Exploring our state: Malibu, Hollywood, and Venice Beach

Since moving to California last year, I’ve jumped at the opportunity to explore more of our new state. Ollie and I spent a sunny weekend in July checking out Malibu, Hollywood, and Venice Beach (finally utilizing our proximity to LA). Although they were all quite touristy, I still wanted to see what the hype was about at least once. We strolled along Malibu Pier, the Walk of Fame, and Venice Beach. The color of the water in Malibu took my breath away. Getting to see the Harry Potter square in Hollywood was so much fun since I’m such a huge fan. And even though I wasn’t too impressed by Venice Beach, it is pretty famous and I’m glad I got to experience it. Here are some snaps from the weekend… I love you California!

Check out the vlog here: Malibu, Hollywood, and Venice Beach

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How to Spend a Layover in Dallas

Dallas Fort Worth is a busy airport hosting a slue of connecting flights. Ollie and I had a stop there on our flight from Chicago to San Diego and missed our connection due to maintenance issues and a flight delay in the windy city. We decided to make a day out of our layover, since neither of us had been to Texas before. We arrived at our hotel around 11 pm and were out the door by 10 am the following morning (we wanted to get a good nights rest). We had to head back to the airport at 2:30, which gave us about 4 solid hours to explore Dallas.

Our first stop was ATT Stadium, home of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys. It is located about 25 minutes outside the city center.  It cost  ~$17 to do a self-guided tour which gives you access to the field, players and cheerleaders locker rooms, post game interview room, and bars that only the fans with private suites get to use. You can also do a VIP Tour, Art Tour, and more. We opted to do the self-guided tour so we could go at our own pace and not be stuck with a crowd. We are not Cowboys fans, but that didn’t make the tour any less fun. The stadium is very impressive, and I would recommend it to anyone slightly interested in sports. The huge screen is so amazing to see in person! You also can’t beat being able to run around on a real NFL field.

I’m a sucker for views, which led us to our next stop–Reunion Tower. It is in the city and offers a great view of the skyline. There is a rotating bar/cafe at the top where we passed time enjoying a few beers. Reunion Tower entrance is also ~$17. They have interactive TVs at the top to show you the highlights of the city and give some information about the assassination of JFK. Once we noticed how close we were to that infamous block, we knew we would have to head over to check it out before leaving for the airport (it was a 10 minute walk to the site). We would have gone into the museum if we had some extra time, but we at least got to see the X’s on the ground where the shots hit the president. It was crazy to stumble upon something so historic during our unexpected layover.

Our short time in Dallas was the perfect way to wait for a flight, mixing excitement, relaxation, and history. I definitely recommend getting out of the airport and checking out this city if you have a few hours to spare on a layover!

Check out the Dallas vlog here

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Joshua Tree National Park Photo Diary

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And California continues to impress.

Jasna and I decided to take the scenic route back to San Diego after attending Coachella, and it doesn’t get much better than road tripping through a national park with your bestie! We had both wanted to visit Joshua Tree for quite some time, and it did not disappoint.

Here’s how we spent a few hours exploring (but there is so much more to do if you have a longer amount of time): Our first stop was the Cholla Cactus garden. They were so unique and beautiful. We also had fun wandering around on the deserted street-hardly any cars came through this area. Then we made our way to the Oasis Visitor Center, which I’m very happy we did. Planning for the madness that is Coachella did not leave either of us with much time to plan our day in Joshua Tree. While at the visitor center, they showed us a couple must sees that we would have regretfully missed out on otherwise. We stopped at Skull Rock which blew us both away! I had to get a mature picture of me picking its nose. Then we continued the drive to Keys View. From here you can see Mexico, Palm Springs, the Salton Sea, snow covered mountains, and the San Andreas fault. I had to get the map out to try and figure out where exactly the fault line was, but it was so exhilarating being so close to it! The end of our drive was through tree-lined winding roads where we stopped for some last minute pictures.

I loved every minute we spent in Joshua Tree National Park- it’s the perfect combination of strange and stunning.

Ireland Photo Diary

One year of marriage seemed like a good time to throw it back to our long weekend in Ireland where we got engaged! Endless amounts of Guinness, driving through the beautiful countryside, hanging out in cemeteries, kissing the Blarney Stone… I definitely miss exploring this country and can’t wait to get back. I won’t say more, I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves 🙂

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Get (Dis)Connected

Not being able to connect to wifi for any extended period time seems crazy and/or impossible in the world we live in today. Our smart phones have become an extension of our bodies. We are constantly texting, instagramming, facebooking, snap chatting, emailing, “connecting.” But it turns out when you spend 3 days on a volcanic island in the middle of a lake in the middle of a third world country in Central America (cue Isla de Ometepe in Nicaragua), the wifi connection isn’t too great. In fact, it’s so bad that the hostel we stayed in didn’t even bother with it. So after panicking about how I would survive without internet connection for that long, I decided to put away my (now useless) phone and just live. My time on Ometepe ended up being the best part of my trip to Nicaragua and also the most vivid in my memory.

Here’s what you do when you can’t be on your phone: you take the long way to get somewhere, passing tobacco fields and waving to passersby along the way; you rope swing into Ojo de Agua mineral pool and feel no rush to ever leave; you drink beers in the top of a treehouse while you share stories, laughs, and views of the sunset with new friends; you spend hours at an organic restaurant sampling as much of the menu as you can, relishing in the flavors; you play pool again and again even though you’re really bad at pool, but it’s somehow fun; you eat breakfast and dinner with everyone at a big table and actually have conversations instead of hiding on your phone. I talked to more people while I stayed on Ometepe than I did on the rest of my trip combined. It left me feeling truly connected during my time there, which is ironic because it’s the longest I’ve ever been disconnected.

I took away an important travel lesson after that experience about how important it is to disconnect from our smart phones in order to really connect with the people and places around us. As hesitant as I was at the beginning, and as uncomfortable or unentertaining I thought it might be, it ended up being a huge blessing. I left feeling very grateful for my 3, wifi-less days on Ometepe. Here are some photos I took on the island–which I couldn’t share on the internet until days later 😉 (how amazing is that sunset?!?!)

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Henry VIII Hot Spots in London and Beyond

You can thank The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory for this post. My strange fascination with Henry VIII all began after reading this book back in high school. And when I lived in London last year, I couldn’t help but check out as many places as possible that had anything to do with this infamous king. His ego was unparalleled, and his decisions resulted from a mixture of lust and testosterone–I mean, he created The Church of England just so he could “legally” divorce his saint of a wife for a younger woman (who he would later behead just so he could marry yet another woman). You may have heard the jingle about his six wives: divorced, beheaded, died; divorced, beheaded, survived. It’s crazy to think that all this actually went down and that hundreds of years later we can see the artifacts and visit the castles that remain as proof.

  • Hampton Court Palace: perhaps the most important place you can visit on your hunt for Henry VIII. It belonged to Thomas Wolsey (Henry’s chief minister), who had no choice but to “gift” the palace to the king once the he decided he wanted it–or his life would be ruined. Being king means you can have anything (and anyone) you want, and when Henry saw this palace, he had to have it for himself. In these walls, Anne Boleyn romanced her way to the very top, wreaking havoc and scandal along the way (while Henry’s first wife Catherine of Aragon sat in her room for years refusing to leave). You get to stand in the Great Hall, where all the entertaining and flirting occurred (you can even sit at the head of the table in the chairs the king and queen sat in!). In this room you also see the redecorating Anne did once becoming Queen. For each of his wives, Henry devoted a room in the palace to their marriage. It made for a very interesting tour and made me wonder how these women felt seeing remnants of his past marriages throughout their home. They probably didn’t care–they were the ultimate gold diggers (why else would you marry a man who had divorced and beheaded previous wives? Because he’s the King of England, that’s why). Being in the palace where so much scandalous history occurred was an experience that is hard to put into words. It’s a place worth visiting whether you’re a tourist or a history buff in-the-making.

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  • The Tower of London: The Tower has a lot more to offer than just Henry VIII history (the Crown Jewels for example). That being said, it houses some very important pieces to see if you are at all intrigued by Henry’s legacy. It is the place where Anne Boleyn was locked up and subsequently beheaded for her crime (a made up crime in my opinion because Henry was desiring a different woman). You can walk through the very room in the tower that held her prisoner and see the scratches on the walls from prisoners before and after her time. You see the spot within the Tower walls where the beheading occurred and can also view the executioner’s ax. You then can see the Chapel in which she and others that were executed are buried. In addition you will find the king’s collection of armor (and therefore see how fat he became over the years). Visiting the Tower of London satisfied my need to experience more of Henry’s world.

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If I had to pick one photo to describe Henry VIII, this would be it. Who would ever need armor this big for that part of their body? It is living proof of his huge ego. He was obviously trying to make up for something–perhaps the fact that he could not produce a healthy male heir to the throne (despite trying with 6 different wives).

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  • Cambridge University: The King’s College Chapel at Cambridge was sadly under construction when I visited. It houses the choir screen engraved with Henry and Anne’s initials, and the meaning of its carvings are an item of debate among scholars. I’m so sad I couldn’t see it with my own eyes as further proof of their scandalous and history-changing marriage.
  • Other artifacts are housed in the British Library, the V&A Museum, Oxford University, St. James Palace, Hever Castle and more.

Beginner’s Guide to Hiking San Diego

Once we made the move from Indiana to San Diego, I knew I wanted to get involved with all the hiking in the area. It was a little overwhelming trying to figure out where to hike first- there are many great options! So I’ve put together my top 3 picks for beginners-whether you are new to SoCal, spending time here on vacation, or just want to start hiking 🙂

  1. Torrey Pines State Reserve in La Jolla: I listed this first because it is the easiest of the 3 and requires the least amount of fitness. It is also right on the coast and gives you the beachy vibe you think of when you picture San Diego-crashing waves, sand, ocean views. Be prepared to pay for parking (about $15). Once you do, drive all the way up to the parking lots at the top. Otherwise you have to walk all the way up to the trail entrance, which will add on more time and distance with no views. One thing I like about this hike is there’s a variety of trails to choose from. You can make it a long hike and check out them all, or you can make it short and just do one or two. A con of this hike: narrow, crowded trails. Totally worth the views though, even on an overcast day!

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2. Cowles Mountain: Moving from the beach to the mountains. This trail is a bit more challenging but can still be done with little fitness preparation. I love this hike because the views at the top are breathtaking. You see lakes, the ocean, more mountains, downtown San Diego, and even Mexico. It is also relatively quick and easy despite being 95% uphill. It takes about 30 minutes to make it to the summit, and on this hike we always see old people (if they can do it we can do it!). There are different sides you can hike up, but I would recommend starting at the entrance at Navajo Road and Golfcrest Drive. This trail is a bit more windy and not as steep. You also get great views all the way which you don’t get if you hike up the other side. There is a cute cafe across the road if you need a quick coffee or acai bowl to energize you before embarking. Street parking is free in this residential area. Don’t forget to bring lots of water!

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3. Mount Woodson Trail to Potato Chip Rock: I would not recommend this hike without having a decent level of fitness. It takes about 4 hours, and is straight incline (think stepping up rocks made into natural stairs) for about an hour of it. You will definitely feel a sense of accomplishment once you make it to the top and will be rewarded by seeing the famous Potato Chip Rock. If you want a photo, the wait is usually at least 30 minutes unless you go at a really slow time. It’s totally worth it though to have the awesome picture, and it’s a huge adrenaline rush having to leap onto the rock. You want to start this hike around 6 or 7 AM (any later and you will be dealing with a really hot sun). Bring A LOT of water and some protein bars to eat at the top before making your way down. You do have to pay for parking (about $5) to get to the trail entrance.

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What other San Diego hikes are your favorite?