Sonoma, California

Sonoma Bachelorette – Part 2

We were taken to a little, three-sided barn where a long table was set up and we, yet again, had personalized menus for the party! All of those touches made things very special. Additionally, there were bread sticks and all of the girls went crazy of them – they were live savers after all of that wine from the vineyards before!

About half-way through our tasting, our wine connoisseur told us to grab our glasses because the rest of the tasting was on the go! He showed us around the grounds, through the barrel room, and into the vineyard…

They even had a chicken farm with multiple chicken coops and a peacock! After we finished the tour and the wine, it was time to hop back into our Sonoma Wine Tours shuttle and head back to our Airbnb.

We had three or so hours before our dinner reservation, so we decided to take full advantage of our awesome Airbnb’s back yard and jacuzzi! We popped some bottles, played “never have I ever”, and laughed until we were in tears.

Eventually, it was time to get ready and call Ubers to head to Harvest Mood Cafe for a delicious dinner. We were sat on the patio and it was pretty chilly, however, that kept us awake and talkative (we were all pretty tired from the day’s festivities). I had a delicious pesto pasta appetizer and chicken main, and then we all sang happy birthday to my sister and shared her celebratory chocolate cake (which may or not have been a good idea as there was debate to if she had mono or not!). It was so yummy but we sped through it so we could all get back inside into some warmth. While it was 70 and sunny during the day, the temperature dropped into the 40’s at night and we were not prepared!

While the initial plan was to go out after dinner, we were pretty tired, so we headed back to the Airbnb and to bed.

Sunday May 28th –

Today was “explore downtown Sonoma” day! We had a relaxed morning getting ready, eating bagels, and figuring out the game plan. We called some Ubers around 11 AM and took off to Sonoma square!

We originally wanted to do lunch at the famed The Girl and the Fig restaurant, however, even though we arrived when the doors opened, they did not have any tables open for the entire day! Roche Winery was right next store with an amazing patio, so we decided to go there instead. As luck would have it, the wine seller told us that The Girl and the Fig would deliver cheese and charcuterie to us on the patio, so we got the best of both worlds!

The wine was flowing, the cheese and meats were scrumptious, the weather couldn’t have been better, and I was with all of my best friends. I literally could not have been happier than I was on that patio.

After a few hours of enjoying, we decided to walk around the square and explore the stores and other wine cellars. Our first stop was the Sonoma Cheese Factory which, as you guessed, had lots and lots of cheese! Even better, they had wine and free cheese samples! We walked around and tasted all of the yummy cheese varieties and browsed all of the fun knickknacks they had for sale.

We continued our walk and smelt the incredibly seductive scent of freshly made ice-cream cones at Scoops. After being told by multiple people throughout our trip that Scoops was a must try, we could not resist some home-made ice-cream.

With ice-cream in hand, it was time to find some more wine. We found this enchanting flower path that led us to yet another tasting room!

The winery that we found had an awesome deal on wine bottles, so we bought quite a few, and the wine sellers told us we could drink the wine in the park! What a perfect plan. We walked back down the flowery path and about half of us made it across the street to the park before the other half was called back. A woman from a different wine room ran out after us and told us that we could get arrested for having wine outside of the part (which was about 100 yards away). We decided to “risk it” and all ran dramatically back across the street with great (sarcastic) relief when we made it unscathed! It was pretty fun being rebellious!

We found a nice area in the park to sit and enjoy our wine. About 30 minutes into that, this strange man in a dress shirt, athletic shorts, and Crocs started talking to us and was so creepy we had to move! We were getting pretty hungry at this point, so we decided to go to Sunflower Cafe for a Turkey Pesto sandwich that hit the spot.

The last place on our agenda for the day was Muscardini Cellars. They were having a big Memorial Day Weekend celebration with live music and they had a beautiful outdoor garden, so we were excited to check it out.

Unfortunately for us, the music was actually the day prior to our arrival, but we still had a marvelous time in the outdoor space.

Eventually, it was time to head back to the Airbnb for spaghetti night (sorry Betty)! For some reason, I was under the assumption we did not have enough garlic bread, so we asked our Uber driver where the best garlic bread in town was. He suggested some restaurant that was “on the way” and I called ahead to order a $25 loaf of garlic bread.. Let’s note that there was a lot of wine involved in the decision-making process here. Anyways, we get to the restaurant and I bought this giant pizza box filled with bread. About five minutes of driving later, our Uber driver stops on a hill and announces we were at our Airbnb – which was definitely false. Somehow the GPS had the right address but wrong county and we drove 20 minutes in the wrong direction! Oops. I supposed the good thing was that the other girls had pretty much finished cooking dinner by the time we finally arrived back with our now 3/4 full box of bread. We relaxed by the fire pit on the patio while, enjoying what was left of the sun’s rays, until the food was ready.

Dinner was delicious and, afterwards, we played bachelorette party games until late in the evening!

Monday May 29th –

Unfortunately, all good things come to an end. We spent most of our last morning packing up the Airbnb. My sister was able to get us brunch reservations at The Girl and the Fig so we drove over and had a relaxing meal on their patio.

We were all tired, but in good spirits, and we decided to go to the Palace of Fine Arts on our way back to San Fransisco airport.

The Palace of Fine Arts was built for the Panama-Pacific Exhibition in 1915. It was massive and so impressive. I would have never imagined such a thing would exist in the middle of San Fransisco!

The drive back to the airport was scary. Waze took us through the middle of San Fran and up some hills that were so steep, we didn’t think we were going to make it! I was driving and the girls in the back of my car kept telling me to “stop messing around”, since the accelerator on the car didn’t seem have enough power to make it, and to “just keep going!” through stop signs since stopping on the angle seemed like certain death. It was like a roller coaster and, thankfully, we survived! We made it to the airport and back to Dallas all in one piece.

Special thanks to all of my amazing friends who made this weekend one of the best of my life! Also thanks to M. Hood for taking some great photos!

The beaches of El Salvador

El Salvador Beach Trip

Another 6:15 AM morning for our trip to El Salvador from Guatemala City! It was a spectacularly clear morning and the view from Cass’s parents house was amazing. We had a quick black bean, egg, ham, and tortilla breakfast and hopped in the car for our 3+ hour drive. Cass’s dad, who is originally from El Salvador, was kind enough to drive us to their beach house. The drive was full of twists and turns and we passed lots of coffee, sugar cane, and pineapple fields along the way. We passed through El Salvador’s customs and then stopped at watermelon booth set up on the side of the highway for a snack and had to make sure the “water in the watermelon was safe to drink so we wouldn’t get Montazuma’s” – *places palm on forehead, shakes head, and sighs*. It was pretty funny!

Eventually, we hopped on a dirt path, through a gate, past huge trees, and parked in front of an adorable little beach house in the forest. The house had a big center room and then three rooms off to the sides with 5 beds in each room! It could fit over 20 people! There were super comfortable hammocks everywhere, a pool for sunning, and this great cabana next to the kitchen building overlooking the ocean. Talk about paradise!

We immediately changed into our bikinis and hit the beach. The water was like bath water and the sand felt so good between our toes. We literally had the whole beach to ourselves for two days! We laid out in the sand with the water lapping at our toes for a while before getting called in for lunch.

On the beach in El Salvador

Cass’s mom and maids had prepped food for us to bring and we had a yummy lunch of grilled chicken and veggies at this giant wooden table that sat about 20 people in the cabana. It is made of one giant, continuous piece of wood and was probably one of the most amazing piece of furniture I have ever seen.



After lunch, we played some bocce ball (which I totally botched), and then some badminton. We got the fly stuck up in a big tree above us an all took turns throwing our rackets up at it to get it out. Janine tried to throw hers but, instead of throwing up, she threw the racket straight into a tree – we were laughing so hard we were crying! We eventually transitioned to sand volleyball and got super sandy so we relaxed in the water until sun-down when all of the mosquitos arrived in droves. Seriously, it was like a monsoon of mosquitos was upon us and we raced back to the house for cover and bug spray until they passed.

During that time, we put on some dance 101 YouTube videos and learned some new, sweet moves, including our attempts at twerking. I am pretty sure the groundskeeper and maid saw us, but El Salvador is a “judgment free” zone, right?

Finally, the mozzies left and we went back to the cabana for chicken tortilla lasagna – probably my favorite dish in all of Guatemala. It was SO good! We listened to the waves in the dark and watched lightning bugs dance on the beach until we were too tired to keep our eyes open and then went to bed.

El Salvador – Day 2

Although we were not traveling to another location, we still woke up at the crack of dawn to explore the beach at low tide on our second day on the beach in El Salvador. There were black volcanic rocks that led to a big boulder about 200 yards from the beach and, when the tide went out, we were able to walk across the lava path to the boulder. There were crabs, weird shelled creatures, and minnows strewn all along our path entrapped in pockets of water and ripe for exploring. We brought our water shoes and goggles to do some reef snorkeling as well and saw glimpses of colorful fish, kale looking sea slugs, and neat looking shells. unfortunately, a lot of the reef had disappeared over the years due to human intervention and shell-pocketing, but we at least got a feel for what once was.

Volcanic rocks on the beaches of El Salvador

There was no current while we were out in the morning, so we relaxed and floated for a while and then decided to pose like mermaids on a nearby rock while singing songs from the movie. I mean, who wouldn’t want to do that?

Channeling my inner mermaid in El Salvador

After we got our fill of pictures and sang out lungs out, we grabbed the kayaks for a sea adventure. Unfortunately for Kim and I, our kayak went rouge and we couldn’t stay stable for the life of us! We must have had 15 attempts before I left Kim to use the kayak on her own and swam back to shore. I sat under a tree and listened to the waves roll in for what must have been half an hour before I was rejoined by the group to play badminton and have ceviche for lunch.  Who knew cold shrimp, lime juice, garlic, and cilantro could be so delicious! We also made my new favorite drink – micheladas, and laid out by the pool until the swarms of mozzies returned and we had to go inside. It eventually started to pour rain and we had to make a break for it to the cabana for dinner. We had that delicious chicken tortilla lasagna again and watched the lightning break over the ocean until it was time for bed.

The Core 4 travel buddies at the beach in El Salvador

El Salvador Beach Tips:

  • Bring lots of bug spray! They mozzies are everywhere
  • Wear water shoes as the beaches are rocky
  • Bring board games for when you are indoors waiting for the mozzies to dissipate / rain to pass
  • Don’t forget your sun screen and a hat
View of Antigua, Guatemala

Antigua, Guatemala

The girls and I recovered from our Volcano hike in the car ride back to Antigua, Guatemala. We had a full day planned post-hike, including a birthday party and dancing for one of Cass’s friends. We stopped at a local grocery store for party supplies once we got back to town. They had everything you could imagine there and it was packed with people. Once we finished gat the store, Isa (one of Cass’s Guatemalan friends who hiked with us) took us around town, through the main square, to the markets for shopping (which we did plenty of since the USA dollar is so strong in Guatemala), to an ice-cream store to get a mid-day snack, to a Guatemalan candy store to try out the local sweets, and then to her parent’s house to see what the house architecture in Antigua is like since 8 – 1o foot walls line the streets making house visibility impossible. Boy are the houses uniquely beautiful. Traditionally, there is a big, open garden in the center of the house. The rooms all surround the garden and the second story is a big patio with volcano views. Talk about a private paradise! The gardens as well-kept with beautiful flower and vine overhangs and lots of candles.

After that, we all piled into the Jeep and rode to the birthday’ girls house right on the outskirts of the city. When Cass told me we were going to be staying at her friend’s house and then her aunt’s house later on, I told her I would prefer a hotel with a bed, but boy was I wrong and glad Cass ignored me! We drove into the b-day girl’s house and wound up taking a drive up the mountain at the back of her property to their guest house. It had another amazing view of the city, nestled in the woods, and was our own little paradise! We had some very deserved and needed showers and got ready for the celebratory b-day dinner. We did a little pre-gaming in the main house and met loads of very nice people. I actually had mutual friends with some of the people I met as there is a large Guatemalan population at TCU – small world, huh?!

About 15 of us took off on foot to a rooftop bar and resultant for dinner. We had some delicious pizza and I tried very hard to stay awake. Sitting and eating after loads of travel and a long hike will make one very tired. Thankfully, we headed to an Irish pub called Riley’s that was not Irish in the slightest – more Spanish with cool murals and a huge dance floor with great Latin music – that brought the energy back. We had some drinks, danced, and people watched until the lights came on! It was only midnight but apparently cops with dogs were going to raid the bar! We left in a hurry and walked to a different club called Lucky Rabbit down the street that had a very “American, hostel-hopping, young tourist” vibe and more groovy music. I was getting tired and a little cranky, so thankfully, we left before the break of dawn and headed back to the guest house. Our “Core Four” of girls tried to walk back together but the guys in our group wouldn’t let us. Apparently, while the streets of Antigua seem safe, there is a lot of kidnapping all over Guatemala and girls should travel in groups of 6 of more, preferably with at least one guy.

Anyways Janine and Cass stayed at the main house to continue socializing while Kim, Isa, and I went to bed. I slept extremely well, with the startling exception of some loud screaming in the night as Janine and Cass discovered a clementine sized spider hanging in their bed when they got home. Those bugs in Guatemala are BIG!

Antigua Tips:

  • Travel with a group
  • Make sure you have plenty of room in your suitcase for market goods and bring cash for lots of shopping
  • Don’t forget potent bug spray

Getting to Venice, Italy

After two days with our 43 people tour group, little sub-groups started forming. I became good friends with two other girls from Texas and one from Miami, all of whom decided to room together in our hotel outside of Venice!

We arrived in the late afternoon to an adorable hotel right on the beach. It was a little chilly on the coast so we grabbed sweaters and headed to the beach before sunset. Despite the cold, some of the girls ran into the ocean. I dipped my toes in and immediately got goose bumps and respect for those crazies who were in up to their necks! We got a little crazy with pictures instead..

Silliness on the beach in Italy

The sun started setting so we took off on an adventure through the little town to find a place to eat. We found a quaint little family run place with home-made wine and tortellinis – my favorite combination! A few other girls joined our group, totaling 10 in all, basically filling the entire restaurant! Even with all of the other girls, our “core four” group ended up having a very deep and fulfilling conversation about our lives. It’s amazing how people from all different backgrounds can become so united in such a short period of time.

After such intense conversation, and a little more vino, we decided to lighten the mood with some 1€ go kart races on the way back to the hotel. I ended up on the “cop kart” and chased everyone down. It was silly but was one of the most fun nights of my entire life!

Go Karting in Venice, Italy

After a few laps around the track, we met the rest of the tour group back at the hotel for a night-cap and then bed to rest of for our day in Venice!