It's tricky to come back from vacation. There is a towering stack of mail next to me, and my plants and flowers need some TLC. Let's not even talk about the laundry. Mostly, I'm a little wistful for the special connection that seems to come when we're all out of our ordinary lives--just Hubs, me and the kids, smooshed together in a hotel room overrun with collected seashells, mouse ears, granola bar wrappers, and good laughs. It's a powerful lesson to me, really, about how easily I'm bound and distracted by the demands of daily-ness. I need to do a better job of connecting to the people I love most, whether or not we're wearing magical mouse ears.
One of the best parts of this trip is how it seemed almost charmed--everywhere we went, we kept stumbling into unexpected treasures, helpful hints, and beautiful places. Before I take my last leap into reality, I thought I'd share some of our favorites and pass around a little link love, just for grins. (And my understanding is that these days bloggers should make it clear--I'm sharing these links just for fun, not for any sort of compensation. There were NO special deals, I assure you--I have the completely obliterated travel budget to prove it.)
On our way back to Oklahoma, we took a side route through the mountains of north central Arizona. I must've slept that day in tenth-grade geography--I didn't know Arizona had mountains, at least not like these. They were gorgeous, a striking mix of red-rock cliffs and evergreens. And the cool breezes! Oh, it was heavenly. We drove up on Jerome purely by accident, but it was so picturesque I pulled out the video camera and filmed all of main street. It's a 125-year-old town (with a colorful history) built almost vertically into the side of a mountain--an Old West version of Switzerland. The main road through town is full of hard switchbacks, the kind I thought was reserved for four-wheel-drive dirt roads way up in the high country. But this little town, now mostly artists and tourists, thrives in the most unlikely place, overlooking the valley where picturesque Sedona is located. After our last (tricky) turn out of town, I told Hubs that we're coming back here, someday, and this time for a long stay.
LaBellavia is a tiny little restaurant in the historic part of Flagstaff. It was the best breakfast I've had in ages--French toast made from whole-grain bread, served with strawberry butter. Strawberry butter--isn't that the most lovely idea you've ever heard? I suspect we might have world peace if the world had more strawberry butter.
Several people suggested I should check out RideMax, a parent-created software to help you chart out your plan at Disney World or Disneyland. (If you just show up at a Disney park without a plan, prepare to crumble to the sidewalk in a ball of tears. There is too much to see, and you must have at least a loose plan in place--otherwise you'll miss something wonderful.) RideMax (which costs about $15 for a couple of months' subscription) allows you to input the rides you want into their easy spreadsheet, and they will build a custom plan for you, including walking times and (estimated) wait times, all in a way that minimizes walking. We didn't stick to our RideMax plan with perfect precision (we're mind-changers in this family), but even then, it was invaluable. We knew what to expect, we had a general sense of how to pace ourselves, and we saw all the stuff we really wanted to see. I strongly recommend this, especially if you're a beginner at Disney.
If you live in Southern California (or you're visiting there), bookmark this site. It offers tons of suggestions for things to do with kids, specifically in Orange County.
Hubs and I love to listen to podcasts when we travel. Scratch that--I love listening to podcasts when we travel, and Hubs is a good sport about listening along. A friend recommended the podcast published by Veritas Forum, and it's definitely on our lists of favorites now (you can read more about them here). We've heard so many good ones I couldn't pick a favorite, but subscribe and listen. (But put on your thinking caps first.)
La Brea Tar Pits
It was our favorite ride at Disney World, and it was our favorite ride at Disneyland. If you go there, plan to ride it two or three or 28 times.
We spent a couple of hours at the tar pits, and it was so interesting. Several of you mentioned you had trips to Los Angeles in the works, and I recommend this as a fun and simple stop with the kids. (It's cheap, too--and do you KNOW how hard it is to find something cheap in Los Angeles? I think almost as rare as finding a Republican.)
By the way, thank you so much to those of you who weighed on this post with suggestions. We completely altered our trip plans and included San Diego based on your recommendations, and we were so glad we did. More than once I was scrolling through your comments on Hubs' iPhone, even while we were en route to our next destination--thank you!