Tag Archives: hiking

European Vacation – Sweden

Sweden was the last country on my vacation, and I was only there for a single night. It was weird knowing that it was ending!

Everything seemed designed so beautifully in Stockholm. Check out this gorgeous bench!

We took a train from the airport to our hotel, but our first actual stop was to get McDonald’s. Anela might not have been with us, but we kept her tradition alive!

We stayed in the Långholmen Hotell, a former prison that’s now a hotel.

Out front, you can see what was once a guard tower!

Looks welcoming, doesn’t it?

Despite once being a prison, the rooms were cute and quite comfortable.

After checking in, we decided to walk to the downtown area. It was a fairly long walk, and it was freezing – a big change from Roma. It started raining too. You can see us on our walk at the top of this post. There were lots of cool boats to see as we walked, like Thor here.

There were nice views of the city as well. Stockholm was a beautiful city.

Despite the weather, gem looked very happy to be exploring Sweden!

I’m pretty sure this was a church, but I guess I can’t remember for sure. This was one of the first interesting sights once we reached the busier area.

I know your mother told you dessert would spoil your appetite, but we went ahead and got ice cream at Stikki Nikki before dinner. The owners were there and were super nice too.

We had dinner at a tapas restaurant called Café Tabac after we searched for traditional Swedish food and failed. Luckily everything was delicious here. We had a few drinks in honor of Yeffe, a super drunk Swedish man gem and I met back in 2007 in Vegas. (I might be misspelling his name.) We used to joke about how Yeffe loves to drink. “What do you think Yeffe’s doing right now? I bet he’s partying and having a drink.” Was he downing shots while we had dinner? It was ten years later. Maybe he was sipping a cocktail – an older, more respectable Yeffe.

These places are crazy. Does it even get dark in Stockholm?

We took some photos in front of Riksdagshuset, the Swedish parliament house, as we walked back to our hotel.

What a terrific view! Again, I’d like to point out that it’s midnight in this photo.

Here’s another shot of gem like the one from the previous evening. It was such a nice window 🙂

I tried to leave in the morning, but Antonio tried to keep me in prison!

All three of us sat separately on the plane back to LAX, which was disappointing. I watched Pan and Anastasia, both entertaining movies, and got some sleep too.

Getting back into the States was much more of a hassle than getting into Europe. Security took forever. Here’s gem with her security photo. The security photographs don’t seem too flattering!

gem’s dad picked us up from the airport with my car that I left with him. At his house, he shared with us a delicious lunch! He’s a great chef!

After three of the best weeks of my life and eight countries (10 if you include the Vatican or count UK member countries individually), we were back in the United States. I missed traveling immediately, but it was nice to relax.

If you’re reading this blog, you probably know me well enough to know I like tracking data and keeping spreadsheets. I walked 447 thousand steps while in Europe – close to 184 miles. That’s an average of 20k steps and 8.4 miles per day. Dang!

It’s a good we did that much walking too, because I’ll leave off with this photo. These are all the pizza we ate in Europe. Now of course I didn’t eat it all alone, but we certainly did a lot of eating! That walking balanced things nicely, because I had actually lost weight on the trip.

I enjoyed all the countries I visited. I know I didn’t stay a long time in any one country, but it gave me the chance to get a feel for many different places. More than any particular sight, I just enjoyed learning what each country was like. I can’t wait for the next time I get to travel internationally!

Thank you to gem for deciding to go to Europe and getting the ball rolling, my other wonderful travel companions, Anela and Antonio, and my European friends, Jessica and Andrew. You all made the trip what it was. Jessica, Andrew, gem, Anela, Antonio – you’re wonderful people. The trip would have been nothing without you. I’m so glad I got to spend that time with you.

European Vacation – Ireland and Northern Ireland

After England, we headed to Ireland. Besides seeing Jessica and Andrew in Paris, Ireland was my favorite country (countries). It was absolutely beautiful and had so much gorgeous nature. I could see myself living there happily. This post will probably have a lot of photos!

Driving in Dublin was crazy, but gem drove exceptionally! I didn’t drive the first day, but I did later. Driving on the right side of the car and left side of the street wasn’t really a big deal, but being forced to park and drive with most of the car on the sidewalk due to the small streets in Dublin was nuts.

gem’s a natural at driving on the wrong side!

First we walked to the Lansdowne Hotel for some dinner, Guinness, and to wait for a show in the basement.

The Irish House Party featured traditional Irish music and dancing. We sat right in the front row. It was easily one of the best evenings of my life. They were amazing.

Here we are with all the performers!

The next day we did some exploring in Northern Ireland. Perfect sign placement.

Our first castle was Carrickfergus Castle, which was super awesome. There sure are a lot of castles in Ireland though! Here’s gem, Antonio, and Anela in front of the castle.

And here’s me, gem, and Anela on top of it!

Anela seemed just a tad excited by the name of this boat!

Pretty close, right?

This castle wall seemed like the perfect place for them to pose.

I have a thing for silhouettes. I thought Anela and gem looked cool here in the window.

gem leans back all cool on top of the castle. She’s just chillin’. No big deal.

After the castle, we drove to Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge, which is 66 feet across and 98 feet above the water. The rope bridge connects the mainland to a little island. It was a bit freaky being on the little rope bridge that high, but most of us made it across without incident. Anela was scared of heights and stayed behind for a while, but eventually someone who worked there walked her across to join us.

Look, we all made it!

I think gem took this photo of me. It was really beautiful on the island.

Of course, I had to do a little yoga. I was still a few feet from the edge; don’t worry.

After our adventures with the rope bridge, we explored the Dunseverick Castle ruins and Dunluce Castle. Both were mostly ruins, and there isn’t a lot to say about them. Afterwards we went to Giant’s Causeway, shown above.

We did some hiking, and gem and Anela rescued a slug from the middle of the path.

This rock reminds me of a dinosaur’s bone. I wonder if anyone else in my group imagined that.

Giant’s Causeway is known for these basalt columns that are naturally formed from volcanic eruption. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Anela, gem, and Antonio hike across the rocks.

Here’s a closer look at the columns. You can see that the number of sides differ.

Watch your step! All three of them are looking down as they walk so they don’t trip.

That face. I don’t know what she was thinking here. 🙂

On the way back to our apartment, we stopped in Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland, for pizza at Opera Italian Pizza. Anela has no recollection of this, so I’m glad I have photos! You’ll have to excuse the weird neon lighting.

We got two pizzas, but this is the one that I remember. It might look like Hawaiian, but that’s not pineapple. It’s a ham and peaches pizza, and it was super delicious! This is one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had.

The next day we took a day trip to County Clare in the Mid-West Region. We grabbed McDonald’s for the road before heading out. Driving on the wrong side was fun!

We started with Bunratty Castle! And I hope all these photos are accurate. I might have some mixed up with Craggaunowen. That’s the problem with using my phone as well as my DSLR since my phone’s clock updated but my DSLR’s clock was set to my home timezone. It’s hard to sort out which photos go together.

I read that most castle staircases are narrow and go up clockwise so that defenders coming down the towers would have more space to swing their swords (since most people were using swords in their right hands). Interesting!

Time for a short break from all the walking to sit and look out a window. I think there’s a pretty decent chance than I asked them to sit down and pose for this actually.

The blacksmith fit Anela her new shoe. He was a nice guy, and I bet he really enjoys what he does here.

gem and Anela help the blacksmith! Honestly, we spent a long time with him. He really wanted to show us a lot of things, but it was fun.

gem also met some new feathered friends!

Next was Craggaunowen, a 16-century castle and open-air museum. Here’s gem on the roof of the castle.

gem learned to spin yarn first. It looks like she took this seriously.

I wanted to try as well. I bet I was focusing and concentrating.

And here’s Anela. Is that the face of someone trying their hardest? I think not! I bet she was laughing at herself, but I don’t remember.

This was in the castle courtyard. It was very pretty and green!

This path led to the rest of the open-air museum.

This is some sort of combination of building and underground tunnel.

The site features reconstructions of what life used to be like in Ireland.

Edited to add Anela’s comment: “Also, that looks like we ’bout to drop the hottest album of the year!”

Here’s an actor playing the role of someone who might have lived here in the past. He was nice!

After finishing at Craggaunowen, we explored Aillwee Cave, a cave system that includes an underground river. I don’t have a lot of photos to share since it was dark, but it was fun to go on the tour.

The Cliffs of Moher are quite possibly my favorite place. I don’t mean my favorite stop on our trip. I actually mean my favorite place ever. It was amazing.

Just look how gorgeous these cliffs were.

I spent a bit of time sitting alone. I wish I was close enough to sit and think at the cliffs regularly.

There were even some pretty pink flowers growing along the edge of the cliff.

I believe the little island is the Branaunmore Sea Stack. Atop the cliffs is O’Brien’s Tower.

gem went to explore the tower more closely!

At this point it was getting late and we were getting hungry. In our rush to see as many places as possible, we hadn’t planned enough time to eat. It didn’t help that the sun set much later than we expected and that restaurants seem to close earlier. In our search for a restaurant, we did find some nice cows that checked us out while we checked them out.

Eventually we found a bar with a bartender nice enough to reopen the kitchen to get us some amazing stew. It was the perfect ending to a wonderful day. However, there was one small part of the day left. I had an approximately 170 mile drive back to Dublin – late at night, single lane and unlit highways, wrong side of the road. I was so tired. That was possibly one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. Thanks for trusting me to get us back safely guys!

We got back to Dublin much later than we had planned, so we decided to sleep later and spend the day in Dublin rather than driving to County Cork.

We began our day with a meal at O’Neil’s. I had some delicious shepherd’s pie! Afterwards we did some exploring. Here we are at Dublin Castle.

Next up was the Christ Church Cathedral.

We also got to go down into the crypts, which was a museum, but I didn’t take any photos worth sharing here.

Anela and gem pose in front of Peacock Green after we stopped for a treat. They gave us free pastries!

We went on a walking tour of Dublin where we were told that it was good luck to grab the left breast of the statue of Molly Malone. I bet no local believes that and that it’s just something they tell tourists.

Three lovely ladies post for a selfie. Molly Malone wouldn’t duck face.

The tour also took us to Trinity College, but I didn’t take any photos worth showing.

gem touches the tip of the Spire.

We spent the rest of the day walking through the city. We saw some interesting sights and learned some fascinating things. I was intrigued by the story of Father Pat Noise. You can read about it on Wikipedia. The tour guide told us that Irish care more about the story than the truth. Two brothers installed a plaque on O’Connell Bridge commemorating Father Pat Noise – someone who didn’t really exist. It was eventually removed (after two or three years). Another was installed, and when it was planned to be removed, a City Councillor argued against it. It’s still there.

Anela and Antonio look at something in difference while gem looks directly into the camera wondering why I’m taking a photo.

On our final morning, gem made us some breakfast sandwiches before we headed back to the airport for the next leg of our vacation!

Ireland was so amazing and beautiful. I know there are so many places to visit and so much traveling I’d love to do, but I really hope I can return to Ireland and spend a lot more time there. And while I’m hoping, I hope that the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland remains relatively invisible after the UK exits the European Union! Thanks for the memories, Ireland!

White Mountain Peak

white mountain peak

When Erica asked me to be a subject in a sleep study at White Mountain Peak, it sounded like a fun adventure! I spent four days at 12,500 feet, met some awesome people, and saw breathtaking views of nature.

white mountain peak

I stayed for three nights, and each night I was using a different routine. The first night I slept with AVS. From what I can tell with some Googling, it uses the ambient air, pressurizes it, and basically forces you to breathe it. I’m simplifying. I slept with a mask over my nose, and I actually liked it quite a bit. The second night I slept normally, and the third night I slept with oxygen.

The treatments are nice because the air is a lot thinner up there, and there’s a lot less oxygen. Simple tasks could really wear me out. Soaping my body with my bar of soap caused my heart to race. Talking while hiking would leave me needing to catch my breath. I also felt the effects of altitude sickness pretty badly at times.

white mountain peak

Despite the difficulties from high altitude, I did some great hiking. We even saw deer! They’re in this photograph, but I know they’re too small to see clearly. We also a hawk of some sort with a red tail. I’d like to say it was a red-tailed hawk, but for all I know, there could be a lot of hawks that happen to have red tails.

white mountain peak

Everybody on the trip was awesome as well. Steve, the caretaker at Barcroft station, was a puppeteer and is a delicious cook! I had the opportunity to get closer to Erica and Alex, and I’m thankful for that. Dillon rescued me from altitude sickness one day by joining Alex and me in a great conversation on morality and ethics. Matea, despite saying she doesn’t open up easily, left me breathless as we chatted during our hike. Corey gave me some photography tips – especially regarding shooting the stars. They must not have stuck with me, because you’ll notice I’m not sharing any starscapes.

Now I know 12,500 feet is pretty darn high, but I’d definitely go again. It was gorgeous! Check out more of my photos from the trip in this Flickr album!

Action-packed Super Bowl Sunday

Quail Hill

Sunday morning I went to Quail Hill for a hike!

Quail Hill

gem used her nice camera while I took pictures with my phone.

Quail Hill

It was a really beautiful day. We didn’t hike for very long, but it was nice to get out. The sky seemed especially blue against the greenery.

image

After our hike, Anela suggested tea. It was a great idea! Roasting Water was serving their drinks in cute glass bottles with corks. The tea was tasty, and I got to keep a neat bottle.

When we were finished with our tea, we headed to Boiling Crab for lunch. It’s a Super Bowl tradition. The plan is usually to eat during the Super Bowl to avoid the rush, but this year we went before the Super Bowl. It was still relatively empty. I didn’t take any photos, but it was delicious. You’ll have to trust me.

image

With food out of the way, I went to hang out my friend Aiya.

image

We also trapped this baby. Henley didn’t seem to mind.

image

Actually, I went to spend time with Alex, Darnell, and Henley, three of my very favorite people in the world. It was wonderful seeing them. Every day I get to spend with them is always one of my favorite days.

It was a excellent and action-packed day!

Hiking, yoga, and Slapfish

image

Wednesday evening I went with gem to the Irvine Ranch Conservancy’s “Sunset Yoga in Bommer Canyon,” a hike with outdoor yoga. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, and she’d never done it. We set up our yoga mats under the trees before leaving for the one-mile loop.

The hike was about a mile and took 20 minutes, so it was fairly leisurely. It was a nice evening, and it was interesting to learn about the area and what else we could do there. It sounds like there might be some good hikes there.

yoga hike

I stole gem’s Snapchat. Anyways, after the hike we did about an hour of yoga. It was definitely a different experience than my usual. It was much more relaxing. The yoga accommodated a wider range of age and skill level than that with which I’m familiar I think. While not an intense workout, it was nice to relax outdoors under the trees. They do this event regularly, so I think I’ll try to attend more.

image

Afterward we went to Slapfish, a seafood restaurant in Huntington Beach that she’s been mentioning. Each dish we ordered was brought to us when it was ready. The first was the lobster dip and chips. Why would I ever want chips and salsa again when I now know about chips and lobster dip? It was amazing. Even the seasoning on the chips was good!

image

Next came the chowder fries. I feel stupid for even wondering what this was – fries covered with chowder and bacon. It was pretty tasty too.

image

The lobster grilled cheese was a delicious sandwich featuring an ample amount of lobster. It came with chips and a dipping sauce, but I wasn’t sure whether the sauce was for the grilled cheese or the chips. I tried it on both and decided I liked the taste of the sandwich without the overpowering sauce. gem had hyped this up quite a bit, and she was right to do so.

image

Lastly, we got these little lobster toast bites free for liking Slapfish on Facebook. Crunch, crunch! The staff were friendly, and the food came quickly. I could definitely eat here again!

Santa Cruz weekend: Redwoods and the Boardwalk

Quality Inn & Suites Santa Cruz Mountains

Sunday was Katie and Matt’s wedding in Ben Lomond. To make a weekend out of it, gem and I decided to spend Friday through Monday in Northern California. After a late start on Friday, I drove to Ben Lomond in Santa Cruz County. Here’s a photo of our hotel, the Quality Inn & Suites Santa Cruz Mountains. The drive was relatively uneventful but fun given that I enjoy talking! We didn’t actually reach the hotel until about 11 o’clock, so this photo is from Saturday morning. It was quite beautiful. Unfortunately, there was an odd smell that caused us to keep our clothes in the car, but let’s not dwell on the negative.

Hiking

Saturday morning we went to the Henry Cowell Redwood State Park for a hike. It was absolutely gorgeous! Southern Californian hikes are terrible by comparison.

Hiking

It was about 10 when we got there, which felt like a late start. It wasn’t really. I’m just used to hiking in direct sunlight down here. It wasn’t hot at all, and I probably didn’t even need sunblock.

Hiking

gem and I discussed wanting to see wildlife, and when we heard a train, our conversation segued into the idea of “wild trains” being native to the Santa Cruz area. You see, they spend their whole lives growing tracks and migrating across the lands. When they die, their offspring can use the tracks grown by the previous generations.

Hiking

Look what else we found while hiking! What could that be?

Hiking

It was a geocache! I fail at geocaching most of the time, so I was pretty happy to find this one in a tree stump.

Hiking

gem and I signed the log.

Lighthouse!

After hiking, we went to the Best Western Plus Inn in Scotts Valley to meet with Marc and one of his friends. He drove us to the beach to meet his other friends, only running one red on the way. Okay, he caught it half way into the intersection and backed up. No harm done.

By the time we got to the beach, his friends were leaving to go back to the hotel. We walked around a little in attempt to get to the lighthouse, but after realizing we were on the wrong side of something, we just decided to leave.

Sea lions!

We headed toward to Santa Cruz Boardwalk and strolled along the wharf after getting some delicious ice cream. Looking down through the pier, we saw some adorable sea lions! They were pretty cute. One kept trying to jump out of the water but couldn’t quite make it.

matt & katie's wedding

As the time approached that Matt and Katie were going to arrive at the hotel, we went back to meet with them and the rest of their friends. Here I am holding Katie’s wedding dress trying with all my might not to drop the dress. It wasn’t heavy or anything, but I couldn’t help but think about how horrible it would be if something were to happen. Everything was fine though!

matt & katie's wedding

We all went back to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. Anela had recommended we check it out, and I know I went there as a kid but don’t really remember it. I’m glad Matt wanted to go; it was a lot of fun. I love taking pictures of colored lights, fairs, and the like, but for some reason I didn’t really take any pictures. I guess I was too busy having fun and meeting new people. Their friends are super awesome! gem did get this picture of me in line for the Giant Dipper rollercoaster though!

Matt and Katie

We ended the night at the arcade. How did the happy couple spend their last evening before getting married? They played some classic arcade games obviously.

Tetris

After some air hockey, gem and I played Tetris against each other. I’d never played this version. She kicked my butt. I also played some Donkey Kong and Ms. Pac-Man, my favorites!

matt & katie's wedding

Last year gem and I met with Katie, Matt, and Marc for the first time while we were in San Francisco. We took a few photos, but none turned out well. This time we had much better luck! From left to right that’s gem, Marc, me, Matt, and Katie. It was so, so good seeing them. My eyes are about to tear up just thinking about the wedding, and I wasn’t even planning on talking about the wedding itself until the next post.

You can view more photos in my Flickr album aptly named Matt and Katie’s Wedding.

You can read about the wedding itself here: Santa Cruz weekend: Matt and Katie’s wedding!

Goodnight, weekend

We really managed to pack in a lot of fun this weekend. I saw Alex for the first time in half a year, played some WoW, went on a 17 mile bicycle ride, talked comics with the waitress at California Shabu Shabu, hiked up Turtle Rock View Point, went to a BBQ, went swimming, indoor rock-climbed, worked on my game, almost finished a DIY vinyl toy, and watched Scott Pilgrim.

I’m beat.

Day 2 – Black Friday

We started the day with an interesting twist; the Hurst fridge died, so we had to wait for it to be replaced. During that time, I shopped on the Toshiba site, taking advantage of a Black Friday sale to purchase TVs! That made me happy. After the fridge was installed, we decided to do some hiking.

Untitled

We headed to Manana trail after picking up some new board shorts for me that actually fit this time. The trail was great – very scenic with some challenging parts. We eventually hiked to Waimano Falls, which was a great little waterhole for some refreshing swimming and a sweet rope to swing out over the water. We had to climb up some rocks with the help of a rope to reach a place from which we could jump. Surprisingly, I found that my week doing in-door rock climbing at Rockreation helped prepare me for climbing this rock! Anyways, jumping in was a lot of fun, and the swimming itself was invigorating.

Untitled

While we were swimming, a full thunderstorm rolled into the area. It was really sweet honestly, and I guess we were technically hiking in a rainforest. There was a rock overhang, so we moved our stuff out of the rainfall, sat down on the rocks, and enjoyed our lunch. We had packed leftover Thanksgiving dinner sandwiches, which were quite delicious. The whole afternoon was pretty magical in my opinion!

Hiking in Hawaii

After the storm subsided, we hiked for a bit more before heading to Aulani to see Darnell. I’m glad we got to see her at work! We walked around a bit, taking into the sights, and even swam in an infinity jacuzzi and saw a music and dance performance! Aulani had great architecture and design. The Disney magic can be found here as well. I enjoyed seeing the Menehune sculptures, the legendary people of Hawaii who are craftsman and build many things when no one is looking. We had some fruity drinks before heading to Just Tacos for Mexican food. It was a fun evening.