Daydreaming about… San Sebastian, Spain

Yep. Again.

Those of you that have been following along for awhile know I have shared my excitement about this destination before, but now that my trip is approaching, I’m starting to freak out! Can’t wait to visit my little sister in this literal slice of paradise. Even though I’m visiting during their rainy season, I’m so looking forward to exploring the Basque region. Rain or shine, don’t matter NONE. It’s going to be a blast.

Much of my enjoyment during my travels revolves around food and this trip will be no different. I can’t wait to visit some of the places I’ve heard about, like Bar Zeruko and El Quinto Pino (below). Need to try the local pinxtos (I was already warned not to call them tapas) and of course, as much sangria as I can stomach.

San Sebastian, Spain

San Sebastian, Spain

San Sebastian, Spain

And now, some links…

Hey Nike, can I do this next?

40 maps to help you understand the world (12! 17?!).

My friends and I are being vegan for a month (a day is child’s play).

The cutest tiny house on Sauvie Island right outside of Portland.

Tried this place recently and loved it! Trying to eat more whole foods.

This diary of a Whole Foods visit is hilarious and true.

Have a great weekend.

xxx

(images via Pinterest)

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Trip Planning: Hiking the Kalalau Trail

Jaro and I are thrilled to be heading back to Kauai this fall. It can’t come soon enough! Aside from sunning on the beautiful beaches, snorkling with sea turtles, eating all the fresh poki we can handle, and enjoying time with Jaro’s aunt, we decided to try something new while we are there this time…

We’re going to hike the entire 11 mile Kalalau Trail that runs along the breathtaking NaPali Coast. Those 11 miles take the “good conditioned” hiker one full day. So obviously, coming back out will take another full day at a minimum. This will probably be a two night trip, so we can spend a day relaxing at the final destination- Kalalau Beach. It will also depend on weather, which can turn in an instant on Kauai.

Before we could do our happy dance, we had to clear two things: That the trail is passable during this time of year (it is, but there is always a risk of rain) and that we could obtain the overnight camping permits in time because they sell out quickly (we did). Fortunately, we have all the equipment for backcountry camping, so we’re all set. Although Jaro will take any excuse for another stroll through REI.

The first time we went to Kauai together, back in 2008 (!), we hiked the first 2 miles to the Hanakapi’ai waterfalls. Climbing past giant bamboo, mountain streams and wild lychee, it was truly an unforgettable experience. Here are some pics from our little point and shoot we were using back then. These were all shot in one day and you can see how the weather changes pretty drastically from clear, to completely overcast and back.

I can’t wait for the shots we’ll take with our better camera and better photography skills!

Kalalau Trail, Kauai

Kalalau Trail, Kauai

Kalalau Trail, Kauai

Kalalau Trail, Kauai

Kalalau Trail, Kauai

Kalalau Trail, Kauai

one last look at NaPali

a rewarding sunset at Ke'e Beach

xxx

Daydreaming about… Provence

Here’s the thing, people. I’m not much of a color person normally. My wardrobe is laughably neutral, as are my interior design choices. I’m okay with that. (I mean, black is a color. So is white.) However, one ENORMOUS exception is my love of spring and all the beautiful colors that abound in nature because of it.

As we spring forward this weekend, I’ll be daydreaming about strolling through the lavender fields in Provence, with a big, floppy hat and a lovely, white dress. We never made it there while we lived in Europe, but I so crave a chance to see (and smell) it in the glorious spring air.

Provence, France

Lavender

Isn’t that shade of purple heavenly? Maybe to quench my thirst (get it?!) for this experience, I’ll just make this lavender lemonade. What a gorgeous beverage!

Lavender Lemonade

Happy weekend, everyone. We are joining a group run tomorrow morning, might check out some new parts of Portland, and maybe even sneak out to the coast on Sunday. Biding our time until we move into our house!

xxx

{image 1, 2}

Daydreaming about… San Sebastian!

We had such a nice Valentine’s Day evening bonding with some new friends. It truly reminded me to be thankful for the relationships in my life, whether new or old, close or casual.

After a crisis this morning regarding our house (when will it end?), I can get back to what I was going to share today….

BIG NEWS. I tend to keep quiet about things going on with my family and friends, but this is too good to keep to myself. My baby sis just got official word that she will be studying abroad in San Sebastian, Spain for the fall semester of the coming school year. I’m filled with pride; she worked so hard to make it happen. And I’m over the moon excited for her to experience life abroad. I think she’ll find it wildly fascinating.

Of course this means that I have to go visit her. Now that I’m nearly halfway around the world (it’s an 8 hour time difference), this will take significant planning. (Sidenote: Imagine if we were still living in Amsterdam or Stockholm! Dang it.) From my initial research, I gather that San Sebastian is a beautiful and glamorous city on the northern coast of Spain, nestled in the culturally-exuberant, wine-rich Basque region. Looks like I’ll shoot for a September/October time frame, so that gives Kimberly a few weeks to settle in (although, let’s be honest, I’d just as happily be there waiting for her as she arrives). Gotta brush up on my Spanish…

San Sebastian

This is going to be a big trip – stay tuned!

And Kim – I’m so proud of you.

Have a great weekend.

xxx

P.S. My most recent trip to Spain.

{image via (what looks like it will be) a very helpful (and funny) expat/travel blog}

Booked: The Bay Area

As I mentioned yesterday, I have booked my first trip outta Portland. I leave a week from today. That was quick, right? I only lasted here for about six weeks before concocting my first escape. …And we’re about to close on a house. …And we need to get a car. …And there is still a lot to coordinate. …And …And!

I know. The truth is, we have a lot to do as we continue settling in. So why am I taking this trip already, in the middle of all the chaos? Well, there are several reasons. Here is my rationalization:

  1. Marisa has the week off and we are adventurous little partners in crime, so I pretty much have to take advantage of this glorious opportunity to explore with her. Another good friend just moved there too. (I’m looking at you, David.)
  2. This whole stale corporate apartment thing, crummy rental car situation, and lack of stuff (which I have complained about numerous times) is… well… I need a break. It’s like the perfect storm of misery.
  3. Speaking of rain, I might sink into a deep(er) depression from this weather if I don’t find some sunshine. Portland winters really are the pits. While very similar to our Dutch winter last year, I’m struggling a lot more with the frequent rain and overcast skies. Why, you ask? Two reasons. Reason 1: See point #2 above. Reason 2: The city isn’t as walkable/charming as Amsterdam and I don’t feel like getting in the car every time I want to go out. That’s just the urban warrior in me, I guess.
  4. In my opinion, Portland is missing elements of urban culture. At least, in the way that I’m used to. To me, that means museums, shopping, entertainment, dining, and all connected by decent public transportation. The only factor that stands out to me up to this point is the restaurant scene. That scene is thumpin’ and I’ve been impressed with the foodie culture here. But, for health & wealth reasons, we’re trying to limit that to weekends only. Living on the edge, huh?
  5. Speaking of things to do on weekends, what I’m realizing is that Portland’s a decent place to live where you are still close to the great outdoors. If you take a look on tripadvisor.com, the #1 thing to do “in Portland” is visit the Columbia River Gorge – which isn’t in Portland. Of course, I want to get out there, but not now (see point #3). It’s not exactly hiking weather. Even if it was, I don’t have my hiking stuff. Right now, it’s ski season. But I don’t have my ski stuff (see point #2). Inconvenient.
  6. Bonus: Jaro was/is in full support. He’s pretty much the best.

I realize that sounds like a lot of complaints about Portland. I’m sure many of you are thinking, make the best of it or spend this time getting to know your own city. I will. After this trip. And truly, things will be different by this time next year. They’ll be better. I’ll (hopefully) have found school or work that prevents boredom motivates me. We’ll be settled down, have the equipment and stability and knowledge and resources to enjoy this time of year in the Pacific Northwest.

Back to the Bay I go. The nice thing about visiting friends is that I don’t have much planning to do. Accommodations and transportation – dunzo. We have no set plans; just going to see where the breeze takes us. Looking forward to exploring San Francisco, Oakland, possibly taking day trips to Big Sur and Napa, with a fresh perspective, a full heart of gratitude and an open mind.

How do you justify travel? Do you ever rationalize trips for yourself even if you don’t necessarily have to? Are you impulsive about it, like me? I have to admit, sometimes I can be quick to the draw about booking travel (especially given my liberties last year) and then afterward, I’m like, oops, should I have done that? The answer in this case is absolutely. Sometimes, I just need to spell it out to remember why.

xxx

P.S. In celebration of Fat Tuesday, we’re going to meet up with our Run Club tonight. …And go out for beers after. Living on the edge, ya’ll. 

Booked: Sweet Home Chicago

We have booked our flights home to CHICAGO for this December. We’ll be home from December 7 through January 8. A solid month. It’s long overdue… It will be 15 months since we last set foot on American soil. We miss it.

Skyline views from North Ave beach.

Jaro & I on the roof of our old place. Summer 2010. Photo by Kate.

My beautiful sister & I at the Bean just before we moved. August 2011.

I can’t wait to go back. However, the bean is going to look more like this:

My handsome college roommate and I. December 2010.

And the streets will look like this:

Our old street, Leavitt. January 2011.

Oh well. There is something lovely, even romantic, about Chicago in the winter. (Though I much prefer summer.)

Thinking about everything we’ll want to do and everyone we’ll want to see is overwhelming. How are we going to fit it all in? The biggest focus is, of course, people. Then food, then sight-seeing (like tourists!). But I’ll save those other topics for future posts. We have already begun to think of ways to spend quality time with the people we love. Such as:

1. Couch surfing. Many of our friends live in the city. When we did, we had countless sleepovers with people from out of town (and sometimes people from in town too lazy to go home). And while that might have had something to do with our world’s-most-incredible couch (which I’m tempted to sleep on in our storage room while we’re back), we’re hoping there’s a pay it forward system here and people will take us in. It would be fun, right? Maybe we can even pay our rent for the night by cooking breakfast before they head off to work the next morning? I think it would be a great way for us to have private catch up time with some of our closest friends.

2. Hosting a bar night. This way, we can see lots of people at one time for a fun night out. There are so many people we would love to see and I wish we could do individual gatherings with everyone, but some are going to have priority… For one, my best friend Stacy (who visited in May) is getting married on NYE and she will be a huge priority for me since this is her special time. Missing her showers and bachelorette party is an unfortunate consequence of living so far away and I want to make up for it in whatever way I can. Secondly, Jaro’s brother & wife are having a baby in early December (good timing!) and we’ll want to see the little munchkin as much as possible. It’s our first niece or nephew! I think it will also take some of the attention off us. Babies are cuter/more exciting than me & Jaro. Thirdly, we are going to Florida to see my family down there for Christmas and that will pull us away from the Chicago scene for a few days. So… bar night? I think yes.

3. Lunch dates. Practically all our twenty-something/thirty-something friends work downtown. Since I will have free time during the day, lunch dates will be a super convenient way to see more friends. Plus, there are a million restaurants I want to visit, so that will knock some of those out. More on that later.

What else can we do? Thing is, we’ll also still need to find time to just be together back in our home city. Where we met. Where we fell in love. Where we got married. So we need to squeeze some at least one date night in there as well. And spend time with our parents. And siblings. It’s going to be the fastest month of my life. Like I said, I can’t wait.

xxx