Happiness Highlights of 2018

As the year comes to a close, that usually means one thing for me: my word of the year. While I’ve chosen my word for 2019, I’ve been reflecting quite a bit on my 2018, which was happiness.  As I’ve had numerous ups and downs lately, happiness seemed extremely fitting at the time. It still is! At the end of last year, I was determined to “find” or “feel” happiness as I soldiered into 2018.

The result? More than feeling on a roller coaster to find happiness itself, I’m realizing it’s more recognizing that there’s always some kind of happiness to be thankful for. There has been much, much tragedy for the country and world this year. Seeing one of my oldest friends and all of her loved ones lose everything (in many instances, even pets)  in the Camp Fire of Northern California, the worst fire in the state’s history, has been one of the most devastating events of my life. I’m so grateful she is alive. News of the fires and the shootings in Thousand Oaks, California, on the very same day has been a daunting reminder that our lives can be over or change in an instant. This is why it’s been extremely vital to me that I enjoy the ride and happiness I have around me.

Something that never fails to make me feel alive is traveling. Especially road trips. I had numerous opportunities for Along Comes Mary of the travel nature and these trips opened the door for me to begin contributing to both FWT and Locale Magazines, respectively.

Happiness is Road Trips

From my visit to The Central Coast (in a rainstorm, no less) to our visit to the San Francisco Bay and Sonoma Film Festival, I had many “Is this really my life?” moments in 2018. Working with cities to share more about their communities has been one of my biggest accomplishments on Along Comes Mary. Here’s a glimpse of those adventures.

Cambria, California. (c) Mary Farah
On my way to San Luis Obispo, California. (c) Mary Farah
A grey morning in Petaluma, California. (c) Mary Farah
Covering the Sonoma Film Festival in Sonoma, California. (c) Mary Farah
A first time visit together to one of my favorite bridges and cities. (c) Mary Farah
Happiness are Hotels that feel like Home

Since I traveled some this year that means one thing: I stayed at a lot of hotels. Amazing ones, to be exact.  From The Embassy Suites of San Luis Obispo to The Clement Hotel of Palo Alto, these shots are just a small glance at some of my favorite accommodations from 2018.

The gorgeous atrium over looking San Luis Obispo’s Embassy Suites. (c) Mary Farah
Entrance at the Embassy Suites of San Luis Obispo, California. (c) Mary Farah

Much like my experience in 2017 at The Embassy Suites in Charlotte, North Carolina, The Embassy pulled out all of their stops once again when I arrived at their San Luis Obispo location for a few days in Central California.

While over in the San Francisco Bay, I had one of the most unique and incredible hotel stays yet at The Clement Hotel of Palo Alto. All inclusive, you arrive at The Clement and feel like royalty until you leave. Between their 24 hour pantry, dining room, bar, gym-Mike and I truly could move in to The Clement. Bonus? They even allow dogs.

Welcome to The Clement of Palo Alto. (c) Mary Farah
Every meal is included at The Clement. Even room service! (c) Mary Farah
Living room at The Clement. (c) Mary Farah
Cozy bed courtesy of The Clement. (c) Mary Farah

Then, there was my taste of the Pacific Northwest not once, but twice, this year. First up in May, I headed to the International Food, Wine and Travel Writers conference on the exquisite Whidbey Island in Washington. A highlight of my May getaway was definitely the Camano Island Inn. Imagine staying in a gorgeous suite with not just an ocean view, but your own private beach access. It was heavenly. Just like their delicious restaurant on-site.

In September, I had the chance to visit several parts of Oregon as well as head back to Washington. At the rustic Oregon Garden Inn, enjoy not just a beautiful suite (including a private patio) but access to the resort’s botanical gardens that include an adorable children’s garden. Just 45 miles outside of Portland, and in the adorable town of Silverton.

Doesn’t get much better than this at Camano Island Inn. (c) Mary Farah
“The Pot Head Family” in the children’s garden at Garden Inn Resort. (c) Mary Farah
Happiness is Great Wine with Friends

What took me to Oregon was a terrific week-long trip with The LA Wine Writers. Having been on several media trips, I’d not yet experienced one solely focused on wine regions. Visiting the vallies of Willamette and Tualatin, each day brought new adventures and such unique stories and tours from the winemakers of the regions. As I’m slowly working my way through stories on each of these incredible vineyard and winery tours, some highlights were Antiquum Farm Winery, Illahe Vineyards, Lady Hill and Alloro Winery.

While I’ve had folks inquire, doesn’t it get boring to see so many wineries? Don’t they all start to look alike? The answer is no. Each winemaker has such a one-of-a-kind story, and the grounds are vastly different at each stop. This trip inspired my new series on Along Comes Mary, Wine Women Wednesday.

Another fantastic region I discovered was Livermore Valley here in California. Covering their Taste Our Terroir weekend, I met such wonderful people during this Northern California adventure and even got to try my hand at yoga in a vineyard (followed by Rosé) and hear a fabulous concert led by local winemakers.

David Hill Winery. (c) Mary Farah
Don’t mind if I do. (c) Mary Farah
Grapes on the vine at Alloro. (c) Mary Farah
Winemakers concert at McGrail Vineyards in Livermore, California. (c) Mary Farah
Happiness is Shiny and oh so Bright

It’s no secret I love music and attending concerts. While 2017 found me seeing quite a few of my favorites, 2018 was a more subdued year of rocking out. Seeing the Smashing Pumpkins 3 times made up for that, though.

I’ve heard all the things about the Pumpkins’ leader, Chicago native, Billy Corgan. He gets a bad wrap much too often in the media. As for me, I adore his music and songwriting. I’ll gladly give him my money any chance I get to escape into his dark yet hopeful world of poetic lyrics and some serious guitar riffs. Having seen the Pumpkins quite often through the years, I’d never had the opportunity to see him with guitarist and co-founder, James Iha, along with original drummer, Jimmy Chamberlin. Until this year.

The 3 out of 4 founding members set out on an incredible arena tour and you can bet I was first in line for tickets. My 2 nights seeing them at The Forum in LA was nothing short of magical. Considered somewhat of a “reunion” tour, the Shiny and Oh So Bright show combined their classic alt-rock meets psychedelic shoe gaze with a Broadway-esque spectacle of video and visuals in a way only Corgan and his muses could dream up. So many of my favorite singles and deep-cuts were performed and the over 3 hour set reminded just why these dudes ROCK so hard.

And, as luck would have it, I scored a ticket to attend their free mini outdoor concert for the Jimmy Kimmel show a few weeks back. I’d never been at the absolute front of the pit and it was such a perfect send-off to a great 2018.

Smashing Pumpkins at The Forum. (c) Mary Farah
The Smashing Pumpkins on Jimmy Kimmel in Hollywood. (c) Mary Farah
Happiness is Friends and Family

2018 turned out to be such a terrific year filled with trips, music, food, wine and most importantly, my friends and family. None of the experiences I had would be possible without a little help from my friends. I’ve met so many brilliant people this year, and continue to feel incredibly grateful for those who’ve stuck around in my life.

As I said at the beginning of this post, there was much tragedy in 2018. I feel so fortunate to still be here and with the best family a gal could ask for. I can’t wait to see what 2019 has in store, and I hope you’ll continue to come along with me! xo

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