Summer of Covid

#VincentAdventure #Travel #Blog #exploreMN #Bemidji #Duluth #NorthShore

We, like so many others, had to adjust some of our summer plans due to Covid in 2020.  With the virus hitting the world and US hard this year we had to come up with new, safe, things to do this summer to keep ourselves sane.  We had a planned trip to Iceland scheduled for this past May that was cancelled due to the outbreak.  Jason and I had been looking forward to returning and exploring more of the country and sights that we had fell in love with but will have to postpone this for a future trip when things settle down and become less risky. 

Instead of traveling out of the country or state, we decided to take 2 small trips to explore more of Minnesota and see some new places we hadn’t been before.

First up was an overnight trip to Duluth and the North Shore.  Our first stop was to visit Gooseberry Falls State Park.  We spent about an hour exploring and hiking at the falls.  By the time we got there the crowd had dwindled on this hot July day so we had plenty of room to spread out and take our time taking in the sights.  We then quickly drove over to Split Rock Lighthouse before the park closed and sprinted down to check out the amazing view before sunset.  Before heading back into Duluth to check into our hotel, we made a quick detour to the World Famous Betty’s Pies in Two Harbors, barely making it there before they closed.  There were too many good options to choose from so we setting on a slice of cherry pie, a slice of coconut cream pie and then a 5 layer chocolate pie shake.  Definitely not a new spot or hidden gem, but all were delicious and we would highly recommend a stop if you happen to be up in Two Harbors. 

Gooseberry Falls
Split Rock Lighthouse
Chocolate pie shake from Betty’s Pie

After spending the night in Duluth we left early the next morning to explore Jay Cooke State Park to do some hiking and check out the swinging suspension bridge over the St. Louis River.  This is an amazing park with lots of trails and easy access to the water to dip your toes in.  We could have spent a whole day here but the weather was really hot and we had to start heading back to pick up our dogs.  On our way home, we decided to make a few pit stops at some local breweries (Bent Paddle Brewing, Three Twenty Brewing Co, and Moose Lake Brewing) to pick up some Growlers to enjoy later.  It was a short, but much needed break away from the norm, to get outside and away from the house after being cooped up for several months.

Jay Cooke State Park – Swinging bridge
Jay Cooke State Park – walking over the St. Louis River

We wanted to get in one additional quick trip this summer while the weather was great, and also wanted to check out another place we hadn’t been before.  After getting input from friends, we landed on heading up north to visit Bemidji.    The night before leaving, I came up with a list of obscure Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox statues that we could stop and see along the way.  We stopped at 6 different sights to check out statues of Elvis Babe Ox, Paul Bunyan’s sweetheart Lucette, among other versions of Babe the Blue Ox and Paul Bunyan for some quick photos.  To make the stops worthwhile, we also managed to find some breweries nearby to pick up a few growlers and crowlers to take home.  A few of the stops included Starry Eyed Brewery, Bemidji Brewery, and Rendezvous Brewery. 

Starry Eyed Brewery – Little Falls, MN

The main draw for heading up to Bemidji was to be able to do some hiking and to visit Itasca State Park.  We got to the park right when it opened with the goal of heading right to the Mississippi Headwater, the start of the rivers 2,552 mile journey to the Gulf of Mexico. We wanted to get there early to be able to take in the views with minimal people.  Mission accomplished.  We were the only ones there for about 30 minutes so we had just enough time to walk in the water across the rocks and take in the beauty on our own.  There are plenty of sights, recreation, scenic drives and hiking trails to do in the park which is the oldest state park in Minnesota.   The trails we chose to hike were great and right within our level of comfort.  Just don’t forget to bring the bug spray!!!  After leaving Itasca State Park, we decided to head over to Bemidji state park and check out the bog walk through the marsh. Great views of the unique ecosystem and various landscapes. 

Mississippi Headwaters – Itasca State Park

Finally before making our way back home, I managed to talk Jason into taking one last detour to the Sunflower Field.  Started buy a man and his family, they planted 10 fields of sunflowers throughout the north metro and decided to open them up for free to the public to visit during the summer.  The weather and day was too good to let go to waste so we pulled over for a quick pit stop and a few photos.      

Despite not being able to take our annual anniversary trip this summer/fall, we made the best of the situation and were able to enjoy the great Minnesota summer weather.  Until next time.

Scotland 2019 Video Adventure

#VincentAdventure #Travel #Blog #Scotland # UK

If I had to come up with one word to sum up our trip to Scotland, it would be breathtaking. The landscape and scenery is magical. Waterfalls, hills and valleys for days. This is a place you can travel to with no real agenda and just get lost exploring around.

After arriving via train in Edinburgh we briefly explored the capital city for the night getting a small taste of Scottish whiskey and taking in the sights on the Royal Mile. We then picked up our rental car and headed north to begin our road trip.

Highlights on the trip around Scotland were taking a boat cruise on Loch Ness and exploring Urquhart Castle, getting up close to the famous Highland Coos, spending a few nights at a former abbey, and getting an introduction to Scottish Whiskey by taking a few different distillery tours. By far though, the best part of the trip was spending a few days on the Isle of Skye and hiking around the Fairy Pools. This was a place that consumed us with every step further into the valley and 3 hours we still hadn’t seen it all. The waterfalls and views kept getting better the further up you went.

We planned for rain and unpredictable weather, but definitely lucked out by getting sunny mostly clear skies and minimal showers.

The people were friendly, the food was great and the sights were like nothing I had seen before. If you ever get the chance to visit, you will not be disappointed.

Vincent European Vacation V3.0 (London and Scotland)

We are quickly approaching our trip to London and Scotland. Over the past few months I have been researching places to go and things to do in Scotland and creating spreadsheets. So many spreadsheets, but this is the only way I can stay organized for our trips.

(Most images below are from our 2016 trip to Ireland)

Jason and I will be starting our adventure off spending just over 2 days in London before taking the train to Edinburgh and then hitting the road to explore Scotland. We are looking forward to visiting Stonehenge, taking a boat cruise on Loch Ness to hopefully catch a glimpse of Nessie, and visiting The Isle of Skye and the highlands. We’ll also be hitting up a few castle visits and hikes along the way.

The final trip purchases and prepping are underway. Breaking in new pairs of hiking and rain boots are going to be key in these last couple of weeks. After weeks of research, Jason finally pulled the trigger and bought a drone we plan to try out on this trip as well. Below is a shot he took from the drone this weekend while practicing, just before he crashed it into a tree (it survived).

If any of you have experience in the areas we described above and have ideas, we would love to hear any suggestions in the comments. We’ve built time in the schedule (spreadsheet official) to make stops as we drive around Scotland and see landmarks we didn’t know about previously. We look forward to hearing from you!

Travel Advice (from a lazy guy)

#vincentadventure #blog #travel #advice

Hey guys sitting on the plane without WiFi and had some quick thoughts which could help you down the road in future travels 

This is also a reminder list for myself so please excuse the self indulgence

    Make friends (or don’t, you’re an adult it’s up to you *shrug*)
  • Enjoy the people watching
  • Bring the right equipment, technology, apps, spare battery, headphones, dongle ( I love and hate this word)
  • Snacks are expensive, bring your own and take any offered by the airline, especially the Biscoff cookies, if things go really bad you can trade them like prison cigarette currency
  • (If you do like those Biscoff cookies, they sell a spreadable version online that is awesome)
  • Smile if you can, if you can’t, write a blog
  • Don’t keep your head down, know when and where you need to be at all times, it will save you from running through the airport and looking like an asshole
  • HARDEST: If you do have troubles, speak with an agent but remember it’s not really their fault, they are the face of the org to you but are actually people behind that strained smile, except that one lady, she just sucks
  • If you have time, make a playlist for the flight/airport to put yourself in a positive mood, skipping through 1,500 songs can be exhausting on its own, but when traveling it’s worse (who downloaded all these Backstreet songs?)
  • You cannot go wrong with Stevie Wonder’s greatest hits
  • Download the movies you might actually watch, don’t wait to remember when you are boarding (personal experience)
  • If you do get bored, go through your photos on your phone and clean it up (hint: you don’t need that meme from 2015 you’ve been saving for the right moment, but the 700 photos of your dogs sleeping is exactly what you need when stressed)
  • Don’t stand in the aisle, whether boarding the plane, on the plane or otherwise, it’s a dick move especially if you don’t have the wherewithal to know people want to get past you 
  • EVEN WORSE: don’t try and cut in-front of people when de-boarding the plane, unless it’s a medical emergency, you picked the seat in the back, your the first to get on but the last to get off, deal with it
  • Have *just* the right amount of caffeine, enough to be aware and not enough to get the leg shaking jitters 
  • Don’t get pissy when you have to stand, it’s not like people WANT to us an airplane bathroom
  • Save your spare napkins, they come in handy in the worst of times
  • And finally, travel is tough on everyone, but do your best to not be that guy (yes that guy who cut in line is a dick)
  • Sorry for any and all typos, writing on your phone when feeling that inspiration and not proofing your work because of the headache is a thing
  • Italy 2018 Trip Recap Video

    #Italy #Vacation #VincentAdventure #Rome #Milan #Como #WereGoingOnAnAdventure #TravelBlog

    After months of me forgetting (actually more like putting off) to post about our final stop in Rome, Steph took the time to create a full video recap of our all stops. Take a few minutes to check it out.

    Italian Adventure 2018 from Stephanie Vincent on Vimeo.


    Italy Stop # 3 – Venice “The Floating City”

    After a quick stop back in Milan and a train ride over to Venice, we arrived in “The Floating City.”    The picture below is the first thing we saw as we stepped out of the train station, reminding us that this place is like nowhere else on Earth.  Now finding our airbnb rental was a bit of a headache.  After finally connecting with our host, we checked into the apartment, dropped our bags off and quickly went out to explore this truly unique city.

    Because we were only going to be spending two nights here, we wanted to make sure to see and experience as much as possible.   Our first stop was one of the most famous landmarks in Venice, the Rialto Bridge.  This is the oldest bridge that connects San Marco and San Polo. And when we say old, we mean its been under some form of construction over and over again since the Twelfth Century!


    One of the most interesting places to visit in Venice is Doge’s Palace. Much like many of the properties throughout Italy that are hundreds of years old, the ownership of the palace has had a mixed history, with it being currently owned by the local government. Think about how cool your county courthouse could look, that’s what the Doge’s Palace essentially used to function as before it became a museum. Placed in the Piazza San Marco, just off the water and very near San Marco Basilica, is a wonderful place to walk around even if you don’t go in. Just make sure to keep an eye on your wallet, as pickpockets are everywhere.

    Just behind us is the Bridge of Sighs, a limestone bridge known for being attached to the Doge’s Palace and once used to transport prisoners to and from court proceedings.


    We also visited the Peggy Guggenheim Museum, home to one of the most important collections of art in Europe. Ole’Peggy did two very important things in the last 80 years; she saw what Hitler was doing during his march through Europe and managed to either hide or transport her collection out of the reach of the Reich, and became the financial Patron to promising unknown artist named Jackson Pollock.

    Another point of interest we wanted to check out was the Ponte dell’Accademia Bridge.  This is another bridge that spans across the Grand Canal this time connecting Dorsoduro and San Marco.  The original construction of this bridge was made of steel but has since been torn down and replaced several times, the latest in 1986 where the wooden elements were replaced with metal arches for better support.

    While our time in Venice was short, we did manage to take a quick boat ride over to Murano, which is best known for glass making.  We spent a few hours walking the streets and popping in and out of various shops where artists will sell their pieces of work.  The extent to which they can create something out of glass is amazing to see.


    If you are contemplating a trip to Italy, it is worth your time to take a few days out of your itinerary and visit Venice.  The alleys are great to walk around and explore, the architecture is amazing to see and did I mention, where else are you going to be able to take a gondola ride down the canal?

    #Italy #Venice #SanMarco #Vincentadventure #Dogespalace #Murano #floatingcity #grandcanal #rialtobridge


    Italy Stop #2 – Lake Como

    #Italy #Como #VincentAdventure

    After a few days in Milan, our next stop was Lake Como in northern Italy. Much like some people in Minnesota that live in the Twin Cities metro area have cabins, Como is a popular destination for many in Milan. Simply jump on a train for less than an hour and you are nearly to the center of the popular tourist destination.

    Como is at the southern jumping off point for taking either a catamaran (fast boat) or a slow cruise up to some of the other nearby cities on the lake, including Tremezzo, Varenna and of course Bellagio. Two lane roads are also available around the lake, but my suggestion is drive as little as possible in all of Italy if you can; one because you are on vacation should relax, and two; driving in Italy can be scary for those unaccustomed to having your life in danger at all times.

    One of the first things we did was visit Castle Vezio (Castello di Vezio), a more than thousand-year old former military installation, that is now home to “ghosts”. And by ghosts I mean plaster outlines that they create each season that become weather-beaten and enhance the view (as you can see below). The castle also has falconry classes and a full battlement tower you can climb to the top of to take AMAZING photos of the lake and see for miles around.

    The only downside to visiting the castle is actually finding it. There are no direct roads, leaving only two options; a winding road that comes close but would still take more than an hour to get to following outside of the hill the castle sits on, or a single direct path that goes directly uphill. And when I say uphill, I mean nearly needing handrails uphill. All the info we saw said it would take a half-hour to reach, but they must have meant the way down, because it took us more than 40 minutes to walk, and we are both relatively healthy adults that like to hike. The walk was so steep and severe that my abs hurt the next day from walking bent over to keep my balance. The views were worth it though.


    Once we came back to Como for the night, we also took the Funicular up the side of the hill to gain a full view of Como at night. What the hell is Funicular you may ask? It is essentially a train car, built on almost a vertical plane. This train car takes you up and down the steep hillside to wonderful views. While our photos don’t quite do it justice, it is well worth a google search to see those whose have.

    My favorite part of the trip came when we visited Villa Del Balbianello on the coast of Lake Como. This former monastery, Catholic church vacation home and government-owned meeting place, was most recently owned by the heir of a grocery store chain fortune, Count Guido Monzino. He was an Italian adventurer who bought the property and restored it to its former glory in the 1970s. When he died in 1988 he gifted it to a state-run trust along with an endowment to keep up its maintenance. It is now a museum and often used location for well-known films such as Star Wars, Casino Royale and many others.

    There were many other parts of the visit to mention as well, like visiting Bellagio and walking through their shops and sampling gelato (which we will eventually get its own blog post), but the thing people always ask us about is did we see any celebs. And this time we did!

    The people who are always associated with Lake Como are George and Amal Clooney, as they own a vacation home on the water. We must have somehow gotten lucky while we waited for a boat, as look who was coincidentally catching a ride on a giant tour bus. Maybe his Bently had a flat?


    Italy Stop #1 – Milan

    #Italy #Milan #VincentAdventure

    After traveling from the MN airport to O’Hare and hanging out for a few hours, then a few more in Stockholm, we got to Milan around 1 pm local time. Knowing we would have 15 plus hours of travel behind us (and my general crabbiness), we booked a car service to take us from the airport instead of trying to figure out the local trains or buses for the hour transit between the airport and our hotel.


    With the exception of losing my favorite pair of sunglasses (RIP-free-black framed-promo-swag gift glasses), our first bit of travel went without a hitch and we stayed for a few nights at The Yard Hotel in Milan. The Yard is a boutique type of hotel with limited rooms, but a fun atmosphere. They greeted us with a few drinks and we tried our best to look cool after the long trip, but eventually had to go to the room and relax for a while before continuing our adventure.

    Italy Travel Tip #1: Don’t order a cappuccino after noon. While delicious and a great pick-up after travel, the wait staff will at minimum roll their eyes, and at maximum outright refuse to serve it. We actually talked to another couple from the U.S. and can confirm they were refused and offered another option. 

    Like most major European cities, Milan has an enormous history to it with many stories to tell. Knowing we only had 36 hours to explore, we planned ahead and visited a few key locations based off of Steph’s terrific ability to plan ahead.

    Our most well-known stop was the Duomo De Milano, or the Milan Cathedral for us Yanks. This church was under construction for NEARLY 600 years, starting in the 1300’s and finally considered finished in the 1960’s. It is the third largest church in the entire world, and largest in Italy as St. Peter’s Basilica is technically in Vatican City (spoiler: we went there too).

    Make sure to check out some of these photos, most specifically the ones of St. Bartholomew and the replica of the Madonna in Bronze. The Madonna is a bronze replica identical to one on the churches spire. It is said that if you gaze upon her you should feel relieved and take that feeling with you the rest of your days.

    For those of you not familiar with St. Bartholomew, he was one of Jesus’ apostles who was later flayed (read: skinned alive) and beheaded for spreading Christianity. The wrapping you see on him in this photo, in paintings and on this statue is not, in fact, a robe but his removed skin. You see, he was kinda a bad-ass.

    Our second main stop was the Sforza Castle, near the very center of Milan. Built and rebuilt, (and is the theme in Italy) built furthermore on during the 14th and 15th centuries, it is now a civic museum. While much of the museum was fun to see, its most important piece is that of Michelangelo’s final and only recognized unfinished sculpture. It is said he worked on it for the final 10 years of his life until he died in 1564.

    The Rondanini Pietà, is a statue of the Virgin Mary holding the body of Jesus done in marble. Having not seen a marble statue unfinished, it was amazing to see all the initial carvings done with a chisel and the uneven marks still throughout the piece. Seeing the difference from the rough texture of the rock to the well buffed and shine of what was complete was an experience. Also, because it was late in the day we didn’t have to wait in line or be blocked by other onlookers, so we could really experience the piece that much more.


    And finally, my favorite piece of art from the whole trip. Nothing speaks to my soul like L.O.V.E.  . You should click the link to learn more, but set directly in the financial district, the subject matter likely does not escape you.


    More posts to come, thanks for reading!