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Summertime

I'm typically one to stand firmly in the FALLTHETHINGS corner - brisk mornings, cozy sweaters, pumpkin muffins, you know the drill, I'm sure. Even the earlier evenings - I totally dig holing deeper into the couch, PJ's on and a hearty meal simmering away on the stove. In fact, I've always been a bit.... skeptical... of summer and, more specifically, people who love summer. What do you mean summer's the best - are you not affected by sweat, intense heat rashes, and boring days stuck at home over break?

Well. Now that we're a few weeks out of Summer 2018, consider me officially converted. It's not that I'm not giddily anticipating candles and boots and Crockpot meals (I most certainly am!), it's that this summer was absolutely incredible and I'm in denial that we're waving off the 9pm sunsets and the light, the light, the beautiful light! This is 100% a self-indulgent post, but allow me to ramble on about a few of the absolute highlights...
:: TEN DAYS IN CROATIA & SLOVENIA

I mean, need I say more?

The beginning of summer was a whirlwind - we had friends in town, a concert, Bay to Breakers (San Francisco's merriest event of the year) - and then my best friend and I were off to Europe for a week and a half. This trip in itself checked off several summer bucket list items: a road trip with unforeseen twists and turns, afternoons laying out on the rocks by the water, gelato multiple times a day, jacket-less evenings. Take me back!
:: DELIGHTFUL EVENINGS

Whether it was a bonfire in Santa Cruz with my best friends (parkas on, of course, because Northern California summer nights are not so summery), pizza and rose enjoyed on the roof, walking the mile home from work pausing every few minutes to admire the rosy skies, happy hours al fresco, watching in disbelief as the last of the sun still lingered on at 10pm beyond the Space Needle in Seattle, "family dinners" on Sunday nights at our favorite Japanese curry spot, or simply dancing and singing along to musicals in the kitchen with my roommates every night - the evenings have been so so so precious.
:: EXPLORING SAN FRANCISCO

Oh, this beloved city of mine.

San Francisco was so kind to us this summer, keeping the chillier days at a minimum and blessing us with sunshine, mild park-friendly temperatures. 

We spent so much of this summer - especially on weekends - discovering new nooks and crannies, but also loving on our favorite corners. There's one night in particular that I'm so fond of (you'll find a snap from the night two pictures down). We ventured out to a favorite jazz bar; the act of the evening was a motley crew of musicians and belly dancers and belly dancing musicians. It was a blast listening to them for a few hours, but then at 2am as they were preparing to close the bar, the band started playing I'm a Survivor, followed by Those Were The Days. A couple dozen strangers all squeezed onto the tiny stage and danced the last of the night away, sweaty and out of breath and deliriously happy. It's hands down one of my favorite San Francisco memories.
:: MUSIC!

The soundtrack to this summer is the loveliest, and I was so lucky to have seen a handful of acts live - Glass Animals, Outside Lands performers, Florence & the Machine (again) in Portland, jazz bars, favorite playlists on repeat during long drives.  
:: WEST COAST TRAVEL

I saw A LOT of 4am alarms these past few months, and know SFO at 5am like the back of hand. I made frequent work trips to our LA office, spent a handful of the most wonderful weekends in Seattle with my family, and then seriously had the most fun ever in Portland on a mini-vacay to cap off the summer. West Coast, Best Coast indeed.
:: AND ALL WITH THE BEST COMPANY

... and all of this wouldn't have been even a fraction as crazy-wonderful without the best people along for the ride. I learned so much from and created cherished memories with new friends, re-connected with a handful of old friends over nostalgia-laced stories and glasses of wine (and in some cases, something stronger), loved on my little nephew and watched him turn ONE, and came home every day to a noisy apartment with the most loving roommates. 
It's been one for the books, let's leave it at that.

The Prettiest Day In The Prettiest Place | Perast, Montenegro

So!

It's time!

I present to you... the final post from our 2016 Balkan Extravaganza. Yes, it took me two whole years to finish recapping the magical, wonderful, unbelievable two weeks that my three best friends and I spent in the region. Clearly I'm on Team Slow and Steady, but at last we've crossed the finish line.

Our final day together took place in Kotor, and starred a leisurely breakfast, cappuccinos and ice cream in Old Town, a lazy afternoon nap, and a fancy dinner at Restaurant Galion celebrating six years of friendship. A regular day in our world, just you know... halfway across the world. We were absolutely exhausted after two weeks of traveling, and a restful last day was much appreciated.

But! On our penultimate day, we expended the last of our energy on one more adventure.

The destination? Perast, a small town along the Bay of Kotor, about a 20 minute trek from Old Town Kotor by bus (and also allegedly where Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones own a vacation home).
Of course, we couldn't go a day without stopping by our newfound favorite eatery: sandwiches from Tanjga. Because we're not always gluttons, we ordered two sandwiches to share between the four of us... only to be sternly reprimanded. No sharing... you're in the Balkans, he insisted. Noted: sharing is for wimps.

One each, then!

And so we started the day by easily polishing off four gigantic sandwiches the size of our heads. Almost too easily.
What was expected to be a 5 minute wait turned into a 50 minute wait at the bus station because the Kotor to Perast bus broke down on its way to pick us up. We whiled away the wait by finding stray kittens to feed and play with until the replacement "bus" (a glorified mini-van) arrived.
Before long, we came upon our second hurdle:

the fact that the bus literally dropped us off in the middle of a highway.

Luckily, a couple of other travelers were on the same bus and lead the way to Perast - a short walk down from the "bus stop." Our first peek at Perast stopped us in our tracks: the downward climb boasted views of not only familiar terracotta roofs against the glittering bay, but also the two picturesque islands (Our Lady of the Rocks and St. George - man-made and natural, respectively) that Perast is known for, and that we'd only so far admired in photographs. 
Without having done much research or needing to follow a set itinerary, the natural thing to do seemed to be to head in whichever direction felt the most enticing. The promenade alongside the water was particularly lovely, so we opted for a slow stroll, taking in the picturesque isles and sleepy town (it's often called the quietest town in the Bay!).

Cluttered Calendar, Cluttered Mind

And just like that, it's June 12th.

Several times this year, I've started writing a new blog post with some variation of "Life Update" as the title. I'll usually begin with something along the lines of "time sure flies, doesn't it," then list several 'newsworthy-in-the-world-of-Caroline’ bullet points, and then proceed to leave the tab open until one day I click back to add more only to realize a whole month has passed. And then, I start a new draft and the cycle repeats itself.

This is all to say: one meal, project, story, weekend, month at a time - time sure flies, doesn't it? 

So, a “life update!” Let’s start with this… Clutter has been the operating word around these parts recently: my mind is in a million places at once, my browser tabs/inbox/calendar are out of control, and my room/apartment… well, I keep on tripping over my yet-to-be-unpacked suitcase and the pile of “emergency laundry” has become more a mountain, really.
That’s an update! I got back from vacation a week ago: a blissful ten days spent in Slovenia and Croatia with my best friend. I walked into work last Monday miffed that I was no longer tanning on the rocks next to the Adriatic Sea, but also beaming because I had the most wonderful encounter with one of my favorite writers and because I had a whole day to talk my coworkers’ ears off about my trip. A coworker even pinged me to tell me he’d never seen me so happy or relaxed. The vacay glow, we’re calling it. I had no plans on the calendar and not a worry on my mind… 

*Flash forward to 24 hours later*

Not only did I now have plans for every night of last week, but also somehow I was booked for all of THIS week too, plus all the weekends until mid-July, as well as a last minute trip to LA for work (which I left for at 5am today), a weekend in Seattle, a music festival in August, a musical in DECEMBER. How does this even happen?! (Question asked by both my sanity and the fraud detection on my credit card.) 

This “scheduling spiral” did something funky to my brain - it was almost like the more that fell on the calendar, the more I had to keep adding to it. There was an urgency to be in motion, to be doing and having fun. Evenings devoid of drinks or a movie or a date or seeing friends from out of town just seemed wasted, a missed opportunity, especially in these light-filled summer nights. My theory is that the prospect of going through the motions of my regular routine with no trip to count down to induced a panic, so I scheduled numerous exciting micro-events to compensate.

Which is CRAZY you guys because until now, I’ve savored the sloth moments most of all: home alone, in my sweatpants on the couch catching up on SVU while eating mac and cheese straight from the pot. That was my happiest place of all.
To be honest, this began long before the vacation. The trip followed an insanely packed - but SUCH A FUN - May (concerts and friends in town and Bay to Breakers - see above! - and work travel) which followed an insanely packed April (more work travel and weekends out of town and ahem, my birthday) which followed an insanely packed March, and you see now where this is going. 

It’s also compounded by the fact that I live with my best friends. When this madness is happening in their lives too (and it is), it all accumulates until between her date, her work conference, her new job, her new relationship, her friend visiting, we’ve grocery-shopped a grand total of three times in 2018 because two of us are going to busy three nights this week so what’s the point and next week I’ll be out of town and her work schedule is insane so that’s a no too, and here we are: pantry bare, filling each other in on our days five minutes before bedtime in the hallway, all struggling to stay awake for one more update. 

2018 has been a year of doing all the things !!!! and saying yes. And while it has made for a wonderfully fun year with all sorts of beautiful memories, there’ve also been several lowlights too. Heightened anxiety, for example, to a degree I’ve never experienced before. Several of my closest coworkers moving on to new opportunities, which is amazing of course but I MISS THEM! And of course, the aforementioned busy-ness leaving me feeling totally burnt out and in need of major quality time with Olivia Benson and Annie’s White Cheddar Shells, not to mention my tribe. I haven’t been the best daughter or sister (or aunt!) or friend, and it’s time to take a step back from the nonstop nature of it all and shift some priorities around.
So! Clutter, do you see now? I wrote this post 100% to chat with you about Europe and Los Angeles and beach days (next post, maybe? Or have you had enough of me?), but then my fingers had a mind of their own, and I guess this is what they really wanted to write. Writing this post has already helped tremendously though - so much of how I make sense of the world and my own mind has always been through typing out all the jumbled thoughts in my brain, and watching them materialize in somewhat coherent threads. So thank you for listening - checking in here always feels like grabbing coffee with an old friend! 

Now, I want to hear about you. Drop a note in the comments, or email me - how has 2018 treated you? Are you ever plagued by the need to always be in motion? How do you pause?

Kotor, Montenegro's Most Breathtaking Views

...and I do mean breathtaking in two very literal ways.

But first, let's back it up a minute and talk about making our way to Kotor in the first place. Short story: it was hell. Long story: we didn't buy bus tickets from Dubrovnik to Kotor in advance, and the bus to the bus station was delayed, and then the station didn't accept credit cards, and it was SO crowded and overwhelming, and so so hot, and this girl was not a happy camper.

UNTIL. This:
I know I keep on saying this about roadtrips in the Balkans, but you guys, I think this takes the trophy for Most Stunning Drive Ever.

It took a couple of hours longer than usual to make it through the border, but once we reached the Bay of Kotor... well, I don't have any words. I was in a state of shock, paralyzed by idyllic snapshots like the one above. Through all of the twists and turns along the bay, we had a front row seat to mountain peaks rising dramatically in the perimeter, hugging the edges of the bluish-green waters. 

This drive was bookended by us being hot MESSES, for sure - see: the situation above first of all. Second of all, there's only one road into the center of Kotor, so we were stuck in one-lane traffic for the last hour. Then, we were all hungry, tired, and pissed at each other (traveling! with! friends! so! fun!!!!) and seething at the injustice of it all as we dragged our suitcases to our Airbnb, red-faced and sweaty. Like a mirage, our host Gordana emerged in sky-high wedges, a crop top, with the prettiest blonde hair, all smiles and warm greetings. We were quite the juxtaposition, I'll tell ya!
That night, the plan was to wander over to Old Town - only a 5 minute walk away - and hit up the top-rated restaurant on TripAdvisor, then take it easy at the apartment.

Except that we didn't realize that the restaurant was closed for good. We walked around in circles for much too long, getting hangrier and hangrier by the minute. Finally, calling it as a loss, we sat down at the first restaurant we saw along the water and ordered the first things we saw on the menu. I'm not even exaggerating right now - the waiter couldn't even put down the appetizer before we inhaled it. He literally just picked up the plate again and took it away. That's also the closest I've ever come to vomiting from over-eating, I shoveled down my entire plate of pasta so fast that I almost choked.
That is all to say - even in the most beautiful of circumstances while traveling, you'll still hit  plenty of roadblocks. But I'll take it!

The next day was so much lovelier.

Alarms rang extra early, and we headed over to Old Town once again.
Old Town Kotor is very similar to Old Town Dubrovnik - a little less polished, a little smaller, a little sleepier, but no less enchanting. We ordered takeaway coffees from a corner store, and then...

it was time to hike!