Tag Archives: ocean

On a Rock, In a Bay, On an Island, In Jamaica: Snorkeling

When we began packing for this trip to Jamaica, pretty much the first thing Brandon thought of bringing was snorkeling gear. For real, the guy could have forgotten everything except his passport, a swimsuit, and his snorkeling gear and been perfectly happy. He spent much of the week exploring the ocean around Rockhouse, but eventually he wanted to make it out to the coral reef, which was far enough out to only be reached by boat.

Each morning “Famous Vincent” pulls his boat up to one of Rockhouse’s red ladders to take guests of the resort out to the reef.

We arranged our trip with Vincent with the front desk the day prior and I believe we were able to add the payment for this to our account (rather than bringing cash with us to pay), although I may be misremembering this. That’s how we found ourselves sitting next to the stunningly blue Jamaican ocean waiting for our ride. Well, I was sitting, Brandon was already snorkeling.

One other couple joined us this particular morning. I was glad there were no more witnesses than that to watch me awkwardly getting in and out of the boat. Grace is my middle name. Literally. It is. I just don’t happen to exhibit gracefulness as I move about this world. But at least my awkwardness is entertaining. For Brandon, at least.

Before heading out to the reef, we pulled into a cave that used to be a bar. It was cool.

Just a quick be-a-responsible-traveler moment. You will notice that we were both wearing sun shirts. That was so we could reduce our use of sunscreen – one of the things responsible for the destruction of coral reefs. Wearing the shirts meant that for the hour or so we were snorkeling, we only needed sunscreen coverage on the back of our necks and legs. And we made sure to use a reef safe sunscreen that we had purchased prior to the trip. Eco safe sunscreen + using as little as possible = happy reefs. I hope. Okay, sermon over.

We made our way along the coast, getting a glimpse of a now deserted property and it’s once sought after stage where legends like Bob Marley performed, back when Negril was a sleepy fishing village.

The boat ride was lovely, but we really couldn’t wait for the highlight of the trip – snorkeling on the reef.

You will just have to imagine how amazing it was because we did not have an underwater camera for this trip. It was incredible! For an hour that seemed to pass in minutes, Vincent led us around the reef through the crystal clear water, pointing out some of the more unique and interesting features. It was vibrant and abundant and breathtaking. We were surrounded by fish and coral of all shapes and sizes. Brandon was disappointed that we could not explore “on our own,” but we had a wonderful morning, nonetheless, another sunshiny day in beautiful Jamaica.

 

On a Rock, In a Bay, On an Island, In Jamaica: South Coast

After a day relaxing on the beach, we were looking for a bit more excitement as our vacation continued. Neither one of us is so great at doing nothing for more than a day. Plus, I knew if Brandon got bored, he would start annoying me. In that super fun, 5-year-old, pestering kind of way. We needed to add some adventure to our lives. For both our sakes.

We decided to explore the south part of the island, so we hired Fabian as our driver for the day. There was more to see than we could possibly fit in a single day and it was a bit of a drive to get there, so we settled on YS Falls and Pelican Bar as our stops for the day. We also wanted to stop by the Appleton Rum Estate, but we learned it was closed for renovations.

Although, as with Appleton, there were instances when things were not open because it was the off-season, we actually loved being in Jamaica when things were a little slower. We could decide to do something a day or two before, or even last minute, and be able to make arrangements. During the high season, we would have had to do much more pre-booking to ensure that we would be able to do all of our desired tours and activities. That’s not really our style. Our preference is to research (okay, for me to research) all of the things we might like to do, perhaps prebook one or two especially important activities, and then take a relaxed, day-by-day approach once we are on vacation. Jamaica in the off-season was ideal for this. Having a private driver for the day also added to our go with the flow approach – we could choose exactly where we wanted to go and stay there for as long as we wanted. Although there were more affordable day tours to the spots we visited, our day would have been much more structured and, at times, rushed. As it was, we could take our time and create a day that was perfect for us.

One thing that cannot be denied, Jamaica is gorgeous. Like constantly-being-in-awe-can’t-believe-your-eyes gorgeous. Even sitting in the car for a couple of hours is a pleasant experience. That being said, we were pretty excited to get to YS Falls.

Honestly, we did not really know what to expect. We had sort of randomly picked this spot from our list of things to do that we had put together before the trip, but had not looked much beyond that into the specifics. We knew there was a waterfall. And we knew that we would probably get wet.

What we learned is that this property is a farm that has been owned by the same family for several generations. In 1992, the property, and its seven-tiered waterfall, was opened to the public. Although there is still some farm activity related to cattle, the farm no longer produces sugar cane and timber. When we arrived, we paid $19 a person to access the falls and the other attractions. From the main building, we took a short and scenic ride in the tractor-pulled, open-air cart to the site of the falls.

Once at the falls, we had a moment to look around before the guided portion of the tour began.

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And then the part we were really not expecting: at the falls, small groups (in our case, our “group” was just the two of us) were led up the falls by a guide who also took photos throughout the climb. I don’t know why I had not considered this given that walking up waterfalls while someone periodically takes pictures of you, specifically at Dunn’s River Falls, is one of Jamaica’s most well-known and popular attractions. Thankfully, I had thought to wear clothes that could easily be slipped on and off over my swimsuit and to bring towels (my favorite beach towels, still holding up after lots of use). I was also glad to be wearing shoes that could get wet, as well (thank you, Chacos). It made climbing up the waterfall a bit more comfortable than it would have been in bare feet.

The walk started off nice and easy, literally just getting our feet wet with the gently cascading falls creating the perfect photo backdrop. Soon, however, we were getting into the first pool. After we posed for pictures at each stop, we had time to enjoy the pleasantly cold water before moving on.

To be honest, the water was shockingly cold at first, but wonderful after we acclimated and as the day got warmer. Although Brandon would have loved to explore on his own, the nice thing about having a guide (other than the pictures, obviously), was that the guide knew where to swim, where to jump, and any areas to avoid.

If you need a laugh, take a good look at the intensely worried look on my face in this moment. I am wonderfully skilled at having fun while also being simultaneously anxious.

There were also two rope swings. Brandon, of course, did the “big” swing. I, on the other hand, was pretty darn proud that I did any swing at all.

Due to safety issues, they do not allow people to go the very top of the falls, but we had as much time as we wanted at the final pool. We could have climbed up the falls again, as well.

Promise there won’t be too many kissing pictures

After tipping our guide, we took some time to explore the rest of the property. And to discuss whether we wanted to do the zipline. This was one reason YS Falls had been on my radar. Brandon enjoys ziplining, but it was something I had never done before. This seemed like the perfect place to do something fun and adventurous together. However, when it came down to it, the anxiety started to creep up. But you only live once, so we paid our $70 and got ready to go. Although the ziplining is on the YS Falls property, it is operated by a separate company and is an additional fee. Also know that the credit card system may or may not be working. Or at least you may be told that it is not working. Point is, bring cash just in case.

Brandon looking cool, calm, and collected. Me trying to look cool, calm, and collected.

In the interest of full disclosure, I was A-N-X-I-O-U-S. Like heart racing, palms sweating, jittery, slightly lightheaded, anxious. And I think the guys working the zipline could tell. They did their best to help me calm down before the first line, but ultimately the only thing that made a difference was taking that first step out into open air.

It was equal parts fun and terrifying! But the second one was a little less scary. And I think I actually managed to stop clinging to the harness line at some point.

I look like I might be having a good time

But just when I thought I was getting the hang of it, there was this:

The long line all the way down the falls. It was invigorating to fly over the falls, but there were also complicated directions for steering given the length of this line. My mind went something like this: “This is fun, look at the beaut…oh goodness, left! left!…okay, feet are forward…look at that water…weeee!!…oh my, right! no left! okay, I’m good…I can do this…this is amazing!…and here’s the end…feet first, feet first, feet first…I made it!! That was incredible!!!”

The rest was a breeze and I even managed to look (almost) relaxed by the end, if a little shaky.

Would I do it again? Absolutely!!

Even so, I needed to calm my autonomic nervous a bit, so we spent the rest of our time at YS Falls leisurely checking out the lush gardens and floating in the natural spring pool.

When we finally pulled ourselves away from the water, we were ready for our next stop, Pelican Bar.

This isn’t just any tropical bar. To get there, you have to take a boat about a mile out to a sand bar, where Pelican Bar is located.

We negotiated a price for the charter. And by negotiate, the boat owner said a price and I said yes. There are some things I am really not good at. Don’t be like me and (probably) significantly overpay for a short boat ride to a hut seemingly made of driftwood and discarded Red Stripe bottles.

If there is a cooler way to arrive at a bar, I really do not know what it is.

Traveler’s tip: when you are dropped off at a bar in the middle of the ocean, try to remember where the boat you were on was from. That way when it is time to leave, you know who to ask the people at the bar to call, instead of pointing and rambling about yellow buildings and blue roofs and places that possibly start with a B, or a D…

We ordered some Red Stripe and a lobster plate to share (because when you’re in Jamaica you can eat lobster all day every day and it is glorious) before finding a spot to settle in.

The bar was colorful and quirky and oh-so-laid-back, the perfect place to waste away a sunny afternoon doing nothing. And everything.

Slightly sunburned and perfectly content, we made our way back to Negril and the Rockhouse.

I spent the rest of the afternoon alternating relaxing by the pool with relaxing by the ocean.

Brandon spent the rest of the afternoon jumping off of cliffs into the ocean and snorkeling.

And that, my friends, pretty much sums us up.

Remembering Jamaica has been so fun and I haven’t even gotten to the best part yet. As I write this, I am sitting on my couch cuddled up in blankets while drinking hot apple cider because it is cold and cloudy outside. I am thankful for memories of warm, tropical days filled with sunshine and adventure and love. And perhaps a touch of adrenaline.

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Aloha Maui: It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye

There’s nothing like spending a day at home feeling terribly sick (thanks for that, time changes and lack of sleep and airplanes) to make you reminisce about feeling definitely not sick and being in Hawaii. As all good things must, our trip to Maui inevitably came to an end. Four days was not nearly long enough, but perhaps no amount of time would be. We made the most of our final day, enjoying the beach, snorkeling, and making sure we fit in some last minute sightseeing. Our flight was not until 8 pm, so we had almost an entire day before flying home to our real lives that unfortunately do not typically involve relaxing by the ocean, fresh seafood lunches, and getting to spend days at a time together.

Brandon wanted to fit in some more snorkeling, so we did a bit of research and learned that Honolua Bay is one of the best spots on the island. We managed to find the somewhat obscure parking lot by the few cars that were gathered there and made the short, pleasant hike to the rocky beach.

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I found a shady spot to read (I did not want to be gross and salty for the plane ride home) while Brandon snorkeled in the calm waters.

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We also wanted to visit the iconic Iao Needle before leaving the island. Between Honolua Bay and Iao Valley State Park, we stopped for lunch at Fresh Off the Boat. This small restaurant is essentially a food cart created out of a boat that is permanently parked and ready to serve freshly caught Hawaiian seafood.

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The chalk menu highlighted the day’s available options. I enjoyed a trio of fish and Brandon tried the shrimp and teriyaki beef combination. It was all delicious.

After lunch, we spent a rainy hour exploring Iao Valley, determined to make the most of the day despite the wet conditions.

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The park was lush and lovely, perfect for a romantic ramble and kissing in the rain.

To dry out a bit, we decided we had to find one of Maui’s best spot for malasadas, Simply Sweets. The unassuming store front in Wailuku is the home of sweet deliciousness. Although options like Da Bomb – a malasada that is filled with haupia cream and served with Chantilly cream, chocolate, nuts, and coconut on top – were certainly tempting, I kept it simple with a chocolate filled “Maui-sada.”

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We spent the remainder of the afternoon chasing the sun, eventually finding a sunny spot on a beach that we had all to ourselves. If we had to end what had been a perfect few days in paradise, I can think of no better way to do it.

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And I certainly cannot think of anyone else with whom I would rather spend those perfect days in paradise.

And with that, I am finally finished sharing about my birthday trip to Hawaii. Now that summer is officially over and cool air and rain are starting to sneak into the forecast, I will get around to actually sharing about the best summer ever – a quintessential Oregon summer that passed all too quickly.

Aloha Maui: Come Sail Away

I could imagine it: a morning spent relaxing on a sailboat as it gently moved through the waves resulting in perfectly windblown hair; being surrounded by colorful and bounteous fish while snorkeling in the cool and salty water made perfect by the sun shining down and warming my back; sitting next to Brandon while sipping mai tais and resting my head on his shoulder as we watched the waves. It sounded perfect. Usually when I travel, I like to enjoy a splurge or two. For my birthday trip to Maui, we decided that one of those splurges would be a sailing and snorkeling trip. After extensively researching the options, because that’s what I do for fun, we decided that Trilogy was the way to go. After another stop at Maui Coffee Roasters before leaving Kahului, we made our way south to Ma’alaea Harbor.

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Things to Know: 

  • You will not wear shoes (they get dropped off at the dock at check-in) and you will wear sunscreen. Lots and lots of sunscreen. But not the spray kind because that makes the deck slippery. And you should definitely reapply. Did I mention that you should reapply sunscreen? Because you will get sunburned.

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  • The company provides all of the necessary snorkel gear. I was especially excited to learn that they even have prescription masks available. Because otherwise I totally couldn’t see, which is kind of the point of snorkeling. They also have wetsuit tops available to help with the whole sunburn thing. The pain is real, y’all.

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  • The Trilogy tour to Molokini Crater is $129 per adult. The tour involves two stops for snorkeling. One at Molokini and then a second stop in a spot where sea turtles are often spotted. Of course all of this is dependent on the weather and can vary slightly .

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This is Molokini Crater. Because of the whole snorkeling and being in the water thing, I didn't exactly take pictures. Brandon did get some cool footage with the GoPro, which I may feature on the blog if it ever gets edited!
This is Molokini Crater. Because of the whole snorkeling and being in the water thing, I didn’t exactly take pictures. Brandon did get some cool footage with the GoPro, which I may feature on the blog if it ever gets edited!
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Our second stop was off the coast near Makena Beach and Wailea.
I got to see a turtle. I swam next to it for a bit (but no touching, it is like a $10,000 fine) and took this picture after getting back on the boat.
I got to see a turtle! I swam next to it for a bit (but no touching, it is like a $10,000 fine) and took this picture after getting back on the boat. You can kind of see the turtle.

 

Things I Liked (aka why I chose this company):

  • The crew and the opportunity to actually sail. The crew was enthusiastic and went out of their way to make the day fun. And this trip is not just about the snorkeling. One of the unique things about Trilogy is that they use true sailboats. Although the tour motors to the snorkeling sights, the day ends with the opportunity to sail. The crew even lets you help out if you want.

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Sailing in the rain. Before it got sunny again. Then windy. And then rainy again. Still fun!
Sailing in the rain. Before it got sunny again. Then windy. And then rainy again. Still fun!
  • The smaller size of the tour. We might have been running a bit late thanks to the coffee stop, so I rushed ahead to check-in while Brandon found a place to park and paid (Side note: there were spots muuuuuch closer and far less muddy than the one we ended up in. If you’re leaving from the far pier, keep driving around – there should be plenty of spots on the pier). On his trek he noticed another boat, from a company which shall remain unnamed. At first, he was horrified to think that said boat was ours – overloaded with tourists with inadequate space for everyone, it did not look like a good time. Thankfully, he was much happier when he finally arrived at the Trilogy boat. There was enough space for everyone to have a place to sit and there were trampolines at the front you could hang out on. The crew to passenger ratio was great.

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  • The food.  If you have read my blog, like, once, you know that food is high on the list of my priorities. So there is at least a chance that, despite what I said above, I chose this particular trip based primarily upon the reviews mentioning the delicious food. Maybe.
There were homemade cinnamon rolls
There were homemade cinnamon rolls
And mai tais
And mai tais
And a surprisingly delicious teriyaki chicken lunch
And a surprisingly delicious teriyaki chicken lunch
And more mai tais
And more mai tais

It was a really fun day that was worth every penny. The sailing was fun, the food was yummy, and the snorkeling was great. You know you’ve had a good day when at the end of the day your hair looks like this:

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The day was almost as perfect as I had imagined.

Aloha Maui Giveaway

This giveaway has now ended. The winner of the giveaway is Terri B. Congrats, Terri!

Aloha! I am back to talk about my incredible birthday trip to Maui. I wish I could celebrate with a trip to Hawaii every year! Being in Hawaii certainly eased the sting of being one year older. It may have been my birthday, but I want to give you a gift. Usually my giveaways are something I pick up from the place I visited, but I thought I would change it up this time by giving away something I bought for the trip and absolutely loved.

In searching for the perfect beach towels (because every beach trip needs the perfect beach towel, obviously), I ran across recommendations for Turkish towels. Because Amazon Prime is my BFF, I eventually found and ordered these: http://amzn.to/1RVV9qG and http://amzn.to/1UbdvtQ, orange for me and blue for Brandon.

I know it may be weird to get excited about a beach towel, but this one is seriously the best! It’s thin and lightweight so it’s easy to pack, the fabric is soft and you can easily shake out the sand, it dries quickly while also being absorbent, it’s a great size, and let’s not forget the most important thing, it is stylish and colorful. I did, after all, find the towels because my initial internet search was “cute beach towel.” A girl’s gotta have priorities.

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The towels held up wonderfully at the beach, in the wash, and in subsequent trips to the river. It could also make a great picnic blanket or even a sarong.

If I haven’t already sold you on how awesome a Turkish towel is, today I’m giving one reader a chance to win one! For this giveaway, the winner will get to choose a Dandelion Textile Turkish Towel from Amazon in any available color (up to a $25 value). There are so many options: Yellow, Turquoise, Purple, Green, Blue, Pink, or even plain old Gray if neutral is more your thing. Seriously, there are well over a dozen color options. Check out all of the options here. To enter the giveaway, comment on this post with your must have beach essential(s). Or your favorite Turkish towel color. Or your favorite beach. Or even why you hate the beach, although in that case I might think you are crazy! The giveaway ends Saturday June 18 at 11:59 pm PST. A winner will (probably) be announced the following day. Good luck! And if you don’t win, you should probably buy one anyway!

 

A Weekend in Florence (No, Not THAT Florence)

After coming up with my Oregon Bucket List, I of course couldn’t wait to start checking things off the list. Basically, I had created the ideal excuse to travel all over Oregon as often as I can.

Fortunately, I have the perfect partner in crime with whom to travel. In January, Brandon and I spent a weekend in the lovely coastal town of Florence, Oregon. And checking two things off of my list – ATVing through the Oregon Dunes and visiting the Sea Lion Caves. And doing other fun stuff. And eating too much delicious food.

I know that there are (theoretically) people out there who do not care about where they stay when they travel. Any old hostel with a bunk bed and a shared bathroom will do. I, however, am most certainly not one of those people. I don’t need 5 star hotels to be happy (although they don’t exactly make me sad), but I do prefer a certain level of style and cleanliness. Add to that wanting to bring Sydney along for the weekend and it was beginning to feel that I was asking for too much. That despite my regular assertions to the contrary I was, in fact, kind of high maintenance. For a while, it seemed as if my pet-friendly options were going to be choosing between a hotel that was the probable scene of a serial murder or sleeping in my car. VRBO to the rescue. Thanks to the magic of VRBO, we found a perfectly cozy, pet friendly cottage that met my (apparently high) expectations.

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At $70 a night, the price was right, too.

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The simple, tastefully decorated cottage contained a single room, with the bed tucked back into an alcove. Ideal for two people, there was a small sitting area adjacent to a pseudo-kitchen outfitted with small appliances, such as a coffee maker and toaster oven.

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There was also a quaint outdoor seating area with a fire pit
There was also a quaint outdoor seating area with a fire pit

My only complaint was the bathroom (and yet again I’m forced to consider that perhaps I’m underestimating my level of pickiness). It was teeny, tiny with the toilet right next to the small shower that even I found cramped.

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The cottage was perfect for a weekend, but I was tired of that bathroom after a night or two. But then again, our weekend was all about exploring, so we did not spend too much time there anyway. Plus, our cottage was within walking distance of the beach.

We spent the weekend walking hand in hand along the beach and checking things off my bucket list. Despite the cold and windy days, the beach was lovely. As Sydney chased the white foam down the beach, Brandon looked for sea shells and driftwood forts. I made an effort to notice and capture the beauty of the moment in memory and photographs.

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As romantic as strolling down the beach was, we needed a bit more variety mixed into the weekend. A short and scenic drive up the coast brought us to the Sea Lion Caves. Tickets to access the viewing site are $14 for adults.

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The natural sea cave was discovered in 1880 by a local seaman who later purchased the property. Ownership later changed hands and the cave has been open to the public since 1932. Today’s modern elevator makes for much easier (and safer) access than the original stairs. Then again, the price has “improved,” as well. When it opened, access to the caves cost a mere 25 cents. The cave is home to Stellar sea lions. Winter is a great time to visit because the sea lions are often out of the cave during the spring and summer.

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Fair warning: the cave is loud and smelly! Despite that, it is definitely a unique spot worth the price of admission. I was mesmerized by the sea lions, watching as they gracefully jumped into the water or much more clumsily worked their giant bodies back onto the rocks. 
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The trail to the cave offers a fantastic view of the rugged Oregon coastline and there is also a viewing point for the iconic Heceta Lighthouse.

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To add in a bit more adventure, we spent an afternoon among the Oregon Dunes. The dunes were incredible. Stretching as far as you can see along the coast, it was an almost unbelievable sight, the desert juxtaposed against the sea with an unexpected backdrop of evergreen trees.

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DSC02651After first seeing the dunes by foot, we (and by we I mean Brandon) decided renting an ATV would be fun. And it was. It was also simultaneously and equally terrifying.

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The entire time, every single moment, I was equal parts enthralled and in fear of my life. Probably because Brandon was driving. Brandon who, from the moment the employee safety briefing ended, did pretty much everything we were told not to. Stay in the boundaries? That’s just boring. Don’t get within 50 feet of the water? But then you would miss the cool close up view. Whatever you do, don’t go sideways up the hill? Obviously we’re going to do that because it’s way more fun.

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My own personal addendum to the safety briefing: whatever you do, do not leave your cell phone in an unzipped pocket. If you do, you could potentially experience a moment of sheer panic when said phone is no longer in your pocket. After wildly signaling to stop the vehicle, you might then frantically, and hopelessly, look for the phone in the firm knowledge it is now irrevocably buried somewhere in the sand, lost forever along with the pictures you hoped to later post on Instagram to make people believe that you’re cool and adventurous and not at all terrified of taking an ATV up and down sheer cliffs of sand. If you’re lucky, your boyfriend might find your slightly melted yet still functional phone in a small crevice of the engine, where it somehow just happened to land. This is all hypothetical, of course. What kind of person would leave their cell phone in an unzipped pocket while riding in an ATV across sand dunes?

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Hypothetical cell phone catastrophe aside, it was an incredibly fun (and scary) afternoon.

Along with checking two items off my bucket list, walking along the beach, and staying in an adorable cottage, we also, unsurprisingly, found the best places to eat.

Mo’s Restaurant in Florence is a satellite of the original restaurant in Newport. Famous for their clam chowder, I also ate the very yummy popcorn scallops.

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We enjoyed our lunch with an unparalleled view of the river. Great food, great company, and a great view – there’s nothing better!

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An unexpected find was Homegrown Pub. Featuring Northwest brews and dishes made from locally sourced and organic ingredients, this place was incredible.

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There was even live music the Friday evening that we were there.

We started our meal with the steamer clams – local clams steamed in a fennel, thyme, and chile cider broth.

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Brandon ordered even more mussels in the form of a cioppino and there was absolutely no way I was missing out on the special, a black truffle pasta – homemade pappardelle mixed with local mushrooms and an alfredo sauce topped with a generous serving of shaved black truffle.

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And because we had obviously not had enough to eat, we ended our meal with dessert – a homemade brownie topped with ice cream and abundant caramel.

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Another not-to-be-missed find was Boxed Lunch, a local food cart parked in front of the cinema.

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We enjoyed our picnic lunch with a view of the dunes.

I couldn't pass on the day's special, a reuben sandwich on focaccia.
I couldn’t pass on the day’s special, a reuben sandwich on focaccia.
Brandon's choice was the breakfast burrito. It received his seal of approval, which is quite impressive given that a breakfast burrito is what he eats, almost literally, every single morning.
Brandon’s choice was the breakfast burrito. It received his seal of approval, which is quite impressive given that a breakfast burrito is what he eats, almost literally, every single morning.

The food was seriously delicious.

Our fancy dinner out while in Florence was at Waterfront Depot. The restaurant is a Florence icon, and for good reason. Located in a repurposed and relocated train depot, one almost always needs reservations to get a table, even during the less busy winter months.

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It was the ideal spot for a romantic dinner.

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Most importantly, the food was excellent. After sharing the calamari, I tried the restaurant’s most popular dish, the crab encrusted halibut. There is also the crab encrusted cod. However, as my boyfriend, who might be slightly obsessive about where his seafood comes from, pointed out, it is possible to know exactly where the Alaskan halibut came from, but the term “cod” was not nearly specific enough to determine the exact kind of fish or from whence it came. Thus, I ordered the halibut to shorten his lecture and to prevent him from exhaustively questioning the waitress about the fish.

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The halibut was topped with a chili cream sauce and served with a quite excellent Caesar salad.

That evening, we forewent the many delicious desserts offered at the Waterfront Depot in favor of a fire and s’mores.

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I don’t want to name any names, but somebody gave Sydney a marshmallow.

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When Sunday morning came around, I was certainly not ready to come home, for Brandon to leave for Alaska, or to return to work the following day. We comforted ourselves over a hearty breakfast at the roadside Morgan’s Country Kitchen.

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A fluffy veggie-packed omelet and a good cup of coffee went a long way toward making me feel better.

We headed home with memories of another great weekend, this time on the Oregon coast. And, I am able to mark two more spots off of my Oregon Bucket List. My next trip will most definitely not be somewhere in Oregon – I’m taking a wintery trip to Iceland! I can’t wait to share more about my next adventure.

The Art of the Showcation

You’ve heard of a vacation. You’ve heard of a staycation. But now that I live in Oregon, I get to enjoy what I have termed a showcation. This is when I have the opportunity to take a mini vacation and show off my home to friends and family who are visiting. My first experience with the Oregon showcation was when my brother visited in March. My entire motivation at that time was to convince him that Oregon was so amazing that he needed to move here. I’m still holding out hope that I will be successful. When my parents recently visited, I was motivated to convince them that I am, in fact, content and happy and doing wonderfully well living in Oregon. In other words, I needed to show them that I am doing okay, even if I was crazy enough to move thousands of miles away from them.

So I highlighted three aspects of my life that make me incredibly happy: amazing friends, beautiful places, and delicious food. Really, what more could any girl want?

Amazing friends: One reason I chose to move to Oregon was that one of my best friends moved here. One evening while my parents were here we hung out with her and her family. This proves to my parents that I am not all alone in Oregon. For example, I imagine that as my parents, they worry that I will get sick or in a car accident or stub my toe and that there will be no one there to help. Or something like that. Spending time with friends proves to them that they have (a little bit) less to worry about.

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Beautiful places: Pretty much anywhere you look in Oregon is scenic, so it would not have been hard to show my parents that I am surrounded by beauty. However, just to be safe, I made sure to show them the breathtaking, the awe-inspiring, the beyond beautiful. Beginning with Crater Lake.

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If a place like this doesn’t convince them that I live in an amazing place, nothing will. But that’s not all. There are also rivers and oceans and mountains and flowers. As an added bonus, they were able to enjoy all of this without breaking a sweat. Literally, it was like in the nineties and humid back in Arkansas, making the relatively cool Oregon weather seem even more wonderful by contrast.

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Shore Acres State Park was initially a private residence. The house is no longer there, but the gardens remain, gardens set against the dramatic backdrop of the rocky Oregon coastline.

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The only original building still standing is the gardener’s cottage.

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This particular rose had a citrusy smell.

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Delicious food: Last but not least, I took my parents to some of my favorite restaurants, as well as trying some new ones. I cooked them Oregon favorites like salmon and made homemade dishes that were good enough to convince them that my mostly vegetarian diet is not short on flavor.

While at Crater Lake, we tried the restaurant in the lodge. It was lovely and the food was quite good. 

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A salad made with Oregon ingredients such as hazelnuts and marionberry vinaigrette, and Oregonzola. It was especially yummy accompanied by the beer cheese soup.

Perhaps my favorite restaurant in the Roseburg area is the Lighthouse Bakery. An all vegetarian restaurant, my parents were somewhat skeptical that they would enjoy it. However, between the view and the incredible food, my parents were quickly convinced that a restaurant that did not serve meat was worth the drive.

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We also tried a new-to-me place in Grants Pass. River’s Edge, located as the name suggests next to the Rogue River, did not disappoint. We sat outside on the expansive deck and enjoyed our meal accompanied by live music. The scallops I ordered were beyond amazing and my mom got to eat one of her favorites – crab legs. It is a restaurant I will certainly go to again.

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Everything about this makes me happy.

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I am certain that my parents continue to wish that I lived a bit closer to home. However, I think that after their first visit to Oregon, they understand why I love living here. The people, the places, the cuisine, each of these did their part to reassure them that I’m happy and living a life that I love, even in far-way Oregon.