spring break 2017

Ahhh…. sorry!  Long time no post, I know.  My life has been a whirlwind these past few months, and with AP tests coming up soon, I thought I should sit down and write a little something before I totally forget.

So, anyway, I have the trip of a lifetime to write about!  For spring break this year, my school’s entire music department took a trip to the Bahamas and to Disney World!  We drove 24 hours on a bus to Miami (yikes…. not so fun), then took a 3 day cruise to the Bahamas with Royal Caribbean, before returning to Florida and exploring Disney World for 2 days.  It was fantastic!  I had the best time!

To make sure I hit all the highlights, I’m going to blog about individual pieces of the trip in their own separate posts.  Then, I’ll link those posts below.  Happy reading!

24 hours in: nashville, tn

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view of the gulch from above

Last weekend my mom and I took a one night trip to Nashville, Tennessee so that I could tour Vanderbilt University (AHHHH! COLLEGE! I’m terrified).  Having never been there before, I was definitely excited!  We crammed a lot into our short stay, and I thought it’d be fun to share!

Dates of my trip: January 20th and 21st, 2017

To begin with, Nashville is about four hours from my hometown of Cincinnati.  On the way, there is a return outlet for Amazon and Zappos, and naturally, being the shopaholics we are, my mom and I made a beeline for it!  Everything in the store is at least 50%, and I picked up three very cute pairs of shoes!

 

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Best milkshake ever!

Continuing on to Nashville, we found our hotel (the Hilton Garden Inn near Vanderbilt) and walked to dinner in Nashville’s trendy new area, the Gulch, called such because it sits down below the rest of the city in an old rail yard. Afterimg_6593 a delicious dinner at Burger Republic (420 11th Ave S, Nashville, TN 37203), we went and did some shopping down the street at a cute store called e. Allen before finding these gorgeous wings painted on a nearby building!  Of course, I had to stop for a picture.

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After walking back to the hotel, we hopped in the car and headed to Parnassus Books, a bookstore that my mom wanted to visit.  They had a dog in the store (*heart eyes*) and plenty of fun books and quirky trinkets to browse.  We returned to our hotel with a few books and some fun socks!

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The next morning, we woke up early and drove over to the east side of the city to meet my friend Alex and her mom, who also happened to be visiting Nashville, for brunch at the Sky Blue Cafe (700 Fatherland St, Nashville, TN 37206).  Located in a cute neighborhood filled with bungalows.  It was a small restaurant, but they served fantastic food!  Unfortunately, the darling home goods shop next door wasn’t open after we finished and we couldn’t stop in :(.

After parting ways with Alex, my mom and I decided to take a quick look around the waterfront and downtown area.  We took a nice walk along the riverfront park before jumping in the car to head back to Vanderbilt for my official tour. Sadly, I was busy during the tour and didn’t take any pictures.

img_6619After touring Vanderbilt, we drove around the campus at nearby Belmont University before stopping at Proper Bagel (2011 Belmont Blvd, Nashville, TN 37212) for lunch.  It was phenomenal.  As a huge fan of bagel sandwiches, I can probably say I’ve never had one better than the smoked turkey blta.  Be sure to grab lunch here if you’re ever nearby!

 

After lunch, our time in Nashville had come to a close.  The city was absolutely wonderful and had everything I could ever want.  I can’t wait to go back and spend more time there!

ocracoke, north carolina

On a couple of recent trips to the Outer Banks, my family has packed up the car, left early in the morning, and headed south on a day trip to the island of Ocracoke, which is the southern tip of the Outer Banks. From our house, it’s usually about an hour and a half drive plus a 45-minute ferry ride.  My mom, my best friend Sydney, her mom, and I had so much fun on the most recent trip and I thought I’d share it with you!

Date of my trip: June 14th, 2016

We left about 9 in the morning, making sure to pack plenty of snacks.  As we drove through Hatteras, we decided to stop and climb the Hatteras Lighthouse.  It’s the tallest lighthouse on the Outer Banks, and the views from the top are spectacular!

 

We then stopped at a farmer’s market to browse, and, of course, upon seeing the fresh peaches, I was obligated to buy some (what’s a southern girl without her peaches??).  This stop was a rookie mistake – when we got to the ferry dock that would take us across to Ocracoke, we were informed that it would take two to three hours.

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View from the ferry

Of course, we had nothing else to do but sit in the car, wander around the parking area, and eat ice cream.  It was a long, tedious wait, but once we loaded onto the little ferry, I was in my element.  The wind in my hair and the open ocean ahead got my heart racing.  I absolutely loved the whole ride.  I love boating, and while a ferry is hardly a speedboat, it was the closest I’d been in a long time. I loved it.

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Ocracoke Lighthouse

Once we arrived on the island of Ocracoke, we sped away from the end of the island where the ferry docks and headed for the town on the opposite end because it was nearly 4pm and we hadn’t eaten lunch yet.  We chose a sleepy little cafe called Dajio and we not disappointed.  After we finished eating, we hit up a few local shops (Stuff, Ride the Wind Surf Shop, and the Island Ragpicker) before they began closing for the evening.  Next we drove over to the Ocracoke Lighthouse (quite different from the one in Hatteras and unclimbable) before going to look at a historic British cemetery.

img_4893It was getting late, and, expecting a line img_4860on the way back as well, we headed back toward the northern tip of the island.  But we had one last thing we wanted to do: get out at one of the glorious beaches and go swimming!  Since it was late, we elected not to swim, but I waded in pretty far (and got pretty soaked in the process).

 

img_4876When we arrived back at the car line, it was a lot longer than expected.  Sydney and I took a half mile walk to the front of the line and back and got bitten to death by mosquitos. Getting restless, we decided to climb out and back onto the beach to watch the sunset.  It turned out to be a fantastic photo op! The sunset was beautiful and we posed for each other and her mom.

We got back onto the ferry around 8:45pm, starting to get hungry for dinner. Sadly, we were pretty much out of luck for the next 45 minutes, having exhausted all our snacks hours earlier. Sydney and I climbed out of the car and stood at the back of the boat, snuggled together in a beach towel to keep warm.  It felt pretty Titanic style to me 🙂 The ferry ride in the dark was beautiful as we watched the warm glow of Hatteras approaching. When we finally arrived back onshore, we rushed into a pizza shop, Rocco’s, for dinner. The owners probably weren’t too pleased with us, as it was 15 minutes before their closing time, but to our ravenous stomachs, the otherwise mediocre pizza tasted heavenly.  We piled back into the car and headed for home, finally getting there after midnight, but filled with happy memories of a crazy day of fun.

the outer banks

One of my favorite places in the world is the Outer Banks, North Carolina.  My family has had a beach house there since before I can remember, and it is, essentially, one of my favorite places in the world.  Sunny skies, sand, long sleeve shirts, seafood, and saltwater are probably the only things I need in life.  The Outer Banks is actually a set of barrier islands, separating mainland North Carolina from the Atlantic Ocean.  In between the islands and the mainland is the “Sound” (its specific name varies in different spots).  The sound is much calmer and much warmer than the ocean, like a lake, and ofimg_4817fers the opportunity to do some other water activities that simply aren’t possible on the rough northern Atlantic.

Dates of my visit: it varies every year, but we usually go in March or April (my spring break) and June

What to do:

  1. Climb a lighthouse!  We stay in the northern part of the island, so every so often we pack up and head north to Corolla to climb the Currituck Lighthouse.
  2. Go shopping!  The town of Duck is a personal favorite.  With a boardwalk connecting its waterfront shops on the sound-side of the island, it’s easy to traverse this little town.  Some of my favorite shops include:
    1. Gray’s – typical souvenirs, various locations
    2. The Farmer’s Daughter – typical souvenirs (including some my favorite pocket tee vendors!), various locations
    3. Kitty Hawk Surf Co. – typical souvenirs, various locations
    4. Islands by Amity – fun, stylish clothing – two locations in the Waterfront Shops
    5. The Christmas Shop – all things christmas!  It’s a little kooky but also tons of fun, various locations
    6. Tanger Outlets – always a fun visit, 7100 S Croatan Hwy #45, Nags Head, NC 27959
  3. Climb Jockey’s Ridge!  This giant sand dune offers tons of fun for all ages.  Bring a sled or even a cardboard box and slide down the hills, then climb back up and start again!  I recommend going on a cool, cloudy day (it gets hot up there!) and wearing flip flops or sandals that you won’t miss should you take them off and lose them.
  4. Visit historic Roanoke Island!  This island is home to America’s first (albeit failed) colony.  You can explore the history park there and see a performance of The Lost Colony, America’s longest running outdoor drama.
  5. Rent a kayak or go parasailing!  The Outer Banks offers plenty of opportunities for water sports.  You can kayak or stand-up paddleboard on the ocean or the sound, and companies will take you parasailing or offer surfing lessons.  Some of my family’s favorite companies are Kitty hawk Kites (various locations) and Ocean Atlantic Rentals (1194 Duck Rd, Kitty Hawk, NC 27949).
  6. Take a day trip to Ocracoke – blog post about this trip here.
  7. If nothing else, take a towel to the beach and relax!  Read a book, go swimming, try your hand at boogie-boarding, or take a nap and work on your tan (with sunscreen, of course!)

Places to eat:

  1. Kill Devil Grill: modern twists on classic American fare and seafood – a family favorite! Be sure to try the key lime pie! (2008 S Virginia Dare Trail, Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948)
  2. Rundown Cafe: classic American food and seafood (5218 Virginia Dare Trail, Kitty Hawk, NC 27949)

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    Smoothie bowl from The Spot

  3. The Spot: smoothie bowls – I LOVE a good smoothie bowl! (805 S Croatan Hwy, Nags Head, NC 27959)
  4. Wave Pizza: pizza, duh. (1190 Duck Rd, Duck, NC 27949)
  5. Coastal Cravings: a fun lunch spot – delicious North Carolina barbecue! (1209 Duck Rd, Kitty Hawk, NC 27949)
  6. Coastal Cantina: a fun, sound-side dinner option that often has live music! (1236 Duck Rd, Duck, NC 27949)
  7. Tortugas Lie: dive-y burger and seafood joint (3016 S Virginia Dare Trail, Nags Head, NC 27959)
  8. Ortegaz: tex-mex – very yummy! (201 Sir Walter Raleigh St, Manteo, NC 27954)

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    Duck Donuts!!!

  9. Duck Donuts: the best place ever. Period. No arguments. I mean, create-your-own donuts! What could be better?! (various locations – not all of them are in the Outer Banks!)
  10. American Pie: pizza and ice cream, but I personally think that their ice cream is superior to any other (1600 S Virginia Dare Trail, Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948)

img_0647Where to stay:

I strongly recommend staying in a beach house rather than a hotel or condo. They add to the beachy feel to the vacation and each house has something different to offer! Many have
private pools and/or hot tubs. In addition, the beaches in residential neighborhoods are far less crowded than the ones near hotels. For less crowded beaches, the towns of Southern Shores, Duck, and Kitty Hawk are a safe bet.