Travel

Travel: Portland with Kids by Kate Brightbill

#portland #travelwithkids #portlandwithkids #stylesmallertravel

I haven’t been to Portland since I was a kid and made a brief stop (I think?). I don’t even remember that so I don’t really count it. I’ve been hearing great things for years, but we’re always more inclined to go south to warmer weather than north to chillier weather. Some of our dearest friends just moved up there though, so we decided to put on those heavy coats and head north for a visit during our winter break.

Portland is a ten hour drive from San Francisco. It sounds daunting to do with kids, but it honestly wasn’t terrible. Brian and I like to leave while it’s still early enough for the kids to fall back asleep, but not too early for us to be alert enough. I took the 4:30 shift (which I prefer!), and he filled our Yetis with hot fresh coffee before we headed out the door. All good. We stopped twice (three times if you count the time the officer pulled me over for speeding near the Oregon border… delayed us 10 minutes, haha, but he didn’t give me a ticket!! Brian will never let me live it down) and we arrived at around 2pm.

I’m the type who would be totally cool sipping coffee and eating pastries all on a rainy Portland day x4, and not getting out at all because obviously- it’s winter and not warm, but between our AMAZING Portland friends/hosts and our own kids, we have seven little wild ones who need to run out that energy, so we had to A-game.

Here’s everything we saw, loved, and ate as a little summary, and more detail on everything below:

Day 1: Oregon Zoo & Blazers Game

Our first excursion was a Saturday misty trip to the Oregon Zoo. It’s stunning, compact, clean, and gives beautiful views of the animals. I’ve been to our SF Zoo more than I can count, and to the San Diego Zoo once, but I honestly think this one was the favorite of the three. It was totally manageable with 7 kids, and - maybe because there was misty rain falling- it was not even slightly crowded.

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I LOVE giraffes.

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We stopped at Trader Joe’s before we went so that we didn’t have to buy zoo food (overpriced and usually just meh anyway. :) They apparently have a Christmas lights exhibit through the holidays in the evenings, which looked like fun, but we had plans to watch basketball on a double date that night!

Brian is a Warriors fanatic and they were playing the Blazers WHILE we were there. Best luck ever. We had a quick bite at Wayfinder Brewery. Generally speaking, breweries aren’t known for their food, but in Portland it’s actually common for the local breweries to have amazing food, and this one totally did. I highly recommend the banh mi and the fried cauliflower. Craving that cauliflower now actually, so I might try to make it at home.

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Five minute drive to the game from there, and into the super clean, #local arena. Like, all the food options were so legit and local. I had this random thought right after halftime that some soft-serve sounded good, and so I went up and two booths away was local Tillamook soft serve. Check and check. Had soft-serve in hand and was back to my seat in 5 minutes. I’m into this Portland vibe. The Warriors won, and we were VERY happy. The fans didn’t even heckle us for being Warrior fans. ;) Oregon people are generally SUPER nice.

Day 2: Hawthorne Bridge

An hour scooting across the bridge and back and up and down the riverside was perfect for getting energy out on day 2. A double rainbow made it extra cool. I won’t pretend I loved having the cars on one side and the heights on the other side, but between four grown-ups, we corralled all the kiddos safely around and they LOVED it. I’m the same when I take my kids on the Golden Gate. It’s SO high and so many cars. Gives me some panic, but honestly, if you’re not a stressed out mama like me, it’s a good little activity, and gorgeous.

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We drove across more bridges to visit family in Vancouver, Washington after the bridge adventure, so day two was perfectly mild and relaxing.

Day 3: New Year’s Eve on the 4T Trail

The hardest things can sometimes be the best things. We learned it when we took 7 kids on a hike to the Hollywood sign last year, and we learned it when we took the same 7 kids on the 4T trail this year.

The 4T trail stands for Trail / Tram / Trolley / Train. In my head it was more of an urban experience than a woodsy one, but in real life it was more of a woodsy experience than an urban one. ;) The trail starts at the Oregon Zoo (kind of a weird starting point right off a freeway onramp), and you hike up the stunning mountains through the trees, winding around in muddy terrain… for four miles. The big kids (5 & up) were in their element, running ahead the whole time and having the BEST time. The grown ups loved it. The 3 & 4 year olds loved half of it, and were in tears by the end of it, poor babies! We had a BOB which was a bit tricky to maneuver, but necessary. The top of the trail about 2/3 in had the most beautiful view of Mt. Hood.

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Pro Tip: wear shoes that can go in the washing machine. hahaha.

The tram was the highlight because of the satisfaction of accomplishment, the warmth, and the views. The kids also liked the little lurch as it went down to the ground.

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Caught the trolley and found the nearest stop with good food. Another brewery, this time Deschutes. Perfect for a big group. Waited only about 15 minutes, but I took the 10-year-olds for a quick shop across the street where there were the CUTEST little spots.

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We were BEAT by the end of the day, in the best possible way. I loved ending 2018 exploring with every bit of energy we had. We went home and everyone got clean and in pj’s. Set up some sparkle photobooth fun at the house for the kids (Jack went straight to bed), while we watched the ball drop at midnight east coast time. ;) Best New Year’s strategy for west coast kids ever.

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Vacuumed a lot of sparkle that night… and the next day… and the next day we left. Our hosts are probably still vacuuming sparkle.

DAY 4: POKPOK & MCMENAMINS KENNEDY school

Per the recommendation of my Vancouver cousins, we had lunch at PokPok on New Year’s day. We actually had so many amazing food recommendations from my cousins that I was grateful it was New Year’s Day so the restaurants being closed helped us make up our mind. PokPok did not disappoint. It’s my favorite Portland meal, actually, and I keep wishing I could get their chicken wings in San Francisco because they were THAT good.

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So when I go back to Portland (when, NOT if), I will 100% be stopping back for PokPok again. It’s legit. SO. After lunch, we went to McMenamins. McMenamins is this super interesting group who bought several unconventional spaces of real estate in Oregon and I think Washington too, and reinvented their use. The McMenamins we visited used to be a school, and now it is a space with restaurants, bars, and a movie theater playing old movies. We watched The Sound of Music in the theater, and the guys went and grabbed a drink and chatted while we were in there eating popcorn. Kind of a win for all, and the vibe in the spaces is so cool.

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SO. If you’re thinking about a trip to Portland, just do it and I’m pretty sure you’ll love it. Get your fill of allllll the local coffee, breweries, and ice cream, and don’t be afraid to bring the kids with you.

xx

Traveling with Kids 01: Monterey! <+giveaway> by Kate Brightbill

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We traveled to Monterey this weekend. I use the term "travel" loosely-- it's a quick 2 hour drive, and we broke the drive in half with a blissful visit to my aunt and uncle on our way-- but REAL summer travel is right around the corner, and I'm thrilled to cover all little doses of our travels on this blog this summer. I read about traveling with kids, therefore, I will write about traveling with kids.

With an infant, let me tell you: all plans have to be held relatively loosely. My suggestion is to make a plan, have options to go with said plan, and then be flexible if and when we need to redirect the plans slightly. 

Our grand scheme (we knew it was unlikely we would manage it all, but we wanted to have options in case we somehow could!) when we traveled to Monterey County was to:

  • Spend the morning hours at Monterey Bay Aquarium
  • Perhaps take the 17 mile drive and stop for picturesque beach time
  • Drive slightly further down the coast to the gorgeous Bixby Bridge in Big Sur 

We managed #1. HA.

Bixby Bridge will have to wait, and we've already done the 17 mile drive, so we just ate up everything "Monterey" this time, and were thoroughly satisfied with that choice.

Monterey has so much to offer, and there's a long list of fun family activities HERE. SUCH a good resource.

We started with our top choice: The Monterey Bay Aquarium. 

Kids and maps. My girls can never pass a free map without helping themselves, and then poring over every picture and attraction.&nbsp;

Kids and maps. My girls can never pass a free map without helping themselves, and then poring over every picture and attraction. 

We spent about three hours at the aquarium. There is so much to see, and I honestly think my older two could have spent six hours gazing everything. Brian and I kept things moving, because obviously babies only have so much patience, and we wanted to see as much as possible. ;)

Maggie's highlight was the Splash Zone. Kids can get hands on with the water and play and get some energy out. It's especially nice for ages 5 and under. There's also this little tunnel nearby and the girls were big fans... The water would crash over the tunnel every couple minutes and the girls would shriek and laugh hysterically. 

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Sophie and Brian loved the Open Sea... I did too, but we visited late in the game, and Jack needed to keep moving. The Open Sea has the enormous fish, sea turtles, & hammerhead sharks in a 90 ft window... and it's an incredibly dramatically large and beautiful. Mesmerizing, really.

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I'm a huge fan of the jellyfish. They're so picturesque and every detail is so beautiful. I'd hate to be near them without the glass between us (memories of being stung by their jelly cousins, the Portuguese man-of-wars when I was 10), but they are gorgeous in this totally safe setting. 

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OKAY. Jack was done after the Open Seas, and we were all hungry. Like, VERY hungry. Sometimes I get cranky when I'm hungry. We had game-planned with a few options nearby beforehand, thankfully. While I'm sure the cafeteria at the aquarium would have gotten the job done, we really wanted to walk around a bit and get some fresh air on and around Cannery Row...

Now, before we headed to lunch, we needed candy...we would have had some regrets if we had forgotten. ;)

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Yes, I have a sweet tooth, and no I hardly say no to a mom & pop style candy shop. My children are grateful for that quality of mine. Seriously though, rock candy sticks??? I love them so much. Side note: have you see smaller versions served with coffee? Brilliant. So brilliant. 

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Oh and heyyy, here's that classic shot you've been waiting for. I have one of Jack and me under the Disneyland version of Cannery Row. Regretting not getting another pic under the real version... next time. ;)

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As I was saying, we were hungry. You know how it can happen that you're in a place surrounded by restaurants and you really just don't quite know what to do about food? Crowds aren't good with hungry kids (ahh, okay, with ME. I'm the one who can't handle missing a meal), and our first choice option had a 30 minute wait... and it was actually in a MALL nearby, which just didn't appeal. Yelp users didn't mention that when they rated it #1 for the area (or maybe they did and I just didn't read enough reviews)! Anyway, #3 on my prepped-in-advance-list became number two when I realized it was only two blocks from the top rated one. 

Here I am looking up the directions to the next spot on our list... I was smiling, but mostly thinking about food and thinking- wait, he's taking a picture of me in this state of hungry?

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I'm SO glad we found Vivolo's Chowder House. It's just 2 or 3 blocks from the aquarium and the food was perfect. No wait to get a table!! Here are my tips: the portions are generous. The kids' fish and chips was probably more than I could eat by myself, so I cannot imagine what an adult portion would be. Order less than you think you'll need and then add more food if you are still hungry. I strongly recommend the clam chowder-- SO GOOD-- and clams appetizer. My husband and children love ordering steamed clams, and I'm so totally adverse to it-- I'm not a picky eater, but I'm definitely not a clam fan even though I love clam chowder with all my taste buds. So why, you ask, do I recommend them? Ohhh the garlic buttery broth that came with the clams. I dipped all the fluffy bread in there. I couldn't stop. So good. 

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For foodies out there, HERE is where you find only the best options in Monterey County. Another big tip for traveling with kids or without: plan those restaurants before you get to your destination. The last thing you want is to spend hard earned cash on an overpriced meal that had only one star, but you didn't do your homework and everyone is too anxious to find reviews and make the right choice... you know? (been there done that, lesson learned!).

Kids were exhausted after lunch (and it was 2pm, so that makes sense!), so we headed to our car to drive home... but then.

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It's not every day you see giant swans floating on a lake.

As much fun as I had had all day, I had really gone into the day assuming we would get some quality time outdoors with fresh air before heading back home. Monterey has so many fantastic outdoor family activities to offer, and we were about to get in the car without taking advantage of any... until we passed the swans.

Ten minutes later, WE were floating on a lake.

(I'm thinking you saw where I was going with that)

We did not rent a swan because the ever-so-kind employees of the boating house told us they are way more work to maneuver (and it's not like we can really make the kids pedal us around the lake!). They're also $15 more, and technically fit five adults, whereas the rowboats only fit FOUR (or four + a baby). We rented a sparkly turquoise row boat for 30 minutes and $20 and miles of smiles.  

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And now, in exchange for you reading every single word of this lengthy blog post... 

See Monterey is giving away five pair of tickets to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Entering is simple! Visit the See Monterey site and leave a comment here letting me know one thing you'd like to do if you go on a trip to Monterey County!

I'll tell you what plan I'm making for next time: a night in a bed & breakfast, a beach walk on 17 mile drive, and a drive down to Big Sur for a glimpse of Bixby Bridge. :) Yes, please!

MAUI + Live Health Online by Kate Brightbill

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Maybe you heard- we went to Maui last month! We came home tan and refreshed and willing and ready to tell everyone that Maui may just be our favorite place in the whole world. I said it the last time I was there when I was 17, and I'm still saying it after this trip. 

Maui is not too busy, not too quiet. It's juuuust right. 

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Have a few pictures, eh?

Time is one of- if not my MAIN love language. I need quality time with those I love or I go nuts. This was a beautiful way to spend quality time all together. Our kids are at a really ideal age for travel... both can communicate and articulate what they need {in contrast to some past flights during which tears were flowing, both for them & me! HA}. Both have had swim lessons for most of this year, so Sophie can swim sans floaties under our watchful eyes, and Maggie wore the safety floaty belt and could enjoy blowing bubbles in the water happily.... last year she wouldn't step closer than five feet from any swimming pool, so this is true progress. 

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This trip came at the perfect time in our lives. We actually haven't had many family vacations for only the four of us... we generally travel with family or friends! This trip was work-related for Brian, so the first few days we WERE with his associates, whose families are dear friends, enjoying a serene pool, fabulous meals, and beautiful views. The following days were juuuust us, the pool, the beach, and a world of no schedules.

I found I love paddle-boarding. It was the most serene time. I took Sophie out a couple times, but she noted my far-from-graceful disembarking onto the beach and was a bit nervous. It was amazing to be out on the water, away from the noise, in the most gorgeous setting, getting a little me-time. Brian is a gem for sending me out there twice. If I lived the island life, a paddle-board would be my first investment. 

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When we travel, I'm always a little extra cautious. I slather my little girls with sunscreen, I do my best to keep them hydrated, nutritious {tricky when the cheap kids meals are burgers or chicken fingers & fries!! We often opt for the girls splitting a grown-up meal rather than ordering two children's meals. Adult meals have ironically more nutritious options.}, and I try to keep them from pinkeye, rashes, colds, etc.

That said, for any and every family, there are about a million variables. Perhaps unknown allergies. Perhaps a stray piece of coral on the beach. Perhaps a meal that didn't sit well. I'm a bit of a worrier by nature {though thankfully it's far more under control than it once was}, so I was incredibly pleased to have heard about LiveHealth Online before traveling. "There's an app for that," they say. In this case, there's an app for a little peace of mind. What is this app, you ask? Let me tell you:

LiveHealth Online is a 24-hour-per-day doctor... talk via two-way video chat from a tablet, phone, or computer. You can sign up online or download the app, log in, and for $49 {way cheaper than urgent care, yes?} Also- LiveHealth Online is a covered benefit for many Anthem Blue Cross PPO, EPO and HSA plans. The cost is the same or less than a PCP office visit}, you talk to a doctor about pain, or you SHOW them your rash, you look at them and they at you and you discuss your concerns with a U.S. Based Doctor. This is available in 44 states right now, with 38 of those states allowing physicians to prescribe medication for acute illnesses if they feel it's beneficial to their patients. Average wait time is 3 minutes! It's secure, it's private, it's efficient.

We can't bring our doctors on vacation with us, but sometimes we just have to consult with a professional. On our honeymoon, Brian got the worst sunburn of his life. He was hardly red, but somehow his body was prickling and the only semi-relief was a cold shower. I had no access to LiveHealth Online- this was nine years ago! I made several long distance calls to family for consultations, and racked up hundreds of dollars in long distance calls to do so {just typing that sentence makes me feel ancient! Someday in my future I'll hear, "mom what are these 'long distance call charges' I've never heard of that"}... 

How do you get this service at your fingertips? Download LiveHealth Online or visit their website www.livehealthonline.com/moms and sign up quickly and easily! Peace of mind- a visit with the doctor- in minutes!! We believe you'll love this app so much that we're offering to let you try LiveHealth Online for free using the code LHOStyleSmaller until December 31, 2014. 

xx. 

This post is sponsored by Live Health Online. All opinions are my own.

 

NYC by Kate Brightbill

I'm not entirely sure how to summarize a million miles of walking, cabs, and one subway ride all over NYC for four days, so I'll just jump in with pictures. Pictures literally do say 1000 words. If you click on the picture and they have a website, I've done the work for you and linked to it. Just lookin' out here, in case you're on your way that direction and would like to see some pretty spots! 

On our last trip {see it HERE}, we navigated upper manhattan and a bit of union square. Basically I stalked the You've Got Mail scenes in the upper west side with Brian, and ate a lot of bagels in a tiny 24 hour period. 

This trip, we covered lower manhattan: Meatpacking, Chelsea, Flatiron, Soho, Noho, Tribeca, Wall Street, and little bits in between. We got a great last-minute deal on The Standard Hotel for one night, and never wanted to leave! Floor to ceiling city & hudson!! YES. 

Williamsburg, Brooklyn:

NYC is massive, a tiny bit overwhelming to attempt to conquer, filled with treasures and shops and dreams and we absolutely love it. I love traveling. Experiencing life in different places, watching other people's day-to-day, seeing friends in real life and visiting them in their own home is such a treat.

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Now we're home sweet home, with a lovely little heat wave sending us to the beach yesterday {with bathing suits! such a rarity in San Francisco!}, and now circulating a bout of flus and fevers to round out the week.

More soon! I have so much to say since my real life is going lightspeeds ahead, and my screen time has been totally depleted in order to keep up!  

xoxox,

Kate

Resolution 2014 by Kate Brightbill

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A new year. I'm writing this a week early because I really like to spend time thinking about resolutions, and New Year's Eve and day is reserved for late night memory-making parties, and slow, easy mornings. 

Resolutions are a fabulous thing. I'm so glad that we reserve the first of every year for a clean slate that we can practice introspection and strive for betterment in our lives. 2013 was a decent year. We played hard, we worked hard, we did a LOT. The first half of the year felt long and gloomy and challenging; the second half lovely and full and warm. It's not a year I'd choose to repeat, but I do believe there was character built, and obstacles overcome, and I'm grateful for that. 

There is a lot I'd love to improve in the next year, but most of all, I'd like to resolve: 

To become an intentional person in 2014. 

Does that sound too vague? Maybe. I actually look at it the opposite way. I'm kind of a free spirit sometimes. I like leaving my options open, having no schedules, letting things flow and play out the way they "should." Before having children, this was no big deal, but this year I began to feel loose and scattered rather than organized and put-together. I'm an organized person, so "loose and scattered" is not the day-to-day I picture for myself. 

There are things we say we'd like to do. We say it until we're blue in the face, but until we get something on the calendar and make it happen, it's not just going to happen.

To be intentional is to change "Hey, let's hang soon," to "Hey, are you free on the 20th to get dinner at ___ with me? Let's put it on the calendar now!" or "Oh, I need to grab this that and the other to start teaching Sophie some kindergarten prep" to "Sophie let's do a lesson, and while you work, I'll order those books on Amazon." 

Sometimes I spend far too much time THINKING about what I should do and far less time DOING. 

To be intentional is to adjust that mentality daily.

{Starting with a calendar I'll be ordering riiiiiight now!}

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

xo,

Kate

Ps. You might also like: 2013 Resolutions

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NYC by Kate Brightbill

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Quality time in NYC is just what the doctor ordered. Two days, about fifteen miles of walking, and one night next to central park at the Essex House was perfect. 

Brian and I are a good match for traveling. We want the most out of our time, and we love walking the best. We're also big on food, but when it's such a short trip, we don't necessarily want to spent excessive time sitting and eating. I needed a good bagel, and Brian needed a couple good slices, and we were good. 

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We got a great deal at the Essex House and couldn't have asked for a better location- it was so central to Manhattan. Met up with a friend and took a subway near Union Square and grabbed Thai at ROHM on 20th in the flatiron {totally recommend it... good food/location}, coffee at The Grey Dog on University {and the most massive brownie ever served}, then called it a night. Sometimes it's good to call it a night when you're reeeeallly jetlagged and you want to get the most of the next day. 

We wanted to stop at the ShakeShack, but ah, not enough time...&nbsp;

We wanted to stop at the ShakeShack, but ah, not enough time... 

So we legitimately made the most of the next day. We grabbed bagels at Ess-A-Bagels... friends, that place is SUCH a delicious tourist trap. 

While seriously enjoying our bagels, we discussed the crazy tourist situation... The place is packed-line-out-the-door, and the friends of the ones out the door waiting were sitting in the 10 tables available... none with bagels yet, most with glares, and most also with five extra chairs for future companions. Yelp didn't mention this sort of madness.. we had some good laughs about the seriousness of ordering bagels there. Don't get me wrong, I'd go back in a heartbeat. The bagels are legit. I'm talking insanely good. How do the places in New York manage to get bagels so right, and why don't they give SF bagel shops their secrets? At least we've perfected the sourdough and the dutch-crunch breads. 

The Shop Around the Corner is, indeed, a cleaners now.&nbsp;

The Shop Around the Corner is, indeed, a cleaners now. 

So I was browsing the good ol' internet Friday night and noticed the 15th anniversary of You've Got Mail {thanks to SometimesSweet Friday links}, and quite perfectly, we were in the vicinity of the sites where the best rom-com was filmed... so naturally, I dragged Brian to the Upper West Side with me. We discovered that The Shop around the Corner is a standard cleaners, rather than the enchanting deep-green-with-patterned-floors- book shop it once was, but gosh, I was excited to be there. The block was charming, and I decided that if I lived in Manhattan, the Upper West is my ideal. We made it to Gray's Papaya {W 72nd}and I embarrassingly took a picture there too, without any hotdog purchase. Somehow in the moment, it felt right to stand at that corner. In retrospect, I can't decide if it's awesome or ridic. Both, I think. 

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The dream slices of pizza,  Bella Vita Pizza , 58th St.

The dream slices of pizza, Bella Vita Pizza, 58th St.

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Yes, I'll go back anytime. I love you so, New York City. I have the best husband ever! xo