Category Archives: Travel

Kim & Robby’s European Adventure, Part 1: LA to Florence

Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve written anything! School and work have really kept me busy this year, but I’m back to document our latest adventure: a trip to Europe. :)

Robby and I recently returned from an 8-day trip to Italy and the UK. Our purpose was two-fold: we were there both to sightsee and to visit Robby’s sister Ashley, who is studying abroad in Italy this year. Sadly, much of our vacation was marred by a terrible case of food poisoning, but we were able to make some good memories that I plan to document in three posts (one for each city we visited). So, on to part one!

Florence

We left LA on a sunny Friday afternoon, full of anticipation for the amazing trip we had planned.

Getting ready to board the Metro.

Arrivederci, LA!

After taking the Metro and flyaway bus to LAX, we settled in for a long, long overnight flight to London Heathrow. After many hours of TV, movies, and restless attempts at sleep, we landed in London and caught a 1-hour bus to Gatwick airport for a connecting flight to Pisa, Italy.

Made it to London--part 1 of the journey complete!

Waiting for the bus to Gatwick.

Unfortunately, things went off-track on the trip to Gatwick as the nausea began to set in. By the time we got on our flight to Pisa, we were both struck down by food poisoning (I actually had it much worse than Robby, which meant he really had to take charge of getting us to our hotel). By the grace of God, we got through our 2-hour flight to Pisa, followed by a 45-minute wait at baggage claim, a 1-hour wait for our bus, and then a 1-hour bus ride from Pisa to Florence. Thankfully, Ashley was able to meet us at the airport to help us get to the right place! We FINALLY made it to our hotel around 2am on Easter Sunday. Let me just say that 24+ hours of travel with food poisoning made for one of the worst days of my life. :(

The next day (Easter) passed in a feverish. nauseated haze. Luckily, Robby had recovered enough to venture over to Ashley’s apartment in Florence, and the two of them were my guardian angels. They tracked down Gatorade, toast, soup, and anti-nausea medicine while I holed up in my hotel room (which was actually quite nice!) and slept.

Our hotel room in Florence.

What I did in our hotel room in Florence. :(

By Monday morning, I felt a tiny bit better, so we attempted to see some of the sights in Florence, starting with the church of Santa Maria del Fiore and the Duomo. We also saw some sculptures and got Robby some pasta.

Inside the Santa Maria del Fiore.

Robby posing by the Hercules statue.

Robby enjoying some gnocchi!

Unfortunately, it was a bit too much for me, and I spent the rest of the day back at the hotel, feeling miserable. :( Robby and Ashley spent the afternoon and evening exploring Florence.

Robby in front of the Ponte Vecchio.

On Tuesday morning, I felt a bit better, so we headed out to the Accademia to see the David sculpture and do some shopping. While David was suitably awe-inspiring, the real highlight of my day was a visit to the Prada store, where a spent a hard-earned chunk of change on a gorgeous pink wallet. Yay!

Prada store in Firenze!

My precious... :)

On Tuesday afternoon, Robby and I caught a high-speed train to Rome for part 2 of our European adventure…

Sayonara, 2011; Hello, 2012!

First, can I just brag about the fact that it was 75° today in Pasadena?! I love that. :) Robby and I started our New Year’s Day at church, and then we spent the afternoon kicking around Manhattan Beach. Tomorrow morning, we’re planning on walking 3 blocks down to Colorado Blvd. to catch the Rose Parade before heading back to work on Tuesday…sigh.

New Year’s always makes me reflective, and 2011 gave me a lot to reflect on. In a lot of ways, it was a hard year. I had some medical struggles (including surgery); we learned that it will be extremely difficult (if not impossible) for us to have biological children; we lost a dear friend much too young; Robby and I had far too many stressful work projects; and I took on the burden of returning to school while working full-time. When I think about those things, I’m tempted to say “good riddance” to a bad year!

We did have quite a few good times mixed in there, though. Highlights from 2011 include our epic kitchen remodel; the birth of our adorable new nephew Hudson; two great trips to the Hollywood Bowl; a birthday weekend at Disneyland; getting an article published in a journal; surviving an epic windstorm in Pasadena; receiving a new iPhone 4S for Christmas; getting to preview a Rose Parade float; and taking several great trips:

  • Our anniversary trip to Santa Barbara
  • My work trip to Philadelphia and Washington, DC (Robby came with me)
  • Our trip to Orlando and Miami (in an attempt to witness the penultimate shuttle launch, which was unfortunately scrubbed 2 hours beforehand)
  • My work trip to Dayton, Ohio (Robby wasn’t able to come with me)
  • Robby’s trip to Orlando, where he was able to fulfill his lifelong dream by watching the last-ever shuttle launch!
  • A trip to Atlanta for Robby’s cousin’s wedding and then on to Panama City Beach for a week with Robby’s family
  • Our Thanksgiving trip to Knoxville, Gatlinburg, and Birmingham

I have mixed feelings about 2011. Mostly, I’m just happy to have reached the end of it with a wonderful husband by my side, and I’m hopeful that 2012 will be a good year for us. Heck, 2012 already has two things going for it–we’re planning a trip to Italy and England in the spring, and I’ll finish my MBA in June! I’m already counting down the days (literally–see the sidebar over there on the right??) until I have more time to knit, bake, decorate, and plan our next remodeling project–maybe overhauling our 80s-style bathrooms? :)

I hope that 2012 is filled with blessings for you (and us)! I’ll leave you with this huge photo-retrospective of some of our 2011 highlights:

Thanksgiving 2011

We traveled for Thanksgiving this year, and as usual, it was a whirlwind (I don’t think we’ve ever been on a trip that involved just one city, ha).

We flew into Knoxville for two reasons: first, to visit my sister Cassie (a veterinary student at UT), and second, to watch the Volunteers play at Neyland Stadium!

Tailgating at UT.

Cassie, me, and Robby in our orange gear!

Watching the game. So nice to watch the Vols actually win one!

After a few days in Knoxville, we drove up to Gatlinburg for some sightseeing and to celebrate our anniversary a bit early. We had fun browsing the shops and taking the tram up to Ober Gatlinburg (a small amusement park in the Smoky Mountains with great views of Tennessee).

Ole Smoky moonshine distillery, haha!

"Once two strangers climbed on rocky top..."

After our time in Gatlinburg, it was time to head to Chelsea, Alabama for Thanksgiving with Robby’s family. My sister Cassie came with us and we had a great time! We weren’t very good about taking pictures, but we did manage to catch this one of our sweet nephew Hudson in his jumper. He loves that thing, and once he’s in, he can’t stop jumping (hence the blurriness!):

Hudson, the jumping bean.

All in all, we had a great time enjoying some Southern hospitality this Thanksgiving. I’m so glad I married into the Stephenson family, in all their wonderful, bleeding-orange glory!

Streets of Philadelphia

Did you catch the Bruce Springsteen reference in my title? Heh.

Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve blogged. I must apologize to all my devoted followers! :) I’ve been extremely busy with work these past few months, which hasn’t left me much time or energy for fun (let alone blogging). But we are in the middle of redecorating our guest bedroom, so I hope to post about that soon.

Last week, Robby and I headed to Philadelphia for the Association of College and Research Libraries conference (I was presenting, and Robby tagged along for fun). We added on a few extra days for sightseeing and visiting Robby’s cousin George and his wife Chelsea down in Washington, D.C.

Our trip began on Saturday when we flew into Philadelphia and picked up a rental car at the airport. Robby has a Hertz gold membership, and we were excited to learn that Hertz had upgraded our compact car reservation…until we discovered that the “upgrade” was to a lime green VW Beetle! Robby wasn’t too sure about the car, especially since snow was forecasted for the week, but it was late at night so we decided to just go with it.

Our little Bug.

After checking into our hotel and getting a good night’s sleep, we hit the road for Washington, DC to visit George and Chelsea and see their beautiful new house. Robby and I had a great time catching up with them and their adorable “boxador” Brandy, and we spent Sunday night at their place.

We headed back to Philly on Monday, taking a side trip through the Amish country. It was amazing to see the horse-drawn buggies driving along the highway, as well as the farmers plowing their fields with horses! We also had fun shopping for homemade foods at Kauffman’s Fruit Farm and Kitchen Kettle Village. I bought several jars of jam and some soft pretzel mix, and Robby chose some pickles. After a long day of driving, we returned the rental car (thankfully, the weather stayed clear on Sunday and Monday, so we didn’t have to test the Bug’s snow-handling abilities!) and headed back to our hotel.

We spent Tuesday exploring Independence Hall, seeing the Liberty Bell, and hunting down cannoli at the Italian market. It was freezing cold, and we ended up having to buy Robby a ski hat so his ears didn’t get frostbite. :) Here are some pictures from our day:

George Washington sat in that very chair during the Constitutional Convention. I got chills being in the presence of so much history!

Sitting in the room where the first Congress met.

Robby in the first Senate chamber.

The Liberty Bell.

We spent Wednesday exploring the western side of Philadelphia, including City Hall, the Free Library (of course!), the Water Works, the Schuylkill River, the museums, and the sculptures:

Me and Rocky outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art. :)

Ah, love...

That day, I started noticing librarians everywhere I went, and discovered that the city had rolled out its welcome mat for us:

Thanks, Philadelphia!

On Wednesday night, I switched gears into “conference” mode, which lasted until Saturday morning. The conference started with a rousing game called “battle decks,” in which people give impromptu presentations based on PowerPoint slides they’ve never seen before. It sounds pretty geeky (and it is!), but it was hilarious.

I won’t bore you with the arcane details of the conference, except to say that there were a ton of great sessions and I felt like I came away with many new ideas! I gave a poster session, which was nerve-wracking but exciting. I also thoroughly enjoyed the closing keynote, which was delivered by Clinton Kelly, the co-host of “What Not to Wear.” After the closing session, I went to Clinton’s book signing, where I got to meet him and shake his hand. He was very charming, and even complimented me on my shirt! It was kind of surreal. While I was hobnobbing with librarians and TLC reality show hosts, Robby visited the U.S. Mint, Penn’s Landing, Elfreth’s Alley, and several cheesesteak vendors. :)

We finally headed home on Saturday night, weighed down by our Amish market purchases and about 20 pounds of conference vendor swag and brochures. It was a long trip home, and we were happy to finally make it home to one very excited bulldog.

All in all, we had a fantastic time in Philadelphia and would love to go back someday!

Anniversary Weekend, in Pictures

Robby and I just returned from a wonderful and relaxing anniversary weekend in Santa Barbara. My wonderful husband planned the whole thing as a surprise for me, and he did a great job!

On Friday afternoon, we took this…

Amtrak Surfliner

…from Burbank to Santa Barbara. Riding the train was a thrill for Robby, and way more relaxing for me than driving. :)

Riding the train!

It's too bad airplanes don't have this much legroom.

Once we got to Santa Barbara, we checked in here…

Harbor View Inn, Santa Barbara.

…then had dinner and wandered around State Street.

Our Saturday began with this…

Walking along the pier.

…which led to a bit of this:

Watching sea lions.

After a walk, I visited the spa for one of these…

Massage! (No, that's not me...)

…and then we hit the town for lunch and a bit of shopping. That evening, we went out for a fancy dinner, then fell asleep to the sound of the ocean outside our window.

Sunday morning began with a walk here…

Cabrillo Blvd.

Santa Barbara harbor.

…and then some of this…

Brunch!

…before a trip here…

Kalyra Winery tasting room.

…for a bit of wine tasting. We really enjoyed the delicious dessert wines!

Finally, we boarded the train and headed back home. Thank you to my brilliant, handsome, and thoughtful husband Robby for planning such a great weekend!