Joined July 2017
  • Day4

    Dolphins, Tacos, and Beach Time

    December 30, 2019 in Mexico ⋅ ☀️ 27 °C

    Our last day in Puerto Vallarta, and the weather was everything we had hoped for when planning the trip. We split up for the morning -- Caty and Laura went to swim with dolphins, while I slept in before exercising and going in to town to see if I could find the best authentic tacos.

    Caty said the dolphin adventure was 'the best experience in her life', so we'll count that as a win. Laura loved it too, both the mama and baby dolphin were super smart and super cute. We won't have any pictures for a little while, but we'll get some sent to us by the company.

    My mission was also a success. I did some research (wanting very much to not have a plane ride home dealing with food poisoning) on local street carts and settled on Tacos El Mareno. By the time the cab had made the 10 minute drive down the cobblestone road from the resort, it was the lunch rush. Tons of locals were milling around, which I took as a good sign. I summoned the remnants of high school Spanish to place my order, and then shortly thereafter tucked into freshly made carne asada tacos -- super cool to watch them make the tortilla in front of you. The hot sauce was no joke either. Yum.

    I had some time to kill before Laura and Caty's cab brought them back to meet up, and wandered into a craft brewery in the gay section of town. While not amazing, the beer was better than expected and my fellow patrons and bartender were pretty friendly.

    When Caty and Laura arrived, we headed down to the beach to enjoy some magnificent sunshine and surf. Caty loved getting pushed around by the waves. After ~45 minutes we had to drag Caty out of the water, lest she turn into a lobster. While walking towards a cab location, Laura let out a shriek -- I turned around and found her horizontal, nearly submerged in the water as the tide pulled her towards the sea. She had tripped on a towel, we think; it happened so fast she can't quite remember how she found herself in that situation. She was embarrassed, but laughing too hard to pull herself upright... I ran over and fished her out. We all got a good chuckle out of it, but Laura's phone paid the toll due to water damage :(

    We bundled up our wet belongings and went back up to the hotel to lay in the shade at the pool, aka Caty went swimming again.

    For our last dinner I found an authentic Mexican restaurant in town. Caty was grossed out that they served cricket tacos, and I may have threatened to get some for the table... We had some tasty margaritas, smoked fish tostadas, barbacoa, and duck carnitas. Heavenly. Caty was a big 'flan' of dessert #DadJokesAllVacationLong.

    That's the end of the family Mexico journey. Another early morning to catch a plane back to Madison -- we're ready to see our pup!
    Read more

  • Explore, what other travelers do in:
  • Day3

    Marietas Islands

    December 29, 2019, North Pacific Ocean ⋅ ⛅ 24 °C

    Up at the crack of dawn again to ride town to Port to catch our boat to and around the Marietas islands. It was a relatively cool morning, with winds on the ocean making us glad we packed the hoody and jacket I packed.

    It was an hour long boat ride in, with several humpback whale sightings along the way! Once we arrived, we suited up in our wetsuits and dove in to go snorkeling along the rocks. Lots of pretty fishies down there! Caty got pretty cold, so we flippered our way back to the boat and dried off and ate some meager fare until the boat started off to the next location -- the beach!

    We were lucky enough the the clouds started to part as we arrived, and got to spend a good hour in relative warmth. Caty had a blast getting pushed around by the waves and having her suit and hair filled with sand and rocks (which now coat our shower floor).

    The sun was out in force on the ride back to Port, which was very welcome as I drank down several Pacificos, They taste pretty good after the second one, and put me to sleep on the taxi ride home -- I'm getting old...
    Read more

  • Day2

    Lazy day

    December 28, 2019 in Mexico ⋅ ☁️ 26 °C

    (Apparently I only took pictures of food and drinks today)

    Fairly lazy day today. We slept hard (me especially being the one who can't sleep on planes). All the same, Caty woke up around 6, and had to suffer until 7 for breakfast.

    After breakfast, Laura and I hit the gym for an hour while Caty read and watched movies, before spending some time at the pool.

    Once the sun came out in earnest, we took a taxi down to the Malecón (boardwalk) to walk around and get lunch. Caty was starving by this point (and the grumpies had settled in), but we powered on and meandered towards Layla's, which opened right as we arrived. It took a while before we had food in front of us, but it was well worth the wait. Laura had fish (which will be a constant on this trip), Caty had a hamburger, and I had spicy spicy chicken (spicy will also be a constant for me). I also had a surprisingly good Mexican craft beer -- very unexpected.

    After lunch we continued waking the boardwalk until Caty hit the point of exhaustion, and taxied back up the mountain to the hotel for a nap and more time at the pool/hot tub.

    For dinner we went back into town and had grilled meats and cocktails. We had shrimp wrapped in spiiiiicy peppers and a dish of Ceviche appetizers. Matching our experiences thus far, a meal out was a multi hour affair, so by the time we were done Caty was ready for bed, and we went straight back to the hotel, after a brief stop to pick up sunscreen for tomorrow.
    Read more

  • Day1

    Travel in to Puerto Vallarta

    December 27, 2019 in Mexico ⋅ ⛅ 21 °C

    Though we planned this trip as an escape from the cold, Christmas in Wisconsin has been reasonably mild. Still, the anticipation has definitely been building for us.

    Mira is staying with her grandparents (and their new doggy / fun playmate) while we're away. Tough to leave the pup behind, but we know she's super happy with Grandma and Grandpa.

    It was a bright and early start, with a 4am wake up. I might have been a little grumpy. We slammed some coffee, and started our journey. Both flights, first to Minneapolis and then to Puerto Vallarta, were uneventful for the most part. For the second leg, Laura and Caty had the luxury of sitting next to an unhappy baby (I was several rows back). Once we landed, we began a wait-a-thon to get through passport checks and customs, and finally to our shuttle to the hotel.

    The resort is pretty magnificent. Perched high above the town, it was a twisty ride up, but the view can't be beat. We hadn't eaten since breakfast, and Caty was beyond hungry. We decided to eat in at the fancy hotel restaurant, and it was a great decision. We watched the sun set, ate Ceviche, and drank wine (Chocolate ice cream for Caty). All is well.
    Read more

  • Day4

    Market and The Restaurant at Meadowood

    March 26, 2019 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 12 °C

    Last day here in the Valley, unfortunately. We decided to have a leisurely morning, minus the 7am class of HIIT that we had signed up for... One of us made it and the other hung out in the hotel room. I'll let you guess who did what.

    Once the hot springs were open (at least we think they were open -- no one stopped us, though we were the only ones there) we elected to burn an hour soaking it in and willing the aches in our muscles to subside.

    Eventually, we got around to getting dressed and drive back down to Yountville to visit the local Market, pick up a souvenir for Caty, have lunch, and generally walk around and absorb some sun rays.

    Stomachs full, we went back to the hotel room for our final holiday nap, before heading out to one last tasting that we had found last minute -- Reverie II.

    The lack of a tasting fee was a perk, and it ended up being another private, low-key deal. The host's pup, Pedals, knew the entire route and guided us from stop to stop on the property. She was the star of the event for sure. The wine was pretty good, but I can say definitively now that we are done tasting that Barnett's takes top marks, though I'm excluding Schaumburg's as I file Champagne into a different category

    We lounged around and watched some bad TV (Gray's Anatomy and Chopped) until it was time for the finale of the vacation -- dinner reservations at the Three-Michelin-Starred Restaurant at Meadowood. Laura had booked a multi-course meal seated at the cocktail bar, so we got to experience the best of food and drink. Our bartender was highly knowledgeable, attentive, and friendly, which made the experience all the more enjoyable. The signature libation I asked him to make, simply asking "for something with Mezcal" was pure ambrosia.

    Dinner included some equally amazing stuff -- incredible Guegères to start off, tiny cabbage wraps, sole, duck, and then an almond custard with a chocolate concoction that defies explanation for dessert. We finished in front of a fireplace in the lounge, stopping Port/Amaro until it was time to call the the evening, and the vacation, a wrap.

    So long, Napa Valley! It's been wonderful.
    Read more

  • Day3

    More Hikes and Tastings

    March 25, 2019 in the United States ⋅ 🌧 7 °C

    After a light breakfast and coffee, we started off the day with another hike in a nearby state park so we could see the redwoods. We walked for a solid 45 minutes before encountering a crossing point that was effectively washed out by the high waters. We spent a solid 5 minutes evaluating our chances of safely hopping across the rocks before writing it off as a potential vacation-ender. Still, the hike was still great, and we made friends with a little lizard that surprised Laura on the trail.

    Hungry again, we stopped in town on the way back to the hotel for a breakfast sandwich and coffee. We had an 11am fitness class that kicked our butt -- pretty sure I won't be able to lift my arms tomorrow.

    Suitably exercised, we showered and left for lunch at Lovina, a cute little place in Calistoga. Then, we headed to our tasting reservation at Barnett's Vineyard. This time it was Laura's turn to nap through a beautiful drive. We passed on renting Benz, which was too bad because the vineyard is 20 minutes up a winding climb that would have been pretty sweet. Still, it was fun even with the rental. We were a bit early, which worked in our benefit as it led to a pleasant surprise to find that we'd be enjoying a private tasting.

    It was low-key, and a good comparison point to the larger operations that we had seen thus far. It was a cloudy day, so we didn't quite get to experience the stunning vista of looking down into the valley, but the clouds did abate just enough for a short time to take it in and snap some photos. The icing on the cake was that the wines were pretty darn good, definitely the best non-bubbles that we've had on the trip. The guide was a perfect host, answering our many questions, and giving us recommendations of other stuff to try and see while we're in the valley.

    We took him up on one of the recommendations, stopping at Tank, which was a quirky prohibition-style operation running out of an old gas station. The wine was fairly good, but we didn't love the guy serving us / spinning his sales pitch.

    That was a good amount of wine, so it was nap time before dinner. We did elect to grab the cool car for the drive down to the restaurant in Yountville, where we destroyed some yummy pizzas. Quite a full day, with an early fitness class on the agenda in the morning, so we collapsed into bed and slept like rocks.
    Read more

  • Day2

    Mountains, Caves, Cars, and Gondolas

    March 24, 2019 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 12 °C

    Woke up at 5:30am local time, and decided that was much too early, so we rolled over and slept another hour. We had a light breakfast delivered to the room, and then Laura headed to a pilates class at the resort. I drank another cup of coffee and then went to the gym to burn off yesterday's calories.

    We followed our workout with another one, hiking up the Oat Hill Mine trail. We saw some nice doggies on the way up and back down, which made us happy. Suitably tired, we had a quick lunch at the resort bar -- shared crab cakes, a seared yellowfin tuna burger for Laura, and Sole tacos for me.

    The resort has a pretty sweet perk -- three Mercedes-Benz that are free to rent for 4 hours. It was a nice sunny day, so we snagged the convertible and zoomed around.

    Next on the agenda was the Schramsberg champagne/cave-cellar tour, which might turn out to be the highlight of the trip. The tour itself was excellent -- the guide was knowledgeable, and the Schramsberg estate history and photos of bottles at presidential events were interesting. The cave cellars were a sight to behold -- thousands upon thousands of bottles stacked and held together by their own weight. The guide talked us through the riddling process (rotating bottles to get settlement into the neck of the bottle so it can be removed) before leading us to the tasting session -- the samples were all hits.

    We followed that tour with another, riding the Gondola up to Sterling Vineyards. The drive in to the estate and the ride up we're pretty great. The wines, pretty mediocre.

    Laura and I had a good time chuckling at the array of personalities on the tours, including a girl who remarked that the champagne smelled like gym socks (the tour guide graciously remarked that all palates are different and he got notes of fruit), a group of women who took at least 30 selfies in 15 seconds, and another group of middle-aged women drunkenly recounting their sorority days. We were very thankful we didn't have to ride back down in the same gondola with the last group.
    Read more

  • Day1

    Arrival in Napa Valley

    March 23, 2019 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 12 °C

    Up bright and early, with minimal grumpiness. Left the hotel immediately to head to the park and ride to drop the car and jump on the train. Naturally, the blue line trains were stopped, so we waited until the CTA said it would be quite a while before they resumed and we gave up and called an Uber.

    Still made it to the airport with plenty of time for coffee and a quick bite. The flight was uneventful -- Laura schnoozed, and I tried but failed. We landed in SFO, grabbed a car, and started the drive north to Calistoga. We switched to have Laura drive after we got out of the city -- I managed to schnooze through a beautiful drive, I'm told.

    Got lucky that we were able to check in early, so we dropped our gear, took a quick power nap, showered, and then hopped on the bike to head to a drop in wine tasting at Chateau Montelena. We walked around the gardens, admiring the swans and ducks while we waited for our turn to head into wine room. The first Sauvignon Blanc was bright, tart, and delicious. The second Chardonnay was good, not my favorite style, but one of Laura's. A Pinot Noir followed that was a bit meh, but the showcase 2006 Cabernet was phenomenal. It was a choice between sweet and savory for the final wine. We elected to have the opposite of each other so we could share and try both. The sweet one was bleh, IMO, and the savory one meh. Still, it was good overall.

    Went to Goose & Gander for dinner one town over, where we shared a salad and a dry aged steak that was perfect after a day of lighter fare.

    Off to bed from there -- both wiped after a long day.
    Read more

  • Day0

    Night in Chicago

    March 22, 2019 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 4 °C

    Trip kicked off with a scramble to get out of Madison before the traffic got too bad. Mira will be staying with her grandparents, and she watched us pack up and load the car worriedly.

    Though we stepped out of work early, we had to make a pit stop (a wallet was left at work -- for once it wasn't mine) we weren't quite successful and hit slow-going traffic pretty immediately. We realized that making our 7pm dinner reservations in Chicago wasnt realistic, cancelled them, and settled in for the drive (meaning the girls napped).

    3.5 hours later, we pulled up to the hotel that Caty and her dad would be staying at and handed her off. Hope she has a great time!

    While Laura performed the handoff, I parked the car and hauled our luggage to the Chicago Athletic Association and rejoined Laura. Unfortunately, her license was needed to check in. Which was in her wallet. In the car. Leaving her wallet behind might be the theme of the trip.

    We had dinner (and cocktails) at the Cherry room in the hotel, as we didn't feel like going too crazy given that we'd need to head to the airport at 4:30 the next morning...
    Read more

  • Day4

    Epcot

    October 27, 2018 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 22 °C

    Last day! We made a beeline to Soarin' the main ride for which we didn't have a FastPass. I had never been on it before, and it was pretty darn cool - a hit for the whole group.

    Caty loved Mission: SPACE, though our group elected to do the more mild version that didn't involve a centrifuge. We designed our own concept car before hopping on the Test Track and speeding around. Our sports car design didn't have much in terms of efficiency, but it made up for it with raw power. Last, we rode spaceship earth in the "giant golf ball".

    Spent some time in the Innovention center so Caty could get her science on. They had a pretty cool color exhibit. The presentation was hokey, but the interactive paintbrush part was pretty interesting.

    It's food and wine festival at Epcot right now, which seemed fantastic, but drew a huge local crowd that made lines off-puttingly long. I did manage to get a flight of craft beers, the best of which was a chocolate stout.

    We opted to push Caty around in a stroller for the day, and we made the international loop before calling it and heading back to the apartment for a pre-dinner nap.
    Read more

Never miss updates of Will Hess with our app:

FindPenguins for iOS FindPenguins for Android