Winter escape: reminiscing about our favorite tropical vacations

We’re back from our annual NYE trip to the Washington Coast! I’ll share some photos with you later this week. Per usual, we had a fantastic time with fantastic people. It was sunny, but very cold which seems very contradictory when one is at the beach. Sand and warm weather go together IMO. So in honor of the true sun and sand combo, I’ve dug into the archives to find my five favorite tropical vacations. Enjoy with a side of margarita 🙂

PicMonkey CollageCabo San Lucas, March 2010
Granted, this trip was with the family but hey, it was a relaxing getaway anyways! I think I ate guacamole and chips for lunch nearly every day and poolside lounging was the no. 1 priority. My parents even sat through a boring timeshare meeting so we could get this awesome zip lining trip. This is one of the most fun activities I’ve ever done!

PicMonkey Collage2Panama, Fall of 2010
2010 was a big year of travel for us! We got invited to a close friend’s wedding in Panama and made a week-long trip out of it. Guests came in from all over the world and it was a big party moving from hostel to hostel until we arrived at the Al Natural Resort for the wedding. I will never forget staying in these rustic, wall-less cabins overlooking the ocean. Oh, and that beautiful beach wedding!

PicMonkey Collage3Tulum, May 2012
What can I say? I love me some Mexico! I found Tulum on a travel blog and those white, sandy beaches had me sold. We stayed in this funky little hotel right on the beach and spent our days swimming in cenotes and discovering the local ruins. I’d 100% go back to Tulum in a heartbeat! I even talked my parents into vacationing there this coming spring.

PicMonkey Collage4Austin, October 2012
I guess Austin isn’t exactly tropical, but it’s a warm destination compared to Seattle! We made a trip down south to visit our dear friends and take in Austin City Limits, our first major music festival. The beers flowed, BBQ consumed and the warm weather beat out those fall blues. What a cool, hip city to explore.

PicMonkey Collage5Jamaica, November 2014
Oh Jamaica and your all-inclusive resorts! Honeymooning there was the ultimate treat for us and the perfect unwinding destination after a stressful wedding. We even extended our stay to come home post-Thanksgiving. It was just that good. Quiet beaches, friendly people and bottomless drinks…pure heaven!

OK, I’m dying to hear about your favorite tropical vacation! Give me some ideas so I can start planning our next one 🙂


Austin: the music

Local artist, Bob Schnyder, rockin Threadgills on his bday.

Festival time!

First show of the day

Reppin’ the 206

Smuggle complete 🙂

Decisions, decisions

Wow, I can’t believe I almost forgot to post this – whoops! The music, espec. Austin City Limits (ACL), was the main reason for our trek to Texas. We started off our musical journey at Threadgills prior to ACL weekend and were treated to a birthday show by the local artist Bob Schnyder. Oh man, he was good (and kinda sexy in that weird, frontman way). He rapped, he played the guitar, he sang funny/sick ‘n twisted lyrics….very entertaining! It was a good taste of the local scene – glad we were able to go (thanks Carlos!).

We were hoping to attend all three days of ACL, but financially, that wasn’t going to fly so we opted for Sunday only. For the first time in my life, I did not stress about getting my hands on tickets prior to the show and decided that we’d just haggle on the streets. Haggling actually paid off real nice like and we had no problems finding bracelets AND paying less that the ticket price for ’em. Yeah buddy!

This was my first time at a large scale festival like this and I must say, it was a bit intimidating. There were so many freaking people – it was nuts. We took in a few shows that afternoon including The Lumineers, which should have been on a larger stage, then watched the amazeballs Crystal Castles as the sun set. After an afternoon of mostly guitar playing, I was ready for their crazy techno beats, loud bass and screamy emo lyrics. I loved every minute of that show and I’d put it as the top performance we saw that day. We capped off the evening with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, which were, well meh. The crowd was so big and we were pretty far back so there wasn’t a whole lot to see. Plus, they haven’t really put out anything good in quite a few years.

If we end up back in Austin next year for ACL, I think I’d like to get a bit crazy and go all out for all three days to really get that festival experience!


Austin: Barton Springs

Barton Spring – spring fed pool no doubt


Lap swim time


Me and the BF


Pool greens


On duty

After our first failed attempt, I was glad that we could fit a trip to Barton Springs Pool into our last day in Austin. Although it could have been a bit warmer out, the place was nearly deserted and we had a large patch of lawn to ourselves. Barton Springs is a man-made recreational swimming pool located on the grounds of Zilker. The pool sits in the channel of Barton Creek and is filled by water from Main Barton Spring, the fourth largest spring in Texas. I’ve heard that the water stays a crisp 68 degrees year round, which would feel very, very nice in the middle of summer.

We spent a few hours here relaxing and playing cards and I was the only brave one to go in. It was mighty cold, but I figured I’d probably only have one chance to experience this so I slowly creeped my way in. After splashing around for a bit, the water was quite manageable and I took a nice, long lap swim. My only regret was that I didn’t have goggles. I would have loved to see what was going on under the surface as I swam over rock formations and patches of underwater plants! Quite a unique experience for this former HS swim teamer.


Austin: the food

East Side King Food Truck


Well, I can safely say that we did not go hungry while in Austin. I don’t even recall feeling any sort of hunger pains at any point during our trip, which usually happens to me on vacation when I can’t constantly snack. Vegetarian, tex mex, burgers, pork belly, hum bows….you name it, we probably ate it that week. I was sort of relieved to come home and detox a bit. I think at one point, I noticed that I had ordered an entree with pork belly every night for the first few nights. When in Rome, I guess……

Beside our infamous trip to Franklin BBQ, we visited many other food trucks and establishments, all of which were extremely good. Austin has a killer food truck community and you can find them paired up all over the parking lots of Austin. We only ate at a few, but if I find myself back in Austin again, I will def want to hit more of these up! And remember kids, it’s always BYOB!

Places we chowed down at included:

Elizabeth Street Cafe – pricier French/Vietnamese restaurant with yummy, booze punches that are good for sharing
Torchy’s Tacos – a famous taco truck with locations all over the city – their deep fried avocado tacos are a must
Hopdoddy Burger Bar – an inexpensive but all natural burger joint with a weird way of getting your food (you wait in line, order a drink, wait in line some more, order your burger, then they seat you) everything is organic/local/made to order
East Side King – a food truck run by Top Chef winner Paul Qui, located in the back lot of a bar featuring all sorts of goodies including beet fries, Brussels sprout salad, beef tongue and pork belly humbows – just order 1 of everything off of their menu and you won’t be disappointed
Austin Java – a good breakfast joint near Zilker Park with lots of veg/vegan options
Chuy’s – famous tex mex place with that kitchy diner feel on the inside but OMG, cheap margaritas and queso? sign me up.


Austin: Franklin BBQ

We made it! Finally.

The long wait. Luckily, they had beer for sale.

Almost there!

The menu, very official like.

Me, placing the lunch order!

Ta-da! Meat for days.

Beyond estatic at this point.

My partners in crime. Ready to dig in!


Peppery pork ribs.

The end.

I decided that my journey to Franklin BBQ was so important that it warranted it’s own post. Not only was this the highlight of my trip, but it happened to be the BEST meal I ate while in Austin. I’d even put it on my list of the top 3 meals I’ve ever consumed in my lifetime – it was just.that.good.

After seeing Anthony Bourdain’s episode on Austin, I knew I had to hit up Franklin. Why, do you ask? Because he is my “older man crush” and anything he recommends has to be good. During his segment on Franklin BBQ, he mentioned that people wait up to 3 hours in line for this meaty goodness. Yikes – waiting for food is not exactly my cup-o-tea, but I was willing to give it a shot. I had even toyed with the idea of even getting off the plane and heading straight to the line, but that was quickly nixed by my fellow travelers and hosts and we ended up at a vegetarian breakfast joint instead. A bit on the opposite end of the spectrum, but whatevs.

Word on the street is that you need to be there by 9am in order to not get the slim pickings so I kept Franklin in my back pocket, bringing it up every day until finally it was decided that Friday was going to be the day, the glorious day of meat! Locals told us were were nuts to get up early to wait that long in line especially with the influx of ACL attendees in town. But I was determined and way too jazzed to have that deter me and promptly set my alarm clock for a bright and early 8am then went out and partied for the evening.

So……8am really didn’t happen, it ended up being more like 9am plus waiting around for everyone to get moving so by the time we got there it was 10am. I was worried, I was stressed, I knew there was just no way that we’d have a shot arriving that late. I became very depressed. I might have moped in the back seat of the car a little. But as we turned the corner and Franklin BBQ and all of its turquoise glory stood in front of me, I realized that the line seemed far more manageable than I’d thought. My depression suddenly cleared and I jumped out of the car, a six pack of hard cider in hand, and got our place in line. FYI – BYOBing in Austin is very much encouraged and hard ciders actually make a great morning beverage, just sayin.

I cracked open my first cider and one of the Franklin guys came around to ask us what we were thinking about ordering. I gave him our estimate and he say “no prob” – it was music to my ears!!! The BBQ gods were on our side that day and I was going to experience something major, I just knew it. We settled in for the wait which ended up being 2 hours or so….I think? It got sorta fuzzy in the end after consuming those ciders on an empty stomach.

We finally set foot over the threshold around 11:30am and the end was in sight. I decided that our order must be revised and must now include a bit of everything off the menu plus more of the brisket and pork ribs. I was greedy, hungry and determined not to miss out on the entire experience. The guys left it up to me and I stepped up to the meat counter, full of excitement, and placed my order with the friendly cook who sliced and diced it all right in front of me. Pulled pork, brisket (fatty and burnt ends), smoked turkey, sausage links and ribs became arranged on a tray and topped with fluffy white bread, slaw and beans.

It was like the heavens opened up and angels began to sing. I quickly grabbed our tray and headed outside to enjoy the deliciousness that was to come. What to try first? The burnt ends no doubt. Whoa. I swear, at was a religious experience. Then? The ribs and their peppery, juice goodness. Followed by? Smoked turkey so moist it was ridiculous then sausage links with the perfect ‘snap’. I kept my first round of tastes pure, with no sauces, bread or sides then tackled the second round by making meat sandwiches loaded up with the works. Any way I sliced and diced it, this BBQ was beyond my expectations.

We worked through a good 2/3 of our tray, leaned back, speechless, all knowing that we had the same thoughts running through our heads: I’VE JUST EXPERIENCED THE BEST BBQ EVER. Slowly, the remaining leftovers were packed up and tucked under our arms and we made our way home and spent the rest of the afternoon in blissful couch relaxation watching Dazed and Confused, nach. I may or may have not fallen asleep 🙂 The leftovers were consumed for dinner that night and even cold, outta the box, everything still tasted amazing. Truly a meal and an experience that will never be forgotten. My grandchildren will be hearing about this.

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