Travel – Flash Back Friday – Flor og Fjaere

Last September my best friend had a baby, SAMSUNG CSCwhich provided me with the perfect excuse to visit Norway for a couple of weeks… to see the baby (and Norway)! Best friend and her little family live in a port city called Stavanger which is a short 45 minute flight from Oslo.
Seeing as I was hanging out with a new mommy and a 3 month old baby our adventures had to be conducive to a stroller and not too crazy/loud/exhausting for the little one. We decided on a day trip to Flor go Fjaere.

SAM_1065.jpgOur morning started a little soggy with a bit of rain, but our 20 minute boat ride to the island had seating inside, so we stayed nice and dry.go Fjaere and hoped for good weather (since Stavanger is known for being notoriously rainy). Our tour of the island began by splitting into a few smaller groups of 6-8 and touring around the garden island with a guide. The guide tells all about the history of the island, and about the different plants and happenings on the island. As it turns out the island is mainly annual plants so the gardens are replanted each year (after the Norwegian winter), and so the island is always different year to year.

After the tour around the island we were brought inside for lunch created by the chef. The food was delicious and included traditional Norwegian dishes as well as dishes your average American (me) recognized as well. After lunch we were left to our own devices for a few hours which we split between a drizzly walk around the garden and warming up by the fire in the lodge.

While it would have been nice to have 75 and sunshine to enjoy the ‘beach’ of the island, a great time was had by all even on a rainy day. Next time I find myself in Stavanger I will most likely be back to this beautiful little island since its always changing and it is such a beauty!

Travel – Stage Fort Park – Gloucester, MA

Now this may not be much ‘traveling’ for me as I walk here with the dog every single day, but the fact that this place gets SO busy on nice days, weekends, and all summer long makes it a travel ‘spot’ in my book!

Stage Fort Park is a nice size park right on the ocean in Gloucester, MA. The sign in the middle of the park will tell you that it was the site of some of the first establishments in Gloucester in the 1600’s. Today within the park you will find an information center, a snack stand, a playground, basketball courts, a baseball field, tennis courts, bocce ball courts (?), two beaches, a dog park, and a bunch of open space with grass and trees. Sound like your kind of place? How could it not… it literally has something for everyone!

My personal favorites are the dog park, the beaches, and the open space… can you tell I’m one for the outdoors, and not so much the whole idea of organized sports? On a summer day you can find me with our dog Moose at the dog park, he will be the squeaking/barking, or on a blanket in the open space near the ocean reading a book while convincing the dog to take a nap in the sunshine. Its truly a great place to spend a few hours in the summer months!

 

Travel – Flash Back Friday – Rarotonga, Cook Islands

14018_10154825926590319_7239056988822768052_nOur first stop on our adventure to the Cook Islands was to the largest island, Rarotonga (know by the locals as ‘Raro’). We were lucky enough to have a direct flight from Los Angeles on Air New Zealand. If you have never flown with them I suggest you do! Their planes are much more spacious than what I’m used to in the US and Europe, and food, beer and wine is all included even in economy!

After an overnight flight (aka the shortest night sleep of my life) we landed nice and early at 7 am local time. After we were greeted with a lei and a fresh coconut we were shuttled to the hotel. Our first day was not quite the beach weather we expected and we ended up wearing are warmest clothes we had, meaning our workout capris and sweatshirts from our flight. We spent the day walking around the resort and down the beach as far as we could until we ran into a rocky spot where the water came up too high. After situating ourselves in our new home we recovered as best we could from the jet lag with a delicious dinner at the hotel restaurant and drinks by the ocean. We may or may not have been in bed by 8:45pm… Hey we’re on vacation we can do whatever we want right?!

The weather improved dramatically the next day and our week turned into a gorgeous sun filled vacation we had been dreaming of. Most of our mornings were spent on the beach reading and sleeping in the beautiful sunshine. We left our afternoons for our adventures, that included snorkeling, kayaking, hiking, biking, and wandering around town and the Saturday market.

The snorkeling was amazing, as we could literally walk out of our room onto the beach and into the water and immediately be surrounded by coral and fish of all colors and sizes. One day we were SUPER lucky and found a turtle who we followed in circles until he swam away! Another day we stumbled upon these long (2-3 feet) skinny (like a pole skinny) silver fish that swam a few inches from the surface, which when snorkeling is eye height!

Another of our afternoon adventures took us on a hike to explore the volcanic peak of the island. The peak is called Te Rua Manga and is forested and jungle like. It is possible to walk/hike the entire peak as the trail connects the Avatiu Valley with the south side of the isalnd, although doing so will take 3-4 hours. We hiked for two and found some good views, but didn’t want to get caught in the dark because we started later than planned.

Saturday is one of the most lively days on the island because it is market day! Punanga Nui is from 8-12 every Saturday and consists of a plethora of local food stands of every kind, textiles (dresses and beach coverups), and lots of wood carvings of sorts. There is also a main stage on one end where locals perform island dances, even the children perform in ornate beautiful costumes.

The island has a bus system, which is really the only way to get around besides walking or biking. They run very regularly and go either clockwise or anti-clockwise around the island (no counter clockwise in this country). It gets tricky going to dinner, because the anti-clockwise busses only run until 5:30, so unless you want to drive in a giant circle you have to make sure you head out for dinner or drinks before then! With recommendations from the hotel staff and trip advisor reviews we were able to find some great places for food. All of which were family owned hole in the wall places! So much of the food is great because its fresh and they use what is grown on the island!

We didn’t come back with many souvenirs, except for the shells we found, as many shops are very limited when it comes to such things, and are really there to supply the small local population with what they need, and not much else. Which works just as well for me, I’m there for the adventure and the memories!

Travel – Flash Back Friday – Cook Islands

1920019_10154832810945319_5038005353644924903_nFor my twenty fifth birthday, my lovely parents surprised me with a trip of a life time, and told me to literally pick anywhere in the world and my mom and I would go! First off do you know how hard it is to pick ONE place you want to go above all others? Second is this real life?

After much time spent looking at a world map, lists of the top places to visit before you die, and the Pinterest travel section in general, I learned one thing, I’m in love with the beach. So as much fun as a crazy adventure to the mountains of New Zealand or the busy markets of Thailand looked, I choose to save those for another time, and stick with my obsession… Sun and Sand. Once I decided this I enlisted the help of my mom, aka the family travel extraordinaire, to find the most amazing memorable beach for this special trip. After some digging, googling, and deciding the Cook Islands became our destination.

Every time I mention the Cook Islands I get quizzical looks and questions like “what?” and “where the heck is that?”… so here’s a little geography lesson for you.

The Cook Islands are…

  • An island country in the South Pacific Ocean
  • In association with New Zealand
  • Is 15 islands whose total land area is 91 square miles (Rhode Island is 1,045 sq. mi.)
  • Currency is the New Zealand Dollar
  • Languages are English and Cook Islands Māori (an island language)
  • Popular attractions are snorkeling, scuba diving, hiking, and beaches

Our trip took us to the two most popular and biggest islands, Rarotonga and Aitutaki, which were still shockingly TINY! 10392390_10154825913890319_8771140927841328816_nWe ended up buying the trip through Costco, and it was apparently more geared towards honeymooners. We discovered this when we arrived at both of our rooms decorated to the max with fresh flowers and a bottle of wine on ice (not to mention the towel swans in a heart… My mom and I both laughed out loud at that part).

I will separate the islands each into their own posts because otherwise this post will be miles and miles long!

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Travel – Boston House of Blue’s Concert

IMG_6987My husband knows how much I love adventures. So week before last he came home with concert tickets for Friday night at the House of Blues downtown. The concert was the last stop of Vance Joy’s tour.

We drove downtown around 6, plenty early for the 7pm doors opening with Vance Joy expected to hit the stage around 9pm. As soon as we got close driving we noticed a very  long line, like blocks and blocks. We were able to park right next door to the concert hall for $15, SUCH a deal for parking in downtown Boston.  Then we hiked our way to the back of the line which had extended to the freeway overpass (luckily there was still a giant sidewalk for the line). Right at 7 the line started moving and we got in to the building within 15 minutes!

Once we walked in the door we realized why on earth people were lined up SO early. Because its all general admission (by floor) and none of the floors are slanted to provide people not on the railing a decent view. We quickly realized that standing behind people at the railing wasn’t going to be much fun, and opted to sit on the floor near a bulk head in the railing, so we were on the rail but looking through the railing.

We found ourselves some drinks and enjoyed the show. The first two opening acts were a singer, Jamie Lawson, and a band, Blind Pilot, that I had never heard of. BIMG_6965oth were surprisingly good and have since been added to my iTunes. By the time Vance Joy came on we were very glad we chose to sit, as it was already 9:30 aka we would have been standing for over 2 hours before the main act even started! He was a very good performer (not all musician are) and his banter between songs was made much more amusing by his fun Australian accent.
After his regular set and two encores it was official over and WAY past my bed time! A good night in the books for sure! If your planning to see a concert at the House of Blues in Boston either get their REALLY early to line up, or sit on the ground by the bulk head later and care less about how dirty your pants get and how not tired your legs are (ha!).

Travel – Flack Back Friday to Day Two in Chicago

10007532_10153975463360319_343497522_nOur second day in Chicago we went the ultimate tourist route and decided to hit Wriggly 1798078_10153970357780319_1660581382_n1604752_10153970359435319_1577569557_nField, the Lincoln Park Zoo, and Willis Tower (aka Sears Tower).
We adventured to Wriggly field knowing full well it wasn’t open, considering it was NOT spring and roughly 25 degrees outside. But even seeing the stadium from the outside was pretty cool. They have all kinds of banners and signs and statues around. And it was kind of nice that we were the only ones around

Next was onto the Lincoln Park Zoo, which we actually kind of stumbled upon. I had convinced the boyfriend to go for a walk even though it was freezing. We happened upon the zoo and it was FREE! Not expecting much for a free zoo, we were throughly impressed! All kinds of animals from Moneys, to zebras, to camels to lions were all there and doing the animal things that they do!

In the afternoon we met up with our Chicagoan  friends (who happen to be Californians) to go to the Sears *Willis* Tower. They had been living in the area for over a year and still hadn’t been so they joined in the  tourist adventure to check it off their Chicago Bucket List.

After standing in line for quite some time we finally made it to the front entrance where you take an elevator to the top. Before we went we heard rumors that you could feel the building move with the wind because of how tall it is. This is TRUE, now its not like an earthquake movement, but it is defiantly not a stable ground. The view is amazing, even on a cloudy day, and the ‘glass’ boxes sticking out from the building are pretty freaking cool! (or scary if you don’t like heights).

To complete our adventurous day, we decided to find some Mexican food for dinner, seeing as our Chicagoan friends has told us multiple times how much they miss good 1911748_10153968159655319_821056199_nMexican food from California. I put my best yelp-ing foot forward and found us Blue Agave Tequila Bar & Restaurant, which was near our hotel and had decent to good reviews.
We all figured we might as well take a chance since we all love Mexican food and how bad can you really mess up chicken, rice, beans and tortillas? At the restaurant we found amazing (and Cheap) Margaritas and delicious Mexican food of all kinds. We all ordered something different and ended up with at least one bite from each plate. This has now become our friends go to spot for Mexican food in Chicago… guess its alway worth it to take a chance!

Travel – Flack Back Friday to Day One in Chicago

I may not currently have any adventures planned, but I have many past adventures that I think deserve a space on my blog since they each change how I see and experience the world… So to include them I will be including them in a Flack Back Friday Travels series.

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Getting from Boston to Chicago may be one of the easiest flight with all of the flight choices and quick flight time! An added bonus is that my college roommate happens to live just outside of the city!

Once we landed we took in Uber to our hotel downtown, which ended up being in a great location ( one never knows when to think something randomly off at Expedia ha). Our 1381304_10153962032440319_152899030_nhotel, Hotel Indigo Downtown Gold Coast, was cute and charming and even dog friendly although we didn’t bring moose. After we dropped our bags and had a cup of  coffee (love the Keurig in the room touch!) it was time for an adventure!

Feeling motivated and ready to stretch our legs after flight we decided to walk down to “The Bean”. On our way there (it wasn’t as close as we thought…. read miles and miles of walking) we saw a good deal of the city and the river! Of course we had to stop and take pictures all along the way because it was so sunny and pretty and the buildings were amazing. Yes I was one of those tourists that kept looking up at the buildings instead of watching where I was going. Thankfully the hubby and friend didn’t let me walk into any poles!1911750_10153961040185319_270973787_n

As we were walking suddenly the sea of buildings opened up and there it was the giant shiny “Bean”in the middle of Millennium Park. Now the bean is actually called Cloud Gate but to be honest all I can see is a bean! It is quite a site to see given its size and is such a different way to ‘see’ the city as it is essentially a mirror.

After many pictures and muck gawking we headed back to the hotel to freshen up and 1920504_10153962031715319_974888984_nchange for dinner and drinks with our favorite newlywed couple! We celebrated our first night true Chicago-ian (?) style with deep dish pizza and drinks. Who knew a tiny pizza could not only feed four of us but stuff us so much that we had to say no to dessert! The details and review of our pizza place will be saved for another post, but apparently there is a long standing debate of which deep dish pizza is better in Chicago… Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria and Giordano’s Pizzeria