Travel Diary 2016: Chicago to Acadia National Park.

*I wrote this blog back in January and never uploaded it*

As it snows outside my window, I am immediately filled with travel memories.. to times of warmer weather and adventuring; to one time in particular that happened about six months ago.

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Suburbs of Chicago are freezing in January.

This time last year, I was sitting with my boyfriend Tom planning where in the world we should go for a summer trip. We danced around with the idea of visiting Seattle. We got so far as to planning an entire trip on roadtrippers.com called “West Coast Roadtrip” (original, I know): it was the real deal. But, that trip came to a close when we realized just how far Washington was via driving (28 hours, 2,060 miles to be exact).

So, we did what any people who had absolutely no idea where to go would do.. we pulled up Google maps. We really had this attraction to the New England region, especially the seaside. After a bunch of searching, searching again and searching one more time, we decided on visiting Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine.

Once we had the destination, it was all about where to go. We had to worry about what car to take (we ended up taking my very small, very cute Hyundai Accent), how much gas would cost, what cities we would stop at for the night and make sure we got to Acadia in just a few days. It took a while, but we had everything completely planned and by the time June hit, we were ready to go.

From the suburbs of Chicago, we embarked to our first destination: the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. There are a few things I learned while driving to Niagara: 1. The highway in Canada was essentially one very long, boring road. 2. Nobody is as excited as you are to go to Tim Horton’s. 3. Crossing into Canada from the U.S. will take a little while.

We did eventually get to Niagara after an all-day drive. It was absolutely beautiful and I now understand the hype. We stayed for the night we got there, plus the whole next day and left the following morning. We did basically every touristy thing you can do and had a great time.

We did something called Cave of the Winds where you get to take an elevator down to the base of the falls and walk around. There is a part of it where you are standing right next to the waterfall and the water slams you. It was great.

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After standing under Niagara on Cave of the Winds

Of course, we also did the Maid of the Mist. I would definitely recommend doing Cave of the Winds OVER Maid of the Mist, since the majority of the time on the “Maid” was spent trying not to freeze to death and attempting to see through the very thick mist (it doesn’t have it’s name for NOTHIN’). Both were amazing though.

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On the Maid of the Mist

After our day and a quarter of exploring Niagara (and 10 m we were onto our next destination. This one was really just a “we need to sleep somewhere” stop: Keene, New Hampshire. It turned out to be a pleasant stay. On the way to Keene, we made a lunch stop in Syracuse, NY, which I was a big fan of! We ate at a place called Funk N’ Waffles (it was on Diners, Drive-in’s and Dives) where they had a turkey dinner waffle. It sounds gross, but I promise it was amazing.

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Jive TURKEY (Not Tuerkey) from Funk N’ Waffles

Later that day, driving into New Hampshire was when our roadtrip views started to get beautiful. Upstate New York was started the hills, and from there we were driving through essentially small mountain ranges in Vermont. Vermont is the prettiest, most natural looking place I have ever been in the U.S. If you ever have to drive through it for any reason.. do it.  I am still wishing that I could drive through that area again.

In Vermont, we came across a small shop on the side of the road that sold honey and maple syrup, so naturally we got both.. and I have never had anything as good as either of those in my whole life. 10/10 recommend driving to Vermont just for some maple syrup.

We did eventually get to Keene, NH, where we stayed the night. My favorite moment from Keene was when we went to get some Panera for dinner and they had a lobster roll on the menu. As midwesterners, we were shocked, and told the Panera employee who couldn’t believe we didn’t have it on the menu in Chicago. Basically, this was when our trip started to feel very New Englandy.

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Side of the road in Vermont

The next morning we packed back into the car and headed towards our real destination, our cozy AirBNB in Lamoine, ME (right outside of Bar Harbor). We drove a lot on this trip, so much that it started to just seem natural to sit in a car for 9 hours a day. When we entered Maine, I really wanted to see the ocean, we pulled off at a random, small beach community and walked down to touch the water. It was a crappy, rainy, cloudy day.. but it was incredible to me.

We were planning to stop in Portland, ME for lunch and spending a few  hours looking around, but we got hungry before that and ended up in the town of Kennebunkport. It was pouring rain, we were a little bit hangry and sick of driving, but we had lunch at a small little restaurant. Tom got his first lobster roll there, which he thought was the best one ever, but he hadn’t tried any others yet in Maine.

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Our lovely Airbnb.

Later that afternoon, we finally got to our AirBNB. It was a long, long road to get there, but we did and it felt incredible. That night we drove into the town of Bar Harbor and had dinner at an Irish pub at sunset overlooking the bay. It was there that we found Bar Harbor Tom:

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The next week was filled with a ton of adventure, from exploring downtown Bar Harbor, to taking a trolly all the way to the top of Cadillac Mountain, we truly got the (probably touristy) Maine experience. I’ll let this picture slide show take you through what we experienced:

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Here is a video from Thunder Hole in Acadia National Park. This place was so amazing:

This was our first big adventure together. It was honestly fantastic and much better than we even hoped. If you ever get the chance to get out to Bar Harbor, I highly suggest it.

Our trip took place from the middle to end of June. The weather was in the 60’s-70’s, so it’s nice, but don’t expect this to be a beach vacation.

Let me know where your favorite place to travel is in the comments.


 

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I’ve Abandoned You All

Hello Everyone,

I wanted to stop by and leave a little letter about where I’ve been and how I’m pretty much the worst at keeping this blog updated lately (I’M SORRY). I promise I’m making an effort to keep this running and I’ve been thinking of ideas for upcoming posts.

Well, first of all, It’s a new year! This is a total blessing to me, and a lovely chance to start over, because 2015 was honestly one of the hardest years of my life. I was taken over by extreme panic disorder, which I’ve touched on in previous posts, which had totally debilitated me. I took the last 6 months to really focus on getting better. It was a slow, rocky road but I have made some serious progress. I’m back in school working towards my last year in college (CRAAAAZY) and next March I will be a college graduate!

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It’s been an interesting time adjusting to being back to school after 8 months off, but I am 3 weeks in now and I’m feeling better than ever. It’s like I never left. I am so beyond thankful to have the family, boyfriend and friends that I do who have endlessly cheered me on no matter how low I got.

Aside from going back to school, not a lot has changed. Tom, my boyfriend, and I paid for our trip to Maine and we cannot wait. There will be a full blog post on that trip when it rolls around (not until JUNE). We are going to Bar Harbor and visiting Acadia National Park. I am constantly thinking about this trip and it will be a much needed getaway.

I would love for you guys to let me know what you to see on my blog in upcoming posts, I take any advice or requests into consideration! If you have any ideas, please feel free to comment down below.

For those of you that still look forward to my posts and have continued to follow me, I can’t thank you enough.

Love you guys,

Emily

Fun Fall Things To Do On Sunday (Instead Of Watching Football)

I’m on a fantasy football league. I have no idea how this happened, but I am fully in and for some reason I’m getting competitive. I’m currently 4 points ahead. I am not a big sports fan.. especially with football. I’ve tried to watch, and I still just don’t get it; which makes for a very interesting fantasy football team.

But, don’t for a second think that I actually watch these football games.

NOT INTERESTED.

If you are into football, good for you! You probably have a jam-packed Sunday schedule for the next few months and have an excuse to drink beer at 1 pm.

For those of you looking for some fun, fall things to do this month (and into October) that don’t relate to Football, keep reading:

  • Visit an Apple Orchard

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There is nothing more ‘fall welcoming’ than a visit to the apple orchard. Grab some friends or rip your boyfriend/girlfriend away from the football game for a fun-filled day of flannel-wearin’ apple pickin’. You get to pick as many apples as you want straight from the trees. You will never had a crisper, fresh apple in your life. Go for the Honeycrisp variety and thank me later.

If your orchard has a little shop or bakery.. make sure you get the apple cinnamon donuts. They are crazy good and every orchard I’ve ever been to or seen has them. Also, don’t miss out on fresh apple cider.

  • Visit a Nature Preserve or Park

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Find a pretty nature spot near you to explore for the day. With the changing colors of the trees, each and every park is bound to look beautiful towards the end of this month into October. Pack a picnic to stop and lay out underneath the trees and have some lunch. This is the best time of year to take in the true beauty that the earth has to offer.

If you live in the Chicagoland area: Cantigny Park, Morton Arboretum, Silver Springs and Starved Rock are some places to check out.

  • Go DIY Crazy 

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There is no such thing as too much DIY. Get crafty and annoy your roommates or significant other by making whatever Pinterest has to offer. Create your own fall decorations to make you feel at home.

Glittery pumpkins, fall wreaths, banners and fall floral bouquets. Head over to Michael’s or your local craft store, check out deals and start creating.

  • Pumpkin Picking

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Don’t let them tell you it’s too early! We are only given a short period of time where pumpkins are acceptable.. so don’t waste any. Pick a cool, crisp day to head over and pick out some pumpkins perfect for carving.

Much like the apple orchard, most pumpkin patches have some delicious food and drink to make your experience even better.

Spend the rest of the day after deciding what to carve.. and then carving. Decorate the front of your home with your beautiful creation.

  • Candle Making

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DIY candles are much easier than you think and a lot cheaper than $22.50 for one at Bath & Body Works. I made a bath of homemade candles last year that smelled like vanilla and peppermint for the holidays and people were begging me for more!

I will post a tutorial soon on how to make cute, easy candles.

Or, if you know how to already.. spend your Sunday afternoon making a batch.

  • Bake Some Things You Have Pinned

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If you don’t have a ‘Food I Want To Make’ board on Pinterest, I’m judging you. The website is loaded with amazing recipes. Take a few hours to pull together ingredients and make something you’ve been wanting to try.

I made an amazing pumpkin bread recipe which i’ll link below. Seriously so good:

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No matter what you do, make sure you experience fall as it comes, because it definitely doesn’t last long.

Hope you guys enjoyed and try out some of these activities.

-Emily

5 Places You Must Eat Your First Time In Chicago

Chicago is an absolutely amazing city. I’m going to be bias and go as far as saying it’s the best city ever. But, really, if you’ve never been.. put it on your priority travel list. Try to go sometime between May and October or you will be wishing you were anywhere else (unless you love wind and snow).

Here are some things you put on you MUST-EAT list for the next time, or first time, you’re in the 312. These are mostly some cheaper options. They are in the Loop and accessible from any hotel:


  1. Pizza (TOO BROAD TO PICK ONE)

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Even though I’m not a big pizza person (go ahead and boo me, I don’t care) I still have my favorite pizza place in Chicago. It’s pretty much a part of the culture at this point. If you come and don’t try any, I feel bad for you.

There are some major debates as to which place is best, and I don’t think the whole city will ever agree on which one actually is..

Some places often called “the best” in Chicago: Lou Malnati’s, Giordano’s and Pizano’s.

Personally. Pizano’s is my favorite.

If you’re not into deep dish, don’t fear… most of these places have amazing thin crust too.

2. Portillo’s

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As if you weren’t already full of pizza, right?

Portillo’s is a Chicago favorite that will make you question any burgers, hot dogs, italian beefs or chicken sandwiches you’ve ever had. Be sure to grab some cheese fries (ahhhmazing) or onion rings with your food too. Absolutely do not forget to grab dessert: their famous chocolate cake.. or the chocolate cake shake.

Basically, you can expect to walk out with around 2,000 calories in your stomach.. but, It is so worth it.

Here’s the best part.. if you fall in love with their Italian beef, they ship it everywhere.

3. Yolk 

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A hidden little gem of breakfast perfection, Yolk has a few locations throughout the city. If you are in need of some quick, delicious breakfast food (with gigantic portions) then this is your place. I’ve never been disappointed.

4. Hannah’s Bretzel

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I randomly fell into this place a few years ago and had no idea what it was. It has an almost futuristic appeal outside that can confuse the average passerby. But, this place is a Chicago gem. They offer a highly-organic menu selection of sandwiches, salads and more. Although it’s a tad pricey for a lunch, $10-12 dollars per sandwich, it’s a huge step up from your average Subway.

Menu suggestion: Free range chicken + avocado. LIFE CHANGING.

Also, don’t expect to find Coke products here. It’s only organic pop’s. They’re good, though!

5. Cafecito

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Cuban. Sandwiches. That’s all I need to say. This place is so delicious. It’s not badly priced at all, most sandwiches are between $5-7 dollars.. and they will fill you up. This is a great spot to stop for lunch, and they even offer a full range of Cuban coffees to fill your caffeine craving.

Menu Suggestion: Pavo sandwich. Soooooo good.

Planning A Trip on a College Budget: Tips + Tricks!

Expanding your horizons past your hometown or college campus may seem impossible right now, but, with the right amount of planning ahead, it could be more doable than you think.

First.. here’s a story:

I have a ridiculous ‘need’ to travel (more of a want, but in my heart it’s a need). My entire life i’ve gotten such a thrill out of trips, and even planning trips. I think it’s so important to immerse yourself in other cultures and see as much as you can in your life.

So far, I think I’m doing an okay job. I know I’ve seen more then some people have seen in their entire lives (which makes me incredibly sad).

I have a few trips stored away until I’m done with college: Europe, Asia and various islands. I don’t even want to think about planning those trips until I have the money to see what I want to see and do what I want to do FULLY. I’m not going to fly 13 hours to half-ass it.

But, while I was thinking up all these foreign trips, I realized that there was so much I still haven’t seen in my own country.. THE USA. Despite all the racist, homophobic and politically effed-up stuff happening in America in the moment, it’s a gorgeous country.. and I’ve only seen a very small chunk of it.

My boyfriend and I have decided to travel at the end of May, when school is out, and to make it achievable in terms of budget and planning.

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We are planning a road trip from Chicago –> Toronto –> Niagra Falls –> Upstate New York  –> Bar Harbor, Maine –> Portland, Maine –> Boston –> New York City –> Washington D.C.

That’s 8 locations in around 12-14 days. We at first thought this was insane and impossible to do with the amount of money we have..

Here’s how we planned and made it doable..


Tips + Tricks for Planning a Trip on a College Budget:

*Disclaimer: No trip is ever going to be THAT cheap. You have to spend a little money to have a nice time, this is just how to keep your costs down.

  • Be Realistic: Before even starting to plan, know how much money you can put toward the trip (all people involved). Save that money! If you have to, open a savings account at your bank. If you trust yourself, throw the money in jar and put it in your closet. Another thing you need to be realistic about, if you can’t afford a trip to the outback of Australia (unless you’re in Australia), don’t even make it an option. Don’t choose places that are unachievable; you’ll get there one day!
  • Planes, Trains or Automobiles: Transportation is one of the biggest parts about planning a trip.. I mean you do have to GET THERE after all..

 If you are planning to go to one central location, I would 100% recommend taking a plane; it’s mostly painless and gets you where you wanna go quickly. For airfare, I suggest checking TONS of sites and playing around with dates as much as you can to find the BEST deal (www.cheapoair.com has some good deals).

If you want to go to several locations, as long as they’re in your country, a road trip may be the best option. There are some real downsides to this option, unfortunately. If you are under the age of 25, renting a car is possible.. but ridiculously expensive. If you take that price plus the price of all the gas you’re going to use, it’s not a smart option. If you have a car or someone has a car you can use, use it. Be sure to plan for the gas you will use the whole trip. There is an awesome site for people planning a road trip.. roadtrippers.com allows you to completely map out your trip (and includes attractions and places to see along the way) and calculates your gas expenses depending on where you want to stop. I’ve been using it and it’s awesome.

– The train is also a perfectly good option. Amtrak hits a ton of major cities all over the  country. This is great if you have a fear of flying, and even if you don’t you can sometimes find better deals on train tickets versus plane tickets. Of course, there are some bad things about this option. It will take you WAAAAY longer to get where you’re going. Usually, the prices aren’t that much better than flying.. especially if you find a great flight.

  • Lodging: Hotels can be crazy expensive; I’m talking upwards of $200 a night in major cities. If you are on a college budget, this is a big no-no! But, that doesn’t mean you have no options of places to stay:

– AirBNB: I cannot hype up AirBNB enough. It’s an online site, and app, that allows you to book either a whole home or private room in people’s private residences (sounds creepy, but it’s a big thing now). You can find some insanely great prices. I, for example, found places for around $30 a night for my trip. Some of the places do require a minimum night stay (usually 2 nights, if they do).. which could be a problem for some people. Most of these places are really, really nice too! Check out their website: www.airbnb.com

– Hostels: I’m not totally sure about the quality or safety of these places, cause some of them can be kind of grimey, but, if you need a cheap place to stay these will definitely do.

– Camping: Nothing wrong with roughing it. If your location makes camping doable, go for it! There are tons of campsites that only charge like $20 a night (so cheap).

  • Other Costs: 

– Food isn’t free: There are cheap ways to do it. Eat in your hotel, bring snacks, find a place with free breakfast to stay at, but at the end of the day.. you’re going to have to eat. Food is a big part of some cities, so make sure to try it all out. Think out how much you want to allow yourself each day for food (realistically) and then add up the meals per day and how many days you’re there.

– Things to do: If you are a great tourist, like me, you probably want to do some interesting things the town/city has to offer. Allow yourself some extra cash for some stuff to do. You don’t have to go crazy, but some fun is needed.


Planning a trip can be tedious and hard, but if you give yourself enough time, anything is possible.

Start now!

-Emily

Week in Boulder Junction, WI

So it was time that I, Emily, the city-dweller (and surrounding suburbs) venture out and expand my horizons to THE WILDERNESS OF AMERICA. Okay.. fine.. I wasn’t completely off-the-grid, but I did find myself all the way at the top of Wisconsin in the North Woods region with my boyfriend for a week.

I have to admit I was a little apprehensive going in. I have a hard time with all living bugs and insects.. specifically bees, wasps, spiders, mosquitos, ticks and everything else. I knew that these things were going to be there in SWARMS but I toughened up, packed my suitcase and hit the road.

Six hours later we arrived at a small, adorable cabin in Boulder Junction, WI that we rented which luckily ended up looking better then the pictures. It was right on a beautiful lake. I am still dealing with the separation anxiety of my sweet second home. Here’s a picture of the living area inside:

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I had my first-time fishing adventure and ended up catching several fish on my pink sparkly pole. We spent our nights out on the water and would boat around until the sunset.

I was hit with a bit of a culture shock when we started going to the restaurants in town. I had been out of town several times before and nothing was like here. The walls were covered in taxidermy animals (and for my animal activist self this was very hard to see) and the decor was like a 1970s grandma basement. Basically, there was no glitz or glamour but each place did have some charm and the views made up for what they lacked in style. As for the food, I was not overly impressed when dinner time came. When it comes to meat I only eat chicken and these places were only into cooking fish and red meat. However I SURVIVED just not happily.

On our third day, we drove into a nearby town called Minoqua for some shopping but on our way I noticed a small cabin coffee shop and demanded that we stop on our way back. I have to admit this was the best decision we made the whole trip. Little Creek Coffee Company in Arbor Vitae, WI deserves all the awards. Not only do they offer tons of coffee drinks and teas BUT THEY HAVE A BREAKFAST AND LUNCH MENU. We came here three total times during our 6 day stay. WE WERE OBSESSED. Their iced chai tea latte was to die for and I can’t stop thinking about their turkey and avocado sandwich and homemade soups HELP ME. We enjoyed sitting on their outdoor tables overlooking the lake and we even spotted some baby deers running around. It was magical. Bambi had come to life. The pics below are us hanging out there:

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There is no way I can go through this post without mentioning the most amazing ice cream place ever.. Mad Dog Jakes in Boulder Junction is super great. We went twice during our trip (WE ARE REPEATERS IF WE LIKE YOU). The first time I got the best super chocolate ice cream I’ve ever had and the second time I got blueberry cheesecake and wow it was out of bounds. FLAVOR TOWN LADIES AND GENTLEMEN. If you are ever in these parts you better stop there and get a scoop.. maybe even two.

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Halfway through our trip on a kind of gloomy day (or so we thought) we took a day-trip to Hayward, Wisconsin to the Wilderness Walk. This essentially was a mix between the coolest petting zoo ever and an exotic animal zoo. The 2-Hour drive was worth it even though it was painful after already driving 6 hours just a few days before.  I normally hate zoos but these animals were all saved from injury and could have died without their help. The admission fee was a little steep but once we walked in we knew it was worth it. The first thing I saw was a GIANT LOP BUNNY free to pet and love. I was obsessed with him. This is when I knew this place was great.

We continued on through the day petting various animals and letting them eat corn-filled ice cream cones.. even a giant camel. My favorites were the baby goats that were roaming free throughout the Walk and the baby fawns that stole my heart. It was amazing and I 10/10 recommend. Here we are having fun below:

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A few days later we went to a lumberjack show and watched some ripped guys chop wood.. it was torture I could barely watch wink wink wink wink. Tom kept thinking i was into them and I totally wasn’t. It was actually super interesting though and we witnessed them climb up a 60-ft tree stump and try to not die. I have to give some credit to the 40 year old male in the denim jacket who was in the audience for his hilarious commentary during the entire show. Also, some credit is due to the ENTIRE JOHNSON FAMILY REUNION for creating several obstacles in parking and getting into the show.. but your matching shirts were cool.

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After the show we went out to Eagle River, Wisconsin to visit Tremblay’s Sweet Shop for some delicious fudge because I am an addict to anything chocolate. 45-Minutes later we arrived to the rude employees of the shop who barely spoke 2 words to us and didn’t even respond to our simple hello. Despite their awful service we got some delicious fudge, pretzels and cashew clusters. We also adventured around the town for a few minutes and checked out some shops.

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The next few days were our last and we were filling up our time as much as we could. We decided a fun thing to do for our last day would be to rent some mountain bikes and go for a nice long ride. We embarked on our 3 mile ride to a nearby lake where we stayed and layed on the beach for a few hours. It was beautiful and peaceful. Somehow Tom didn’t burn even though he’s paler than paper. I went in the water but was quickly freaked out by crawfish swimming on the bottom on the lake. I don’t do well with bugs or bug-like things (i know its a fish or something shh). It was a little bit difficult to get ourselves back on the bikes after hours of being lazy but we did and battled the uphill trail all the way back to town.

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I had a great trip and this is just the highlights of what we did. There was so much more to remember and it was an amazing time for Tom and I. I would love to go back again sometime and explore other places as well. My travel bug has been fulfilled for now.