My Summer of wanderLUST: Emerald Coast, Florida

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Aaaaaaah, the Sunshine State! Embarking on yet another road trip, this time I decided to get away for some Vitamin Sea. The last time I saw blue water was February in Tulum, so I was overdue for a a beach day.  I’ve been to Miami before and honestly, I wouldn’t be pressed if I never went there again. It just wasn’t my speed (no offense Miami goers).  So we set out for the Emerald Coast. Absolutely beautiful beaches that almost rival some of the most pristine Caribbean treasures.

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Typically, the trip is supposed to be about 7 hours, but thanks to Louisiana and its ongoing traffic, a 7 hour trip turned into 9 hours.  Anyone who makes the trek on I-10 from Texas going east will tell you that Louisiana is no picnic. The itinerary consisted of a stay in Pensacola and exploring the areas around town, plus an inevitable trip to Pensacola Beach. I have to say, people really do sleep on the beauty of Pensacola Beach. The sand was soft and fluffy and the water was  one of the calmest greenish- blues.

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You definitely want to get to the beach early though. We arrived around 8 am and there were a few families. By noon, it was completely crowded. We still had a blast anyway. I was tanned for the Gawds by the end of the day! I just couldn’t get over the beauty of the beaches, and it was only a 7 hour drive away. Talk about economical! This beach getaway was under $250 for me.  I split the lodging and fuel cost with a friend. And what vacation would be complete without trying the local cuisine?

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Grouper, Hush Puppies and Cheese Grits at Captain Joey’s, Pensacola, FL

As a native Texan, fried Catfish is usually the fish of choice. But apparently, Grouper is a “thing” in Florida. Undeniably fresh, this was hands down the freshest Grouper I’ve ever had!

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Shrimp and Bacon Macaroni and Cheese, Flounder’s Pensacola Beach, FL

My all time favorite dish from the entire trip was definitely at Flounder’s. This mac n’ cheese ushered me straight on to glory! Baked to perfection and oozing gooey, cheesy gloriousness! I had dreams about this stuff, seriously.

At some point, we wanted to see what else was out there, you know, check out some other beaches. So we made the drive to Destin. I can’t comment enough on how beautiful Destin’s beaches are.

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Destin Beach, FL

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Roman and I. Photo courtesy of my friend, @justassilem on IG
Roman and I. Photo courtesy of my friend, @justassilem on IG

No two beaches are alike, however. While both beaches were nice, the vibes were completely different. Both beaches were family friendly, but Destin definitely felt more high end.  Either way, I will definitely be back! And of course, road trips wouldn’t be any fun without random photoshoots in the middle of no where.

Loo-zy Anna pit stop.
Loo-zy Anna pit stop.

Did you guys do any road trips this summer? I’d love to hear about them!

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My Summer of wanderLUST: Oregon

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Continuing on with my summer filled with trips throughout the states, I decided to high tail it to Oregon. I have family that recently relocated there, so the timing couldn’t have been anymore perfect. Never in my life have I seen a place so green! And coming from an area where the air is extremely polluted with smog and the likes of refineries, Oregon was literally a breath of fresh air.

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Driving through Willamette Valley

The coolest thing I found about Oregon were all of the green/eco-friendly initiatives. It was weird asking for a to-go box and not be given styrofoam. And everywhere seemed extremely walkable. I didn’t really get a chance to explore Portland.  Most of my stay was in the quaint little town of Independence. I swear, I could’ve just roamed the main street the entire time and been content with life.  I walked around and found a cute Thai restaurant for lunch. And one of my favorite past times that I’ve grown fond of is finding a local ice cream parlor. The simple things that make us happy, right?

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Downtown Independence, OR

Oregon is such a scenic state. Like I literally was in awe taking in everything I was seeing. I didn’t want to do anything else other than to sit and stare at God’s wonderful creations. Something about being out in nature is very humbling and soothing at the same time. I went on this trip with a heavy heart and a completely stressed out mind. Somehow, I managed to find peace. Being amongst family helped tremendously too, but I was actually able to just relax. You know how there are some trips you take to be adventurous, while others you take solely to do absolutely nothing but just.. be? Totally one of the latter type of trips.

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And of course, I had to splurge on dinner at least once. I give you Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Crab Stuffed Salmon with a Hazelnut Bleu Cheese Salad. Yum-MEEE!!!

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What I wouldn’t give to be back there staring at a view like this every day.

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Until next time Oregon… I’ll definitely be back!

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My Summer of wanderLUST: New Orleans

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I was determined to have a jam packed summer, full of road trips and lots of sun. I made it happen, and it was glorious. First up on the list was New Orleans. Because you can’t ever go wrong with NOLA. I spent a great deal away from Bourbon Street. I know thats usually the go to spot for out of towners, but seriously, there are SO many unique and cool things about New Orleans outside of Bourbon Street. However, making at least one appearance for a hand grenade is ok.

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Somewhere on Bourbon.

This trip, I visited Frenchman Street as well as the Garden District. I was blown away. In all my years of visiting this wonderful city, I never witnessed the beauty of these places.  The Frenchman Street Art Market was definitely on my list. So many cool things to see and buy from the local artists.

Out and about. Frenchman St Art Market
Out and about. Frenchman St Art Market

 

The Presbytere, New Orleans
The Presbytere Museum, Mardi Gras Exhibit

 

The Presbytere
At the entrance of The Presbytere

 

Audubon Park
Audubon Park

 

Just wandering through the park.
Just wandering through the park.

I know you’re wondering about it. And yes, the food was delicious! But I mean, its New Orleans, what did you expect?

Gumbo from Stanley in the French Quarter
Gumbo from Stanley in the French Quarter

 

A triple treat! Jambalaya, Crawfish Etouffe, Red Beans and Rice
A triple treat! Jambalaya, Crawfish Etouffe, Red Beans and Rice

One of the best things about driving through Louisiana on the way to New Orleans are the pit stops in between. Cracklins are a must!

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My mom’s side of the family resides in the Greater New Orleans area, so naturally, I spent a lot of time there growing up. But somehow, this trip was different. This trip stirred up a fire in me that I thought had died out. Life gets hard sometimes and trying to maintain your sense of imagination and creative spirit can be taxing on the mind in the midst of it all. This trip, I did a lot of self reflection. The long walk through beautiful Audubon Park leading up to the riverfront was freeing in its own right. As some of you may know, my mom died when I was eight. I couldn’t help but take in all the beauty around me while thinking “Man, my mom grew up here? In such a cool place?”. I feel like I was supposed to experience this New Orleans. I don’t really know much about her, but I feel like my sense of adventure comes from her. And in a way, I feel like I connected and shared this moment with her spiritually. This was the start of something good.