Saturday, January 30, 2010

San Fran

A couple weeks before Christmas, my (Alli) parents told us they wanted to take a family trip and thought San Francisco would be fun. We were pretty excited about this idea, so the day after I finished my last test before the break, we left for the west coast! My brother always, seriously always, has some connection with some person to get awesome deals/opportunities when it comes to travel and he didn't disappoint us. We stayed right on the wharf in this really cool boutique hotel that was decorated really pretty for the holidays. At night, they had a fancy hot cocoa bar and free wine in the afternoons. It was a welcomed treat after finishing another semester of school!

It was pretty cold outside, but there were people swimming in the water in front of our hotel! We asked about the sanity of these people, and a nice guy explained that a group of people swim there year round and have a whole system of monitoring their body temperatures to know how long they can handle it and when to go inside to this health club where they get warmed back up. That is a serious dedication to exercise!

The second day we were there, we went to the wine country! We started the morning in Sausalito, a really cute little town right across the Golden Gate Bridge, and had an awesome breakfast at a great cafe.

As usual, my brother wanted to check out the boats that were docked, so we had a nice walk and saw tiny jellyfish in the water around the boats.

We drove through the beautiful countryside and stopped first at the Jacuzzi Winery. Yep, the same guy who invented the hot tub. It reminded Mark and I of this vineyard we looked at to have our wedding and reception. The wine was really good and my parents joined the wine club, so we are benefiting from their monthly deliveries!

Next, we went to the Robert Mondavi winery, a bigger one with a tour offered. So, we got to see some of the behind-the-scenes of wine making and learned a lot about the history and science of it all. It is a pretty involved process.

The vineyards were so beautiful, and we weren't even there for the time of year that they are known for being beautiful!

After we had enough wine tasting for the weekend, we went back to enjoy the city. We had some delicious meals, of course, and walked around all of the little shops. The only slight disappointment for me was that the seals who usually sit on these floating platforms in the wharf were pretty scarce. I guess I wouldn't want to sit up in the wind when it's cold outside either though.

My dad's favorite phrase whenever Alcatraz was in view was (said in a semi-Connery sounding voice) " the Rock."

Our last hoorah for the weekend was a stop at the Ghirardelli shop to have an ice cream sundae! It was a great weekend with my family!

Thanksgiving Trip

It's been a while, but we want to catch up a little bit from the last few months. I know all 5 of you have been on the edge of your seats :)

We've been on a few trips, the first of which was to The Smokey Mountains in Tennessee! I went in college with some girls and we camped in November and came as close to freezing as I'd ever like to again, but the natural beauty is incredible. So, when we found out that Thanksgiving was going to be in North Carolina with Mark's sister's family, The Burton's, we decided to make a road trip of it and stop in the Smokies. It was such a great trip, our first road trip as newlyweds and we really enjoyed both the time in the car together as well as the fun places we stopped.

The first stop on the road trip was to a wedding in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Mark's good from from college, Joel, married Christina, and you may not be able to see it in the picture, but there is a sign congratulating them outside the movie theater. The town was so small and cute and we loved sharing their wedding day with them!

We made our way to Tennessee the next day, stopping that night in Gatlinburg. On the way, we had a little bit of a run in with some nature... It was really dark and we were on these curvy mountain roads, and all of a sudden this huge Black Bear came running out in front of us. Mark slammed on the brakes and swerved, and thankfully we missed him. Needless to say, we drove the rest of the way quietly leaning forward to see if any other creatures threatened to jump out at us.

We finally made it to Gatlinburg which turned out to be a really fun little tourist town and we had a great time. It was all decorated for the holidays and there were tons of cute little shops to walk around. Mark wanted to play miniature golf, which I'll admit wasn't on the top of my list of things to do, but it turned out to be an awesome course that went up the mountainside and was a lot of fun.

The next morning, we spent some time in the mountains and walked a few trails. Our first encounter of the day was with an elk named Jerry. We were super excited to have stumbled upon him in a clearing, and spent a good 10 minutes watching him eat grass. Then, we drove about 5 minutes further and saw another clearing with about 50 elk and had to laugh at ourselves a little bit. When we pulled up to the huge field full of elk, there were a few other people already there taking pictures and whispering about how neat it was, and Mark and I started to get out of the car and he accidentally pressed the panic button on his car alarm. It was honking so loud and we were both freaking out trying to turn it off. Finally, he stopped it and luckily, we realized the elk couldn't have cared less about the noise! It was hilarious and embarrassing at the same time.

At one of the trailheads, we saw this old school house. I wonder what it was like to go to school a hundred years ago in the Smokey Mountains. It is amazing to think about how much things have changed, now almost every classroom has a computer and countless other resources. Compare that to the simplicity of the one-room school with nothing but the students and their books. I will say, their recess had to be pretty cool everyday.

We left the mountains and drove the rest of the way to Raleigh to see Mark's family. The Burton's just welcomed their newest family member, Bryce! It was so fun to meet him for the first time, and to see the rest of the nieces too. It is amazing how fast kids grow and change. We had a wonderful week in Raleigh and a great Thanksgiving with the Lopez's!

I love how pretty North Carolina is. Even though Raleigh is a big city, its so different from Dallas. I like living in Dallas, but we are a little lacking in the nature department. This picture is from a park near the Burton's that is pretty well incorporated into the surrounding woods. It was nice watching the little ones play on the playground, and we had a little fun too! I appreciate whoever decided to put an adult-sized sea-saw in the mix.