P&S in 11 or Less: San Francisco

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I’ve realized it’s next to impossible to share every priceless moment I’ve had on my adventures. If I were reading your trip recap, I’d find it more exciting to see your thrills and spills – the glorious highlights that MADE your trip. Cheers to hoping the name sticks – I wanted to share my 11 favorite moments from my recent trip to San Fran.

It was crazy. S & I both got off work early that Sunday and had a couple days off. The flights were wide open (good news for standbyers like me). As simple as the second star to the right, then straight on till morning. *only the star was a CRJ to Charlotte. So off we went. Here’s our highlights.

1. The Ferry Building

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S & I walked from Fisherman’s Wharf, past 39 piers all the way to this gem. I had to stop to catch my breath, and by that I mean get Starbucks. Just standing here for 15 minutes, I probably counted 8 brightly colored cable cars. It made the hike worth it.

2. Pier 39

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So the hike kicked my butt because I was actually stuffed. We ate lunch at Pier 39 and all I wanted to do was flop in the sun like these handsome men. We watched in just enough to watch the skinny sea lion lift his head to glare at the boat for disrupting his quiet.

3. Cupid’s Span

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I’m not gonna lie, I had no idea what this sculpture was called until I looked it up just now. All that matters is that it was Huge. AND, there was a woman playing with the happiest black poodle I’ve ever seen in my life. Dog was straight frolicking – I should have got it on video, it would have gone viral. #sanfrandogsarehappydogs

4. Boardwalk at Pier 39.

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If you walk all the way out on the boardwalk past the sea lions and the boat docking, you can see Alcatraz straight ahead. But if you look straight down, you see the single best advice I’ve ever seen in my life. OK, if you insist.

5. Same Boardwalk, Different Angle

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Selfie down by the bay. I saw no watermelons….

7. Fisherman’s Wharf

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So, I’m not saying skip the touristy stuff. Do that, because when is the next time you’ll be a tourist in San Fran? However, if you walk straight ahead through the crowd and shops and look to your left, there’s the Musee Mecanique. This is a warehouse PACKED with ancient coin-operated arcade games. By the way, Julia Andrews and Anne Hathaway arm wrestled there…

8. The Wharf at Night

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We were supposed to be on a flight back home at midnight. We landed that morning at 12:35am, slept till 9am, inhaled the city thinking we only had 12 hours on the ground. When we realized the midnight flight was overbooked, we stopped jogging and tried to enjoy our last few hours in San Francisco. This was right after dinner, as S & I were heading back to our cable car. If we weren’t so freaking exhausted, it would have been extremely romantic.

9. Our Cable Car

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This gem was my very first cable car. I am a true tourist now, and I can’t wait to ride them ALL!  This was also my sweet salvation at the end of our 12 hour tour of SF. As much as I adored our trek through the city, I was so excited to ride this trolley back to the hotel. I slept like a BABY that night.

10. Thank you San Francisco,

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for the sunburn, the sweat, the stinky fish smell, the weird locals, the overpriced souvenirs and the best first West Coast Experience a girl could have ever asked for. Thank you San Francisco!

11. But No Thank You’s to SFO Airport

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Never complaining again about a hotel. After being rolled off of 9 Standby Lists on anything flying Eastbound, we finally got on a flight to New York City… Flew into JFK to take a little 1am power nap. Couldn’t sleep. Ran the halls of JFK like loose animals. Then we taxied to La Guardia, where we realized security isn’t open at 3am. So we slept on the cold tile outside security like a homeless person. (probably with homeless persons… I didn’t ask the others sleeping in that hallway). Boarded the flight to Nashville where we rented a car and drowsy drove our way to Knoxville.

FINALLY we made it home with one of the most epic last-minute adventure stories of the year. Cheers to ALWAYS saying yes to adventure and dealing with the repercussions later.

3 Adventure Investments That Just Aren’t For Me

In a recent conversation with my guy, I came to the conclusion that while I’d love for my Instagram to reflect me in an adventurous, stylish and hip-with-the-times kinda girl, I just can’t afford it. My feeds are literally blowing up with my cool friends and their cool adventure supplies and frankly, I’m over here still discovering Clif Bars. I even bought a bicycle to seem cool, active, and adventurous. But in the spirit of being honest, the following is a expose on why I don’t belong in that life.

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As much as I want to adventure out into the world to some quiet alone place, hang up my hammock, and take a #myviewrightnow foot selfie… I can’t picture myself diving that deep into an adventure just to stop and set up camp. I’m sorry, but when I adventure, I must ramble on. It’s not you, it’s me. While you’re probably the most at peace human on the planet right now, my soul just can’t sit still. If anything, I would set up for a 3 minute photo shoot, get bored, and find a butterfly to chase.

Not an investment for me. You look great though!

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Chacos

“#NeverHadAChacoTan” tweeted nobody ever. Who would admit to such a thing. I’m definitely not a Chaco wearer, but you can fully blame my pride and my budget. See, when you have a size 12.5 foot and you’re a woman, you don’t even bother looking at shoes. That means this girl has had no Sperries, no Toms, no Uggs, and no Beanboots. And especially no Chacos. Now I know – I could always just order Men’s shoes. But frankly, I’ve been wearing ugly men’s sneakers and sandals for years. I’m not going to pay TBP* for men’s shoes. No.

Not an investment for me. You look great though!

*Trending Brand Price

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GoPro

Never Say Never, but I will need to amp up my coolness scale about 100 times before this investment would be worth it to me. We can’t all be Vitaliy*. I mean C’mon. When your biggest (regular) adventures is beginning a new Netflix season to binge on and trekking out into the great Kroger to buy more catfood… You just aren’t cool enough for the GoPro Life. (Although I travel often, if you know me, you know I have a knack for loosing expensive things. So even if I was cool enough, I’m not retentive enough!)

Not an investment for me. You look great though.

*This is Vitaliy

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Listen. If you are cool enough for these, please share your story. I need to know it’s worth it for someone. Unfortunately, that someone isn’t me.

P.S. #StayTrueToYou

P.P.S. This has nothing to do with my recent trips to Mast General Store and REI.

Review: Tours of Pompeii with Lello and Co. (Including Amalfi Coast)

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Friends, promise me you won’t try to go to Pompeii without Lello. I just finished my TripAdvisor Revew for our friends at Tours of Pompeii with Lello and Co. If your going to visit Ancient Pompeii, check them out! For our trip, we chose the private tour of Pompeii including lunch on the Amalfi Coast.

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While I adored Rome, this excursion was definitely THE highlight of our week in Italy. Antonio picked us up in Rome and drive us to Pompeii where we met Lello. He did a phenomenal job showing us what life in Pompeii was like before the eruption. Every story was full of passion, he made our tour feel like he was sharing his home with us. We checked out the daily life, where/how each social class lived, artwork, gladiator history, and other “extracurricular” activities.

Then, we went to Positano, a fantastic little city along the Amalfi Coast. Antonio escorted us to the most romantic restaurant on the beach where my date and I ate lunch, drank wine, and sat along the water finding sea glass.
We had some time to shop around too. High tourism season was just about to arrive, which meant all the locals were our painting their shop fronts – It was awesome to see the bud before the bloom.

I LOVED EVERY SECOND! Highly reccomended.
P.S. Take the shot of the lemoncello? It’s amazing.

Visited March 2015
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Review: Atlantic Luggage Carry-On (Aqua)

Atlantic Luggage Review: Roundtrip 21″ Upright Carry-on Spinner

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This little gem was my 18th Birthday present from my boyfriend’s sweet family. We were planning our first trip together, and my very first flight. Almost 3 years later, the only thing holding up better than my bag is my love for the places I bring it.

It’s toted hand carved gourds from New Mexico, sandy scuba equipment from the U.S. Virgin Islands, little black dresses from our New York Trip (and our reroute to Charlotte), and most recently, Rome and Paris.

Product Details:

• High density polyester fabric
• 4 wheel spinner system provides 360o mobility
• Two easy access zippered front pockets
• Expansion capability for additional packing capacity
• Cushioned top and side carry handles for easy lifting
• Push button retractable handle system
• Rear ID card holder
• Zippered interior lid pocket and multiple accessory pockets for organization
• Skid bar and corner guard protection provide durability

My Proudest Momet:

I especially need to brag on this bag after our recent European mini-tour. First of all, we weren’t supposed to stay 3 extra days, no were they supposed to be in Paris. We had originally planned for 6 days in Rome. Luckily, this bag was made with over packers like me in mind. Should you run out of space, the bag expands with a quick zip, giving you that extra inch you wish you had.  I was also able to keep my things organized in all the compartments, despite our entire itinerary going out the window. (Well, organized for me. My guy might argue whether or not you could call it “organized”)

A mayor's plan to modernize Rome’s cobblestone streets

But Here’s When I Knew What a Gem I Had:

Have you seen the cobblestones of the Roman streets? They make for beautiful scenery and tragic walks from the metro station. We stayed near the Spanish Steps, which is a fair trek from Termini Station, and an unfair trek when it’s raining and getting dark. A few wrong turns and some soaked socks later, we found the hotel. I swore the cobblestones would have tore my wheels to shreds, but No! They held up great, and my belongings weren’t even wet inside! That was just day one. Paris streets were no kinder. My Atlantic bag however was too tough.

I’m so pleased. It was easily one of the best gifts I’d ever gotten, and I love the brand Atlantic. They didn’t even ask me to brag on them – That’s how you know it’s a legit little carry-on. Love you, Little Blue Suitcase! Does anyone else have a favorite brand of luggage? Have you had “Thank-Goodness-For-This-Bag” moment in your travels?

Veni Vidi Vici – Rome, 2015

Who would have known a series of unfortunate events would have lead to the wildest adventure of my life. I’m officially back in the States after an unexpected 9 day tour of Europe, ready to pin Rome, Pompeii, Positano, and Paris on the map. I promise to make this short and sweet as, my Facebook followers have likely seen 300+ photos already!

Italy definitely won my heart. We spent the majority of our time in Rome. I promise I’ll do another post for Paris, but Rome – Rome was perfect in every way. Definitely my new European home away from home.

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Eats:
I made a point to try all the flavors of the area, including my first glass of wine (ever) which was a local red, choked down in a little seaside town called Positano. Lunch on the Mediterranean was definitely a dream come true. Maybe by next trip, I will have aquired a taste for the stuff. Otherwise, Mr. S and I ate all the things! Pizza, Salami, Spaghetti, more Spaghetti, Cannolis and Tiramisu. I was a little more brave compared to Sam – but then again, he actually enjoyed all his meals. I struggled with food luck, but I made it!

Sights:
Colosseum
Roman Forum
Trajan’s Forum
Arch of Constantine
Arch of Titus
Pantheon
Sistine Chapel
Spanish Steps
Trevi Fountain
Palatine Hill
Piazza Navona
Piazza del Popolo
Piazza di Spagna
Via Veneto
Via Corso
Campo de’ Fiori
Pompeii
City of Positano
Amalfi Coast

Reviews:
Tours of Pompeii with Lello and Co. – Oh My Goodness. Do not go to Pompeii without Lello. If you can’t afford Lello, at least promise me you will find a guide. We were picked up by Antonio at our hotel and he drove us to Pompeii where we were expecting a morbid hike through the ruins of the city. Instead, we met Lello at the gates and proceeded to walk through the daily life of individuals of all social classes. It was incredible to see the remains of such a rich and inventive society. Beautifully restored, Pompeii made it easy to imagine life before the eruption. The private tour also gave us time to ask questions and completely immerse in all that is Pompeii.

HQH Trevi – We fell in love with this hotel the moment we walked in the door. It was ideally placed right at the center of Rome, putting all of our must-see sites within a 30 minute walk. We felt completely safe, and had quiet restful nights. My only advice is, don’t expect a washcloth in ANY hotel in Europe. Between the 3 we stayed in, we never found a washcloth. Otherwise, the staff was so sweet, breakfast was delicious, and everything was clean and high quality.

Rome Marriott Park – This conference was out of the center of town, but if you’re looking to stay near the airport, you won’t find a lovelier hotel. The lobby was huge and gorgeous. Very classy, also with a multilingual staff who was very helpful. The restaurant provided us with a very romantic dinner, and we were relieved to be in such good hands when our plans got stressful.

No, Seriously – I was Literally Stuck in Europe.

So everyone keeps asking me what I mean when I say I got “stuck in Europe” over spring break. I don’t think they realize how literal I was being. So to make this easy, the following is the actual email that I sent to my professors.

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Bonjourno from Rome,

I am writing in hopes that you could consider changing my exam date.

You see, I am currently in Rome, Italy instead of on my flight back to the States. I fly non-revenue a standby traveler and things didn’t work out for my trip home. First, our flight home was cancelled due to air traffic control strikes during the window of time our flight was scheduled.  Then, unfortunately, this weeks ISIS activity, along with recent threats on Rome, caused nervous  American tourists to book all the States-Bound flights. The next flight from Europe to home is out of Paris on Monday. We are relocating away from downtown for this last night in Rome, then we will try to get to Paris tomorrow, which seems quiet. So, we are safe.

Skipping to the point, should that flight sell out without seats, I will not make it home for the test. As of now, I should be ok, but I wanted you to be aware! Flying standby is very much a game of Roulette. Thank you for understanding and I will keep you updated!

Now For the Photographic Evidence:

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Luckily, I made it home safe and sound for the tests. But not without rerouting to Paris to catch the only flight available to us. I know there’s worse things than getting stuck in Europe for an extra 3 days, but with dissolving funds, creeping exam dates, and work shifts in limbo – the end of our trip was less than restful.

Thankfully, my sweet boss Jayne was flexible for me. My partner in crime, Mr.S kept me from freaking out, and my exams went by without a hitch! Thank you everyone for sending prayers and well wishes on our travels back. I honestly think they carried my plane home.

Expect a Spring Break Report coming very soon – right after I knock out this massive pile of vacation laundry!

7 Smartphone Photography Tips To Read Before Your Vacation

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It’s almost time to jet off for Spring Break, my friends. And here I am without a nice camera! What’s worse is that vacations mean on-the-go photos, quick clicks and one-chance shots. You don’t have time to go back and retake the fuzzies. Luckily, Rocky Caughron, owner of Rocky’s Photography, has some tips for getting those professional looking photos right from your Smartphone camera.

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It is almost spring and many of you are getting ready for spring break or planning trips over the summer. These days everyone has at least one camera everywhere they go (your smart phone) which makes it very easy to document these memories (assuming you want to). Even if you’re not interested in starting your own photography business there is no reason not to learn some basics and take better vacation photographs or better pictures of your children. Here are 7 tips to get your started on your way to creating images you are proud to show off and hang on your wall.

1. Zoom is not your friend.

Most smart phones use digital zoom and that will reduce the quality and should be avoided. There are a few smart phones now that have optical zoom and if yours does zoom away and it will not reduce the quality of your images. If you’re not sure what I am talking about avoid using your zoom.

2. Don’t be afraid to get close.

With many cameras you have to be at least a few feet away from whatever you’re taking a picture of for your camera to focus. Most smart phones can be within six inches or so of your subject and focus just fine. This is great if you like taking pictures of flowers or any other small objects.

3. Find unique and unusual perspectives.

Don’t be afraid to get dirty by laying on the ground to take pictures of your kids or getting on a ladder to take an interesting group shot. If you’re taking a shot of a building or landscape don’t be afraid to walk or drive around to find a better angle or better light. Also if you are able try taking photos of the same scenes in the morning and then again in the evening to see when the light looks the best.

4. Find good apps.

Even if you’re not interested in learning how to use computer editing software like Photoshop you can still improve your images with an easy to use editing app like Photoshop Express or Iphoto. You will want to be able to do slightly more than just put a filter on your images that everyone else is using to make your work standout. Another thing to consider espesally if you have an iphone is to get a 3rd party camera app like Camera+, ProCapture Free, or Slow Shutter Cam. These apps will give you more control and features then your default camera app that came with your phone.

5. Follow the rules.

There are some standard rules in photography that can be learned and followed (at least when your just starting out) that will make your images better. Once you learn and master the rules it is then time to start getting more creative and break a few of them. One of those rules is the rule of thirds. It simply means to get the subject out of the middle of the image. Just by putting the subject off center can make an ok image a good one. There are many more rules we could talk about here but for now let’s just leave it at the rule of thirds. If you want to learn more look for information on leading lines, golden spiral, posing, lighting, and composition.

6. Learn to take control of your settings.

As with any camera smart phones have an auto mode and most people never take theirs off of this mode. However, if you want to be have more control and be able to be more creative learn how to change and control all the settings in your camera. At the very least play with some of the preset scene modes and learn what they do so you can use them to get the shot you want when the time comes. Also, don’t overlook the HDR mode if your camera has it. You can use the HDR mode to get details in the dark areas as well as the bright areas of the scene and is especially useful outdoors.

7.  Print, Frame, and Hang!

In this new digital age to many people aren’t printing their images. I suggest finding a good lab like Mpix or Adoramapix and getting some of those memories off of your phone and in your hands.

Your vacation memories are in your hands. Cheers to capturing them beautifully! Thank You for stopping by Rocky! I look forward to trying these tips on my trip! Does anyone else have any smartphone photography tips?

2015 – Run For Their Lives 5K/Walk Knoxville

Happy Human Trafficking Awareness Day!

For the second year in a row, I’ve had the honor of joining a couple hundred warriors running in the 2015 Run For Their Lives Walk/5k here in Knoxville. The event by Freedom 424 and The Community Coalition Against Human Trafficking is held around the country to raise awareness about the horrors of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation. On a local level, events like this raise money for better first responder training, relief efforts, and awareness in our community. They also fight for the rescue and support of victims both here in the States an other countries that have Freedom 424 programs.

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Despite the freezing cold weather, we had hundreds of outstanding folks run with us this morning in the name of Freedom. Local churches, running teams, athletes, and regular folks just like me took over Market Square and the downtown area in Knoxville. We shared the names of 3 remarkable young survivors who escaped Sexual Slavery and with their stories, we kept warm during the race.

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My job as a volunteer was to (try) and make sure every runner had a story to run for. Of course, the turnout was extraordinary. So, we didn’t get to everyone before the start of the race. All the survivors had a beautiful story card written in the reception room, so after the race, runners could go in and warm up, hear some great music, and celebrate such wonderful stories! We were reminded that our 3 names just represented a huge presence of injustice and abuse around the world.

Two of our honorees were from Virginia, USA and India. The third woman’s story stood out to me particularly because she is from Knoxville, Tennessee – My home town. She is currently my age, 20. And she was just a regular girl from a middle class home in my town. I encourage you to look up Sarah/Human Trafficking/Knoxville to read for yourself how very evident the problem of human trafficking is. Even here, in our own hometowns, in our suburbs, absent in our schools, we have individuals fighting for their body, rights, and dignity,

Thanks to the work of Freedom 424 and the passion from individuals willing to run in 14 degree temperatures, we can get this message out to those men, women, and children wherever they are.

Help is on the way.

You are not alone.

For a video of the crowd taking off, swing by here!

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Photo Credits: Julie Sanders and Phoebe Spooner

Polar Bears in Philadelphia Zoo

Don’t let the other post (This One) fool you. My one and only purpose for flying all the way to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is for one thing.

THE BEARS!

For the FIRST time in my life, I got to see a real life living Polar Bear breathing in front of me!

Let me tell you, I’ve made a lot of decisions in my life, some of which, I am not so proud of.

But making the Polar Bear my favorite animal.

Hands down the only decision that will ever matter in my life.

 

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So now that purpose in life is achieved, I can live the rest of my life in sheer joy.

In all actuality, Philly Zoo wasn’t that impressive. Besides the bears of course. I mean, the critters were cool. The weather was nice. It was clean enough. I just wan’t wowed as a whole. I mean, I would be back in a heartbeat. I guess I’m just disappointed that I didn’t get to touch any critters. They weren’t frolicking all that much and no one wanted to come to the edge of the exhibit to visit.

I haven’t been to a Zoo in a long time. So maybe, I’m just flashing back to the days when the animals seemed much larger. Or because I never found the elephants or kangaroos. Who knows.

Philly Zoo, It’s been Real. It’s been Fun.

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I Left My Heart in Philadelphia

You know you’ve had an outstanding vacation when less than 24 hours in a new city has you heading home feeling like a week has passed! S and I took on the town last week, skipped school and hopped a jet to Philadelphia! It was completely incredible! I got to experience so many new things – it was awesome! Plus, I got to quote Will Smith for almost 24 hours straight….

1. My first Philly Cheese Steak. Don’t worry – I braved the authentic street vendor version! Oh my gosh! Best $4 lunch I’ve ever had. Seriously Knoxville, you’ve been trying way too hard all these years. Philly is really where it’s at.

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2. My first Macy’s. Let the record show, it’s everything I’ve dreamed of and more. Plus we got there just in time to see the Christmas decorations beginning to go up! So, I think Knoxville would be a much better place if we got one of these marvelous stores. Or at least this bag.

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3. My first Taxi ride to the center of town! I’ve never been in a real life metered taxi – so that was a hoot! I felt like such a city gal! Round Knoxville Parts, We Ain’t Got Nothing like this!

4. My first Subway ride. Which was actually pretty nice! The seats were comfy and the place smelled just fine. Not crowded at all! Now – does TV over dramatize the subway system, or is that just New York’s? Maybe I just caught them on a good day.

5. I saw the Bell for the first time! And Liberty park! It was so beautiful, tucked away between skyscrapers, you could almost forget you were standing in the heart of the foundation of our little ole Country! Go Merica!

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6. Hard Rock Cafe Philadelphia Style. My first Hard Rock experience – I could practically taste the Rock and Roll in my burger. Unfortunately, I was so entirely stuffed I couldn’t finish!

7. LOVE! I found LOVE! Love park is just adorable. The famous sign was much smaller than I was expecting, but I didn’t even care! The city of Brotherly Love, Oh Philadelphia! I love you!

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Don’t worry – soon I’ll be posting ALL about Philly Zoo, which was the entire purpose of going to PHL. And be you forewarned. I SAW MY BEARS!