorite alpine flower!

So the reason we had to go back to the car was because my mom had failed at packing her day pack! I told her to take a lighter pack, but she ignored me. Then she spent forever packing a ton of food in it. We walked over to the visitors center to eat some of our food pre-hike – for me, it was mainly the leftover pad thai from the night before – and even during the short walk just to the visitors center, I think she was silently regretting choosing the heavier backpack.

Well while eating, she then discovered that one of the reasons her pack was so heavy was because she’d somehow brought a bag of toiletries with her! So we definitely had to return to the car. She ended up repacking and going with her lighter knapsack, as I HAD TOLD HER TO, ORIGINALLY. Much happier now, back to the visitors center!

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Approaching Glacier Vista when unfortunately the clouds rolled in

When we had arrived, the day seemed super clear. It felt chilly and the weather report said it’d be 43 degrees at Mt Rainier. Meanwhile, I was wearing capri pants, a tshirt, and my standard black zipup light jacket. I asked a park ranger if it would be cold on the trail, and he was like “definitely not – it’s pretty hot, you’re dressed fine.” I didn’t quite believe him, and carried in my pack another long sleeve that ended up being completely unused. Meanwhile, my mom had on a shirt, a long sleeve, and carried another light jacket and a down vest. Those ended up being used, so I guess not a complete waste! I’d say for the most part, the ranger’s “it’s hot” comment was on point, but I definitely appreciated the light jacket for a bit of the trail.

Anyway, onto the trail! The beginning is SOOOO beautiful, I’d kind of forgotten what it was like. But I am convinced that it’s mainly pretty from the wildflowers and I’ve realized that those are seeds planted by the rangers, and it’s not just 100% naturally growing. Ah well.

Once we started the inclined walk, the clouds started to roll in!!! So unfortunate. We even did the glacier vista, though for nearly the entire walk along Glacier Vista, our view was completely shrouded in clouds! Miraculously right at the main viewpoint, before we were about to turn away, there was a few minutes when the clouds parted and we could see most of the peak. Amazing!

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I swear this view was completely obscured just ten minutes later

So onward. I do remember snow on the trail when I first hiked it in 2009, but it didn’t seem as hard as it was today! My mom got really freaked out, particularly because the start of the snowy part happened to be on a very steep dropoff that was truly a bit terrifying. I didn’t think she’d turn back and she didn’t, even though she seemed very nervous about continuing. (especially because there was a steady stream of people who had turned back) But on we went! And we made it past the first snowy part where it would be next to impossible for us to be able to make it in reverse, if she even wanted to turn back. There was a point where she felt overcome with fear and wasn’t able to continue and a VERY nice hiker (I think he was also mainly tired of waiting for my mom to get out of the way on the narrow trail) trudged off the trail, arced his way to her, and gave her a hand out of the snow. Honestly, without that kind guy, I’m not sure what my mom would have done. He did ask “how is she going to get down for the rest of it” and I was like “erm, she’ll make it, no worries!!!”

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the crazy environment we had to trek through snow in!

Here’s where my mom and I got a bit snippy at each other. She was probably freaked out and kept implying that I had lied to her about how much snow there was on the trail. I was kind of annoyed because I kept telling her to take it easy and rest frequently, but she would keep hiking and refuse to sit at certain points, and then later tell me that she felt really dizzy and like she might pass out. Luckily it eventually passed and my mom’s convinced that she was only dizzy because she’d forgotten her sunglasses and it was so bright on the trail from the snow.

I’m not 100% sure how long the trail we were on took – I think the trail descriptions for Skyline Trail say 5.5mi, but we took another option I think called Golden Gate Trail for the second half, and I think that might make the entire route 4.5mi. I just refuse to believe that though, because that would mean we took SIX HOURS to hike 4.5mi!!!! Is that really possible?!?!?

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Well we did spend FOREVER taking pictures from this vantage point

 

My take on this trail – I mean it might still be one of my favorite trails ever, if not my #1 favorite trail – but my first time on the trail is still the top experience. That was with Caroline, and I feel like the wildflowers were perfectly in bloom that time. Just a week later, I went with my mom, in August 2010, and she loved the hike and remembered tons of flowers, but I had noticed that they seemed a bit more dried out just a week later. Now in 2019, my third time there, we were going a full month earlier. I had hoped that the flowers would still be in bloom due to GLOBAL WARMING! And I thought I had seen an article that said that the wildflowers were blooming earlier this year. But there wasn’t nearly as much along the route, and I think there was much more snow on the trail. Still fun though

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I feel like on my previous hikes, there were constantly amazing views, but this time, there was quite a bit of cloud coverage, so we didn’t get to see as much. Still, we were relatively lucky because at some critical viewpoints, we just happened to be there when the sun decided to shine through.

The hike was tiring, particularly for my mom who was terrified anytime she saw that she had to walk through snow. And it wasn’t even that slippery! We opted to take the Golden Gate Trail down, as opposed to doing the complete Skyline Trail. She remembers doing the same thing last time, I have no idea if I had done the same with Caroline. There’s also a brief walk to see Myrtle Falls – I ALSO have absolutely no memory of ever seeing that!

We got back to the visitors center around 6:30pm. The parking lot was starting to clear out, but after a brief stop at the Paradise Inn, I thought we could still do Nisqually Vista, a 1.25mi trail. Surprisingly, my mom opted to not go – usually she does not want to miss out on anything! We agreed to meet back at the visitors center around 7:20pm, giving me 45 minutes to hike the trail. I started it, but then got confused about where to go and had to double back and check with the visitors center – luckily they were still open, otherwise they closed at 7pm! I also asked if it was even worth seeing, if I had already done the Skyline Trail, and he said yes because you get to see the foot of the glacier. Turns out I was totally on the right track, and had JUST missed the turn for the Nisqually Vista, so I had doubled back for nothing. I started on my way again – and realized that the beginning of this trail passes right by the parking lot where my car was!

Well I ended up doing the most strenuous inclines of the trail twice – and then once I really got to the start of the trail, I saw that the entire mountain was covered in cloud again. By this time, because of my doubling back, it was already past 7pm, so I decided to just turn back without finishing. Also, I didn’t really have an interest in looking at the toe of a glacier – haha I guess when you ask a park ranger if something is worth seeing, if they see that you’re fit to hike it, they are probably going to say “yes of course!”

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Such a relieving sight when you’re exhausted from hiking

I spotted my mom from far away and she saw me – by now there was REALLY almost no one at the visitors center. She wanted to go back to Paradise Inn and buy more souvenirs, since she had seen more magnets while I was hiking. I had passed the parking lot with my car in it on the walk back, and looking back, it was really stupid of me to not just move the car over to the front of the visitors center where there was now plenty of spaces. My mom was really bummed to find out too, she must have been SO tired, because she was like “you could have saved your poor mom this walk to the car!”

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I bet this rarely happens, but this a completely empty trailhead at Mt Rainier!

Well, new souvenirs purchased, another jaunt through Paradise Inn’s bathrooms, and then finally, the walk back to the car! Though it was pretty quiet, I get the impression that some groups were just starting to head out to begin camping in Mt Rainier. Off we went! I was a little panicked that I had no directions to our lodging in Bellevue, and I didn’t have any cell service. Luckily once we got out, I was able to quickly route us to the hotel, and then after that, I was even able to figure out how to find a chick fil a along the route.

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I absolutely loved this wall photo

We ended up in Puyallup for Chick Fil A! We made it in at 8:20pm, when it was going to close at 9pm. YUM. I even got a peach milkshake, though I didn’t really like it. I need to stop buying Chick Fil A milkshakes – I never like them, they are TOO sweet! Then it was another 40 minutes to our Embassy Suites in Bellevue. What a day!!! I was pretty exhausted on this trip, but I got to listen to Keep It on the ride home so that helped. We ended up arriving at the hotel, probably around 10:20pm. Which is unfortunate because this was our most expensive and largest lodging option, and we were barely in there!

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This was the ONLY photo we got of ourselves together at this particular vantage point. We spent FOREVER here. I am REALLY lucky that this photo turned out decent – we had asked someone to take it for us and I assumed he took more than one (HE DID NOT). Then I offered to take photos for THREE different couples, and two of them didn’t even offer to take our photo, and for one couple, they offered and I said no (because I had assumed the other guy had already taken a ton of photos for us!) My mom was PISSED that I turned down anyone’s offer to take a photo for us.

Day 3: Olympic National Park part b

I’m exhausted! Are all of my blog posts going to start this way? Probably.

I had my mom set an alarm today for 7am. I am pretty sure I was just waking up from a dream and subconsciously debating whether to open my eyes or not, when her alarm went off. I take that as a sign that I had a full night’s sleep!

My original itinerary was to drive out very early to two beaches near Forks – Rialto Beach and Second Beach – and then return to our room for a quick nap before check out. DID NOT HAPPEN! My mom took forever to get ready, even though I had emphasized that we’d be coming back to the motel, so she didn’t need to pack up anything. We ended up going to Second Beach first (the right choice, I think) and then it was so late that I was worried we wouldn’t make it back to the motel in time for 11am check-out, so I skipped Rialto Beach. This caused a bit of ~ tension ~ in the car because it was CLEARLY my mom’s fault for not moving faster! But oh well – in the end, I’m glad we got to relax a little bit, plus we would see SO many beaches today.

There were only two cars parked at Second Beach when we arrived around 8:20am and we didn’t see a single person on the beach or on the 0.8mi trail to the beach. The trail that leads to the beach is like a legit forest hike. I am 99% sure I came to this exact beach with Caroline nine years ago! Which is funny because I could have gone to Rialto Beach, Third Beach or First Beach, but I ended up doing the same one! I really love this beach though – the hike is well worth the walk and the beach is so remote and picturesque.

My mom really liked the beach too – particularly the emptiness of it. I think it was the right call to do a longer hike in the morning, especially with the morning mist in the air.

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So we headed back to the motel after this. Since we were getting back around 9:30am rather than at 10:30am, we both had time for a quick shower. SO glad we did this, otherwise we would’ve been walking around for hours with our ocean dipped feet. We checked out, my mom got herself another cup of coffee from the lobby, and we were off! Haha of course not quite – with my mom there’s ALWAYS random stops involved. First we stopped at a Subway that was part of a gas station to pick up a tuna sandwich for the road. THEN we were on the road!!! Well, not quite, again, because within ten minutes, she saw a sign for the Forks Chamber of Commerce that she wanted to take a picture of. I had to make a U-Turn … but I’ll admit, it was a worthwhile stop! We took SO many photos here.

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The sign that caused us to stick around in this lot for an hour

At this one stop, from the road we just saw a Forks Timber Museum and some sort of visitors center. Turns out it was ALSO the site of Fork’s memorial for lumbermen, the chamber of commerce where you could get all your Twilight information, plus a picnic area AND a 0.4mi nature trail! I was super dubious about the trail, but my mom was really into it. It just goes to show that sometimes the best things you find are not going to be on a BEST OF yelp list! The trail was actually REALLY beautiful – completely remote but tons of different vegetation in just a 0.4mi loop.

 

OK NOW we were off! It was an hour drive to Hoh rainforest. The trailhead was the most popular parking lot of the entire Olympic National Park trip. I had looked up two hikes – the Hall of Mosses trail (1.0mi) and a Spruce trail (2.0mi). We ended up only having time to do the Hall of Mosses trail – I’m happy with our decision! It took a long time to do this trail because it was so crowded. At first I thought the Hall of Mosses was kind of boring, considering we’d seen so much similar mossy stuff on the Forks Nature Trail. But there were some legit cool shots! The only thing is there are SOOO many people on the hike, it’s pretty difficult to find a spot without any people in the photo.

 

Before we started this hike, we found picnic tables near the parking lot, and we split the Subway sandwich we had brought with us from Forks. A perfect amount! I could tell my mom was tempted to buy two foot longs but I had stopped her and she later admitted this was the right decision.

Off we went to Ruby Beach – another really great stop! It’s a 0.6 mi walk to get onto the beach, and then from there you can walk as far as you want. There were a LOT more people here compared to the six other people we passed on the way out of Second Beach.  I’m sure I would have loved it even more if we had come early morning before the crowds came out.

 

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Next on the plan was Kalaloch Beaches, but the tide had come in along with a pretty thick coastal fog, so there wasn’t much point to head down to the beaches which were popular to look at tidepools. A slight bummer, but I feel like my mom doesn’t care at all about tidepools anyway. Well technically I normally wouldn’t care either, but I now LOVE tidepools after finding some amazing ones on my Oregon Coast trip. I wonder if that’s what we would have seen had we gone to Kalaloch! Oh well, can’t dwell.

I did however, head to Kalaloch Campground to do a short walk over to see something called the Tree of Life, which is basically a tree that has somehow continued to live despite looking like the ground had caved out from under it. My mom was surprisingly only moderately interested! Maybe she was bored of beaches by this point (it was like 5pm)

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Then I started my longer drive over to Lake Quinault. We got here around 5:44pm, way past the visitor center’s open hours. Luckily, there was the Lake Quinault Lodge and I was able to get some hiking tips at the front desk. We had stopped at several “lodges” along this trip, including Lake Crescent Lodge and Kalaloch Lodge, and the only one that looked like a proper LODGE was Lake Quinault! It really fits the image of a huge, historic lodge built by a lake. The grounds were well kept, the painting was fresh, and the grass was very green. We took SOOO many pics here! I particularly loved photos I got of the lake at sunset, taken from the lodge’s boat dock. We also found the Lake Quinault lake trail, but only walked a little bit before we decided it was about time to head to the hotel. We’d done quite a bit of hiking for the day, and had seen SO much stuff – beaches, mossy rainforests, and now a lake!

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Very tranquil and beautiful Lake Quinault Lodge

So then it was a two hour drive over to our hotel in Olympia. This was pretty exhausting and my google maps led me through some rather remote roads, rather than putting me on the 101S. I felt very dubious of the route, but I had essentially no 4G and was working off a downloaded map, so I couldn’t really change my route. We listened to Embedded for most of it – I feel SOOO behind on my podcasts! I had tried listening to It’s Been a Minute with my mom once in the car – the episode was on millennials and money, and my mom would hear bits of it and start her own conversation which I HATE. Then I tried Keep It, until my mom was like “this lady says a lot of dirty words!” and I was like UGH DON’T RUIN THIS! Somehow she ended up being able to listen to Embedded without comment! She said she liked it because it helped her with her English LOL well I’m going to need to find more podcasts to her liking then, because all I have saved to my phone are pop culture related or Who Weekly!

In between driving, I managed to find directions to a place in Olympia – a Thai place! Four stars! Seemed ok. Thankfully there was free street parking nearby. We ordered just the right amount of food – a single spring roll to split, a tom yum chicken soup, and a a pad thai (too much!). The server was super nice though so I am kind of glad we came here. Olympia, however, seems a bit ~ghetto~

Then hotel (a Ramada in Olympia) Then hot tub Now Sleep!!!!!

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Lake Quinault!

Day 2: Olympic National Park part a

I’m exhausted. I wish I had taken an extra day because I know I’m going to be EXHAUSTED after this trip.

My mom and I woke up around 8am today, which felt VERY late. I somehow thought we’d be waking up at 6:30! It turns out my mom had been unable to sleep since like 3:30am, and had spent part of the night just sitting in the bathroom reading a newspaper. I, on the other hand, didn’t wake up until probably 7:30am!

We set our time to leave as 10am, then had a very nice breakfast in our airbnb. This airbnb had EVERYTHING! It’s by far my favorite airbnb experience yet. It was SOOOO clean and cute and everything was thoughtfully put out. We used the toaster for bagels my mom brought, we used the Keurig to make my mom two cups of coffee, we used the hot water kettle to make … well, hot water … and we used the microwave to heat up the banana bread I had brought. My mom also washed a ton of fruit so we had quite the medley – cherries, apple, oranges and a peach! It was really relaxing – for me at least, since she was doing all the prep work – and we got to enjoy our airbnb for a bit longer! Also, this was the morning of her birthday!

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My mom immediately posed for this photo before she even opened the card to read

It was still drizzling when we left – somehow the lightest drizzle sounded VERY loud in the airbnb, but in a somewhat relaxing way. Maybe my mom felt differently though, since she hadn’t been able to sleep. We finally left the place around 10:20am and I was like OMG WE HAVE TO GET TO THE FERRY! It said it’d take 30 minutes and departure time was 11:05am.

We made it in time – though it seems like we were still loading onto the boat at 11:05am, so I don’t know how accurate that departure time is. The ride was only 30 minutes or so, pretty short! Though it seemed like the boat was filled up with vehicles, it didn’t seem like there were many passengers at all! My mom and I, of course, went outside to take photos, even though it was pretty cold and rainy.

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View from the ferry

Then off we went! Here was my original itinerary:

  • leave Seattle – done leisurely
  • head straight to Olympic National Park – made three different unplanned stops
  • Hike Hurricane Hill (3mi) but this entire area ended up being closed for mountain goat removal
  • Marymere Falls (1.8mi) – we did this
  • Explore Lake Crescent – we very briefly stopped to take a few pictures
  • Sol Duc Falls (1.6mi) – we did this but only after a very long back and forth mental debate in my mind
  • Head out to lodging – it was practically dark when we arrive
  • Sunset hikes to Second Beach (1.4mi) and Rialto Beach (4.0mi) – we did not do this

All in all, I’m pretty happy with what we did, though we did miss going to the beaches for sunset. The thing I last minute squeezed in was a hike through Sul Doc Falls, and we did it at relatively breakneck speed and made it to our hotel check-in in time!

But I’ll back up … once we got off the ferry, I got about 10 minutes into the drive before my mom saw a cute turnoff and I made a last second decision to veer off the 101. The place she was pointing out turned out to be Port Gamble. It was actually a super cute stop – they definitely know how to get tourists to turn off! A fresh paint job with some bright vivid colors and some nice outdoor flower arrangements – people will stop! There was a nice community theater, a museum, and several little shops including a quilting shop. I also noticed some very politically liberal signage in some storefronts. We ended up spending nearly an hour here! (I can’t stress enough that we explored a single block of mostly closed storefronts). But I can’t complain that much because I do like several pictures that I had taken here…

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Next up – we crossed a bridge and then ended up making another impromptu stop at Jamestown S’kallam Tribe, which essentially had a community center, a native arts store, some cool totems, and a dental office. I mean, I’m sure there’s more to the area, but that’s what was surrounding the parking lot. Much like Port Gamble, this place ALSO seemed to really know how to cater to tourists – a very prominent and convenient parking lot with beautiful flowers and photo taking opportunities. We were taken, hook line and sinker!

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I’d say we spent about 40 minutes here … onward! STILL no Olympic National Park!!! It was already 2pm when we left this area, and in my original itinerary, I had thought we’d be far past Hurricane Hill by now…

I drove to the next stop – though I hadn’t thought of it until a few days beforehand – a lavender farm! I had two bookmarked – one called B&B Family Farm which seemed smaller, personal, and had walking tours, and Purple Haze Lavender Farm which seemed larger, and more picture-centrique. I ended up going to Purple Haze first and we spent FOREVER here! I want to say at least 90 minutes. The grounds here were beautiful, not just the lavender, but they also had really amazing flower gardens, plus an apple orchard next to a chicken coop. Supposedly there are also peacocks, but I just found the chickens, ducks, and bunnies.

 

We even got an ice cream cone here – peppermint lavender. HA It was $3.75 and my mom was like “that’s pretty cheap!” Look how places like Ici and Salt and Straw have ruined us!!! It was pretty good, though the cone was a cheap sugar cone. Ah well. I’m so glad I remembered the lavender farms around here – I’m not sure how it clicked in my mind, but I must have seen something about how lavender was in bloom which seemed like such great timing.

 

B&B looked closed when we drove past (it was already like 3 something) – but I’m more than pleased with all the photos we had already gotten. Off we went to the Olympic National Park, finally!!!

So sad – I was looking up Olympic National Park a few days ago and that’s when I found out that Hurricane Ridge was CLOSED! This is where you can take beautiful photos of the mountain ridges with next to no effort. I actually have been here before, and this is where I took one of my favorite photos ever.

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Sadly my mom wouldn’t be able to experience this! I didn’t tell her to much about what to expect here, hopefully she wasn’t too disappointed. When I went into the visitors center, a ranger said that it was pretty foggy today, so turns out even if the road had been opened, we probably wouldn’t have seen anything. YAY! In a way haha

The ranger didn’t seem to fazed by my plan to hike both Sol Duc Falls and Marymere Falls, even though it was already 4:15pm. He even recommended that I stop by Madison Falls, mainly because it was so convenient (just a 0.1mi hike from the parking lot to see the waterfall). So off we went!!!!! Well, first we decided to eat our leftover Rocco’s pizza in the car while we were parked in the visitor’s center parking lot. I mean, it was already 4pm and we had only eaten breakfast as our only other meal and I had forgotten to pick up any food before we entered this rather remote national park.

Madison Falls was a great stop – a decent payoff for almost zero effort! There was also a cool looking river that ran past the parking lot.

 

Marymere Falls was nice though this is when I started kind of panicking about how much time we had left before we had to check into our Forks motel. The trailhead is along the edge of Lake Crescent, so that was nice to see. There was also quite a few people doing the same hike. I did enjoy this 1.8mi hike, but I’m REALLY glad we did go to Sol Duc Falls because I think that trail is just hands down better than Marymere Falls. The only drawback to Sol Duc Falls is that it involves a lot more driving to get to it, whereas Marymere Falls is pretty much just on the highway.

 

Anyway – Marymere Falls! omg everything’s already starting to blend! I just remember it being beautifully green, however the trail was much muddier so we did have to spend more time making sure we knew where we were walking.

 

Then I drove us to Lake Crescent Lodge, thinking we could take some beautiful lodge photos. I was envisioning like the lodge at Zion. It was nothing like that! It was more like slightly fancier camping lodging. I guess that’s a good thing though because we were really short on time.

I made the (bold) decision to go to Sol Duc Falls. By now it was 7pm I think, and I knew that the drive to Sol Duc Falls would be 30 minutes in, 30 minutes out, and then the drive to Forks would be an hour. THEN the 1.6mi hike seemed like it would take about an hour. I just needed to be at the motel by 10pm! So off we went!!!

Sol Duc Falls was much mistier, much greener, with a better trail surface. The falls were also better, though more of a side view than a view from the bottom. Right before we reached the falls, I realized that my phone had dropped out of my pocket. I refrained from FREAKING OUT and thankfully it was found by a group of hikers behind us. One of them passed me and kind of looked at me strangely – I now think that she was trying to evaluate whether I looked like someone who had just lost their phone. I felt embarrassed to ask them about it (dumb, I know) but luckily my mom was not, and she asked if they had seen a phone … AND THEY HAD! What a miracle. I got my phone pretty much 15 minutes after I’d realized it was gone!!!

 

After I told my mom I had lost my phone, she freaked out and was a bit in shock. I was like, well let’s just finish the trail anyway we’re so close. So this is why she can barely crack a smile in the above photo haha

When I had lost my phone, I exclaimed to my mom “OMG I LOST MY PHONE!” and she freaked out and caught the attention of these two female hikers. They also immediately leapt into mom mode and came over and were like “what happened?! We’ll help you look on our way back! What color was your phone? What kind of phone was it? Did you drop it on the left or right side of your body?” SUCH GOOD QUESTIONS! They even planned out where they’d leave the phone – initially, on the trailhead sign, then they were like, what car did you drive, we’ll leave it there. Although they weren’t the ones who found my phone, we did end up back at our cars around the same time, and they were parked right next to me, so I was like “someone found my phone!!!!!” and they expressed just as much joy and were like “WE HEARD! Thank goodness! Have a nice trip!” They were so nice!

Then onward to Forks, WA!!!!!! Almost the entire drive I was listening to music even though there are many podcasts I’d love to listen to! I was trying to listen to It’s Been A Minute with Sam Sanders today and I realized my mom seems to think podcasts are a launching pad for conversations, so it is impossible to listen to podcasts with her!!!! I tried to wait out her story, but she just jumps from story to story, so I eventually gave up on podcast listening and switched back to music. Ah well – I guess I should take this time together to really make the most of being able to converse with my mom~~~

Finally we ended up in Forks! I was kind of freaked out because I swear the defogger on this rental car DOES NOT WORK! The front windshield kept fogging up, to the point that we were driving around with our windows open and the windshield wipers constantly going even though there was no rain! I couldn’t figure it out but luckily, this didn’t happen any other night.

Thank goodness we eventually ended up at our motel! The place seems like it’s been remodeled so even though it was a motel, I was really relieved when we got into our room. And the parking lot was completely full, to the surprise of my mom. Since we arrived so late, we weren’t able to get in our beach hikes, but it was a very full day so I wasn’t too bothered.

For dinner we just had all of our greatest leftovers – pizza, and my mom made ramen using the coffee maker in our room! Amazing. Also, lots of fruit like apples and cherries. The fruit really makes us feel almost healthy!!!

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Only the fanciest of birthday dinners for my mom

Is that all? I feel like there must be more but I keep falling asleep, hands on the laptop!!!

Day 1: Seattle

I did an overall decent job of writing as many blog posts as possible while I was actually on vacation. But I am now back at home, trying to think back to six days ago!

My flight to Seattle took off at 8:10am and arrived around 10:30am. My mom’s departure time was only about half an hour earlier, but she arrived at LAX at 5:45am, which is the time I SET MY ALARM TO WAKEUP.

We got to our AirBnB around 1pm – what could we possibly have done between landing around 10:30am and 1pm? Well! We went to the rental car and sat in THREE cars before we chose our final rental car. The first car, a white Camry, was our preferred choice. But after a close exterior inspection and after dumping our luggage in the trunk, I turned on the engine and it said, maintenance required!

So then we moved onto a dark silver Nissan Altima – my preferred choice. This one was fine and I started the car but then my mom was like “really? you are ok with this color?” and I learned that she prefers driving light colored colors and felt very uncomfortable driving a dark colored car. NEXT!

So then we found a light colored Nissan Altima – which we got! I really liked driving this car. At the end of the trip, the trip summary claimed that we had an average of 39.1MPG which seems INSANE! And now makes me upset at my Honda Civic which only ever gets up to 35MPG for brief periods, and averages like 31MPG. You gas guzzler!

Then we went to get sandwiches from Paseo, Fremont. We came here a total of THREE TIMES! Well we did Paseo twice, Un Bien once.

1) Tofu sandwich & Prawns
2) The Paseo Press (a combo caribbean roast and ham & cheese) & Alaskan Cod
3) Fish of the Day (Mahi Mahi) & Seared Scallops

My mom loved the sandwich and apparently I didn’t bring her here in 2010! Then onto the AirBnB in Ballard, my favorite airbnb possibly EVER! It was so cute – it was an in law suite in the backyard with beautiful french doors. I think most airbnbs in Seattle are probably converted basements, so private entrance, but a bit dark. This one had great natural light, including a very wisely designed skylight in the bathroom. Wood paneling was nice, the kitchen island and counters were perfect, and it had every amenity one could want! There was clearly a lot of thought put into the airbnb, not just the design of the room, but the amenities as well. We were allowed to check-in earlier, and our host was just finishing cleaning when we arrived. That’s another thing I loved – this place was SPOTLESS, so clean, and the host clearly did everything herself. She was putting up the shower curtain, and it smelled pine fresh. They also gifted us a bottle of IPA which we would end up carrying with us throughout the trip until the very last day, and having it on our last night!

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When we finally got up and going, it was probably like 2:30 or so. I was tired and debated going to Washington Park Arboretum or Carkeek Park. I ended up deciding on Carkeek Park because it was much closer than Washington Park Arboretum, and that worked out really well. We first walked around in the upperground area, which has more incline but no views – there are areas to stand and supposedly you’d get a view, but the trees are so overgrown, you can barely see the ocean. We got back in the car to drive out, but then on our drive out, we saw another trails area and my mom requested a stop. We ended up doing another hike around this area, which was more woodsy and mainly went downhill toward a creek – for a moment I did think we had gotten really lost, but luckily it ended up being a great loop trail back to the parking area!

 

Next up, Pike Place Market. I honestly completely forgot about even the idea of going to this, but my mom was like “are we going here?” and I was like uh … sure … if you want … and she seemed like she wanted to. I was worried that it was so late that things might be closed, but we barely made it in time! The best thing was that it was basically 5pm, so we were able to get pretty good parking in a 4hr area, paying about $6 for the night.

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Since I had parked a few blocks away, we approached from the south end. The first sign that things have changed – just how many high rises are along the waterfront AND the Alaskan Way viaduct is undergoing demolition and now you drive through a tunnel!!! A tunnel that wasn’t even in the process of construction when I lived there! I drove through it maybe two times, and both times I was like … have I …. seen this before?

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Pike Place was fun, since it was less crowded than the weekend (and now I’m really glad we decided to come because we absolutely wouldn’t have been able to make it on Sunday, the only other day we were in Seattle). Though some things were closing up, the main things I wanted to see were still visible, some fruits, flowers, and the fish! The only thing we ended up buying here was cherries – since it was so late, we were able to get two small boxes for $1 each box!!! Let me tell you, those cherries lasted us until Day 6 of the vacation!!! Delightful food addition to our snack bag.

Then I wanted to just stay in the downtown area since I had already paid for four hours of parking… hahah so we started to walk around downtown and then I decided I wanted to walk to Seattle Central Library. It looks so close on the map but feels SO far from Pike Place, because it’s uphill! I could tell my mom was getting a little grumpy about the walk, because it seemed like such a boring destination, plus it started drizzling just a little. But she didn’t complain and once we arrived, she was pretty impressed with the architecture. We ended up spending more than an hour here. She made a beeline for the Chinese books which were on the first floor and then just settled into the first chair she spotted to read. I was like “uh I’m going to go look around!” and that’s when I discovered just how large this library was (11 floors!). I don’t think I had ever ventured past the third floor before! I came back to her and told her we should do a walk around, and my mom was truly impressed! Great choice destination in the end. We took TONS of photos and we had such easy water and bathroom access. Plus it was still drizzling out, so it was the perfect indoor activity in downtown Seattle 🙂

 

By then, we were a bit hungry, and I decided I wanted to go to Rocco’s, a pizza place that Robyn and I had gone to once before. It was either this or another pizza place called Serious Pie which much more reviews, but more generic pizza toppings. Rocco’s didn’t have any wait – yay! – and we were immediately seated at a high top for two. We decided to get a whole pizza, which is HUGE, like even bigger, maybe, than a whole Costco pizza. Our server immediately was like, NO don’t get this, it’s too big for you two, but I was like “oh we want leftovers!”

I did think we’d at least eat more than half the pizza – it was eight slices – but we didn’t even finish half! I chose to do a half and half – Stacey & Tina’s Night Out (mozzarella, meatballs, banana peppers, basil) and Banh Mi (pulled pork, mozzarella, onion, jalapenos, sriracha, hoisin, cilantro, cucumber). Turns out my mom claims she has never had pulled pork, and hated the banh mi half! She hated it so much, when we walked out and passed a homeless woman, she gave her our leftover banh mi slices! But it was a good decision – we had just enough pizza to serve as lunch and dinner the following day when we went to Olympic National Park, and she didn’t think the banh mi was good or would last well as leftovers.

Walked back to the car, there was practically no one on the streets at this hour, and then drove to the airbnb! By now it was dark, raining and we’d had a full day, so it was such a relief to come back to our beautiful airbnb! It was perfectly cozy – the roof made the rain sound pretty loud, considering it was just drizzling, but I enjoyed it. Showers for us both, cherries for dessert, and packing our luggage for the morning! Great first day in my favorite airbnb ever~~~

Portland 2019: Soo Jin’s bachelorette

Song – Billie Eilish – Bad Guy

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DAY ONE

Soo Jin had wanted to have a low key bachelorette party, so she requested to go somewhere that wasn’t too far. Some ideas were Seattle (but everyone had been), Carmel (but that’s where Janie’s had hers), Big Sur (but that was too similar to Carmel) or Santa Barbara or San Diego (but those were too close to where SJP’s parents live). I suggested Montreal, a Mexican cruise or Yosemite. She had invited her bridesmaids Marina, Janie and Laura – I am not a bridesmaid but I made the bachelorette party cut! Marina hadn’t been to Portland so she put her vote in for that. I would be going to Seattle with my mom in July for her birthday, so I also voted for Portland. That ended up with us going to … Portland!!!

Laura ended up planning most everything, including our cute party gifts. She asked me to help come up with fun sayings to print onto the camping cups she had found, and I couldn’t come up with anything. Robyn gave a valiant effort, but her best one that I can remember was “Park it in Portland” which gives you an idea of what we were working with. Laura and I attempted to find Game of Thrones related sayings, but as two people who never watched Game of Thrones, this was both difficult and ludicrous. We were like “wedding is coming … but isn’t that a bad thing? what about Soo Jin … ruler of dragons, something something … something something? What do you think that even means?”

Laura ended up coming with a GREAT hashtag … but after she’d already submitted the cup order. SJP loves chickens, and Laura renamed our group chat “SJP’s Hen Party” then realized that was the perfect one! Oh well.

Marina ended up having to cancel on Portland last minute because her newborn child was suddenly very finicky. Too bad! We laughed about how she was the only person who hadn’t been to Portland, and now she wasn’t coming. On the plus side, this took a lot of pressure off the planning because there wasn’t anything we REALLY had to do, other than eat.

This was a SUPER low key bachelorette party … no drama, no fuss, and honestly, very little drinking. The nights were filled with movie watching and both days and night were filled with food. I love it!

So we had all flown to Portland on a Thursday night. SJP was on her own flight, which had departed from SFO. Laura, Janie and I had ended up getting the same flight out of SJC. Janie went to the airport on her own, while I had ended up driving to work, drove to Sunnyvale, and then Laura’s parents dropped us off (normally I would have taken the caltrain but circumstances arose!). We got to SJC with plenty of time. LOL without anyone prompting each other, we had checked into Southwest and ended up with B2 (me!), B3 (Janie!) and B4 (Laura!). I honestly feel like people who were able to check in and get an Axx number have BOTS programmed to check-in for them! I just don’t understand how it’s possible for that many people to have been so quick to check-in. Or I often think that Southwest has some sort of program that reserves all the Axx seats in the Bay Area, because I only ever get Bxx positions when I’m flying out of the Bay Area on Southwest, even when my finger is on the check in button at the exact second check-in time starts!

Regardless, Bxx is really not a terrible position to be in. We managed to snag the VERY last row in the plane that had three seats together. The woman who was B1 would have made the difference between us getting to sit together or not – luckily she chose a row that already had someone else in it, and decided not to get into the last empty row! I got window, Janie got middle, and Laura got aisle.

Apparently Laura had expected to be able to nap a little on the plane but of course we spent the ENTIRE flight talking. Janie even had Southwest drink coupons, and we ALL got the same drink – a cranapple juice plus champagne. It was DELICIOUS!!! And of course by the time the plane touched down, I was BEET RED!

Soo Jin’s flight didn’t get in until half an hour later. We went to the restroom and then decided to look for the Blue Star Donuts that was in the airport. It turned out that it was located past security. I called them to check if they even had donuts left, and they did! Cinnamon Sugar and Passionfruit Cocoa Nib, we were told. Laura immediately exclaimed “WE’RE GETTING THE PASSIONFRUIT!” and then we did rock paper scissors to decide who would go get them. Janie did!

Laura and I walked over to meet Soo Jin at her gate (which I think is so fun to do!) She was one of the last people to come out, which made Laura pretty anxious. We opted not to be super embarrassing and yell and record her – the most I did was wave a banana at her. (I had also accidentally opened the banana when I broke it off the stem to wave at her, so Soo Jin was forced to eat it). We then walked out of the gates to find Janie, who had gotten us FOUR CINNAMON SUGAR BLUE STAR DONUTS!!!

We ended up just standing around the airport eating them. Then we went to get our rental car, where they had free ice cream!!! This was the cherry on top. We each got an ice cream, everyone wanted something different! I only remember mine, which was a classic ice cream sandwich. Finally we were able to take off in our rented Toyota Camry. Only took us about an hour to leave the airport, even though none of us had checked bags! LOL

We drove straight to our late night restaurant of choice, Interurban. It was a Thursday night, so not crowded at all. We found a cute booth to sit in and were really pleased with our table, until Soo Jin picked up a small piece of table that said “Reserved” and asked if we had reserved the table and we were like ERRRR… and moved to another four top.

This place was cute and food was delicious!!! We got things like a corndog, corn, poutine (YUM), a chicken cordon bleu sandwich, and fish n chips. A delightful variety! During the flight, Janie had expressed concern that we didn’t have enough emphasis on food for the itinerary – which was NOT an issue AT ALL.

Then we drove to our AirBnB – Laura said there were very few places that were single family homes on AirBnB (as opposed to condos or in law units). Laura and Soo Jin shared a room with two twin beds while Janie and I got our own rooms. It was really lovely! I particularly liked the dining area/living room, where there was a spacious dining table, and a TV hooked up with almost every possible streaming service. This was EXACTLY what our group needed.

DAY TWO

Can you believe I’ve written so much about the first day which was really only like travel and a dinner?! This post is going to be much longer than I thought!

Laura and I woke up around the same time – I could tell because the walls at this AirBnB were laughably thin. Laura got up first but then went to lay in the living room. I got up and then texted her to see what she was doing from my room. I don’t know why, but even when I know I’m with a friend who is known to sleep in, I always assume they will go against their nature and wake up VERY early when they’re with friends. Turns out, this never happens! So Laura and I did the right thing and left to get breakfast and bring it back. This turned into a very delightful morning jaunt around Portland, starting with a trip to Blue Star Donuts. I get really confused as to where we went around Portland, but with some investigative Yelping, we were in the Alphabet District!

We got to Blue Star around 8am on a Friday morning, so most things were closed. I was REALLY in the mood for donuts – it seems like Laura was expecting us to get six donuts for everyone to bring back. I was like “can we eat one here?! we should get EIGHT donuts to bring back! oh, can we actually eat TWO here?!” We ended up having these donuts for pretty much the entire trip, so MAYYYBEEE I overpurchased. But we DID also eat ALL the donuts in the end, and we didn’t have to go out and make a second donut trip, so maybe it was the right number of donuts after all!

Then we decided to just walk up and down Alphabet District, which was a nice, quiet walk. I don’t know who said it first, but we ended up passing this bagel place called Kornblatt’s and deciding to go in and split a bagel with a thick vegetable spread. YUMMMM!!! It paired so well with the donut taste in my mouth! Then we drove a bit to go pick up groceries at Trader Joe’s. Laura picked out a salad for everyone (a wrap for Janie) with the idea of eating these when we’d go out to Columbia River Gorge later that day. SPOILER: Soo Jin and Janie both seemed to really dislike what Laura had picked out LOL Turns out Janie does not hate vegetables as much as we had thought.

We then headed back to the house, with a brief stop to pick up a cafe lait for Soo Jin and a latte for myself. By this point I was like “do you think they’re awake?!?! Do you think they’ve been waiting for us?!?!?!?!?” but of course when we stepped into the house … DEAD QUIET!

Janie woke up first and joined us for our donut spread. Even though Laura and I had already split two donuts and a bagel, we also participated in the donut fest, which was basically everyone splitting the equivalent of 3.5 donuts. We also ended up putting on Never Been Kissed to watch and it almost felt like we were all ready to just call it a day and spend the morning watching a movie LOL but with some effort, we paused the movie and moved our butts on out to the Columbia River Gorge!

Lucky for us, all of us had been to Columbia River Gorge before, otherwise it would have been kind of late for us to be rolling out. We ended up stopping at Wahkeena Falls, magically finding a parking spot immediately, and then taking a small hike to reach Multnomah Falls. Very brief stop to generally admire Multnomah Falls once we reached the viewpoint, we took a few photos, then returned to the car. We decided to eat our Trader Joe’s goodies back at the parking lot by Wahkeena Falls … but then realized we had completely forgotten our forks at home!!! The only thing we could really share was the wrap and our giant chips bags. LOL The three salads were never eaten and we just gave them to Jessica at the end of the trip.

We had dinner reservations at Andina around 5:30, so we decided to head back to the AirBnB since it was already around 2pm. I vaguely remember finishing all of Never Been Kissed before heading out to the Pearl District to walk around before our dinner time.

Dinner was delicious!!! This place served Soo Jin’s all time favorite drink, the Sacsayhuaman, which is a habanero pepper vodka with passionfruit and cane sugar. I got a pisco sour, which is honestly my favorite cocktail ever since I tried it once in Peru – it’s pisco with lime, sugar and egg whites. Delicious! But of course I turned deep red before our first appetizers even arrived.

Let’s see if I can remember what we got … we ordered a ceviche sampler, two types of empanadas, causas morada which was like a potato salad and chicken salad mixed together, octopus, lomo saltado, arroz con pato (a late add), and yuca croquettes stuffed w cheese (also a late add, and maybe the only disappointing dish). Everything was so good! And the owner stopped by our table twice to make conversation with us, which was very nice!

After this, we ended up walking around Pearl District and spending quite a bit of time in Powell’s. No books though! We also ended up sharing a shaved ice before heading home for a very exciting night of … ROMANTIC COMEDIES! Well, that was Soo Jin’s request but it turns out that there are very few romantic comedies out there on streaming platforms that any of us wanted to watch! I think I was the one to push to watch Morning Glory, a movie none of us had seen before. Halfway through, it became pretty apparent that this wasn’t a classic romantic comedy, it was a movie about WORK! Maybe because it didn’t follow the standard romantic comedy formula, it seemed like a much more original movie, and I think most of us liked it. Then we started playing Bananagrams with Dawson’s Creek in the background. A hit game! THEN I suggested playing the game that I had brought, Sumoku, and I think that brought the festivities to a grinding halt. Note to self, do not play counting games past midnight! I think we called it a night around 1:30am or so, after a grueling round of Sumoku.

DAY THREE

Once again, Laura and I were the first to wake up. This throws me off, but it was only Saturday! I think I woke up first and knowing that Pan’s Labyrinth would be leaving Netflix soon, I was adamant on watching it. But this hadn’t met Soo Jin’s “romantic comedies” request so I knew I wouldn’t be able to get the group to watch it with me. Which is how I found myself watching Pan’s Labyrinth at 7am on a Saturday morning! Laura woke up and watched it with me – she’d never seen it before. We’d eventually leave to get Screen Door take out.

We got the fried chicken and waffle, an oyster po boy with sweet potato fries, bananas foster french toast, and cheesy grits. My favorite was the po boy – I could have happily eaten an entire po boy alone! The nice thing was that we also got to eat another morning meal in the comfort of our home … and with a movie! We ended up watching … actually I have no idea. Maybe we didn’t watch anything? That seems so unlikely but I can’t quite remember what we watched right now – I really doubt it was Pan’s Labyrinth.

Well off we went! We started off in Alberta Arts district for general ~shopping~ which Soo Jin loves. She and Janie looked at clothes for a bit while Laura and I wandered off. We eventually looped back to meet back together again. I don’t think anything tooooo memorable happened here … we then drove to another shopping area, back to Alphabet District where Laura and I had been the morning before. Mainly, I wanted to go buy chocolate from Moonstruck Cafe, which I was reminded of when we wandered into a Made in Portland store. Alphabet District ended up being another place for Soo Jin to shop in – she was in search of earrings for her wedding – while Laura, Janie and I wandered around without her. Janie, it turns out, loves kombucha and ended up buying a cup of it from a pet store LOL Laura also bought some dog treats for her neighbor’s dog from the same pet store. And those were the only purchases made! Other than some VERY expensive Moonstruck chocolate that I bought and took to work.

Then we had to head out to make our 5pm dinner reservations at a farm to table thing. We stopped back at the house first – weird because it really feels like we were out shopping much later in the day, but it could not have been later than 4pm! The farm to table thing was taking place in a winery about an hour outside of Portland. I definitely fell asleep during the drive, it was such a filled and warm day.

We arrived with plenty of time to walk around and enjoy the scenery and it was BEAUTIFUL! The grounds were lovely and remote and the dinner took place outdoors on three long tables in view of the vineyard and house, under some trees. I made the comment that it felt like we were crashing a white person’s wedding – everyone was dressed nice but informally, and everyone was WHITE! It felt like a wedding too, with slightly less pressure to make polite conversation with the people around us (though we still did). Laura checked in and found us great spots that were in shade almost the entire dinner. There was one table that had the sun on them for the majority of the dinner, and Laura noticed that the family that owned the winery had chosen the best table for their own party, which seems kind of rude! Ah well.

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The food was overall great – but I must admit my favorite dish of all was their caesar salad LOL because I thought the lettuce that they chose was great quality leaves, not just shitty lettuce cores, and the cheese and dressing were fantastic. Also, I LOVED their olive oil cake dessert. BUT even before dessert came out, I was like “SHOULD WE ORDER A SECOND DINNER FOR PICKUP?” Honestly, we were all contentedly full from this dinner, but it was only 7pm and it seemed inevitable that we’d get hungry again!!! What’s great is, Laura and Janie were immediately like YES! while Soo Jin was like what?!?! Janie had been talking about a pasta place she loved called Grassa, so we looked up the menu and it looked SOOO good. I ended up driving the pasta choices because it turns out I’m much pickier 😦 We got ragu and cacio e pepe.

But before we left, Laura, Janie and Soo Jin drank SO MUCH wine. I probably drank the equivalent of half a glass of rose (and still turned incredibly red) but was sober by the time we left so I could drive. Which only made it even more delightful that the three of them could get truly drunk! It seemed like 2/3 of the diners left pretty quickly after they finished dinner, but we were part of the group that lingered around. We sat in some chairs outside the house and just hung out. At some point, Janie must have gotten bored of our conversation and without saying anything, just held up her phone to her head to start a game of Heads Up. We were all like WHAT, JANIE and then immediately just started playing LOL

My favorite memory was when a young couple came up to us and asked if we could take their picture for them. Clearly this was because we were the youngest people in this dining group BY FAR. Since I wasn’t drunk, I got up to take their pictures, but after a few shots, the woman’s phone said the memory was full and wouldn’t take any more photos. She then had her boyfriend take out his phone, and he seemed a little thrown off and was like “hahah … the quality’s not going to be as good” which I laughed about until I took the first photo and then said out loud “oh wow, the quality really is NOT as good!” and they both laughed so hard. I was like “listen, just delete some photos off your phone and come back and get me and I’ll take more photos!!!” and we were all laughing and I returned to the hen party. Later, she did come and find me for some photos!

We eventually left, and I drove straight to Grassa. We picked up our to go orders … and then we decide to WALK to Salt and Straw! It was only 0.7 mi away I think, or was it 7 minutes away? I forget. In either case, the walk really sobered the three of them up, which is NOT what I wanted! We ended up at Salt and Straw and the line was SOOO long we didn’t even go in for samples. Instead we ended up just getting two pints – a mint chip (controversial, but this is the one mint ice cream I really do not like) and a honey lavender (my personal favorite at Salt & Straw). Then we walked BACK toward our car (we really should have just driven to get ice cream) but also decided to get more alcohol, and ended up at a cider store where Laura, Janie and Soo Jin each picked their preferred drink to go.

FINALLY HOME! We changed clothes and then started our movie of the night which ended up being ANOTHER Rachel McAdams movie LOL this time it was About Time. A movie I TRULY hated. ALSO it was not quite a romantic comedy! We ended up all being a little too sober, not drinking the ciders we had just bought, and the ice cream was too melted for anyone to eat. We DID however, eat the pasta!!! After About Time, we then started watching Ever After. LOL I don’t know how these things happen. Two Drew Barrymore and two Rachel McAdams movies in one weekend!

We went to bed all at different times, starting with Janie and ending with Soo Jin. I just remember at some point going to bed but then waking up and hearing the TV was still on and finding out that SJP was STILL UP! I was really disoriented at this time and had no idea what time it was so I could barely interact with her, I just wanted to make sure whoever was in the living room was ok. Turns out she wasn’t able to sleep until well past 4:30am! Poor SJP.

DAY FOUR

The last day of the hen party!!! Well, I would actually stay an additional day in Portland to hang out with Connie. But everyone else would go home today, starting with SJP on a 3pm flight! SO EARLY! But she’s of the mind that she wants to get home early, while everyone else is still in the “last flight out!” mode. Laura and I were once again the early risers. Laura had made reservations at Din Tai Fung for 10am, but 10am came and went and SJP and Janie were still sleeping! I think we had to check out by 11am, so while they were sleeping, Laura and I polished off all of our accumulated leftovers – donuts from the first day, Andina and Screen Door leftovers. SO GOOD! I also took it upon myself to finish off Janie’s opened pomegranate cider from the night before. Sadly, both Laura and SJP’s drinks were left unopened (and given to Jessica). For some reason, I’d always had An Affair to Remember on my to watch list, and Laura was like “I haven’t seen this in a while!” so we watched it. ACTUALLY I have “watched” it once at their house before, but I was asleep almost the entire time except for the last three minutes. This movie is really excellent!!! Laura and I kept trying to figure out ways for this movie to be remade in current day. Our ~creative~ casting choice was putting Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone together again – novel, I know. And I said they’d have to be on some sort of volunteer program where they meet and are secluded for some time. But we couldn’t quite figure out a good way to explain why one person would ghost the other with a good explanation.

We did check out pretty much right at 11am and decided to head straight to Din Tai Fung and see how long the wait would be. It ended up “only” being a 20 minute wait. I DID think to myself at some point, maybe we can join the waitlist on yelp, but I remember getting as far as opening my Yelp app, before getting distracted by something and completely forgetting! Luckily, we ate and left and were still able to drop SJP off at PDX with plenty of time to spare! Also, let it be known that this was my VERY FIRST visit to DTF!!! I wrote this in my IG story and I’ve never gotten so much engagement from my followers before. SOOO many people going “WHAT HOW HAVE YOU NEVER BEEN TO DIN TAI FUNG?!?!” Considering I used to live less than a mile away from the original US location…

Well with SJP at the airport, Laura, Janie and I then drove to check out Jessica’s new house! It was really nice! Hmm… I think we then stood around long enough to be like so… what should we do… and Jessica said we could go to her apartment. So we ended up driving over to Jessica’s current place of residence and finishing up An Affair to Remember LOL quite honestly, I think the three of us mainly wanted to finish this movie, more than doing anything else in Portland, and did not care what Jessica or her apartment guests wanted to do.

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After the movie and a short nap, the three of us then went to get a small dinner at a nearby Japanese restaurant (though I was really not hungry at all). Then they dropped me off at Connie’s before they went to the airport!!! SO SAD end of bachelorette party!

DAY FIVE

When I got dropped off at Connie’s on Sunday night, we went on a walk around her neighborhood, and mainly just stopped at the grocery store. I was pretty exhausted so we didn’t do too much else, other than hang out in the backyard while Tyler grilled and watch two episodes of Big Little Lies HAHA

The next day, Connie had taken the day off so we could go around! We ended up going to … hmm … oh yes! We ended up going to Pine State Biscuit – I’d been there once and don’t remember liking it, but I wasn’t in the mood for the typical eggs/potatoes breakfast and couldn’t think of anywhere else to go in Portland. I’m glad we came because I did like my order this time – the fried chicken with a biscuit AND APPLE BUTTER! I don’t remember what I got last time, but it was probably too dry (because I don’t like gravy) or maybe I did get the gravy and just didn’t like it. But with apple butter, which really tastes more like a jam, it was great!

We then walked around and I ended up getting a bunch of Blue Star donuts to take home. We dropped these back off at her house, then got her dog Deckard and left to go hiking at Beacon Rock! We started a 7mi hike but then turned around because it was getting a bit late and looked like it was going to storm. I’m really glad we did because this way we got to do things more leisurely. And if we had kept hiking, I wouldn’t have been able to do the following – go BACK to Blue Star Donuts to get another three donuts (I ate so many Blue Star Donuts I can now confidently say my favorite donuts are, in order: 1) Orange Olive Oil – A VEGAN DONUT!!!!! 2) Blueberry Bourbon Basil, 3) Mexican Hot Chocolate, 4) Raspberry Rosemary Buttermilk). I also got a latte before we headed back to her place to watch Young Adult, then headed back out to get burritos, before we went to the airport! And then… that was the end of my Portland 2019 trip *cries*

Day Seven: Magic Kingdom

THE LAST DAY! Now based on over three weeks of memory.

Our leave time for the day was 8:30am because the park would open at 9am and all we had to do was take the monorail over. Although the Grand Floridian isn’t as fancy looking as the Animal Kingdom Lodge, it’s significantly more expensive purely because of how close it is to the Magic Kingdom Park. Apparently that’s the case for all the “Magic Kingdom resorts,” a term I wasn’t aware of. I didn’t know ANYTHING about Disney World, other than that I was told to purchase a 4-day ticket by Jessica and Laura. I was really blown away by the first day when I realized there were SO many Disney hotels.

All we had to do upon entry was walk up to the castle and we got to see a mini show where all the major characters are in front of the castle doing a dance. Amazing! Unfortunately, I failed to hit record on my camera, so I missed it all!!! I mean, it’s just a little dance and song, but also two fireworks go off over the castle after everyone says bibbi bobbidi boo, which is something I wish I had captured. Oh well – I’m certain there’s tons of recordings of the same thing on YouTube.

Right after the castle doors open, we then ZOOMED on over to Peter Pan and it was a 25 minute wait. The positive for Magic Kingdom is that since everyone had already been to Disneyland, AND because we’d already watched the fireworks (via boat) the night before, we weren’t in much of a rush, and were basically just trying to do any non-Disneyland things.

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Opening fireworks! Photo credit Laura

The nice thing to explore at Magic Kingdom is that the rides may be similar to Disneyland’s, but the line queue decor is often different and air conditioned, because they had more space to build out. For instance, Peter Pan’s queue was super cute, as if you were in the house. Apparently there’s tricks to some of the decor, like you could clap somewhere and Tinkerbell would appear, but we didn’t know any of the secrets.

Laura noticed that my mom KEPT taking photos of It’s A Small World which was right across from Peter Pan, so right after Peter Pan, we walked over to did that ride – it was like a 5 minute wait. Turns out, it’s my mom’s favorite ride!

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Her first time on this ride today

Then our first fastpass was the Snow White Mine Train, which isn’t a ride in California. I didn’t enjoy it, though maybe it’s because the train took several unexpected stops during the ride. There WAS however, very cold AC in the line queue, and it was already pretty hot in the morning, so I enjoyed that aspect. Otherwise, it seemed like a more boring Big Thunder Mountain.

Next up, we watched Mickey’s Philharmonic, which is a great 3D show where Donald Duck is trying to get the sorcerer’s hat and ends up in a bunch of classic Disney films musical scenes. It’s a really well done show! The musical transitions were really clever.

Actually, I no longer really remember what was the correct order … I feel like we walked back and forth quite a bit in Magic Kingdom, and it was so hot, I didn’t take that many photos. I remember we did the Little Mermaid ride, and I really liked that line’s decor/design too. Then we went to go watch a mini parade before heading over to some Beauty and the Beast attraction.

I think this is when Jessica joined us – she had been doing a separate scavenger hunt. While we were waiting in line for the Beauty and the Beast thing, I don’t really know what I was expecting this to be, but all I knew was that there’d be a photo opportunity with Belle afterwards. It turned out to be the kind of thing where they get audience participation, mainly kids … AND ME. I got chosen to be a “knight” which meant I had to stand off to the side (I thought I’d have a more elaborate role, like maybe marching around the room or something, but I really don’t remember doing very much other than stand in a corner and hold a cardboard cutout of a knight). Laura’s mom also got chosen, based on her ability to sing a note, which was something she was very proud of.

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My shining moment

This whole experience was a bit confusing because so much of my time was just spent standing off to the side without much direction. There was a photographer who took a ton of photos, and I assumed they’d let all the chosen participants take a picture with Belle first, then everyone would re-configure for family photos. But we never got a family photo! We just got ushered out of the room. So weird. Luckily for my family, I don’t think anyone really cares to take photos with Disney characters, so my mom wasn’t annoyed at all.

From here, it was time for our Be Our Guest lunch! Jessica was able to get us reservations at this very popular cafeteria. It’s decorated in Beauty and the Beast style, with the most popular room decorated like the ballroom. We had an eight person group, and our reservation just meant we could enter the place, but we still had to look for our own table. Laura ended up finding an eight person table in a side room, styled more like the Beast’s bedroom (so very dark but with a rose in a glass thing off to the side).

 

The food was ok – probably a little too heavy for my family’s taste. We ended up getting two pork dishes (how odd … I went to the website to look for the exact description but the closest thing that it describes is a chicken coq au vin and I’m pretty certain we had pork, not chicken), one quiche (which was really a giant plate of salad that came with a tiny quiche) and a croque monsieur for myself. My mom never knows what to order, so she asked me to help her pick (as always – this is something that really annoys me). I figured my brother was not planning on sharing his pork entree, and that seemed like THE dish to get here, so I told her to get her own pork dish, and my dad and I would share our dishes with her. She was like “mmm I think I want the french dip” and I was like “no! You’ll like the pork dish!” Turns out she actually enjoys french dip sandwiches, which is not something I knew, so when she got her pork entree she was like “I really wish I had gotten the french dip.” ALSO, we had ordered a side of green beans for my croque monsieur, without realizing that another dish we got ALSO came with green beans. So my mom was also really sad that she didn’t get to eat fries. This lunch was NOT well ordered.

Oh yeah, we also got two desserts – the grey stuff which was a chocolate cupcake topped with cookies n cream frosting, and then … uh oh I don’t know! Maybe it was this strawberry cream cheese cupcake. No – looking at my pictures, it looks like we got a cream puff. I really feel like the online menu for this restaurant has already changed from what we ordered because the menu says “lemon raspberry cream puff” and that does NOT sound like something we’d order.

 

Oh well – onto the next! We went over to the Country Bear Jamboree, and I was surprised to find out, my mom knew what that show was. She was like “oh good, that’s an excellent show.” I was asleep for nearly the entire thing. I wish the seats for these shows went up higher, because my head always rolls around during these shows. Not great for sleeping!

Then we had a fast pass for Splash Mountain, which was great! The decor inside is totally different from Disneyland’s! I like this ride a lot, mainly because I don’t have any movie association with it. And because almost all of it is indoors. Otherwise, I find sitting on those seats a little gross because who knows how much of that is water vs sweat vs sunscreen.

Then we walked over to the Tiki Room, another show I fell asleep in. I do not love this show! It’s hard for me to see everything that’s going on. I do like the decor off to the side though, which they also had replicated in Trader Sam’s.

After this, I think our group split off. Jessica and her dad went home, as did my brother and my dad. It was REALLY hot already, and we didn’t have any other rides planned, just a parade. My mom and Laura’s mom both wanted to watch the parade, so Laura and I stayed in the park with them. We found a nice, shaded spot outside of a store, and even better it was right in front of an open store door so I could occasionally feel the AC blowing past my legs. I did have to stand the whole time, but that was fine! Excellent views of the parade.

 

We ended up leaving pretty much right after the parade, so around 3:30pm. On the monorail back, my mom and I decided to stop in the Contemporary Resort to buy some cookies as souvenirs. My mom ended up buying a ton of cookies actually, and I got one box of coconut cookies for the office. (I tried one and really did not like them. The box only has twelve cookies, and I still see it in the office, so that must mean other people didn’t like these cookies either LOL). When we took the monorail back to the Grand Floridian and had our bags searched, the guard said “you have a lot of cookies” and I just went “yup!”

Of course, on the way back, we somehow just barely missed the monorail by seconds. I jokingly blamed my mom, even though she wasn’t really taking any photos. Actually, once we saw we had missed the monorail, I was like “welp I guess we can just stand around and take pictures then!” which she was delighted by. An employee thought we were trying to take photos of a hidden Mickey in the murals and tried to point it the hidden Mickey out to me, and I had to do my “oh … yes … I see it! Thank you…” when I had no idea where he was trying to get me to look.

Once we got back to the Grand Floridian, then my mom wanted to go around and look at the shops, since they’d all been closed the night before when she had gone on her solo walk. She spent a really long time looking for more souvenirs but ended up not buying any. I took a few photos of the hotel lobby which was nice. And I have in my notes … we got back to our hotel room around 5pm!

 

Just an hour of rest though, because we were scheduled to leave and return to Magic Kingdom at 6pm for the last few rides of the day, all in Tomorrowland. We did the People Mover (BORING), the Carousel of Progress (I was asleep for the entire ride) and then we had our third fastpass for the Pirates ride (just as interesting as the Disneyland version, which is to say, not).

Once we got out of Pirates, everyone had decisions to make! Laura’s family had already decided they were going to go out for dinner and skip the fireworks, since they were satisfied with the fireworks show from the private boat tour. My mom wanted to stay longer and walk around and experience all of the park. I had no clue what my brother wanted before we all started deciding, but it turns out he wanted to stay in the park until the fireworks show and then return, and my dad was happy to do that too. I LOVE fireworks, but I loved Chicken Guy even more, so I said I’d want to eat there for dinner and I’d skip the fireworks if I wasn’t able to eat any other time. Jessica hadn’t been able to try Chicken Guy the first time we went, so she wanted to eat there too. So the five of us went to get on a Disney Springs shuttle! Oh wait, it was just four of us – Laura’s dad had stayed in the hotel and didn’t return to the park with us after our mid-day break, but would head to Disney Springs on his own to join us at Chicken Guy for dinner. My mom split off on her own, and my brother and dad went off to do who knows what.

 

I felt kind of guilty for a while, because I thought my mom would’ve liked to have me there to take photos of her. But she didn’t care at all about having anyone with her – when I asked her if she wish I had stayed to take photos, she was like “what?! the sun was setting, we couldn’t have really taken photos anyway” so that makes me feel better. And my mom seemed to really enjoy her solo time because she seriously accomplished SO MUCH. But first –

We exited the park and then went to look for the shuttles… actually I’m slightly confused – I remember being at the Contemporary Resort. Maybe we had to monorail here in order to get onto a shuttle to Disney Springs. We once again JUST BARELY missed the shuttle, and the next one wasn’t for another twenty minutes. I’m very set in the idea of “Disney has all the transit to get you anywhere” so I was like “welp! ok then! Shuttle in twenty minutes!” but Jessica immediately was like HELL NO and looked up a rideshare, and pretty soon, we were off on our way to Disney Springs.

Which turned out to be a great idea, because we got there within twenty minutes, and at the time we arrived at Disney Springs, the shuttle would’ve probably JUST been leaving. Laura’s dad had already left the hotel room to meet us at Chicken Guy and was right at the front of the line where you’d be allowed into the restaurant to order. HA when he saw us, he just waited until we got near to his place in line, and then turned and walked away to sit down without saying anything.

I ordered a Southwestern chicken sandwich for myself and a second one for my mom to have later. The Kuos had a pretty nice, varied dinner – I think they had sandwiches and fries and maybe a salad? Maybe some tenders? I don’t remember. But it was a fantastic dinner! I don’t regret skipping the fireworks at all, especially because the night was not yet over!

Laura’s parents decided to take a shuttle back to the hotel room to relax, and they kindly took my mom’s sandwich back with them. It was probably already 9:30pm, so a pretty full day for them! Laura, Jessica and I ended up taking a shuttle to the Contemporary Lodge so we could go to the Top of the World lounge. Only Vacation Club members have access, and Jessica had never been here before. It was fantastic! Basically she just had to show proof of her membership and then this nice, old lady swiped her badge to let us into an elevator that went straight to the top. Then you kind of end up in a standard hotel hallway, and then have to walk through to enter the lounge.

It was a quiet, but somewhat slow bar. Jessica ended up ordering an apple pie martini, and Laura and I shared a “monorail yellow” which was just a pina colada with orange juice – light on the alcohol. Fun times!

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View from the Top of the World lounge

The BEST part of this stop though, was that the women’s restroom included the TINIEST sink ever. I thought it was weird that the soap dispenser was positioned at a normal height. Of course we took pictures of this, in addition to some photos from the outside balcony.

 

The other best part of this time of the night was that I’d occasionally check my phone and find texts from my mom. I’d texted her when I first left her, because I was worried she wouldn’t know what to do (this was a dumb concern – she is very independent). But since she didn’t have the Disney App on her phone, I texted her a bunch of stuff like “you can ride the ferries if you’re bored. This ride has just a 10 minute wait. Why don’t you try this, it has a 5 minute wait” and she just IGNORED ALL MY TEXTS! Instead of responding to what I said, she’d just text me very brief texts:

Me: You can also go out of the park and take ferries around
Mom: Ok. I am on the boat now. Say thanks to Jessica
Me: What boat?
Mom: It’s a Small World
*sends photo of Winnie the Pooh ride, no text context*
*sends photo of cups ride, no text context*

Me: You can try jungle cruise
Mom: I am going after fireworks.
*sends photos of fireworks*

*one hour later*
Me: Where are you? Did you head home?
Mom: Just did haunted mansion ride
*sends photo of stand by entrance sign for haunted mansion*
Me: try big thunder railroad

*forty minutes later*
Mom: Ready to board big thunder mountain railroad
*sends photo of big thunder entrance*
Mom: Done.

*thirty minutes later*
Me: Try splash mountain
Mom: Closed
Mom: Did flying carpet
Mom: Very busy
Me: You could try Dumbo, far walk for you though
Mom: Did
*sends photos of her with Little Mermaid*

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This is the point where I show Jessica and Laura my phone and we’re all like, she’s doing EVERYTHING! The no-context Little Mermaid photos were the BEST. Later my mom told me she thought she was in the line to ride the Little Mermaid ride again, and she asked someone “is this little mermaid?” and they said “yes” and when she finally realized it was a photo opp, not a ride, she thought it’d be too rude to leave the line. Great photos though!

At this point, it was 11pmish – Jessica decided she’d head back to the hotel while Laura and I wanted to go back into Magic Kingdom, ONE LAST TIME! Laura asked what ride I’d want to do and I said Peter Pan. I’ve realized this is one of my favorite rides, purely because I love seeing little cityscapes and I love their London room! When we rode it the first time in the morning, I whipped my phone out but it was ZOOMED IN from when I had tried to get photos of the characters in front of the castle, so my photos were AWFUL! I wanted to go back and attempt another London photo, so off we went! Spoiler: I never got a good photo of London, even on the second try. BUMMER.

 

We went off to the Peter Pan ride – and of course my mom was ALSO in line! She was about one room’s wait ahead of us. I briefly thought she’d probably come back in line to join us, but Laura was like “no, she’s not going to” … and she did not! HAHA You have to be in line for a ride before midnight in order to ride it, so she was able to finish Peter Pan and then walk across and ride It’s a Small World FOR THE THIRD TIME that day! Meanwhile, Laura and I finished Peter Pan right around midnight, and then ended up sitting next to the carousel to wait for my mom to exit. I loved that carousel! It was very peaceful to watch it lit up, under the castle, at midnight and then to watch the last guests on the carousel.

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Somehow my mom didn’t come out of It’s a Small World until like 12:15am. HAHA Laura was like “I don’t know how you and your mom have so much energy.” I remember her saying “you and your mom” but I know she mainly means my mom. Finally, my little mom comes out of It’s a Small World, with TONS of energy! Ready to go home! She was very happy with her last ride of the day, her FAVORITE ride. She said, “I rode this three times! First time, for video. Second time, for photos. Third time, to enjoy.” HAHA

We were one of the last few people in the park, at least it felt that way! I liked walking down Main Street at night – I find it much more enjoyable to walk around at the end of the day when the crowd is gone, more so than in the morning.

We were probably out of Magic Kingdom around 12:30am and I am almost certain that we were the very last people to be riding the monorail at night. The employees even came around to ask where we were headed – we’re not sure why since they didn’t skip any stops. What a successful day! I immediately went to shower, meanwhile my mom apparently sat and enjoyed her chicken sandwich! haha Jessica and Laura were like “she was still eating her sandwich when we fell asleep.” I remember going to bed around 2:30am, I was trying to write as many notes as I could for my blog. But that was the trip!!!

I won’t do an entry for the next day, since we just got up, ate oatmeal (I’m guessing) and then headed out to the airport. What a vacation! This was definitely a great family vacation 🙂

 

Day Six: Epcot & Fireworks

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Ok it’s now a full two weeks since this day took place, but I need to write this blog post! I spent most of my time in between thinking about sorting through all the Disney photos but I guess I’m still not yet at the stage where I’ve decided which photos to post in the blog, so I haven’t accomplished much.

I feel like this day was hot, but maybe not the most insufferably hot day. That would probably have been our Hollywood Studios day, but as I mentioned, that was probably more of an issue of the theme park design (lack of trees, hot walking surfaces). I vaguely remember the temperature peaking on Hollywood Studios day, and Epcot was really quite hot too, but we were probably indoors more often.

We started the day, based on my best guess of the photos timestamps, we left the hotel at 8:30am to arrive at the 9am opening time. Epcot is my favorite theme park of the four, probably because Magic Kingdom is just a replica of Disneyland, Hollywood Studios is no one’s favorite, and Animal Kingdom is great but more zoo than theme park for much of the space. You definitely want to get to Epcot at opening time! There’s so much to see!

This time we got to actually ride rides!!! Yesterday, we had only ridden Soarin, the Finding Nemo ride, and the new Frozen ride. Today we started with Spaceship Earth, which is the ride in the famous giant golf ball. I did NOT know there was a ride in here!!! This was also our first fastpass. The ride is very slow, and makes me feel like I’m in Epcot on opening day (that is to say, it felt like it hadn’t been significantly updated since when the ride was first opened). You ride in a two person car and … ok my memory’s already faded, I’m going to say it goes through a history of human civilization and ends with a slow and steep return back to the beginning, where they distract you with a “quiz for the future.” I was sitting with my mom and she went “I must take this and find out about my future” in such a serious tone, I had to laugh. It would ask questions like “what would you like to plant in a garden?” and my mom’s finger immediately went to flowers before she paused and after a long hesitation, said out loud, “no, I need to eat!” and then tapped “food.” LOL I also laughed at how quickly she chose “mountains” over “oceans” and was surprised to learn that, with some slight pause, she chose country over city.

Also hilarious – the ride briefly stopped while it was “calculating our results,” and my mom in all seriousness went “what’s going on – this is very important, I need to know my future!”

From here, we did a ton of stuff in the one area we hadn’t really explored the night before. First, we did single rider for Test Track – is that seriously the ride’s name? it is – which is one of my least favorite rides. Actually, several of the rides at Epcot were my least favorite rides. Though my most memorable worst ride of the trip was definitely that Na’vi River Journey, maybe because it was the first ride we rode and was so disappointing. Anyway, Test Track appears to be their experimental driving ride, which paved the way for the Cars ride, Radiator Springs Racers, except this ride has next to no decor. I think I hated this ride because the photo was taken when we were taken outdoors, and all I could think of at the time was “ugh this sun is so bright!”

Then our second fastpass was for the Figment ride, also a horrible ride. I don’t quite understand why we had to get a fastpass for this, other than maybe there probably just weren’t many other rides to do at Epcot. I think this ride has something to do with the senses, and my brother made the suggestion that this should have been converted into an Inside Out ride. Though I think these this pavilion is going to be torn down entirely anyhow, probably for some new Marvel land. The other strange thing about this ride was that despite a relatively quick wait, it seemed like the car my family was put on was an add on. We were the last of four cars, and it really seemed like everything in the ride was set up for a three-car train. We were never properly centered on anything, and since this ride was about senses, this meant that smells, sounds and sights would occasionally come up and we didn’t experience them!

From here, I think we ended up in a Coke sponsored room where you could taste different sodas around the world. Excellent concept, but I didn’t like anything that I tried, and any time you pressed the button for a soda, it filled the little sampler cup TO THE BRIM. Even though I just wanted a little sip! Also, there were tons of different drink stations, but Laura said that they all had the same types of soda. There were too many people and it was too chaotic for me to fully test that statement out, so I am left with the memory of having sticky fingers from my cup that constantly spilled over and the uncertainty of whether I made a good effort of actually trying any sodas.

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Then we ended up back at The Land, because Laura’s mom had repeatedly asked about going on “the tomato ride.” I can only refer to this ride as such, even though it’s actually called Living on the Land. Laura thought maybe we’d do our own thing, because we didn’t have a fastpass for this and the line was 35 minutes, but our family had nothing better to do! Also, it was probably my favorite ride so well worth it!

Laura ended up spending the ENTIRE time in line recapping the last 45 minutes of the Endgame movie. She’d been waiting for a long line to finish her recap, so this was perfect. Before I knew it, we were on the ride! It is like riding a small ferry and at first it seemed really boring, like a water version of Spaceship Earth, in that it felt like we were going to get a history of human agriculture. But eventually the ride opened up into what seemed like a giant terrarium, where WE were IN it! And then I could tell why Laura’s mom loves this ride – we basically got to go past a TON of different crops and flowers! We took a TON of photos on this ride. There were several hidden Mickeys. What I found disturbing was the setup of giant fish tanks with giant fish in it. The first fish area was lit with a red glow, which seemed VERY creepy. Otherwise, the edible foods was really cool!

With that, Laura at first suggested that we split up, then pretty much took off with her family in tow. I think I looked so lost that she at least walked me up to Canada, and then I saw that there was a herb garden so I told her that this would be where we should split off, because this was the beginning of MORE PHOTOS!!! So they went off, I don’t know what they did other than have lunch reservations at a fancy steakhouse in Canada. I think the time was around noon, and we knew we had until 2pm to get over to the Frozen ride to use up our third and last Fastpass.

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Canada! My mom spent forever here

The plan was to go from Canada all the way back to Japan, which was the last country we were at the night before, before the sun went down. This would mean going through Canada, UK, France, Morocco, then Japan. Well, in that 1.5 hours, we managed to get some quick snacks – a PB&J tart, then a poutine, then an orange slushy just for the souvenir cup (the ONLY thing my dad has EVER asked to buy) – and only got through … CANADA. We were just barely done with Canada when my brother and I were like, ok it’s 1:40pm and we have to get to Norway by 2pm so time to HEAD OVER!

We made it to the Frozen ride! Enjoyable with the fastpass, otherwise I think the ride is kind of lacking. Then we ended up walking around neighboring Mexico, and got into the Gran Fiesta Tour, which is another boat ride similar to It’s a Small World, this time going through Mexico. Very nice – because it was probably one of the best air conditioned rooms in the park! Mexico is basically a huge pyramid, and from the outside, it doesn’t look like there’d be much in here, but there’s actually this ride AND a restaurant AND a shopping area in here, PLUS outside gardens and even a small museum-like exhibit!

Then we doubled back to where we’d come from, passing by Canada, with the mission of getting up to Japan. Along the way, we stopped for duck confit in France. Ok, the memory of the duck confit is bringing back MAJOR heat memories, so it was definitely a hot day. I think the heat discouraged us from exploring too much of France and Morocco, though I also suspect there was less to do here. Then we ended up in Japan, where there was a HUGE mitsuwa-like store. Somehow my mom ended up finding and buying a five pack of red bean treats, which were surprisingly not marked up from the usual price! Our whole family then ended up in a small Anime-exhibit room, and just sat on a bench quietly eating the red bean treat. We’d definitely all been heat exhausted without really realizing it, so this was a welcome break.

Then my mom and I started taking a TON of photos in Japan, to the major annoyance of my brother. We nearly missed a ferry that would take us back to toward the Epcot entrance, but luckily we made it!

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This ferry back toward the entrances saved us from a very exhausting walk

With a slight resurgence in energy after that ferry ride, I then decided we could do Soarin’ again, since my mom said that was her favorite ride of the park and my dad hadn’t ridden it the night before, and the wait wasn’t tooooo long. I was like, that’s the last ride! But then when we came out, I was like OOO the Nemo ride is only a 5 minute wait! So we went on that one too. I thought maybe during the after hours event, they probably had turned off portions of the Nemo ride because it seemed slightly unfinished, but the second time, I was still a bit like “hmm seems unfinished.”

But the best part of the Nemo ride was that when we emerged, it turns out the ride is in the same building as an AQUARIUM which had been closed during the after hours event. This was an amazing aquarium. Most importantly, they had MANATEES! I don’t think I’d ever seen any in my life, and the ones here were so active. They had probably just fed them, as there were tons of lettuce bits floating in the water. I could have spent forever just watching them, it’s so peaceful. But we eventually left … and then found a room full of tanks with ocean creatures! THEN we went up the escalator and found these HUGE tanks with dolphins and huge schools of fish and supposedly sea turtles and sharks! Pretty amazing. Again, could have stayed longer but I think everyone was tired and ready to go home.

So we took the monorail back to the hotel and arrived around 6pm. Wow even that alone is a long day, but that’s not it! Everyone got back in to shower and then there was a dinner of more homecooked ramen. Then, Laura had booked a private boat tour to watch the Magic Kingdom fireworks!!! We had to be at the hotel’s boat dock by 7:30pm. At first my dad was so tired, he didn’t want to go. I think he had been traumatized by the last time we did two things in one day, with the after hours Epcot night that left him exhausted. But I assured him that all he had to do was walk to another part of the hotel, then we’d be dropped right back at the hotel! He looked very dubious but I’m glad he went.

We got to the dock promptly, of course, and I think we were the first group to arrive. Our tour guide was a young girl named Emily – I guess she’s an intern hoping to become a full time employee. She was super friendly and mostly knowledgeable and had surprisingly really great hearing, considering sometimes people talked very softly but she could still hear them over the boat.

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One of very few full group photos! Taken by our wonderful tour guide

The boat itself was really nice quality – super soft leather seats! We had a happy birthday sign up, for Jessica, and it even had a few balloons. We ALSO got drinks and snacks (like Mickey Mouse rice krispy treats and chips and pretzels) and Emily was very kind to say from the very beginning that we could take this stuff home. I’m still sad we didn’t take more Cokes home, but we definitely took ALL the snacks home. HA

Since we wouldn’t have any bathroom access, almost everyone refrained from drinking anything, even though the drinks were “free.” She drove us around the lagoon, where we share the waters with other ferries that connect to Grand Floridian, Polynesian Resort, the Contemporary Resort, Camp Wilderness and Magic Kingdom (so basically like the monorail, but via water). She also showed us some of the small islands, including one that I believe Walt Disney intended to live on (now it’s a fenced off, overgrown island). I also loved that she pointed out that there was one part of the manmade lagoon where the road was actually running UNDER the water, and I think she said it was only one of ten in the world where the street runs below. Also interesting – the entire lagoon was half natural, half manmade. We expressed fears of gators and snakes, which she really seemed to brush off, though she did also say that anywhere there’s natural water, there is probably gators.

So then she got into position for the fireworks – Jessica and Laura both felt like she worked really hard to get a great view of the fireworks at all times. And they loved how after the fireworks, she pretty much BOOKED IT to get us to the Electrical Water Pageant. Which was also a fun surprise!!! I guess it’s just a 15 minute “parade” that serves the different Magic Kingdom resorts – basically these boats are set up with what looks like a huge electric net that lights up, and fun quirky music plays at night. I loved it as a surprise but it’s not worth planning a night around it.

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Another fun surprise was that while Laura was saying what the group might do following the tour (that is, she and Jessica were going to check out Trader Sam’s at the Polynesian Resort after this), Emily was like “I can drop you off there! I can drop you guys off anywhere in the lagoon actually” which really worked out because all our parents wanted to go back to the hotel. So she dropped Jessica, Laura, my brother and me off at the Polynesian, then our parents were tasked with taking all the snacks back to our hotel. My mom, of course, would head back to the hotel room then go on a solo walk around all the resorts.

Well, we go to Trader Sam’s, and while putting our name down for a table, I was like “UHH do I need my ID?!” I seriously thought I wouldn’t, but all three of them were like “uh.. yeah …. you don’t have your ID?!” Which I was SUPER surprised by, especially for my brother, who I’m certain did not have plans to drink after the fireworks boat tour. Laura very kindly offered to go back to the Grand Floridian with me via monorail to get my ID. Jessica and my brother would go to another lounge for drinks while waiting for a table at Trader Sam’s.

Of course, my mom was still in the hotel room when we arrived, and was just about to go out. Laura figured there was probably an easy walking route back to Polynesian Resort, so my mom joined us. We had to ask for help from a hotel worker, who was very kind and was like “see that lamp? just go there.” HA we were like “ok!” then walked across the room and yelled back “IS THIS THE LAMP?!” It was. The walk was also VERY easy and really pleasant. One of my vacation regrets is that I didn’t wake up SUPER early and walk around the Grand Floridian grounds. I can make myself feel better by telling myself that when we walked to the boat deck, it didn’t seem like there was very much that would be super interesting.

Other vacation regrets that I didn’t do: I wish I had a better picture of all the doormats at the different Disney resorts because they’re all different – especially the Animal Kingdom Lodge one is great! And I didn’t get any photos of the Grand Floridian room 😦

Anyway, we walked up to the Polynesian Resort and we got to walk past the wedding chapel too, which was nice. The hotels are surprisingly VERY close together – like a SEVEN minute walk! I don’t know how they manage to make it look like these two places are so far, but a seven minute walk is nothing! My mom immediately split off from us, because she has no interest in having us SLOW HER DOWN! ha. We went back to Trader Sam’s – Laura kindly did not berate me for the fact that we lost our place in line and had to wait another thirty-ish minutes to get into Trader Sam’s.

 

We eventually got in – and honestly it didn’t seem that busy! The place was small, though the CA Trader Sam’s is much much smaller. Jessica felt like everyone in the bar was a Disney employee, which seemed like a reasonable guess since it was Tuesday and everyone seemed to know all the fun chants. Also, what better place to go after a day’s work! My brother got a non-alcoholic drink, Jessica got something where everyone would shout “two shots of rum!” I have no idea what the question was anymore but I want to guess that the drink was a HippopotoMai-Tai and the question was something like … what do hippopotami like to drink? I definitely remember what Laura and I had – the Nautilus which I want to say was like a $30 drink and served in a huge boat. This is what’s in it:

Barbancourt Pango Rhum, Appleton Estate Reserve Rum, Combier Crème de Pêche de Vigne Liqueur, Tropical Juices, and Falernum. Served in a souvenir Nautilus

I thought it was DELISH! I also thought I drank quite a bit though Laura didn’t agree. By the time we left, the bar was pretty empty. And it wasn’t even that late! It must have been near or past midnight! Luckily the return to our hotel was just a walk away! Another really pleasant walk – I remember thinking it was the PERFECT weather that night, because it wasn’t even humid.

We got back to the hotel room and had some late night cake (LOVE) and my brother had a craving for pizza so he disappeared and somehow came back with a giant pizza box! I think he said he bought it at the Grand Floridian, where there was apparently a late night restaurant open, sort of near where the boat dock was. I ended up eating TWO slices. Two weeks later, Jessica commented that this was a perfect night and IT WAS!