Rowena Crest Viewpoint

The Rowena Crest Viewpoint is located roughly 20 minutes east of Hood River, Oregon. For years I’ve seen photos of this beautiful location but wanted to see it with my own eyes, so one weekend Luke I drove out to the viewpoint to get some photos. On the day of our visit it was an exceptionally beautiful day in the gorge. The views in the gorge always amaze me; I’m convinced you can’t take a bad picture out here.

A fun visit to Lake Tahoe

Back in July, Luke and I spent five days exploring the Lake Tahoe area. It was our first visit and I can say with complete confidence that it will not be our last! The lake and surrounding areas are just stunning. The lake looks like one hundred different shades of blue depending on what area you’re viewing it from.

We chose to stay in South Lake Tahoe due to the number of accommodations, restaurants, coffee shops, breweries, shopping, etc. We could not have loved our location more! We ended each day completely exhausted from exploring, hiking, rafting and swimming. We would return to our hotel at the end of each day to freshen up and then walk only a few blocks to a variety of restaurants and breweries in the area – it was perfect.

See below for links to our favorite restaurants, bars, activities as well as a few helpful tips.

Restaurants: Artemis, Poke Rok, Freshies, AleWorX Pizza, Brooks Bar @ Edgewood, Sandwiches at Sprouts Cafe and New Moon, Coffee @ Trailfolk Coffee Co.

Breweries: Sidellis, Third Man Taphouse, South of North Brewing Co., The Hangar

Activities / Outdoors: Truckee river rafting, Sand Harbor, Heavenly Village Shops, Incline Village, Emerald Bay hiking trails, Donner Train Tunnels

A Few Tips:

We flew into the Reno-Tahoe International Airport, rented a small SUV and drove just under 60 miles to South Lake Tahoe. We made South Lake Tahoe our main base and spent different days exploring different areas. One day we dedicated to exploring South Lake Tahoe. One day we dedicated to exploring Incline Village and the northern area of the lake. One day we drove to the west side of the lake and went river rafting in Tahoe City.

If you want to spend any time at Sand Harbor, make sure you get there very early in the morning to secure a parking spot. I’m talking 7:30am or earlier. We arrived around 9am and the lot was already full and they don’t allow you to park down the street and walk in. We found the parking situation to be the same for the hiking trails. Arrive. Early. Do your research on any area that you’d like to spend time in ahead of your visit.

If there are any activities that are high on your list (rafting, kayaking, jest skis, boating, restaurants, etc) check to see if you can make reservations in advance. It was quite busy when we visited in July and as each day passed more and more tourists arrived at the lake. Thinking ahead to our next trip, we’ll likely visit during the week and not over the weekend because the crowds on Friday and Saturday became overwhelming.

Viewpoint at Memorial Point Scenic Overlook
Viewpoint at Memorial Point Scenic Overlook
Beers at South of North Brewery. We visited their location at the Basecamp Hotel a few times during our trip. They have live music in the evenings!
Sand Harbor
Sidellis Brewery
Emerald Bay State Park
Emerald Bay State Park
Emerald Bay State Park
Emerald Bay State Park
Emerald Bay State Park
Back at South of North for some pre-dinner beers.
A ski chair at the Heavenly Village Shops.
Edgewood Golf Course
Edgewood Golf Course
Donner Train Tunnels
Donner Train Tunnels
Donner Train Tunnels
Donner Train Tunnels
A quick stop to explore Truckee, CA before heading back to the Reno-Tahoe Airport.

Upper Left USA

A few weekends ago we took an extra day off of work and spent some time up in NW Washington for a little escape. We made Port Angeles our home base and explored the surrounding areas. Port Angeles is a cute little town with a historic vibe and from the waterfront you can see our Canadian friends just around 20 miles north. Oh, how I wish I could’ve hopped on a ferry to Victoria, sigh. We’ll save that for a time in the future when this pandemic is successfully behind us.

This trip was spent mostly taking in the scenery and exploring the outdoors (sensing a theme here from my previous travel posts during a pandemic?) and we were very lucky with beautiful albeit very cold weather! Not far from Port Angeles, we explored Lake Crescent and Snug Harbor, located in the northern part of the Olympic National Park – which is where some of the darling photos below were taken. Even though I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, the beauty here still amazes me every time. The mix of evergreen trees and fall foliage is uniquely NW. It’s little weekend getaways like this that alway inspire me to explore more of Oregon and Washington since we live so close.

On the way in/out of town we briefly explored Sequim and Port Townsend – both of which I see us visiting again in the future!

A Quick Trip to California

Back in September we were itching to get away for a quick weekend trip. We had California on our minds and envisioned driving up and down 101 and taking in the views of the central coast. We figured staying in our car/finding places to explore outdoors was our best bet given there is still a pandemic in full swing. Anytime we were around anyone else we 100% had our masks on. We actually had our masks on just even walking around outside. For us, it’s better to err on the side of caution and plus I truly don’t mind wearing a mask. I understand people being leery of traveling (trust me, I am as well) which is why we take our safety and the safety of others very seriously by wearing our masks, washing our hands, sanitizing, eating meals outdoors away from other people, etc.

In California we explored Santa Cruz, Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea. Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea were new-to-me places and they were just adorable! I don’t have any restaurant recommendations, coffee shops or fun things to do to share in this post as this trip was really focused on being close to the water and breathing the fresh California air. I do have some pretty pictures to share though, which is something I’m always good for!

A Trip to Chicago, IL

We recently returned from a week in the Midwest visiting Luke’s parents. We spent most of our time in Chicago showing my dad around as this was his first time here. This trip looked A LOT different from past trips due to COVID-19. For weeks and weeks leading up to the trip we were unsure if it was even going to happen. We even second guessed the trip many times. Our flights were changed numerous times as the airline consolidated flights for the week. I was scared to even get on an airplane during a pandemic! When we finally decided to go ahead with it, we had a lot of conversations on how to proceed with our travel plans as safely as possible. Chicago was in Phase 4 of re-opening and we had a game plan. We brought plenty of face masks, disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer. We planned activities where we could maintain distance from others and also planned on only dining at establishments that had outdoor seating. I was quite impressed with how safe I felt in Chicago. Most places we visited had temperature checks and everyone had social distancing in place. By the end of the trip it felt like my face mask was a permanent fixture to my face – a small price to pay for safety though.

While it wasn’t’t the trip we had initially planned on, it ended up being a great time with family and I’m grateful we were able to make it happen. We had non-stop flights on Alaska Airlines and they kept all middle seats open. They thoroughly cleaned everything and scaled back their in-flight meal service to only offer bottled water, a few sodas and snack packets. Face masks were required by everyone – which quite honestly felt safer than visiting Safeway or Fred Meyer down the street from my house where half the shoppers don’t even bother with them. While I understand traveling is controversial right now, I feel good about how we handled everything and the safety precautions that we took. The number one reason for this trip was to see family that live outside of Chicago and since it is summer, we spent time in the city together.

Where we ate:
Ersi Brewery (This was our first dinner after landing at O’hare. The weather was perfect, the patio was spacious and the food and beers were just what we needed after a day of traveling.)
Piece Brewery and Pizzeria (A great spot for pizza and beers in Wicker Park)
King Crab House (What a gem! We were walking around Lincoln Park and spotted this cute place in the neighborhood. I put my name on the list for dinner and even got to pick out where we wanted to sit on their patio.)
Kaiser Tiger (A fun spot with plenty of outdoor seating)
Kennedy Rooftop (This was our last dinner of the trip. Their patio had just recently opened and we snagged the best table there was – unobstructed views of the entire Chicago skyline!)

Other places that we love in Chicago: Velvet Taco, Le Colonial, The Publican, Giordano’s, Public House, Cindy’s Rooftop, Eastman Egg Company, Gaslight Coffee Roasters

Places that are on our list for our next visit: The Purple Pig, Girl & The Goat, Au Cheval

Where we drank:
Paradise Park (A fun spot with a huge patio to grab a few drinks)
Island Party Hut (After a boat tour on the lake we stopped here for a few beers. They have an expansive outdoor area and we found large bench to sit on right by the river.)
Big Star (We stopped in here or a few margaritas to get out of the sun)
Pilot Project (Creative and delicious beers in a beautiful outdoor space)
Sully’s House (We came across this place on the way to another place. When that other place didn’t work out, Sully’s welcomed us with open arms – and a very socially distant patio.)
Murphy’s Bleachers (We originally booked this trip before the pandemic, so we planned on catching a Cubs game on the trip. While the Cubs game didn’t happen, we walked around the outside of the ballpark and stopped in here for lunch and beers.)

What we did:
A lot of walking (We walked all through Lincoln Park taking in the sights of the city and the tree-lined neighborhood streets, Millennium Park, Wrigleyville and Wicker Park.)

Boat Tour (Wendella boat tours now require masks to be worn at all time and they’ve also restricted the number of passengers to allow for social distancing)

New York City for Thanksgiving

This past Thanksgiving Luke and I spent some time in NYC. My cousin lives on the Lower East Side and we thought it would be fun to spend the holiday weekend with her. She graciously hosted us in her tiny (yet very comfortable and cozy apartment) and even played tour guide for us – ensuring we saw everything we haven’t already seen in the city. I’ve been to NYC a handful of times and so has Luke so our main goal of this trip was to just relax, take our time and hang out. I was coming straight off my Uganda trip, so my body legitimately had no idea what time it was or where in the world I was. It took me a solid two days to finally catch up to everyone else, haha. It was a fun trip, but my bank account would tell you otherwise.

In my eyes, New York City is always a good idea and visiting this magical place will never get old.

Where we ate:
Bistrot Leo (They had a traditional Thanksgiving dinner menu and it was delicious)
Russ and Daughters (My first Jewish deli and definitely not my last)
Uncle Boon’s (Some of the best Thai food outside of Thailand)
Chelsea Market (It’s fun to walk through Chelsea Market and grab a bite to eat amongst the crowds)
Egg Shop (A delicious eggy breakfast spot)
Frank (We had a fun group dinner here and some of the best gnocchi I’ve ever had)
Emmy Squared (We split a Detroit-style pizza, burger and Brussels sprouts salad – and it was SO GOOD!)
Bluestone Lane (We stopped in here for some chais and ricotta-strawberry toast)
Levain Bakery (Fueled up on cookies and baked goods after a sunny walk through Central Park)

Where we drank:
Grey Lady ($1 oysters and beers from Nantucket)
Amsterdam Ale House (A cozy spot for beers after walking through Central Park)
Skinny Dennis (We stopped in here after the basketball game and was blown away by the whiskey/coffee drink)
Three’s (Amazing brewery in Brooklyn with very creative IPA’s)
Strong Rope (Another Brooklyn brewery)

What we did:
Chelsea Piers Driving Range (On our last day it started snowing during a walk so we hopped over to Chelsea Piers to hit a few buckets of golfballs)
Union Square (There was a Christmas Market going on here!)
5th Avenue Shopping
Central Park (You can’t visit the city without a walk through this beautiful park)
MoMA (We got lucky and enjoyed free admission on Friday night. Although it was admittedly very chaotic with so many people in attendance.)
Vessel @ Hudson Yards (A few years ago when I first took Luke to NYC this area didn’t even exist!)
The High Line (A walk along the High Line is always fun in my book)
Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge
Brooklyn Nets vs Miami Heat game @ Barclay’s Center

Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

Our visit to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary was the highlight of our Australian adventure. We spent a long time researching different zoo’s and sanctuaries in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland and ultimately landed on Lone Pine. It was important to us that we not visit a place that keeps animal in cages as merely a tourist attraction. We wanted to support a sanctuary and a place that supports the conservation of animals. Lone Pine seemed like the perfect place for us to visit.

Lone Pine first opened in 1927 as a safe refuge for injured, sick and orphaned koalas. Their goal has always been to create a safe and happy environment for their animals to thrive in. It was evident straight away that the Lone Pine staff have a deep love for these animals. They were loving, nurturing, highly interactive and even shared some fun facts with us about the koalas!

All the koalas have names and the koala keepers know them all by name and can even point out their different personalities.

The koalas are grouped by their family. If they were to try and take a koala out of their home and into a different area it would cause them a lot of stress and they might even fight each other.

Even though koalas adhere to a mostly eucalyptus diet, they are extremely picky eaters. There are roughly 800 species of eucalyptus but they’ll only eat 50-60 of those and they all have an individual preference. What one finds to be a tasty leaf one day could be completely ignored the next day.

Koalas have extra fur and a cartridge pad around their bottoms to account for the hours upon  hours they spend balancing on trees.

People often call them “Koala Bears” when in fact they are actually marsupials. The correct terminology is simply “Koala”.

In addition to the koala sanctuary, Lone Pine is also home to a variety of other animals: Kangaroos, Emu, Wombats, Dingos, Tasmanian Devils, Freshwater Crocodiles and Turtles, Platypus, Bats and different species of birds and reptiles.

Another highlight on this visit was hanging out with the kangaroos!

Can you spot the little joey’s ear peeking out of the mama’s ouch above?

There are two different fields where the kangaroos are free to roam. We purchased a small bag of kangaroo food and had the chance to interact with them and feed them. As long as you were calm and gentle towards them, they didn’t spook and were actually quite friendly and soft.

A Travel Guide to the Sunshine Coast

Our final stop on our Australian adventure was a few days at the Sunshine Coast. We flew from Melbourne to Brisbane, rented a car and then drove about an hour and a half north on the M1. Luke found us this amazing private oasis and we both agreed it’s quite possibly our favorite place to-date.

We had envisioned this part of the trip to be a lot slower and more relaxing than the week before. While we loved our time in Sydney and Melbourne, we also wanted to experience the slower pace of the coastal life. We got unlucky with a few days of rain which really forced us to slow down, haha. After the rain and I’m talking more rain than I’ve ever seen in my life!! we were able to explore Noosa and get in some serious beach time. Noosa stole my heart and I couldn’t be happier that we picked such a gorgeous place to relax on our last few days.

Brekkie at Murray’s in Maroochydore
Noosa Heads Main Beach
Can you spot the sleepy koala?
We loved seeing this little one on our walk through the Noosa National Park, near Tea Tree Bay.
We found the perfect snack – zucchini chips and a beer at Grill’d!
Very happy faces after a few Noosa beach days.

Our recommended itinerary for three days at the Sunshine Coast:

Day 1
Spend the day exploring the Sunshine Coast Hinterlands – Unfortunately we didn’t get to do this because it was raining buckets for the first few days

Day 2
Visit the Eumundi Markets (keep in mind the markets are only open on Wednesdays and Sundays)
Make your way to Noosa
Walk up and down Hastings Street popping into shops – Grab lunch at a place that speaks to you (we found a fish & chips special at Zachary’s)
From Noosa Heads Main Beach, walk the path up Noosa National Park – We walked to the Fairy Pools and back to the main beach
Relax on the beach at Noosa Heads Main Beach

Day 3
Spend the day at Noosa Heads Main Beach – Get there early and find a spot under the trees
Consider surfing lessons! If you’re not that adventurous you can also rent boogie boards on the beach
Depending on where you stay, drive up/down State Road 6 for ocean views along the Sunshine Coast – We drove from Noosa down to Mooloolaba
Dinner at The Savvy Squire the beers were amazing and the location is right on the Mooloolah River

A Travel Guide to Melbourne, Australia

We arrived in Melbourne from Sydney and ended up taking an Uber from the airport to our AirBnb. We almost never do this! We were having a hard time with the Myki ticket machines at the airport (Myki is the card system the train/tram/bus uses). The Myki machines refused to accept our credit cards and the busses don’t take anything but Myki cards. There was a SkyBus option but it was $20/person one-way and we’d still have to do a transfer to a bus. So an Uber it was! Once we got into town I popped into a market and purchased a Myki card and loaded money on it – once I had it, it was easy peasy from there on out!

We eventually arrived in the Abbotsford neighborhood and instantly fell in love with this lovely AirBnb. We had a spacious bungalow on the back of the hosts’ property, the most comfortable king sized bed and a few complimentary umbrellas for the rain we’d encounter in the coming days. It was perfect for us. We short a 5-10 minute walk to the train and then it was only anohter 10 minutes to reach the city center. We mostly took the train around town if we weren’t walking. I can’t say enough good things about the neighborhood we chose to stay in! Great coffee shops, restaurants and local shops. Something we always look for in AirBnb’s is that “local living feeling”.

Melbourne was so funky and just downright cool. You know that I love a city filled with graffiti and Melbourne delivered! It was inherently different to Sydney – like a Seattle vs. Portland different. More artsy, very gritty… Melbourne was a vibe. My favorite part of visiting Melbourne was the element of surprise. For example, you could see a restaurant or storefront and the facade gives an appearance that it might be a small run-down place… until you step inside and see this expansive architectural wonder. There were sooooo manyyyy surprises, we dubbed Melbourne “the city of hidden gems”.

Hoiser Lane street art
A favorite neighborhood scene
The soft scramble eggs on toast obsession continues…
A first glimpse at the Brighton Bathing Boxes

Our recommended itinerary for four days in Melbourne:

Day 1
Coffee and a light breakfast at Three Bags Full
Stroll around the city center
Hop on the 35 “city circle” tram line – it’s free and will take you in a loop around the city
Roam around Chinatown (it’s expansive!) and grab dumplings for lunch – We loved Shanghai Street
Pop into Melbourne Central – we found so many local clothing shops and the food court looked amazing
Visit the Public Library, it’s a beauty!
Dinner at Daughter-in-Law

Day 2
Coffee and a light breakfast at Stagger Lee’s
Go on a self-guided walking tour of Abbotsford, Collingwood and Fitzroy
Visit the Queen Victoria Market (grab lunch here, too)
Stop by Moon Dog for amazing IPA’s
Grab dinner and sip on local beers at Stomping Ground Brewing or Bodriggy Brewing

Day 3
Coffee and a light breakfast at Dr. Morse
Explore the hidden gems and laneways of the city (Hoiser Lane and Degreaves Street being the most popular)
Dinner at any of the following restaurants: SundraEmblatipo 00Smith + DaughtersLazerpigLeo’sCarlton Wine RoomBar SaracenLee Ho FookSupernormal (we met a girl in Sydney and her chef boyfriend recommend all these places to us – he said it’s the list for ultimate foodies)

Day 4
Coffee and a light breakfast at you place of choice! Check out this list of quintessential Melbourne coffee shops
Visit the Brighton Bathing Boxes
Walk form Brighton Beach to St. Kilda Beach
Lunch at Lentil as Anything
Explore St. Kilda and Luna Park
Supernormal Canteen for dinner
St. Kilda Pier for the Penguin Parade

Also consider: a day trip out of the city or a two-day trip along the GOR to visit the 12 Apostles.