Jason, Addison, and I just got back from almost 2 weeks in the Midwest. We spent time in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Iowa and had such a wonderful time exploring places we have never been with people that we love. Toward the beginning of our travels, we took a few days to explore Chicago. Chicago was one of the few remaining large US cities that Jason and I had not explored together.
We loved Chicago! The food is delicious, the city is beautiful (especially this time of year!), and in my opinion, Chicago is the perfect mix of old and new, and contains the perfect amount of grit and history, while remaining a place we felt safe to explore. We stayed in Lincoln Park and loved how close everything was to us – tons of local eats and shopping. We took some time to walk and shop along the Magnificent Mile, spent time perusing antique and vintage stores in Wicker Park, took in a sunset along the Riverwalk, took pictures at and of “The Bean,” enjoyed a tour of Wrigley Field, and Jason and I have now stood at both the beginning and the ending of Route 66.
One of our favorite ways to get to know a city has always been by eating. We eat as much local fare as possible and Dove’s Luncheonette was definitely one of our favorite Chicago finds. Dove’s is named after a book written in the late 50s that was later adapted for the big screen. The eatery has 41 stools and “draws inspiration from bygone diners and watering holes to create a place where people from all walks of life can converge over a cup of coffee, cocktail, and a great meal” (Dove’s). While drinking your coffee from a 70s style brown bell cup, you will be treated to the music of the 60s and 70s, specifically Chicago soul and blues. The food itself is a wonderful mix of Southern inspired favorites with a Mexican flare and from what we saw and tasted, you cannot go wrong with anything on the menu. I opted for the buttermilk chicken fried chicken, served with a chorizo verde gravy, peas, and pearl onions and I’d do the same thing again. Do yourself a favor if you find yourself in Chicago, eat at Dove’s, you won’t be disappointed! And, yes, I did bring home another mug to add to the racks – this one is, you guessed it, brown and bell shaped. 😉
One of our favorite places to visit from Colorado is New Mexico. We have visited Albuquerque at least once a year, for the last 4 years. Normally, we do not get to explore too much, as we are often in town to enjoy the Balloon Fiesta. We visited ABQ back at the end of July, however, and really got to take in so much of the city and spend time with wonderful friends. One of the things we did this time was explore the Rail Yards Market. “The Yards,” which once housed the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Rail Yards complex, is now repurposed as a community market that showcases local talents and artists and their specialties of music, art, and food. We had such a fun time just meandering through the market, picking up fun things as we went along, while listening to music, and watching local performers. We also took the time to really appreciate all the history of the Rail Yards, as well. I love when historic places are not abandoned, but repurposed, so we can all enjoy the history and character of a place and imagine all that it once was and appreciate what it is now.
When Jason and I found out that we were moving to Colorado for a few years, one of the first things I told him was that I really wanted to take a trip to Durango. At the time that we found out about the move, we had no idea we would be adding Miss Addison to our family.
When I was about 8, my Dad took our family on a vacation to Colorado. We spent a day or two in Durango and while there, we rode the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Train. I have such great memories of that trip to Colorado with my family. Now that I am older, I understand just how much money it must have cost for us to take this trip when our family did not have the extra money for a vacation. I am so thankful that my parents thought it was important to make memories like this and take trips together. Now that my Dad is no longer with us, all I have are memories like these that I cherish.
When we knew Addison was joining our family, we decided to wait to take this trip until she could enjoy it with us. She will be 2 at the end of this month, and this was absolutely the perfect time for her! She has been really into trains for the past few months and loves to see “choo choos.” She was mesmerized by the train and once she went out to the viewing deck, she did not want to come back inside, despite the fact that it was quite brisk the morning of our journey.
The Durango railroad arrived in Durango in August 1881 and within a year, construction began on a line to connect Durango to Silverton. Once the line was complete, passengers along with freight were moved between the locations. The railroad was always promoted as a scenic route for passengers, but the line was constructed for the purpose of hauling mine ores in gold and silver from the San Juan Mountains. An estimated $300 million in metals have been transported on this line. (Durango Train)
Once we arrived back in Durango, we ate an early dinner at Steamworks Brewing Company. We started our meal with their cheese curds with jalapeños and a green chile dipping sauce – so good! I ordered their curry salmon that was baked in a banana leaf and Jason ordered the delicious fish tacos. We finished out our meal with a caramel apple skillet “Spent Grain” cookie.
I cannot believe it has already been almost a year since we visited New Orleans in the springtime. Jason and I have made so many wonderful memories together in the city throughout the course of our relationship and we were so excited to get back last year. There is so much to love about New Orleans. The history, the food, the people, the culture, the music, the beauty. For us it is even more, as it holds such special memories with so many people that we love and have celebrated life’s greatest joys with in the city. This time it was really special and memorable once again, because we shared this trip with our sweet daughter and niece and my sister. It was really wonderful to share one of our favorite places with people we love so much. Truly, one of my favorite ways to show the people I love how much I care is to share my favorite things and places with them.
One of the things about this trip that we were most excited about was the amount of time we had to really explore and take in the beauty of the city. We set aside an entire day to just explore parts of the city on foot. We decided to spend some of that time in the Garden District seeing the historic homes and the gorgeous foliage. Being there, walking there, just made you feel like you were a part of living, breathing history. You could almost imagine the people who lived in these homes and walked on these streets, over the course of its existence. There is definitely something to be said for a place that just makes you feel so much and spend time just reflecting on everything that it is.
This past Spring, Jason and I were finally able to take a trip to Waco, Texas and the Magnolia Silos. Fixer Upper has been such a source of decor inspiration for us, so it was really neat to visit the Magnolia campus and find a few treasures in Magnolia Market.
My sister and niece joined us on our trip and we all really enjoyed our time in Waco. While Jason was off speaking to students at Baylor, sister and I enjoyed several cups of joe from Common Grounds. Common Grounds is just outside of the Baylor campus and is such a neat, local coffee joint. It has a really funky vibe, which is just the kind of place I like.
When we all met back up, we enjoyed perusing the market, checking out the delicious food trucks at the Silos, and of course, the very tasty treats from the Silos Baking Co.
When we visited San Diego, one of the places I was most excited to visit was Balboa Park. Balboa Park is the largest urban cultural park in the United States and is home to 15 museums, the San Diego zoo, and several varieties of gardens. We spent a morning at the zoo and then strolled over to the Spanish Village Art Center. The center was absolutely one of my favorite places we saw in San Diego! It is so full of color and is just so happy!
We walked further into the park to experience some of the park’s architecture. Many of Balboa Park’s buildings were built for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, which was meant to celebrate and recognize San Diego’s port of call as the first stop in the United States, after a ship’s passing through the Panama Canal.
The Spanish Colonial Revival architecture is absolutely stunning and incredibly detailed. Prior to the construction of the buildings in Balboa Park, the term Spanish Colonial Revival did not exist; it was coined in San Diego and after the styles utilized on the buildings in Balboa Park. The Spanish Baroque and Islamic and Persian Moorish Revival architecture styles were the inspiration for the now iconic style of architecture which became widely-used and recognizable in the state of California.
House of Hospitality
Casa de Balboa
Lunch with a view
San Diego Museum of Man
While in San Diego, Jason and I visited Belmont Park at Mission Beach. The highlight of Belmont Park is their historic wooden roller coaster, Giant Dipper. Built in 1925, it is one of two remaining wooden roller coasters on the West Coast built by Arthur Looff and designed by Frederick Church. Church also designed Tornado, a wooden coaster once in operation in Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York.
I have always loved the nostalgia surrounding the wooden roller coaster and old boardwalks. I think of people enjoying their ice cream cones and cotton candy, while enjoying the various amusements and entertainment available at the boardwalk. While we did not enjoy ice cream cones or cotton candy on this trip, we did enjoy our ride on the historic coaster!
One morning while in San Francisco, we took a stroll to the Embarcadero and the Ferry Building by way of North Beach. We planned on having breakfast at the Ferry Building, in fact, that was the very reason were headed that way. However, when walking through San Francisco’s version of Little Italy, one does not pass up a cannoli. At least this one does not. Jason and I each grabbed a cannoli from Mara’s Italian Pastry. The cannoli from this place were legit. They even had a chocolate ricotta filled cannoli. Sign me up!
The Embarcadero, “the place to embark,” is located on the eastern waterfront of the Port of San Francisco. During the early-20th century, before the construction of the Bay Bridge, what is now the plaza in front of the Ferry Building was one of the busiest areas of foot traffic in the world. The Ferry Building serves as the terminal for ferries that travel across the San Francisco Bay and also houses several food stores and restaurants. We planned on Blue Bottle Coffee for breakfast. Liege style waffles and individually prepared drip coffee, to be specific. We both ordered their New Orleans iced coffee, which is cold-brewed for 12 hours with roasted chicory (!!) sweetened with organic cane sugar, and creamed with organic whole milk. For a moment, I thought I was back in NOLA.
After breakfast, we happened upon some of the trolley cars hanging out on the tracks (unattended and unassuming) What’s a gal and her fella to do, but snap a few photos on them?
We’re both pretty accustomed to a couple of cups of coffee in the morning, so since the Philz Coffee truck was parked along the route to our next stop (okay, close enough to detour because it’s sooo good) we grabbed a couple of their delicious mint mojito lattes. I’d be lying to you if I told you this was the last time we had Philz Coffee in San Francisco. No judgement here, right?
The Ferry Building clock tower
New Orleans iced coffee + Liege waffle
Inside the Ferry Building
The Bay Bridge and a ferry
Number of Philz mint mojito lattes consumed in San Francisco at this point: 2.
During our time in the Bay Area, Jason and I were able to spend a day exploring Napa Valley. Prior to our trip, we booked a couple of places to taste area wines. You know what they say about the best laid plans…our first tasting appointment of the day did not work out. Since our second tasting was later in the day, we had a lot of spare time on our hands that we had not planned for. We took advantage of the extra time by spending it in Calistoga, the cutest little town.
We started our day with some coffee and pastries at Bella Bakery on the town’s main street. After breakfast, we took time to explore all the cute, unique shops before stopping at Checker’s for lunch. I have discovered Chinese chicken salads since moving to California and this one did not disappoint. This one was packed full of mixed greens, cucumber, carrots, pickled ginger and roasted chicken. The salad was topped with green onions, almonds, won tons, rice noodles and finished off with a Chinese dressing. Jason opted for the roasted leg of lamb with sautéed mushrooms, roasted garlic, caramelized onions, that was sandwiched between two pieces of focaccia bread.
On our way back to San Francisco, we stopped off at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone for a late afternoon pick-me-up. I wish I had taken the time to snap a picture of the outside of the building, it was so gorgeous! The treat (pun absolutely intended) during our visit was getting to taste a pastry prepared by the students from the baking and pastry degree program.
The happy accident at the end of the day? Arriving back to San Francisco via the Golden Gate Bridge! Our GPS took us out of the city in a different route, so it was so fun getting to drive across the bridge while coming back in. We made it back just in time to catch the sun setting over the gorgeous bridge. I don’t think I could ever tire of that view.
I really love this funky coffee shop’s hanging signage!
The best type of train!!
Chinese chicken salad
Roasted leg of lamb sandwich on focaccia
iPhone snap inside the barrel room during our tasting
iPhone snap inside the barrel room during our tasting
Culinary Institute of America at Greystone
Cappuccino + chocolate caramel pastry at The Culinary Institute
Crossing the Golden Gate!
That bridge + that sunset. One of my favorite moments!