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2012: The Year in Travel.

2012 was the year of Chicago. The year of Florida. The year of scenic business trips. The year of domestic travel, minus some time in southern Ontario. It was even the year of coffee.

San Francisco

The highlight of my travel year was San Francisco and the Bay Area. I was there for a Yahoo technology conference and extended my stay. I hung out along the PCH and on the Golden Gate Bridge, in Capitola, on Yahoo’s campus in the heart of Silicon Valley and everywhere in between. It never gets old getting an Irish Coffee at Buena Vista in San Francisco, grabbing a coffee at Mr. Toots in Capitola, staring at the Pacific from Ocean Beach or seeing the strawberries and chocolate at Pier 39.

San Francisco skyline from Coit Tower

Chicago

For another geeky conference I went to Chicago via train. It was my first travels by train since I was in elementary school. While in the Windy City I spent an evening on a yacht on Lake Michigan overlooking the skyline. I walked up and down the lakeshore and went to technology vendor parties at some great restaurants around town. I especially loved the dessert, views and variety of mojitos at ZED451 and the tacos, salsa and other Mexican cuisine and drinks at Mercadito Chicago. I also hung out with Pola of Jetting Around at The Wormhole Coffee in Wicker Park and got a little tour of the area.

Chicago skyline at dusk from Lake Michigan

It wasn’t just work that brought me to Chicago this year. I took a random day trip there in the winter and hung out at the beach and at Gino’s East. On a day trip to Milwaukee, I stopped in the Windy City and hung out in Wrigleyville in the morning.

Chicago, Wrigley Field, Wrigleyville

I also came to town for a day for the #WindyCityTweetup. Several travel bloggers and I got deep-dish pizza at Exchequer Pub (hidden gem), waited an obscenely long time (but fun time) for donuts (we might still be in line), had cocktails in The Palmer House Hilton, went on an architectural boat tour and made weird poses around The Bean. It was great meeting and getting to know Raul, Leah, Ted, Lola, Francesca and the aforementioned Pola.

Chicago The Bean, Cloud Gate

Speaking of Milwaukee, when I got there I hung out at various points along Lake Michigan and grabbed one of the best burgers I’ve ever had from AJ Bombers.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin burgers, AJ Bombers

The Gulf Coast of Florida

I took two trips to Florida with my girlfriend in a few week period of time to see family. First we went to Pensacola and neighboring Alabama. I was introduced to Flora-Bama and the Bushwacker. Oh boy!

Pensacola, Florida, Alabama, Flora-Bama, bushwackers

The next trip was to Punta Gorda and Sarasota for the Fourth of July weekend. We saw fireworks off Charlotte Harbor and hung out with tropical drinks along Sarasota Bay. I love the Gulf of Mexico!

Sarasota Bay, Florida

Ontario, Canada

My only International travel was spent in Canada across the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, Leamington and along Lake Erie in southern Ontario. I became hooked on whiskey after getting a tour of the Canadian Club headquarters. I also went to the southern most point in Canada, Point Pelee.

Essex, Leamington, Point Peele, Ontario, Canada - Lake Erie

Day Trips

Numerous day trips to Cleveland involved coffee house and neighborhood hopping during a traveling work day, hanging out at West Side Market and A Christmas Story house and capturing the skyline at every chance.

West Side Market, Ohio City neighborhood, Cleveland

Day trips also involved Erie, PA and New York to hangout along Lake Erie and at various parks. I took some evening drives to the west coast of Michigan to checkout various lighthouses and piers along Lake Michigan, including in Grand Haven. Several day trips to Findlay, Ohio were nade to enjoy specialty coffee, worldly mac ‘n cheese, Irish food and beverages and Japanese hibachi.

Grand Haven pier, lighthouse, Michigan, Lake Michigan

Detroit and Atlanta

What about the two places I call home? In Detroit, I spent lots of time both working and relaxing in various coffee houses in Mexicantown, Midtown, Eastern Market and Downtown, recently checking out the holiday scene. In Atlanta it was Piedmont Park and the Little Five Points, Virginia Highlands, East Atlanta Village, Midtown and Downtown neighborhoods. Lot’s of coffee was flowing.

Detroit, Mexicantown neighborhood, bakery

Piedmont Park, Midtown, Atlanta

I also took a road trip between the two, hanging out at some of my favorite spots in Chattanooga and Knoxville. On the same trip I spent the day working, coffeehouse hopping in Lexington, Kentucky. Common Grounds Coffee House was one of my stops.

Common Grounds Coffee House, Lexington, Fayette, Kentucky

Coffee, coffee and more coffee

2012 will also be remembered as the start of my extreme coffeehouse hopping. From Georgia and Michigan, to Cleveland, Chicago and San Francisco I don’t want to know how many non-chain coffee houses I was in and how many lattes, Spanish coffees and holiday beverages I consumed. Along with The Wormhole Coffee in Chicago, Four Barrel Coffee in San Francisco was a highlight. More posts ahead on the coffee front. 🙂

Coffee in California

Georgia

Back to Atlanta and Georgia I went tubing down the Chattahoochee River, captured the holiday scene, neighborhood bar hopped, consumed lots of Fellini’s Pizza and captured the Midtown and Downtown skylines from every place imaginable. In between lots of time was spent at various wineries in North Georgia Wine Country. Great wine, times and family fun.

Midtown Atlanta

What might be ahead?

I might not have ventured far a lot of the time but I sure packed in a lot. It’s amazing what you can see not to far from the homestead. Who knows what 2013 will bring? NYC, Charleston, Niagara Falls, Wellington, somewhere tropical, who knows. 🙂 Atlanta, Detroit, Chicago and the Midwest will have their place as will several new coffeehouse stops and day trips I’m sure.

2013 is almost here. Maybe I will see you out on the open road. How would you summarize your 2012 travels? What are you thinking for the coming year?

Capturing the Color of My Travels.

Thank you to Pola of Jetting Around for tagging me to take part in the TravelSupermarket’s “Capture The Colour” photo contest. It’s a great way to look at and find photos you’ve taken that are dominated by a single color. Prizes are offered, but reliving travel memories is the biggest reward.

Blue

Capturing the Color Blue - California PCH

When I think blue, I immediately think of water and the sky. What better place to find both of  these then the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) in California. A sunny day and the Pacific Ocean, what more can you ask for?! Photo was captured in southern California near Malibu.

Green

Capturing the Color Green - Auckland, New Zealand

Just north of Auckland you’ll find lot’s of green in the hills of Shakespear Regional Park. A country feel right outside the city. When you run into lot’s of green in New Zealand chances are you’ll see lot’s of sheep too. Get a closer look at the greenery and sheep.

Yellow

Capturing the Color Yellow - Ludington State Park, Michigan

That circular ball of yellow, the sun, goes below the horizon everyday to the West wherever you are at. Who doesn’t love a sunset? It’s even better when it’s over water, like this shot from Lake Michigan at Ludington State Park in Ludington, Michigan.

White

Capturing the Color White - Siesta Key Beach, Sarasota, Florida

The cool, white sand of Siesta Key Public Beach in Sarasota, Florida is the first thing that came to mind with this color. One of the more popular, well-known and award-winning beaches in the United States. This gem along the Gulf of Mexico is a must visit. Checkout Florida: Siesta Key Beach and Village.

Red

Capturing the Color Red - Holland Lighthouse, Michigan, Big Red

Arguably the most well-known lighthouse along Lake Michigan in Michigan is “Big Red”, which sits opposite Holland State Park along the Holland Channel. Have always enjoying my time here no matter the season. Checkout Michigan: Holland State Park and the “Big Red” Lighthouse.

Now’s the fun part. I’d like to tag two fellow bloggers to take part in this great exercise. Your it!

Mariana of Travel Thirst
Anis of Five Foot Traveler

2011: What a Travel Year.

It’s almost that time to change the calendar over. 2011 has been a great year, travel wise. Lot’s of time in the air and at the airport, in the car, on foot and on water.

New Zealand - Mount Cook

Trail to Kea Point, towards Mount Cook in New Zealand.

It started in January and February with an extended trip to Southern California, Australia and New Zealand. Lot’s of sun, palm trees, ocean views and beaches to be had. Highlights included driving up and down the Pacific Coast Highway (the PCH) in California, seeing the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge up close and getting my first taste of Melbourne. The ultimate highlight was the road trip around the South Island of New Zealand.

Pacific Coast Highway - PCH - California

The Pacific Coast Highway near Malibu, California.

Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge - Australia

Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge from Mrs Macquaries Point.

Starting in Christchurch, good times were found at Lake Tekapo and in Mount Cook Village. There was time in Queenstown, Wanaka, Lake Hawea, the West Coast, Fox and Franz Glacier, Hokitika, Greymouth, Albert Pass and many more small towns and remote places in-between.

Who could forget all the V energy drinks, meat pies and iced chocolates consumed along with the Fergburger, frites and aioli in Queenstown. Staying in hostels and meeting people from all over the world, sleeping in the car, giving hitchhiker’s rides and random stops continuously along the highway to capture photos and soak in the views, a memorable time on the open road.

Queenstown, New Zealand

Dock in Queenstown, New Zealand.

Lot’s of time in Christchurch too, doing day-to-day tasks and hanging out in Cathedral Square, relaxing in the Botanical Gardens and hitting up Sumner and the other beaches in the area. I remember leaving one week before the February 22nd earthquake that destroyed a lot of the city and area. 😦 Christchurch is strong, its people are strong, I know it will be back and better than ever. These earthquakes and aftershocks have to stop.

New Zealand - Christchurch Botanical Gardens

Christchurch Botanical Gardens in New Zealand.

The Spring and Summer brought time in South Florida with lot’s of Midwestern day trips as well. Florida featured kayaking, seafood, many tropical drinks, the Fourth of July on Charlotte Harbor and watching a large alligator be captured up close by hunters. I got my first taste of the popular, scenic and award-winning Siesta Key Beach and Village. Spectacular.

Siesta Key Beach - Sarasota, Florida

Siesta Key Beach in Sarasota, Florida.

Midwestern trips were taken to the lighthouses, beaches and parks along Lake Michigan in Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin.

Holland Harbor Lighthouse, Pure Michigan

Holland Harbor Lighthouse in Michigan along Lake Michigan.

A stop along the way for about nine miles worth of walking and running in Chicago, capturing photos along the water as well as along the Chicago River and Michigan Avenue and up-top the John Hancock Observatory.

Chicago - John Hancock Observatory

Chicago skyline from up-top the John Hancock Observatory.

The Autumn months featured time exploring corn mazes, pumpkin patches and cider mills in Michigan and checking out the Fall colors in Pittsburgh. Captured Pittsburgh and everything it has to offer from the riverside hiking trails, up-top the Duquesne Incline, in the neighborhoods and on the three rivers themselves on a Gateway Clipper Fleet cruise.

Westview Orchards - Pumpkin Patch - Pure Michigan

Pumpkin Patch at Westview Orchards in Michigan.

Pittsburgh - Duquesne Incline

Duquesne Incline and Pittsburgh skyline.

The holiday months have brought lot’s of time to Detroit, Cleveland and Atlanta. Holiday parties, family and friends time and checking out the holiday lights, trees and cheer everywhere.

Detroit Holiday - Campus Martius Park

Campus Martius Park in downtown Detroit.

Lot’s of time throughout the year in the home bases checking out the local coffeehouses, neighborhoods and restaurants. Georgia stops also included the Georgia Aquarium, World of Coca-Cola, North Georgia wine country and the Sun Dial Restaurant Bar and View up-top the Westin Peachtree Plaza.

The Sun Dial Restaurant, Bar & View - Atlanta, Georgia

Sun Dial Restaurant Bar and View in Atlanta.

Detroit visits included Campus Martius Park, Belle Isle, Mexicantown and Eastern Market. Almost as much time in Ohio visiting West Side Market on several occasions in Cleveland, as well as several stops at Jungle Jim’s, Skyline Chili and Zip’s Cafe in Cincinnati. The foodie side of me is evident haha.

Zip's Cafe - Cincinnati, Ohio

Burger with cheese and Zip’s Cafe in Cincinnati, Ohio.

I’m sure 2012 will bring lot’s of time in Detroit, Atlanta and Ohio, perhaps New Zealand again and who knows where else. There will be a lot more day road trips to new places of course, at the same time less solo travel. 🙂 Whether it’s on the other side of the world or right down the street, there is always something new to explore. I hope to see you out on the open road in the New Year.

Happy New Year’s everyone. Where are your travels going to take you or where are you dreaming to go in 2012?