Passing through Waco, Texas

Last week I was able to spend a day visiting Waco, TX; i.e. the home of Fixer Upper! Months beforehand when I made plans to attend my good friend’s wedding, I knew that it wasn’t an option for me to drive from Dallas to College Station without making a stopover in the city that has become popular to visit thanks to the work of Chip and Joanna Gaines. While there, I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the Magnolia Market at the Silos even if it was raining most of the time, and afterwards I also visited the old, historical Waco Suspension Bridge and stopped by the Dr. Pepper Museum! Here are some of my favorite photos from the trip! ­čÖé

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I arrived early in the morning, about 45 minutes after the market had opened, so luckily it wasn’t as busy and I was easily able to walk in and look around without feeling too crowded in. There were a lot of beautiful home decorations that showcased Joanna’s design style (I call it farmhouse chic), but unfortunately I didn’t buy anything as I didn’t want to deal with the hassle of transporting large items on the plane back home. Thank goodness they have an online store! ­čśÇ

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The line for the bakery was a little too long for me so I didn’t go in, but I had to take a picture of the exterior because I love the styling!

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One happy visitor all the way from Northern California! I managed to get a picture taken between breaks from all the wind and rain. ­čÖé

 

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I loved all the space present on the grounds where you could just walk around and appreciate the beauty of the gardens, restored silos, and restored grain barn. I don’t know if they would rent out the grounds as a wedding venue, but if they did it would be pretty awesome. ­čśë

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Eventually it was time to head out to see other parts of Waco, and on the way I pulled into a large public parking lot that gave me a great view of the ALICO building, the tallest building in Waco. It was built in 1910, and Fixer Upper shows pictures of it all the time on the show which is why I pulled over for a look.

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Afterwards, I went off to see the Waco Suspension Bridge. It was the first bridge to cross the Brazos River and was opened in 1870. At the time, it was the longest single span suspension bridge in the world. Measuring 475 feet, it enabled businesses to safely transport goods and cattle over the Brazos River in a timely fashion rather than use the river ferries. Standing before the bridge is a large group of sculptures called “Branding the Brazos”, which features cowboys herding longhorn cattle towards the bridge.

 

 

Luckily, the sun came out and the winds blew the rain clouds away later on in the day, so I was able to get a nice panorama of the bridge. ­čÖé

 

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Between the rain during my first visit to the bridge and the sun fully coming out during my second visit, I went to the Dr. Pepper Museum. My dad really loves to drink Dr. Pepper which is why I decided to go in the first place, and I’m glad I did because it was really interesting! The museum is not associated with the official Dr. Pepper company and only charges $10 for admission, so it’s a pretty good price to see a lot of cool Dr. Pepper history.

Dr. Pepper originated in Waco in the 1880’s from pharmacist Charles Alderton (I honestly didn’t know that Dr. Pepper had been around for so long!), and the museum building above is actually where they used to bottle Dr. Pepper for a while in the early 1900’s.

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Above are some examples of the cool Dr. Pepper advertisements they used to run over the past century.

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They even had a horse statue covered in Dr. Pepper bottle caps with shredded Dr. Pepper cans making up the mane and tail. It definitely was one of my favorite pieces in the museum.

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The museum was spread out between two buildings, and above is the second building with neon Dr. Pepper lights that I believe originated from the Dallas production warehouse.

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I noticed that a lot of the advertisements from the early years of Dr. Pepper pushed that there were three times that were best to drink Dr. Pepper: at 10, 2, and 4. Here you can see where they showcase this idea in the museum’s large Dr. Pepper plant diorama.

And that concludes my day trip to Waco while I was in Texas last weekend! Hopefully I’ll be able to visit again as there were several other places I wanted to go to in town that I couldn’t because of time constraints. Waco definitely seemed like a cool up and coming city, and I’m glad I had the opportunity to stop by! In the future if I’m ever able to move back to Texas, Waco for sure will be on my list of possible cities to move to. ­čÖé

 

7 Months Later

Yesterday marked 7 months since my graduation from college, and I can’t believe how fast time has gone by! Between then and now I haven’t done many things exciting enough to post about on Travels Ablog, though I have enjoyed my time relaxing from school and visiting friends and family. Recently, I’ve gotten a part-time job at a retail store that I like while I wait to get responses to some jobs I’ve applied for at universities in several departments that I find interesting. I think I’d really enjoy working in a university setting, so hopefully I’ll have a chance at starting my long-term career soon!

Going back to May though when I graduated, I thought I’d share some of my favorite photos from when my parents and I visited Southern California to celebrate my completion of college. We spent a week down there and visited a lot of cool places like the Aquarium of the Pacific, Disneyland, California Adventure, CA State University Fullerton Arboretum, and the Petersen Automotive Museum. I had a really great time and was glad I was able to share it with my parents. I hope you find some of my favorite photos interesting! ­čÖé

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, seahorses are my favorite sea creatures! ÔŁĄ The ones just below are Pacific Seahorses, and further down are Weedy and Leafy Seadragons.

The Blue Tang, Clownfish, Bluespotted Stingray, and Australian Rainbow Lorikeets were beautiful to look at!

 

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Of course, many delicious desserts were eaten throughout my week long stay in Southern California, with the Tuxedo Cheesecake from the Cheesecake factory being the best so far.

I also had to take some obligatory pose pics (for proof I really was there of course! XD).

In my opinion, California Adventure had the better rides. Tower of Terror was my favorite, though I felt the ride was shorter than the one I rode in Disney World with my mom several years ago. I wish it had been longer. ­čśŽ

 

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California Adventure can’t beat Disneyland though when it comes to ambiance. I mean, it’s Disneyland of course!

Everything was decorated for Disneyland’s 60 year Diamond celebration, making the park seem “extra sparkly”. ­čÖé

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While I was in Downtown Disney at the Rainforest Cafe, I came across a really cool and really big pink Himalayan Salt Lamp. I had to have it, and it now gives my room a nice, pink glow at night. Getting it from the restaurant through Disneyland security and to the shuttle bus was quite interesting though, as I had to carry it a little over 1/2 a mile and it weighed about 30 pounds. The guards seemed amused as I explained why I was taking it through Disneyland security with me. ­čśŤ

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Towards the end of the week we made a last minute decision to visit the arboretum at the CA State Fullerton campus. There were so many colorful flowers there!

At the end of the week as we were driving back home, we stopped in Los Angeles so we could visit the Petersen Automotive Museum. It was filled to the brim with awesome cars, and the vault tour was even better! (No photos allowed on that one though.) I highly recommend visiting if you like cool cars and are in the LA area. I would love to go back if I was ever down in LA again.

That’s it for my favorite photos from last May, and I’m looking forward to bringing more to you on Travels Ablog as I explore California and the Pacific Northwest! Hopefully a trip to Alaska, Seattle, and Vancouver will be in the cards for next year too and I’ll get to travel to more amazing places! ­čÖé

 

University of New Mexico Campus Pictures

Just as I’ve done with the Leeds and Newcastle campuses, today’s post features pictures of the Main Campus location at my home school, the University of New Mexico! The majority of these pictures were taken just a couple of days ago, but there are some pictures shown here that were taken a while ago over the past couple of months and years so some difference in the weather and greenery is noticeable. Also, as UNM is a pretty large campus, I only have pictures of sections on campus that I spent the most time at.

The one thing I love most about UNM is how much sun we get here. It definitely can’t be beat when being compared to Leeds and Newcastle! It’s crazy to think I only have 3 1/2 more weeks here before I’ll be done with university forever and be returning to California indefinitely…

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This is a statue in front of one of the main car entrances to the campus commemorating previous “Lobos”/Students (our school mascot) who served and died in World War 2.

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In-between the Architecture/Fine Arts Library building and the Visitors Parking Structure.

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The Architecture/Fine Arts Library Building from outside of campus on Central Avenue/Old Route 66 in Albuquerque.

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Looking east onto Central Avenue from the top of the Architecture building where the Fine Arts Library is located. Great views!

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Looking down from the Fine Arts Library to Frontier Restaurant on Central Avenue, a historical and iconic restaurant in Abq (which also sells great flour tortillas!).

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With Frontier Restaurant directly behind me, looking out at the main pedestrian entrance to UNM.

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Standing at the top of the Visitors Parking Structure  and looking down onto campus.

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The top of the Johnson Sports Gym for students.

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Looking down at the Popejoy Hall quad, with the Student Union Building behind the trees.

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Popejoy Hall, the only theater in New Mexico that presents traveling Broadway plays. I finally had my first event visit here a couple of months ago when I went to go see the Irish “Riverdance” group.

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The Student Union Building (or SUB for short). ­čÖé

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The main walkway alongside the SUB heading deeper into campus.

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Seating area behind the SUB leading into the Zimmerman Library plaza.

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SUB facing Mesa Vista
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Looking at Mesa Vista Hall from the 3rd floor outdoor patio in the SUB.

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Zimmerman Library plaza.

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The Humanities building opposite Zimmerman Library.

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Walking west from the plaza you head towards the UNM Duckpond.

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These flowers reminded me a little bit of Texas Bluebonnets…

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The Duckpond.

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Mitchell Hall, beside the Duck Pond, where I’ve had a lot of classes over the past several years.

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The famous Center of the Universe sculpture, sitting beside Ortega Hall, where I’ve also had a lot of classes over the years. To the right of Ortega and the sculpture is the previously mentioned Mitchell Hall.

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Going back across campus to the far east side, there is Johnson field, where many leisurely activities are played and many P.E. classes held. Then at the eastern boundary line of the Main Campus there is Redondo Village apartments with the beautiful Sandia Mountains off in the distance, the only place on campus that I’ve chosen to live whenever I haven’t been abroad. My favorite residence/apartment hall! (Yay for private single rooms within an apartment! ­čśÇ )

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Got a glimpse a couple of months ago from my living room of some hot-air balloons floating over the city!

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My final-semester-of-college bedroom. After carrying a lot of stuff with me from California to New Mexico and back and somewhat less when I went all over the world, I brought as little as I could with me for my final four months of college to make it easier on myself.

And that concludes my pictures of the UNM campus! It’ll be sad not walking around campus anymore, but nevertheless I am glad that graduation is coming my way! ­čÖé

Back to the Past: Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

In the Fall of my freshman year of college, I had the opportunity to go to the world famous Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. Taking place over 9 days in October, the Fiesta offers both morning and evening sessions to visit, called Mass Ascensions and Balloon Glows. When I visited with my friends, we went to a Mass Ascension, meaning we had to get up super early in the morning so we could enter the fiesta grounds before sunrise. Even though it was really cold, the experience was so worth it! My favorite part was walking through the balloon fields among all the deflated hot-air balloons as the pilots prepared to fill them up with air and take off. When the Mass Ascension did officially begin, it was really cool to see groups of hot-air balloons taking flight all at once. I haven’t been able to go to another Balloon Fiesta since my freshman year, but hopefully in the future I’ll be able to visit New Mexico again for vacation and go to another Mass Ascension (and also a Balloon Glow!).

If you’re interested in finding out more about the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, you can visit the Albuquerque Visitors Bureau here.

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Back to the Past: First visit to Albuquerque

Nearly 3 1/2 years ago I made my first trip to Albuquerque to investigate if the University of New Mexico was the place I wanted to be. I remember my first impression of this high desert city was that it looked very much like a dry, barren desert, but instead of being flat with nothing notable for miles around there was a sloping terrain and massive mountains towering over the east of the city. Still, after being in the hill country of Texas and California, the locale was a bit of a shock to my system (especially with all of the adobe themed buildings!). But, being here for the past couple of years (when I wasn’t abroad) has made me appreciate the natural beauty that surrounds Albuquerque, especially the copious amounts of clear blue skies and warm, sunny weather.

Since I had some decent photos of my first visit here, I thought to open up my final semester in Albuquerque on my blog I would return to some of my past experiences first.

During the weekend that my dad and I took to fly down to Albuquerque in September of 2012 to check out UNM, we took the Sandia Peak Tramway up to the Cibola National Forest park and also visited the American International Rattlesnake Museum. I haven’t visited these places since I started college (not having a car and being too busy are two big roadblocks to seeing anything in Albuquerque as a college student), but it would be nice in the future to return again.

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When taking the Sandia Peak Tramway, you travel 2.7 miles eastwards up the mountain, arriving at over 10,000 feet at the top observation deck. As you walk through the paths of the Cibola National Forest looking westwards, you get an 11,000 square mile panoramic view of Albuquerque and the Rio Grande Valley in “The Land of Enchantment”. More information about visiting the Tramway can be found: here.

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(This photo happens to be looking out east over the mountains instead of west over Albuquerque.)

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I remember when I visited it was surprisingly chilly even with the sun out, as the season was slowly changing into autumn. There were many beautiful deciduous trees among the coniferous trees whose leaves were turning lovely shades of orange, yellow, and red.

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Being up at the top of the mountains allowed for some great views of Albuquerque down below. It may be hard to see in picture, but Albuquerque is laid out in a grid, making it very easy to get around as long as you know the major roads and where they intersect. (It also helps that you can always identify which direction you’re going in based on the mountains being to the east of the city.)

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The Tramway first opened in May of 1966, can carry a maximum rate of 200 people per hour, and makes around 10,500 trips up and down the mountain every year. Robert Nordhaus and Ben Abruzzo are the men who came up with the idea for the creation of the Tramway. More information about the history of the Tramway can be found: here.

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I can’t believe I had just started my senior year of high school when my dad and I visited, and now in under 3 months I’ll be graduating college and leaving Albuquerque!

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These were the postcards I bought in the gift shop at the base of the Tramway. They’ve been safely stowed in my travel journal that I bought for when I visited Cannes, France in July 2014 (though those posts will be for another day).

After visiting the Tramway, my dad and I visited the American International Rattlesnake Museum. It is located near the main plaza in Old Town Albuquerque. I thought it was a super cool museum, and I would love to try and go back and visit. The museum opened in May of 1990, and has 34 different species of rattlesnakes, along with other desert animals. More information from their website can be found: here.

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Canebrake Rattlesnake.

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Northwestern Neotropical Rattlesnake (Not an Albino!)

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Tiger Rattlesnake.

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Western Diamondback Rattlesnake (left), and Bullsnake (right: non-venomous).

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Western Diamondback Rattlesnake – Amelanistic (Albino)

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Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake.

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Prairie Rattlesnake.

With that, I conclude my revisit of my first trip to Albuquerque. I have about two more posts coming up about pictures I’ve previously taken in Albuquerque, and then hopefully in April I’ll be able to visit some new places in Albuquerque to post about here before I graduate in May, as my rough draft of my senior thesis will be done by then so I’ll have more free time!

I can’t wait to post new adventures here on TravelsAblog! ­čÖé

 

 

Wine Tasting at Castello di Amarosa

This past Monday I went wine tasting with my parents at the beautiful Castello di Amarosa just outside Calistoga in Napa Valley. Dario Sattui is the owner and creator of this Tuscan castle, who also owns and built up the famous V. Sattui winery in the footsteps of his great-grandfather. Castello di Amarosa has only been open since 2007 after 30 years of researching and building the castle using methods and materials that would have been present in medieval 13th century Italy, allowing this “Castle of Love” to be as authentic as possible. It it a truly stunning architectural work, and I really felt like I was back in Europe when our guide was taking us through the castle grounds. I’m so glad that we visited. ­čÖé

My parents and I took part of the guided tour with a cheese and wine pairing at the end, totaling about 1 hour and 45 minutes in length. It was definitely worth it, and afterwards we were allowed to walk around parts of the castle by ourselves that weren’t being used for wine production.

If you want to find out more about Castello di Amarosa, you can visit its main website here, or more specifically visit Dario Sattui’s blog about the history of his castle here.

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It’s too bad that it was a rainy day when we visited, but the castle was still just as beautiful. ­čÖé

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Am I back in Europe? It sure felt like it!

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In order to be “authentic”, the castle actually has to have livestock on its grounds! I love that they chose sheep! ÔŁĄ

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A stunning, impressive entrance to this “old” castle.

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Another requirement for the castle to be considered “authentic” is to have a moat…

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… and a drawbridge! I wonder if they’ve ever had to use it. ­čśë

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One thing that I noticed while walking around the castle is that much of the metalwork is dragon themed. All the metal rings attached to the outside of the castle were being held by metal dragons (a place to tie up your horse?)…

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…and even the faucets in the bathroom were shaped like dragons! (I have to say this was so cool. I really want these in my own bathroom!)

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This is the Great Hall. Two brothers hand painted all these Italian-style frescoes you see in here floor to ceiling. Amazing!

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A beautiful view of Napa Valley. One of the many great features of Northern California. ­čÖé

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These vats were currently fermenting white wine (though the castle only grows red grapes on its grounds due to the climate). The white grapes were brought in from vines growing along the coast.

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This barrel was taller than me! That’s a lot of wine!

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Part of our guided tour included us being led through part of the castle’s MASSIVE underground (4 levels, almost 80,000 square feet, and over 80 rooms to be exact). We didn’t go through the whole underground though, only a tiny part of it.

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We also visited the castle’s underground armory and dungeon!

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This is one of the underground wine cellars. It’s so cool!

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After our tour around and under the castle, our guide led us back up the courtyard so we could go into the special tasting room for our cheese and wine pairing.

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Everything was so elegant, I loved it!

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These were the cheeses that paired with the seven wines we tasted. The only one that matters to me is the far left. It is called Mt. Tam, and it is an amazing Triple Cr├Ęme Brie made by Cowgirl Creamery. It is so delicious! SO. DELICIOUS.

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Out of the seven wines that we tasted, the two whites were my favorite, but the picture of the red wine in a glass looked better so that’s what ended up here. Between the two whites, I preferred the Pinot Bianco to the Chardonnay.

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And that concludes my visit to Castello di Amarosa! I’m really hoping I’ll be able to come back and visit after I graduate for their Midsummer Medieval Festival in June. If you’re ever wine tasting in Napa Valley, you must come to this beautiful castle and winery! ­čÖé

 

 

Apple Hill

Ever since my family and I moved to California, almost yearly we have made the drive out to Apple Hill, which is situated around Camino and Placerville. It’s a long drive, but it’s worth it when you find yourself on the edge of the Eldorado National Forest on the way to Lake Tahoe. Apple Hill is a community of over 50 apple and fruit farms, bake shops, wineries, and Christmas Tree farms, and has been a popular family attraction since the growers association began in 1964.

I haven’t been able to go for the past several years since during it’s open season in the fall and winter I’ve been away in New Mexico for college. So, I was really happy that I was able to visit Apple Hill this year, all because my semester in Australia ended earlier than my normal semesters in New Mexico, allowing me to come home at the end of November instead of halfway through December. When I visited Apple Hill this year, it really was an “apple-packed” weekend as the previous day my parents and I had driven out to Sebastopol to visit the Ace Cider company.

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The first Apple Hill Grower we visited was High Hill Ranch. High Hill Ranch is considered one of the main growers among the Apple Hill members, and always has a lot of apple products on sale along with many arts and crafts stands. My family and I have always gone to High Hill Ranch every time we’ve made it out to Apple Hill. They sell some awesome Apple Cider donuts (non-alcoholic apple cider), along with Rainbow Orchards. Rainbow Orchard’s Apple Cider donuts are more firm than High Hill Ranch’s, which I like better.

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A big attraction at High Hill Ranch is the pond where you can pay to catch and release fish. It’s very popular with younger kids.

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Near the walking entrance to High Hill Ranch, just before the lodge is this old tractor, where the wheels were used to help break up the dirt in the apple fields. I’ve never seen a tractor like it.

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Opposite the lodge (where apple pies are sold and the arts and crafts stands are located) is the covered market where all types of apple products are sold. Pink Lady apples are my favorite kind of apple as they’re very sweet (but they probably wouldn’t be any good for hard cider).

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Once you’ve walked all around High Hill Ranch (and visited the Fudge Factory Farm at the back), when you head back towards parking you can stop and walk through a bit of the orchards. It’s very pretty in person.

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After we left High Hill Ranch, we drove over to Honey Bear Ranch. It was the first time we had ever visited, and we had mainly come to try their hard cider.

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We tasted several of their apple ciders and dessert wines, and ultimately, I bought a couple of bottles of their Gold Miner’s Dry Cider.

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Orso Dolce Gold Miner’s is the first hard cider I’ve tried that has a 10% alcohol content. Every other cider I’ve come across is 6.9% or under. I really liked its dryness. I think this will be pretty difficult to find in stores though once I run out. I guess I’ll have to just come back and buy more every year when I visit Apple Hill!

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The last Apple Hill member we stopped by for the day was O’Halloran’s Apple Trail Ranch. We read in the Apple Hill brochure that there was a 1 mile Nature Walk on the property, so we decided to stop by and check it out. The sun had finally come out from behind the clouds when we arrived, so it turned out to be a really nice walk.

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We came across several wild rabbits and a herd of deer, but they were too far away to show up in any pictures I took. Still, it was really cool to see them while we were walking around. ­čÖé

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It looks like some apples didn’t make it off the tree! More food for the deer!

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At the end of the walk we came across a large bush with vibrant red berries. I believe it is called a Firethorn bush, and it was beautiful!

And so ends another visit to Apple Hill. Just one more year before I get to visit again! ­čÖé

A Trip to the Ace Cider Tasting Room and The Barlow

A couple of weeks back after my return from Australia, my parents and I took a trip up to the Ace Cider Tasting Room in Sebastopol to try some California Hard Cider. I’ve discovered that hard cider is somewhat difficult to find in the United States compared to England and Australia, so I was excited to find out that there was a “local” cider company.

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The Ace-in-the-Hole Pub tasting room is only open on Fridays from 2pm-5pm, but the drive up through beautiful Sonoma County is worth it to visit during their limited public hours. The tasting room itself is actually located at the back of Ace’s warehouse distribution center, so when you arrive you have to drive around the steel warehouses to find the entrance.

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I liked the decorations that they placed around the entrance to the tasting room, and it was too bad that it was cold outside or else my parents and I would have sat at their outdoor tables. I would love to come back out here when the weather is warmer!

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The inside of the pub had a lot of interesting articles and pictures on the walls talking about the local area and the cider company itself. The rocket fashioned out of Ace Cider advertisements was my favorite. ­čÖé

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There’s also a little stage set up for when local musicians come over to play. There wasn’t any live music though on the day that we visited.

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My parents and I each bought a tasting platter that had samples of Ace’s nine ciders. They were The Joker, Black Jack 21,┬á Pineapple, Pear, Pumpkin, Apple Honey, Berry, Apple, and Space Bloody Orange ciders.

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While I was tasting all nine different ciders, I wrote some notes down so I would remember what I thought of each cider. In short, my favorite was The Joker cider. It was a nice, dry apple cider, similar to what I was used to drinking abroad (like Strongbow and Magners/Bulmers). The Black Jack 21 was also an apple cider, but a lot more dry than The Joker and with a higher alcohol content. I liked this too, but not as much as The Joker.

I wasn’t very into the Pineapple cider as I don’t like pineapples in general. The Pear cider was surprisingly alright. I don’t like pears and I don’t like other pear ciders that I’ve tasted, but Ace’s Pear cider surprised me. I wouldn’t purposely go out and buy just this one flavor, but if it was offered to me I’d actually be okay with drinking it. My mom and dad really liked the Pear cider.

The Pumpkin cider was interesting. There was a definite “pumpkin spice” flavor to it, but I don’t know if I could drink a whole bottle. While I like pumpkin bread, I don’t really like other pumpkin flavored things, so I don’t think I could get past a shot of this. The Apple Honey Cider was okay. I don’t like honey and haven’t eaten it much, so when I tried this I could taste the apple and…something else, which I presume was the honey, but I wouldn’t drink it again. It felt like an odd combination to me.

The Berry Cider reminded me of grape juice that one would drink at a church communion but with a slight alcoholic taste. It’s funny because technically alcoholic grape juice is wine, but the alcohol content of this cider was so low (under 6.9%) that I feel it is better described as slightly alcoholic grape juice rather than wine. My parents and I liked this cider a lot, so I would buy this one as a back up if a store was out of any apple cider brands that I liked.

Ace’s Apple Cider is a very sweet apple cider in my opinion compared to The Joker and Black Jack 21. It wasn’t very dry at all, so I’d struggle to drink this. In contrast, my mother really liked this regular Apple Cider compared to the other two dry offerings. The Space Bloody Orange cider was pretty good. It is an unfiltered cider, and the strong citrus taste was palatable. It wouldn’t be my first go-to, but it was still pretty decent. It is the newest of the cider flavors that Ace offers.

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In the end, we bought several bottles of The Joker, Pear, and Berry ciders. It was a successful visit, and I’m glad that I now have an American Cider brand that I can enjoy! ­čÖé

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Afterwards, we decided to stop by and walk around The Barlow, which is a cool outdoor shopping area in Sebastopol in place of where an old apple cannery used to operate. The businesses that fill up these old buildings comprise of wine makers, food producers, and artisans. It was pretty quiet when we were there as it was before 5:30pm, and this place tends to get busier at night once the public is off of work.

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While walking around, we stopped for crepes! They were delicious!

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Christmas trees are always pretty!

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In one area of The Barlow there was an outdoor fire pit. It was really nice and warm. ­čÖé

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After we finished walking through The Barlow, my parents and I then drove over to down town Santa Rosa so we could have dinner at Stout Brothers, an Irish Pub and Restaurant. It was so cool! It was a two story pub, and it really reminded me of the pub my parents and I visited when we were in Galway, Ireland. It’s too bad that it’s not closer to where I live. ­čśŽ

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The first place that I’ve come across Bulmers/Magners in the United States. ÔŁĄ (Bulmers and Magners are the same cider, but in the Republic of Ireland it is called Bulmers and in the UK and rest of the world it is called Magners. I don’t know why there is a name difference, but it all tastes the same!)

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Since I was still full from the crepe I ate earlier, I only got a Guinness infused Ghirardelli brownie with vanilla ice cream, hot fudge, and Bailey’s sauce. It was great! Hopefully in the future I’ll be able to come back for a full dinner at Stout Brothers!

Overall, I had a successful day trip up in Sonoma County, and I’m looking forward to when I have the time to make another visit. ­čÖé

 

Explore New Territory

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As one journey ends, another will begin.

Well, this is it! December 2015. Last December I remember coming home from Albuquerque to my family in Northern California and counting down the weeks to when I would be boarding a plane in January and flying over to Leeds, England for my first semester long overseas experience. Then before I knew it, it was the end of June and I was back home for a mere 2 weeks before boarding another plane and flying in the opposite direction to the other side of the world in Newcastle, Australia for another semester overseas.

Last December, this December seemed so far away, and yet here I am back in Northern California, unsure of when the next time that I venture abroad will be. But I’m so grateful for all the time that has already come and past.

My 10 1/2 months of study abroad may be over, but I’ve had an awesome time and I’m so thankful to God for all the amazing adventures and memories that I’ve been blessed to make on opposite ends of the globe in England and Australia. God is good, and I can’t wait to see what other opportunities he makes available for me!

After my time abroad, I believe the most important things that have happened to me are how much more independent I’ve become, how much more confidence I’ve developed in myself, and how much more I’ve learned to trust God and his plans for my life. I feel more like an “actual adult” now than I ever did before I left the United States last December, and for that I am grateful as I begin to make moves towards life after university.

I now find myself facing graduation in May 2016, and leading up to that time one final semester of university and an undergraduate thesis to top it all off! I’m very excited to be completing my Bachelor’s of Arts in Asian Studies and a Minor in French in 3 years instead of 4 (yay for high school AP classes!), even though that means I will not be studying abroad in Japan and France for a semester each during my time in college like I had originally hoped. Still, there is plenty of time for me to visit in the years after I graduate, so I feel at peace with where I am right now.

In the future though, I will definitely be making plans to visit Canada, Iceland, France, and Japan, and if I have the opportunity to once again visit England and Australia I will definitely take it! ­čÖé

For now though, while I may not be traveling “abroad”, I will still be traveling around places in the United States while I spend time with my family and then return to Albuquerque to finish my degree, and I will be making sure to post whatever interesting takes place.

After all, as The Secret Life of Walter Mitty tumblr page suggests…

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And on that subject, while I’ve always wanted to study abroad, I have to give credit to The Secret Life of Walter Mitty for further inspiring me to travel abroad as much as I can in this life God has given me. If you haven’t seen this movie yet directed by Ben Stiller, please do! It’s worth it. ­čÖé

Finally, to everyone who has followed along on my blog, I want to say Thank You! I hope that you all enjoy the future posts about my travels during my time home in the United States. ­čÖé

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ÔÇťTo see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, to draw closer, to find each other and to feel. That is the purpose of life.ÔÇŁ ÔÇô The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)

A Trip to the Beaches

Last Monday, I took a trip to the beaches in Newcastle. The weather had finally cleared up after several days of cloudy skies and rain, so it was a great last minute decision to hop on the bus and head to downtown Newcastle. I’ve never really liked swimming or hanging out at the beach, so I do have to say that this was the first time in the whole semester that I visited any of the beaches in Newcastle! Hey, at least I made it with three weeks to spare before my time in Newcastle comes to an end. ­čÖé

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I started out with walking along the wharf next to Newcastle Harbour as I headed out towards Horseshoe and Nobbys beaches.

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On my way I passed through the Foreshore park and glimpsed a bit of the Fort Scratchley Historical Site.

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I thought about visiting Fort Scratchley…but then I remembered that old military sites never really interested me, and I didn’t want to walk around and climb the hill to get to the museum, so I passed the opportunity up.

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I finally made my way out on the pathway that leads to Nobbys Lighthouse, and got a nice view of Horseshoe Beach, which is the only beach where dogs are allowed.

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On the opposite side of the pathway, facing the ocean, is Nobbys beach with the lighthouse far off in the distance.

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The closer you get to the lighthouse, some small sand dunes start to pop up that you can traverse if you feel like it.

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A cool color arrangement of rocks facing the harbour side of the pathway.

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The edge of Nobbys beach, with the lighthouse overlooking the ocean and harbour.

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The pathway continues even further out into the water to serve as a wave barrier and keep the waters more calm within the harbour.

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After I stopped by the lighthouse, I turned around and made my way back before coming across a path in the sand that would let me cut down to the beach.

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Nobbys beach is quite a large beach, and it is really nice. It would be a nice place to spend the day laying in the sand and swimming in the ocean, if I was into those kind of activities.

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I then started to make my way south-west along the Newcastle peninsula towards Newcastle beach. On the way, I passed lots of large rock pools that were well protected from the main surf. I’d probably feel safer swimming here than out in the open water. When I went by a guy was actually doing just that.

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After a short walk around the peninsula past the Newcastle Ocean Baths, I came upon Newcastle Beach. It is smaller than Nobbys Beach, but still seems nice enough.

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And that concludes my day trip to the beaches in Newcastle! ­čÖé