California Hot Spots that Valeria Must See – 2018 – L.A. Edition

HellooooOoo everyone!

My mind has been in the gutter lately… the vacation gutter!

It is Spring after-all, which means I have lost most of my focus on pretty much everything and with talking every night about all our upcoming Summer fun events, it is hard to try to focus on much else. So far this Summer has some great things in store; local beaches, fun dinner spots, cookouts, my new outfits (ok don’t fault me for being silly), lake in Maine with our friends, maybe Montreal, but my favorite topic we talk about is.. our family trip to CALIFORNIA!!

C A L I F O R N I A

..just a touch of a California freak here. I have been to the West Coast, California four times, not with our kids ever though, and not anywhere below Los Angeles. When we have gone, I never do get enough. California knows how to party. Uhm. Ok, that slipped out but hopefully you all hear Dr. Dre’s ‘California Love’ in your heads now… But seriously, I am super excited to end the Summer in CaliForNia this year; coming home a few days before the girls start back to school and just in time for our 17th wedding anniversary. Which makes me super happy to think about. ūüôā

We have never actually visited California during the Summer months before, nor have we gone there for a beachy vacation, which is why I am super excited this time.¬† This trip is something that I have always wanted to do, have a So Cal beach vacation.¬† Gah didn’t those words just feel so good to you, too?¬† Since we are doing something new as a family in a state the two parents have visited before, we have a lot of revisiting of some tourist spots, but also, lots of new to us sites.

Our agenda is: We land in LA, where we will be spending the first few days of this trip. Then after LA we drive to new territory, Laguna Beach.¬† We opted for some fun in the sun after being in the city for a few days; And it’s a great place to celebrate my husband’s birthday. From Laguna we drive up to Anaheim for a couple of days for some family fun.¬† Then down to La Jolla / San Diego for a really relaxing handful of days doing nothing but being the beach bums that we deserve.

WOO, I CANNOT WAIT.

Ok, LA, so I will give a run down of where we plan to visit during our three days*:

*love feedback and recommendations, so please comment if you have any.

California Hot Spots that Valeria Must See

LOS ANGELES

Santa Monica Pier¬†– We had been to Santa Monica in 2003;one of my favorite memories from that California trip was this beach visitin Santa Monica.¬† My husband surprised me with a stop, he grabbed tamales from Tamara’s on the drive over,then we had a sunset beach picnic in the middle of November.¬† IT WAS BEAUTIFUL BUT CHILLY!!¬† Well, with the girls in tow this time, I want to relive that evening. I looked up to see if Tamara’s is still open, and they are, so I would like to picnic on the beach with my family with the best tamales I had ever had..but in bathing suits catching some sun… and maybe some Sidecar Donuts, too!!

Eames House¬†– My husband and I love Ray and Charles Eames.¬† So much so, that this trip we want to take a quick drive to the Pacific Palisades area to check out the Eames House.¬† The Eames’ designed and constructed a home like no other house in the late 40’s, which is now a landmark and we have always wanted to see in person.

WB Studio TourThis seems like a no-brainer touristy thing to do with kids. Especially, for us. Our kids are new to the whole Hollywood hype, they understand it’s a city where famous people live and make movies but they may not understand the gravity of how much goes on.¬† Our thought is to show them an experience behind the scenes of some movies or TV shows, with sights of¬†back lots and props, it would be exciting for them.¬† Also, is it sad that I am¬†excited to drink coffee in Central Perk on that orange couch? Or to see all the Harry Potter stuff?¬† I’m a huge Friends fan and HP geek, I know, I am just a geek.¬† But I have been having the girls watch Friends with me over the past few months to prep them for this moment, so they can be just as excited to see the set as I will be.¬† (This is why I had children isn’t it?)

Watts TowersРThe Watts Towers is an art installation of a combination of towers, structures, sculptures, pavement and walls that were designed and built by Sabato Rodia, an Italian immigrant mason. It took him over a span of 33 years to complete this massive installation.  It is crude art, novice, but something is beautiful about it, and we have always wanted to see it in person.

Pasadena¬†– “Oh Adam, it would be wonderful if you could meet a girl. One who’s not a mutant and hopefully comes from Pasadena“-¬† Please tell me I am not the only person who still quotes this movie when she hears this city name?…Blast from the Past? Anyone?¬† I used to have an enormous celeb crush on Brendan Fraser, and well, in that movie he was the bees knee. But any-who, Pasadena seems like a fun stop to hang out some afternoon, and well, it made the list since my handsome design geek husband wants to see the¬†Gamble¬†House, but I do too!!¬†Everyone knows the Gamble House, right? It’s a hugely famous house for its owners but namely its architecture, it is Arts and Crafts style at its finest, my Gosh how beautiful.¬† But most of us know it as Doc Brown’s house from Back to the Future!, and well, we didn’t get the chance to see it years ago and we are rectifying that this trip!

Grauman’s Chinese Theatre/¬†Hollywood Walk of Fame -I mean, what respectable tourist goes to LA without hitting up the Walk of Fame or¬†Grauman’s Chinese Theatre? I won’t let that happen to my kids. Everyone has to take photos with random stars on a sidewalk and place their hands in some famous handprints!

Hollywood sign from Mulholland Drive – Another great memory I have from our first LA trip is driving up Mulholland to see the Hollywood Sign on the hills. We had such a great time swirling up the road getting to one of the best views of that area around.¬† And we took our first photo of that trip up there that I have in my living room and look at every day.¬† We were so young. ūüôā¬† We did also walk up to the sign that trip mentioned, but I don’t think our kids will enjoy that as much as a quick drive.

Drive through Beverly Hills¬†–¬† I don’t know why I love driving through Beverly Hills, but there is something to driving down the boulevards lined with palm trees and seeing all the money I will never have in my life being spent on plastic surgery.¬† ha I am just joking. I want to take a quick go through to show the girls what Beverly Hills is all about..the glitz, Rodeo Drive, and just the mansions that are out of this world big.¬† And maybe have a celebrity sighting.¬† ūüėÄ

Koreatown– This sounds silly, I know, but we are trying to switch our hotels around and may end up in Koreatown, which is great. I want to make a stop here anyways because I heard there is an awesome ice cream spot that has koi fish-shaped ice cream cones!! KOI SHAPED CONES!!!

Yamashiro Hollywood– A Sushi/California Asian fusion restaurant that is in the Hollywood Hills overlooking the city.¬† My dearest friend from Australia went to LA twice and enjoyed this restaurant both times, last time being with his family.¬† Every time we talk about LA he tells us we have to visit Yamashiro for the views and the cocktails.¬† I looked into it, and my jaw dropped with how beautiful this location is and the food looks amazing.¬† So, finally, Pat, I have my calendar is marked in June to make reservations to dine at¬†Yamashiro! ūüôā

Grand Central Market– My husband went to the GCM last year, kept texting me dreamy food pictures, so I learned fast that this is the mecca of all the goodness LA has to offer.¬† I am dying to eat at Eggslut, McConnell’s Ice Cream, and just walk around the heartbeat of the farmers market.¬† Also, uhm, there is a Mexican dry goods place there named Valeria…so of course, I gotta go there to see what I can buy with my name on it. Even if it’s a bag of dried beans, idc.

Broad MuseumРWe are museum people, after all.  Never a trip without a museum. This museum is supposed to be set up with some great contemporary art. Plus, the architecture of this building is sick and it is near Walt Disney Concert Hall! The coolest building that I want to see!

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Up next is our rough list for Laguna Beach, and like I mentioned before, if you have any recommendations please don’t hesitate to message! I always reply.

xoxo

Walt Disney World April 22- Day 7

Day 7 

Disney Park: EPCOT (open till 9PM)

The forecast for this day was iffy.  Our weather apps all stated thunder showers with intermittent sunshine; so we grabbed our ponchos and headed to EPCOT!

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**This post is going to take a quick personal turn before I get back to my trip details.

When I initially arrived in Orlando on this trip, I had gotten word that one of my cousins from England was in the area visiting Florida with all her family. Her daughter and I are connected on FB, so I had shared my itinerary to see if any days overlapped to meet up while we were there in the same city.¬† Her daughter texted me during dinner at Art Smith’s the night before that they would also be at EPCOT till 2PM this day.

‘Well, I thought you were Italian?’

Here is a little back story to explain my English family..

I have mentioned a few dozen times how I am born to immigrant parents from Sicily, Italy.¬† Living here we have had just ourselves, no aunts, no uncles, though I have a pretty huge family; a total mix of 17 aunts and uncles. Most of my aunts and uncles live in Sicily, with the exception of five, one of whom, on my mom’s side, moved to the UK as a young man.¬† This uncle, one of my favorites, married an English woman and had five children together.¬† Though my mother was always very close to her brother, and would always be on the phone, skype, or receiving letters and photos of everyone often, we never had many chances to meet as kids or anytime really. I am the third youngest first cousin on my mother’s side, the second youngest on my father’s, and with such a large family the age gap is big; most of my first cousins average about 15-20 years older than me.

Well, I had the luck as a child to meet my uncle¬†three times; he traveled to America twice.¬† He visited once when I was 4yo with his son, and again when I was 9yo with his wife. Then at 13yo my mother and I stayed with him at their sister’s house during a vacation in Sicily.

When I was 23, my husband and I were freshly engaged, and I took a chance to fly to London with him on a work trip. At that point, my uncle with most of my family lived in Cornwall, about 9hrs away by train from London.¬† I couldn’t take that trip, but one of my first cousins lived right outside of London with his family. A cousin I had never met but always felt I knew through the countless photos we had fawned over growing up. So we stayed with him for a day. I got to meet his daughters, my two beautiful second cousins and spend such a lovely time together.¬† ¬†Just a funny fact about this cousin, he is featured in the first scene of the 007 movie, A View to Kill, just a split second.¬† He worked as an actual Royal Guard for the Palace in real life, and in the movie he is the guard on horse going by the screen in the first seconds after the credits.¬† (Not sure¬†why I am sharing this but I love that he is in this movie with his suit on!!)¬†

In the early 2000’s one of my English second cousins came to visit.¬† Then after I got married I had started to make some mental plans to visit my family in England, but my uncle got ill and passed away; I was devastated for a long period. BUT, let’s fast forward to my sister’s wedding in Sicily in 2007, the only two English cousins I had met attended. And that was it from England, I had met my uncle and aunt, one cousin when I was 4, another at 23.

Then this day happened, of all places at Disney . I got to meet a third cousin from England!

My cousin, guys!

 

So, I am a pretty emotional person about family, probably because I always fantasized what life would’ve been like living in Sicily with everyone close by or with anyone here at all.¬† So meeting my cousin was absolutely surreal for me.¬† We talked about meeting at Mexico in the Showcase.¬† When we got there, it was a bit of a seek game. I looked outside, no one.¬† The I went inside, no one.¬† My second cousin texted me that they were outside and as I walked out to check again, I saw this little woman standing across the way who looked just like my mom.¬† And my uncle!

It was her!!  I screamed in joy and hugged her right away.  I was very happy to make this happen. I got to meet her with her whole family- her husband, my two second cousins, and one third cousin!! People I had only seen grow up in pictures. She got to meet my children and husband. My girls loved all their accents and to finally meet extended family. They knew this was important to me.  Just surreal.

We caught up as much as we could about our families. We jumped topics but we talked about my sisters and parents, and my uncle, who had passed away, and her mom and siblings. The time flew, all I could do was dwell inside my head of how much family I have missed in my life AND how she looked like my mom and our family. We talked about a lot, but they had to move on to their next destination as they were traveling with my second cousins partner and family.

Just crazy right? It was an amazing once in a lifetime opportunity that I will always hold close.

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Just as we were parting ways, it started to rain.¬† We threw on ponchos then head along with our plans.¬† We started with a bite of school bread in Norway, which we still think they changed the recipe because of the renovations to the bakery. It just had a whole different consistency.¬† As we were in Norway the rain came down heavier, and we were on our way to seek refuse in Frozen Ever after, where we were headed because the lines were super low.¬† WERE.¬† As soon as we were walking over, the whole world walked over and the lines popped up to 45 minute wait in minutes.¬† We shrugged it off because we made a fast pass for it at 5:15PM, and decided to make our way to Germany to grab some fun foods and drinks.¬† The second we walked away from Norway the sun came out and the skies turned blue.¬† ¬†…which was awesome!

We grabbed a potato pancake (because I love to eat potatoes all the time) and a berry strudel.  The luck is that seats opened up in Germany to chill out in the sunshine.  The girls were promised a game of Agent P in Germany, and while they did that with Daddy, I grabbed a champagne at the Weinkeller.  When I got back, my husband ran to grab some caramel popcorn, which I think we ate in three minutes flat.  haha  We spent a lot of time chilling in Germany enjoying the weather and Agent P. We always had great memories of playing Agent P with the girls from our last trips.

I can’t say that I didn’t think about meeting my cousin while I was sitting with everyone, or how that it left me feeling empty.¬† It had for some reason. I even shed a tear under my sunglasses.¬† I don’t know why I felt so sad, but I did.¬† My husband saw me upset, and tried to cheer me up.¬† He understands me better than I do myself.¬† So we decided it was time to get up to walk around more, and I suggested we grab slushie drinks in Japan.¬† We liked those drinks a lot, and my kids would never say no to more sugar¬† haha. This time, however, my husband grabbed a frozen foam Kirin beer from a different location within Japan. It was super cool looking, and even though I am not a beer fan, it was fun to drink!

We walked over to Morocco.¬† We had planned to grab another drink here, but the machines were broken. Womp, so off to walk through the bizarre.¬† The styling of the space is so beautiful, and unique to the showcase.¬† The girls, at this point, saw the KidCot stations in n alley and decided to flake us to color Duffy..and rehash their obsession with talking to each KidCot station representative while coloring.¬† Which is great, but how they didn’t see this our first day is funny.

So. Enter rant here...¬† ¬†My only complaint about the Showcase is that they go through a lot of trouble to be authentic with the feel of each country, till you get to the shopping.¬† They don’t really sell unique items in these countries that make you want to drop cash like you should on vacation.¬† I know I am advocating more money to spend, but I am serious.¬† I like shopping, I do it all day, and most of the things I like to buy are quality things that make me happy.¬† They don’t sell any and it’s a shame.¬† Like Morocco, for example, where we are a the moment. Such a missed opportunity.¬† If they sold things that were real imports I would have bought them! Like some of the decor around the space were more intriguing than the actual items to buy…like one store we went into last was selling the same stuff the other stores had, the ornate dresses, the flashy fashion jewelry and shoes, etc, except they had a table set up with obscure Moroccan hair products in the window.¬† On the table was a small assortment of hair care things, even incense oddly enough, but there was this sole bottle of green colored shampoo that looked like it had been there for a LONNG time..I grabbed it because the label was a throwback to the 70’s.¬† IT WAS OLD SHAMPOO!¬† and it smelled disgusting to boot!¬† Here is an opportunity to actually sell the most coveted hair products in the world, the middle east is known for their amazing beauty products, and you are selling crappy hair shampoo and oils? Why?¬† And each store had the same merchandise, such a missed opportunity, guys!!

Bbah, I should be a buyer for EPCOT.  The stuff I saw was so weak everywhere.

Ok rant over.

We arrived in France.¬† I love this little corner of the Showcase so much because out of all the countries, this one actually feels like parts of Paris.¬† My husband asked us to chill by the fountain, and he grabbed tomato tartes with two la vie en rose slushies, which I didn’t know they were both for me. haha¬† I really loved them so I was happy.¬† We took a walk around the area.¬† The kids wanted to find the KidCot table to get stamps and color their Duffys some more.¬† It was inside the store/Pattiserie.¬† As I was shopping around, the girls were coloring and my husband disappeared; only to emerge calling me with his special whistle.¬† He was behind me with treats and a table for four in the corner. He grabbed Napoleons for him and the girls, and a beignet filled with hazelnut chocolate for me.

I am insane for Nutella, so this was definitely received with a smile.¬† ūüôā

Once we finished our treats, the girls decided to hit the KidCot again for more coloring, and my husband went to check the line for Aurora outside.¬† Within seconds I got the text that he was in line so we shuffled out and made it for the girls to meet Aurora.¬† We leisurely walked through England and Canada.¬† Weird thing, it’s a huge joke for us in the house that we had never, and YES NEVER, seen Oh Canada! with Martin Short.¬† ¬†Well, we rectified this and made it up the stairs and down the mountain to see it.¬† It was actually not as annoying as I thought it would be, on the account that Martin Short can sometimes be annoying.¬† And by sometimes, I mean usually.

After our journey through Canada, we trotted back over around the Showcase to Norway to get on Frozen Happily Ever After. Ok, so here I go…¬† I loved the Maelstrom, it was one of my favorite rides, especially the part where you thought you’d fall out of the building, and I love the changes they made for this ride.¬† The theming through out and the animatronics were great.¬† I actually liked it more than I thought I would.¬† The only stinky thing was we all sat second row, behind some jackass who kept using flash photography, and some dufus behind us, too! What are you taking a photo of in the dark!??!¬† Well the woman behind us stopped after two flashes, but the guy in front of us wouldn’t stop.¬† During each display the CMs kept having to slow down the ride to yell at him from above.¬† He was so annoying!!

But the ride was fun, we all got to sit on one row together which I like, and we even got a little wet.

After the ride, we decided to dry off by walking through China while the kids were at the KidCot table. China is pretty.  I remember loving China during my first trip to EPCOT with my husband in 2002. I made him sit there with me for so long so I could soak up the sights. We ate and hung out for like three hours or something just talking.  haha  So silly.

Finally, FOOD!¬† We made it to our reservations at Via Napoli in Italy starving because we hadn’t eaten in like five minutes.¬† The weather by the time we had our reservations was absolutely perfect.¬† It was hot but breezy, so we opted to sit outside.¬† We wanted to take a long break for dinner, so we grabbed a margherita pizza with some drinks and just talked about all the fun we have been having and made plans for the night.¬† We snagged some FP for test track and a character meet up…we still hadn’t met up with Mickey this trip!¬† (I had made a Mickey Mouse character meet FP that we had cancelled, and I was upset over it, so this FP was for me. haha)¬† ¬†After dinner, the kids wanted to color more and get a stamp from KidCot.¬† As I was hanging out with them, I noticed the CM in the space was from Sicily, so we started talking.¬† Then a local elderly gentleman came over to join in on the conversation, who was originally from Sicily.¬† He reminded me of my father; how he physically used his hands to explain things, so I enjoyed talking to him.

After this we walked over to the Character meet.¬† We didn’t choose to hang out for Illuminations again since we had seen it last time, and we had other plans.¬† The character meet was so much fun, it made up for the fact that we had to cancel the one at the MK.¬† Mickey is such a gentleman, and Goofy, man, I swear Goofy flirted with me!¬† haha We all had such memorable interactions with the group.¬† Minnie was my youngest daughter’s favorite she said, because she was so polite and loved all of their shirts. ūüôā¬† So cute.

Right after that fun time we hopped on Test Track.¬† What great timing we had because as soon as the ride broke loose to the outside track the fireworks from Illuminations were going off in the sky around us and it was so amazing. Truly magical.¬† We all couldn’t believe our luck!

We left Test Track to look for a few things in Mouse Gear, then made our way to grab a Mickey sandwich for the girls.  Walked slowly to the bus.

ūüė¶¬† Our last full day at EPCOT.

Washington DC 2017 (part 1)

Hey Everyone,

Just got back from our vacation Saturday night around midnight.  It was such a great school vacation week away!  Let me slide right into our trip here on my blog.

Ooooh yeah! First, I have a new blog name! ¬†I upgraded here on wordpress to valeriaoutloud.blog. ¬†I think it’s just a fun easy name to remember (for ME to remember!) and I needed more photo space, so why not? Right.

We left home around 9:30AM, had the best ride together and got to DC right in time for our dinner reservations at the Old Ebbett’s Grill. ¬†This is the oldest restaurant in DC, right next to the Treasury Building/White House. ¬†The restaurant was hopping! ¬†So glad we made all our dinner reservations ahead of time. This place was old man’s club type of swank with original gas dim lighting, dark blue velvet seating, large stone bar, wood paneling, and all the waiters/waitresses decked out in their long apron whites buzzing around. Super¬†fun, really great menu and drinks list. I am one of those indecisive food people at times, and when menus are really thoughtful it makes it hard, and this place’s menu was packed with a lot of great choices. ¬†We dined on some fabulous cocktails and dishes; like some of the things we had were the calamari, crab cakes, and brick chicken.

DAY 1 Photos:

We stayed at the Hyatt on K Street, and it was real convenient. The location was about 5 blocks from the White House area. We walked everywhere throughout our trip, which was great for us and thankfully we had beautiful weather 95% of the week.

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The next day we decided to spend the day going around to some museums and the archives. ¬†We started off at the¬†National Museum of American History, then hopped to the National American History Museum and then the National Archives… Can you say HOLY WALKING!? We hit some major walking step milestones on this trip. The amount of history and information in these three buildings alone would normally take us a day at each place. ¬†Just impressive, amazing and inspiring. ¬†After all this we took an uber to our dinner reservation at MXCD, a Todd English Mexican restaurant. ¬†I highly recommend it if you like Mexican food. ¬†The sangria was so delicious and each dish we ordered was so good I could’ve stayed there all night noshing! (seriously, Mexican food done right is my fav and their tomatillo salsa is something I am still dreaming about!! Yes I love Mexican food this much ¬†haha. )

Then we decided last-minute during dinner that it was the best time for us to surprise the girls with a stop for dessert. ¬†They have been insane for DC Cupcakes for years; a reality show based on the owners of and¬†shop Georgetown Cupcakes. ¬†So, we took an uber right over to Georgetown, and they were so giddy! ¬†We arrived to a monster line, which went by fairly quick, but I was nervous we wouldn’t make it inside before they closed … but we got in!

…six cupcakes later, and we were all real glad we made the visit. Ok, I only ate half one but they disappeared right fast with this crew! ¬†Their cupcakes are actually good! I only make this statement because we went to Carlo’s Bakery in NJ a few years ago and their bakery stunk..sad looking and the pastries were boring. So this was a relief and a memorable stop for our girls.

DAY 2 Photos:

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Our third day was an unusual one… ¬†So my husband’s high school friend works for the, uhm, CIA in DC. ¬†Anytime we mentioned going down, he has always told us to take him up on a quick tour of his old stomping grounds… THE TREASURY BUILDING!! ¬†So we took him up on it, met right outside the White House and walked over to this obscure building nearby where he got us some credentials to take this tour. ¬†He then took us underground to a tunnel that goes under Pennsylvania Ave! ¬†One part goes to the Treasury Building (which is where we went) and another goes to the White House! ¬†Super cool. ¬† From there he took us all over the Treasury, wherever he could. ¬†The building is definitely impressive, so much money was spent on this interior, it’s quite sick. ¬†After our two hours together, we took off to the Renwick Gallery across the street. ¬†What a beautiful museum! ¬†As we were there the Patriot’s showed up to the White House. We¬†got a text¬†of Bill Belichick walking in with a few people from our friend who was in the lobby across from their entrance. ¬†SO LUCKY!!!

After this gallery, we walked a ways to the USDA building for lunch… weird right!? ¬†Well, not really since it is the only food spot near the Holocaust Museum where we were headed. ¬†So, I was skeptical, even reading reviews, but the food was insanely good and the place was so clean. ¬†AND BUSY! ¬†I have never had a burrito from a non-Mexican place that was as¬†good..seriously. ¬†After we got all stuffed full of food we made our way across the street to the Holocaust Museum.

I really can’t express how important this museum is, especially after talking to my children and all their questions while walking through. ¬†Even though we had prepped the girls beforehand, at home, with some Holocaust and war information, especially all the things that pertained to our families..like how my great¬†uncles all perished fighting Russia, and how my father’s family (there were 11 children) was displaced through the war, and, how both of my husband’s grandfathers were part of the war, one¬†the bombing of¬†Japan and¬†the other the reconstruction of the occupation of Japan. ¬†I wasn’t all that big on this time of our history, until 2011, when I went to Normandy for a personal WWII tour with my husband.

My God.

I left France with such a different perspective, and when we figured to go to DC this year, I was the first to say we needed to go to the Holocaust Museum, no matter the kids age.  We are both connected in some way to the war with our families, but the holocaust is a totally different aspect of that and I wanted to make sure our children understood real racist bigotry/just down right hate, so they understood that this is not normal behavior, and never to accept it as it is ok.  EVER.  I had to fight back a lot of tears explaining things to them, which was hard. Especially when we entered the ovens room and then the shoes room. I was with my oldest daughter, and well, ugh, my soul just wanted to melt into the floors with my tears.

So powerful.

We followed this visit with a rest back at the hotel for a bit before dinner.  We all needed it, especially me.

We then grabbed an uber to go to dinner, my husband was very excited to keep this one to himself.  We showed up to Jaleo!!!  So, a lil back story, I have a huge, well, IMMENSE, chef crush on Jose Andres.  I love this guy, he reminds me of my dad when I was younger..how he talks, expresses himself and just everything, and his cooking skills are right up my alley.  He is so talented.  So when we showed up I was so excited!  I have been wanting to go to DC to check out his restaurants.

Wow, just wow. ¬†What a talented guy! ¬†The cocktail choices were great and the list of tapas was overwhelming. ¬†First, we had to try the¬†Ferran Adri√†¬†liquid olives. ¬†TO DIE FOR!¬†Then we noshed on endives with oranges, hanger steak¬†with piquillo, salted cod fritters,¬†Iberico ham and chicken croquettes, ¬†sausage and white beans, and I can’t remember more, but it was a sea of food and drinks. ¬†OOO speaking of drinks! ¬†My husband got a Clara in a porron, which is this funky ¬†glass blown decanter you decant IN YO MOUTH!

After dinner we took a walk to get gelato at Pitango, which was real good! ¬†The girls got a Matcha green tea, a stracciatela (choc chip) and we split¬†a nocciola (hazelnut), and I wouldn’t mind going back sometime. ¬†haha

DAY 3 Photos:

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Our last day in DC we spent it at the National Museum of African-American History and then a walk to the memorials along the Mall. ¬† This museum was as powerful as you would think, and just as lingering as the Holocaust Museum. ¬†My husband’s former colleague works for the museum and gave us one tip…START FROM THE BOTTOM. ¬†So that is what we did. ¬†This area was the most eloquent space I have been in, with regards to museums…and believe me folks, I am a museum expert at this stage of my life with my husband.!; if I had to list all the museums I have been to,¬†you’d be exhausted. Like I am. ¬†hahah

Ok, so this museum was similar in sense to the Holocaust museum, the only difference I felt in this museum was the exuberant resilience of¬†the Africans/African-Americans/Black Americans. ¬†They start you off in an elevator taking you down to¬†the lower depths of the floor, going down through time. ¬†As you made¬†your way back up on foot, you go through the decades/centuries up the levels..like walking through time; starting with their first encounters with becoming slaves all the way to modern day. They over came so much hate, hate that I couldn’t even bear to read on the labels through the earliest times in the exhibit. I was happy to see that they weren’t shy to say things out loud there either, like the words whipped, lynched, hung, beaten, raped, fathered children with a slave, abused, looked over, ignored, etc, ¬†they were there as clear as day…they weren’t dismissed.

As you went outside this exhibit and throughout the museum you saw their dark times turned into a way of life …their music, food, fashion, point of view..just everything. ¬†It’s def a must see in DC!!!

After this we made our way across the Mall to the Washington Memorial, and then to the Lincoln Memorial. ¬†It’s weird how overcome with emotions I was walking up the steps to the Lincoln Memorial. ¬†It was a place I had always wanted to go visit. ¬†Lincoln is¬†a man I highly admire from America’s history. ¬†He made powerful statements and wanted to see a just country. ¬†The sight was not only beautiful but the vibe is also quite impressive. ¬† So many gatherings of people there. Really top notch. ¬†After we hung out at the memorial for an hour or so, we took a stroll through the Vietnam War Memorial. ¬†It is quaintly tucked away so I almost missed it!

We then ran to grab an uber to take us to the hotel for a rest. ¬†We walked something insane at this point, like 7 miles and on our feet, without much rest. ¬†Then after that good rest we took a walk down to Central, Michel Richard’s restaurant..he passed away recently. So as you might tell, I am a bit of a foodie by all these places we hit up in DC. ¬†Central was so much fun! ¬†We got so many cocktails and appetizers that I still am full! ¬†We started off with a blueberry white wine sangria and a pink Negroni for me…holy tipsy off one. ¬†Seriously, I am no light weight, but that drink was holy moly good! After this we went to Milk, a special spot my kids love in NYC. ¬†Then it started pouring, so we took an uber back to pack up the room.

DAY 4 Photos:

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Ok, so this is part one! The second part (one night) we hit up Philadelphia, PA, for a quick history stop and then on the way home we stopped in New Haven, CT.

Hope this wasn’t terribly wordy…as I wasn’t planning to say much! ¬†haha

xoxoxoxoxo

Disney World Dining Reservations

To Dining Plan or Not to Dining Plan?

If you are not familiar with the dining plan concept, Disney offers an exclusive meal plan if you book one of their Magic Your Way packages (staying on their property). While staying on property you can purchase this dining plan, unless exception offered, that can be used at any of the 100 food establishments listed on the dining list for snacks and meals at the four parks/downtown area. There are different dining plan packages for the types of meals they offer, quick service or table service meals, and your allocated number of snacks/meals per day depend on the level of plan you choose. Also, I believe this includes a free refillable resort mug that can be used daily. ¬†To use the plan, your ‚Äúkey to the world‚ÄĚ card, your room key, acts as the credit card basically tracking your plan‚Äôs allocated meals/snacks, but it doesn’t include gratuity or alcohol, those are separate; which you can see on your purchase receipts. Anything unused is forfeited at the end. There is a comprehensive breakdown of this service on the Disney website here: https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/planning-guides/in-depth-advice/disney-dining-plan.

Most times it is best to opt into the dining plan if you plan on dining at some of the character dinners or signature restaurants which can be pricey on their own. Also, if you like to travel without thinking too much about things, like me, it’s a great service!

–>Last trip, we opted into the plan for the whole stay (8 days), because we got it for free with the package they were offering at the time, and figured it was a great service to have so we did not worry about much else but having fun at the parks. We went for the regular dining plan. This includes 1 quick service meal, 1 table service meal, and 1 snack, per person per day. The snacks could be drinks or snack foods, which was a great thing to have on hand. ¬†The table service meals were an entr√©e and dessert if they were not buffet style restaurants.

I do like and dislike the plan. Of course, why else would I bring this up, right?        

The plan was great overall.¬†¬†It was perfect for my children. Though it was a lot of eating for us,¬†for my husband and I.¬†¬†¬†In retrospect, we realized we were eating way more than being on normal vacation or every day life. ¬†It doesn‚Äôt seem all that much, 2 meals and a snack per day.¬†¬†It seemed logical..eating full meals twice a day and then a snack is more than enough for all four of us, but then¬†well, it’s vacation..you get munchy..you add on top of that all¬†the indulging treats¬†like, MICKEY BARS, ice creams, cotton candy, beignets,¬†pretzels, French pastries, etc,¬†and then alcoholic drinks.. it¬†ends up¬†a lot! No amount of us busting our butts walking around those parks for 10-14 hours a day was enough to burn those calories!

So NOT happening this time!!!

–>For this trip, we are opting into the dining plan for 5 out of the 11 days, during¬†the first half of the trip. Since we are splitting time at 2 resorts we can use it for half or all the trip.¬†¬†We will be using the plan for those character¬†dinners the girls loved, and to the places we wanted to go last time and couldn’t.¬† Honestly, I think the dining plan is great for the character dinners-that is if you or your family like that type of thing. The prices of these dinners normally on their own are sort of out of whack, in my opinion, so using the plan seemed right then and this time, too.

We already booked our dining reservations* for 6 locations, using one off plan later in our trip.  We are going to a few new restaurants, and back to two our girls liked a lot. The other places we dined were ok last time, but the two they enjoyed the most are on the agenda up front.  We went to a fun restaurant every night last trip, with only two being character dinners.  The first night we went to The Crystal Palace to meet Winnie the Pooh and all his friends for dinner at the Magic Kingdom (I didn’t enjoy this place at ALL! But they had a blast and we finished eating in time to catch the fireworks nearby.).  Then a few days later we went to the Arkershus Banquet Hall to meet all the Princesses in Norway at EPCOT, which we all liked a lot.  When I had talked about Disney with them upon our return home, they claimed that was their favorite restaurant on that trip, Arkershus.  They were part of the Princess parade and got to meet ALL their favorite princesses in one spot, and even had a photo shoot with Belle.  So, how can I deny them that for this trip?

Our Dining Reservations:
-Dinner at O’hana
-Dinner at Chef Mickey’s
-Breakfast at Tusker House
-Dinner at Arkershus Banquet Hall (repeat)
-Dinner at Boma (repeat)

-and off the dining plan: dinner at 50’s Prime Time Cafe- cause my kids are obsessed with milk shakes. I mean OBSESSED!¬† Plus, we can hit up Fantasmic right after, which wasn’t open when we were there last!¬† It is an attraction we think they will absolutely love!

I am looking forward to the restaurants we have never been to; and ALSO, I am looking forward to Starbucks in the parks, like I keep mentioning ..does anyone know if you can use snack options there?  ha

Thanks for reading!

xoxoxox

*YES! RESERVATIONS! If you haven’t been to Disney in a long time, things have changed a lot. And I mean A LOT! The first couple of times I went it wasn’t a big thing for us to stay on property or to even eat at the parks, but now that I have children, it is all-consuming and a priority. Everything involving booking a trip to Disney is about the timing! Time of year to go. Time of day to fly. Timing on making dining reservations. Timing on ride lines. Timing on events. Timing to meet characters! Timing! Things book up super fast and if you don’t have your options put together you lose out..well, your kids lose out! Which is the worst.