You're never too old

Hi! How is everyone? I’ve managed to catch some sort of weird coughy/snotty/my-body-hurts-all-the-time thing, but other than that, life has been swell. On Tuesday some friends and I got paid to eat cupcakes and the weekend prior we visited Big Bear. So everything the past week has tasted like buttercream, campfires, and the Lumineers. 

After we graduated JMU, a good chunk of my fellow classmates moved out to Los Angeles to pursue big dreams and eat lots of tacos. Though I didn’t know many of them back then, the intimidation of a new city drew everyone closer together. It’s such a delight to have them around; whenever I am feeling nostalgic for the days of dining plans, syllabi, and four locos (except I am never nostalgic for a four loco), they are just a stone’s throw away, ready to sip cheap wine and reminisce over the frozen yogurt machines. 

One of these friends (lil Kris Belskey! Basketball player and comedienne and dog-owner extraordinaire!) gathered us all out to Big Bear to celebrate her 26th birthday. If you remember, I like Big Bear a lot. It's a fascinating little town; various climates and bits of foliage all blend together, creating a desert/forest combo like straight out of The Land Before Time. As you head further into the mountains, the Joshua trees and little shrubs start to disappear, and you begin brushing against the pine trees and various campgrounds. 

Our arrival was loud and vibrant. We tore through the house like children, dropping out Chex Mix and own the prowl for the best beds. Birthday girl and her girlfriend got the master suite, obviously, and then a few lucky folks claimed the other bedrooms. A few girlfriend ands I myself were happy to grab the bunk bed room, mostly because it made us feel like Annie and Hallie à la Parent Trap.

And like the children we were in college, we busted out the Bud Lights and solo cups, reviewing the established set of rules for Beer Olympics and drawing names to coordinate teams. The cookie cake and piñata were set to the side, as we weren't animals, and didn’t want to dive headfirst into everything at once.

To stretch our legs and burn our beer calories, we set off on a two mile walk, loaded down with some combination of dog/camera/road beer. If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t take a road beer with you on a walk, I highly recommend you give it a try! I have very fond memories of my dad and uncles doing this on our walks from the beach house to the shore, saying that they were grabbing a "roadie" as if it were as necessary as sunscreen. It’s very nice to crunch through the woods and sip something wheat-y and toast-y (not Bud Light), especially when you’re wearing a flannel. Beer+woods+flannel are three peas in a pod, much like the Hogwarts trio or Destiny's Child.

Back at the house we climbed onto the railings for impromptu photoshoots, then jumped to the ground to chase the dogs and blow raspberries on their bellies. We were definitely not acting our age (or where we?!!) as we flipped red solo cups onto the table, blew out the candles of a chocolate chip cookie cake, and destroyed a piñata in an effort to get to a handful of Reese’s eggs. 

To really top off this inner child/college student weekend, we did breakfast the next day with Cracker Barrel-style pancakes drenched in Mrs. Butterworth’s, followed by an easter egg hunt in the front yard. We then cleaned the house and took all of our trash and recyclables the local center. Yay for responsibility! That night I even paid my credit card bill and organized the pantry. A slow ease back into 25.

I’ve been trying to understand this “adulthood” thing. When I was younger, I thought that meant drinking wine, paying bills, and getting married. So far I’ve done one of those things, about 75% of the other, and none of the last one. I thought I might have a real person job and lots and lots of clarity. 

But that hasn’t been the case. I’ve sat on the steps of my apartment in tears, wondering who I was and what on earth I was doing in LA. It got so bad that I started listening to Stressed Out by Twenty One Pilots and felt like “it got me.” Luckily, my bff Alex Testere came along and reminded me that there was always Rilo Kiley's A Better Son/Daughter.  But then if I really want water show to get going, I'll just put on Lippy Kids by Elbow. 

So maybe I didn’t go to Big Bear. Maybe I went to Neverland and was too distracted by candy and friends and wine to see any of the mermaids/pirates/lost boys. I stopped worrying about the definition of adulthood and listened to the inner-nine-year-old who was screaming, “REMEMBER WHEN YOU USED TO GIVE ME FRUIT ROLL UPS AND WE WOULD PLAY WITH FELT AND CHASE STUFF? WHAT HAPPENED TO THAT GIRL. I LIKED HER.”

I’ll have to remember to feed her more often. 

Stay cozy friends! Go eat a fruit roll up or these eggo-waffle-toast guys. 

Journey up the Pacific coast, part three

Welcome to the final installation of my PNW road trip series!! The beginning of an end, AKA the moment where we catch a glimpse of the final destination and quietly slide it under the bed alongside our plans to stop eating sugar and drinking during the week. We made the most of it, indulging in midnight van shenanigans, lust-worthy donuts, and 70s motels.

Seattle

Before this trip, I knew Seattle as the place where Tom Hanks went to feel very melancholy. It looked both wet and romantic, like the sort of place you would go to escape to with your lover when you were both faking sick or having a Moonrise Kingdom episode. If I lived in Seattle,  I'd spend the winter huddled up at home, pouring wine into a fat pot of soup. Summertime would be spent lounging on the beach in a gray sweatshirt. 

Ariel and I plotted an entire day in Seattle, beginning with the Pike Place Market. Pike Place is a feast in every definition of the word; there are baby chocolate cheesecakes, tubes of lavender honey, tortilla chips, Washington apples, blood orange vinegars, ponchikis, freshly shucked oysters, small cups of green tea, wax-wrapped smoked salmon, and pickles. The people are just as diverse, with toddlers sucking on crusts of sourdough and old women tucking fresh cheese in their canvas bags, nestled alongside a box of water crackers. 

We walked through tea shops and a whiskey distillery that looked like a guerilla advertisement for flannel. In the evening there was demolishing Brooklyn-style pizza at Delancey, spying on swing dancing classes, and falling asleep on the ferry ride home. If our beanies and ponchos did anything to make us look like Seattle locals, the vibe was quickly wiped away by the amount of times I said, "WOAH, LOOK AT THAT." I also took several pictures of strangers.

Seattle to Portland

Driving to Portland from Seattle was bizarre. Often times when I'm on roadtrips, the landscapes will start to remind me of past places; I've seen bits and pieces of Virginia in California, New York in Tennessee, la-de-da, etc, etc. And I know that sounds weird because "Uh, Amanda, the United States has more stuff than the menu at the Cheesecake Factory," but it does and just trust me on it. The drive to Portland had that effect—the vastness reminded me of the 5 or driving through the flatter parts of Virginia, but then there would be a giant mountain rising in the distance. Just one.

Portland was like that too; nature was everywhere! Our first morning we sought out to find a hike, and were able to find one at Forest Park only ten minutes from our host's Victorian-style home. Like aforementioned parts of Oregon, it was green and alive, wet yet refreshing.

After our hike, we considered ourselves good and exercised, and well in need of a donut. We went to Blue Star Donuts, a Portland favorite with options such as Rosemary Basil, Pistachio Piña Colada, and Valhorna Chocolate Crunch.  It was hard to settle on just one, and even harder to turn down the caravan of food trucks that stretched outside the street.

Before this trip I couldn't help but wonder, "Will Portland match up to Portlandia's stereotypes???" And in some ways, yes. The weather was abnormally gorgeous, and the streets of Downtown Portland were packed with families and strange bikes couples and clowns. It might have been an exceptional day,  due to the weather all, but Ariel and I wondered, "Does anyone here actually have jobs??" Maybe they all work as clowns and donut-sellers. 

One of my favorite parts of traveling is crashing on other people's couches. We stayed with Drew, an ex-boyfriend's best friend (which could have been awkward but we're all grown-ups here). After he got off work, the three of us met an Asian-comfort food restaurant, where we had Sapporos, pumpkin curry, dumplings, and some very spicy things that I cannot remove. On the other side of our table, two very tall Asian men ate from a package of double-stuf oreos. The children behind us drummed with their chopsticks and a girl's night out shrieked from the next room.

In the evening, we talked about our astrological signs in Drew's car-turned-sometimes-a-house. He's well-traveled, and before moving to Portland studied art in Cincinnati and backpacked through the California mountains. The three of us laughed in that van until we cried; glossing the windows with the heat of our breath as if we were two horny sophomores. 

"Thank you so much," Ariel and I repeated as we stretched out over the spare mattress later that eve. 

"It's no problem," Drew said. "I remember what it was like to be a traveler. I know how important a warm bed can be."

Portland to Redding

When you're traveling alone, you often wake up deep with introspection. It's strange to wake in a new place every morning, and you must gather your bearings upon peeling back the blanket. But traveling with Ariel wasn't like that; when I woke up I knew exactly where I was, feeling excited and nurtured. The morning we left Portland was the eleventh day of our journey, and we were learning one another's patterns. She was the better driver, I was good at finding restaurants. She could calm me down if I could get us a place to sleep.

And that day to Redding was reserved purely for driving. There wasn't much to do in Redding, and it was to be the only night we would stay in a hotel. After eight hours of driving, this was a welcome site. 

If I had a Sound of Music-style list of favorite things, hotel rooms would near the tippy top. They're one of the coziest places in the entire world, offering fresh sheets and individually-wrapped bars of soap. You can make subpar coffee without leaving your room! There is wi-fi! There is a lobby with occasional cookies! It's Disneyland!!!! (That is, for someone who really likes to not clean/not make the bed/eat a dinner of vending machine snacks and cheap booze/watch sex and the city reruns.)

And the only thing better than a hotel is a 70s-style hotel, especially one called the Thunderbird Lodge. There's just something about a neon sign off a California highway that makes you feel like you've made it. We ditched looking for Redding's top restaurant for the simplicity of walking across the street to a sports bar $3 Bud Light. We ate Newman's Ranch dressing on a bed of romaine, white bread painted in garlic butter, and watery chili. It was fucking delicious.

Because by that point, and maybe for most of the trip, it was never about finding the best donuts or the famous tasting. It was about trying something new and kind of scary with a friend. I've done a lot of road trips alone, and while that has its own rewards, there is little to rival mutual excitement over hot water and cheap beer. 

Ariel and I embarked on this trek out of shared mindset for adventure, which ultimately fueled us to hop around the various states like a non-murdering Thelma and Louise. We divided the wheat thins, gas prices, and days of DD-ing up as amicably as we had offered one another drunk pizza rolls in our college days. We were SO ABUNDANT, and not with things (you gotta travel light when you're in VW bug), but with memories and gratitude. 

That night, we walked across the rainy street and nestled into the warm, white hotel sheets to watch Netflix and cuddle. We didn't have the wisdom of a Redding-native, but for the night, it was perfect.

Redding to Solvang

At this point the roads began to feel familiar. We were migrating back to Southern California, and greeting all the diversity along the way. In this last leg, we saw fields of farmland, vineyards, mountains, snow, cacti, Joshua trees, rain, rolling hills, fog and even a volcano. It was like Mother Nature looked down at us and shouted, "DID I MISS ANYTHING?? ARE YOU SURE? WELL JUST IN CASE..."

Our hosts that evening were my good friends, Kaitlyn and Dave, and Dave's parents Molly and Rick. It was a Sunday eve, and we ate cozy food: cornbread, chili with red beans, and chocolate.  After the dishes were placed in the washer, the four us kids sipped wine while laying by the fire, and fell asleep before 10. 

Solvang to LA

And we came back! All in one piece and slightly freaking out because our jobs were no longer to find hikes and restaurants and use hotspots, but to drip slowly back into the real world where we had to remember the correct day of the week. We were fat with memories and wine and McDonald's Egg McMuffins (which we ate more than twice or three times on this trip...). *cue angel emoji*

Do you remember feeling slightly bummed when you came back to 3rd grade after a week in grandma's Floridian condo? Yeah, that feeling came back. Because when you're out venturing the unknown, it feels as if anything is possible. The days feel longer because there is no routine, only surprises. 

Maybe I like road trips because it's not very hard to feel curious. Curiosity is fear's playful best friend, the one who encourages you to eat the snail or drop your number on that guy's table. When you're bombarded with new thing after new thing, the fascination with the unknown triumphs fear. Nothing can go wrong because you never had time to create expectations. 

I won't forget that feeling of curiosity on that first night when Ariel and I pitched a tent in the rain. I remember thinking, "Are we going to be able to get this tent up in this storm? With hardly any light?" Turns out we could, and it made that final snuggle all the cozier. 

 

 

A journey up the Pacific coast, part two

PART TWO! Are part twos ever as good as part ones? I think not, with maybe the exception being Austin Powers:The Spy Who Shagged Me, Home Alone: Lost in New York, and hopefully this blog post. 

When I left off, Ariel and I had just waved goodbye to Sequoia, the man in the night dress who gave us shelter, sofas, and a coffee table full o' weed. (Since my last post, Sequoia has given Ariel and I a review on couchsurfing. It reads "REALLY SWEET PEEPS." I did not add the all caps; that was his choice. What a guy, man.)

Eureka to Eugene: 

Ariel and I awoke with a plan. We would leave Sequoia's house bright and early so that we'd arrive in Eugene at a somewhat decent hour and avoid the hyperventilating that had occurred the previous evening. 

The drive to Eugene was breezy. After a mere four hours, we were in the second largest city in Oregon. The minute we arrived in that state, I could sense something was different. A layer of gray had melted over the earth, covering everything in a Patagonia jacket smelling of incense, musky cologne, and marijuana. The surrounding fauna was a shade green I thought could never be found in the United States, and 70% of the buildings were painted with mushrooms. There were coffee drive-thrus and waterfalls. It was a weird fairy land, if the fairies were lumberjacks who loved macchiatos and shrooms.

Maybe it was the fact that we were finally able to shower, or maybe it was because we arrived somewhere while it was still light outside, but nothing looked as good as that Eugene hostel. We had our own room and all of the bars were in walking distance (!!!). Making use of this valuable time to get some local flavor, Ariel and I put on our “going out outfits” (AKA denim shirts, yoga pants, and high-heeled boots), and went to the paint the town red at the Pizza Research Institute. 

The Pizza Research Institute, though to my knowledge was conducting no pizza research, scored major brownie points. For one, they served their cocktails (I had sangria) in ENORMOUS goblets. There were fat pieces of fruit bobbing up and down, all of which continued to soak up the sweet, boozy nectar. Ariel and I split a salad and each got a personal pizza, both of which came topped with a mountain of different cheeses and veggies. Now, the pizza at PRI wouldn’t fall into any category that was named after a city, but it was fucking delicious. The crust had seeds in it and it was perfectly browned and chewy. The vegetables and cheeses tasted like Greg-the-Waiter had grown them in his back pocket. It wasn’t anything you’d see in any trendy NY/LA restaurant, but it was doughy and cheesey and vegetable-y and everything I wanted to put into my mouth. Aforementioned boozy fruit was the perfect dessert. 

After dinner, Ariel and I moseyed across the street to dive bar with to check out a local Americana band. We began with a glass of wine and a shot of whiskey, and then proceeded to make our way onto the dance floor and rolls our heads with some Eugene-locals. 

The next bar is where things get a bit foggy. It was half arcade, which despite my living in a metropolis, I had never been to before. (Barcades, is what I think the kids are calling them?) Regardless, the whole thing is a bit fuzzy.  I did wake up with a piece of pizza in my purse and an email from an old man named Bill, saying that he enjoyed our conversation regarding the Oregon County Fair. Based on those clues, it sounds like it was a pretty lovely evening. 

Eugene to Astoria:

The next day began with only a slight hangover, some kombucha, and more sunlight than I believed to be possible in central Oregon. This was perfect, considering that Ariel and I had set aside this afternoon to be the one that we ventured into Ashland’s hot springs. For those who may not know, hot springs are basically Mother Nature’s way of telling us that, regardless of how old we get, she wants us to take off our clothes and play in the water. 

Your only form of payment is bravery - hot springs are popular. And in a place like Oregon, where no one seems to work real jobs, the place can get several visitors on a Tuesday afternoon. We arrived around 11am, and there were already a handful of folks skipping naked through the greenery, frolicking like small European children on the beach. 

The last time I was naked in public was my senior year of college when I did a  lap around my friend’s house wearing nothing but a pair of Nike’s and a friendship bracelet. (I’m not one for showing off Tweedle Dee, Tweedle Dum, and the Cheshire Cat, but….when in Rome.) Ariel and I both through caution (and our underthings) to the wind, and climbed in among a small cluster of Oregon's finest.  

Floating in the hot springs was similar to what I can imagine it feels like to be a mythological creature. At any moment, I half-expected Zeus to parade in disguised as a horse, or witness Vertumnus attempt to woo the spritely Pomona. It barely felt real. Oregon is truly a rainforest, with thick layers of moss painting every tree branch and life inching its way out of every surface. 

I didn’t want to put on my clothes and stop running my fingers over the smooth, wet stones. I wanted to be naked forever, like Tommy Pickles in this episode of Rugrats.  (Also, mental note to add "Naked Forever" to the list of novels I'd eventually like to write.) When the time came for our departure, Ariel and I pulled on our clothes and repacked the car to head up to Astoria.

The drive was quick, and we arrived at our hostel with just enough time to finish a bottle of wine and find a seafood restaurant. But the scariest part of Astoria was the journey down the boardwalk. It wasn't really dangerous, but halfway to dinner we heard the most terrifying wails and wimpers. It turned out to be the sounds of elephant seal mating calls, which upon learning, ended up serving as a nice soundtrack to our oysters and chicken sandwiches. 

Astoria to Bainbridge Island: 

Astoria is located on the Washington coastline, only a stone’s through away from some infamous Goonies moments. It’s also the last leg of Lewis and Clark’s cross-country trek, and they really couldn’t have found a worse spot to end up. Don’t get me wrong; Astoria is breathtaking and worth a visit, but that’s only when you have a bed, an umbrella, and at least some form of shelter. It’s right on the water, and in January this means it’s going to get cold, windy, and foggy. The 101 took us across a ginormous bridge, and it looked as if we were heading straight into purgatory. The nearby landmarks were labeled “Dismal Point” and “Cape Disappointment.” Oof. Rough days, Lewis and Clark. 

We waved goodbye to the coastline, migrating towards Ariel’s uncle’s place on Bainbridge Island. Bainbridge doesn't feel real. In the middle of winter, it’s foggy and green, brimming with a gray mist that seems to billow in from every direction. It’s the kind of place one would envision roaming if they were suddenly orphaned and decided to live life in the style of the Boxcar Children. Had it not been raining and dangerous, I’d have wanted to kick off my shoes and muddle through the dirt, looking for storybook berry patches and rabbit holes. 

But Ariel and I had an agenda. We had to be leaving Bainbridge (by ferry) by FIVE so that we could get to Bainbridge by SIX so that I could get to a meeting by SEVEN (despite the carefree nature of this trip, I had not stopped working. Gas money, to my dismay, does not grow on trees.) By this time, the rain was pounding, making our first drive through Seattle more stressful than romantic. Cars were honking. I was apologizing. It was so scary that at one point, Ariel looked at me and said, “Should we fire drill this?” And then we switched spots in the middle of the intersection.

Luckily, break time came for the weary travelers. While I was in my meeting, Ariel went in search of a bar. Her journey was most fruitful, because when I went to meet up with her, I discovered that she had picked one of the fanciest joints in that part of Seattle. And had somehow scored us glass after glass of free champagne. I keep her around for a reason. 

We sat in the corner, shamelessly flirting with the bartenders all while hoping that our luck would not run out. In an attempt to look really fancy, we ordered a plate of oysters, and then proceeded to write haikus on napkins. (The Fitzgeralds would have been so proud!)

The feeling of our arrival that evening was bittersweet. It was wonderful to settle in the Bainbridge house that evening, stripping down into our birthday suits and pretending to be mermaids in the middle of some mossy lagoon. But I couldn't help but feel as though we were living in a fantasy. This is typical of travel, I've learned. It's like living in a bubble; one where you get to spend your days in cars and your evenings in hottubs. 

I began to wonder if these feelings of diving into the unknown were the high from vacation, or if they could indeed by be my reality. Is a life on the road something I could build, or even something I wanted? Where is the line between work and adventure? Could they be combined? And if so, how?

The answer still hasn't made itself clear, but when it does, you'll be the first to know. 

- Stay cozy

 

A journey up the Pacific coast, part one

Hey, cozies. It’s lovely to be back on the internet! I've been neglecting this online space lately, similar to how I neglected my papermate diary from time to time back in middle school.  But now I'm back and once again using this platform as an extension of myself and my stories. Isn’t it funny how blogs work? Isn’t it a delight?! Recently, I’ve been nomming the hell out of my friend Kathryn’s blog Going Zero Waste, as well as The Minimalist Baker. That is, when I’m not crying funfetti-flavored tears while watching Fuller House. Watching the show is somewhat akin to eating desserts from an Easy-Bake Oven. Not delicious and yet somewhat satisfying.

But I’m not here to discuss Kimmy Gibbler or how Aunt Becky is slowly going insane. No, amigos, I am here to discuss my PACIFIC NORTHWEST ROAD TRIP! I’m well overdue, but now I’ve had time to reflect and develop a buttload of gratitude for the crazy opportunity to take this trip. I never expected it to happen.

A few months ago,  my friend Ariel and I were having lunch in the quiet town of Carlisle, Pennsylvania, when we began discussing our desire to travel up to Portland, Seattle, and the like. We wanted to do it renegade-style, with a tent in the trunk and nourishing ourselves with beer and granola. The possibility seemed real, but very far away. We settled on the idea of “maybe” and left it at that.

And like many good ideas, this one grew from a little nugget into a full-fledged plan. Phone conversations multiplied, plane tickets were bought, and BOOM, we were sitting in my living room going over our final packing list.

The trip began with us venturing up to Santa Barbara in order to reclaim my VW Bug, Caroline. I hadn’t seen or driven her in four months, and she required a jumpstart and a quick cleaning, but she was alive. After a wine-tasting with our friend and chauffeur, Charlie, we plugged in our first destination (BIG SUR! BIG SUR!) and started to head on up on the coast. Cue: Rusted Root. 

I cannot think of a way to organize this post, as my writing often falls in the realm of this-is-kind-of-a-travel-guide-but-here's-what-we-drank, so we’re going to go the ol’ route of bold lettering. Bear with me, folks. 

LA to Big Sur - If I could paint this trip in colors, this part of the journey would be gold.  The southern California coastline is bathed in sunlight, making the grass and ocean glow. It was also so beautiful, and quite distracting. We didn’t arrive in Big Sur until after sundown. It was also raining, so we carefully plotted a gameplan to keep as ACAP (as cozy as possible). This included a quick stop for hot sandwiches and firewood, as well as “break beer” as we waited for the sandwiches to finish cooking. At the Riverside campsite, we strapped on our headlamps and set up the tent, hopping over poles and through the mud with our eyes on the prize: shelter, fire, and wine. All three were achieved, and followed by Ariel teaching me to play speed. Have you ever played?? It's addictive and competitive and may slightly taint a friendship if you're both the kinds of people who can't stand to lose. 

Big Sur to Vallejo - Have you woken up after a morning camping? When you're not unexpectedly soaked, it's delicious. Your senses are heightened, allowing your you to really taste the pines and soil, and the light is a calm grey. Had we been more seasoned campers, or dwelling in our mountain hideaway for longer, we’d have prepared with a breakfast of biscuits and scrambled eggs. (But, you know, road trip=timing=breakfast of peanut butter protein bars and banana muffins. Both great.)

We stopped along the cliffs, climbing alongside the wildlife and into the depths of steep craggles. They were perfect for climbing. And noticing how the ocean is one badass motherfucker.

Vallejo to Eureka - Morning began with a breakfast of quiche followed by a brunch of wine. Ariel and I had a long drive ahead of us, which naturally meant starting wine tasting at 11am, sharp. My friend Kathryn had been our host for the evening, and came along with us for the ride. Not only is Kathryn a wine country local (Vallejo is a breezy 20 minutes from some pretty fantastic vineyards), but she also was able to offer us some delicious discounts. Which was great because one of the places we went to was $40 for one tasting. And while I consider myself a woman of many talents, shitting money isn’t one of them. Following our afternoon in Napa (Lindsay Lohan and Dennis Quaid memories included), we made our way westward, dancing through various small towns offering 69 cent Pepsi and polite drugdealing teenagers. 

Here’s where things got tricky. Apple maps planned our drive up from northern California to Eureka, which is located at the very top of the California coast,using the 101. To this Ariel and I scoffed: The 101, you say?? What are we, tourists?? We were vagabonds! We were guerilla travelers, with a cooler full of olives and a quarter-filled bottle of wine. We were taking Highway 1, just as we had planned.

What we didn’t take into consideration was that Highway 1 is only glamorous from San Diego to San Fran. After the Golden Gate city, you lose all cell phone service and are driving 40mph over winding roads and into the dog. And in January, it gets dark at 4pm. And when you’re driving that slow, you add three hours to your arrival time.

IMG_6452.jpg

To top it all off, we were couchsurfing that night, which meant that we were staying in the living room of a complete stranger. I’ve done this type of thing before - it’s always polite to arrive at a decent hour to allot for conversation time with your host. Most of them offer a free space in exchanged for some dialogue (not sex) or homemade muffins (not sex). Ariel and I were very, very late and very distraught after our six hour drive. And it didn’t help that a spooky pickup truck was following us in the last leg of the trip.

But we made it! Alive! And our host wasn’t even mad! In fact, our tardiness was actually appreciated by Sequoia, a jolly fellow sporting a torn sleep dress and several rings. He had a girl over, and was focused on achieving some alone time. And despite his priorities and our late arrival, he remained a FABULOUS host, offering us anything we could possibly need.

“Help yourself to whatever’s in the fridge,” Sequoia said. He gestured to the coffee table, which was topped with so much weed that it looked like the freaking secret garden, and he was Mary Lennox. “Smoke whatever you want….Uh, that’s about it. Goodnight.”

He then proceeded to **mAkE lOvE** to his special lady friend, who we met later than night when she emerged in (you guessed it) the infamous night dress! We thought this lady was his girlfriend, but the next morning she asked us how to open the gate. So she was probably new.

The moral of this installation is to never judge a book by it’s cover, or a man by his nightdress.

- Until the next chapter, stay cozy!

 

twenty-five

I am writing as a newly 25 year old and it is the best combination of beautiful and scary, kinda like a Flo music video.  My friends and I spent the weekend at Big Bear Lake, a sleepy mountain town that combines looming rock formations with kayaks, fire pits, and (in the winter time) snow slopes. We found our way out their just as the temperature began to drop, and the crisp mountain air made the smell of bbq and leaves strong and lovely. 

birthday highlights included: 

- finding cider with rachel 

- shimmying into rock crevices in order to make it up to the tippy top of the mountain 

- cuddlephobic rachel accepting my request to share a bed (which was cali king size, and awesome)

- cutting a hot pink cake with a machete

- my favorite ihop breakfast

- tattoo #2!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

- fajitas and free margs

- back porch coffee

- driving through chilly mountains to procure aforementioned coffee 

- rooting for not your father's root beer

And things are changing, dear friends! On October 9th I will be waving goodbye to the golden slopes and smoggy pink skies of Los Angeles in order to tour around the midwest and get dirty in some road theatre. I'll also be working as an editor with Wanderlust, so check that out! As for this blog, I'll pop in with travels and wordplay muses now moreso than foodstuffs. Because as much as I LOVE to eat and cook and break bread, I also don't like standing with a camera over my food for twenty minutes. It gets cold and that makes me sad. I'd rather just slice a cake with a giant knife, stain the most innerdepths of my fingernails with neon-pink-fairy-blood-frosting, and see what happens. 

I can't wait to dive headfirst into hotel room living, sipping below average coffee and bundling up each morning to brave the autumnal chill of the midwest. Get ready, friends. Cozy caravan is getting literal. 

- stay honest. stay warm. stay cozy.

Italy: San Gimignano and the hilltop towns

One afternoon my mother and I walked down the dusty road that scrolled past our house to unleash a million little discoveries. We were in the middle of San Gimignano, in the middle of of Sienna, in the middle of Tuscany, in the middle of the beautiful boot-shaped country. Every five minutes, there was the surprise of foreign flowers, a house that looked a little forlorn, or a new streak of vines on the horizon. There was a wave of newborn puppies, and row after row of black grapes. The sky rolled like a cerulean snowglobe. I've never felt so small. 

In addition to the silence of the wine country wilderness, there was such an abundance of life in the surrounding towns! During the day, the streets were filled with tourists and backpackers, but at night, the locals and their children came out for twilight pizzas and gossip.  Most of these towns were walled medieval villages. The thing about these hilltop towns: they were built before cars, so the streets force you to use your feet. We used them a lot. 

There were some days when my family (I was traveling with my brother, father, mother, uncle, and aunt), and I would wake early, scarf down some yogurt and apricots, and then head into one of the surrounding towns or villages. We also took a trip into Florence to see David, because we'd have failed as tourists had we not.  Aaron and I were our own that night, and took the opportunity to eat less-than-rare filet (a great thing) and sleep in a 14th century monastery (the beds had since been updated). 

But then there were the afternoons we'd simply be. We'd maybe go for a wine tasting, or head to the market to pick up more cheese (the buffalo mozzarella GOD) and bread, and then drive back home with one hand out the window and both feet on the dash. Back at home, we'd snack on cold eggplant, drink wine, and read before we either A) got hungry for dinner B) got drunk or C) got drunk and hungry for dinner.  It was like "Under the Tuscan Sun," except none of us were divorced or Diane Lane. 

And as you can see, I took a lot of pictures, which was new and fun for me. I like to see the surprises when I look through them later on, like "holy crap, that old Italian man was wearing a white suit and eating pink gelato --- HOW CUTE!" But  there were also times when I wanted to through my camera out the window and ease through the country clunk-free. I did this a lot too. 

A region of sweet red nectar, stonefruit and cream, and the whistle of spinning bike wheels, Tuscany is a place for the dreamers and eaters. You sleep on pillows of ravioli and lean out the windows to breathe in the same air exhaled by dizzily-infatuated Italian lovers, dragging bread across white plates of olive oil, and finally understanding of Bella Notte. 


We stayed in San Gimignano, which is located about an hour away from Florence in the Siena region. Here are some of the places we visited and loved. 

Volterra // Located at the tippy-top of a mountain, Volterra is where you can witness the creation of alabaster knick-knacks and get one of the best views of the Tuscan countryside. For a casual wine tasting with a wild waitstaff, go to La Vena Di Vino. The "tastes" are more like glasses, and it costs 15 euro for five wines. Bras dangle from the ceiling and they play Hozier and Amy Winehouse. 

Florence // The Accademia! The Uffizi! Go to both these things. Also go to Trattoria di Tito for amazing steak, eggplant caprese, and free shots of limoncello to top of the meal. But make a reservation, because it gets elbow-bumpin' and grindin' in this joint. 

Siena // Perfect for twilight strolls, Sienna is known for the Palio horse race and it's numerous confectionary creations. Be sure to find a place (it won't be hard) with Ricciarelli cookies, one of Sienna's specialties. They are adorable, diamond-shaped macaroons, made from almond paste and honey, with the texture of a buttery cloud. You eat them with wine, not milk, which is such a combination of fun and classy that I could explode. 

San Gimignano // Our home! So much Chianti wine! Also location of the 2006-2009 GELATO WORLD CHAMPION, aka Gelateria Dondoli. The best advice I can give is to simply stroll the city; you will likely stumble upon accordion players, free wine tastings, and secret stairwells. Also, the risotto from San Martino 26 deserves a hefty pat on the back. If you are a white wine fan, San Gimignano is known for their Vernaccia. Its crisp and honeysuckle-y and perfect for day drinks and summer skips. 


Eat, drink andddd ....

- Stay cozy 

 

Italy: Rome

Before traveling to Rome, my knowledge of the city came from history classes, The Lizzie McGuire Movie, and google.  I imagined the street littered with scooters and the sounds of Italian swears filling the air, surely some linen table cloths filled with plate after plate of pizza and spaghetti and bruschetta and olive oil.

My friends who had first-hand Roman experience instructed that I prepare for the best food of my life. Okay, duh, I thought. It's Rome. But I get it now. It's not just good. It's "how the hell did they get this to taste like this/I am going to bury myself in this pizza sauce and sleep inside it like an Italian thumbelina" kind of good. The spaghetti! The olive oil! The buffalo mozzarella comes from a real buffalo! It's stringy and salty and tastes like a savory cloud. 

Now that I've been, I can say that Rome is one big party. It's loud, beautiful, full of outgoing people, free wine (not really free but so cheap it practically is), delicious, and someone is always drunk and asking for bucatini. 


I recommend... 

Vecchia Locanda // A dinner restaurant located on a beautiful side street, away from the tourists and with ceiling of stars and laundry lines. Best ravioli ever. 

Sant'Eustachio Il Caffé // An espresso bar with the best coffee in Rome. The cappuccinos are creamy and thick, and they serve the caffe freddos (ice coffee) in shaved ice form, nestled in between two fat dollops of whipped cream, parfait style. 

The Colosseum / The Forum // These two outdoor explorations are nestled right next to one another, so you can knock out both before lunch if you go early and bring a water bottle. The Forum is long and sprawling, and wandering it's paths made me like a little goddess chasing a lamb. 

Gelateria Della Palma // 150 flavors of gelato!!!!!! Make any flavor combination your heart desires come true.  Highly recommend merengue+dark chocolate OR raspberry+lemon OR straccittella+mint chocolate chip. 

Dar Poeta // Casual and delicious pizza place packed with the younger crowd. Imagine sipping the house wine out of a juice cup and tearing off fat slices of some of the most epic pizza I've ever tasted. They don't slice their pizza in Italy, so you're left to pull off the pieces like a ravenous 11-year-old girl at a sleepover. 

St. Peter's Basilica // Even if you are not religious or catholic, this place is breathtaking. The art is fantastic. The way the light shines in, the aura of peace...! Oh! And if you are like my dad and uncle, there are beer trucks right outside.

Da Francesco // My FAVORITE restaurant in Rome! When we arrived, there were men outside playing chess and drinking beer. Inside it's cramped and cozy, so you're guaranteed conversation with the students traveling from barcelona at the table next you. Go with friends, because it's impossible to decide between the pasta and pizza, and you really should get both. (linguine with clams, bologonese, any pizza with mozzarella, grilled veggies!!!!!!)

The Spanish Steps // Offer a beautiful view of the city and you can get blackmarket Ray Bans.


More on the way! Florence and San Gimignano! Until then - I wrote a thing for Saveur on peaches, and my bff, Alex Testere, did the lovely illustration. We both hail from VA and love our summer stonefruit. 

- Stay cozy 

 

 

 

North of the border: San Diego

I get the itch. We've talked about this, blog world. I've left the comforts of my bed multiple times to jump inside Caroline, roll down the windows, and blast FJM for the long drive to where ever I want. The last (and first) time I was in San Diego was on my Quest Out West. I stayed in a hotel and drank Micheladas around a fire pit, which was great, but I mostly remember driving up the 405 with my fingers gripping the steering wheel, knuckles white, and mind in a tizzy. (Funny how driving across the United States was a lot less scary than actually MOVING to the other side of the United States.)

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It's been a year and some change since that first San Diego visit, and I realized that I hadn't really absorbed the San Diego sun. I hadn't tasted the flavor. I hadn't tasted the tacos. So about two weeks ago, I took off on a Monday afternoon and walked the shores of San Diego with plans to sleep on a couch and dust myself with sand and margarita salt. 

After the drive down, I immediately wandered the rocks of La Jolla Cove. Wild seals flip-flopped their way across the rocks, barking and sunbathing like funny-look mermaids. 

I ate lunch on a wooden bench looking out at the pastel colored hotels and the Pacific Ocean. Pale pink looks so lovely on a cerulean sky. This all took place at Cody's La Jolla, which is serves breakfast all day and closes after lunchtime. I stayed for a few extra hours to sip vino blanca and sage cocktails with my server, Gabriel, and we talked the customer service industry and practiced our Italian before I left to go see Children's Pool and avoid a parking ticket.

In Pacific Beach, I stayed with my friend (and fellow BRHS alumni!!!) Jeff. All the residents of Pacific Beach refer to it as PB and then go and watch the sunset on the grassy parts of the shoreline. It's community-based and adorable. Dinner was late, and took place at World Famous, because Monday night mean half off appetizers which means $2 fish tacos. BIG fish tacos, wrapped in a crust of sweet batter and folded gently in a corn cocoon. 

I made some shapes at Riff's, a music shop/yoga studio where a long-haired man played an acoustic guitar during shavasana.

Jeff and I ate at Oscar's, indulging in thick chips, lime-y ceviche, and the most amazing tacos. We both went for the Surf N' Turf, which is a mess of shrimp, steak, cabbage, cheese, cilantro, red onion, tomatoes, and avocado all folded up in a fat blissful burden.. The sun sprinkled glitter and burnt our cheeks, but that was okay, because we had pink lemonade and traded stories of 10th grade English class.

At the Hotel Del Coronado I wandered the beach and took pictures of strangers. For shopping I recommend Pangea, which is essentially a World Market on crack. And last but not least, if you are a beer junkie (and you should try to be when visiting San Diego), be sure to check out Twisted Manzanita. They play heavy metal and let dogs chase each other and the sour beer tastes like a warhead. 

Oh, oh, oh! Other things: I talk about attachment on the Five Tattvas, and two of my closest friends drink champagne and make avocado toast. They are really adorable and everyone should watch them.

- Stay Cozy 

Día de Muertos, and a celebration of the farmer's market

On Sunday, I danced with the skulls. 

It all began at the farmer's market. 

Poems could be (and likely are) written about farmer's markets. They're comforting and bright, bursting with new tastes, sights, and sounds. I still long after the Friendly City Farmer's Market in Harrisonburg. By senior year it was walking distance from my apartment, and on Saturday mornings (the ones when I wasn't sleeping till noon), I'd pull on a pair of boots and scamper down to pick up bunches of greens and Amish-made macaroons.  

And there was Root's in the golden hills of Manheim, Pennsylvania. This bad boy was a Renn Faire Tuesday ritual; they had the biggest pumpkins and the best apple cider. (And if you drank out a decent chunk of the top, you could pour in some Fireball Whiskey and have the best hammock ride of your life.) 

Though farmer's markets echo similar vibes of comfort and fresh produce, they're often unique to their location. This is to be expected. Different soils, different cuisines, etc, etc all lead to a deep cornucopia of culture and flavor.  But this is why farmer's market are such a treat. No matter where you are, you can head to the local market, grab some bites and absorb some of the town's flavor. 

Just to prove my theory (but mostly it sounded really fun) I made a little chart mapping the diversity and universality of the farmer's market, using my two most recent ventures to compare and contrast. Logan's Square is a neighborhood in Chicago, and Mar Vista is the town that sits between Culver City and Venice Beach here in Los Angeles. 

Logan's Square Farmer's Market v. Mar Vista Farmer's Market

Logan's Square 

Chai marshmallows

Hot apple cider

Thick-rimmed glasses

Flannel 

Local whiskey 

Both

Vegan baked goods

Women with dreads

Men with beards

Artisanal honey

Kale

Mar Vista 

Empanadas

Dumplings 

  Live mariachi music

Man buns 

Sangria 

!!!!!! Look at that! Regardless of the differences between the Farmer's markets they all share good vibes, happy people, and kale. So I knew going into the Mar Vista Farmer's Market that I would be satisfied. I did not, however, know that they would be celebrating Día de Muertos with such ebullience that I would spend all day consuming free samples and dancing with a mariachi band. But life surprises you.

Standouts included:

Hepp's Salt - I've never done a salt tasting before, and though my sodium levels likely exploded, I am so glad to have been involved in the experience. Hepp's habanero salt does magical things to homemade granola, and the 7-fire (named for being smoked with seven different types of wood) was like camping with a bunch of foul-mouthed girl scouts. In the best way possible.

Farm Style Cooking for Kids - I am so crazy passionate about this I could spit all over the computer. Sarah, an artist and food educator, teaches kids about the fun of choosing, smelling, and experiencing the foods we make and share with our loved ones.  A+++++++++++++++++++++

Dr. Sweetooth's Nougat - When I was younger, I dreamed I would meet this man. Dr. Sweetooth advertises his nougat as being "the best nougat you will ever taste" and he is right on the money. The nougat is made in the French-style, and it's all soy, gluten, and dairy free. And the best part is, while Dr. Sweetooth makes candy on the weekend, his day job is that of a DENTIST. Talk about a double life. 

Red Bread - We recently did a shoot with Rose Lawrence of Red Bread for Salted and I fell in LOVE with her mission: food should be tasty, nutritious, and sustainable. I also fell in love with the Bourbon peach jam. 

 

Until the next market, dear friends. 

- stay cozy 

 

 

 

Virginia wine country and lancaster county

I've jet-lagged myself into the mindset of an early bird. The room is gray with morning light, and I'm wearing a t-shirt that smells like my favorite boy. 

Back from the East Coast, and it looks like a suitcase has exploded in my room. It's full of semi-folded clothes and my brain is full of good, great, and cheer-inducing memories.

So with that being said, I'll review my week in a handful of the moments collected. I like to imagine them as metaphorical snapshots, laid out on a wooden floor so that I may stand above them and think. "yes, yes, yes!" I'll likely also dance a bit, maybe cry, and then sit down to cuddle them.

Mish made omelets, and I am forever grateful for back-porch-Sunday-mornings.  The sounds of southern bugs had been forgotten since my move. They provided nice background tunes. 

I visited Breaux Vineyards, where Ketel One and I shared the Virginia scenery, orange chocolate, and a knockout Cab Franc. "Like a saddle fell on the flowers."

There were homemade fajitas and a plethora of citrus-medlied margaritas.

Around 10pm, we watched The Graduate, where a plastic bag of bulk peanut M&Ms fell into my lap and I felt very alive.

Lemon-ginger kombucha plus bacon granola is the way to go when it comes to car trips. 

I lazed in a hammock, where approximately one year ago, I lazed in the exact same position with the exact same girl and we giggled over the things we once feared.

Two lovers with bloated bellies ate salad greens over a maple desk.

We adored an armful of kittens, watching them dig their tiny kitty nails into the cardboard and mew for attention, or food, or just for the hell of it.

I cut a watermelon and felt very cozy.

I returned to my stompground of the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire, where my  dad and I shared Hefeweizen while dodging rain bullets.

Epic sleeps. 

Circa Paleo played and there was much rejoicing. 

A microwave Amy enchiladas meal never tasted so good.

The words "free wine tasting" never sounded so good.

There were massive amounts of "I love yous" and tight embraces that warmed my soul like a pumpkin latte wearing a sweater. 

________________________

 

The plane ride back was difficult, for sure, but I take comfort in a scented shirt and the words of Rainer Maria Rilke. These came from his letters to Franz Kappus, back when Mr. Kappus was goin' through his quarter-life crisis, and I HIIGHHHLY recommend his work for the readin pleasure of any writer, artist, or human.

"For the people who are close to you, you tell me, are far away, and that shows that you are beginning to create a wider space around you. And if what is close is far, then the space around you is wide indeed, and already among the stars."

-stay cozy

 

 

 

Lisbon, Portugal

Some nights are made for afghan blankets, and some are made for nostalgia.  Thursday I spent the evening at my old stompground, the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire, to visit friends, pick up a rug, and see the Christmas Spectacular, "A Dickens of a Christmas."  Sentimentality, commence.  I'm one of those people who saved the napkin-my-used-to-be-best-friend-wrote-a kind-of note-on for me, so this visit had me gushing and hugging. My brief trip consisted of draft beers in festive dive bars, fir-scented garlands in a mansion, and a few rounds of Fluxx in ye olde common room.  So surreal to see the place blanketed in snow. Several people asked me about Portugal , and I found myself searching for the right words to describe that country. It's been over a month since I trekked across the pond with Alex into the playground that is Lisbon. I've neglected to write about it, most likely because I liked to keep it secret for a short bit.  More likely out of laziness.  The memories felt safe in my mind, but now I have to write about because I don't know how long they'll stay in my brain without proper documentation.

To put it simply: Portugal was freaking amazeballs. 

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Like, really amazeballs.

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The film pictures are from Alex, and he is kind enough to let me share them here; the rest are from the iPhone.  I have a few digital photos, which will find their way to internet-land shortly, but for now these will do.  Day one consisted of jetlag and complete dependency on a Lonely Planet guidebook.   Said guidebook solved miracles, and jetlag was quickly remedied with two glasses of wine at lunch.  This was a mission of ours: we wanted to have two glasses of wine at lunch at least once. I was inspired by an episode of Gilmore Girls to add this task to our Portugal Bucket List. For those of you who have seen this show, Richard and Emily are arguing one evening and the topic of international travel arises.  Essentially, Emily is gonna pack her bags, sling them over her bony shoulders, and shout "BYEEEE" as she avoids letting the door hit her on the ass on the way out. It goes down something like this.

Emily: I'm going to go to Europe all on my own. And I'm going to order room service, and sleep in, and drink two glasses of wine at lunch.

Richard: Only prostitutes drink two glasses of wine at lunch!

And so that's how we became prostitutes. Totally worth a good Pinot Grigio.

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After two glasses of wine and two shots of espresso, we visited a restaurant called Guilty, where we ate salty pizza and drank sangria.  Rather than call a cab, we opted to walk home without any idea of how to get back to our hotel. A would-be disaster in many a foreign country, the high hills of Lisbon allowed us to pick out our hotel from the tip of a skatepark, and we walked back with a sense of discovery.

On Tuesday, our first full day, we ventured into Alfama to visit Feira da Ladra, the thieves market. There were all sorts of bizarre knick-knacks. There were all sorts of tourist traps. There were all sorts of black and white pictures of Portuguese people from how ever many years ago. I gleefully purchased a pair of gypsy pants (which Uncle David later hated on) and two tiny juice jars to serve as Alex and I's wine glasses for spontaneous sips along the water.

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Lunch was ham, cheese, and butter sandwiches Alex had prepped for us back at the hotel, along with a bottle of white wine. We ate on stone steps and watched the waves. There was a dog who decided to be our friend. A man tried to sell us weed, and then sunglasses. We declined. It was nice.

We heard rumor of a place called Principe Real, a neighborhood with a little park and several adorable little shops for browsing, including a patisserie with a large oil painting of Marie Antoinette and pistachio flavored macaroons.  Fortunately and unfortunately, we had a very vague idea of how to actually find said neighborhood, which meant an uphill adventure through the winding and colorful backstreets.  As useful as a guidebook is, it will never properly illustrate the gleam of Portuguese desserts through shop windows, the feel of the cobblestone underneath one's foot, or the delicate roar of a foreign melody dancing in a traveler's ears.  Neither will it satisfy the accomplishment of finding Principe Real all on own's one, AKA stumbled upon randomly after taking several wrong turns.

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Principe Real was Mt. Olympus, essentially. It sat on top of the city, allowing us to peer down at the glorious city lights below. We wandered, and then dined at Lost N Esplanada, a part restaurant/part gypsy camp overlooking the yellow windows of Lisbon. We sat on cushions, accompanied with iron lanterns and silk slippers on dark green walls. Tea lights hung from the ceiling. Fellow explorers lounged while they sipped their red wine.  Alex and I had our own little corner carved in the giant mountain of shops and restaurants, privately glancing over the city that we so barely knew. When we left, we somehow made it back to the main road in five minutes, despite our blatant intoxication. I made friends with the cab driver and tried to convince him Alex and I were brother and sister. I cannot remember if he believed me.

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Porto was next. Porto was beautiful. Porto was our private flat where we danced to Miley Cyrus like "cultured Americans" and perched on our balcony with cheap glasses filled with cheap wine.  There were sketchbooks on bed, and The Best Spongecake in the Universe in the sheets.

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We met Miguel number one, a Chai Latte gent with green eyes and a leather jacket. (News Flash: Portuguese men get a thumbs up.  If I knew the words, "I am a single and not looking for commitment" in Portuguese, I would have said them. Unfortunately, our guidebook had no such translation, although it DID have the phrase, "I have many diseases." I didn't need to use this, BTW.) Anyway, Porto was even better on day number two when we rented bicycles and sped along the coast up to the beach.  We opted to buy beer from a convenience store rather than the ritzy restaurant, and sat on the rocks rather than in chairs. You know what feels amazing? Getting saltwater splashed while holding a can of Superbock as you stand barefoot on the rocks.  There's a lot of ocean. I'm glad I get to see it from multiple angles.

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Lesson learned from our day in Porto: I will always run into the ocean, no matter how cold it is or how see-through my shirt will become.  I have pictures from this instance, but mama always said don't put your nudes online for free.

In the evening we witnessed live Fado.  Fado is Portuguese music, sung by Portuguese people, about how much they love Portugal.   While watching the red lips of our music artist, Alex and I dined on cod fritters, fava beans, and sheep's milk cheese from the Azoures. At one point in our lives, Alex and I ate Dairy Queen in a parking lot. I like our friendship.

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Alex jumped for joy the day we went to the Ocenario. It was my first Aquarium, and now I can never go to another one ever because I'm positive this is the best one that has ever existed.  There was a scary crab and a sneaky Octopus.  I liked the sunfish, because it was awkward and yet still demanded attention and I think I identified with that.  That night we were lazy and drank in the hotel room. I sang Alanis Morissette to our bidet, and we ate cheese and clementines and climbed onto the balcony, where we scared away pigeons.

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To end the trip we took a renegade tour of the city where we were able to say goodbye to each of these places. The sun was setting and we took pictures, and at the end of it all we drank ginjinha, a cherry liqueur that is the bee's knees of Portuguese booze.  Miguel number two, our two guide, thought Alex and I were the bee's knees of the tour group, and gave us the remainder of the bottle to chug on our own time.  We did so after drunkenly walking through the botanical gardens around 10/11 o'clock at night, while sitting on stone and overlooking the city (again, God bless the hilly geography of Portugal.) Miguel #2 also recommended that we skateboard down the hills on trashcans, but we neglected to do this. Next time.

SAPPY MOMENT WARNING. As lucky as I am to travel, I am even luckier to have had such a good companion, especially one who loves eating and drinking and walking as much as I do. Alex is a friend who constantly makes me feel like dancing. We have a rhythm and language. My Uncle David tells me that when the two of us are together, we tend to disappear into our own "Alex-and-Amanda" land. We are a little insane with one another, and always have been. We've eaten raw sugar cookie dough on the playground and recounted the story of "Kiki's Delivery Service" via Photobooth. We are the picture definition of weird-o's.  Below is 2009!

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Foreign travel is a B-L-E-S-S-I-N-G!!!!!!!!!!!! Having a friend who will run through the streets of life with you...is even better.  :)