Category Archives: Adventures

Adventure Tuesday // Key West!

at-kw-sightsLast month, Casey and I traveled to Florida to attend a friend’s wedding. The wedding was the weekend before our anniversary, so we decided to extend our trip and spend some time in the Florida Keys.

at-kw-convertible Casey has always dreamed of driving Highway 1 over the ocean to Key West, so we made it happen! We rented a convertible, which seemed like a bit of a silly splurge, but ended up being
so. much. fun. It definitely made the loooong drive feel less tedious!

Since it was just a quick trip, we didn’t have too many plans or expectations. We mostly wanted to relax, catch up with one another, and explore a new city. We spent a lot of time wandering around, people watching, and browsing in fun little shops.

at-kw-tandemOne day we rented a tandem bike and pedaled all around town. We were surprisingly good at it (I give all credit to Casey, who did the majority of the steering/balancing) and a bike is totally the best way to explore the island. It was a blast!

at-kw-pieAnother day we skipped lunch and tried a slice of Key Lime pie at the three most famous places (according to a couple locals we polled). All of them were delicious, but the hands down winner was at Blue Heaven – a mile high and covered with fluffy meringue.

at-kw-jollyroverFinally, we enjoyed a Sunset sail on the Jolly Rover – an old and immaculate tall ship. It had been SO LONG (too long!) since we sailed, and it was so nice to get out on the water again. Casey helped hoist the sails, we saw a double rainbow, and witnessed an incredible sunset (they’re famous for a reason!).

at-kw-sunset1All in all, it was a great trip – we found a long weekend to be the perfect amount of time to enjoy Key West.

Adventure Tuesday // il Pizzaiuolo

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Let’s face it – about 90% of these posts about Italy are going to revolve around food. I can’t help it! It’s just too good to ignore. I have to tell you about the amazing meals we had. And this restaurant.. it’s a gem. A favorite is putting it lightly! 

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When Kallie, Natalie and I went to Florence in 2010, this restaurant was definitely one of the highlights of our trip. In fact, the night we went there has become almost legendary! Natalie randomly found it on a website of the best restaurants in Florence, so we trekked across the city to check it out. There was a long wait (always a good sign!); we put our names down and skipped off to enjoy a glass in a nearby piazza while we waited. Finally our table was ready and we excitedly ordered a pizza each (and more wine, obviously). When the pizzas arrived, we were immediately transported straight to heaven. It was incredible. Perfect doughy and crispy crust, flavorful but simple sauce, and excellent topping combos (to this day, arugula on pizza is one of my favorite things ever). We finished every bite, which was a total feat. After dinner there was a small limoncello incident (namely me drinking too much of it because Kallie and Natalie wouldn’t man up), and I think there was also some tiramisu? Regardless, we left stuffed in the best way possible, with a reservation in the books for the following night (and we didn’t even feel a little bit bad about it!). 

Needless to say, when Casey and I arrived in Florence, dinner at il Pizzaiuolo was at the tippy top of my list of things to do. I couldn’t wait to get back – not only for the best pizza ever, but also to prove to Casey that it would live up to the hype. 

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And it didn’t disappoint. The pizzas were just as heavenly as I remembered, and we loved watching the pizza makers toss dough behind the counter. I tried to convince him to go again for second time, but it didn’t end up working out. I guess we’ll just have to go back! 

Friends, if you are ever in Florence, definitely get yourself over to the Santa Croce area and have a meal at il Pizzaiuolo. You won’t be disappointed! 

Adventure Tuesday // The City of My Heart

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Do you have a place in the world that you love more than anywhere else? Maybe your hometown, or the place you went to college, or maybe even where you live now (lucky!), or perhaps there is somewhere in the world that you feel completely, inexplicably drawn to, even if you’ve never been there before? For me, that place is Florence, Italy. 

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I studied abroad in Florence when I was in college and oh man, it completely captured my heart. Italy as a whole is amazing and incredible and wonderful. I loved everything about my summer there – the cobblestone streets, the open air markets, the tomatoes, the gelato (oh my god, the gelato!), the language, the history, the people, the evening passeggiata, drafty stone churches, wine, leather sandals, nutella for breakfast (and lunch and dinner), the museums (oh, the museums!), the scenery – everything. But there was something about Florence that just drew me. It had an indescribable brand of magic that spoke directly to my soul.  By the time I got home, I was already trying to figure out how to get back.

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Fast forward two years – my sister was studying abroad in France, and I was about to graduate college and freaking out about what to do with my life. I offhandedly suggested visiting/backpacking in Europe after graduation to my friend Natalie and she totally made it happen. We spent two weeks city bopping, including an amazing 3-4 day stint in Florence (which included the best meal of the whole trip – in fact, we ate there two nights in a row and didn’t even feel a little bit bad about it!). 

Casey and I talked about an Italian honeymoon when we got married three years ago, but ultimately decided that it wasn’t the right time (due to both a lack of vacation time and funds). I was disappointed, but we promised each other that we would get there someday. 

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Finally, about a year and a half ago, I got so itchy to get back to Italy that I started dreaming about it. I must have read Under the Tuscan Sun about a billion times that winter. On a whim, I bought a bunch of guidebooks and started pouring through them. I mentioned to Casey that we could charter a sailboat and sail the Mediterranean and he was immediately onboard (what?!! ahhhhhh!!). We realized that we could totally swing it if we went in shoulder season (late September) and booked our lodging through Airbnb (instead of staying at hotels). Casey even convinced two of our friends to meet us on the boat (for backup/safety). It was actually going to happen! Picture me jumping up and down and dancing around and singing/yelling and then making a thousand and one packing lists.

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So last September, we did it – we spent the most amazing two weeks traveling in Italy. I know it’s kind of weird to write about it now, since we’re smack dab in the middle of a brand new adventure, but I want to make sure that my favorite parts of this trip are recorded forever. 

I can’t wait to share the amazing little details and highlights that made this trip so incredible. Today I just wanted to share a quick overview of my love affair with bella Firenze and a brief itinerary that shows where/how we spent our time. I’m going to share more in depth stories every Tuesday – so come back and check it out! Reliving it has been almost as much fun as actually going. :)

I hope that this inspires you to plan a trip to your favorite place, or to that place you’ve always wanted to go! It’s possible! Take the time! Go!! Do it!!


WEEK ONE // MAINLAND

Sunday, September 15 – Tuesday, September 17
Rome

Tuesday, September 17 – Friday, September 20
Florence & Tuscany

Friday, September 20
Livorno

Saturday, September 21
Ferry to Olbia (Sardinia) 

WEEK TWO // SAILING

Sunday, September 22 – Friday, September 27
The Mediterranean
(Sardinia: Santa Teresa, La Maddelena, Palau // Corsica: Bonifacio)

Friday, September 27
Bus to Olbia

Saturday, September 28
Ferry to Civitavecchia // Bus to Rome

Sunday, September 29
Fly home :( 

EL Yunque // The Rainforest!

Our friend Brian came to visit last month. We love hanging out with him – he’s always up for an adventure. So we spent a lot of time driving around the island and exploring while he was in town.

One of the places we made a priority to visit was the rainforest – El Yunque. For a small(ish) island, Puerto Rico has insanely varied climates – deserts, rain forests and everything in between. It’s pretty wild. We were excited to check out El Yunque – none of us had ever been to a rain forest before! 

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The road into the forest is crazy, twisting, turning, and narrow (we were alternately impressed with the effort it must have taken to carve out and annoyed that they weren’t able to make it just a little bit wider – there were some sketchy parts!). As the car climbed deeper into the mountains, we began to glimpse some incredible vistas off the steep cliff to our left. We started to get really excited and pulled off the road at one of the first parking areas to explore a well-publicized waterfall and grab some lunch. It was really beautiful, and totally reminded me of camping in Ithaca in college (Ithaca is Gorge-ous, after all!). Isn’t it funny how despite the size of the world, certain landscapes inevitably remind you of other places you’ve been? 

We hung out by the waterfall and ate some sandwiches and took some pictures and climbed around on the rocks. Then we packed up, got back into the car, and continued further in – we wanted to hike! 

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We climbed the El Yunque trail – one of the most popular, I think – and were immediately transported into another world. Although the waterfall felt familiar, this hike felt like something otherworldly – like a scene from Jurassic Park. There were these huge oversized ferns and short leaning palm trees and trickling streams around every turn. We half expected dinosaurs to run out of the underbrush at us. 

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Although the scenery was really cool and different than anything we’d ever experienced before, there was an odd lack of wildlife. Sure, we could hear coqui frogs and every once in awhile catch a glimpse of a bird, but there were no wild, jungle-y animals that our childlike minds picture in a rainforest – no jaguars, toucans, monkeys, sloths, etc. I think we were all a little bit disappointed – especially Casey who apparently really wants to see a toucan? Must be all of those Froot Loops he ate as a kid :) 

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Near the top we took a little side trail to an exposed rock cliff and could see for miles – all the way to the coast. It was beautiful and amazing – the forest definitely looks more wild/jungle-y from above. You could tell it was different than the deciduous forests our New England eyes are used to. 

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After soaking up the views from the cliff, we continued up to the top of El Yunque peak. A little stone building – a church? – marked the end of the trail and offered more 360 views of the area. The air was cooler, like you would expect at the top of a mountain, but with much more humidity. It was almost like walking through fog, although it wasn’t exactly foggy. 

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We had an awesome time exploring the rainforest! Thanks for being up for an adventure, Bri! Casey and I can’t wait to go back and explore some more. 

Our Current Favorite Beach

guanica-1We’re about two months into our Puerto Rican adventure and easily the best part (besides the amazing weather!) is hitting the beach every weekend. Sitting by the ocean, reading a book, bodysurfing, snorkeling… these activities are so relaxing and totally make every weekend feel like a vacation.

guanica-7Although the island isn’t big (you can pretty much get anywhere within an hour or two), we haven’t done a ton of adventurous beach scoping. We fell hard for this amazing stretch of beaches in Guanica and that was that! I’m sure we’ll pick up the exploring again soon, but for  now, here’s the scoop on our favorite beach!

guanica-3Guanica is about a 30 minute drive from our house, to the west. There’s a large nature reserve that hugs the coast and is full of cacti forests, wild palm trees, rocky outcroppings, and many awesome beaches. Our two favorites are Palm Tree Beach and End Beach (nicknames are totally ours – I have no idea if they have official names).

guanica-2guanica-6Palm Tree Beach is a long, curved, untamed beach, ringed by (you guessed it!) tall, rattling palms. The sand is soft, and there is almost always a breeze. The waves are usually a fun size – perfect for bodysurfing – and because the beach is so long, it’s great for exploring. It’s also home to tons of adorable crabs – they are hilarious when they think you’re not paying attention to them.

guanica-4 guanica-8End Beach is – wait for it! – at the end of the road (we are so creative with beach names it’s not even funny) and boasts a calmer bay with an off-shore reef – perfect for snorkeling. It’s wider and brighter (less shade) than Palm Tree Beach, and boasts some rocky trails that end up at some very secluded beaches/outcroppings.

guanica-5Besides the vacation-like zen, the best part about these beaches is that they usually aren’t super crowded. Casey and I both suffer from minor loner tendencies, and these beaches offer plenty of peace and quiet. We love spending time here!

Las Justas

A few weeks ago, we hosted our first visitor! Our best friend Brian came down for a little over a week and we spent lots of time exploring and went on several little adventures around the island.

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When he first arrived, our city was gearing up for a huge celebration called “Las Justas,” which is basically Puerto Rican SPRING BREAK WOOHOO! My understanding is that the Justas is actually an athletic competition between all (many?) of the Puerto Rican colleges, and then on the weekend, everyone hits the town to celebrate. We walked a couple blocks into the square to check it out, and it was unreal.

justas-2 $1 beers. DJs/bands on all sides of the plaza, and on many street corners in the couple blocks beyond. Every bar was blasting music. Hundreds of people drinking, dancing, and hanging out. And we were pretty much the OLDEST people there. It was a little disconcerting – I mean, in my head I am not that far from college, but in reality… senior year was four years ago. And since the drinking age here is only 18, that meant that Casey and Brian were almost a decade older than the majority of the people partying. Which wasn’t the best feeling.

justas-3justas-4In spite of that, it was really fun! We wandered around and drank cheap beers and they smoked cigars and made some friends and we decided that we would have been all over this if we had stumbled upon it 5 years ago. It kind of made Casey and I fall in love with our city a little bit more. Puerto Ricans definitely know how to have fun!

My Brain on Moving

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Let me start this out by saying that overall, this move has been straightforward and super simple. Casey’s company has totally taken care of lots of the logistics, and we are so so grateful that we did not have to navigate this process alone. Thank you to Sarah and Jessica and Linette and Kim and the movers and heavy lifters and our parents – we could not have done it without you.

 

However.

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Moving is never an easy process, whether across town or across the ocean. There are so many details to consider – should we pack all of our art or put it in storage? Can we bring our bikes? Should we live in town or closer to the office? Will our furniture fit in this apartment? Shoot, we should have brought all of our artwork – this place is huge! Will that IKEA couch last? How should we arrange the living room? Wait, it costs $200 just to turn the electricity on? Will the movers be able to fit our furniture up the stairs? When is our car going to arrive? Do we need a Puerto Rican driver’s license? Will we have a place for guests to sleep? It takes how long for the internet to get turned on?! Me disculpo por mi terrible español… habla inglés?

 

Yikes.

 

I have to keep telling myself to slooooow down. One thing at a time. Electricity is important, pay the damn $200. The IKEA couch will totally work. Our furniture will definitely fit. We don’t need to decorate the whole place in a day. Stop checking Pinterest. You can get free wifi at the hotel down the street if need be. The movers will figure out how to navigate the stairs. Mom and Dad can ship the art if we really want it. Our guests will be fine – this is why air mattresses exist. Casey’s coworkers will help you with the DMV. Seriously, stop looking at Pinterest!

 

—-

 

We’re one week in, and things are great. The people here are incredibly helpful and understanding and friendly. We’re getting settled. Casey’s job is good. I’m getting used to my new schedule. We’re adjusting to the weather 😉 We have our first visitor this week (Hi, Brian! We knew you would be first!) and are so excited to spend the next couple of weekends exploring. Maybe we will have things hung up and the last boxes unpacked by the time our next round of visitors arrives. Who’s next?

 

D E T O U R – South Florida

After a fun-filled day in Orlando, Casey and I continued south to Fort Pierce to visit his parents. It was a pretty easy drive, and we were psyched for a couple of days of relaxation after several jam-packed days of driving and goodbye-ing and theme park-ing.

sf-1the entrance to Dave & Nancy’s beach – paradise, for sure

Dave and Nancy rent this adorable little place right on the river and across the street from the ocean. We spent some time at the private and super quiet beach, checked out some of their favorite parks, paddled up and down the river (unfortunately, no manatee or dolphin sightings) and generally just laid low. It was so nice, and we were so glad to get to spend some time with them before we left.

sf-2Casey enjoying the nightlife

 

I am always impressed with Casey’s parents’ zest for life and overall everyday joy. They are definitely young at heart and bold in spirit – they dance when the band is good and sing along when they know the words. Sure, they get the work done when it has to be, but for the most part, they totally live in the moment. It is always such a pleasure to spend time with them.

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Dave and Nancy tearin’ up the dance floor // family photo

 

On Saturday, they drove us down to Singer Island. We all had lunch with my grandparents and Casey I stayed the night with them. Singer Island is one of those places in the world that always feels a little bit like home. Do you have those places? Whenever we visit Florida, this little town on the inter coastal is a stop, and I spent many of my college breaks there, hanging with Grammie and Poppa, learning to surf with my cousins, relaxing at the resort pool, biking through town, climbing the gumbo limbo trees, eating a grouper dog. It’s just one of those spots in the world that feels like mine, you know?

sf-7climbing the gumbo limbo trees, 1996

 

It was so great to see my grandparents – Grammie made pasta and meatballs! – and some other family stopped by for dessert. Casey and I walked the beach and I reminisced about Poppa “finding” us all conch shells (we thought he was the most talented, amazing, shell-finder… well he IS talented and amazing, but he sneakily purchased the shells ahead of time and “planted” them on the beach. We never suspected – and only found out yearrrrrs later. He’s the best).

 

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a Vermont mug in Florida – what are the chances?

Sunday morning, we went to breakfast (also a tradition!) and my coffee was ironically served in a Vermont mug. So funny. Then it was off to the airport and onto the next!

 

 

D E T O U R – Universal Orlando

universal-1-adventure The Port of Entry // These words greeted us as we entered the park

We took a break from the road in sunny Orlando, Florida. I am an unabashed Harry Potter and theme park fan, and so spending a day at Islands of Adventure when we were passing right by seemed like a no-brainer. Although my family spent countless vacations park-hopping, Casey and I hadn’t been to one in years. 

 

Our tickets allowed us to enter the park an hour before the “actual” opening, and I, like the nerd that I am, did a lot to research in order to maximize our experience (my Dad has zero tolerance for queues and used to call Disney “The Wonderful World of Waiting”… I seemed to have inherited this impatience). Casey and I came up with a loose plan of attack (thanks for all of the assistance, Murphy fam!) and armed with a park map app and a homemade Deathly Hallows shirt (I already owned up to both my nerdiness and my fandom – I wasn’t joking) we hit the park around 7:30 am.

 

universal-3-hogsmeadeHogsmeade // “Please mind the Spell Limits” // Hogwarts // Hogwarts Express

Our plan worked out wonderfully. We were some of the first people to enter, and went through the Hogwarts castle twice, rode both Dragon coasters and strolled through Hogsmeade before the park actually opened. In fact, we were able to hit most of the other big rides – The Incredible Hulk, Dr. Doom, Spiderman – before anyone really showed up. We wandered the park until around 11am, drank a deliciously sweet and frozen Butterbeer (at Three Broomsticks – again, thanks Murphys for the tip!) and then cut out for an early lunch – just as the crowds were beginning to swell.

 

universal-2-butterbeerButterbeer on the patio at Three Broomsticks

After a leisurely lunch, we walked over to Universal Studios, and went on a couple of rides. Nothing nearly as exciting as Islands of Adventure, but I did enjoy beating Casey at the Men in Black ride, both of us were surprised by how fun the Mummy coaster was, and were impressed by the new Transformers ride. Casey also convinced me to go on the Rip Ride coaster which scared the bejeezus out me (I am normally a coaster fanatic, but something about the straight up-ness of the first incline and drop were extremely frightening). The cool part about the coaster though is that you choose music that plays from speakers in the headrest – we chose Daft Punk and agreed that it was surprisingly well-suited to the ride’s excitement level. The other crazy part about that ride is that they VIDEO you the entire time. Nope, no cheesy single photo, an entire film of your face, to the music that you chose. Casey and I cracked up at my ridiculous overreactions – it was absolutely hilarious to see the fear/emotions once you were back on solid ground.

 

universal-4-simpsonsCasey loves the Simpsons

There were a couple of things we had missed before at Islands of Adventure, so we headed back into that park – mostly to go on the Jurassic Park ride (neither of us wanted to be wet earlier in the day, so we planned to hit this one almost last). Although I vaguely remembered getting wet, I had forgotten just how soaked you are at the end of the ride – I had been to Islands of Adventure years ago, and only remembered that my brother was so little and so freaked out by the T-Rex that he hid under the seat and we couldn’t find him in the ride photo! Anyways, I’m glad we saved it for the end of the day.

 

While we waited to dry off a bit (we had about a 2 hour drive ahead of us to Casey’s parents once we left the park) we wandered through Hogsmeade again. Casey wanted to ride the Dragon coaster, which he declared his favorite ride of the day (the green one, not the red, FYI). After that, I noticed that the line for Ollivander’s shop had dwindled drastically, and I suggested we check it out.

 

If you’re not well-versed in Harry Potter, Ollivander’s is a wand shop, where each wizard is chosen by a certain wand (the wand chooses the wizard, not the other way around). I had heard good things about the “show” at Universal, where one audience member is chosen to have a wand choose them. The line, which had been hovering around the 3 hour mark all day, seemed to indicate that the experience was worth seeing. We waited about a half an hour, and then were ushered into the dark and dusty shop. I was impressed (as I had been all day) with the level of detail and thoughtfulness the designers put into everything and was excited to witness some kid’s day getting made as they received “their” wand. However, Ollivander descended his staircase, peered into the crowd, studying us, and instead of an enthusiastic child, who does he choose to get a wand? Me. The 25-year old dream-ruiner, in her stupid Deathly Hallows t-shirt. I basically died. If I wasn’t the reluctant center of attention, I think I actually would have enjoyed the way that the wand “chose” me (just a heads up, my wand is made of reed and dragon heart string, and indicates that I have a “fiery” and “bold” personality). Casey thought it was just about the funniest thing ever (but despite that, did not manage to take a photo of my mortification).

 

universal-5-globeObligatory selfie

 

All in all, a great, fun day. We definitely recommend a visit, and I am especially excited to hear more about the new “Diagon Alley” section that is going to connect the two parks.

 

Have you been to Universal? What did you think? Although we were very impressed (okay, mostly me) with the level of detail and the way the designers and engineers carried out each section’s/ride’s theme and story, we felt that some of them (particularly the Forbidden Journey), just weren’t exciting enough. Are we just adrenaline junkies or did you feel the same?

J O U R N E Y – Part One

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Last Saturday, we left Vermont.

It was a weird feeling, for sure, to leave a place with so much history and so many memories, unsure of when, if ever, you’ll be back. I was trying to remember a time I ever felt this mix of emotions before, and couldn’t. I mean, I was definitely sad and apprehensive about leaving Rochester after college, but everyone was leaving. I wasn’t leaving behind everything and everyone, everybody was moving on to the next. It’s very odd to be moving on independently.

 

But I digress.

 

We drove to my parent’s house in Syracuse, and spent the night there. Sunday morning, we got up and drove out to Rochester to see our sister-in-law, nieces and nephew. Charlotte and Levi entertained us, we played with Legos, and had lunch together. After lunch, we drove back to Syracuse to have dinner with the rest of Casey’s siblings. It was great to be able to see them before leaving! We’re hoping that everyone will come to visit us in Puerto Rico for Thanksgiving… come on down, guys!

meixellsLove these monkeys… miss you guys already!

 

After another night at my parent’s house, we got up Monday morning, and hit the road again. We headed down to Florida, by way of Washington, DC, to stop and see my very best friend, Bee.  

 

Despite another snowstorm for DC, the drive down was easy and uneventful. The combination of the snow and our plan to “miss” rush hour seemed to be ideal – no crazy Captiol traffic for us! We had a fun dinner with Bee and her friend Breton – Irish margaritas, all around (long story, but margaritas are sort of a tradition for Bee and I, and it just happened to be St. Patrick’s Day, so Irish margaritas it was)!  After dinner we lingered for a couple of hours (just to be sure rush hour was over) and wandered through Paper-Source and ate some delicious Georgetown Cupcakes.

bee-andmargs-1Irish margaritas + our happy place (Paper-Source, obvi)

 

After leaving Washington, the drive down 95 was mostly boring and loooong. I think I am glad we tackled it night – there’s not much to see! We did have a bit of excitement in North Carolina in the form of an unexpectedly icy bridge (utterly terrifying, if I’m being honest, but we are absolutely fine so nothing to worry about!) and at the South Carolina/Georgia border where both of us were so exhausted that we stopped and slept in a Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot for about an hour and a half.

 

We arrived in Orlando and checked into our hotel and napped for a couple of hours, then hung by the pool until dinnertime. The first part of our journey might be over, but the adventure is only beginning!