BAR HARBOR, MAINE

Coastal Maine has got to be the dreariest place I’ve ever vacationed, but also one of the most beautiful. April, we’d hoped, would replace “too cold” with “somewhat sunny and lively.” We were mistaken, but the sharp edges of the New England coast were soft and welcoming to us, rock hoppers that we are.

Anna and I met up at the airport in Charlotte for the long weekend excursion, landing in Maine before driving our rental to Bar Harbor for the weekend. We rented a little sedan from Turo, and if you’re not into renting from total strangers instead of established car rental places, you need to reconsider. Our host was kind and knowledgable, and our experience smooth and flawless, we were even able to extend our time with the car without an issue.

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Anna’s spiritual gift is selecting the best Airbnbs in existence, so while the details of our sweet studio came as no surprise to me, they were no less exciting and charming. We stayed smack in the middle of tiny Bar Harbor, and in the morning found the only open breakfast place we could see, a pizza joint called Epi’s. No one thinks a pizza place would have a great breakfast, but let me tell you I was fat and happy at the end of this one.

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Because it was still off season, Acadia was mostly closed to visitors. The first few miles of the park were available to hop and hike around, and that was enough for us. We got soaked from the spray, slunk down in caverns we swore we’d never be able to extract ourselves from, and generally dawdled around. Once we couldn’t go any further, we headed back into what quickly became our new favorite place. Bar Harbor is small enough to memorize after one night, and we had two.

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Though there wasn’t much to choose from in the off-season, we enjoyed incredible meals at Side Street Café and Galyn’s (no joke, the best seafood dinner I’ve ever had), sipped some Maine brews at The Barnacle, and ended all of our frigid Acadia frolics with A Slice of Eden.

Highly, highly recommend Bar Harbor, but also highly recommend Bar Harbor in the Spring. May, honestly, two weeks after we went, would have made a world of difference. Either way, we fell in sad, moody love with this coastal town.

LEXINGTON KENTUCKY; FEAT. FRANKFORT

There hasn't been much time over the last four years that all three of my favorite college trio have been in the United States at the same time. Now that Danielle and I live in the same city, there was no longer any reason to not road trip to see Lauren in Kentucky. Knocking another state off the list, we drove up late on a Friday, barely stopping to pick up Lauren from her house on the way to diner.

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Our jaunt in Burger Week Lexington consisted of $5 sirloin burgers at Athenian Grill, an adorable shack of a restaurant, where we devoured our dinner and jumped to our next location: Kentucky Native Café. This place was a dream of dreams, a fairy-light oasis found in a parking lot of all places. We were visited by the resident cat as we drank our local brews, surrounded by gorgeous and lush greenery.

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In the morning, our suspicion that Lexington, KY is actually Pawnee, IN was confirmed. On the short and sweet walk to breakfast at Magee's, we got to spend some time with Darly, Lauren's across-the-street neighbor's miniature horse. Li'l Sebastian in every way, Darly greeted us with blank stares as she grazed, and Lauren regaled us with stories of her indoor-outdoor house-pet life.

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Mcgee's was a jewel in the middle of Lauren's neighborhood, the biscuit and egg lovers in us were satisfied, and our caffeine addiction was sated before we headed out for some bourbon trailing. Magee's also hosts a map-wall where travelers post a bill or two from their recent or forth-coming travels. We added a little to the wall, checking to make sure the places we'd been were all represented. 

Our second stop of the day was Buffalo Trace Distillery, where our tour guide Brian (also a debate coach at the local university) introduced us to all things American Whiskey. We spent some time learning, some time tasting, and the whole time smiling. Buffalo Trace is one of the only distilleries in the country that operated during Prohibition, and has since been established as a National Historic Landmark. Visiting museums is great, but this was historic and delicious, so there's that.

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Filling the time in-between distilleries, we headed to the Chocolate Holler, where we wished we had more time. We downed a drinking chocolate flight in about ten minutes, maybe less, and read the sweet notes of the pay-it-forward wall where patrons had purchased future chocolates for their heroes, those they knew well, or strangers who happened to fit their requirements.

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At the Kentucky Ale Brewery-Distillery, we signed up for way more than we expected, learning about both sides of the business. One of the few brew-stilleries in the United States, the variety of products offered there was impressive, and whittling down the ones we wanted to try from thirty-two options to the four tastes we were allowed wasn't easy.

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To round out the day, we picked up Thai food on our way to the Berea Pinnacles, a series of hikes that provided a spectacular sunset view of the area. We had a lot of cloud cover, but what we didn't get in a bright sunset, we received in the cool breeze and a shady rest from the sunny day. We climbed some tight crags up to the summit, took a rest at the top and were thankful for headlamps on the way down, as the light escaped way quicker than any of us had expected. 

Hanging with these two has always been wonderful, and getting to see a little slice of life so different from my own was a treat. Meeting Lauren's friends, seeing her little home for the last four years and squeezing every ounce of time we had before she left the country for an international adventure of her own, these all made for one restful road trip. 

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LIFE: MARIANNE

Mari and I met in Thailand almost three years ago. When she reached a high milestone this summer--one year in one home in one city--she called me to help her document the occasion. Her home, "The Shalom Home" is as delightful and welcoming as she is and it was a joy to be able to visualize it. Happy one year, Mari.

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