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free vacation

Travel

Huntington Beach and the Vans U.S. Open

July 28, 2016

Last weekend we decided to take advantage of our free flights with Southwest Airlines and take a quick weekend trip to Huntington Beach, California. We had no reason to go there, other than having heard from friends that it was a fun little beach town. Since we loved our weekend in San Diego so much we thought “Why not?”

We had no plans other than beach, eat and drink. Just a week or two before our trip we found out that we had accidentally booked it while the Vans US Open was happening, so the timing worked out perfectly! We stayed at a place we found on Airbnb that was about four blocks from the events on the beach, so we were able to walk to everything: restaurants, bars, coffee, shopping, and of course, all of the Vans US Open events.

Not realizing how big of a deal the US Open is, we were quite shocked to see how busy the little town of Huntington Beach was! The second day we were up on the pier looking down at the boardwalk that lead to event and Mat compared it to Times Square, except everyone was in bikinis! Crazy! It was strange seeing everyone wear their swimming suits everywhere, including restaurants! It was pretty fun to be in such a relaxed environment. I literally didn’t brush my hair for the entire three days we were there and I loved it.

One day we rented bikes and (foolishly) attempted to ride to Newport. Spoiler alert, that didn’t happen. We did ride by a country festival that was happening on the beach though, which was so cool! A new item has now been added to the bucket list….attend a music festival on a beach.

Between the margaritas, watching world class surfing, skateboarding, outdoor movies in the amphitheater and the amazing sunsets the west coast offers….the weekend was an absolute blast! Oh yeah, we both left with some new Vans gear. 🙂

Huntington Beach Pier

Huntington Beach

Vans U.S. Open Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach Vans U.S. Open

Huntington Beach Vans U.S. Open

Huntington Beach Vans U.S. Open

Huntington Beach Main St.

Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach

Vans U.S. Open Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach Main St.

Huntington Beach Vans U.S. Open

Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach Main St.

Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach Sunset

Huntington Beach Sunset

Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach Sunset

Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach Vans U.S. Open

Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach Pin Map

Huntington Beach Pin Map

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Travel

3 Days in Florence, Italy

June 9, 2016

The second stop on our 15 day vacation extravaganza was Florence, Italy.  Still riding the momentum gained from the 2 previous days in New York City, Lacey and I were ready to start the international leg of our trip.  With our pre-purchased museum tickets in one hand and vouchers for a Vespa tour in the other; we were ready for Florence!

The last 2 times I’ve flown to Italy, I didn’t sleep a single minute on either flight.  This results in a hyper-delirious first day as I end up being awake for about 20hrs straight.  Luckily, Italy has the best coffee on the planet (yeah, I said it! Whatchu got Colombia!?), so I’m usually still somewhat functional that first day.

We landed and were settled in our Air BnB in Florence by about 3pm.  We were set up in a beautiful 1 bedroom loft a block away from the Piazza del Duomo.  We’d highly recommend staying there if you’re planning a visit. Tell Frederica we said hello!

After dropping our bags off and doing our best to avoid passing out, we met a few of our friends at a nearby cafe.  We quickly hammered a couple of cafe Americano’s before hopping on some bicycles to check out the Ponte Vecchio, and the Piazza Michelangelo where we had some gelato while enjoying the views of the city.  After a fun downhill bike ride from the piazza we had some delicious pizza and wine from GustaPizza before passing out for the night.  It was a pretty successful first day considering how tired we were.

Day 2 in Florence got off to a quick start, literally, as we hopped on some Vespas and took off for wine country!  The scooter tour was Lacey’s idea and I’ll hand it to her, I originally thought this was a lame idea but it turned out to be one of the highlights of the entire trip.  Well done wifey, well done.  Not only was the simple act of hauling ass on a Vespa in Italy super fun, but we saw so many amazing views of the city and country side.  We made quick stops at a gorgeous church and private vineyard before making our way to a private estate where an authentic Italian meal was prepared for us.  The meal was accompanied by some tasty wine grown from the vineyard we had visited.  This was so much fun, as you can see from our trip video edit.

Later that day, we climbed to the top of the historic Duomo in Florence.  The views from the top are unbelievable!  Be careful though as there is only a waist-high fence in between you and certain death at the top of the dome.  Other than that, it’s a really good time! 😉

Our third and final day was spent touring the amazing art galleries of Florence.  After all, Florence was the heartbeat of the Renaissance and we owed it to the city to acknowledge it’s beautiful art.  We swung by the Galleria dell’Accademia to check out Michelangelo’s statue of David before heading over to the Ufizzi Gallery to take a look at Botticelli’s Birth of Venus.  While we may not know much about art, we still appreciate how important these pieces are to the history of this region.  People treat famous artwork like celebrities nowadays.  Everyone pushes and shoves to get close enough to take their all-so-important selfie with the painting or statue.  Somehow that factor makes seeing pieces like these in-person both better AND worse somehow.

Our final night in Florence was a mellow one spent at our cozy BnB as we watched Netflix (The Office) on my cell phone as we fell asleep.  There couldn’t have been a more perfect ending to a great 3 days in Florence.

Rome was up next!  More details from that trip to come shortly!

For details on how we used reward points to book this 15 day adventure for free, check out our previous post.

Santa Maria del Fiore Florence, Italy

piazzale michelangelo florence

Bicycles Florence, Italy

Bicycles Florence, Italy

Ponte Vecchio Florence, Italy

Ponte Vecchio Florence, Italy

Gusta Pizza Florence, Italy

Gusta Pizza Florence, Italy

Gusta Pizza Florence, Italy

Porcellini Florence, Italy

Tuscany 3 days in Florence Italy The David Florence, Italy

Ufizzi Gallery Florence

Scooter Tour 3 Days in Florence, Italy

Scooter Tour Florence, Italy

Scooter Tour Florence, Italy

Scooter Tour Florence, Italy

Tuscany Florence Italy

Tuscany Florence Italy

Scooter Tour Florence, Italy

Tuscany Florence Italy

Florence Italy downtown

Duomo View Florence, Italy

Tower Florence, Italy

Birth of Venus Ufizzi Gallery

Duomo Florence, Italy

Santa Maria del Fiore Florence, Italy

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