Heather's Hangout

Sharing the people, places & little moments that make a difference.

Creating pretty pottery at local studio October 26, 2017

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Starting the project.

I’ve been wanting to head back to the local pottery studio to make something artsy. It was meant to be when my friend mentioned she wanted to try her hand at pottery painting. So we picked an afternoon for our outing, choosing to meet at Creative Arts Studio in downtown Royal Oak (I took my niece here for an aunt/niece outing).

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The studio is a welcoming, sunshine-filled location that offers pottery painting, mosaics, glass fusing and more (I’ve only tried the pottery painting). Walk-ins are welcome and you can bring your own drinks and snacks. This studio charges a flat studio fee for adults and children, in addition to the price of the item you choose (ranging from under $5 to over $100).

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There are a lot of pottery pieces available, from vases to serving dishes to seasonal items to tea sets and more! I spent (too much) time wandering the rows of items, picking up one item only to spot another that interested me. Should I paint a coffee mug? Turtle for my great room floor? Horse-shaped bank? Bookends? Maybe a Michigan-shaped platter? I finally made myself focus, settling on a small vase since I’m a lover of flower bouquets placed around my house (hint to future boyfriend), although I mentally logged some other items I want to work on at a later time. The studio was fairly busy, plus a small birthday party group arrived shortly after us, so it was fun to look around at what others were working on. There were some really great ideas and talent in that building!

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My new vase!

The staff was very friendly and helpful. We were directed to shelves of glaze colors. The glaze is food safe on the finished product. I selected a few colors for my vase, then settled at a table with my friend to start the creative process.

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Three coats of each color is required for a deep color upon finish (it’s helpful that there are sample color tiles of the finished, three-coat color). I discovered the only challenge to working at a table with another is you ‘might’ lose track of how many coats you’ve painted while talking. Ha! So one of my colors got an extra coat because I couldn’t remember and decided I’d prefer a darker color rather than lighter.

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You write your name or initials on the bottom of your item and leave it at the studio to be fired. Pick it up in a week and you have a great item to keep or give as a gift!

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Food, shopping, history at Boston’s Faneuil Hall Marketplace October 13, 2017

Filed under: Random Travels & Exploring — Heather @ 4:15 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,
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Faneuil Hall Marketplace in Boston

Arriving early for a conference gave me a beautiful day to explore Boston. Motivated to get the most out of my time in one of my favorite cities, I woke early on my second day and after a sweaty workout in the hotel’s gym, I set off for new sites. (And, yes, I did shower before setting off, in case you wondered!)

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On a recommendation from a friend, I headed to Faneuil Hall Marketplace. I had researched the location prior to leaving Detroit, but it wasn’t quite what I expected. It was busy! People milling around everywhere, spilling out stores and relaxing at restaurants and bars. I loved it all!

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Cobblestone streets take visitors along several buildings – North Market, South Market, and Quincy Market Colonnade – that house more than 70 retailers. Some of the stores are popular around the country, like The Gap, Victoria’s Secret and Sephora, while others are more local to the area, like Make Way for Ducklings (okay, I really just love this name!), Local Charm and Revolutionary Boston.

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When you enter the Quincy Market Colonnade building, you’re greeted by

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Great Hall inside Faneuil Hall

an…..interesting smell. It’s a multitude of food vendors battling for aromatic space in the air. Lobsters, oysters, sandwiches, gelato, frozen yogurt, pizza, salads, sausages, smoothies and much more provide delicious options to please any hungry patron. But you must be patient. Especially if there on a weekend. At lunch time. Note to self, don’t visit marketplace around lunch time on a Saturday.

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Faneuil Hall is a cool historic building to visit while at the marketplace. Built in 1742, the hall has been used for public debate, meetings, special events and more. Faneuil Hall served as the seat of government during the Revolutionary period. It’s full of beautiful architecture inside on the first and second floors. You can almost picture our ancestors sitting in the chairs listening to debates and informational meetings, participating in decision-making and encouraging change.

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After I wandered for a while, I realized I was starving. I walked through Quincy Market a few times before deciding I was a bit overwhelmed at my choices. I tried to get a spot at Cheers – yes, an authentic replica of the famous TV bar – but the line was crazy long. And, did I mention that I was starving at this point? After passing the Mija Cantina & Tequila Bar a few times, I decided I could eat some Mexican food. I found a spot at the bar so I could look outside at people walking along the cobblestone street. Mija has an open air patio and bar, which was great in the beautiful weather. I met some nice people also sitting at the bar, all from outside of Massachusetts. That’s one of the parts I love about traveling away from home – meeting people and hearing their stories about traveling.

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So worth the splurge at Berry Twist

After filling up on Mexican food and a drink (although I skipped sampling from their extensive tequila menu), I wandered through the marketplace a bit more. Several street performers were at various spots, including a juggler, musicians and a magician. After the performances, I headed to the waterfront. It was bustling with activity but I found a shaded spot on the grass under a big tree to enjoy a pretty water view and relax.

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There are many walking options near the marketplace. The waterfront is across from the marketplace so you can walk along that. The Freedom Trail also runs from this area.

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A fun fact I learned while washing my hands in the restroom is that Paul Revere, as the first president of Boston’s Board of Health, supervised the outhouse inspectors, who were responsible for ensuring residents properly emptied out their outhouses and didn’t let them overflow to prevent disease. And, now, you too, learned a fun fact.

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It was a fun day at Faneuil Hall and the waterfront. I’m happy for the opportunity to explore a great part of the city and meet so many friendly people.

 

Exploring our nation’s capitol June 14, 2017

washingtonmonumentLast week, I was in Washington DC for the One Voice Against Cancer lobby day to meet with my legislators regarding funding for cancer research and prevention programs. I was honored to be selected by LIVESTRONG to attend this event with more than 100 other advocates from across the nation.

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The experience was awesome and my meetings were positive and hopeful (read about the experience). And I do love being in Washington, DC. I love the history of our nation, watching American and foreign tourists learn about and remember the past (hoping not to repeat some of it). I love the excitement and energy that drifts through the town. I love exploring the different neighborhoods and cultures. I love meeting with our legislators and their staff to work together to change the tide for people touched by cancer.

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After a whirlwind of meetings, I decided to stay an extra day for a bit of sightseeing and fun. It was a bright, sunny, cool day in DC. After breakfast at Bob & Edith’s Diner, we started our exploration by heading toward the National Mall.

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No matter how many times I visit Washington, DC, I love touring the national monuments, museums and memorials. I’m always a little in awe of how large these monuments are….large and impressive in their architecture, construction and meaning. I get reflective, motivated, and emotional thinking of the situations that stirred such thoughts and speeches from these historical figures. So many of the quotes are as meaningful and relevant to the world today as they were when spoken decades ago. I would love to know that our current elected officials walk through these memorials at least once a year, but alas, I truly wonder how many of them have never visited. I think it would be a good reminder of the honor, and major responsibility, of representing the American people.

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The Washington Monument greeted us, standing tall with blue skies above and American flags surrounding it. We walked around toward Thomas Jefferson’s Memorial, overlooking a tidal basin from the Potomac River. People relaxed on the steps, enjoying the breeze, while others were on paddle boats and kayaks in the basin. We then walked to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial, which leads you through the historic years of his terms. FDR’s memorial leads to inspiring and memorable quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr and a large statue of the man.

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It never fails that I get emotional walking through the Korean War Memorial, with the statues of soldiers ‘walking’ through the greenery and the images of men and women engraved on the wall. I can’t help but touch these images, wondering who they represent, who came home, who didn’t. No matter how many times I walk through the memorial, tears always fill my eyes and my heart beats in gratitude for all those who served to protect us and also sadness for those lost. The emotions continue through the Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, and World War II Memorial. This is one of my favorites as I love standing near the center, looking around at the wreaths representing every state, knowing all of these make up our great country. As we wandered through the memorials, veterans of all ages from many of our wars also toured each memorial. I can’t begin to imagine their thoughts or memories. I can only be grateful for their service and sacrifices.

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Mainelobsterroll_beerWe stopped at Luke’s Lobster in Penn Quarter for lunch where I enjoyed my first Maine lobsterroll and poppyseed coleslaw, along with my first Allagash craft beer from Maine. It was all delicious!

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I really enjoyed wandering Dupont Circle. I liked the small businesses, homes, ambiance of the neighborhoods. It was busy and hip, yet still resembled a quiet, historic neighborhood. We discovered two neat record stores, filled with albums that brought back many fond memories of listening to great music with my parents. We enjoyed drinks and deviled eggs on the outside back deck at Exiles Bar. They were smoking some great smelling meat. We unfortunately made a quick exit when a woman lit a cigarette near us and we realized the outdoor deck is also a smoking area (so glad that Michigan doesn’t allow smoking outside when food is also served).

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We took the Metro (underground subway system) back to Crystal City where OVAC lobby day was hosted at the Marriott. It was fun riding the Metro many times while in DC. It gets so busy at certain times of the day (especially work day mornings!). Michigan does not have good public transportation, certainly nothing like the Metro, and I wish we did. I finally felt like I was getting the Metro down by the time I had to head home….well, okay, I sort of felt like I was getting the Metro down! I might have gotten on one (or two) wrong trains had my friend not nicely asked where I was going (when everyone else was headed the other way). Well, I would have figured it out eventually. And if nothing else, there’s adventure in exploring the places you didn’t plan on visiting!

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We ended the trip with final drinks at Highline (above McCormick’s & Schmick), which has a great open bar with live acoustic music and plenty of space to relax and socialize. I can picture many fun happy hours occurring in this space.

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It was a great day of exploring new areas and stepping into the past for reminders of all we’ve been through as a country. And just like I’m confident in our ability to make great strides in our fight against cancer, I’m also confident in our ability as citizens to find our way back to a country of kindness, good leadership and smart decisions that help many, not just a special few.

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One of my favorite quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

Walking the streets of San Francisco April 30, 2017

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Enjoying the waterfront.

After spending a few days enjoying Calistoga and Napa Valley, we loaded luggage into the car rental and headed west toward Sonoma for our drive back to San Francisco. It was misting a little but still mild temps. We took the ‘scenic’ route back, enjoying conversations and laughs. As we neared the city, we stopped in Sausalito for lunch. Sausalito sits at the northern foot of the Golden Gate Bridge. It has small town charm wrapped in its waterfront downtown with awesome views. I was in awe of the numerous houses nestled on the sides of hills and mountains.

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We walked the downtown (which has a large bike parking lot!) before eating lunch at Scoma’s. The restaurant is located on the waterfront and we scored a great window table. There were many fishing boats on the bay. It was fascinating to watch the fog roll in and out. At one point, the Golden Gate Bridge, which was visible when we sat, ‘disappeared’ from sight due to the fog!

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After an awesome lunch of dungeness crab cakes and sandwiches, we headed across the

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Beautiful Grace Cathedral

bridge into the city. We easily found the Orchard Hotel near Chinatown. The hotel staff was friendly and the room spacious and nice. Then we set off to explore. We were near the “Chinatown Gate” so headed that way. Chinatown was busy! People packed the sidewalks and store after store sold a huge variety of almost any item you may think of. I swear some of these stores had items overflowing from their doors! We walked all through Chinatown, which seemed like sensory overload to me after a few blocks. But cool and fun!

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We shifted our direction and walked toward Nob Hill. Here is where we found the hilly sidewalks that often appear in San Francisco pictures! My friend and I are in decent physical shape and had on comfortable flat shoes, but even we started laughing at one point as we turned corners and encountered another street going up. Our goal was the Top of the Mark, thanks to a recommendation, for drinks and great views. Top of the Mark is located on the 19th floor of the Intercontinental Hotel, offering 360-degree views of the city. So you can imagine our disappointment when we walked into the hotel to discover that a private event had the restaurant closed on that particular day! Ugh. We laughed at our luck and instead wandered around the nearby beautiful Grace Cathedral. Then we indulged my final tourist wish list of riding a trolley!

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Looking down (literally) the street!

The trolley ride was fun…..and a great leg workout. Many people already filled the trolley so I ended up standing for our ride. Since you are going up and down the streets, it takes a lot of balance to not move all around. We laughed at the great workout we were getting and how we would definitely deserve a good dinner and drinks!

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The trolley ride took us to the north side of Fisherman’s Wharf, which was bustling with activity. I just love the energy of this city! It honestly makes me smile. We wandered a lot of different shops, enjoyed listening to several talented street musicians, checked out the retired World War II vessels docked near the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, and then rested at a restaurant for happy hour. After refueling our stomachs with great San Francisco craft beer, wine and food, we wandered to North Beach before deciding we deserved a taxi ride back to our hotel. The cab driver was amusing and kind. A brief relaxation provided new energy for another walk around Chinatown before a pizza and beer dinner.

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I’m so glad that we placed downtown San Francisco at the beginning and end of the trip.

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After my trolley ride!

It was fun to explore the bustling city, but nice to have the beautiful open land of the Napa Valley area to soak up the tranquility of Mother Nature. It was a perfect balance of exciting and busy with calm and quiet.

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As we wrapped up our day in San Francisco, I reflected on the adventures. We packed a lot of fun into our days, saw and experienced so many new things, tasted awesome wines and food, soaked in much natural beauty and shed some of life’s stress and overload. I loved San Francisco and the surrounding areas. I will definitely go back.

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Have you been to San Francisco? What’s your favorite area/destination in the city?

 

Exploring Napa Valley’s wine country April 28, 2017

We woke to a beautiful morning in Calistoga. The downtown was quiet when we walked to find a breakfast place. We came upon a great little place called Café Sarafornia. The family owned restaurant offers a delicious variety of breakfast options.

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After filling up on food, we headed out to enjoy one of the best parts of Napa Valley – wine! Our first stop was Clos Pegase. My friend is a wine club member, which provided a tasting and tour of the winery. What a place! The winery was created by a couple who appreciated art, nature and wine. The owners hosted an architectural competition to design Clos Pegase. Designer Michael Graves won the competition. There are sculptures and art throughout the grounds, although there were more when the original founders owned the winery (he sold it a few years ago when his wife died from cancer). One of my favorite parts of the grounds were the 52 cypress trees in the courtyard, representing every week of the year, and lined in four rows to represent the four seasons. The buildings blend modern and ancient Mediterranean architecture. Our tour took us through the grounds to see the vineyards, then the production facility. It was impressive to see the massive storage, bottling and labeling lines. We then were able to walk into the 20,000 square feet of caves that house wine and a large theater where special events and tastings are held. Our tasting was here! We tried several great wines and enjoyed some cheeses, fruit and nuts. It was a wonderful visit!

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After Clos Pegase, we headed to Chateau Montelena Winery. Another great recommendation. It’s an incredibly impressive site to drive onto the grounds, see Jade Lake and surrounding landscape, then the chateau. Built in 1882, the chateau was converted to a wine making facility and tasting room in the early 1970s. It resembles an English Gothic castle gatehouse. The large arched windows and door, stone walls and (faux) arrow slits make for a neat building! We enjoyed our tasting inside the chateau. The wines that we sampled were very good, although the reds were a tad too dry for me.

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Wandering outside and down the steps in front of the chateau led us to the peaceful area of Jade Lake. There are footbridges that connect to two islands (used for private tastings), built crooked to honor Chinese legend that says evil spirits can only travel in straight lines. Lawns, vineyards and mountains are just beyond. It was so quiet and serene here that I could have easily sat on the bench for hours enjoying the view, light breeze and warm temps.

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As we left Chateau Montelena Winery, we passed an awesome landmark – Old Faithful Geyser! The Old Faithful Geyser of California park is a neat place where you can see one of only three geysers in the world considered “faithful” because it regularly erupts. The geyser also has proven to be a predictor of earthquakes in the area as scientists note when the geyser’s regular eruptions are delayed or lessen, an earthquake is likely within a few weeks within 500 miles surrounding geyser. Entrance is $15 for adults, but we thought it was worth saying we saw “Old Faithful.” Plus, there’s more to see – the park is also home to a goat farm (so cute!), gardens, geology museum and outdoor activities like bocce ball. There is a picnic kitchen in the gift store that offers wine corks and more so you can enjoy a bottle of wine in the park while watching Old Faithful.

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We were hungry when we left Old Faithful so stopped at Dean & Deluca, a nice market type restaurant offering freshly made sandwiches, salads, baked goods and more. My sandwich was huge! Our next stop was Yountville, where we found the Girard Winery tasting room. My friend’s membership at Clos Pegase also gets her complimentary tastings at other wineries by the same owner (although we learned that she is ‘grandfathered’ in and this doesn’t apply to new memberships. Lucky us!). The tasting room has a rustic feel, which I love! The staff was nice and funny. And the wine was delicious!

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We wandered around the area after our tasting, then headed back to Calistoga. We shopped a little more, then ordered a takeout dinner from Puerta Vallerta Restaurant. It was delicious ‘authentic’ Mexican. The evening weather was amazing so we enjoyed our food and some drinks on a table near the pool of our resort.

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It was yet another awesome day of vacation. We once again packed a LOT into a day. I loved the scenery, wines, friendship, meeting new people and exploring so much of the area. I went to bed once again a tired, happy girl ready for the next day of fun!

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(Don’t miss reading about our previous days’ adventures in San Francisco and Calistoga!)

 

When I fell in love with San Francisco April 26, 2017

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View from our room!

One of my big goals this year, in keeping with my “Best Year Ever” theme, is to get back into traveling more often. Whether weekend road trips to northern Michigan, longer getaways to somewhere in the U.S. or extended adventures around the world. Or all of the above!

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In keeping with that theme, I was super excited when my friend and I decided on a whim to book a trip to San Francisco and Napa Valley. I explored northern California years ago through the Redwood Forest but hadn’t made it to San Francisco, which I’ve been anxious to visit. So many people love the city and the destinations north of the busy city.

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We were able to book our flights with airline miles (bonus!) so that started the trip on the right path. We found a great deal on car rental, then hotels. My friend is a wine club member at some of the Napa Valley vineyards, which provided free tastings. Needless to say, I was pretty giddy by the time our plane landed in San Francisco (who doesn’t love the opportunity to explore new places and experience new adventures??).

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We easily picked up our car rental and headed to the Marriott Marquis in the South of Market (or SOMA) District of downtown San Francisco. The Marriott has 39 floors, with the top floor a restaurant/bar called The View, aptly named for the amazing 360-degree views of the city and beyond. Our room was on the 23rd floor, also providing outstanding views. We did a quick peek out the windows of The View, appreciating the stunning views of the busy city and mountains beyond. Then we headed to explore that bustling city.

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The weather was perfect with temperatures in the high 60s and sunshine. We were

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A talkative sea lion.

already hungry when we left the hotel so headed to The Grove. The funky, fun décor matched perfectly with the fresh food choices. We split a delicious salad and hummus tray and ordered our first drinks to toast the adventure. After re-energizing ourselves, we set off to simply explore. We window shopped, people watched and took in the sights of the district and surrounding areas. We eventually made it to Fisherman’s Wharf, where we came across a small market of artists, fresh flower stands, fresh fruit and vegetables and more near the Ferry Building. I love talking to local residents when I travel so enjoyed meeting so many people at the market. Then we made it to the pier (where we walked some more!). It was awesome to take in the beauty of the water, mountains, sailboats and more. I felt the stress of everyday life falling off as I walked and the fresh air and sunshine breathed new energy into me. This is why I love to travel.

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We continued to Pier 39 where we came across a very busy, definitely tourist area of Fisherman’s Wharf. Souvenir shops, restaurants, wine tasting, fishing boats, bike rentals and more populate this area. Despite it being a popular tourist area, I loved the energy, things to see, food to smell, activities to watch, and scenery to soak in. So we decided to be tourists and visit Wines of California wine bar overlooking the marina. We did a wee bit of shopping after our drinks, then we rounded a corner and I spotted the Golden Gate Bridge. I had two tourist items on my San Francisco bucket list – see the Golden Gate Bridge and ride a trolley. So I was definitely ‘that tourist’ who did a little hand clap when the bridge came into view on our walk (the trolley ride was another day so stay tuned). You can also see Alcatraz Island from the pier (and tour the facility).

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Loved this church in the city.

As we walked, I heard the noise. The sea lions! The sea lions first arrived at Pier 39 K-Dock in 1990 after an earthquake in 1989. While marina tenants at first didn’t like the sea lions taking up so much space, there wasn’t much that could be done as sea lions are protected by the Federal Marine Mammal Protection Act. Plus the sea lions were attracting crowds of people (which increases revenue for surrounding businesses). At one point, more than 1,000 sea lions “docked” at Fisherman’s Wharf! Now the mammals are a regular feature of people’s visit to the area.

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After watching and laughing at the antics of the sea lions, we headed back toward the hotel for a brief rest and relaxation before the evening fun. We checked out the views of Yerba Buena Gardens from Samovar Tea Lounge….it was a trendy, fun crowd hanging outside this place. I loved the perfect view of a pretty church residing in the midst of a bustling, tall city. It was a reminder to me that you can find peace and calmness anywhere in your life if you simply pay attention.

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On a recommendation, we found Anchor & Hope restaurant. And I say found because it took a little bit of looking to find the restaurant that is tucked away on Minna street (it looks like you’re walking down an alley). Admittedly, we may have passed the street twice because I was absorbing everything else around me! It was worth the search effort. It was still happy hour so we sat at the bar, which turned out to be a great place. The bartender and staff were so nice. We enjoyed drinks and delicious salmon cakes.

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Enjoying views from Fisherman’s Wharf.

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When we left Anchor & Hope, we passed Thirsty Bear Brewing Company so decided to check out the local craft beer scene. Thirsty Bear is San Francisco’s only organic craft brewery. (To be honest, I had no idea what that meant and I couldn’t tell the difference in the beers, but I’ve since learned it means that the beers are made with all organic ingredients.) We once again sat at the bar and once again met some great people. The beer was good and the tapas awesome.

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Our final destination of the day was back at The View at the Marriott. By then, the sun had set and the lights of the city were on, providing another great view. Luck was with us as we snagged a spot by the windows to enjoy the views, our drinks and conversations with other patrons.

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It was a great, busy, first day in San Francisco! We were fortunate for the beautiful weather. I loved meeting many friendly people and seeing so many sites. I definitely went to bed a tired, happy girl, ready for our next day’s adventure (stay tuned).

 

Jolly time visiting downtown Detroit February 24, 2017

Filed under: Life Lessons — Heather @ 4:35 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

detroitriverDetroit has been blessed with some beautiful warm, sunny weather days. Great reasons to head downtown to explore the city.

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On a recent exploration, a friend and I first stopped at the river walk to wander along the Detroit River, wave to our Canadian neighbors in Windsor (okay, maybe I’m the only one who does this!) and learn a little history while we soaked up some much needed vitamin D. There were several others with the same idea – I love seeing people getting outdoors to enjoy the downtown area.

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After a nice walk in the fresh air, we headed north on Woodward Avenue. We checked out the progress on the new Little Caesars Arena where the Detroit Red Wings and Pistons will soon play. As we neared Wayne State University, we stopped on Canfield Street to explore some more. And we did a little daydreaming as we wandered through the Shinola store. This Detroit-based company makes me pause beside soft leather handbags, awesome custom built bicycles, fun accessories and of course cool watches. I admit that I eyed a watch (or two) before willpower kicked in and made my wallet stay tucked inside of my purse (for now).

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jollypumpkinWe next wandered into Third Man Records, offering great selections of music. Originally founded by Detroit-native Jack White (of The White Stripes), the store showcases an array of vinyl records from amazing artists, record players, accessories and more. A listening booth, record booth, stage, and lounge were highlights for me. I love the eclectic vibe of this store.

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Next door to Third Man Records is Jolly Pumpkin Brewery. We of course needed refreshments after all the wandering! I love visiting Jolly Pumpkin on Old Mission Peninsula in Traverse City, and have also dined at the Ann Arbor location. This was my first visit to the Detroit location. Jolly Pumpkin serves their own craft beer plus North Peak Brewing Company. They also have a variety of spirits. Oh and food. I enjoy both Michigan-based brands of craft beer, plus the relaxed atmosphere at all of their locations. I will definitely return.

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It was fun to check out the Michigan companies and enjoy the great weather with great company. All in all it was another fun adventure in downtown Detroit. Get there when you have the chance to explore, eat, drink and have fun!

 

 
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