Our Maple Tree

Keeping up with The Maples


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Solar Eclipse Fun

As some of you know I went to school for physics, but the main reason I chose the physics program, is because I love astronomy. My concentration was in astronomy and I loved every second of it. Appalachian State has a wonderful astronomy program offering so many different opportunities for students. For introductory students, they have an observation deck with a retractable roof and about 20 11″ automated telescopes. For intermediate students, they have a private lab with an observation dome housing an 16″ telescope. And for their advanced students, they have an entire observatory off the Parkway with an amazing 32″ telescope with all the latest observation tech. Yeah – it’s pretty awesome.

My college years were amazing and I sometimes miss the late nights observing the cosmos. But I don’t miss those tests or those all nighters studying! But I am super excited to be witnessing the solar eclipse this weekend! And because I celebrate everything, I put together a few ideas to help all of you to celebrate, too! 😉

Since we will be traveling to see totality, I put together some coloring sheets for Ada. I found these free printables that are all about our solar system. I kept it simple and just picked out the star, the moon, the sun, and of course, the solar eclipse. I am using a cookie sheet as a lap desk for Ada to use (which I am sure everyone knows about thanks to Pinterest). She can use it on our trip to color and play with her magnetic letters & numbers.

I found this craft for Ada to do that seems a bit more age appropriate for her (besides coloring). Plus, the finished results look really pretty.

These t-shirts are so darn cute and so corny! Right up my alley! 😉

There are tons of great ideas for eclipse themed food on Pinterest. Everything from eclipse cookies, galaxy popcorn, and sunshine cupcakes. Since we will be traveling, I decided to keep it rather simple – Moon Pies, Sun Chips, and Sun Drop is the way we are going! Plus, who doesn’t love Moon Pies? 😉

And to make things more fun, adding star & moon shape balloons will add the perfect touch!

I hope you all get a chance to enjoy & marvel at God’s beautiful creation on Monday! And I hope you make a party out of it! 🙂 Happy Weekend ya’ll!


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Saying Goodbye to 2014

For the past year, I have kept a memory jar of our 2014 year. A new tradition I would love to keep for years to come. Basically, every time we received good news or did something fun or wanted to remember a good day, I would write it down on a piece of paper and place it in the jar.

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On New Year’s Eve, we sat by the fire and read all the notes.

It was so much fun to sit and reminisce about all our experiences in 2014. And to think about the ones who helped us make these memories as well.

Some highlights of our year:

  • Celebrated our 28th birthdays
  • Cruise to the Bahamas
  • Summer Concert
  • San Francisco
  • 10 Year High School Reunion
  • Wags to Riches Gala
  • Wine and Dine Party
  • Sharing life with our small group
  • Family dinners and get-togethers

And many more great memories! This really helped us slow down and think about each memory. It was wonderful to see how God has truly blessed us – with joy, health, friends and family.

The word I picked for 2014 was change. I believe we have done just that. We have explored new places, experienced new things and have made wonderful new friends. We have changed and grown so much this year. We have learned to view the world and our lives in new ways. We have leaned on each other more, appreciated each other more and supported each other more this year; helping us to become even closer together and with God.

I look forward to see what God has in store for us in 2015! Happy New Year!


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Our 5 Year Anniversary Trip – Part 2

The next day was spent exploring the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Being October, it was extremely busy. We knew planning the trip that we were going at the busiest time of the year, but it is still surprising how crowded it felt in such a large park! But we still had a great time.

We were blessed again with another beautiful fall day!

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Isn’t it beautiful? That sky… just wow!

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I could stand and look at this forever!

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This overlook was really unique. There was a little bridge that was built next to the road so you could get this amazing view!

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Isn’t he so handsome? I am one lucky gal! 😉

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When we finally made it back home we decided to have our own anniversary dinner. We made our favorite – filet, sautéed mushrooms, roasted asparagus and roasted potatoes. Mmm… so delicious!

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And to wash down this great meal, we opened a very special, rare wine. We opened one of the Chiantis we brought back from Italy. We decided that it was the perfect time to open it. It was our 5 year anniversary and it had been 1 year, to the day, since our Italy trip.

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Our trip was perfect for us – a romantic B&B, beautiful views, hiking, great food and awesome wine. I couldn’t imagine a more perfect get-a-way for our anniversary. Looking forward to our next big anniversary trip… maybe another trip to Europe or Napa Valley! 😉


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Our 5 Year Anniversary Trip – Part 1

For our anniversary we decided to go to Cades Cove, TN. I have been wanting to go there for months, so we thought our anniversary was the perfect excuse for us to go.

We stayed at a B&B, The Richmont Inn, and we had a lovely view from our room of Rich Mountain. These windows were right above our bed… it was awesome! Especially at night, we had a great view of the stars! 🙂

 

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Enjoying the view from our private balcony.

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The weather was perfect while we were there, the sky was such an incredible blue. October is the busiest season for Cades Cove, so there is a lot of stopping and going. But it was worth the trouble. 😉

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Cades Cove is full of beautiful open fields, adorable little white churches and log cabins.   DSC_8035

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I love this little white house! Isn’t it the cutest?!

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These Cantilever Barns were everywhere in this area of Tennessee. These barns were designed to help with the rainy and the high humidity climate of the mountains. They provided plenty of ventilation and kept rain away from livestock and the cribs.

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A lot of these photos were taken from the truck. It was much easier to continue driving through Cades Cove with the windows down, taking pictures then it was to park and get out of the car. There were just so many people! So sorry if they are a little blurry!

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We did eventually get out and hiked. We decided to hike a little bit of the Rich Mountain Loop trail… but we accidentally hiked the entire 8.3 miles! Oops!

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After hiking one of the hardest hikes I have ever hiked, we made it to the top. The brochure made it sound like there was a huge clearing at the top and that we could see for miles… that is why we kept hiking… we were looking for the huge clearing – instead, we found this…

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Not the worst view, of course… but definitely not what we were looking for! 🙂

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Isn’t that tree stunning? It just popped against the smoky mountains.

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The hike back down was much more pleasant and the trees created a beautiful golden glow.

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So pretty!

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After the hike we were exhausted. So we headed back to the B&B, just in time for our fondue dinner!

This champagne is very significant… it was the champagne we had on our honeymoon and it is very hard to come by. We have been saving this bottle for several years for a special occasion. So we thought our 5 year anniversary was special enough to open it. 🙂

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We enjoyed a 4 course meal inside a beautiful, private, timber frame cabin with a lovely view of Rich Mountain.

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Our day was perfect – a beautiful day at a beautiful location, enjoying the things we love to do.

 

Stay tune for part 2 of our trip and more picture overload!


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Five Years in Pictures

Today we celebrate our 5 year wedding anniversary. I can’t believe it has been five years already! It feels like just yesterday when we first met each other in modern physics class. I guess time flies when you are having fun!

Our wedding day, October 17, 2009 – such a perfect day!

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Our first apartment with an awesome view!

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Our fur-babies!

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Our first house!

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When we bought the house 2 years ago!

Our first house! April 2011

We have renovated a house together!

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We have celebrated together.

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We have shared many adventures together.

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We have traveled to Colorado, the Bahamas, San Francisco and Italy together!

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We have laughed together and cried together. But mostly laugh!

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We have done so many great things and have made such wonderful memories – and we have done all these things together. There have been times of hardships and struggle, but that has only made us stronger.

You have been my best friend, my partner in crime, my helper, my teacher, my comedian, my comforter – my husband. I couldn’t have asked for a better partner in life. God has blessed me above all reasoning and I am eternally grateful.

Thank you for just being you. I love you, always forever.

I look forward to 100 more years of adventures with you!


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Girl’s Weekend

This past weekend I went to the beautiful Charleston, SC for a bachelorette party. We stayed at the Wild Dunes Resort… great vacation spot! I hope to go again with Randy some day. We stayed in a condo that was right on the beach. It was the first time (for me) staying in a place with the beach so close and it was awesome!

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We had a great time enjoying the beach and pools, even though it was a little chilly. The beach here reminded me of the movie, The Notebook. It was very beautiful.

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The beautiful bride-to-be!

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We spent most of the weekend at the resort, but we spent some time Charleston.

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We ate dinner at Slightly North of Broad aka SNOB. It was very good (as is everything in Charleston) and had quail for the first time. And they had a super Tuscan wine, so I was one happy camper!

So happy for Macie and I had a great time celebrating her!

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The next day we had brunch at a restaurant called, Husk. It was in a beautiful house, the kind that you can only find in Charleston. It was elegant, rustic and southern. A very unique combo. 🙂

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We spent a little time walking around, admiring the beauty of Charleston. Love the trees!

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I love Charleston… I love the architecture, the food, the culture. It is such a beautiful city. I hope the next time I visit I can spend more time exploring the city! 🙂 And I had a great time with the girls! It was a much needed break from all the boys (I’m the only girl on my team at work)! I look forward to the next trip together!

I wish you the best Macie! I know that you will live happily ever after with your prince! 😉


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Advice and Tidbits – San Francisco

I like to write these posts because I like to read them. Whenever I am planning a trip, I read travel blogs to help me prepare and to plan. I prefer to read other’s more personal experiences and suggestions over the more commercialized websites. Travel bloggers tend to be more real and write about things that I want to know. Like, what to wear, what you need to pack (besides the obvious) and where you need to go. So here is my post about what I learned on my trip to San Francisco.

1. First things first, pack sunscreen! I forgot mine and had to buy some more while I was there. Our faces got a little burnt the day we went to see the Golden Gate Bridge. Probably a mixture of sun and wind burn, regardless, just pack it!

2. As you all know, San Francisco is a chilly place. But it can also be warm in some parts of the city – so layers are key. I preferred lightweight long sleeves and my utility jacket. Although, the day we went to the bridge, I wished I had on a sweatshirt. But for the most part, the t-shirts did just fine. You will be taking your jacket on and off a lot while you are walking around.

3. San Francisco, in my opinion is very spread out. I studied the map before I arrived (because I am weird like that) and I was surprised how far things were from each other. For instance,  I imagined that the Golden Gate Park and the Golden Gate Bridge were manageable walking distances from each other. And they are, I guess, but it was a much further walk then I realized. Public transportation is key in the city. If you are going to be staying 3 days or longer, I suggest the Muni 3 day pass. It is $26 per person and it gives you 3 days of unlimited access to buses and cable cars. That being said, the buses were very unpredictable, so be prepared to wait or if you are brave you can walk. 😉

4. Bring hair ties and/or hats, if you have long hair. San Francisco can be very windy; which is awesome. The breeze from the bay is cool, refreshing and has a unique sweet smell to it. On the bridge, as you can imagine, it is very windy; so I suggest you wear your hair up or in a hat. Otherwise you will be fighting it all day and have a tangled mess at the end.

5. This is a given, but wear tennis shoes or some sort of shoe that is flat and comfortable. It is very hilly and steep in some parts of the city. The shoes that I wore were Goga Walk2 by Skechers.  They are lightweight, cushioning and supportive. San Francisco locals were casual in their dress and they all definitely wore tennis shoes or flats! The only times I saw people dressed up, were at the bars, so just take a cab for that occasion! 🙂

6. Buy your Alcatraz tickets in advance. We did this last time (the time where my flight was cancelled and I couldn’t go… bad day) and we lost our money on my ticket. And this time around, it was up in the air whether or not if Randy was even going to go. We didn’t know for certain until about a week before our trip. So by the time we knew for certain, the tickets to Alcatraz were sold out. Our situation was different from most, it was a business trip for Randy and it was labor day weekend. But if you plan to go, book in advance – that way you won’t have to worry about it later.

7. Eat at the Grove. It was obviously, my favorite place to eat for breakfast. We went every day! It was truly that amazing. You don’t have to go every day like we did, but go at least once! You will not regret it!

Well, that is my two-cents! I hope you get a chance to visit San Francisco… it truly is such a fun city!

 

 


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I Left My Heart in San Francisco – Part 4

Day Three:

This was our last day here and we couldn’t ask for a more beautiful day! Beautiful blue skies with not a single cloud in sight. We had a great view of the city from our hotel. We stayed at the Westin St. Frances in Union Square – great hotel with awesome views.

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We started our day off, you guessed it, at the Grove. 🙂 Huevos Rancheros for breakfast today!

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Next we took the bus to the Golden Gate Bridge Park. It is a beautiful park with colorful flowers, people playing music, others lounging around on blankets having a picnic – just a perfect way to spend a beautiful day in San Francisco.

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This is the Dahlia Garden with the Conservatory of Flowers in the background.

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Since the park is huge, we decided to rent a tandem bike to see it all. Now to give you a little back story here, I hate biking. I mean, I am really, really bad at it. You know that saying, “Like riding a bike”? Yeah, not for me. So I was extremely nervous about renting a bike, that is why we went with the tandem bike. Randy did all the steering and I just sat there white knuckling it the whole time! But I am glad we rented it, we got to see more of the park this way and nothing bad happened! No falling over, no running into things… which is what I do by myself on a bike! Ha!

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We biked all the way to end of the park to see the Pacific. We stopped to admire the windmill on the way.

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Such a beautiful day! So blue! 🙂

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There were some really cool rocks and cliffs at this end of the beach. There is a restaurant right above the cliffs called The Cliff House. I wish we had time to go there, but maybe next time!

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We took our shoes off and enjoyed walking in the hot sand but our feet were quickly cooled off in the ocean.

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Very cold indeed!

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The direction that we came from. The beach here was so wide! And there were blacken pieces of wood here and there in the sand where people have had bonfires on the beach. That is now officially on my bucket list – bonfire at the beach. 🙂

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After we biked back through the park and returned the bike, we were pretty tired. So we stopped by a cafe and had cold brewed coffee for the first time. It was a little bit more bitter-tasting than regular coffee, at least I thought so. But with sugar and cream it was delicious and refreshing!

This is the cold brew apparatus… neat uh?

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Next on the list, we took the bus to Alamo Square. This square was one of my most favorite places in San Francisco. It was breezy, which felt nice after biking all day and the view is spectacular! The beautiful Painted Ladies, unfortunately, one of the houses was being worked on.

Anyone singing the Full House theme song? Yeah, I did too!

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But Randy was able to get this shot, without the scaffolding!

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There were people there sitting on blankets, drinking wine and eating crackers and cheese, reading books, throwing frisbees and playing catch with their dogs. So perfect! Next time we go to San Francisco I want to have a picnic here!

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Our traditional feet picture!

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Since it was such a great day, we decided to go back to the Golden Gate Bridge one more time. We wanted to see it not covered in fog. We found our bus stop and waited for an hour! The day was slipping away and I didn’t want to waste it waiting for a bus. So we decided to walk to it… again! We didn’t make it all the way to the bridge, we only made it to Crissy Fields, which was close enough for me!

Thanks to Randy’s photography skills we were still able to get some good pictures of the bridge.

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Then we made the long trek back to our hotel. We had to walk a while to get to the correct bus. But we were able to admire the city along the way!

Isn’t the details of this building so pretty? A lot of the houses looked like this. 🙂

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This was a shop I really wanted to go into, but it was closed. 🙁 Maybe next time! But it was probably a good thing I didn’t go in there, I could have spent a fortune in there I am sure!

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After resting a little we had sushi at this tiny, tiny restaurant. It serious could only hold about 10 people! But the sushi was delicious, especially after a long, fun day! After dinner we headed up Nob Hill to the Fairmont Hotel and enjoyed a drink at their bar, The Tonga Room. It was such a cool bar. Every 15 mins they simulated a rainstorm with rain (in the middle where the pool was), flashing lights for lightning and thunder. We ordered a drink called, The Zombie – if the title didn’t give you a clue, we only had one each. 🙂

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After enjoying the bar, we explored the hotel lobby. This hotel is so pretty. It reminded me of old hollywood glamour.

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They had the prettiest bathroom!

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After a very long, busy day we headed back to our hotel.

San Francisco was such a joy to visit and I hope we get to go again. There is tons more that I want to see that I didn’t get a chance to see this time. 3 full days just isn’t enough time to see it all. I could spend a good week here and stay busy every single day. I hope to go back and see more of the city and to take day trips to wine country.

Until next time!


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I Left My Heart in San Francisco – Part 3

Day Two:

We started our day much like the first, breakfast at the Grove. I told you this place was amazing!

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Next was the adventure of the bus system. So in San Francisco, their buses don’t quite run like ones we have used before. And the bus schedule online does not match up to what happens in real life. After trying to find a bus to take us to the Golden Gate Bridge for about an hour, we decided to walk to the bridge. Probably not the brightest idea we ever had. But alas, we saw a lot of the city on foot, which was nice. All in all, it was about an 8 mile hike from where we started to the middle of the bridge. We started taking pictures when we could see the bridge, which you can see from a long, long way off. 🙂 (San Francisco is much bigger than it is on the map, FYI.)

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Quote from Carl Sandburg, ” The fog comes on little cat feet. It sits looking over the harbor and city on silent haunches, and then moves on.” His house is near where we live so when we saw this stone, we were like, “I know him!” Nerds to core! Note: That was a movie quote, in case no one caught that. 

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And we kept walking.

And we walked some more.

And some more.

And just when I didn’t think I could walk any further, we made it to the Golden Gate Bridge.

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The Golden Gate Bridge has to be one of my favorite engineering marvels. Construction started in 1933 and the bridge was opened in 1937. Just 4 years, 4 years! That is incredible! At the time, it was the world’s largest suspension bridge and constructed across a very treacherous strait. It was Joseph Strauss who came up with the design of the bridge in the 1920’s – all with a pencil and a notebook. Pretty impressive!

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As you can see, it is quite busy on the bridge. Word of advice: Beware of local bikers on the pedestrian walkway. There are two lanes on the walkway, one for bikers and one for walkers. Problem is that there are many, many walkers and many tourists on bikes. So when you are doing your best to walk along your designated path and avoiding tourists on bikes who don’t know what they are doing; all of sudden you will have to jump to safety as a local comes zooming down the walkway all the while yelling at you to get out of the way.

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Below the bridge is a Civil War Era fort. Construction of the fort began in 1853 and it took 8 years to complete this fort. The fort had it’s first cannon mounted in 1861 and the Civil War ended in 1865. Needless to say, this fort saw very little action.

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You can’t really understand how large this bridge is until you stand on it, looking up towards the top. I cannot begin to explain how large this bridge is. It is amazing!

 

 

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I wanted to across the bridge to Sausalito, but by the time we got to the middle of the bridge, we were exhausted (8 mile mark at this point). We finally figured out the bus system and went to dinner.

Randy took me to a restaurant called, The Stinking Rose. Everything about this restaurant is about garlic… everything. They have garlic hanging from the ceiling, you can buy garlic infused everything, and everything on the menu has garlic in it. Warning: We reeked of garlic for about 12 hours after this dinner!

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We ordered their Garlic Hot Tub, which is a small skillet of roasted garlic cloves swimming in olive oil and spices. The garlic cloves are so soft that when you put it on your bread, it spreads like butter. It was delicious!

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After dinner we took a cable car back to our hotel and watched the sunset. We were so tired, we literally could not go anymore. We had a great day and I loved walking across the Golden Gate Bridge. It truly is an amazing feat of engineering and one of my favorite things we did in San Francisco.

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Stayed tuned for our trip to The Golden Gate Bridge Park!

 


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I Left My Heart In San Francisco – Part 2

Day One:

We woke up to a beautiful morning in San Francisco. First on the agenda, breakfast with Randy’s co-workers. The restaurant we went to was called The Grove best. place. ever!  This restaurant has made-to-order fresh-squeezed orange juice and it is out of this world amazing! And their food is just as good! I ordered eggs Benedict with bacon and avocado. Oh my goodness… it was so good! I cannot rave enough about this restaurant!

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After breakfast, we headed to Fisherman’s Wharf. Fisherman’s Wharf reminded me of broad way on the beach in Myrtle Beach, SC. It is filled with tourist shops and restaurants. Pier 39 is touristy but it still pretty cool because of the sea lions.

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Pier 39 offers a pretty cool view of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge.

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After Fisherman’s Wharf we stopped by Ghirardelli’s for some chocolate ice-cream!

Then we parted ways and took our first cable car ride!

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We stopped by Lombard street. It is known to be one of the crookedest street in America. There are a total of 8 hairpin turns in this little block.

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And it is steep too!

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The rest of the afternoon was spent exploring the city.

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That night we met up with another coworker of Randy’s for dinner in Chinatown! I have been super excited to see Chinatown in San Francisco because it is the largest Chinatown outside of Asia and it is the oldest in North America! It even has its own entrance! How cool is that?

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The architecture is pretty spectacular!

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Yum! R&G Lounge for dinner.

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To finish our day we went to a bar called, Top of the Mark. It is a bar at the top of the Mark Hopkins Hotel at the top of Nob Hill. It has the best view of the city. We enjoyed a cocktail and watched the fog roll into the city.

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What a view!

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We watched the sunset and the city gradually turn on. So very pretty, despite all the fog. Sorry for the quality of photos here. The fog made it a bit difficult. 🙂

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And here is the view outside the hotel, on top of Nob Hill.

Stay tuned for the next day, The Golden Gate Bridge!