Whales, Sharks, & Whale Sharks at the Georgia Aquarium

This past week I spent laziest Christmas ever in Georgia, which consisted of endless eating, lounging, sleeping, and board game-playing. The one day I actually did get up and do something I went to see Atlanta’s biggest attraction, the Georgia Aquarium. I knew beforehand that is was one of the biggest in the world and that it had some whale sharks, but aside from that I knew nothing. I should have known better than to pay good money to an aquarium before doing my fair share of research.

After seeing The Cove and Blackfish I have been a pretty staunch opposer of keeping whales and dolphins in tanks. I live in San Diego and have never set foot inside Sea World and strongly advise anyone I know to at least see these movies before they make a decision about going themselves. So now I am kicking myself for giving my monetary support for this aquarium.

Just having been to Monterey Bay Aquarium where there are no large animals whatsoever, it didn’t even cross my mind that there would be whales or dolphins at the Georgia Aquarium. Once inside, suddenly staring into the tank of 3 snowy white Beluga Whales, I desperately wanted to go Free Willy on the place. They were swimming in the same repetitive circles, a sure sign of severe boredom if not something worse. After watching them do about 10 of the same exact loops through their relatively small tank, I had enough. It was just incredibly sad… and then came the whale sharks.

The whale sharks are in the huge ocean tank with other sharks and rays including Mantas, which are my favorite. Seeing wild Manta Rays in Palau was one of the highlights of all my travels. I’ve never seen a whale shark in person, but in videos they are always in the open ocean with their huge mouths feasting on plankton. Seeing them in this tank was like watching giant goldfish in a glass bowl. The last straw was finding out there was a dolphin show. You have to pay extra for this so we obviously did not see it.

After doing my research I found that 2 whale sharks have died at the Georgia Aquarium already, as well as 2 Beluga Whales. Despite all the backlash from the orca-related deaths and all the current attention surrounding these animals, the Georgia Aquarium is still trying to purchase more Belugas from Russia. Thankfully they have been blocked by NOAA, but are still pushing to allow the import of these whales. I desperately hope this does not happen. It’s my New Year’s wish. If you have not seen The Cove or Blackfish, I highly recommend them.

Here are some pictures of these amazing creatures– the divers in the bottom give a good size comparison. These were baby whale sharks too!

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Georgia Aquarium Whale Sharks

 

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Georgia Aquarium Manta Ray

Monterey Bay + Jellyfish

This year, for our annual Big Sur Half Marathon trip, I did not actually run. I sipped my mocha latte from the sidelines and cheered everyone on while watching sea otters in the harbor. Grad school is quite the time suck and I haven’t been able to train. So instead of running, my mushy self spent the weekend relaxing and looking at Jellyfish…which are pretty much the most fun creatures to photograph in the entire universe. I tried to get a good picture of the otters but those suckers just won’t hold still.

Cheers to a wonderful weekend with my girls Ginny and Katie who killed it!! ❤

Angel JellyfishDisco Jellies JellyfishMe and the Jellies Jellyfish on FireJellyfish Blue Jellyfish   Xray JellyfishThe girls.

xoxox

Acadia National Park

As a getting out of the Navy present to myself I went on a little one month tour of the east coast and visited friends and family from Maine to Florida. My first stop was a 4-day camping trip in Acadia National Park with one of my best friends. I flew into Boston and we did the long drive up north with plenty of stops at Dunkin Donuts and Tim Hortons (why can’t the west coast have these??) This was my first ever trip to Maine despite living in Vermont for 4 whole years for my undergrad. I was pretty excited for some cool weather and sweet hiking.

Luckily we booked our campsite at Seawall a few months in advance and were able to get a beautiful site in the back of the campground which is on the southwestern side of Acadia National Park and about 30 minutes from Bar Harbor. It’s definitely a little more out of the way than a lot of the other campsites but it was quiet and clean and had a huge cement fireplace that we used extensively. We ended up driving by or walking through a few of the other campsites and found that Seawall was a lot less congested. And most importantly, it was located 5 minutes from a delicious lobster joint named Sawyer’s Lobster Pound. Talk about picturesque New England…

Sawyers Lobster Pound Seawall Acadia National Park

Lobster Roll at Sawyer’s

Lobster Shack Seawall Acadia

Sawyers Lobster Pound

Sawyers Lobster Pound

Sawyers Lobster Pound

Seafood Innuendo

One morning we went to Jordan Pond for a brunch consisting of their famous popovers and lobster stew. We made reservations in advance and ended up getting the best outdoor seat in the place. The food was delicious and the popovers were plentiful, not to mention the view which was perfect. Afterwards we walked off our meal with a 3 mile stroll around scenic Jordan Pond and watched loons diving in the water.

Jordan Pond Trail Acadia National Park Jordan Pond Sign Post Jordan Pond Maine Acadia Jordan Pond Popovers Acadia National Park Jordan Pond Acadia National Park Acadia National Park

Our second day we opted for a 9 mile hike up and down Cadillac Mountain, which is the highest point in Acadia. We started from Blackwoods Campground and sweated our way through the forest and up onto a sloped granite mountain which was covered in really beautiful Asian-looking pine trees. The trail was relatively empty besides a few couples and their cute dogs. After 2 hours or so of moderate hiking we made it to the top only to discover that there was a large parking lot full of tourist who had taken the easy way up via a bus. At least it was good to know that if you want to come up for a nice sunrise view you only have to drive 20 minutes instead of hiking 2 hours in the dark.

Cadillac Mountain Maine Acadia National Park

Bar Harbor Maine

Bar Harbor

Bar Harbor

Downtown Bar Harbor

Every morning we would make a cup of coffee, or tea in my case, and walk the 10 minutes down to the water. There was always some fog to make it a little more scenic. Couldn’t ask for a better wake up.

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Fog at Seawall

Fog at Seawall

Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park

No better way to end a night in Acadia than drinking a glass of wine by the campfire.

Seawall Campground Acadia National Park

Palm Springs

This past week Joe and I drove to Palm Springs for a mid-week vacation and it was super fantastic. Palm Springs is one of those little trips that I have somehow held off on. After being here in SoCal for 2 years I am now punching myself for it! It was so great. We just missed the Coachella and Stagecoach crowd which we are very thankful for. Since it was so wonderful we plan to go back every few months or so to relax and get some sun since it’s only a 2 hour drive from San Diego.

We stayed at the Ace Hotel and loved it although I didn’t initially. When we first walked in I thought to myself that it seemed like the center of the hipster universe. I think we were the only non-tattooed people in the whole place, and Joe was definitely the only non-bearded man. After spending the first day there I reversed my judgement. This place has a really chill vibe and everything you really need. The staff were super nice and we really did not have a single issue with anything. And we got to bring Jerri to the very dog-friendly pool! She even got her own lounge chair and bowl of doggie water.

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Aside from the canines, another great part of Palm Springs was the food. For dinner the first night we ate at the Purple Palm in the Colony Palms Hotel and then Jake’s the second night. Both are moderately pricey but we enjoyed them immensely. The Purple Palm was romantic and quiet while Jake’s was much more energetic and had killer desserts. OpenTable.com seems to have reliable reviews for the area and makes it easy to reserve which is a must, even for a weekday. There seem to be about a million exceptional restaurants in the valley so hopefully we will get to try a bunch of them over the next few years.

For breakfast we were told to go to 2 places, Cheeky’s and Sherman’s Deli. We did not make it to the deli because we ate at the Ace’s diner instead, but we will hit it up next time. Cheeky’s certainly lived up to it’s expectations.  A bacon flight is a great way to start your breakfast, and the rest of the food was even tastier. Cheeky’s is also attached to a really cool looking smaller boutique hotel which I am keeping in mind for next time.

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The Ace is pretty big and apparently it gets busy/crazy on the weekends. During the week it’s very relaxed and there were plenty of lounge chairs for everybody. Another reason why a weekday trip here is the best. I don’t think I will ever come here on the weekends because the weekdays mean no traffic, plenty of pool space, and way cheaper room rates. The rooms at the Ace have all the amenities and one of the most comfortable beds I have ever slept on. I pride myself on having a supremely comfortable mattress, but this was unreal. As for nightlife other than sleeping, the bar attached to the lobby has karaoke on Wednesdays which seemed to be overtaken by regulars who were not very enthusiastic, but I still managed to embarrass myself well enough. My rendition of Cher’s “If I Could Turn Back Time” never disappoints.  Joe says I need to pick easier songs but I think the worse I sound, the less pressure I feel. So naturally I pick Cher or Whitney Houston every time.

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13 miles west of town there are some huge, creepy dinosaurs that cannot be missed. Right next to the Burger King!

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Some hotels I have my eye on for next time are Korakia Pensione, the Riviera, the Alcazar and the Colony Palms. And we will definitely have to get off our lazy bums and do some hiking or at least some tram riding next time.

Big Sur to San Diego

Road trippppp!!!

Probably one of the least boring ones I have ever been on… I just got back from 4 days slowly driving from Monterey back down to San Diego after running a half marathon in Big Sur. More on that later. As for the trip with my Bestie Ginny I have 3 words: Relaxing, Breathtaking, and very very SORE. Good thing I was driving most of the time because holy hell.

We spent 2 nights at the Naval Post Graduate School in Monterey since we are Navy Babies and wanted to save some cash. The hotel there is super old and very grand for a Navy Gateway Inn. Can’t beat it for $60 a night. After our race we decided to head straight out and skip the aquarium and Carmel since I had already been to both. We started making our way through Big Sur which is amazing…I think many a car commercial was filmed on the curving coastal roads. We stopped at 2 really great places on the way south. The first was the Big Sur Roadhouse where we paused for a late breakfast. I wanted to stay there all day. It was drizzly and a little chilly outside and this place was so cozy with delicious fresh food. The menu was interesting and had a southern feel to it, and to top it off it was very reasonably priced for being where it was which is right off Highway 1.

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After that we drove to a beach just down the road that was kind of hard to find since it’s unmarked. After a 2 mile drive down twisting narrow roads there is a beautiful beach with lots of cool rock formations and tide pools. There were only a few other people there plus a bunch of Russians shooting a music video of to the side on some rocks. Random. Unfortunately there were no dolphins or seals anywhere in sight, but the sun did decide to come out as we were getting there.

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From there we had drinks at the Post Ranch Inn which is a incredible hotel overlooking the Pacific. This place is lux, about $1000 per night for the cheapest rooms, but the rooms are these little huts built into the side of the mountain overlooking the ocean. Floor to ceiling windows, outdoor showers, and crazy views all around. Maybe I can get Joe to give me one night for my birthday….hint hint wink wink.

That night we stayed in Cambria, the home of elephant seals. These are one of the most disgusting sounding animals I have ever heard. They sounded like belching zombies. They didn’t smell so hot either but they were rather cute all snuggled up on each other.

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And a killer sunset to end the night!

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Boston in the Fall

I spent the last 5 days visiting my friend Ginny in Boston and it was sooo relaxing. I haven’t seen leaves change since college in Vermont. That’s 7 years ago, at least…. The weather was brisk but not too freezing, a nice change from sunny San Diego. Checked many things off my list for this trip…. hot apple cider, New England clam chowder, Harpoon beer, fireplaces, used book stores, Salem witches and way too many carbs. What’s a vacation without carbs?

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I tore through Mrs. Kennedy and Me by Secret Service Agent Clint Hill while I was in Boston; seemed like the perfect destination for this book. Unfortunately didn’t get to visit the JFK Library while I was there even though it was right down the street. (Next time Ginny!) But back to the book– so interesting. Clint Hill was obviously in love with the lady so I feel like only good things were written about her. Nothing is mentioned about all of Jack’s affairs and how she handled them. As far as the author is concerned this woman never did a single thing wrong which was kind of annoying.

There are so many things that fascinate me about that era and that family. I think about them now and I am shocked at how uneducated the people in this country have become. Granted, JFK and Jackie were afforded top tier educations due to their wealth and status… but still. It saddens me. The Kennedys were so very intelligent and classy and now I see why people were so obsessed.

More biographies are currently stacking up on my bookshelf ready to read. Next up are the interview transcripts from 1964 right after the assassination when she was interviewed by Arthur Schlesinger. They were just released in 2011 by Caroline Kennedy after 50 years of being locked up. Jackie was notorious for never giving any interviews after she left the White House so this should be interesting and hopefully insightful. I just finished watching the televised White House tour she gave in 1962. She sounds like Marilyn Monroe. So breathy. It’s definitely worth a watch.

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Dear Congress, thanks for the Tour.

Oh I almost forgot, thanks for the government shutdown too!! What a pleasure you all are. And all you Republicans looked so sharp in your suits, how could anyone say you’re the bad guys…I just don’t believe it. I won’t.

Alright, that’s enough political sarcasm for one post. I was lucky, or unlucky enough depending how you look at it, to get a tour of congress while it was in session 2 days before the government shutdown. A friend of a friend of mine is the legislative director for one of the congressmen so we got to go a little behind the scenes. I had never been in the Capitol and was like a giddy little kid learning about it all. I know shockingly little about the government and all its parts so I vowed to myself that I would finally read at least one of those books like 1776. I also always wanted to read a biography on every single president in the order that they were president. Maybe 2 on JFK….

Anyway, the best part of the tour was obviously going inside Congress and watching them give their fiery speeches about the upcoming doomed bill. I watched in disgust as some of the dems came up to speak and the republican side was so loud that the speaker had to smash his gavel a million times to shut them up. I asked our legislative director if it was normal that no one listened to the speeches and she said sadly, yes. And not only that, she said people just give the speeches to get a youtube video. Haha. America!!!!

If you are ever in DC go check this place out, even if you already did it on your 8th grade field trip. It’s so cool!

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I wish I could have gone in and tin foiled his whole office.

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I think this is where Johnny B takes a nap.

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And I thought it was kinda cool that the Florida congressman had orange juice stocked in his office. Mimosas would help me get through my day there too.

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A Day at the Newseum

“I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts.” -Abraham Lincoln

I can usually only stand about 2-3 hours in a museum before I can only focus on how much my back hurts and how I want to go the Museum cafe and get a snack and then possibly take a nap on a bench in some side hallway. I used to loooove museums when I was little, particularly the Museum of Natural History in NYC. I must have museum fatigue from my mom dragging my sister and I through every museum we came across.

Here to rekindle my Museum love affair is the Newseum.

This weekend I was in DC for (another!) wedding and I had the day with my Mom to explore a little of the city. I don’t think I had been there since 8th grade and a lot has changed. We were told by my sister and multiple other people that the Newseum is where it’s at. Right they were.

It’s located right near the National Mall where all the museums are, not hard to find. We started the day at Paul’s Bakery a few blocks away….delish French food with a very European style indoor and outdoor cafe. Yumm. Go ahead and eat a croissant, you know you want to.

The Newseum is 6 floors of temporary and permanent exhibits with lots of interactive gadgets to keep the kids away from the good stuff. Currently there is an exhibit called Capturing Camelot which was my favorite because I am increasingly interested in the Kennedys lately. Love this picture of JFK and Jackie.

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The original flash news bulletin about Kennedy’s assassination.

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I loved this billboard where people could post where they had been when JFK was killed.

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An original front page announcing Marilyn Monroe’s death including this interesting tidbit about her condition on being found: “She was unkempt and in need of a manicure and pedicure.” How rude.

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There was a really cool part of the Berlin wall on the ground floor with an exhibit about how journalists got information out of East Berlin.

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Of course there was a big section devoted to the 9-11 coverage. Did you know the major networks didn’t play any commercials for the first 4 days after the attacks so they could have constant coverage? In the middle of the exhibit stood the broadcast antenna that was at the top of one of the towers. Warning: This area brings on the tears.

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The 1st floor has a great section with all the Pulitzer Prize winning photographs. I never realized there were only 2 awarded every year. This part made me want to quit my job and become a photojournalist with my fancy new camera.

Well worth the visit!!! One ticket also gets you 2 days of admission if you want to break it up. And check out the exhibit on the dogs of the White House. Reagan’s is the cutest.

PS  The Navy Memorial is right down the street… I couldn’t help myself from flirting with this hunky sailor!

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Catalina Island

I am writing his from 30,000 feet in the air. Gotta love airplane wifi. Surprisingly it’s on a US Airways flight which I have ways considered budget. Times are a changin’! I had a request to post a little bit about a recent trip to Catalina Island so here it is…

I went with a group of friends for 2 nights which is a good amount of time. I don’t really recommend this as a day trip but if you’re a hard charger it’s doable. The island has tons of history so it’s good to wiki it before you go, but there are museums there if you have the time.

If you are not familiar with Catalina it is a rather small island off the coast of SoCal that can only be reached by boat. The island has 2 main towns, Avalon and Two Harbors. To get to Avalon there are multiple ferries from Dana Point and farther north, Dana Point being the easiest for San Diegans. There is easy and decently priced parking right at the ferry terminal. The ferry ride is a little over an hour but may take longer depending on weather or sea creatures. On the way over we were lucky enough to see a whale that kept fluking for us. The captain decided to stop and watch which disgruntled a few of my seasick friends but was well worth it.

Once in Avalon there are a bunch of hotels where you can stay more comfortably but the best option is Hermit Gulch campground which is about 1.5 miles from the ferry dock. Prices are very reasonable and per person, not per tent. It’s easily walking distance if you are fit but bringing a bike is highly recommended so you can explore the island (gears are good!) Note: If you want to bring a bike on the ferry you must reserve early and tell them you are bringing a bike which costs $7 extra, otherwise you can rent one in Avalon but the prices are a little steep.

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Pulling into the harbor you almost feel like you are in Portofino!

Hermit Gulch is the only campsite near Avalon. It’s clean and quiet with decent bathrooms and showers. There are multiple hiking trails nearby as well as the botanical gardens and the Wrigley Memorial which is worth the short walk.

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If you make it here in the summer and want to hit up the beach your options are limited. The best beach is private but you can pay your way in! Descanso Beach Club is just past the casino (now a museum) and has a real sand beach with luxurious cushioned chaises, umbrellas and people that serve you drinks and food like you are a rock star. I highly recommend it if you are willing to dish out some extra cash. It’s about $80 for 2 people, and make sure you book in advance for weekends. Next door to that is a public beach and bar/restaurant which is 2nd best. Don’t forget to order the local drink, Buffalo Milk! There are, weirdly enough, free roaming bison on the island that were left there from a movie shoot decades ago, hence the name.

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Near the beach club there is also zip lining and kayaking, or if you want to chillax there is an outdoor massage place overlooking the water. Lots of options!

Incidentally when I was 13 I was sent to a 2 week summer camp here on the island to learn how to Scuba Dive at the Catalina Island Marine Institute. I didn’t get to dive on this return trip but I highly recommend it. A thick wetsuit is a must and you will still freeze your but off but there is nothing like swimming through a kelp forrest with leopard sharks and seals. The Garabaldi fish are pretty cool too, hint hint they love to eat frozen peas.

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Restaurant-wise you have plenty of options including the very laid back Lobster Trap for some seafood and Avalon Grille for something more upscale. They also have a good wine list. On the pier there are a couple of little places that boast some tasty clam chowder and are too cute not to pass up.

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Our fearless leader Erin, thanks for planning and organizing our 1st annual Catalina Camping trip!

Cape Cod

I was lucky enough to attend the wedding of a friend of my BF’s in Mashpee, Cape Cod a few weekends ago. It was rainy and chilly but we still had a blast just being away from SoCal. I hadn’t been to the Cape in awhile and forgot how pretty it is there. Crushed shell walkways and lots of greenery. Too bad the rich people hog it all up.

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The walkway at Poponessett Village.

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Taking a breather with a walk down to the beach.

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Next time…side trip to Nantucket!