California Road Trip | Christmas at Yosemite

Driving to Yosemite was an adventure! We left our campground at Napa as soon as we woke up. It was a 3.5 hour drive from Napa to Yosemite. The winding roads (or as I like to call them “windies”) there were scary navigating in our huge campervan. Car accidents are one of my worst fears so I was pretty anxious on the road. Ironic that road trips are one of my favorite things in life but I’m super anxious about car accidents.

I realized I like doing scary things that aren’t dangerous. Things that give you an adrenaline rush but you’ll make it out alive 😉 For example, Myles refuses to sky dive but I’m dying to go. Sky diving is way safer than driving in your car to work. You’re way more likely to die in a car accident. This is my argument for him going skydiving with me.

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Anyway! We made it to Yosemite and shortly after entering the park we needed to put snow chains on our campervan. So, being from Florida none of us had no idea what snow chains even were before this trip. But good thing we researched because they’re a requirement for getting into Yosemite in the winter. We rented them from the Escape campervans for $50. So to put them on, first we had to figure out if they go on the front or back tires. Well we didn’t know if our car was front or back wheel drive considering we know NOTHING about utility vans. Luckily I asked a guy and he said back wheels so Myles attempted to put them on. First he accidentally put them on backwards but once we realized they were on backwards he got them on super quickly the right way. Turns out snow chains aren’t as complicated as they first seemed. They make your ride super bumpy though and you can’t go over 25 mph I guess, but it was fun being able to drive through the snow!

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Oh I forgot to mention it was pouring down snow as soon as we entered the park. We were so excited and happy! We headed to Tunnel View first but since it was so snowy, the visibility wasn’t great. Even with bad visibility, what we could see was still beautiful. But we went back the next day and the difference was incredible with a clear sky. After enjoying the view, we roamed around Yosemite in our van, stopping at random places along the way like the visitor center and a beautiful lake where we ate fresh snow and played in the snow like we were kids.

The following day was Christmas Day and it felt like a dream to be in this winter wonderland on Christmas. We saw Bridal Veil Falls which was one of the most gorgeous waterfalls I’ve ever seen and did the Vernal Falls hike which was my first time doing a decently hard hike in the snow! I’ve done small hikes in Denver in the snow but this was a whole other level where you have to be very careful with the black ice since it was fairly steep. We saw a guy fall but luckily he remained on the mountain.
We explored Half Dome village and spotted Santa drive by on his sleigh as we were taking pictures of a deer feet from us.  We just walked around exploring and soaking in the magic and beauty all around us. This day was my favorite of the whole trip. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves 🙂

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California Road Trip | Napa Valley

If there’s one thing I would change about Napa is the fact that most of the wineries close at 5:30 pm. We easily could have spent all night winery hopping.

We headed to Napa as soon as we picked up the campervan in San Fransisco. Due to a few wrong turns, picking up groceries, a good bit of rain, and learning to maneuver our giant new home for the week, we got a bit of a later start than expected on the 2 hour drive from San Fransisco to the heart of Napa.

It rained all morning, but as we drove into Napa the clouds begin to clear. Napa is so stunning even when it’s raining!

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As soon as we arrived in Napa, we headed to the Castello di Amarosa winery. This is one of the most popular wineries there so it was crowded, but not overwhelmingly so.

The wine tasting is $25 per person which is typical for Napa but so worth it.

Castello di Amarosa was built by a dude who was fascinated by real castles and he wanted to replicate one perfectly so he even included a dungeon when he built it. It felt very authentic!
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The wine at this place was literally the best wine any of us had ever tasted. It made me realize there is an actual difference between cheap and expensive wine and my usual $3 bottles from Trader Joes haven’t been as satisfying ever since. Basically this place ruined me and made me understand how people become wine snobs. Success in life = drinking wine like this on the regular.

If you want to take a bottle home, I highly recommend purchasing it at the vineyard. If you don’t and then want to order it online after your trip, just know that you have to order a minimum of 6 bottles for them to ship to you. I wish we had known because 6 bottles of this stuff plus shipping does not fit my grad school budget at the moment.

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After enjoying the best wine of our lives, we headed to Sterling Vineyards. But not before stuffing our faces with Cheetos in the car. We were probably the only people in Napa eating Cheetos between wineries but we can’t change who we are 😉

My mom actually told me about Sterling Vineyards because she remembers it from when she visited Napa a long time ago. It’s memorable because a ski lift takes you to the winery! Here’s us going up.

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The wine at Sterling Vineyards definitely wasn’t as good as Castello di Amarosa, but if you love incredible views, Sterling Vineyards should be at the top of your list. The tastings were spread out around the winery as you took yourself on a walking tour so it was more of an interactive experince.

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After Sterling Vineyards, it was 5:30 pm and sadly all the wineries were closed so we headed to the grocery store, picked up a cheap bottle of wine, and headed to Bothe Napa Valley Campground for our first night in our campervan!

This campground was perfectly located 2 minutes next to the vineyards we went to. We ate a classy dinner of carrots and hummus with turkey sandwiches to top off our super classy day 😉 The campground didn’t have an electrical hookup like we thought so it was the coldest night in our campervan but it actually wasn’t too bad. We slept in our big coats and passed out shortly after we arrived at the campsite ready for the next day at Yosemite!

California Road Trip | Exploring San Francisco

San Francisco is one of the most interesting cities I’ve ever been.

We started off our day grabbing breakfast at Starbucks which I’m pretty sure turns out to be the least expensive place in the whole city of San Francisco.

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After that it was time to fulfill a bucket list item. THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE.   The first view we checked out was from Crissy Field.  Our Uber dropped us off an we realized we had to walk through the wet field to get to the other side but we were so excited we practically ran through getting our feet soaked.

IMG_7429It was such a gorgeous view with the bridge in the distance, Alcatraz to the right and the skyline behind us. We walked along the path and took a bunch of pictures before we decided to call an Uber to get to the other side of the bridge for a closer up view.

On our way to walking to a better spot to grab an uber, we passed this little hut with the words whale sanctuary on it so we of course had to stop and see what it was.

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We ended up meeting the cutest lady who runs it and gave us a huge lesson on all of the different types of animals they have in their sanctuary. We learned so much cool stuff. Like there’s two types of plankton and one of them stays plankton their whole life but the other type becomes sand dollars and crabs and other sea critters. Everything she told us was super cool, especially if you’re nerds who love animals like us 😉 We ended up talking to her for like an hour, I’m glad we stopped!

After we headed to the other side of the bridge!

Apparently there’s a huge surcharge for ubering across the bridge but it was so worth it! We made it to the Vista viewing point and it was way high up so it was a great view. We were super close to the bridge and could see the skyline behind it. We took pictures and soaked in the stunning scene in front of us. The sun was shining and the air was chilly so it felt perfect and we all felt so grateful to be there. I love doing things that make you feel lucky to be alive 🙂

 

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Our next stop was Lombard street which is the crookedest street in the world. The houses and flowers that line it are gorgeous! It was a cool place to see. I can’t imagine having tourists taking pictures outside your window everyday but I guess the homeowners know what they’re signing up for.

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After Lombard street we walked to Fishreman’s wharf, but not before stumbling across a beautiful street with no cars around at all so we took pictures in the street 🙂 San Franscico seriously just has so much charm and beauty around every corner.

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The first thing we saw was an In N’ Out which we had to stop at since Hana had never had it! Both Myles and I got sick from In N’ Out when we were in Vegas so we weren’t about to eat it again. But we both decided it was worth it 😉 It’s so good! I just won’t be eating it ever again.

Fisherman’s wharf was awesome! There’s tons of seafood, shops, and BIRDS.

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Myles and I got some fresh shrimp for lunch and it was really good! Seafood is my favorite. After that we explored and stopped in some of the little places along the way, including the Musee Mechanique, a chocolate store and the Boudin bakery.

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The Musee Mechanqiue is an arcade with antique games. I seriously LOVE arcades so I really enjoyed it. I got my fortune told and apparently I’m going to become a lion tamer.

The Boudin bakery is a bakery, restaurant, and cafe that also has a little museum all about their history and how they make their bread. Sourdough bread is my favorite which is their speciality. The self guided tour was only $3 and you got to taste bread too. It was a fun little stop.

After the bakery we walked around. Hana bought her dad a shirt with a bunch of boobs on it. We ate chocolate. And we saw sea lions at Pier 39. So we definitely had a good time. Everything was decorated for Christmas and it was so cute and festive.

We took an uber back to the hotel to rest for a little before we headed to the Exploratorium’s After Dark. The Exploratorium is a museum with tons and tons of interactive exhibits (every exhibit is interactive!) and every Thursday night they have an adult only event where the museum is open after hours and they serve alcohol. It was like my dream come true. It had sections on color, light, sound, ect. It was so so fun and it was pretty cool to see a lot of the things I’ve learned about light and color from optometry school in an interactive form. I was seriously dying over how cool everything was. If you like learning and exploring, you need to go here!

 

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This is from the monochromatic room where you walked in and everything lost its color. They had a bowl of jellybeans and a regular light to shine on them so you could try to guess what color the jellybean were but it was impossible.

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This little dome thing showed you what it was like to only see one color and nothing else. It’s a really disorienting and trippy experience! You can change the colors and the different colors are supposed to affect your mood.

 

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They had a lot of weird mirrors to play with.

 

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This is me and Myles morphed as one.IMG_7617This is what Hana and Myles think of me.

 

This is just a small taste of the hundreds of exhibits they had! We also created clouds, touched plants that got sad and moved when you touched them, saw bugs destroy a rat carcass, and so much more. I can’t say enough about how awesome this place was.

So that’s how you fit all of the typical touristy San Francisco things in one day. We really only scratched the surface of this beautiful city and I can’t wait to go back!

First Time in San Francisco

San Francisco is such a unique and charming city. I fell in love with it right away.

Our day started at 4:45 am when we left for the airport to catch our 6:30 flight.

I was so excited on the plane I couldn’t sleep. Myles and I listened to podcasts and watched Chelsea Handler’s show on Netflix. We started a new podcast called How I Built This where this guy from NPR interviews entrepreneurs about how they started their company. We listened to Airbnb and Instagram.  By the end of our trip, we had listened to every episode they came out with. I highly recommend it. The best part about almost all of these entrepreneurs is that they had no previous experience in the field. Very inspiring.

The flight went by fast and we finally arrived at the airport, grabbed our luggage, and found somewhere to get coffee and eat while we waited for Hana’s flight to arrive.

We split a $10 sandwich at Peet’s coffee because we were starving even though it kills our souls a little bit to buy insanely overpriced airport food.

Hana finally arrived and we immideitately headed to the BART train since tickets were much cheaper than an Uber would have been.

We arrived at the Powell street station after about 30 minutes, and walked up a flight of stairs to the most amazing site.

I’ve been to many big cities before, I was even born in NYC, but I hadn’t experienced anything like stepping out into San Francisco at Powell station.

Powell street has stunning architecture and was beautifully decorated for Christmas and I kind of felt like we were in a movie climbing those stairs from the train station with our suitcases in tow gawking at all of the beautiful buildings.

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Our hotel was a short walk from the Powell Street Station and once we got to the Hilton, Hana gave us our christmas gift!
She got us a poloroid camera! I love when people get me gifts I didn’t even know I wanted but I totally love it.

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The hotel let us check in early and we were off to explore!

First stop: Chinatown.

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We were starving and found some food at a cute little place. We also passed by a bunch of places offering free tea tastings. We had to stop since tea is one of the loves of my life.

We met this super nice guy who grew up in San Francisco and let us taste any tea we wanted. We decided to buy Blue Tea which is actually their most popular seller. I swear this tea has an immediate calming effect and tastes delicious. I’m going to be so bummed when it runs out.

We also walked into plenty of little Chinese grocery shops where they were selling things like sea cucumbers for $150 per pound. The sea cucumbers had magical healing powers or something. I acutally used to work with alive sea cucumbers all the time at my old job teaching kids about sea critters. I would have stolen them to sell on the black market if I knew how much they were worth.

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I told Myles and Hana I needed to buy a weird Chinese food to try. I had no idea what anything was, but the apple prunes and ginger lemon licorice sounded edible to me and I ended up going with the lemon ginger licorice. We tried it later on in the hotel and it smelled and tasted like Lemon Pledge. So that was a fail. Should have went with the apple prunes.

After exploring Chinatown some more, we wandered around Union Square a bit more taking in all the sights before we decided to grab an uber to the Painted Ladies.

Our uber driver was a super eccentric guy who was fun to talk to. He worked in Silicon valley by day and was an actor by night. Something I noticed about California was how friendly almost every single person we met was. Usually the locals in tourist towns aren’t so friendly to tourists but people in California (especially Nothern) welcomed us with open arms and were so sweet to us!  I don’t know if California people just like me better but that doesn’t happen much in South Florida 😉

We were all under the impression the house shown in the Full House intro was one of the Painted Ladies but once we got there and couldn’t find it, we realized we were wrong. The Full House house was farther away and our sleep deprived bodies weren’t about to walk there.

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Instead we just followed these hilly streets of beautiful woven trees that looked fake and enormous Victorian houses painted all colors of the rainbow that towered like castles. You don’t realize how big these houses are until you walk up to one and realize the steps to get to the front door are taller than you.

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We walked for a long time just gawking at all the beautiful houses dreaming of a day we could live in a neighborhood like this. Then we got to the downtown area and freaked out over how cute it was. We didn’t even know what town we were in but the shops and restaurants were straight out of a movie. We all loved this little town so much! I even found an optometry practice that I could work at in the future 😉 Later that night we discovered we were exploring Hayes Valley. I highly recommend checking out this adorable town!

We were exhausted after walking so much so we headed back to the hotel to rest and get ready for dinner. We ended up eating at a super cute restaurant called Bartlett Hall  near our hotel. I had a beer that tasted like grass and an incredibly delicious roasted chicken dish.

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After dinner we went to Union Square to see the Christmas Tree at night and then headed back to our hotel and crashed at about 9:30.

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How to Study

So my life is pretty boring right now. I’m in my second semester of my second year of optometry school and I’m required to study a lot.

I used to think I had so much to do in undergrad but looking back it makes me laugh how I used to think I was “so busy” with 4 classes. Now I have 10 per semester and tests, sometimes multiple, every week. But I’m not complaining. Okay yes I am but I do genuinely enjoy learning and for the most part enjoy school. I’ve always been one of those weird people who likes school.

If I was a better human with more motivation and stronger discipline, I would start my studying when I know I need to. But instead I start it at the last possible moment I can that still results in a decent grade. I was better about not procrastinating last semester but this semester I’m burnt out and I have a huge issue with procrastination so I find myself cramming more than usual.

It’s fitting that I’m writing this when I had my pharmacology test earlier today and not much sleep last night 😉

Yesterday was a pretty big cramming day so I came up with a list of things I do to help me deal with days like these.

STUDY TIPS

1. HYDRATE. Hydration is (probably?) good for your brain.  I like to have 3 or 4 different types of beverages in close proximity. Switching up your beverage gives you the illusion of happiness and excitement when you get to taste different types of drink whenever you want. Also drinking a lot = peeing a lot = more study breaks.

2. SNACKS. Sometimes when I study I don’t even eat a real meal and I just snack on things. This gives you something to look forward to and another reason to take more breaks. This probably isn’t that healthy of a method but I do try to choose healthy snacks to make it better. Fruit, edamame, carrots and hummus, and whatever chips my boyfriend bought this week are some of my favorites 😉

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3. Have an animal nearby. Preferably on top of you. It’s hard to be stressed when an adorable animal is laying on you.

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4. Force your significant other to give you a neck massage. If you are in a particulary pathetic state, he may even offer without you asking.

5. Exercise. Even though you have “NO TIME TO DO ANYTHING”, make time. Even a 30 minute session can leave you feeling more productive and awake. Some days I’m cramming so much that I’ll just take my notes and read them on the stairmaster.  I always feel better after! Some days there’s no way in hell I can bring myself to work out while cramming and that’s okay too 😉

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6. Slap yourself in the face. Cold water also works.

7. Lay on the floor. Something about laying on the floor can be therapeautic. Idk. Try it.

8. Switch up your location. I like to move between the couch, the kitchen table, and my big comfy office chair. Again, this gives the illusion of doing something different and keeps your butt from getting sore.

9. Try to remember the big picture. There are people dying out there. People have much bigger problems than some arbitrary exam that won’t matter in a few months. It’s good to remind yourself of this. If you need a harsh reminder, you can read the news.

10. Take a break. Sometimes a break can be really good for your productivity and tiredness levels.

Anyway. You could always just try being a normal human and going to the library and stuff. But I think my method is more fun 😉

Sedona

Sedona is stunning. It’s the kind of place I would love to live one day.

The downtown touristy area is adorable and charming and there is an endless amount of beautiful hikes to do and places to explore.

It’s also home to the biggest houses I think I’ve ever seen. The Southwestern architecure is so unique and these massive houses were perched on top of the highest peaks so you can only imagine the views from their balconies. I think these houses probably belong to the people who invented tape or deodorant or something.

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We left Flagstaff around 8 AM and arrived in Sedona around 9. Driving through Sedona to our hike, I felt like a little kid in a candy store looking out the window at the massive red rocks. My favorite time of day is the morning. It always has been. Even on a normal day when nothing exciting is happening or I’m just going to class. I’m not sure what it is about the morning but I’m usually excited and happy. When I’m traveling and there’s caffeine and beautiful scenery involved, I’m pretty much having a manic episode by 9 am 😉 I just get excited about things easily and the morning is the most exciting part of the day. So you can imagine my excitement levels while driving through Sedona knowing we had the full day to explore this beautiful place!

Our first hike was Bell Rock. We kind of chose to do it because we got a little lost. We had plans to do Devils Bridge but didn’t realize it was a little ways from us since we just put Sedona in our GPS.

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Bell Rock Loop is an easy hike. It’s flat and the path is wide. It’s great for biking! We were enjoying the walk but wanted something a bit more exciting so we decided to climb up Bell Rock. The trail is unmarked past a certain point and there’s no foot trail either so it’s up to you to figure out the best place to climb the rocks is. It was super super fun! I don’t know if I could have done it without Myles helping me up and down at some points…I have short legs 🙂

 

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After that we stopped at the gas station for Powerades and headed to Cathedral Rock. We did the hike up to the top and hung out at the top a bit. This hike was another super fun one and the perfect level of challenging.

I love being rewarded by views on hikes.

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After that we went to Slide Rock State Park which was cool but it was overwhelmingly crowded so I wouldn’t suggest it during the summer if you don’t like crowds. It was a little too crowded with screaming kids and long lines for the rock slide to fully enjoy it. Still pretty though.

We were exhausted after that and headed back to Flagstaff!