U.S. Road Trip Destination 7: The Redwoods

Being straightforward with all of you, I admittedly had a little wine hangover from Napa when we arrived at Redwood National Park. The wine may have caused a headache, but it didn't distract from all of the beauty in front of us. For those of you who haven't been or aren't sure what the redwoods are, they are known to be the tallest trees on earth! Giants if you will. Guinness book of world records winning bragging right champions. Awesome freaks of nature. They make you feel so small in their enormous branches.

As massive statement pieces of earth that feel prehistoric and Jurassic Park-like, they mean business and you should feel lucky to be in their presence. Pretending I was Dr. Ellie Sattler for a hot minute, I secretly wanted Chris to unexpectedly peek out from behind a fern and say "clever girl.." but a girl can't have everything.

We didn't do much other than a lot of ooohing and ahhhing, particularly at the fallen tree trunks that revealed their crazy roots! Every piece to the redwood puzzle was visually appealing and an unexpected surprise. It was a quick stop, but a memory that will last forever. Stay tuned for our final destination! 

Hope you're having a great day!

U.S. Road Trip Destination 6: Napa Valley

Ah yes, Napa Valley. My favorite part of the trip and what I've been waiting to share with everyone. As another first time experience, Napa has been up against some hype from family and friends. And why wouldn't it be? Wine tasting in vineyards in sunny weather amongst some of the best restaurants in the business? Yes please. I will taste all of the wines and eat all of the foods.

To start, I'd been really excited to stay at Harvest Inn in St. Helena after we booked it a few months ago, and it lived up to its expectation. Full of lush greenery, it was a very peaceful place to stay and just felt very comfortable. We were lucky that the adult pool was right outside of our room, making everything all the more convenient and slightly subtracting the paleness from this transparent body of mine.

On our first day we had lunch at Cook, and then visited Turnbull, the winery a friend of ours used to work for. Cook was simply delicious and Chris and I splurged a bit with 2 glasses of rosé and a glorious salad to start. He had the hanger steak (tomatoes were killer fresh!) and I had the halibut risotto. Plates were cleared and we were two happy travelers.

We had a bit of a unique experience in Napa, given that Chris's good friend David Kasper is the sommelier  for Thomas Keller's amazing Bouchon. He not only knew the ins and outs of the Napa culture, but he also knew a thing or two about wine and then some. He was pretty much our tour guide and responsible for all the fun we had and the knowledge we gained. 

To start our day, we stopped in at Bouchon bakery where we picked up coffee and a few baked goods. I opted for the Almond Croissant and a few Macarons (as a souvenir - I didn't take it all down at once, guys) to prime our stomachs for the wine and food that we would be consuming all day. David had already kindly set up a few tastings for our arrival, and we very thankfully followed his lead. 

Our first stop was at Colgin, a very special winery that exists in a private gated off chateau. We were given a tour of owner's wine cellar that included bottles of wine dating back to 1887. While everyone was admiring the types of wine and the history, I was admittedly critiquing the label designs and taking note of classic french fonts. After, we walked upstairs into a dining room, and tried three wines: 1. 2005 Tychson Hill  2. 2012 Tychson Hill 3. 2012 Cariad. My favorite by far was the 2005 Tychson Hill.

I listened intently as wine lingo was thrown around while I sipped and munched on crackers, nodding in agreement to things that I knew little about.

Our next stop was at Scarecrow, a very intimate appointment made by David where we entered the private residence of Bret Lopez and his wife Mimi DeBlasio. We were fortunate enough to share a bottle of the 2011 Scarecrow while listening firsthand to Bret talk about the J.J. Cohn Estate and all of the history leading up to the winery today. You'll note that Scarecrow is a nod to J.J. Cohn's production of the The Wizard of Oz while he worked for MGM. Their second wine follows suit, called M. Étain, french for Tin Man. They left us with parting gifts - a bottle of M. Étain and copies of Bret's photography books, titled Floral and Fungi, which are composed of stunning photographs taken within walking distance of the estate.

Kindred spirits, indeed, and an experience I will never forget. 

That night we had a gluttonous dinner at Bouchon, feasting on various items off the menu like truffle chicken, melon salad, and a variety of other delectable dishes. Bouchon is wonderful and the team knows what's up, and now they especially know our love for food, since we cleaned all of the plates.


I will say that our experience was quite different than the recommendations of wineries I received from friends, we were lucky enough to go the exclusive route. My next visit to Napa I hope to include wineries like Opus One and Silver Oak which I hear are so beautiful. If you have anything to share about wine, please let me know!

For now, onward to our final destination, the Redwoods!

U.S. Road Trip Destination 5: San Francisco


Hey everyone! Time for the lowdown on our next destination, San Francisco. Big Sur was gorgeous, but it was time for Chris and I to experience a little city life. I'd never been to San Fran, so I was pumped to check it out. Though we only had 2 days, it gave us enough time to sneak in a good glimpse of what west coast city life has to offer.

As an SPG card member, I'd accumulated quite a few points that we used for two nights at the Westin St. Francis. The Westin was a really beautiful hotel, however I will say that it's in the middle of EVERYTHING and fighting through traffic to valet the car was not the most fun I've ever had. It did offer us a great spot to pivot from, going everywhere from the Golden Gate Bridge to Haight Street to bars and restaurants.

As a first timer, a few touristy things were in order. Chris and I walked from our hotel past Lombard Street (gorgeous!) to Fisherman's Wharf, spent the day looking at sea lions, boats and fellow tourists - and then walked to the Golden Gate Bridge near Presidio.

Let's pause here and let me say that I do not recommend this walk.

As a Chicago native flatlander, my little feet were in shock trekking up the hills to get through Nob Hill to the wharf. But I kept looking at it positively. Since I'd spent so much time sitting in the car, and my ass had become one with the seat, that work out was well overdo. I do recommend strolling through Nob Hill as it is unbelievably charming and rich with beautiful homes and florals to die for. Lombard street was a surprise for me, we didn't mean to walk past it but fortunately we did. Hello Hydrangeas, my most favorite flower and just such a happy place! That night we stopped by Trick Dog, which is a lively happening place and tons of fun. If I was still 25 and could hold my liquor, I probably would've been suckered into a 3am-I'm-on-a-mission-to-get-wasted kinda night. Alas, we had a few and I was all tuckered out and ready for bed. 

The following morning we started out at Blue Bottle coffee in Mint plaza, their cappuccinos are delightful! The most perfect cap I've ever had and the breakfast sandwich was delicious. Since we were in the mood to hunt for treasure, we headed to Haight Street and perused the streets for unique gems. Other than getting ice-cream at Ben and Jerry's (duh, it was national ice cream day, aka the perfect excuse to take down a 2 scoop waffle cone) I wasn't in the mood to blow a bunch of cash. I loved a lot of the stores on the street, particularly X Generation where they had a unique assortment of rings for around $7. 

That night, we were supposed to head to dinner at RN74, but last minute I wasn't feeling well at all (perhaps it was the ice cream overdose), so we didn't make it, and went to a smaller restaurant close by the hotel instead. However, if you do go to San Fran, this place is known for their extensive wine list. I was also eyeing Octavia, because the food looks amazing and the ambiance looks so cozy and heart warming.

Overall a great experience. I generally love the look and feel of San Fran. Bright whites, pale pinks and mint take over this very layered city. It's an adorable place that has far more to offer than we experienced. And now, onward from San Fran to Napa Valley.

Do you guys have any other recommendations for the next time I visit? Would love to hear! Hope your week is going well!

U.S. Road Trip Destination 4: Big Sur and Carmel

Carmel Alley

Carmel Alley

We left Joshua Tree and continued on to Big Sur and Carmel-by-the-sea. 

Big Sur is one hell of a showstopper. And by showstopper I mean car stopper, because we stopped from every single point we possibly could to soak this baby in. Our favorite and the best spot to stop was Bixby Bridge, you can see a wide view of everything. My photos are a very poor representation of what we saw – the beauty of Big Sur comes from the movement of the waves, the glistening of the light, the nuances that live in the surrounding nature. (Ya, I'm a poet now, what?)  But yes, it's so very magical and something I'll never forget. If you have time, stop at Rocky Point Restaurant and eat outside. Sitting next to the the blue water and having a nice lunch doesn't happen every day.

That night, we camped at Big Sir Campground & Cabins, which was quite lovely.  They had showers, a communal bathroom, and we were surrounded by lots of fun neighbors. It cost us $60 for the night, better than spending more for a hotel room. Plus, the experience was beautiful, peaceful and totally calming. They have numbered spots for the campers and you can rent a spot or a cabin for night. The cabins are pricier, one for the night was $228.

In the morning, we spent a day shopping at the village in Carmel which is about a half hour north of Big Sur. If you've never been to Carmel, you must go. It's so charming! Very European-esque with adorable storefronts and inviting alleyways that lead to coffee houses. I picked up a little treat from Cottage of Sweets, but that was my only souvenir. I'd love to have a vacation home there one day – dream goals! But yes, probably one of the cutest towns I've ever been to.

Last thought, you MUST see the sunset in this area at some point!! We unfortunately had cloudy skies, but it's what everyone raves about. That and the 17 mile drive, another common activity to do in the area.

That's it for now, is there anything else you've done in this area that I missed? Let me know!

U.S. Road Trip Destination 3: Joshua Tree


From Arizona, we made a stop at Joshua Tree in California. At first, I was very apprehensive. It was 100 degrees, the road we drove on to get to the park was extremely windy and made me nauseous, and the insect situation was out of control. Whenever we stopped the car, they bombarded us at full speed in swarms. It wasn't until we arrived at the rocks that Chris and I got out of the car and began to explore.

Guys, Joshua Tree ended up being my favorite so far. You feel like you're roaming around on another planet because that's how interesting and unusual it is. The sky looks like it's photoshopped into the scene because it was perfectly clear and the blue was one solid color. But I promise, no photo editing at all! These come to you non-filtered and it's pretty amazing. 

I don't have much advice for this particular stop other than you should go, and don't be fooled by the dry lands. There's a lot to see and the rocks become an adult jungle gym that you can play on. They also look like huge sugar cookies (see photo below) when shot just right. Enjoy the pics and hope you're having a great week!