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San Francisco Travel Guide

February 22, 2016

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As previously mentioned, Joe and I had the chance to run around San Francisco for two days kid-free. It was wonderful, it was hard, it was strange. Well, it was all of the above. Honestly, it was just really nice to have two full days (plus a travel day) to spend with my favorite guy, on Valentine’s Day weekend, to boot! Since we both had horrible colds we didn’t get out and about quite as much as we would have hoped, but I do have a few good recommendations to share.

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STAY
The Palace Hotel SF
I am a huge stickler on good hotels. There aren’t a lot of times that I research obsessively, but hotels is one such area. I hemmed and hawed on options and ultimately settled on this beautiful hotel. Let me say that we have ZERO regrets about choosing the Palace for our stay. It was every bit as grand as you might imagine with great service, a wonderful afternoon tea, a beautiful hotel pool and perfect location for walking almost anywhere you could want to go.

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EAT
Ferry Building Marketplace
We frequented the Ferry Building for breakfast both mornings we were there. We put on our running shoes and jogged the .75 miles down to the building, browsed around and picked up coffee + food and ate breakfast overlooking the water. It was lovely. Joe and I frequently have different tastes when it comes to breakfast (he wants heavy, cheesy, meaty and I want vegan + quirky + healthy) so it worked out well for the two of us. Joe enjoyed Cowgirl Creamery’s breakfast sandwiches (amazing!) while I ate all the goodies at Urban Remedy. We both enjoyed copious amounts of Blue Bottle Coffee as well. Oh, and Secret Breakfast Ice Cream from Humphry Slocombe? To die for!

Bonus: We happened to be around on Saturday morning and had the treat of walking around the farmer’s market. It made me a *little bit* jealous with all the beautiful produce, fresh flowers and amazing pastries!

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Sushi Ran in Sausalito 
We took the ferry over to Sausalito one morning and biked around this cute little town/over to the base of the Golden Gate Bridge. While there we ate at Sushi Ran. It was super tasty and fresh and we had a good time talking with the chefs from our seats at the bar.

Octavia 
Our second night in SF we made reservations at Octavia. It was a cute, quaint little spot that we never would have wandered on unless we were specifically seeking the restaurant out. What a find! It was the perfect little date night spot and the food was spot on. I had the most amazing ricotta dumplings with fresh veggies and Joe had a steak which was equally delicious.

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Great Eastern in Chinatown
I’ll admit that this was the first time I’ve ever had Dim Sum. We trekked to Chinatown to get a taste of authentic Dim Sum and I can’t say it was my favorite dining experience of the trip. But it certainly was interesting + cheap! I think after reflecting on the experience that it would have been helpful to have someone to guide us through ordering. We enjoyed a couple of the items we ate and hardly touched others, but the experience was fun and I’m glad we made the effort.

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DO/SEE
Ferry to Sausalito
I guess we technically did this the wrong way (a lot of people do this the opposite way) but we took the ferry to Sausalito one morning, biked around the town, ate lunch and browsed shops, then took the ferry back. It was really hilly around the area we biked, but it was a good workout, and we used a tandem bike so Joe could do most of the work! 😉

Golden Gate Bridge
While we were in Sausalito, we biked to the base of the Golden Gate Bridge to get a good view. It was a nice little way to combine exercise with sightseeing!

The Painted Ladies
We taxied out to see The Painted Ladies (aka Full House House!) and sat at the park in the sunshine for a while before walking back to our hotel. The walk back took us past lots of cute stores, including the Warby Parker store, which made the two miles fly by. Probably not a must-see item, but a fun little low-key afternoon.

Chinatown
We spend a couple hours walking through Chinatown one afternoon and soaked up the sunshine and beautiful weather while we were at it. A memorable dining experience was had, I picked up some much-needed cheap sunnies and a little t-shirt of Ainsley to bring home from our trip.

Honestly, I wish we would have had time to do and see even more but our time was limited and our colds kept us doing more low-key things rather than being on the go constantly. If you have other things to add, please leave them in the comments below!

Madison

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E&C Travels: Napa/Sonoma/Yountville

September 5, 2014

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Early this summer, before I was pregnant, Joe, my mom and I planned a long weekend trip to California wine country. All along, I told myself that if I wasn’t pregnant on our trip, I would think of it as a consolation prize, and if I was pregnant and couldn’t drink, I would be celebrating our baby. Truth be told, I got super sick the first 24 hours of our trip, throwing up three times. Thankfully drinking a little extra water and keeping a full stomach seemed to help!

So, while I might not have gotten to drink my way through Napa and Sonoma, I certainly enjoyed the weather, the food and the beautiful scenery that California has to offer. I think I may have asked Joe 15 times if we can find a way to move to California, but the real estate prices alone scared me away! I think we’ll just stick to visiting for now.

We visited more places than what’s included below, but for your sake I only listed places we loved and would certainly visit again! Check it out:

FLY
We flew on our beloved Delta Airlines and took a nonstop flight from Minneapolis to Sacramento. I know a lot of people fly into San Fran when they visit wine country, but we’ve flown into Sacramento twice and wouldn’t do it any other way. The airport is quiet, lines are short and traffic is pretty minimal.

STAY
Villagio Inn and Spa in Yountville
We have stayed in Yountville both times we’ve visited the area and highly recommend it! It’s quiet and quaint and is home to some of the area’s most amazing restaurants, like The French Laundry, Ad Hoc, Bouchon and Bouchon Bakery. The hotel had the most wonderful breakfast every morning and a beautiful pool with cabanas and comfortable lounge chairs. Staying there was a bit on the pricey side, but we got one room for the three of us, which made it more reasonable.

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EAT
Redd Wood in Yountville (below)
Located in Yountville, this Italian restaurant had great pizzas and pastas as well as salads. The menu was a nice mix of fresh and inventive while also classic and comforting. We all had the meatballs and they were to die for!

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Mustard’s Grill in Yountville
We ate there last time we visited the area, and it was just as good this time around. Joe had a Mongolian pork chop that I am determined to recreate. Yum!

The Red Grape in Sonoma
We ate here on a whim the night we arrived and we were starving. Great pizzas and salads and a beautiful patio!

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Gott’s Roadside in St. Helena (above)
I appreciate a good burger place, but I really appreciate a burger place that also has amazing salads and healthier options. Joe and my mom got burgers and I had the chicken sandwich, all of which were amazing. I also had a killer kale and Romaine lettuce salad that helped the meal from feeling too heavy.

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Bouchon Bakery (above)
Of course we couldn’t resist! Go first thing in the morning and avoid the lines for the best selection.

DRINK
Hall Winery in St. Helena and Rutherfod (below)
We visited the Hall Rutherford location last time we were in California and had the most amazing experience. This time we visited their St. Helena location (which is larger and less exclusive) and it didn’t disappoint! Hall wines are a favorite of ours, especially their Kathryn Hall Cabernet which is crazy expensive but totally delicious. (My doctor gave me permission to have a sip or two, and this was one of the sips I decided to splurge on!)

Tastings at Hall are more premium tasting experiences ($40/$60 per person depending on your tour) but worth every penny. Make reservations in advance!

Hall Wines

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Mom Madison Joe Hall

Ram’s Gate Winery in Sonoma
My childhood friend, Emily, works out in California with her husband, Cody. Emily works at Ram’s Gate Winery so of course we had to go visit! It was a bit of a trek out there but totally worth the extra miles! It was by far the most beautiful winery we visited and the view, food and wine were delicious. If you can, make a point to get out there on your trip.

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VISIT
Healdsburg (below)
This was about an hour drive from where we were, but I was dying to visit this adorable little town, having read about it in magazines and on the web multiple times. We enjoyed an afternoon in Healdsburg browsing shops and walking around. We drank great coffee at Flying Goat Coffee and got our first baby item for Baby H (a Sophie the giraffe since we couldn’t find any cute gender-neutral clothing) at Cupcake Children & Maternity. We also make a little trek to Jimtown Store, which was filled with charm. I wish we had been there over lunch because the menu looked amazing!

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I hope you all have a wonderful weekend! If you have any Napa/Sonoma recommendations to add to the list, please feel free to include them below. There are so many places to visit that it’s hard to get a great list in a single trip!

Madison

PS: See our last trip to wine country (2 years ago!) HERE.

 

 

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E&C Travels: Boston and Maine

August 5, 2014

Boston and Maine Travel Guide | Espresso and Cream
BOSTON

Stay:
Hotel Veritas, Harvard Square
Since we had a car on this trip, we decided to stay in Cambridge at The Hotel Veritas. It was a beautiful hotel, the staff was personable and the rooms were pristine. It was slightly pricier than hotels we normally stayed at, but I think it was worth the splurge for a great location and luxury accommodations.

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Do:
Sam Adams Brewery Tour
This was at the top of Joe’s list, and although I couldn’t enjoy the beer with him, we had a great time. I loved that this tour focused more on the beer tasting and learning about the beers they make rather than focusing on the process of beer making, which I find to be rather boring. Go early if you’re there on a Saturday so you get a ticket!

The Freedom Trail 
We had a great time going on one of the free Freedom Trail tours in Boston. The tours are around 1 1/2 hours long and cover a handful of historic sights. I learned a lot about Boston during the colonial times, and I’m a little embarrassed how much I didn’t know!

Faneuil Hall
Before our Freedom Trail tour took off, we grabbed lunch at the marketplace at Faneuil Hall. There was pretty much every type of food you could imagine. Since the weather was beautiful and we were craving seafood, we both grabbed fish and chips and ate our meals outside in the sunshine.

photo (26)Eat:
Island Creek Oyster Bar
We wanted to eat at Neptune Oyster Bar but the wait at 4:30 was already 2 1/2 hours and we weren’t in the mood to wait that long. Since I had read great things about Island Creek, so we headed over there and got seated at the bar right away. We both had the lobster rolls, which were amazing!

Three Little Figs (breakfast)
We had an amazing breakfast at Three Little Figs our first morning in Boston. The homemade Greek yogurt was out of this world delicious, as was the spinach pie and Joe’s egg sandwich. I don’t think there was a thing on the menu that I wasn’t tempted to order.

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KENNEBUNKPORT

Stay:
Captain Fairfield Inn in Kennebunkport
Oh, the Captain Fairfield Inn was such a quaint and dreamy place to stay. We had never stayed at a bed and breakfast before, but were sold after seeing the inn’s updated guest rooms that looked like boutique hotel accommodations and heard such wonderful things about their daily 3-course breakfasts. The inn didn’t disappoint! The breakfasts were just as wonderful as advertised and the rooms were beautiful. We stayed in the Captain Fairfield room (number 4) and were pleased with just about everything!

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Do:
Popham Beach State Park
Our friends, who were living in Maine, recommended we take the hour and a half drive up to Popham Beach State Park and I’m so glad that we did! The beach was beautiful and it wasn’t overly crowded. Make sure you take cash since it’s fairly remote and the state park charges to get to the beach (I believe it was $6 per adult).

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Cape Neddick Lighthouse
We ate dinner in Portland on our way home from the beach with our friends Sarah and Brad. After dinner they suggested we stop by the Cape Neddick Lighthouse and it was worth the small detour. The lighthouse is evidently pretty well known in the area and was the model for the Red Lobster logo.

photo (31)Eat:
Owen’s Farmhouse (Kennebunk)
Casual, cute restaurant with great woodfired pizza.

50 Local 
We enjoyed a great nice seafood meal at 50 Local in Kennebunk. The atmosphere was quiet and intimate and the food was outstanding. The restaurant sources as much of their food as possible from local vendors and the menu was concise and creative. We shared a salad, enjoyed homemade bread and for our main course Joe had the lobster roll while I had the halibut. It was cooked perfectly and worth the splurge.

Pedro’s Kennebunk
Maybe it seems strange to have Mexican food when in Maine, but Joe and I heard great things about Pedro’s and we couldn’t resist giving it a try. I’m glad we did because the food was fresh, flavorful and the salsa was good enough to drink. If you’re feeling sick of seafood, Pedro’s is worth the visit.

Rococo Ice Cream
Gah! Rococo lived up to the hype. The ice cream was out of this world delicious and I loved the unique and creative flavors like goat cheese & blackberry chambord swirl and lemon basil sorbet. I had the salty sweet cream and it was the perfect combination of sweet and salty.

HB Provisions
A great little deli/general store hybrid that’s perfect for grabbing a quick sandwich. We ate there right after arriving in Kennebunk and had a great time talking with another group who was vacationing in Maine.

I think that’s it! Our trip was short and sweet, a little less than a week, but we had a great time and packed in as many activities as possible. The entire time we were there we kept talking about wanting to return someday with the rest of our extended family. I can’t recommend Maine enough!

Madison

 

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Visiting Kansas City

June 2, 2014

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Now that summer is in full swing, I’m afraid that I’ve been getting a little behind on posting recaps from our happenings over the past couple weeks. We had been meaning to visit Joe’s brother, Jason, and his wife, Ali, for a while now, and I’m glad we took advantage of the extra day of vacation over Memorial Day weekend to spend with them in Kansas City. I don’t think we could have asked for a better start to the summer season!

Colalge1*Please note: My pregnant sister-in-law is not drinking those beers. Just carrying them to the table for the boys. 😉
Joe and Jason spent a lot of time golfing and going to golf shops, while Ali and I did a lot of shopping, browsing around for new cosmetics, getting pedicures, working out and eating really tasty food.

Before our trip I was a little nervous about seeing Jason and Ali for the first times since our miscarriage, but I prayed deeply leading up to our trip that our time together would be blessed and that our relationships, which have always been close, wouldn’t be impacted by the differences that life has put between us.

I’m thankful that our time together was so sweet and not in the least bit awkward or strained. Ali is one of the most gracious people I have ever met, and although it was strange to talk about the contrasts in our lives right now, it was really healing, too.

Collage3Where We Ate:
Cafe Gratitude
This place was the perfect spot for lunch! The menu was a dream, filled with vegan and vegetarian options, certainly a place that Ali and I appreciated a little more than would have been appreciated by Joe and Jason.

What We Did:
Boulevard Brewery Tour
We arrived at 10 am on Sunday to stand in line for tickets, which are free. We got into the first tour of the day at 10:45. The tour was really interesting, especially for someone like me who doesn’t know a whole lot about beer.

Where We Shopped
Lush Cosmetics
I can’t believe I had never been into a Lush store before! Where have I been? Ali and I had a great time trying out all their products and I came home with a few different face scrubs and sprays that I’ve really been enjoying. The “Let the Good Times Roll” face scrub/cleanser is my new favorite and smells like a dream.

Madison

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E&C Travels: Austin, Texas

May 1, 2014

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We returned from Austin, Texas on Tuesday and are still talking about what an amazing time we had. I had been to Austin once previously on a work trip a few years ago, but this was the first trip for Joe and the first time I got to experience Austin on vacation terms. The food, the weather, the clothes, the general feel of the place, I loved it all!

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Thanks to a few good friends (I’m looking at you, Dessert for Two and Urban Wife) who are experts of sorts on Austin, we didn’t have a single bad meal on our trip. In case you’re planning on taking a trip to Austin (and you should) I’ve put together a little guide to help you avoid bad meals and bad hotels, too. Let’s get to it!

Stay
Hotel San Jose
Sometimes a hotel is just about a place to lay your head at night (like when you’re traveling through Europe) and sometimes it’s about the experience. For this vacation, we wanted our hotel to be a part of our experience, so we opted for a slightly pricier option in the Hotel San Jose. It’s certainly not cheap, but I really loved the hipster vibe that felt in sync with the entire feel of the city.

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This hotel isn’t big on extra fluff (no fitness center, small reception area, no spa) but it did deliver on the funky room, great outdoor lounge for happy hour and pretty (albeit small) pool for laying out. It’s also perfectly located on South Congress near great restaurants and shops. We didn’t rent a car and walked everywhere, so the location was perfect.

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Eat
Stubbs Barbeque
I loved this place! We went for lunch on Sunday and enjoyed a great buffet that was part brunch part traditional barbeque fare. We also loved listening to the live music while we ate.

Guero’s Taco Bar
I ate here a few years back when I was in Austin and again when we first arrived last weekend. It’s quick, delicious and great for lunch or dinner. They have breakfast on the weekend, too! Don’t miss the salsa bar for unlimited refills on a few different types of salsa.

Iron Works BBQ
Iron Works is a great option for a quick and relatively cheap dinner. You order as you go through the line and get your food right away, then find a seat to eat. We both got the brisket and agreed it was some of the best of our trip!

Hopdoddy
This burger, beer and salad restaurant was packed every time we walked by (it was only a block from our hotel) so we figured we couldn’t miss out. Seriously, the line was out the door most of the time we were there. I was so happy the food didn’t disappoint! Joe ordered a burger, and I got a baby kale salad and added a black bean patty. We split and order of fries, too. Everything we ate was so good, and I can see why it’s so popular.

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Uchi

I shouldn’t put this one last because it was the best meal of our trip. It’s “modern Japanese cuisine” which also includes sushi. We ate early, around 5:30 on a Monday and happened to come during their happy hour specials. The waitress suggested we order one of all 11 items on the happy hour tasting menu, and I’m so glad we did. Eating 11 different dishes throughout the meal was a great way to get a feel for the restaurant all at once.

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Coffee
Jo’s Coffee
Tom’s Coffee

Drinks
Hotel San Jose Lounge
Like I mentioned, they have a great outdoor lounge with music playing, small bites and drinks.

The Driskill Hotel
We walked after dinner one night to the Driskill Hotel for a drink in their hotel lounge. It was such a fun atmosphere in a really old-country way, complete with, you guessed it, more live music.

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I think that’s all I have! We packed a lot in our three days in Austin, but I could have easily stayed and eaten for another few days. We wanted to make it out to Salt Lick in Driftwood because we’ve heard great things, but we had to settle for Salt Lick in the airport for breakfast (not the same) and we were also hoping to spend a day biking around the city, which also never happened. Next time!

If you have any Austin recommendations, leave them in the comments below for people who may be traveling to Austin sometime soon!

Madison

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