Finding Fort Lauderdale's Sweet Side

Fort Lauderdale is known for two main things: beaches and drinking. Young adults flock from around the country to come spend a week on Central Beach getting sun burnt and sipping on strawberry daiquiris. I’ll admit it: I was one of these college students. Like an ex-boyfriend Fort Lauderdale had burnt me before but four years later I was coming back with sunscreen and my floppy hat with the intention to find Fort Lauderdale’s sweet side.

Saturday Morning Farmer’s Market

Lauderdale is home to the very colorful Yellow Green Farmer’s Market. It’s almost more of a bazaar than a Farmer’s market. You’ll find everything from jackfruit to pineapples but you’ll also stumble upon henna tattooists, perfume chemists and mini pies (and I mean super mini pies).  

Finding the Best Croissants in Fort Lauderdale

I have become a regular at Star Boulangerie. It began because I fell madly in love with their chocolate croissants. Every Saturday my boyfriend would bring me one and we would eat them in bed, littering the sheets with its flaky crust. But I continued to come back because it’s owned by loveliest people who greet me by name and sneak an extra pastry in bag when I’m not looking.

Kayaking the Intracoastal

My boyfriend took me kayaking for my birthday and we spent the morning ducking under banyan trees, racing floating coconuts and being in total awe of how orchids thrive in the tropical climate and not in an overly air conditioned yacht.

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Date Night at the Gateway

This old timey theatre is nestled right off of Sunrise Blvd and the perfect place to go for a date night. It’s been around since the 1950’s and mainly shows independent films sneaking in the occasion Hollywood bang-bang boom-boom moneymaker. On one side of the theatre is a 1960’s style wine lounge and on the other side is Canyon restaurant (get the prickly pear margarita—don’t ask questions just do it).  

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Tombstone: A Day in the Wild, Wild West

Needing a break from the salty air and humidity, I flew to Phoenix to kick up some dust for some much needed time with my family. Between antique shopping and eating lots of delicious food, we made time to take a little road trip to the Western town of Tombstone.

Tombstone became popular in the 1800’s as an American boomtown due to its silver mining and a legendary gun fight. The town itself got its name from a United States Army scout who said “the only rock you will find out there will be your own tombstone.” As mentioned, there was also a famous gunfight that happened in Tombstone.

Picture this: the year is 1881, three rowdy cowboys enter the small town and attempt to rob a stagecoach transporting $26,000 in silver. A cowboy in these days wasn’t just a cattleman. A cowboy, as The San Francisco Examiner wrote, “are the most reckless class of outlaws in that wild country…infinitely worse than ordinary robbers.” This town certainly wasn’t big enough for the three of them as they rode off into the desert hiding from the law. They killed two men in the process. But you can’t hide from justice forever. A few months later, the infamous lawman Doc Holliday killed the three bandits outside of the O.K. Corral. It isn’t called the wild, Wild West for nothing.

Today, the town of Tombstone is just as rough and tough as it was 200 years ago. Cowboys roam the streets guns blazing and horse drawn carriages can take you from the Saloon to the play house. From daily reenactments of the famous gunfight to haunted mine shaft tours, there is an abundance to do. Head over to Big Nose Kate’s Saloon for shot of whiskey and some classic American cuisine and stop by a vintage photo booth where you can dress up as a cowboy, cowgirl, or a Saloon girl. Some people may call the town Tombstone a tourist trap, but I think it’s just good old American fun. Yee-haw!

Miami: A Not-So-Lazy Sunday in Wynwood

On a lazy Sunday morning, after eating our chocolate croissants and sipping coffee in bed, we decided to make it a not-so-lazy Sunday and hop on the train to Miami. The Brightline is always our transportation of choice. It’s clean, their employees are always smiling and waving, and you can get yourself a cocktail for the ride. Two glasses of Prosecco later, we arrived right smack in the middle of downtown Miami.

Our first mission was to find some chow. We ended up at Love Life Café that specializes in plant based recipes. What really caught our attention was their vege-burger that was voted ‘Best Vege-burger in America’ in the Seed Food & Wine Festival in 2016. I personally have never heard of that festival but I have a deep love of vege-burgers so anyplace that claims to have the best one I’m sold. Duane was feeling the Miami vibes and ordered the Cuban burrito that was packed full with black beans, brown rice, sweet plantains, avocado, and a cilantro aioli. That food was EXCELLENT. My vege-burger was everything I hoped and dreamed it would be and Duane’s burrito was an explosion of delicious flavors.

Our next stop was walking around Wynwood Walls hoping to burn some calories after gorging ourselves at lunch. The idea of the Wynwood Walls was conceived in 2009 by a local artist. He wanted to make the ugly warehouse walls his canvas and brighten up the community. Elaborate, brightly colored murals now cover 80,000 square feet of wall. Over 50 artists from 16 different countries have come to make the city their own personal Mona Lisa.

Our last and final stop on our not-so-lazy Sunday was for a mojito. The Miami Mojito Company serves nothing but mojitos and they have best mojitos in the city without a doubt. With freshly muddled mint, zesty lime juice, and a stick of raw sugar cane you will not be disappointed. Stick with the classic or branch out and give another of their flavors a taste like cucumber, watermelon, or blackberry. The place itself is hidden behind a forest of green vines so you’ll feel like you’re smack dab in the middle of the jungle. All in all, it wasn’t too bad of a afternoon being not-so-lazy.

Brooklyn: Six Hours, Four Places

In a previous post, I mentioned how you must visit Brooklyn when going to New York. Brooklyn is the epitome of "someone’s trash is another person’s treasure.” Parts of Brooklyn are even built on top of former landfills. Brooklynites choose vintage shops over Saks and egg creams (from Brooklyn Farmacy) over wheat grass shots. We spent about six hours in Brooklyn and could have easily spent more. But we made the most of our time and have four great places to reminisce on.

  1. Cross the Brooklyn Bridge

Here you’ll meet runners, walkers, cyclists and even some artists selling one of a kind street art. In its hay day, the Brooklyn Bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world.

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2. Eat Lunch at in Cool Old Warehouse

There are plenty of these in Brooklyn, but our choice was Superfine. With pool tables, amazing cocktails, and local ingredients you won’t be leaving the place disappointed.  

3. Walk along the Waterfront

Jaw-dropping views of Manhattan and lots of furry friends running around.

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4. Get a Slice of Junior’s Cheesecake

Since the 1950’s Junior’s Diner has been the home of the original ‘New York style cheesecake’. It’s rich as it is creamy and comes in a slice as big as your face.

Being the Ultimate Tourist: Top 10 Things to Do in New York City

I wish I could write some crazy, unique, out-of-the-box post on things to do in New York City but to be honest I was a complete tourist in NYC. From going up into the Empire State Building to walking hand in hand with my boyfriend through Central Park I had ‘tourist’ written all over me—but I don’t have a single regret. Sometimes, being a tourist is way more fun than being a local. So, here are the top ten things to do to be the ultimate New York City Tourist:

1.See a Broadway Show

The possibilities here are endless. There a number of theatres that all offers shows that will make you laugh, cry, and give you butterflies. We were lucky enough to see two shows, Chicago and Book of Mormon. Chicago was a dream, I grew up watching the movies and it was nothing like it, which was part of the reason I loved it so much. Book of Mormon was hilarious and extremely inappropriate; it had everyone in the crow bellowing. This isn’t a cheap date though, be prepared to drop at least $100 on tickets.

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2. Stroll through Central Park

We could have easily spent the entire day here, walking around, laying on a blanket in the green grass, and people watching. If we had enough time, we would have set up camp with a good book, a bottle of wine and a snack pack of cheeses. You can rent a little row boat and gaze at the swans gracefully floating by. Make sure to go see Strawberry Fields, the John Lennon memorial and listen to acoustic artists in the background singing ‘Imagine’.  

3. Empire State Building

King Kong. Sleepless in Seattle. An Affair to Remember. Cliché, I know. But we couldn’t possibly leave New York City without going to the top of the Empire State Building. Try and go early in the morning, and preferably a week day so you’re not stuck waiting in line for hours.

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4. Dance in Times Square

Times Square is an absolute sensory overload. There are hundreds of people no matter the time of day. Whether its 5pm or 4 am there’s always peoples singing, dancing, and a crowd in utter awe.

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5. Museum Hunt

There are a number of extraordinary museums in the city. We chose to go to the MET, and were not disappointed. From European Renaissance art to Japanese samurai swords there are two stories of ancient treasures. It took us two rounds to see everything we wanted to see (I refused to leave without seeing a Renoir). Next time, I’ll be sure to put the Museum of Modern Art on the top of my list. 

6. Peruse the New York Public Library

The main branch was completed in 1911 is the epitome of grandeur. With roman style columns, lions guarding the entrance, and painted ceilings so ornate and beautiful that Michelangelo would approve.  Bring a book or some studying to the rose room and don’t forget to check out the gift shop—it’s full of all kinds of goodies.

7. Pretend you’re in a Movie in Grand Central

When I told my boyfriend that the Grand Central Station was on my list, he was a bit confused as to why I wanted to visit a subway station. But as soon as we walked out of the subway and up the stairs, he understood exactly why it is a must-see in New York. Gaze up into the constellations themed ceiling—if you make a New York wish here, it might just come true.  

8. 9/11 Memorial   

The power behind this memorial is unmatched. There aren’t really any words I can type down that will fully describe how meaningful this is.

9. Have a Slice of New York Pizza

I was curious about this ‘New York Pizza’ idea. I come from the Midwest where Chicago style pizza is all the rage but after trying three or four different pizzas in New York I was hooked. Its crust is thin yet soft and it’s sold in slices as big as your face. Plus, I loved the fact that no matter where you get your piece, it’s never given to you on anything more ornate than a paper plate. My personal favorite was from Champions in SoHo. They had more variety and more toppings than some of the other contenders.

10. Do Brooklyn

You haven’t had the full New York experience without seeing Brooklyn. Walk or bike across the Brooklyn Bridge and see what all the fuss is about. Brooklyn is Manhattan’s edgier cousin who got expelled in high school but now owns his own very successful tattoo parlor. It’s where the best restaurants are in beaten up warehouses the only Chanel or Gucci you will find is from the 70’s hidden away in the back of a vintage shop next to a dusty box of records by Elvis Costello.  


Bonus: Statue of Liberty

This goes without saying, but you obviously need to see the Statue of Liberty. Whether you take a little boat cruise or take a walk around Liberty Park seeing the copper beauty will give you chills. I couldn’t help but think about centuries of immigrants coming into America, escaping religious persecution or war, and seeing Lady Liberty for the first time and knowing that they were finally safe.

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Welcoming Autumn: The Johnny Appleseed Festival

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Like an old friend, autumn is slowly but surely tip toeing its way to Indiana. Autumn means warm apple cider, cool nights, changing leaves, and pumpkin spice. Every September, Fort Wayne hosts the Johnny Appleseed Festival. The festival itself is the epitome of fall. The fairground smells of bonfire and sweet kettle corn, and hints of maple candy waft through the air.  Little children run around with wood swords and bows and arrows adorned with colorful Indian feathers.

The best part of the Johnny Appleseed Festival is the food. No vendor at the festival is allowed to use anything electrical or modern—it all has to be done like it was in the old days. There are cast irons pots of chicken and dumplings boiling over an open fire and ham and beans with steam rising up into the autumn sky. The desserts are even more dangerous. Deep fried apple petals with caramel sauce tickle your taste buds and you’ll be dreaming about those pumpkin whoopee pies for days.

As a marching band snakes its way through the festival, you can take a step through time and peruse the soldiers’ barracks. You’ll see civil war soldiers dressed to perfection in their wool uniforms sitting around a campfire and reminiscing. A civil war era canon goes off on the hour, giving half of the festival a fright. Peek over your shoulder and catch a glimpse at the young girls tap dancing and clogging in their flowing floral skirts.

People travel from far and wide to attend the Johnny Appleseed Festival and though it happens only once a year, it remains in our hearts our whole lives. It’s a tradition I have been a part of since I was just a little girl and even at 24, I still come home to Indiana for the festival.

A Fort Wayne Favorite: Barr Street Market

If you know anything about me, then you know that I live for Saturday Farmer’s Markets. I don’t care which country I am in—I will find a Farmer’s Market. There’s something about the uniqueness the market brings and spending your morning outside, amongst the freshly picked fruits and vegetables petting dogs and trying bits and pieces of new things.

When I came home this summer, it was no different. Our first free Saturday was spent at the Barr Street Market. The Farmer’s Market in Fort Wayne is especially special to the town because of its history. There has been a market in this exact location since the 1840’s. During this time, the market ran six days a week and had over 120 stalls. Today, the hustle and bustle of the market remains, but you probably won’t see any horse and buggies.

At the Barr Street Market, you find the cities’ numerous food trucks serving you tasty delights. Stop by Bravas (that’s in an adorable old school bus) for a juicy burger or satisfy that sweet tooth with pastry or a delicious piece of homemade blueberry pie. Now I’m a sucker for fresh flowers. Here you’ll find bouquets of glowing sunflowers and even an adorable cart where you can make your own lush bouquet. I find there are very few things that light up a room like fresh flowers can—maybe a puppy. I probably don’t need to mention the fresh produce, but the tables are overflowing with a kaleidoscope of colors. Purple striped eggplants, blushingly red tomatoes, and sun kissed peaches.

Every year, the market grows. Whether you’re on the hunt for something wonderful (like this year’s gorgeous heirloom tomatoes) or just wanting to enjoy the ambience, it is a morning well spent.

 

More Than Just Apples: Uncle John's Cider Mill

I’ve been coming up to Uncle John’s Cider Mill for as long as I can remember. Every year, on our way up to our lake house in Northern Michigan, we would stop at Uncle John’s to stretch our legs. Growing up, it was simply a half way point to the lake. But today, it is so much more. It’s the memories of my cousins and me running down to the apple orchard spilling our apple cider slushies. It’s my sister and I fighting over the handpicked Michigan blueberries. It’s having fresh baked apple bread at the lake house for breakfast, smothering it with melted butter.

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At Uncle John’s you’ll find everything from apple butter to freshly baked cookies (my favorite are the raspberry filled ones). There is a local gift shop that has anything and everything Michigan related. It is filled with items you would find at a cute little local boutique. I had to stop myself from buy mugs and tea towels (considering I live on a boat and don’t have a house this is a silly investment). But I did let myself splurge on an Uncle John’s sticker that went perfectly in my journal.

After spending longer that I would like to admit in the gift shop, I went over to the bakery. Here is where the magic happens. This is where they sell gallons of apple cider (which freezes nicely), frosted apple bread, apple pies, blueberries, apple cider doughnuts, and every kind of homemade cookie you could possibly imagine. They also have their own brand of hard ciders which are crisp and refreshing on a humid Michigan day.  

This is the first time I had been back to Uncle John’s in over two years. There are a million places along highway 127 to get fresh apple cider, but for me, it will always be Uncle John’s. The memories I have made there with family are just as sweet as a slice of their Dutch apple pie. If you are ever in the area, head on over to Uncle John’s and see what the magic is all about.

Seattle Round Two: Spheres, Ballard, and a Walrus

My second time in Seattle was even better than the first time. The first time there, we got all of the stereotypical touristy things out of our system so this time we could do other touristy but less stereotypical touristy things.

After an eight day trip up from Mexico and one serious case of cabin fever, I was definitely ready a drink or two. As a little celebration to be back into society we wanted somewhere posh. We were told to give the Nest a try. It’s a hip rooftop bar right in the middle of downtown overlooking the skyline of the city and glistening bay. The drinks certainly aren’t cheap, but the view and good vibes makes up for it.

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Another highlight of our trip was getting to see the inside of Amazon’s Spheres. Usually, you have to book a tour on a Saturday a few weeks in advance, but we got lucky when a friend of a friend who works at Amazon got to show us around. The Amazon Spheres are not only an architectural splendor of the city but they also help conserve exotic flora and fauna from all over the world. The temperature of the building is pleasant and balmy which is exactly what these plants need to survive and what any Amazon worker needs to on a rainy Seattle day. The whole purpose of the Spheres is to offer Amazon employees a place to go and work, read, or just relax when they need to get out of the office. There are large meeting rooms and even a coffee shop with some amazing crème filled doughnuts.

My favorite part of the little weekend trip (besides staying across from the Parisian café that served marvelous chocolate éclairs) was going to Ballard. Ballard is a hipster neighborhood just north of the city. The main street is lined with unique boutiques and trendy bars nestled in historic buildings. Percy’s was a great stop for happy hour with cocktails like their ‘midnight bloom’ with sage gin, hibiscus, lemon, lavender and infused honey, and crème de violette. But when it comes to dinner time, be sure to head on over to Walrus and Carpenter. Walrus and Carpenter is known for their fresh oysters, ranging from mild to salty, but if you are on a budget make sure to ask how much ‘market price’ is—we accidently paid $15 for one oyster which can rack up your bill fairly quickly. Walrus and Carpenter isn’t your average restaurant, their different courses are meant to be served tapas style and supposed to be shared. Everything we had was delicious; the only downfall was that the portion sizes are rather small.

On our last day there, we spent the day being super tourists—we went up in the Ferris wheel. One short, but lovely ride later, our time in Seattle was done and it was back to work for me and back to desert Phoenix for my sister. If we weren’t already in love with this captivating city, we definitely were now.

Playing In the Keys

My boyfriend and I have wanted to spend a few days in Key West since we have arrived in Florida. I had been once before, but didn’t get to see more than the inside of a couple bars considering I was in college. So this time around, I had every intention to take in everything there was to see. 

On our first day there, we spent the afternoon exploring the famous and historic Duval Street. Duval Street is full eccentric art galleries, Cuban cigar stores, adorable coffee shops, and lots of chickens. We spent the whole afternoon perusing all that is had to offer. Victorian and Bahamian styled mansions are sprinkled all along and around the street, the most elaborate and beautiful being the Southernmost House that was built in 1896. It lies at the end of Duval Street—the southernmost point in the United States. This old brick mansion is the epitome of southern charm. It has lots of natural woodwork inside, pastel colors painted on the outside, and a big wrap-around porch perfect for those Florida nights.

That night my boyfriend spoiled me and took me out for a cozy dinner at the Thirsty Mermaid. It’s a tiny little restaurant that maybe seats 30 people and has amazing seafood and a raw bar with fresh oysters and clams. After we stuffed ourselves, we headed out for a night on the town. We followed the sound of live music and found ourselves at Willie T’s Bar. We had one too many kamikaze shots and made our mark on Key West by adding a signed dollar bill to their wall. Our hotel of choice was Casa Marina. It’s right on the water, has a beautiful pool and hammocks on the beach. The rooms were beautiful and the location was amazing. It’s definitely pricier than some of the other hotels, but if you’re going to Key West during high season, expect to pay $300 a night for a nice hotel.

Our next day was a historic one. We took a tour of the Ernest Hemingway house—cats and all. I’ll be honest, the only book of Hemingway’s I have ever read was The Old Man and Sea, but the experience of being in his home was intoxicating. I never knew how much of his own life his poured into his novels. I also never knew that he was married four times—what a heartbreaker.  One of my favorite parts of the house was the Hemingway cats.  The fluffy little felines are known for their polydactyl genes that gives them six toes. They all look like they are wearing fluffy, oversized mittens. On the property live over 50 cats. They go through over 8lbs of cat food a week!

Our last night there, we spent at Irish Kevin’s Bar. If you are ever in Key West, you absolutely must come here. They do live performances for 16 hours straight every single day. It’s a mixture between live music and comedy. They bring up groups of people on stage and have them do all kinds of fun things like dancing, beer chugging competitions, and taking shots of tequila straight from the bottle. It’s one of the liveliest places in Key West. We met a lovely couple from Pennsylvania, introduced them to pickle backs (Jameson chased with pickle juice), and sang the night away with Garth Brooks. We ended the night getting sloppy joe’s and onion rings at the famous Sloppy Joe’s Bar. They were easily the most amazing sloppy joe I have ever had. This may seem like nothing but an old dive bar, but it is anything but. Its history is just as rich and full of flavor as their sloppy joe sauce.  Sloppy Joe’s Bar was officially born December 5, 1933—the exact same day Prohibition was appealed. Hemingway himself spent quite a bit of time here, legend has it that it was Hemingway himself who pushed for the bar to be named ‘Sloppy Joe’s’, even today, they have a sailfish hanging on the wall that Hemingway caught.

After an amazing couple days in Key West, we spent the next four hours driving the 189 miles back to Fort Lauderdale. With the top down in our little silver Audi, we basked in the sunshine reveled in the breeze while watching little white sailboats glide across turquoise blue waters. My only regret? Forgetting to try a piece a mouth-watering key lime pie.

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Dining Six Feet Under...Almost

A quick weekend trip to drop off some things to my sister’s place in Phoenix very quickly turned into a fun-filled, adventure-ridden weekend. After playing with her adorable puppy Kilo for a few hours, were off. Our weekend started out driving down Route 66 to a ‘secret’ dinner my sister had planned for us. We pulled over at the Grand Canyon Cavern & Inn off of mile post 115. In the front was a glowing ‘No Vacancy’ sign and beat up, rusty cars from the 1950’s. If we showed up at night, it might have looked like something out of a horror film. As we made our way to the restaurant, I must admit that I was a little disappointed that this, out of all places, was where she chose. This Podunk little diner had antlers hanging from the wall and was completely empty, even though it should have been right smack in the middle of the dinner rush. We were quickly greeted, and asked if we were dining here or in the grotto and turns out we were dining in the grotto—whatever that meant. We were then lead to an old, creaky elevator and told that we would be having dinner in an old cave that is over 200ft below the Earth’s surface. 

The Cavern Grotto was discovered in 1927 when a local woodcutter almost fell in to a hole on his way to a poker game. He grabbed a few of his friends and lowered himself into what is now the Cavern Grotto. He had every intention of mining for gold in his newfound hole, but he only found lots and lots of iron oxide. So, to try and make a few bucks on the land, he started charging people $.25 for tours of the caves. Today, the caves are used for just that—plus some delicious meals. For $70 a person, you can find yourself eating American comfort food and sipping on wine 21 stories beneath the Earth’s surface. Just in case you’re wondering how they get the food down 21 stories underground, they have their very own pulley system where they lower the food down in buckets. You might even encounter some paranormal activity. Needless to say, I was blown away. My sister had done it again.

The next day, we woke up early in Flagstaff, put on our outdoor gear and headed to Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course. It was a little daunting, seeing obstacles hung between Ponderosa Pines 60 feet in the air. But we were ready to burn off last night’s dinner. Between the zip lining, swinging, and balancing on bridges we had a calorie-killing day playing in the tree tops.

After a day like that, it was a given that we went out to lunch for a mean burger and fries. The best burger joint in Flagstaff? Diablo Burger. The line was long and our stomachs were grumbling but it was worth the wait.  The coke bottles were chilled and the burgers were hot and juicy. My favorite part about the place was the English muffin buns. Give the db house a try, which comes with blackening spice, homemade pesto and topped off with an over-easy fried egg or be a rebel and build your own. Either way you definitely will want more. They even had house made vegeburger that look just as good as the real deal. 

A weekend with my sisters is always an adventure. We may not always be belaying from that trees or touring haunted caves, but we never cease to have an amazing time. Plus, I get to play with her schnauzer, Kilo, so that already makes it worth it.

Feelings of Nostalgia

The world is full of beautiful places. And beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Some people see snow covered mountains as their perfect getaway, while others want pina coladas on a white sandy beach. However for me, I must say that not a single one of them even holds a candle to my own hidden paradise.

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Summers In San Diego

After I left home to join yachting, I went down to Florida to get certified in some safety courses and look for work. Three weeks later, I get a call saying that I will be on an 8 am flight to San Diego Monday morning—I got that call on Sunday afternoon. I was feeling so many different emotions: rushed, eager, nervous, cheerful, and sad. Little did I know this job would expose me to a city that I fell head over heels in love with: San Diego.

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Let Them Eat Cake

Like most little girls, my sister and I would spend our afternoons borrowing our mother’s tea cups to host our own tea parties. Naturally, our inner little girl was thrilled to get all dolled up and have high tea at the Westgate Hotel in San Diego.

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