T&K’s Spring Break Pacific Northwest Road Trip Adventure 2015: Bucket List

This is my second post about this trip and we haven’t even left yet. Can you tell I absolutely can’t wait? I need a vacation bad. But also, I’m so excited about all of the different cities and national parks that we’re going to visit. Here’s my list of absolute musts for this trip, some of which we already have booked. Huzzah!

1. See a show at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland.

I’ve been dying to get to Ashland for ten years, ever since it was offered as a senior class trip in high school and I couldn’t go because of marching band. Sigh. That was the beginning of rehearsals interfering with my life. Anyway, T and I have talked about going a couple of different times since then, but now we’re actually making it happen! We have tickets to see Shakespeare’s Pericles, which wouldn’t have been my first choice, but it’s what’s playing and I’m too excited to care.

2. Visit the original Starbucks at Pike’s Place in Seattle and buy a tumbler.

In college, while on a choir trip through the Pacific Northwest, I bought a travel mug at the original Starbucks. I absolutely loved it and used it all the time, until somewhere in the process of moving home after graduation, I lost it. So many sads. But now I have the opportunity to replace it, and so I shall.

3. Cheer for no one at a Canucks game in Vancouver.

One night in January, T and I were at a Sharks game, watching them lose depressingly, when one of us said casually, “We should go to a hockey game in Vancouver.” That was enough to distract us from whatever travesty was happening on the ice in front of us, and we promptly hopped on our phones, found a game on one of the nights that we’ll be there, and bought tickets. It’ll be the Canucks vs. the Phoenix Coyotes in the second-to-last game of the regular season, but we’ll be proudly displaying our teal inside Rogers Arena. No one will care since the Sharks won’t be in the playoffs anyway.

4. Go for a walk through the rain forest in Olympic National Park.

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Poor drought-riddled California hasn’t seen that much green in a long, long time. I would love to take the time to enjoy some greenery and some damp weather… and maybe we can convince some of it to come home with us.

5. Take T to Powell’s Books in Portland.

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Powell’s is basically heaven on earth. This was another stop on the aforementioned college choir tour, and I could have lived in there. Obviously our time was limited because of traveling with a giant group, but I’m very much looking forward to getting lost in there for a few hours. T wasn’t with me last time (though I did bring him back a book of German fairy tales  auf Deutsch), so I can’t wait to see his face upon first walking in.

Have you ever been to any of the cities or places that I mentioned, or do you live in any of them? Any recommendations are more than welcome!

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T&K’s Spring Break Pacific Northwest Road Trip Adventure 2015: What I’m Packing

Back in September, when we bought our outdoorsy, all-weather Subaru Outback, we decided that we needed to take it on a road trip as soon as humanly possible. Of course, for us, “as soon as humanly possible” meant “seven months from now when we have time off.” So we planned a spring break road trip adventure up the Pacific Northwest, through Oregon and Washington and up into Vancouver.

When we found out we had to move out of our apartment and our stress levels tripled in a matter of seconds, I began counting down the days to our vacation in earnest and making concrete plans. We leave the day after Easter and I can’t wait to share our travels with you, but for now, here’s what I will be packing for eight days in the car and enjoying all the West Best Coast has to offer.

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Tops: peach/beige sweater, white sweater, long-sleeve t-shirt, red sweater, white v-neck t-shirt (x3), yellow cardigan. Bottoms: black skinny jeans, blue skinny jeans, black/white maxi skirt.

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Outerwear, shoes, and scarves. Not pictured: tennis shoes because I forgot to get them out for the picture. Oh well.

More to come about preparing for our trip! Stay tuned!

Five Secrets for Rocking Public Transportation Anywhere in the World

I’ll just be real for a second: I’m the master of public transit. I’m honestly not sure where, when, or how I gained my ridiculous skills for navigating a transit system, since my hometown is far from a model city in that particular aspect. But regardless, I’ve always been very confident in my ability to get myself around on public transportation, even in countries where I don’t speak the language. This year alone I successfully directed myself and various friends around Rio de Janeiro, London (and outside), Paris, and eastern Germany, and only one of those systems was actually in a language I speak fluently.

The Hauptbahnhof (main train station) in Erfurt, Germany.

The Hauptbahnhof (main train station) in Erfurt, Germany.

So what are my secrets for successfully finding my way around foreign cities?

  1. Do your homework. Before you venture off into the unknown, take a little time to prepare. First, figure out the best way to get to the exact place you want to go, then backtrack to find each step of transportation. Look up the bus schedule online beforehand and note times, bus numbers, and directions. Download an app with an offline map of the subway system (here’s the one I used for the London tube system, and the comparable one for the Paris metro). Know which color line you’ll be taking. Figure out where you will need to transfer from a train to a bus or vice versa. And most importantly, write it all down if you don’t trust yourself to remember every step.
  2. Have the right type of currency. I don’t just mean the correct kind of money for whatever country you’re in––that’s a given. If the bus requires exact change, make sure you’re prepared for that. If there’s a chance that the ticket machines in the subway station only take cash, get some in advance. Being ready with the right payment method will help you blend in like a local.
  3. Understand the cardinal directions. Or at least know what major landmarks, stations, or cities are in the same direction as wherever you’re going. Your particular stop may be too small to show up on a train station marquee, but if you know which direction you should be traveling, it will save you a lot of headache.
  4. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Sometimes your common sense and preparation will fail, or you will need to buy a train ticket at a foreign airport right after you land, or your language skills will be shaky. It’s helpful to learn how to say phrases like, “I am learning [local language],” or “My [language] is not very good, do you speak English?” Those sentences have earned me a lot of sympathetic smiles from locals, followed by much more assistance than I would otherwise have gotten. There’s no shame in asking which platform your train is on or whether the bus makes a particular stop. It’s better to ask than to end up somewhere you didn’t want to go.
  5. Act like a local. If everyone walks fast, try to keep up with their pace. If people are standing on the right of an escalator and walking on the left, do the same. Pronounce places, stops, and stations with as correct of an accent as you can manage. Keep your eyes up and look confident, like you do this every day. The more you pretend you know exactly what you’re doing, the easier it will be.

By relying on these things, I’ve grown to be quite confident in my ability to find my way around unfamiliar cities and countries, even without ever having been to them before or speaking the language. Public transit is nothing to be afraid of, it just requires a little bit of advance effort. May your next travel adventure be that much less stressful because of it!

Weimar, Germany: Excursion to Erfurt

On our one free day during my month in Weimar, a group of us girls took the train about fifteen minutes away to the town of Erfurt. It was a Sunday, so there weren’t many shops open, but we had a great time wandering around the town.

The Erfurt Hauptbahnhof.

The Erfurt Hauptbahnhof.

Me in front of one of the many adorable streets.

Me in front of one of the many adorable streets.

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The lovely group of ladies!

The lovely group of ladies!

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As we walked further into the city center, we discovered this gorgeous Gothic church, the Katholischer Dom St. Marien. It was actually open, so we wandered in to admire it.

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When we came out of the church, we found ourselves looking straight down at a wine festival. Oh darn! It was a wonderful way to end the day.

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I would have loved to go back to Erfurt had we had any more free time. Maybe next time!

Travel Bucket List

Me in front of the Eiffel Tower (obviously) earlier this summer. One more country checked off the bucket list!

Me in front of the Eiffel Tower (obviously) earlier this summer. One more country checked off the bucket list!

I write this post from my office job, which, while far from the worst job ever, or even a bad job, is certainly not an exciting way to spend my summer. I’m finding myself daydreaming about T’s and my next big vacation. The world is our oyster, really. So I thought I’d share with you my travel bucket list.

• Obviously I would love to go back to Italy, as I shared in this post.

• The Holy Land. We had an opportunity to sign up for a trip next January through our church, but it’s just too expensive for us right now. Sigh. Maybe another time.

• Australia. Specifically Sydney, because duh, the opera house and climbing the harbor bridge. Bonus points if we can find Nemo. We may even expand to New Zealand by T’s request.

• Russia, mostly for my family’s history.

• The east coast of our own United States. T, who has his degree in American history, has shamefully never been back east, and I feel it’s my duty as his wife to take him there. My top three stops would be Washington DC, New York City, and Boston.

• Hawaii. One can never get enough Hawaii.

That’s my short list. Once we begin to cross those off, I would like to expand to Asia and maybe some of the smaller countries in Europe. One of the perks of being a singer is that I’m getting to know people in all corners of the world, which opens up lots of travel possibilities!

What are some places on your travel bucket list?

The Greatest Trip of My Life

Today I’m participating in my first blog hop, hosted by Casey at We Took the Road Less Traveled! It’s Fresh Face Friday and the topic is “the greatest trip of your life.”

Eight years ago, the summer after my freshman year of college, I had the opportunity to spend three weeks in central Europe on a college choir tour. We sang our way through Budapest, Vienna, Salzburg, the small Austrian mountain towns of Durnstein and Schladming, Munich, Oberammergau, Karlovy Vary, and Prague. It was an incredible experience for 18-year-old me… but that was not the greatest trip of my life.

The greatest trip of my life was the one I took right after that.

Two days after I returned home to my family and T, who I had been dating for two years at that point, we left for a week-long houseboat trip with some close family friends. Our lake of choice was Trinity Lake, where my brother and I had grown up camping every summer, and one of my favorite spots in the world to this day.

You can see why I love it so much.

You can see why I love it so much.

After three weeks of intense international travel with 100 other college students, getting in the car and driving to the lake with my family and T was absolute heaven. I will always remember that trip for a few reasons.

1) On our way there, something broke on our boat trailer, and we sat on the side of the road while my dad tried to fix it. Meanwhile, the car thermometer heated up beyond what any of us had ever seen, and though it wasn’t actually quite THAT hot, my brother, T, our friends, and I were thoroughly entertained.

131 degrees. Yep.

131 degrees. Yep.

18-year-old me and my brother's best friend.

18-year-old me and my brother’s best friend.

2) During the last couple days of our trip, the lake, which is up in the northern California mountains, became surrounded by wildfires. It didn’t endanger our trip at all, but the sky turned gray and orange and you could smell the smoke. This didn’t bode super well for T or for one of the other guys on the trip, who both had asthma, but T sucked it up enough for us to go wakeboarding together while the forest burned down around us. (Okay, not really, but we got some cool pictures.)

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Creepy, no?

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Sorry for the blurriness. This was taken by a 2006-vintage camera phone (lol what) on a very choppy lake.

3) After a stressful and long international trip, I got to spend the entire week sitting around a houseboat reading, napping, and playing card games with T, my brother, and our friends. Everyone was so relaxed and so happy, and it was the perfect way to recover.

T, our friends, and my brother playing a heated game of Family Business.

T, our friends, and my brother playing a heated game of Family Business.

My dad in his element, driving his boat.

My dad in his element, driving his boat.

T and me, all the way back in 2006, happily at the end of our long-distance relationship.

T and me, all the way back in 2006, happily at the end of our long-distance relationship.

What has been the greatest trip of your life to this day?

Weimar, Germany: Things to Do

After a crazy last several days in Germany, I’m finally home in California and spending the rest of this week recovering from the past month. I loved living in the town of Weimar, so I’d like to share with you some ideas of things to do should you ever make it there.

Weimar is about a three-hour train ride from either Frankfurt or Berlin. I chose to fly in and out of Frankfurt because the train goes right to the airport. It was very easy to get there, which was really important to me since I was traveling alone and speak very little German.

The main thing Weimar is known for is being the hometown of Goethe, the 18th- and 19th-century poet and writer. It was also home to Friedrich Schiller, a slightly lesser-known but still famous poet/philosopher. Goethe and Schiller memorabilia is everywhere… you can tour both of their houses as well as find numerous places throughout the city that are named after one or the other of them. For example, there’s a department store called “Schiller Kaufhaus,” and the plaza that housed our theatre is called “Goetheplatz.”

The statue of Goethe and Schiller outside the Deutsche National Theatre.

The statue of Goethe and Schiller outside the Deutsche National Theatre. Photo credit: Peter Hamon.

Speaking of the Deutsche National Theatre, this is one of the major attractions in the city. The theatre houses both opera and straight theatre, and though my program ended right before the start of the DNT’s season, their full calendar seems to indicate that the theatre is thriving and that it is a huge part of Weimar’s cultural scene.

The DNT in the daylight. It was on our route to our (smaller) theatre every day.

The DNT in the daylight. It was on our route to our (smaller) theatre every day.

The theatre lit up at night as part of a multimedia presentation that was projected across the Platz onto the facade.

The theatre lit up at night as part of a multimedia presentation that was projected across the Platz onto the facade.

Another major attraction in Weimar is the castle, which I didn’t actually try to tour because I didn’t have enough free time. However, it’s really pretty on the outside, and I’m sure the inside is fascinating as well.

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Right next to the castle is Goethe-park, deep within which is Goethe’s Gartenhaus. The park is absolutely beautiful and has lots of paths for jogging, walking, or just general exploring, the latter two of which I actually participated in.

The river running through the park is really lovely too.

The river running through the park is really lovely too.

Lots of open space!

Lots of open space!

Exploring with friends.

Exploring with friends.

Goethe's Gartenhaus.

Goethe’s Gartenhaus.

There are lots of good places to eat… I’ll do another post on food sometime. Weimar is also full of shops, though not a lot of them are clothing stores for our generation, as my friends and I discovered. There’s at least something for everyone though, and of course, there is Müller, a giant department store that puts Target to shame.

Four stories of German department store goodness? Yes please!

Four stories of German department store goodness? Yes please!

I wish I had more to share, but we didn’t have very much free time during the program to explore the city or be tourists. I would love to return one day and make sure to complete my experience!