Touring London in 2 days!

Me and my sweets in front of the London Eye

Me and my sweets in front of the London Eye

Believe it or not, it can be done!  I’d encourage my fellow travelers to allow an extra day or two if time allows, but if not, put on your running shoes 🙂   For me, traveling to Europe has to include multiple stops.  In planning an Ireland vacation, we decided to add an extra 2 days to stop off in London. I think we had a total of 40 hours or so in London … it was a whirlwind, but we hit a lot of the major destinations and had a blast!

Evening 1:

After landing in the afternoon, checking in and freshening up – we hit the town!  My partner had friends in London – so we met somewhere near the Westminster Tube, strolled around and grabbed a bite, and got to see River Thames, Big Ben & the House of Parliament (Palace of Westminster) and the London Eye as evening set in.  We strolled around and stumbled upon the Sherlock Holmes Pub which was exactly what I pictured a London pub to be like – young drunks stumbling out, the interior smelling of sweet old beer, and a charming exterior!

IMG_3709

Silhouette of Big Ben & House of Parliament

IMG_6892

London Eye, Big Ben & River Thames

IMG_6891

Sherlock Holmes Pub

IMG_6868

Big Ben

IMG_6865 IMG_6863

Day 2:

I too have a friend in England – about an hour and a half outside of London, whom I haven’t seen in 15 years.  When I told him I would be in London for 2 days, he insisted on spending some time with us.  I figured we would hang out for a few hours … but his agenda was a bit different.  We met around 8:30am and didn’t stop touring until 7:30ish… I was exhausted, but glad we got to see so many hotspots!

We started the day with the 8:00am Holy Communion Service at Westminster Abbey. It was really neat to sit in this amazing historical site and participate in such a special ceremony.  It was a quick service – and this is a free opportunity to get into the Abbey!

IMG_6866

The beautiful Westminster Abbey

After the service we strolled to Whitehall to watch the Horse Guards Parade, and then to Buckingham Palace for the Changing of the Guards.  Though both spots were packed with tourists – it was really neat to experience this tradition.  And yes, we took the obligatory photo with the guard.  Poor guy…

IMG_6907

Horse Guards Ceremony

IMG_6932

Changing of the Guards

IMG_6894

We then hit Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery.  We just peeked in so I could see an original Van Gogh – but I wish we would have spent more time there.  We grabbed a quick bite (fish & chips of course…) and were on our way.

IMG_6236

Trafalgar Square

IMG_6233

National Gallery

IMG_6945

Next we went to the Tate Modern museum – but just the inside’s outside…. We had to walk through the museum to get to this amazing outdoor space – with people picnicking, kids playing in the water and people sunbathing. (I’m going off memory but I think this is behind the Tate Modern…)

IMG_6948

Next we strolled along the River Thames, attempted to get a beverage at an overly packed bar – failed.  Enjoyed some seasoned street nuts… whatever they were, they’re delicious, and ended up at Tower Bridge.  Crossed over and saw the Tower of London (not much of a tower…), St. Paul’s Cathedral, and wrapped up our last evening with a delicious meal of Guinness stew and sausage with colcannon.  We walked over 7 miles and were completely exhausted!

IMG_6965

Tower Bridge

IMG_6956

Me and Boo – beyond exhausted at this point!

IMG_6991

The “Tower” of London (and my handsome beau)

St. Paul's Cathedral

St. Paul’s Cathedral

The last London Supper

The last London Supper

Final Day: 

For our final day we didn’t have to head out until noonish – so we decided to head back to Trafalgar Square, and to our joy, stumbled upon Covent Gardens.  You must go here!  We strolled through the little shops, and ended up getting some coffee & pastries and just hanging out.  Loved this spot!

Darling pastry shop in/near Covent Gardens

Darling pastry shop in/near Covent Gardens

It was a whirlwind but we had an incredible time in London!

Advertisements

Crater Laker & Bend, Oregon

I’ve always imagined I would end up in a small, mountain type town, with beautiful lakes and snow capped mountains, great restaurants with outdoor seating, and residents really making it feel like a community.  Though I have dreamed of this place, I have never actually been to said destination.  Then, I went to Bend.

On the cruise up we decided to swing by Crater Lake.  WOW!  This place is gorgeous! It almost looks fake – this volcano inside a volcano!  A must see if cruising through southern Oregon.  I would also recommend staying at the Green Springs Inn & Cabins outside of Ashland.  It was in the middle of the… forest?… and we loved it!  The rooms were amazing – and the restaurant was great!  The gift shop even had a box for PCT hikers like I read about in Wild!

IMG_8401IMG_0660

Ah yes, Bend.  Bend is… well, it’s perfect.  It’s technically high desert, but Mt. Bachelor sits just a stones throw away, snow capped even in mid summer.  The downtown is absolutely delightful, with the Deschutes Rivers meandering through – full of folks floatin’. You can stroll the darling shops, great restaurants, craft breweries and chat with all the NICE people!  We actually saw a sticker saying “Be nice, you’re in Bend“.  Ha!

We had the privilege to spend the 4th of the July weekend there – and boy oh boy do they do it big!  The parade was massive, and after the parade everyone heads down to the park by the river for a huge festival.  Tons of booths, drinks, food, games – you name it.

Accommodations:
We rented the cutest studio!  Just 2 blocks from downtown and perfect!IMG_8409 IMG_8410IMG_8412 IMG_8411

Exploration of the Cascade Lakes:

Devil’s Lake – The most clear, turquoise lake I have ever seen!  And freeeeezing!

IMG_8416

Loved this shot I got of some paddlers!

IMG_8443

Todd Lake – super peaceful and secluded with beautiful views from the parking lot!

IMG_0724

Mt. Bachelor in the background

IMG_0710

Elk Lake – not a great shot – but a perfect spot to rent a kayak or lounge on the beach.

IMG_0669

4th of July Madness!  This is where you want to celebrate ‘merica!

IMG_0700

Yes, that’s a dog up there 😦

IMG_0707

IMG_0705IMG_0704

IMG_0708

Pano of the post parade festivities!

Craft Breweries! 

IMG_0670 IMG_0678 IMG_0747 IMG_0748

Side trip up to Sisters
must do!  

IMG_0746

The town of Sisters is absolutely darling – and not far from Bend. You MUST eat at Cottonwood Cafe!

First Fridays! SO happy we stumbled upon this!  I would actually encourage you to plan your trip to Bend during a First Friday.  All of the shops offer free beer/wine/cocktails and snacks and the whole town comes out!  There’s live music on just about every corner, and it really solidifies the sense of community.

IMG_0688

Beautiful Bend

IMG_0752 IMG_0758 IMG_0755

We had an incredible time, and can’t wait to return!  (I might be actively seeking career opportunities…)

Until next time… I’ll be dreaming of Bend.

God is good friends.  God is good.

‘Tis the Season for Festivals!

I LOVE a good festival.  Beer Festivals, Art & Wines, Street Fairs, you name it.  The sun, the greasy, sweet of corn dogs, and the delicious beverages – you can’t beat it!

The season is just kicking off – and I’ve had a blast at the 2 festivals I attended.

Festival:  Bay Area Craft Beer Festival

13

2 Date:  18 April, 2015 (every year in April)
Location:  Downtown Martinez, CA
Cost: $35 – buy in advance – they sell out!
Info:  http://www.bayareacraftbeerfestival.com/
Highlights:  Good beer (though I wasn’t overly impressed – I thought the 2014 selection was better) good food (we indulged in a Indian Tika Masala wrap – YUM), free shuttle from Concord Bart.
Bummers:  There’s just so many people, and it’s a relatively small space, you need to get there about an hour early – the line to get in gets insanely long!

Festival:  Walnut Creek Art & Wine

64
5Date:  30 & 31 May 2015
Location:  Heather Farms Park, Walnut Creek
Cost: FREE!
Info:  http://www.artwinefestivalwc.com/
Highlights:  Good beer & wine, lots of good food options, great music playing all weekend, variety of arts & crafts, kids area, dogs welcome, free shuttle from Walnut Creek Bart and Shadelands Business Park.
Bummers:  None!

Here’s some other festivals I plan to attend:

Todos Santos Music & Market Series – http://www.cityofconcord.org/page.asp?pid=3000
Every Thursday Evenings, May – September, Todos Santos Park, Concord, CA

First Fridays in the Park – http://visitmurphys.com/first-fridays-in-the-park/
Murphys, CA

Operation Red, White and Brew – http://www.eventbrite.com/e/operation-red-white-brew-wine-craft-beer-tasting-event-benefiting-contra-costa-blue-star-moms-tickets-16213403727
June 28, 2015 in Martinez, CA

Lafayette Art & Wine Festival (my favorite!) – http://www.lafayettechamber.org/events/art-wine-festival/
September 19 & 20, 2015

Here’s some links to how I find out about what’s going on:

http://calendar.insidebayarea.com/
http://sf.funcheap.com/
http://www.visitsfbayarea.com/events
http://www.hiddensf.com/390-best-sf-bay-area-events.html
http://www.sfstation.com/music/calendar/bay-area/

If you have any event suggestions, or other ways to find out what’s going on in your area – please share!

California Coast Part 1: Santa Cruz Region

Do you ever just need to run away, if only for a night?   I needed escape from the everyday routine.  I know I didn’t want to go too far, but far enough to feel like a mini-vacation.  We decided to go to the Santa Cruz region.  We picked Santa Cruz because 1) Boo has never been there 2) I have only been to the tourist Boardwalk & downtown 3) I heard it’s lovely.   As usual, I like to talk to folks who know the area to get some recommendations on where to eat and what to see.  I used the handy dandy interweb to find a good place to stay.  Here’s what we did.

Accommodations:  Redwood Croft B&B
Room:  The West Room with private patio.
Cost:  $225 + tax (that was with a military discount.  Yikes!)
Rating:  This place got rave reviews online.  I’ll give it an A for location and scenery, a C+ for breakfast and host.  The host seemed a bit… passive aggressive.  It was a bit odd.  Another couple raved about the breakfast, so I was a bit disappointed when plain pancakes and sausage came out.  Overall, we enjoyed out stay, but will likely not return.

IMG_8207 IMG_8217 IMG_8212  IMG_8242 IMG_8210 IMG_8209IMG_8214    IMG_8213   IMG_0363IMG_8241 IMG_8235 IMG_8231 IMG_8229

As usual, when I travel, I look for the best spots to eat.  I got these 2 recommendations from a friend who used to live in the area – and she was on point!

Breakfast (on our arrival morning):  Whale City Bakery, Davenport, CA
I heard the pastries were awesome but we went for a meal and split the Huevos Tortillas which was pretty good.  The coffee was tasty and the outside patio was awesome – and dog friendly!

Lunch:  Pizza My Heart, Downtown Santa Cruz
This place has grown significantly since I visited last.  It used to be a hole in the wall, and now it’s a huge restaurant.  The za was fine, nothing to rave about anymore.

Dinner:  The Cremer House, Felton, CA
If you’re in the Santa Cruz area and don’t want to head downtown for dinner, you HAVE to hit up The Cremer House.  This place is awesome!  The historic building is charming, with a nice wrap around porch for outdoor seating (with heaters).  The inside is super cozy, and you feel like you’re walking into a friends house.  After out late pizza lunch, we decided to go light and split the “Bob Salad” which was amazing.  We also ordered a flight of beer (3 of 8 were good) and the donuts… which were ah-mazing.  The staff is great, and everything else on the menu looked amazing.  Great spot.

IMG_0358 IMG_0360 IMG_0362On the drive home, we made a pit-stop in a little town called Pescadero to grab coffee and check out the shops, took a shot of the coast, and enjoyed every winding minute of the famous Highway 1.

IMG_8261 IMG_8258 IMG_8254 IMG_8260 IMG_8257 IMG_8256 IMG_8255 IMG_8253Great little runaway.  Very blessed to be able to take little vacations – so close to home.

God is good friends.  God is good.