Grand Teton National Park

We just got back from our family trip out west, and I’m sitting here cuddling with Maybelle while writing/editing this post. I missed her terribly while we were away, and it was her first time being boarded (it didn’t go well)! It’s currently pouring outside, so I’m listening to the rain with coffee in hand, while May is snuggled up beside me in her favorite heated blanket.

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This year, Taylor’s side of the family decided to travel through Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana for the annual family vacay! In the previous years, we’ve visited Maine, Destin, and California! You can click on the links to read about those trips as well.

We flew out of Charlotte super early on Saturday morning, and arrived in Salt Lake City by 11am. It was a 4 hour flight through Delta, and everything went smoothly. Although none of us sat together on the plane, we had endless movies to watch on the TV screens in our seats. On the way there, I watched The Maze Runner-The Death Cure and a few episodes of the Big Bang Theory-Season 11. 

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Like most of our family vacations, we rented a 15 passenger van at the airport. Once all our luggage was packed tightly into the back, we buckled up and drove 5 hours to Jackson Hole for our first adventure!

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We would only be in Jackson Hole for one night, so we made the most of our time there. We started by riding the Aerial Tram above the mountains. This was a great way to see the area, because there are windows circling the tram. This is not for those afraid of heights! Once you get to the top, you can see Jackson Hole for miles. The view is stunning and makes for a great photo opportunity!

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By the time we got off the mountain, it was time for dinner. We all ate at MacPhails Burgers. This was a great spot to relax and enjoy a good burger. Afterwards, we walked around downtown Jackson Hole and visited the famous Million Dollar Cowboy Bar. We didn’t stay long before checking into our hotel and turning in for the night. I think it’s safe to say that everyone was exhausted from a full day of traveling. We stayed up as late as we could in attempt to help with the time change.

We started the next morning by loading up the van again and heading to breakfast downtown at Persephone Bakery. It was a small cafe, and since we were such a large group, we ate outside around the fire. The food was unique and delicious. This wasn’t your typical scrambled eggs and bacon, but we loved it! We had a great morning sharing plates of food and sipping on our coffee before another long day.

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I ordered the Herbed Omelette, which had fresh herbs, red chile lemon ricotta, asparagus, radish, fingerling potatoes, dijon cream sauce, and toast. This was the best toast I’ve ever eaten before!

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Taylor and I have been dreaming about visiting the Grand Tetons, but it’s difficult to get to. You can fly into the Jackson Hole Airport, but quite frankly it’s expensive and a long journey. With a group of 12 people, it was easier to fly into Salt Lake City and drive.

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To be honest, I’m struggling to write about the beauty of the Tetons. I feel like no words or pictures can do it justice. They are truly a masterpiece, and you must see them in person. I could spend days driving through the enormous mountains, taking photos and letting it all sink in.

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We drove a short distance and found a small 1 mile trail to hike up to Phelps Lake. This was a moderate hike with amazing views at the top.

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Once we were done, we drove around some more and stopped at several lookouts before checking in at the Jackson Lake Lodge.

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Once we got our room keys, we loaded into a different van and headed to a rafting tour on the Snake River!

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We had an amazing time floating down the river and seeing all the wildlife. I didn’t want to take my camera with me, and it rained about halfway so I didn’t capture a lot of pictures. Looking back, I’m ok with this because I was able to be in the moment and enjoy the tour. This was probably one of the coolest excursions during the trip.

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Unfortunately, we didn’t have the best experience at the Jackson Lake Lodge. In fact, I don’t even have any pictures of the inside. The lobby area was gorgeous, with floor to ceiling windows that overlooked the Grand Tetons. However, when we brought all our bags upstairs after the rafting tour, 3 of the rooms weren’t cleaned. It was about 10pm, so we were ready for bed.

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They only had one available room left in the lodge, so a few of us had to move to the cottages surrounding the lodge. This was the first week they were open, so they were probably still working out the kinks, but it was disappointing. They mentioned that the rooms said “dirty” in their system so why would they even give us a key?? Weird.

Besides the room cleanliness though, we enjoyed our stay. We ate breakfast there the next morning and headed out towards YellowStone National Park.

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Stay tuned for more posts about our trip! 🙂

Tigers on The Road: Raleigh, NC

 

 

Taylor and I left for Raleigh, North Carolina last Friday to see the Tigers play NC State. We live about an hour and a half away from the Orlando airport, so we had to get up around 4am to make our 7am flight time. Thankfully, we have TSA Pre-Check and don’t need to worry about standing in line at security. TSA Pre-Check has been a lifesaver for us, especially because we fly out of a very populated airport! The line is always wrapped around and full of Disney Tourists with their multiple kids and strollers, so investing in TSA Pre-Check has been a lifesaver.

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This flight was special because we got to bring Maybelle! She has only flown one other time, and she was still a little puppy. She whined a little when we first took off, but after a few minutes she went to sleep. There were two little kids in the seats in front of us and they LOVED her. They kept turning around to check on her.

 

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Maybelle lives in Florida with us, so she wasn’t used to the cooler weather!

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Once we landed, we met up with our great friend Rachel and headed to her place to change for the Clemson game! I was shocked at how beautiful Raleigh was at this time of year. I’ve only visited the city one other time, and it was during late summer. I’ve never seen such beautiful leaves before in my life! If you love fall and all the colorful leaves, then you’re going to love this post because it’s jam packed with red, orange, and yellow!

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Like every other Clemson game, we tailgated with friends and family before the game started. The weather was much cooler for us Floridians, but we loved it!

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The NC State stadium is one of the best I’ve been too! It was smaller in size, but very clean. Their fans were ROWDY during the game, and the school did an amazing job at pumping up their fans.

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This was such a close game, which made things tense. NC State put up a good fight, and we barely pulled out a win.

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Once the game was over, we stopped at Cookout (because we can only get this when we’re in the area) and we crashed back at Rachel’s. The following morning we went to the State Farmer’s Market for breakfast.

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If you’re in Raleigh and need a good breakfast/lunch place, the State Farmer’s Market is the place to go! The line was out the door when we got there, but we only had to wait an hour for a table. It looked extremly busy from the outside!

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Our Server, Daniel, was so good to us and made the wait enjoyable. He brought us biscuits and hush puppies, while keeping our coffee full.

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Taylor enjoyed seeing all of his friends!

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Once we were done eating, we walked through the Farmer’s Market.

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We don’t get all the colorful leaves in Florida, so I made Taylor take a picture of me with the leaves.

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The face of pure happiness 🙂

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Once we got back from the State Farmer’s Market, we checked in on the pup and took her for a long walk. We were driving back up the following weekend, so we left Maybelle with Taylor’s mom for the week. This way we didn’t have to buy her another plane ticket.

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We sat around on Sunday afternoon, thinking about what we wanted to do during the day, and we decided to grab some coffee at Cocoa Cinnamon, then walk around the gardens at Duke.

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Walking through the gardens was the best way to spend a Sunday afternoon. The weather was perfect and the grounds were breathtaking. It was a relaxing Sunday and we were glad to see Duke’s campus!

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Going to the gardens and walking around Duke was the best decision we made on Sunday! It was difficult choosing which photos to use for this post, because they were all so beautiful.

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To end the night, we drove into the city and ate dinner at Trophy Brewing Co with Rachel and Ben. We were flying out early the next morning, so we needed something quick and filling.

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They had indoor and outdoor seating available, and the service was quick but relaxed. It wouldn’t make sense for us to travel somewhere and not order some pizza, so that’s what we did! I ordered the Margarita and Taylor split the Most Loyal with Rachel and Ben.

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I’m so glad we travelled to Raleigh to see Clemson play and meet up with friends and family. It can be exhausting living in Florida with all the heat and humidity, so this was a nice break from it all. ❤

 

Family Trip to Canada & Maine

This year’s family vacation with Taylor’s family was to Bar Harbor, Maine. Our flight from Abu Dhabi flew into New York City, where we met half the group. From there, we rented a large van and headed up the coast towards Maine. During our drive, we made a very fun pit stop at L.L. Bean.

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We’ve never been to an actual L.L. Bean store before, so we were very excited to check it out! This particular location in Freeport, Maine is the factory and where L.L. Bean began which was unique!

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When we were finished shopping, we continued our drive to the town of Bangor. Most of this day was spent driving up the coast. When we finally made it to Maine, we rented an Airbnb for the night. Originally, we planned on staying at a hotel, but we realized that it was silly to pay $150 per room when we could spend that on an entire house! We were only there for the night, but it saved us a lot of money! You can find the listing HERE.

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In the morning we drove from Bangor, Maine to Campobello Island in New Brunswick, Canada! We visited Roosevelt Campobello International Park, where we toured the Roosevelt summer cottage!

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The Roosevelt summer cottage had the most beautiful views of the water and the interior was massive! We were really impressed with the home, and there were several tour guides inside to answer any questions we had.

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The weather was perfect for exploring!

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Once we were done walking around the summer cottage, we grabbed a quick lunch and drove to the Head Harbor Lightstation!

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You can only reach this lighthouse during low tide. The structure has been around since 1829, but is still used as an active lighthouse, although it isn’t manned by anyone anymore.

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Once we were done exploring the lighthouse, we drove to Herring Cove Provincial Park. We wanted to relax and watch the water for a few minutes!

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While we were in Maine, we stayed in an amazing VRBO within Acadia National Park. There were 11 of us on this family vacation, so we needed something that would accommodate everyone, and this house was perfect!

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The massive open windows that spanned the back of the house made us feel like we were still outdoors. The owner of the property did an amazing job at making us feel comfortable and welcome during our entire stay. If you plan on taking a trip to Acadia National Park and need a large home for your family, PLEASE consider renting this home. It was a dream! If you aren’t traveling with a larger group, she also rents two tiny homes on the same property that are equally as cute.

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Bar Harbor was exactly what you’d expect! Although it was fairly small, it was quaint and filled with charm. There were people roaming the streets and hanging out in the park, watching the boats come and go.

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While we were visiting, we found out that blueberries were in season and the people of Maine REALLY love to put them in everything.

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At almost every meal, someone was eating or drinking something blueberry!

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And of course there was a lot of lobster consumed! It’s not a successful trip to Bar Harbor if you don’t eat fresh lobster.

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When we were planning the family vacation, we had every intention on watching the sunrise on top of Cadillac Mountain. Being the highest peak on the Eastern Seaboard, it offers the very first glimpse of the sun each day. However, the weather was calling for rain, so we didn’t want to get up extremely early just to witness a thick fog.

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Instead, we visited Cadillac Mountain during the day, and it was wonderful!

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Although it was a little windy, the views were breathtaking! Everywhere we looked, there was another amazing view of the water. It felt like we could see for miles!

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Once we were done exploring Cadillac Mountain, we took a walk on the beach. Some of us searched for cool shells to take home, while others enjoyed the view.

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Just like the lighthouse, this beach is only accessible during low tide. The ground is completely covered in water during high tide. That’s why it’s extremely important to be aware of your tides when exploring the coast of Maine. As fast as the water lowers, is as fast as it can rise!

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On a different day, we walked along the Ocean Path in Acadia National Park.

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If you’re looking for a fun way to explore the park without exerting too much energy, the Ocean Path is perfect! It’s relatively flat, and there are several lookout points perfect for photos!

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We didn’t plan to match, but as a newlyweds this is bound to happen. 🙂 We both are wearing our Buck Shoals teeshirts in support of Dalton’s band! They are super talented, so you should check them out on Apple Music or Spotify!

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Along the Ocean Path, you’ll see Sand Beach, Otter Beach, and Thunder Hole.

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If the tide and water current are just right, you will hear the waves crash into the rock and create a giant splash plus the sound of thunder. There’s a small viewing area where you can stand to see the waves crash into a small cave. When the air get’s trapped inside and the tide is right, it creates the large splash and the sound of thunder!

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Once we were done walking the ocean path, we took a boat tour! This was such a fun and informative tour. There are tons of boat tours you can take while visiting Maine, and we’d recommend them. Just be warned that depending on the season, you may not see much. We saw a bunch of seals and a bald eagle, but that was about it for wildlife.

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Our tour guide was fantastic though, and she gave us a ton of historical information and even taught us about how to catch lobster! All in all, I think we learned a lot on that boat tour!

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It’s not everyday that you get the whole family together in another state! This was such a fun and memorable experience that I know we will all remember forever. Bar Harbor was adorable and Acadia National Park was stunning! Taylor and I love visiting National Parks, so we’d really love to come back and do some more exploring.

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Ice cream is a staple on our family vacations with Grandma, and the blueberry ice-cream was untouchable!!

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On a less serious note, we ended our family vacation with a laugh! On the way to the airport, we drove our van right into a ditch. We couldn’t get it out without fear of the van tipping over, so we had to call for professional help.

This is surely something we’ll laugh about forever! 🙂

Our Honeymoon in Abu Dhabi

One of the biggest questions we were asked on the day of our wedding was, “where are you going for your honeymoon!?” When we answered, “Abu Dhabi,” the immediate response we got was, “where is that?” Abu Dhabi is located in the Middle East, and is the capital of the United Arab Emirates. It is situated beside the Persian Gulf, south of Iran and shares a land border with Saudi Arabia and Oman. The popular city of Dubai is located about an hour and a half north of Abu Dhabi.

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The day after our wedding we caught an early flight from Charlotte to New York City. From there, we flew 12 hours to the country of Qatar with Qatar Airways. This was the nicest, most comfortable international flight we’ve ever been on in our entire lives. We didn’t even fly first class! When we were booking our flights with Qatar several months ago, we threw around the idea of flying business class since it was our honeymoon. Looking back, we’re super glad we didn’t cave and spend the extra money! Honestly, we didn’t need to upgrade because economy seating was so nice! When we were checking into our flight at JFK, we mentioned that it was our honeymoon and they changed our seats! They gave us the option of choosing exit row seats or having a row with an empty seat between us. We chose the later option because it gave us more space without worrying about another person next to us.

With all the new movies and TV shows available at our seats, our flight passed by quickly. As soon as we arrived in Qatar, we took a short one hour flight across the Persian Gulf to Abu Dhabi. From there, we took a 30 minute taxi ride to the Emirates Palace.

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This resort was exactly like it sounds, a palace. It was enormous and luxurious, making it the perfect place for us to honeymoon. Upon arrival, we were greeted and personally shown to our suite. One of the sweet receptionists showed us where everything was, and pointed out all the different amenities within our room.

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One end of the Emirates Palace is dedicated to families and larger groups. The other end is for couples and those who want more privacy. To accommodate both ends, there are two swimming pools. The family friendly swimming pool has several waterfalls, a lazy river, a small park, and a large kiddie pool. We stuck to the pool on our side, which was very quiet and relaxing. They had large hammocks in and out of the pool, plus a swim up bar.

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DCIM100GOPROGOPR2814.There was also a private beach along the Persian Gulf with stunning turquoise water!

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When Taylor found out that you could ride camels on the beach, he was sold on the idea of traveling to Abu Dhabi. He was SO EXCITED!

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When telling people that we were traveling to the Middle East, we got a lot of concern regarding safety. We stayed at the resort most days, but when we visited the Grand Mosque and walked around the city, we felt completely safe. The local people were so nice and welcoming, so it’s a place we would highly recomend traveling to!

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When visiting the Grand Mosque, you’re required to dress conservatively. This means wearing something that covers your arms and legs. If you’re a women, you’ll need to wear a head covering as well. If you don’t have any of these items with you, you’ll be required to rent something when passing through security.

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fullsizeoutput_35ae.jpegThese are our, “why did we decide to tour during the hottest part of the day in Abu Dhabi” faces! :)

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There are multiple 45 minute tours of the Grand Mosque available for free! If you don’t feel like participating in a tour group you can show yourself around, but you’re limited to what you can see and learn. Our tour guide gave us a detailed history of the Mosque and we really learned a lot! We’d highly recommend completing the tour rather than showing yourself around! The Grand Mosque was STUNNING!

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Our time in Abu Dhabi was unforgettable. I’m really glad that Taylor encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and travel to a place that I’d never considered before. We were able to see a part of the world that some people will sadly, never get to see. Abu Dhabi was breathtaking and offered us culture and experiences that we’ll carry with us for the rest of our lives.

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If you ever find yourself desiring an adventure or an experience that will challenge you and force you to step outside of what you know, we’d highly recommend traveling to the Middle East. You won’t regret it! Or, if you’re looking for the perfect honeymoon destination, please consider the Emirates Palace!

Girls Weekend in Nashville Pt. 2

Our next day in Nashville was a fabulous one! We started our day at the Frothy Monkey in 21 South. This was a different location from the previous day, but it was so good the first time that we had to eat it again!

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We loved this location way more than the one downtown. It was extra cozy and homey, whereas the downtown location was more industrial and streamline.

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The two of us split the gravy biscuits, with a side of fruit and bacon. We also had coffee, but that’s no surprise. It was all phenomenal! We didn’t expect the portion sizes to be so large, so we could barley eat it all. One of the employees told us that we could order a half size the next time, so I guess we’ll just have to go back. 😉

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Thankfully, the weather was less windy and much warmer. It was the perfect weather for walking around the city! We needed to walk off some of the food we just ate, so we decided to walk across the Cumberland River Pedestrian Bridge. 

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If you want to see some amazing views of the city and the river, then this bridge is for you! I’d love to walk it during the summer when everything is blooming! Or better yet, during the fall when everything is transitioning!

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There are also several mini parks below the bridge that looked great for dog walking.

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The Bridge gives you a great view of the Tennessee Titans Stadium. If you decide to stay outside of the city, you can park your car at the stadium for free during the off season. You can then walk over the bridge into the city. Thankfully, we lucked out when it came to parking during our trip, but if you plan on visiting during the busy season, I’d highly recommend parking at the stadium. Most parking garages start at $25 per day.

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Once we walked the bridge, we headed back to music row to see everything in the daylight.

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During our first night downtown, we passed a giant candy shop and everything smelled plus looked amazing. We decided to revisit that shop for good measure. 🙂

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…and we splurged on some giant chocolate, caramel apples! If you love candy apples and you’re ever in Nashville, these will not disappoint!

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Once we were finished eating our apples, we drove around to some nearby antique shops! The best one we visited was the Downtown Antique Mall.  If you’re into antiquing or refurbishing furniture, I’d highly recommend this place!

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Unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures while inside. However, this was only because I was in heaven walking in and out of each and every room! They had so many items and all in great condition. If you’re in the market for a specific item, I’m sure they have it here!

…Just casually carrying a table down the streets of Nashville. Lacie purchased this piece for $30 and already finished refurbishing it! She is the Fixer Upper QUEEN. I put her up there with Joanna Gaines in my world. After walking around the Downtown Antique Mall, we were hungry for an early dinner. We stopped at 12 South Taproom and Grill, and were not disappointed.

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Once we were done eating, we headed to the famous #whatliftsyou mural. We stopped by the mural earlier in the day, but the sun was casting a huge shadow on the wings. Take my advice and go later in the evening when the sun isn’t so high, especially if you want a good picture. This mural didn’t have near as many people standing around it as the other.

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They even have a tiny set of wings, which I’m pretty sure is for toddlers or dogs.

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Sadly, the next day was our last. We started our morning by eating breakfast at the Pancake Pantry. It’s right next to Vanderbilt’s campus, so we were expecting it to be busy. Surprisingly, it wasn’t!

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I’m not lying when I tell you that these were THE BEST PANCAKES I’ve ever eaten in my entire life. I have no idea what is in their recipe, but they’re doing something right!

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Beside specialty pancakes, they also have your typical breakfast food. Each of their entrees comes with a side of delicious pancakes. I ordered a cheese and bacon omelet and it was delicious!

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When we left, there was a line around the building. Obviously, we came at a good time! You HAVE TO eat here if you’re in Nashville. Once we were done enjoying our pancakes, we decided to spend some time walking in and out of the shops.

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We still had some time to kill before heading to the airport, so we decided to go see the Gaylord Opryland Hotel. Taylor had been telling us to go see it all weekend, but how exciting could a hotel be?

WRONG! Entering this hotel was like entering a completely different world!

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It was so beautiful! We walked around the water and looked at some of the shops they had.

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We wished that we would’ve gone earlier in the day to see everything. Neither of us was expecting it to be so beautiful!

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Afterwards, Lacie dropped me off at the airport.

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The two of us had so much fun exploring the city of Nashville. We had been dreaming of traveling to Nashville together for so long, so I’m glad we finally did it. We’re already  thinking about the next city we want to visit. Any suggestions?

The City of Reykjavik

Before we headed to the airport for our flight back to the states, we did some last minute exploration around the city of Reykjavik. We were so thankful that we reserved a rental car, because it made sightseeing so much easier and overall better.

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We spent so much time in the countryside of Iceland, that we hardly had time to enjoy the capital!

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When Taylor and I were planning our trip to Iceland, we were excited! It was somewhere we’d always wanted to travel to, plus we knew it would be the perfect winter getaway. Although we were excited, we really didn’t expect to fall in love with the country.

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The city of Reykjavik was straight out of a Christmas Hallmark movie! The streets were decked out with Christmas trees and lights everywhere. They have such an abundance of Christmas trees, that they literally hang them off the buildings, and apartment complexes display them in every window.

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While we were walking around in the morning, we stumbled upon a small watch company. When we went inside, there was a wall of famous performers who purchased watches from this very place. The owner of the company told us that a lot of famous people will travel to Iceland because they can walk around freely and not be bothered.

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Iceland is one of the safest places to travel to and we felt very comfortable during our time there. This is one of those places that I would feel completely comfortable traveling to by myself.

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We were also blown away by how fluent the locals were in english. From the city to the countryside, everyone could understand and speak english with us! We’re used to traveling to other countries and not being able to communicate.

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On our first day in Iceland, we ate at a fantastic hotdog place and loved it! On this day, we ate hotdogs at their competitors!

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This place had more of a selection and a variety of toppings to choose from!

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These hotdogs were soooo yummy! We had a very difficult time deciding which one was better!

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On our way to drop off our rental car, we stopped and took some last minute photos of the city and the ocean.

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Once we returned our rental car and headed inside the airport, we found out that our flight with WOW Air was delayed by two hours.

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There’s nothing worse than trying to get home for the holidays and having a delayed flight. We passed time by checking in our luggage, visiting the duty free store, and ordering coffee and food.

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Honestly, Iceland was an incredible country and it has so much to offer. We’d highly recommend traveling here to anyone. Whether you’re well travelled or not, there’s something for everyone. We chose to visit during the winter season, and we were still able to see so much. We can’t wait to return one day, but hopefully during the summer season!