2 Days in Naples, Italy

My Air BnB host, Ignazio, told us 2 days was not enough time to spend in Naples. He’s probably right. He told us to “live with the city, taste the city, smellllll the city” (all while driving us and making grand hand gestures). He was the best. The apartment we stayed in was lovely. The only things to complain about were the lack of wifi and the inconvenient location. We did feel a little unsafe walking around at night. But it was like $40 – perf for us poor recent grads.

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About 75% of the things we did in Naples, we did just because we happened to run into them. Like this awesome street market. Notice how it’s not jam packed. We did run into one of those, but I couldn’t tell you where we were (but maybe Via Pignasecca, acc. to my CityMaps).

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Ah, also the city was really dirty and covered in graffiti, which you hate to see. If it’s artistic graffiti fine. But this was not. There was also an insane amount of garbage. Children were playing in garbage on the street. It was bizarre, and became a joke as we walked around quoting Ignazio, “smellll the city”. After the first day we got used to it. Maybe that’s just how it is. Maybe we were just in the dirty parts.

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What I did love a lot is that around almost every street corner there was a little shrine to a different saint. Like the patron saint of the road. I love that while the rest of the street might be kind of dirty, these were well kept and you can tell that the people who live there do love where they live.

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As we walked towards the water, we came upon Castel Nuovo. It was huge and unfortunately for us, closed for the day. Reading about it online though, it sounds pretty cool. From here, we walked towards Via Francesco Caracciolo. It’s a pedestrian walkway along the coastline and it’s beautiful. There seemed to be a lot of locals here, lots of people just hanging out and enjoying the summer evening. There’s a view of Sorrento!

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This meal at Pizzaiolo del Presidente was the top 2 meals we had in Italy. We compared every meal after this to it. The antipasta, chicken pesto pizza, and bread were to die for. I read online somewhere that in Italy it’s rude to just order, instead you should ask the waiter what to get. I tried doing that in a few places (including here) and they were totally annoyed. So just get what you want.

The next morning we got up early to go to Pompeii! You buy tickets for this in the train station, but in another downstairs part. Just go to the tourist office in the train station and they’ll direct you. It’s like 11 euro roundtrip. This was also the only place in Naples we saw gypsies… and tourists. At least in a concentrated area (the ticket station). After a 30-40 minute train ride, you’re dropped off at the Pompeii stop in Sorrento. There’s going to be a lot of people trying to get you to go on a guided tour in English and you should do it. I think it was 21 euro. Totally worth it.

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Our guide was awesome! The tour was maybe 2 hours and afterwards she told us all the other spots we might be interested in seeing. She was well spoken and took us to all the main spots. This tour affected all our tours from here out, because she taught us a lot about ancient architecture and also how to interpret ruins.

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We saw theaters, homes, shops, brothels, gyms, baths, and the main square. I’m really glad we got a tour because she gave us so much insight into what we were seeing. We wouldn’t have known anything by just walking around. Afterwards we did go see some body casts. It’s a huge city and you could spend hours and hours there. In retrospect I wish we would have spent more time in Sorrento / had gone to Herculaneum. The tour guide kept saying everything there was much more preserved and beautiful. Before we went, I read about it online and it didn’t sound that great. But, after going to Pompeii I wish I could have seen the juxtaposition.

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Pompeii was my favorite thing to do. It was one of the first times where I was actually in a place I had learned about in elementary school. It gave me goose bumps the whole time.

After Pompeii we went back to Naples and ate at Antica Pizzeria E Friggitoria Di Matteo. We knew this place would be good because it was full of locals and we even had to wait for a bit to eat lunch there. I got veal with wine sauce for 6 euro and we split a bowl of spaghetti and a pitcher of wine for like 10 euro. We got significantly tipsy for SUPER cheap and continued to wander around the alleyways for the rest of the afternoon. Plus some gelato and expresso along the way.

The thing about Pompeii is that all the mosaics and relics found there were transported into the Naples National Archaeological Museum (Museo Archaeologico Nazionale Napoli). We went here in the morning before our train to Rome. It was nice in the morning. Quiet… until the school groups arrived. It’s a lovely part of town and I wish we would have come here sooner, there’s also a metro stop inside the museum.

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There are countless mosaics, paintings, sculptures, and pottery. This museum has SO MUCH stuff in it that we didn’t feel the need to see any more sculpture while in Italy (sorry David). We also made it into the secret room where all the phallic signs and sex pictures from Pompeii live. Tee Hee.

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Side note: We also ate at a place near the airport / our Air BnB and it was the best pizza we’ve ever had in our lives and it was extremely cheap. It was packed with locals watching a soccer game and we loved it. Bottle of house wine and a pizza was like maybe 7 euros. It’s Pizzeria La Lucerna, and I recommend it, especially if you’re flying in to Naples.

*Things I wish we would have done*

  • Toured the castle
  • Spend more time in Sorrento
  • Gone into the basilica
  • Done more Museums
  • Kyaking along the coast
  • Stayed out and drink with locals
  • Capri?
  • Figured out he bus / metro system. I feel like if i lived there for 6 months I still wouldn’t be able to figure it out.
  • Embrace the ultra laid back, worry-free persona of the locals
  • Every top thing on TripAdvisor

OK, 2 days is not enough time in Naples. Just do what you can. Eat everything in sight. It’s the cheapest place I went so take advantage of it.

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Things I wish I knew before traveling through Italy

I traveled around Italy during May-June of 2015. Technically the ‘beginning’ of Peak Season.

General: 

  • You buy bus and tram tickets in any little general store
  • You buy metro tickets in the metro
  • You’re safe. I didn’t need to buy a neck wallet or leave my nice camera at home
  • Everyone is loud and yelling but they’re not mad
  • Look up the traditions / symbols of each city before you go
  • Sometimes it’s easy to spot tourist trap restaurants, but most of the time it’s really hard. Everything looks the same
  • If you have a smartphone, use CityMaps2Go and it will save your life. You can save locations on an offline map, then in real time, it will tell you where you are on the map without using your data. This will help you figure out what you’re near and also how to untangle yourself from the streets of Venice. Or Rome. Or anywhere.
  • Every attraction you go to there’s going to be someone harassing you to buy a guided tour. Sometimes you should, most of the time you shouldn’t. They’ll be like “oh if you wait in this line it will be 2 hours but if you come with me and pay 45 euro you can skip it all”. But then it only takes 15 min to get through the line and you’re fine.
  • Student discounts only if you’re a European citizen WTF. I paid $1,200 to get here and you won’t give me a student discount?
  • From observing Italians: if someone is coming up to you to try to sell you something just wave your hand and don’t look at them. Don’t speak. They probably already know you’re American, but don’t talk to them and confirm.
  • Always get the pitcher of wine
  • They’re offended when you just get tap water but I don’t know how else you’re expected to stay hydrated from walking around all day
  • If there’s an Italian soccer game on, you should go to a bar and watch it
  • Do a ton of research before choosing to stay in Air BNB, hostels, or hotels. We did Air BNB everywhere and there were good locations and inconvenient ones. Only a few of our hosts spoke English, which was fine. Just confusing sometimes.
  • You can get by on speaking Spanish for the most part
  • The farther north you get, the more uptight people get. The train people especially.
    • No mercy when it comes to EuRail pass mistakes
    • Don’t get a EuRail Italy. Just buy your tickets at the station
    • At the kiosks, it will say something like “buy ticket” but it really means “reserve your seat”. We had the eurail pass and still needed to buy our reservations (20 euros each, per train ride). It was a little confusing at the machines but WAY faster than going to someone at a kiosk.

Naples: 

  • Naples is the most relaxed city I went to. No one cares that you’re there and no one will bother you for being a tourist.
  • A street that looks sketchy during the day is probably full of life at night with good restaurants and bars
  • Cheapest food here
  • All the pizza is amazing
  • Lots of the attractions / food places close quite early
  • People drive crazy but follow the locals and just cross the street whenever and they won’t hit you

Rome:

  • Only 2 subways and the bus/trolley system is the most confusing thing on earth
  • Crypt does not mean catacomb
  • Everything will cost money and it’s all worth it

Florence: 

  • I didn’t go see the David and my life didn’t end. I did go into lots of other galleries though
  • Get a Florentine steak
  • Both sides of the river are worth it
  • Tons of American study abroad students
  • Try to go to out of the city and into wine country

Venice: 

  • The island itself does not have a lot going on at night
  • You have to catch a bus to get on and off the island. The night bus will be PACKED.
  • Get leather / glass
  • All the water taxis are loaded with tourists. I’m pretty sure they just go to the outer islands all day
  • Going on a gondola is annoying because of all the waves made by motor boats and it’s sad
  • Really easy to get lost

Lecco

  • Lecco is perfect and you’re going to want to spend your entire life here
  • The towns near it (along Lake Como) are relaxed and have good beaches
  • Hip young scene. Music. Shopping. Amazing seafood. AMAZING.

When You Bring an Exhibit Designer to DC

SO. MANY. MUSEUMS. SO. LITTLE. TIME.

All of my friends all of the sudden have moved to DC, so why not make an excuse to go there for New Years? I had not been since my day trip last year, and I took this time to go to some more museums and eat some more food.

We went to DuPont Circle for the New Years Party at the Mission. It was like $90 for two DJs, an open bar, and a taco bar. It didn’t feel too crowded and we all had a great time!

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After recovery the next day we got to work doing free tourist things and eating. I won’t post a bunch of pictures of us at the National Mall because everyone has those.

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I know DC people are crazy about brunch so we couldn’t miss out. We ate brunch at the Founding Farmers and it was one of the best Egg Benedict’s I have ever had. Top 3. I splurged and got the crab — totally worth it.

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One of my friends works for Nat Geo and so of course we had to go through the museum. The exhibit while I was there was on world food and the history of cooking. I was really impressed by the use of artifacts and recreations used to create scenes and immersive, interactive exhibits. There were a lot of touch opportunities and many of the exhibits brought the information off the wall and into real life. As is expected with Nat Geo, they showcased a wide range of cultures and had instructors leading different activities and offering us spicy Mexican hot chocolate.

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The other exhibit was about dinosaurs so it was naturally awesome.IMG_4242

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Walking around the sculpture garden was one of my favorite parts of the day —

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That night we went back to DuPont Circle to walk around and get drinks by the water before dinner. We did get cupcakes before dinner at Baked and Wired. They were amazing and the decor inside was one of the more quirky things I had seen in DC. I didn’t get any good pictures of dinner, but we went to an Ethiopian restaurant called Das. It was my first time having Ethiopian and I thought the service was great and the food better than I expected.

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The next day we went for a more non-traditional brunch — Korean (in Chinatown). The interior was really modern and my friends both said the food was good. Unfortunately, I’m allergic to soy. A lot of the brunch had soy so I had to stick to soup 😦 Should have seen that one coming.

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So I have a new favorite museum in DC. Tied for favorite really. The Holocaust Museum, from an exhibit designer’s standpoint, is brilliant. It’s respectful, beautiful, subtle (in the way it’s organized), yet extremely impactful. It would be a dream to design something so important, but also extremely difficult and daunting. Even while touring Auschwitz, the museum is what I was thinking about.

BESIDES THAT, the Spy Museum is my new tied-for-favorite museum, but for different reasons. This is the first museum I’ve seen where it’s packed with people who want to participate in every interactive. It’s extremely effective in being immersive and educational. Sometimes being assigned an identity can fall flat, in this case it is carried throughout the museum successfully and puts the visitor in the position of a spy. The interactives were interesting, fun, challenging, and appropriate for all ages. It brought this secret world of spying to life, and for the rest of the trip we were on the lookout for spies. I think that shows how effective this exhibit was — it makes you see the world differently when you leave.

It connected the past to the present through artifacts and interviews. The temporary exhibit on James Bond connected fiction to reality. The exhibit also made visitors think about the future. What is the next threat? Why are spies just as important now as ever? I love this museum and I didn’t spend nearly enough time here. I’m glad to hear they’re going to move to a larger location! I’m excited to see what designers will do with the opportunity to design a building around the exhibits, not the other way around.

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The last museum stop for me was the National Museum of Women in the Arts. It was a beautiful collection (I saw my first Frida Khalo 🙂 )and I really enjoyed the special sculpture collection. I feel weird photographing art, but here’s a little preview.

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DC you’re always great, I’ll be back! Must Do’s on my list next time are the Newseum, National Museum of the American Indian, and the Library of Congress. I know there are a ton more… all in good time — and I’m open to suggestions! The quirkier the better.

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Savannah, GA

To be honest, I went to Savannah a year and a half ago. I’m not sure why I never wrote about it, but this post will show what was the most memorable. I’m sad I don’t remember more of the food, but I do remember a lot of the sights. We stayed in a hotel a few miles away from downtown Savannah and on the weekend had no trouble finding free parking on the street during the weekend. The hotel also offered a night shuttle that ran every hour til 2 or 3 AM on Fridays and Saturdays, perfect for us 🙂

The first day we parked near Colonial Park Cemetery and walked around the area for a while. We came across the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist which happens to be #1 on Trip Advisor.

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We walked to River Street and back towards the market and found a place where we could get some beers  because open container laws happen to be one of our favorite things. We did ask the bartender the limits of the open container law and its a good portion of downtown, woo!

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As night fell we wandered around some more and spent a good amount of time in a bar under the Treehouse, I’m still not sure what it was called. They had a dance floor and a big room filled with board games! We later tried to go to this place called Seeds (?) and it was uncomfortably crowded and it felt like everyone was staring at us. I know that we did eat at Vinnie Van Goh Goh’s Pizza and it was spectacular (even as leftovers). We eventually found our way to a Wet Willie’s and it was all over from there. I know there are parts of Savannah you don’t want to walk around at night, but we felt safe the whole time walking around downtown.

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Being nerds we went to Wormsloe Historic Site. I think it was $10-$12 for a car pass but you can spend a good couple hours in there walking around and such. To be honest, we were for some reason expecting to see an old antebellum plantation house and were kind of sad when it was not. I think we just read “plantation” and all the stereotypes came to our head.

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The drive towards the property is BEAUTIFUL and there were no people there to obstruct our picture taking.IMG_8917

Here’s what the house ruins looks like.IMG_8932

The park has done a wonderful job at recreating what a settlement here would have looked like. It’s a cool spot you can kind of just explore.IMG_8960IMG_8970

Later that afternoon we went to Hilton Head! This was 100% my idea because I have wonderful memories of going to Hilton Head for Easter growing up. I haven’t been for maybe 7 or 8 years and never during the off-season. I remember it bustling with lots of live music and shopping… in early March it was a little bit sad and a little bit a waste of a drive because Savannah was much more fun. I’m glad I got to show Will around Harbor Town, but other than that we didn’t do much. We should have brought our golf clubs!

We went back into the city and I remember ate at Moon River Brewing Co. I think I remember liking it.

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On our way out of Savannah the next day we drove out to Bonaventure Cemetery and it did not disappoint! It was beautiful, quiet, and eery. While there was a segway tour option (?!), we chose to just walk around on foot. There were countless monuments, statues, and mausoleums all surrounded by hanging spanish moss. There’s a lot of history here and the pamphlet they give you inside is very informative, although we did overhear some things from the segway tour that sounded really interesting. I did not see any ghosts 😦 IMG_9047 IMG_9043 IMG_9040

From here we went to Tybee Island! En route we discovered this Fish Art gallery and it was everything. We probably spent a few hours here just rummaging through all this random stuff and I wanted to buy everything. The inside building is an art gallery with some awesome funky fish art. The back is shelves and shelves of random vintage looking scraps and other hidden treasures. For example, Will bought a fog machine for like $30.IMG_9067 IMG_9070IMG_9063IMG_9075

The end of the day was spent eating leftover Vinnie Van Goh Gohs on the beach before heading back to NC. IMG_9056

I still have a message from a friend who went to SCAD and here are some of the things she recommended to me:

  • Breakfast at J. Christopher’s. Order a cinnamon roll as an appetizer.
  • The Public Kitchen is a little pricey but the interior and quality of food is worth it
  • Green Truck for burgers.
  • Moes is open til 3 on the weekend and is good drunk food
  • Paula Dean’s restaurant is not worth it
  • Tree House has lots of good dancing
  • Broughton Street is good for walking
  • Bull Street is also a good walk
  • Gryphon Tea Room is good for brunch and tea
  • The SCAD Museum
  • River Street and the Savannah Candy Shop there (pralines)
  • O’Donnels has kareoke

I Will Move to Nashville Right Now

No joke. Nashville is my new favorite place. I wasn’t at all ready for how much fun it was going to be. For one, it’s beautiful. The rivers and the mountains make for a beautiful landscape. The spirit of the place is so full of energy and music. Everywhere you go, there are people excited to be there and excited to talk to you. There’s music and life everywhere and I loved it so much! We got downtown at about 4 PM and the streets were already filled with happy, drunk people and the sound of music coming out of every door. There were plenty of parking decks – we found one close by that was $10 for the whole day.

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Before going to Nashville I looked up the top Honky Tonks to go to. We went into a few including Robert’s Western World and Legend’s Corner. We started off in Honky Tonk World on the same strip – A total tourist trap but it was actually tons of fun and had a great view.

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Seriously the artists playing at the honky tonks are just as good as any other band I’ve heard live. They were absolutely amazing and talented. There are no covers for any of the bars, meaning that the bands are paid in tips. This makes them very aggressive about tipping — it was annoying at first but after hearing the bands and having such a great time I didn’t mind putting my cash in the tip jars at all.

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The reason we went to Nashville was the Nashville Beer Festival ! It was in East Park, across the river from the city. Luckily, we stayed in 5 Points and could walk there 🙂 Our one mistake though: thinking we could sample 175 beers in 2 hours. The festival itself was 4 hours but we got a little sidetracked with the Americana Folk Festival. It was an awesome set up and had lots of booths and local merchandise to look at. They even had TVs so people could watch the football game 🙂 You could also sign up to get texts about random give aways in the moment — which I tried and failed to participate in because I’m not the fastest runner.

Sooooo in two hours we got totally silly and a few shots of moonshine later I’m eating pizza on a hill and loving my life. *Side note: my favorite beer was a basil beer from a brewery I can’t remember but it was AMAZING.

We went back downtown after that and went into every honky tonk that didn’t have a line. We were also on the prowl to find some good BBQ but WE COULD NOT FIND ANY. I was hoping to be in BBQ heaven but it just was completely disappointing.

I read that we needed to go into some record stores while there – and my friend Jillian begged me to get her something from Jack White’s shop: Third Man Records. It was outside of downtown but a cool little shop. It was full of memorabilia from all of his videos as well as lots of merch to buy. The prices were surprisingly cheap as well.

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We walked around this part of town for a bit and found some cool guitar stores and felt musically un-inclined.

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While I regret not paying to see the Country Music Hall of Fame, we did make a stop in Hatch Show Prints which is in the same building. It’s such a cool space and you can go on a tour to see their letter press process. Their prints are very affordable and I was happy to walk out of there with two of them.

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Side note on 5 Points: It’s apparently up and coming and you can tell. It was lovely, different, and a bit artsy. Our air bnb house was in a great location and we could walk to all the main places. There is a lot of local art there — vintage clothing shops, pizza spots and vegan restaurants. The houses were historic and there was a great view of the city from basically everywhere. I would recommend staying there as it’s only about a $10 cab ride from the city. Next time, I would probably stay in the city though just to be closer to everything.

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I also insisted on going to the Parthenon; the only life-size replica of the building. It is in a really random spot and kind of a drive out. It was cool to take pictures and walk around. On Sunday morning it was closed, although going inside was going to require $7 which I would probably have paid.

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While we ate at a couple of places, they were cheap ( on purpose ) and we didn’t have anything amazing. The one “big” meal we had planned was Mas Tacos. All the blogs I read said that was the place to go. Unfortunately, it was closed on Sundays 😦 LUCKILY, across the street was Pharmacy Burger Parlor and Beer Garden. I had read about it and it was also highly recommended. It was the best burger I’ve ever had in my life. I think it was called the Farmhouse Burger? Complete with ham and a fried egg. It was burger heaven. I could have eaten 10.

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Nashville was amazing. Everywhere we went, another couple talked to us. We met many people from all over and thoroughly enjoyed the city’s energy. I will be going back the next time I have a chance and plan to explore more parts of the city and the surrounding areas 🙂 I would love to get some hiking in while there. And next time I’m flying — 8 hours home was a longgggg drive.

I’LL BE BACK!

 

Pit-stopping in Asheville en route to Nashville

OK Asheville. I try to make you fun but you just won’t let me. Case and point: This is downtown hoppin on a Friday night:

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We got to Asheville around 9 PM on a Friday and like two bars were open with some people in them dancing to Prince. There’s also a strong chance I just have no idea where to go when I’m in this city. Some people who go to UNC Asheville told us to go to Sky Bar and have the Kava Cocktail (hmmm) but that was unfortunately closed like everything else.

We went to a public house and drank some Asheville Beer (Green Man) and it was chill but overall I just don’t get it. I tryyyyy though. I really want to like Asheville. And I think if I spent the weekend there and went hiking and all that I would like it. Or if I knew where to go at night – I feel like I’m not going to the right places (obviously). Where do UNCA people hang out? We could not find them even though school was in session. Do they do nothing? I’m confused.

The next day we went to the River Arts District — which even now, Googling it looks like it would be so much fun! I feel like everything was closed even though it was 10-11 AM on a Saturday. I probably could have walked around for a bit more but Will was getting antsy and we wanted to go see the Biltmore.

LOL. Mistake. Why did I think you could just see the grounds for free? You cannot. Are there any discounts? There are not. We just wanted to go see the outside of the house for like 5 minutes to say we did and it was going to be like $65 per person. I’m sorry.. $65 a person? No. I’ll be back when I have a day of free time and a pocket full of cash *and hopefully at Christmas when it’s super pretty :D*

No no no no no. Byeeee we’re going to Nashville now.

IF YOU KNOW OF FUN PLACES IN ASHEVILLE THAT DON’T FEEL LIKE THE TWILIGHT ZONE PLEASE TELL ME AND I’LL GIVE IT ANOTHER CHANCE.

Acadia pt. 4: Sunrise on Cadillac Mountain

I read about the sunrises on Cadillac Mountain the day before we drove up there, and it immediately moved to #1 on my list of things to do. The website said when the clouds move in off of the water they make this amazing sea-like effect. It was totally worth getting up at 4:30 AM for. After double checking what time sunrise was (the first sunrise in the country), we fumbled around in the dark and made the drive to the mountain. It wasn’t exactly close to our campground, but it wasn’t that far, maybe like a 10-15 minute drive. Also my sweatshirt was crucial because it was so cold!

AND IT WAS AWESOME. The most beautiful thing I’ve ever experienced and I’m so glad we did it! There was a group of people already when we got there, but if you walk further out towards the sun you really can’t tell. There is also a pretty big parking lot and we didn’t have a problem finding a spot during peak season.

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I would highly recommend waking up and making the drive. Apparently this cloud-ocean doesn’t happen all the time, but I’m sure the sunrise alone is worth it anyways. We didn’t even stay to see the clouds clear, honestly nothing could have been better than that.

We tried to find something to do after (like 5:30 AM), but of course nothing was open. We walked around an abandoned North East and South East Harbor before heading back to the campsite. It was going to rain so we packed up quickly and went on the road (to McDonalds). It began raining quickly after that, but the traffic wasn’t bad at all going down 95. There was like a 25 mile stretch where I was on the lookout for moose darting across the road, but other than that, it was uneventful.

I loved Acadia and cannot wait to go back! We could have easily been there for a week and still not seen or done everything we wanted to. I would highly recommend it to anyone who has time during the summer or fall months. Even if you’re broke, our campsite was only $40 a night and the park pass was $20. We brought most of our food, so it was overall a pretty cheap trip split between 3 people. I’m excited for my next National Park trip 🙂