San Diego Comic-Con was an interesting one in 2021. This year it was in November rather in July, and it was titled “Comic-Con Special Edition” to set it apart. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about it. I was vaccinated, and the convention was required masks at all times as well as proof of vaccination or negative test. (I should note, this was before Omicron. In fact, I only learned of its existence the weekend of the convention.) I ended up feeling fairly safe, so the timing was good. One of the main purposes for this blog now is to talk about my travels, but I’m bad at being timely. Still, two months late isn’t too bad for me!
The convention was Thanksgiving weekend, Friday through Sunday with no preview night. (Usually SDCC is Thursday through Sunday with a preview night on Wednesday.) gem and I drove down after Thanksgiving celebrations on Thursday. Antonio met with us the next day.
After showing our vaccine cards and getting wristbands that indicated we did so, we realized that the hall didn’t open until much later than usual. I don’t remember the exact time, but I think it was noon. gem and I decided to head to the food truck we like for breakfast burritos, and we ran into Antonio there – with his breakfast burrito!
While in line to get in the main hall, we heard some Mario music. And look what it was – Mario Kart cosplay!
Once the hall opened, we started by getting in a line to get tickets to an autograph session with Brent Spiner (who played Data in Star Trek) and then wandered the exhibit hall for a bit.
Our first panel was Storytellers: Choosing, Centering, and Celebrating with Mallory O’Meara, Aminah Mae Safi, Sam Maggs, Eva Leigh, Elle Cruz, Henry Barajas, and Moderator Maryelizabeth Yturrale. However, we left early to get our autographs.
Brent Spiner had his new book, Fan Fiction. Antonio had to leave to get back home, but gem and I stayed in line to get autographs. We got three copies – one for me, one for my mom, and one for my brother. I mentioned to Spiner how my mom and I tried to get his autograph at a convention when I was a kid, but he wasn’t signing at that time. I had to make it right this time! He was friendly. The allotted time was one hour for the signing, but he signed for nearly two hours – right up to when he was doing a panel. His handler suggested less talking and only autographing one item per person, but he said no!
After the signing, we tried to see his panel. However, we were one of the last people to get autographs, which means there was already a long line for his panel. Instead, we went to Joe’s Crab Shack for dinner!
After dinner, we went to a screening of Lumpia with a Vengeance and discussion on it. It’s a Filipino-American indie movie filmed in San Francisco with a comic-vibe about a hero who fights crime with Lumpia! This is two of the main characters with me in the shot above. It was really funny!
After watching that movie, we moved to a screening of Die Hard! This was only my second time seeing it since Duncan, his brother, and his dad introduced me to the classic. And it was gem’s first time! What a great film.
We ended the night playing some WarioWare: Get It Together! on my Switch in the hotel room… after I battled the TV’s hospitality mode to let me use my Switch.
Saturday I put on my New World-inspired costume and met Antonio and gem at the food truck for breakfast burritos again.
Our first panel was Native American Comics & Culture: Emerging Tech with moderator Kilma Lattin, Cody Martinez, Johnny Bear Contreras, Brandie Taylor, Alec Calac, Ricardo Caté. It was a really interesting panel. I think it was intended to be mostly about Native Americans and technology, including an upcoming app called Our Worlds that uses augmented reality to teach you about the history of places around you. However, a lot of other topics about Native Americans was discussed as well.
We stopped by a Worldbuilding and Storytelling panel, but we arrived a little late. It appeared to be a Zoom call, and it wasn’t engaging enough to us, so we left.
Next up was Dinosaus vs Unicorns, a panel about gendered toys.
The last panel I attended was A Lawyer’s Holiday Special by The Legal Geeks. I always really enjoy their panels; they discuss pop culture fiction as if it was real and what the legal ramifications would be. It featured Circuit Judge John Owens (9th Circuit Court of Appeals), US Magistrate Judge Stacie Beckerman (US District Court for the District of Oregon), US Magistrate Judge Mitch Dembin (US District Court for the Southern District of California), Nari Ely (Durie Tangri), Kathy Steinman (Deputy City Attorney for the City of San Diego), and moderator Joshua Gilliland (Greenan, Peffer, Sallander, & Lilly LLP). In this year’s panel, they talked about the legality of Santa Claus and his actions!
Then it was time to wander around the exhibit hall for a bit, including checking out this Stargate!
After the exhibit hall, we headed to try a game called Kids on Bikes – an interactive storytelling game starring kids… on bikes… dealing with the sueprnatural. It seemed like there was a mix-up, because the person that was supposed to host it wasn’t in the room. Luckily, the staff called around, found someone to host it, and walked us to a different room. We were shown the hospitality suite, which I didn’t know existed. They’ve always offered free snacks! And then we played Kids on Bikes! It was really fun. I don’t know how long it was supposed to take, but we played for hours. In fact, Antonio had to leave, so it was just gem, me, and the host. It’d be fun to play it again!
After comforting some spirits and fixing the timeline in our game, we went to the Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog screening, which we do most years. It’s always a great show!
We ended the night with some Greek food in the Gaslamp District at Nick the Greek and then some Big Mouth in the hotel.
The last day ended up being fairly relaxed. We went for a long walk along the water and then checked out the pinball lounge… where we stayed the rest of the day.
We played Godzilla, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Jurassic Park, Led Zeppelin, Star Wars: The Mandalorian, and Deadpool – all set to free play. The games featured an interesting blend of classic and modern technology. Yes, it’s mechanical pinball, but you login to your account before you play on your phone, then hold a QR code up on your phone to the pinball machine to log into it. Then it tracks your high schools as well as achievements. How cool!
I’ll end the post with some more assorted photos from the event, mostly of cosplay. Any photos of me in this post were taken by gem!
In July 2019, I flew to Hawaii to meet Anela and visit Jordan and Christin. I hiked a lot, putting my recently healed foot to the test, ate a lot of foods, snorkeled, and more! But for some reason, I didn’t blog about it for a long time. This has been in my drafts in various levels of completion, but it’s time to publish!
I flew in Saturday, Anela and I both arriving at nearly the same time. Our AirBNB driver had never heard of milk tea or boba and didn’t think there was any in Hawaii. But he did suggest bubble tea. *facepalm*
We checked out our AirBNB in a touristy area of Waikiki. Anela instantly liked the stairs, and we stopped for a picture. We did a little shopping across the street for things we’d need before meeting up with Christin and Jordan.
They knew a ramen place they liked, so we went to Volcano Ramen in Yokocho Village for some delicious ramen. Is the ramen served in bowls or in upside-down volcanoes?
After dinner, it was time for tea because of course we needed tea. And look at the mustaches on the cups! We bought some drinks on the way back to our AirBNB, where we ended the night talking and hanging out.
Sunday was a day for pineapple shorts!
We started the day with tea from Starbucks near the bus stop at Jordan and Christin’s.
Our first adventure was Waimea Arboretum and Botanical Garden, which was beautiful!
After exploring on land, we decided to explore in the sea at Waimea Bay Beach park! We started by jumping off a big rock. I don’t know where the footage of that went. But then we went snorkeling!
Here’s a video with some clips of the snorkeling! I put a few together; the clips of me were filmed by Anela.
For dinner, we got some pizza at Spaghettini. Tasty!
There were a lot of lizards hanging around the pizza too 🙂
Monday started with Teapresso and Mitsuwa for breakfast with Anela!
After meeting up with Christin, we headed to Koko Head Crater for a hike to the top! Jordan worked during the days Monday-Friday, so it was just the three of us during the day.
The views were beautiful! I was pretty much soaked in sweat by the time we got to the top. It was quite the hike! Runkeeper said it was a 2.07 mile hike with 1334 ft total climb that took 4:31:33 and burned 1075. I say it it was gorgeous. There were definitely breaks on the hike to rest and to take a ton of photos.
Once we were at the top, Christin and I hiked a bit out to the ridge and back while Anela stayed at the top. It was a bit narrower, which wasn’t great for Anela’s lack of love for heights, but it wasn’t too crazy. The hike was a relief for me because I now knew that my foot could handle hiking. I had recently broken my foot, and while recovery was going nicely, I was a little worried.
This was also at the top, so we took some photos with it and on top of it!
Time to head back down!
After hiking back down, Jordan joined us and we went to OMG for Mexican food. After dinner, we had another Teapresso run before heading back to our AirBNB.
Tuesday started with a bath tub shoot for Christin and Anela. Nope, I didn’t get in the tub! I mostly zoned out and killed time while they did their shoot.
Christin, Anela, and I had lunch at Fatboy’s, but I was pretty focused on the chicken hanging out in the bushes.
No day is complete without tea it seems, so we after lunch we got tea at Bee & Tea.
Then we headed to Cash Beach in Lanikai to enjoy the water!
I also did some photographing of Anela and Christin, although I still haven’t edited them! I think we spent much more time with photos than swimming. I was a bit reluctant leave.
Walking back, we stopped for a photo in front of this beautiful gate!
After Jordan joined us, we walked around their neighborhood to check out the cool murals and spent some time in their apartment before going to dinner. We enjoying some food at Waikiki Brewing Co. Oh, and I caught a shiny Koffing that evening too!
Wednesday was tide pool day, but first we stopped Makapu’u Point Lookout for some beautiful blue views.
The tide pools were next! They did require some hiking on a nice trail that felt like nothing compared to the previous day’s hike, and then we went off trail a bit and trekked down a hill.
Floating in the water chilling with fish!
After we eventually decided to leave and trek back up the hill, we moved on to Alan Davis Beach. We enjoyed the water as well as watched a group of guys try to get their huge, inflatable multi-person lounge thing into the water.
Time to jump into the Pacific! While the rock wasn’t huge, it was bigger than the video makes it seem.
Jordan joined us for dinner at what my notes say is “Ramen Village.” I’m fairly certain it was Shirokiya Japan Village Walk, a huge food court with many different shops, some small stages, and rows of gashapon machines. Anela certainly seemed happy with her ice cream. I’m really surprised I didn’t take photos of the building itself, but it seems I only have this one and a close up of my sushi.
Thursday started with doggos while we headed to our first real destination.
I found a mermaid! We visited the mermaid cave at Zablan Beach at Nānākuli Beach Park.
If I remember correctly, it was a little tricky to climb into and out of it. There wasn’t an easy way to do it without getting a little scraped up, but it was worth it! How cool was this place?! The walk was very rocky, and here’s where I learned what my foot didn’t enjoy – very uneven terrain. The hiking we did so far was relatively flat despite being an incline or decline. The very rocky terrain caused my ankle to move at weird angles and the pressure on my foot wasn’t great.
We tried to get to cat cafe after our mermaid adventure, but we didn’t make it back in time. Someone got hurt on our bus. I don’t remember the specifics, and maybe we didn’t fully know. I think he tripped getting on the bus and cut his leg. There was a decent amount of blood. I think there was a medical professional on the bus who helped him.
In the evening, we got some tea again, and Anela and I had some Korean food near our AirBNB. Before turning in, I bought and wrote some postcards!
Unicorn Cafe, which was a block or two from our AirBNB, had a cute sign that pulled us inside. Obviously we needed more tea this trip.
Fueled by tea, Anela and I visited Epic Aloha, a nearby selfie museum. I still haven’t gone through these and posted, but it’s on my list!
After enjoying Epic Aloha, Anela and I stopped at Coffee Shop 831 for a panini and tea! It was right across the street from our AirBNB, so it’s surprising it took us this long to have lunch there.
After lunch, we joined Christin and went on a quest to hike to the pink pillbox!
As usual, the view was great. The structures were pretty cool and, as you can see, had quite a bit of graffiti.
When the sun started to set, it was time to go. We hiked down and headed back toward home to join Jordan and grab some dinner at McDonald’s!
After a quick stop at Mitsuwa, likely for sushi but I don’t know for sure, Anela and I met up with Jordan and Christin and we headed to Aloha Stadium swapmeet.
I had to get this cologne, right? It’s not really possible for me to walk past it even though I don’t wear cologne. Plus, I got a couple magnets and such as small souvenirs.
Once we had our fill of shopping, we filled ourselves on BBQ at Dixie Grill, which was pretty tasty.
At the end of the day, Anela and I went back to our AirBNB and then spent the last evening in Waikiki.
Since we were wearing pineapple clothes, we stopped for photos with a giant pineapple statue! We explored some shops, and I specifically remember Anela doing some shopping in a Christmas ornament store. I might have spent a little time catching Ralts for community day too!
We also caught some hula dancers!
It was a nice way to spend our final evening in Hawaii 🙂
I had a nice morning on Sunday even if it was time to leave. After trying a few times to get a bagel breakfast sandwich from the place across the street, Coffee Shop 831, we managed to get some! This is a tasty avocado, egg, bacon, and cheese bagel sandwich! There wasn’t much time to do anything Sunday morning, so we talked a little and relaxed at the AirBNB before it was time to go.
By the time I got to the airport, it was time for lunch. The mushroom chicken hit the spot!
And then it was time for my bear that transforms into a neck pillow to join me for the flight home. Aloha, Hawaii!
Edit: And then Duncan picked me up from the airport! Alas, I didn’t take a photo. I’m sorry Duncan.
San Diego Comic-Con 2019 was a little over six months ago, which I guess means I should get around to writing about it. I like to keep a travel journal on this blog, but I’m bad at sitting down to blog and good at procrastinating. It’s a good thing I take a lot of photos and keep notes on my phone! If you want to see some photos I took on my camera, check my Flickr album. Most of the photos in this post were from my phone, but I embedded a few from Flickr as well.
As always, SDCC was Thursday through Sunday. I went down on Wednesday night with gem. Antonio couldn’t join us at the start of SDCC, and Kaleigh was only able to come down on Saturday unfortunately.
gem and I started with dinner at Soda & Swine, one of our favorite San Diego restaurants. We found that it was totally revamped. It used to be a meatball place primarily, and they pulled way back from that unfortunately. The menus were now on cloth napkins that were attached to a clothesline with clothespins at the front of the restaurant. Weird. I wasn’t happy. But we ate, and the food was decent even if it wasn’t as good as what we remembered.
We started the festivities by attending Ready Party One, an 80s party at the Fluxx nightclub in the Gaslamp Quarter in San Diego. The party alternated between DJs playing modern dance music and 80s music with live performances by 80s cover band The Flux Capacitors.
I’d say it was a good approximation of a club in the Oasis from Ready Player One! Costumes and dress were varied and perfect. It was fun to be dancing with regular people as well as people in costumes of all sorts and styles.
Plus, there were even live lyra performers!
And hula hoop performers!
gem and I stopped at the photo op as well!
Who ya gonna call? Ghostbusters!
And to get really nerdy, the Pokemon theme!
I started Thursday, the first day of SDCC, by picking up our bags!
This woman made an awesome dress from her bags! She looks happy to show it off too!
Next it was off to the Funko booth. I ended up making purchases for myself, gem, gem’s friend, and stranger. I even got reprimanded by staff for clearly buying something for someone else. But uh, so was everything else. I got Johnny Rico (Starship Troopers), Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and Derek Zoolander Funko figures!
Was this man dressed as something, or did he just love pizza? Who knows.
gem and I got to pretend to be Mario at the Nintendo Lounge.
I explored the exhibit hall a bit before heading to a show. D&D: All Bards featured Pierce Brown, one of my favorite authors. He played a D&D one-shot as a party with all bards with Sam Sykes, Chuck Wendig, Paul Krueger, E. K. Johnston, and Jim Zub. (I don’t know the other famous people, oops.) It was really funny. It turns out, yes, a party of all bards can kind of stumble their way to success. Pierce Brown’s cocky humor stole the show.
I spent some more time wandering the exhibit hall after the D&D show, including watching some Steven Universe karaoke. It was right in the middle of the hall. Who’s brave enough to do that? More on that later.
Check out this Wonder Woman cosplayer! Isn’t she a cutie?
Thursday wrapped with an Anamanaguchi concert! Anamanaguchi is a band that combines traditional rock instruments with chiptune music, and they did the soundtrack to Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game.
Here’s a little clip of them. The show was a lot of fun, and the visuals on screen went well with the music. It was outside, behind the convention center on the green as part of Adult Swim’s SDCC offerings.
The churros looked pretty but weren’t that great!
I’ll admit I didn’t know Anamanaguchi by name before getting tickets, but I’m really glad I went.
Friday began with a Veronica Mars panel. I’ve never seen Veronica Mars, but I wanted to see the next panel. And I do love Kristen Bell, so it was still entertaining. The panel showed some footage of the Veronica Mars revival, and it did make me want to try the show – although not enough to have actually done so yet.
The Steven Universe panel started after that. The actresses who voice Peridot (Shelby Rabara), Garnet (Estelle), Amethyst (Michaela Dietz), and Pearl (Deedee Magno) joined series creator Rebecca Sugar to discuss the show and premier the trailer for Steven Universe: The Movie. I’m behind on the series, so I haven’t seen the film yet. However, seeing them talk was a lot of fun, and I love the passion and fun they bring to the show.
Between that and the next panel was the Disney group shoot for photographers and cosplayers organized by Robert T Photography. I went as a cosplayer last year, but this year I just went as a photographer to get some photos.
I showed up a few minutes late so didn’t get a photo of the entire group. The event always does photos of various subgroups. I don’t remember what this was in particular, but I like it because it has a large number of people.
gem was dressed in a casual cosplay of Steven Universe, so I had to get a photo of her with Rose Quartz! Check out more of the photos from the shoot in my Flickr album.
“Wherefore Dystopia and Darkness? Enjoying Creators’ Wretched Unjust Societies” was next. It features authors Marie Lu, Jess Rothenberg, Rachel Caine, Richard Kadrey, Ally Condie, S. L. Huang, and Mallory O’Meara. It was fun because I enjoy dystopian novels. I don’t care that many are aimed at children; that just makes them faster reads! I had read Marie Lu’s Legend series and Ally Condie’s Matched trilogy. And since SDCC, I also read Marie Lu’s The Young Elites trilogy. The biggest take away I got from hearing them talk about their dystopian worlds was that I need to reread the Matched trilogy.
The Geek Geek Revolution panel involved geek trivia with Pierce Brown, Seanan McGuire, Paul Krueger, Tochi Onyebuchi, and Kiersten White. The only person I knew was Pierce Brown, but it was fun. The audience was allowed to submit questions, and they read one of gem’s! What was the name of the mail carrier moogle from Final Fantasy IX? No one knew the answer, but it was Stiltzkin! I can barely remember what was going on in the photo. Did the winner have to wear the horse mask? The loser, maybe?
Taking a break from panels, I went outside to Adult Swim on the Green to the Rickflector, which puts you in a augmented reality minigame in the Rick and Morty universe. I don’t watch Rick and Morty, but whatever. It was silly and probably not worth the line, but I had a good time.
A museum for The Orville was set up near the convention center called The Orville Experience. It was rather small but still neat as a fan of the show. It felt like the show might have been too new to really warrant it, but I suppose nothing’s stopping them from having a bigger one in the future if the show continues to go strong!
“Always go with one more zipper than you’re comfortable with.” Wonderful advice from Lamarr to Malloy.
We got to take this little video too!
Friday night, the IKV Stranglehold, a Klingon fan group, put on a live, original Star Trek episode featuring their own cast of Klingons. It’s the second year I’ve watched them do this, and I really enjoy seeing people being passionate and having fun with the fandom they love.
I last event of the day was Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog and Karaoke Party. I was late to it because of IKV Stranglehold, but I still caught the second half the movie and sing along. And I did sing along! After the movie was done, they had karaoke, but I didn’t stay for it.
The Interdimensional House of Pancakes seemed like a good place to stop for dinner! (I wrote that before I realized the double meaning and went back to add emphasis.) It took over maryjane’s at the Hard Rock Hotel.
I thought it was worth sharing a few more photos from the restaurant just to see the little details.
I saw an awesome Sabrina from the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina on Saturday!
Since I was moving quickly, I mostly took photos of awesome cosplayers on my phone.
Look how cute Ariel and Flounder are!
My first goal of the day was to get Pierce Brown’s autograph. I already had it from previous years, but I wanted it again!
I watched a panel on The Man in the High Castle because I actually wanted to watch the panel that was next in the room. The Man in the High Castle, which is about the US after it loses World War 2, has always seemed pretty interesting, but it’s hard for me to decide to watch something that’s dark. Maybe I’ll give it a go eventually. It seems more likely that I’ll eventually read the original Philip K. Dick novel.
I was actually there for the NOS4A2 panel. The panel was about the TV series starring Zachary Quinto, but I think gem read the novel. It’s a supernatural drama, and if you hadn’t figured it out, NOS4A2 is pronounced “Nosferatu.” The show is apparently available for streaming on AMC’s streaming platform, which means I guess no one will ever see it. I’d probably watch it if it was on something more mainstream.
Now on to one of the highlights of SDCC this year – The Adventure Zone: Dadlands! In this live TAZ one-shot, the McElroy’s each took the role of a leader of his tribe of Dads in a post-apocalyptic future in which only Dads exist after Moms and Children have all gone extinct.
There are the Grill Dads, Vacation Dads, Sports Dads, Car Dads, Drama Dads, and Craft Dads. Griffin played Briquette Hoggins, a Grill Dad. Justin played Chip Hugginsbee, a Vacation Dad who loved to throw out worthless trivia about where they were. Travis played Guy Ferrari, a Car Dad. And Clint played Coach Red Ruffinsore, a Sports Dad – and Clint had whistles on hand with which to annoy his actual kids. I love that this entire game seems to have been created to play up terrible dad jokes. It was great!
After the show, I watched a dog fight with a balloon. He was such a good boy!
We finished the evening with pizza from BIGA. This was giulia, one of the greatest pizzas I’ve ever had! It has “house-made fior de latte mozzarella / pecorino / parmesan / basil / burrata / prosciutto di parma / fennel pollen / local honey / figs / saba.” So good!
Sunday, the last day, started with Spotlight on Jonathan Hickman. He’s a comic book writer and artist… and I only attended his panel so I’d be in the room for the next panel about The Adventure Zone!
Clint and Travis were joined by Carey Pietsch and moderator Satine Phoenix to discuss the release of The Adventure Zone: Murder on the Rockport Limited, the second graphic novel in the series. Admittedly, I hadn’t yet read the first one – oops. But it was really fun to see two of the McElroys more up close, and it was the first time I’ve heard from Carey Pietsch. I decided during this panel that I had to get off my butt and pick up the graphic novel.
In Cartoon Voices II panel, moderator Mark Evanier joined voice actors Jim Meskimen, Robin Atkin Downes, Secunda Wood, Dee Bradley Baker, and Candi Milo to talk about performing cartoon voices and do some live examples. At least, that’s who the schedule listed. I honestly can’t remember much about this panel, but I know I’ve enjoyed it in the past too!
Next it was time for more Pierce Brown! gem and I picked up an autographed copy of Iron Gold, chatted with him briefly, and got photos with him.
And speaking of autographs and photographs, I had to make good on my decision to pick up The Adventure Zone graphic novel. I bought the first one, Here There Be Gerblins. Clint McElroy signed it and talked to me for a bit, and then I got a photo with him. It was really awesome meeting him! How cool that he and his sons get to do so many fun projects together for a living.
Remember earlier how I wondered who would be crazy enough to do Steven Universe karaoke at the Steven Universe booth in the middle of the exhibit hall? gem got in line for karaoke. And while she slowly moved through the line, I decided to join her. The staff allowed him to jump into line with her, and we sang in front of anyone! Scary!
And that’s another SDCC for the history books – my 9th one attended! Check out my Flickr album for more photos!
This post has been half-complete for about two years now, so it’s about time I finish it and get it posted! Bach in May of 2017, gem and I were both attending a friend’s wedding in Portland. Neither of us had been there, so we decided to take some extra time and explore the surrounding areas.
After flying to Portland, we checked into our AirBNB that was, in my opinion, practically in a forest. Okay, not really, but Portland definitely has a different feel than Southern California. Where as at home, I get the impression we flattened nature and paved it over, it felt like in Oregon people decided to actually live with nature.
We had dinner at Cartopia, a collection of food trucks/carts with a nice place to sit and eat. The palak paneer fries from Potato Champion were delicious.
These are the PB&J fries, which were also quite tasty.
And this is the Girl Next Door from Pyro Pizza with a ricotta goat cheese blend, oregano, rhubarb, Parmesan, Romano, basil, oil, and pepper.
I started the next day with coffee from Never Coffee. I had a Holy Grail and Nutella Puff, about which I wrote “meh” in my travel log, so I guess something didn’t do it for me. gem had a drink called the Hug along with zucchini bread.
After getting our caffeine, we started driving toward our hiking destination, Ape Cave, but we made a detour at Yale Park Recreation Area. It was really beautiful!
Here I’m about to descend into Ape Cave, one of the longest lava tubes in North America.
gem had lights and headlamps for both of us, so we were well equipped!
Ape Cave had two trails, a lower cave and an upper cave.
Lower cave was basically a stroll to a dead end, and then you return to the start.
Upper cave was a great hike in pitch black for the majority of it. This is a hike unlike the ones I usually do at home. Some of it is walking, some of it is climbing over “breakdowns,” large piles of rocks from ceiling collapses, and some of it is crawling under or between rocks. I guess it’s a good thing I’ve practiced a bit of bouldering! This was definitely a cool experience. My Runkeeper tracked it as 4 hours and 25 minutes, but I can’t remember if I was tracking the whole thing. Plus, a lot of the tracking was inaccurate underground.
We survived and made it out alive. I think gem thought we were going to be stuck down there forever.
After leaving the cave, I met this cool little guy! He came up on my fingers. Sorry, I know I shouldn’t have let him. Not shown: the snake I almost stepped on that made me yelp.
After getting cleaned up, we headed to our friends’ Kristine and Justin’s place. Kristine and Justin were the couple getting married just a few days later. gem and I met them in World of Warcraft, which is how they met as well. Kristine is out guild leader, and the two of them are our main tanks for the majority of the guild’s raiding time. Our friends Marc, Matt, Katie, Adrian, and Nate were also there, who we know from the guild as well.
Did I take any photos with my friends? No, of course not. I focused on the cat. gem goes by Mooglegem in WoW, and when Kristine and Justin got this cat, gem suggested the name “Moogle.” So, this is Moogle!
Seriously, I get a good chuckle out of the fact that I don’t have any photos of anyone else at the house that night. I do remember eating pizza, lots of talking, and learning about how Justin destroyed a bidet… twice.
This is a photo of our AirBNB we took the next day before heading out for morning coffee!
We started the day at Heart Coffee Roasters. I had a 12 oz mocha with Scandinavian cinnamon roll with cardamom. gem had an “Ick” coffee according to my notes, whatever that was, haha.
After coffee, we drove down to Koriander in Corvallis to meet our friends Hal and Mary Margaret for lunch! This was great because I hadn’t seen them recently and on top of that… they’re my friend Alex’s parents, and we didn’t tell Alex we were planning this. I texted him this photo and told him I was just grabbing lunch with some friends!
Next it was time for goat yoga!
What’s not to like? Goats? Good. Yoga? Good.
I think the goat enjoyed eating gem’s hair.
Look how cute this little goat is!
Next we headed back to Portland for dessert at Salt & Straw! I suppose it was appropriate that my first time at Salt & Straw was in Portland, as it’s based there. There are a lot of locations in Southern California now though. We got wildflower honey with ricotta walnut lace cookies, pear with blue cheese, almond brittle with salted ganache, and strawberry honey balsamic with black pepper. Yum!
We ended the day at Ground Kontrol, an awesome arcade and bar in downtown Portland. I tried the Falcon Punch (orange Stoli vodka, cranberry juice, and a splash of pineapple juice) and the Green Turtle Shell (Seagram’s Extra Dry Gin, muddled cucumber, and Cock N Bull Ginger Beer). I also ate a chili dog (shout out to Sonic) and a Luigi (pesto pizza). We played a variety of games, including some Pac-Man and The Walking Dead pinball.
This was the highlight of the night. As I walked past the machine, someone asked me to join him and some others in playing Killer Queen. He told me he already paid and I could play for free. I felt like there was a catch, but I soon learned the truth. This amazing game is for two teams of five players. While it can be played with AI controller characters, it’s much better with people. Because you pay per game and not per person, they were just looking for more players. It was a such a fun strategy game! I really love games that encourage socialization, which Killer Queen definitely does. By the end of the night, I was the one asking strangers to join and offering to teach them to play.
Here’s the guy who played most of the evening with us!
Did I mention that our AirBNB came equipped with a kitty? Heck yeah.
The next day we checked out Multnomah Falls, which was beautiful!
After checking out the gorgeous waterfall, we went to a place called Crafty Wonderland before deciding to have lunch at Pok Pok, an amazing Thai restaurant. We had spicy peanuts, spicy fish sauce wings, half chicken with dipping sauces, papaya salad, and drinking vinegars (one mint, lime, and cucumber and one strawberry and Thai basil).
Now it’s time to talk about the whole reason for the trip! This is me and Kristine at her wedding!
Look at Kristine and Justin, the happy couple! The wedding was awesome and subtly comic book themed. There were stacks of comics with Funko vinyl figures as table centerpieces, and the wedding (including the ceremony) used some great Guardians of the Galaxy music.
Here’s one of me, gem, and Kristine.
We can’t forget to use Snapchat and involve the cats 🙂
The photobooth was a ton of fun, and here’s the one photobooth picture that didn’t look sloppy drunk haha. I love that seven people in this photo were part of our raid team in WoW, and we were at the wedding of two others. I had already met everyone except one significant other previously, and I think it’s great that such real friendships could have started thanks to playing World of Warcraft together. Even though most of us don’t play together anymore, the friendships continue.
The next day included quite the adventure to get brunch from Screen Door. Our Uber had to make a lot of u-turns and detours because many streets were blocked off. There was some police search going on involving a crime of some sort, but I don’t remember the details now. But what’s important is the food. This huge brunch includes biscuits and meat gravy, beef brisket hash and eggs, praline bacon, and bacon pancakes with strawberry preserves.
Unfortunately, it was time to say good bye to kitty as we left the AirBNB and took a train to Seattle.
Luckily our AirBNB in Seattle came with these two good boys!
Hey baby I hear the blues a-callin’, tossed salads and scrambled eggs… Sorry, I just had to drop the Frasier theme song in here. Anyways, we visited the Space Needle! It was apparently the 46th Annual Northwest Folklife Festival – a cool little bonus!
Here’s the view from the Space Needle. It’s a much clearer view than the solid gray that the Eiffel Tower gave me in Paris!
Seattle Center, the location of the Space Needle and surrounding area, also featured this playground called Artists at Play! While meant for kids, gem convinced me to climb it as well. She had to coax a kid who made it to the top but was scared to climb into the chamber that you can see in the center of this photo. While I helped encourage kid, I was actually thinking “kids are allowed to do this? What if they fall?!” I was right behind the kid, so as I held on, I admit that I was also thinking “come on, hurry up kid because I’m getting tired!”
After leaving Seattle Center, we explored Seattle a bit.
And then we had dinner at Serious Pie! This appetizer was local beets, rhubarb yogurt, and pistachio butter.
We ordered two pizzas. This is yukon gold potato, rosemary, and pecorino romano.
This is soft eggs, smoked prosciutto, local greens, pecorino sardo.
The food was so good, gem left this feedback with pictures!
The next day we rented a car to drive to Treehouse Point. I’m pretty sure it was this car rental visit at which the vendor told us to pick any car from the lot… and then the lot contained one car. While we were out there, they brought a second car, and we ended up taking that new car. “Any car from the lot” isn’t much of a choice when there’s only a single car in the lot!
Treehouse Point had six amazing treehouses. The one above was Temple of the Blue Moon. They were basically like hotel rooms – furnished and with electricity. So cool.
How cool would it be to stay in a place like this?
This one was called Trillium. I love the staricase. I didn’t get a great photo of the next one, called Upper Pond.
This was Nest!
The Gazebo had a little landing underneath it. That seems like such a relaxing place to stay.
Lastly, this one was called Burl. While we only took a tour, people can also book a treehouse for an overnight stay!
Next up was a trip to Snoqualmie Falls!
Here you can see the waterfall from above. It was really pretty.
Here it is at the base. There’s a little hike down this way along with some signs that teach you about the Snoqualmie People, which consider the falls important to their spirituality.
Snoqualmie Falls has two power plants. Does this have anything to do with them? No idea. Probably?
This tunnel of rings looked very cool! Snoqualmie Falls was a pretty awesome sight, and of course, I had to stop by the gift shop on the way out for some honey and snacks. I think I picked up some postcards too.
After visiting the falls, we decided to hike Rattlesnake Mountain Trail to Stan’s Overlook.
Here are two panoramic shots from my phone. It was a little over 4 miles there and back, and it had some amazing views!
There was so much green!
A little bit of human infrastructure seeped into nature here.
This little guy at Stan’s Overlook wanted to say “hi” to me. Hiking to Stan’s Overlook and back to the parking lot was a bit over 4 miles and definitely worth it.
Here’s a bit of the trail on the way back.
All that hiking must have worked up an appetite, because we had an amazing dinner at The Black Duck Cask and Bottle in Issaquah. The photos didn’t come out great, but here they come anyways!
This is duck gravy poutine with duck added on top (for an extra cost if I recall correctly).
Look at this amazing dish! It’s mac n’ cheese with duck, cheddar, Gouda, cheese puffs, bacon, and pistachios. I can’t really remember what “cheese puffs” meant now. I can’t imagine there were something like Cheetos in it. I do remember that it was delicious.
This is the black duck pie, which I also showed above. It had duck, arugula, Worcestershire sauce, goat cheese, aioli, and pistachios.
For dessert, this is the house made cinnamon roll with blood orange glaze and white chocolate. Not shown: drinks – Uinta Cucumber Saison, Odin Strawberry Smash, and a Black Duck Mule (house infused ginger and jalapeño vodka with ginger beer).
LOOK AT THIS GOOD DOGGO THAT GREETED US WHEN WE GOT BACK TO THE AIRBNB!
The next morning, we explored Capitol Hill in Seattle
We stopped at a coffee shop called General Porpoise.
The coffee was delicious, and the sign was cute too! I had a mocha and rhubarb lemon jam donut. gem had the coconut cream donut!
Here’s gem with the sign in the door.
We also saw this sweet sign for a pizza place called Sizzle Pie!
Oh, and check out this sidewalk. Lysol rox? Uh, I guess it does actually. And the cat is cute!
Next up was Canada! We drove north across the border, stopping at Tim Horton’s for a Canadian maple donut and a double chocolate donut of course.
Next we drove over Lion’s Gate Bridge and used the Trans-Canada Highway to drive to Cypress Provincial Park, where it was suggested we could get above the city for a good view. We stopped at Barrett’s View, but thanks to the dreary day, the view wasn’t so epic. It was still fun!
Realizing I was somehow bleeding, I made a makeshift bandaid and then we headed back into the city. After a quick stop at 7-11 for bandaids, we had dinner at Peaceful Restaurant for Chinese food!
I’m not sure if we just decided to eat a lot or what, because the next thing in my notes was that we stopped at another restaurant. ANYWAYS! Check out this awesome sign for Ramen Gojiro! How could we not eat there, right? Look at the cute, chalk Godzilla!
The menu is cool looking too!
Now it’s possible that the atmosphere and theme of the restaurant is part of this, but I think this was my all time favorite ramen. We got a big plate of karaage as you can see.
And here’s the whole meal.
Before I stop talking about Ramen Gojiro, look at the art on the wall. It was awkward taking this photo since there were people, but oh well.
You’d think this travel log would involve something other than food for a second, but no. Next up was mango milk tea with boba from Sushi Home. Boba doesn’t count as more food though, right?
Now, on to something besides food! This is the Telus Garden, an office building that drew our attention due to its cool style.
Even the inside was classy. Yes, there’s water behind her. I’m sure I’d fall in if I sat there all day.
After we explored some more, we found where pizzas are grown. No, we didn’t eat there.
Anela somehow has me eating at McDonald’s in every country I visit thanks to our European vacation, so we stopped at a McDonald’s. I ordered the poutine as well as a beanie baby, which was the toy at the time, for Anela. Was it a moose? I can’t remember.
Our last noteworthy sighting in Canada was this John Fluevog store.
How wonderfully Canadian! I bet this is kind of annoying to the locals actually, but it made me smile.
So long, Canada! It was back to States for us.
During a chat with our AirBNB hosts, they recommended we look at the Space Needle from Kerry Park.
It was a great place to look at and photograph the Space Needle!
The next day was the last day of the trip, and we started it off with Starbucks at the 1st & Pike location at Pike Place Market.
It’s considered the first Starbucks store, although it’s the first store’s second location because it moved.
Here’s gem waiting for her coffee!
With our coffee, we were ready to explore the Pike Place Market. We ate at Piroshky Piroshky, bought some Johnson Berry Farm jams, saw the flying fish, and listened to a pianist named Jeffrey Circus (which could be spelled differently).
Here’s gem at the gum wall.
We had a bite to eat at Market Grill. I had Copper River Sockeye salmon. There was a map on the wall with pins signifying the hometowns of customers. We found our hometown!
There was a lot of fun chalk art outside of unicorns, each with an arrow pointing in the direction of the next one. We enjoyed following the directions and looking at them all.
I really liked the exterior of Red Cedar & Sage.
Finally, we explored the nearby Olympic Sculpture Park.
It was a nice garden and park with a variety of sculptures, benches, trees, and good views.
Here’s the Space Needle from the park!
Of course, the adventure ended with food! On the way to the airport, we stopped at The Crumpet Shop. Thanks for the fun, Seattle! That’s it for that adventure. So many great memories! 🙂
I think 2018 was a pretty great year. I moved to a new apartment, which I really like, and started a new job that is challenging and rewarding. I enjoyed spending time with many wonderful friends, went on lots of great adventures, and saw a lot of fun shows.
I went to San Diego Comic-Con again for the 8th year in a row. This year I attended with gem, Antonio, and Kaleigh.
I cosplayed Fix-It Felix, Jr. again. And here’s gem as Lilo!
gem and I took Antonio to Zion National Park in Utah and to Vegas for his bachelor party. We did lots of great hiking in Zion…
…visited the Warner Valley Dinosaur Tracks…
…saw Cirque du Soleil in Vegas…
…went to Neon Museum of old signs…
…and went ax throwing in Vegas!
Antonio married Kaleigh! I was one of his two Best People. (He had one man and woman as his Best People).
Here’s Antonio Best Woman, Best Man, and groomsman.
My photo of Anela was shown in the OC Fair.
Here we are with the photo hanging in the gallery!
Christin’s photo of us was also shown!
I always knew that deep down I was a model.
My postcard collection was featured in the OC Fair as well. I entered it as a collection of foreign postcards. I’ve traded mail with 55 countries (up 3 in 2018) and 35 US states (up 8). Considering only postcards, I’ve traded with 50 countries (up 4) and 28 US states (up 8), having received from 41 countries (up 7) and 17 US states (up 5) and sent to 45 countries (up 2) and 25 US states (up 8).
I got rid of my mustache. Sometimes I miss it.
We got season passes to Universal and went a lot of times!
Sometimes I think about what could have been if I had purchased these sunglasses. The world would be blurry, but I’d look so fly.
Andy and Kaylin got married!
And more importantly, the bar served a variety of alcohol when it was supposed to be beer and wine only. Okay, the wedding itself was actually more important, but the drinks were still somewhat important.
The Imperial Sand Dunes made for a gorgeous (but hot) backdrop.
Christin, Anela, and gem were all beautiful models!
On the way home, we visited Salvation Mountain.
Tanaka Farms’ sunflower festival was fun and beautiful!
gem really loved the huge sunflowers!
Here’s Anela and me with Hello Kitty.
And here’s gem and me with Hello Kitty!
Anela and I visited the lavender festival, and she wore a Ukrainian outfit.
There were many photo shoots, although a lot of them aren’t ready to be posted yet. Here’s one of Angel Kawaii as Harley Quinn!
The Arts Alive and Street Painting Festival in Mission Viejo ended up being more fun than I expected, especially because there were over 50 fairy doors.
The Christmas treasure hunt was so fun. Look at the detail on the map Pete made!
2018 was the year of pop ups for me it seems. I visited Happy Place for the second time. Here I am with gem in the rubber ducky room! I still need to go through those photos…
gem and I went to San Francisco to visit the Museum of Ice Cream (and to visit our friends Matt and Katie).
The Sprinkle Pool was awesome!
gem took me to The Pizza Experience as a Christmas present. Photo ops and pizza?! Amazing!
This is how I work out now.
I had to see the Gudetama x Curry House collaboration with gem. Luckily the curry is delicious there!
And then there’s the Rilakkuma x Roasting Water collaboration too! I’ve been to two of their locations with gem for this collaboration, and I’ve visited the one near my house many times on my own.
And I can’t forget Aggretsuko’s DEN OF RAGE!!!
gem and I learned about ethics at The Good Place Experience.
gem took this photo of me as a luchador at Luzia. I really saw a ton of shows this year:
Cirque du Soleil’s Luzia under the Grand Chapiteau
The Book of Mormon at Segerstrom Center
Allegiance at the Aratani Theatre
The Unauthorized Musical Parody of Jurassic Park at the Rockwell: Table & Stage
David Sedaris speaking at the Long Beach Performing Arts Center
Cirque du Soleil’s Zumanity at New York-New York
Suburban Legends in Downtown Disney three times
Drag show at the Velvet Lounge
Goldfinger with The Suicide Machines, Buck-o-Nine, and Suburban Legends at the House of Blues, Anaheim
Dear Evan Hansen at the Ahmanson Theatre
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians at the Maverick Theater
Wicked at the Pantages
The Fury of the Aquabats 20th Anniversary show with The Aquabats featuring former Aquabats Catboy, Prince Adam, and Chainsaw and opener C.J. Ramone
Love Actually Live at The Wallis
…47 seasons of TV shows and 42 films (not counting repeated viewings)
What an action packed year! Can I cram as many cool things into 2019?
SDCC was last month, and despite not getting tickets in the first round, I did manage to get a ticket again this year! I debuted a new full cosplay and a new pseudo-cosplay, which was very fun.
Antonio, gem, and I drove down Wednesday after work and had Berkeley Pizza for dinner. It was a short night, because we didn’t get down there early.
Thursday was the first time I wore my Tamatoa (the crab from Moana) cosplay. It was way too hot for it, but I enjoyed wearing it.
We met up with Tram and her friend Christian, and we spent most of the day with them. Maybe they’re good luck, because we got into Hall H for the first time. For reference, usually people line up overnight to get into Hall H. We heard an announcement that Will Smith would be in Hall H, which I just found silly. So what? It’s too late now. Antonio pointed out that maybe they announced it because it wasn’t full. He was exactly right. We walked right into the Netflix panel about Bright and Death Note. Will Smith was on the first half of the panel for Bright, and the whole thing was moderated by Terry Crews. It was pretty cool to be in there with them!
After Hall H, it was time for the Lick King’s Ice Cream Citadel! We got some tasty ice cream and posed with the Lich King! By then I was tired of my Tamatoa costume, so I changed into normal clothes because it was so hot. We had Greek fusion for dinner at Meze, at which we ate the last two years as well.
On Friday I wore my Magikarp Jump cosplay. It wasn’t 100% authentic at all, but it was fun. gem had the idea to use Boomerang for the video. Nice suggestion! We met up with our friends Krista, Kaitlyn, and David. I always run into Krista and Kaitlyn at the coolest places!
This was a day mostly for panels. I saw Robin Hobb: Beyond the Page first followed by Dare to Be Dynamite: Creative Vision with Pierce Brown, an author that gem loves. In the evening we watched a Mega64 panel and the Super Geeked Up Improv show, which was fun, although I wish there was more improv.
My favorite panel was Superstars in Children’s Fiction with Greg Grunberg, Lucas Turnbloom, R. L. Stine, Jarrett J. Krosocka, Jenni Holm, Matt Holm, and Molly Ostertag. We went because we thought it would be fun to see R. L. Stine, but we had no idea that Greg Grunberg, Parkman from Heroes and Wexley from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, would be there and is now a children’s fiction author. He was super nice! We chatted with him after the panel, and when I asked to take a photo of him and gem, his son (I think) offered to take one of the three of us.
My favorite part of the panel was when Greg asked R. L. Stine about the future of Goosebumps TV shows or films. R. L. Stine said he couldn’t comment. Greg told him that he’d trade him information about the next Star Wars movies. Too awesome.
gem wore her Woody costume, which was modified since last year. Previously she tried to keep it authenticate. This year it was more interpretive with a dress. I think she rocked it!
On Saturday, Antonio and I snuck in as professionals to skip the line. Yay. gem took some cool photos of me by the water in my Tamatoa costume.
I had to fight Maui of course. Why wasn’t he transforming? “Well, well, well. Little Maui’s having trouble with his look…”
There were a lot of great Moana cosplayers! Thanks to gem for taking so many wonderful photographs 🙂 There are more on my cosplay page.
We went to another tokidoki signing as always where Simone signed my tokidoki x Overwatch notebook. We also chatted with Jaycee, who worked for tokidoki. She remembered us from previous years, and we followed each other on Instagram.
Let’s not talk about waiting in line over an hour for a Star Trek panel but not getting inside. At least I got to chat with some cool people in line!
Kaleigh joined us that night, although we split up for a bit. gem and I hung out while Antonio met with her at the train station. We all met up briefly, but then that evening gem, Antonio, and I went to see the best brothers around, the McElroys! We watched My Brother, My Brother, and Me live in San Diego! It was really fun to see them in person. Too bad we didn’t get to talk to them. I had a question ready to ask, but there weren’t microphones on the balcony where we were sitting unfortunately.
On Sunday I wore a tried-and-true cosplay, Fix-it Felix Jr.! During a panel, I ran into Erin, a Vanelope von Schweetz cosplayer! We took some photos together after the panel. Her car was super amazing!
After chatting with her, we went to a Disneybound panel with Leslie Kay, Kit Leitmeyer, Loni Clark, Neil A. Williams II, and Sara Katz-Scher. It was pretty interesting to hear about how they come up with their outfits.
I ended the convention at the Disney group shoot! It was organized by Robert T Photography, who also took the photo above. You can see more of his photos from the event here on Facebook.
One videographer took video of us for the end of his cosplay music video. I’m in it briefly at the end as I dance around 4:51, but I’m right in front so you can see me clearly, haha!
Look how amazing this little Dopey cosplayer was! He seemed to have a great time with the other Disney cosplayers.
Antonio took this photo of me and gem in her Steven Universe cosplay! I think she did a great job with this. A lot of Steven Universe cosplayers carry a ukulele just as a prop, but this cosplayer can actually play it! Yeah!
There are plenty more photos of my Fix-it Felix Jr. cosplay here.
On our way out of San Diego, we stopped at Kafe Sobaka Restoran Pomegranate for Russian dinner. This is the khachapuri, which was filled with delicious cheese. Oh my god, I definitely need to eat this again. I also had chanakhi (lamb stew) as my entree.
And for dessert, I had sweet vatrushka with sour cherry and farmer’s cheese. Yum!
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. And need some help to your travel financing check this out online Payday Loan.
Italy was the next stop on our vacation. We visited Roma, Pompeii, and Napoli seeing all sorts of fantastic sights, including Colosseo (the Roman Coliseum) shown above.
Our first stop in Italy was to play with this dog in an apartment building that we eventually discovered was not the location of our AirBNB. It might have been the wrong building, but it was a happy mistake that led us to this dog!
Our AirBNB was a large, lovely apartment with stone floors and great kitchen and bathroom. It was near the Piramide stop, and the Piramide Cestia gave a nice visual landmark.
Italy was the first country we visited that was actually warm. We were thrilled to be able to put on some shorts and leave our jackets at home, although I admit it got a bit too hot! We stopped for a photo in front of the Colosseo on the way to find dinner.
This delicious potato, sausage, black pepper, and extra virgin olive oil pizza was one of the best I had on the trip. We ordered it at Sapori e Delizie along with a ham, mushrooms, olives, and anchovies pizza as well as tiramisu and a cannoli for dessert. The second pizza was odd in that each quarter of the pizza had a different topping. How are we supposed to split that?!
We took our time walking home so we could explore, stumbling into Roma Pride. We caught it before it was at its peak, but it was fun.
For second dessert, we stopped at Il Gelato for salty peanuts, chocolate mad orange, and natural rice flavored gelato. This wouldn’t be our last gelato stop.
The next morning we started with the “Last Minute Roma” tour of the Colosseo with our tour guide, Isabella. Cameras weren’t allowed inside, but camera phones were. They could be brought inside in bags only. This proved a problem because we didn’t bring bags, but eventually they let me go inside with my DSLR on a shoulder strap. Once inside, there were tons of people taking photos. I don’t understand.
Naturally, I used it to take photos. Here’s a good shot of the upper areas as well as the lower areas. The ground floor of the Colosseum would have covered the area in the lower-left of the photo. Those were tunnels that ran underneath the floor.
Here’s a closer look right at ground level showing the tunnels. It was so cool to be walking through such an amazing structure that’s been standing for thousands of years. It’s crazy to think that I likely had ancestors who saw events here.
Some kind stranger was nice enough to take a photo of the four of us.
gem looked nice taking a short rest, although she also looks like she was questioning why I was taking a photo.
Anela and gem made friends with a horse outside the Colosseo too!
There was a small convenience store that sold this ice cream that Anela remembered liking from her childhood, so we bought some.
It didn’t look like much, but it was a nice treat.
Next we were off to the Vatican. What an amazing collection of art! Yes, I admit it wasn’t all obtained in the best ways, but I thoroughly enjoyed the museum.
I actually hadn’t realized they had such a large collection of pre-Christian art, which made for a pleasant surprise.
It must have taken so much skill and sophistication to properly capture the muscles and curves of the human body.
Look at the detail in the beard!
This was my favorite part of the museum. It seemed like the roof was glowing. Photographs don’t capture the beauty.
That didn’t stop me from trying though. Here’s a shot without us in the way.
The Vatican had a nice garden outside as well.
Even the spiral walkway was beautiful.
Not being a fan of heights, Anela didn’t seem to enjoy it as much as me, but she made it unscathed!
On our way out, we stopped by the Vatican’s post office. I purchased and sent some postcards while I was there.
We took a break from the Vatican to get some lunch at a oh-so-traditional Italian restaurant – McDonald’s! This bucket had three kinds of chicken. I think there were at least one type of chicken wing, but maybe there were two.
McDonald’s dessert game seems stronger in Italy.
After lunch we saw St. Peter’s Basilica, which was quite beautiful.
I liked the way you could see the rays of sunlight shining down.
Don’t they look lovely?
This looked really beautiful as well.
Back outside, we watched the changing of the guards.
And then we took a final selfie before leaving the Vatican.
For dinner, we bought an assortment of pizza from two fast pizzerias near our apartment. We ate a lot of pizza in Italy.
We started the next morning with a tour of Palotino and the Foro Romano (the Roman Forum). We walked through the Museo Palatino, which was short but had an interesting collection of marble samples from various regions. I jotted down “something square, Musea capitali” in my notes. Did we go there? What was that? I don’t remember.
Something tells me “LOSER” wasn’t there originally.
I don’t remember the significance of any individual building during the tour to be honest, but I liked some of these shots.
That’s a beautiful view.
This building looked really cool. I don’t know if I knew what it was at the time, but I don’t now.
Edit: gem identified it! This is the Altare ella Patria at Piazza Venezia. Thanks, gem!
Here’s a closer look at the flag and some detail of the building.
We walked to the Pantheon in Rome, a beautiful church built at the site of a former Roman temple.
There was a fountain in front that we used to cool off. We were really feeling the heat, so it was nice to dip our arms in the cool water. I sweat it was like a magic potion. You could practically see it rejuvenate Anela!
We took a nice photo in front before exploring inside the Pantheon.
We stopped by Federico Polidori’s leather shop. He’s known for hand-crafting leather goods. I actually bought one of the few pieces he didn’t make himself – an Italian army bag from 1955.
I had to haggle a bit, but I’m happy with it. It mostly got used to hold resumes and blank paper for interviews.
We stopped for pizza and pasta for lunch. I had cacio e pepe at the recommendation a friend. He was right. It sounds simple but was super delicious. Afterwards, we stopped at Very Buono Ice Cream for dessert and got another cannoli as well.
We wanted to visit a beach while we were here, so we took a train to Ostia Beach.
We got to play in the Tyrrhenian Sea, part of the Mediterranean Sea. I never thought I’d do that.
After splashing around, digging our feet into the sand, and collecting shells, we headed back toward our apartment. We had dinner at Novecentro Cucina & Pizza, across the street from our apartment if I remember correctly, and then headed to bed.
We started our last full day in Italy with Pompeii. Honestly, I thought it was underwhelming.
There were a few bodies in glass cases, but the bodies were removed from the ruins themselves, which I didn’t realize.
We still spent a lot of time exploring anyways. gem had to wait there so I could get a shot without other people being in the way.
Here Anela explores more ruins.
What are you pointing at, gem? I bet it’s the fact that the doorway was perfectly gem-sized.
After Pompeii, we headed to Napoli where we ate a ton more pizza. Our first stop was Donna Sofia.
We ordered two pies for the four of us, and they were both amazing. Dang, I’m hungry thinking about them.
After Donna Sofia, we went right next door to Di Matteo for more pizza. Unfortunately, it wasn’t nearly as good as Donna Sofia!
We split up to do some shopping after Di Matteo. It started raining soon after, which was bad news for gem and Antonio since Anela and I were the only ones with umbrellas. While we shopped. a man who claimed to be the best salesman in Napoli tried to sell us some socks. I guess he wasn’t that good, because I didn’t buy any.
When we all came together again, gem brought us another pizza – this one from L’antica Pizzeria Da Michele. She had read about it, and it was apparently quite well-known for its amazing pizzas.
It was certainly delicious!
We picked up some desserts which we ended up sharing with some other tourists from the US.
After getting back to Roma, I wanted to go back to Il Gelato. I convinced the group by saying I’d buy for everybody.
There was fun art on the mirrors too! Here’s Joy from Inside Out.
And here’s Elsa from Frozen.
And lastly, here’s Olaf!
The next morning we signed our AirBNB host’s guestbook and took a train to the airport. Unfortunately, this is where Anela parted ways with the rest of us. The only thing that could cheer me up was more pizza!
After visiting Bruges, Belgium, we boarded a train to Kortrijk, Belgium as the first leg our day’s journey to Paris. Going to Paris was the motivation behind the whole trip – to visit our friends Jessica and Andrew in Paris. There transportation strikes happening in Belgium, but we checked in the morning and the trains were still running.
The train ride gave a little more time for some Papers, Please, but our luck ran out when we got to Kortrijk. By this time, the strike caught up with us, and trains were no longer running out of Kortrijk. And because we already used part of our tickets, we couldn’t get refunds. We ended up taking a taxi from Kortrijk, Belgium to Lille, France. Once in France, we took a train to Paris. We were late, but we got there!
I’m guessing we went to our AirBNB first, but I honestly don’t remember that. I just remember heading to Frame Brasserie where Jessica was waiting for us. Andrew was in the kitchen, preparing awesome food. For my friends who don’t know, the two of them used to live near me in California, but Andrew accepted a head chef position at Frame Brasserie, a restaurant in Paris inside the Pullman Paris Hotel.
Here’s Chef Andrew hard at work in the kitchen!
Here’s one of the dishes he prepared – foie gras on banana bread. I didn’t know those flavors would go well together, but it was amazing!
I don’t remember what each course was, but I know that I was impressed with all of it. So good!
After dinner, we went upstairs to a little balcony where we were able to watch the light show on the Eiffel Tower. It was pretty breathtaking. I wasn’t expecting to be as amazed at the Eiffel Tower as I was. It was beautiful.
Andrew gave us a little tour of the rooftop garden as well, including the chicken coop. The chickens were sleeping.
Jessica walked us back to our AirBNB, and we stopped to admire the Eiffel Tower more on the way.
Only gem and I were interested in Disneyland Park Paris, so we spent the day there.
We stopped for breakfast in Main Street, U.S.A. where I got a croque monsieur. (That’s not normally found on traditional Main Streets in the States, but I’ll forgive them. This little bird wanted some too and took a piece right out of my hand. Disney magic!
After eating, we went straight to Discoveryland, which is like Anaheim’s Tomorrowland. Instead of being purely futuristic, it’s themed after historical French figures’ visions of the future, making it retro and steampunk. It was awesome.
We rode Space Mountain Mission 2, Disneyland Paris’ Space Mountain, twice in a row. It had a great steampunk feel to it and was one of my favorite rides there. The wait was seriously just a few minutes. Yes, it was a weekday, but I don’t think we ever needed to wait longer than 15 minutes. I think the one-day, two-park ticket was only about $50 (US), which is nuts. I guess Disneyland Paris isn’t as popular as the original.
Next we went on a walk-through attraction called Les Mystères du Nautilus based on Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Apparently there was a similar attraction in our Disneyland in the 1950’s.
After a submarine, it was time to hop in some cars for Autopia. I’m completely uninterested in the Anaheim Autopia but enjoyed the Paris Autopia!
When we heard that Buzz needed our help, we rushed to Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast to defeat the Evil Emperor Zurg!
gem even found a planet with her name in it – Gemkurnz!
After finishing with Discoveryland, we went to explore Sleeping Beauty’s Castle.
I like this photo of gem and the castle despite the people in the background.
The castle had many stained glass windows. I prefer the one of Maleficent, one of my favorite Disney characters.
There’s a little balcony area on top that you can explore too!
It’s a Small World’s tribute to America started with the old west. I really enjoyed seeing this.
It also included the New York skyline, the Statue of Liberty, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Hollywood sign (among other things).
For lunch, we stopped at Cafe Hyperion. I believe this was the Dark Vador burger. I couldn’t resist it. That’s also how I learned that Darth Vader is Dark Vador in French.
After riding Pirates of the Caribbean, we rode Indiana Jones et le Temple du Péril. Unlike its California counterpart, this is more of a traditional rollercoaster. It’s also the first Disney rollercoaster to feature an inversion! While I enjoy our more story-driven rollercoaster, this was an awesome ride!
Frozen had a little section in the park with a photo-op and some sort of performance. We didn’t stay for the performance, but we did get our photo taken before we had to rush to the second park, which we didn’t realize was closing soon.
Walt Disney Studios is Disneyland Paris’ second park, and it’s based on a movie studio.
There were a number of neat things to see in the park, especially walking through the Toy Story section that was built to a scale as if you were a toy.
The park had an excellent rollercoaster based on Finding Nemo – Crush’s Coaster. Two seats face one direction and two face the other direction, leading to awesome drops in which you’re falling backwards!
While we were inside Disneyland Park, we were wondering where the statue of Walt and Mickey was and just assumed they didn’t use it in Paris. We were wrong! It’s in Walt Disney Studios!
My notes also mention salsa, rock, and line dancing in Disney Village, which is like Paris’ Downtown Disney. I don’t remember that shoreofficewarehouse.com. Did we do it? Did we just see it?
I wanted to stop for a photo with the magic broom on the way out.
And we got one of gem as well!
Next it was back to Disneyland Park to talk to ticketing about our tickets. We had purchased tickets online in advance, which means we had printouts and not physical tickets. She was hoping for physical tickets as souvenirs. At first they said they couldn’t do it, but when gem got sad, the man got creative. He printed out one of each ticket variation and voided them before giving them to her. How nice of him!
Back inside Disneyland Park, I took a photo of gem with the greeter at Phantom Manor, which is their version of the Haunted Mansion. How spooky and cool! We actually went through Phantom Manor twice.
gem also had an encounter with Abu, who ran up to her and surprised her!
We did some shopping while in the park too. I picked up some gifts for people, but there was one gift that was just too big – a blue Buzz Lightyear figure. I have no idea why he was blue, but I wanted it for Henley. Eventually, I knew I had a solution. I purchased a big Disneyland Paris duffel bag and the toy. Now I could definitely bring it home!
We ended our Disney evening with a fireworks and light show. It seemed like a combination of Disneyland fireworks and a show like Fantasmic or World of Color. There were fireworks, but there were also plenty of lasers and projects. It was awesome!
When the park closed, we walked through Disney Village to the train, where we waited at least an hour or so for the train to leave. We were really packed in there. Then it was hard to find our way home because of construction causing street closures. We eventually found a McDonald’s with Wi-Fi that allowed us to contact Antonio and Anela. We had a key to get into the apartment, but we forgot the code to the front gate! I told Antonio what time I thought we’d be back, but we ended up taking much longer. This could have been problematic, because without Wi-Fi, my phone wouldn’t work. Luckily he happened to see my message way late – just when we got to the gate. Great timing 🙂
The next day we headed to the Eiffel Tower. The base was much bigger than I expected.
Here’s a shot looking up through the tower.
Unfortunately, we could only reach the second story that day because the rest was closed.
That didn’t stop us from enjoying the view anyways.
After we came back down from the Eiffel Tower, we met Anela, Andrew, and Jessica at the FRAME Truck where we purchased some tasty tacos. Jessica did a lot of planning for us so we could squeeze as much in as we can. Her help was invaluable!
gem looks quite thug. I don’t know what she was doing here, but it’s great.
They also brought us these delicious macarons!
After lunch, it was time to jump in front of the Eiffel Tower! Here’s Antonio, Anela, me, and gem.
And here’s Jessica, Anela, me, and Andrew. Andrew looks a little derpy.
Lots of people seem to lounge near the Eiffel Tower.
Either Jessica or Andrew took this photo of the four of us.
Here’s all six of us in front of the Eiffel Tower!
What do you do after appreciating the Eiffel Tower? Explore some creepy catacombs, of course. We played some Heads Up on our phones and variations of charades while waiting in line, but then it was time to enter.
The descent! Jessica looks too happy.
gem looks scary in the catacombs.
Jessica, don’t be mean! Don’t worry; she didn’t touch.
Lots and lots of bones.
After emerging once more, Andrew took us to She’s Cake. They use She’s cakes at Frame Brasserie.
We split a few different delicious desserts.
After eating, we visited the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris at Montmarte, which was beautiful.
Even the drinking fountains are beautiful in Paris!
When it was time for dinner, we stopped at Le Consulat.
We shared an order of escargot, which tasted very similar to typical shellfish. I enjoyed it a lot!
I did, however, have to figure out how to eat it.
After dinner, we walked past the Moulin Rouge.
We finished our day with a visit to L’arc de Triomphe.
The next day, we visited the Eiffel Tower so we could climb all the way.
It was a foggy day, but I had fun.
Here I am enjoying that view, but I felt I needed a closer look.
That’s much better!
Just look at that amazing view! Okay, the view was nothing but fog, but it was still cool.
I forget if it was this day or the previous Eiffel Tower visit, but we talked to some of the soldiers at the base. Side note, it’s still very weird to me to see soldiers with huge guns just walking around. Anyways, we asked for Anela to get a photo with them. Their reaction was strange. Some seemed to say no, some to say yes, and one walked away. After a moment, I realized what was happening. They were smoking when they weren’t allowed to be smoking. Some of them put out their cigarettes and one just walked out of view of the camera. We got our photo!
We went to a market to get some lunch. This pastry was super good.
We also sampled some pink cheese. That doesn’t look like my hand though. Whose hand is that? Anela’s? Oh well.
I managed to purchase cherries in French! It was terrible French I’m sure, but a bit of Rosetta Stone helped. Here’s our haul that we ate in Jessica and Andrew’s apartment. Not shown was the McDonald’s that we bought as well, including the Le Croque McDo. How French! Man, I’m getting hungry.
Just look at this pastry! We stopped at Le Moulin de la Croix Nivert for tarte aux pommes et Paris Brest, two amazing desserts.
With full stomachs, we visited Notre-Dame.
Next we quickly saw the Fontaine Saint Michel.
By that time, we definitely some crepes, so we stopped at Creperie de Arts.
The best part of Creperie de Arts? Le chat! This cat was just chilling.
We also stopped at Amoroso Gelato because apparently we just can’t eat enough.
Of course we visited the Louvre, but we were unable to go inside. Due to the flooding happening in Paris at the time, they were moving all the works to higher floors in case the water got into the Louvre.
That didn’t stop us from having fun and goofing around!
Look at these two lovebirds. <3
Here’s a closer shot of the building.
Speaking of the flood, here’s a look at the water. You might not be able to tell just how much water there is from this photo.
I wouldn’t want to go sit on one of those benches.
Those are cars. The Seine rose so much, cars parked along the river were now under water.
May gem present to you… the Statue of Liberty!
Here’s a shot she took of me in front of it too!
According to the journal I kept, which was just a list of things we did, we also visited L’arc de triomphe du Carrousel, but I can’t find any photos of it. I can’t believe I wouldn’t take photos, so maybe I just got them mixed up. Oops.
Edit: I did just get them mixed up! I added a photo 🙂
For dinner, we went to Frame Brasserie a second time. On this visit, Andrew ate with us rather than being in the kitchen. He had his staff keep bringing us additional dishes until we were full. Amazing. As I’d expect, everything was so good. Here’s a collage of everything we managed to eat. Keep in mind there were six of us please :0
Look, FRAME has a foosball table! I don’t know who won, but I know we had fun – probably because gem and I were both terrible.
Sadly, this is where we said our goodbyes to Jessica and Andrew.
Before heading to our apartment for the final time, we walked around the Centre Georges Pompidou, which was near where we were staying.
It looks like it’s inside-out! It’s definitely an interesting piece of architecture.
While we didn’t go inside, we were able to appreciate it from here.
I’ll end this post with a final shot of the Eiffel Tower. The next morning we left our little apartment and traveled to the airport to fly to Rome. Thanks so much to Jessica and Andrew for spending time with us, showing us around Paris, sharing delicious food, and everything else. I wish I could see you regularly, but Paris is just a bit too far to visit for a weekend!
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.