Cocoa Beach! 5/13-15/11

Monday of last week, Gregg asked me if I wanted to go somewhere that weekend. I suggested the beach, hotel was booked & we left Friday by 6pm.


We got in after sunset, checked in, and decided we needed to find a bar within walking distance. We found a dive! of a bar & had some long islands while hearing some wonderfully fabulous karaoke. After we walked along the beach, & headed back to the hotel to get some sleep.

(The pier, so pretty!)

Saturday was beach day!

We woke up early, headed to a beach shop to pick up towels, an umbrella, and scuba masks. Once on the beach, we went right into the water & swam out to use the masks. The water was so cloudy! So we just hung out for a few hours. We walked down the the pier, I got soft serve ice cream. We left our flip flops two miles down where we had set up camp, so we bought some cheapie flip flops to walk back, lol.

(Beach Allie, lolz)

Once we got back, we packed up & went to the grocery store to pick up lunch. We had buffalo chicken lunch meat wrapped in iceberg lettuce. We then hit up a putt putt place that also had laser tag, go carts and arcade games. Gregg won everything besides putt putt. :)

We went & had dinner at an amazing sushi place. The rain had set in more, so we decided to go bowling…which turned into 2 pitchers of beer & cosmic! bowling. :)

Sunday! We went to Kennedy Space Center!

It was an amazing place. During the 2.5 hr tour, I definitely got misty a few times. It was nice to learn a ton & see the Endeavor before it took off the next day. I wish we had more time to spend there, it’s for sure an ALL day thing.

& that was the trip!

We stopped in for dinner & coffee in Orlando on the way back. It was a wonderful weekend, with an even more wonderful man. ♥♥♥ I can’t wait till our next weekend getaway, it’s just what we both needed!

****FYI: We have a habit of staying at really crappy hotels/hostels, because what’s the point of spending a ton per night, when you are only there to sleep a few hours? So we stayed at a very! basic motel six. For two double beds (one serves as luggage/clothing holder, lol) it was $60ish for each night. I’d definitely recommend it if you are looking for just somewhere to lay your head & spend your money doing stuff! :)*****

Train Day 2011; Tampa Union Station

Hello! This past Saturday was Train Day! Train Day is all about bringing life to the rich history of how trains have transformed America. The free event feature live entertainment, interactive & educational exhibits, kids’ activities, model trains & tours of Amtrak equipment.  I was probably the most excited person in Tampa for this event. I love the railways, even though I have never taken a train trip! This will be remedied ASAP.

Here is some photos from the day.

I’m shocked how cheap rail is. From Jacksonville to Charleston ROUND, w/ two nights in a hotel there, was UNDER $300 per person! I think it would be a perfect vacation! OR an awesome 5 day? Tweetup ;)

Here is some photos from the sleeping car they had on display.

Cabin window, bottom bunk folded up.

Bottom Bunk, folded up.

Sink, very tiny -cute!

The dining car downstairs.

Toilet/Shower combo, every man’s dream in life.

Overall the event was awesome. I had a great time, there was lots of swag. :) Please take some time to stop & check out  Tampa Union Station. It’s a beautiful building that was opened in 1912 & served railroad passengers through the Great Depression & both World Wars. In 1974—it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. It’s a GORGEOUS building, with so many intricate details. It also makes you feel like you’re stepping back into time. :)

Also!!! attached is an amazing open space building called the “baggage building“. I have been posting that link everywhere, it would be an awesome stop for a coffee house, bar, restaurant, art gallery…etc. Tampa Union Station will anchor one end of a planned rehabilitation of Zack Street into an “avenue of the arts”.

Restaurant: Ciro’s Speakeasy & Supper Club (Bayshore Boulevard, Tampa)

I’m still freaking out a bit. I don’t even want to write about this place because I want to keep this gem away from everyone but at the same time, I want to tell everyone in the area about it. I’m in love. I couldn’t even sleep when I got home because I was in such awe. (I got home at roughly 2am…)

Okay, I am getting way too excited. Beginning. It’s Oz‘s birthday. We had already been out to dinner @ Jackson’s Bistro. (Another post another day!) One of his friends wanted him to meet up w/ them at a “speakeasy”. As soon as I heard the term, “speakeasy” I was visualizing the Great Gatsby & terribly excited.

We parked on a random side street, & as far as we knew, the directions that were given to us “Find a random wooden door in a garden, & ring the bell”. After walking for a block or two, we found it.

There was no one outside. It was just a door. Us girls asked Oz to ring the bell. Shortly, the little peep hole opened up, someone looked outside, asked us who invited us! & then closed the door & let us in.

Wow! As soon I walked in, I was taken back. I looked at Gabi, & just BEAMED. We have been looking for a swanky place for ages now! A little hole in the wall jazz club. Swoon Swoon Swoon!

We were asked to sign in & read the house rules. I don’t recall all the rules, just to “speakeasy” & “if a man comes up to greet you, gently raise your chin & look away”. Super cute. The host walked us back to our booth, we had a party of 8, so it was a huge booth, we were all seated comfortable. The table in the booth, is actually a series of smaller interlocking tables at different heights. The booth was made out of the silkiest, smoothest leather (or faux leather?) There were privacy curtains. Red lighting. Candles. Are you ready…? Jellyfish tanks!

The setting is completely original, surprisingly intimate, and has a really laid-back vibe. I asked the host when entering how many people they could set, since upon entering it looked like a pretty small place. They said they can seat up to 75 & do rent out the place for private parties, they also have a *huge* booth for parties of 15+.

The food was amazing. We had ordered between this eight of us- 2 orders of truffle popcorn… Omg! It was delicious- popped in truffle oil, w/ garlic & other seasonings sprinkled on top -we all loved it, fries that are fried in duck fat served with garlic something? (compote?) & tamarind ketchup… YUM. Cheese fondue, which I only tried a bit of but was also divine. Dark chocolate fondue… served w/baby churros, fresh mango, kiwi, strawberries, peaches… fresh oysters & scallops… I’m not a seafood fan at all, but everyone who tried it said it was the best they’ve ever experienced.

The drinks were amazing. Everything is made “classically” -They use fresh, muddled fruit to craft customized, gourmet drinks, revived specialty cocktails from the early 20th century, & the bartenders will make you just about anything you ask for. The bartender, George was the most knowledgeable bartender I’ve ever experienced & a genuine conversationalist. (It does help that he was wearing a vest & his sleeves were rolled up & complimented Gabi on her “extraordinarily refined palate!” & said he could make me fall in love w/ my most despised liquor…. gin!) My first drink was named the “lycee love hotel”, I was a bit nervous about it because it had mint in it, but it was amazing & fresh. There were many drinks, I’m not sure I could remember them all, but the other drinks that really stood out was the rum sour (made with real lemon juice & egg whites instead of the run-of-the-mill sweet & sour most bars use!! Cocktail revival!) & a drink that was sweet & milky w/ habanero pepper… a kick but was so nice to sip on.

I have not one negative comment about this place! As soon as Gregg gets home, I’m taking him there…stat! (Oh, & everyone else I know.) Go now!

(All pictures come from another amazing review which you can read here.)

Vacation Part Two; Charleston!

Hello again! This is part two of my recent vacation.  [Part One]

When we started planning our vacation, I said I wanted to visit Charleston on the way back since I had been before and loved it so much. I started to look for hotels downtown, last time I visited I stayed on the outskirts, and it was a pain! Everything I could find was over $300 for an evening! I’m fine with paying $200ish for a night, but over that I get antsy. I found an article in the New York Times about Charleston on the cheap which mentioned NotSo Hostel. I e-mailed Gregg right away to see if he’d be “down” with staying at a hostel, I got an e-mail back shortly that he was up for adventure! I booked each of us a bunk for $23. 

On Saturday evening around 6pm, we reached Charleston. As soon as we were driving in, I was already pointing, oohing & awing to Gregg about how beautiful Charleston is. Let’s face it, the architecture is amazing! Charleston has amazingly distinctive stately homes and classic buildings, which have stood the test of time, wars and hurricanes.

We pulled into NotSo Hostel, walked inside and found the front desk. An awesome nice girl helped us check in, gave us the room keys and codes for the main areas. We saw a stack of towels that can be rented(?) for $1. We took two, since ours were all campy. She then showed us to the Cuba room where we’d be sleeping.

The room had four bunks and was connected to a shared kitchen and bathroom. It was adorable. I’ll just say it now, the bathroom was really nice. It had marble stand up shower,  a cute chair to put all your stuff, and a huge vanity/mirror. Some of the reviews online said the bathroom was a disgrace, but it was clean and quite nice. The whole place made you feel like you were staying with a good friend.

After a much needed hot shower, Gregg and I headed to downtown Charleston. We parked (we could have taken a taxi/bike cab up but decided to drive) and walked around for a long time. If you are hungry, I’d suggest picking a restaurant before heading out! Charleston is a food town! Every single place looks amazing.  After taking in all the beautiful sights and smelling everything delicious, we picked a restaurant named Slightly North of Broad, or “Snob”. There was a 45 minute wait, Charleston was PACKED on a Saturday night. I saw at least 5 different bachelorette parties and Captain Morgan vendors dressed up as pirates. We decided to sit at the bar and get a drink while we waited for the table.

While waiting, the bar tender, James, was amazing. He was really attentive, and even heard Gregg when he mentioned we should look at a menu while waiting, and brought us a menu without us even asking.

Dinner: We started with a Charcuterie plate, that had head cheese, olive pâté and other various things. I was asking Gregg what head cheese was, and he suggested I didn’t ask! Gregg got scallops with this amazing crab crepe thing for his entree. I can’t explain it really, but both were yum, and this is from a girl that hates seafood! I want to try scallops again now! I got short ribs in zucchini cups. It was the most perfect shredded beef in perfectly cooked zucchini. Over all, Slightly North of Broad, or “Snob” was great. The bartender even started joking with us, and I love that. ;)

We headed back to the hostel. I said hi to a few guys that were drinking out back by the bonfire, then called it a night. We talked to our two roomies who were from Germany. They were both so so so sunburned! It was funny to giggle and talk to people as you are falling into dream land.

The next morning we woke up crazy early, 6am or so. We took showers, packed up, and decided to go out for breakfast, even though NotSo offers free breakfast. (It’s bagels & english muffins + tons of toppings) We walked down the street to WildFlour Pastry. We picked up coffee and scones that were incredible! We also found a book from Bookcrossing which is a book club that tracks books. You are to leave them in random spots so people find them. Like hide & seek book finding!

While walking to and from WildFlour Pastry, I noticed that one of the most unique features of the houses are the placement of its porches. From the front, the house looks like its entrance is a door to the left or the right. But if you look to the side of the house where that door is, you realize the door actually leads to the porch itself and the true front door is on the porch. Here is an image I found online:

So beautiful! :)

Once we got back to the hostel we headed back to Tampa.
Here’s some more random pictures, plus two videos of NotSo Hostel.

The hostel had bikes for rent $20 a day

I found this flower in NotSo’s garden, anyone know what it is?

Oh, and in case you are curious… head cheese according to Wiki: “Head cheese is not a cheese but a meat jelly made with pieces from the head of a calf or pig (sometimes a sheep or cow) in aspic. It may contain onion, black pepper, allspice, bay leaf, salt, and vinegar. It may also include meat from the feet, tongue, and heart. It is usually eaten cold or at room temperature as a luncheon meat. ”

ps. thanks amazing bf for a great time. :) I enjoyed exploring & adventuring! :)

Vacation Part One; Trail Days

Last Wednesday (5/12) Gregg & I headed to Damascus, Virginia for Trail Days.  It is the largest single gathering of Appalachian Trail hikers anywhere, and draws in excess of 20,000 tourists. (Wiki)

I guess I should explain why we went! Gregg hiked the entire trail in 1999 (2175 miles!! 6 months!!), and ever since I found that out, I have been asking millions of questions about it. What did you bring? Where did you sleep?! What did you eat? He suggested that we could go to Trail Days so I could find out all about it, experience the trail and meet some current thru-hikers.

We got there on Thursday afternoon after stopping to spend the night at his sister’s house the night before. We loaded up a cooler on the way in with beer, (Yes! They sell 30 packs there!) cokes for hikers, and ice.

Once we got to the campgrounds, I helped Gregg set up the tent. We got a really nice place right next to a river/creek.

Another important fact, I’ve camped maybe 3 times in my life. Usually, I’ll go with the idea of sleeping in the tent, but usually head home after a few hours next to a bonfire. A real bed always wins! I also am the type of girl to shower, blow dry my hair, and put makeup on every day. I had decided beforehand that I was going to try for the next 5 days not to be that girl, try to be open-minded, embrace the wilderness and dirt that comes along with it.

Once everything was set up, we got back into the car to check out Damascus & see what was going on. After checking out all the outfitters, we had pizza at Quincey’s Pizza, which is on the main drag. Gregg had told me that it was amazing pizza, I joked that it was only good because he was hiking when he had it, and thru-hikers are known to eat a ton, and everything tastes good compared to ramen. In the end, the pizza was amazing.

Once we got back to the campground, we walked around & checked out “tent city”. I sticked my legs in the backyard creek and it was ice cold, my feet went numb after a few minutes.

This is really the only picture I got of the tent city. There were hundreds of tents, and people. Pretty spectacular! That evening we ended up going to the “city” of “Muff Cuts” (People had named different camp sites) for a drum circle and a huge bonfire that looked like a dog bone. We met up with a guy we had driven around earlier, Wallflower, and talked and watched a guy play this crazy PVC tube Blueman Groupesque musical instrument. After awhile, we were exhausted and headed back to our tent and went to bed. (River/Creek noises while sleeping?! Amazing!)

Friday, we woke up early and I scrambled to take a shower at a hidden bathroom. The water was freezing, but I managed to wash some of the dirt off me. We headed off to find the Appalachian trail so we could hike and find one of the shelters so I could see what they looked like.

1.5 miles later (all uphill, in a skirt and flipflops…) reached Old Orchard Shelter. When the hikers stay there for the night, they all lay side by side. Also, there was rope with twigs tied on them hanging from the roof. Gregg informed me they were there to hang your food, so rats didn’t eat it. He then told me that hearing rats scurry around while sleeping is completely normal, and you are so tired from walking you don’t even care.

At the shelter, we found two hikers who were in the mood for burgers. They has heard of a place a few miles away, and we offered to drive them. We ate lunch, and then headed to Grayson Highlands State Park, which Gregg had said was awesome and had wild horses.

The park was completely empty! It was like we had the whole place to ourselves. Here is a ton of pictures:



Little flowers that danced in the wind

I’m so stylish & poised.

After a long time walking around & exploring (DO YOU KNOW WHAT A PIT TOILET IS?!), we headed back to camp. That evening we ate ravioli that Gregg cooked outside on a propane burner. Gregg said it was the fanciest meal he’s ever had on the trail. ;)

YUM! We had olive & tomato sauce.

After dinner, we cracked open beers, and sat outside our tent for a little bit saying hi to everyone walking by. (We were right on a main path.) We shared beers with people, and made a friend named Lauren. Lauren had mentioned a band from her home town Boone, NC was setting up and playing a set. We headed up there and met a guy named “Fast Eddie” and jammed out and danced. After awhile, Wallflower, showed up and we danced more! After the set, everyone migrated to the HUGE drum circle going on. On the way there, I slipped in fell into mud and didn’t care the least bit! (It rained for awhile earlier in the evening.) I eventually ended up going around the bonfire in a congo line.

We then headed to “Alcatraz Island” another camping group that was set up on an island. I must have slipped a million times, at this point it was after 9pm, and so so so dark. Navigating the woods with a headlamp is crazy. After hanging out there for awhile, we took a walk around the entire campground, and made sure Lauren found her tent. Then we headed to bed, after talking to our camping neighbors a little bit.

Saturday morning, we woke up and packed up the campsite. People kept passing us and thanking us for sharing our beer. After packing up the car, we took quick (still) freezing showers, and headed up to the gazebo in the main part of town to check out the vendors and hippie wares being sold.

We bought some silly stickers from Low Rider Press & Gregg got a shirt from The Outfitter at Harpers Ferry‘s tent. We then looked around the main street again, found Wallflower, I gave him my card so I could send him a book or two down the trail. Then we headed off to Charleston, SC…. which I’ll post about tomorrow. :)