Fall in Maine

This past weekend I had the pleasure of taking a long weekend in Portland, Maine. My fiancé and I planned this trip on a whim after he read an article about how pretty the foliage is in the fall. Short after Portland won Bon Appétit Restaurant City of the Year!

Right off the bat when we landed in Portland (easy 1 hour flight from Baltimore/Washington airport) I felt relaxed. Compared to living in Washington DC and hearing car honks every 2 seconds, the sound of wind and nature was very refreshing. After a quick stop at some donut shop we randomly saw on the side of the road (Tony’s Donut Shop) and taking in the smells of fresh donuts we headed to the Portland Head Lighthouse. This is actually a park with all sorts of old forts and abandoned buildings you can walk to see. The view is absolutely gorgeous. I highly recommend climbing out on the rocks across from the Lighthouse if not for the view then at least the photo op. While I was not hungry at the park apparently the food truck that hangs out there is one of the best? But that’s just the rumor on the street.

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After the lighthouse we headed to lunch at Duckfat! While we had to wait, it was WORTH IT. Honestly, if you want to eat here you should plan for a wait. It always had a crowd of people waiting around to get in. Why? The Duckfat fries of course. French fries made in duck fat with dipping sauces of your choice. I highly recommend the truffle ketchup.

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If you like beer, or not, I highly recommend the Maine Beer Bus. I am usually a wine person but I spent this whole weekend drinking the craft beers that Portland has to offer. They were absolutely delicious and refreshing. I had an awesome time trying all the different types. All of the craft brewers are super passionate about their work. Our tour took us to Geary’s Brewing, Lone Pine Brewing, and Bunker Brewing. Our tour guides were great and kept us all interactive with each other. After the tour we stopped by Sebago Brewing for some late night dinner. Good beer, not so great food in my opinion.

Day 2. We headed up to Freeport, Maine to check out the L.L.Bean flagship store and get some nature time in. It was raining in the morning so we spent some time wandering around the store and the town of Freeport. Along with the expansive and super cool L.L. Bean store, where the fiancé did some damage (after all who can resist a man in some flannel??), there are other outlets around town. We ate lunch at the historic Jameson Tavern across the street. HIGHLY recommend this place for their clam chowder and reuben sandwiches. As well, I had a baked haddock that was delicious.

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After the rain subsided we headed out Bradbury Mountain State Park to do some easy hiking and viewing of the fall foliage. It was $6 per person to enter the park complete with a map of all the different trails you can hike. We did a mile hike up to the summit and then 2 miles back for 3 miles total. You can also do way shorter hikes to the summit as well so there are options for people that want to get to the top without all the work.

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On our way back to town we stoped at Orchard Ridge Farms for some apple picking. They have a cute little store full of delicious foods like Goat Milk’s Fudge and homemade applesauce and pies. We also got to learn about the different apples and pick some for the road. The apples are so fresh and delicious and currently still in my fridge since I was able to get them through airport security with only a few questions.

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After a quick shower to clean up we headed back out for a night on the town. Our attempts to go to Eventide for dinner were short lived with the hour and a half wait. Instead we hung around town stopping in some bars like Jäger and then Bull Feeney’s for some fun live music while we chowed down.

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Sunday we headed downtown to try the “must have” donut place, The Holy Donut. The line was out the door and it was WORTH IT. These donuts were made from potatoes or sweet potatoes which made them thick. We bought a 1/2 dozen just to try the different flavors and every single one was amazing. My personal favorite was actually fresh lemon! FYI this donut place has been featured on all sorts of shows and in all sorts of articles so it must be worth that experience at least.

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After donuts we decided to walk around town to get some exercise in and experience the great weather. We checked out the Eastern Promenade where we walked up and down checking out the views of the water and the beautiful colors of fall.

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Finally after our walk we got to try Eventide for lunch. Everyone from the rental car guy to close friends had recommended we try this place. I will say the brown butter lobster roll did not disappoint. It’s different than a normal lobster roll (roll and lobster with mayo) in the sense it came out on a soft piece of bread and the lobster was moist with the butter. I much preferred this to the normal sub style.

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After lunch it was time to check out the West Side of town. It was a cute walk through the district with a quick stop for some ice cream at Mt. Desert Island Ice Cream where I got some pumpkin ice cream in a waffle cone. This was followed up by another stop at Tandem Bakery and Cafe for a pick me up to get through the afternoon after such indulgences. Not only was the coffee delicious but the atmosphere was amazing. I have never seen a gas station converted into a bakery so creatively.

All good thing must come to an end… we finished the day on the west side watching the sun set before heading on our plane back home. Portland, Maine… I hope to be back soon.

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California Dreaming

I spent the last 5 days between Los Angeles and San Diego. As my first time on the West Coast of the USA I fell in love. You get the exciting city atmosphere mixed with sunshine and beaches. Its truly unique from other places I have been in the United States. My only regret was not staying longer. Here are my recommendations:

Los Angeles

We stayed with family near Venice Beach which was a great central location. On the first day we walked down from Venice to Santa Monica, stopping for some breakfast burritos on the pier. I honestly have no idea what the place was names but there was a bunch of breakfast spots there. Most of them catered towards tourists and were tasty and easy for a quick bite. I am going to be honest, it was not anything life changing but would do the job. Once in Santa Monica we walked around downtown in the Promenade, stopping in Alo Yoga to check out their latest pieces. From here we headed off to see the celebrities at a live filming of the CONAN show!

Getting tickets to Conan... 

Was super easy. You actually just go on the website and sign up. The hard part comes the actual day of. You have to get there around 11:30 am if you want to premiere seats. As well, the overbook the show so you want to make sure you get to actually go. We got there at 11:30 but could have gotten there later. The upside was that we got good seats. BRING SNACKS and COFFEE or other warm drinks. You wait outside in a "waiting area" that is basically a parking garage and can get cold. At 1:30 the CONAN people come out and give you tickets. You then have 1.5 hours to grab food before you come back. There is not many food places in the area but you can walk about 0.5 miles and get something. You come back at 3 and they line you up to go! One of the cool things is that you get to walk through Warner Brothers studios. If I had to do it again I would probably try and do the WB tour because that seemed interesting. The actual taping of Conan lasts an hour and is a pretty cool experience. You will laugh plenty and maybe even get a free t-shirt!

 

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Disneyland

Last year we went to Disney World and wanted to make sure we checked out Disneyland, cause why not. It was a fun experience but I have to admit not as "magical" as Disney World. Its more of a theme park experience similar to other theme parks and less of a Disney Experience. We got the one day Park Hopper and thats all we really needed. We hit a lot of the rides and got to see everything. 

 

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Downtown LA and The Arts District

On Saturday we woke up and headed over the Abbot Kinney for Blue Bottle Coffee and Blue Star Donuts. I got a Lemon Poppy Seed donut that was absolutely amazing. From there we headed to downtown LA and Grand Central Market which is a mixture of old and new food places. It was great getting to wander around downtown and see the different areas. We checked out the MOCA (museum of contemporary art) and enjoyed a Golden Road Brew at the market (highly recommend if you like beer). 

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From downtown we headed to the Arts District. I loved walking around and seeing the different grafitti, shops, and galleries. After that we headed to Angel City Brewery. This was a great space with delicious beers. It had a huge area for people to hang out and chat or play cornhole. This is a must-do if you are into craft beer. I tried the Nite Terrors and Public House Saison. 

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From there we headed to Korean BBQ. If you LOVE meat, like me, this is a MUST DO. We went to Moodaepobbq and spent $30 each, which was the highest level, for all you can eat. It was a tasty experience. You cook the meets they bring you on a little flame in the middle of the table. We left feeling very full and pretty stinky. Fair warning, the smell of the BBQ will stick to whatever clothes you are wearing. 

San DIEGO

After our few days in LA we rented a car and headed down to San Diego. Along the way we stopped in Manhattan Beach for breakfast and to check out the beautiful views. 

 

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Upon arrival in SD we headed to La Jolla Cove to check out the famous seals. While there were a lot of people there also watching the seals this was an awesome experience getting so close to sea life. 

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After the cove and checking into our hotel (Hilton Residence Inn) we headed to Balboa Park. This is huge park that is split by a highway. On one side there are plenty of museums and attractions as well as cactus and rose gardens. Its a great place to walk around or duck into a museum that interest you. 

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TACOS... thats what every said we HAD to have in San Diego. There were many choices but I think we ended up with a real winner. We went to La Puerta in the Gaslamp Quarters. The best part was that they have happy hour EVERY night until 7. It was half price drinks, starters, and quesadillas. AWESOME. I had a mix of tacos as my meal and some guac with chips to start. As well, I indulged in a few margaritas. I highly recommend this place. The bartenders were awesome and the vibe of the place was chill. 

Mission Beach and Sunset CLiffs 

The next day we headed to Mission Beach in the morning and rode bikes up and down the boardwalk. At the end of the boardwalk are some rocks that we walked out on them. It was a beautiful morning and great way to wake up. 

 

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Sunset cliffs was a beautiful view as well. We headed there next and just walked along the cliffs getting a great view. From here we were hungry and headed to Little Italy for some lunch. We got Napizza which had some great healthy options after days of eating a lottt of food. We then canceled that health out by getting Salt and Straw ice cream. SO many different flavors and it was delicious. If I get the chance to go to San Diego again I would make sure you check out the Zoo. Apparently it is amazing (best zoo in the world) but we were here limited time and wanted to get some nature in!

Tourist in your own City

Growing up near Washington DC you take your access to the museums and monuments for granted sometimes. You forget that people are out there saving money so they can make a trip to the Nation's Capital. Now that I live in DC I have had the opportunity to explore other parts of the city and learn some insider locations. Here are my recommendations:

Eastern Market

This is a mix of a farmers market and open air shopping in Southeast DC. As well, the surrounding neighborhood is full of cute and tasty restaurants and shops. I recommend hitting up brunch and then checking out the market. My favorite part is the free samples of fruits and veggies!

 

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Artechouse

If you are into art at all this is a different type of museum you can check out. They use technology for different light installations. It is a small area and the installation is a pretty quick trip so I recommend going at night and taking advantage of the bar. That way you can sip drinks and then check out the displays. 

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Compass Coffee

This locally brewed DC coffee company is my absolute favorite. Since it is currently winter I am sipping on Americanos but during the summer you have to check out their cold brew. It is so creamy and smooth before even adding milk! They now have locations all over DC that you can check out. 

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DuPont Circle Area

Checking out the Dupont Circle area is always fun. It is about a mile from the White House and chalk full of restuarants and shops. On a nice day you can sit in the circle and enjoy a nice picnic lunch. 

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The W Hotel - POV Restaurant and Bar

At the top of the W Hotel is the "best view in the city." Head up there at night for a clear view of the White House and Washington Monument. It has a fancier vibe so you may need to get dressed up but it will be worth it when you are sipping on cocktails overlooking the city. 

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Washington D.C. has so much history. Make sure you take it all in whether you live nearby or you are making a trip to see it!