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20 Photos to Inspire You to Visit Palm Springs

Palm Springs, a city in the Sonoran Desert of southern California, was straight out of a dream to me. Everywhere I looked was visually appealing whether it be the palm trees against the mountains, the hotel with all the colors of the rainbow, the beautiful houses and midcentury-modern architecture, the design of every cute place we sat down for a meal, the botanical garden full of cacti, or the tram ride up to 8,500 feet. Palm Springs has fun and looks good doing it, but you can decide for yourself after seeing it all in photos.

We also noticed that love was in the air in Palm Springs. We saw a proposal, a wedding, and people getting it on in public all in one day. haha. Maybe it was because we were there the weekend before Valentine’s Day, or maybe it’s just the magic of Palm Springs. I’d like to think the latter. PS is also a hot spot for gays, so you clearly get the vibe that it’s an accepting, fan-of-love place. Win!

(After scrolling through all the photos you’ll see the specific details from our trip.)

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Palm Springs Aerial Tram… note to self: since you’re afraid of heights and coffee gives you anxiety, don’t drink a large coffee before ascending 8500 ft in a small, enclosed space ha!
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Can’t resist a good view though! Anxiety while getting here was worth it!
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8,500 feet: so cold and windy
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View going down. Incredible tram ride.
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Moorten Botanical Garden, Palm Springs
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In my happy place, succulent heaven!
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Calling me in
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Trying to figure out how to take them all home with me 🙂
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Palm tree views never get old!
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The Saguaro Hotel, Palm Springs–so dreamy.
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The Saguaro Hotel
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The view from our balcony was so good!
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all of the colors
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Bike rides to #thatpinkdoor
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Did you even go to Palm Springs if you didn’t get a photo in front of this house?
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architecture on point
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Can’t beat the curb appeal in this neighborhood
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Can I move in?
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Palm Springs, CA
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Desert sunset over the mountains. I’m in love.

Where we stayed: The Saguaro Palm Springs

What we did: Palm Springs Aerial Tram $26 each, Moorten Botanical Garden $5 each, bike ride (included in hotel fee)

Where we ate: lunch at Draughtsman, late breakfast at Kings Highway, drinks and apps at Tonga Hut, room service from El Jefe inside our hotel

Featured

Best Things to do in San Diego Each Month

Now that we’ve lived here for 3 years come June, I’ve noticed there are certain things we’ve wanted to repeat each year. I’ve categorized them by month to give you ideas of the best things to do in San Diego depending on when you’re visiting. Most of these things I’ve done at least once (many more than once). There are only a few I haven’t gotten to yet. Some events only happen during the month I mention them in, but many can be done throughout the year. Use this if you are looking for something unique to do that you won’t find on a typical San Diego itinerary.

January Events in San Diego

San Diego is a great place to start the year! If you visit during January you can enjoy meals at a great price during San Diego Restaurant Week. At the end of the month, the PGA tour comes to Torrey Pines for the Farmers Insurance Open, one of our favorite sporting events to attend each year (the location is fantastic). It’s also a great time to catch a show on broadway downtown. I’ve seen Hamilton and If/When in January.

February Events in San Diego

San Diego is home to a B-League hockey team, and February is a great month to cheer them on. We love going to San Diego Gull’s games! If you go on a Friday night, they have a $2 beer promotion.

March Events in San Diego

Will Ferrel puts on a fundraiser each March, so you get to drink a ton of craft beer for a good cause. Definitely check out The Best Coast Beer Fest if you’re visiting this month. Between the beer and the views you won’t be disappointed.

April Events in San Diego

This is a great time to visit the Carlsbad Flower Fields and officially welcome in spring. It is so beautiful and the photo ops are endless. If you’re wondering where the featured image of this post was taken, you have your answer!

May Events in San Diego

There are so many fun things to do in San Diego. I’ve already shared my favorite SD attractions, and May is the perfect time to check a few off the list.

June Events in San Diego

The San Diego County Fair goes on throughout the month of June. Spend a day enjoying carnival rides and eating fair food.

July Events in San Diego

We’ve come to the mutual understanding that every summer we will go to at least a few Padre’s games (MLB team). The Padre’s stadium is so nice. You definitely will want to see a game if you come to San Diego during their season, but don’t expect to eat normal stadium food; here you will be served only the best local eats and drinks. One huge event that takes place each July is Comic-Con. We’ve never been, but if it’s on your bucket list you’ll be here in July.

August Events in San Diego

Imperial Beach holds a dog surfing competition each year. If you don’t want to hang at the beach and watch dogs catch waves then I don’t want to be your friend 😉 But seriously, it’s so cute and worth checking out if you’re here in August.

September Events in San Diego

If festivals are your thing, you’ll want to visit in September and buy tickets to Kaaboo Del Mar. Past headliners included No Doubt, Jack Johnson, Pink, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Aerosmith.

October Events in San Diego

The Miramar Air Show is either at the beginning of October or the end of September. San Diego has a huge military presence and seeing the air show at Miramar is a fun and informative spectacle. To make your day at the MCAS Miramar Air Show even crazier, you can buy a VIP, all-you-can-drink ticket (obviously what we did ha).

November Events in San Diego

The Bing Crosby season at Del Mar Racetrack brings horse racing back to San Diego for the month of November.

December Events in San Diego

Even though it won’t be snowing here in December for the holidays, there are still plenty of festive activities to do. You can head over to the Hotel Del and go iceskating-by-the-sea. You can spend a few hours at the theatre watching The Nutcracker Ballet. Or you can head to Balboa Park during their December Nights festival to see it all lit up and check out some museums too!

You might also like:

9 Impressive View Points in San Diego to Inspire Wanderlust

Local’s Guide to the Best Fish Tacos in San Diego

5 Things To Do in San Diego When it’s Raining

3 Unique Spots for Your Next San Diego Brunch

 

 

Featured

9 Impressive View Points in San Diego to Inspire Wanderlust

There’s nothing better than a great view to inspire wanderlust. Personally, seeing an amazing photo of a destination is often the catalyst that leads me to book a trip. For example, take this shot of Reykjavik. It had me daydreaming about visiting Iceland for 7 years until I finally made that a reality–all because I knew being there in person would be that much more satisfying. If you’re wondering where to find such views in San Diego, here are 9 impressive spots!

Mister A’s

This classy restaurant in Bankers Hill offers amazing views of downtown San Diego with the airport’s flight path in between! It’s so mesmerizing to sit there and watch all the planes land surrounded by stunning views. You can even see the mountains of Mexico on a clear day. Like I said, it’s a classy place so remember the dress code (no shorts for men). It’s also expensive so if you want to come only for the view, ask to sit outdoors for just a drink or two. On the other hand, it’s super romantic at night if you’re looking for a place to celebrate something big.

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Can you spot the airplane landing??

Top of Cowles Mountain

If you have a spare hour and enjoy hiking you won’t regret seeing the views from the highest peak in San Diego county (best on a clear day).

Bayview Park in Coronado

There are multiple parks on the bayside of Coronado, but for some reason this little guy is my favorite out of them all. The view driving over the bridge to get to there is amazing as well! Coronado is one of my favorite places to stroll around for a couple hours. Between the Hotel Del, huge stretch of beach (with a sand castle master at the start and a dog beach at the end!), and beautiful homes everywhere, there’s a lot to see while still being very relaxed.

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Mount Soledad in La Jolla

If you want to see sweeping views over San Diego but don’t want to hike, this option is convenient because you can drive right to the top. Such a gorgeous spot!

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Beach for sunset

This will never get old to me and there are tons of beaches to choose from–any will do! My personal favorite is Fletcher Cove in Solana Beach, but I may be biased because I live there. See more: My Love Letter to Solana Beach

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Just imagine it at sunset! Swoon!

Rooftop bar in Gaslamp District

I always try and get to a rooftop bar wherever I’m traveling as I love the vibes they offer. Rustic Root has a cute rooftop right in the middle of Fifth Street and Altitude Sky Lounge overlooks Petco Park!

The Marine Room in La Jolla

If you want something really luxurious get a meal at The Marine Room. They do high tide dinners and brunch depending on the time of year–you can eat while waves crash against the windows (with a price tag to match).

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Not the best photo but you get the gist 🙂

Outdoor bar with ocean views

George’s at the Cove in La Jolla or El Prez in Pacific Beach are two of my favorites. It doesn’t get better than chilling with a drink in your hand with nothing but ocean stretching out in front of you. George’s has a classier vibe whilst El Prez is younger and can get pretty rowdy as the day goes on.

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Out on the bay

I’ve personally done the jet boat and the brunch cruise with Flagship (highly recommend both) and a boozy catamaran tour (so much fun). Seeing the bay from the bay is pure bliss!

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Have you been to San Diego? Where else would you add to this list?

 

Featured

Local’s Guide to the Best Fish Tacos in San Diego

Fish tacos and San Diego go together like peanut butter and jelly. If you’re visiting San Diego you must eat fish tacos at least once to do your trip justice and ensure you experience that beachy, laid back essence of SoCal (#vibes). To help make the decision of where to go for the best, I’ve shared my top picks as well as one wild card pick from Ollie. Happy eating (and remember: having them served on corn tortillas is the authentic way to go)!

Where to find the best fish tacos in San Diego: The Fish Shop

The Fish Shop is one of my absolute favorite places to eat in San Diego in general, but it’s their amazing fish tacos that initially pulled me in. With two locations to choose from (Pacific Beach and Encinitas–both are great places to spend a day if you ask me), getting to The Fish Shop might be your most convenient option out of all these recommendations. Ordering here is super fun–you choose the type of fish you want then pick from many different marinades & plate styles. I also really love how the decor embodies that SoCal vibe perfectly. You will definitely leave with a smile on your face!

The Fish Shop Encinitas 

Where to find the best fish tacos in Cardiff: Las Olas

Eating at a restaurant right across the street from the beach will never get old to me. Then give me a pina colada & delicious fish tacos and I might call it heaven. That’s what you’ll get at Las Olas–the vibe (and food) is always on point.

Las Olas Mexican

Where to find the best fish tacos in Del Mar: The Brig

This is our favorite place to get happy hour tacos and enjoy a fancier restaurant at a lower price. We love these fish tacos because they are a classic recipe done right. Local’s tip: spend some time across the street at Del Mar Dog Beach before or after you go. Few things are better than watching happy doggies play in the ocean.

The Brigantine

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Where to find the best fish tacos in La Jolla: Puesto

Go here for more of a foodie/craft taco experience. Puesto is one of those places that puts a lot of thought and effort into each bite. The menu is interesting in the best possible way, the space is really fun, and they serve wines from Mexico’s nearby Valle de Guadalupe. The experience we had eating at Puesto was worth the slightly higher price.

Puesto Mexican Artisan Kitchen and Bar

Ollie’s Pick for the best fish taco in San Diego: SALUD in Logan Heights

This trendy yet authentic place blew us away. We didn’t come for fish tacos, but Ollie ended up ordering two and falling in love with them. They also serve bottled Coco Cola from Mexico (a.k.a. it’s made with real cane sugar, not high-fructose corn syrup). Local’s tip: Nearby Chicano Park is worth strolling through to admire all the Mexican-American/ Mexican-immigrant street art under the highway.

SALUD

 

You might also like: 3 Unique Spots for Your Next San Diego Brunch

Featured

Hello 2018: My Daydreams & Travel Goals

Happy New Year everyone! We all get another chance to reflect on the past, plan for the future, and make room for new goals. In 2017 I tried to do a trip-a-month, but this year’s travel goals will be quite different. New year new you right? (See if I accomplished last year’s goals here…I also share my reflections and highlights of 2017 travels). And now without further ado here are my travel goals for 2018:

Travel Less

Wait what? Isn’t this a travel blog and your first travel goal of the year is to not travel? Yes; lately I’ve been feeling a need to slow down from last year’s fast pace (most months we went out of town at least once but some months multiple times)…at least my bank account does. I’m hoping to save a decent chunk of money this year for something really special in 2019. It doesn’t mean I won’t be traveling though. See my next 2 goals! However, I do hope to budget more successfully, get into a routine of tracking my spending on a spreadsheet, and save some moolah!

Go on my First Solo Trip

I did live in London for 2 months basically on my own in 2014, but I had 3 girls from my college in the same building and visitors for about half my time there. I don’t really classify it as a solo trip even though I did lots of exploring on my own. I’m overdue to have my first official solo female travel experience. I think it would teach me a lot, and it’s something I don’t want to wait much longer to make happen. My dream locations are Israel and Copenhagen. Japan has also recently become a top contender for a girls trip if solo travel doesn’t end up happening, so we’ll see what 2018 brings my way.

Travel to Out-of-town Weddings

We have 4 weddings to attend in 2018 between Chicago, Maryland, Mexico, and San Diego. A lot of our time off work will be used for these occasions and I AM SO EXCITED!

Explore more of beautiful San Diego

We are so lucky to live in southern California, and I feel like we’ve only scratched the surface of its awesomeness. I’m hoping that slowing down our travels will leave us with more time to explore the ins and outs here in San Diego. I’ve been dying to check out more breweries, restaurants, cafes, and bars to get a better feel for all the neighborhoods. We’ve hit a majority of the touristy spots by now so we can focus more on local gems this year. I also want to take advantage of the amazing weather and spend lots of time outdoors!

What changes do you hope to make in 2018? Where are you daydreaming about visiting?

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2017 Travel Review & if I Accomplished #tripamonth

Are years flying by faster and faster or is it just me? I cannot believe 2017 is almost over, but nonetheless it’s time to reflect on the past before making way for 2018. This year I set myself the goal of doing a #tripamonth (some people call it #take12trips). I didn’t want having a full time job to slow me down from pursuing outside passions (aka travel). This goal was so close to being accomplished, but I did not leave town in December.

Can’t be mad about that, though–we had family visiting and we all know it’s not where you are but who you’re with that matters 🙂 Work obligations on top of not wanting to deal with moving around over Christmas also impacted our travel-less December. Some months of the year we did more than one trip, so I feel like I can cut myself a bit of slack and say it was a successful #tripamonth year… So here is a review of where 2017 took me! I also added the links to all the blogs that resulted from each trip if you want to relive any of them with me before we say hello to 2018 🙂

January: started 2017 in NYC with family which was so epic.

Summer vs. Winter: NYC Edition

February: went on an amazing girls trip to Arizona.

Here’s Why You Should Visit the Grand Canyon in February (with photos)

How To Spend 4 Days Adventuring Through Arizona

March: found couple heaven and learned how to ski in Big Bear.

Why I Don’t Want to Tell You Where We Stayed in Big Bear

April: went to Indianapolis for a wedding with a pit stop at Purdue; also went to LA for a concert and hockey game.

no posts resulted, oh my!

May: left the country for the only time this year and drove around Iceland with my bestie; also snuck over to San Francisco for a quick weekend over Memorial Day.

What It’s Really Like Driving Around Iceland

Street Art Spotlight: Reykjavik

Strange in the Best Way: Iceland Through Stories and Photos

Another Weekend Spent Falling in Love with San Francisco

June: went to Chicago for a wedding, and I fell even more in love with that city.

no post resulted! Highlights included Cubs game and rooftop bars overlooking Millennium Park and Lincoln Park

July: got a taste of island life when we stayed overnight just off the coast of LA on Catalina Island.

How We Found Ourselves on Catalina Island

August: spent a fun weekend with friends in Redondo Beach.

We spent a lot of time over the summer enjoying home… I wrote this post about all the reasons I love Solana Beach.

September: returned to a really special spot in Big Bear, hung out with friends in D.C. and got our NYC fix yet again; visited LA another time for a girls weekend.

The Top 6 Reasons I Have a Crush on Alpenhorn B&B

Culture, Concrete, & Calories: 5 Amazing Days in NYC

How to See the Best of D.C. in a Day

What Traveling Somewhere You Don’t Like Can Teach You

October: blissful weekend in San Francisco over Halloween.

The Best Way to Check Sausalito Off Your Bucket List

Where to Have a Great Meal in San Francisco

November: Miami which I’m still smiling about.

An Expat’s Top Reasons to Tailgate when You Visit the U.S.

Miami for Couples: First Timers’ Guide to a Hot Weekend

December: exploring San Diego and discovering more local favorites

We also had many friends and family come visit us in San Diego throughout the year, so we were always doing something fun. It still feels like I’m on vacation even though I live here. I’ll share my San Diego specific posts below.

9 Delightful Ways To Have The Best San Diego Summer

Rosé and Summer Memories

5 Things To Do in San Diego When it’s Raining

3 Unique Spots for Your Next San Diego Brunch

Travel Awards

I spent some time reflecting on all these trips and wanted to break them down a bit more for anyone interested.

Most Peaceful: Iceland, runner up Big Bear

Most Impressive View: Grand Canyon, runner up Iceland

Most Fun: Miami, runner up NYC

Place That was Just OK: LA, runner up Catalina Island

Place with the Best Food: San Francisco, runner up Chicago

Favorite Bucket List Activity: Blue Lagoon in Iceland, runner up National Archives Museum in D.C.

Favorite Accommodation: Alpenhorn Bed and Breakfast in Big Bear, runner up Kimpton EPIC Hotel in downtown Miami

Place I Want to Return to the Most: Miami, runner up NYC (can never get enough of that city)

Places Visited More Than Once: NYC, San Francisco, LA, Big Bear

Favorites in San Diego: Karl Strauss Sunday Brunch, runner up El Prez rooftop bar

 

2017 was such a great travel-filled year, and I can’t wait to see what 2018 brings!

What were your most memorable travel moments of 2017? Would you do the #tripamonth challenge?

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Miami for Couples: First Timers’ Guide to a Hot Weekend

To say we enjoyed our time in Miami would be an understatement. It was quite possibly the best weekend of the year, and we’ve had A LOT of good weekends in 2017. It’s kind of magic when you travel as a couple and find a place that makes each person as happy as the other. We both adored everything we did all weekend, but Ollie especially loved the sporting events while I loved the art, cultural vibes, and beach. It was my first visit to Miami and Ollie’s second. I highly recommend the following for anyone visiting Miami as a couple for the first time!

Where to stay in Miami:

We checked into the Kimpton Epic Hotel in downtown Miami. Our room was super nice, especially the bathroom. Sadly the hotel pool was under renovation which was kind of the main reason I booked this hotel, but we liked our stay regardless. The location was decent. We were a quick Uber from Wynwood, Little Havana, and SoBe. We probably spent more time in South Beach than anywhere else, so booking a place in SoBe would have been smart but probably a lot more expensive.

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Looking over the river from our balcony

What to eat in Miami:

If you are a fan of bottomless brunches, you HAVE to go to Prime Fish in South Beach. For $55 you get unlimited mimosas (other bottomless options available) and 4 and a half hours to devour a really upmarket buffet. They do the brunch on Saturdays and Sundays. Apparently Sunday gets really crazy, so we went on Saturday to enjoy chiller vibes.

The other amazing meal we had was at Doce Provisions in Little Havana. I would describe it as hipster Cuban. We were both blown away by our meals and the atmosphere.

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Cuban spin on chicken and waffles @ Doce Provisions
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So excited for my salmon @ Doce Provisions

Where to drink alcohol in Miami:

In South Beach, we killed some time at the Clevelander. Ollie loved that bar, but I thought it was just ok. He was in a party mood and I was in a beach mood, though, ha!

In Little Havana we really enjoyed our time at Ball and Chain drinking happy hour cocktails and listening to live music. Nothing beats live music, especially when it’s Cuban or jazz.

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Ball and Chain!
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Loving Little Havana

We also ended up going on a sort of brewery hop in Wynwood, stopping at Wynwood Brewing Co., Concrete Beach, and J Wakefield Brewing. I highly recommend each of these spots–the craft beer was fantastic and the interiors unique.

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I think Concrete Beach was my favorite brewery!
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J Wakefield Brewing, Wynwood

What to do in Miami:

Besides sleeping, eating, and drinking there is so much to do in Miami.

Attend a professional sporting event: Miami is home to the Dolphins, an NFL team. Going to the recently renovated Hard Rock Stadium for the game was our main reason for this visit. It was so much fun and the tailgate was even better! I wrote all about that here. Miami also has an NBA team, the Miami Heat. Ollie was bummed they weren’t playing while we were there, especially because our hotel was so close to the arena. Next time! If you’re a baseball fan, head to a Miami Marlins game. All of those stadiums looked so nice.

Chill on the beach: One of my favorite parts of our visit was relaxing on South Beach. It was definitely busy, but that made people watching the international crowd that much better. The water was mesmerizing as well–I couldn’t stop staring at the bright blues. Living in San Diego, I’ve gotten used to the Pacific Ocean, which is definitely beautiful but usually too cold for me to enjoy. Being able to go in for a swim was the best! I also loved all the colorful lifeguard stations and being able to look back towards the mainland and see all the art deco buildings.

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One happy girl walking along South Beach
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Beautiful blues in SoBe

Explore Wynwood: Wynwood is so cool and was the highlight of the trip for me. There is street art EVERYWHERE, hip coffee spots, incredible breweries, funky shops, and tons of art galleries. We ordered room service at 2 a.m. the night before coming to Wynwood, so I unfortunately don’t have any food recommendations haha. We started our afternoon in Wynwood at Panther Coffee, admired the Wynwood Walls, strolled around some shops while taking in all the street art, and went to the three breweries I mentioned above. Highly highly recommend carving out a few hours to wander around Wynwood.

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Panther Coffee @ Wynwood Walls
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One of my favorite snaps from Wynwood
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Loved those two pieces
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Miami definitely makes you feel that way 🙂
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Scenes of NYC in Wynwood
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Wynwood Walls
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Don’t forget to look up, Wynwood Walls

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Art is EVERYWHERE in Wynwood <3
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Walking into Plant the Future, Wynwood
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Plant the Future, Wynwood
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Browsing succulents @ Plant the Future in Wynwood

Experience Cuba in Little Havana: After an afternoon in Wynwood, catch a quick Uber to Little Havana to experience the evening festivities. We went on a Monday, so apparently it was dead compared to the weekends, but we still found it very lively and fun. First we checked out a couple of the Cuban shops (aka cigars for days), then settled in at Ball and Chain (mentioned above) for drinks and music. We weren’t quite ready for dinner so we walked to the bar across the street and repeated our steps at Ball and Chain haha–more drinks and live music. The atmosphere of Little Havana was incredible. We finished a perfect day with a perfect meal at Doce Provisions (also mentioned above).

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Shopping for cigars in Little Havana

What to do with a few random free hours in Miami:

Check out an art museum: We had a couple awkwardly placed hours to spare before our flight home, and I wanted to get in another dose of art after being so inspired by Wynwood the day before. I headed to The Perez Art Museum. It was the perfect way to spend an hour or so. Ollie didn’t feel like coming in, so he grabbed a beer and sat on the beautiful patio that looks over Biscayne Bay while waiting for me. I loved this museum. It was small enough to wander through it all, but interesting enough to hold my attention the whole time. I loved reading the blurbs about each piece and seeing so much work by Cuban artists.

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Outside the Perez Art Museum
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Perez Art Museum, Miami
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This wall made me happy 🙂

What we could have done outside Miami with more time:

A CRUISE! I would love to come back and do a 4-5 day caribbean cruise.

Rent a convertible and road trip to Key West. All the people we met highly recommended spending a day or night in Key West–it’s gotta be beautiful!

Miami, you are such a hottie!

I have a feeling we won’t be able to stay away from you 😉 Have you ever been to Miami? Did you like it as much as we did?

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An Expat’s Top Reasons to Tailgate when You Visit the U.S.

Someone coming to the States who wants to have an American time should look no further than “the tailgate.” Sport is such a huge part of our culture here. Between professional and college sports, there’s hardly ever a day where you can’t tune into something on TV whether it be baseball, basketball, football, soccer, golf, tennis, hockey, etc. I spoke to my husband (an expert with years of personal experience integrating into American culture) about this sacred practice so you can really get a feel for why you should attend a tailgate if you are coming to the U.S.

First, some general information about the American tailgate:

The most common sport to tailgate for is American football…NFL (National Football League) and college teams–not soccer which is called football in every other country. Football season runs roughly from the end of August to the first weekend of February, so if you are traveling to the U.S. in that window I highly recommend researching to see if any games will be on where you will be traveling. Even if you aren’t a big sports fan or if you don’t understand the rules of football, the NFL is a league built purely on entertainment so it will be an experience regardless.

Tailgating is the name given to partying before the game begins usually out of a vehicle. A tailgate typically occurs in a parking lot outside the stadium and lasts about 3-4 hours. People get all decked out in their team apparel (some fans get way dressed up which is fun to see), grill out, eat, drink beers and other alcoholic beverages, dance to music, and just get hyped about the game in general. Like I said at the start, it is a very interesting and fun tradition in American culture. Americans take sports pretty seriously, with most people having extreme loyalty to certain teams from their hometown or where they went to college. The tailgate is another avenue, besides just attending the game, to outwardly express this loyalty.

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Hard Rock Stadium in Miami

I sat down with Ollie to get his take on tailgating and why he recommends experiencing one if you can. Here’s what he had to say:

Tailgating is like God’s gift to society.

The only time an Uber dropping you off 2 miles away from your destination is ever justified is when you know you’re walking to a tailgate. As you get closer to the stadium, you smell the grills fired up with every delicious thing your slightly intoxicated mind could imagine. You walk through the sea of tents with the stadium in the background, and it feels heavenly because you know what’s about to happen. It creates the perfect ambience for getting into your zone before the game.

The die-hard tailgater is surely something that needs to be seen.

Some people not only set up tents/coolers/grills but also set up satellite dishes, flat screen TVs, electronic generators, and sound systems out of the back of their car so they can watch other sports during the tailgate. These people are the pinnacle of what sporting life is all about. You also don’t want to miss the super fans who get all dressed up in different costumes for the game.

Attending a tailgate can potentially save you money at the game.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that $14 for a Bud Light could run Bill Gates’s bank account into the ground. One of the great advantages of tailgating is insuring that you get your fill before you even step a foot inside the stadium. Let’s not forget about cost of food. If you’re lucky enough to tailgate with people who know their way around a grill you are going to have a good time.

The atmosphere at a tailgate is one-of-a-kind.

There is no sense of excitement like die hard fans grilling and drinking outside of a stadium wearing their team colors. The excitement of fans in its purest form is something you could only see at a tailgate. You don’t want to miss seeing everyone tossing around the pig skin, playing corn hole, listening to music and dancing around. It is the pregame TURN UP.

Thanks for those great words of wisdom Ollie 🙂

Practical tips for attending a tailgate:

The NFL has restrictions on what you can bring into games. If you don’t know anyone to tailgate with or don’t have a vehicle to leave stuff in, I recommend putting some beers and ice into a disposable bag or container. That way you can have drinks during the tailgate without needing to store anything when it’s time to head into the game. They only allow you to bring clear bags into the game, so you’ll need one of those. Alternatively what I do is keep my ID, credit card, and cellphone in my pockets and go without a bag.

It just so happens that we were recently in Miami for a Dolphins game and attended our third Dolphin’s tailgate (but our first actually in Miami). Here are some photos to give you a glimpse into what it looks like when it all comes together.

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Gotta rock your team colors!
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Parking lot filled to the brim!
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Super fans!

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I love the team Bud cans!
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MIAMI DOLPHINS

Have we convinced you to add tailgating to your US itinerary?

 

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Where to Have a Great Meal in San Francisco

San Francisco might be my favorite place to go out to eat. Each time I visit, I make it a point to try something new and different because I know I won’t be let down. I feel like you can get anything in San Francisco because of how many people from different cultures call it home. I also love the small, homey vibe of the restaurants. In my opinion the coziness makes the whole experience even tastier. Over the past year, I’ve been to San Francisco three times and have had AMAZING dinners each visit. I love how you can feel like you’re in another country without ever leaving the city. If you’re looking for somewhere to sit down for a great meal I highly recommend the following places!

  • Cafe Europa for Ukrainian/Polish
  • B-Star for Burmese fusion
  • Tony’s for Italian
  • Leopold’s for German

I asked my cousin for her recommendations as well (born and raised in SF!):

  • Elephant Sushi on Hyde Street for Japanese
  • Don Pisto’s in North Beach for Mexican
  • Tartine Bakery Devil’s Tooth Bakery
  • Woodhouse Fish Company on Fillmore Street for seafood
  • Bonus restaurant on her radar: Swan Oyster Depot 

San Francisco continues to win over my heart (and stomach) each visit, and I always leave feeling a bit more cultured 🙂

What’s your favorite city in terms of food??

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Just the appetizer @ Tony’s…when the main came out it was gone before I could get a photo.
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Mains @ B-Star

 

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The Best Way to Check Sausalito Off Your Bucket List

Since it was my fifth visit to San francisco I figured it was time to expand my explorations of the area, and the one place that kept coming to mind was Sausalito! It kind of feels like another world, very European with its cliffs and bays and sailboats and sunshine. So I didn’t think just driving there would do it justice; it deserved more of an adventure.

We decided to rent bikes and cycle our way there across the Golden Gate Bridge. It probably ended up being close to 7 or 8 miles, but it wasn’t a super challenging ride (except for the couple uphills). Spending an afternoon riding bikes felt so carefree and wonderful, and I had never realized what a great way it is to explore. Even in complete fog, it was epic! I would 100% do it again on a sunny day in the city.

We rented through a company called Blazing Saddles which I was mostly happy with.  Beware: they tried to rip us off ferry tickets, so be cautious before you pay that you haven’t been over charged for anything.

Once on Sausalito we headed straight to Bar Bocce where we ordered shandys, relaxed, and took in the beautiful views. Instead of biking back, I suggest taking the ferry. There’s something so special about seeing a city from the water, and they have a bar on board (cash only) to keep the party going.

If you have a spare day in SF or want to visit Sausalito I highly recommend doing it this way!

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Cycling through the Marina District, SF
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Taking in the city views before crossing the bridge
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Despite not being able to see ANYTHING because of the fog, it was still an epic ride!
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Ollie’s SO annoyed that I’m taking a selfie while cycling
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The most the the Golden Gate Bridge we saw that day
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Drinks @ Bar Bocce
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SAUSALITO you beaut

 

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The Most Effective Way to Have Drinks with George Washington

I’m hoping this comes as no surprise to anyone considering it’s been 218 years since George Washington’s death, but he is no longer alive and able to meet up for beers. However, I recently visited a couple spots that made me feel like I was vicariously in his presence and wanted to share these legendary American taverns with you. One of the things I love so much about traveling is being physically in a place where historic people have been. If you find yourself on the east coast I highly recommend popping in for a beer or two, so you can say you’ve had drinks at the same bar George Washington used to frequent.

(Click the links if you’re interested in reading about their specific history and tie to our first president.)

Fraunces Tavern, New York City

 

Gadsby’s Tavern, Old Town Alexandria

 

Do you have a favorite historic bar?

 

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How to See the Best of D.C. in a Day

I have to be honest: D.C. blew my mind. I knew I was going to enjoy myself and see a lot of cool American history, but I didn’t realize how incredible and indescribable I would find it all. I highly recommend visiting this city if you haven’t been, or if it’s been a while, and you don’t even need a ton of time to do it. We spent one solid day exploring, and I felt happy with what we were able to see in such a short time, granted it was a jam-packed day.

I recommend starting your day at a museum of your choice.

There are so many to choose from, so do a bit of research and decide which one intrigues you the most. I liked starting with a museum because at the beginning of the day we were caffeinated and able to pay more attention to detail (I personally would have found it hard to browse a museum after walking around and looking at monuments all day but that might not be an issue for you).

We started our morning at Newseum. As you can guess from the name, it’s a museum all about the news, and it was really impressive. Every morning they print the current front page of one newspaper from each state. It was interesting to see all the nation’s headlines side by side, and this is before you even step foot inside the museum. Once inside, we did an interactive exhibit where we got to be newscasters, read off a prompt, and watch ourselves onscreen, which was so much fun. We browsed a couple floors of historic newspapers, seeing iconic stories like Man on the Moon, Marilyn Monroe Found Dead, Vaccine Dooms Polio, etc. I spent my time surrounded by those old newspapers reflecting on the power of the media, how it’s changed over time, and what that’s meant for our society. In Newseum you will also find a section of the Berlin Wall, the antenna that stood on top of the World Trade Center, and all of the Pulitzer Prize-winning photographs. The top floor also has an outdoor deck with a great view of the Capitol Building. We definitely could have stayed the whole day, but after a couple hours we were ready to see more of D.C!

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Views of the Capitol Building from the top floor of Newseum
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Artifacts @ Newseum
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911 Tribute @ Newseum
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Berlin Wall @ Newseum

You have to visit the National Archives Museum.

If there’s only one museum you step foot into while visiting D.C., make it the National Archives Museum. First of all it’s free and centrally located, but more importantly it’s home to The Declaration of Independence, The Bill of Rights, and The Constitution. It doesn’t get more American than that, and I cannot describe how surreal/amazing it was to see the sheets of paper that started it all.

Grab a bite to eat and wander around the beautiful, clean downtown. 

We ended up getting an Uber to a sandwich shop called Bub and Pop’s which was sooooo good. My friend and I split a sandwich, just half was enough to keep us fueled for most of the day–they were that loaded! Bub and Pop’s is less than a mile away from the White House, which happened to be our next stop, so it was the perfect location to allow us to walk around downtown a bit after lunch before starting all the sightseeing.

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Huge sandwiches at Bub and Pop’s
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Downtown D.C.

Get your fix of The White House from ground level and above. 

We made sure to spend a decent amount of time in this iconic building’s presence. We got photos of the front and back, and also went to a rooftop bar to admire it over drinks. From POV at the W Hotel you can also see some other monuments, so it was a great teaser for what we would be doing next.

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Admiring the White House
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THE WHITE HOUSE
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Can’t stop looking at it

Explore all the monuments to your heart’s desire! 

While you could spend hours visiting tons of great monuments, we headed straight for the Lincoln Memorial in the interest of time. I was so impressed by the view of the Washington Monument in the reflection pool as well as being in the spot Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous speech. You definitely don’t want to miss The Lincoln Memorial.

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Walking past the Washington Monument
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Iconic view from the Lincoln Memorial

Spend the evening in Georgetown. 

You could certainly spend the rest of the day just in D.C., but we decided to head to Georgetown for something a little different. Wandering around the cobblestone streets and admiring the east coast-style buildings made me giddy. Georgetown is home to The Old Stone House, built in 1765 and the oldest structure on its original foundation in D.C. It’s a quick visit but very cool to see something so historic. We also stepped foot on Georgetown’s campus and drank at a few of the college bars which was cheap (oh the days of being a poor student) and a lot of fun.

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Georgetown waterfront
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Cute building in Georgetown
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Georgetown University
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Georgetown being beautiful
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Georgetown wanderings
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The cutest row of houses in Georgetown

I feel like spending the day this way was a really solid D.C. introduction and would work well for most first timers. I was satisfied with the mix of mind-blowing history, wandering around, and relaxing in bars to talk about it all and recharge. D.C. is a really special place where history is inescapable, and I loved every minute of taking it all in. Huge shout out to Emily Alyssa Photography for hosting us!

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Culture, Concrete, & Calories: 5 Amazing Days in NYC

This was our fourth time visiting New York City. You know how I feel about going to places I’ve already been, but I can assure you I’ll never feel bad about returning to New York. It’s constantly changing and always exciting–being there is such a rush and catching a glimpse of what it’s like at that moment is truly special. It’s a bustling city that’s really hard to put into words and just as complicated to photograph, so I’ll just share what we got up to on this visit from bars to restaurants to rooftops and more.

Day 1

  • Joe’s Pizza slice in Times Square– I think my favorite pizza of this trip, so delicious.
  • MoMA– I had yet to visit a museum, so I knew this visit it was time. MoMA did not disappoint. The building has a cool design, and being in a room full of Picasso’s was incredible.
  • New York Public Library– impressive building…you can’t miss the Rose Room. See more on the blog I posted last week.
  • Stumble Inn– lots of affordable beer, wings, and tots. The owners of this place also have a bunch of other bars across the city where you can expect a similar vibe and decent prices.

Day 2

  • walked across the Brooklyn Bridge– so iconic and full of beautiful views. We had done this once before but it was back in 2013, and I was ready to experience it again.
  • Juliana’s Pizza– really yummy and authentic.
  • DUMBO photo op– got the famous shot of the Empire State building peering through the Manhattan Bridge. See it on Instagram.
  • Prospect Park, wandering the nearby neighborhood, and stopping in for a drink before heading back to Manhattan.
  • Mr. Purple rooftop bar– gorgeous skyline views made even sweeter by pink clouds at sunset.
  • Fancy cocktails at Beauty & Essex– I had some sort of concoction made with earl grey tea and I was in love. Worth the price for the creative drink and cool atmosphere.
  • Stanton Social– we had a really nice gourmet meal…higher prices for smaller plates, but the flavors were incredible! Left with my taste buds feeling very satisfied. We had pierogis, mac and cheese, french onion dumplings, ribs, chicken and waffles, and salmon between the four of us.
  • post dinner drinks at a bar I can’t remember the name of haha oops
  • drinks at Supply House– because in NYC you have nightcaps on nightcaps and don’t go home until the bar makes you 🙂

Day 3

  • Black Seed Bagel– no visit to NYC is complete without getting bagels. I got a smoked salmon everything bagel, and it was heavenly.
  • Dō– we spent the afternoon wandering around West Village/Washington Square Park area and came across Dō (without a long line) so we had to stop in. A shop just for cookie dough!
  • The Frying Pan–drinks on a boat on the Hudson River. We obviously googled where Sully landed the plane to see how close we were to it.
  • 230 Fifth Rooftop bar– this bar is right across from the Empire State building so we got to kick back and relax with that amazing view. And they give you robes to keep you warm–such a fun touch.
  • Dinner at an Irish bar near Comedy Club– more wings and potato skins.
  • Comedy Club– we got so lucky with really funny acts the whole night!
  • Pizza slices at a local 24 hour shop– because we needed something to soak up all the beer 😉

Day 4

  • Champagne picnic at a park on the East River– this was pure bliss to me: bagels, avocado, prosciutto, cheese, crackers, apples, babaghanouj, water views, city views, park views, great company, good music.
  • Yankees Game!
  • post-game drinks at Billy’s.
  • Salvation Taco– because I’m obsessed with rooftop bars.
  • 3 Sheets Saloon–drinks and spinach artichoke dip from the same owners as the Stumble Inn.
  • Uva– An authentic Italian restaurant with a romantic atmosphere. It felt like we were eating somewhere in Italy. I love how NYC can offer that for so many cultures.
  • Insomnia Cookies– had a relatively early night after 3 full days, no better way to relax than cookies and coffee at home before bed.

Day 5

  • Central Park– my oh my I loved every second of wandering through Central Park, Bluestone Lane coffee in hand.
  • Five Mile Stone– lots of beers and wings were had at the best local pub ever.
  • Wahlburgers– after missing our flight we found ourself in the city for a few more hours and decided to stop in for burgers and beer. I really liked both!

So there’s the proof that we consumed a lot of calories in the concrete jungle and got in a dose of culture here and there as well haha. NYC, I love your energy and I love who I get to be when I’m with you. xoxo.

And if you want to see it all in photos…

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Kicking back in Bryant Park

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Courtyard views @ the Museum of Modern Art
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A room full of Picassos in the MoMA
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Brooklyn Bridge views
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NY I love you
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Who can spot the Statue of Liberty
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Came across one of my favorite words in Brooklyn
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Pizza & Polaroids
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Rooftop views at Mr. Purple
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Cotton candy skies
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Nightcaps on nightcaps
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Streets of New York
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A shop full of cookie dough, yes please.
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Hey Mr. Empire State
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FIVE MILE STONE
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First signs of fall
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Yankees
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No such thing as too many rooftop bars
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Bluestone Lane Coffee @ Central Park
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Central Park you are divine

 

Featured

New York Public Library & 5 Books That Will Make You Want to Travel Now

It’s been a while since I’ve shared book recommendations on the blog, and after visiting the New York Public Library last week I felt it was time to. These are not necessarily all travel memoirs (some are fiction, some nonfiction), but they all pulled me into a different world and left me wanting to travel.

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney

This novel left me longing for NYC, and it was so so so so beautifully written. It’s a fictional story based on the life of Margaret Fishback, a poet and the highest-paid female advertising copywriter during the 1930s. The author weaves the story of Lillian Boxfish’s complex life with the streets of Manhattan. Every page was such a delight to read.

Born To Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall 

This book left me researching how to visit this remote part of Mexico, even though it’s not a travel memoir by any means. It’s a fascinating exploration of a tribe of super runners hidden away from the mainstream world. The author stumbles upon it all when he asks himself why he keeps getting injured from running. I loved everything about this book.

The Yellow Envelope: One Gift, Three Rules, and a Life-Changing Journey around the World by Kim Dinan

This book left me wanting to completely change my life, pack whatever I could fit into a backpack, sell the rest, and travel. It’s about finding yourself, navigating life within a relationship, trusting that the world is in fact full of good people, and spreading kindness–whatever that may mean to you. It was a really heartwarming story that has stayed with me since I finished reading it.

Gift From The Sea by Ann Morrow Lindbergh

This book left me craving the ocean, and all the calmness that being near the sea brings. I’m not really sure how to do the wisdom in this book justice, so I’ll share the description that someone good at writing has written to describe it: “… Ann Morrow Lindberg shares her meditations on youth and age, love and marriage, peace, solitude, and contentment during a brief vacation by the sea…drawing inspiration from the shells on shore…” I highly recommend this one; it’s a book I can see myself reading and rereading for years to come.

The Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country by Helen Russell

This book left me wanderlusting over Denmark for weeks…come to think of it, I still am. I’m really intrigued by countries with high quality of life and if living in one would do anything to my happiness. This memoir is a month-by-month life account and gave great insight into questions of living somewhere foreign known for “being happy.” I’d recommend this book if you have similar curiosities or are interested in visiting Denmark. I hope I can make it there in 2018!

So what’s next on my travel-inspired book list? Travels With Myself and Another by Martha Gelhorn 🙂

I wanted to end this post by sharing pics from my visit to the New York Public Library, which was super impressive. Happy reading friends!

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Featured

What Traveling Somewhere You Don’t Like Can Teach You

As I scroll through Instagram everyday, I’m bombarded with photos of places I’ve been lucky enough to travel to already–London, NYC, Australia, Nicaragua to name a few. I find myself saying: “London is everything”… then I scroll to a picture of New York: “NYC is the best city ever”… I see a photo of Australia: “nowhere is better than Australia”… a picture of Nicaragua comes next: “Nica has my whole heart.” I feel so strongly about all the places I’ve been able to travel to. These locations will be special to me forever.

After realizing I’m head over heels in love with basically everywhere I’ve traveled to, I started to wonder if I’ve been somewhere I didn’t like. I racked my brain for a couple minutes–I was drawing blanks and even had to ask my husband if he could think of anywhere. I finally remembered that I’ve never been particularly fond of LA. It feels a bit fake to me and it’s smoggy and its trash seems to be everywhere. For whatever reason I don’t mind the trash in NYC, but I can’t stand seeing it in LA. I think overall LA is such a scene that I just don’t vibe with. I did, however, really like Griffith Park, and I’m hoping to go back a couple more times to give other areas a shot for redemption. But it got me thinking about what we learn when we travel somewhere that we don’t connect with. Is it pointless to return? Is precious time being wasted while there? What gems of wisdom can we learn from traveling somewhere we don’t like?

Be open minded even when you feel like you can’t.

I had been to LA multiple times before this past visit and was disappointed each time. If there’s a place you don’t particularly like, it could be because it’s sooo different from what you’re used to. Living outside your comfort zone is definitely not a bad thing. Keeping an open mind and trying to find out for yourself why others find a place beautiful will almost always end on a positive note.

Enjoy the little things.

Whenever I go to LA, even if I’m not completely feeling it, I still try to be present in the moment. Simply recognizing that I’m free from responsibilities and have time to explore is enough to make me happy. It’s something that shouldn’t be taken for granted no matter where you are- your favorite place in the world or somewhere that’s just alright in your mind.

Take time grappling with what you don’t like to further understand what you do value.

I really had to take the time to think through what I didn’t like about LA. It doesn’t make you mature or gracious to dismiss a place without articulation. Being able to work through why I wasn’t feeling LA actually allowed me to accept it for what it is and enjoy my time there anyways.

Embracing what a place is known for can be fun regardless.

For example, twirling around like a wannabe model in front of a pink wall surrounded by groups of other people vainly doing the same thing was actually fun. All I had to do was let down my guard down and stop judging and just get into it.

Giving somewhere more than one chance is a good thing.

I don’t want to be the type of person who writes a place off because life is much more complicated than that, and there are always more layers to uncover. Getting time to better discover a place and more of ourselves is the greatest gift.

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Getting our acai bowl on @ Backyard Bowls
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Pink wall twirls in Melrose, Los Angeles
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HoLlYwOoD!

Have you ever been somewhere you didn’t like? What did you take away from that? And would you return?

Featured

The Top 6 Reasons I Have a Crush on Alpenhorn B&B

I have this really weird thing with going to the same place twice. The part of me that wants to see as much of the world as possible (with the little time we’re given to do so) sees how returning to the same place again and again does not “accomplish” anything. Yet, that’s how I know a place is truly special–if I find myself wanting to come back despite that logic. Alpenhorn Bed & Breakfast is one of the places that has stolen my heart and has managed to get me back a second time without even trying. And I’m sure there will be a third. You might be asking why I love it so much? I broke it all down into my top 6 reasons:

The Gourmet Food Makes My Taste Buds So Happy

Let me start off by saying that breakfast and happy hour are included in your nightly rate 🙂 Cooking is the owner’s passion, and a reason he stepped away from the corporate world was so that he could open this guesthouse and be able to cook for everyone. Eating and drinking goes hand in hand with staying here, and the food is my number one favorite thing about the stay. They are so passionate about everything they serve whether it be appetizers, wine, dinner parties, or breakfast. A few examples to whet your pallet of what we had during our last visit: pork belly, wine from Australia and South Africa, coffee from Africa, homemade scones for breakfast, & all you can eat ribs (3 different kinds!). I could literally go on and on, but every time I come I appreciate how I’m exposed to something new and delicious. Their love of cooking really shows especially when they explain where they sourced everything from and what seasonings they used, etc. They are also extremely accommodating and were able to change things up for guests who needed different options (2 pregnant women were there the same time as us and had some dietary limitations).

The Opportunity to Socialize Is Really Refreshing

If your lifestyle isn’t set up to allow you to constantly make new acquaintances, it’s easy to forget how lovely it can be to chat with new people (like-minded enough to have chosen the same place to stay). It’s the perfect atmosphere to socialize if you want (the aforementioned wine and nibble hour helps), but it’s not forced on you if you’re wanting to express your introverted side instead. We’ve been lucky enough to meet really nice couples on both our stays and have more interesting conversations than we could have had alone.

The Location Is Prime

It’s about a 10 minute walk to The Village (main strip of bars and restaurants), which is really important to us personally so we can hit all our favorite spots without having to drive (if we ever feel like leaving the B&B, which we almost didn’t leave this past visit haha). It’s also a short drive (about 5 minutes) to Snow Summit or to the lake access point.

The Backyard Is An Oasis

The ambience of the tall trees is so beautiful. They have hammocks and swings and chairs set up for all your outdoor relaxation needs (I may or may not have ended up napping on one of them). There was also a bags set out our last visit (set up depending on weather). You can really enjoy the simple pleasure of being out in the mountain air, talking, bird watching, & truly relaxing. It’s a place we make sure to spend time when we are there.

The Cozy Romance Makes It Perfect For Couples

The feel of the backyard, fireplaces and jacuzzi bath tubs in every room, country style decor, and big comfy beds all contribute to an understated romance that makes this bed and breakfast perfect for couples. We celebrated our two year anniversary here in April, and this most recent visit there was a couple celebrating their first anniversary. It’s a special place to celebrate milestones or just to be able to spend quality time with a loved one.

The Owners Are Wonderful People

I have never felt more hosted than when I stay here, and it’s such a great feeling and change of pace from daily life. The owners have really created a perfect atmosphere, and I love getting the chance to talk with them when I’m there and see their dream come alive.

I put together a YouTube video from our most recent stay that you can watch here. There’s footage of our room and the backyard at Alpenhorn as well as some of what we got up to in Big Bear. And here are a few photos from the weekend… but keep an eye on my Instagram. Later in the week I’ll be sharing an epic lake sunset!

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Just for those who are curious, here’s another place I would return to in a heartbeat, despite there being so many new places in the world I want to experience.

Here’s the post I wrote about our very first time in Big Bear.

And here is the link for the wonderful Alpenhorn: www.alpenhorn.com

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My 2 Year Blogiversary!

I’ve officially been blogging for 2 years! My how time flies. I did a recap last year after 1 year of blogging  and thought I’d continue the tradition. It’s a great way for me to take stock of what I accomplished over the year and to set some new goals.

First off I thought it’d be interesting to see which of my posts were the most popular, and I’m not surprised to say that both of the ones I wrote via interviewing my husband did the best. People prefer hearing from him more than me on my own blog! hahaha 🙂 That’s ok though: this blog always has been and always will be for me even if no one else looks at it, but I really do appreciate all of you who stop by to read every week.

That being said here are the links to his posts in case you missed them or want to revisit:

Ollie O’Loughlin’s Guide to Airport Beers

A Nightmare in Paradise: Ollie Remembers Fiji

The post written exclusively by me that’s done the best was the outfit guide I wrote for the Great Barrier Reef. Turns out that sort of practical information gets a decent amount of traffic, and I hope it helped a few people out there plan for that bucket list paradise!

As far as what I accomplished this year, once again I initially thought it wasn’t much. But between having a full time job with a 2 hour daily commute and traveling as much as we do, I’m happy with the progress I’ve made this year. For starters, I bought a travel blogging course that’s given me a lot of technical advice for running a blog. Through that course, I learned how to purchase my domain name (no more .wordpress.com in my website link), set up the correct security and backup features I need, and get everything switched over to a self-hosted platform. It was a bit of a pain to do since I have no IT background, but I’m so happy I figured it all out… I may have paid to have people figure it out for me when I got stuck 😉 but that still counts!

Secondly, it was really important to me to post more consistently here and on Instagram this year, and I’m proud of myself for doing so. I’ve managed to get a new blog or YouTube video up almost every Monday, and I post on Instagram every Mon, Wed, and Fri. Through the blogging course, I also realized that I wanted to work harder to improve my writing and tell better stories, so I’ve been trying really hard to do so and to come up with catchier titles for my posts.

Trying to post more consistently, trying to tell better stories, and trying to improve my photography skills to portray moments and feelings that may inspire others has been the most welcome challenge. As lame as it sounds, having this space to express myself has had such a positive impact on my overall wellness. I’m proud that I’ve continued to push myself creatively and can’t wait to see what I’m inspired by in the year to come.

This next year, I would like to focus more on the look of my blog. I need to get a better design that makes more sense to me, feels more like me, and is easier to browse. I also REALLY want to have a logo designed. (Any graphic designers out there?) Another thing I want to improve on is my Pinterest presence. I feel like that platform is a great place to browse for travel inspo and could be a prime way to get viewers to my site. I have a couple references for how to do so, I just need to take the time to read and give it a try.

That’s all I wanted to document about 2 years of blogging 🙂 I am curious to know if there’s anything in particular you’d be interested in seeing more of here? Don’t hesitate to let me know. One of my favorite posts was an idea my cousin sparked, so I’m open to hearing your thoughts.

Thanks again to Emily Alyssa Photography for the candid capture of me being mesmerized by the ocean as per usual. hehe 🙂

Happy daydreaming friends!

 

 

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Rosé and Summer Memories

Have you ever had an alcoholic beverage be so strongly linked to a memory of a time or a place? Maybe don’t answer that… haha. One example I can remember is sipping Pimms in London–oh happy days. So when this summer rolled around, I decided that I wanted to have a dedicated drink of the season, and I chose rosé. Here is my little photo diary in honor of summer 2017 and also a run down of how much of my summer bucket list I accomplished.

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Kicking off rosé season in San Francisco
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Rosé overlooking Millennium Park in Chicago
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Rosé while the crew cooked dinner
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Beach rosé…total relaxation mode
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Romantic dinner at Bluewater Grill on Catalina Island

As far as my summer bucket list goes, I managed to accomplish about 50% of it. We did attend the dog surfing competition–so cute and so fun–as well as going to the Del Mar Horse Races, hanging at the beach a fair bit, seeing 2 Padres games, hiking somewhere new, and going stand up paddle boarding! We failed to party at a rooftop bar, attend KAABOO (it hasn’t happened yet but I don’t think we’ll go), or sail around the bay on a catamaran (but we did that last summer). I’m definitely happy with what we accomplished and can’t wait for more adventures.

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That dog is a celebrity riding into shore. Imperial Beach, CA
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As much beach time as possible. Encinitas, CA
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Petco Park is THEE best
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Hiking Los Penasquitos Canyon!
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I swear I stood up and paddled on that. Mission Bay, CA

Heading into fall, things are looking quite busy. We just wrapped up a mountain escape weekend (is Labor Day considered summer or fall?). Then we have a trip to two cities on the east coast (one brand new for both of us and one a repeat favorite), a trip to Miami, hopefully a new hike or two, and maybe our first camping trip. I also have a girls weekend in LA very soon, so fall is shaping up to be travel-filled and fun!

 

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Another Weekend Spent Falling in Love with San Francisco

At the end of May, Ollie and I flew up to visit family in San Fransisco. I didn’t plan on blogging about it, but it ended up being such a fun memorable trip I wanted to share the highlights and offer an alternative reference for how to spend 36 hours in SF.

We got off the plane and headed straight towards Palo Alto. Ollie was really interested in seeing some of the famous Silicon Valley, so we stopped by the Facebook campus. There are a bunch more stops you can make if you want, but it’s a lot of just looking at buildings from the outside. We decided just going to Facebook was enough.

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Thumbs up at the Facebook sign

Next up was Stanford since it’s so close to Facebook, and Ollie is obsessed with visiting college campuses. It was a gorgeous day to stroll around coffee-in-hand and check out the apparel in the bookstore.

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Stanford University
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Stanford University
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Stanford University

After a morning outside the city we headed back towards SF and straight to Southern Pacific Brewery for a pint and some nibbles. Next was our main event of the day– enjoying park drinks in Dolores Park. This was a highlight of the weekend!

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Dolores Park
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Polaroid-perfect day in Dolores Park

We headed back to my fam’s house to get ready for the evening ahead. We had dinner at an authentic German restaurant then stopped by The Wave Organ, which is a really cool sculpture that makes noise (music?) when waves hit. We snapped photos of the Marina and The Golden Gate Bridge before heading out to some bars in the Marina District.

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Who can spot the Golden Gate Bridge?
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Golden Gate Bridge Sunset
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SF happiness
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the beautiful Marina District

After a big night out we lazily headed to Fisherman’s Wharf the next morning (where you can see Alcatraz in the distance). We wandered up to North Beach which is such a cool part of the city! I fell in love with the views. It also led us to the other highlight of the weekend–eating pizza at Tony’s. I cannot recommend this place enough. They use a coal oven, which is big on the east coast but there’s apparently only 3 coal ovens in California. Our waiter also was telling us about how many awards the owner has won. Here’s an excerpt from their website: “Tony has won numerous awards including Best Pizza Margherita at the World Pizza Cup in Naples, Italy and Best Pizza Romana at the World Championship of Pizza Makers in 2011. Tony was the first American and non Neapolitan to win this coveted award in Naples.” Wow… you can taste the skill that’s for sure.

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Fisherman’s Wharf view of Alcatraz
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Cable Cars
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Welcome to North Beach
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What pure joy looks like

Another place you shouldn’t miss in North Beach is Vesuvio Cafe, a historic bar of the Beat Generation. Definitely go in for at least one drink and learn about all the famous writers that frequented. (I wish I had seen Kill Your Darlings before visiting–would have appreciated it that much more.) We stopped into an Irish bar for one last drink before sadly heading to the airport. San Francisco continues to impress, and I can’t wait to get back! might already have the next visit booked 🙂

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2nd floor drinks at Vesuvio Cafe
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streets of North Beach
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Irish Pub before saying farewell

The last time I went to San Francisco I wrote this post if you’d like to continue with your SF wanderlusting!

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Hooked on a Feeling: My Most Blissful Travel Moments

I’ll let you in on a little secret: I’m constantly daydreaming about travel. Whether it be past, present, or future it’s the thing I love and can’t stop thinking about. I’ve been reminiscing a lot lately about past trips I’ve taken (probably because we have a few months gap in between current trips–with basically nothing out-of-town planned from June through August). I’ve loved having this time in San Diego to be spontaneous and really experience where we live, but I also can’t wait to start traveling again in the fall.

In the meantime I wanted to share some of my most blissful travel moments: the memories that stay with you years later because for a blip in time everything was perfect. It’s almost a spiritual feeling that washes over when everything aligns into total bliss. The formula to having these moments will probably always remain a mystery, but an amazing view, company, and drink in hand usually helps set the scene 🙂 I’d say getting to relive these moments while putting together posts is the number one reason I started this blog. So… let’s get to it (these are in no particular order and certainly aren’t the only ones).

Sunset in Ometepe tree house, Nicaragua

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Live jazz on Frenchman Street, New Orleans

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Afternoon tea at The Orangery, London

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Drinks at Sydney Harbor Hotel with views of the bridge, Australia

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Guinness straight from the brewery overlooking Dublin, Ireland

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Drinking a kaffi at the most isolated farm in Iceland

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Going to Liverpool and occupying the same spaces that inspired The Beatles (but honestly just everything about being in Liverpool), England

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Floating down the San Marcos River just outside of Austin, Texas

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I didn’t bring my camera out on the river so here’s a picture of greenery in Austin instead

Walking through the doors of the Great Hall at Hogwarts (aka Leavesden Studios in London) I may have cried tears of joy.

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Here’s another secret about me: I have a horrible memory. That shows how impactful these moments have been; I can still remember where I was and exactly how I felt. I haven’t forgotten any details. This is a huge reason why I love traveling so much, collecting these blissful moments and holding onto them forever. The photos are definitely not my best, but I was too in the moment to worry about getting the perfect picture. I can’t wait to keep adding to this list and to keep being so strongly moved and inspired by the world.

I want to know: what are your most blissful travel memories?

Featured

My Love Letter to Solana Beach

I once heard on a podcast that there is a physical, geographical place in the world where our soul belongs. When in such a place, one will feel extreme contentment and joy just by being there. It really struck a cord with me, and I couldn’t help but believe it true. Since moving to Solana Beach, I feel like it is the place my soul loves. It’s a hard feeling to describe–it’s kind of like against all odds and negative feelings you could have from life being thrown at you, you can’t help but be happy when you’re there.

Every time I wander around Solana Beach, my mind is racing with things I love about it. I wanted to write it all down, so no matter where I am in the world, I can always remember the beauty of this place.

Solana Beach,

I love your beach coves.

I love overlooking the ocean from the cliffs and watching the surfers.

I love the detail put into Fletcher Cove Park–mermaid and ocean art made through pebbles and stones, shells mixed in the concrete, sun mural at the entrance.

I love your succulents.

I love your sunsets and how everyone gathers to watch them.

I love your bars and breweries and winery (Pillbox, Chief’s, Pizza Port, Tidewater, Culture, Beer Works, Carruth Cellars, Saddle Bar)

I love your breakfast spots (Lofty Coffee, Beach Grass Cafe, Claire’s).

I love your music, whether it be live shows at Belly Up, 90s jams at Pillbox, or DJs at Saddle Bar.

I love your million dollar homes–although it would be nice if I could afford one 😉

I love how dog friendly you are.

I love your bike lanes along the 101 where I can always watch people cycling by.

I love your proximity to the rest of North County–the gems of Del Mar, Cardiff, and Encinitas.

I love your design district, shops, and thrift store.

I love the ability to hop on the Coaster.

I love the sound of the waves crashing against your shores.

I love the farmer’s market you put on every Sunday.

I love that Rudy’s Taco Shop belongs to you–home of my favorite breakfast burrito.

I love watching new homes being built and wondering what people do for a living who own here.

I love your lizards, which thankfully haven’t wandered into our apartment yet.

I love being able to buy an acai bowl and eat it at the beach.

I love the pina coladas at Fidel’s.

I love your appreciation for the arts and the fact that you’re home to the North Coast Repertory Theatre.

I love seeing the different shades of blue of the sky and ocean when they meet at the horizon.

I love how you’ve only ever made me feel that life is beautiful.

 

 

 

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How We Found Ourselves on Catalina Island

There’s an island off the coast of Los Angeles and we haven’t gone yet?! Once I found out about Catalina Island I was instantly intrigued. Ollie and I would be able to enjoy the perks of island life without taking time off work or breaking the bank (I’m looking at you Hawaii). I knew I’d have to make it happen. I saw an open weekend on our schedules and started looking for accommodation. The hard part was finding somewhere to stay for just one night (most guesthouses on the island require a two night stay over weekends). I felt discouraged. We might not actually be able to make things work as I planned. We didn’t have the vacation time to stay two nights, but I didn’t think it was worth just going for the day either. My dreams of strolling around an island without a care in the world were starting to feel out of reach, but luckily I don’t give up too easily.

I was browsing through more accommodation options and stumbled upon the Hermosa Hotel. They didn’t have online reservations, so I decided to call and check their availability. Once again they told me what I feared–two night minimum required for weekends. The defeat start to set in when the lady on the phone told me she could check if anyone happened to be leaving on Saturday which would free up a one night stay Saturday night. It looked like our island escape was meant to be because there was one room free for Saturday night! I made a fast decision to book it right then and there without asking Ollie.

Things I’m good at: daydreaming about travel, researching options, and booking. Things I need to work on: considering Ollie’s opinion before pulling the trigger. I walked into the living room with a sweet smile on my face. “So I booked us a room on Catalina Island…we’re going July 15.” In my defense I have to take advantage of weekends during the NFL off-season because come Week 1 we can’t do anything. 😉 He seemed a little shocked but quickly accepted our upcoming plans.

On July 15 we woke early to make the hour and a half drive from Solana Beach to Long Beach where we’d be boarding the Catalina Island Express, a one hour ferry. There’s something special about taking a boat to an island; the excitement started to set in. As we drifted away from mainland California, I could already feel the stress of real life being left behind.

We got off the ferry, dropped our bags at the hotel, and headed to Original Jack’s for a hearty breakfast. It was my first glimpse at what I would keep noticing the length of our stay: being on Catalina Island was a bit like stepping back in time. There are a lot of Old Hollywood influences. Ollie was in bar crawl heaven when he saw the number of options  that sprawled out before us. We went to the Marlin Club, Luau Larry’s, The Locker Room, Catalina Island Brew House, Catalina Cantina, and even had drinks on the pier. It was true vacation mode. We ended our first day with an amazing seafood dinner at Bluewater Grill. The lights of the sailboats dancing through the darkness and reflecting off the bay added to our love of that restaurant, and we went to sleep full and content.

The next morning we had breakfast at Pancake Cottage, which is right next to the company we were renting a golf cart from. Catalina Island allows a limited number of cars, and seeing the island via golf cart was apparently the way to go. We drove all around Avalon for 2 hours and took in the gorgeous coastal views. We also saw the Wrigley Mansion (yes- the Cubs and chewing gum Wrigley). It was definitely a highlight of the weekend. We finished out our time relaxing at the bars on Descanso Beach which ended up being my favorite bars of the trip.

On the ferry home we chatted about what we thought of Catalina Island. Ollie had mentioned earlier that it was weird being somewhere where everyone was on vacation. In my opinion I agreed with that statement: the island is very touristy, crowded, and honestly a bit cheesy at times. But despite all that, I think it’s beautiful and a lot of fun. In Ollie’s opinion, he f*cking loved it–it’s the perfect place to go on a laid back bar crawl and enjoy impressive views. Good thing I forced him into going, he ended up liking it more than I did 🙂 Next time we go, we vowed to do something on the water whether that be renting a boat, kayaking, or SUPing. They also have a museum that I was interested in checking out if we ever go back.

Anyways, thanks for reading along and here are the pictures from our time there! I also made a YouTube video you can check out here.

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Boarding the Catalina Island Express in Long Beach, CA
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On board the Catalina Island Express
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Views of Long Beach
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The main street of Avalon, CA
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Admiring the bay
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The Casino
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SoCal succulents
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Beautiful Catalina
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Enjoying a Modelo on the pier
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Happy hour drinks at Catalina Cantina
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Catalina Island Brew House

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Trying new Mexican beers–love.
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Views from the golf cart drive

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Thanks wind for making my hair look stupid.

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Enjoying farewell beers at Descanso Beach

 

Featured

A Call to Fins: Why You Need to Snorkel on Your Next Vacation

Here’s a fact that most of us probably learned in school at some point but have likely forgotten: about 70% of Earth is covered in water. Which means that we can see/experience a lot by going on a Eurotrip, studying abroad, backpacking through Southeast Asia or Central America–but unless we make it a point to explore what’s below sea level, we are missing out on the majority of our planet. SEVENTY PERCENT OF IT. Can you truly call yourself worldly if you neglect that? Typical overland travel is absolutely amazing, but it only scratches the surface. With this in mind, here are a few reasons why you need to make snorkeling a priority on your next vacation.

You’re neglecting 70% of the Earth if you don’t.

I personally didn’t have snorkeling on my immediate radar until I was reminded of that substantial statistic. I vowed to make more of an effort to check out what was going on under water, and boy has it been impressive. This inspiration led me to snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and the Silfra Fissure in Iceland.

It will satisfy your inner mermaid.

The feeling snorkeling gives you is hard to describe. We all have seen a body of water and what it looks like from above–kind of glossy like that’s all there is to it. But when you have your snorkel, mask, and fins on and you dip your head into it all, you are confronted with the fact that it’s sort of endless. You can no longer imagine a vast nothingness because you’ve encountered a wonderful, astonishing ecosystem flourishing below. Gliding around you are part of a whole different world, briefly living as the mermaid version of yourself. (Cue all The Little Mermaid songs haha).

It’s less expensive and easier than diving.

Sure, diving would allow you to experience more of the underwater world, but it requires certification…so more time and more money. Snorkeling is a lot more user-friendly–you just need to be comfortable swimming.

It will help you understand the impact we are having on our environment.

The ocean can seem like a very abstract place because we don’t spend much time there. It’s easy to compartmentalize and deny the fact that our actions have consequences on this large part of our planet. However, once you visit, learn, and see with your own eyes, it puts it all into real life perspective (picking a tour company with marine biologists on board was a great decision that I highly recommend if available). For example, I can’t unsee all the stressed coral in the Great Barrier Reef. I’m more conscious now about how I contribute to global warming and other things like how bad plastic in the ocean really is. We can do something about all these issues, and seeing those parts of the world through snorkeling helps kickstart that motivation.

Because it would take you to some pretty amazing places.

As I mentioned earlier, I have now snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef (warm water) and the Silfra Fissure (freezing water): absolute bucket list experiences. That means to get snorkel at those locations, I also had to go to Port Douglas, Australia and Thingvellir, Iceland–can’t complain one bit about that. Another place that would be a dream to snorkel is the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador. I’ll definitely be saving and planning to make that a reality some day.

I used Wavelength Reef Cruises to snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef, and I would highly recommend them. Check out their website or read about my experience here (scroll to Day 2).

Snorkeling the Silfra Fissure was made possible by this tour company. Once in a lifetime experience to snorkel in clear, freezing glacier water in between two tectonic plates separating two continents that are slowly drifting away from each other. Pinch me!

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Do you feel inspired to snorkel on your next vacation?

 

Featured

Practical Ways to Quickly Restore Equilibrium Post Travel

Travel is exhilarating and exciting, but for most of us, even a short trip can greatly put us off balance. It has sometimes taken me more time than how long the actual trip lasted to get back on track with my normal life routine. Do you know that feeling? You were gone for 4 days and then it takes you two weeks to return to how you felt before you left, whether that be in regards to weight, energy, skin, etc. I’ve been doing a lot of shorter trips lately since I have a full time job, and through my own experience I have narrowed down my go-to essentials to help me cleanse post-travel and more quickly return to “real life” equilibrium.

  1. Body: I use Nature’s Secret fiber cleanse and, along with lots of water, this combo helps to detox my stomach and get me back to my pre-trip weight.
  2. Skin: I use Mojo Spa’s Ultimate Detox Deep Cleansing Facial Powder. It’s basically a charcoal scrub that cleans away all my travel grime and leaves my skin feeling super soft.
  3. Mind: Doing a couple sessions of yoga always helps me mentally reset and boosts energy as well.

Bonus worth trying but I’ve only done it once: a juice cleanse… because I felt the fiber cleanse wouldn’t be hardcore enough to handle the job at hand. I had just returned from a long weekend in Austin, Texas. I over indulged as one does while traveling and consumed brisket at least once a day. It was heavenly to the point where I almost cried actual tears while eating because it was THAT GOOD. At the same time, I could feel my arteries clogging, and when I got back from that trip I felt like a steaming pile of poop. I wanted to try something a bit more extreme than my typical fiber cleanse. I opted for the 3 day juice cleanse from Jus by Julie. It was expensive but the juices were delicious. I will admit that I felt pretty darn good afterwards, but I’m not sure if I would do it again purely due to cost. If it’s something you’re thinking about trying and can afford it, I would say it’s definitely cool to try and will make you feel better.

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What are your post-travel cleanse essentials??

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Strange in the Best Way: Iceland Through Stories and Photos

I knew Iceland would be an adventure. That’s why traveling there captured my attention in college and remained a priority years later. When that dream became a reality and I stepped off the plane, despite exhaustion and jet lag, that excitement was palpable. What epicness would the next 10 days bring? What would we discover as we drove around the whole country? I met my friend Jasna at the airport and we set off into the unknown.

Day 1: Mom leaves baby outside coffeeshop like dog

If we had any fears about traveling as a female pair with no scary, strong man to fend off imaginary predators, they were quickly silenced within hours of arrival. We were in search of caffeine and carbs and stopped at the closest option. As we approached, we saw a mom park her stroller by the door so she could leave her baby and its baggage outside while she went in for a coffee. Jasna and I exchanged a knowing look. This country is safe enough to leave your most prized possession unattended. Everyone must be honest and trustworthy.

After fueling up and verifying the baby was indeed not stolen, we started walking around Reykjavik towards the church with a stop along the way at the Sun Voyager statue. The view from the top of Hallgrimskirkja is breathtaking and should not be missed. We wandered some more, high on the feeling of being in a brand new country and culture, and ended up in the Laundromat Cafe–so cute.

We had an evening session booked at the Blue Lagoon, so we made our way there, ready to relax after a long day of walking. The Blue Lagoon is expensive but definitely worth the splurge. We swam around and soaked for FOUR HOURS. I’ve never been so pruny in my life but felt amazing afterwords.

Day 1 Highlights and Photos

  • Sun Voyager
  • Hallgrimskirkja
  • Laundromat Cafe
  • Blue Lagoon

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Day 2: That time Jasna walked in on FuckJerry’s friend taking a slash

This day was jam-packed! It was the day we did “the golden circle” (possibly the most famous tourist route in the country), connecting Thingvellir National Park, Gullfoss waterfall, and Strokkur geysir. But more importantly, we went to lunch at an amazing greenhouse called Fridheimar, and FuckJerry (Instagram celeb) was at the next table over with his huge bro squad. We kept it low key and didn’t pay them much attention, but when Jasna went to use the bathroom, she accidentally walked in on one of the guys because he forgot to lock the door. After making what I assume to be extremely awkward eye contact, he apologized to her! We couldn’t stop laughing.

There was also a girl riding around on an Icelandic horse looking very professional in her outfit while sophisticatedly controlling the horse lap after lap. The next thing we know she directs the horse to the barn, gets off, walks inside, comes out with a glass of beer, mounts the horse, and keeps riding beer in hand! The laughs kept coming. “Only in Iceland” became a phrase we would say again and again to put language to the quirky and strange things we kept experiencing.

Day 2 Highlights and Photos

  • Thingvellir National Park–the place where law was first made
  • Strokkur
  • Gullfoss
  • Fridheimar
  • Kerio Crater
  • Seljalandsfoss
  • Skogafoss

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Day 3: Are we on another planet?

The landscapes we saw on day 3 were epic. We just kept asking ourselves how is this possible? We literally had to google how everything formed and came to be. It was just so unlike anything we’d ever seen. Later in the evening we had quite an embarrassing run in with some locals…I shared the story on Instagram if you’d like to read about what happened. 🙂

Day 3 Highlights and Photos

  • Vik’s black sand beach and basalt columns
  • driving through a lava desert to Skaftafell National Park
  • Fjadrargljufur Canyon
  • Svartifoss waterfall hike
  • Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon
  • Hoffell hot pots
  • tasting our first Gull

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Day 4: Losing our fjord virginity

Jasna and I had both never seen a fjord before, which is “a long, narrow, deep inlet of the sea between high cliffs,” and they are freaking magical. Needless to say we drove around the east coast with jaws dropped full of disbelief at what we were seeing.

Day 4 Highlights and Photos

  • east coast fjord views
  • small villages that used to be trading posts
  • Seydisfjordur

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Day 5: Hearing the next gas station is 60 km away when you’re almost on empty

How isolated we were began to sink in. At this point in the itinerary we were pretty much as far from Reykjavik as you can get, and we definitely noticed. We spent the day exploring the capital of Elves’ world (many Icelanders believe in elves), drinking kaffis at the most isolated and high up farm in the country, plugging our noses at a smelly, sulphurous geothermal area, and marveling at lava formations near Lake Myvatn.

Day 5 Highlights and Photos

  • Alfaborg, where the Queen of the Elves lives
  • Modrudalur Farm
  • Namaskard geothermal area
  • Dimmuborgir lava formations

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Day 6: We’re heading to the big city!…kind of.

We were so excited after spending days in the countryside to be headed towards the second largest city in Iceland–with a population of just 17,000. Along the way we stopped at a couple of amazing waterfalls. It felt like there were amazing waterfalls everywhere during this trip!

Day 6 Highlights and Photos

  • Dettifoss
  • Husavik
  • Godafoss
  • Akureyri

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Day 7-8: I basically have a PhD in geology now

After a week in this fascinating country, we thought we’d for sure seen it all, but we were blown away (literally) yet again by the peninsula. This was one of my favorite days despite being the windiest place I’ve ever been. We now had more geology terms under our belt and felt pretty badass coming up with explanations without the help of google when we saw something crazy. The cliffs of Arnarstapi were breathtaking (and kind of gave me Cliffs of Moher vibes). We also tasted mineral water straight from the earth which is supposed to have a ton of health benefits, and it was the nastiest thing I’ve ever drank (see my absolute disgust in the photo below).

Day 7-8 Highlights and Photos

  • basalt column wall
  • Olkelda mineral water
  • Budir
  • Arnarstapi
  • Djupalonssandur
  • Ondverdarnes
  • Stykkisholmur

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Day 9-10: Iceland, I hope to see you again one day although never in my life will I be able to pronounce any words in your language

It was official. After 10 days driving all over the country we still couldn’t pronounce anything…have you seen the names of these places?? Our last couple days were perfect, slowly roaming around Reykjavik and really getting a sense for its quirkiness and artistic influence. The trip ended in the best possible way for me. Going to Iceland in itself was on my bucket list, but snorkeling the silfra fissure in freezing water between tectonic plates separating two continents was something I couldn’t believe I was able to do. An epic trip with an epic ending.

Day 9-10 Highlights and Photos

  • shopping in Reykjavik
  • stumbling upon street art
  • snorkeling the Silfra fissure

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See all the highlights on my YouTube video HERE 🙂

Jasna and I decided to book a self-drive tour and couldn’t have been happier with that decision. There are a lot of blogs out there sharing what to do in Iceland which is why I didn’t feel the need to write a post like that. Instead I wanted to share the stories and impressions that resulted from having 10 days of freedom to explore this beautiful country. I cannot recommend doing a self-drive tour enough. It was the perfect way to experience whatever we wanted at our own pace (and we didn’t have to deal with the hassle of booking accommodation, car rental, insurance, etc.–it was all handled for us). If you want to read a bit more about what it’s really like driving around Iceland, I didn’t find much covering those details, so I shared my thought and advice here.

Where’s the most unique place you’ve been??

 

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A Nightmare in Paradise: Ollie Remembers Fiji

The following post is courtesy of Ollie O’Loughlin. Don’t read on if you don’t want to see bad words. You have been warned.

One destination that flies under the radar just three hours away from Brisbane, Australia  is Fiji–in my opinion one of the most underrated places in the world. The year was 2009. I was just a young pup searching for maximum intoxication and liquor served from a coconut. I started the trip with such optimism. What could possibly go wrong on paradise island? I was staying on the coral coast in a resort by the name of the Wellesley, a boutique hotel that hosts around 20 guests. We flew into Nadi. Upon arrival we were greeted by our gracious driver who drove us 2 hours through remote, tropical, lush lands. Once greeted at the hotel, the first decision was to try the local beer. Fiji Bitter it was. After several thousand of those and a great meal it was time to hit the hay. The next day I woke up and thought to myself, “what’s on the cards?” then decided that long island ice teas by the pool would be a really good idea. I got blind. After enough ice teas to kill a full sized elephant I looked down at the beach and realized the local tribe was playing touch rugby. Being an avid rugby player myself with 12 years experience under my belt, I thought I’d go down for a short stint. They were to this day the nicest people I have ever met–very receptive, very welcoming, and eager to have me play rugby with them. Because we were on the beach, we were playing with no shoes. Little did I know that locals were accustomed to not wearing shoes and had hardened feet. Whilst playing I sliced my foot open on a piece of coral. At the time I didn’t even bat an eyelid. The long island ice teas were flowing through my veins. My competitive spirit willed me to keep playing. Little did I know I was packing that wound full of sand and bacteria. We finished up on the beach and continued drinking the whole night, so I didn’t think much of the gaping wound under my foot. Side note: kava is legit as fuck.

That night will be remembered for centuries to come…waking up in the middle of the night and feeling like the right side of my body was going to fall off. It was at that point I realized, in a moment of somewhat sobriety, that something was awfully wrong. My foot was evidently infected and my unwillingness to go to the hospital was setting in despite being the smart thing to do. We already had rugby tickets purchased to watch Fiji vs Samoa which was roughly 3 hours away. By the morning I knew I had a real problem on my hands. (If you travel without travel insurance, you’re a fucking idiot.) My driver offered to drop us by the hospital on the way to the rugby which by that point I graciously accepted. Arriving at the hospital was like a scene from Black Hawk Down (shit that movie’s good). The wait time would have lasted the better half of a century, but my driver who was my homie told the administration that I was on the next flight back to Australia and needed immediate attention. Now this was something like out of a James Bond movie. A nurse walked me out the back before I could say shaken not stirred. We were in a back room and she was tending to my wound. Me being the drama queen I am, I thought I was dealing with a leg amputation, but after a quick clean and a bandage I was good to go. The next day things were looking up. I had an all day jet ski safari booked. One of the most amazing travel experiences of my life was riding a jet ski through the Fijian islands and exploring what nature had to offer. The water was so clear and beautiful it’s something that an HD TV couldn’t even depict. We stopped at an island and had lunch and even went snorkeling but the highlight was definitely being on the water.

Fast forward to the next nightmare: we had planned an island cruise for the following day and had a dinner on at the hotel the night before. I opted to go with a sort of octopus curry type dish. Whilst eating, even though it was fucking delicious, I had a feeling something was wrong. It was about 5 am the next morning that I realized something was horribly wrong. Everyone feels a stomach movement here and there, but nothing quite like this. After several trips to the bath mint (bathroom for those sober people out there) the question posed: do I rough it and go on this cruise or do I stay at home like a miserable cunt? Good will prevailed, Saturdays were for the boys, and I decided to go. Our tour bus had to pick up people from a bunch of resorts along the way, and I used every restroom accordingly. By the time we got to the boat it was refreshing to hear that they had amenities on board. While the cruise promised to have picturesque views on the way, my views consisted of my board shorts covering my flip flops in a stall, and not even the good type, like the ones that have writing on the walls you see when you’re driving between Nebraska and Utah. We arrived at the first island and went snorkeling on a coral reef. This was the awkward moment where you are deciding to do an aqua bog in front of 50 people. It was an easy decision except for the fact I was wearing a wet suit. The last thing I want to feel are my turds around my shoulders. I clenched tight and swam like Michael Phelps. Arguably a world record for the quickest a reef has ever been viewed, I made it back to the island in time to drop a bomb worthy of being dropped on Hiroshima. After several hours in the restroom I thought it would be time to catch some sun. I walked to the beach. It was about 33 degrees celsius, but I lay on the beach shivering like it was a Chicago winter. At that point it was confirmed that it was not going to be a good day, in the words of Ice Cube. I spent the ride back curled up like a rattlesnake without the bite, shaking like a salt shaker in the words of the Ying Yang Twins. The rest of the day consisted of surviving and trying to take in the beautiful scenery. Once back on the mainland, I thought I had made it but I completely forgot about the 2 hour ride back to the resort. Once we got there, I learned that several people were also sick. Not even beers could save me from this one. I went to bed and somehow woke up as crisp as a fucking freshly ironed shirt. After an outstanding day at the beaches, and one last top up of Fiji Bitter, I headed home. Don’t let this story scare you away from Fiji. It’s one of the best places I’ve ever been. Despite the horrific incidents, I can’t wait to get back.

Signing off. Yours forever, Beerzilla O’Loughlin.

Here is the only photographic evidence that remains from that trip:

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9 Delightful Ways To Have The Best San Diego Summer

Tomorrow is the official start of summer, and I’m so happy to get to spend it in San Diego for the third time. I figured that sharing my summer bucket list for my favorite city in SoCal is the perfect way to kick it all off! By now I have my favorite activities narrowed down but also have a few new things I want to make happen. Without further ado, here are 9 things I can’t wait to do in San Diego this summer, in no particular order:

  • attend a dog surfing competition
  • party at a rooftop pool bar
  • sing and dance at KAABOO musical festival
  • sail around the bay on a catamaran
  • look cute and win money at Del Mar horse races
  • hang at the beach and maybe even bodyboard
  • watch a Padres game at Petco Park
  • hike somewhere new
  • SUP

This city obviously offers so much more, but these activities are a bit more seasonal and I want to use this post as a way to hold myself accountable and constructively use my time off (for those who don’t personally know me, I work full time in healthcare).

When we head into fall, I’ll follow this up with a recap post letting you know how much I accomplish. Cheers to Summer 2017!

What else do you think I should add to this list? What are you most excited to do this summer?

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What It’s Really Like Driving Around Iceland

Here’s what you need to know before embarking on an Iceland road trip:

(here’s a vlog of our whole trip on YouTube)

It’s a good idea for everyone. Iceland is a great destination for basically any type of traveler. It’s great for experienced travelers because it has so much to offer that you just can’t find in other places. It’s perfect for less experienced travelers because it’s really easy to navigate (they speak English, have lots of wifi available, and it’s really safe). It works for couples, groups of friends, families, and solo travelers. They even have handicap access at most of their popular sights!

Gas is expensive. Iceland in general is expensive, so the budget travelers out there will have to do some extra planning and research to cut down on costs anywhere possible. Gas costs will be unavoidable on a self-drive tour so factor accordingly. We rented an eco 4WD car and spent AT LEAST $30 per day on gas. We were driving about 4-5 hours each day.

Rent a car you feel comfortable driving. Icelanders typically drive manual cars, so if you require an automatic make sure you specify with your rental company ahead of time. I also highly recommend getting a car with 4WD because the weather can be so unpredictable and powerful. We went in May and just barely missed a snowstorm that led to a major road closure. You don’t want to get stuck in a bad situation, especially in the more remote areas. Also, you will be driving on a lot of gravel roads, so 4WD helps.

The max speed limit ANYWHERE is 90 km/hr. That’s right, you aren’t allowed to go faster than 56 mph. Anywhere. Even though there’s hardly any cars on the road. It might be tempting to speed, but beware– there are speed cameras out to get you. The limit also makes sense because the roads hardly ever have guard rails, and they quite often turn into one-lane bridges.

They drive on the right side of the road and have lots of roundabouts. Just FYI.

Drinking and driving is not allowed at all. No one drink exception. You can’t drive at all after having any drinks. So plan accordingly.

Your car will get messy. Thanks to all the gravel roads and crazy weather. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the dirt, most gas stations have a washing station if you know what to look for (brooms with water shooting out of them).

Get a Garmin or navigation system with Icelandic letters. Unless you’re comfortable using a map, Garmin will be your best friend. Our rental company included one in our package which we used religiously. Even though everyone speaks English, the signs are all in Icelandic, and Garmin can’t find locations using just the English alphabet.

It’s the best way to explore at your own pace. We loved having the freedom to make random stops and to stay somewhere as long as we wanted. It was also nice to be able to wait until the hoards of tour buses left the scene at the popular stops. We were on our own schedule, which is one of the best feelings you can have while being on vacation.

The scenery is incredible. We drove for 10 days and not one day looked the same as another. Even my wildest imagination couldn’t have dreamed up the combinations of landscapes we saw. Iceland, you are so strange and beautiful!

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Have you ever road tripped around Iceland??

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Street Art Spotlight: Reykjavik

Those of you who know me know that I’m a sucker for street art, so it comes as no surprise that one of the things I was most excited to do in Reykjavik was hunt down theirs. And this city brings it. Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital and the world’s most northern capitol, is such a great city to explore because it’s small and walkable without being boring. When I went in early May they had even set up a display on the main road showcasing artwork from local kindergarteners–they start them young and value creativity, and after seeing that, everything in the city made more sense to me. From photography, pottery, and design stores to concert halls and colorful rooftops, art feels like it’s literally everywhere in Reykjavik! Wandering around this city brought me so much joy, so I wanted to share some snaps with you 🙂 I’ve also uploaded a 3 minute vlog to YouTube if you’d like to see more of what we got up to!

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What city do you love for its street art??

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5 Things To Do in San Diego When it’s Raining

San Diego = outdoor living. From hiking to surfing to beach hopping, you’ll best experience this city outside. It seems like every restaurant has an outdoor section, and even the malls are mostly outdoors. This works well the majority of time but not so much on the occasional rainy day. I’ve struggled quite a bit trying to come up with things to do in San Diego when it’s raining, so I figured I’d share my best ideas and hopefully save you some time brainstorming 🙂

Experience the indoor sections of breweries: I usually bypass the indoor sections of breweries and head straight outside for the sunshine (can you blame me??). However, the brewery game in San Diego is strong, and their indoor sections are impressive and worth spending time in. If you come to SD and don’t drink any craft beers, you’re doing it wrong. Check out Ballast Point in Miramar which is nautically designed to look like you’re underwater below a ship. Or visit Culture in Ocean Beach or Solana Beach which always has neat local art on display. Green Flash is another favorite (we always take our guests). The options are really endless and can get you through many hours of rain–just make sure to Uber or have a designated driver!

See a movie at a luxury theatre: Rainy days are perfect movie-watching days, and they’re a great excuse to spoil yourself and go to a luxury theatre. Click the link to see what and why I recommend.

Cheer on the San Diego Gulls: The Padres play outdoors so that won’t work, but bad weather won’t have any effect on your night at the Gulls game. It’s B-league hockey at its finest, with $2 beers every Friday and lots of fist fights.

Museum hop in Balboa Park: Bring an umbrella because there are some uncovered areas, but you won’t have to do much walking in the rain since most paths are covered. Stay dry while experiencing as many museums as you can handle–there are a ton of options! Click here to decide which one(s) you want to visit.

Spa day twist–float in a sensory deprivation tank: The weather might keep you indoors, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to try something new. While escaping the rain, why not escape everything… like all your senses. I tried this a few months ago at Flot SD after reading about it in San Diego Magazine. It’s a relatively new fad going around that sounded so interesting I had to check it out for myself. It’s basically really salty water that causes you to float in a dark, quiet tank. You can’t hear anything or see anything, and floating in zero-gravity conditions is such a strange sensation. During my float, the way time passed was SO WEIRD! I thought it could have been hours that went by or just 30 seconds. Insider tip: use the earplugs they have available. I got water in my ears that lasted a few weeks after and probably impacted my thoughts on the experience as a whole. However, I do recommend trying this at least once… I haven’t rushed back a second time yet, but it was also such a unique experience that I find myself thinking about it again and again. Bonus: Flot SD is in a really cute neighborhood 🙂

What do you like to do in San Diego when the weather isn’t cooperating?

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Why I Don’t Want to Tell You Where We Stayed in Big Bear

Ollie and I visited Big Bear to celebrate our wedding anniversary in early April. We couldn’t believe it took us almost 2 years of living in Socal to make it up–we had THE BEST time. We left feeling like we found a whole other world (even though it’s only 2.5 hours from San Diego) and daydreamed about whether or not we could ever see ourselves living in the mountains.

Skiing was the main reason we chose to visit Big Bear–something we both had never tried but on our “Make Happen ASAP” list. Our anniversary was the perfect excuse to escape for the weekend, experience something new, and splurge just a little bit on accommodation.

I don’t want to spill the beans on where we stayed because we loved it so much and don’t want word to get out but… if you scroll through this post you’ll see pictures of the property that will give it away 😉 Less than 24 hours into our stay we were already planning a return visit.

What made this bed and breakfast so great? To start, it was really charming and dreamily surrounded by pine trees. There was a jacuzzi tub and homemade bath salts as well as a fireplace, which added up to total relaxation and coziness. The highlight of this place, however, was definitely the food. The owners are a husband-wife power duo. Just to give some background: Johann is a former CEO who left the corporate world to pursue his passions including cooking. We were treated each morning to the tastiest homemade breakfast ever, and the daily happy hour included South African wines and impressive hors d’oeuvres. I could go into a lot more detail about the owners, the food, their future plans for the property, and the conversation, but it’s something you should definitely experience for yourself. Just don’t tell too many people so they don’t jack the prices up 😉

Despite how much we loved our accommodation, we did manage to get out and explore a bit. We had a blast skiing for the first time at Snow Summit. We drank craft beers at Big Bear Lake Brewing Company. We ate at 752 Social and Fire Rock Burgers and Brew. We went on a hike and breathed in fresh mountain air while admiring gorgeous views of the lake. In general, we got a chance to slow down (except when we were speeding down the slopes hehe), relax, and enjoy each others company.

Big Bear, you stole our hearts and we can’t wait to see you again! Here are my favorite photos from the weekend (see more on Instagram: @thedaydreamernextdoor)

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Have you been inspired to visit Big Bear and stay at our “secret” bed and breakfast?

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How To Spend 4 Days Adventuring Through Arizona

With its picturesque canyons, winding rivers, impressive peaks, desert landscapes, and national forests, there is a lot of diverse ground to cover in Arizona, which makes it a great road trip destination. I’ve put together a sample itinerary for how to spend 4 days exploring the Valentine State (AZ became a state on Feb 14, 1912) by car, which you can watch on the vlog here. I’ve also included a cost breakdown at the end.

Day 1: Fly into Phoenix Airport and grab your rental car. Prepare for your longest drive of the trip–318 miles to Monument Valley (~5 hrs). To break up the journey, stop in Sedona for pizza with a view at Hideaway House. Continue onto Goulding’s Lodge just across the border in Utah for your first night. It’s about 10 minutes outside of Monument Valley but half the cost of staying at the hotel on the reservation. Get a good night’s rest because the next 2 days are full of exploration.

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Day 2: Wake up before the sun to tour Monument Valley with Navajo Spirit Tours. Take in the sights and learn about the Navajo way of life from your local guide. I recommend paying for a tour if you want access to the restricted sections of MV and if you’re interested in talking to a native.  Learning about the Navajo culture added a lot of depth to my visit and was definitely worth the cost. Our guide could trace his ancestors back 18 generations (~500 years), and we saw ruins that were about 3,000 years old! Give yourself approximately 3 hours for this part of the day.

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Next, make the 2 hour drive to Page, AZ to see Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend. Both these sights are better to photograph when the sun is higher in the sky, so definitely keep that in mind. My friend and I went in February when the sun doesn’t get high enough to cause the famous sun beam in Upper AC, so we opted to tour Lower Antelope Canyon instead. Give yourself an hour and a half total for AC and at least an hour for HS Bend. After an exhilarating but exhausting day of sightseeing, check into your hotel to prepare for day 3! I stayed at Holiday Inn Express Lake Powell.

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Day 3: It’s time to head to the Grand Canyon, which will take about 2.5 hours. I recommend stopping by the visitors center upon arrival to chat with the park rangers. They can help you decide on the best plan for you based on your interests. My friend and I were all about the views, so we spent most of the day admiring the canyon from the various lookouts. We did make some time to learn a little bit about the fascinating geology to help us comprehend what we were seeing. I’ve posted my Grand Canyon photos and review here.  We stayed in the park at Yavapai Lodge which was nice but not necessary if you have a car.

Day 4: Before heading back to Phoenix, catch a final glimpse of the Grand Canyon at sunrise. Then you have 3.5 hours to reflect on the awesomeness of Arizona as you drive back to the airport to fly home. Unless you’ve decided you’re never going home 😉

Cost Breakdown (we went in late February): Accommodation = $126 each, Rental Car = $180 each, MV Tour = $95 each, AC Tour = $26 each, Gas = $18 each, Souvenirs = $30, Navajo Entrance Fee = $20 per vehicle up to four people, Grand Canyon Entrance Fee = $30 per vehicle, and I spent $76 on food.

Where else would you add on to this Arizona road trip??

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Here’s Why You Should Visit the Grand Canyon in February (with photos)

When my eyes laid sight on the Grand Canyon for the first time (and to be honest, every time at all the different viewpoints), my mind could not comprehend its beauty and size. It was instantly clear why so many people flock to visit from all over the world, and to this day, I still can’t put its vastness, colors, and geological significance into words. So I’m not going to try. I’ll just say: go see it for yourself.

I went at the end of February with a friend and highly recommend visiting around that same time. Sure it was a bit nippley, but it was crisp & clear and the hoards of spring & summer tourists hadn’t arrived yet. At one viewpoint I had the platform all to myself. It was one of my favorite moments of the trip and made the canyon feel that much more grand. Having to deal with extreme heat and tons of people would definitely have had an impact on the trip, so I couldn’t have been happier with our decision to go in February. Just make sure you bring a warm jacket, hat, scarf, wool socks, and gloves.

Practical info: I visited the South Rim since the North Rim is closed during winter. The South Rim is about a 3.5 hour drive from Phoenix. I was super impressed with how user-friendly the national park is. There are free shuttle buses that take you around to most of the viewpoints, coming by every 15 minutes. If you go before March, you will need a car to drive the red route to Pima Point as the shuttles do not run there during low season.

Four hours or so is enough time if all you want to do is marvel at the canyon from the various viewpoints. If you want to do any hiking, you’ll need a full day minimum. You could fit the Canyon in as a half day stop during a road trip; however, my friend and I opted to stay the night in the park at Yavapai Lodge. Despite its outdated decor and lack of wifi, we were really happy with the convenient location and price.

Here are my favorite photos of the day 🙂

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We visited the Grand Canyon during a 4 day road trip throughout Arizona. Watch the vlog to see it all in action.

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3 Unique Spots for Your Next San Diego Brunch

Not like the weather is ever horrible in San Diego, but all the rain we got this winter has kept us indoors more than usual. However, we’ve reached that time of year when each day is getting better and better. San Diego has so many great brunch options to enjoy year round, but as we see more sunshine, the urge to go increases. If you’re looking for something different to spice up your weekend brunch, I highly recommended the following 🙂

1 . Karl Strauss: Brunch at a brewery

San Diego is home to over 100 breweries, some of which serve delicious food as well. Karl Strauss takes it a step further and puts on an amazing Sunday brunch. For the price, we can’t believe how good the spread is. You also get your choice of bottomless mimosas, a beermosa, or a beer flight. The service at Karl Strauss is consistently impressive, and each time we’ve gone they have brought out complimentary tasters of their beers as well. The location in Mira Mesa is my favorite because you can sit outdoors overlooking a beautiful Japanese coy pond while enjoying the live music.

Priced at $27 for a 2 hour slot

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2 . Flagship Cruises: Brunch while boating around San Diego harbor

In my opinion, one of the best ways to experience San Diego is from the water. Why not do that over brunch? We did this cruise last year for Easter and loved it so much we’re doing it again this year. You can’t beat the skyline views, cruising under the Coronado Bridge, and feeling the wind in your hair when you take your drink outside to enjoy the deck. My family and I were very happy with the food and probably went up for more 5 or 6 times haha. Bottomless mimosas are also included. Honestly, I don’t want anything to do with a brunch that doesn’t have bottomless mimosas. 😉

Priced at $75 for a 2 hour cruise that boards 30 minutes prior to departure

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3 . Hotel Del Coronado: Extravagant brunch with a side of history

The Hotel Del is one of the most iconic buildings in San Diego. It has hosted 16 US presidents ranging from FDR to Obama, and it’s where the movie Some Like it Hot starring Marilyn Monroe was filmed. Built back in 1887, it is now a National Historic Landmark and is worth checking out for that reason alone. If you plan to visit the Del you might as well experience The Crown Room Sunday brunch, too. The selection is insane and features several high end cuts of meat, seafood for days, and multiple alcoholic beverage options. Afterwards you can walk along the beautiful beachfront and work off some calories.

Priced at  $96 for 3 and 1/2 hours

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Where’s your favorite place to brunch in San Diego??
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Summer vs. Winter: NYC Edition

I was lucky enough to visit NYC twice in 2016, experiencing both its summer and winter. I realized there were similarities between both trips, the slight difference being the levels of foliage and layers of clothing. 😉 If you are trying to decide between a summer or winter holiday in the city that never sleeps, I hope the following comparison will help you decide!

Summer version: rooftop bar hopping

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Featured bars: Le Bain and Wythe Hotel. Nothing shouts summer like drinking outdoors.

Winter version: Stone Street bar hopping

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Featured Bars: Fraunces Tavern and random lovely bars of Stone Street. This was a highlight of my winter trip and might need its own dedicated post. I mean I drank at the same place George Washington did back in the day (and got a selfie with him hehe)! Nothing feels better in winter than drinking alcohol in cozy settings.

Summer version: views from the top of the Freedom Tower

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Winter version: views from an office building in Times Square

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You can’t visit NYC, arguably the most impressive city in the world, without marveling at its skyline from above. Doesn’t matter when you visit, it’s breathtaking every time and I love finding new viewpoints to take it all in.

Summer version: exploring the High Line

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Winter version: exploring the festive streets around Fifth Ave

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The energy in NYC is undeniable. There’s always something going on no matter how hot or cold it is–from markets to window displays to public art–it’s all worth exploring!

Summer version: picnics in Central Park

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Winter version: walking past the frozen lakes and twiggy trees of Central Park as you make cover for somewhere warmer to eat

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Central Park is quintessential NYC and is an important part of any summer or winter itinerary.

You might be wondering what made the cut on both trips?… Brunch at Jacob’s Pickle and drinks at Pier A overlooking the Statue of Liberty. Because some things do not change despite the weather–and that’s our love of carbs and freedom.

Summer Version:

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Winter Version:

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Moral of the story…NYC is amazing year round and you will be impressed any time you decide to visit! So book that ticket sooner rather than later 🙂

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Port Douglas Photo Diary

As the plane starts its decent and we head into the clouds, I wonder what the world will look like below them. After day dreaming about the Great Barrier Reef for such a long time, it’s surreal to be on my way there. My first glimpse of Tropical North Queensland is bright turquoise and green, and I understand after just a few moments why it’s a wonder of the world. I’ve arrived in paradise.

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All underwater photos courtesy of Wavelength Reef Cruises.

For a written, day-by-day itinerary click here.

To see my review of our stay at the Sheraton Mirage click here.

Need help packing for a trip to the GBR? See what I brought and recommend here.

Check out my Port Douglas vlog to see highlights of the hotel, helicopter flight, and more!

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What to Wear When Visiting the Great Barrier Reef

Here’s what I packed for 4 days/3 nights in Port Douglas, which is quite warm pretty much all year round:

3 bathing suits…our hotel had about FIVE ACRES of pool, so I knew I’d be spending a lot of time in a bikini. You can definitely get away with only packing one, though! The brands pictured are SeaFolly, Triangl, and Urban Outfitters.

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One cute, summery dress for dinners out…this dress is by Mumu.

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I only wore 3 of these shirts. I wore the black, striped one from Old Navy with a denim skirt for wandering around town. I wore the flowy, white one from Free People with denim shorts when we went on the scenic helicopter flight. I wore the white graphic tank from Urban Outfitters with my high-waisted SeaFolly shorts on our final day when we walked on the beach for one last time and flew back to Brisbane. Last but not least I wore the black, low back cover up dress from Roxy over my bathing suit when we went snorkeling on the GBR.

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Here are the bottoms mentioned above: from SeaFolly, Zara, and H&M. I could have gotten away with packing way less since they are all denim and look similar. But I wasn’t backpacking, so I didn’t have to worry about packing light 😉

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For shoes I had my leather Steve Madden sandals and black Reef flip flops, both of which go with basically anything. The Steve Madden ones made me feel a little more dressed up. I only wore my Birkenstocks once on the first day, so I definitely would have been fine not bringing them. We didn’t end up doing any long walks or hiking, so if you have something like that planned, bring better walking shoes. (I own two completely different pairs of Tevas that would have worked.)

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Don’t forget to accessorize and pack your favorite sunglasses, you’ll definitely need them! Another thing you can’t go without is sunscreen–and lot’s of it.

If you want to see what I got up to in Port Douglas, check out my vlog here!

To read our day-by-day itinerary click here.

You can see my review of the fabulous Sheraton Mirage Port Douglas here if you’re trying to decide where to stay 😉

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Staying at the Sheraton Mirage in Port Douglas

When planning our trip to the Great Barrier Reef, Ollie and I knew it was going to be the only true vacation of our year. We wanted to treat ourselves and stay somewhere nice. Well, nice is definitely an understatement for the Sheraton Mirage in Port Douglas, which far surpassed our expectations and offered all the relaxation and beauty we had hoped for. I highly recommend visiting in low season if possible. We went at the end of November when the hotel was only at 30% capacity. We basically had the whole of this stunning property to ourselves, and that felt pretty damn special. The hotel just finished renovations 2 months prior to our stay, so everything was updated and new. It was done very well, and we were all impressed. We stayed in a garden view room, which was so lovely, and our friends stayed in a lagoon room and had access to the pool straight from their balcony.

My favorite things about the hotel were the pools, swim up bar, and beach access. My husband’s favorite things were the breakfast buffet, comfy beds, and the “never-ending pool that wraps around the hotel.” He’s not exaggerating- there is almost 5 acres of pool at your disposal. We made it a goal to swim in all of them and ended up spending about 6 hours doing a pool crawl that day-I’m not complaining! To have a well-rounded review, I need to mention a couple cons of the stay. The bathroom did not have a door, only a window shutter (which looked nice, but didn’t offer much privacy). And the last “con” I can think of (which could have been easily avoided if I read this blog beforehand hehe) is that the hotel is about a 5 minute drive from Macrossan Street. If you plan on spending time there, you can take a convenient shuttle into town for $5 per person per way. This adds up fast if you go back a forth even a few times. Some of the shuttles offer a 3 day unlimited pass for $25. If I knew about that on day one I could have saved myself a lot of money.

Being the travel lover that I am, I could never understand why some people choose to spend their only vacation each year going back to the same place over and over again. After my stay at the Sheraton Mirage in Port Douglas, I now understand. I think I’ve found the place I could return to time and time again. It was just SO NICE, and there’s so much to do in the area. I can’t recommend a trip to Port Douglas enough. And if you decide to go, you know where to stay!