36 Hours in Dubrovnik

May 4, 2015

Dubrovnik

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!

Dubrovnik walks

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.

The Argentine Coast

March 4, 2015

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While in Argentina in November, I headed south to the beach for a girls weekend. As we were heading into summer, the weather was amazing. We rented a little apartment right on the ocean with an expansive deck and asado. It was beautiful.

Each evening, we would catch the sunset on the deck with a glass of malbec. On the evenings we decided to not make dinner at home, we ventured into the little seaside communities for dinner – and ice cream, of course.

For those interested, we stayed in the little village of Mar de las Pampas. It happened to be a holiday weekend (there are so many of those in Argentina!), so finding a place to stay was a bit tricky. There are so many little towns along the coast – it’s hard to go wrong!

A Taste of Nostalgia

March 3, 2015

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I rise in the morning – birds chirping, sun peeking out from behind the clouds. This, here, is one of my most favorite places in all the world. This summer has been unseasonably cold in France and sometimes I wonder if I grieve for summer’s past due to the lack of beautiful fruit and sunny skies or because of what is no longer.

My grandmother’s garden is in full bloom. Although the gardener comes once per week, things seem a bit wild. She wouldn’t have allowed that. She’s been gone two years. The air in her home is stale, quiet – but I like to think that mice are laughing in the eves. Perhaps joy still lives here? There are coats in the closet and umbrellas waiting to be twirled in tomorrow’s rain. As odd as it is to see things so intact, a part of me feels thankful for this time to let be. Things often change so quickly and it feels nice for a moment to catch up.

Over the past few years, I have been lucky enough to spend a good portion of time visiting family in France. I’ve been keeping a journal of sorts – on old receipts, the notebook of the week, and ticket stubs – to catalogue the changing scenery. Although I wrote this over the summer, it still resonates. So much of these thoughts have yet to make it to the blog. Little by little, sharing these bits. xo

The wishful nals guide to Charleston

February 20, 2015

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When it comes to charming cities, Charleston always tops the list. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting this beautiful southern town on many occasions as it’s where Matt grew up. Every time we’re back, there are always new restaurants to try, stores to visit, and day trips to take. Along with my sister-in-law, who lives in downtown Charleston, I crafted a little Charleston city guide featuring our favorite must-visit places.

Eat and drink.

First and foremost, Charleston is a foodie’s heaven. There are always new (and amazing) restaurants popping up. Charleston chefs serve up the freshest, no-frills food. And don’t even get me started on the drinks. Cocktail, please!

Market Street Sweets – A must-visit. Go for the bear claws (the dark chocolate ones are my favorite) and the pralines. They also have amazing peanut butter cups.

Wildflour Pastry – The latte is amazing. If you’re feeling indulgent, the cupcake-for-two always look delicious.

Bay Street Biergarten – A beer garden with lots of beer on tap, including quite a number of local beers. They have a great outdoor area!

Rooftop at Vendue / Rooftop at Stars – These two restaurants have amazing rooftop patios. Soak in the sunshine while you enjoy a cocktail. The beauty of Charleston is that you can be outside all-year round.

Circe’s Grotto – Good sandwiches! The turkey melt is amazing and I’ve heard great things about their breakfast burrito. Crazy coincidence: they also have a location in Scituate, Massachusetts.

Fuel – Good brunch. They have bocce!

Park Café – Delicious avocado toast and other breakfast items. It is a small interior but a great place for morning date. Plus, their wall of plants is just so refreshing.

Five Loaves Cafe – One of the best meals in Charleston, in my opinion. They are known for their chicken parmesan, but I am a big fan of their veggie burger and kale salad. I don’t think you can go wrong at Five Loaves!

The Ordinary – Seafood towers galore! They also serve up amazing soup.

Xiao Bao Biscuit – Housed in an old gas station, XBB is one of the coolest spots. The Asian fusion restaurant serves up delicious rice and salad bowls. If you go, be sure to get their Japanese cabbage pancake. It’s what they are known for and you’ll see one (if not more) on every table.

Black Tap Coffee – Great coffee spot for pour over coffee and lattes. My personal favorite is the brown sugar latte – so good. They also serve pastries and have great light. Hello, window seat.

Leon’s Fine Poultry and Oysters – Delicious fried chicken and fried oyster sandwiches. They only have one item for dessert – soft serve ice cream! It’s a must. Leon’s also owns St. Alban, which is just down the street. St. Alban has amazing snacks (try the ricotta & tomato toast) and coffee. Matt’s friend, Ari Kolender is the executive chef at Leon’s and St. Alban and is a semifinalist for the “outstanding newcomer” James Beard award.

Shelter – This restaurant is in Mount Pleasant (you’ll need a car) has a great brunch with live music.

Warehouse – Great neighborhood bar. They have great salads, too.

Prohibition – The place to go to dance!

Bin 152 – The sweetest wine and cheese bar owned by a French woman and her husband.

Shop.

I find shopping in Charleston to be expensive, but it’s always fun to look around. King Street is the place to go – with both big name stores and unique local shops.

Candlefish – Awesome candle and gift store that you could easily spend hours in.

Worthwhile – A unique clothing store with one-of-a-kind pieces

Hampden Clothing – A Charleston staple, well-known shop that is highly curated.

Get outside and explore.

Sullivan’s Island / Folly Beach – Escape to the beach! Sullivan’s Island is a bit more rustic (and a bit further from downtown) but would be great if you want to get away from it all or go out for a nice dinner. Folly has some awesome bars and you’re bound to have a good time. Don’t forget to stroll the beach and enjoy some boiled peanuts!

Botany Bay – I’m pretty sure that Botany Bay Plantation is my heaven. On this past trip, we visited Botany Bay on Edisto Island. It is about an hour drive from Charleston but absolutely worth the trek. Edisto is gorgeous and Botany Bay is a totally untouched beach covered in trees and shells. I’ve never seen anything like it! I’m dreaming of our next trip back.

Charles Towne Landing – Spend a day outside at Charles Towne Landing. We had a wedding here once and it was magical. The most incredible trees!

Cypress Gardens – Take a kayak tour! This is where “The Notebook” was filmed among many other films.

Around Charleston.

Walk around the Battery / White Point Garden – Beautiful waterfront park with some of Charleston’s most beautiful homes.

Charleston Walking Tour – A historic tour plus all the gorgeous homes you can take! Perfect for those that love taking photos and history buffs.

Rent a bike – Charleston is great to see on bike! You’ll notice a lot of bikes on the road – so it’s a great way to explore.

Music Farm / The Pour House – If you’re in the mood to see some live music, head to one of these great venues. I love the BandsInTown app, where you can see who is playing in what town that night.

To stay.

Unless you’re looking for a pure beach escape (in which case, I’d recommend staying at Sullivan’s Island or Folly Beach since you’re still just a quick drive from downtown), I’d highly recommend staying downtown where you can walk – or bike – anywhere! It is always fun to rent a car for the day if you want to explore some of the finest low country spots. Since Matt has so much family in Charleston, we’ve never stayed in a hotel, although the B&B’s look amazing and are always winning awards. I’ve heard great things about Zero George, Planters Inn, and Wentworth Mansion. I would also look into renting an apartment – this one and this one look awesome! And something for the more adventurous!

Have you been to Charleston? What are your favorite things to see, do, and eat? xo

You can check out all my past trips to Charleston here

Narbona Wine Lodge

February 17, 2015

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One of the best parts of planning a new adventure is just that – the planning. There are many elements that I look for in planning our next trip – the location, the food scene, and of course, the hotel. I have been a fan of Relais & Chateaux properties for a long-while, and our September trip to Cappadocia sealed the deal.

When planning our trip to Argentina, I was honestly quite overwhelmed. This was our first trek to South America, and even though I was there for three weeks, there is just simply so much to see. In the end, we ended up spending the majority of our time in Buenos Aires, with trips to Iguazu waterfalls, the Argentine coast (more to come on that), and an overnight trip to Uruguay (more to come on that, later, too!).

I knew that we wanted to visit Uruguay due to its proximity to BsAs, and I had also heard such amazing things about the beautiful landscape, kind people, and stunning ocean views. I also knew that I wanted to stay at Narbona Wine Lodge as soon as I stumbled upon it. With only five rooms (we stayed in Tannat, a suite overlooking the vineyard),the lodge was intimate. In addition to housing guests, Narbona has a functioning vineyard, wine cave, and restaurant. If I were to get married again, I think Narbona would make the most romantic and intimate backdrop.

Although our stay was short, we ate delicious food (the restaurant is incredible!), enjoyed delightful wine (the pinot noir was our favorite), hung out by the pool, and took a ride through the vineyards at sunset. Our room had the most incredible bathtub and deck – we could have easily spent all of our time in our little abode.

Over the years, I’ve stayed in many amazing hotels that have left you wanting nothing. Narbona Wine Lodge is definitely up there – and I hope to get back there again someday.

Magical Cappadocia

January 15, 2015

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Where to even begin? When I look back at these photos from our trip to Cappadocia, I have a difficult time believing that I was there. We stayed at the Museum Hotel in a beautiful cave room with nooks and small windows. It was so dreamy.

As I get older, I am more interested in doing things that at one time scared me. It’s funny how our sense of fear changes as we age. I’ve been on a hot air balloon before, but never in a place so far from home. While we were in Cappadocia, we awoke one morning at 4am to see the sun rise from high above. The views were so incredible and we were able to weave in and out of the fairy chimneys. There are so many hot air balloon companies in Cappadocia – it’s the thing to do! We went with Butterfly Balloons after reading all the great reviews. It is not cheap, but I’d highly recommend!

A good friend of mine was also in Cappadocia with her boyfriend while we were there. It was so neat to catch up with friends so far from home. It is truly such a small world!

A few tips that will help if you are planning to visit Cappadocia:

Stay in a cave! Where else can you choose from dozens of cave hotels? Unless you are claustrophobic (in which case, I’d suggest not staying in a cave – they are often small with low ceilings), I’d highly recommend staying at a cave hotel. It is such a unique experience!

Rent a car. We rented a car throughout Turkey, and the driving was totally worthwhile. You are able to see so many interesting places that are off the grid (and that you simply stumble upon) when you have your own wheels. Plus, getting lost in foreign countries can be an incredible adventure. One evening on our way to dinner, we got so lost. Like really, really lost. Our friend, Ben, said “hey, everyone, get out of the car.” We did and for a moment, just realized how incredibly unbelievable it was that we were in this gorgeous, untouched place. There we were, lost amidst these incredible limestone structures in the pitch black. It was such a beautiful moment.

Take a hot air balloon ride. I was a bit on the fence, to be honest. It can be super expensive, and I wasn’t sure it would be worthwhile. Looking back, I am so glad that we splurged and went for a hot air balloon ride. If you are ever going to do one, Cappadocia is the place! I’ll never forget that morning when we weaved in and out of the fairy chimneys.

Places you must visit: Don’t leave Cappadocia without visiting the Goreme Open Air Museum, Uchisar Castle, and eating at some delicious, local restaurants. I’ve also heard great things about the underground cities, but we didn’t have the opportunity to visit.

Sit back and enjoy the beauty of it all. Our hotel sat atop a cliff in Uchisar. It was a beautiful village and although it is hard to single out my favorite part of our hotel, the views were definitely at the top of the list. Many afternoons, we would sit by the pool with nargile and just be in awe of the view. At breakfast each morning, we would be serenaded by the singing birds and often saw peacocks and baby turtles on our way back to our room. The wildlife and scenery is just unreal – be sure you take time to just enjoy it.

Whatever you end up doing, you’ll have an incredible time. It is pretty impossible not to!

Istanbul Food Tour

December 30, 2014

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Remember that time I was in Turkey? Yeah, it’s been a long time. I spent a month in Europe this summer – two of those weeks were spent in Turkey. It was amazing and beautiful and warm, and I’m just getting to share it now. Better late than never, right?

Although my friend, Chantal, and I were going to be in Istanbul for a full week, Matt only had several days to experience the city. We wanted to make the most of his time, so we opted to go on a 6-hour food tour spanning the two continents, Asia and Europe. We tasted some really interesting food and learned so much about Turkish culture – through food! I loved the traditional eggplant stuffed with all sorts of yummy things and the traditional menemen, a one-pan egg and pepper dish. Perhaps my most favorite of all, though, was the simit, which is like a delicious sesame bagel. Perfect for dipping and snacking on – wherever and whenever.

We also learned some interesting facts like it is not considered a traditional Turkish breakfast without olives and cheese on the table. In fact, most cheese is consumed at breakfast. Also, parsley was everywhere, which made me happy as it is one of my favorite foods.

In my opinion, food and culture are so connected, and it was so fun to experience an Istanbul food tour. For those that are interested, we also took cooking classes in Vietnam at Green Bamboo and Thailand with A lot of Thai, both of which I would highly recommend!

Maui Getaway

December 29, 2014

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I’ve been in a constant “pinch me” state. I’ve also been in a constant state of catch up. It’s been nice to be living in the moment, moving from one adventure to the next. But, I am also so happy to be home for a moment and catch up on my ever-growing to do list, as well as give a little TLC to this space!

Matt was living out in San Francsico for four months this year, and we took advantage of his temporary west coast roots. One weekend, we went to Maui for a little R&R. Matt was actually under the weather, so we didn’t do too much aside from visit the swim-up bar, have a massage (the best), and eat hawaiian shaved ice. I opted to rent a convertible, because heck, why not.

We stayed at the Four Season Maui at Wailea – it was beautiful. We tend to prefer boutique hotels, but it was fun to stay at a hotel with so many amazing amenities. It was pure relaxation.

Where Horses Run Wild

October 23, 2014

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I have dreamt of going to Montana my whole life. The rugged open spaces, beautiful snow-capped mountains, wild horses and cowboys.

Earlier this month, Matt and I went to the southwestern corner of Montana. It was just as beautiful as I had imagined – the most untouched beauty. There is so much to explore in this part of our country and sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the options. Should we stay in Missoula and then road trip to Glacier National Park? What about Whitefish? There is just so much to see. Instead, we decided that we would pick a place and stay put so that we could really take in all the beauty surrounding us.

Once I came across Triple Creek Ranch online, I knew that we had found our little piece of Montana heaven.  It was voted #1 World’s Best Hotel by Travel + Leisure in 2014 (I’m obsessed with T+L). Horse back riding all day, sapphire panning, fly fishing? Sold.

Triple Creek is one of the most peaceful and wonderful places I’ve stayed. We had a huge log cabin to ourselves with a wood-burning fireplace, big hot tub outside, our own little golf cart, and his / hers bathrooms. We definitely felt spoiled.

I hope that someday soon we can return to Big Sky country. I would love to experience this beautiful place with my sisters, that is for sure.