Three Days Backpacking in Young Lakes Yosemite

Highlights Of Our Yosemite Hike:

  • The Alpine Meadows!
  • Glorious, sweeping views over both lakes – lounging above the cloud line
  • Falling sleep under a sky slowing filling with stars and the glittering Milky Way
  • Deer prancing up to our tent, ground hogs playing

In July, I went on my very first back packing trip to Sunol Regional Park, and in a surprising turn of events fell completely in love with it! I went on this trip to prepare for an upcoming four day hike to Young Lakes Yosemite. I wanted to give myself a taste of what I might be taking on. 

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On Friday, we took a half day at work, and drove to Tuoleme Meadows (stopping at In N Out for dinner  – oooh), and camped at the Tuolumne Meadows Campground so that we could spend the first evening at elevation adjusting. We woke up early Saturday morning, picked up our permit and were at the trail head and hiking by 8:30am.

Details: Young Lakes, Yosemite National Park

Trail Head At:  Meadow Tuolumne

Length: 13.2 Miles Give or Take,  6.6 Miles Each Way

Elevation Begins At: 8,584 

Top Lake Elevation: 10,218 

First things first – this hike is insanely gorgeous

Really, about every two miles or so, you are rewarded with the most stunning, take your breath away, panoramic views.

The first half mile is a steep ascent, (keep in mind that this is a pretty high elevation, especially for a newbie, so I was absolutely dragging ass). When we came across this magnificent meadow, we knew it was the perfect break spot. Surrounded by pines and snow capped mountains, featuring a babbling brook, wildflowers and a light breeze, we dropped our paths, collapsed and lounged in the grass, listening to the wind through the pines.

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20190803_132126We carried on to the bottom lake, where we perched on a rock by the water’s edge and stopped for lunch. PB + crackers for me,  salami and cheese for Brad. In and of itself, this lake is a gorgeous sight, but Brad insisted the upper most lake was even more gorgeous and so off we went.

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We forged on to the middle lake, which as Brad promised was also breathtaking.  By this time we had walked about 6 miles, most of it steep. We stopped to choose a place for a tent, when mosquitoes swarmed. It was pure carnage. We had been attacked each time we stopped for a rest along the trail – and those little assholes bit me on every inch of exposed area, including through my pants, but we had managed to continue hiking. This time, it was a total massacre. There was nothing for it – we frantically put up the tent as we were covered by grey buzzing swarms and leapt inside. I tried not to cry.

While we rested in the tent, snacking on dark peanut butter protein bars and wondering what in the hell we were going to do, a massive doe strolled up to our tent, staring curiously at us with her golden eyes. “Hello, beautiful,” we whispered.

Shortly following the deer, two hikers tore by, shouting out that mosquitoes were much better if we could manage to make it to the topmost lake. Originally, we had planned to stop at the second lake, spend the night and hike the last steep mile to the top lake in the morning. There was nothing else for it. While Brad frantically dismantled the tent shouting “go, go go!” I hurtled up the mountain, scrambling over rocks and waterfalls, pulling myself up by handholds.

When we reached the meadow, I gasped, overwhelmed by the natural beauty.

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Alpine Meadows – this is some angels singing, Lord of the Rings magic, alpine beauty. 

As we breathed in the alpine air and basked in the beauty of this secluded lake, we quickly realized the mosquitoes were still attacking, and scrambled up another rock to the most glorious sweeping views overlooking both the lower lakes. We found the perfect place to pitch our tent and leapt in.

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Once inside the tent, we finally relaxed. We made dinner, and shared chocolate mint Cliff Bars (which I highly recommend) while we reveled in Yosemite’s exceptional beauty. We sipped Kahlua and hot chocolate as the sky slowly filled with stars and fell asleep under the glittering Milky Way.

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We woke up in the morning to ground hogs scampering and playing near our tent. We sipped Kahlua coffee’s (we needed to fortify ourselves you guys) and decided there was no point staying at the top lake, breathtakingly gorgeous as it was, if we couldn’t leave the tent. We put away our things, and hurtled back down the mountain.

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The hike back down the mountain was tough. We were exhausted and achy from the seven mile ascent the day before. Climbing down the waterfall was tricker than going up, and stopping for breaks was difficult because of the mosquitos swarms, but completing 14 miles in two days was very empowering.  And the first sip of icy cold diet coke once we reached the car was incomparable.

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I HIKED to this gorgeous place! (Notice the outfit change. Yep. I’m wearing Brad’s pants and top. Take that mosquito f**kers.)

Final note &  some background info: I am a car camping kind of gal. We usually go about 5 + times a year. We have our favorites:  a very specific, stunning campsite at Henry Cowell in the Santa Cruz Redwoods with panoramic views, and Samuel P. Taylor under towering redwoods next to a a little running creek. We can leave work and have our campsite set up and toasting bubbles by sunset. We have our menu set, and there is something so fulfilling about watching the embers die in your campfire, while sipping vino and watching the stars populate the sky. We are also comfortable campers – we have large enough you can stand up in it, we have a blow up bed, it’s glorious. So when Brad suggested backpacking I was very skeptical. I fancy myself outdoorsy, I love nature and wildlife, but I also like to be comfortable. I want a soft bed. I want a restroom. I don’t want to do a massive amount of work. So, the idea of trudging up a mountain hauling over 20 pounds on my back sounded less then ideal. Shut your beautiful fucking mouth, was actually what I believe I said. to Brad when he first floated the idea. Turns out, I was completely wrong. Yes, backpacking is tough. Yes, several times during each trip I thought – why am I doing this to myself?! But the feeling of absolute freedom gazing over a panoramic sweeping view above the cloud lines, knowing that you survived the trip is empowering as hell. 

May the adventure continue! Stay tuned for more backpacking and hiking trips! Coming up – Lake Tahoe and Point Reyes.

 

 

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A Budget Guide to Trader Joe’s Best Sparkling Wine 

I’m Sampling the Budget Bubbly At Trader Joe’s – And Listing the Tastiest Options!

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As an almost-vegetarian returning from living in southern Germany for a year, I was so excited to shop at Trader Joes! I have been dreaming about those pre-made lunch salads for ages. And the Tikka Masala Veggie Burgers. And the pre-peeled/cut veggies, because you guys, that is not a thing in Germany. Want to roast a squash – peel it and cut it up! Feel like pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving – cook down that pumpkin! Yes, I freely admit I am a lazy cook. Cook down a pumpkin – for f**k’s sake. Ain’t no one got time for that! One thing I did love about the German supermarkets (besides the vast array of delectable Milka, which could be a blog post all on it’s own) was the delicious, seriously cheap wine from the surrounding vineyards in Baden Württemberg. Delicious dry whites for under 5 bucks?  GIMMIE.  Kessler bubbles from the 700 year old cellar in the town center for 10 bucks – YASSSS.

In an effort to find some fabulous wines equal to my favorite affordable German faves, I have begun sampling the TJ’s sparkling wine, beginning at the $4 bottles and working my way up. I will continue to pick up different options each trip until I have found the very best budget friendly choices. Here are my first samples:

Schloss Biebrich Sekt ($4.99): Now, this sparkling wine is a bit of a twofer, as it was also sold in our local grocery store in Esslingen. Sekt is the German version of sparkling wine, just as Cava is the Spanish version, etc. This wine is decent for the price. It’s slightly sweet for me, would be alright in a mimosa. I think we can do better.

Schloss Biebrich sparkling wine dry - 0,75L 11% vol

LaGranja Cava Brut ($6.99): I love a good Cava. Reminds me of sipping drinks at rooftop bars on sultry evenings in Seville (yes, this is a shameless plug for my upcoming Andalucia blog. What of it? :D)

Salud Seville Bubbly At a Rooftop Bar
Bubbles at a rooftop bar in Seville. Brad snuck in his cerveza.

Also, the bottle is gorgeous, a goose covered in bright blue molting feathers, partly why I chose this. It is dry, fruity and refreshing, great for evening sipping. Would buy again.

Contadino Pinot Grigio ($4.99): This vino from Venice isn’t exactly sparkling wine, but it is slightly effervescent, super budget friendly and a good sipping wine. It is a staple in our household. Dry and light on the palette..

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Me as a slightly more sophisticated version of Buster…….I love BUBBLES!

Stay tuned for the next round of picks!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Budget Guide to Costco’s Best Sparkling Wines

I’m Sampling the Budget Bubbly At Costco – And Listing the Tastiest Options!

After 18 months living in Germany, where everything is sold in relatively small packaging (no gallon milks to be more specific) I was quite excited to visit Costco – forty Baby Bell cheeses? I NEED THOSE!!

I was especially looking forward to browsing the bubbly and wine options. Costco has some great private label choices, particularly from France and Italy. I really enjoyed the Cremont’s in Paris and Strasbourg and have been on the look-out since. On our latest Costco trip, I picked up 4 different sparkling wines all under 12 bucks and plan to compare them for you. I will continue to pick up different options each trip until I have found the very best budget friendly choices.

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Zardetto Prosecco Brut ($10.99): This was a winner. Crisp, refreshing, bright, great bubbles. Would be tasty in mimosas. Would buy again.

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Prince Alexandre Cremant De Loire Brut ($11.99): Another winner. You really can’t go wrong with a Cremant, in my opinion. Crisp, fruity, and smooth.

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Bellenda Rose Brut Vino Spumante de Venetzia ($11.99): Bright, notes of strawberry, nice bubbles. Slightly on the sweet side, but did not stop us (my hubby and I), from polishing off a bottle while watching A Simple Favor. Note, if you have not seen this movie, Blake Lively really knows how to sell a martini. Also, she’s a total Smokeshow. Would buy again.

Stay tuned for my next round of budget samples!

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Spend a Perfect Week in Cornwall

Highlights of our time in Cornwall:

  • Taking in the sweeping panoramic vistas, and pretending to be characters from Poldark gazing wistfully and passionately at the sea (Brad was such a sport)
  • Hiking the coastal paths and countryside lanes
  • Cream teas! Freshly made warm scones served with jam and Cornish clotted cream
  • Exploring the beaches, coves and tiny thatched roof villages of the Lizard Coast
  • Strolling the enchanting St. Ives town and and visiting 13th century pubs
  • Eating fish & chips with gravy and pies while dangling our feet over the harbor
  • Delicious breakfast at our B&B, drinking tea and eating shortbread while listening to the waves crash outside our room
Porthgwarra Meadow
Dreamy Porthgwarra cove (Also known as the place where Demelza spies Poldark skinny dipping :D)
As I mentioned in a previous post, Cornwall is my heart song. As a huge fan of Masterpiece Theatre’s Poldark, the Cornish Coast has been a destination I have been dreaming about for years, the haunting landscapes and English countryside calling to me to explore. This summer we were lucky enough to visit for an entire week, as part of our  6 week travels and I cannot stop day dreaming about this glorious place. If you have not been, and are a fan of the UK, put this on yo’ bucket list. It is one of my all time favorite places in the world.
St Ives Harbour
St. Ives harbor
Wild, rugged, windswept, and heart achingly beautiful, the Cornish coast located on England’s south western tip is a magical place.
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The coastal path to the village of Zennor – glorious views about 10 minutes into the walk!

The Itinerary

As a huge Poldark fan, there were several must sees for me:

Kynance Cove: where they shot Poldark’s beloved ancestral home Nampara

The Lizard Coast and Land’s End: breathtaking panoramic views where the lands meets the sea. Boasts Polpeor a fantastic clifftop cafe

Porthgwarra: a dreamy, golden, cove used in the show

Porthcurno: a gorgeous beach with sparkling azure waters in Penzance that doubled for Nampara

Cadgwith: a tiny fishing village along the Lizard Coast

Gazing out to sea Poldark Styles
Porthgwarra Cove – gazing out to sea, Demelza styles
Nampara, Lands End Cornwall
Of course we had to brave the weather to hike to Nampara! Kynance Cove – AKA Poldark’s Nampara. Felt like we were at the end of the world.
Porthgwarra Poldark Territory
Porthgwarra Cove – Straight up Poldark country. This is the cove where Demelza spies Ross going for a swim, and also the pilchard scene where all the townspeople rush into the sea!
The hikes in Cornwall are outstanding and varied – filled with sweeping cliff top vistas, crashing waves, rolling mist, turquoise waters, flower filled meadows and winding country paths.
Cornish Country Lane at Land's Inn
Cornish country lane at Land’s End
Nampara, Cornwall
Yes, the Lizard Coast was every bit as windswept and rugged as it looks. Scrambling onto this rock at Kynance Cove was totally worth it, not least because it 100% me feel like Demelza
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Porthcurno Beach – Look at the color of that water!
Cadgwith: We hiked a windy little path to get to this tiny fishing village with its thatched roof cottages and cascading wildflowers. Cadgwith felt like every British novel I have ever loved come to life. We stopped at the local pub, The Cadgwith Cove Inn, and sat by the fireplace for a hearty lunch.
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Am…am I in a Dicken’s novel?!
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Idyllic Cadgwith. I mean….look at this place! My Jane Austin, Elizabeth Gaskell, Agatha Christie and Dickens loving soul is in heaven.
The holiday seaside town of St. Ives, filled with pirate lore and full to bursting with English charm was the perfect home base. I would visit every year if I could. We took a train from London to St. Ives, and the view was outstanding. The trip lasted about 5 hours. We then rented a car for two days so we could explore a few must see sights in Cornwall.
Well, Hello St. Ives!
Hello St. Ives – I’ve been waiting a long time to meet you!
Brad and I had a fabulous time eating seafood take away on the harbor, playing in the kitschy arcade (I am weirdly good at guitar hero, Brad is excellent at skeeball), watching the gulls, nibbling scones and tea and sipping Prosecco at beach cafes while watching the sun emerge from behind the clouds to light the Atlantic glittering turquoise.

Where to Eat

Olives for Cream Tea: An absolute MUST when visiting Cornwall, Olive’s Cream tea is comprised of freshly baked blueberry scones served with jam and Cornish clotted cream. Also served with a steaming pot of Early Grey tea.  Note: You are encouraged to pile your jam and cream as high as possible. I feel like I really nailed this tradition. 
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Cream tea – freshly baked blueberry scones served with jam and Cornish clotted cream at Olive’s Cafe. A must have while in Cornwall! I dream about these daily.
Sloop Inn: Built in the 1300s, this is a straight up pirate bar and I absolutely adored it. I just KNOW pirates smuggled items here.

 

Where to eat: There is  no end to fabulous places to eat in St. Ives. Our favorites were The Balancing Eel for takeaway fish and chips, gravy and pies. We visited this place at least twice and had a wonderful time dangling our feet over the harbor, eating fish & chips and listening to the gulls hoot and shuffle shiftily around us. 

 

We also really enjoyed The Rum Shack, Porthminster Beach Cafe for drinks and churros,  and Hub for excellent fried chicken sandwiches perfect for splitting.

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Hiking the coastal path to Zennor – Glorious views about 10 minutes into the walk!
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The coastal path to the ancient town of Zennor. *Note: we made it about 1/3 of the way there, before turning back for a cream tea break.* But, if you hike the full route you end up at The Tinner’s Arms. We just drove there.
We stayed at Tregony Guesthouse, and this B&B was a dream come true. Before visiting Cornwall I knew exactly the type of place I wanted to stay at – scrumptious breakfasts and huge picture windows with sweeping views of the ocean.  An adorable British couple ran the B&B, and made the most delicious made to order breakfasts.

 

I plan to return to Cornwall again and again. Something about this part of the world speaks to me, calls to me from across the oceans to come visit, come explore.

 

Porthgwarra Phone Booth
Yeah, we found the phone booth at Porthgwarra. Shenanigans Cornish coast styles

 

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St. Ives harbor panorama

Next blog post – 1 week in Australia!

 

How to Spend a Perfect Four Days Relaxing in Seminyak

When I think of Seminyak. Bali I think about mind-blowing sunsets, days spent lazing and sipping delicious cocktails at beach day clubs and exploring the neighboring village – dreamy Canggu by scooter, enjoying fresh fruit smoothies under swaying palm trees.

Highlights of our Time in Seminyak

  • To die for sunsets at Potato Head Beach Club
  • Lounging away the day at Beach Day Clubs
  • Exploring dreamy, hippy-town, tranquil, Canggu
  • Fresh fruit juices and smoothies (mango and pineapple smoothies looking at you!)
  • Bargain Shopping for Balinese treasures
Mr. Potato Head Sunset
Sunset – Potato Head Beach Club

Here are my favorite beach clubs:

Mano Beach Club

Located right across from the the Petitenget Temple on the beach front, Mano is laid back with a chic pool, bean bag chairs and delicious lunch food and smoothies. We went back at least twice. Lounging on the beach bag chairs, munching on toast piled high with avo, heirloom tomatoes and feta and sipping our smoothies was a perfect way to while away an afternoon.

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Mango smoothies at Mano Beach House
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Avo toast at Mano Beach House!

Potato Head Beach Club

Perfect Sunset Potato Head Bali
Cheers to one of the most gorgeous sunsets I have ever seen

For sunsets, you cannot beat the swanky Potato Head Beach Club to watch the sun dip into the Indian ocean in style. We arrived just before sunset after a day spent in Canggu, grabbed strawberry daiquiris, and swam leisurely in the bright green pool while watching the sky explode into shades of fire red, orange, magenta and finally deep purple. Potato truly comes alive at night. The atmosphere as the sun set and the sky lit up was electric. The pool was filled with revelers so thrilled to be witnessing such a spectacular scene, it was one of those moments you experience while traveling that you wish you could hold close forever, and share with everyone you know.

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Brad loves sunsets….also cocktails.

Sunset Bali Beach Club

Magical Sunset Bali

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First evening in Seminyak. Sunset is not as spectacular as at Potato Head, but still not too shabby!

*You pay $20 dollars to enter Potato Head, which can be used towards drink credits, which you will want because the tropical cocktails are fresh and fabulous. They have a tasty menu and day beds, but I preferred the smaller more relaxed beach clubs during the day.

Mrs. Sippy:

We had a fabulous, very relaxing time lounging the day away at Mrs. Sippy. Mrs. Sippy is a beach club with salt water lagoon pool, onsite restaurant, swim up bar, day beds and tropical vibe They charge 200K for a day bed, (about 20 bucks) which includes credits that can be put toward food and drink.

 

 

 

Dreamy Canggu:

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DONE 😀 View from Beach Bums, overlooking Batu Bolong Beach

Canggu is a half hour scooter ride from Seminyak, and the most beautiful village.  Canggu is a dreamy, tranquil beach town surrounded by rice paddies and filled with tiny Warungs, low key beach bars and surfers.We sat at beach bars sipping fresh pineapple and strawberry smoothies, listening to the sound of the waves crashing and the palm trees swaying overhead. It was the exactly the type of remote, relaxing moment you crave while on an island, when you feel like you and a handful of others are the only people in the world.

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Smoothies at Beach Bum Cafe in Canggu
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Iconic bright bean bag at The Sands in Canggu, overlooking Batu Bolong Beach. Brad rented his surfboard from this place.

Brad spent a few hours surfing, and I lounged on a beach chair, reading a book, sipping sparkling water and playing with the friendly neighborhood puppy who took an instant liking to me, and napped underneath my chair. We had fresh salads and sandwiches at The Canteen Cafe and returned to Seminyak relaxed and ready for a sunset party.

Local puppy in Canggu
This little guy and I had an instant connection. After playing, he lounged underneath my sun chair all afternoon.
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Temple next to the Canggu beachfront.

Shopping:

Bargain shopping in Seminyak was a treat. I came home with several pairs of wide legged beach pants decorated with elephants, as well as jewelry. Be prepared to haggle and the weather is SULTRY, but you can find some great bargains. Other excellent options: beautiful bright jewelry, handwoven straw handbags.

Ogoh Ogoh:

As luck would have it, we arrived in Seminyak a few days before Nyepi, a religious day of silence in Ubud. The day before, Balinese people parade sculptures of Ogoh Ogoh – demons who drive away evil spirits from their towns and villages. We noticed locals working on several of these massive statues as we were riding our scooter around Seminyak.

 

 

 

Thinking ahead for next time – I would definitely spend time in Ubud, because it was an absolute rain forest paradise, soul nourishing dream of a place. I will return to Ubud again and again. I would then spend a week between Canggu and Ulluwatu.  I would probably spend a day in Seminyak, for some beach day club lounging and spectacular sunsets.

Next blog post – one week in Australia! We’re headed to Sydney mate!

 

The Perfect Four Day Ubud Itinerary

A Week in Beautiful, Breathtaking, Bali

How do I begin to describe my all-encompassing love for Bali?! Ubud, particularly stole my heart. Gorgeous, lush, spiritual and enchanting, Ubud was a fabulous introduction to Southeast Asia.

Highlights of our Ubud Adventure:

  • Strolling the rice terraces and taking in the glorious, expansive views
  • Hanging out with monkeys in the Sacred Monkey Forest
  • Exploring the temples and learning about Balinese Hinduism
  • Luxurious massages and jungle flower baths
  • Swimming in the infinity Pools
  • Scootering around the rice terraces, town center and surrounding villages
  • Drinking fresh fruit juices, smoothies and cocktails! (I’m looking at you pineapple & coconut)

As our time in Germany came to an end, we wanted to make a last fabulous hurrah, and take the long way around to San Francisco. We decided to spend a month in Bali, Australia and New Zealand. In the midst of preparing for an international move, saying goodbye to friends and celebrating Brad’s graduation I was frantically planning this month trip to the Southern Hemisphere, and I loved every minute of it! I planned a week in Bali, a week in Australia and two weeks in New Zealand. I easily could have spent a month in each of these jaw droppingly wonderful places, and fully intend to return as soon as humanly possible.

Alright back to topic – beautiful, beautiful Bali!

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Tegalalang Rice Terraces

We began our Bali adventure in Ubud, a small town in the middle of the rainforest, filled with expansive rice paddies, a sacred monkey forest, temples, a deep spirituality,  villa infinity pools, fresh fruit & juices at every turn and one of the most beautiful cultures I have experienced. I was completely enthralled. I would return to Ubud in a heartbeat.

We found our gorgeous jungle villa on AirBnb for 50 bucks, I know. We were served a tropical breakfast on our deck each morning, including dragon fruit, mango, pineapple, an array of Indonesian options and strong coffee by the most welcoming staff. We arrived in the evening around twilight, and when the owner walked us down the winding steps to our rain forest property I gasped!

We rented a scooter for a very minimal expense – seriously, less then 5 bucks a day, which I highly recommend to get around Ubud. I have heard that some Eastern Asian countries can be a very intense experience navigating on a scooter, (looking at you Thailand) but Ubud by scooter was low key and the perfect way to explore the island.

Strolling The Tegalalang Rice Terraces – Views for Days

Our first full day in Ubud, we headed right for the famed rice terraces. Coming straight from Germany in February, Ubud was so ridiculously beautiful, balmy, exotic and tropical it felt like a practical joke!

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This is happening!

After our stroll through the rice paddies, we headed to one of the open air restaurants surrounding the paddies for an expansive, mind boggling view and a drink.  We listened to the soft pop music playing, sipped our juices and felt the light breeze through the palm trees. This was the Ubud of my dreams.

 

Ubud Bali Rice Paddies Drink Break!
Drink break with a view! * After TWO German winters my soul needed this you guys*

*I had intended for this to be a hike through the rice paddies, but Ubud in March is sultry AF, so I would highly suggest you plan on a stroll, as this is the best way to experience the lushness).

Oh, the fruit in Ubud. I am a huge sucker for tropical fruit and Bali ranks up there with some of my favorite countries. (Why is fruit in the Southern Hemisphere so much better?!) Bali boasts dragon fruit, and massive mangos and fruit I have never heard of including the crinkly, scaly, snake skin fruit – featured below.

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Tropical fruiiiit stand – Tegalalang!

Exploring the Sacred Monkey Forest – Ancient Temples and Monkey Fun!

Oh you guys – I was so excited to visit this forest. This has been a fantastic monkey sighting year for me. First we played with squirrel monkeys (my most favorite of all!) in Cape Town, then we saw baboons and vervet monkeys at Hluhluwe–iMfolozi Game Reserve and now the forest. WIN!

The Sacred Monkey Forest is filled with ancient Balinese Hindu temples and Balinese long tailed monkeys scampering about the place, enjoying their monkey lives. Picture this: mother’s cuddling their babies while flipping from tree to tree, monkeys rolling about and playing with their toesies, monkeys on top of ancient elephant sculptures. They were mischievous and delightful and hilarious. These monkeys were well cared for, well fed, safe and healthy. I could not help but notice what a connection to and respect for the natural world around them the Balinese people possess.

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Monkeys and ancient elephant sculptures – does it get any better?
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Monkeys are so expressive! Look at this little guy. He is just so EAGER.
Ubud Bali Brie in Monkey Forest
Just looking for monkeys in the 700 year old scared forest full of temples.
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Do you think this little guy sits here thinking… I come here to visit every day and they never EVER talk to me!

 

Ubud Bali Beautiful Monkey Sacred Forest
The macaques are revered and cared for as part of the spiritual life of the temples.
Ubud Bali Monkey Forest Catepillar Goddess
Balinese Hindu Sculpture. I love this. She is so joyful. 

Exploring Temples and Falling Love with Balinese Hinduism

Balinese Hinduism was one of the most beautiful and soul nourishing religions I have experienced. The connection Balinese people have to the natural world around them is inspiring. I was completely enchanted by this compassionate culture.

Ubud Bali Brie on Stairs Gazing at Temple
In awe of Saraswati Temple in Ubud – Balinese Hinduism is pure magic
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Stumbled upon this beauty at an art galley – notice the jungle creeping through the windows in the background. Ganesh, the elephant God, is covered in marigolds – flower offerings to the Gods is part of everyday life in Ubud.

The daily flower offerings to their Gods was one of my most favorite parts of Ubud town. Bamboo tray offerings full of delicate frangipanis, marigolds and other flowers along with an array of sweets and incense were placed around the village – in villas, on the steps of homes or storefronts. Our AirBnb Owner told us the Balinese people often make these offerings up to three times a day. The temples were filled with worshipers, and sculptures were robed in colorful materials and flowers. In Ubud, you can feel the way the Hindu faith permeates day to day life.

Ubud Bali Temple

 Massages, Aromatic Scrubs and Jungle Flower Baths

The massage we received at Bali Botanica was one of the best of my life. We booked a 90 minute massage, followed by an aromatic scrub, and a flower bath. When Brad and I walked into the spa and glimpsed our flower bath already prepared for us, set against the jungle backdrop we both gasped. IS THAT FOR US?!

Allow me to attempt to set this scene for you. The bath was filled with delicately scented silky flower petals, that filled the room with their soft aroma. We were given fresh ginger tea hinted with lemon and cinnamon, and we could hear jungle sounds from our bath. We even spotted giant blue butterflies and a jungle lizard while lounging, as I am the Queen of animal sightings. Dolphin’s playing in the sea while we relaxed in our jacuzzi in Puerta Vallerta  – spotted them! A tiny tortoise swimming amidst a herd of water buffalo in a watering hole in South Africa – I SEE YOU!

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Jungle Infinity Pool

Ubud Jungle Infinity Pool
Jungle infinity pool – Padma Hotel

This beauty is the infinity pool at The Padma Resort. Bali is known for having some truly incredibly infinity pools, and while trip planning I found that the Padma Resort offered a pretty epic day pass to their infinity pool. For less than $20  Brad and I were given day access to the pool, 2 fresh fruit cocktails, and a voucher to enjoy afternoon tea which included all manner of yummies such as Balinese appetizers, scones, coffee, decadent caramel/chocolate deserts and fruit all with a brilliant view.

Ubud Bali Infinity Pool Cocktail Time!
Fresh pineapple coconut cocktail, OF COURSE

Ubud Bali Padma Infinity Pool

There was a rather intense tropical storm while we were lounging at the pool, so we opted to sit in the Jacuzzi, and check out the afternoon tea during the storm.

Balinese food – Fresh fruit, juices, and coconuts!

On our last day in Ubud, we spent our time lounging by our jungle pool, reading books, and leisurely exploring the village on our scooter. We discovered the most gorgeous little cafe called Dicarik Warung. with a panoramic view of the verdant rice paddies. We sat sipping our fresh coconut water, and pineapple juice, while watching Balinese cranes stroll softly through the rice paddies. It was so peaceful – we felt like we had discovered our own little private paradise in Ubud.

Ubud Bali Rice Plantation Warung Coconut!
Who me? No, I don’t like fresh coconut at all.
Ubud Bali Rice Plantation Warung Pineapple Juice and Coconut!
Fresh pineapple, lime and ginger juice (my new fav), and fresh coconut at the most gorgeous Warung overlooking a rice paddie 🙂 This place was pure bliss.

Bali offers a fantastic array of vegetarian meals and fresh fruit juices and smoothies. My very favorite were the pineapple, lime, ginger fruit juices, or the pineapple and mango smoothies. We could not get enough of them! I also loved all of the coconut water and fresh coconuts everywhere you looked. I found this delicious little place Abe-Do Warung, as a recommendation from the wonderful travel blog Bruised Passports. You sit on fluffy pillows lining the floors near your table, and the cafe is devoted to health and wellness. Warung’s can be found all over Bali and they are small family owned cafes and restaurants. They are typically budget friendly and a great option while dining in Bali.

Ubud Bali Veggie Heaven
Chicken with peanut sauce and rice. Salad with avo and carrots and beats and a citrus dressing.  After 18 months in southern Germany, I was so stoked for salad!

After our super healthy lunch, we spent time relaxing by our pool and then headed into town for happy hour! We sat in the courtyard of Oops restaurant, sipping our frozen mojitos, enjoying the breeze, and lazy Balinese evening.

Ubud Bali Frozen Mojitos
Frozen mojitos two-for-one happy hour! Easiest choice I’ve ever made.
Ubud Bali Town Center.jpg
Town center Ubud

Nightlife:

Ubud has a pretty laid back night life scene. There are some great happy hour places on the main road Jalan Raya – we loved the 2/1 deals on frozen mojitos. We also had a lot of fun hanging out at the open air bars listening to live music.

Laughing Buddah Bar: Near the Monkey Forest. Great live music, yummy Balinese apps. Go later for dinner/drinks.

L.O.L Bar & Restaurant – Next door there is a great open air café with live music is well. Caribbean and reggae music is the order of the day. Tasty, cheap chicken sate for dinner.

Ubud will live on in my dreams as the most magical and spiritual of places. I cannot wait to return! Next blog post – to die for sunsets and dreamy beach bars in Semniyak!

 

 

Our Epic Highlands Road Trip Through the Cairngorms to Edinburgh

Reindeer Cairngorms Scotland

Highlights of our Highlands Road Trip

Here are some of the most wonderful experiences in the area surrounding Inverness

  • Feeding reindeer in the Cairngorms
  • The Highland Games in Balleter  (so many bagpipers!)
  • Sweeping, take your breath away views at every turn

Day 8-9

For the next journey on our trip, we drove from Inverness to the Cairngorms, a gorgeous mountain range and national park in the Scottish Highlands for a reindeer feeding.

Feeding reindeer in the Cairngorms was one of the most magical experiences of my life.  We were brought to a vast meadow, and walked along a wooden path to reach the pasture. All of a sudden, we heard the clip clopping of hooves behind us and found that a herd of reindeer had joined our walk and were prancing directly behind us. As we fed them, they gently nudged us with their velvety, soft noses.

Reindeer Feeding in the Cairngorms Scotland

Brad Just One of the Reindeer Herd
Brad, Just One of the Reindeer Herd
Feeding Reindeer Scotland
This may be my new happy place

Feeding reindeer in the Cairngorms Scotland - Windswept but happy

 

Brie feeding Reindeer In The Cairngorms Scottish Highlands
Pure joy

 

Caringorms reindeer meadow
Windswept but so happy!

Reindeer Herd In the Cairngorms Scottish Highlands

Some background info about the herd: A Scandinavian adventurer fell in love with an American woman and moved to Scotland but missed the native animals from his own country. He imported the herd of reindeer from Sweden to the Cairngorms in 1952.  There are currently 150 free ranging members of this beautiful reindeer herd.

The Magical Highlands

On the drive from the Cairngorms to the highland Games in Balleter, we were rewarded by this spectacular view. We were so gobsmacked, we pulled over, leapt out of the car and just stood there eyes wide and sighing. This is the Scotland of your dreams.

Magical Scotland Cairngorms
Scotland – you show off!

Off to the Highland Games!

The HIghland Games in Balleter was everything I was hoping for and more. I was so thrilled we were able to see this. As luck would have it, there was one Highland games held in our area while we were visiting Scotland and it was on the last day of our trip. I wanted it to be a surprise for Brad, and I was literally bouncing around in my seat on the way to the games. Situated between two towering, pine covered mountains, the location could not be beat. These games featured highland dancers, log tosses (think giant highlanders wearing kilts and rock band t shirts), competitions for best clan costumes (and let me tell you they were decked out and magnificent), fresh donuts, and so many bagpipes. At one point, the bands entered the field and there were around 50 bagpipes marching in union, kilted up.

Highland Games Balleter!
Bag pipers and fresh donuts in the highlands – does it get any better?!

We ended our fabulous Scotland road trip in Edinburgh. We met friends for dinner at a Mediterranean place. At this point we had been travelling for five weeks and I don’t remember the name of the restaurant, but it was tasty, wonderful to catch up with old friends and a great cap to the most wonderful trip. We headed home for three days where we recouped  (and spent most of the time lounging on the couch watching Poldark yelling during every scene – “We’ve been there!”) Then we left for a week in gorgeous Rhodes.

Next blog post – One week in Spain!