Sunday, November 10, 2013

Kickin' back in paradise!

During the last week of October, we spent a relaxing vacation in beautiful Kauai.  It is such a beautiful island that is less commercialized than the other Hawaiian islands, which really appealed to us.  Back in February, we attended a charity event and Mike won the grand prize that evening, which was a week-stay at the Marriott Kauai property (talk about luck!).  Flights to Hawaii aren't as expensive from California given they're just 5 hours away, so it was great planning a vacation not having to pay for the hotel and with few other expenses!

We spent seven days in Kauai, five of which we literally laid on the beach ALL day enjoying the sunshine, ocean breeze, crystal-blue water, palm trees swaying overhead, and reading many books.  We rented a car and spent one day touring the north side of the island, and spent the following day taking in the sights of the other side of the island via catamaran.  Below are a few pictures we took of our travels.  Oh, how we love you Hawaii!

View from our room.

Aggies representing in Kauai!

The beach chairs were we lounged all day.  Not a bad view!

Hotel pool

Pretty waterfall

Another waterfall in the distance.

My happy place!

Beginning our sailing adventure.

A pod of dolphins rode alongside the boat1


Napoli Coast

Gig' 'em on a baot

Waimea Canyon...considered the Grand Canyon of the Pacific

Sunday, September 29, 2013

September Round Up

September was another busy, yet fun month for us.  Below are some of the weekend highlights.  Oh, and we are thrilled it's football season and proud that are Aggies are off to a good start....gig' 'em Ags!

Whale Watching in Monterey Bay
I've always wanted to go on a whale-watching excursion, and lucky for me LivingSocial offered an incredible deal to hard to resist.  I had my doubts given the tickets were $20 each, but the trip didn't disappoint.  We saw several humpback whales dining on sardines, including a mother and her calf.  It was amazing!

Our boat, the High Spirits.

Mother and her calf.

Hiltbrand Girls Reunited
I made a trip to Wilmington to spend a few days with the my mom, Lauren and Briley.  We had a blast!  I had my fill of beach time, crab dip, queso, warm weather, sunshine, and most importantly, Briley and family  time!! And I was fortunate to see my dad for one night when he returned from his trip oversees.  Can't wait to hang out with everyone again at Christmas!

Dockside = delicious crab dip.

Can't even handle her adorable Carolina coastal outfit complete with pink Converse shoes. Cutest thing ever.

Cheeseball beachbum hammin' it up!

Two beachbums in a pod...Aunt Erin loves Briley!

Briley loves her nana!

Briley is such a mama's girl!  I really enjoyed walking the "loop" at the beach with Lauren and Briley.

Visit from Mindy
We love to host family and friends, so we were fortunate that Mike's mom, Mindy, decided to visit us for several days.  We enjoyed some of the yummy digs around our 'hood, a bit of retail therapy, and Mike and Mindy did some sightseeing in Sausalito.  We had grand plans to go sailing, but that was the one day it decided to rain and it never rains in September!  Thanks for coming to visit us!

What a great photo!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

La Dolce Vita in Italy

Lake Geneva

Evian les Bains
Evian les Bains is located on the french side of Lake Geneva.  It's home to Evian water!  We enjoyed Evian as our home base for a few days before heading into Italy.  It's a quaint, gorgeous town.


This is the location of where the water souce for Evian was discovered.  As you can see, someone is filling up water bottles with free water.  It cracked me up to see people filling up empty Evian water bottles with free Evian water.

Lausanne, Switzerland
Lausanne is located on Lake Geneva directly across the lake from Evian les Bains.  It's a beautiful town with a historic "old town" as you progress up the mountain.

Blondel Chocolates!  Can you believe it? My middle name is Blondell (with two "L") just like my grandmother's and mom's middles names.  Apparently it's a high-end Swiss chocolate maker.

The ferry boat that takes you all over Lake Geneva.

Geneva, Switzerland
Geneva is gorgeous...what city in Switzerland isn't?  Our favorite part of the day was walking through Old Town and through the archeological site underneath the 12th century Saint Pierre Cathedral.

We took trains to connect us to each city and our next destination after Lake Geneva was Venice, Italy.  The train was approximately seven hours and the first half of the ride was through the Swiss Alps.  The train ride was some of the best sightseeing!

We've arrived in Venice!

First pizza in Italy!

The first of many gelatos in Italy!


Who is this you ask?  Why it's Mike in a Venetian mask.

Leaning much?


Ah, Rome, what a beautiful city with the most amazing pieces of history.  Our favorite part of Rome was touring the Colosseum, Palantine Hill and Roman Forum.  It's amazing that these ruins are 2,000 years old.

Entrance to Vatican City to obtain access into the museums and Sistine Chapel.

We were impressed by the amazing art collection.   Erin particularly enjoyed the pieces from Egypt.

This well-preserved lady was thousands of years old.  Beyond amazing.

Dork face...pretty good impression.


Inside the Pantheon.

Italy's version of Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Trevi Fountain...and yes, I tossed a coin in the fountain.  Legend has it that whoever throws a coin in the Trevi Fountain will return to Rome one day.

Spanish Steps

Roman Forum


Our last stop on our Italian journey was to the beautiful seaside town of Sorrento on the Amalfi Coast.  It was the perfect way to end our two week vacation...relax by the sea!  I hope to return to the Amalfi Coast one day and explore Capri and Positano.

There weren't real beaches in Sorrento.  Instead, you walked down steep stairs or took an elevator to these platforms above the water.  For $13-$16 euros you rent a chair and enjoy the views.


This was one of the most gorgeous dinner settings we've ever experienced.

Goofy kitty showing off.

Pompeii Ruins.  The city of Pompeii is an ancient Roman City that was destroyed and buried under volcanic ash in 79 AD when Mt. Vesuvius erupted.  This volcano is considered one of the world's most dangerous volcanoes because 3 million people live near Mt. Vesuvius and it has a tendency for violent eruptions.
Gig' 'em in Pompeii
Storm clouds are brewing...

What an ominous picture with Mt. Vesuvious in the background.

Here comes the rain...

The eruption and ash happened so quickly that people were literally "frozen in time" from inhaling and suffocating the volcanic ash.