Welcome to the Jungle

Back when I was researching places in Puerto Vallarta to stay, I also was looking into horseback rides in the Sierra Madre mountains. My mom and I took a ride there while in port on a cruise years ago, it was a great time. I was in contact with Pam from rancho el charro for months, sporadically checking in on how things were going down there. She moved down there from Ventura 50 years ago and never left. She has a ranch with a couple of handlers at the very end of civilization at the bottom of the mountains. I booked a five hour ride up to a waterfall on the Wednesday of our trip.

My brother had planned to meet us down in PV, arriving Wednesday afternoon. My hope was that we would all arrive back at the hotel around the same time. Shawna and I had coffee sent up to the room and then called an Uber at 9 in the morning,  we were ready for our day. Pam was meeting us at a library in town, not far from the hotel zone to take us to the ranch. It took a good 25 minutes or so to get to the ranch, it’s literally out there. Pretty sure a lot of the little huts and stores didn’t have electricity or running water, very rural. We joked about why she has to pick her customers up, no one would ever find the place, there was also no cell service.

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Pam’s horses were healthy and happy. After we signed our life away, we hopped on (much harder as I age, sigh) and we were off. Tomás, our wonderful wrangler led us out of town and up to the top of the mountain to a waterfall. He had his machete out making way for us to trail blaze, he would often get off of his horse to pick up fresh mangos and he also had a little snack for us to enjoy at the waterfall. My horse Lobo was sweet. His canter was a little uncomfortable and he wasn’t as sure footed on the way down. I thought for sure one time we were both going down when he slipped. Shawna’s horse, Frijolito was a pig and wanted to eat everything in his sight, but he was also hell bent on making sure he was the leader. So I took up the caboose taking in all the sights and OMG all of the big flying insects.

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The ride was long and very serene. It was just us, the horses and the jungle. fun fact, this is wear they filmed Predator.

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My ass (not that one up there) was so sore, probably would have paid off to have taken a few short rides before jumping into a half day excursion. We were hot and sweaty and ready to get back to the hotel to jump into the pool. Pam was kind enough to take us all the way back there.

My brother and his friend were already there, sitting in the lobby bar watching a soccer match. We said our hellos, went to change and met at the pool. There we had meet and greets, played some pool games and all sorts of shots were being ordered from our favorite bartender Jaime. We had Blowjobs, Donkey Semen, Sex with the Bartender and a few others that I have never heard of in my life. People would come closer and whisper “what was that you just had? It looked so good”. It was fun to yell the name and watch them either cringe or laugh.

We closed out the day with nine of us having dinner at the Mexican restaurant. I don’t want to talk down on the food but living in San Diego, it’s hard to beat what we have here. We ate, drank and talked for a couple of hours before dancing to music in the lobby.

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If you are ever in Puerto Vallarta and looking for a horseback ride tour, I would recommend you check out Rancho el Charro. You really can’t ask for anything more if you want a real ride in the jungle. I will most definitely go back.

 

 

 

Car Tripping

Our motel in San Simeon was right off of highway 1 which was most important. Unfortunately we were met with loud upstairs neighbors. I am not sure if it was children, dogs or grown men but they weren’t sleeping when the rest of us were hoping to. When the noise finally calmed down we were able to get some sleep. The next morning we grabbed a to-go bag of breakfast items from the front desk and then we hit the black tar, not that kind, jeez.

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While this guy pondered his next to-go meal, we headed ten miles north to the vista point to see some elephant seals.

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We planned on being in the car for most of the day so we hoped for the best {open restrooms and photo ops} when we did pull off of the highway.

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We crossed the famous Big Little Lies bridge however the photo cred goes to my brother, I just stole it for the blog.

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Once we hit Carmel by the Sea, we parked for some browsing and wine tasting. We lucked out with Manzoni Cellars. Winery tasting rooms were told minutes before we arrived that they were closing all indoor operations again. This place had two tables outside, luckily. The wine was good and we left with a bottle of Syrah.

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Ready for lunch aka clam chowder, we continued north to Monterey.

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The place we really wanted to eat at had a long wait so we stumbled into the nearest place and ate a mediocre lunch. The weather wasn’t quite warm enough to stay and walk around outside so we decided to continue our drive up the coast heading for the Golden Gate Bridge.

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We left the cooler weather behind and drove into Sonoma. I called a local pizza place at the square and we picked up our dinner before hitting the hotel. It was a long day in the car so we were ready for a good nights sleep, we had wine tasting to do the next day.

Cancun {Part 3}

This was our first Christmas away from our kids which is in part why we decided to get away. I couldn’t imagine just sitting in our living room without them. We woke up a tad gamey on Christmas morning, luckily we had a special in room mimosa breakfast ordered for 8:30. Then we planned our attack to hit up Isla Mujeres. We went back and forth with just hopping on a Catamaran right outside our hotel to cut out the trip off of  the resort grounds and down into town to catch the Ferry. Buuuut, we weren’t keen on being on someone else’s schedule and having them choose where we were going to have lunch. In the end we decided to just do it ourselves. We hopped in a cab and jumped on the ferry.

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Once we were off the ferry they had people renting golf carts. We quickly grabbed one and within minutes we were in ours heading south down the island. Only 7 km long, its an easy trip around the island. Our friend at the resort told us to go to The Joint, a bar that someone he knows, knows someone else that might work there. Or so that is how the story went. About ten minutes into our cruise we unexpectedly and surprisingly ran straight into….

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That was some luck. We parked and went up to this outdoor bar. There were a couple guys playing some Sublime and a local bar dog. Shawna ordered a mango margarita and I ordered the best espresso martini of the entire trip, you guys it was so good. So good in fact that I ordered another to go. It’s legal there, well I assume it was since the bartender put it in a to-go cup for me.

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Not a terrible view to sit with a bevi.

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Once back in our cart we continued around the island. It’s just beautiful.

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We stopped every so often to walk down the the water and then I was able to get some cell service so we stopped at a cemetery and I called my girls to wish them a merry Christmas.

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Once we made it around the island we parked near Playa Norte. This is where there were restaurants and the beaches had chairs to rent. We had a pretty good lunch on the beach and I was very confident that it was el fin of tequila for me on this trip.

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After lunch we walked up the beach until we reached some open beach chairs. We plopped down, set our alarm and here is the best part. Fell asleep.

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We woke to the alarm and headed back to the mainland with plans of playing pool volleyball. But once we were back we ended up skipping it and just sat in the jacuzzi chatting with people.

For dinner we got all fancied up and went for one last Italian meal. Their garlic cream soup was so incredible you could bathe in it. I will see if I can recreate now that we are home. They had a Christmas show that night, once that was over I was beat.

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We woke up on our last day to rain. Once we were all packed we went down to the cafe for breakfast. Our flight wasn’t until later that day so were able to spend a little more time with friends at the pool until it was time to say our goodbyes. The trip home was a piece of cake and we were back in our own bed by midnight. It was a really good trip, just long enough. If we decided to do another all inclusive I would focus more on going where the food and wine is a bit better. But It’s going to be hard to go back to a hotel that isn’t all inclusive, that is definitely the way to go.

Cancun {Part Two}

A couples massage was booked for the next morning and it was the best way to start the day. After the massage we had access to the hydro-pool and hot tubs. Since it was still raining on and off we chose the warm option.

 

After drying off in the sauna we made our way to get breakfast before the storm.

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This was the worst day in the way of rain. It would dump bucket loads and then stop and continue throughout the day. We took this opportunity to join in the sushi making class.

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The entertainment staff was in charge of all things fun. Classes, pool games, volleyball…you get the point. They were the best out of all the staff at the resort. This is what happens if you give them your phone.

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Alejandra and Dylan made our stay just that much better.

If you can believe it, this was my first time making sushi. I didn’t do to bad but I think I’ll stick to ordering it.

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Most of our time was spent in the pool, drinking, and playing. Some days we played water volleyball, some days we played music trivia and some days we just floated around. Sometimes there were even boats of fresh skewered fruit floating around as well. We also met a lot of nice people that became instant friends. I wish I had more pictures but our phones were always under a towel somewhere.

Then the weather took a turn, the humidity dropped and the sun came back out. It was just perfect.

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Another afternoon we took a cigar making class. To sum it up, I learned WAY more than I ever needed to know about cigars. After the class a few of us shared a cigar and then decided the pool was more important.

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Each night we went to dinner and the evening show. We ate at the French restaurant and the Italian restaurant twice. We had amazing dishes like duck confit,  rack of lamb and and a garlic cream soup. We also had some very underwhelming dishes like the escargot and basically every dessert item on any menu.
Next door was a sister resort that we had full access to but it wasn’t adults only.  Several people mentioned to us that we should head there for their Brazilian steakhouse, so we took an evening to try it out.  To sum it up, it was a waste of a dinner. Harsh? Maybe. The salad bar was a sad excuse, some of the meats were okay but most weren’t very good. The one thing that stuck out the most were all.the.kids. It’s funny we hadn’t been around any children for a handful of days and it was like a heightened sense of chaos at that restaurant. The next day we were talking to another couple and told them about our dinner and the first thing out of the women’s mouth was “aren’t kids there?” Ha, what were we thinking?

The shows were also not great, probably just local talent that they can find. If you are used to Vegas shows or cruise ship entertainment, you need to take these with a large grain of salt. The guest singing talent show however was the best. One of our friends went up and sang a Bon Jovi song. He started out a show that turned out to be a lot of fun.

We all ended up in the club and danced the night away.

To be continued.

Cancun {part one}

A couple of weeks back we left San Diego before the sun was even awake, viva Mexico. We headed to Cancun for an adult only Mexican holiday. It was a long day of travel but we had the best seat companion, Lily the dog.

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By the time we got our luggage, hopped into our ride and barreled through the traffic it was late into the evening. We chose to stay at Secrets Playa Mujeres, an adult only all-inclusive resort. North of the hotel zone where it’s more quiet. We were greeted with Champagne and shown to our room.

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Our room was nice, we had a soaking tub in the bathroom and the patio, a rain shower with all the amenities one would need. After we dropped off our stuff, we headed down to the first restaurant we saw for dinner. Sadly, we were not impressed with our dishes and had our fingers crossed that this wasn’t setting the bar for the rest of our meals. After dinner we went back to the room to unpack and shower. We decided dessert was a necessity. We put on pj’s, ordered room service and ate in bed while binging the Investigation Discovery channel. Pretty sure that channel stayed put all week, those stories are horrifying.

The next morning we ordered breakfast and ate it on our patio amongst the breathtaking views. We sat and wished the clouds away.

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The weather didn’t heed our wishes and the rain came on and off and ON for the next couple of days. Not that that hinders anyone, everyone was still doing their thing while we sat out in one of the many jacuzzi’s. When it did stop, we moseyed down to the beach to drink in the beautiful grounds.

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This was our first all inclusive experience. Since cash wasn’t needed (aside from tips for the staff) I was sort of hoping that they would have a set up like Great Wolf Lodge. A bracelet that has your room key and a credit card that you wear the entire time. Leaving you not having to worry about a lone room key. When I asked the concierge if I needed to carry the key everywhere, she replied, “you do if you want to get into your room.” Side eye. So no matter what, we were stuck with a key to carry around all day and night.

There were around 7 restaurants on the grounds. steakhouse, seafood, Asian, French, Italian a buffet/cafe, an upscale Mexican and coffeehouse. Plus 24 hour room service. The food was hit or miss. Some things were incredible and some were incredibly bad. Case in point…This shrimp dish was delish.

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This potato soup served during the same meal, was absolutely not delish. It tasted like raw potato water.

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Each night we ended up at the dance club which is a really strong word for what it actually was. Some nights were busy but most were quiet. They did have a couple of pool tables but the sticks weren’t taken care of so after the second day we gave up.

We had a really good meal at the seafood restaurant the following day. We ordered the whole fried fish, the octopus, the chocolate crepe cake and the apple crumble. I was excited to have all this with a cold Chardonnay but the wine was very underwhelming. They poured a basic brand from Chilé and honestly none of the varietals were good. But I guess that’s what happens when we are so spoiled with wine where we live.

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We ended the day on the patio in the tub with wine. We learned that if you want to order a bottle of something through room service they will charge you, but if you just order 4 glasses of wine, it’s included. Brilliant.

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To be continued.

Weekend at the Lake

We decided to spend Memorial weekend up at Lake Arrowhead. It has been over a year since we were last up there and now that Averi is a bit older and a tad easier, we thought….why not?

We rented the same VRBO that suited our needs perfectly last time. Plenty of rooms, a fire place and a nice deck with a hot tub.

Once we hit our first destination on the mountain, Lou Eddies Pizza, Kaili hopped out of the truck and threw up. We high fived her for making it to the top and saving us a huge mess to clean up.

After a few sips of 7-up, she was ready for pizza.

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Full on delicious pizza, we checked into our rental, unloaded ALL of our stuff (crazy the amount of stuff we need for just a few days) and hit the store.

Then it was time to play.

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We wandered around the Village and stopped at a new Tap Room for a couple of coconut margs and snacks for the girls.

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It was absolutely beautiful up there.

Dinner was enjoyed on our patio. Grilled rib-eyes and wine, while the girls splashed in the hot tub.

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After bath and pajamas, we indulged in S’mores while the sun went down.

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The next morning we woke up and headed out for a hike to “Heart Rock”.  We had zero phone service by the time we got to where we thought the beginning of the trail was but it turned out we were in the wrong spot. Luckily other people were in the same predicament and working together, finally managed to find where we needed to be. Unfortunately, Averi decided she was done with nature and her mood went to shit.

There were loads of Ladybugs all over the place, to the point where it was actually making my skin crawl.

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About a 1/4 mile up the trail Averi had given up and I had to carry her. I wanted to throw in the towel and just let Shane and Kaili finish it,  but Shane talked me into continuing. We took turns carrying the little terrorist to the end. We didn’t really get to explore the waterfall or the heart shape rock since the girls were well, you know.

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Kaili did a great job and had a lot of fun, that is until I told her I wanted to take her picture. Tell me how you really feel Kaili.

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Shane carried Averi all the way back to the paved road where she managed to use her two feet to make it to the truck.

We were all famished and ready for lunch so we stopped at a highly recommended Mexican spot that sits cliffside the mountain. The food was really good as were the views.

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After lunch, Averi’s mood lifted so we headed down to the village for some play time.

The girls finally got to go on a few the rides, something we have been hearing about nonstop since we arrived.

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The pirate ship was the clear favorite.

Then it was our turn, we sat outside and had margaritas while the girls had ice cream.

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We wandered up to the grocery store for some goodies to build a charcuterie board for dinner.

Once the girls were down for the night, we sat outside enjoying our meal when a visitor let himself into our yard.

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We tried calling the number on his tag but no one answered. Shane said he remembered seeing this dog the last time we were here so while he walked down to that house, Zuess and I enjoyed some cured meats. Then he was happily reunited with his owners.

Sunday morning after some espresso’s made with my new Staresso, which I LOVE, we went back down to the lake for lunch.

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We shared some appetizers and a few cocktails, which were all really good.

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A neighbor of the house we were staying at invited us to a block party later that afternoon. It was an interesting group of people and after an hour or so of chatting, we had had enough and decided to head back to the house to try and eat up some leftovers.

Before heading home Monday morning, we took once last glimpse of the lake. We left beautiful weather and headed back into town welcomed by a grey sky and cooler weather.

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It’s always a good time up there and I am ooking forward to enjoying a Christmas in Lake Arrowhead some time in the future.

Little Getaways

Kaili had this week off of school for Spring break and instead of us sitting around the house we joined Shane for a week in Oxnard, Ca.

We left Sunday early in the day and made a pit stop in Irvine for a visit with family before making our way up to Malibu. The drive along the coast up there is just breathtaking. We stopped at Paradise Cove for lunch. With tables in the sand and amazing views, you really do feel like you’ve reached Paradise.

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We easily devoured a bottle of Cakebread 2012 Merlot for a very reasonable price considering where we were. It’s hard to beat sitting on the beach with a good drink while the kids are entertaining themselves in mother natures playground. The food was underwhelming, which seems to be a reoccurring theme for us lately but the atmosphere made up for it.

dThe last leg of the drive was an easy one and we got to the hotel by check in time. Our room that was supposed to be ready, wasn’t, and being a Hilton Honors member we got upgraded to an ocean view suite. Still full from lunch we decided to skip dinner and just go with happy hour beverages. We watched the sun set on the balcony before tucking in for the night.

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Shane still had to work so the girls and I were on our own for most of the days.  We played at the beach in the mornings and then spent the afternoons at the pool.

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One day I brought my book down thinking I might be able to read a chapter and then I laughed and laughed and laughed at myself.

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We would meet Shane at happy hour in the evenings and then head into town for dinner. We had some very good steamed mussels at la Petit Cafe in the harbor, after we managed to make it back to the hotel bar to catch most of the USMNT soccer match. The girls ate ice cream on the floor, we had some wine, it was perfect.

We also found a good Mexican spot in Oxnard called Cabo Seafood grill and Cantina and everyone was happy with their meal, a rarity these days.

Thursday morning we took one last dip in the hot tub before packing up for the drive home.

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The hotel service wasn’t as good as it should be for a pricey resort but overall the stay was very nice. One of my favorite things is being able to hear the waves crashing from the couch as the ocean breeze blows through the room.

Kaili was complaining of an earache on the drive home and Averi was super tired and cranky. Turns out K had swimmers ear but luckily we caught it fast and she’s good as new now.

Little getaways like these are just what the doctor ordered.

Wine About It

We spent most of the day wandering from winery to winery. Downtown Walla Walla is basically one after the other, the only problem  is deciding which ones to skip. You could easily wine taste for days just downtown.

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We started the trip with a list of wineries we haven’t been to so we could try some new wines.  Some were great, some too expensive and a few just amazing.

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K Vitners, also known as Charles Smith has  very good wine, especially their Syrah’s.

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We headed to the airport to try a few new ones and revisit an old favorite.

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Of course we had to pop into Sleight of Hands since we are members.

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And luckily two of the wineries we are always hoping to visit but are always closed were open.

Va Piano was a great experience. Not only did they have playmates for the girls,

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we met the winemaker. He gave us a taste of his Rose out of the barrel and although it wont be ready for months is was already delicious, all of his wines were five star.

We got to visit the cellar and witness the aftermath of a wedding proposal.

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Hard to follow that but we still tried. Dusted Valley had some above decent wines and a large lot for the girls to run around.

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We have done some pretty good damage in the wine department.

On the Road Again

I pulled Kaili out of school a tad early so we could hit the road, destination Walla Walla.  The girls did good, better than I expected to be honest. After a pretty decent dinner in Stockton, we finished up the days drive in Dixon, a town outside of Sacramento. It was 8:30 p.m by the time we were all ready for bed and the girls crashed without a peep.

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Dinner at Harvest Moon, Stockton, Ca.

After a quick hotel breakfast we were back on the road again by 8:00 a.m. It was a long day in the car and the weather wasn’t great. We saw Mount Shasta and a few beautiful rainbows but besides that our sights were set on Newport, Oregon.

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We hoped to get there while there was still daylight but by the time we checked in to our hotel and made it down to the bay front for dinner, it was pitch dark outside. Dinner was good, we have been wanting to try Mo’s for a long time, it was fun to check that box.

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Too cold and dark to walk around, so we went back to the room to get the girls and myself in bed. I fell asleep before 8:00 p.m.

Kaili woke up around 6:00 a.m so we had an early start to the day. With cheese and ice cream on the mind, we made our way to the Tillamook factory. Kaili seemed to enjoy watching the cheese packaging process and pretending to milk the fake cow. Averi was just enjoying being out of the car and neither of them seemed to care about the cheese. We were disappointed to find out the cafe was only serving breakfast since we had our minds set on grilled cheese, so we settled for ice cream instead.

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The only other stop we planned on before arriving in Walla Walla was Multnomah falls.  It was a perfect spot for a bathroom break and a stretch of the legs.

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On the third day and the final stretch  of the trip, Averi decided to give into a nap. It was bliss.

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We made our arrival into the town and conveniently drove by one of the wineries we are members of, so of course we had to stop.

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It’s good to be here and it’s good not having to get back into the car for another day of driving tomorrow. Maybe wine tasting downtown instead.

 

Tourists

We took Friday and Saturday to be tourists. We spent Friday  wandering around Pepé beach and walked up the coast to Barra beach. We stumbled upon a farmers market serving fruit, fish, cheese and freshly made pastels.

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The weather threatened to dribble on us and although the sun was hiding the weather was still enjoyable.

We tucked into a kiosk by the beach for some drinks and a snack.  fullsizerender-3The views and the waves were hard to beat.

We picked to end our day at the Windsor hotel for a last adult beverage. They had a rooftop pool and bar and since the weather wasn’t perfect for sunning we had the place to ourselves.

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We planned a dinner with Wags, his mom and Patti. I really wanted us to try Porcao a local Churrascaria  but the one in Barra was closed for renovations. Instead we went to Fogo de Chao, which we have been to in San Diego…so much for branching out.

The food was fine but again we were disappointed in the salad bar offerings. Dessert was and has always been the best part of the meals here.

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Saturday morning while lounging around our place I was trying to find something new for us to check out. I came across a TripAdvisor  forum talking about a little island right by Pepe beach. They have a water taxi that will take you across the lagoon for 1 Real$ and once there we could eat and drink at some of the local restaurants and bars. Shane did the legwork to figure out where we find this ferry taxi and then we called an Uber and set out.

We were let off on the road and told to walk down an alley way and the ferry was waiting for us.

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Once we were on the small island we tried to map our way to one of the restaurants but the island is so small that even google maps was confused. So we just wandered around.

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Finally we found one of the places that we were looking for. Clearly it was well marked, amazing anyone can find it.

fullsizerender-8This is when we really felt like we were in Brazil. It was low key, tropical and scenic.

We sat along the water and took in the sights while we waited for our order of pastel de carne.

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We spent a few hours on the island and then left for the beach to meet Wags  for a last hurrah. We met some very nice and interesting people, did some dancing and enjoyed the night with the cariocas. It was a great finale to our trip, now it’s time to get ready for closing ceremonies. I can’t believe the two weeks is almost up.