#WanderlustWednesday

Venice, Italy

#Venice #BoatCruise #ItalyDreaming

  • This week two South American countries have issued travel warnings against the US in the wake of the multiple mass shootings.
  • To check or carry-on that is the question? I personally don’t mind checking my bag.
  • U.S. News released their annual report of the best travel rewards programs.
  • Here are nine cities where you can take in the views from public transit. Hint – Venice makes the list.
  • There is a down side to the travel industry – the effect on the environment. Here are 50 travel companies that are doing their part to reduce their carbon footprint.

Planning a Destination Wedding

Time for a little wedding update. So remember when I told you that we were getting married I said that wedding planning was not my jam so we were having a destination wedding. With just under two months until the big day I can happily report that wedding planning is still not my thing.

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We are getting marring at the Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall in Montego Bay, Jamaica. We picked this resort for a few reasons: 1) I was in an absolute tizzy and the travel agent said it was a nice place, 2) my dad said he wouldn’t come if we got married in Mexico and I didn’t want to start a fight, and 3) his mom said anywhere was better than where I originally wanted it. [Wedding planning is so fun.]

All kidding aside, those are all real, but not why we actually went with the resort. For one thing the resort is kind of a two in one with a family friendly side and an adults only side. We thought this would be ideal for any of our family or friends who didn’t want to travel internationally and leave kiddos behind, but still give us the option to have the adults only feel. We have a lot of people with dietary restrictions who will be attending, and this resort unlike some others in the Caribbean (so we have been told, not speaking from actual experience) is able to accommodate them all very well. I have not been to that many all inclusive spots, but many of them cater specifically to people traveling as couples, we wanted to avoid that, as we wanted ALL of our guests to feel welcome. And finally the place seems like they know how to do a wedding. They are set up to be able to accommodate multiple weddings per day, and as someone who is not AT ALL into the details, they seem like they can handle it.

As of right now, we have 71 ticketed and confirmed guest, which I am blown away by! People are traveling from as far away as Nairobi, Kenya to be there and I am still in disbelief. My dress is ready to go, his suit is ready to go, all the big stuff is done! And I am ready to pull my hair out with the little details. How do people get so into this stuff?

I found these images to use as inspiration for our decor that I sent to our wedding coordinator and then kind of left it up to her. Have I mentioned that I am not into wedding planning?

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A few tips from my observations thus far:

  • We have never actually been to this resort (never even been to Jamaica for that matter) if this stresses you out leave yourself PLENTY of time to visit the resort, change your mind, and then visit another resort.
  • I will not have a “trial run” with my hair and make-up. I will have it done at the spa at the resort. I’m fine with this, as worst case scenario I will wash it off and do it myself. If you are not fine with this consider another plan.
  • I have seen two maybe three pictures of the different venues where we will host events. I assume they know what works best in terms of layout and design if you can’t trust that they know what to do – go visit so that you will know yourself.
  • Much of the coordination has been done by email. People are on island time. Your email is unlikely to be answered today, or maybe even tomorrow.
  • The wedding planner is more than happy to call you but you may have to ask them to do so. In my experience she has understood much more what I am asking for via phone, or things get overlooked in the email conversations.
  • The resort will literally try to sell you everything under the sun because you NEED this at your wedding. You do not NEED dancing elephants at your wedding. Stay strong. Although you may be upfront with the resort in telling them you do not want ALL THE THINGS, they will likely still try.
  • The prices for everything will be more than you are expecting. From planning other events I know resort fees can be steep, but these seem somewhat outrageous in comparison. While the resort will prepare a nice package for the wedding EVERYTHING else will have an additional fee. They know you cannot put a dance floor in your checked luggage therefore you will pay.
  • If you choose not to use the resorts vendors you will pay an additional fee to use someone else who is charging a more reasonable price, in most cases making it no longer cost effective to use the alternate vendor (you may still come out ahead using a local vendor since they are aware of these resort fees and charge competitive rates – we found this to be true with our photographer)
  • That being said the price of *almost* everything has been negotiable. Some people enjoy the thrill of haggling. I do not. I find it infuriating.
  • I found a Facebook group of brides who have or are planning to get married at this resort or its sister resort in Mexico. The group has been tremendously helpful!

Overall our experience with the resort so far has been positive and we cannot wait to be in Jamaica with our friends and family! In talking to friends who had traditional or similar nontraditional weddings everything that I have mentioned is sort of to be expected. And in general it seems that there is no “winning” with wedding planning. Someone will have something to say about whatever you choose to do, no matter what. So do you girl and keep it moving has been my motto. Happy weekend y’all!

#WanderlustWednesday

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Schaffhausen, Switzerland

Switzerland why are you always so dreamy?

#Swiss #CH #RhineRiver

A Summer Weekend in Asheville

Asheville, NC is one of my absolute favorite cities! Lucky for me, it is about a two hour drive from my house and we get to go there often. It’s beautiful anytime of year, each season for different reasons. We spent a summer weekend catching up with our friends and relaxing, and it was just perfect. We tried lots of new to us spots on this trip! Here’s a few highlights:

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  • This Airbnb could not have been better for two couples. There is a downstairs studio apartment and an upstairs studio apartment each with their own separate entrance. The house is conveniently located, while still feel very secluded. We had no issues getting an Uber to pick us up and it was just a short ride to everything we wanted to see. Bonus – it is pet friendly too.
  • We started our weekend with dinner and drinks at Wicked Weed Brewing. I’ve visited lots of the breweries in town on many different trips, and I think overall the beer at Wicked Weed is probably my favorite. They have so many choices, and unusual things you won’t find anywhere else.
  • We randomly happened upon Ben’s Tune Up. In all my trips to Asheville I have never heard anyone mention this place, but it is a seriously cool spot. From the outside, you may not even notice the place at all, but they have live music, a neat outdoor area, and a full bar menu (and apparently food too, but we didn’t try anything).
  • We tried out a hiking spot that we found in a guidebook in the Airbnb. Finding the trail was hilarious. After turning down random roads for twenty or so minutes, passing a tractor convention, and using the four wheel drive to cross a stream we finally arrived at the parking lot. BUT there were no signs for the trail. We saw a girl on a bike find her brother who she had lost on the trail for an hour or so, and still we headed off into the woods. It was very beautiful and quite the adventure and I’m happy to report that we did all make it back in one piece.
  • Our first trip to Sierra Nevada. It is huge and there were SO MANY people. There is a lot space so everyone was kind of spread out, making it not feel that crowded. That being said, I’m honestly not sure if I would go back. They do have some beer options that you can’t get in stores, there was an outdoor food area where we ate a great hot dog, there is a pretty garden area that you can walk through and live music outside so it’s definitely a fun spot, but for me it’s so far out of town that it’s probably not worth the hassle.
  • One of my very favorite things to do in Asheville is to go to the Grove Park Inn for cocktails. The view from the back porch is the absolute best view in town any time of year in my opinion. We had some wine and watched the sun go down over the Blue Ridge Mountains, and I can’t think of much better. 
  • We tubed down the French Broad River for the first time. We went with Zen Tubing from their Midtown location. This was the perfect relaxing activity for a hot summer day. You float by several breweries and restaurants; we thought it would be easier to get out and check them out than it was. We ended up just staying on the river and snacking on what we had packed in our cooler and we loved our day on the river so much. 
  •  Luella’s Bar-B-Que was SO good! We all ate until we were completely stuffed, forgetting that we had a dinner reservation in just a couple hours. The wings there were some of the best I’ve ever eaten!
  • For me no trip to Asheville is complete without a meal at Curate. A pitcher of sangria made table side and a table full of tapas, YUM. Try the cured hams if you go!
  • We also tried Wedge Brewing Co for the first time. The highlight of this was that they serve Ginger’s Revenge Beer. So delicious and the perfect summer drink after a weekend of over eating! 
  • The last stop of the weekend before heading home was at Biscuit Head. I LOVE this place. There is usually a long line to get in, but going on a Monday morning really cut back on the wait. If you’re wondering if the wait will be worth it…it will! A gravy sampler and a jelly buffet, what could be wrong? SO GOOD!

 

 

 

 

 

#WanderlustWednesday

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North Shore, Oahu, Hawaii

#NorthShore #Oahu #Hawaii #BanzaiPipeline

  • 20 lesser known places to visit in Europe that won’t be flooded with tourist.
  • Have you tried any of these free travel apps? What did you think?
  • Here’s the real reason the flight attendant wants you to put your phone away!
  • In case you didn’t already know… wild animals can be dangerous. Stay back!
  • The opioid epidemic has now hit the skies.

#WanderlustWednesday

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Hydra, Greece

#GreekIslands #Hydra #DonkeyRide

  • Did you know that Four Seasons Resorts offers private jet service?
  • Six summer vacation mistakes to avoid.
  • These cities top the list of flight attendants favorite places to travel.
  • Do you usually buy travel insurance? Here’s some reasons that you should.
  • Travel makes you smarter, here’s how to capitalize on the brain building benefits.
  • UNESCO has added 29 sites to the World Heritage List for 2019.

On July 9th We Eat Chocolate Sundaes and Cheers Our Best Girl!

It’s hard to believe it’s been three years without our girl! I never thought I would make it three days, much less three years. But here we are 1095 days later. Some days it feels like just yesterday and sometimes it feels like a whole lifetime has passed. I don’t miss her any less, but I do now have the gift of time that has allowed me to see that in all the days that followed she’s aligned the stars for me just right, and because of that my world has kept on spinning.

At just 55 years old my mom was diagnosed with a rapidly progressing form of dementia for which there is no treatment. For the next five years our family was on a roller coaster ride of a lifetime that no one EVER signs up for, and death is the only way off. There were times when the car was chugging up hill slowly for a few months and we could catch our breath, but for the last six months of her life the car hurtled towards the ground uncontrollably without brakes. It was awful. No one wants to remember those days, and fortunately we don’t think of them much anymore.

For me, I think of our many family trips to the beach. I remember the first ski lessons I had in Canada. I recall the epic battle of the skis on the side of a mountain in Canada too.  I think fondly of the the family trip to a dude ranch in Wyoming where we explored Yellowstone and saw Old Faithful. In high school we made our first of many trips to Switzerland to visit people who were then basically strangers, but now have been the best of friends for over two decades. Following my graduation from college I was treated to a trip to Hawaii with my mom, aunts, and cousin. After finishing graduate school my mom and dad and I set off for Napa. When things started to head south with her health, my mom and her best girls (me included) took the trip of a lifetime to Greece for two weeks for one big hurrah. Lucky for me, there have been countless road trips, weekend getaways, and other trips big and small, too numerous to recite here.

It is absolutely not lost on me that she worked her tail off to give me these opportunities. She was the first in her family to graduate college, and one of the smartest people I have ever known. When success came, she chose travel and new experiences as her luxury of choice. Never opting for designer clothes, fancy cars, or anything out of the ordinary really. Despite the success she and my dad had achieved affording them the opportunity for things like this if they had chosen. Instead she went places. She took me places, she and my dad traveled extensively, she and her lifelong girlfriends saw places little girls in small town North Carolina never dreamed of seeing.

As the always attentive accountant, she was never one to hand over money for just anything. I remember having the chance to go to Italy in college. My friends were spending the semester there so we would have a free place to stay.  I had saved up enough money to buy my plane ticket, but neglected to realize that although I did have a free place to stay the trip wasn’t actually free. Having never been to Italy herself, she willingly handed over some spending money for the trip and told me no one ever regrets money they spend on once in a lifetime experiences, have a great time with your friends! That trip was over a decade ago and those friends and I still reminisce about the week we spent in Italy.

She reveled in every new experience big and small. Every beautiful sunset, a sky full of puffy clouds with the light hitting them just right, a field full of blooming flowers, the beauty in the history and architecture of places abroad, the ibis flying over the deck to roost on Bird Island for the night, a full moon splashing across the waves. Always stopping to take it in, and lucky for us, almost always pointing out the beauty of it all.

I am thankful for all the wonderful memories that our travels brought me. But more importantly, I am beyond grateful to have seen all these places through her eyes. I know now when I travel to new places near and far that I can see her in every sunrise, every rainbow, every full moon, every night sky full of stars, every yellow butterfly flitting across a field, she’s there soaking it all in and reveling in the fact that she gave her girl the dream and the opportunity to keep chasing sunsets.

So on July 9th we cheers our girl with chocolate sundaes. There was not a candy bar or sweet treat that she didn’t love, and as the end drew near for her I mainly existed on chocolate syrup and ice cream, so to me it just seems fitting.

#WanderlustWednesday

 

Locarno, Switzerland

#wanderlustwednesday #lakesideviews #swissitalian

  • Have you been to any of these perfect European lakeside getaways?
  • Ever tried this travel hack that airlines hate? I have but maybe wouldn’t recommend it after the impending Lufthansa lawsuit.
  • Spring break is here. Did you see that the Department of State issued this travel advisory for the Bahamas?
  • Anyone ready for a warm weather vacation? Check out the best beaches of 2019 #byewinter

Life Lately

Happy 2019 friends! I may be a month late on the well wishes, but I hope your year is off to a great start. It’s been a minute since I checked in. Full time job, MBA school, and trying to be a real human (you know the ones with friends and a family and a social life) gets hard sometimes. I started this blog for fun to keep track of all my travels. So with all the other stresses of life it’s nice to have a creative outlet I enjoy, but not pressure myself for it to be anymore than just that!

We kicked off 2019 in Hawaii, and it was a wonderful weak full of sunshine, palm trees, umbrella drinks, and sunsets. I truly cannot think of a better way to start the year. We arrived home to full blown winter, and are now just over here counting down the days until summer. 2019 is shaping up to be full of lots of adventures, so stay tuned!

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2018 was a good year. We got engaged, and bought a house which we moved into. I survived what was possibly the worst semester of torture in MBA school. We had the opportunity to visit several places for the first time and to spend plenty of time in some of our favorite places.

We are now fully in the thick of wedding planning which I can’t wait to share more about. Hint it’s in a really fun place. I’m in my last semester of MBA school and it’s starting to feel like there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I’m heading to Prague in a few weeks, which really snuck up on me but I could not be more excited about. So bring it on 2019 we’re ready for ya!

Stay tuned for more on the engagement, the trip to Hawaii, and all the fun 2019 has in store!

Our Trip to Hilton Head Island

Okay, gather round closely, because I’m going to say something controversial here. Are you ready for it?

We went to Hilton Head Island, and we didn’t love it.

It was fall, so it was off season, which may have affected our experience. But y’all I don’t know what all the hype is about.

We stayed at the Marriott SurfWatch property, which really couldn’t have been nicer. We had a really nice room with a view of the ocean. The rooms are actually more like condos, with a full kitchen and living room area. I think they would be great with a family. The resort had really nice pools and a beautiful beach area. Even in the fall we found that the water was still warm enough for the outdoor pool. There was a beach bar with good drinks and decent food. The resort is also conveniently located to grocery stores and other things on the island. I think our mistake was leaving the resort property. We like to go out adventuring and check out the local restaurants when we visit somewhere new, and this is where things went downhill.

We headed out to see the famous Hilton Head lighthouse. The lighthouse is in the Sea Pines Resort community. We didn’t realize we couldn’t just drive right up, the community is gated, and they charge an $8 dollar (cash only) fee for a day pass. They advertise this as a luxury gated golf resort, and while there were some gorgeous homes it was mostly condos that were built in the mid 80’s and nothing special.

We finally made our way to the lighthouse and found a bunch of kitschy t-shirt shops all selling the same thing in the area. For an additional $4.25 per person you can climb the 90 foot lighthouse and take in the view (and another t-shirt shop at the top). We opted not to do this, instead walking around and checking out the scene. We drove around the resort area and checked out several different shopping spots and restaurants hoping to find something less cheesy, but no such luck. We did make our way onto the beach here, and it is beautiful. The beach is wide with plenty of room for running and playing, so that’s a pro!

We ended up having lunch at Fishcamp on Broad Creek after leaving the Sea Pines area and doing some driving around the island. This was probably our best find of the trip. The atmosphere was great, we sat outside, the weather was perfect and the food was good.

Based on the recommendations of several people we made a dinner reservation at Il Carpaccio. I’m not going to go into to much detail about this place, because some people clearly love it, but we left. After they served our bottle of wine and salad. We paid for it and wasted a full bottle of wine. I have never ever left a restaurant after placing my order. EVER.

We found ourselves in the parking lot of the restaurant starving and with no plan for dinner. OKKO, a hibachi restaurant was close and seemed like a safe choice, so we went for it. The food was standard hibachi, good but nothing special. The family at the table with us were locals and they told us about the Purple Cow Bakery next door, so we picked up a slice of cake on the way back to the hotel. We figured we had earned it. It was really good cake, which we obviously ate for breakfast the next day.

After returning to the hotel, we discovered what was probably the best part of the trip. The island has what appears to be very strict lighting codes, so when you’re out at night it is super dark. When we ventured out onto the beach at night, we realized this made for the BEST stargazing. We sat out on the beach for a long time enjoying the fact that we could see so many stars.

The next day we ventured out looking for some other things going on on the island, and mostly found more t-shirt shops. We decided to abandon looking for the fun spots on the island and head back to our resort to just hangout. We rented bikes from the resort and rode down the beach and had a great time. We spent the afternoon at Sea Salts, the resorts beach bar, watching college football and eating. We had planned to venture out for dinner again, but after striking out so many times, we decided to order Carraba’s take-out, because it was right at the entrance to the resort, and at least there would be no surprises.

While the beaches at Hilton Head were beautiful this really just wasn’t our scene. We loved the resort, and had we gone in with a different mindset of just hanging at the resort and relaxing instead of trying to explore somewhere new, this may have been an entirely different experience.

Here’s the thing… I think if you planned to golf all day there may be a lot for you here. If you have a family and you plan to stay in and cook, there were plenty of nice resorts with big pools and beach access and you would never have to leave. Sometimes hanging at a nice resort and stargazing is just what you need, so it definitely isn’t all bad.

However, there really is not much in the restaurant scene, which is probably one of our top things about going on vacation. Hilton Head is VERY commercial with all the chain restaurants you can imagine and a huge outlet mall with ALL the stores. Obviously, this sounds perfect to many people, or it wouldn’t be such a popular spot. So to each their own I guess.

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Have you been to Hilton Head? What did you think? I’d love to know!