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Julie - "Girl on the Move"

Sequoia National Park: A Trip in Photos

I feel quite fortunate to live in a state that has nine National Parks, the most of any state! And I only live a couple hours from some of them so Sequoia National Park is the perfect weekend getaway for me. If I’m feeling really ambitious I can actually squeeze in a day trip but it’s necessary stay rather than driving home after hiking. Hopefully some of these pictures will inspire you to plan your own trip to Sequoia. Or to the National Park closest to you.

As with most of my posts, some links may be affiliate links. This means at no additional cost to you, I may make a small commission on anything you buy.

Sequoia National Park: The History

President Benjamin Harrison signed legislation on September 25, 1890 to create Sequoia, making it just the second US national park. He made this decision because he was trying to protect the trees from the logging industry. This reasoning made Sequoia a bit different from Yellowstone, the first national park, as it became a park with the purpose of protecting a particular living organism. This park is also home to the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states, Mt. Whitney, and more than 800 miles of trails.

I haven’t hiked all those trails so this is just a glimpse of the natural beauty found in Sequoia. Until you’re standing next to these trees, it’s difficult to fully grasp just how tall they are. Standing next to one of the trees I like quite small!! The General Sherman Tree is 275 feet tall and stands at the north end of Giant Forest.

If you’re planning your own trip to Sequoia National Park I highly recommend this Lonely Planet guide. In fact I’d recommend a Lonely Planet guide for almost any trip you take.

You can also check out my visit to Arches National Park in Utah.

California Missions: A California Challenge

Stretching more than 600 miles from San Diego, California up to Sonoma, California (just north of San Francisco), the Royal Road is an iconic California road trip. Known in Spanish as El Camino Real, this road connects all 21 of the California missions. Founded in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s it provided a way to connect the missions. Visiting all 21 of the California missions is perfect for history buffs, 4th grade Californian students, or anyone wanting to learn more about the history of California.

As with most of my posts, some links may be affiliate links. This means at no additional cost to you, I may make a small commission on anything you buy through the links.

In 2018 I decided that I wanted to do more travel in my home state of California. And so the California Challenges were born. In 2018 I decided to visit all 21 of the California missions. I headed south to San Diego and as far north as Sonoma to cross all 21 off my list. So let’s hit the road and go visiting the California missions. If you want a sneak peek without reading the whole post, you can see the highlights on my Instagram story.

San Diego De Alcala

Located in San Diego this became the first mission when it opened on July 16, 1769. The gardens are beautiful and the grounds are peaceful. Since this was the first mission you are able to learn more about the origins of the missions while visiting San Diego De Alcala.

San Luis Rey De Francia

Mission San Luis Rey De Francia was founded on June 13, 1798 as the 18th mission. Named after King Louis IX of France, this remains an active parish. Not only can the church and cemetery be explored but also the grounds beyond the church to see what life would have been like in the early 1800’s.

San Juan Capistrano

This mission is located just a bit north of the last one, in San Juan Capistrano. It was the 7th mission and it was founded on November 1, 1776. (History lovers will appreciate the timing as it provides context for what was happening several thousand miles away when the Declaration of Independence was being signed) This mission is considered the birth place of Orange County and is known as The Jewel of the Missions. This was the largest structure built by the Spanish during their 65 years in the west and offers many interactive exhibits today.

San Gabriel Arcangel

Home of the first orange and tangerine trees in California, the San Gabriel Arcangel mission was founded on September 8, 1771. This makes it the 4th mission and was the first to produce wine grapes in Southern California.

San Fernando Rey De Espana

Founded in 1797, San Fernando Rey De Espana is located in the Mission Hills community of Los Angeles. It was the 17th mission and is the final resting place of Bob Hope.

San Buenaventura

Located in downtown Ventura San Buenaventura was founded on March 31, 1782 making it the 9th mission. It is not a very big mission, but it has an absolutely gorgeous courtyard.  This was the last mission founded during Fray Serra’s lifetime.

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Mission Santa Barbara

Mission Santa Barbara is said to be founded on December 16, 1786 as the 10th mission. However this is the only mission that has potentially two founding dates because Father Serra died before being able to confirm the founding date. This is also the only mission with twin bell towers.

Mission Santa Ines

I spent 24 hours in Solvang when I visited the mission, which was founded on September 15, 1804. It was the 19th mission and is located within walking distance of downtown Solvang.

La Purisima Concepcion

La Purisima is probably the most well visited of the missions as it is incredibly visitor friendly. The mission was founded on December 8, 1787 and is the 11th mission. There are quite a few interactive exhibits available at the mission and you can see various animals and workshops in action.

San Luis Obispo de Tolosa

Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa was the 5th of the missions and founded on September 1, 1772. It is worth visiting if you would like to see all 21 of the missions, but due to its location in downtown San Luis Obispo there is less to see than many of the other missions.

Mission San Miguel Arcangel

San Miguel Arcangel was founded on July 25, 1797 as the 16th mission. After being closed for nearly three decades in the mid-1800’s it was reopened in 1878. Today the mission is known for it its well preserved murals.

Mission San Antonio de Padua

Most of the missions are located along Highway 101 but this one will take you off the beaten path…and on to a military base. This was the 3rd mission and was founded on July 14, 1771. It is located in Jolon and be warned that because of its location, if you go in the summer it will likely be quite hot! You are able to book overnight stays if you would like to experience more of what mission life was like in the late 1700’s/early 1800’s.

Nuestra Senora de la Soledad

In its present-day surroundings Nuestra Senora de la Soledad gives you one of the best visuals of what the missions would have been liked when they were founded. It is out in the middle of rolling vineyards so you get an idea of what it would have been like when it was founded on October 9, 1791 as the 13th mission.

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San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo

Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo is located in Carmel and was just the 2nd mission, founded on June 3, 1770. This was said to be Father Serra’s favorite mission and it is where he passed away.

San Juan Bautista

Mission San Juan Bautista was the 15th mission and has been serving daily mass since June 24, 1797. This mission is uniquely positioned right on the San Andreas fault so it is quite a feat that this mission has never been abandoned.

Mission Santa Cruz

In its present day form there is a church located where Mission Santa Cruz was founded on September 28, 1791 as the 12th mission. Across the street there is a historical site where some of the mission activities would have taken place but very little is left of the original mission.

Santa Clara de Asis

Of all the missions I had the most difficult time finding this one because it is located on the campus of Santa Clara University. So it’s not as easy to plug into Google Maps. The mission was founded on January 12, 1777 as the 8th mission.

Mission San Jose

Mission San Jose is located in present-day Fremont and was the 14th of the missions, founded on June 11, 1797. It became known as the “Queen of the Missions.”

San Francisco de Asis

San Francisco de Asis was founded on June 29,1776 as the 6th mission. Located in the heart of San Francisco none of the surrounding land remains, but it is still a gorgeous church.

San Rafael Arcangel

Mission San Rafael was founded for different reasons than many of the other missions. Located further inland from San Francisco it was founded on December 14, 1817 as the 20th mission. Since it was located further inland it had much less fog and so was founded to be a place of medical respite.

San Francisco Solano

San Francisco Solano is located in Sonoma and is the furthest north of all the missions. The mission was founded on July 4, 1823 making it the last of the missions to be founded.

You can find more suggestions of things to do in California HERE. Or head here to see more of my California Challenges.

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Palm Springs Botanical Garden: A Secret Treasure

Palm Springs brings to mind mid-century modern architecture and the desert. So it’s only fitting to include a visit to a Palm Springs Botanical Garden. This is your chance to explore the wide variety of cacti and plants that call the desert home. You might think that one cactus is about the same as next but with about 2,000 different varieties of cacti around the world, Palm Springs is home to quite a variety.

As with most of my posts, some links may be affiliate links. This means at no additional cost to you, I may make a small commission on anything you buy.

Palm Springs Botanical Garden

Established more than 80 years ago, Moorten Botanical Garden, is family owned and specializes in cacti and other desert plants. The botanical garden is also home to the world’s first cactarium. Admission is just $5.00 making this an affordable way to spend a morning or afternoon in Palm Springs. It is worth noting that the winter and summer hours are quite different. During the summer temperatures often climb into the triple-digits so during this time Moorten’s is only open in the mornings.

As you enter the garden there is a stone with the following inscription…

Take your time like a turtle…and you will see more.

I would encourage you to take time to enjoy these photos from this stunning botanical garden, head over to their site to see even more, and schedule a visit on your next trip to Palm Springs.

If you are planning a trip to Southern California be sure to check out these other things to do including a day trip to Ventura, the piers of Orange County, San Jacinto Valley and more. Also be sure to take some time in Palm Springs to check out all of the unique front doors!

Zaanse Schans & More Dutch Villages

There are a few things that come to mind when I think of Amsterdam and The Netherlands…windmills, cheese, canals and tulips. The Zaanse Schans windmills are some of the most well known, so when it’s time to plan your trip you will want to be sure to include those on your tour. Add in cheese, canals and tulips and you will have a truly remarkable visit.

As with most of my posts, some links may be affiliate links. This means at no additional cost to you, I may make a small commission on anything you buy.

Visiting the windmills at Zaanse Schans and the surrounding Dutch villages is an excellent day trip from Amsterdam. Hop On Hop Off Holland provided a great tour because they take care of the logistics so you can focus on the exploring! To buy tickets and board the bus you can take the free ferry from Amsterdam Central Station. Then it is just a short walk (about five minutes) to This Is Holland where you can first purchase tickets and the board the bus.

Zaanse Schans

If you want to see windmills, this is the stop for you! You can explore the windmills and the surrounding quaint village. My recommendation is to hop on the first tour of the day so you can get to Zaanse Schans before the crowds. I would also highly recommend taking the boat tour to see unobstructed views of the windmills. The boat tour has a stop along the way which allows you to hop off and see how an active windmill operates. Be sure to leave time to stroll through the shops before heading back to the Hop On Hop Off bus. Bonus tip: The Hop On Hop Off bus stop at Zaanse Schans is right in front of a chocolate shop. Be sure to pop into Smells Like Chocolate for a delicious treat.

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Edam

The next stop is Edam where you will be able to experience the famous Edam cheese. You can taste this Dutch treat and explore 18th-century cheese warehouses. During the Middle Ages these cheese markets were the heart of the city and it is worth seeing how where they brought their cheese to be weighed, sold and exported. Now there are several stores in the village where you can taste, and buy, quite a variety of cheeses including cheese in nearly all the colors of the rainbow.

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Volendam

Located on Lake IJsselmeer, Volendam this fishing village is the perfect place to have fresh fish and walk alongside the harbor. The Hop On Hop Off bus stop is a short walk away from the harbor but I would first recommend a stop at the Volendam Museum. Here you can explore the rich history of Volendam and learn more about the local culture. Then you can venture down to the harbor to explore this seaside town. Enjoy a snack while you stroll along the water, stop in the local shops and see the traditional costumes of Volendam.

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Monnickendam

Monnickendam is located on Lake Markermeer and if you are looking for an old Dutch city, this is a stop you will love. Granted city charter in 1355, only one building remains from this time. As it is a small village you can walk through the town and experience the history and culture.

Taking a tour on the Hop On Hop Off is an excellent way to explore Zaanse Schans and the surrounding Dutch villages. Book a tour and let them handle all the transportation so you can soak up the history and culture of the Netherlands.

If you’re looking for more ideas of what to do in Amsterdam, I’d recommend this Bike Tour of the countryside.

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Recommended Reading: My 5-Star List

One of the questions my friends and family ask me the most often, is what is on my recommended reading list. I love sharing my love of books with others and my book ratings system reflects this passion. I keep track of every single book I read on Goodreads (A habit I highly recommend) and have created a system for how I give out stars.

A five-star book is a book I just want to talk about with everyone. If I read this book first on my Kindle I have absolutely bought a copy for my home library and I want to share this book with others. A four-star book is a book I really enjoyed and will talk about with anyone who likes this genre of book. I think it’s a really good book but I don’t recommend it to everyone. A three-star book is an average book that I may or may not remember in six months. A two-star book is a book that I didn’t like but I kind of keep my thoughts to myself. A one-star book is a book I don’t like and I actively tell others not to read this book.

So, here’s a look at some of my five-star books. Historical fiction usually rates higher for me and almost anything set in the UK gets an extra star because I love being transported there while I’m reading. You can head to my Goodreads page to see more of what I’ve been reading.

As with most of my posts, some links may be affiliate links. This means at no additional cost to you, I may make a small commission on anything you buy.

Recommended Reading: Fiction

After I Do – Many books wrap up with some version of living happily ever after. But what happens after that? Taylor Jenkins Reid (one of my favorite authors) writes about what happens after you say I do.

Beartown – Set in Sweden Fredik Bachman (who I’d also highly recommend as an author) explores what a town is willing to do to reach their big dreams. The sequel, Us Against You, is also excellent.

Daisy Jones & The Six The attention to detail in this book is almost unrivaled. While a complete work of fiction about a band in the 70’s, it feels so real that I stopped reading no less than five times to google the band. Only to be reminded that they were in fact imagined by Taylor Jenkins Reid (her books consistently land with 4 or 5 stars for me).

One True Loves – The book opens with, “I was sitting at dinner with my fiancee and my family when my husband called.” From that moment I was hooked. Another homerun from Taylor Jenkins Reid.

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend – As a lover of books, I love books about books. Books set in bookshops or about the love of books usually rank a bit higher than other books for me. And this was no exception.

British Fiction

If you want to transport yourself over to the United Kingdom, here is my recommended reading for a jaunt over to Great Britain. Brew a cup of tea and curl up while you read.

The Bookshop on the Corner Nina is a literary matchmaker and that sounds like an absolutely lovely job. Sometimes I dream of starting a new life that involves being a book seller. And getting to do it in Scotland wouldn’t be too bad. Jenny Colgan is one of my go-to authors when it comes to needing to be virtually transported to the UK.

The Bookshop on the Shore – Another Jenny Colgan delight. By the time I finished I was ready to pack all of my bags and move to Scotland. This book is loosely tied to The Bookshop on the Corner but doesn’t need to be read for this one to make sense. A third book will be coming out in June 2020.

True Love at the Lonely Hearts Bookshop Give me a book set in London and I’m pretty happy. Make that book about a bookshop and I’m even happier. Add in a main character I relate to deeply and I’ll probably give the book five-stars.

Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe Another favorite from Jenny Colgan (confession: I own at least 10 of her books). A fun book that inspired me to think about trying new things in my life. And it’s set in London which I always enjoy.

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Recommended Reading: Historical Fiction

Lost Roses – Set during World War I and based on a real-life heroine this was an excellent book. Martha Hall Kelly is quickly becoming a favorite author and I recommend reading this and her first book, Lilac Girls.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz – My favorite genre of historical fiction is World War II. Every time I start a book I can’t imagine learning about even more of the horrors during this this time period. And then I do. This is a powerful story, especially when you realize it’s based on someone’s life, and not just a fictional account.

No Woman’s Land: A Holocaust Novel – While I read many WWII books I don’t read many books set on the Eastern front of Germany or the Pacific Theater. So this was an excellent opportunity to learn about a different part of the war. I enjoyed this book so much I emailed the author afterwards. This is also another story based on someone’s life, and not just a fictional account.

The Nightingale Two sisters who each fought in their own way against the Nazis during WWII. While this book is a bit different from Kristin Hannah’s other books, it is definitely worth a read.

When We Left Cuba – One of my favorite quotes from this Cold War era book, “Do necessity and desperation change our moral fabric so much that we no longer recognize ourselves?” As I mentioned earlier, most of my historical fiction is WWII so it was a good change of pace for m.

Recommended Reading: Thrillers

The Kind Worth Killing Are any people the kind worth killing? I love thrillers with unexpected twist, and this one definitely provided twists!

The Last Mrs. Parrish – Oh. My. Word. I stayed up late. I woke up early. I could not put this book down and there were several jaw dropping moments. A thriller with some creepy twists!

Do you have any suggestions of books I should read? Please leave them in the comments below so we can all add to our TBR lists!

And if you want to see how reading has inspired my travels, check out this post on a trip to Germany.

See the Countryside with a Bike Tour of Amsterdam

Cycling through the city and countryside on a bike tour of Amsterdam was one of the highlights of my trip to the Netherlands. As we cycled along canals and windmills I simply absorbed all the things to see in Amsterdam.

As with most of my posts, some links may be affiliate links. This means at no additional cost to you, I may make a small commission on anything you buy.

Taking recommendations from a few friends who had taken bike tours in Amsterdam, I decided to go with Mike’s Bike Tours. And I did not regret this decision! They had several different tour options for you to consider while you are in Amsterdam. As there are so many bikes in Amsterdam, biking is not for the faint of heart. So, I went with the Countryside tour because I just wasn’t sure I was ready to brave the chaos. The staff was incredibly helpful and our guide was excellent.

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Bike Tour of Amsterdam: The Tour

The tour begins at Mike’s Bike Tour shop, which is quite centrally located in Amsterdam. After a quick briefing on how to bike as a group we set off on our tour. There are important etiquette guidelines to follow as you bike so be sure to pay attention to the briefing. The first part of the tour is in the city but we fairly quickly reached more open paths.

Heading out to the countryside along the Amstel River provided excellent scenery as we biked! We saw people fishing, other bicyclists, and even a few windmills along the way. Our turnaround point was a cheese farm/clog factory where we stopped for a short tour. We were treated to a demonstration of how clogs (wooden shoes) are made, some tasty Gouda cheese samples and the opportunity to do some shopping. As a bonus, you’ll get to meet these guys! Then you’ll begin the return trip back to the city.

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Bike Tour of Amsterdam: The Details

Since the tour is about 40 km, or 25 miles, a decent level of fitness is recommended. I would also highly recommend bringing snacks and water along for your bike ride. I didn’t bring enough water and was a bit thirsty! While usually I like to book tours like this ahead of time, because of the weather in Amsterdam I would suggest booking once you can see a weather forecast. I had a gorgeous sunny day for my tour, but that is not always the case! As you are shopping remember that if you are traveling back to the United States you are permitted to bring back a wheel of cheese, provided it has not been opened!

If you’re looking for bike tours in other cities on your European adventure, I’d highly recommend this one in Salzburg. You’ll sing along as you discover the hills are alive with the sound of music.

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