A Run Through Hilton Head Island

imageWhat’s better than relaxing on the beach soaking up some vitamin D? Doing that while taking a day off work and visiting Hilton Head Island.

A few weeks ago I took my first true relaxing day off work this year. I know. Sad. But the wait made the vacation even better!

Even though I only stayed one night in Hilton Head, I took full advantage of the two days of fun in the sun!  Here’s a recap of my trip and the most delicious parts of it all.

Stay: Hilton Head Marriott
This hotel really has everything you need. Bike rentals near the pool deck, lawn games and comfy pool chairs. Plus, they have hammocks to relax on and listen to the motions of the ocean! Although this hotel is a little outdated from the outside and halls, the rooms are super clean and modern. The beds are comfy, bathroom and room spacious and rooms with balconies have chairs to chill in. Oh and the hotel is right on the beach.
Traveler tip: BYOB. The drinks have hefty price tags so bring along a little cooler with non-glass refreshments. 😉

Play: Run, Bike, Explore
Hilton Head is a very clean, pretty town.  I went on a 5 mile run in the morning along the beach and nature trails and it was beautiful! A lot of people rent bikes for the hour or day. It seems like a very bike friendly town.
Traveler Tip: figure out which way the wind blows and run/bike against the wind so the route back is a little easier!  I made an amateur move…

imageEat: Anywhere
Trying to find a place to eat in Hilton Head is challenging because the options of great food are endless!   This is where I ate:
843 Restaurant – a charming establishment with tasty sandwiches.  I got the 843 club because it had bacon and brie.  Need I say more?
Dinner at Redfish – This place is a little bit of everything.  They have a retail wine shop, outdoor seating and multiple rooms for dining. One way I judge a restaurant is on the preparation and taste of their salmon.  I got the Seared Scottish Salmon with the apricot glaze with lemon garlic orzo, asparagus, grape tomatoes and toasted almonds.  This place is the cats meow.  The cats meow.

Travelers Tip: do your research and find someplace that really sparks your interest. I love using opentable or Yelp for recommendations.

If you have time to stop in Savannah, this is another little southern gem with great food, drinks, people and history. Did you know Savannah allows open containers?! Ask your bartender for one to go and they will give you a drink in a plastic cup! Exploring the town, enjoying all the old architecture, homes and history is much better sipping on a cold beverage in the heat of summer!

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Napa: Running Swag & Wine Tastings

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This year’s annual girl’s trip lead us to Napa, CA for the Zooma Women’s Half on June 28th.  This was my second half marathon and second destination run.  Last year, I ran the Subaru Distance Classic Half in Jax on Thanksgiving Day and also a women’s 5k in Chicago!  Napa was the perfect girls destination weekend trip!  What’s more to love than great food, amazing wine and laughter with wonderful friends?  Oh maybe perfect weather… Napa had that too!

I took hundreds of pictures and have way too much to say about Napa and all that wouldn’t even do this city justice.  If you love wine, this place is definitely worth the trip!!  In fact, I don’t think you can do it all in one trip and I already have a list of places to see next time!  Napa is about a 1 – 1.5 hour drive outside San Francisco (if no traffic) but feels like it’s a completely different world.  The weather perfect… sunny, warm and low humidity ( <— according to my standards), the people are extremely nice (they drink all day) and calories don’t count!

So here’s a short recap of our weekend and my favorites of this trip!

napa-fume-bistroFirst things first… drink wine.  Eat lunch.  Check and check.  Right around the corner from our hotel, the Napa Winery Inn, was Fume Bistro, a delicious restaurant with great outside seating.  This place was great for late night cocktails, early lunch and everything in between!  We ended up eating here at least twice and brought our own bottle of wine the last night.

So the wine tours (and amazing food) planning process was well under way!

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The first night we  ate dinner at Il Posto, and let me just say, OH MY GOODNESS Italians sure do know how to cook.  The desserts…. well we couldn’t pick just one so we got three… My favorite, hands down, the affogato.  It just sounds Italian, right?! Affogato!  Affogato what I ate for dinner because this dessert was so delicious!

  •  Affogato – vanilla bean gelato, espresso
  •  Tiramisu – coffee, ladyfingers, mascarpone
  • Fiorello’s Sorbeto – strawberry

The next morning we got up super early (thank goodness for carb-loading the night before!) and ran a half marathon!

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This was the first time the  Zooma Women’s Half Marathon Race Series held a race in Napa, Ca.  Seriously, what’s more enticing to women than beautiful weather and wine!? I know, feeling super girly and fun with awesome women and awesome tutus from Tough Girl Tutus!  I love, love Tough Girl Tutus.  This was my first order from this company but I have since placed a second order.  The tutu really is fit for a runner and the colors are so much fun!  I emailed Tough Girl Tutus about shipping times and their response was super helpful.

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The course was beautiful so we thought, why not take a few snazzy pics?! I used my Jenny Collection Handy 10 water bottle during the full 13.1 miles!  This was a great size for the race and allowed me to hydrate with Gatorade between water stops.    I actually run with this often because I hate searching for fluids on runs, especially in Florida!

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After the race, I was feeling pretty tired but the thought of wine tours and more amazing food was enough to keep me going… and so we went!  Off to Yountville!  I would definitely stay in this little town within the Napa Valley.  It has great restaurants and many wine shops with tastings on the main street.

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Wine tasting…

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The last full day was even better!  We went on two tours of vineyards and both could not have been more different from each other.

napa-bell-windery-clone-6Bell Wine Cellars was stunning!  The grounds are beautiful and we even got to drink wine and play bocce ball on the lawn… how fancy can you get?!  I loved learning about the wine making processing and our tour-guide-tasting-teacher-master-wino-extraordinaire, Elise, made it such an enjoyable experience.  <— the wine might have helped a little too 🙂

 

Our next stop was a crazy-interesting-must-go-to-see-for-yourself winery.  Raymond Vineyards.  The wine was amazing, the atmosphere even better.  I don’t think I’m a wine connoisseur and nor can I comment on wine tasting other than my own preference but Napa wine is definitely top notch!

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I feel alittle wine-isticated (<— note to self, not a wino if you use that term!) after this trip and every glass I’ll remember, swirl and sniff!

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Not sure how the next girl’s trip can top this one, but I can’t wait to find out!  Any recommendations for destination races?

 

 

San Francisco: tourist for the day

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“Hey, dude!” When I think of San Francisco, I think of Michelle Tanner on Full House, hilly roads and cable cars.  I spent two nights in San Francisco as the start of a (now annual) girls trip! The final destination was Napa, CA for the Zooma Women’s Half Marathon and lots of wine tasting <– let’s be honest, we really just went for the wine…
San Fran is probably one of my favorite cities. (Chicago summers being at the top of the list right now) If you want the beach, head south a little. Redwoods/nature/hiking, drive north. City tourist-for-a-day and wine connoisseur are fun roles to play.  The food is pretty spectacular and the sights are one of a kind.
This trip was a girl’s trip.  Translation – tons of chatting, wine and laughter.  I had far too much fun and took far too many pictures to post everything so I’ve listed my “top 10” San Fran moments…

1 – Running the Golden Gate Bridge (FOR FREE!)

golden-gate-bridge-morning

It’s not everyday that I get to wake up and go for a jog over one of the most popular bridges in the world ( <— my opinion).  The run/jog/picture-taking-session was amazing!  The San Fran side was very foggy and we couldn’t even see the top of the bridge, the water or the other side!   Parking, running and taking a ton of pictures were all free!

golden-gate-run-cassie

Once we ran the 1.7 miles across the bridge, the sky cleared and the views were amazing!  The run was a little loud from the traffic, boats and horns and the air was definitely polluted with car emissions, but this is one run I will never forget!  So cool!

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2 – Air BNB

We stayed in the city two nights and most of the hotels we found were super expensive, sold out or yucky.  One of our friends mentioned Air BNB and this proved to be the BEST thing ever!  I didn’t take any pictures of our cute little abode, but it was perfect! The Sunny Apt City View, Qn Bed, Parking from Ms. Rita was wonderful!   Ms. Rita was so responsive and her rental was in a great location. Not too far from the city but far enough to get out of the chaos.  Parking was free and the bathroom was renovated and had a bidet… (google it if you need to… I did!)  I would definitely recommend this rental to others and will use AirBNB for the next trip!

3 – El Techo de Lolinda

El Techo de Lolinda is the a lively, fun, delicious rooftop bar in Mission district with a cool view of San Fran.  It’s mainly tapas and the best La Paloma I’ve ever had!  The atmosphere was so great!  The music was awesome (those great 80s and 90s hits!) and the food so incredible.

4 – Clam Chowder in a Sourdough Bread Bowl from Boudin

I love the piers in San Fran. Actually, I think everyone loves the piers, specifically Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf because I felt like every tourist in San Fran was there.  We tried to visit Alcatraz but the next available tickets weren’t until the middle of July!  It sort of felt like the chaos of Disney World but with the famous clam chowder bread bowl in the middle, it’s definitely worth it!  Boudin Bakery is a must visit while in San Fran.  The bread bowls are like Philly Pretzels in PA… need I say more?!

pier39-san-fran san-fran-warf

5 – Chocolate!

ghirardelli-squareSan Fran tourist won’t want to miss a stroll through Ghirardelli Square, where loving  chocolate is a prerequisite.  Although there’s no formal tour to see, the gift shops have a few old machines (this one in the picture had real chocolate processing in it!).  Of course, the Ghirardelli employees with their hats and aprons are in every shop giving out a sample as you walk in.  There were 3 separate shops in the square.  I found all 3.  <— and yes, had 3 samples of the mini squares!

6 – Cable Car Rides at Powell and Hyde

I wasn’t the only tourist who wanted to ride the cable cars… just look at all these people!  Actually, this line was over an hour wait, and yes, I waited!  The cable cars are so San Fran, they are a must do, but a must-do-early-thing if you’re smart.

cable-cars

Once we got on a car, we were off to explore the city!  The cable cars went up and up and up (San Fran is very hilly!).  I was standing out back of the car by the driver so I took a few shots of the city… have I mentioned how much fun being a tourist is?!  The cable cars are $15 for a city pass which is good for all day rides on city transportation!  cable cars > walking  🙂

What.A.View.  I was mesmerized!  A few blocks later we got to Lombard Street!

san-fran-view

 7 – Lombard Street – The Crookedest Street in the World

Another “touristy” thing in San Fran is definitely taking a walk (or drive) down Lombard Street.  The sharp turns in this road are said to make this the crookedest street in the world!  Besides being full of tourist, Lombard Street is a great place to view the city and beautiful flowers grow everywhere!

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8 – little corner shops & wine breaks

After Lombard Street, we took a walk to find #1 a bathroom and #2 the next cable car stop so we could continue the trip around town.  Bathrooms were a little hard to find and most the of shops were just small storefronts “without bathrooms”  (<– no customer = no bathroom for you in San Fran)  Luckily, we came across Nook Café!  This wasn’t only a bathroom break, but it was such a cute café and just so happened to be serving happy hour drink specials so… hello my-five-oclock-somewhere-drink!

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9 – Italians

Yes, Italians.  That’s another one of my favorites of San Fran.  Specifically the Italians at the restaurant, E Tutto Qua.  We had dinner here because of the location and the good reviews on yelp.  Those reviews were spot on!  The staff were incredible… so friendly and had (sexy) Italian accents.  The pizza was delicious with a special pepper oil on top.  Oh, the dessert… panna cotta.  Need I say more?!

panna-cotta

10 – The Pacific Ocean

I live on the east coast. In Florida.  The highest thing I encounter are office buildings and bridges (Jacksonville has great running bridges!)  One of the things I really wanted to do in San Fran was take a trip to the ocean.  Breathtaking.  Although a little foggy, the views were still amazing and even though I didn’t get to touch the ocean, I got to smell it and even saw dolphins playing in the waves!

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If you haven’t made the trip to this foggy city, I highly recommend it!  I can’t want for my next trip!

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