Still in love with San Fran

One of the reasons we chose Denton, is the proximity to DFW. I’ve managed to find some great fares since it is an American Airlines hub, and when I found $100 pp round trip tickets to San Francisco, it was a no brainer to book the flights!

Staircase at Hotel Vertigo
Staircase at Hotel Vertigo

Next was determining where to stay, and this I struggled with a bit. Go all out and stay at the Intercontinental? Or find a place that is reasonable so we could splurge a lot more on food and drink? I opted for the latter and we had really great accommodations at Hotel Vertigo. The location was central, the rooms clean and while not high end living, fit our needs perfectly.

We really can work from wherever!
We really can work from wherever!

We flew in late Wednesday night and since we both work remotely, logged in extra early on Thursday to keep east coast hours. Lunch was a really great meal at House of Thai and then we finished up our work day at Amsterdam Cafe.

Such a great cable car ride!
Such a great cable car ride!

Then it was time to finally ride the cable car! Our last visit here many years ago was in the high season and I detest waiting in long lines. So I skipped out on that experience but thanks to low season, we were able to hop right on with no lines in the lower nob district. The hills here are NO JOKE and they are especially scary hanging off the side of the cable car. Such a great experience and believe it or not, we weren’t charged, even as I offered cash to pay. To top off the totally great experience, we rode in car 42!

We kept on exploring by heading to the Tonga Room which has been on Keith’s to do list for awhile. It was a neat space in a beautiful hotel, but I’m not the fondest of umbrellas in my drinks.

A quick visit to the Tonga Room
A quick visit to the Tonga Room

Then a recommended dinner at Foreign Cinema. Honestly, while I loved the atmosphere, the food didn’t really knock me out.  At any price point I expect good food, but at the higher price points my expectations increase. ‘Just ok’ doesn’t cut it. Because of that, we skipped dessert there and wandered over to Myriad Gastropub. We finished off another round of drinks and shared a tasty dessert and then it was time to crash.

Loved the space of Foreign Cinema
Loved the space of Foreign Cinema

The next day, we headed to a spot at lunch, only to find a note on the door they were closed. One of the best things I love about a city, is you just go another block and find another joint. We had a really impressive lunch at Pakwan Indian restaurant and then it was back to work. After we finished work, we decided to celebrate Friday by visiting a dive bar in the Tenderloin. Nite Cap was a perfect place to get some really delicious (and cheap for SF) old fashioneds. There was no food so we stumbled to a place a few blocks away a few hours later and landed in an empty eatery. Turns out, the place I was headed to was bought by someone else and the menu changed. While not spectacular, we soaked up some of the bourbon with food and had a great chat with the bartender. Then we went back to Nite Cap…. which means we don’t always make great decisions. ;)

The evil little spot in the Tenderloin that drew us back.
The evil little spot in the Tenderloin that drew us back.

On Saturday, it was forecasted to be amazing weather so we decided to rent a car and take a road trip out to Sonoma. Our last visit to San Francisco was almost twenty years ago so we were interested to see if our favorite winery back then, was still impressive to our more mature, ‘grown-up’ tastes. Viansa wine, even though they have gone through some interesting ownership changes, is still quite good. I can neither confirm, nor deny that we may or may not have a few cases headed to Texas.

It was a beautiful day to cross the Golden Gate Bridge!
It was a beautiful day to cross the Golden Gate Bridge!

After spending way too much time at Viansa, we visited the girl and the fig restaurant and had a seriously fabulous lunch. We then walked around the square some, before heading back into the city in enough time to drop the rental car off. A nice late dinner at Borobudur, and it was beyond time to crash.

Food at the girl and the fig
Food at the girl and the fig

Our last day in the city we realized our niece was working the Superbowl City – which means we had to take advantage of randomly being in the same place – so we met for breakfast, and then spent the day alternatively walking and riding around town. Alcatraz Island, check! Clam Chowder in a sourdough bowl, check! Alamo Square to see the infamous painted ladies with the SF skyline in the background, check!

Ferry ride to Alcatraz provided great views of the island, Golden Gate and the city!
Ferry ride to Alcatraz provided great views of the island, Golden Gate and the city!

We walked from Alamo Square all the way to the start of Golden Gate park before dipping into Cha Cha Cha in Height Ashbury. Keith had a early evening flight out to his next work site so we returned back to the hotel. I originally had designs on going back out and doing more exploring but I was just exhausted. I turned into to see most of Grease Live, then completely and totally crashed. It was an early morning alarm at 3am to make my flight.

Iconic shot from Alamo Square
Iconic shot from Alamo Square

All in all, it was an amazing return to a city we enjoyed so many years ago. Hopefully it won’t be another 20 before we return again. We got so many good recommendations on places from friends and co-workers and only managed to hit a few. They are on our list now!

Work Week in NOLA

I recently had to travel to NOLA for a work week, much to Keith’s dismay (he was pretty bummed he was missing out on a Louisiana trip). Since this area of Louisiana has been a yearly stop in our RV travels, it almost felt like coming home, even though I didn’t stay in Mandeville.

NOLA cemeteries are always a treat to explore!
NOLA cemeteries are always a treat to explore!

Since it was for work, I didn’t have Samantha which allowed me to experience NOLA a bit differently. The group stayed in a garden district mansion which provided me some fabulous early morning walks. The house was super close to Parasol’s which I visited back in 2011 and I can report that the firecracker po-boy is still just as fabulous. So fabulous in fact,  I convinced the group that Parasol’s should be for lunch later that week. Two firecracker po-boys in one week=awesome.

Loved the houses and fences in the Garden District.
Loved the houses and fences in the Garden District.

In fact, much of this trip was focused on food, which is always a good thing IMHO.  We ate at La Petit Grocery which I thoroughly enjoyed both the atmosphere and the food.  There were muffulettas at Cochon Butcher, and a delicious meal at NOLA. We snuck in some cafe au lait and beignets at Cafe du Monde and had a Pimm’s Cup at the Napoleon House. We also had a ‘local’s meal’ at Clancy’s which was top notch.

This is a personal sized muffuletta. I managed half.
This is a personal sized muffuletta. I managed half.

Probably the best part of the week was hearing live music at Generations Hall as part of the Best of the Beat awards, and at d.b.a to hear Shannon McNally. I danced so much my ass hurt the next day.

If you don't come to NOLA for food, come for the music!
If you don’t come to NOLA for food, come for the music!

We also did get a lot of work done, which is the whole purpose of getting together in person. To work. Not to eat, or drink, or dance… really!

2015 Year in Review

A lot has changed this year. We’re no longer ‘full time RVer’s’. We own a house again. What hasn’t changed? Our love of traveling and we still have a lot in store ahead. But, it’s been an adjustment being more stationary and over the past few months I’ve been asked several times how settling down has worked out.

Honestly? I’m not unhappy. But I’m not totally full of glee either. We are both nomadic at heart and we both know that this stop is only temporary.  We both love traveling so much, but at the same time, we really needed a break. Having a house with some space has been really nice (I mean – really, REALLY nice) and now that we’re over 1/2 through making it ours, we are enjoying it even more.  Our dog Samantha is getting old, and after 3 surgeries in the past 4 years, she needed  break too. We wanted a nice yard where she lay out without being tied to the RV in a campground and she loves her space.

Our focus has been getting the house in order, and with the new year, we hope to dive into getting more involved in Denton and enjoy our time while we are here. We also have a trip to Costa Rica planned in the spring, along with a trip to San Francisco, and we hope to squeeze in more ‘layover’ type trips where we spend 24-48 hours in a place and explore. Since Texas is no joke in the summer, we also plan on escaping for a few months. We’ve bantered about maybe Canada, maybe New England, maybe the PNW. I suppose we need to decide soon!

But, we still did quite a bit of traveling last year so let’s do a quick review.

Last year we wound down 2014 in Savannah Georgia where we walked all 24 squares, and visited areas like Bluffton and Keith’s hometown of Beaufort. We had been to that area before and it was a treat to revisit it.

Beautiful Savannah Home
Beautiful Savannah Home

We then headed to the panhandle of Florida, staying in a new spot right on the water.  We spent a month in the panhandle, snuck in a few visits with family, toured Fort Pickens and relaxed… when we both weren’t traveling for work. We also endured freezing cold temperatures again in January!

View from our RV
View from our RV

We then moved on to Mandeville, one of our favorite spots in the states. This little town is so fantastic and you can’t beat being just over the (really, really long) bridge to New Orleans.

View from the state park
View from the state park

We then kept heading west, stopping for some time in East Texas. Texas is such a central location, that we tend to stop in a lot. In all this time, we haven’t really focused much on East Texas so we decided, why not? We enjoyed our time, and even though it was colder than we expected, that paid off in seeing cypress trees snow covered – not an every day sight! Also, one of the most exciting things to happen during this time period was finally paying off my student loans.

Snow in the Bayou
Snow in the Bayou

In April, we visited Denton, Texas. I happened to read something somewhere about this town. We had been talking about getting a place in Texas but we were very conflicted as to where. We ended up really enjoying Denton and now call this place home!

The real reason we hung out in Texas so long, was I bought tickets to visit Italy and since we needed to decide on an airport long before we knew our plans, I chose DFW.

Italy was, in a word, amazing. I was a bit nervous about traveling in a place where I barely knew how to communicate, but the little Italian I picked up got us by. There was so much to love about Italy and I can’t wait to hop the pond again for a trip.

Loved the textures & colors in this snap!
Loved the textures & colors in this snap!

We stayed at first in Parma and that ended up being a fabulous stop. I fell in love with espresso available everywhere and the grocery stores with crazy cheap and crazy good wine.

We then hopped a train and went to Florence. I loved this place. We walked, and walked and then walked some more. Luckily, it wasn’t hard to convince Keith with a lot of wine breaks in between all the walking. My slight fears about not finding breakfast to my liking (I’m not a sweets fan) was totally unfounded, as my breakfast in Florence every day was prosciutto,  fresh bread and fresh mozzarella – delish! I also enjoyed the happy hour spreads we managed to stumble upon. I realized I could die quite happy sipping wine and noshing on good food in Italy.

Amazing view of Florence - Duomo really dominates the city
Amazing view of Florence – Duomo really dominates the city

In the middle of our Firenze stay, we took a day trip to Cinque Terre. This spot was recommended by a co-worker and I am so happy I listened to the recommendation. I am also super happy we didn’t do an organized tour. Once we realized how easy train travel was in Italy, we decided to do it ourselves and it was such a great, if a bit exhausting, day.

View from the ferry
View from the ferry

Then, it was time to travel to Venice. I heard from many people how amazing Venice is, but I was a bit worried. We noticed on this trip so far, that while we dip into touristy areas, we really tried to walk off the beaten path and seek out areas not so congested. I wondered if we were going to be able to do that in Venice. Happily, we discovered we could, and one of the highlights was being in a restaurant that the gondoliers frequented, not an English menu in sight.

Our first look at The Grand Canal
Our first look at The Grand Canal

We also wanted to see Venice from the water so we spent navigating the ferry system. It was easier than expected, and we loved the ability to check out Murano and Burano as well. It was tempting to shop for real estate in Burano, with all the lovely colors & canals. I read later that life on this small island is quite challenging – they don’t even have a grocery store!

Colorful Burano
Colorful Burano

We headed back to Milan again, and one of the biggest treats of the trip awaited us. I got to meet my penpal that I had back when I was 16 years old. We kept in touch rather well over the years, and then reconnected via facebook. By this time, we were rather exhausted but still managed to tour the city and stay up late chatting. It was a great way to end our Italy vacation!

Duomo in Milan - so impressive!
Duomo in Milan – so impressive!

Fresh off our Italy trip, we hopped back in the RV and headed to Santa Fe. It’s a spot I have always, always wanted to visit and since we knew our RV days might be winding down, it seemed like a perfect time to go. We also enjoyed just driving around New Mexico – the scenery there is something else.

In mid June, I took a quick flight to Minneapolis. Sometime last year, I bought a ticket to see Bette Midler in concert, as at the time we thought we would be staying the summer in MN. Our jello plans changed but I still really wanted to see her so I spent a great weekend exploring St. Paul, downtown MN and even managed to sneak in a baseball game as well!

Our last stop was Canon City, CO before we headed back to TX to house hunt. We really enjoyed our views out the rig, and the only downside was how HOT it got there.  We took a train ride, explored Colorado Springs and Pueblo, and just generally enjoyed our month in CO.

Our rig at Royal View.
Our rig at Royal View.

Then, we decided on Denton as our new home base. Like I mentioned in the intro, it’s been nice to have space. And to set up work travel plans without the stress of not knowing what airport we will be near. Or having to stay near airports in case we do need to do business travel. Things have changed for us with stable employment and RVing just started to become work instead of an adventure.

The beautiful Denton courthouse in the square
The beautiful Denton courthouse in the square

There has been more house work, and more cooking – but we’ve also still traveled some since buying our house.

Keith had to go to a client site in NJ and I found killer airfare for me, so we made a weekend out of it! We flew into Philadelphia, then traveled to NYC where we saw Hedwig and the Angry Inch and it was a great ‘layover’ style trip.

Hedwig marquee and me!
Hedwig marquee and me!

Another trip was to California for my yearly work retreat. We stayed at the impressively awesome Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel and I was spoiled with a Pacific ocean view. It was nice to hang with co-workers and meet new people that started since the last retreat. Since I was so close to Disneyland, I decided to try out life as a ‘single rider’ – and LOVED it.

Can't complain about Pacific sunset views
Can’t complain about Pacific sunset views

Another client visit for Keith, this time in Cleveland. I again lucked out in finding crazy cheap airfare and went along. Not sure I have mentioned recently how much I love working remotely. We enjoyed Cleveland, even if it was a tad chilly & I got to have lunch with a co-worker than lives in the area. We also got a chance to visit the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame & Museum.

And then to wrap up our year, was our cruise that ended up being a disappointment, and a quick trip for me to Albany and Saratoga Springs.

Scooter and ghost signs in Cozumel, Mexico
Scooter and ghost signs in Cozumel, Mexico

We’re still figuring out what our travels will look like for this upcoming year and both Keith and I anticipate a decent amount of work travel.  What that looks like? We’ll find out soon!

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