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Posts Tagged ‘Travel’

Um, not really—but it did put him in quite a predicament.

As you know, I’m currently working and going back to school.  It’s quite time-consuming.  (Have you, dear reader, noticed a serious lack of quality posts?  Oh yes.  That is the reason why.  And don’t let these recent posts fool you.  I created them all during my week off from school.   Sneaky, sneaky.)  Anyway, I have 14 weeks of school straight through summer.  It almost seems cruel and unusual.    But, if I survive those 14 weeks, I will emerge with 3 weeks off in August.

Cue the thought process….. —–>  End of summer.  3 weeks off.  Days off from work to spare……VACATION TIME BABY!!

So, I realized this a few weeks ago, but Joe and I are no closer to picking a destination.  The indecision is killing me! ha!  There are just so many great places to go that I don’t know where to start.  We also want to go to non-kid friendly destinations so we can do the fun couple traveling before we have kids.  MUST….FIT….IT….ALL….IN!!!!!!!!!!  (Don’t read too much into that.  We aren’t even close to the wee-ones.  But when you take a vacation once every two years, its something to consider.)  Budget is also something to consider but isn’t the limiting factor if a really cool trip came along.

Anyway…where was your favorite vacation?  Any recommendations???  HELP!!!!!   🙂

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So, Joe is in California for the summer.  We have done the long distance thing before, and knowing that he is your husband and is only going to be gone for 12 weeks is mighty reassuring.  That said, the telephone becomes a vital instrument for keeping a relationship happy.  So when my phone decided to konk out on me at the end of May, it has made life a little hard.

Joe + Sara: Summer 2009 (haha!)

Joe + Sara: Summer 2009 (haha!)

Granted, the phone still would receive calls and whatnot, I just could not hear the person on the other end unless the speakerphone was on.  With all the traveling that I have been doing, it has gotten a bit awkward.   Sometimes it was okay sharing my entire conversation with strangers in the terminal.  On the way to San Francisco (on my birthday) as several people overheard my conversation and wished me a happy birthday as a result.  But the other day, coming back from LA, the plane had landed…my phone beeps indicating that I have a new voicemail.  Typically I wouldn’t listen right then, but I was trying to coordinate plans for a airport pickup.  So, I dial my voicemail, and put it on speakerphone to hear my messages…

Message 1 was from Emma and was completely normal.

Message 2….

Hello.  This is… (self thinking, “Oh great.  Automated message from a telemarketer or something.”)

your Atlanta OB/GYN…  (“OB/GYN??  Oh GOD!  Hang up, Sara!  HANG UP!!’)

calling to confirm your appointment for…. (“WHERE  THE *$%# IS THE END BUTTON????”)

I finally got over the flusteredness, hung up, and shared with the entire plane my womanly medical appointments.  (I guess I just shared it with the internet world too, but at least that was willingly.)  Anyway, as everyone was staring at me as I tried to blend into the wall, I was laughing and cursing at my phone simultaneously.  After a month and a half of speaker phone usage, I needed a new phone.

I did a lot of searching around and realized that getting a phone without signing a new contract is a huge pain.  I went to the AT&T store to play around with some options that are out right now, but even the low-end phones (read: crappiest one available) were so expensive w/out a contract.  So I looked on ebay…I looked everywhere.  From my expeditions to the AT&T store, I found I really liked the LG Vu so  I ended up getting it in wine color, & ‘pre-loved’ as it saved me ~ half the cost of the phone.

Introducing my new phone…Viola.LG-vu-wine

So far, I really like it.  I’m honestly waiting for the bottom to fall out as that is typically what happens with technological devices that I like.  I have 30 days to try it out so hopefully, if something breaks, its in the next month.  It is pretty responsive & easy to use.  It allows you little customization of buttons, but there is little need for many shortcuts as most applications are a few taps away.  It has the silly, “watch tv on your phone” feature, and I just avoid that button like the plague.  It also has a few fun tools standard:  tip calculator, world clock, and (my favorite) unit conversion calculator.  I sent Joe a test text message and the full screen keyboard is very easy to type on.  No word on battery life yet, but I’d imagine that its not that great.  I also liked it because of the color!  (Note:  Please ignore my smudges.  That’s one of the negatives.  It smears up w/fingerprints constantly!)

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It’s not the typical boring black, but it’s also not so flashy (bright pink or red…) that I would feel unprofessional using it at a meeting or conference.  It also has some fun voice commands like it will read me my missed calls.  (You should hear it (try to) pronounce Joe’s last name. )

Perhaps, I’m amazed by this because my phone was pretty simple before.  Even with no internet flashy-ness, it still has a lot of stuff to play with.  Perhaps, I’m happy just because I can actually hear people.  That is itself makes it an amazing phone to me.

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Well, here we are on our second stop of our honeymoon — Belize City, Belize. Sorry to leave you hanging for awhile…it seems like it harder to blog once you have to go back to work!!

Anyway, the weather that day was much better!! This morning, I actually snuck out of bed onto our balcony and to take a few pictures of the sunrise as Joe was sleeping.

Sunrise

Sunrise

The port in Belize was a little different. We used tenders to ferry us to the mainland. It was actually a nice boat ride and we were able to see some of Belize from afar before arrival on land. It seemed a little more developed than our previous stop…and it was sunny, so that was a great start!

First view of Belize

First view of Belize

Once we arrived on the dock, we boarded a big charter bus to take us on our excursion for the day—zip lining thru the trees and cave tubing! It was a pretty long drive thru the contry side but it gave us a good opportunity to see the city and outskirts a bit better. Some city pictures…

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The hospital

The hospital

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We learned a lot of interesting things about Belize on the drive…one of which all of the Belize City is below sea level. For the graveyards, the law states the everyone must be buried 6 feet under the surface. This makes it quite difficult when they dig 4 feet down and there is water…so what they do is go down as far as possible and make up the difference on the top. What you get are cemeteries that look like this…

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Also, there had been some major flooding because of a few tropical depressions that hit Belize earlier. Some of the roads were flooded…and I honestly was surprised to see our driver power right through the deep water. There were lots of people wading thru the water on the side of the road. Our guide said that they were fishing for tilapia. There is a tilapia farm that over flowed so it was basically like free food or good money to whoever could catch them.

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Driving thru the water

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Anyone to buy this land?

Anyone want to buy this land?

We also learned that every Belizean citizen has the right to a piece of land. Obviously there is some time and difficulty involved in the process, but we thought that was pretty interesting.

So anyway, after our 60min drive into the country, we found ourself in the forest ready for to go zip-lining. I had an absolute blast!! It was entirely too short and I wish we could have gone through the course twice, but it was so fun. On one of the long sections, you are just zipping along and you can’t see the landing platform—it’s just you and the trees. It was great. The set up was pretty easy too…you wore these gloves reinforced with a leather strip to act as your braking system. To brake, slide your hand on the cable. But there is always that person that just doesn’t quite get it. There was a girl that showed up in a sarong and flipflops. She went right behind Joe and had a little trouble stopping on the first line a cables. Luckily, it was short so she didn’t have the much speed….but on the 2nd tree, it was significantly longer. Joe and I are moving from one platform to the next (I’m actually stupidly trying to take a picture of him while on stairs between tree levels) when we hear this frantic shouting through the trees….

MY BRAKES DON’T WORK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The girl had lost all control (which let me remind you is hard to do as long as you still have your arm attached). She slammed into the poor spotter, the tree…and we actually started to sway from the impact. After that incident and losing her flipflop, she refused to go anymore for fear her brakes wouldn’t work. Oh silly girls. It was at this time Joe turned to me and stated…”I’m so glad I married you.” It was a good moment… 🙂

Joe suiting up...

Joe suiting up...

Some of the platforms from the ground

Some of the platforms from the ground

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Between platforms

Between platforms

)

Right after the IMPACT 🙂

We then ate a typical Belizean lunch. I obviously forgot that we were in a foreign country and their spice levels are not the same as whimpy America’s…I loaded on the hot sauce on my chicken and rice. Despite my lips being on fire, it was really, really good.

Lunch

Lunch

After lunch, we started our cave tubing adventure. We grabbed a tube, life vest, and head lamp and headed out through the woods. We only walked about 20 minutes to get to the put in location for the cave but it was a nice little walk and we got to see some plants…and lots of mosquitoes. We got in the water and these tiny little fish started to nibble on me…which really creeps me out. It was better than if I couldn’t see them but it was good to get in the cave to leave those little guys behind.

The tour made us link up and go through in groups of 8…I don’t really want to elaborate much more than that because I’m still huffy about it. I had some crazy type-A lady behind me who was eager to have her vacation over with…she actually was getting angry that we weren’t paddling fast enough.

Lady with blue watersocks: (huffily) Well Geronimo (our tour guide), I guess our group is just on vacation or something…..Harumph!

I could have smacked her. BUT – I didn’t. And the cave itself was very cool. There were a lot of really neat formations, openings…and bats. It was a unique experience, one that I would like to do again as long as I was not be interlocked with crazy people.

But, that was pretty much our day. We got back to the city center, shopped around a bit, then hopped on a boat back to the cruise ship.

Another day, another gorgeous sunset…

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Next up…Cozumel, Mexico!

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The honeymoon saga continues! If you missed part I, be sure to go back and check it out!!

We arrived in Roatan, Honduras early in the morning. It was raining, cloudy…and in general, quite a crummy day. While we were pulling up, it appeared that the island itself was sparsely populated and largely undeveloped.

Our first view of Roatan

Our first view of Roatan

We grabbed breakfast on the deck as the ship pulled into port. Thankfully, we had to return to our cabin for a forgotten item because we were met with the following note:

We regret to inform you that because of the rough water, your tour of clear kayaks has been cancelled. Please see one of our shore excursion team memembers to schedule another activity. We are sorry for the inconvenience….(blah blah blah….something about ‘Safety First’)……

So, our plans were scratched. Getting off the ship was chaotic. I think everyone was so excited for the first port, that everyone was storming the gangway to exit. I do OKAY in crowds, but I do get annoyed when people try to push me around if we are going the exact same place…anyway, despite the minor inconvenience about our excursion being canceled, we luckily had a back up trip that we had wanted to take and we were the last 2 people allowed to get on. I was actually a bit impressed with myself through this process. I didn’t worry about what we would do, what would happen…etc. I think I’m all worried out from the wedding activities! We scheduled a trip for snorkeling and a nature park that left later in the morning so we had a bit of time to mellow around.

On the pier, the cruise passengers were greeted by a group of native Roatanians (?) dancing and playing music. Roatan_dancers

I had to be sneaky to get that picture. They are pretty adamant about getting tips if you even make eye contact. This is what makes me most uncomfortable. Anyway, since we had some time, I wanted to walk around and explore a bit. We quickly found out that the pier is heavily secured. No one can get access to the boat or pier without showing a ship ID card…and when Joe and I came back to the boat, there were actually 2 checkpoints. I wanted to see Roatan so we left the secure area and started to walk around a bit…in the rain. Every few feet, we were confronted with a different vendor. (”Take this tour!” …”Buy this shirt!” ….”Enjoy this drink!”……”HEY! HEY! HEY!!!!”) We even had a couple of kids follow us for awhile until Joe put his serious face on and told them to get lost. (I was happy that I didn’t have to do it…) That is the one thing that I don’t like about cruises. It is well known that you are not going to see the true culture of a location close to the terminal. I love visiting Puerto Rico, but I avoid the cruise terminal area of San Juan just because the people are so much pushier there. Also, when we were in Jamaica, I actually had some lady grab my hair and offer to braid it. I about flipped out. So, anyway…I really tried to explore a bit, but I just felt so uncomfortable. I couldn’t even browse the little shops. I’m also stubborn so if someone tells me to come and buy something and is pushy about it…his chances are about zero to none that I’m actually going to even look at it.

So, we met up with our excursion back on the pier. We drove about 20 minutes to get on our catamaran to go snorkeling. The area was really poor. Our guide said that the island has seen many improvements since the cruise ships started coming. We drove past the hospital and you could hear a hush go through the van of tourists at its dismal conditions. I know that we were all thinking…”And this is an improvement from what they had before…” I didn’t get very good pictures as we drove thru the island, but hopefully these will paint a little bit of the conditions…

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img_2014_webIt should be noted that on our drive, I saw several new large mansions and resorts. It seems like the island is trying to encourage resort tourists and nice homes being built, but it was almost like the large disparity between the run down and gorgeous houses made the poor seem like they even had less.

Anyway, we got on our catamaran for a snorkeling trip….and you’ll never guess who was there with us? Our camera crew! We said hello and chit-chatted a bit…and the proceeded to film us getting into the water, while we were snorkeling (and Joe was chasing after fish!), getting out of the boat, and cruising back in. It was a bit unnerving (because I’m in a swimsuit here people!!), but I guess they liked us because we didn’t really pay any attention to them & we just enjoyed our trip.

The reef in Roatan was beautiful! It has so many fish and was so large. I think it is one of the best places that I have ever been snorkeling. I wish we had brought an underwater camera, but eh! It was very cool…we also sailed past two ‘sunken ships’.

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When the tour description talked about sunken ships, I pictured something quite different. These ships were drug ships intercepted in the 70’s. The government decided to burn then and sink them where they were…maybe they serve as a beacon to future cocaine traffickers? Who knows…but we ate lunch on the boat (which we think was Bo Jangles chicken!) and enjoyed the people watching.

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Since food and alcohol was included, several people proceeded to really take advantage of that. Joe and I had one of the local Honduran beers, while this one lady we think had one of everything. She probably was in her 40’s and upon hearing that Joe and I were on our honeymoon she said…

Drunk lady: Oh your honeymoon? Ha. My husband cheated on me! But, uh….good luck with that! Just appreciate each other….yeaaaah.

After this, she proceeded to try and dance with one of the poor, defenseless guides. We felt bad for him, but we couldn’t help but laugh. After lunch, we headed off to Gumbalimba park.

Gumbalima Park swing!

Gumbalima Park swing!

We quickly scoped out some really cool tree swings. We do a little looking around and I hear some commotion coming from another swing. The drunk lady is trying to push her kids on the swing….while standing in front of them. She got about 2 pushes in before she was quickly bowled over with one swift motion. Again…I really couldn’t help but laugh. (Disclaimer: When I blog, I often forget that other people may read this…so to my drunken cruising friend, if you happen to read this, all I can say to you is that I am happy you had a great vacation and I hope you know that your crazy antics only made ours more memorable!!!)

The beach was so dirty. I was immediately happy that we were not kayaking in this water.

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We then walked through the park and saw birds and monkeys. I guess Joe had a pretty bad experience with a crafty monkey in his younger years so we kept our towels around us to keep the monkeys from stealing anything…and from peeing on us! He was so soft and unaware that he was being held by someone. He was just so focused on eating his food!!

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Walking thru the park

Walking thru the park

We we able to talk with one of the guides who has lived on Roatan his whole life. I was getting ready to ask him how often he visits the mainland when he stated that he has never left the island. After thinking about it, I guess a $55 round trip boat ferry ticket to the mainland is a bit much when you probably don’t have a good reason to travel there in the first place.

Roatan map

Roatan map

We were also informed that an Italian business man controls all of the power to the island and actually owns the island closest in the above photo. Recently, the prices went up so dramatically for electricity, the people blocked the roads in protest. The roads were only opened a few days before we arrived. Joe was fascinated by the stories of the young islanders going out and hunting iguana. You could almost see a glimmer in the tour guides eye as he spoke about this apparent favorite pastime of his. There was a big discontinuity between the people of Roatan and the people of Honduras in general. The island was controlled by the British so the majority of islanders spoke English or a type of Creole. What I found most interesting was their method of postal delivery.

Guide: Have you noticed that all of the houses are different colors around here?

Group: …Yes.

Guide: Do you know why that is?

Sara: (-thinking to self-) ….because you enjoy bright colors and don’t want to look like your neighbors house??

Guide: It is for our mail system. We do not have street names, so you would have to put “Blue Two Story House by the School”

Sara: Really? So, if I wanted to mail you a letter…where would I send it??

Guide: “Yellow building, first floor, two houses down from the hospital”

I was stunned….and I completely was in love with our zip code system at that moment.

So, we got back on the boat and started sailing away. We ate in a specialty French restaurant that night (again as part of our honeymoon package!). My food was just ok. It was probably my least favorite of the week, but the ambiance was very romantic…and we got a complimentary bottle of wine so that makes all food taste better. For desert, the servers brought out a cake that said ‘Happy Anniversary’ and they serenaded us to “Let me call you sweetheart…” Joe was supposed to sing the last night (‘I’m in love with you’) and he did a smashing 🙂 job. It was really fun!

Excited about our 0th Anniversary Cake!

Excited about our Zero-th Anniversary Cake!

Dinner in Le Bistro

Dinner in Le Bistro

That pretty much was our day in Roatan. We had a great time snorkeling and learning a little bit about the island and its culture. Despite the rain, it was a very good day…

More to come about our next day in Belize City, Belize!!!

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The Honeymooners-part I

So, I’m skipping the wedding and going straight to the good stuff…the honeymoon! Really, I’d love to write about the wedding day, I just don’t have any pictures to supplement the content, so I figure I’ll wait to until a bit later to write about that. Also, I’m going to do installments, because really, no one likes to read a huge long blog post…

So, we left really early Sunday morning for the airport. Thankfully, my parents are morning people and had no problem leaving the hotel at 6AM. Also, it worked out great that we just happened to plan our wedding to fall on the one night that we get an extra hour of sleep! This is the one time in life that I said…”Hooray for Daylight Savings Time!”

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Waiting on our plane to Miami

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The new rings!

We get to Miami and its raining and crummy. I had read that the easiest way to get to the Port was by taxi, so we asked a few questions, made sure of the rate to the cruise terminal, and jumped in a taxi. At the port, there were tons of taxis, lines, and Homeland Security officers. We tell him our cruise line (Norwegian Cruise Lines)…but our driver pulls up to Carnival. Now, granted its very easy to see you are not at the right location. There were Carnival signs everywhere and I thought I saw an NCL ship a half mile or so in the other direction.

Driver: This is your stop.

Sara: Um….the signs say Carnival. We are on Norwegian. ….I really don’t mind walking but its raining pretty hard and I don’t even know which direction to go!

Driver: Ok, well I can’t go over there. See…I forgot my ID at home and they’ll throw me in jail if they stop me. I got lucky this time but I can’t go back.

Joe: Well, what are we supposed to do about that?

Driver: Well, I’ll take you to get another taxi….

So our driver drove back out of the terminal and to another location where he found one, lone taxi. This poor man was in the middle of eating his lunch and reluctantly agreed to take us to the correct terminal. I guess it is pretty well known in taxi driver circles of Miami that there have been some delays because of Homeland Security. This guy said they call them, ‘ICE’, because they are bigger and badder than the other forms of police. Who knows…

We get to the NCL terminal, pay the guy (the 2 drivers split the cost because Joe and I were not going to pay more for the first guys negligence…I mean, why take people to the port if you know you don’t have the proper identification to go to the port?), and dashed out of the rain. It was chaotic. We didn’t know if you had to check you bags, where to check them, what do to at all…It turns out, that a cruise is just like an airport. We could just carry everything on board with us. Note to future cruisers: Unless you are going for 2-3 weeks, keep everything small and with you. The hassle we avoided by doing this was unmeasurable.

As we go to board the ship, we see two Steelers fan talking to a man and a camera crew. As we were walking we were approached by one of the crew…

Lady: Hi, would you be willing to speaking with (Mr. So-and-So). We are looking to hear from a cute, young couple for a documentary that we are making about the cruise line industry.

Sara: Sure!! We’re on our honeymoon! We just got married yesterday!! 🙂

Lady: Even better!!  Wait just one moment and we’ll interview you…

Joe: (in backgound….) Grumble, grumble…

So we talked to this guy from CNBC for a bit and they asked us for our names. For those of you who don’t know Joe, he’s very private. If you are a sales clerk, I pity you if you ask him for his telephone number or ask to see his receipt as he is leaving (Wal-Mart) as you will either be ignored or told why you do not need this information. So, knowing this, I could just hear a piece of Joe’s soul die when he had to give his last name to this random camera crew…TWICE after they didn’t write it down correctly the first time. Despite me dragging him into the interview, it was a neat start to our trip.

When we walked aboard, we were greeted with champagne and smiling faces. We got to our room, and I was in heaven! It was small and cozy, but the balcony was oh so perfect. We also had flowers, strawberries and champagne waiting for us as part of our honeymoon package. Ooo-la-la!!!

Joe checking out the balcony

Joe checking out the balcony

Honeymoon package!

Honeymoon package!

After the weather cleared up a bit, we ate lunch and toured around the boat. We were on the Norwegian Pearl…a ship weighing approx. 93,000 tonnes with about 2,200 guests and ~1,100 crew members.

Our balcony overlooking Miami port

Our balcony overlooking Miami port

So, that was pretty much the first day…a lot of exploring, eating, getting acclimated, unpacking, napping,…and we went to a show. The next day was at sea. We woke up fairly early to eat breakfast and so I could see Cuba as we were passing by. I don’t know why I was so excited about this…I suppose it’s both because I have studied the country and its history, but also because it is the forbidden land to us in the US. Maybe I’ll get to go someday…

Joe is excited about Cuba, too!

Joe is excited about Cuba, too!

This first day at sea was just what I needed. I don’t think I realized how exhausted I was until that day. After breakfast we napped for awhile…then lazied on the deck sipping a strawberry daiquiri…had lunch…then decided to nap some more. It truly was a rough day. The sunset that night (and many other nights!) was so beautiful.

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Then, it was time for dinner. As you read more and more, you will find that food was the reoccurring theme of this trip. There was sooo much food!!! NCL had kind of a cool restaurant setup. They had multiple main dinning rooms with a different ambiance to each one. The first night we ate in “Indigo” which had a more modern feel to it. This night, we decided to go to “Summer Palace” which was modeled after one of the French royal palaces. The food was very good. It’s oddly liberating to order whatever you want and not worry about the individual item cost. I also found that I ordered much more unique dishes, because if I didn’t like it, it really wasn’t a huge loss as I could just order something else.

Summer Palace

Summer Palace

To round out the evening, we relaxed in the crystal atrium…

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…watched Big Ben on the VERY very big screen…

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…danced and lounged in the club…(notice the actual bed in the background!!)…

Bliss Lounge

Bliss Lounge

…and were greeted by a cute little piggie and chocolate when we got back to our room! I just love these little guys!!!

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All in all, it was a very good start to our cruise! Stay tuned for details about our first stop—Roatan, Honduras!

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THANKS! :)

Well everyone…we’re back!  I’m happy to report that Joe and I had a wonderful wedding!  We just got back from our honeymoon Sunday night.  I’m sure there will be many stories to share…but for now, I just wanted to say a quick thank you for everyone that came to the wedding and for those who wished us well from afar.  We really appreciate you and hope you had a great time as well!!  Thanks!!!

Stay tuned for more blogging…. 🙂

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Sara & Joe in the Bahamas! ❤

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Home sweet google.

I’m preparing for my trip back to my hometown this weekend for the wedding of one of my old friends. I will be meeting up with another good friend of mine and I was checking out my trusting google maps to refresh myself on how to get to his place. I never thought it could happen, but after being gone for ~7+ years, I actually have forgotten most of the roads. I found myself checking out the location of the post office, the high school, the movie theater…and somehow, I wound up hovering over my old house of 18 years.

It’s almost a ‘stalker-ish’ sensation you get when you know a property so well that is no long your own. “There the tree I used to love climbing. Oh! They put in a pool and and built a bigger back porch. I wonder if the backyard has flooded yet? …Ha! I used to actually sit on the roof in that spot. That’s where Snowy is buried. Hmm…I wonder what they are having for dinner??…….”

OH WAIT!!…I didn’t really think that last one! But it felt stalker enough for it to be plausible, right?

I guess that silly cliché is true…you can’t go home again. But thanks to google, you can check in from time to time and make sure they are taking care of the lawn properly!

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