Art, Live Music, and Vino – Gallery Night in Pensacola, FL

Florida, USA

The second Friday of every month the streets of Pensacola, a small city right on the Gulf of Mexico, transform into a huge party for retirees. Rock and blues bands perform from roof tops and various balconies singing to an excited group of swinging grannies, beer bottle in their hands. Florida is known for its large population of seniors and they all come out to play on a night Pensacola calls Gallery Night. All the local stores open their doors, often hosting a performer of their own, offering free samples and special sales. New exhibits open for this night featuring art that brings together eclectic flavors of nearby cities like New Orleans and Atlanta with the serenity of beach-living. I wanted to buy it all.

Certain areas of the city are blocked off, which makes it impossible to drive, but ideal for gallivanting through every block. Especially when 80% of the people present at this massive event were feeling it, if you know what I mean. It’s kind of like a city-sponsored red solo cup party. The bar scene in Pensacola is massive for such a small city – two whole blocks are dedicated to these well-trafficed bars. It’s like no other business may open on those two blocks. This would be awesome… if I was 21. Still, all I want now is to come back to a Gallery Night when I am 21 so I can party with all these cool old people.

Don’t get me wrong, not everyone was old, I’m kind of exaggerating the circumstances. I saw some adorable new moms with their babies strapped onto to them so they could easily hold shopping bags in one hand and a beer in the other.

This was one of my favorite parts of the night – just the idea of this I thought was genius. He really did sit there and write a poem on his typewriter. The little boy pictured would tell the poet what he wanted the story to be about and the poet would swiftly (and remarkably effortlessly) write it. Just like that. Unfortunately the line was hella long and I was unsure if he charged so being the cheap-skate that I am walked away thinking to myself I can write a poem. That’s my one regret from the night! Should have waited…


The crowds really started to pick up in size and in youthfulness as the night wore on. Time-wise the event ended around 10pm, but the bars continued to press forth all night. One especially beautiful thing about Gallery Night was all the lights strung over different buildings. It felt so welcoming and really set the mood for a great night.

When traveling, finding an event like this is a window into local life. I got to see a whole lot of local flair in a short period of time, while having inexpensive fun. Can’t beat that. The people I got to talk to whether about their art or just about life in Pensacola were so friendly – so friendly that my cheeks hurt after the night from smiling so intensely. I couldn’t help it. I closed out the night with a mango, pineapple, etc. smoothie from this hippie coffee place that also serves “fine wine”… random, but ok I guess the best of both worlds? I sat inside freezing because I stupidly wore shorts not realizing how cold it gets at night-time in Florida, forgetting that they’re just now recovering from their “coldest winter ever.” (It was a whole twenty degrees for two days!!! Oh my goodness! How could they possibly survive?!) As I sat there enjoying my smoothie I people watched and smiled. A lot. Every old couple holding hands melted my heart a little bit more until I just as liquid-y as the smoothie I was enjoying so much. I saw a real community out there – one that loves the sun but loves to party more. I want to be that cool when I’m 75.


Rainy Day in DC


I hate the rain. Especially when I have to travel in it and even more when I have to drive over the terrifyingly high and narrow bay bridge during a storm. But I’ve got to say there’s something to say about DC in the rain. It looks majestic and the glamorous government building glimmer in the rain. Raindrops dance down the outside of windows the size of my house. It’s almost like the city needs a nice bath every once in a while to wash away the inevitable dirt left from politics.


The capital hidden in the fog.

As a political science major there’s no surprise in saying that I love this city. I love feeling like I’m not the only one speed-walking and motivated in everything I do. On the Eastern Shore of Maryland and in many places I travel to there’s a slower pace to life. That’s not to say that people aren’t motivated, because that is so not the case (with everyone), but there’s essentially no sense of urgency – a sense that runs deep in my blood.

Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden

South Carolina, USA

Pearl Fryar’s Topiary Garden is in the middle of nowhere South Carolina in a small town called Bishopville in Pearl’s lawn (as well as the local Waffle House). It took Pearl almost three decades to complete his masterpiece, which now draws tourists from all over. Every morning he is still hacking away at his beautiful topiaries transforming them into his own form of art. I went and saw his garden for Thanksgiving weekend, last November and was blown away, although I do recommend going in the spring or summer instead of in the early winter as everything was starting to turn grey.

Interested in learning more? Check out Pearl’s documentary here.

Horseback Riding in Ojai

California, USA


Entering Ojai Valley is scary. I’m driving 50mph (or more) through all these twists and tight-turns with the locals driving right on my tail. Then I look out the window and all is ok. Mountain ranges with the sun just bouncing off of them creates this majestic color that looks like a postcard.

Once you say goodbye to the Pacific Ocean and start heading west you think that it’s going to get less gorgeous. But it doesn’t. Ojai Valley is just a new kind of beauty in California. This dry and sunny city is home to many vacation homes for celebrities or just crazy rich people and for good reason. There’s horse ranches galore and a great downtown area. If you love the outdoors (and the heat) and are kinda a hippie this is the place for you. With locally-grown food everywhere, farmer’s markets every Sunday, and the mountains as a constant backdrop this is undeniably an amazing place to live (and visit!).

IMG_4309Chain stores are actually prohibited by law making Ojai a great place to start a business, because the government does all it can to promote any and all local businesses. Also fun fact: Jim, from The Office, used to live there so yeah it’s pretty much the greatest place on Earth.

My boyfriend and I stopped for a burrito at Ruben’s, which was finger-lickin’ good. It’s just a cute little family run restaurant with amazingly spicy stuff. I got one of their milder burritos and it was still spicy. Luckily they have delicious Horchata so that really helps with the burn from the spices.

Then we were off for some horseback riding! I was actually kind of nervous going riding just because it was my first time and they’re pretty huge creatures. Also this sign didn’t help…


Once I started going I had a great time! The horse I was riding on was great and our guide was amazing. My boyfriend’s horse, Chance, was quite stubborn and really slow. He really just wasn’t feeling the sun that day.

Another fun fact: Easy A was actually filmed in Ojai! The “hippie” culture here is even obvious in the movie.


Just look at how gorgeous this area is… Like drool.


Monarch Butterfly Grove

California, USA

Every November to February millions of Monarch butterflies flock to Pismo Beach, California – and I thought that area couldn’t get any more beautiful (well it did). My boyfriend and I went to see all the butterflies on a day trip in January and it took my breath away.


The butterflies are all interspersed in the trees giving it the appearance of orange leaves, but if you look closely you’ll see that it’s just thousands of butterflies, all resting in this mini forest in the middle of the classic beach town. Pismo Beach is a relaxed destination, but also a tourist hotspot, so it was nice to get away from the commercialized downtown and see so many of these gorgeous butterflies.

As part of the experience you can attend a lecture on the butterflies by an expert on the subject, but I skipped that as ultimately I did want to get to the beach. What a wonderful stop along the way. Unfortunately this place doesn’t see many butterflies during the rest of the year so you have to plan your trip accordingly. If you get lucky one will land on you or come very close; fortunately there’s so many that your chances are pretty good.



Learning about what is by far the most beautiful insect definitely excited that part of me that always wants to keep learning – that passion for knowledge. Getting to look at their beautiful orange hue with white specks up close and personal really made this little grove a site to be seen. Fun fact: All the butterflies cluster so much together to weigh down the branches to keep themselves from falling off in the wind. Talk about a community working together!


The atmosphere of this little treasure was really what made this spot memorable. All the volunteers and speakers were so knowledgeable on monarchs and obviously very passionate. It made it the perfect spot for an unusual, but awesome date. One of those kind of dates where you’re live-Instagraming everything. I hate Olive Garden type dates; this was my kind of date. Plus I got to go with my boyfriend of one and half years so that made it pretty great :).

Sound great? Check out the Monarch Butterfly Grove’s website here. Pismo Beach is a great destination for any travel so make this your next stop for any day trip in California! Interested in learning more about butterflies….? Check out the books below all about butterflies because I am certainly no expert…


Small Towns in the Delmarva Region You Need to Visit

Delaware, Maryland, Travel Tips, USA, Virginia

I will always have a little sweet spot for the East Coast. Charming is just one of the many adjectives I could throw out to describe the many small towns in the Mid-East. Whether it’s college towns, beach towns, or straight up in the middle of nowhere towns the East Coast has a lot to offer for travelers looking for a peaceful escape.

Small towns can offer the savvy and frequent traveler something more than the flashy and predictable cities, so why not check out the Mid-Atlantic region? Here’s my list of personal favorites with a few crowd favorites for a blend of relaxation and exploration for any traveler looking for somewhere new to go.



CHESTERTOWN, MARYLAND – This charming small town on the Eastern Shore of Maryland lies on the beautiful Chester River and is only two hours from Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Washington DC. Chestertown is an unlikely spot for tourists, which actually makes it the best spot for travelers. Grabbing a bite at Evergrain Bakery, thrift shopping down High Street, and enjoying a sunset by the river are some of the many things Chestertown has to offer. With Washington College just a brisk walk away and the river always in eye-sight, Chestertown is sure to please. Check out this great story, by Coastal Living, about Chestertown if you end up loving it so much you want to move there. The area is one of the most affordable parts of Maryland as it is also one of the least populated areas, so for all you budget travelers (like myself) this is a great place for you!

photo courtesy of Evergrain Bakery       IMG_2565


DEWEY BEACH, DELAWARE – I have such deep love for this town right here. Summer time in Dewey is one big party – life is just a little bit slower at this delightful beach town. Just a Jolly Trolley ride away from the main beach area of Rehoboth, Dewey is in the perfect location – a little out of the action, but still close enough to take advantage of all the public transportation. Beaches are significantly less crowded and parking is actually possible, as opposed to it’s big brother beaches Rehoboth and Bethany. A trip to the Delaware Beaches is under-rated and I feel it deserves more attention. Delaware is a small wonder and I grew up there so I’m most definitely biased, but for any traveler who loves going to little-know areas Delaware’s your place. I can’t tell you how many times someone has said, “Delaaawheree?” It’s all too common of an occurrence, but let’s be real – they’re the ones missing out. Check out this youthful beach town for a great time that you may or may not remember if you get me.

deweybeachpic      DBdetailedmap      deweybeach2

number3BERLIN, MARYLAND – Recently named the “coolest small town in America” by Budget Travel, Berlin certainly lives up to it’s reputation. It’s charm comes from all the local businesses filling it’s small main street. Located in the heart of the Eastern Shore of Maryland, or the other side of the bridge as the rest of Maryland calls it, Berlin features dozens of small businesses and a location no one can deny as being perfect. Right outside of Ocean City, Berlin is able to keep it’s town clean and safe for residents and tourists alike while being a manageable commute from DC. Berlin has streets that you simply can’t get tired of walking and the ocean close enough that the air just feels fresh.


number-two-mdLEWES, DELAWARE – Located in the eye of the Atlantic Ocean, Lewes is perfectly breezy without the classic umbrella turning wind of the beach. It’s called the Harbor of Refuge for a reason.. Lewes is a delightful small with a wide array of independent restaurants and shops in a very culturally-rich (and actually rich) community. For a trip to Lewes either stay in their cheaper sister cities or go for a day trip because prices do lighten your wallet while visiting. Check out Agave for to-die-for guacamole and local boutiques for unique accessories. With Tanger Outlets right outside of the town you can be sure to spend a hunk of cash, but it’s also easy to just enjoy the town for what it is and relax downtown. There’s nothing physically ripping the money away, let’s just say there’s some temptation in Lewes. A wonderful coastal community none-the-less and a definite spot to add to any traveler’s “to see” list.

IMG_2191      IMG_2200

number1NEWARK, DELAWARE – This town bleeds blue and gold with it’s most well-known feature being University of Delaware. Newark basically revolves around the college – any driver fears downtown during class changes and be prepared for some sights that will be forever burned into your memory if you’re around on Saint Patrick’s Day. University of Delaware, named one of the biggest party schools in America particularly on St. Patty’s Day, has created a booming economy for the surrounding town of Newark. Why travel around the world when you have the mainstreet of Newark, Delaware? There’s more international cuisine in this small town than you would expect with of course multiple Froyo shops (you can never have too many..).

Not too far from the social center of Newark, is White Clay Creek State Park, a wonderful place to hike, run, take pictures, mountain bike, etc, etc. Because of it’s proximity to UD, Newark always has something going on whether it be a guest speaker on campus or concert at Homegrown Cafe or Mojo. I may also be extremely biased in my decision on number 1 because I grew up here.. Sorry! (But I’m really not because Newark is an amazing place to grow up and travel to)

IMG_1695     newark mainstreet


HONORABLE MENTION – Assateague Island, Virginia

Photo Sources: Evergrain Bread Co., Delaware Online, Dewey PD, About My Beaches, Government of BerlinZorach Files, Active Rain, and me :).

Best of Spring Break Food

Alabama, Tennessee, USA, Virginia
Samoa donut from Sugar Shack in Richmond, VA

Samoa donut from Sugar Shack in Richmond, VA

Honey Lemon Chicken Schnitzel from Ol' Heidelberg in Huntsville, AL

Honey Lemon Chicken Schnitzel from Ol’ Heidelberg in Huntsville, AL

Crab and Shrimp dip at The Aquarium Restaurant in Nashville, TN

Crab and Shrimp dip at The Aquarium Restaurant in Nashville, TN

Peach Froyo with cheesecake bits, strawberries, mango flavored bubbles, and coconut flakes from Yogurt Mountain in Huntsville, AL

Peach Froyo with cheesecake bits, strawberries, mango flavored bubbles, and coconut flakes from Yogurt Mountain in Huntsville, AL

Homemade chili thing (red beans and rice with so much more) with cornbread

Homemade chili thing (red beans and rice with so much more) with cornbread

Sweet Tea (my favorite of all of Spring Break) from Urban Cookhouse in Birmingham, AL

Sweet Tea (my favorite of all of Spring Break) from Urban Cookhouse in Birmingham, AL

Ham and Pineapple Sandwich with mac and cheese on the side from Urban Cookhouse in Birmingham, AL

Ham and Pineapple Sandwich with mac and cheese on the side from Urban Cookhouse in Birmingham, AL

Fried Peach Pie from Peach Park in middle of nowhere Alabama

Fried Peach Pie from Peach Park in middle of nowhere Alabama (hidden in a gas station)

Seafood Gumbo from Doc's in Gulf Shores, AL

Seafood Gumbo from Doc’s in Gulf Shores, AL

Hush Puppies from Doc's in Gulf Shores, AL

Hush Puppies from Doc’s in Gulf Shores, AL

Pulled Pork Sandwich and Baked Beans from Lambert's Cafe in Foley, AL (home of the throwed rolls)

Pulled Pork Sandwich and Baked Beans from Lambert’s Cafe in Foley, AL (home of the throwed rolls)

Celebrating St. Patricks Day on the Road

Travel Tips, USA

There will be no green beer for me this year because I’ll be finishing up the last leg of my ten day road-trip. Tomorrow is about a thirteen hour drive back to campus and back to reality. Driving for that long after an exhausting weekend is not fun especially when my Instagram will be full of people getting sloshed, green beads strung around their neck (I’m a college student so no one has a job to get to plus it is a snow day). So how can you make a long drive festive?


My first solution to any road-trip is trivia. I am a trivia geek – if a restaurant advertises a trivia night, I will be there. I have a very competitive soul and the desire to never stop learning so trivia is my bestfriend. These questions will obviously be all about St. Patrick’s day – traditions, background, history, etc. Know any good trivia? Comment below!

Every successful roadtrip (you know the kind where you don’t want pull your hair out) requires good music, so in the spirit of St. Patrick’s day some Irish music is necessary. Of course not too much though or you might want to actually pull your hair out. All’s good in moderation.. Aside from traditional bagpipey music, you can go the party route as St. Partrick’s day has turned into more of a party rather than a religious holiday. Upbeat, club music is always a good idea for long car trips because there’s no way you’re feeling tired behind the wheel with dubstep blasting. Macklemore came out with the perfect combo song of Irish and pop music called “Irish Celebration”. It’s not my favorite song but it does the job for this Irish party.

For lunch, instead of going through the drive-through my friend, Kayla, and I are headed to an Irish pub. Not quite sure which one yet, but there are enough everywhere that I’m sure we’ll run into one along the way! Of course no alcohol, but we can enjoy the atmosphere of an Irish pub as well as a hearty meal.


What I’m looking forward to most is participating in the regional tradition of Savannah, Georgia on St. Patrick’s day of blowing bubbles. I just read about it in this National Geographic article and think it is a great idea for the car! The first Dollar Store I see I’m stopping and picking up some bubbles. I mean what could be better than a day out on the road blowing bubbles out of the window, watching them fly down the road behind you? It reminds me of my swimming days. Fellow swimmers would understand – it’s all about the slogan eat my bubbles. Oh, those were the days.

Lastly, the best way to honor the original idea for the holiday is not to party, because really that is an American thing, which takes away from the actual Irish holiday. In fact, St. Patrick’s day was a complete dry holiday until 40 years ago in Ireland. So, although it would be more fun to party at University of Delaware or at my college, Washington College, I think I will have just as much fun without a huge celebration. I’ll just be enjoying the open road with my bubbles and trivia.