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grand view park - inner sunset/san franciscoThree years ago, if you had asked me if I would ever travel for a major sporting event like the Super Bowl, I would’ve laughed.

Flash forward to February 6, 2016, and I’m in San Francisco for Super Bowl 50. As Seattleites, the game didn’t mean much to us since the Seahawks weren’t playing (such a close call though!), but we were there to check out the NFL-sponsored Super Bowl City Experience and see what it was like when a city plays host for the Super Bowl.

Weirdly, San Francisco was not that crowded all things considered. Granted most people were actually over in Santa Clara (where the actual game was held) while non-football loving locals fled the city in droves. I wasn’t complaining though–the city was much more relaxing with fewer people around.

One of the best things about this trip was spending time with lovely friends whom live in the area. We stayed with friends who live in Inner Sunset which provided the unique opportunity of living truly more “local”–far away from the chaos of more touristy areas like Powell Street.We did, though, wander around the standard neighborhoods though: Chinatown, the Embarcadero, Powell Street/downtown, and the Mission. I suppose a trip to San Francisco is never complete without that.

A big group meal in Chinatown over a huge meal of dim sum, dumplings, buns, and a large mango pudding shaped like a fish was easily the highlight of the trip. Other memorable parts of the trip include stunning views of the city from Grand View Park and Golden Gate Park. Despite the fog and overcast grey that San Francisco is known for, this city is unbelievably warm and sunny in the winter. Seattle could take a page out of San Francisco’s book.

Until next time, San Fran.

embarcadero, ferry terminal - san franciscogrand view park - inner sunset/san franciscomango pudding, fish-style - lai hong lounge/san francisco
san francisco, golden gate bridge

washington-coast-art-of-voyage-2washington coast, ruby beach
ocean shores, washington

I’ve seen some beautiful, faraway places in this world. But one area that I don’t explore enough is my own backyard in Washington state.

For the New Year, we headed to the Washington Coast, taking the Bainbridge Ferry at the crack of dawn to head up north. Beautiful but brisk, the Puget Sound is a sight to behold on a clear, wintery day when the sun rises over the Seattle skyline.

After driving on windy roads on a few hours, including the Hood Canal Floating Bridge and through the ever-lush Olympic National Park, we made our first stop at Shishi Beach. What a sight to behold! Goliath waves crashing onto the beach, both stunning and treacherous all at once. It felt like the set of an epic movie. I don’t think these photos do the waves justice.

Next, we drove to Forks, Washington, where, yes, memorabilia immortalizing “Twilight” actually exists. Ruby Beach was our main destination here where craggy rocks meet a calm, mesmerizing ocean line as the sun set. A magical combination. I took the wheel for about two hours, driving along the coast and highway 101. The drive was made infinitely better with some stunning views of the coastline to keep me company while everyone else slept.

We spent the night in Ocean Shores and there was very little to do or see at night on New Year’s Day. Greasy pizza, soda, and family bowling served as entertainment for the night. The next day, we checked out Ocean Beach and headed south along the coast to Long Beach–the longest beach in the world! Again, who knew this existed in our home state? (I didn’t.) Blustery and bitterly cold, the beach was almost unbearable. Things didn’t get any warmer when we headed up to the nearby Cape Disappointment lighthouse where we hiked up cliffs to get some amazing views of the Pacific Ocean. As cold as it was, this view was worth it.

Our travels ended with a quick evening in Astoria, Oregon which, aside from being the city best known for “The Goonies” house, is about 30 minutes away from Long Beach in Washington. Just a quick drive over the state line. A few games at a nearby arcade and a hearty Italian dinner later, we headed back up I-5 to go home.

Adding to my travel resolutions for 2016… to explore more of my state. And to take a little trip every month, even if it’s just to explore my own backyard. Because Washington, you have got a lot going on back there.

There are only a few short hours left in 2015 and I wanted to get one last post before we ring in the new year. I know people are already living their lives well into 2016, but here in Seattle, we still have a little more than six hours left until the fireworks go off at the Space Needle and people start toasting to the tune of Auld Lang Syne.

2015 wasn’t my best year. From the loss of a parent to health issues to transitional stages in my life, 2015 has been, in short, not my finest. But there have been many highlights though. I’ve continued building a strong relationship with my boyfriend and I’m looking forward to what 2016 has in store for us. I’ve been able to reconnect with my dad’s side of the family despite a major tragedy. And I’ve been fortunate to have traveled a lot this year: Lots of trips around the PNW, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Miami/Florida (a new U.S. city/state) and Mexico (a new country).

Mexico was amazing. Visiting Mexico City and Puerto Vallarta — two completely disparate cities — has given me a well-rounded introduction to one of the most fascinating and diverse countries I’ve ever been to. The city limits of Mexico City are astounding; this city is truly endless. You would be surprised how few people speak English there. For Puerto Vallarta, we were invited to celebrate a truly outstanding couple who, honestly, had one of the most stunning weddings I’ve ever seen. Picture lighting paper lanterns off of a beach and watching them float high into an infinite starry sky… That’s what their wedding was like.

I’m lucky to have done so much in Mexico in such a short time frame. And the food (the al pastor tacos!) … the photos will speak for themselves.

Mexico_AV_7It’s been a great year for travel and I’m hoping 2016 brings more of it along with many new changes in my life. As always, my travel resolutions are to visit one new U.S. city/state and one new country. There are already a few contenders in the works. Cheers to 2016.

When you live in the Pacific Northwest, hiking is a common pastime given our accessibility to the Great Outdoors. I’m not denying the physical rewards of hiking, but I don’t find the actual act of hiking super enjoyable. My gaze is constantly focused on the ground to strategize each step instead of taking in my surroundings. Rocky switchbacks can be painful and cumbersome to navigate. Most of all, I hate realizing how unfit I am when dogs quickly take me over on the trail.

Instead, hiking is almost always about the destination for me. That is, the sweet scenic reward that awaits after I’ve climbed more than 1,000 feet in elevation. I’m in it for the Instagram fodder, honestly. #hiking

In all seriousness, Lake Twentytwo (22) is a moderate and mostly enjoyable hike. Although it was raining on our drive to the trailhead, the treeline had shielded the trail from becoming muddy. The dirt was damp at best. Compared to other nearby hikes, this one is reportedly much more developed with special attention given to the wooden pathways installed around Lake 22 itself.

I’ve done my share of PNW hikes in the spring and summer, but rarely do I hike during the fall or on-the-brink-of-winter seasons. The color of Lake Twentytwo, which is theorized to be named after a numerical lake assignment, is suppose to be much more pearly green during the warmer months. But I like how the landscape looks ashen with dry undertones at this time of year. It’s moody. Subtle. And a different perspective compared to the ubiquitous lush PNW hikes that dominate my social feeds during the summer. I like it.

But don’t worry. There are still evergreen trees in abundance here.

Lake Twentytwo Hike
Mt. Baker Snoqualmie National Forest
Near Granite Falls