travel

mill valley + more.

I’m back in New York and back in the swing of things (well, almost), and so happy to finally be taking the time to gather up the photos from the back end of our California trip and tell you more about what we did. I had every intention of sharing an update on our Mill Valley and Marin County adventures last week, but I was so busy enjoying the trip and keeping up with other work that it just didn’t happen. Sorry about that! Actually, though, I’m only kind of sorry, because it felt great to be a little extra intentional about staying in the moment and making good memories with Matt. Plus, now that I’m officially a few days removed from the trip, I can reflect on and appreciate it that much more.

I mentioned in the recap of our days in San Francisco and Monterey that we weren’t totally crazy about downtown SF and that we were craving the down time we hoped we would find once we left the city and got to Mill Valley, where we’d booked an Airbnb for ten days. If you haven’t heard of it (and I hadn’t before we planned this trip), Mill Valley is a great little town in Marin County, about 15 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge.

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Thanks to advice from my friend Angela who lives in the Bay Area, we chose Mill Valley as our home base for the bulk of our time in California because it seemed like it was accessible to a lot of the other places we wanted to check out while we were in the area. We also found this awesome Airbnb that was within walking distance of the actual town of Mill Valley — which has tons of bars and restaurants — and was at the base of some great walking trails. Seriously, everyone, if you ever decide to go to Mill Valley or Marin (and you’re going to want to after reading this post), I would highly, highly recommend this little bungalow. It was our first experience with Airbnb, but it was an excellent one. This place really made us feel at home!

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I could go on forever about all of the great things we did, so I’ll try to choose a few highlights : )

Hiking Muir Woods: One of the things on Matt’s bucket list (which I didn’t know until recently!) was to see California’s redwood trees — and we got to see plenty on this hike! We explored the tourist area around Muir Woods, then hiked about seven miles on a winding series of trails. Luckily, we ran into a former park ranger near what we thought was the end of the trail, and he told us about a beautiful summit just 100 yards ahead. The hike would have been really fun even without that inside scoop, but the amazing view was definitely the cherry on top. We finished our day with burgers and shakes at Super Duper in Mill Valley. After a full day of hiking, I probably could have had three shakes! We did some other hiking and explored other trails in the Mill Valley area, but Muir Woods was definitely the best.

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Stinson Beach: We specifically planned this as a non-beach trip, but you can’t go to California and spend all that time driving up and down the coast only to never park yourself on the sand for a while. One night, we packed up a beach bag, picked up a bottle of rosé (and a bag of marshmallows because, yum!), and drove to Stinson to read and watch the sun set over the ocean. As a lifelong East Coaster, I’m totally impressed by that west coast sun slowly dipping its way into the water. It’s magical!

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Dinner with friends in Menlo Park: Angela and I (and Matt, too!) went to high school together, but we somehow managed to spend four yours in the same building without realizing that we were meant to be friends! We reconnected recently thanks to blogging and social media (check out her blog here), and when Matt and I decided to plan a trip to Northern California, Angela was a huge help in putting everything together. Thanks to her husband Kendrick, Angie moved out to the Bay Area a little over five years ago, and we really couldn’t have organized this adventure without her. I was so. happy. that we were able to connect in person during our visit. Angela and Kendrick invited us to their home in Menlo Park for dinner, and we had the best night catching up and meeting their ten-month-old, Gio! It’s so rare as an adult to meet people who you so automatically connect with (at least, it is for me), and I definitely felt that last week with the Ribeiros. It was a highlight of our trip and we’re so grateful to count this family among our friends.

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Biking on Angel Island: We rented bikes in Tiburon and took the ferry to Angel Island, which is known to have some of the best views of the Bay Area. Matt and I love to bike, but we’re far from experts at it, and thanks to a combination of crummy rental bikes and unpaved roads, the biking portion of the trip wasn’t totally flawless — but the experience was totally worth the hiccups. Due to the horrible fires in wine country, the visibility wasn’t great, but we still got some amazing photos and loved taking in the whole San Francisco area from above.

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Pasta Class at Cavallo Point Lodge: I knew I wanted to plan something special for Matt while we were in California to help kick off the celebrations for his birthday (he turns 28 on October 23!), but I’m the furthest thing from a good liar, so I was taking a big risk when I booked a cooking class for us on the last night of our trip, knowing that I’d have to keep the secret for two whole weeks while we were living in such close quarters. Somehow, I managed to play it totally cool, and on our final morning, I told him when we woke up that he would need to be ready to go somewhere by 5:30 that night. Little did I know that the place where I booked the class — the Cavallo Point Lodge — happened to be one of the most beautiful places we visited the whole time! The Lodge is a hotel located in Sausalito with an incredible view of the Golden Gate Bridge and idyllic grounds. We got there early so I could surprise Matt in time to grab a drink and watch the sun set. After our drink, we went to our cooking class, which focused on filled pastas like ravioli and tortellini. We had so much fun! I wish I had more pictures, but we were so busy cooking (and then eating, duh), that I could barely grab my phone. This was seriously a night to remember, and if you live in the area or are planning to visit soon, I would definitely recommend stopping at Cavallo Point, even if it’s only for a drink.

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Outside of these highlights, I could go on and on about all of the sweet little coffee shops we visited and delicious meals we had, but then I’ll be totally gushing, so I’m going to have to stop.

Because of the wildfires raging in Napa and Sonoma, we (unfortunately) didn’t get to see wine country, and our thoughts go out to all of the families affected by the disaster. Given the newfound appreciation we have for Northern California after this trip, we feel sadder than ever knowing that so many good people and so much beautiful land was hit so hard by the flames.

That’s a wrap on California, friends. Thanks so much, as always, for following our journey!

 

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tips for traveling with your s.o.

Matt and I have always been pretty good travel buddies.

On one of our very first dates, we took a somewhat spontaneous road trip from Hershey, PA to Washington, DC. Four hours in the car together each way, still basically strangers, not even sure what kind of music the other person really liked listening to or what kind of car snacks would make them less annoyed by traffic. We managed to get through those trips with only minimal awkwardness, which was an early sign (to me, at least) that there could really be something to the relationship.

Since then, we’ve taken countless long drives together. I’m pretty comfortable as the navigator, while Matt’s great in the driver’s seat. Eight and a half years later, I know that he likes listening to country music (or, more recently, podcasts*) and that a purple Gatorade and Clif Bar is his ideal driving food and drink combo.

More recently, we’ve started taking longer trips together, too. It took four years for us to get on a plane together, but since then, we’ve had a chance to explore some amazing places, especially in the last year or two. I feel lucky that we’re pretty naturally compatible when it comes to travel, but we’re still always learning how to do better, and since the trip we’re on is the longest yet (you can read more about the first few stops here), we’ve definitely picked up a few more best practices over the last few days. Here are a few (Matt-approved) tips for traveling with your significant other that we hope will help minimize tension and maximize fun!

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  • Share luggage space. We haven’t always done this, but for our last two trips, we’ve been more flexible about maximizing our joint carry-on and checked bags by squeezing both of our stuff into the spots where it makes the most sense — even if it’s not “my” or “his” bag. Admittedly, I can be a little territorial, so this was hard for me to come around to, but it’s allowed us to save money on luggage fees and to pack more of what we want.
  • Don’t overbook yourself. We find that it’s best to leave as much flexibility in our travel schedule as possible. Typically, we start a vacation with a list of things we want to see and do, but we don’t usually have them scheduled ahead of time. This allows us to get a feel for the area and ease into travel mode for a day or two before we start sketching out a plan. Leaving some margin in your schedule also gives you a chance to have a little extra downtime. As much as we love seeing cool sights and trying great restaurants while we’re away, we also find that some of our favorite moments on vacation happen when we’re casually wandering around town or watching movies in the hotel. Those moments only happen when you build in some extra free time!
  • Over-communicate. Let’s be honest — I’m pretty much an over-communicator no matter where we are. BUT, a little extra communication is even more important when you and your S.O. have invested time and money into a vacation that’s meant to be special for both of you. Early on in this trip, for example, I had a feeling that Matt and I were maybe prioritizing different things as we started to plan our itinerary, and I could see that it might cause tension (at least on my end!). We talked about it right away so that we could avoid a bigger issue later on — and it worked!

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  • Understand what’s most important to your S.O. and let them take the lead on it! Friends, it’s taken me a long time to learn this one. One of Matt’s favorite things about travel is exploring great restaurants and trying new foods. I love a good meal as much as the next person, but it doesn’t make or break a vacation for me, and it’s not always where I’d choose to spend the biggest chunk of our travel budget. In the name of compromising, I’ve learned to let my husband research (read: obsess over) restaurants and make most of the decisions about where we eat. It really excites him! Since food isn’t as much of a “thing” for me, this is a place where I’ve learned to step back a bit, which gives him a chance to vacation the way he likes to — and I can speak up when it counts for me, too.
  • It’s OK to do your own thing. Matt and I live in a 700-square foot apartment in New York, so we’re not really phased by sharing small hotel rooms, but we’re also introverts, which means that if we don’t get a little quiet time for ourselves here and there, we aren’t exactly our best selves. We’ve learned over the years that it’s really important to grant each other the occasional hour of alone time when we’re traveling. Time to exercise or nap or take a quiet walk is super important, and we always come back together ready to enjoy our trip even more. It’s not the mark of a bad couple’s vacation to spend some time alone!

I’d love to hear your tips for traveling with your significant other! Leave them in the comments below.

**And if you’re a podcast fan like us, I have great news for you. My friend Brittney’s new podcast Day In the Life just launched TODAY! Check it out here on iTunes. It’s a super cool peek into the lives of some awesome people. You’re gonna love it! 

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san francisco + monterey.

Hi from Mill Valley, California, everyone! Yesterday, Matt and I checked into our Airbnb in this amazing little town about 15 miles north of San Francisco. We’re just a few hours into this leg of our trip and loving it already — but more on that next week! First, I want to share a little bit more about the first few days of our travels…

We landed in San Francisco late Saturday morning and got settled at our hotel (The Marker, which we liked a lot!). Since we’re city dwellers who do a lot of walking in our everyday lives at home, we tend to like exploring new places on foot whenever we can, so we threw on our sneakers and took to the streets! We’d heard a lot about the Mission District and all of the great places you can find to eat there, so we headed in that direction and stopped to have lunch at Gracias Madre. I’m not the biggest fan of Mexican food, but the menu looked pretty good, and I’ll never complain about chips and guac : ) Within a few minutes of being seated, we figured out that it was a vegan restaurant, which threw Matt for a bit of a loop, especially! The meal was delicious (can someone teach me to make sweet potato tacos with pumpkin seeds, please?) and I think it may have even opened up Matt’s mind to trying vegan dishes in the future. Maybe. From there, we walked to Mission Dolores Park, where we found a spot on the grass to people watch (or, if you’re me, dog watch) for a few hours.

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I wasn’t crazy about how we spent the rest of Saturday night (dinner was a serious flop for me — I don’t want to dish the bad stuff here!), but my body was (and, four days later, still is) on east coast time, so it felt pretty great to get back to the hotel and crash.

Sunday morning, we were up bright and early with a list of other things we wanted to check out in the city. We set out toward the water and spent most of the day walking along the bay and then straight up a very steep hill to the famous Lombard Street. For me, the best part of the day was the early morning! We walked to the Ferry Building, grabbed breakfast from Cowgirl Creamery, and sat by the waterfront looking at this view while we ate!

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Visiting Ghirardelli Square was another Sunday highlight. Matt and I split their original hot fudge sundae for lunch, and it was by far some of the richest chocolate I’ve ever tasted.

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Shoutout to the guy who most definitely had too much to drink before he walked past us sitting on this repurposed ski lift and insisted that the moment called for a photo. He has a good eye! These are seriously some of my new favorite pictures (well, maybe not the one with him in it).

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Monday was a big day for pictures, because we spent the whole morning driving down Highway One to our second hotel in Monterey, then the afternoon making a loop around Pebble Beach (I posted some of those photos here). My entire camera roll is pretty much photos of incredible blue water from the window of our rental car, plus some shots we took at the Pigeon Point Ligthouse. They’re all too pretty to delete!

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Monday night, we drove down to Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey for dinner. For my fellow Jersey shore folks, the Wharf was basically a miniature boardwalk, with a higher proportion of seafood restaurants and a lower proportion of T-shirt shops. I’ve never seen anything like it — every. single. restaurant was giving away free samples of New England clam chowder to everyone who walked by. I guess that’s what you have to do to keep up with the competition, right? The strategy worked on us because we were sold on the chowder at Crabby Jim’s and ended up sitting down there to eat.

Tuesday was our busiest day yet, and it was a big one for me because I finally got to see the sea otters at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. When I was really young, my grandmother visited the aquarium and brought me back tons of otter souvenirs — a book, a shirt, and a stuffed animal — and I became totally obsessed with them. It’s been a bucket list item for me to go visit the otters myself ever since. I’m not going to say that I teared up when I saw them up close for the first time, but I’m, not going to say that I didn’t, either. They’re such happy, interesting animals, and it was great learning more about what the aquarium is doing to keep them safe and rebuild their population.

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After I’d recovered from all of the otter excitement (just kidding— I still haven’t recovered), we drove back into Monterey and had lunch at The Poke Lab. I’ve been wanting to try poke for, well, forever, and it didn’t disappoint!

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We had a few more spots we wanted to see south of Monterey before heading north to Mill Valley, so we jumped back in the car and drove to Big Sur. So many more incredible photos through a car window added to my phone! Guys, California is seriously beautiful.

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To finish up the day, we went to Carmel-by-the-Sea, took a walk on the beach, and explored the area a bit. Every time it feels like there can’t possibly be another adorable California coastal town, we find one more! It’s unbelievable.

As you can probably tell, these first few days were really busy. We saw a lot, drove a lot, and (admittedly) ate a lot. We covered a ton of ground and hit pretty much everything that was on our wish list for the San Francisco and Monterey areas. But it was a little exhausting! To be perfectly honest, Matt and I weren’t totally crazy about San Francisco, so we were happy to move on to the more low-key Monterey — and we’re even happier now to be unwinding in Mill Valley. I’ve more or less stayed on my east coast schedule, because I’ve been waking up super early every morning to work (I’m still working my scheduled Bustle writing shifts, for example, from 6 to 12 PST twice a week). I’m really grateful that I have the flexibility to keep up with my work while also enjoying this quality time with Matt, but I’m also ready for some good sleep! Thanks to our cozy new digs, I’m feeling like I’ll definitely be able to make that happen over the next ten days. I can’t wait to share our Mill Valley adventures with you next week.

In the meantime, for more details on our travels, follow me on Instagram stories!

 

 

 

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back to where it all began.

Matt and I are heading down to Washington, D.C. tomorrow, and I couldn’t be more excited! I went to college in D.C., and a lot of my closest friends from school still live there. Earlier this year, one of Matt’s best friends from college (who I’ve since stolen HAH!) and her (new!) husband bought a house outside the city. I can’t wait to check out their home and to catch up with some of my very favorite people.

Sometimes, I really find myself doing a double take when I remember that my friends and I are now in our mid-twenties (creeping up into that late-twenties category, too, yeesh!) and spread across the country in different cities, living our crazily different routines and digging roots in new places with new people. It’s always a treat to get a little glimpse into what those lives look like, and to be reminded of the fact that time and distance are really not a factor in your most significant relationships. Plus, you know I love any excuse to jump in the car with Matt, put on a great podcast, and drive down some new roads. (And maybe — just maybe — I’m also kind of planning the weekend around getting my favorite s’mores milkshake at a diner near my friend Gail’s apartment…)

D.C. was such a special place to go to school. While I wasn’t always crazy about my college specifically (that’s a topic for another post!), it was a pretty incredible experience to “come of age” (that’s a weird expression, but it fits here) in a city that was so vibrant and alive. When I think about the fact that I was 17 years old in my suburban hometown one day, and the next was set loose in Washington, D.C. among cabs and motorcades and inaugural crowds and a seemingly infinite number of bars and clubs, I can’t help but laugh. I really had no idea what I was getting into, but I firmly believed then that I did — and, luckily for me, I found the most amazing friends to explore it all with.

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Thinking I was the coolest on a night in D.C. senior year (at least then I had four years under my belt!). Doesn’t everyone have totally humiliating pictures like this?

Going back to Washington is also meaningful for me and Matt because it’s the place where our love story really started. We went to middle school and high school together, but it wasn’t until he and a mutual friend of ours came to D.C. for the Fourth of July the summer after our freshman year of college that we really even got to know each other (picture a high school of 2,500 students, a super cool soccer player, and the well-liked — but pretty introverted — editor of the newspaper)! It didn’t take long for us to realize that there was something more than friendship between us, and since I was working in Washington for the summer, Matt made a bunch of trips down to visit so we could figure out if that “something” could sustain long-distance once the school year started again. (Spoiler alert: we decided it could, and it did!)

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Our last visit to D.C. together… in 2013! So long ago!

After that first year, we spent most of our time together in Pennsylvania, where Matt’s college and my family’s house were just a few miles apart. Still, D.C. is where it all started, and since it’s been a long time since Matt and I visited the city together, I’ve been thinking a lot this week about the Washington milestones where we have some of our earliest memories. Here are a few of those places…

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The very first picture I have of the two of us — and I’m so happy it’s in D.C.
  • The Lincoln Memorial: On that first Fourth of July, my friends and I took Matt to watch the fireworks from just under the famous monument. We try to go back (or at least drive by) whenever we’re in town, even though I know it’s kind of a tourist-y move for someone who lived there for four years.
  • The Kennedy CenterI really wanted Matt to think I was a total Washington insider, so on one of his first visits, I took him to the Kennedy Center late at night. Fun fact (for my non-D.C. pals): even if you’re not going to a show there, you can go up to the very top of the building. It’s my favorite view of the city.
  • Good Stuff EateryOne of my best memories from that first summer is when Matt drove me back to Washington after our “official” first date at a Dave Matthews Band concert closer to home. I knew that four hours in the car together would be a make-it-or-break-it moment! Happily, we learned then that we love taking road trips together. When we got back to D.C., I told Matt that I’d been dying to try a milkshake from Good Stuff Eatery on Capitol Hill, and since he loves ice cream even more than I do, it was an easy sell!
  • The National Mall/World War II Memorial: Said milkshakes in hand (I think mine was Toasted Marshmallow), we walked down to the National Mall (can’t you tell I was trying to show Matt that I was so not a tourist? L-O-L) and wandered around. It started POURING rain and we (of course) didn’t have an umbrella, so we just hid inside the World War II Memorial. We were the only dummies out there in the downpour, so it was just us tucked into the beautiful monument late at night.
  • VapianoIn college, my friends and I thought this place was the. absolute. coolest. You could go there and customize your own pasta dish — and we did… often. That September, my mom and my grandmother were coming down to visit me in Washington for my birthday. Matt and I were barely “official,” but he so wanted to spend my special day with me that he coordinated with them and caught a ride to come see me. He spent the weekend with the three of us (keep in mind that this is a guy who’s one of three boys and was very much a fish out of water with three ladies). To this day, it’s one of my favorite things that my now-husband has ever done for me. I took Mom, Nana, and Matt to Vapiano for my birthday, and later that night, Matt told me he loved me for the first time. : )
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For my 19th birthday, my mom got me Lehigh-themed presents so I would be ready to cheer at Matt’s soccer games.

Thanks for indulging me in these memories! It’s always fun to think back on that special time — and to dig up these photos, of course. We look like SUCH babies. I can’t wait to get back to D.C. this weekend and feel even more sentimental. Hopefully, I’ll have pictures to share (newer ones, with better fashion)!

…AND don’t forget to enter this months’ giveaway! The prize is a necklace from The Shine ProjectAll you have to do to enter to win is comment on my last post. I’ll be drawing and announcing the winner on Monday 7/31, so get those entries in ASAP!

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