Tag Archives: Travel

New Year’s Resolutions 2014

happy_new_year_266942Do you make New Year’s Resolutions?  I do.  For me it is less about the “New Year” and more about getting goals down on paper (or on your blog, as the case may be).  It is easy to remember New Year’s Day as a time to do this, but I make sure that I check in with those goals a couple of times over the course of the year as well.  Maybe I’ve got some of those that I can cross off the list.  Maybe some of them need adjusting, and, quite rarely, maybe everything is right on track.  Goals don’t do you any good if you just write them down and forget about them, right?

New Year’s Resolutions 2014

  1. Commit Random Acts of Kindness (at LEAST one per month)
    1. DVIS Volunteer
    2. Packages for homeless
    3. Food for…whoever
    4. Smile & wave at strangers (if nothing else, it will freak them out a little, but most likely it will just make their day better.)
  2. Make time to write more.  Set up a daily writing schedule and STICK TO IT (also make sure to eat and sleep, that didn’t happen with the last writing schedule).  I love it so DO it!
  3. Make time for my family.  They’re awesome and I love them, spend more time with them, for crying out loud!  Work in some one on one time with each of them every once in a while.  They are fun and entertaining, but they are more fun and entertaining one on one!
  4. Make time for my friends…see above.  Regularly schedule something together or separately once a month.
  5. Create a realistic, manageable, budget and find a way to keep it. (It doesn’t count if I write it down but never track it.)
  6. Take time for myself.  Nothing else works well, if I feel overwhelmed or too stressed.  Take at least an evening (or two) every week to de-stress and relax.
  7. Eat more meals at home.  (I am a great cook…do it!)
  8. Set up meal exchange with a friend (less cooking, more variety, and I might try a new thing or two)
  9. Eat more vegetables (I love veggies, I could practically be a vegetarian, well, three days a week, maybe.  Why don’t I eat more of them?)
  10. Utilize all the hundreds (maybe thousands?) of recipes I have
  11. Make more food myself and get rid of all the extra sodium and processed food.  I hate the way the processed food tastes…don’t eat so much of it.  I love baking bread, bake your own bread.  If I have extra, freeze it or give it away.  I’m doing a random act of kindness every month, give away food!  There are great freezer tips for freezing your own soup and etc.  USE THEM
  12. Exercise – Run with my friends, train to run a 5K in October.
  13. Drink more water…just because I can drink soda again doesn’t mean you SHOULD!
  14. Be healthier – mentally, physically, spiritually… ( This is perpetual, but still necessary.)
  15. Run the Tulsa Run 5K in October.
  16. Train my dog.  We’re not talking therapy dog training time here, just more training.  It is fun and you love it…do it!
  17. Read every day.  It relaxes me, I love it, it makes you smarter, and improves your writing…why don’t I do more of that and less Television?
  18. Treat myself to a massage every now and again…seriously, I need it.
  19. Actually go to all my doctor and dentist appointments.
  20. Say “No” once in a while.  No one is going to hate me forever if I tell them I can’t do something.  If they are going to hate me forever for saying “no” do I really want to hang around with them?
  21. Go someplace new…or that I haven’t been to in a really long time (I’m thinking London here.)  Seattle, New York, Austin, North Carolina, Paris, Morocco (Wow, that last one just kind of typed itself.  I didn’t actually know I wanted to go there, but yeah, let’s go to Morocco!)… There is a lot of this country I haven’t seen.  Not every trip has to be out of the U.S.  I know lots of people in lots of places, maybe I should visit them.
  22. Seriously look into growing my own vegetable and herb garden. (Not like last year where all I did to “look” was pin stuff on Pinterest.)  Look into structure, pricing materials, really plan this thing.
  23. Plant my own herbs. (Even if I don’t do a whole garden, set up something on the back porch with my favorite fresh herbs…it will save me a ton of money!)

What are some of your New Year’s Resolutions?  What do you think?  Any tips to accomplish any of these goals?

Have a safe and Happy New Year!

‘Til next time,

Jessica

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“Fright Hair on Elm Street”: An Evening with Mr. Neil Gaiman…in Dallas, Texas

So I had a bit of time on my hands while waiting for my turn to have books signed by Neil Gaiman.  This is what I wrote, mostly on my iPhone, from the Majestic Theatre on Elm Street in Dallas, Texas.

I think I may be a bit starstruck. Tonight is the night of the Neil Gaiman reading and book signing and can I just say…wow…everything.

This morning everything went smoothly. My plane was on time, I picked up my car without a hitch, and I even found my hotel with a minimum of fuss. (You don’t know this yet, but I get lost…a lot. )

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Oh my, the hotel! I’m staying at The Adolphus, and it is phenomenal! (Please enjoy this photo of the lobby, I know my skills as a photographer haven’t gotten any better, but my enthusiasm is exquisite.) My room even had a walk in closet. I’ve never stayed in a hotel that had a walk in closet before. It made me wish I had more to hang in it, but I’m only here for the one night so….I don’t think even a perpetual over packer could fill this closet.

The doorman also told me that Stephen King stays here fairly often when he comes to town and that John Grisham has stayed here as well.  Grisham actually missed his flight to stay and sign autographs for fans in the lobby. When my favorite doorman, Jimmy, tried to help him extricate himself, John Grisham said he’d rather stay. That he loved being able to interact with his fans….I wonder where Neil Gaiman’s staying. I’m not a stalker, but running into him in the lobby would be pretty freaking awesome.

Apparently, this hotel has a reputation for being haunted.  I found this out after I arrived safely home.  That’s probably a good thing, otherwise my imagination would have gotten carried away with me.  This probably explains Stephen King’s frequent stays.  However, there were no sightings of the supernatural during my stay, and I didn’t hear anything weirder than what you normally hear in a hotel. (Trust me, I’ve heard some really odd/disturbing things, too.)

This is where my plans begin to…unravel a bit, but not horribly. My plan was to walk around the Dallas Museum of Art before everything kicked off tonight. I forgot about Monday’s and museums. They’re closed. However, there was a back up plan, sort of…well, I created a Plan B when I discovered my little snafu. A client told me that Half Priced Books has their headquarters here, and there is a fantastic coffee shop attached that serves a German Chocolate Brownie that is amazing. Then I basically found a comfy spot to read until it was time to leave.  The brownie was a bit heavy on the icing, but otherwise excellent.

All would have been well, except…GPS hates me. Not mine in particular, but all of them. It got me lost, twice, before trying to make me exit on a closed ramp. I did find it though, eventually.  However, I was not there when they opened the doors, which was the goal.  I did arrive about thirty minutes later, an hour before the show was scheduled to begin.  That’s when I saw it.  The Will Call line. (dun-dun-duuuuuunh!)

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Will Call line Part 1

The Will Call line, oh holy cow, it wrapped all the way around to the back of the building. This did not include the line for people who just needed to pick up their books, that wrapped around the side of the building in the other direction.  What time did people get here to stand in line?  Is this normal?  No, seriously.  This is the first book signing I’ve ever been to.  It was fun.  I plan to go to more of them.  Do I need to camp out or something? (Let’s go with the “or something” because I am SO not the type to camp out to get into a theater for an event in which I’ve already purchased tickets…or to buy tickets….or for Black Friday deals.  Spending the night in a line on the sidewalk is SO not my thing!)  How early do you need to arrive to ensure you don’t spend an hour+ standing in line to get in?

Will Call line Part 2

Will Call line Part 2

Once I walked through those doors though…The Majestic Theatre is gorgeous! I mean seriously beautiful in the way that modern theaters typically aren’t. The design details are so exquisite and the chandelier in the lobby is pure luxury.  Red velvet covers the seats and matches the big curtain on the stage, and the carvings above the stage and on the ceiling are intricate in the way that I’ve seen so often in Europe and not nearly often enough in the US.  I love ornate ceilings and I should have taken a picture of this one.  It was fantastic.

By the time I get inside the building the ushers are turning people away from the Orchestra and Mezzanine seating.  The only seats left are in the balcony, so up the stairs I tread.  While, I wait for the event to begin, I’m flipping through Facebook, Twitter, email.  Whatever, I can do to keep myself occupied.  Then I notice that the ushers are beginning to call out to people coming in the door.  “There’s one here,” someone shouts.  “No there aren’t any seats with four together, but there are still single seats available,” someone else tells a group.  When it is all said and done there is not an empty seat in the house, and this is Dallas, Texas at the end of June. The doors have been open for more than two hours, and as the bodies fill the seats, the temperature, honey, it is a-rising!  People start to fan themselves with the program, and my inner Sheldon Cooper tries to come out.  I know kinetic energy is only going to raise the temperature in here, but I can’t stop myself from joining in because the cool wafting air across my face does feel pretty good.

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Stage…yes, it is empty.

Given the number of people waiting outside when I came through the doors at 6:50, I am seriously impressed that we started only 15 minutes behind schedule. An introduction was made by Will Clarke, the author of The Worthy and Lord Vishnu’s Love Handles. Then Neil Gaiman takes the stage. (Sorry my only picture of the stage is of an empty stage.  They asked for no pictures or recordings, and I listened.  I was good….it was hard.)

Of course, he is dressed in solid black from the top of his curly mop of hair to the toes of his shoes. As he begins to speak, he clasps his hands behind his back and swings his shoulders back and forth, and the motion is so very childlike and a bit unexpected from this rather seriously dressed man. This is when it finally dawns on me that this is really happening. This isn’t some video online or a DVD, this is live and real and when it is over, I’ll be standing in front of Neil Gaiman and he’ll be signing my books.

He talking about writing the opening pages of The Ocean at the End of the Lane while sitting in a coffee shop here in DallasTheOceanattheEndoftheLane_Hardcover_1359996597while his wife, Amanda Palmer, is in Melbourne making an album. (Seriously, she is an amazing musician and that album, Theatre is Evil is freaking awesome! They all are, but Theatre is Evil is the one that she made while he wrote this book.) Then he’s talking about typing it, and I realize that I’ve read the tweets and blog posts they both wrote during this process. Before he says it, I know that he read whatever he’d done that day to her every night. No lie, I feel a bit like an insider now, even though I’m nothing of the sort.

Neil starts the reading, what will be the first of two readings tonight. This isn’t the plan, but this theater is just so beautiful and he wants to take Autographed Oceanadvantage of it. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is compelling from the first lines Mr. Gaiman reads, and the protagonist is so authentic. I can’t wait to read this book, and damn the crappy lighting above my seat that makes it impossible to read while I wait for my books to be signed.

Then comes the question and answer session. The crowd had a chance to write questions as they waited to begin, and that is even better because there are questions about Doctor Who, his body of work, and connections between pieces. Some of them are written by kids that are in the audience, which is fantastic. One question asked if he could do an Oprah type giveaway, what would he give us.  He said his pilot fountain pen because it hadn’t skipped in more than 27,000 books signed and some ridiculously named ink he uses because it looks like blood.

9780062224071_p0_v2_s114x166The second reading he did was from his children’s book, Fortunately, the Milk that will be released in September. Now, this is a book that I’ve gotten to read a bit about online, I’ve seen some of the gorgeous illustrations, and I have a basic idea of the plot line. The reading though, oh, it was great! It felt like a bedtime story told to a bunch of kids. (It is almost midnight now, and truthfully, my bedtime passed me by a while ago.) I didn’t want him to stop reading, but I also knew he couldn’t read forever.

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There are a boatload, several dozen boatloads, of people to have books signed and it will take hours as it is.  Seriously, it is a hell of a wait. They figured 1,500 people were here tonight, and at least 90% of them have stayed for the signing.  They keep asking if people would like to trade their unsigned copy of The Ocean at the End of the Lane for a pre-signed copy, and no one is taking them up on their offer.  Well, I think I saw a handful trade in their copies for pre-signed and leave.  Thank you for your feedback!  Fragile Things is now personalized and signed by Mr. Neil Gaiman!

photo (66)As we wait to have our books signed, I try to think of something witty and memorable to say when I finally get to the front of the line. I’ll give you three guesses to figure out if I accomplished this…the first two don’t count. In my defense, who is mentally on their toes at 1:30 in the morning? About midnight, I started to really feel bad for him. I mean, he’d been signing books since like 8:45. His hand had to be ready to fall off, or he was almost ready to wish it would just go completely numb at the very least! What did I end up saying, you ask? I ended up thanking him for hanging in there with us so late into the night. He said that he could say the same for us and I took my books and left. Of course, this morning I awoke with the perfect thing on the tip of my tongue, and a story plot swimming in my mind. (No, I’m not telling you what they were. On only about three hours of sleep, I may have been delusional and they suck.)  Maybe, the evening just sparked the creative juices.

I made some new friends last night. When you’re waiting for five hours and you can’t see to read, you have to pass the time. It is a bonus to know, for a fact, that you have at least one thing in common. Most of the wait, I talked with Kate.  She works in a comic book store and is working to go to college to go into film writing. Kate has done quite a bit of stage work as well. She’s going into rehearsals this week for a musical version of  Carrie and she’s playing the lead. She also has a first edition of Good Omens.  I was suitably impressed.  I have no first editions.  Well, I have first editions of ….nope, that is in my imaginary, if-i-was-a-rich-girl library.  Kate gave me some great recommendations for books and comic books to check out, so they went on the list. I’ll be sure to let you know what I find.

If you could meet any author, alive or…not who would you like to talk with?  Wait, have you already gotten to meet them?  How did that go?

‘Til Next Time,
Jessica


Washington, DC

Washington, DC

How Much Sightseeing Can I fit into Nine Hours?

Sunday, June 16, 2013
This week, the capital of the United States! Okay, so I’ve been here exactly one hour and I’m already in love with this city. Seriously, this place is steeped in history! I’m staying at The Madison Hotel and having Sunday brunch at their restaurant, The Federalist. 1280x504_1380_f8b27957fea1af8d234002d37c3a3b17For reals. Yeah, yeah, yeah I know. I’m geeking out over a restaurant named after a seminal group of papers written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay about their vision for the United States. You can read more about that here though. I’m not going to bore you with my particular facet of geekdom.

Today is Father’s Day, and since I’m here in this gorgeous city with this marvelous weather, I’m not spending it with my Dad. That kind of sucks, but I do want to wish him a very public Happy Father’s Day. This week, I really wish he was here with me in Washington, DC. He and Mom actually lived nearby when they were first married, and the last time he was here for a visit was in 1984. He’s a Vietnam Veteran and he hasn’t seen the Vietnam Memorial. Being able to see the sights that he’s familiar with and hear the stories of what it was like to live here in the 70’s would be awesome in and of itself, but to see all the changes with him would be amazing. Well, that’s what cell phones are for right? I’ll just have call him and take LOTS of pictures this trip.
This post is going to be a bit different because I have TIME! Time to have dinner with a college friend and indulge my not-so-hidden history geek. So, for now I’m going to finish my truly excellent coffee and blackberry-mascarpone French toast (yes, I know it is just as sinful and indulgent as it sounds!) before I see a bit of US history. No worries, there will be more terrible pictures! I know you would miss them. Maybe one day you’ll be lucky enough to see pictures from an actual camera, but today is not that day. Laters!

Monday, June 17, 2013
Yesterday, I got to meet up with a college friend that I have not seen in too many years to feel comfortable counting. We went for sushi with her amazing family. Her husband and two boys are awesome! I had just a great time catching up with her and getting to know them. So I read the same books as her son. I feel good about this. There were some recommendations made on both sides. (No, I can’t tell you…spoilers!!). Her youngest and I also share a Lord of the Rings passion. He recommended a video game I may actually not die in…well maybe at least not immediately…or eventually…whichever.

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One more thing that I love about all cities when you “live” downtown…walking to work. Seriously, my trip to the conference this morning was a 20 minute walk that took by the White House…the White House for crying out loud! Who wouldn’t love that? Can you imagine seeing this on your “commute” every morning? Amazing!

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I explored the National Mall yesterday. You know, the home of the Washington Monument (still undergoing earthquake repairs, unfortunately), the Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, etc. photo (53)(I have to say that everywhere I go on vacation there is a major site that is covered in scaffolding. No really – Big Ben, Notre Dame, St. Andrews, Washington Monument all covered in scaffolding when I was there on vacation.) During the hours I walked around in awe of all the amazing, and sometimes astoundingly sad, stories surrounding me, I watched people jogging through the mall. Can you imagine your daily run if you lived here? Just passed the World War II Memorial, only 2.25 miles until the Capitol Building and I’m almost finished. If that was my daily jog….well, I might actually jog!

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The Smithsonian Castle (Smithsonian Information Center)

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Monkeys Grasping for the Moon by Xu Bing

If I lived here, I would also spend every Saturday in a museum of some sort. the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery actually drew me in. Well, actually the castle drew me into the courtyard (you read that right. The Smithsonian has a freaking CASTLE!). Then the sign for the Xu Bing exhibit pulled me into the art museum. Do you know Xu Bing? I didn’t until I read an article about his art here. Of course, I had to see some in person. He designed a piece especially for the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery titled Monkeys Grasping for the Moon. Each monkey is the word “monkey” in one of a dozen different languages, and each word looks like a monkey hanging onto the tail of the one above. They’re trying to reach the moon reflected in the pond below, and it is based on a Chinese folktale. Pretty amazing and powerful stuff. (It reminded me a bit about this story about a spider monkey….I’ll have to tell you some other time. Don’t let me forget, okay?)

Tonight I’m eating dinner at The Federalist again. The conference was exhausting! An entire day spent making small talk with strangers, but I think it was productive. I hope it was anyway. I guess we’ll find out if they buy stuff. Did I mention I’m in sales? There was not enough left in me to walk out in search of a new restaurant. It is also official, I think everything here is good. Tonight…crab cakes, and an amazing Sauvignon Blanc. Oh my God, syllabub! Strawberry-Rhubarb covered in vanilla cream. I have no more words, too tasty! (No judging, now. Remember 20 minute walk to and from the conference. Plus museum tomorrow! Again, no pictures, because I ate the evidence before I thought about it. I am sitting on the patio again. Actually I’m at the same table I was occupying yesterday for brunch. There aren’t as many people to watch at 9:15 on a Monday night in DC, but still entertaining!

The conference ended today at about 1:30, and my plane doesn’t leave until 7:00. Well, it is too bad I’m in a city where there’s nothing to do. Ha! Hooray, more museums! On the downside it rained. Oh, it wasn’t that bad. It was warm outside and it was a gentle kind of rain. Not like what we usually get in Oklahoma this time of year with the wind and sideways rain.

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Tuesday, June 18, 2013
I walked back over to the National Mall and had lunch at the Pavilion Cafe in the sculptural garden at the National Gallery of Art. There were some amazing sculptures. I captured a picture of one of them when I walked through on Sunday. (I like trees all the time. Just regular everyday trees are amazing works of nature, so of course I took a picture of the METAL tree!)

After lunch I wandered next door to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. Oh, my! So much to see, and so very little time! I’m sure that my eyes were just popping out of my head the entire time, and I tried to take in as much as I possibly could with only a couple of hours to explore. There was a brand new photography exhibit that just opened, and I was in awe of the talent that was showcased. I could have spent hours just exploring the details in the photographs, and there was no time! There was an amazing exhibit with some skeletons that they discovered in Jamestown that was fascinating. There were animal skeletons too, but snake skeletons are just as creepy as live snakes…yeah, moving on to gems and minerals. The Hope Diamond! Gorgeous! Then there are the Thompson diamonds. Now, I’m not sure why the Smithsonian has my family’s….jewels, but I think I’d kind of like them back! Okay, so maybe I’m not from the same Thompson’s….then again, maybe I should do a bit of genealogy work.photo (36)

Well, you’ve heard all about my recent travels. What about yours? What is the favorite place you’ve visited?

Next week, The Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees and Dallas. I swear this month is NOT what my travel schedule usually looks like! Don’t expect this many adventures in the future, usually my life is much….quieter.
‘Til Next Time,

Jessica


I’m a Travellin’….Woman! San Diego Gaslamp Quarter

I’m a Travellin’….Woman!

So you may have caught on to the fact that I have a soundtrack for my life.  It plays in the background of my thoughts from time to time.  The words also change from the original to…well to whatever I make up at the time.  Today’s music comes to you from I’m a Ramblin’ Man by Mr. Waylon Jennings (Yes, I am an “Okie” and I did grow up on Country & Western music), but since I’m definitely not a man and, right now, I’m not rambling…weelll, at least not too much anyway, the words have changed.  This month you have the benefit of my absolutely insane travel schedule.  So today’s post comes to you from the beautiful San Diego, California!

Tonight I’m sitting at a lovely Italian restaurant, Toscana,  in the Gaslamp Quarter. The Gaslamp Quarter is the historic heart of downtown San Diego.  There are a ton of restaurants, bars, clubs and shops to entertain both locals and tourists.   Right now, it is a busy area of town, but not crowded.  It offers up the perfect opportunity for people watching, and like a lot of writers, I do so love to people watch.  Making up stories in my mind to go with what I see before my eyes is more entertaining than television.

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The wine and the service are lovely, and the weather…bellissimo! There’s a bit of a chill in the breeze that sweeps in off the ocean, but only enough to make me grateful for a table near the outdoor heaters. When the hostess insisted on seating me right next to the glass enclosed flame, I just shrugged my shoulders and decided that if it became too warm I could move to a different seat at the table.  Within minutes, I was grateful for the gentle heat at my back.  The mild  temperatures seemed much cooler as the sun dipped below the rooftops!

This week I’m here on business, and although I’ll be back to host some clients for dinner at what smells like a truly amazing steak place across the street from where I sit now, tonight is my only evening to explore a bit. (My boss chose tomorrow’s venue, and the man definitely knows how to find the best steak restaurants, no matter which city we’re in). Luckily, this is only a few short blocks from my hotel, and the smell of the ocean and the palm trees lining the street were too tantalizing to keep me inside for long.

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Truthfully, I have never been to San Diego,or to California for that matter, before today. In fact, the cab ride from the airport to the hotel gave me my first peek at the Pacific Ocean, and I couldn’t resist rolling down the window to let the saltwater breeze wash over me. We passed three masted boats…like pirate ships! Except they do dinner cruises, which takes away a bit of the adventure, if you as me.  I even turned around in my seat to keep looking as the road took us further inland to the hotel. (No, even on the 19th floor I can’t see the ocean unless I crane my neck from the left corner of my window and look as far to the right as I can.)

I will do my utmost to take some pictures to add to this post, but be warned, it will be with my phone and I am not a photographer. Also, I missed getting a picture of a turn of the century paddy wagon. A police officer (or someone dressed like one) just got in it and drove away after honking the horn. It made that aaaaahhhhooooooggggggaaa sound. It was fantastic. I’m sorry you missed it!photo (11)

Now why am I eating Italian when I’m so close to all that gorgeous seafood? Tuscan salad with scallops. That’s why. I’d take a picture, but you really don’t want to see my dinner…and I ate it all. Oh yeah, I steadily made my way through those blackened scallops, fresh mozzarella, crisp lettuce and homemade croutons, bell peppers and red onion like they were drizzled with the most fantastic vinaigrette I’ve ever tasted…they were. I don’t even like scallops usually, but they just sounded so amazingly perfect that I decided to try again. (I’m glad I did!) I was so busy people watching as I savored every bite that I didn’t really notice when my plate was empty. Oh the joys of sitting on a patio on a gorgeous evening on a busy street! The best part is playing peek a boo with a little boy who is convinced that I can’t see him when he stands perfectly still, like a statue. Every time his parents walk in the vicinity of my table he comes by to say hello, with this huge grin and eyebrows that skyrocket toward his hairline every time he “hides”….four times now and counting. I hope that I see him once more before I get the check.

This area is a great mix of tourists and locals tonight. Families, couples, club goers, and even joggers pepper the streets. There is this laid back atmosphere that is punctuated every now and then with hoops and hollers from the crowd that got their party on a little earlier than most (it isn’t quite 8:00 PM here yet!).

Now before the chill in the air gets any cooler, I’m going to meander my way back to the hotel.  There are a few shops that I saw on my way in that deserve a visit, there are gifts to buy!  San Diego, definitely goes on my “places to visit for fun” list!

Next travel stop Washington, DC….what could I possibly get in to there?

Til next time,

Jessica