Catching Katy

Reads, Eats, & Everything Else


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Palm Coast

July 4th can be a tough holiday because it sometimes falls in the middle of the week and most people just get the one day off. Luckily this year (and for the next couple of years) it fell on or near a weekend. So it was easy to take one day and make it an extra long weekend.

My father-in-law has a condo on the beach in Palm Coast, Florida, just south of St. Augustine, and we try to get down as much as possible (free beach and visit family? no brainer!). That usually ends up being just a couple times a year since it is about a 6 hour drive, but we decided to make an extra long weekend of it for the 4th this year.

I grew up going to the gulf almost exclusively, so I remember my first time to Palm Coast very distinctly. The beach looked so weird because there are tons of rocks. You can only be out on the beach during specific times (lower tides) because otherwise there’s not really a beach. But there’s still plenty of beach time and it’s kind of remote, so it’s never crowded, even during the July holiday. Our dog Royal loves the beach and he would run and splash and chase the ball and roll in the sand all day if he could.

We usually eat out when we go to visit and get around to different places, but there is one restaurant we go to every single time. Osteen’s Restaurant in St. Augustine has THE best fried shrimp you will ever eat. I’m sorry (but not sorry) I cannot speak to anything else on the menu but I’ve never gotten anything else on the menu. The shrimp are giant, the sauces and hush puppies are delicious, and the sides are always fresh. My go to sides rotate between green beans, coleslaw, and fries. Pro tips: cash only and no reservations; there will be a wait so either go at an odd time or get there between 7:30-8pm (they stop seating at 8:30); or get it to go!


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DC

We’ve been talking since before our wedding (yes, over a year ago) about getting to DC because we both have friends there. I really wanted it to be during baseball season so we could hit up one of the nearby stadiums. We finally made it happen a few weeks ago and it was perfect timing.

We stayed with friends in the Capital Hill area, which was beautiful and close to so many things. Flying in on Thursday night gave us the whole days Friday, just the two of us, to explore. We walked almost everywhere (with the exception of one Lyft ride towards the end of the day because our legs were wore OUT). We had both been to DC before, but I hadn’t been since elementary school. One completely free day obviously isn’t a whole lot for DC, but I feel like we made the most of it.

We hit up Bullfrog Bagels for a quick, delicious breakfast, then continued walking towards the mall. We made tentative plans the night before and it was actually nice to not be on a strict schedule. We just talked and took in the sites. The weather was beautiful too, albeit a little too windy for my liking, especially coming from the summer weather in Atlanta. We saw the Capital and made our way down the mall.

Our first official stop was the National Museum of American History. It’s so great that the Smithsonian museums are free because we didn’t even make a dent in all there was to see in just one of them. But we got to see some great stuff, mainly covering all of the wars. It sounds depressing but it’s really interesting seeing how men and women have fought for our country to make it what it is today.

We then made our way to the National Portrait Gallery, which was top of my list. They had a really cool women’s suffrage installation and then of course, the presidential portraits. Each president’s portrait is so unique, especially seeing them all together. I definitely recommend it.

On Saturday we hit up the International Spy Museum. I failed and took no pictures, but I definitely recommend it. It’s a private museum, so it’s not free, but it’s worth it. It’s great for families and very interactive. The only downside was that it’s so new (only opened a few months ago) that it was very crowded. So we didn’t do a lot of the interactive things because we didn’t want to wait and fight for space. But it was fascinating to hear and see stories of international espionage, techniques used in specific cases, and just how long spies have been used for various things.

Our final stop was, of course, a Nationals game and like I said earlier, it was perfect not only because they were playing the Braves, but it was the DC Vanderbilt alumni chapter game for the summer (go ‘Dores!). We added another new stadium to our lists (that makes 7 for me…8 if you include just a stadium tour for one). The stadium reminded me a lot of the Braves new(ish) stadium and it was a great time seeing lots of friends!


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Sonoma

For our one year anniversary last month (sorry for the delay – the past month is a blur) we jumped coasts to check out Sonoma. I LOVE wine and my husband will enjoy wine with me. He has been to Napa before but I had heard amazing things about Sonoma. We spent 3 full days and had 2 travel days, but the day we flew out was essentially a full day with an early flight and gaining time. I loved our itinerary so I thought I’d share. We had a wonderful and relaxing trip, even days before closing on selling a house and buying a house.

Travel Day/Day 1

We took an early flight so we would have most of another day. We landed in San Francisco around 10am. After getting our luggage and car, it was lunchtime and the obvious first stop on the west coast is In-n-Out Burger. Every time eat there it is just as delicious as I remember. Sonoma is about 1.5 hours from the airport and we had no set plans for that day, so we made a pit stop on the way at Muir Woods.

Redwoods are amazing trees. They are old and massive and just really cool. Nowadays, you have a reserve a parking time – a 30 minute window – before arriving. We actually waited to do it until we arrived in San Francisco just in case something happened with our flight, which was easy to do since it was a Thursday. On a weekend, though, I am pretty sure parking slots sell out. Once you’re there, you can spend as much time as you want. There were a good number of people there, but once we got into the woods a little there weren’t many people around. You can take the paths, hiking trails, take lots of photos. We spent 1-1.5 hours walking around and it was a beautiful stop to make.

We continued to Sonoma – where the weather was significantly warmer – and checked into our AirBnb. The cozy guest cottage was perfect. It wasn’t a huge space but we weren’t planning on spending a ton of time there anyway. It had a little kitchenette, a comfy queen bed, a tv, it was private, and the host had a wonderful welcome basket with snacks. We had dinner at El Molino Central, which had delicious authentic Mexican cuisine.

Day 2

We wanted to have one day that we didn’t have to worry about driving and too many tastings. So for months I checked out different tour companies and driver services and kept an eye out for different deals. I don’t remember how I stumbled across Valley Wine Tours, but they seemed to be the best deal so I booked a semi-private tour (not knowing how many people would actually be on the tour with us). I will say they are a very simple operation, so if you want a lot of details about your day, you have to ask questions. But we were happy to be surprised with the exact details.

David picked us up around 10am in a mini van and then we picked up a mother-daughter pair and that’s who we spent the day with! David asked what kinds of wines we liked and what we were expecting out of the day. He had a tentative plan but wanted us to have input if we had any, which was nice. We went to 4 wineries: Larson Family Winery, Loxton Winery, Little Winery, and Muscardini Winery. We had more than enough time at each one and had a delicious picnic lunch (included in the tour, with actual china!). Wine tasting fees were not including in the tour price, but many wineries will waive the fee if you buy wine and we obviously bought wine. I was pleasantly surprised by the prices of bottles at most wineries! We were back at our AirBnb around 4pm. It was really a great day! We took a rest then went to Mary’s Pizza Shack for dinner (which was delicious).

Day 3

Our last full day in Sonoma we wanted to hit up a couple more wineries but take more time and maybe do an actual tour since we only did tastings the day before. We started the day with a yummy breakfast at Picazo Cafe. So we did a leisurely morning tasting at B.R. Cohn Winery, grabbed lunch in the little town of Glen Ellen, then headed to Benziger Winery. Benziger was definitely the largest winery we went to and we wanted to do an interesting tour, so we went with the Tribute Estate Tour & Exclusive Wine Tasting. The winery is biodynamic, which is one step higher than organic (which I didn’t even know existed), and it was really interesting to hear about how the winery works. Then we did a tasting in the wine cave. Very cool. It was a perfectly chill winery day.

We wanted one nice dinner, so we had made a reservation months before to The Girl & The Fig in downtown Sonoma, which was recommended to me by a friend who lives in San Fran. And it lived up to the hype. The atmosphere was great and the food was delicious. We also walked about downtown Sonoma before dinner which is a really cute little square with a park in the middle.

We absolutely loved our trip to Sonoma. There are SO many wineries so you could visit numerous times and have a different experience every time. All the wine was delicious (although I can’t say I am picky). All the food was delicious. All the service was great. I highly recommend it.

Day 4

We spent our last full day in San Francisco seeing a friend for brunch and going to a Giants baseball game (we try to hit up different baseball stadiums when we can). Since the post is getting long – the baseball game was fun and food before and after the game was great (highly recommend the nachos at Public House next to the stadium).

All in all, it was the perfect one year anniversary trip. I have done a quick itinerary below in case that is helpful to any planning a trip to the west coast and looking for pointers. Enjoy!

DayActivity/WineriesRestaurant(s)
Thursdayo early flight ATL > SFO
o drive to Sonoma
o Muir Woods
o In-n-Out Burger
o El Molino Central
FridayValley Wine Tours:
o Larson Family Winery
o Loxton Winery
o Little Winery
o Muscardini Winery
o Mary’s Pizza Shack
Saturdayo B.R. Cohn Winery
o Benziger Winery
o Picazo Cafe
o Garden Court Cafe
o The Girl & The Fig
Sundayo drive to San Francisco
o Giants game
o MarketBar
o Public House
Mondayo early flight SFO > ATL