Last week was a milestone, I finally hit the big 3-0 and I'm thankful to report it doesn't have to be scary or an outright depressing day. In fact, with a little planning, it can be quite the adventure! Two days before my birthday, Kyle and I hiked into the Grand Canyon to Supai Village to take in the amazing waterfalls of Havasupai. We spent two nights in the village so that I spent my birthday morning climbing out of the Grand Canyon, completing a 3 day, 30 mile hike. It was the greatest experience of my life and I could not think of a better way to bring in a new decade. So here are 30 words that describe my feelings and goals for 30.Read More
Knoxville, Tennessee will always hold a special place in my life. It's where I went to college (Go Vols!), it's where I met some of my very best friends, it's where I spent four of the most fun years of my life and it's where I met and fell in love with my husband.
That being said, the college student's Knoxville and the slightly-older-than-a-college-student's Knoxville are two different experiences. Kyle and I revisited the city for a wedding recently and found a new side to one of our favorite cities.Read More
If there is one food group Kyle and I are passionate about, its barbecue. With Kyle being from Memphis, he considers himself a barbecue aficionado. No matter where we are, if we spot a barbecue restaurant, we are probably going to try it. It doesn't matter if it looks like a nice place or if it is slightly terrifying - all that matters at the end of the day is finding the best 'cue! So, when we were in San Antonio last month we just had to take a little detour to Lockhart, Texas, otherwise known as the "Barbecue Capital of Texas." I'm not exaggerating either. In 1999 the Texas legislature made it official.Read More
Fall is my absolute favorite time of year and, in my opinion, when Atlanta is the most enjoyable. The heat and humidity has finally broken and we can all get outside for a little fresh air without dissolving into a puddle. While, this is not an exhaustive list, here are just a few of my favorite ways to enjoy all of Atlanta's autumnal glory. #fallismyfavoriteRead More
In honor of Kyle and I's five year anniversary this week, I thought I would share a little photo diary and travel guide from our honeymoon in Santorini, Greece! We spent time in both Athens and Santorini, but really, Santorini takes the cake. This place is so beautiful that it is actually, physically impossible to take a bad picture. All of your photos will turn out amazing. It's like a rule or something.Read More
San Antonio's historic Mission Trail has something for everyone. With 10+ miles of paved paths winding along the San Antonio River, you can easily walk, run or bike to each of the city's famous missions. For those more interested in a quick bit of fresh air and a brew, Blue Star Brewing is right off the trail and just a short ride or walk from the downtown area. We went the route of the bicycle, which was made easy by San Antonio's B Cycle, a bike share program with stations literally all over the city and costing just $10 a day.Read More
This past weekend Kyle and I went to San Antonio, Texas for a long weekend and to see some family. Neither of us had ever been to San Antonio before so we were excited to check out the city, stroll along the river, sip on a few margaritas and enjoy some Tex-Mex!Read More
This past week I have found myself getting restless for my next adventure. My wandering feet have been grounded too long! Okay, so its only been a month since my last trip, but still. I'm ready! Luckily, this weekend we will be heading off to Texas for the first in a round of fun adventures we have lined up for the rest of the year.
However, with a month's worth of down time I have been having lots of serious nostalgia for all the trips of travelers past. So...I thought it would be fun to share what I like to call a "Sunny Rewind." Here's a quick look at just one night of our Japan trip last year (probably our favorite adventure to date) where we visited the Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku, Tokyo. Words really don't do it justice, but you can take a look at the website for some insane videos.Read More
A little over two hours outside of Atlanta, in the Appalachian mountains, lies the town of Highlands, North Carolina. With a permanent population of less than 1,000 (it can swell to upwards of 20,000 when you throw in a few tourists) this tiny town is huge on mountain charm.Read More
While I was in New England in July, I decided to make the most of my time and head up to Maine! I had been wanting to visit Maine for awhile, and now I can't wait to go back and see more of Vacationland!
When in Maine, here are a few must-do's...Read More
Every year, The New York Times publishes a list of its top picks for places to visit in that given year. This year's list of 52 Places to Go in 2015, provided an interactive look at places around the world, from Macedonia to Cleveland to Cuba. While I wouldn't turn down the chance to go to any of these places, I have had the chance to visit a few for myself so I thought I'd share my own top four picks from the list (four is much more manageable than 52, am I right?!).Read More
Well, this is it. The end of an era...Actually, its just the end of our trip to Italy!
We ended our Italian adventure by driving from Milan to Rome - this was the longest drive we made, and I feel it is worth mentioning the Autogrill. The interstate system in Italy is a bit different in that its a lot harder to come by a fast food joint for a quick bite right off an exit. Enter, the Autogrill! Truly, this place is amazing! In most cases, the building spans over the highway and will have everything you need, including a cafe if you're looking for a full meal, snacks, gifts, wine, groceries...Autogrill has it all.
We arrived in Rome pretty late at night, but Rome is one of those cities where its impossible to go more than a few blocks without seeing something amazing. This is only amplified at night when all the monuments are lit up, so by the time we had arrived at our hotel, Aleph Hotel Rome, we had our second (or third or fourth) wind and were ready to explore! We walked to the Trevi Fountain and then the Spanish steps before enjoying a nightcap, and finally, crashing.
The next day, never ones to shy away from exploring a city, we walked the mile and a half from our hotel to Vatican City. In my opinion, walking is always the simplest, easiest and best way to explore a city (its healthy too!). We took in all the sites along the Tyber River and arrived at the Vatican Museums in time for our reservation. I know I said it in Florence, but seriously, do not even attempt to go to the Vatican without pre-purchasing tickets. The lines! The pan-handlers! The LINES! Save yourself! I bought our tickets off tickitaly.com and we walked right in, bypassing literally thousands of people in the line!
After leaving Vatican City, we walked a short ways and found a quiet lunch at nearby a restaurant to begin working on our strategy to see as much of the city as possible (we really only had this one full day in Rome). Kyle discovered that Uber was offering a two hour tour for 150 euro, and we decided to give it a shot. If you're ever in city like Rome, where there is so much to see and you only have a short window of time, this is a great way to get around! We were able to see Piazza Navona, the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, the Capitale, the Roman Forum, the Colosseum and Aventine Hill all within our two hour window! Our driver took us right up to each monument, we hopped out to take pictures or grab coffees, and then we were off to the next sight. We saw as much of Rome as possible at lightning speed, but with a rain storm coming in and a very short amount of time, Uber saved the day!
That evening, we took a walking food tour in the Trastevere neighborhood of Rome and enjoyed some of the best food, company and conversation of our trip. Eating Italy came highly recommended and did not disappoint! As part of our Twilight Trastevere tour we enjoyed wine and appetizers in a cellar that dates back 150 years before the Colosseum, sampled Roman street food, went behind the scenes at local bakery and enjoyed the best.gelato.ever.
How else could we end our trip than at a cafe overlooking the colosseum?! * Tip: While, the pictures were amazing, this is actually a huge tourist trap. We had one drink and hightailed it out of there to enjoy a nice meal at a jazz club and cafe just down the street from our hotel called Elegance. Sounds swanky, right?! The staff was so welcoming and friendly, there was great live music, the food was delicious and the people watching...magnifico!
One of Kyle and I's favorite things to do when the weather is nice and we have a free weekend, is head up to some of the vineyards and wineries in North Georgia. We have tried out several now, but our favorite one to visit is Frogtown Cellars. Its just over an hour outside of Atlanta and has the most beautiful views.
This past Saturday, we decided to go up for a lunch and a tasting. The panini's are okay, but the fruit and cheese plate is delicious and more than enough for a meal! The weather could not have been better (okay, it could have been 10 degrees cooler, but it is August in Georgia so what can you do?). Check out those blue skies and those clouds!
*Tip: Wolf Mountain Vineyards and Winery also deserves an honorable mention for their brunch - get a reservation!
I drove in to Boston from my trip to Maine (hold tight for a forthcoming Vacationland blog post), arriving around lunch time. I had an afternoon to kill while I waited for Kyle's flight to arrive and for my friend Matt to get off work.
I decided to wander around the North End and find some lunch, and I had it on good authority that I needed to make a stop at Bova Bakery. Yes, Mike's is the most famous, but according to my local source, Bova was better so clearly I had to try it! I bought enough cannoli's and pastries to share over the weekend, a calzone for lunch and headed to the harbor for my own personal picnic by the water. I spent the afternoon strolling through the neighborhood, checking out the coffee shops and the Old North Church, and later, walking along the water.
Boston is an awesome city with so much character. I would highly recommend spending much more time than one afternoon here and the summer or fall seem like great times to go!
*Tip: I didn't get to go this time, but if you like museums, The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is my favorite museum of all time! Its also where the largest theft in U.S. history occurred when upwards of $500 million in art was stolen, including Rembrandt's only known seascape. The empty frames from which the thieves cut the canvases still hang in the museum (I wrote an entire term paper on this in my college museum studies class, so I could go on, but I'll stop there).
By far, one of the coolest experiences of my life was going to Expo Milano 2015, otherwise known as the World's Fair!
While we did not plan this prior to our trip, by the time we arrived in Milan we had heard so much about the Expo that we knew we had to go. With 145 participating countries and covering almost 500 acres, we really only cracked the surface on our one night visit to the Expo grounds. The sheer size of each pavilion alone was impressive, but coupled with some of the most innovative architecture, exhibitions, landscaping and more food options than I ever thought possible, the Expo blew us away.
Expo 2015, which is expected to draw 20 million visitors to the city of MIlan, is largely to thank for many restoration projects around the city, including the Duomo and Navigli canals that Kyle and I visited. It also played a large role in Milan's selection as #1 in The New York TImes' list of 52 Places to Go in 2015!
*Tip: Skip the Chinese food and go to Turkey for a gyro and some baklava!
A few weeks ago, I made the journey up north to attend a conference at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. The campus itself was beautiful and the town of Hanover was so picturesque. I spent a lot of time at the Hanover Inn, which is one of the most charming hotels I have ever seen. The decor was both modern and homey and I loved it!
While I was attending sessions and events most of time, I did manage to do a little bit of exploring and picture taking along the way. The Dartmouth campus is situated along the Connecticut River and has tons of running trails. I went on several early morning runs where I got some of the best pictures! But, lets be real, my true motivation was to be able to utter the sentence, "I ran to Vermont this morning." So Vermont is less than a mile away? Who's counting?
Milan is located a little over an hour south of Lake Como and I was especially excited to visit for two reasons: first, I had never been before and second, THE LAST SUPPER!
Driving into Milan during morning rush hour is a truly Italian experience that everyone should try at least once! No, really - you're going to love it! *Tip: When driving in Italy, stop signs are more of a suggestion and aggressive driving is the only respectable way to operate a vehicle. So don't be afraid to drive it like you stole it.
Santa Marta Suites, our hotel in Milan, was a small boutique hotel of only 8 rooms located right in the heart of the historic city center. We absolutely loved this hotel and highly recommend it to anyone visiting the city. Each room is different, the customer service is superb and it offers a very unique experience!
After arriving in Milan, we quickly located the iconic Duomo di Milano and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, both of which are stunning. The entire Piazza del Duomo is surrounded by shopping options and, when in Milan, one simply must shop! We wandered by the high end shops located within the Galleria, including the first ever Prada store, and then made our way to some of the flea markets lining the side streets. This is where we really had fun! There were so many vintage purses, scarves, dresses, hats, and ties!
That afternoon we made our way to Navigli, Milan's canal district, where we decided to cool off in a cafe. Unbeknownst to us, we happened to be there right in the middle of preparations for men's fashion week...helloooo, male models!
The next day, we took a walking tour of the city with Dark Rome. Again, great company, great tour guide - highly recommend. The tour took us into the Duomo where we saw the statue St. Bartholomew Flayed, through the Galleria and along Milan's Brera district, which is a great spot for restaurants, or if you are so inclined, a croissant with a brownie inside (I was sooooo inclined)!
We made our to Sforza Castle, where Leonardo lived and worked while he was painting The Last Supper, before ending at Santa Maria delle Grazie, where I ticked yet another item off my bucket list!
The history behind The Last Supper and da Vinci's painting techniques and processes are incredibly fascinating - he was testing out a new method in which he used eggs in his paints; the number 3; the face of Judas is thought to be the face of one of the monastery's priors who had angered da Vinci; the "fresco" began to deteriorate within a few years after it was completed; monks actually cut off Jesus' feet to install a door so that they could reach the kitchen faster; the church was bombed during WWII and the painting was only saved because of protective sandbagging. But, I digress. Needless to say I was, and there's no other word for it, pumped to have finally seen this piece. Mission accomplished.
This past week I attended a conference in New Hampshire and since I love to make the most of a trip, after the conference Kyle flew up and met me in Boston so that we could spend the weekend with some good friends.
On Saturday we spent the afternoon in Plymouth, Massachusetts enjoying lobster rolls and sangria at East Bay for lunch, wandering along the water, being underwhelmed by Plymouth Rock, eating ice cream and taking pictures with our friends' really cute baby!
I love New England and finding small towns to explore. Plymouth did not disappoint! I could not stop snapping pictures of the boats, the water, the sky, the clouds, the food and the lobster buoys. And I could not wait to share...enjoy!
Lake Como has been on my travel-wish-list for quite some time and when Kyle and I decided on an Italian holiday, I knew we had to go! In my vacation fantasies I had predetermined we would be staying at a beautiful, glamorous villa, literally right on the lake, with a pool accessorized by fun and colorful umbrellas, wooden boats and even a celebrity or two!
Well, lets just say that all of those criteria are actually harder to find than one would think. I did, however, narrow it down to two fabulous options: Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni in Bellagio or Grand Hotel Tremezzo in Tremezzo, both of which are luxury hotels meeting all of my qualifications (minus the celebrities of course - I would have to leave those up to fate). In the end, we decided on G.H. Villa Serbelloni. As fate would have it, the travel-booking-website-gods were smiling down on me and lo and behold there was a deal available through Booking.com! If you have not yet used this website, I highly recommend you search it before your next trip. They will occasionally offer special deals for luxury hotels at a fraction of the normal price i.e. make my dreams come true!
As you can see, the hotel was stunning! If you have seen the movie Grand Budapest Hotel, that is what this hotel was like! Originally built as a holiday villa for an aristocratic family in 1850, the hotel has hosted many illustrious guests over the years, including Roosevelt and Kennedy. Situated at the very tip of a peninsula, which juts into the lake, the hotel offered the most amazing panoramic views.
Getting to Bellagio itself requires quite a hair-raising drive through the mountainous lake area. The town, which is bustling with tourists, shoppers and artists during the day, is actually very quiet at night. We spent our first two days in Bellagio simply wandering the tiny streets, eating pizza for lunch and fresh fish for dinner, often enjoying an aperitif at a street side cafe, and partaking in the town's silk shopping.
Though we were there in mid-June, the weather was on the cooler side, but we still managed to enjoy the hotel pool and the lake. If you look closely at some of the pictures, you can see snow on the very tips of the alps (allow me to name drop one more time...ALPS) in the distance and yes, the water was cold! So, if anyone ever asks...yes, yes I have done the polar bear plunge.
On our third day in Bellagio, we took the ferry to Mandello del Lario to meet our guide for the day, Mauro. I had found Mauro's company, Lake Como Motorbike, through some research online and Kyle and I were so excited about this adventure.
First, Mauro walked us to the Moto Guzzi museum in Mandello. We were suited up and sent on our way on our Moto Guzzi! We followed Mauro all over the lake, taking the ferry from Varenna to the opposite shore and the town of Menaggio. We then rode through the mountains to Lugano, Switzerland and around Lake Lugano. We came back through the main town of Como, where Mauro showed us around and took us to the home he shares with Federica Campari, a local chef who had prepared an amazing lunch for us. After lunch, we headed to Lecco where we enjoyed gelato before ending our day back in Mandello. The entire experience was absolutely incredible and we could not have dreamed of a better guide than Mauro!
*Tip: The ferry's at Lake Como are the easiest and best way to get from town to town and the ride is stunning! It's a value play too - $16 versus a private water taxi quote of $400.
We concluded our time in Bellagio with dinner by the lake and Kyle even ordered up a beautiful sunset for desert.