Entries Tagged as 'Adventures'

travel adventures: carmel valley

Posted on: Friday, April 28, 2017

when my sister kerry visited in february, we did a little weekend trip down to carmel valley and had such a fun time! E and I have been down twice before, and really love the quaint small town and amazing, relaxed tasting rooms. Carmel Valley is just a quick 15 minutes inland from Carmel, and a pretty easy 20 or so minute drive to Bixby Bridge and into Big Sur. and, since i’m heading down that way this weekend (see you Sunday, Big Sur 5K!¬†ūüĎčūüŹľ), I wanted to share a few recommendations on places to go in Carmel Valley and photos from our recent trips.

if time allows, I would recommend¬†doing a weekend visit, but you can also do a day trip from SF if you prefer. what was super fun about Kerry’s visit was that we spent time wine tasting and relaxing in Carmel Valley, but also explored downtown Carmel for brunch, drove along the beach and 17 Mile Drive in Carmel, and drove to Bixby Bridge. Another time E and I spent a Saturday afternoon in Carmel Valley, did dinner in downtown Carmel and then¬†explored/hiked in Big Sur / Point Lobos area on Sunday. this area of California is truly the prettiest and there’s so many amazing things to squeeze in!

the town of Carmel Valley itself is a totally walkable town and super dog-friendly – pups are everywhere! it has that small town vibe and truly incredible wine, without the sometimes pretentious vibe you can get wine tasting in areas like Napa. ūüė¨¬†all the people i met during my trips there were super friendly and kind.

Without further ado, here’s some Carmel Valley recs!

{WINE, WINE & MORE WINE ūüć∑}
PARSONAGE – the southwestern, bohemian decor in this tasting room is so dreamy! i recommend getting a glass of wine (vs. a flight tasting) and sitting in the cute window nook to people watch what’s happening downtown. if you do want to do the tasting flight, it’s $10 to try 5 wines.

CHESEBRO¬†this spot has super reasonably-priced wines (and wine club membership) with a modern barn interior. it’s right next to parsonage, so you¬†can hit up two spots just a few steps away from each other. we did the tasting menu here, and I was surprised how much I liked the white wines they poured, as I’m usually not a big white wine fan! tasting is $10 and you get 6-7 wines, so easy to share with a friend.

COWGIRL WINERY Рthis is a female-run tasting room with a MASSIVE outdoor area with bocce ball courts, picnic tables, chickens running around and tons of areas to walk around and explore. inside, there is a really cute area of curated products like cookbooks, cheese boards, etc. this spot is also open until 6pm, which is an hour (or more) later than other tasting rooms in the area! this is a great spot for groups, and I recommend getting a bottle of the super reasonably priced ($18) and tasty house red to share.

GEORIS Рthis tasting room is in a huge 1930s adobe with a funky garden area and tons of outdoor seating areas. the tasting fee is $20 and you can order food and snacks made fresh from Corkscrew Cafe next door (more on that below!)

BOEKENOOGEN –¬†we are members at this winery because we looooove their Pinot Noirs! They have a small(ish), rustic garden patio area and are right in the center of downtown. tasting fees are $10 to try 5 wines and $15 to try 7 flights. the wine here is realllllly good; it’s one of those places where every single wine I tried, I loved.

CIMA COLLINA Рthis past trip was my first time at Cima Collina and I was absolutely IN LOVE! they had 2-for-1 glasses of wine, so we opted for that inside of a traditional tasting and sat out on their glorious patio. they also have a massive outdoor fireplace, which is perfect spot to hang out when it starts to get chilly.

{FOOD, ETC.}

CORKSCREW CAFE – this is my favorite restaurant in Carmel Valley! They have amazing pizzas, cheese plates and other delicious snacks, plus a great local wine selection. They have a large patio, lined with brightly colored tables and hanging lights, plus a separate patio for people who brought their dogs along.

STIRRUP CUP PIZZA & RUNNING IRON DIVE BAR РYummy, casual downtown pizza spot connected to an amazing dive bar. They bring your pizza over to you and the bar has a great selection of California beer.
EARTHBOUND FARM’S FARM STAND – this is on my to-do list for next time! you’ve probably seen this produce brand at the store, but I just recently discovered that they are based in Carmel Valley. you can eat at their all-organic kitchen and tour their gardens or go on a guided flower walk, which sounds super fun to me. if you’d prefer, you can pick up produce, gourmet groceries and flowers to go…which leads me to my next recommendation…
PACK YOUR OWN PICNIC! – Okay, obviously this isn’t a recommendation on a place to¬†go to eat, but most of the time when we visit Carmel Valley (and wine country areas in general), we just pack picnics. just pick up bread and crackers, fruit, cheese and other goodies, pick any of the spots above with outdoor space and enjoy¬†a meal in the sunshine!

{WHERE TO STAY}
BLUE SKY LODGE – this is where we stayed! it’s a little outdated, but it’s right downtown and inexpensive, and we loved the hot tub and pool area and that they had complimentary local coffee available each morning. // CARMEL VALLEY LODGE – this spot wasn’t available during our last trip, but it looked really cute and was also inexpensive. the garden area and cottage rooms looked super quaint and relaxing! // BERNARDUS LODGE – this place is more upscale, but looks totally dreamy and like a little spa (!!)¬†haven in the middle of Carmel Valley // CARMEL MISSION INN – this hotel is located centrally located right on Highway 1, so it’s a great spot to stay if you’re only planning to do Carmel Valley for an afternoon and want to do other things in the Carmel/Monterey/Big Sur area during the evening or next day. it’s about a 15 minute drive to downtown Carmel Valley and a quick 5 or so minute drive to Carmel. the hotel itself was nice and we loved the hot tub and pool area. //¬†AIRBNB¬†– this is always my go-to for group trips and there’s lots of great options in the area!

travel adventures: tulum, mexico

Posted on: Monday, April 17, 2017

hi friends! as you may have noticed, a few weeks ago, E and I spent a week in Mexico! we stayed in Tulum, a small, eco-friendly, trendy beach town about an hour and a half south from Cancun. I received a ton of great recommendations and we went to a lot of places, so wanted to share my version of a Tulum travel guide with you!

WHAT TO DO:

We stayed in a gorgeous Airbnb (pictured) closer to town that we loved! It had a private pool surrounded by a photo worthy pink wall and tons of plants, swings on the roof, and an impeccable interior. The bed was so comfortable, there was a clawfoot tub (!!) and our host had everything we needed – beach blankets, snorkel gear, a blender (v beneficial for making our own smoothies!), etc. The Airbnb was about a 10-15 minute drive to the beach and 3-5 minute drive into town (where there’s also lots of shopping, restaurants, etc. – more on that below). We really loved it! Here’s the link.

If you do want to be a little closer to the beach,¬†I’ve heard good things about these hotels:¬†Mezzanine,¬†Coco, Be Tulum, and¬†Azulik (pictured below – even if you don’t stay at Azulik, go walk around the property or have a drink there! It’s amazing).

WHAT TO DO:

BEACH!¬†–¬†every day, we would pack our beach bags and find a new beach area to hang out at. you can just walk through hotels to get to the beach, but can’t use their facilities unless you’re staying there. I heard good options are: Playa Pescadores, Ziggy Beach, Papaya Playa, Coco. we also liked Playa Maya, which was a little further down the road past Mezzaine Hotel. The water was super clear and beautiful!

mayan clay massage Рthis is a must! Getting a massage always feel necessary to maximize relaxation on vaca. I heard amazing things about Mayan clay massages in Tulum both at the Mayan Clay Spa and the Maya Tulum Resort. Basically, your entire body gets covered in Mayan clay, sets for awhile, then you get a traditional amazing massage. Our Airbnb host actually arranges for us to get private massages in the Airbnb, which was luxurious and super amazing. We did this on our last night in Tulum and it was a perfect way to end the trip.

swim in cenotes – cenotes are underground, natural sinkholes formed by water coming through the limestone rocks (read more about them here). basically, they are like swimming ponds that you can swim, snorkel and dive in – some even allow you to zip-line or kayak. we visited two very different ones:¬†Gran Cenote¬†(first three photos below), which is about 5 minutes north of downtown Tulum. you walk down steps to get to the water and are swimming in a cave, pretty much. there are turtles and clear water and it’s super cool). The second we went to was¬†Casa Cenote (last photo below), which is 10-15 minutes north of Tulum, it’s off of a back road and the cenote extends back into the jungle! the water is deep and super clear – tons of people dive here, especially). other cenotes recommended to us were: Cenote Dos Ojos, Cenote Escondido, Cenote Azul, Cenote Carwash, Cenote Zazil Ha (last two are super close to Gran Cenote).

snorkeling – you can do this in the ocean in several good spots and in lots of cenotes too! we also drove to Akumal (about 20 minutes north of Tulum) to swim with turtles – super cool experience. We just rented masks from a little shop near the beach and jumped in the water – no need for tours or anything. The water is super calm and the beach is super charming and less rustic/earthy than Tulum beaches, in my opinion.

Tulum Ruins – I’m not typically a fan of touristy things, but checking out the Mayan Ruins in Tulum is definitely something I recommend doing! we walked the entire thing in about 45 minutes (while enjoying fresh fruit popcicles – my fave). it’s beautiful to see the ruins right alongside the water, and you have access to the beach to swim/snorkel from there too.

shopping – the main strip by the beach has tons of super cute shops. I highly recommend just wandering into the shops — I don’t even remember the names! A few recommended to me were Shalom and Le Troupe.

walk or bike around¬†– I would recommend taking time to just wander down the main strip. Most hotels (and Airbnbs) have bikes available, so that makes it super easy! There’s so much to take in – both on the main strip and within the different hotel resorts.¬†The landscape in Tulum is truly amazing – from the beach and crystal clear ocean to the wild and rustic jungle. Since it gets so hot, make sure to apply a lot of sunscreen and stop along the way to get a fresh juice or paleta (popsicle)!

 

WHERE TO EAT/DRINK:

If we had a chance to visit a spot, the name is in BOLD. If not, it’s a highly recommended spot from our local host or good friends.

BREAKFAST
Tacos Honorio – in town, traditional Mexican breakfast

The Real Tabano – jungle side, yummy breakfast and delicious, fresh smoothies (literally the fruit was cut and blended right in front of us)

The Real Coconut – beach side, healthy breakfast spot inside Sanar√° hotel

Tunich – simple and tasty breakfast spot. They have super inexpensive cabanas as well, so that’s another affordable lodging option too!

Azafran – in town, fresh juices!

Raw Love – beach side, healthy breakfast (acai bowls!) inside Ahau Hotel)

DINNER
Hartwood – arguably the most coveted spot to get a table for dinner in tulum. everything is cooked on the wood burning oven and open grill. sadly, we weren’t able to get in the night we tried but apparently they now (recent thing!) take reservations – you just need to email them a few times. ūüėŹ

Mezzaine – beach side, up the road from the “main” area. Great happy hour (2 for 1 margs and beautiful view)

El Manglar – in town and was actually two blocks from our airbnb but sadly closed the day we wanted to try it! it’s the best pizza in tulum.

Mateos – jungle side, sports bar-esque bar and restaurant. we were given the fish taco recommendation from a friend and they didn’t disappoint! ūüôŹūüŹĽ
Restaurare – jungle side, amazing fresh vegan food.

El Camello – in town…this is where all the locals (including founder/chef of the v popular hartwood) eat to get best seafood! super simple, fresh, inexpensive.

Taqueria La Eufemia – beach side, didn’t get a chance to go but supposed to have very cheap food and fun vibe for drinks and hanging out.

Posada Margherita – beach side, and seriously my new favorite place in the world. it’s italian food, which sounds weird for mexico/the beach, but trust me – YOU GOTTA GO! they make incredible handmade pasta and all meals come with this incredible tapas board with pickled veggies, cheese and super tasty focaccia bread. the decor is also beautiful – see first two photos below for proof!

DRINKS
Gitano – jungle side, super trendy mezcal bar and restaurant with plants and greenery EVERYWHERE, twinkly lights and hanging disco balls. the food and drinks were super yummy and the vibe was ūüĒ•.

Casa Jaguar – beach side and inside Ahau Hotel

Batey Mojito Bar – in town, SUPER incredible mojitos, which are not my typical drink of choice! they are made with freshly crushed sugar cane juice out of a VW beetle. the vibe is super fun too.

La Zebra – beach side, apparently “the best salsa party in town” and they have free salsa on sundays from 6-7pm and live music most nights.

TIPS AND MORE THINGS TO KNOW:

grocery & last minute items – e went to the Chedruai (kind of like a Mexican Walmart) literally more times than we wanted to, but they have everything – sunscreen, food (incl. large fresh produce section) + wine/beer, beach supplies, everything. It’s located on the road from downtown Tulum on the way to the beach.

SUNSCREEN!¬†lots of it. you’ll go through it quickly.

packing recommendations ¬†– unless you are fashion blogger (and LOTS of them go!), don’t bring heels or even wedges. I wore flip flop sandals exclusively the entire time.¬†Most roads aren’t paved, so you’ll be walking on dirt or sand. I packed some denim shorts, but didn’t even wear them because they felt too sticky. I opted for flowy dresses and swimsuit cover-ups instead. I would also recommend chapstick with SPF (my lips got so burnt – v sad and painful) and bug spray, especially if you’re eating dinner at a restaurant on the “jungle side” (like Gitano).

carry pesos, as most places don’t accept credit cards and when they do, the exchange rate isn’t typically best in your favor vs. paying with pesos. don’t forget to tip – at restaurants, gas stations, the baggers at the grocery store (that was the big surprise to me – they don’t typically make any money EXCEPT tips), bellman at hotels, etc. I recently heard an idea that a couple brings 100 one dollar bills on trips to Mexico to tip everyone…really easy way to not forget to tip.

rent a car – I would highly recommend this! it cost $75 to rent a car for 5 days and it was fairly easy to pick up from the Cancun airport after we landed. having the car was necessary since we weren’t staying on the main strip, but even so, I would recommend a car to have easy access to get to different beaches, cenotes, in town, etc. it’s super affordable and the convenience was very appreciated.

more photos from our trip below – thank you for reading! if you have any questions or are planning to visit, please feel free to reach out to me!¬†ūüíô

an afternoon at arrowood winery

Posted on: Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Hope you all had a lovely long weekend! Last weekend, I was invited up to wine country (which I never say no to, obviously) with a rad group of fellow bloggers for a food and wine pairing at Arrowood Winery up in Sonoma!

We started the afternoon in the¬†tasting room with some Sav Blanc, enjoying¬†the misty foggy views outside and being v jealous of the amazing fireplace inside. I want one! ūüėꬆWe moved upstairs to do a guided food and wine pairing, with all food from¬†¬†The Girl & the Fig. E and I went to The Girl & the Fig for my birthday a few weeks ago too, so I feel extra spoiled that I’ve had their food 2x in January already. Their chef is INCREDIBLE! Anyway, back to the wine. ūüć∑

Here’s the rundown of what we ate + drank!

Course 1: 2015 Arrowood Saralee’s Vineyard Viognier, served with roasted baby heirloom carrots, saffron crema & honeyed almonds // I have NO idea how to make vegetables this good, but this was absolutely divine.

Course 2: 2012 Arrowood Monte Rosso Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, served with house ground polenta, braised oxtail, cocoa nibs, winter squash & sage pesto // I didn’t eat the oxtail since I’m pescatarian, BUT ate around it and it and the polenta & squash combo was still soooo delicious.

Course 3: 2013 Arrowood Proprietary Red Wine, served with black pepper ravioli, triple cream mornay & black truffles // Omg this dish was a dream ūüė欆give me all the cheese, all the time.

Throughout the meal, we learned about the different wines we were drinking,¬†why the food was chosen to accompany each wine, the difference between different wine regions and so much more. Arrowood’s winemaker (#girlboss) Kristina Werner was incredibly awesome and insightful, answering all of our questions¬†and giving us the Arrowood wine lowdown. She also grew up in the Midwest (yay!) and started her wine career there, which I think is super cool.

After the food and wine pairing, we did a tasting of three different Arrowood Cabernet Sauvignons, all from different regions in Sonoma. It was really cool to try all three side-by-side, learn about the different regions, and compare how each had their own unique taste and feel.

I already can’t wait to go back (especially on a sunny day!) to wine taste at Arrowood again. If you’re interested in ordering wine, here’s a discount code for 15% off your order: ARROWOOD15. ūüć∑Cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

travel adventures: PARIS!!!

Posted on: Thursday, December 29, 2016

Paris 3

Hi! The last stop on our trip to Europe a few months ago was to Paris. I have the most magical memories of being in Paris from my first visit with friends in 2012. It was my first international trip and I was totally entranced by the city (as most people tend to be). I was SO excited to be there with E and celebrate our anniversary there!

We stayed at a small but exquisite Airbnb right in the center of Le Marais neighborhood. We could easily walk to tons of cafes, shops and river Seine, which was perfect. We received tons of recommendations from friends on where to go and eat (thanks, all!) and most days, we woke up and got ready, picked a neighborhood to explore. We wandered all over, ate a ton of good food (cheese! bread!) and wine, and soaked up all the romantic, cute vibes everywhere.

A breakdown of some of our favorite spots are below and here’s a few highlights: reading and drinking ros√© in the park (Le Jardin du Luxembourg in the 6th, Parc des Buttes-Chaumont and Parc de la Villette in the 19th), biking alllll over almost every day (thank you,¬†Velib passes), afternoon picnics almost every day, watching the sunset every night at river Seine.

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Breakfast/Pastries/Coffee: Boot Cafe and Ob-La-Di (3rd), Du Pain et des Idées (10th) for incredible pastries,

Drinks:¬†Hoppy Corner (2nd) for craft beers, Barapapa (a beer garden right on the river in the 12th), Vingt Vins d’Art (4th)

Cafes/Restaurants/Places to eat: ¬†H√ītel Amour (near Montmarte) for delicious food and most incredible patio,¬†L’As du Fallafel (right next to our Airbnb in Le Marais; we went twice) for THE yummiest falafel wraps ever, L’Improbable in Le Marais for snacks, Season (3rd) for healthy food, Les Pinces (4th) for seafood,¬†Jaja (4th) for a romantic dinner,¬†Caf√© de Flore (6th) for amazing people watching, Les Deux Magots (6th) for people watching and delicious cheese plates,¬†Le Fumoir (near the Louvre).

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Cute streets: Rue Cler is a great street with cafes and shops Рperfect for picnic supply shopping to bring to the park near Eiffel. We also had rosé at Le Petit Cler one day. Rue Crémieux Рan amazing small street lined with candy-colored rainbow houses. I was OBSESSED!

Tourist-y iconic places: Notre Dame,¬†Palace du Palais Royal, Eiffel Tower,¬†Montmarte,¬†The Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, Tuileries Gardens. We actually went *all out touristy* and paid for tickets to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower. As expected, it was busy and a little overwhelming, but it was SO cool to see that view of Paris and beyond and check that off the list. ‚úĒÔłŹ

Other: shopping on a rainy day at Galeries Lafayette, wandering around Shakespeare & Company book store (5th), random shopping spots in Le Marais.

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If you are heading to Paris anytime soon, let me know! I would love to share more details and give recommendations — I have a HUGE list compiled from knowledgeable friends. xo

Previous Europe blog posts: Provence region, South of France, London.

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