New Hampshire’s White Mountains in Winter

Winter is finally in full swing around where I live in MA. A snowstorm has brought a nice coating of snow and colder temperatures, at least for a bit. The forecast is saying that it will warm up again later this week. To be honest, I’m pretty disappointed about that. I love winter. It is perhaps my favorite season. The cold doesn’t bother me (when I’m dressed properly) and I love all the snow sports that I’ve tried so far: downhill skiing, snowboarding, snow shoeing, cross-country skiing, and most recently winter hiking!

What perfect timing, then, that I am finally catching up to my first adventure of 2018 – a winter trip to New Hampshire’s White Mountains in January with Mike. This trip was full of sightseeing, food, and a few easy winter nature walks! We had great weather, a bit cloudy at times, but no major storms. The Whites already had their thick blanket of snow and ice, giving beauty to the simplest of things.


On Saturday morning, we grabbed a quick breakfast at White Mountain Bagel Co. before heading out to drive the length of the Kancamagus Highway. Normally crowded in the summer and fall, the driving was easy on this beautiful winter day – we just had to get through the half hour of stopped traffic around Loon and we were good to go.

Bridge over the East Branch of the Pemigewasset River

Our first stop on the Kanc, as it’s lovingly referred to by the locals and White Mountain frequent visitors, was the Lincoln Woods parking lot, where we paid the day use fee for the highway (required if you’re planning on parking in any of the lots and hiking) and took a quick walk across the river.

Mike always likes to throw snowballs at me
We saw some people with their cross-country skis! The Lincoln Woods Trail is great for nordic skiing!
The East Branch of the Pemi, covered in snow and ice

We continued along the highway, enjoying the sunshine and clear roads, pulling off at the scenic overlook lots that were plowed (not all of them are plowed out in the winter). We also stopped at the Rocky Gorge. The lot isn’t plowed at Rocky Gorge, but they did plow a little bit of the road in to the lot, so we parked here to walk the short way to the bridge over the gorge.



The short walk to the Rocky Gorge bridge
Christmas tree cutting prohibited!!
The Rocky Gorge in its winter splendor
The Kanc is steep and twisty in most spots

Once we made it to the end of the Kancamagus, we turned north and headed to Diana’s Baths in Bartlett. The walk to Diana’s Baths is nice and flat, and the snow was already well packed when we were there. It does get slippery by the falls and I found myself wishing I had my spikes with me!



The walk to Diana’s Baths is easy and beautiful
Some left over machinery from the saw mill that once utilized the power of the waterfalls at Diana’s Baths
The water rushes fast here, but that doesn’t keep it from freezing in some places


Ice is everywhere around Diana’s Baths in the wintertime


We headed back to North Conway to find lunch. We ended up eating at the Stairway Cafe. It was an adorable, cozy, and tasty top floor cafe right on Route 302. We also stopped at Zeb’s General Store, because no trip to North Conway is complete without one!

It’s called the Stairway Cafe for a reason! Name that song!
Very cozy!


Zeb’s has everything! Souvenirs, snacks, candy, just about anything you can think of!

Next we continued north on Route 16, then west on Route 2, before heading south again on 93 through Franconia Notch – making a big loop around the Presidential Region and ending up back in Lincoln in time for dinner. We ate dinner at The Common Man, a popular New Hampshire chain restaurant. It was very busy, but we munched on the free cheese and crackers while sitting by the massive fireplace as we waited for our table. The food was very tasty – perfect warm, comfort food for a chilly White Mountains night.

The drive up Route 16 – it was cloudy so we didn’t see any mountain peaks
Sunset rays from Otto H. Olsen Memorial Overlook on Route 2
The ski runs of Cannon Mountain at the north end of Franconia Notch

Our Saturday was not over after dinner, though. Once nighttime fell, the ice castle was lit up and ready to explore! I’d been wanting to visit the New Hampshire ice castle ever since it was brought to NH. I finally visited on this trip and was not disappointed! The ice castle was fun to explore, fun to photograph, and fun to people watch (lots of slipping and sliding around here!). When we visited, the ice castle was in Lincoln, but this year (2019) it has moved one town west to Woodstock. One word of advice – make sure you buy your tickets in advanced because they do sell out and you will be turned away at the door!




The fire dancer performance was really awesome!



The next day, we continued our winter explorations in Franconia Notch State Park. We started at the Flume Gorge, which is technically closed in the winter. Well, the visitor center is closed, and the trails are not monitored. But that doesn’t mean you can’t walk to the Flume! And one perk of visiting in the winter is that there is no entry fee! This spot is popular with ice climbers, so keep your eyes peeled and you may see one!

It took us awhile to find it, but the trail to the Flume is to the left of the visitor center – signs are posted in the winter saying “hike at your own risk”
Covered bridge over the Pemigewasset River right before the Flume Gorge



A large portion of the wooden walkways are closed in the winter
The walls of ice in the gorge – great for ice climbing. Those two at the end of the walkway are getting ready to climb! Maybe this will be the next winter sport I try out!
Playing around on the bridge

Next up we went to see the Basin, but didn’t make it all the way – mainly because it was getting really cold and we had no idea if we were on the correct trail. We did make it to Baby Flume, though, which wasn’t quite as impressive as what we had just seen at the Flume Gorge. It was still pretty, though!

I’ll have to actually do a bit of research before I try to get to the Basin again!



Baby Flume!

After Franconia, we popped over to Crawford Notch and began our southern trip home, stopping at the Mount Washington scenic view pull off across from the Mount Washington Hotel. The peak of Washington was still in the clouds, but we enjoyed the red rooftop of the hotel at the base of the mountain before being coaxed back in to the warmth of the car and heading home.

The clouds were low this day, but the hotel is still beautiful to look at!


The first part of the road through Crawford Notch always terrifies me with its 13% grade, but it was even scarier in the winter!

It was an amazing weekend in the Whites and left me hungry for more White Mountain adventures! There are so many things to do in the winter in the Whites and many of the popular attractions are much less crowded than in the summer and fall. So put on your winter boots, a warm coat, some mittens and a hat and get out there! Just because it’s cold and snowy doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the outdoors! Just make sure you’re prepared!

Happy Winter Adventures!



A Week in Grand Cayman

Continuing to catch up on blogging about my travels, the next stop in my whirlwind of 2017-2018 travel is another family trip, this time to Grand Cayman! The Cayman Islands are a British Territory encompassing three islands in the Caribbean: Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac, and Little Cayman. This was my second time visiting the island of Grand Cayman, the first being when I was around 10 years old, so it had been awhile. Caribbean islands are great places to just kick back and relax, which is essentially what we did all week long. I’m not a beach person, but I love the Caribbean Sea because it is crystal clear (you know what is in there and things can’t sneak up on you!) and is as warm as bath water. This post will be another photo diary, since we mostly just hung out on the beach , relaxed, and did a tiny bit of exploring (the island really isn’t that big).

Information booth at the airport
The dock and sun hut at the house where we stayed
Our first night we had an incident with a scorpion, which is not native to the island
Conch is abundant in the Caymans – each tourist is allowed to bring up to three conch shells home because they have so many!
When on Grand Cayman you have to visit Hell!
The hell-ish rock formations in Hell, which the site is named for. These rocks are said to be millions of years old. Despite their volcanic appearance, these rocks actually were formed through a combination of being eaten by algae and the weather.


There were a lot of wild chickens in Hell
And I really mean there were a lot…
Some nice flowers in Hell…that sounds odd to say.
There was no lack of hammocks at our rental house


Colorful houses on East End


The Blow Holes on East End, these are really fun to watch and listen. They are so loud!
The walk out to Starfish Point
Iguanas are everywhere!
You can find live starfish in the shallows at Starfish Point! Just make sure to keep them in the water.





It’s called Rum Point because rum barrels used to wash ashore from sunken trading ships
Colorful picnic tables at Rum Point – the menus are tied to coconuts so they don’t blow away!
The Cayman Islands are usually shielded from hurricanes due to Cuba’s landmass. They keep track of which ones come close or hit the island at Rum Point!
Delicious coconut crusted fish and rice and conch fritters from Kaibo. Their tables are right on the beach! We ate here multiple times since it was so delicious. I even ordered this dish TWICE because it was so good!
Mike and his “beer-garita” at Kaibo










The Cayman Crystal Caves were really cool and, in my opinion, worth the entrance fee! Then again, I am super interested in geology, which they go in to quite a bit on the tour.
The biggest air plant I’ve ever seen!
Inside Roots Cave
These formations are made by dripping water (stalactites and stalagmites). They say if you get dripped on while in the cave it’s good luck!
Inside Lake Cave – the prettiest of them all!
No Cayman vacation is complete without a little snorkeling in the crystal clear waters!!

Grand Cayman is a lot of fun. Out of all the Caribbean Islands I’ve visited, I think it’s my favorite. The island has a lot to offer if you want to explore, but it also is nice to just do nothing and sit on the beach or read a book in the hammock!

I hope you enjoyed my photo diary and this little taste of summer in the middle of winter! 🙂 My next trip wasn’t so warm!

Happy Travels!







Side Quest – Where to Buy Yarn in Barcelona, Spain

Since I had so many things to share from Barcelona, I decided to do a separate post for all you yarnies on where to get yarn in Barcelona! Luckily, since this was a family trip, my mom and I visited yarn shops together while everyone else did other stuff. So nobody was dragged unwillingly into the yarn shops! It worked out perfectly!

There are a few stores in Barcelona that sell yarn, but we only hit two. These two were more centrally located to all of the “touristy” things and we could either walk from our hotel or take a short metro ride. The first one we went to was Fil y Tropia, a few blocks off of Avingunda Diagonal in Vila de Gracia. It was a small, cute, and well stocked shop and the shop keeper was very nice. I like to get local yarn when I travel since it has a little more meaning to me. I treat it as a souvenir, so I want something that originated from that place, whether it be a local spinner, dyer, or produced with locally raised wool/fiber. It’s always fun to see what different places have for local yarn!

The shop is easy to miss, we walked right by it and had to turn around!
Yarn shops are a playground of texture and color!
My mom got some of this Cowgirlblues yarn, from South Africa, since it is hard to come by in the States
My purchase included some Soc Una Troca!!!: 2 skeins of Kitten for the shawl sample they had in the shop, and 3 skeins of This Is Merino Baby because I liked the color combo. I also got some cute, locally made mitten blockers and a stitch marker!

The second shop we went to was All You Knit Is Love near the gothic quarter. This shop was much larger than the first and carried different yarns. They have a few of their own yarn lines, some of which were really unique: a wool and milk fiber blend! The shopkeeper was so nice and very chatty. My mom chatted with him most of the time we were browsing. They talked about the differences in knitting styles between Barcelona and other places. Since Barcelona stays so warm year round, he was telling us that knitters mostly used fibers such as cotton and linen, rather than wool. Wool was reserved for pieces that would be worn if the knitter ever traveled north to the mountains. So interesting!

All You Knit is Love storefront



Some of the All You Knit is Love yarns: K2Tog, a wool and milk fiber blend yarn (top), and Purlwise, a linen yarn (bottom)
Buttons made from coconut shells

I was so intrigued by the milk fiber yarn that I just had to get some. It was so soft and squishy! I got two different colors to try out the brioche stitch, which I’ve been afraid of for a long time. I also got some Purlwise, the linen yarn, for a summery shawl because I was inspired by the Barcelona knitters and their warm climate knitting!

Purlwise yarn, sold in an adorable egg carton set
The colors of the milk fiber yarn that I chose to try out the brioche stitch!

I came back home with quite a good yarn haul, which I’m still very excited about. Shamefully, I must admit that I have not gotten to most of this amazing yarn. I did start the linen shawl, but put the project down to finish some more timely knit items for gifts and such. I am excited to make a dent in my yarn stash, since 2019 is my year of stash busting and no yarn purchasing!!

Have you bought any vacation yarn? What has been your favorite yarn shop you’ve visited while traveling? Let me know in the comments!

Happy Knitting!



Current Reads and Recent Favorites (January 2019)

I’m proud to announce that I finally finished two of the books I said I was reading in my July 2018 book post. Yes, I FINALLY finished Dance with Dragons, the last published book in A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin. All I can say is: “really, George? You’re going to end it like THAT?!” I also finished On Trails by Robert Moor on New Years Eve! Nothing like finishing a book to finish out the year. Now I can start 2019 with some new books!!

Since we are in a new year, I’ve decided that this installment of my quarterly book post will be a list of books I’d like to read this year. I was scrolling through Pinterest when I stumbled upon a 2019 Reading Challenge. It has 52 book prompts, to get you to a book a week in 2019. That’s a little aggressive for me, so I’ve pared it down to 12 book prompts, to average out to a book per month. To see the original challenge, go here. I tried to pick prompts that I know I will read but also push me outside of my reading comfort zone a bit (I just love those fantasy and travel books!).

  1. Book you haven’t read by an author you love – Mary Anne by Daphne du Maurier
    Mary Anne du Maurier
    I read du Maurier’s novel Rebecca in middle school and haven’t been able to forget it since. Even though I loved Rebecca so much, I still haven’t read any of du Maurier’s other books. I’ll start with this one!
  2. Recommended by a friend – Elenor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
    Elenor Oliphant
    I have a good friend who has a degree in English and is very well read. She’s always given me great book recommendations over the years. This book is her most recent recommendation and I can’t wait to read it!
  3. Book becoming a movie in 2019 – The Good Liar by Nicholas Searle
    The Good Liar
    I had to Google “books becoming movies in 2019” to pick this one. I picked this book because I haven’t read it yet and I really like the actors/actresses cast in the movie (Ian McKellan and Helen Mirren).
  4. A genre you don’t usually read – The Reckoning by John Grisham
    The Reckoning
    I don’t usually read thrillers. This past year for Christmas, I requested that Mike’s grandma (who has read more books that anyone I will ever know) recommend one of her favorite books. She got me this book and told me that she’s read every single one of Grisham’s books and that this one is great. I’m looking forward to reading outside of my comfort zone!
  5. Classic you’ve never read – One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
    One Hundred Years of Solitude
    I actually bought this book last year in a small bookshop in Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard. The salesperson at the shop stated “everyone should read this book, it’s amazing” as I went to check out. That’s enough of a reason for me to add it to my 2019 book list!
  6. Nonfiction book about science – The Hot Zone by Richard Preston
    The Hot ZoneFor this prompt, it was hard for me to chose just one. I love reading about science so there was a lot that struck my fancy. I chose this book because I’ve seen it over and over again in the book stores and it’s always drawn me to read it’s back cover. I’ve never purchased it or checked it out from the library, though, so this year is the year!
  7. You once started but never finished – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
    Hitch hiker's guide
    I started this book back in high school when the movie was about to come out (ya know I always gotta read the book first!). All of my nerdy friends and my parents said I would love it but I could not even finish the first chapter! I think I’ll give it another shot, then I’ll watch the movie. 🙂
  8. Reread a favorite book – Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
    Harry Potter Boxed Set
    I’ve been saying I’m going to reread Harry Potter for years now. It was one of my favorites and basically defined my childhood. I grew up with Harry Potter and I will have you know that we share a birthday! My younger brother and sister never really got in to it, but recently my sister has taken a liking to the new Fantastic Beasts movies. So naturally I’ve been re-submerged into the world of Harry Potter and made my siblings watch all the movies. So with that done, the next step is for me to (finally) reread all the books. So technically I’m adding 7 books to the list instead of one….oops!
  9. Book about travel – Turn Right at Machu Picchu by Mark Adams
    Turn RightI often find myself in the travel section at Barnes and Noble. On one of my most recent visits, I happened upon this book. I’ve been wanting to see Machu Picchu ever since I learned about it in high school Spanish class. I read the back cover and was so close to buying the book. I didn’t because I own so many that I still need to read. I’m still putting it on my list for 2019, though. Maybe I’ll borrow a copy from the library.
  10. Book you own but haven’t read – The Princess Bride by William Goldman
    Princess BrideAnd continuing from my last explanation, case and point: I bought this book years ago with every intention to read it right away. Well, years later hopefully I’ll actually get around to it! The movie is delightfully funny so I’m looking forward to this read (I saw the movie before I knew it was a book)!
  11. Recommended by a local librarian – TBD – I’m planning on going to my local library when I get that “I want to read something but don’t want to read any of the books I own” feeling. My local librarians haven’t suggested a bad book yet, so I’m looking forward to this one!
  12. 2019 new release – TBD – Since it’s only the beginning of the year, I’ll keep my eye on the New Releases list throughout the year until something really strikes my fancy. This will be a good one for me since I’m usually years late to the party when it comes to books.

What books do you want to read this year? Have you finished any recently that you really enjoyed? Let me know in the comments and perhaps I’ll add it to my list! 🙂

Happy Reading!



Ringing in 2019 – Reflections on 2018 and Looking Ahead to the New Year

Happy New Year! I’ve been working on catching up on my not-so-recent travels (I have more coming for you shortly!), but I’d like to pause to reflect on my experiences in 2018 and look forward to the year ahead, 2019! I was lucky enough to ring in the New Year with Mike and my family in my favorite place, New Hampshire’s White Mountains! Funny enough, we spent all of New Year’s Eve cross country skiing so we were all too tired to stay up until midnight! But more on that adventure later!

Reflections on 2018

Do you want the good news or the bad news first? I always hate this question. I’ll answer it for you, let’s start out with the not-so-good and then focus on the good.

The bad…

2018 was, to put it mildly, the most challenging year of my life. I transitioned into a new job, struggled with coming back from injuring my knee in 2017 (still a work in progress over a year later) not being able to do any of the activities I love, regularly became overwhelmed by stress and emotions, and fell in to some very unhealthy habits (not exercising and emotionally eating unhealthy foods). I was putting other people’s needs over my own at the cost of my own mental health. I even hurt myself by overdoing the one activity that I could still do without hurting my knee – I started to develop carpal tunnel from too much knitting! Ugh!

The good…

2018 was also a great year. I got a new job (yes this is in both categories!), I traveled to two countries (United Arab Emirates and Sweden), went on a bunch of fun weekend trips, fell in love with The Vineyard (Martha’s Vineyard to be precise), paid off the rest of my loans, continued developing my green thumb for indoor gardening, experimented with funky hair colors, learned to be a better communicator, and started to figure out how to cope with my stress and emotions without utilizing my typical outlet (running). I started doing yoga and meditating and found that these activities helped me relieve the stress that I would typically just work out during a long run. I started reading more, something that I loved to do prior to college but haven’t done much since. I took up a new crafty hobby of cross stitching, completing a few projects and planning more than I can realistically ever complete. I started to focus on myself, understanding and accepting that I will always be a work-in-progress and THAT’S OKAY. I started forgiving myself for not being perfect.

2018 was an important year for me and I feel like I’ve gained a lot of self awareness and wisdom. It wasn’t always easy, but I’m grateful for the lessons 2018 taught me.

My top nine Instagram posts of 2018 (L to R, top to bottom: Paying off all loans, Riding a camel in Dubai Desert, Martha’s Vineyard, Sledding in Sweden, Anniversary brunch with Mike, Learning about Old Dubai, Dyed undercut, Flower undercut, Sunset hair)

The conclusion

The overarching lesson that I learned in 2018 is that we need to take the bad with the good and develop tools to deal with our stress in a healthy way. We need to take care of ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Social media leads us to believe that everyone’s lives are perfect, when in reality all we are seeing is these people’s highlight reels. I don’t want to criticize people for posting awesome pictures of amazing places they’ve visited, or talking about their accomplishments, but sometimes it’s hard to remember that everyone has their struggles and their battles. I’m learning to take more time for myself and figure out different ways that I can deal with stress – including yoga, meditation, and just slowing down in general. I’m learning to listen to my body and what it’s telling me rather than “pushing through the pain”. I’m learning to say “no” and learning how to not feel guilty for missing out on things. I won’t lie, it’s hard. But it’s a step in the right direction and I’m looking forward to continuous improvement. Sometimes we move forward, sometimes backwards, but we just need to keep on keeping on and take things one day at a time.

Looking Ahead to 2019

As I think about what the new year will bring, I’ve realized that 2019 will be what I make it. I’m going to focus on continuous improvement and taking everything in stride. While I’m trying to slow down, I have chosen some choice things that I want to accomplish in 2019.


I’m trying not to make so many lists (hah!), so the first step for me is to just shorten my lists and make my list items more attainable and realistic. Here’s the places that I’d like to travel this year.

  • Martha’s Vineyard – In the winter, specifically. Like I said earlier, I’ve fallen in love with The Vineyard and I want to experience all of it’s seasons! Winter is my favorite season, so naturally I want to go there this winter!
Martha's Vineyard Aqquinnah Winter
  • Kyoto, Japan – My younger sister was accepted in to a study abroad program in Kyoto for the next academic year. I’ve been wanting to go to Japan since I became obsessed with anime and manga in high school. This may be my opportunity!
  • Toronto, Canada – I’ve had my eye on Toronto for awhile now as a city I’d like to visit. Bike friendly, historical districts, and great food are reasons I’d love to explore this city!
  • The Catskill Mountains, New York – I’ve spent a lot of time in New Hampshire’s White mountains and a little time in Vermont’s Green Mountains. I’ve been hearing more and more about the beautiful Catskills and would love to see their beauty firsthand and go on some hikes!


I always have a long list of things I want to make, but for 2019 I decided to join Instagram’s #makenine2019 challenge. I’ve selected nine knitting patterns that I’ve been wanting to get to and also including a few that utilize techniques I’m not familiar with. Here’s to learning new things! I will admit most (ok 8 out of 9) of these will be for me (because self-care)! 🙂

All of these patterns can be found on Ravelry. L to R, top to bottom: Rockland Sweater, The Weekender, Hoarfrost, Umaro, Leiden, Brioche Cables Hat, The Doodler, Woodland Lace Stole, Martinique Beach

I’ve already purchased yarn for every single one of these projects (or even have it sitting in my stash for over a year in more than one case!). So no more yarn buying for me in 2019! Hold me to it, people!!!


Self-care is very important, as I’ve come to realize this past year. I’m starting the year out with a 30 Day Yoga Challenge (I’m using Yoga with Adriene, which can be found on YouTube) and my second Whole30 Challenge (which I will start next Monday)! I’ve also outlined a few things for myself to try this year to continue practicing self-care.

  • Meditate at least a few times a week. I’m still very much a beginner at meditating.  I can only meditate for 5-15 minutes at a time and even then it’s not easy! My mind wanders faster than I can keep up sometimes! I use a free app called Smiling Mind to guide my meditation practice. I like that most of the guided meditations include gentle reminders to tell your mind to focus when it begins to wander. It always prompts at the exact moment my mind begins to stray!
  • Practice yoga at least once per week. I always feel rejuvenated at the end of a yoga class. Even if that feeling only lasts for the rest of the night, that can’t be bad! Yoga has also helped me to realize that I should only do what my body can do on that given day, which has been really helpful in dealing with my knee injury.
  • Eat healthy foods. This is a general statement that I feel like we all aspire to. I’m doing a hard reset with my second Whole 30 and then I’ll try to generally eat healthier for the rest of the year (I so love donuts and ice cream and cheese and bread).
  • Continue to take care of my body. Including getting my fitness level back to where I want so that I can do more of the activities I love. This is a tough one and has been a really long process. I’ve been itching to run, hike, and lift weights for over a year now! This injury has really taught me patience and to really appreciate a healthy, injury-free body! However, the end is in sight and my knee has felt better recently than it has in a long time! Any progress, no matter how slow, is still progress!
  • Spend more time doing what I love and less time on social media. Specifically, I want to spend more time reading books (stay tuned for another list of books I want to read in 2019), watching anime, being crafty, taking care of my plants, spending time with friends and family, and traveling! Maybe I’ll even start playing the piano again! Who knows!

If you’ve read this far – thank you! Happy New Year and here’s to continuous improvement and self-care in 2019 and beyond!!



Parc Natural de la Muntanya de Montserrat, Spain

For one day of my family trip to Barcelona two summers ago, we decided to do a day trip outside the city. The nice thing about European cities is that there’s a pretty good chance of a fantastic public transit system to not only get you around the city, but out of it too. After much indecision (no one in my family wants to be the one to make the decision), it was determined that we would go to Montserrat for a day. Montserrat, meaning “serrated mountain” in Catalan, is a mountain range just northwest of the city of Barcelona. There is also a beautiful monastery (Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey) nestled into the mountain range that you can visit for free. My inner geology nerd was pretty pumped because the rock formations here are unlike any I had ever seen before.

The mountain range is easily accessible from the city by train (and then cable car) if you don’t have a car or don’t want to rent one. Renting a car really isn’t necessary because the trains are relatively cheap and convenient. But if you’re already renting one – there is a road up to the monastery.

The Montserrat Range, with a yellow cable car you can take up and down from the train station

We woke up early to catch the train to Montserrat. Conveniently, you can purchase both a train ticket and a cable car ticket at the kiosks in the train station (for a very small discount). The cable car is just a short (maybe 1 minute) walk from the train platform, so it’s super convenient. We took the cable car up to the monastery, but there is also a mountain train that you can take. I personally thought the views from the cable car were fantastic, even if you are afraid of heights.

Waiting for the train at the Plaça d’Espanya station
The view from the cable car
Cable car going down

We started our Montserrat adventure by visiting the basilica. This basilica is part of the monastery and was constructed in the 16th century, but had to be rebuilt in the 1800s after the Peninsula War. It was granted the status of a minor basilica in 1881 by Pope Leo XIII. The current facade of the building was built between 1942 and 1968, after the Spanish Civil War. Even if you are not religious, the basilica is spectacular.

Nestled into the mountains
The Basilica of Montserrat

Here, a statue of Our Lady of Montserrat is enshrined. Many come to see this statue of the dark-skinned Madonna and child and to touch the golden orb she holds in her hand.  Legend has it that this statue was moved to Montserrat in 718 and the basilica was later built around it. We stood in line for what felt like forever to see her, because why would we come all this way not to? FOMO (fear of missing out)? Maybe so… Unfortunately I didn’t take a picture of the statue because I was afraid of holding up the long line (and honestly the lighting was terrible so the picture probably would have been bad anyways). I did touch the orb, which has been worn down significantly from all of the people who have touched it over the years. I also took many pictures of the rest of the basilica.

The Plateresque Revival facade of the church built by Francisco de Paula del Villar y Carmona
Ceiling of a hallway leading to Our Lady of Montserrat
Carvings above an archway
The altar and dome
An intricate candle by the altar
Part of the ceiling and balconies – on the left you can see the pipe organ
Part of the ceiling
Prayer candles

As we left the basilica, we could hear a boys’ choir begin to sing. This choir, the Escolania, is one of the oldest boys’ choirs in Europe. It sounded lovely, and if you can time it right, I highly recommend sticking around to listen. Stick around we did not, because daylight was burning and we wanted to hike some of the many trails around the monastery. We took a funicular ride farther up the mountain were you can pick up a few different trails. I can’t really tell you exactly what route we took, because I’m not entirely sure which one it was. We started off fine, but after a few turns at my direction, my mom was convinced we were lost and going in the wrong direction for hours. But, as I planned (and with a bit of luck), we ended up doing a big loop back down to the monastery. All was well!

The funicular that will bring you further up the mountain
Many hermits used to live in the caves of these mountains


Me, Mike, and my brother and sister climbing some stairs carved into the mountain
The spine of the mountain range



More stairs!
Waiting to pass some rock climbers! How do you say “Belay on!” in Catalan??
The monastery seen from higher up
On top of one of the peaks



We ended our hike back at the monastery, finding a staircase instead of taking the funicular back down. During the whole hike I was so in awe of these mountains. I’d never seen rock formations like this anywhere before. It’s so amazing how nature can create so many different shapes for mountains. Of course, I needed to know why these ones look like they do. So brace yourself – because here is my quick geology spiel!

Back in the day, where this mountain range is today was a river delta flowing into a lake. Eventually everything dried up leaving behind the sediments. Over time, tectonic shifts, climate change, and erosion created the Montserrat mountain range as it is seen today, made up of of conglomerate (a sedimentary rock). The surrounding area was more prone to erosion, which is why the mountains were formed. I could go on, but maybe I’ll just appreciate the beauty of what nature can create.

Once we returned to the monastery from our hike, we got some refreshing ice cream and checked out the gift shop. Then we took the cable car back to the train and the train back to our hotel, just in time to sit out on the balcony and watch the sunset! It was a great day trip outside of Barcelona where we could appreciate the beauty of nature!

The view from our balcony

Happy Hiking!



Barcelona, Spain – July 2017 Photo Diary

Two summers ago (wow, I’m SO behind) I spent just under a week in Barcelona, Spain with my family. We went over the Fourth of July week (so patriotic, I know), spent five days in the city and one day taking a trip outside the city. In this post, I’ll show what we did in the city during our stay. I’m saving our day trip for a second post, because I have so many cool pictures! Since we did so much in Barcelona, I’ve decided to make this post more like a photo diary, split up into three main categories:

  • Sightseeing – With so much to see in Barcelona, I’ll share a few pictures from each of the sights we hit.
  • Food and Drink – I love food. Most cities have such a wide selection of cuisines, and Barcelona was no exception. This was probably the best week of eating I’ve had in my life. And don’t get me started on the sangria!
  • Architectural Details – I took a lot of close ups of the gorgeous places we saw, and in this section I’ll share my favorite features.
Overlooking the city of Barcelona, Spain


Rooftop of Casa Batllo – one of Antoni Gaudi’s houses
The front of Casa Batllo
Cathedral of Barcelona
View of La Sagrada Familia from somewhere along Avinguda de l’Estadi
Statue of the Olympic Torch from the 1992 Summer Olympic Games in Barcelona
View of the city from Castell de Montjuïc
Barcelona’s beaches and Hotel W
Cascada Monumental in Parc de la Ciutadella
Arco de Triunfo de Barcelona
Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya
The famous benches at Park Guell by Gaudi
Parc Guell
Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau by Lluís Domènech i Montaner – my favorite sight of the trip
Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau
La Sagrada Familia – under construction since 1880
Inside La Sagrada Familia
Other side of La Sagrada Familia
The rooftop of Palau Guell – another Gaudi house
Palau Guell’s Stables
The outside of La Padrera (or Casa Mila) – another Gaudi house
The rooftop of La Padrera
Concert hall inside Palau de la Música Catalana – a building by Lluís Domènech i Montaner
Inside Basílica de Santa María del Mar
Basílica de Santa María del Mar

Food and Drink

Mike’s seafood paella at Xup, xup (right on the Barcelona beach!)
From Xup, xup
I’m a Dunks girl (obviously, since I’m from MA) so imagine my excitement when we found one! 

We took a stroll through one of the markets





Iberico ham – the best ham you will ever eat
Mike and I went to Els Quatre Gats for dessert one night – it’s a super hip cafe in the gothic district. Famous patrons include Pablo Picasso and Antoni Gaudi
Everyone’s favorite meal of the trip was at Elsa y Fred
Elsa y Fred
My favorite sangria of the trip – from Baritimo
Filet mignon from Baritimo
Paella from Baritimo

Honorary mentions where no pictures were taken because we were too busy eating: Cuines Santa Caterina, Bornet (internet cafe), Tagliattella (Italian), El Nacional – La Braseria (a really cool 4-in-1 restaurant where you pick one style of cuisine, we picked La Braseria, where you can get a steak bigger than your head!!).

Architectural Details (and some graffiti/street art)

Ceiling light at Casa Batllo
Mosaics at Casa Batllo
Close up of the Cathedral of Barcelona
Stone tiles on Passieg de Gracia – designed by Gaudi and originally meant for La Pedrera only
Flowers on Avinguda de l’Estadi
Olympic Torch
Elephant/octopus hybrid grafitti
Shadows at Parc Guell
Tops of the benches at Parc Guell
Hallway of Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau
Ceiling of the sick ward at Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau
Ceiling tiles at Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau
Rooftops of Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau
Floor tiles of Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau
Wall mosaic and stonework at Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau
Stained glass window at La Sagrada Familia
Stone carvings on La Sagrada Familia
Spiral staircase at La Sagrada Familia
Wooden “bricks” at Palau Guell – meant to muffle horses hooves so as not to disturb residents and guests of the house
Shadows at Palau Guell
On the roof of La Pedrera, an archway perfectly frames La Sagrada Familia
Ceiling light at La Pedrera
Arches inside La Pedrera
Moulding around a doorway at La Pedrera
Mosaic columns on the balcony of the Palau de la Música Catalana
Stained glass windows in the Palau de la Música Catalana
Statues of muses on the stage of Palau de la Música Catalana
Ticket booth of the Palau de la Música Catalana
Staircase in the Palau de la Música Catalana
Ceiling of the Palau de la Música Catalana
Pegasus carving in Palau de la Música Catalana
Stained glass ceiling of Palau de la Música Catalana – from below
Another shot of the stained glass ceiling in Palau de la Música Catalana
Pixel art rose found on a wall
Grafitti artwork of Jesus found on a door
Grayscale and red graffiti artwork found on a corner

I hope you have enjoyed my pictures from Barcelona. There are so many, but these are just a few of my favorites. Barcelona is an amazing city with so much to see. If you are a fan of details, you will not be disappointed! I cannot wait to return and continue exploring this lovely city!

Happy Travels!




Current Reads and Recent Favorites (November 2019)

Hello again! It’s been awhile (again, sorry!). Life seems to get really busy and chaotic when I want to get things done! I haven’t had much time lately to recount my travels that I said I would – and I’ve just seemed to add more on to the list! Such is life.

I’ve been struggling with how to tackle writing about my Spain trip last summer with my family. It was jam-packed with fun stuff and I don’t know where to begin! So instead of solving my dilemma, I’ve decided that I should write another of these book list blog posts instead!

A note before I delve in: books that I said I was going to read last time have not been read and I’m still reading the two that I said I was currently reading. Oops! I tend to get easily distracted by other books as soon as I walk in to a library or book store. I’ve been going to my local library a lot recently and browsing the shelves. The librarians always highlight some really good books, so I’ve read a few of those these past few months. I’ve also (of course) added many more books to my “Must Read” list. But I would like to say that I HAVE put Dance with Dragons back on the front burner now that I’ve finished my library books. Mike and I have recently been catching me up on the television series (like I said before, I like to read things before I watch the TV/movie version) and we’re up to the point in the series that I haven’t read yet! So hopefully I’ll finally finish that this month because I want to know what happens next!

Anyways, here are the books I’ve added to my favorites and must read lists!

Recent Favorites

City of Stairs

1. City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett – This is Book #1 in the Divine Cities trilogy. The series was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Series in 2018, and I can see why. This book pulled me in like no others have done in a very long time. I couldn’t put it down. I was reading it on my lunch break, in the car before the gym, and waaaay past my bedtime. Others have criticized the book for some very apparent flaws, but I didn’t notice them until reading others’ discussions after I had already read the book, so clearly they didn’t bother me much. This book contains a completely original world, murder mystery, magic, politics, religion, and, my favorite: bad-ass lady characters. If you’re a fan of fantasy books, especially those with hard-to-pronounce character names and places, give this book a read. I don’t think you will be disappointed. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the trilogy!

The Doll

2. The Doll: The Lost Short Stories by Daphne Du Maurier – Daphne Du Maurier is one of my favorite writers of all time, even though I’ve only read one of her books (Rebecca). That book is STILL my favorite book of all time, even though I read it when I was still in middle school. Du Maurier’s writing is so deeply poetic and haunting, she can really capture complex emotions. So when I found this book of her short stories at my library, I knew I needed to read it. I was not disappointed. These short stories are full of emotion, some are terrifying, some are heartbreaking, some make you judge the characters harshly. My favorite stories were The Doll, Tame Cat, and The Happy Valley. If you’re looking for a quick read, I highly recommend this collection of stories.

Hiking America's Geology

3. Hiking America’s Geology by Toni Eugene and Ron Fisher – If you know me, you probably know that I like rocks. My brother and sister always like to remind me that “Geology isn’t a real science!”, but I still find it absolutely fascinating. I was experiencing a little bit of wanderlust, so I was browsing the travel section at my library and stumbled upon this book. It was a fast, easy read that talked about different places in the U.S. that were created by major geological events (glaciers, volcanoes, etc.). Although it was more a recounting of travels than talking about the geological details of each place, I still really enjoyed the book. With plenty of jaw-dropping landscape pictures (this is a National Geographic book, after all), you can bet I added to my “Places to Go” list. Included in the book were Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, Alaska’s Kenai Fjord’s National Park, California’s Yosemite National Park, Utah’s Dinosaur National Park, and Maine’s Acadia National Park.

The World of Tomorrow

4. The World of Tomorrow by Brendan Matthews – Another librarian recommendation at my library, this book took me a little while to get in to. It wasn’t a bad book, but I couldn’t really connect to it until almost the very end. It was an enjoyable story about a variety of characters set in New York around 1939, the time of the World Fair and just before WWII officially began. The book follows three Irish brothers, a Jewish amateur photographer from the Czech Republic in the U.S. on an artist’s visa, an Irish gangster, a jazz musician, and some of New York’s elite. To me, the story was a little slow until the last few chapters, when everything seemed to happen at once. The characters were very likable and the author did a fantastic job of describing the world’s political climate surrounding WWII. The ending synopsis of where all the characters end up was sad, but realistic. Overall I enjoyed the book and would recommend it.

Recently Added to the “Must-Read” List

Breif Answers to the Big Questions

1. Brief Answers to the Big Questions by Stephen Hawking – Posthumously published, I’ve added this book to my list because I actually haven’t read a book by Stephen Hawking. I figured this would probably be a good start, especially since I’ve been thinking of “The Big Questions” more and more recently.


2. Slow: Simple Living for a Frantic World by Brooke McAlary – I’ll admit, I already checked this book out from the library and only read the Introduction before it was due back. With other less serious books on my nightstand, I marked this one for later. But even in just reading the Introduction, everything McAlary was saying rung true to me – I’m too focused on getting to the next thing: making lists of books to read (very guilty) and places to go, things to knit and things I’ll need for a house I don’t even have yet rather than slowing down and focusing on the present moment and just being. Among some other lifestyle changes, I thought that reading this book would help me with dropping out of the race to “Keep Up With The Joneses”.

Code Girls

3. Code Girls by Liza Mundy – I don’t read nearly enough non-fiction, and I’d like to change that by reading a little more actual history (rather than the sometimes more entertaining historical fiction). What better way to start than with a story of some bad-ass women from the WWII era?

The Moon and the Other

4. The Moon and The Other by John Kessel – I don’t remember where I heard about this book, but it sounds so interesting: a matriarchal society living on the moon, where men do not have the right to vote and colonies are on the brink of civil war. I love a good sci-fi book, so this definitely makes the Must-Read list.

That wraps up my ever growing list of “have-read” and “must-read” books! What books have you read recently that you’ve loved? What books are on your “must-read” list? I would love to know! Leave a comment!

Happy Reading!


Section Hiking the Vermont Long Trail – Stratton-Arlington Rd to Stratton Pond

After having such a great time on my first backpacking trip on the Vermont Long Trail, I had decided that I wanted to section hike it. I was in the area for a weekend, camping at Molly Stark State Park with Mike and some of his family. We have been camping there for the past few years for the New England Tough Mudder at Mt. Snow. In prior years, I had participated in the Tough Mudder, but this year I had hurt my back earlier in the year so I didn’t sign up for this one. I chose a nearby hike to do instead, while everyone else completed the Tough Mudder (the spectating on this course isn’t great and I decided I’d rather hike than stand there for 8 hours to see them run by once or twice). This was my first ever solo hike (scary!), but it went very well.


I followed the route described in Hike #14 of Explorer’s Guides 50 Hikes in Vermont – Stratton Mountain. This route is a ~9.3 mile loop with approximately 1,900 feet of elevation gain. The loop follows the Vermont Long Trail for a little under 6 miles before splitting off just before reaching Stratton Pond and taking you back to the start of the loop. The thing I like about the Explorer’s Guides hiking books is that they include directions to the trailhead (which can sometimes be really hard to find). Even with the directions, I missed the trailhead parking my first time through and needed to turn around and backtrack.

I started out early in the morning, so it was still foggy and cool. The nice thing that I discovered about hiking alone is that you can go at whatever pace you feel like. No one else was there to keep up with, so I felt much more relaxed. I pretty much had the trail to myself for most of this hike, only encountering a few other people all day. It was very peaceful having the trail to yourself. No other people noises, only nature. I personally found this very relaxing and almost sort of meditative. Just me, my thoughts, and the trail.

The beginning of this hike was quite foggy
Parts of the trail were pretty damp and muddy, thankful for wooden planks to walk (arrrgh!!!)
I found these dead leaves quite beautiful, with the morning dew dripping off

I reached the summit about two hours after I started. There weren’t any views since it’s not a bald summit. There is a fire tower, but it was really windy when I summited, so I didn’t make it very far up the tower before heading back for solid ground. The wind was so strong I was afraid the whole thing would blow over. I was able to get a peak at some of the views, though. By this time, the sun was out and the sky was beginning to clear. There is a short trail to North Stratton Mountain, which is where the ski resort is. There are views from that summit, but I decided to not to add this on to my hike.


The view from the second flight of stairs of the fire tower

After becoming terrified of the fire tower, I decided I didn’t want to hang around the summit any longer, partly because there were people eating lunch that definitely saw me chicken out on the fire tower. I started heading down the other side of Stratton, continuing north on the LT (and Appalachian Trail – or AT – which coincides with the LT in the southern part of Vermont). I ate my lunch while walking and enjoyed the filtered sunlight reaching the forest floor.

A little creek in the woods

I parted ways with the LT/AT at the intersection between the trail and an old logging road, heading back towards the beginning of my route. This logging road was out in the open and I only passed one other person the entire time before meeting back up with the LT/AT. I really appreciated the different environments this route took me through. The logging road was grassy, with lots of wildflowers and butterflies. I even spotted a teeny, orange Eastern Newt which I almost stepped on by accident!! Reading more about these little guys, which are also found in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, they have a unique 3-part life cycle. They start out aquatic, gills and all, then become the teeny orange land-dwellers that I encountered before finally returning to the water as an adult, changing colors to yellow and green. The orange ones are most often found in forests near wetlands, which makes total sense since the other two life stages are aquatic! Science!!

The grassy logging road
A bunch of Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterflies – I looked into these guys and apparently I witnessed this bunch of butterflies “puddling”: a behavior in which male butterflies congregate on a muddy patch of ground to extract sodium and amino acids from these sources, which aids in reproduction!



Part of the logging road was slightly flooded – I was able to cross without getting too wet and muddy
The adorable Eastern Newt that I almost squished! Here one is in the second stage of it’s life cycle!

I got back to my car around 1 PM, finishing much earlier than I was expecting. I still had quite a few hours before everyone else got back from the Tough Mudder, so I decided to drive back to the campground and do another short little hike that you pick up right at the campground – Mt. Olga (Hike #1 of Explorer’s Guides 50 Hikes in Vermont). I don’t know if I’d qualify this as a “hike”, more of a quick walk in the woods. It was less than two miles round trip, with about 500 feet of elevation gain. I will say that I did conquer the fire tower at the top of this one, and was rewarded with some amazing views! I also found another little Eastern Newt and spend a good 15 minutes photographing it.

The view from the fire tower atop Mt. Olga


Another little Eastern Newt – this is probably my favorite photo that I’ve ever taken

All in all I had a great first experience solo hiking. I had great weather and didn’t experience anything negative or scary. No black bears and no falling and breaking an ankle with no one around! I’m not lying to myself that all solo hikes will be like this one – especially as a solo woman, but it’s something that I would definitely like to continue in the future. And no matter if you hike alone or with others, it’s always most important to be prepared!

Happy hiking!


A Long Weekend in the Bay of Fundy, NB, Canada (Part 2)

Picking up where we left off in Part 1, I shall continue recounting the end of Day 2 and Day 3 of my family trip up to the Bay of Fundy in Canada over Memorial Day weekend last year.

Day 2 (continued)

The remainder of our afternoon was spent exploring the Fundy National Park, a relatively small Canadian National Park, with a lot to offer (I mean, this park even has its own golf course!!). In the few hours we spent in the park, we didn’t even scratch the surface of all that there is to do. We started off at the visitors center, naturally, which is right on the outskirts of the town of Alma and the border of the park. Here we picked up some souvenirs, including a couple of stickers for my bubble, and took a good look at the map of the park.

2017 was Canada’s 150th anniversary – so all national park entry fees were waived

We first stopped at Point Wolfe Covered Bridge, where there is a little parking lot and a deck overlooking the Point Wolfe River Estuary.

Point Wolfe Covered Bridge, built in 1992
Overlooking Point Wolfe River Estuary from the deck area by the bridge

Continuing up Point Wolfe Road, we did our first short hike of the afternoon – Coppermine trail. This trail is a relatively short, loop trail that leads to the location of an old copper mine (hence the name). You can see some of the old mine tailings, which sound way more exciting than they were. But even so, the entire trail was absolutely gorgeous, with dense forest, moss, and babbling brooks. The trail was relatively easy, with only a few steep parts, which were entirely doable.

The trailhead, pretty hard to miss
Moss covered nearly everything along this trail



All of the white rocks are the mine tailings, not as exciting as I thought they would be
We found some red Adirondack trails on a small offshoot trail, these chairs are scattered around the National Park for visitors to find

Our next hike was Shiphaven, whose trailhead was picked up at the same parking lot as Coppermine (how efficient – yes I planned it that way). This trail was even shorter than Coppermine. Much of the trail was a wooden boardwalk through the woods, with a gravel trail leading down to Point Wolfe Beach.

Trail signs – all of the trails we hiked had exceptional signage
View of the Point Wolfe River Estuary from the trail
The biggest-little feet I ever did see, had to stop and shush everyone to snap a pic of this cutie pie
“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” John Muir


The shady, gravel trail down to Point Wolfe Beach
Point Wolfe Beach
We had lots of fun looking at all of the unique rocks

Our third and final hike of the day was Dickson Falls. This hike was spectacularly short and had amazing views of a pretty waterfall (a small one, but nonetheless pretty). Most of this “trail” was a wooden boardwalk as well, making it pretty easy, as long as you don’t mind some stairs.

A relief map of the National Park in the trailhead parking lot



Full view of Dickson Falls – quite beautiful, especially given the small amount of effort required to get here

We wrapped up the day with a quick stop along a great vista and then drove back to our little cottage to make dinner and hit the hay. It was an exhausting day with lots of activity. The kind of day where by the end of it, the morning feels like it was a lifetime away.

More red Adirondack chairs
The tide is going out

Day 3

Our last day in Canada consisted of some quick sightseeing before tackling the long drive home. We started off with a walk around the St Martins sea caves at low tide, the same sea caves that we had kayaked around just two days before.

St Martins Sea Caves


The same spot that we had kayaked a few days earlier, this time we got here by walking!

After walking as far as we could, we hopped back in the car and continued on to the Fundy Trail Parkway. The Parkway is a 30 km road (this is Canada, people! Distances are in km!), that you can drive or bike along the Fundy Coast. The final goal is for this parkway to connect St Martins with the towns around Fundy National Park, while providing spectacular views and experiences along the coast (currently the only routes are further inland). Since the weather wasn’t too great, we basically had the entire parkway to ourselves!

A view of the coast from one of the many lookouts along the Parkway
Another flower pot rock
Black Point
Fuller Falls
Parts of the Parkway weren’t yet paved when we were there in 2017
Long Beach Lookout

After we reached the end of the Parkway (the project still isn’t complete), we turned back around towards St Martins. We grabbed a quick, delicious lunch at a roadside shack called St Martins Ice Cream Parlor. I had my FIRST EVER lobster roll (which was amazing) and we all split a big order of poutine (a must when you are in Canada). None of us had ever had poutine before and we were all pleasantly surprised at how delicious it was!


My first ever lobster roll!

Our last stop before heading back to the U.S. was a really cool lighthouse on a cliff – the Quaco Head lighthouse. It took us a little back and forth to actually find the road (it didn’t actually look like a road), but the views were gorgeous and the small amount of bickering was worth it.


Quaco Head Lighthouse

Before we crossed the border back in to the U.S. we stopped in Saint Stephen, where there is a chocolate museum. Unfortunately, the tours had ended for the day, so we made do with perusing the chocolate shop and buying some yummy sweets. My mom and I also stopped at a local yarn shop, The Wool Emporium, which looks like it has unfortunately since closed.

This long weekend trip was jammed full of sightseeing and activities, but we still only got a small taste of what the Bay of Fundy has to offer. I would love to visit again, in both the summer and winter, to experience the different seasons. Until next time, Canada!