Wine Tasting in Napa! |Napa Valley, CA.

No, we didn't get "drunk" in Napa. Because I assume that's what everyone is thinking when I tell them we went to "Wine Country" - that we spent the day guzzling vino and stumbling from one vineyard to the next. (It's unlikely anyone is probably thinking that - I'm just paranoid because no one in my family drinks wine, and when I show up to family get-togethers they usually make some sort of comment like, "There's the wine drinker!" <--- So, that's how they know me back home. "The wine drinker." Of all my accomplishments, there's one to be proud of.) 

We drove up to Napa for the day on our trip to San Francisco last month. We had planned to go last year but skipped out when the concierge at our hotel told us to "stay away" after all of the wild fires broke out in 2017. (I had sorta-kinda wanted to go anyway, but Kyle was like "LOL we're not going to Napa when everything is on fire."

So we compromised and went this year. Upon entering the town of Napa (the first stop on our "Napa Valley" itinerary), I texted my best friend back in Chicago and said "I want to have my Bachelorette party here", and she was like "Is this your way of telling me he proposed???" And I was like, "No. I'm just saying - when or if we ever get engaged, this is where I want my Bachelorette party. It's cute and classy." <--- Napa in a nutshell: Cute and classy. Also, there's wine. 

An Afternoon in Santa Barbara, CA.

I found a trendy, new thing that I wanted to try while we were in Santa Barbara. It was kind of like yoga... except it was goat yoga. Like, yoga - with goats.

"Doesn't that sound like fun?" I asked.

"You're not serious." Kyle said. And fine - maybe I wasn't being TOTALLY serious, but only because the class was being offered on Saturday and we had only planned to be in Santa Barbara through Thursday afternoon. 

How to Reduce the Stress of Traveling.

Overheard at the terminal bar last week in the Kansas City airport-- guy asks the bartender if he can have a "mock tail" (similar to a cocktail, but with less alcohol - and by "less", I mean zero). The bartender says, "Sure. What would you like?" 

The guy doesn't know. He just stands there for a minute, like he's never been asked that question before. Finally he says, "Like, a wine?" 

First of all - the fact that he just called it "a wine" made my entire day. 

Now the bartender looks confused. I don't blame him. "Wine?" He asks. "So... juice." 

The guy shrugs. "Well, I don't know how you do it." 

I should also point out that this guy is well into his twenties - more likely early thirties. He is old enough to know what "a wine" is.  

My flight was boarding shortly after, so I don't know what happened next. I'm assuming he got his juice, asked the bartender to pour it into a wine glass, and then sent a Snapchat to all of his friends with the caption "Thirsty Thursday". 

24 Hours in Phoenix, AZ.

We made a pit-stop in Phoenix last year on our way from The Grand Canyon to San Francisco (which is not at all between "The Grand Canyon and San Francisco", for those of you familiar with geography, but it was one of the places that had an airport relatively nearby - and also because, during the planning process, I said, "Ooh! We should go to Phoenix! It's so cool! I was there a few years ago with some friends, we loved it.")

We LOVED IT. In hindsight, I'm trying to remember why we loved it - maybe it had something to do with the fact that it was -2 degrees back home and in Phoenix we got to wear bikinis and drink margaritas all day. That might have had something to do with it.  

But I managed to forget about all of that when I said "We should to go to Phoenix!", "It's going to be so fun!", "They have cactuses there!".... so we went to Phoenix. They have cactuses there. 

Study Abroad Series | 3 Days in Paris.

There are plenty of great reasons to spend a semester abroad: to study the culture, to further your education, to meet new people and try new things and heck, who knows, maybe you'll even learn another language. Wouldn't that be neat?

That's why I was "supposed" to be going. All of those reasons. Specifically the language one, since I minored in Spanish.

But also, I reaaaaally wanted to go to Paris. I didn't know what I wanted to do there exactly, other than "see the Eiffel Tower", "wear a beret" and "eat a pastry" - but I had always wanted to go. It was a bucket list thing. All of my childhood tv-obsessions went to Paris at some point: Mary Kate and Ashley, the Rugrats, Rachel from Friends -- well, technically she turned down Paris to stay with Ross, but still. She made it seem like it was a pretty big deal! 

I wanted to see the Eiffel Tower. In person. I'd had a poster of it up on the wall of my college dorm room for two years, right next to Audrey Hepburn. It was a cliche - the equivalent of walking into a frat boy's dorm room and seeing a poster of Pamela Anderson (is she still "the hot girl" on posters? I don't even know). It was something I occasionally daydreamed about: walking down a Parisian sidewalk, wearing a polka-dot dress, sitting in a French cafe, eating a scone while reading a book and listening to everyone around me talking about art and culture and fancy-French-stuff (in my wild daydreams, I can speak fluent French, apparently). 

So when the opportunity presented itself - to hit up Paris for a weekend while studying abroad in Madrid - I was like, "YEP! Let's GO!" ... because how often does the "opportunity present itself" to go to Paris? 

Exploring the Grand Canyon.

I had been to the Grand Canyon once before. Which is not to say that when Kyle and I discussed visiting the Grand Canyon on our trip to Vegas last year, I was like - "yawn, snore - seen it, no thanks" --- but I figured you should know this for two reasons: 

1) Because I - for some completely stupid reason - believed this made me an expert on all things 'Grand Canyon'. At least once I said, "No, we need to go this way. I remember from when I was here before." (Keep in mind that I can barely remember where I parked my car in the Target parking lot after thirty minutes - but, sure, I remember this dirt path from my two hours spent at The Grand Canyon four years ago.) And also -

2) I was the WORST  tour guide. For someone who has actually BEEN to the Grand Canyon before - I know shockingly little about it. We pulled up to the entrance where they were doing helicopter tours, and I actually said "Oh wow, they do helicopter tours?! That's so cool!" So. There's that. *Also - in case you didn't know, they do helicopter tours. 

I won't bore you with details about my trip there from 2014. Mostly because it was two hours spent walking around with my friend saying, "Oh, will you take a picture of me by this rock?" and then taking pictures of my friend when she asked, "Hey! Will you take a picture of me on this ledge?" And then we left. Because once the profile-picture-taking-game was over, we ran out of ways to entertain ourselves. "The Grand Canyon seems like more a 'family' vacation spot," we said - whatever that means. Like it's the equivalent to Sea World.  

Study Abroad Series | Packing to Live Abroad.

I signed up to study abroad during my junior year of college. An entire semester in Spain designed to immerse students into the culture, learn about the history, and live with a host family who spoke zero English.

Literally, zero. No habla. Just a Madre and a padre who discussed current affairs every night at the dinner table (I'm guessing, I actually had very little idea what they were talking about. Like I said, everything was in Spanish, and they talked so fast!), and a host brother who was super into Shakira. My roommate and I heard the song Rabiosa through the thin walls of our piso AT LEAST once a day.

Spending a semester in Spain sounded like a great opportunity. I mean, yea, my Spanish skills sucked - even after two semesters of the basics, my ability to string a sentence together usually went like this: "Hola. Como estas? Chaqueta, biblioteca, gracias, tienes un pluma?" Which Google Translate will tell you means: "Hi. How are you? Jacket, library, thank you, do you have a pen?" Clearly, I was ready to navigate a foreign country.