A Weekend Getaway to Lake Garda

July 28, 2015

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This past weekend, Matt and I went to Italy to celebrate our sixth wedding anniversary (wow how time flies!). We decided on Northern Italy because 1) although we’ve both been to Italy years ago, we’ve never been together, and 2) it is really close to Prague. Direct flight for the win!

We left Prague on Friday afternoon and flew into Milan, where we picked up our pint-size Smart car. It was pretty hysterical – and super fun (and practical) on the winding vineyard roads.

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We really lucked out with the weather — sunny and in the 90’s. I’m usually quite a planner when it comes to trips, but quite honestly, I didn’t have much time to plan for this weekend aside from booking our travel and bed & breakfast. I love the planning part of travel and often spend hours plotting out the best scenic views, where to eat like a local, and where to get the best coffee. (the important things, right?)

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In a way, it was refreshing to go into this trip with little decided upon. Our agenda was wide open – it felt so good. I’m sure that we “missed” some of the best pasta or the best place to view the lake, but who really cares? Sometimes it can be exhausting to try to keep up with the “best of” that you forget to just enjoy the view that you currently have. This trip reminded me that I actually love being spontaneous – just as much as I love the planning. You never know what you’ll stumble upon by just wandering about.

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In the end, this weekend was all about relaxation. We wandered around Bardolino, enjoyed wine at our bed & breakfast high above the lake, and we even rented a boat for the afternoon (such a fun idea). To celebrate our anniversary, we had a romantic dinner at Locanda San Vigilio on Saturday evening. The view from this restaurant / hotel was unreal — I felt like I was in a fairytale. Per usual, we consumed a lot of pasta and seafood and it was delicious.

Where we stayed: Prati Palai

Where we ate: Locanda San Vigilio /  gelato at Gelateria Biancaneve Bardolino /  seafood at Ristorante la Taverna da Oreste / tortellini at Pastificio Remelli

What we did: rented a boat with Nautica Guini / strolled around Bardolino / went to Borghetta

What we didn’t have time to do / next time: a visit to this winery / wander around Verona

Thank you, Lake Garda for an amazing weekend!

Traveling to Europe with a Dog

July 16, 2015

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If you follow me on Instagram, you likely noticed that I recently spent a month in Prague with my dog, Weber, in tow. Traveling to Europe with a dog has always been a dream, but I never thought it would become a reality.

Matt has been based in Prague for three months this summer (ending at the end of this month!), and we knew that to spend as much quality time together as possible, I’d likely go for a chunk of time, as well. Although we travel often, our trips are normally 1-2 weeks long. A month away from home seemed exciting, yet daunting. I knew that I wanted to bring our dog along, but how would it work? Was it even possible?

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Earlier this spring, when we realized that the possibility of bringing Weber along to Prague might actualize, I dug into the research. Let me start by saying: I quickly became overwhelmed. The information that is available is so cumbersome and can be difficult to navigate. I honestly wasn’t sure if the entire process was going to work until after we had arrived in Prague!

Depending on where you are traveling and the duration of your trip, the rules change quite a bit. For one, traveling to the UK is pretty close to impossible with a dog in tow. Your dog must have many vaccinations and they often have to go through a quarantine.

Since the Czech Republic (or Germany, which is where we flew in to) is rabies-controlled, our process was much easier. The US is also rabies-controlled and many of the regulations are based upon whether the country is rabies-free, rabies-controlled or if there is a high incidence of rabies.

For us to travel to Germany, we needed to first confirm with the airline that we purchased the correct carrier (this is the one we got – I’d highly recommend. Make sure that there is plenty of space for your dog to stand, turn around, etc!), and purchase Weber’s ticket! For us, Weber flew in the same plane as me, so it was less expensive than some other options where he would have had a pet guardian (we flew Lufthansa and it was $400 one way; price was based on weight and size of carrier + dog). Plus, it was nice to bring him to the airport and spend as much time with him as possible before we were separated. Honestly, the separation was the most traumatic part. TSA is pretty thorough and I think Weber caught on to the tension in the room. Plus, then they secured his crate with zip ties, which was pretty scary for him. It was also scary for me, but well worth it.

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After we were certain that our airline didn’t require any specific paperwork, I contacted the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control to make sure that I understood all of the necessary action items. There is actually a contact for each state / region, which I thought was very helpful.

Most importantly, your pet needs to have a micro chip (Weber had one implanted when he was a puppy, so we were all set there), rabies vaccination, plus be in good health. In order for the rabies vaccination to be approved, there has to have been enough time since the vaccination, so be sure that you time it appropriately. In order to complete the paperwork, you need to make an appointment with a certified vet (our normal vet wasn’t able to do this, so we went to the MSPCA Travel Center). Be sure to print out the necessary paperwork (we also emailed it over to them ahead of time), and bring all copies of your pet’s vaccination history if you end up seeing a new vet. Very important: the paperwork must be completed LESS THAN 10 days before arrival in the new country, or else it is void. As soon as you complete the paperwork, you must overnight it to the USDA APHIS official designated to your state (be sure to include a self-return mailer, etc). To be honest, I was nervous that the timeframe was going to be too tight, but these officials deal with this stuff all the time, and we received our paperwork signed by the USDA with plenty of time to travel.

To return to the US, be sure that you have a signed and dated copy of your pet’s rabies certificate. When we returned, that is the only thing that customs wanted to see.

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Overall, be sure to do your research and ask plenty of questions! Now that I’ve done this once, I feel much better prepared to navigate the system should we have to do it again. Although it was a bit difficult to get Weber to Europe, it was an adventure that we’ll never forget (more on that to come)! I am headed back to Prague on Sunday, and have to say, quite sad that my buddy won’t be joining me this time around!

Camping on the Boston Harbor Islands

July 15, 2015

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One January night, Matt came home super excited. With a huge smile, he told me that he was able to secure a camping permit for Lovells Island, one of the Boston Harbor Islands where camping is allowed.

Although the following few months proved that our summer travels were going to be quite extensive due to Matt’s work, we knew that we’d make it home for this camping trip. There are only a few islands in the Boston Harbor that allow overnight camping, and Lovells Island is the only one that allows camping + grilling + campfires, which in my opinion, are three necessary ingredients for a summer adventure.

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Lovells Island is a semi-quick boat trip from Rowes Wharf. There are no direct boats to Lovells Island, but we took the ferry from Boston to George’s Island (with a 45 minute “layover”) and then carried on to Lovells in a small boat. I thought that Lovells Island would be another decent boat trip away, but it was a mere 5 minutes and we had pulled up to the dock.

Unfortunately, Weber was in a car accident (he’s okay, thank goodness!) the week prior to camping, so I had decided to just go out for the day. It was so hard to leave the group (they were having so much fun!) but poor Web needed me at home.

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If you live in Boston or the surrounding area (and like camping — or even just adventure!), I’d definitely recommend adding camping on the Boston Harbor Islands to your summer bucket list. I hope to do it for real next summer! If you are interested, just be sure to register well in advance (plots fill up fast).

Cesky Krumlov, A Medieval City in Czech Republic

July 13, 2015

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Cesky Krumlov, a medieval village just two hours south of Prague is home to over 300 UNESCO world heritage and protected buildings and sites, including the second largest castle in the Czech Republic. One weekend, Matt, Weber and I headed down to this beautiful town to check it out.

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It ended up being a scorching hot weekend, which worked out well since we were so close to fresh water for Weber to go swimming. In addition to the most beautiful buildings and streets, Cesky Krumlov has a river that runs through the middle of the town. Especially on a warm summer day, you’ll find canoes, party boats full of people, and dogs cooling off in the water.

Cesky Krumlov is a pretty touristy destination — great for the weekend getaway or day trippers, since it isn’t too far from Prague by train or car. We ended up staying a bit out of town (10 minute walk up the hill), which I would actually recommend. It was nice to get away from the crowds and stay somewhere off the beaten path.

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Like much of Czech Republic, the restaurants spill into the streets and most have an outdoor seating section. We loved beers and tradition Czech food at Depo, plus fresh vegetarian food along the river at Laibon. There are also so many grassy spots along the river and by the castle to picnic.

In addition to taking it easy along the river, we visited the castle and gardens (the museum & tower looked awesome, but weren’t dog-friendly so we just appreciated from a distance).

I would definitely recommend stopping in Cesky Krumlov for a night, especially to visit the castle gardens. I’d recommend visiting in spring, early summer or fall and visiting the castle in the morning to avoid crazy crowds.

36 Hours in Uruguay

July 6, 2015

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While we were in Argentina this past November, we wanted to get out of the city for a few days. To be honest, the decision of where to go was a bit daunting. As this was our first trip to South America, the options were endless. I love travel research but it can turn into a black hole very quickly. Should we trek down to Patagonia and see the gorgeous lakes? Even further south to the glaciers? Should we go to Chile (I had heard amazing things about Valapraiso)? Or what about Salta? There were so many incredible places to visit and simply not enough time. I knew one thing for sure: I didn’t want to feel rushed.

Uruguay had been on my mind for some time. I had seen photos of the gorgeous landscape and had heard stories from friends who had been before. The proximity from Buenos Aires made it an ideal getaway. You can hop a ferry and an hour later, you are in old town Colonia.

Colonia was beautiful with its colorful houses and waterfront views. It felt like we had stepped back in time with the old cars, warm smiles, and easy pace of life. Although it’s been a few months since we were there, I can’t seem to shake Uruguay. I hope that someday we can return and spend time exploring new parts of this beautiful country.

If you’re interested in reading more about our time in Uruguay, check out my post on Narbona Wine Lodge, the beautiful Relais & Chateaux hotel that we stayed in.

The Turkish Coast

June 8, 2015

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Sometimes it takes being on the road again to feel inspired to write about past trips. I still can’t believe that I haven’t properly shared my experience in Turkey last fall. It was one of the best trips I’ve taken.

In addition to spending a week in Istanbul (split up into three different occasions), I traveled to Cappadocia and the Turkish coast.

Matt had to head back home, unfortunately, but my friend Chantal and I continued on! Fethiye, a city in the Aegean region of Turkey was our homebase. We flew into Dalaman and rented a car to explore the coastal towns of Fethiye, Oleduniz, and Yesiluzumlu. Driving in Turkey is not for the timid, but I couldn’t recommend it more! We were able to cover so much ground and stumble upon small villages that we wouldn’t have seen otherwise. One thing to note: people drive as they want to – no one obeys road signs or traffic signals, so just be extra assertive!

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We stayed in two different locations so we could experience different landscapes. For the first few nights, we stayed at the Kabak Avalon Bunglows, high above the water. The windy, hilly drive up to the bungalows was pretty exhilarating. There was no barricade, and the narrow roads were literally on the edge of a huge drop. We just went slowly – and stopped to say hi to the many mountain goats we passed along our way!

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The Oleduniz area is stunning. From high above the cliffside, the turquoise water would shimmer in the sunlight. If you are in the area, the one thing you absolutely have to do is go on a boat tour. There are many to choose from – if you’re in the party mentality, you can choose the pirate boat with foam pools and crazy loud music, or you can choose the smaller boats that are equally hysterical. The whole experience is just that… an experience. Our hotel coordinated the boat tour (it was this one) and it was quite memorable. It was a hot day (as it often is on the Turkish coast in September) and we would jump into cove after cove, climbing back on to the boat for a cool beer and respite from the sun. We stopped to see Butterfly Valley, which was neat! We also ate many pides and enjoyed nargile here while we would sit back and watch all the paragliders land on the beach.

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After a few days of sun-drenched beach time, we drove 45-minutes into the forest. Yesiluzumlu wasn’t the easiest place to find, but the bumpy dirt roads were well worth it. We arrived at Dikencik Cottages and were greeted by friendly dogs and cats, plus the lovely Ayse and Cengiz. They didn’t have any other guests at the time, so Chantal and I had the whole place to ourselves. After being on the road for quite some time at this point, it felt so wonderful to be in a place that felt so homey. Rather than head out to a local bar in the evening, we preferred to stay in and drink a bottle of wine with our hosts. We shared wonderful conversation, delicious food (the breakfast was unreal – I still think about it!), and quiet moments in the countryside. Our time at Dikencik Cottages was a highlight of my trip and I hope to go back someday.

A weekend in Munich

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Weber and I flew from Boston to Munich to kick-off this month-long trip in Europe. There are no direct flights from Boston to Prague, and I wanted to make the process with Weber in tow as easy as possible. Plus, a weekend in Munich sounded lovely. I had only been once before – for Oktoberfest no less – and I hadn’t really seen much of the city aside from the inside of a beer tent.

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Plus! We actually have a friend that lives in Munich. She is a friend from my time of living in France and I had recently spent several weeks with her in Argentina at our good friend’s wedding. There’s no better way to see a place than with a local. Our friend Judith and her boyfriend, Phillip, took us from beer hall to beer garden and lots in between.

I loved visiting the Englischer Garten! It’s a massive park (bigger than Central Park!) in the middle of Munich with beer gardens, wide open spaces, and a surfer’s paradise. After cooping Weber up in his travel crate, I was so excited to let him run free.

A Month in Prague

May 29, 2015

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If you follow me on Instagram, you may have noticed that I’m in Prague – and with Weber, no less! Matt is here for work until the end of July. It sucks being apart, so we’re taking advantage of the opportunity and I am joining him in Prague a few different times.

Since this visit is a month-long, we went through the crazy process of bringing along our 80 pound dog. It was no small feat – definitely more on that to come in a future blog post.

I am working remotely from Prague so high on my list of priorities this past week has been scouting out coffee shops. It’s way more fun to work out in the city than from our hotel lobby. (yes, we are living in a hotel for a month. So far, so good!)

I’ll be sharing my favorite places as the month moves along, but for now, off to pack our bags for a weekend getaway to the Bavarian countryside! Have a great weekend!

 

36 Hours in Dubrovnik

May 4, 2015

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This past weekend, Matt and I met in Dubrovnik for a last-minute whirlwind 36 hours. As much travel as it took to get there (I came from Boston), it was incredibly relaxing and restorative. There’s just something about the warm sun, even when the air is cold. Matt is based in Prague for the next several months (more on that soon, if you’ve been before and have any recommendations / tips, I’d love them!) and we were lucky enough to meet up for the weekend.

I’ve always been intrigued by Croatia. I am a visual person and all the photos of sun-splashed beaches, islands, wine, and cobblestones lured me in a long time ago. I was so excited to spend a weekend exploring the ancient walled city of Dubrovnik.

Since Matt and I were coming from different places, we took separate cabs and met at the hotel. When we arrived at the hotel, we both realized that our original impressions of Dubrovnik were the same. The drive from the airport instantly brought us back to Big Sur. Winding coastline, narrow roads, and beautiful sweeping ocean views.

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We stayed at Villa Dubrovnik, outside the city walls. The hotel was beautiful (lots of glass and wood) and a retreat in itself. The hotel was only a fifteen minute walk to the old city (and it was a beautiful walk) and there was also a shuttle every hour. I appreciated being outside of the city walls, where it can get a little chaotic.

Although we didn’t have too much time, we were able to hit a few places that we had heard good things about, plus stumble upon other places that we wouldn’t have experienced otherwise (my favorite way to travel in a lot of ways).

My favorite things about Dubrovnik were the views (stunning cliffside views!), the al fresco seating, tiny alleyways, and the cobblestone streets. Be sure to pack good walking shoes! The cobblestones can be slippery and there are so many stairs!

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One of my favorite places to rest our feet and enjoy a drink was Buza Bar, which is a bar built into the cliff. It is a bit hard to find, but so worth it. In general, the walled city is pretty small and although can be a bit tricky to navigate, if you wander enough, you’ll find what you’re looking for! Matt and I rested our feet and enjoyed a local bar at Buza. I can only imagine what it is like in the height of the summer.

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We ate lunch at a little vegetarian restaurant, Nishta. I had read good things about this place and we were in need of a healthy pick-me-up! We split the falafel sandwich, which was really good! They also had a whole range of juices, smoothies, and salads. Instead of a juice, I opted for a glass of wine. Croatian wine is so good!

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Speaking of which, after lunch we were going to walk back to the hotel to chill out for a bit (our hotel had an amazing rooftop bar). On our way back down to the city square, we stumbled upon an inviting wine bar, D’Vino. In we went and two wine tastings later…

D’Vino was awesome. We were met by an Australian guy who walked us through all the wines. They also had the best music on – think Edith Piaf, Ella and Louis. Croatian wine is seriously underrated – some of my favorites, especially from the Dingac region.

If you have time, definitely take the cable car up the hill. The view of the city is unbeatable!

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I hope that someday soon we can go back and explore more of this beautiful country! I’d love to see Hvar and some of the other islands.

Jake’s Hotel – A Getaway to Rural Jamaica

April 28, 2015

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Jamaica just might be Matt’s favorite place. I totally get it – the beach, delicious melt-in-your-mouth jerk chicken, the red stripe, and the ease of it all. We took a few days off and went to Jamaica in February to celebrate Matt’s birthday. It was our third trip down and we wanted to explore a different part of the country – something a bit more off-beat. As per usual, I did a lot of research and we settled on Jake’s Hotel in Treasure Bay.

We typically stay in Montego Bay (and one time went to Negril), so we were accustomed to sandy beaches with turquoise clear water. Treasure Bay was rocky – but beautiful. The rugged countryside met the untouched ocean, which is kind of my dream world. The nice thing about Jake’s is that it’s super private – ideal for couples or families. We had our own little bungalow on the edge of the resort and it felt like we were the only ones there (kind of similar to our experience at the Victoria Hotel in Hoi An, Vietnam). The one thing to note is that the ride is LONG from Montego Bay (over three hours for us) and it’s a bumpy, rocky ride, too. We knew that going into it so set our expectations accordingly, but if you have limited time and don’t want to travel too far, it might not be the best option for you.