The Maine Attraction

Ever since I took that trip with my mom to Punta Cana, I’ve been asking her to travel with me again.  Though I already have a great relationship with my parents, I especially value our time together as we all get older. To my surprise, she finally said yes! (Maybe because this was a domestic trip, for once? Haha.)

We flew into Portland on Thursday evening. She had never seen whales in real life and wanted to see them, so we opted for a cruise that next day. Of course, we had to get our first fresh lobster roll beforehand!

 

We got lucky and saw three fin whale, and a couple harbor seals! And, of course, the famous Portland Head Lighthouse.

 

Walking around Portland/Old Port: Portland Observatory, Eastern Promenade, East End Beach, Fish Point, Fort Allen Park, Lincoln Park, Wadsworth-Longfellow House, Bug Point, etc.

Our favorite spots to eat included: DiMillo’s on the water, Becky’s Diner, Portland Lobster Company, The Holy Donut, Gilbert’s Chowder House, and so many more.

The next day, we rented a car and drove to Acadia National Park.

Such a beautiful day! Highlights included: Eagle Lake, Sand Beach, Cadillac Mountain, Thunder Hole, among others.

We took a ferry to one of the many islands surrounding Portland the next day. We opted for Peaks Island and enjoyed blueberry soda while soaking up some rays. We didn’t know that wild blueberries grow naturally here- 44,000 acres, to be exact.

 

Coastal Maine is surely a sight for sore eyes, and there’s no other person I’d rather soak in that beauty with then my incredible mother. I know we’ll both cherish this time together in years to come.

 

Until next time,

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The Emerald Isle

Where do I begin? How do I explain what has transpired in these two beautiful, intense weeks? Ireland has been a dream destination for what seemed like years, and my MFA program gave me the opportunity to not only travel there, but also to work with brilliant Irish writers and mentors.

I flew into bustling Dublin with my friend Jaclyn and we promptly rented a car to drive to Cork. Here’s where our whirlwind weekend began- Blarney to Cork, Galway to the Cliffs of Moher, Belfast to Giant’s Causeway, and at last to Dublin, where we studied at Trinity College for two weeks and took a day to trip to Howth. There were way too many pints between classes, friends made, and laughs shared to count, but here are a few snapshots that help frame those wonderful memories:

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Blarney Castle

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Cork

Cliffs of Moher

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Galway

Belfast

Giant’s Causeway

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Trinity College

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Already counting down until the next residency! But for now, the work of practicum begins.

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¡Viva México!

Remember a couple months back, when I was in Belize with some of the best people? You may recognize two of them in the photo below:

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When they asked if I wanted to come to Mexico with them, of course my answer was YES! Who wouldn’t want to ditch the winter weather for some fun in the sun? We stayed in Playa del Carmen.

I thought by the end of the trip, maybe I’d be sick of Mexican food. But to this day, I’m not over how delicious it was. My mouth is still watering!

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Not only was the food delicious, the company amazing, and the beaches beautiful, but our Airbnb was the bomb. Check out the view below of our rooftop pool:

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And some sights wandering around the city center:

Having a group of ten girls together might seem insane, but I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard in my life. Our bond was stronger than the tequila.

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Excuse my tired face- but here I am at the local market, fueling up with tamales before our long day!

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A view of the seven wonders of the world. Oh, and behind us is Chichén Itzá 😉

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After we left, we took a frigid dip in the Choj-Ha cenote outside Valladolid:

(Coolest thing ever. We called it being rebirthed by Mother Earth.) Never seen anything like it in my life.

 

On my last day in Mexico, I took the ferry to Cozumel! Salted margaritas, sunshine, sea water, sunrises, and side boob for the win.

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As you can see, this trip was paradise. I’ll leave you with these favorite words of wisdom from our Airbnb:

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Until next time,

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UnBelizeable

As 2017 drew to a close, I knew I wanted to take advantage of all my time off work for the holiday season.

My parents and I flew to Florida to spend Christmas with my brother, his wife, and their daughter. We visited Destin, Panama City Beach, and Pensacola, ate way too much, and truly enjoyed our time together as a family again.

It was a beautiful change from the snowy weather back north!

Shortly after, I flew solo to Belize City for one last international trip before the craziness of 2018 began.

Although Belize has a bad reputation and certain parts of Belize City are indeed VERY dangerous, (consistently ranking as one of the highest homicide rates in the world) I am so grateful that I did not let this hold me back from going.  I had a safe trip there and back, and made friends with other tourists and many locals. It was hard to not enjoy all the beauty the country had to offer. I stayed in San Pedro, and took the ferry back to Belize City where I met Carlos, who showed me the best parts of his country.  Here was my first full day- packed with lots of adventure:

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Visiting Altun Ha ruins.

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Ziplining through the jungle!

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Cave tubing 🙂

I would highly recommend those who are thrill seekers to check it out! And though I’ve explored caves before, I was pleasantly surprised by how different my perspective was with cave tubing.

That evening, some friends and I went to Wahoo’s Lounge for the world famous “Chicken Drop.” You guessed it- we bought tickets and watched as a chicken strutted around on the board, hoping that it would take a shit on our number. It was easily one of the most ridiculously interesting things I’ve ever experienced.

The next day I traveled to Caye Caulker, one of Belize’s most famous destinations, to relax and have some island fun. I couldn’t imagine being surrounded by these incredible views and calling this place my home. Would I ever get tired of it?

I spent the late afternoon at the Lazy Lizard enjoying a drink and jumping into the crystal water.

There is so much more I could say about this trip, from turtle talk to late night exploration, to the friendships I formed, but some things can’t be put into words. I’ll leave you with these highlights, until next time.

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One Happy Island, One Happy Girl

Bon bini! I took a mini vacation over the fourth of July holiday, because why not? Destination: Aruba. Scroll on to see “one happy island” for yourself!

Day One- I arrived in Aruba in the late evening of June 30th, so I saved my explorations for the next morning. I woke early, grabbed breakfast, and walked along Palm Beach and Eagle Beach, breathing in the fresh air.

With a cool breeze, white sand, and blue waters, it was hard to believe I was in such a beautiful place!

Later that afternoon, I climbed Hooiberg Lookout for a view of the entire island:

(Definitely want to bring lots of water with you for this one! Speaking of which, Aruba has the cleanest/most pure drinking water.)

Since I was only staying on the island for a short period of time, I was determined to see and do as much as possible. After the hike and exploring downtown, however, I was beat! I headed back to my hotel to relax with my newly arrived book, and watched boats come in to shore.

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Boat coming in at sunset.

Day Two- To see most of the island as possible, I booked a jeep tour. This covered most of the eastern side of the island, from the northernmost point all the way to Baby Beach. We also explored:

  • Bushiribana Gold Mills Ruins
  • Ayo Rock Formation
  • Hidden caves
  • Arikok National Park

My all-time favorite spots were the natural bridges and pools that we stopped at.

Natural bridge, above, and natural pools, below.

More sights: Alto Vista Chapel, a donkey befriending us, and the California Lighthouse.

After a long day, I needed to refuel. I love being close to the ocean, so I chose to have a delicious seafood dinner on the pier.

Day Three- Beach day! Soaked up the sun, chased lizards (which are everywhere!), and drank fresh fruit smoothies. And no, I can’t take credit for that sand sculpture.

On my last night, I was dazzled yet again at sunset:

The island of Aruba is small, but I was only just beginning to uncover the heart of it. I talked to as many locals as I could, learning about the language (Papiamento, but most Arubans can speak four or five languages), their lifestyle, and how tourism makes up the majority of their economy. The country may be a popular destination for couples and families, but I still enjoyed myself and was grateful to be able to relax and take in the beautiful sights.

Even before I got on my flight home, I knew I wanted to come visit again.

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The only good thing about leaving is this incredible view!

Catch ya on the flip side,

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Living for the Weekend

You do it, I do it, we all do it.

Crossing off the days on our calendars at work, counting down the minutes left in our 9-5, living for the weekend. Ah, those blessed mornings where we don’t have to set an alarm or have anywhere to be for 8 hour time blocks. Or, sometimes, if you’re like me, you jam that open weekend full of every ounce of fun you can possibly fit.

This past weekend, JJ and I headed to Rehoboth Beach, DE.  We started a tradition of going camping every Memorial Day weekend, and this year, we took our trip to the beach.

We kicked the vacation off with spending a day at Cape Henlopen State Park. The sand was hot, and the water was freezing, but we jumped in anyway. We enjoyed lunch on the beach and then fell asleep on a blanket under the sun. It was amazing to just relax.

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Since the park was a former military base, we drove around and climbed to the top of an observation tower to take in the view. Later that day, after we cooled off in the pool back at the campground, we hit the boardwalk. Since no trip to the beach is complete without ice cream, we opted for Starkey’s. My indecisive self was lost when we looked at the menu-  100+ delicious flavors! How would I ever choose?!

A stroll down Penny Lane shops and a sweet treat from Starkey’s.

 

The next day, we got to Rehoboth Beach early and watched the fog roll out. After walking along the beach, we sipped some strawberry wine and got the biggest bucket of fries we could find- Thrasher’s original boardwalk fries, of course. I am still craving that salt & vinegar goodness.

Boardwalk fries & patriotic swimsuits for the win.

While we didn’t make it to Dogfish Head, we stopped by Rehoboth Ale House for a couple brews and listened to some live music before going to Zogg’s for dinner- a raw bar & grill with a million different kinds of rum. I was more than pleased with my Key West grouper taco & signature rum punch. After such a long day of eating, sunbathing, and wandering, we were more than ready to spend our last night taking it easy.

Dinner on the boardwalk and back to the campground to relax around the fire.

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Apple pie moonshine & s’mores!

 

Minus the traffic on the drive back home Monday, it was truly a wonderful vacation.

So, are you thinking you’re in dire need of a weekend escape? 

Here are some getaways that aren’t far from Pittsburgh, PA:

  1. Presque Isle State Park, Erie, PA
  2. Ohiopyle State Park, PA
  3. Deep Creek, MD
  4. Cedar Point, OH
  5. Put-in-Bay, OH
  6. Washington, D.C.
  7. Chautauqua, NY
  8. Cleveland, OH
  9. New River Gorge, WV
  10. Gettysburg, PA or Hershey, PA

 

Have more suggestions, or don’t see your favorite listed? Comment below! I’d love to hear more.

Also, I will be working flex time during the summer months (meaning I’ll work four 10 hour days, and get an extra day off) so I will be looking for easy, fun trips to take within a 3-4 day time frame! Anywhere from big cities to hiking trails to amusement parks to beaches, I’m open for it all.

Until next time, weekend warriors.

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