Ahhhhh Puerto Rico, I’ve missed you so! It seems like both 2 and 20 years ago I first landed on your enchanted island, when in fact it was merely 6. Yet this time around, I only thought I was fully prepared for the journey. Same cities, same lodging, similar travel plans, but with a different travel partner and a few more years under my belt. Lucky me, I also came home with more than a suntan and great memories…

Yes- it’s true. Not only did Broc finally propose, he proposed with THIS!

But I’m getting ahead of myself…The vacation was pretty amazing as well. I documented the trip with my iPhone as best I could and put together a little video of our week. You’re welcome for skipping the 60 page book of details like last time. ;)

Puerto Rico Vacation from megan knight on Vimeo.

I also want to give credit to some of our favorite places & spaces that I continue to feel are a “must do”when visiting Puerto Rico. And a few warnings as well.

Day 1: Old San Juan

Old San Juan is still one of my favorite cities ever. We stayed (again) at Da House, this super eclectic hotel in the heart of the city. It’s very affordable ($112 total/night) and super fun in that you get to pick your room based on how close it is “to the party”. That would be the street, which is literally a party outside the window all hours of the night, every night. Since Broc and I aren’t really partiers anymore (besides the occasional holiday, wedding or snow day), we’ll probably stay somewhere different on our next trip to the city. However, I still highly recommend it for the location and experience.

Note: you do not want to rent a car if you’re staying in Old San Juan. We landed in San Juan late and had already reserved one for the week, but I didn’t think about the parking situation, or lack there of. We tried to get directions to one of the parking garages but it’s not easy navigating the tiny streets by foot in the day, much less at night in a car. We thought we found a safe place near a serious looking building but, as it turned out the next morning, that seriousness was a post office and the parking spot came with a $75 ticket. Best bet is to take a cab to and from the city, then use the car to travel the rest of the island.

Day 2/3: Palmas Del Mar

It’s hard to describe this little jewel on the southeast corner of the island, except for what it is: a gated resort community on steroids. I also wouldn’t call it a vacation destination of the island, but Broc had a good friend who’d recently moved there with his family and thus, a free place to stay. It’s absolutely beau.ti.ful and very un-Puerto Rican, compared to other parts of the island, but if you’re looking for 360 degree views of ocean, golf courses, palm trees, yachts and ultra-luxiousious homes & condos- Palmas is your dream come true. The people are all American too, and as rich in ideas & innovation as wealth, so it’s a pretty nice place to visit- or live…

Day 4/5: Vieques

I have not been to Europe yet, but I have been to Hawaii & every other beach-front city in the US, and nothing compares to the beauty of Vieques. It’s simply gorgeous, raw, and as close to heaven as I can imagine. There’s absolutely nothing fancy about this tiny speck of undeveloped land in the middle of the Atlantic (except maybe The W, we wouldn’t know), but that’s what I love about it the most. And the horses! Did I mention I’m in love with wild horses???

Note: the first time I came we had not problem catching the ferry to Vieques, but I’d read online that times had changed, and that was no lie. We arrived 2 hours before departature and stood in the sweltering heat for tickets for a good 90 mins before we realized they’d sold out. Thankful for iPhones and our friends from Palmas’s advice, we raced to a tiny airport in Ceiba
(about 30 mins from the Fajarado ferry) and paid $32/person/way for a 10 min plane ride across the ocean to Viequs. And it was SO. WORTH. IT. I will never do the ferry again.

We stayed at a very plainly stated home from AirBnB and rented the owner’s, Paul – a Kansan- beater blazer to get around. And it was perfect. This island is a back-roaders paradise- all you need is a pair of wheels, some Medalla (local beer), a bathing suit and a beach towell. Snorkeling gear optional (and not really needed, at least we didn’t see much this time of year). Paul’s place provided all of that, a comfortable king bed & bathroom and was centrally located between the only two towns in town; you go left to get to the beach bars & hidden beaches or right to the city-center and mile-long pier. I think the bio-bay was literally across the road and through a few patches of palm trees. (You can’t go to Vieques without kayaking in the biobay, and I again recommend Abe’s!)

All the food is great (although some, better than others) and all the beaches are gorgeous. The weather is perfect (even if it says it’s going to rain- it suppodisly does every day but we only saw 1 shower and that was in the rain forrest) and the people so warm & friendly. I couldn’t recommend this place more than anywhere else on earth. And it’s a US territory- so no passport and basic Spanish optional.

Please, just go.

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I feel like so much has happened in the past month that it would take 20 blog posts to try and describe. But since I have absolutely zero spare time to write about any of it, the highlights will have to suffice.

The beginning of my May 2014 was filled with both excitement and anxiety: excitement over a fabulous vacation in Mexico with all the people I love; and anxiety over a major career move I couldn’t make up my mind about until the very last second… Enjoying the beautiful beaches of Rivera Maya were a nice distraction, to say the least.

Needless to say, I did not come home relaxed and refreshed. I had only 1 week to formally resign from a position I loved and leave behind a group of people I’d come to call family. Ironically, my new home is called FamilyLife, and I, the new Brand Marketing Manager for the Weekend to Remember. As dramatic as it sounds, none of this was my doing. There’s a bigger Guy in the sky who’s calling the plays right now and I can’t tell you how at peace I am with it. (brochure needs updating- on my list of to-do’s)

(so much more to come on this later!)
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

And how’s this amazing contribution for only the first week on the job?

While I realize I’m still a newbie, I can honestly say I’m in love with it! FamilyLife is where I’m supposed to be.

But let us not forget the other business I’ve tied myself to. Ah yes, the photo booth. My partner and I have been working our butts off and couldn’t be more thankful! We are booked (almost) solid until August and this month was no exception…

And just last weekend, there was this minor little thing of my only sister’s wedding… No big deal, right? I was the maid of honor and spent hours agonizing over my speech. My sweet baby sister- 11 years my junior, was married away to the love of her life and I could not be happier for her…

she's still 3 years old in my eyes...

I have found that if you love life, life will love you back.

details on all of the above to come!

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What can i really say about my first trip to the foggy city of San Francisco? I’ve been to many places in my life (Florida, Boston, Hawaii, Louisiana, Colorado, Texas, Philadelphia, New York, Pittsburgh, Tennessee, Puerto Rico & Chicago in just the past 3 years…) and really enjoyed them all, but this one will forever hold a very special place in my heart. Maybe it was the weather- not too hot, not too cold, and only rained on us one day; or the food- I tried a little bit of everything and didn’t have one bad meal; perhaps the technology & culture; possibly even the wine; but likely the cliche’ “overall experience” puts this city in my number 1 spot.

My purpose for the visit was for work- there was a major technology conference being held the 26th and 27th and many of our vendors have offices there. Our Wednesday and Thursday were full of meetings and a few dinners with drinks so I was able to most definitely mix business with pleasure. I met some really great contacts and have a lot of follow up to do. However in between work and meetings, a coworker and I squeezed in as many sites and city-love as we could.

We arrived on Tuesday around noon and had just enough time to check into our downtown hotel and I was itching to walk around after the seeing the view from my 30th floor room!

We walked through Union Square as I snapped pictures of all the fabulous buildings, cable cars, and shops I will never be able to actually shop in.

Day one and I’d already fallen hard…

We then met a vendor at this very cool hole-in-the-wall bar called the RickHouse. The dark rustic ambiance and exceptional selection of alcohol had me feeling all warm and fuzzy right away!

After drinks we met up with a colleague at 54 Mint for dinner. Delicious authentic Italian food in a charming whitewashed cafe nestled between the bustling streets of downtown’s business district. It was lovely and highly recommended.

After dinner we took an Uber ride (i can’t believe we don’t have these in LR- it’s like a super pleasant cab ride without the smell and hassle) down to the Bay Bridge where I got some pretty nice night shots of the city. It was a balmy 60 degrees and our stroll down the piers was bright and invigorating. My first night in SF had high marks- and it never went downhill!

Wednesday was Ad-tech day and mostly business meetings, a tasty deem sum lunch at Yank Sing, and then a lovely dinner at Farralon, a well-known seafood restaurant in the heart of the city. While the food was just okay, the company was fabulous. It’s not every day you get to dine with a group of women at a business dinner- the conversation took on an almost feministic tone and after 2 bottles of delicious wine we were all bff’s! :)

Thursday was another day of the same and mostly uneventful minus a tasty lunch with a vendor at Trace. We did have a chance to met a friend of Dana’s at the rooftop bar of the Marriott Marquis hotel and the views were spectacular! This city absolutely shines!

Finally Friday rolled around- our first day to really be tourists! Our first stop was breakfast at Samovar Tea Lounge. Everything about this place was gorgeous, from the outdoor patio overlooking the city to the bubbling waterfall below and fragrant wisteria above. An added bonus was watching the cute little Chinese men perform their morning t’ai chi exercises- it was almost surreal. While the food was great, the presentation of it was exceptional. Really a must for a unique breakfast in the city!

I’m not much of a hot tea fan but this blood-orange concoction was pretty yummy…

We checked into our new hotel on Union Square and walked through the financial district for a great lunch with potential clients.

Dana and I split a chicken sandwich that was absolutely to die for…
1st tourist must-do, the cable car! I didn’t have the best spot on the trolly for pictures but it was a great ride. The winding streets of San Francisco are so quaint and lovely!

The photos do it little justice but it felt almost Mediterranean with the pastel colored buildings nestled atop winding streets that seemed to go on forever. It was the perfect transportation to the bay where we departed to visit Fishermans Wharf.

Take a colorful bustling boardwalk on the ocean, add a few palm trees, statues, boats, and delicious smelling food stands and you have my heart. Throw in a crowd of sunbathing sea lions and you take my soul as well! (I’m a total sucker for sea mammals…)

I wish i had my zoom lens on this trip- these guys were really adorable!

Our final destination was Pier 33 to board a ferry for Alcatraz Island! The ride to the island itself was worth the $30 fee- we stood on the deck and took in the most spectacular views of the city, the Golden Gate bridge, and the approaching infamous island in complete awe.

Alcatraz Island itself was also very cool and I learned a lot. We did a self guided audio tour up the paved pathway to the top of the derelict prison and marveled at the pure horror of the place. Being trapped in those tiny cells within only minutes of such a beautifully free city- i just can’t imagine…

And just look at that view!

We ended up only staying for about half of the tour b/c, while interesting, our feet needed a break and we had to get back to the hotel to change in time for our burlesque show in the mission district!

The one sad thing about this night was the “no pictures allowed” rule. I did a review of the bar- El Rio- and the show- Red Hot Burlesque- on Yelp, but really it’s hard to describe without photos. All I can say is it’s a totally different look at the city of San Francisco and one I was more than happy to indulge in! The bar was a total dive on the inside- dark and smoky with cheap drinks and pool tables. But the outdoor patio was more like 5 patio’s in one, and literally behind what looked to be a row of houses. Lights were strung up between trees above all kinds of funky seating arrangements and someone was slinging hot dogs and seriously delicious nachos in the corner of the space. The crowd was about as diverse as I’ve ever seen- from 20 something gay couples to 65 year old hippies, and I mustn’t leave out the fabulous burlesque dancers weaving in and out. Around 7:30 they announced the show was starting and we were cajoled into a tiny room off the side of the bar- maybe 60 people smashed together with seating for half that. While I wasn’t exactly comfortable, the tickets were only $5 (even though we paid Yelp’s VIP $10- they were sold out) and the entertainment was top notch. We saw 5 different performances of flashy and scantily dressed dancers giving us just enough skin to keep everyone hooting and hollering like 19 year old boys in a strip bar. And they were really good dancers too! The drag queen host kept everyone laughing and entertained between gigs and after an hour and a half we left on a totally unique SF high! Great fun and highly recommended!!!

While I didn’t want Friday to end, I couldn’t WAIT for Saturday… NAPA! We booked a tour online through Napa Valley Wine Tours and met our party bus outside of Macy’s in Union Park. It was raining so we really couldn’t have picked a better day to be stuck on a bus for an hour. And this wasn’t just any bus. We ate our breakfast of cheese and pastries on leather couches between neon lights and stripper poles! Our driver Abe was very funny and accommodating, breaking out the mimosas at our stop at the Golden Gate Bridge which we couldn’t see b/c of the rain and fog. I did manage to snap a picture on our drive over it for proof though!

We made friends on the ride there who ended up being our BEST friends on the ride back :) . My only complaint was we couldn’t stop and take pictures of the beautiful green rolling hills of the Napa/Sonoma Valley. But at least my eyes got to enjoy it!
Our first winery has Arkansas roots- the Jacuzzi Family Vineyards in Sonoma!

We all lined up along an open bar and tasted 5 delicious flavors of wine. After a nice buzz, we walked across the hall to the coolest olive oil tasting room and drooled over the fragrant infused heaven on bread. I found about 10 things i wanted to buy but thankfully they ship for free (on orders over $75) b/c my bag was already 4 lbs over on my flight there.

Next was Viansa Winery which boasted a great view that we really couldn’t photograph b/c of the rain. although i tried my best.

Andretti Winery was next and the rain had finally let up enough to walk around the grounds. It was beautiful and felt very much like a small Italian villa. Abe served us a nice light lunch in one of their dinning halls and I’m pretty sure I would’ve eaten anything at this point since I was probably at least a bottle or three in…

Our final stop of the day was Jamieson Ranch Vineyards in Napa. It was also, unfortunately, the most informative tour of the day. I say unfortunately because by this time the last thing I really wanted was a history lesson. Two guides walked us through the barrel room which housed hundreds of thousands of gallons of fermenting wines; then on through the bottling room. I honestly can’t remember one thing about what they said though… I just know they kept pouring and we kept drinking. Our final stop was on the top floor of their mountain lodge balcony where a small band was playing and lots of purchases were made.










Another reason I wish we’d taken a car and stayed the night in Napa instead of heading back into the city: no one wanted to leave! However the ride home was far from boring. As I said, we all became best friends!!!


While this might seem like the end of the road, it is San Francisco after all, and the night was young. Dana and I managed to stumble our way to our hotel (after a mighty hysterical bus chase to save a few bottles of wine I might add) and out the door to our last recommendation of the trip, Marrakech Moroccan Restaurant. It was richly lit and oh so Moroccan! We dined on a delicious appetizer of humus dip & spiced salads; lamb stew and a braised Cornish Hen that was simply to die for. Plus, a few more glasses of wine for myself.



Who doesn’t live for a lavender scented hand-washing at their table???

Once the belly dancer took the stage, I seriously thought I’d been whisked away to Morocco and was seconds from jumping up and joining her! (which i’m sure would have really been a treat for the other diners…)

All in all, it was a beautiful, if not slightly blurry, end to one of the best cities EVER! San Francisco, you had me at hello and left me with a well-deserved hangover. In the words of Herb Cain, “One day if I go to heaven … I’ll look around and say, ‘It ain’t bad, but it ain’t San Francisco.’”  Adios, until next time….

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Day four… ahhhh, day four I think I may love you most of all! There’s obviously something in my blood that loves the beach- perhaps because it was the only vacay I ever got to go on growing up (Florida. Maybe not the ONLY but the best…), or that my mother is also a sun-loving native american, a vacation is not a vacation without a gorgeous beach! And Hawaii’s beaches are hands down the.best.ever.

Hapuna Beach…

again, posing is totally okay here!

Would it even be more perfect if i said we stopped and had fresh coconut water as we were leaving??? Well, we did!


Because everything in Hawaii is more amazing than before, we decided to visit the Waikoloa Hilton resort in Waikoloa Village…

nice tree-lined drive?

the wind is OBVIOUSLY under kara's shirt here... only pic of us together!

nice little hotel beach view...!

this place was big and flashy and everything i need in a hotel! Give me a parrot or a DOLPHIN and I’m a happy girl.

if you know me, you KNOW i love a good sea mammal… IN. LOVE.!!!

After only so much of a good thing, we headed back south to visit the most locally recommended beach on the Big Island, Makalawena Beach. You have to take a 20 minute hike off an already rugged lava road to get to it, via the risk of bee’s…

but we were perfectly content to stop at the 5-minute walk beach and take pics of the famous way from across the ocean. Plus, this one was pretty amazing itself!

picture overload yet? think about how i feel…

and we just had to do more posing! It’s HAWAII!!!

i can’t post enough…

Finally, we had to leave to drive back home to Kona…

through this...

showered and made ourselves get up and out to dinner- this time at Huggo’s, also on the beach. (I’ve realized I can stop saying gorgeous, beautiful, and amazing now- obviously my favorite “pretty” adjectives) But yeah, it was real pretty here too…

spot the differences...

And then across the way to “On the Rocks”- which was actually a literal bar name…

nice view...

and i got to see a real hula dancer!!!

and then we got to BE real hula dancers!!!

TRIP. MADE.

see day 3 or next day 5

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