A Hamptons Inspired Modern 70s Look

strtipednewest-editEdit-2-2airbrushI’m sharing one of my favorite color combinations and summer outfits: white jeans and a blue and white striped shirt for a Hamptons inspired look.

This light and airy oversized striped shirt can be worn tucked in, untucked or knotted in front. Tie-front shirts have been popular this season and a basic knot can add dimension to any casual outfit. The knotted front and rolled up sleeves, in combination with my flare jeans, gives this Hamptons inspired look a modern 70s twist when paired with platform sandals.

I purchased this extremely soft, long-sleeve striped cotton shirt at H&M a few weeks ago in the blue and white striped pattern as well as in white. An oversized shirt is a transitional closet staple and can be worn with jeans, leggings, pants, shorts or skirts. I typically prefer flare jeans over skinny jeans because I have more of an hourglass and curvy body type and longer length flares can really elongate your legs when you add a stacked heel or a wedge. You can combine a blue and white striped shirt with black, gray or white skinny jeans and a pair of pumps or sandals for a casual date night look.

Striped Cotton Shirt: H&M (Here and Similar) \ Mid Rise White Flare Jeans: Forever 21 (Similar, Similar) \ Slingback Platform Sandals: Michael Kors (Here and Here) \ Handbag: Louis Vuitton (Here and Similar) \ Silver Bangles: Kate Spade (Here and Here) \ Crystal Stud Earrings: Akira (Similar)

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[Photography credit]: Jennafer Ashley of Fresh and Fit

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Our Destination Wedding in Cancun

12-Sylvia JohnTwo years ago, we traveled down to Cancun, Mexico with 68 of our friends and family members to host our long-awaited, tropical destination wedding. After visiting a handful of cities in Mexico over the years, John and I felt that Cancun was the ideal destination because of its convenience and picturesque location with pristine-white sand beaches and turquoise waters of vibrant teal and bright blue hues.

We chose Secrets The Vine Cancun, a chic and contemporary adults-only hotel, in Cancun’s hotel zone, to host our wedding and accommodate our fairly large group. We were fortunate to have been able to stay at the hotel when they first opened in late 2012 when we flew down for a site visit giving us a true experience of what we could expect if we chose to host our wedding there. After an extensive search and narrowing down our choices to six hotels in Cancun and Riviera-Maya, not one compared to the service, cleanliness, location and style that Secrets The Vine provided. From the refreshing glasses of champagne and cold towels that were handed to us upon arriving, to the modern ambiance and simplistic interior decor, to the chill-down lounge music playing in the lobby, the exceptional cuisine between their six à la carte gourmet restaurants and 24 hour room service to choose from and the genuinely friendly and attentive staff that made sure our stay wasn’t anything short of excellent, we had no doubt that this was the perfect location to host our May 10, 2014 wedding.11316_10152223719706105_554513598927907020_n6-Sylvia John10689633_10152223719336105_2418843319931966655_n2-Sylvia John20-Sylvia John38-Sylvia JohnOur family’s travel agent assisted our guests with all travel arrangements including flights, hotel and round-trip shuttle services to and from the airport since everyone’s arrival and departure days varied. We reserved a block of rooms at the hotel to make sure everyone stayed on the same property and we included detailed information on how to go about booking hotel reservations on our wedding website which was included on our Save the Dates. Our Save The Dates were mailed nine months out and our wedding invitations were mailed out about four months before the wedding.

We put together welcome bags for our guests which included a personalized itinerary, beach towel clips, a first aid and hangover kit and miscellaneous travel size items such as sunscreen, Aloe Vera Gel and lip balm that we dropped off to our guests’ rooms on the days they arrived. The night before the wedding, we hosted a welcome dinner for all of our guests at Sea Salt Grill and then had everyone come back to our suite for after dinner cocktails. The Master Suite that hotel management so graciously upgraded us to, was over 1,300 square feet with a wrap around balcony and an ocean front view, making it an ideal intimate setting to spend time with our guests. 151-Sylvia John182-Sylvia John172-Sylvia John10694310_10152220677891105_6529438452089430716_oOn the morning of our wedding day, I got ready in our room and I had my bridal party join me so we could spend the day together. I selected ombré themed purple and lavender chiffon gowns for my bridesmaids while my adult flower girl stood out in a gray chiffon gown to offset the rest of the bridal party. I wore a strapless tulle mermaid style bridal gown with sweetheart neckline that was custom made by Rachel Alvia of Avail & Co and I chose a classic white rose bouquet while my bridesmaids’ bouquets were a mix of white hydrangeas and lavender roses. John wore a light gray suit that was custom made by Durus’ Custom Tailors while his groomsmen went with a laid back casual look with gray pants, white button ups and black suspenders.

Even though John and I had decided to forgo exchanging wedding gifts on our wedding day, he surprised me with an iPad that was hand delivered to me while I was getting ready with an uploaded personal video message from him and video montage of his childhood. It was by far the sweetest and most thoughtful gift that he has ever given to me and one that I will cherish for many years to come.10672389_10152223734271105_3936480171696235087_n 10676410_10152223734396105_2023999456137285047_n223-Sylvia John copy1907438_10152223733721105_2032759706044607825_n219-Sylvia John263-Sylvia John249-Sylvia John246-Sylvia John53-Sylvia John76-Sylvia John71-Sylvia John89-Sylvia JohnWe opted for a first-look photo session with our wedding party and family before our ceremony. The wedding ceremony took place on the Lounge Terrace at 5:30 pm followed by cocktail hour on the bridge and a 7:30 pm poolside reception. During cocktail hour, John and I ventured off with our photographers for a beach photography session and you can view more of those photos here.

Our reception was one of the most entertaining and lively receptions I have ever been a part of and one that turned into a non-stop dance party that kicked off in the middle of dinner and went into all hours of the night. John and our best man put together the evening’s play list with a variety of 80s, 90s and current Top 40 pop music which included tunes by our favorite artists such as George Michael and Sade that played during dinner and later transitioned into EDM beats that kept everyone on the dance floor through the end of the night.10336671_10152223773131105_1857224469096751751_n16089_10152223772426105_8243885202863052096_n336-Sylvia John10645023_10152223771776105_27518783428165402_n384-Sylvia John415-Sylvia John copy

597-Sylvia John604-Sylvia John 621-Sylvia John612-Sylvia John 608-Sylvia John648-Sylvia John - Copy669-Sylvia JohnOur wedding day was absolutely a day to remember and we will be forever grateful to have had our friends and family travel the distance to be able to celebrate the day (and week) with us. Although the day has passed and today officially marks our second wedding anniversary, we are so lucky to have had Bethany Petersen of BP Film & Photo fly down from Utah to capture the day’s events through photo and film which will always bring back warm memories as we relive our perfect day. You can watch our edgy and non-cookie cuter wedding film by clicking below.

[Photography credit]: Bethany Petersen of BP Film & Photo

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Wedding Etiquette: The Do’s and Don’ts

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We’ve all questioned at one time or another what is appropriate wedding attire, how much money to spend on the wedding gift or how long you have after the wedding to send out your thank-you notes. Hey, guess what? These are valid questions and concerns; luckily, there are a ton of wedding articles and rules of etiquette on the web that can answer these questions or hopefully someone with more experience you can turn to. Yet despite all of these resources at one’s disposal, there are many adults who lack good manners and an understanding of general wedding etiquette; therefore, I have taken the liberty of compiling a list of do’s and don’ts that sometimes get overlooked, which could ultimately spare you from potential embarrassment or unintentionally offending someone you care about.

The Do’s & Dont’s

Don’t invite anyone to your pre-wedding day celebrations you aren’t inviting to your wedding. This is a big no-no and probably the most important rule of wedding etiquette. Why make anyone feel they’re only important enough to come to your bridal shower and ‘shower’ you with a gift or cover the cost of your drinks all night at your last hurrah as a bachelor or bachelorette, but not important enough to celebrate with you on your big day? It’s rude and people will take it personally. While your intentions may be golden and think having them be apart of one of your events is better than none at all, they will feel excluded and confused.

Don’t ask the bride and groom if you can bring a casual date to the wedding, or worse, show up with an unexpected guest. Your friends, more than likely, already know your dating situation and will address the invitation to you and guest. You’ll probably have more fun attending solo anyway over tending to a date who doesn’t know anyone.

Do mention your friend’s significant other on the invitation if you know their name and they are cohabiting, if you want them both to attend. Not doing so, could easily create confusion on their end and you risk having a potential guest forgo your event if they think they aren’t welcome.

Don’t mail back an RSVP with plus-four and your children’s names with the intent of bringing the entire clan if the invitation doesn’t address each member of the family. Invitations are meant for only those who are mentioned so leave the kiddos at home and enjoy an adults-only evening with your spouse.

Do give a wedding gift. A wedding gift generally symbolizes a token of affection and is a thoughtful gesture to express your best wishes for the happy couple. If you’re questioning what is considered an ‘appropriate’ gift amount, use your relationship to the couple as a point of reference. Additionally, TheKnot.com gives a ballpark to aim for, recommending $50-$75 on a co-worker and/or a distant family friend and $100-200+ on a close friend or relative. Moreover, you generally have up to a year after the wedding date to send a gift so there really should be no excuse for attending someone’s wedding without so much as even a card.

Now, you might be contemplating if this same rule applies to destination weddings and if there are exceptions to the rule. Technically, a wedding gift should still be given when attending a destination wedding; however, with the additional expenses associated with destination weddings, don’t feel pressured to spend more than you are comfortable with. Most couples would agree that having their guests present is truly a gift in itself.

Do look presentable. Gentlemen, put on a sport coat, a freshly pressed pair of slacks and a button up, at the very least. If the invitation specifies the wedding will be a formal event, then a suit and tie are required. Don’t show up to a wedding in jeans and a t-shirt unless the invitation says otherwise or you are going to a backyard BBQ. Ladies, a tasteful knee-length cocktail dress works well for any occasion and a long gown is suitable for a formal affair, but please do not wear white unless the bride and groom have requested their guests do so. Not ivory, not cream and not even a white suit. This is the oldest rule in the book. If your outfit of choice has to have some white, then white colorblock will suffice. Most importantly, use your best judgment and let the bride and groom shine on their special day.

Don’t wait too long before sending out thank-you notes. The general rule to send out thank-you notes after a bridal shower are two to three weeks from the day of the event and within three months from the day of your wedding. Any wedding gifts you receive before your wedding should be acknowledged before the wedding day. If you wait too long, your guests may think you never received their wedding gift or that it was lost or stolen, resulting in that awkward phone call or text message asking if you ever received it.

Do personalize your thank-you notes. If your guests are able to take time out of their schedules to be there to celebrate with you and bring you a gift, then you should take time to express your gratitude. A handwritten thank-you note with a personal touch is still appreciated over a generic typed up message even in today’s digital world.

Don’t ask someone to stand up in your wedding with whom you don’t have a strong relationship or only do so out of obligation. Your wedding party should be your closest friends or family members and who you know will be there for you. It really is an honor to be included and asked to stand up, but there are a lot of expenses and duties that come with being apart of someone’s wedding. Your wedding party should include the people you can count on, have meaningful relationships with and will continue to be there for you after the wedding. If you ask someone with whom you don’t have a strong relationship, you take the risk of them accepting the role because they don’t want to let you down or they feel pressured to do so, which could result in them complaining through the entire process, or worse, pulling out at a later date. If you do commit to standing up in someone’s wedding, then you should genuinely want to be there for that person and do all that is asked of you.

Don’t ask someone to stand up in your wedding as a backup. No one wants to be second choice and you don’t need to fill spots just to have the same number of bridesmaids as there are groomsmen, and vice versa. This isn’t a popularity contest so don’t fret if the groom asked eight of his closest friends while you only asked four.

Don’t be a bridezilla and demanding of your bridal party. Your bridesmaids should be there to make your wedding day and days leading up to it run smoothly and less stressful. Bridesmaids are typically in charge of hosting the bachelorette party, sometimes assist in the planning and executing of the bridal shower, and should help with any miscellaneous tasks such as sending out invitations, dress shopping or DIY projects. With that being said, don’t expect your bridesmaids to be available at the snap of your fingers if you don’t give them prior notice or a couple options with available dates. When it comes to your bachelorette party, don’t demand they pay for a luxurious hotel suite, cover all costs for an expensive long weekend in Las Vegas and mandate they purchase a table at a club with bottle service. You should give your bridesmaids or MOH an idea of what you would like to do, but ultimately, this is a party they host and one they should agree on and take charge.FullSizeRender-8 copy

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A Display Bridal Shower for the Non-Traditional Bride

1525298_10151906908251105_619378182_n1979678_10151906908971105_595006431_n1962762_10151906907201105_1750805319_nOver the years, I’ve had the privilege of attending or being apart of close to two dozen bridal showers for friends and family. I am a hopeless romantic who loves all things wedding. With that being said, as delighted as I am to be apart of any and all pre-wedding day celebrations in honor of the bride and groom, bridal showers are mundane and tend to be, well, boring. You show up, make small talk, eat lunch, watch the couple open their gifts, and go home. And while the bridesmaids help the bride and groom sort through and open gifts, the other guests are left to chit-chat amongst each other, entirely disengaged during the gift-opening process until their name is called and their gift is presented. Now, this might come as a surprise to some, but I have to be candid. Nobody cares about the gifts you receive or who bought what.

When we started planning for our bridal shower two years ago, my main objective was to make it an enjoyable affair for everyone involved. Taking into account my personal thoughts on traditional bridal showers, I had considered a couple alternatives such as an evening or a couples’ shower. We were planning to invite over a 100 guests and wanted to keep expenses down, so hosting an evening affair or extending invites to significant others would have been costly. While brainstorming different ideas, I had remembered my mother-in-law mentioning to me that she had once attended a bridal shower where the gifts were brought unwrapped and put on display for all to see. Hmm..a bridal shower that doesn’t incorporate those awkward couple of hours ripping through gifts while our guests pretend to look interested in that new appliance or kitchenware I asked for?! Now that’s an idea! And so, a Saturday afternoon Display Bridal Shower is what it was going to be.index 21970690_10151906907846105_1978519022_n150488_10151906906286105_1068958839_n998497_10151906906481105_1763960077_n1960066_10151906907931105_1381187303_n1922330_10151906905616105_1737945811_nI am fortunate to have a thoughtful and generous mother-in-law who also happens to be an extraordinary planner and hostess when it comes to the parties and events she throws. With the help of my parents, her friends and my bridesmaids, she went above and beyond to make the day special, from beginning to end. From adhering to the lavender and white color scheme of our destination wedding and executing all of my ideas while keeping as much of it as a surprise until the day of, she made sure it was the shower I envisioned and one that was fitting to me.

Some of our ideas, including decor, games and favors came from Pinterest. We wanted to keep expenses down as best we could so we had to incorporate a lot of DIY projects and this was something I was able to be a part of.  My mother-in-law purchased everything we needed at local stores such as Hobby Lobby or Michaels and through e-Commerce websites such as Oriental Trading and Tulle Shop.index 3bouquetindex1969386_10151906905741105_190052918_nI wanted our centerpieces to be mixed floral arrangements of hydrangeas and roses set in jeweled vases. The jeweled vases were hard to come by and so this is where our DIY skills came in handy and a hot glue gun became our best friend. We purchased a couple rolls of rhinestone ribbon that measured wide enough to cover square glass vases that were purchased from the local florist. I put together a ‘Meet the Maids’ board with photos of all of my bridesmaids introducing each of them and a blurb of how we met. Our favors were individual sized bottles of champagne that were purchased at Binny’s that we later customized with our photo by gluing over the original labels. We then attached a small organza bag filled with purple and silver wrapped Hershey’s Kisses to each bottle. Along with the centerpieces and favors, each table had a clear frame displaying our photo with the table number next to it since we opted for a seating arrangement. My mother-in-law and her go-to gal pal for crafts and DIY projects, decorated a white bird cage with lavender and silver mesh ribbon which was later used to hold any envelopes we received and they created a board that displayed a printed photo of each gift we received through our Honeyfund registry. We had a large dessert table covered in a silver rosette tablecloth with a variety of desserts, ranging from brownies, cake pops, candies, Hershey’s chocolate bars with customized labels and trays of home made Serbian baked goods.1794747_10151906906966105_1072486841_n1922439_10151906904276105_2140604832_n10152548_10151906903516105_1169846253_n1960118_10151906906376105_2139573289_nBecause we hosted a Display Bridal Shower and our invitations specified that any gifts brought be unwrapped, we had to come up with games to entertain our guests after lunch. I glued a handful of photos of various ages onto a poster board for everyone to guess my age and whoever came closest and had the most correct, took home a prize. We wanted to incorporate our destination wedding theme as best we could, so each winner took home a prize that included a beach towel, a travel magazine, a luggage tag and beach towel clips wrapped in a plastic beach basket.index 41975093_10151906909631105_461946538_n1978852_10151906905851105_2000025049_n 10014665_10151906906891105_1193145600_n10154014_10151906908661105_1893591711_n1970567_10151906908371105_1378813331_nThe list of games my Matron of Honor came up with included:

  • A 10 question Bridal Trivia that asked anything from wedding traditions in other countries, to celebrity marriages and which city is nicknamed the ‘Honeymoon Capital of the World’
  • A 20 question trivia of How Well Do You Know the Bride & Groom?
  • A Purse Scavenger Hunt that asked you to match 44 items on the list to whatever was in your bag

We wrapped up the day with a variation of the Newlywed Game known as the Shoe Game, which happened to be everyone’s favorite part of the day.  John and I took each other’s shoe and sat back to back while the MOH asked a series of questions and we would then hold up the shoe of the respective partner who we believed each question best described. The suspense and excitement that came with trying to guess who the questions best pertained to, undeniably made the Shoe Game a hit.10153239_10151906909181105_1688726218_n 1959519_10151906907711105_856636850_n1475944_10151906906926105_530050463_n 6978_10151906909751105_1446296258_nThe venue we chose for our bridal shower was Volare in Oakbrook Terrace which has since closed down, but the downtown Chicago location remains open. We had the entire restaurant to ourselves to accommodate our 90+ guests for an afternoon affair and the cost of food and wine was reasonable. If you plan to host a bridal shower for more than 15 guests, want more time to mingle and not spend time opening gifts, then a Display Bridal Shower is an ideal alternative for you.1975131_10151906907786105_620223118_n10152029_10151906904021105_1779125956_ninvite 2

[Photography Credit]: Catherine Dodgson

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Park City, Utah (An Overview)

WestgatelobbyJohn and I traveled to Park City, Utah with a couple friends on a five day skiing and snowboarding trip the last week in February. We flew into Salt Lake City International Airport on Wednesday which is about a 3.5 hour flight from Chicago and a 35 minute drive to Park City. Renting a car is definitely your best bet if you want to venture off the resort since there is quite a bit to do and see in or around Park City.

We lodged at the Westgate Park City Resort & Spa, a fairly large ski resort sitting at the base of the Canyons ski area and about 5 miles from Downtown Park City.  Upon arriving, we were greeted by a friendly and accommodating staff with homemade cookies and bottles of water. We reserved a luxury suite through Expedia averaging around $400 a night, but we were pleasantly surprised to walk into what looked more like a 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom condo with a kitchenette, dining area, balcony, living room, fireplace, whirl pool, 2 flat screen TVs and a steam sauna shower. It was spacious and comfortable for two adults. Being that it was just the two of us and we didn’t spend a lot of time at the resort, I would have preferred to stay in a smaller boutique hotel, but this is a great resort for families and large groups. We ate a late lunch at Drafts Sports Bar & Grill, one of the resort’s two dining options with a variety of pub food and appetizers to choose from ranging from hand-crafted burgers, pizzas, tacos, chili and desserts. It was a favorable choice on an empty stomach.

wgpc-drafts-1wgpc-drafts-4On our first night, we went into town and walked up and down Park City’s historic Main street until we decided to go into No Name Saloon & Grill. It’s a two-story bar and restaurant with an outdoor patio on the second floor, perfect for those warm, summer nights. The interior gives you a laid back, biker-type feel to it with a mixed crowd of people, men and women between the ages of 30 and 60. If you’re looking for a lively atmosphere with high energy, upbeat music and don’t mind a crowd, you should definitely check it out if you’re ever in the area.

no name saloonJ&SThursday was our first day out on the mountain. We had beautiful weather all weekend with sunny skies and temperatures in the high 50’s, low 60’s which is unusual for this time of year.  We spent all morning and early afternoon on Park City Mountain with over 7,300 skiable acres ranging from beginner,intermediate and advanced terrain.  I am not a strong skier and I don’t own skis so if you need to rent your gear, we rented my skis and boots from Cole Sport for $32 for the day. The staff was helpful and there were only a couple people in front of me so I was in and out within 45 minutes. They don’t rent helmets so we walked a few doors down to Breeze Ski Rental where I was able to rent one for $11. Ski lift tickets through Park City Mountain were roughly $100 a dayIMG_3965-1 copy616257_455376004494622_1820597950_oThursday evening we had dinner reservations at Apex at Montage Deer Valley Resort. Apex is an upscale restaurant in a high-end, luxury resort located atop Empire Pass, 4 miles from Park City. The trees leading up the driveway to the resort were strung with clear lights giving you a warm and welcoming entrance with a Christmas time feel to it. We had 7:00pm reservations, but surprisingly the restaurant was uncrowded and we appeared to be the youngest diners. The menu included steak and seafood options, handcrafted cocktails and an extensive wine list to choose from (we were introduced to our own private sommelier to give us her recommendations.)  If you want a cool and refreshing cocktail, I would suggest their Park City Mule, but if you are a wine drinker, we ordered a couple bottles of Machete by Orin Swift and Saldo by The Prisoner Wine Company. Superb options to quench your palette. After a few appetizers, three entrees, wine and dessert, our dinner totaled $400 a couple.

P.S. What do you think of the distinct label on the Machete?

machete 2macheteThe next day, we went on a 4 hour guided snowmobile tour through Thousand Peaks which cost $300 a person. It was one of the most memorable and exhilarating activities I’ve done and is a must if you ever get out west. They offer 2, 3 and 4 hour tours to choose from and our tour guide, Doug, made you feel relaxed, comfortable and at ease, making our tour that much more enjoyable. The skies were the bluest blue without a cloud in sight and the views from the summit overlooking Utah were spectacular.IMG_3986me in helmet mountains 2 sky mountainFor dinner that evening, we stumbled upon Blind Dog Restaurant & Sushi. We didn’t have reservations booked, but we were able to get right in. The food was appetizing and superior over our dinner from the evening before and the menu options ranged from sushi, seafood, premium steaks and burgers, a wine, sake and cocktail list.

When we decided to book our trip, I had reached out to our wedding photographer/videographer, Bethany Petersen from BP Film and Photo since she happens to live an hour away from Park City. She was awesome to work with and captured our wedding day in such a fun and creative manner that I just had to see her during our trip and hire her for a lifestyle shoot.  John and I never booked an engagement session before we were married so this was the perfect opportunity to make up for it with a couples shoot and we were able to do so on Saturday. You can view the photos on the Lifestyle page.

One of my greatest faults is procrastinating. I didn’t consider finding a makeup artist for the day of the shoot before our trip, so of course, I scrambled a few hours before and made a couple calls until I was referred to Splendor Beauty Emporium. It was one of three convenient options from our hotel and the only one that was able to get me in on such late notice.  I feel fortunate to have been able to discover such a pretty, feminine and charming little shop decorated with pink colored walls, a ceiling strung with crystal and white chandeliers and be enchanted upon entering by sweet smelling candles, fragrances, skin-care and cosmetic products galore. Some of the fabulous brands they carry include Nars, Smashbox, Laura Mercier, St. Tropez, L’Occitane and Dermalogica, to name a few.  The staff was exceedingly knowledgeable, welcoming, and I was paired with the talented Jude Mallory Marsh who did a beautiful job applying my makeup, exactly the way I wanted. A makeup application at Splendor Beauty Emporium costs $40 worth of product purchase. You can’t beat that! They are located in Park City’s Redstone Center, only 10 minutes from our resort and is a go-to for all beauty seekers.

On our last night in Park City, we dined at Oishi Sushi and Grill, an unpretentious ma and pa restaurant. It was noisy, crowded and the service was subpar, but the food was tasty with a variety of Maki rolls to choose from. We concluded our evening indulging in s’mores and sipping on wine at our friends’ hotel, Waldorf Astoria, an ideal ending to our adventurous and action packed getaway.

Please feel free to leave a comment or email me. I would love to hear your thoughts!

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