Working on the carriage house for the last month has been a huge learning experience for us in so many unexpected ways. We’ve obviously learned a lot about the actual demo/construction stuff, but I’ve also learned a ton about how our relationship ebbs and flows through different stresses.
We’re used to spending pretty much every possible minute together, aside from work. Our weekends are 100% ours to go for long walks or bike rides and stopping into little towns for lunch and beers, and we rarely split up to do our own things because we’d rather be together. I didn’t realize how much I rely on our weekends to reset my sanity until this past month when we’ve spent every free minute frantically working on the carriage house or packing up our apartment. Instead of spending the weekend outside relaxing, we’re working on stressful, dirty, and physically exhausting projects for the house. We haven’t cooked a single meal (besides toast) in a month, we’re just bleeding money on this renovation, and we’re relying on each other to just get through this and make it to August 1st. I know we’re lucky to have a lifestyle that allows us to spend this much time together, but we also make a lot of active choices to protect it. We live close to work so we don’t waste time commuting separately, we ride together to and from work whenever possible, and we plan activities and trips that we both love so we can do them together. This time is so special to me, and I’m actually really glad that it took this house project to make me appreciate it for what it is.
The light at the end of the tunnel is dim but getting brighter, and the only thing keeping me going is the thought of our first weekend trip. It doesn’t even have to be far, just somewhere isolated with sun, a book, the hammock, fresh air, and zero discussion about the house. ZERO.
ps… a post about this renovation is forthcoming. For now, please refer to the highlight at the top of my Insta story where all of the stories are saved.
This trip was amazing. Norway is incredible, in so many ways I never could have imagined. The landscape is constantly changing and every new curve and hill and valley brings an absolutely enormous view that puts all the others to shame. The sheer scale of the country was breathtaking and something that just can’t be described or understood through photos or videos. The height of the mountains is just overwhelming and everything is dwarfed by the landscape. It’s so mesmerizing that you start to lose perspective when you’re looking out at a fjord and everything seems normal until you focus on a tree near the top that you know is just massively tall, but looks so tiny, and yet the mountain is covered in hundreds of thousands of them, and the perspective snaps back into place.
The entire country is as close to silent as you can get while still maintaining a society. Even when we were in the middle of Oslo, which is a highly functioning city similar to Copenhagen or Rotterdam, if you closed your eyes you could have been in the middle of the countryside. The land use made it so that walking was very obviously the easiest and quickest way to get around. As a result, there were barely any cars in the city, and the public transportation was quiet, efficient, and mostly on the main streets. People walked wherever they wanted and whenever they wanted, and all other modes just had to avoid them. Everyone was so nice and so helpful, and the accents were even better than I expected! We stopped to ask for directions in one of the hundreds of tiny towns we passed through, and we met a true Viking (tall, big boned, blond hair, blue eyes, sounded like the shop keeper from Frozen) who was just exceedingly nice and not only knew which tiny deli we were looking for but also suggested a route detour that took us along a beautiful crystal clear lake and avoided a tunnel. Almost everyone was this nice, as if people knew they lived in an amazing country and wanted to share all of its best parts with us and make sure we enjoyed it as much as they did. We did.
The food was…. a struggle. There is a lot of packaged and processed food, and that seems to be the standard for quality. Norway is as expensive as everyone says, so it hurts even more when you’re spending $20 on a sandwich, and it’s crappy day-old ham and cheese wrapped in cellophane. We lucked out a few times on the trip with some truly incredible local and handmade meals which made the bill much easier to swallow, pun intended ;-). We don’t hold ourselves to our diet while we’re traveling, simply because we love food and we want to experience as much as we can while we’re visiting. Everywhere else we’ve been, we could have avoided dairy and meat if we’d wanted to, but honestly we would’ve starved in Norway if we hadn’t eaten both. We looked for hummus everywhere we went, and only saw one tub in a grocery store the entire time, so we ate pasta and sauce when we could, and splurged when we had to. Reindeer and whale meat, however, were on every menu and shelf along with moose, goat, and lamb (which cemented my disinterest in eating meat after seeing all of the baby lambs on the hillsides and then picturing them floating in my soup). When in Rome… so we ate some lamb soup, had goat sausage and goat cheese on a pizza, and Brian sampled a few of the more ethically contested meats at the market in Bergen.
When I planned the trip, I knew I wanted us to see as much of the landscape as possible, but I’d read that the best way to do that was by car, stopping in tiny towns, and pulling over for photos and hikes whenever we wanted. Our normal travel approach of exploring big cities by bike wasn’t going to work here, so I took a leap of faith and planned a road trip. Brian and I have never been on a road trip together or separately so I was pretty anxious while I planned the trip and tried to minimize our driving days where I could. Unsurprisingly, we haven’t ever spent much time in a car together, and my history with spending long periods of time in cars with my family convinced me that driving this much was a huge mistake. Luckily, it turned out to be completely fine, and we both completely agreed that this was the best and only way to see as much of Norway as we did, and with the amount of flexibility that we prefer. We never would have had our favorite meal of the trip or stayed in our favorite town if we’d taken trains or buses or stayed only in the big cities.
The roads throughout the country were in perfect condition, and the tunnels were in amazing shape too. We paid a LOT of tolls along the way (still waiting to get that bill from the rental company…), but it’s clear that the tolls and taxes are supporting high quality infrastructure which is a refreshing change from the US. Even on mountain roads that were 1200 meters above sea level and covered by 50+ feet of snow in the winter, the pavement was in great condition and perfectly clean. The max speed limit on rural roads is 90km/h (55mph) which actually felt very very fast in most cases due to the winding and weaving turns.
The actual driving itself was definitely a rush, and we dove right in, driving one of the most famously intense roads in the country on our first day in the car. We wound through hundreds of hairpin turns, up and down mountains, sometimes climbing 1200 meters a day. After the first few tunnels, we started tallying them for fun, not imagining that we’d pass through 105!! Brian drove 54 of those in 2 days, including the longest tunnel in the world, 25km long. We checked the snow closure roads every day leading up to the trip, since two of our main routes are closed over the winter and typically open between the middle of May and middle of June. We had alternate routes planned in case they weren’t open, but both of them opened literally the day before we arrived! When I mapped out the routes, I did some (very) minor street viewing just to get an idea of the drive, and I was sure we’d have a few boring days of long haul routes between destinations. Turns out I was about as wrong as I could possibly be, there was not one single boring/ugly/plain moment of the entire trip, once again proving that Google street view just cannot capture the landscape. We even decided not to take one of the country’s national scenic routes to save time, and the ‘alternate’ route ended up being one of our favorite roads ever.
I worked pretty hard on our route, and it really paid off. We were able to see most of the best-known viewpoints and experienced the full spectrum of Norwegian lifestyles from apartments in the city center and ‘hyttes’ on a hill in the countryside. We would love to go back someday, and we would absolutely recommend this trip to everyone. I’ll share the details of our itinerary in a separate post with links, driving directions, and tons of pictures!
Not a day has passed that I haven’t found myself daydreaming about Mexico since the day we bought our tickets. Both Brian and I desperately needed an escape from an exceptionally dark and cold Seattle winter, and I could barely focus on work the weeks coming up to the trip. Now that we’re back, we talk nonstop in broken Spanish about how much we loved our time there, and planning trips to all of the Mexican cities we can’t wait to visit. I don’t know if it was the weather, time spent with family, or just a week of doing absolutely nothing, but this was honestly one of the best trips I think we’ve taken together. When we plan trips, we gravitate toward cities (that are notoriously chilly and rainy) and plan days full of exploring on bikes and trying to soak in as much culture as we can. As much as I do love love love those trips, I also apparently really love lounging in beautiful weather and just doing nothing. It’s incredibly therapeutic.
Brian’s family has been coming to Puerto Vallarta for years and years, and they always stay in La Zona Romantica in a condo building called Vista del Sol. I didn’t really know what to expect from this trip, but I was completely blown away when we walked into the condo unit. When we first walked in, the patio doors were wide open in front of us with the ocean right outside the window and a breeze blowing through the room. It was a pretty heavenly experience. Each morning we sat on the patio looking out at the ocean, drinking coffee and hoping for whales. I couldn’t believe what a gorgeous place we were staying in, and I’m already looking forward to our next trip, maybe with a little babe???
The surf was super rough while we were there, with giant waves crashing violently on the beach and dragging decent sized rocks with them. I really wanted to play in the water, but after a few times of getting body slammed by waves that were 80% sand and super abrasive, I gave up and hung out on the beach instead. We spent our days on a constant rotation of reading on the beach, walking around the city, hanging out at the pool with the family, and eating.
The area of Puerto Vallarta where we stayed was a really interesting mix of tourists and locals. There’s definitely a waterfront strip and a few blocks that are purely aimed at tourists, but just a few more minutes of walking and you’re very much in the neighborhoods where real life carries on. I enjoyed exploring this part of the city more than the beachy part, but I always felt a little like I was out of place and just a tourist who strayed from the beaten path. Everyone was extremely kind and welcoming, but I couldn’t help think about if the roles were reversed and these Mexican families came to Seattle to be tourists and walk around our neighborhoods, whether we’d treat them with the same welcoming attitude. It’s an uncomfortable thought, but one that was on my mind most of the trip. We’re so lucky to have the opportunity and privilege to travel where we want and experience new cultures and lifestyles.
My favorite places that we ate….
-Jorge’s Hideaway Shrimp Shack! We had giant delicious mango and blackberry margaritas and it was such a fun night out together.
-Salud Super Food – omg delish. Salud is a tiny little cafe, owned by a guy who used to live right by us in Capitol Hill! They serve really great and healthy meals, like lentils, salads, grain bowls, and nutrient-packed smoothies. I think we came here 4 times in 2 days, and I wish we’d gone even more!
-Red Cabbage – we came here with the whole family for our last night. The food was amazing and probably the most authentic that we had the whole trip. The margaritas were simple and clean, which was so refreshing.
-A little taco vendor on the street – we splurged and got a chorizo taco and a carnitas taco, and they were worth it. Vacation foods don’t count 🙂
My favorite things we did…
-Walk. We spent one morning wandering through the streets, watching the city wake up. People washing their sidewalks, hanging the clothes out, opening up their windows.
Another day, we walked up a twisty old cobblestone street where we saw beautiful architecture, a lizard, and great views of the ocean from way up high.
-Picked up fresh tortillas for dinner and a coconut! The fresh coconut cost 30 pesos, which is only $1.50!! It was so worth it for both the fresh coconut milk and the photos 😉
-Bought our beautiful wool rug. There are tons of vendors around Puerto Vallarta, and most of them sell cheapy little trinkets or mass produced blankets that you can get on Amazon. Right outside of the condo where we stayed, there was a stand with the most beautiful handwoven wool rugs. One in particular caught our eye and we walked over to look at it and started talking to the couple who own the stand. Lulu and Jacobo were just the nicest and showed us pictures of their home in Oaxaca where they and their family treat and dye the wool, and weave these beautiful rugs. We promised we’d be back the next day to buy the one we wanted after we went to get cash. When we walked up to the stand the next day, we literally watched someone buy our rug before we could get there! Ugh completely heartbroken, but we found another that we loved, and its perfect in our apartment.
-Ate dinner with the family each night. We don’t get to see everyone very often now that we live so far away, and when we do, it always seems rushed or there’s so much going on that we don’t get to just chat and relax. I loved having dinner together each night and just being together.
I was hesitant about carrying our Fuji camera around some of the neighborhoods, so our photos are a mix of Fuji, iPhone, and film. I love them all.