Well, hey there, 2018. It seems like just yesterday that I was waxing poetic about how amazing 2017 was going to be, and now it’s passed by in the blink of an eye. No, scratch that: faster than the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow. (Right, King Arthur?)
2017: Year in Review
After ringing in 2017 in New York City, Mr. Five O’Clock and I decided to head up to the Great White North and drink icewine. Plenty of sweet, sweet icewine. At eight wineries in one day, in fact. (Don’t worry, the samples are small and they provide food. We’re not that crazy.)
We did come home with ten bottles of icewine at the end of the 2017 Niagara Icewine Festival, however, which took us a whole year to get through. Our favorites were the 2013 Cabernet Franc Icewine at Trius Winery and the 2010 Vidal Icewine at Konzelmann.
On the writing front, I finally worked up the nerve to try out the Gotham Writers Workshop Write-In in Midtown Manhattan. On a chilly Friday night, roughly thirty of us writers came together for two hours to let our creative writing juices flow. Having wine in between writing prompts was certainly helpful — I even volunteered to share my second piece with the group!
January Bar Highlights: All the wineries in Niagara, Canada (see related post here)!
My biggest highlight in February was exploring Sacramento and Lodi, California. Thanks to Visit Lodi, I was able to sip on some zesty zinfandels at three Lodi wineries (read more about my oenophile adventure here). I spent some quality time with Catwoman and Agent M investigating Sacramento’s bar scene — which is surprisingly robust — and reigniting my childhood interest in railroads.
Mr. Five O’Clock and I also flew to San Diego for a quick weekend jaunt to celebrate my father-in-law’s milestone birthday, and we finally got around to applying for Global Entry. If you haven’t done this yet, I highly recommend it; the application process was pretty painless, and the ability to breeze past poor unfortunate souls in the customs line who don’t know any better is priceless.
Early March saw me in New Orleans for Women’s Travel Fest and in Vermont with my NYC crew for our third annual hot tubbing, snow-filled Girls’ Winter Weekend Getaway.
At the end of March, I jetted off to Amsterdam with Ashley from My Wanderlusty Life. We spent an amazing 72 hours in Amsterdam in total, covering museums and the Anne Frank House to the Heineken Experience and stroopwafel. (That last one is making me salivate just thinking about it… Mmmm.) I’ll never forget the strange feeling I had of “coming home” as I strolled around Amsterdam’s canals, grateful that I could finally explore my Dutch heritage.
March Bar Highlights: Bar Oldenhof in Amsterdam
Continuing on from Amsterdam, Ashley and I explored Belgium’s beers (amazing) and strange sense of humor (Mannekin Pis, anyone?). We even managed to squeeze in a short day trip to Luxembourg — enough time to leave us wanting more.
While Brussels left much to be desired for us, we fell head over heels for the fairytale-like scenery of Bruges. I even stayed in a hostel and finally learned to appreciate them as an adult (hint: private rooms make all the difference… and having a Belgian beer bar downstairs doesn’t hurt, either).
In early May, I was back on the road again, this time to conduct back-to-back interviews for Honeymoon Israel (HMI). We sampled that glorious invention known as poutine while in Montreal as we interviewed HMI’s first ever Canadian cohort, and Philly cheesesteaks while interviewing prospective couples in Philadelphia.
But by far the longest trip I took this month (and for all of 2017) was our family heritage trip, where we spent nearly three weeks exploring Ireland — as well as England, Scotland, and France — in honor of my mother’s Irish ancestry.
While we guzzled plenty of local drinks from Guinness to Scotch whisky, we also had some unexpectedly moving and powerful experiences. I plan to write about them in due time, especially regarding a particularly emotional moment we had in Belfast. I’m taking my time on writing that post because I want to get it right, but know that it’s coming in 2018.
The day after flying home from London, we were lucky enough to meet Anna and Ben of Two Nerds Travel and sip on fancy cocktails at Death & Co. Check out their blog — we can’t wait to visit them in Minneapolis one day!
June was the most important month for me this year in terms of blogging. I was accepted into BlogHouse, a prestigious three-day and night opportunity to live, work, and learn in a small group environment with both experienced and novice travel bloggers.
BlogHouse 2017 took place in Indianapolis, a place I’d always secretly wanted to visit (read why here). I met so many talented writers that I’m still in touch with to this day while falling head over heels for Indianapolis and Johnson County, Indiana. Special shout outs to Lisa for putting together a successful workshop, and to Ken, the Director of Tourism for Festival Country Indiana (formerly Journey Johnson County), for hosting me on a wonderful tour of Johnson County’s burgeoning beer scene alongside other area highlights.
July was abuzz with celebrations for friends old and new alike. My good friend Miss Scarlet got married in Brooklyn; I attended another friend’s bachelorette party in Philadelphia; and I met Lia and Jeremy of Practical Wanderlust in person (FOR REALZ!) after months of not-so-sneakily reading each other’s blogs.
Mr. Five O’Clock joined me in Washington, D.C. for an early wedding anniversary celebration at BarMini, which is currently my favorite cocktail bar of all time. A surprise getaway to Hudson Valley during the last weekend of July was the perfect ending to a more local, relaxing month.
July Bar Highlights: Lots of bars in Washington, D.C., including BarMini! See my related post on where to drink in D.C. here.
In August, I hopped over to Boston briefly to conduct HMI interviews before hosting Sir Campsalot for a four-day visit. This was our last chance to see him before he moved from California to Canada (!!) to start graduate school. From converting him into a Shake Shack fan to scoring $30 rush tickets to “The Play That Goes Wrong,” we enjoyed giving him a local’s glimpse into New York City.
I also started taking Japanese language lessons at Fluent City in August. This was a godsend for our trip to Japan, because it made me much more confident that I could navigate around the country.
In September, Mr. Five O’Clock and I flew to Denver for a friend’s wedding and squeezed in time at one craft beer joint in Golden, Colorado. Other than that, however, we stayed fairly local. My friend Erin of 10,000 Miles Behind Me (who I met at BlogHouse) took me on an epic tour of Jersey City’s drinks scene this month, which I can’t wait to share with you!
I finally started getting more into yoga this month, trying out different studios and teachers until I found my perfect fit. Namaste!
October = JAPAN TIME! Mr. Five O’Clock and I spent two weeks in this incredible country, putting our language skills to the ultimate test and devouring more ramen than should be humanly possible. While we have so much more to write about our time there, you can get a taste by reading about things that surprised us in Japan and our visit to New York Bar in Tokyo.
November 2017 will henceforth be known as the time I became completely OBSESSED with ramen. No joke. I even dined at Ivan Ramen for my 32nd birthday (currently my favorite ramen joint in New York City).
Perhaps because I felt guilty about eating all of that ramen (NOT), I was convinced to sign up for a SoulCycle class. Spoiler alert: I survived the spin class and didn’t spontaneously combust, like I had anticipated. I may return… although it’s much more likely you’ll see me in a yoga class where I don’t look like a shell of a human being at the end of the hour.
Finally, we headed to Philadelphia for Thanksgiving to visit Rachel and family. We admired the beauty and insanity of Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, one of my favorite spots in the city, and gobbled up some delicious home cookin’.
November Bar Highlights: Karasu in Brooklyn
In December, it was back to California to visit family and friends for the holidays. I finally met my blogger friend Tim of Annual Adventure in person at The Varnish, a classy craft cocktail joint, in Los Angeles.
From there, it was a flurry of California cities and people: touring the “Beerology” exhibit at the Museum of Man with Agent M in San Diego; brunching with Red Rose in LA; Christmas with Mr. Five O’Clock in Sunnyvale; and recharging in Monterey and Pacific Grove with family. We ended 2017 by visiting the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco and then spending New Year’s Eve in Sacramento with Catwoman and Agent M — a perfect finish to a whirlwind year. Whew!
December Bar Highlights: The Varnish in Los Angeles
2018: Looking at the Year Ahead
Nothing is completely set in stone yet, but here are my tentative travel plans for the first half of 2018:
- Wine tasting in the freezing cold at Canada’s Niagara Icewine Festival in late January 2018.
- Understanding what hygge actually is and tasting Carlsberg beer in Copenhagen with fellow BlogHouser Brianne of A Traveling Life in late February 2018.
- Mexico City for a blogger retreat in March 2018. Not only is it the safest large city in North America, its culinary scene is a force to be reckoned with — and there surely will be plenty of tequila and mezcal!
- Devouring poutine and meeting inspirational bloggers at the Women in Travel Summit (WITS) in Quebec City in May 2018.
Other travel ideas kicking around in my head for 2018 include Martinique, Calgary, Chile, Morocco, and Memphis, Tennessee. Hmm, maybe 2018 will be the year of visiting places that start with the letters with “M” and “C”?
When I asked you guys on Twitter where I should go in 2018, you clearly favored a certain South American country:
— It’sFiveO’ClockHere (@itsfivehere) November 27, 2017
Then again, who knows what this upcoming year will bring! Maybe more time in NYC — and continuing those yoga and SoulCycle classes (who am I kidding, spin classes scare the sh*t out of me) — is just what the doctor ordered.
2017 Goals: Report Card
Crunch time: How did I do with my #2017goals?
- More consistent blog posts: Yes and no. I originally aimed for 1-2 posts per week. At times, this was easy, but during other months (particularly May and October), it was difficult to churn out blog posts when I was on the road. I’ve learned to keep some posts on the back burner for when I’m away so that you’ll still have something to read (awww, you miss me, right guys?).
- Improve my photography skills: Yes! But this will be ongoing. I was able to take the bulk of this year’s photos on my own, though Mr. Five O’Clock made several excellent contributions too. We’ve reached a point where we know each other’s photography strengths and challenges, plus which cameras and lenses to use for each event or place we visit.
- Understand what the hell Pinterest is and why it’s so important: YES! Thank God. I credit Lia of Practical Wanderlust here; she served as my Pinterest spirit guide in early 2017, helping me to navigate through the mysterious labyrinth of pins, Canva, and group boards. Check out her website for Pinterest consultation services!
- Develop professionally by attending conferences or workshops: Yes! I attended BlogHouse Indianapolis in June 2017.
- Treat this blog like a start up: Yes and no. I’m still find a balance between work and play.
- Understand what the @#$! cynar, lillet blanc, and session IPAs are: Not yet! But that’s OK — it just means that there’s more for me to learn about in 2018.
Here are some of my blog-related goals for this year:
- More consistent blog posts. Specifically, I want to post on the same day of the week each week so you know when to look forward to my next post.
- Master Lightroom. Now that I’ve gained more confidence in taking photos, the next step is to improve my skills in post-production. I’ve started an online tutorial to understand how to edit photos in Lightroom, and I can’t wait to put my new knowledge to the test.
- Create a Travel & Drinks Resources page. So you can have the same awesome home bar gear that we have in Brooklyn, of course!
- Develop professionally by attending at least one conference or workshop. I’ve got WITS on the books. Maybe I’ll be able to attend my first TBEX this year, too — either in the Finger Lakes in New York or in the Czech Republic.
- Delve deeper into the freelance writing world. Many of you know that I contribute regularly to Thirsty Swagman (who happen to run some kick-ass tours). But in 2018, I plan to expand my writing portfolio. First up: pitching Roads & Kingdoms.
- Truly, honestly, unapologetically focus on my health. Just because I’m like Marion in Raiders of the Lost Ark and can drink you under the table doesn’t mean I should. The time has come, the walrus said, to actually try and be healthy. My metabolism ain’t what it used to be. Plus, those tasty craft cocktails? Yeah, they’re taking up permanent residence on my hips and arms. Not so cool.
- Attend a yoga retreat. I’ve found solace and comfort in yoga over the past few months, and I want to take my practice to the next level. Retreat suggestions welcome!
What are your goals for 2018? Where will you be traveling this year? Sound off in the comments below!
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