Tag Archives: summer

HEADED WEST

I have a feeling this summer is going to be the summer of road trips. I just returned from two back-to-back weekend road trips, and it’s surprising how inexpensive and accessible these kinds of trips can be. The first weekend was spent driving west with my sister from Colorado to California, and the second was heading south with a couple of girlfriends from Colorado to New Mexico. As long as you have good company, a full tank of gas, a backseat filled with snacks, a trendy/affordable Airbnb, and a wish list of places to see, it’ll be a successful roadie adventure. Here are my go-to recommendations if you happen to road trip this summer!

NEVADA
In N’ Out Burger
Old-fashioned burgers, french fries, and milkshakes. You can think of it as “fast food”, but the quality is everything the opposite of typical fast-food. A must if you need a bite on the road, or if you’ve simply never had In N’ Out before! You’ll thank me.
Seven Magic Mountains
Just imagine Candy Land in the middle of the desert. Just off of Highway 15, south of Las Vegas is Ugo Rondinone’s art installation of seven towers of colorful, stacked boulders each scaling over 30 feet high. A beautiful burst of color after spending hours in the car. It’ll be worth the pullover.

CALIFORNIA
Balboa Island, Newport, CA
Tucked in the harbor of Newport Beach is the tiny community called Balboa Island. We spent the morning walking around the farmer’s market, exploring the quaint shops and restaurants, and watching the surfers from the pier. There is also a boardwalk and a ferry on the island which is more of a peninsula. It was a nice hidden gem away from the hustle & bustle of California weekenders.
Tabu Shabu, Costa Mesa, CA
O-M-G. Forget sushi and ramen and sashimi. Tabu Shabu is the new way to explore traditional Japanese cuisine. This style of fondue or “hot pot” allows you to cook thinly sliced meat and vegetables in your own pot of boiling broth (usually tonkatsu or miso), dipping into homemade ponzu and goma sauces, and accompanied by rice, ramen, or udon noodles. I have always loved Japanese cuisine, but I became quickly obsessed with shabu shabu! So much so, that I begged my sister and brother-in-law to go twice in the same weekend that I visited them. 2 times in 3 days. And I savored every frickin’ bite!
The Crack Shack, Costa Mesa, CA
If you like Chick Fil A, (or chicken sandwich in general), you’ll go nuts over The Crack Shack! Simply one of the tastiest chicken sandwiches and french fries I’ve had in years. I recommend The Firebird and Schmaltz fries. Great weekend treat for a casual lunch or dinner.
Fashion Island, Newport, CA
Explore Orange County’s premier shopping center at Fashion Island. My sister lives down the street from it and it was an endless promenade of shops and restaurants. Not to mention the largest Anthropologie I’ve ever been in! (I actually managed to get lost inside) It’s a great way to spend the afternoon if you need some retail therapy or quick eats.

NEW MEXICO
The Plaza, Santa Fe, NM
The Plaza is the heart of Santa Fe with its rich history, beautiful churches, authentic restaurants, and endless art galleries/jewelers. The soul of New Mexico is portrayed everywhere with beautiful turquoise jewelry, vibrant art, rich food, stucco/adobe inspired buildings, and cultured people. I couldn’t get enough of the squash-blossom necklaces, long horn skull heads, chili-infused cuisine, and colorful pottery.
Kakawa Chocolate House, Santa Fe, NM
Sadly I didn’t have the chance to visit Kakawa Chocolate House, but I can’t tell you how many blogs/websites mentioned this place when I was researching places to visit in Santa Fe. So it must be good. From what I gather, Kakawa specializes in handmade chocolates, chile chocolates, chocolate drinks, and chocolate elixirs. I heard it’s the perfect afternoon treat. And a sweet reason for me to go back to Santa Fe one day.
Paloma, Santa Fe, NM
Hands down, Paloma was the best dining experience we had during our weekend in New Mexico. This stunning kitchen & bar is intimate, vibrant, and offers an incredible menu. Mexican-inspired with an exotic twist. The staff is extremely welcoming and friendly, the service was flawless, and the food was simply outstanding. A beautiful representation of Santa Fe cuisine with a lovely atmosphere. Highly recommend for a great meal!
Meow Wolf, Santa Fe, NM
I don’t even know how to begin to describe Meow Wolf. In short, Santa Fe is not really known for it’s night-life, so the young and eager go to Meow Wolf for entertainment. A venue filled with unique and mind-blowing art installations that will push your mind beyond reality. Someone best described it as “part haunted house, part fun house, part acid trip”. I felt like I was in a 2-hour episode of Stranger Things. If you are ever in Santa Fe, you MUST go. It’s a beautifully overwhelming and fascinating experience.

Have fun road-tripping this summer! xx

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

TRIBE

“Your vibe attracts your tribe.”

No words. Just two best friends frolicking in an empty field to bid farewell to summer. Those are the best kinds of friends and the best kinds of evenings.

xx

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Venice, Italy

“My love of Venice begins with the lagoon in which it stands. Although often overlooked, this 550-sq-km shallow bowl is as great a marvel of engineering as San Marco’s golden domes. Every palace and every person is reflected in its teal-colored waters creating the mirage-like double image that lends the city its magical quality. Not only has it inspired the extraordinary physical fabric of the city and countless creative and technological inventions, but it also shapes the unconventional and creative spirit of all who reside here. Therein lie possibilities barely imagined in other cities.”
– Paula Hardy

Taking a trip to Venice is like taking a gondola ride back in time, to a fairy tale city of marble palaces built on a lagoon. Kind of sounds like Disneyland actually. But Venice is truly unlike anything I have ever seen before. Imagine the world’s biggest outdoor promenade with the best selection of Venetian cuisine, Prosecco, endless shopping, masquerade influence, canalside bistros, and sightings of romantic gondola rides floating through emerald green and enchanting blue waters. One of the strangest and loveliest things about the city was the absence of cars. No honking, no roads, no traffic, no chaos. Just boats and gondolas taking their sweet time with their awe-inspired passengers. I wish I could have spent a little more time there. If you ever get a chance to visit, and I hope you do, here are some of my personal recommendations and highlights:

GET LOST
Put down your map and wander. Don’t bother trying to find your way – you’ll get lost in Venice no matter what. Even with the best GPS. But that’s the fun part! If you work tirelessly trying to navigate the impossible maze of Venice, you’ll miss what else Venice is hiding; the calming serenade of gondoliers, a morning Spritz in a sunny square, unassuming bars with lavish spreads of cicheti (Venetian tapas), storefront windows displaying the most beautiful Masquerade pieces, and fuschia-pink sunsets that have inspired centuries of artists. I think in Venice they would call these pleasures la bea vita (the beautiful life).
Hotel Mercurio
If you want affordable and authentic lodging in Venice, I would suggest Hotel Mercurio. Just a quick 4-minute walk from the San Marco ferry stop, but perfectly tucked away in Venice and all of its magic. For an unbeatable price, we upgraded to a suite with a canal view which happened to face Mozart’s home. Can’t get more historic than that! Our room was beautifully decorated with Venetian art, high ceilings with wooden beams, Italian furnishings, and marble floors. The hotel also delivered Prosecco to our room and offered complimentary breakfast every morning. Lovely. Just lovely.
Piazza San Marco (aka St. Mark’s Square)
Piazza San Marco is the heart of Venice. I’ve seen it in countless movies, but I never realized it was in Venice. The “lightbulb” moment happened for me when I saw swarms of pigeons frantically fighting for rice and crumbs and I had a flashback of Ashton Kutcher fighting them off in Just Married. Visiting Piazza San Marco is definitely a MUST; here you will see St. Mark’s Basilica with its great arches and marble decoration, the stunning palace of Doge, Piazzetta di Leoncini, the free standing Campanile, the Clock Tower, and a handful of shops and restaurants lining the square. And definitely take some playful photos with the pigeons.
Dal Moro’s – Fresh Pasta To Go
Customized made-to-order food is universal. We all love it. For America it’s Chipotle, and for Venice it’s Dal Moro’s. They were also voted #1 for Italian food in Venice! This unassuming take-out spot serves fresh pasta with made-to-order sauces in Chinese to-go boxes, leaving you to explore Venice with lunch in hand. I sadly did not have a chance to experience Dal Moro’s, but my sister swears by it and I did see the line of people wrapped around the block. That was convincing enough of their popularity.
Lavanderia Gabriella
Laundry. Totally random, but totally necessary. My sister recommended Lavanderia Gabriella after her trip to Venice. And after living out of a backpack for two weeks, I was in desperate need of clean clothes. Gabriella and her adorable mother run their own laundromat and they are perfectly affordable, approx. $15-$20 Euro for 1-2 hefty loads! They’ll even fold your laundry for you. Did I mention Gabriella speaks English? TOTALLY WORTH IT.
Rialto Bridge
Crowded, but another MUST. Ponte di Rialto is Venice’s most popular bridge and overlooks the Grand Canal. The view from the top and center of the bridge offers the most iconic view of Venice where you can observe the gondolas, ferries and boats travel between the most mesmerizing buildings. Try visiting the bridge at sunrise. You won’t regret it.

Up next…SICILY! Specifically Taormina. Come check back soon!

xx

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Amsterdam, Netherlands

For those who have never visited Amsterdam, it’s easy to assume a young, daring city with the reputable “coffee shops”, Red Light District, exciting nightlife, and Space Cake. I personally associated it with the hash brownie scene from Eurotrip. But Amsterdam is SO much more than that. It’s a city thriving with history and artistic heritage, a maze of canals and narrow houses, 17th century buildings that tilt at impossible angles, a beautiful countryside with some of the last remaining windmills that are centuries old, and the best made Gouda you will ever have in your life. There are few cities that can combine history with modern urban flair like Amsterdam. This city truly holds a special “personality” if a city could have one.
Bikes, Bikes, Bikes!
Cycling is the heart to Amsterdam’s character. It is a way of life and there are are nearly double the amount of bicycles than residents. Most people own two bikes; one for work, and one for leisure. Bikes are how Amsterdammers do everything – whether riding to work, or meeting a friend for coffee, or heading to a dinner date. If you’re feeling daring, head to a rental shop and take a spin. But you better keep up! Everyone yields to bikes. They simply rule the city.
Canal by Boat
If locals aren’t on a bike, they may well be on a boat. Amsterdam has an endless network of canals and many options for taking a boat ride. I would suggest taking an open-air canal boat or one of the free ferries behind Centraal Station. If you really want a workout, try the paddle-boats. But speaking from experience, it’s only fun for the first ten minutes… and make sure you can paddle and steer fast enough to get out of the way of every other boat on the canal. Paddle-boats never have the right-of-way.
Gezellig!
Amsterdam has a feeling of gezellig, a Dutch trait that translates something similar to content and cozy. It’s easier to experience than define. It’s as if time stands still, an awareness of the present that puts all of your stresses aside, at least until tomorrow. You can feel it anywhere, whether you’re sipping coffee at a traditional cafe, walking aimlessly through the flower market with the smell of fresh waffles in the air, or simple chatter after a tasty dinner. There is a calmness and quietness about this city – and I think it’s gezellig.
Zaanse Schans
Windmills are the icon of Holland. Amsterdam used to be filled with windmills for various purposes, whether to prevent the city from flooding or grinding seeds for mustard. Most of the country’s windmills have been taken down, some relocated to the outer city where wind conditions are more favorable. We ventured out to Zaanse Schans in the Dutch countryside for a day trip to see some of Amsterdam’s remaining windmills, followed by Marken and Volendam. I would highly recommend taking the trip!
Red Light District
Back in the day, as in the early 1300’s, women would practice the “worlds oldest profession” by carrying red lanterns (due to their flattering light), and waiting for sailors near the port. Amsterdam’s infamous Red Light District is a neighborhood of vice, skimpy prostitutes in brothel windows, seductive bars, haze-filled “coffeeshops”, strip clubs, and sex-themed museums. It’s not for everyone – but if you choose to satisfy your curiosity, here are some tips:
1. Watch for pickpockets. The Red Light District can be crowded, especially at night. Sticky fingers could be anywhere…
2. Don’t take pictures or videos of the prostitutes. I’ve heard that pimps will harshly take your phone and toss it into the nearest canal.
3. Have an open mind. The Red Light District leaves nothing to the imagination.
Grub
I noticed an on-going theme with the cuisine in Amsterdam. Dutch waffles (which are thin wafer-like cookies filled with honey or syrup), Gouda which is commonly paired with mustard, French Fries with mayonnaise, and croquettes with ham and cheese. Oh, and Heineken. All of which I was happy to eat in excess every day while I was there. But Amsterdam has inherited a variety of international cuisine including Argentinian steakhouses, Italian trattoria’s, Indonesian cuisine, and German Schnitzel. There is something to satisfy every type of craving. So you better have a big appetite!

A charming city that surprised me in every way. I truly cannot wait to return to Amsterdam one day. Come back soon for when I recap my time in Italy!

xx

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

big red

IMG_2221

IMG_2215

IMG_2228

IMG_2229

IMG_2231

IMG_2240

IMG_2232

IMG_2247

IMG_2252

IMG_2264

IMG_2271

IMG_2298

IMG_2295

IMG_2250

IMG_2323

IMG_2324

IMG_2327

IMG_2315

IMG_2317

IMG_2331

IMG_2336

IMG_2339

IMG_2341

IMG_2343

IMG_2358

IMG_2353

I added another pin to my world map of places that I’ve traveled to. This pin was for Moab, Utah.

It took me years to see Moab. Literally. My traditional group of camping friends have gone every year for the past 3-4 years during Memorial Day Weekend, and I’ve missed past trips due to prior commitments. But not this year! My man and I packed up Millie [my new car] for the weekend and took the 7 hour road-trip to Utah!

Moab was exactly how I’d pictured it. I stalked endless photos on Pinterest and Tumblr to get some photography inspiration of where we might be camping, but in typical fashion, my tribe of friends found a secluded spot in the middle of NOWHERE. Moab is pretty spread out, so I figured we wouldn’t have to go far. Sounds easy, right? Not so. The spot we were headed to was no easy trek [ie: rugged dirt road, climbing over rocks, white knuckle driving, and you better have good tires and a bad-ass car] But when we arrived, we had the best red landscape scenery for the entire weekend. In my head, I named Moab “Big Red”.

We spent 3 days in the hot sun covered in red dust, but they were well spent. Lots of ATV exploring, rock climbing, sunset watching, cave finding, fire cooking, drinking games, and potato-launching. [we didn’t make Smore’s though… I’m kind of kicking myself, because they made these square-shaped marshmallows specifically for Smore’s and I didn’t use them! Fail.]

There is something very special about Moab though. If you haven’t had a chance to visit, be sure to add it to yo’ bucket list!

xx

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,