Travel TBT: Ashley’s Wedding Weekend

As of today I have officially been married for 20 days, and I am still dreaming about my magical wedding weekend in California’s beautiful Central Coast. I know everyone says their wedding was the best they’ve ever been to, but you can ask anyone…my wedding was THE BEST wedding EVER. And it didn’t just stop there…the entire long weekend from start to finish was filled with so much fun, love, and laughter that I still can’t stop thinking about it. My husband (so weird to say) and I keep reliving it in our minds and are seriously considering renewing our vows every year just to have a reason to get everyone together.

We had our wedding on a Friday in Monterey, California. I was initially against Friday weddings because I thought it was tacky and would be annoying for our guests who would normally have to work that day. But I quickly got over it because 1. Friday weddings are cheaper, and 2. Although I’m from California, our wedding was technically considered a destination wedding because so many of our guests had to travel from out of town, so having it on a Friday allowed everyone to enjoy the entire weekend without having to wake up the next day and immediately have to travel home.

I would not have changed a thing about the entire weekend, and regardless if you’re getting married in the area or you’re simply just traveling there, I think you’ll find the below information really useful!

Porta Bella Restaurant – We had our rehearsal dinner at this adorable Italian restaurant in Carmel. The food was fantastic and the owners were incredibly accommodating. We had close to 50 people and pretty much took over a large portion of the restaurant. The space was perfect for our party and everyone had a great time. At one point we even started dancing! The food, atmosphere, and location all make for a perfect night out and I 100% recommend Porta Bella if you’re in Carmel-by-the-sea.

Hyatt Regency – We had our room block at the Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa and had a great experience. I initially chose this hotel based on their room block attrition rate and how it compared to other local hotel hotels. In addition to that, the size of the hotel and location in terms of distance from our wedding venue and other fun activities in Monterey and Carmel were hard to beat. Some of the highlights for both us and our guests were the pool, outdoor activities, fantastic buffet breakfast, and the fact that the property was pet friendly.

Nicklaus Club – Our wedding was held at the beautiful Nicklaus Club in Monterey. Even if this wasn’t my wedding and I was just a guest, this would have been the best night of my life because everything was just so perfect. The venue is beyond gorgeous, the food is incredible, and the party was on another level. If you’re looking for a venue in the Monterey area, look no further. Or if you’re just looking for a place to golf or stop by for lunch, do yourself a favor and make a stop at Nicklaus Club. You will not regret it!

Downtown Monterey – Like I said earlier, having our wedding on a Friday turned out to be the best decision we could have made because we had the whole weekend to hang out with our friends and family. The day after the wedding we hopped around different bars and restaurants in Downtown Monterey with a group of our friends and had the best time. Make sure to bring a sweater any time you’re in Monterey or Carmel because the weather is super unpredictable. We got lucky and had sunny skies on Friday, but it was pretty cold and windy on Saturday so always be prepared!

Casanova Restaurant – This Carmel-by-the-sea gem has always been one of my favorite restaurants. They serve a mix of Italian and French cuisine and the restaurant itself is as adorable as they come. I hadn’t been in a few years with all my moving around from Southern California to the East Coast, so I told my husband (WEIRD!) that we absolutely HAD to eat here before we left. Once all of our friends and family made their way home on Sunday, we checked out of the Hyatt and started our “Mini Moon” off by having lunch at Casanova. We ordered mussels and gnocchi as appetizers, my hubby had the Cannelloni for his main, and I had the Croque Monsieur. Everything was to die for. The wedding diet was obviously over and we really went in on this meal, but there are plenty of lighter options on the menu. If you don’t go anywhere else while you’re in Carmel, you HAVE to go to Casanova.

Carmel-by-the-Sea – After lunch at Casanova we made our way to the shops closer to the beach. We spent about an hour or so walking around the cute streets popping in an out of the little shops. After getting back in the car we made our way to Ocean Ave, which borders the beautiful Carmel Beach, and drove south admiring the beaches and out of this world real estate. If you’re like us and enjoy window shopping homes you’ll never be able to afford, this is the place to do it!

Ventana Big Sur – We eventually made our way to the famous Highway 1 and drove south to Big Sur where my husband surprised me with reservations at gorgeous Ventana. I had always wanted to stay there, and now having done so I can officially say it is worth the hype. When checking in they made it a point to let us know that it is encouraged to wear the provided robes everywhere on property (I was sold right then and there), so that’s exactly what we did. As soon as we dropped our bags off in our room we changed into our bathing suits and robes and took advantage of *most* of the available amenities – the beautiful pool overlooking the Pacific, infinity hot tub nestled between the pool and forest, barrel sauna, and lounge area.  I emphasized *most* because there happens to be a clothing optional section of the property that we gladly opted out of. lol.

That night we had dinner at Ventana’s restaurant, The Sur House, which boasts the freshest of ingredients, some of which come from their very own garden. My husband said his octopus appetizer was the best octopus he’s ever had. The next day we ordered room service for breakfast (my pancakes were so.damn.good.) and enjoyed it on our private balcony that was practically in the trees.

After breakfast we had an incredible couples massage that took place within canopies that were enclosed on all sides but one that faced the forest, which was so beautiful and dreamy. Between the tranquil setting, perfect temperature, and amazing massage, I don’t think I’ve ever been so relaxed in my life.

Everything about our stay at Ventana was incredible and my only regret was not staying longer. Although it definitely breaks the bank a bit, it was beyond worth it and I can’t wait until we get to go back.

 

California is one of the most beautiful places in the world for a reason, and that is largely in part to the incredible Central Coast. If you ever get the chance to travel to Monterey, Carmel, and Big Sur, you better take it. I am so lucky to have been raised so close to this magical place and I really hope everyone else is lucky enough to experience this part of the Mother Earth at least once in their lives.

Thank you for reliving my dream of a wedding weekend with me!

xo,

Ashley

 

 

 

Travel TBT: Sutro Baths + San Francisco Brunch

I was up in Northern California for two week’s this month for Ashley’s wedding and my birthday. I didn’t feel particularly inspired to throw myself a big celebration for my 29th; my only wish was to do a little hike outdoors and have a great brunch. Here’s how the day went:

Sutro Baths

After some research into hikes near San Francisco, I ended up choosing more of a scenic walk because I wanted to be able to go straight to brunch after without changing. Priorities, haha. I have done the “Lands End” hike around the northern coast of San Francisco before, but never went down to the Sutro Baths. You get to the baths with a quick downhill walk and a series of stairs. What you end up seeing are the ruins of what used to be a public bath facility, which is actually very cool to imagine (you can read about the history here). This is by no means a hike, but a great little scenic walk… shall we say, for the gram?

Brunch at Aina

After scouring a few foodie websites (my go-to are Infatuation and Thrillist) and asking an old co-worker from my days at Tasting Table, I landed on brunch at Aina in the Dogpatch neighborhood of San Francisco. They do not take reservations, so we went straight from our walk to put our names in. We arrived at around 11am on Saturday and were told the wait would be about an hour…not too terrible for a new restaurant! We took a quick little walk of the neighborhood and got a snack of fresh beignets to-go at Just For You Cafe on the next block over. The beignets ended up being VERY good. Plus, what is more in theme with celebrating your birthday than having dessert before brunch?! Aina called us about an hour and 10 minutes after we put our name down.

Service was super friendly and the food was AMAZING. I’m not sure I’ve ever truly had Hawaiian food, but this place makes me want to eat it constantly. The flavors were absolutely incredible. We shared the (homemade) spam bao to start, which I was scared of. However, do not be scared of the word spam, this musubi was INCREDIBLE. We also had the kalbi loco moco (their most popular dish), trout and smoked mushroom entrees. All 3 were fantastic! We drank their white wine and red wine lemonades, both were very tasty.

 

All around, an excellent birthday morning.

Xoxo,
Truett

Travel TBT: Weekend in Phoenix

Last week I went to Phoenix to visit my boyfriend. It was my first time in the city and I must say it looks exactly like Cars Land at Disneyland. Yes, that is the reference I am going with, deal with it. Having never truly been in the desert, I just could not get over how desert it really was: cactus, every building painted in a tan color scheme and not a yard with grass in sight. But, by the end of my time there, I found myself thinking it is actually pretty beautiful in it’s own way. The people are all very friendly. The food is solid. The bar scene is legit. There is a ton of nature to explore. We were a bit all over the place this weekend, so here is what we did separated by neighborhood:

Old Town Scottsdale

I could not believe how adorable Old Town Scottsdale is, it looks like some mayor years ago was bet that he couldn’t make the most Cowboy Western looking town by his worst enemy and had to win. The trash cans are barrels. The bus stops have wagon wheels. It is truly something you have to see to feel the full impact.

Food

Morning Squeeze: This spot is a chain and a local (and visitor) favorite for breakfast. I think I saw 3 separate bachelorette parties waiting for tables. The food was good and the staff was all super nice. I got huevos rancheros and added turkey sausage. The sausage was a bit overdone, but the huevos had two different salsas (chipotle and verde) were great!

Bars

Holy moly, bars in Old Town (also called the Entertainment District), I was not expecting you. Think Vegas, but the clubs are all outdoor patios, within a few blocks of each other. The bartenders are in lingerie. The bottle girls have sparklers and different outfits to bring out different bottles. They’re all pretty similar, this is where we went:

Bottled Blonde
Casa Amigos
The District
Bevvy
Maya Day & Nightclub
Mr Mesquite Tacos: This is actually a taco place we went to after the bars. Not authentic at all, but very good. 10/10 recommend eating as a drunken snack.

Downtown

Food

 Salted Caramel Pudding
Breakfast Club: If you haven’t already noticed, my favorite breakfast is huevos rancheros. If it is on a menu, I will almost always order it. This one was high on the list of most-white huevos I’ve ever had. I mean, the “bowl” was a cold red pepper tortilla. I said to my boyfriend, “These should probably just be called Ranch Eggs”… which I thought was a hilarious joke. However, they were still a solid breakfast and the portions here are ENORMOUS. We got a pancake to share and the maple syrup was amazing. Plus, this area of downtown is really cute. We went to get an amazing salted caramel pudding at Arrogant Butcher after. Yes, we had dessert after breakfast…

Squid Ink Sushi Bar: We went here after Happy Hour, so my judgement may not have been at it’s highest– but the sushi here was great. We sat at an open air bar by the patio, it was lovely.

Bars

Bitter & Twisted: This is a somewhat upscale cocktail bar. We only went in briefly because they serve a ramen burger (where the bun is made from ramen) that my boyfriend was fiercely craving and I had a vodka soda. I plan to go back, because the drinks are supposed to be great.

Valley Bar: This bar has several different vibes in one. There is a game room, a room for performances, a room with hanging mobiles, etc… basically something for everyone. It was fun.

Chico Malo: We went here for happy hour. Beer, wine, wells and shots are all $5 or $6. Like most places in Phoenix, the bar is essentially outdoors.

Cave Creek

Our original plan was to go out to Sedona and hike, but I twisted my ankle the week before the trip and was worried I wouldn’t make it. My lovely boyfriend has the idea of riding horses instead so we went about a 45 minutes outside of the main part of the city to Cave Creek.

Spur Cross Stable Spur Cross Stable: We were hunting on Groupon to find a good deal on horseback riding and Spur Cross was the only place with availability same day. The team was super nice in squeezing us in, even holding the ride a few minutes when we were delayed by traffic. For $68, we got an hour guided trail ride on horseback. I technically rode a horse when I was 3 years old, but don’t remember so this was really my first time. It was super fun and awesome to see the vast desert outside of the city.

 

Oregano's Pizza Oregano's Pizza
Oregano’s:
By this meal, I was already thinking I would need to do a major detox (next section) after this trip, so I figured YOLO LET’S EAT PIZZA. We passed by this place on the way out to Spur Cross Stable and it had a big sign outside that said “The only joint you don’t want to pass”. I mean, weed jokes AND pizza… does it get better? We had an amazing buffalo wings, the Italian salad, a deep dish pizza and cheesecake. Basically we ate enough for a family of 4. It was amazing.

Detox

Did I eat anything healthy in Phoenix? Hardly. Does it seem like I drank every night I was there? Yes. Did I feel absolutely gross by the time it was my last day there? Also yes. So I had to do something about it…

 Hot Yoga University: I saw this place driving one day and noticed the giant sign in the window that read $10 Drop-ins Daily. Having lived in two of the most expensive cities for fitness in the US (NYC and LA) this blew my mind so I made a mental note of it. Then, when the vacation diet grossness kicked in, I thought to myself, COME ON BITCH—LET’S SWEAT THIS SHIT OUT. I went to a noon hot yoga class with Veronica. The studio is very cute (I think they have every motivational quote painting on earth on the walls) and the yoga room is very large. I particularly liked the flooring, which is a sort of woven rubber that was not too harsh on your knees in certain poses. The class was called Cardio Flow and challenging, but in the way that could easily work for all levels. I looked like a smashed tomato by the end, but it was very worth it. I will definitely be back.

Nekter JuiceNekter: Are you even detoxing if you don’t do a juice cleanse? Now, I’m not a believer that a juice cleanse is going to make you lose weight or change your life. I do not believe in starving yourself (spoil alert: you will just gain all your weight back as soon as you start eating) but I do find that doing a 1-day cleanse with limited food added helps to reset my metabolism and get me back on track. I got the 1-day Advanced Cleanse at Nekter, which includes added probiotics, prebiotics and _____, which is a cool addition to the usual juices. I also ate a vegan greek salad around lunch and had some cashews as a snack in the afternoon. By the end of the day, I started to feel like a real fitness blogger again (haha)… but let’s not lie, a few weeks of cardio will be needed to reverse the impact of this trip.

Moisturizer: If you didn’t know, ARIZONA IS IN THE DESERT (lol)… 24 hours after getting there, my face starting falling off. Not joking. My spoiled California coastal skin didn’t know what to do without humidity. My usual moisturizer with sunscreen was NOT cutting it, so I took my frugal ass to Marshall’s and got an intense coconut moisturizer called CocoKind. I actually first heard about it from this IG account I am obsessed with called @ShutTheKaleUp, it is all natural, organic, lalala, you normally buy it at Whole Foods, if you fancy. Anyway, I bring this all up to say, PACK MOISTURIZER when you visit Phoenix. Your skin will thank me later.

I will definitely be back in Phoenix for the boy, so this is far from my last post about it. There is so much I want to go see across the entire West Coast in terms of National Parks, but Arizona has quite a few on my list. Please leave your suggestions!!

XOXO,
Truett

Travel TBT: 48 Hours in Paris

I traveled to Paris in the summer of 2013 with my mom, aunt, and cousin after visiting family in Croatia. Paris was a bit of a last minute idea so we only had a couple days to spend there, but traveling within Europe is so easy and inexpensive so we said why not! It didn’t take much for me to fall in love with the City of Light, and I can’t wait to go back one day to experience all that I missed on my short trip. For now, here is a quick list of all the spots I hit in my 48 hours in Paris!

Crowne Plaza Paris République – We stayed at this hotel located near the center of the city and had a great experience. The building itself is quite old, but the hotel was very beautiful and clean. The rooms were a great size in comparison to typical European hotel rooms, and the location was fantastic. We were within walking distance to tons of great restaurants, cafes, major sites, and public transportation. The convenience alone is enough reason to stay here. Not to mention, the hotel’s restaurant has one of the best Croque Monsieurs I’ve ever had!

Rèves De Paris République – We never had a bad meal while in Paris (obviously), but the only place I remember the name of is Rèves De Paris République, a cafe around the corner from our hotel. We came here for coffee and pastries every morning, which was my favorite part of every day because their croissants are TO.DIE.FOR. Five years later and I’m still dreaming about those beautiful, flaky, buttery vessels of love and tastiness. I’m sure you’re pretty much guaranteed to have the best croissant of your life in Paris, but I promise this cafe will give all other Parisian pastries a run for their money.


Sites – I am very much one of those travelers that is adamant about seeing the major sites in the cities I visit. I am a huge history nerd and for that reason I absolutely had to spend my short time in Paris dragging my family around from monument to monument. Here are some of my favorites:

Eiffel Tower: I mean, do I even have to mention this? The Eiffel Tower is literally why people go to Paris in the first place. It truly is just as spectacular in person, and serves as an amazing backdrop for a picnic consisting of champagne, cheese, and a baguette at the park behind it. I can’t imagine a better way to spend a beautiful summer day.

Louvre: The most iconic museum of art in the world. You don’t have to have ever taken an Art History class to appreciate this magical place. Some of the most famous pieces of art in history are housed here…making it an absolute must on anyone’s trip to Paris.

Notre Dame: The famous French Gothic cathedral is another must see. The architecture is stunning and if you feel up to climbing the 387 steps of the tower, the views of the city at the top are even better. One of my favorite parts of Notre Dame was lighting a candle inside the church.

Arc de Triomphe: The “most monumental of all triumphal arches.” If you’re like me, you may or may not have a running count of all the arches you’ve been to in the world (I think I’m at 5?), but the Arc de Triomphe truly is the most beautiful and impressive. Afterwards you can take the two second stroll to the famous Champs-Élysées.

Champs-Élysées: The famous avenue is located in the 8th arrondissement and is often referred to as “the world’s most beautiful avenue.” This is where you’ll find some of the city’s best shopping, dining, and entertainment. If you’re a shopper, remember to bring your credit card with the biggest limit because the flagship stores of Louis Vuitton, Chanel, and other well known luxury brands are located on Champs-Élysées.

 

There’s so much to see and do in Paris that I barely even made a dent on my trip in 2013. I made the best of the time I had and I truly would not have changed a thing. I cannot wait for the day I get to go back and this time it will definitely be longer than 48 hours! If you have any questions, or better yet – tips for my next trip – please send them my way!

Au Revoir!

xo, Ashley

 

Travel TBT: Bachelorette in Tulum!

Tulum has been on my bucket list for a while now, so you can imagine how ecstatic I was to be able to go there for my Bachelorette party with my three best friends (Truett included! Duh!) last weekend. Travel has always been such an important part of my life, so I’ve always known I didn’t want to have your typical Vegas bachelorette with a group of drunk girls walking barefoot down the strip while I’m forcibly wearing some type of bright pink “Last Hoorah” sash over my too tight/too short minidress. More power to the girls who are down for that, but I just can’t hang anymore…which is why Tulum was perfect for me.

The health and wellness aspect of Tulum is what initially drew me in. It’s always been my dream to move to a beach town for a season to teach Pilates, eat acai bowls, and bum around for a few months, and after experiencing Tulum firsthand my dream has only grown bigger (for reasons you’ll soon find out)! Just as appealing is the pure beauty of the town, beaches, and turquoise blue waters. The absence of any gimmicks and all inclusive resorts literally speaks to my soul. When I think of a tropical vacation, I don’t think of high rise resorts…I think of boutique hotels and beach bungalows. And that is EXACTLY what Tulum is.

There are tons of things to see and do and incredible food to eat, so the below itinerary is just a glimpse of the many amazing options available in beautiful Tulum. But I promise you will not be disappointed if you choose to replicate our trip!

Day One – Thursday 

This day was mostly a travel day, but we made it to Tulum by early evening so we still had a few hours to take advantage of.

AirBNB – We chose to stay in an AirBNB rather than a hotel so we didn’t have to be on top of each other with all of our suitcases and Bachelorette-y party favors (i.e. penis balloons). Our particular AirBNB was about a 10-15 minute taxi ride from the beach in an area called Aldea Zama. Our condo was super cute and modern and included all upgraded finishes. The host was great with their communication, and despite a few hiccups, we really enjoyed our stay here. If you have a smaller group or are just with a significant other, I would recommend staying at a hotel as they are all located on the beach and that’s where you will be spending most of your time.

Rosa Negra – After checking into our condo and freshening up, we took a taxi to the beach and stumbled upon Rosa Negra. A combination of our ravenous appetites and the restaurant’s beautiful decor made our decision for us and it’s a decision we did not regret! We all ordered an array of salads, tacos, empanadas, and ceviche and were in absolute Heaven. Everything was so fresh and delicious, I’m salivating even thinking about it now. 10/10 would recommend!

Day Two – Friday

Sanara Tulum – Per my future sister in law’s recommendation, we started our day off with yoga at Sanara and breakfast at The Real Coconut. I cannot think of a better way to start my day or a more beautiful setting to do so. The yoga studio is situated right on the beach and the retractable walls were all open so we could hear the sound of the waves crashing while we flowed through our practice. After building up an appetite we made the short walk over to The Real Coconut – the most adorable, made for Instagram cafe – where I had probably the healthiest meal of my life. In keeping up with the theme in Tulum, everything was incredibly fresh and delicious. We definitely left with happy bellies!

 

Gran Cenote – After breakfast we made our way to Gran Cenote, an amazing cavern/swimming hole. This was definitely one of the highlights of our trip, if not THE highlight. The water is a stunningly clear blue and it literally looked fake in some parts. We had a blast swimming and exploring the multiple caves and looking up at the bats flying around. At one point there was a torrential downpour and it was absolutely surreal. Any trip to Tulum wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Gran Cenote, and when planning your visit make sure to go early to avoid the crowds!

Hartwood – Every person I know that has been to Tulum told me to go to Hartwood for dinner. We made reservations a few weeks in advance and were blown away by how fantastic the food was. Everyone in our group has slightly different palettes (one of which being vegan) so it was really cool to see how the different restaurants in Tulum were able to accommodate our different tastes. Hartwood was no exception as we all slowly died over our meals. One of the most memorable for all of us was the side sweet potato I ordered. It is unlike anything we’ve ever eaten…slowly cooked over a wood stove with honey butter and cacao (?!?!?!). TO.DIE.FOR.

Mur Mur – After dinner we strolled through town and stopped at a few boutiques and bars, but we ended up planting ourselves at the cute little bar at Mur Mur and had a great night. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I don’t drink and have been drunk only once in my life (off two glasses of wine in my old apartment with my fiancé). Considering it was my Bachelorette party, I figured I should let loose a little bit. Two glasses of rose and two shots of tequila later…I was SMASHED. My friends thought it was the most hilarious thing they’ve ever seen. “Our necks should support our heads better.” – Me

Day Three – Saturday

Ahau Tulum – We came to Ahau for breakfast on the beach and I swear to you I had the best breakfast burrito I’ve ever had in my entire life. I used to live in San Diego so that’s saying A LOT.

Beach Day – One of my biggest priorities on the trip was having a day to relax on the beach. Donning the matching bathing suits my besties got for us, we found a public beach next to Azulik and rented lounge chairs for 300 pesos per person (to go toward food and drinks). After living on the freezing East Coast for the past few months this was exactly what I needed.

Posada Margherita – Most likely owned and operated by the creators of Pinterest. This Italian restaurant is one of, if not THE cutest places I have ever been to. We ate right on the beach (as in toes in the sand) during sunset and were basically on one big honeymoon because it was perfect. The pasta is made fresh and was some of the best I’ve had anywhere in the world. Something to note is that Posada does not take reservations and gets really busy during the late dinner hours so if you want to avoid waiting you may want to consider coming early.

Papaya Playa Project – Other than small bars along the main road, Tulum is fairly quiet in terms of nightlife. The one night the town really comes to life is on Saturdays at Papaya Playa Project. This beach bar turned nightclub is right on the water and has multiple levels with various bars scattered throughout. We had planned for this to be the one big night of the trip, but were unfortunately disappointed with how it turned out. The potential this place has is huge, but the whole vibe really fell flat to us. Maybe we were just unlucky, but the DJ on that particular night played nothing but lounge music and it felt like you had to be on drugs to really enjoy it. We put in a solid effort but after a couple hours we decided to head back to our AirBNB, where we ended up having an awesome time drinking and played Heads Up. LOL

Day Four – Sunday

This day was another travel day as we prepared to head home, but we managed to take advantage of our last few hours by using the bikes provided by our AirBNB to explore Tulum Town on our way to breakfast.

DelCielo – Another Instagram worthy cafe located in Tulum Town. Truett literally ordered Huevos Rancheros every day and she said her favorite was at DelCielo, which means A LOT coming from her! I had an acai bowl with a croissant on the side. 🙂

 

Three and a half days in Tulum definitely was not enough when considering all this dream of a beach town has to offer, but I was SO happy with how my Bachelorette trip turned out and I wouldn’t change a thing for the world. A special thank you goes to my best friends who gave me the trip of a lifetime. I can’t wait to return the favor on your future Bachelorettes!

If you have any questions or favorites from your past trips to Tulum you think we should know, please send us a note because we will definitely be back!

xo,

Ashley

Travel TBT: Ashley’s Cross Country Road Trip

My life has been NUTS lately. I moved back to the Bay Area from San Diego last April, and then in December I found out I was moving to Virginia Beach. My fiancé and I immediately bought a house since they’re so affordable in Virginia, and then my brother, my doggy Atlas, and I set off on a cross country road trip to get me to my new home. Neither of us have ever driven across the country, so we wanted to make the most of our trip. If you’re a psycho, you can technically make the trip from California to Virginia in a little less than two days, but we took the most scenic of all scenic routes and took six days. We wanted to be able to see the main things in each city we stopped at, but also didn’t want to take too much time away from driving, so there are a few cities I’d love to go back and explore more in the future. Here is a breakdown of our route:

Day One: San Jose, California -> Grand Canyon, Arizona

This was one of our longest driving days. We wanted to rip the bandaid off and get the long drive over with while we were still fresh. The drive normally takes a little over 11 hours, but we were towing a little five foot trailer behind my Jeep, so between the speed limit and food/restroom stops it took a little over 12 for us to get there.

**Note: When road tripping with a trailer, make sure to look up the trailer speed limits in each state because they vary. California seems to have the strictest/slowest limits, whereas states like Texas are literally 70MPH which is both insane and awesome.

Red Feather Lodge – Because we had Atlas, we had to make sure to find pet friendly hotels along our route. Red Feather Lodge is a no frills hotel/motel combo that is only about seven miles away from the Grand Canyon’s South Rim entrance. Our room was clean and the staff didn’t freak out when they saw my 100lb dog walk in, so that’s always a good sign (a lot of hotels have weight limits on pets so make sure to do your research!).

Day Two: Grand Canyon -> Amarillo, Texas

Since Day One was strictly a travel day, we designated Day Two as our day to explore the Grand Canyon. Neither of us had ever been before and we were dying to see the beauty of the canyon for ourselves. We went to the South Rim because it’s the only part of the park that allows pets. Dogs are allowed on several trails as long as they are paved. My advice to you is to check the weather forecast before you go because the South Rim can get very windy. We were a bit unlucky and had a wind chill factor of like one million and froze our butts off, but the views of the Grand Canyon were 100% worth it. Don’t leave your cameras at home!

**Note: The South Rim has an entrance fee of $25

After exploring the canyon, we got back in the car for an 11ish hour drive to Amarillo, Texas. Amarillo was strictly a pit stop for us, although I’m sure there were spots we could have explored if we had time (ie. Cadillac Ranch – totes could’ve gotten good photos for the ‘gram, but we had other priorities).

Days Inn Amarillo East – We booked our hotels day by day when we decided where we wanted to stop each night. And because we were both on a budget and just needed places to sleep, we went with a “no frills” theme for our accommodations. Cue Days Inn Amarillo East. This hotel was pet friendly, clean, and incredibly cheap. We paid all of $45 for one night and it was great for what we needed.

Day Three: Amarillo -> Waco -> Austin, Texas

This is where our detour began. If we had any time restrictions we would have made a straight shot across the country from Amarillo, but we chose to go the southern route instead.

Waco – If you’re like me and are a huge Fixer Upper fan, you HAVE to stop at Magnolia Market at the Silos. I cannot rave about this place enough…it’s like adult Disneyland. My brother had never heard of Fixer Upper and even he was impressed. The entire property is incredibly well done and thought out, and every single employee I encountered was genuinely the nicest person I had ever met. Atlas was basically a celebrity himself there because all the employees couldn’t get enough of him (and also had doggy treats on hand!).

Most of the property is pet friendly other than the turf area and bakery, so we were able to take Atlas inside the market…which was unbelievable. I wish I could have taken everything home with me. It even smelled amazing. But I do have to say the prices were crazy expensive. Even unreasonable in some cases. But Chip & Jo have created their own little tourist destination in a town no one would ever have considered stopping in before (unless you’re a Baylor fan of course), so I can see how they can get away with the prices.

For lunch we had a selection of food trucks to choose from outside, and we went with Cheddar Box. My brother and I both had The Boss – bacon, gouda, and basil on sourdough bread….which was soo good! We obviously needed dessert as well, so we hit the Silos Baking Co before getting back on the road. We got chocolate chip cookies for our lunch dessert (massive and delicious) and chocolate cupcakes for dinner dessert (so tasty and so moist). 10/10 would recommend!

 

Austin – After exploring all The Silos had to offer, we made the 1.5ish hour drive to Austin, our final stop of the day. I had always heard great things about Austin and was super excited to get there. We didn’t have a whole lot of time, but we wanted to at least see a few of the main sites.

Unfortunately for us, most of the BBQ spots recommended by friends (see Truett’s Austin guide here) were closed by the time we got there (I mean we got in town at 6pm, which isn’t late…ugh), but we were still able to get down on some mean BBQ at Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que. My brother got beef ribs and I got pork, both of which were fantastic. Definitely make sure to get a side of mac and cheese!

The next morning we made our way to the other side of town to get breakfast at Jo’s, home to the notorious “I Love You So Much” wall. What would a trip to Austin be without a basic ass photo in front of it, am I right? Lucky for us Jo’s had outdoor seating because we had Atlas, so my brother and I both ordered and loved the breakfast tacos. He also really enjoyed his flat white coffee (I can’t vouch for it because I don’t drink coffee, but take his word for it!)

After walking around town a bit we hopped back in the Jeep for the next leg of our trip.

Day Four: Austin -> New Orleans, Louisiana 

New Orleans was definitely one of the highlights of our trip. Neither of us had ever been and after eating shitty fast food almost every day, we were excited to get our hands on some good quality, world renowned food.

New Orleans Courtyard Hotel – We knew we were going to have to spend more on a hotel in New Orleans than we had been so far on our trip, but we didn’t want to go too out of our budget so we chose the New Orleans Courtyard Hotel. The hotel itself is really pretty and has a lot of the charm you look for in old New Orleans’ architecture, but I wasn’t exactly thrilled about the location. It’s situated right on the outskirts of the French Quarter and is technically in a safe neighborhood, but it was a little close to some sketchy areas so that’s something to take into consideration. We were completely safe and so was our trailer parked behind the hotel, but instead of walking anywhere we chose to uber instead. The next time I go back to New Orleans, however, I will definitely be staying within the heart of the French Quarter.

Cochon – There are practically millions of good restaurants in New Orleans, so it was really hard to pick which one we should try on our one and only night in the city. Per google’s recommendation, we went with Cochon. The restaurant itself has a great casual vibe and the food is fantastic. We both ordered the braised short ribs and they were sooooo yummy and tender. I think my brother’s favorite part about dinner was the bread they brought to the table…he literally could not stop talking about it lol.

Bourbon Street – No trip to The Big Easy would be complete without a visit to Bourbon Street. Neither my brother nor I drink so we had no intentions of getting on the same level everyone else was on, but we HAD to experience the famous debauchery of Bourbon Street. It wasn’t super crazy because it was pretty cold outside, but I can only imagine what it looks like during the warmer months or Mardi Gras. In case you’re wondering, yes Bourbon Street is gross. Unless you’re completely hammered, there isn’t much appeal (other than amazing people watching), but we did find an awesome jazz bar that we were able to listen/watch live music at. A lot of the locals recommended we go to Frenchmen Street instead, which apparently is the “new Bourbon Street.” We didn’t have enough time to check it out, but I definitely plan to on my next trip.

Day Five: New Orleans -> Atlanta, Georgia

We had planned to start Day Five off by exploring the French Quarter, but a freak storm had started to hit the South and we unfortunately had to change our plans and get on the road. But not before a quick trip to the famous Cafe Du Monde! Let me tell you…IT IS WORTH THE HYPE. I mean, wow. I have the biggest sweet tooth on the planet and the beignets are just DIVINE. I had three to myself, and they are not small. We went to the original French Market location on Decatur Street because 1. we wanted the full experience, and 2. I had read online that they allow dogs on their patio. I was really disappointed when they refused to let us sit down with Atlas, so instead of enjoying our beignets and coffee there, we had to trek back to our car in a rain/hail storm.

After our powdered sugar breakfast, we made what was supposed to be a seven hour drive to Atlanta. The hail in New Orleans eventually turned to snow and it did not stop until we got to Virginia the following day, so the drive ended up taking almost two hours longer than it should have. Apparently most of the south is not equipped for big snow storms, so by the time we got to Atlanta the entire city was shut down. Even fast food and gas stations! We were starving, tired, and sick of being in the car after five straight days…so of course the front desk agent at The Extended Stay we made reservations at took one look at Atlas and said they had a weight limit on pets. This was not listed on their website, and they were unwilling to make an exception considering the massive storm. So at 9pm in the middle of what was basically a deserted island, we had to drive around and find a hotel that would allow a large dog. We eventually found Baymont Inn & Suites in Marietta. The hotel was nothing special in any way, but we were grateful to have a place to shower and sleep. Once we settled in and remembered how starving we were, we drove around to find any sign of life/food. We found Marietta Diner, which I had surprisingly enough seen on an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins, & Dives. Needless to say, our bellies were happy and we were able to end our chaotic day on a good note.

Day Six: Atlanta -> Virginia Beach, Virginia

I’m sure you can imagine how badly we wanted to get the hell out of Atlanta. Luckily we weren’t missing anything by leaving town early because both of us had been there before. Atlanta is great and I definitely recommend checking it out…just don’t go during a freaking blizzard.

The drive from Atlanta to Virginia Beach takes about nine-ish hours, and by that point in our road trip we were just ready to get to our destination. Because the snow hadn’t yet stopped, there was barely anyone on the roads. This actually worked out in our favor though because Sean can drive in the snow blindfolded while towing a semi truck without flinching, so although we were tired, the last leg of our trip was pretty seamless.

Once we got to VA Beach we were down for the count, but we had SO much fun on our trip. I have to admit, before we set off I was worried about how the trip was going to go with Sean. He is hands down one of the coolest people on earth…anyone will tell you that, but six days in a car with anyone can possibly make you go insane. I wasn’t even sure what the hell we would talk about for that long, but all of those worries were silly because we had such a great time. Not only did we get to see some of the coolest sites/cities this country has to offer, but we made quality memories together that we will never forget. Most impressively, we didn’t fight once…not even in Atlanta when our hangry levels were at all time highs.

When planning a road trip, make sure to choose your copilot wisely…and most importantly, have fun and be safe!

xo, Ashley

 

If you’re in need of a good laugh, check out this video of what happens when an antsy 100lb dog is sick of sitting in the back seat.

Travel TBT: Fiji

I traveled to Fiji at the end of 2011/beginning of 2012 with my (now ex)boyfriend, and I can honestly say I have never been more relaxed in my life. 2011 was a rough year for me so I was in desperate need of an escape…and Fiji ended up being just what the doctor ordered. I spent the entire two weeks I was there with absolutely no agenda or itinerary. I woke up when I wanted, ate what I wanted, and chose to spend my days how I wanted. It was incredible, but let me tell you…island fever is REAL. Two weeks is a little TOO much relaxation for even me, and that’s saying a lot because I’m probably one of the laziest people I’ve ever met. If I could have changed anything about the trip I would have probably cut it down to about 10 days, but complaining about being in paradise for too long is definitely a #firstworldproblem so I’ll shut up now.

Viti Levu

We started the trip with a week on Fiji’s main island, Viti Levu. We flew into Nadi and took an hour shuttle ride that passed through some of the country’s most substantial sugar cane plantations to my hotel located on Natadola Beach. Nadi is the main hub for travelers so this is where your trip will start and end whether you’re traveling to one of Fiji’s many islands or heading out to go home.

Intercontinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa – This resort is one of the nicest hotels I have ever stayed in, even to this day. It’s not particularly luxurious or anything, but everything from the grounds to the staff are all first class. Fijians in general are incredibly warm and hospitable people, but everyone at the Intercontinental went out of their way to make sure we enjoyed our stay. Which is pretty important considering this is the type of resort you don’t really leave. It has everything you could possibly want: multiple restaurants serving cuisines from all over the world, an incredible spa with every amenity imaginable, several different pools for all types of uses, a gym in case you’re the type of person that works out on vacation, and of course the beautiful beach the hotel is nestled on. This is the part of the trip we splurged on as it wasn’t exactly cheap, but it was definitely worth every penny.

Biausevu Waterfall – The concierge at the hotel set up an all day hike for us that led to the beautiful Biausevu Waterfall on the Coral Coast. Our amazing tour guide, Chimmy, picked us up from the hotel and took us to a small village to start the hike. This was one of my favorite parts of the trip as we were able to get away from the resort vibe and immerse ourselves into the culture (as best as we could with the short amount of time we had) and see what the real Fiji was all about. This hike is definitely a must if you ever find yourself on Viti Levu!

Tokoriki Island

We spent the second half of the trip on Tokoriki Island. To get there we shuttled back to Nadi from the Intercontinental and took a boat to to Tokoriki. Although Viti Levu is technically an island, Tokoriki gives you more of the island feel as it’s fairly small and is home to only two hotels.

Amunuca Island Resort – Luckily for everyone in the world, this hotel no longer exists. But this is where we stayed so I might as well mention it. Looking back it’s pretty hilarious how bad this place was. The room was a joke, the staff gave zero fucks, and I remember eating an inordinate amount of Pringles that week because the food was THAT BAD. The one redeeming quality Amunuca had was its location, which ended up making up for most of the negatives. Tokoriki Island is an absolute dream with the most beautiful white sand beaches and clear, blue water. We spent most of our time on the beach and in the ocean…tanning, jet skiing, kayaking, snorkeling, etc…so the fact that our hotel sucked didn’t really take away from our experience.

Monuriki Island – The watersport hut at the hotel hosted tours to different nearby islands every day so we chose to visit Monuriki, where the movie Castaway was filmed. The island itself is stunning and once we got there we had a few hours to ourselves to explore and swim. One of the things I couldn’t help but laugh at was the island’s proximity to its neighbors. Tom Hanks literally could have just swam to a hotel and called his wife. Ugh. 😉

Tokoriki Island Resort – On one of our kayak trips, we discovered Tokoriki Island Resort – the only other hotel on Tokoriki Island. The drastic difference between this resort and ours was comical and we immediately regretted not doing better research because Tokoriki Island Resort is AMAZING. I swear even the air felt different on its side of the island. The grounds were spectacular and the staff actually enjoyed being alive. We came here for dinner the night after our discovery and the food was just as delicious as expected. If I ever go back to Fiji this is where I will be staying and I recommend you do the same!

 

When I was initially planning my trip I juggled with the idea of possibly traveling to somewhere other than Fiji, like Bora Bora or the Maldives. You probably can’t go wrong with any of those options, but I am SO glad I chose Fiji. There is so much more to this beautiful place than just the beach and turquoise waters, and having the opportunity to see parts of the country Google doesn’t show and meeting the sweet locals that were beyond proud of their homeland was something I will cherish forever. If you ever have the chance to visit this amazing country you should absolutely take it.

 

xo, Ashley

NYC Day Trip: Dim Sum Brunch to Brooklyn Breweries

One of the best things about living in New York is wandering without a set agenda. A few Saturdays ago, I met some friends for brunch and then wandered before meeting a few other friends for beers. It ended up being a really great day, with tons of walking, here is everything we did!

Stop 1) Brunch at Nom Wah Tea Parlor

Nom Wah Tea Parlor is a dim sum restaurant in Chinatown that is an institution. We got there at noon and put our names down (no reservations). It took about half an hour for a 3 person table, which for brunch in NYC is not bad at all. To kill some time, we got Boba a few doors down on Bayard St. Once they seat you, service is extremely fast! We got a bunch of small dishes (House Special Roast Pork Bun, Shrimp Sui Mai, Scallion Pancakes, Shrimp Rice Rolls and Spare Ribs) and our total was still less than $45. Don’t forget it is cash or American Express only.

Wandering Through Manhattan

We were stuffed when we finished brunch and wanted to walk it off. We knew we eventually needed to get to Brooklyn, so we started walking downtown towards the bridges. Our general route is on the map in the gallery above (about 30 minutes, we were walking slow).

Stop 2) NY Ferry to Brooklyn

I had only ever used the NYC ferry to go to Staten Island, but it is also a great way to get to Brooklyn if you are downtown. It only costs $2.75 and you’ll get a view of the Statue of Liberty as you pass by the Governor’s Island stop! The staff is super helpful but know you have to buy a ticket at the kiosk, then get in line for your taxi. We left from the Wall St. stop in Manhattan and took the East River Route to the Dumbo stop.

Stop 3) Testing Circa: A New Brew Pub

A friend of mine works at Six Point, a really great brewery in Brooklyn. So when he told us to meet him at a new Brew Pub started by one of the main brewers from Six Point, we were sold. Circa is in downtown Brooklyn, which we walked to from Dumbo (about 25 minutes). The beer was great, the space is awesome (you see the brewing right in front of you!) and the food was absolutely delicious! We had the Meat & Cheese Board, The Choke Pizza (artichoke, pesto, sweet peppers blue cheese and mozarella) and Wood Fired Beets.

Stop 4) Beers at Other Half Brewery

Other Half is a paradise for a true beer nerd. I have friends who have waited 6 hours in line to buy one of their limited can releases. That is crazy to me, but you know what? The beer is really good. We walked there from Circa, (about 25 minutes). They recently opened a bigger bar area, it used to be a super tiny storefront. Plus, they sell half glasses so you can try a few things without being too sloshy which is awesome.

It was a great day! Let me know if you try any parts 🙂

xoxo,
Truett

NYC Day Trip: Ward Pound Ridge Hike

Sometimes living in a city as crazy as New York leaves you in dire need of escaping to nature. This weekend I took a great day trip to Ward Pound Ridge Reservation for a hike. A friend and I left the city about 9:45am to drive out, which took about 40 minutes. You could also take Metro North to the Katonah stop and cab the 6 miles from the station, you just may have issues getting a cab/Uber/Lyft back if you don’t have service at Ward Pound and would have to walk to the main road.

We got to the reservation, paid our $10 entry, parked at the lot on Michigan Road ($10 entry) and started off on the route the park ranger at the entrance suggested for us by 10:30am (highlighted above). It took about 4 hours and was relatively flat, with one area of steeper hills near the bottom of our hike after you pass Spy Rock and Stairs that gets your heart rate going and makes the whole hike feel like you got a workout in.

This hike was particularly great because it’s so close to the city, but at no point would you know it. You’re completely surrounded by nature, even when you get to the overlooks. Usually with hikes this close to the city, you end up with a view of the freeway or towns at some point. We got a little lost at one point (you’ll see we went off the map trail onto the BRLA trail by accident) and were helped by a super friendly local. Everyone says hello as you pass by, the hike has a great local community feel.

When we finished, we stopped at the first deli we saw (Fifth Division Market at the 35/121 junction) and scarfed down sandwiches. Then we headed back to the city (with a pit stop at the Scarsdale Trader Joes) and were back by 4pm! Perfect Saturday.

xoxo,
Truett

Travel TBT: Rome

I was 16 the first time I went to Rome, but it wasn’t until I went back at 23 (in 2012) that I was able to fully appreciate the Eternal City for all that it is and has been throughout history. Italy is one of my top three favorite countries for so many reasons, and Rome epitomizes each and every one of those reasons: the culture, beautiful people, history, gorgeous landscapes and architecture, and of course…the food. As a Croatian girl who loves herself some lamb and potatoes, I have no qualms about saying Italian food is my absolute favorite cuisine in the entire world. And where else to get your favorite food than where it all began?

Food

One of my favorite things about Rome is that you can walk into any random restaurant and have one of the best meals of your life without even planning it. I pride myself on eating healthy and taking good care of myself, but all bets are off when I’m in this magical city. The cheese, the bread, the prosciutto, and GELATO…it’s what dreams are made of. And if you’re the type that needs any sort of justification, just remember that the amount of walking you’ll be doing while exploring Rome practically requires you to carb load…so you might as well enjoy it!

Alfredo Alla Scrofa – World famous for their Fettuccine Alfredo. The first time I ate here was for dinner in 2006 while on a family vacation. We were at the restaurant in the middle of the World Cup final match between Italy and France, and the entire city erupted as soon as the Italians won. One of the coolest nights of my life. I returned to Alfredos on my most recent trip to Rome and it was just as good as I remembered. I can’t vouch for anything on the menu other than the Fettuccine Alfredo (and tiramisu!), but I imagine everything else is just as fantastic.

Roma Sparita – If you’re a No Reservations fan like me, you might be familiar with this little gem located in the heart of the city. Anthony Bourdain is pretty much always right, so if I were you I’d trust his advice and make this spot a must.

***More often than not I see people (especially Americans) complain about poor service in European restaurants. The service industry is not the same in Europe (and the rest of the world for that matter) because they don’t work for tips, so if you equate your entire experience to the service you receive you’re going to have a bad time. My advice is to enjoy the food and don’t take anything personally!

Hotel

Navona Palace – There’s nothing particularly special about this hotel, but the location is perfect, the rooms were super clean and fairly updated, and the included breakfast was pretty darn good. Most importantly, the price is hard to beat. I’m not into breaking the bank on hotels I’m hardly ever in while I travel, so if you’re the same you just might find Navona Palace perfect for you.

Sightseeing

Like I said earlier, you will be doing a LOT of walking, so get yourself a map and a good pair of shoes and get ready to rack up the mileage! You’ll also want to familiarize yourself with the public transportation system in the city as not everything is within walking distance. If you’re a history nerd like me, you’ll definitely appreciate the following list of my favorite spots to hit:

Vatican City – You’ll want to give yourself AT LEAST a few hours, if not half a day, to explore both the Vatican and its museum. I took a guided tour on my first trip to the holy city, and I’m so glad I did because there is sooo much to learn and absorb. *Quick tip for the ladies: If you visit in summer you’ll want to bring along a scarf to cover up your shoulders and lower body. The heat is brutal so you can’t be expected to walk around Rome in long sleeves, but you won’t be allowed into the Vatican unless you’re covered. One last thing…if you’re petty like I am and are on a quest to visit as many countries as you can in your lifetime, you’ll be excited to know that the Holy See is technically its own country! Kinda feels like cheating, but whatever!

Colosseum – Audio tours recommended! Give yourself at least an hour or two here.

Piazza de Spagna – Great for shopping, especially for high end designers if you’re into that. If not, take a gelato break on the Spanish Steps instead.

Trevi Fountain – Especially beautiful at night. Bring some coins and make a wish!

Pantheon – Rome’s best preserved monument. Definitely worth a visit.

Piazza Navona – One of the most beautiful squares in the city. It’s the perfect place to stop for lunch (and gelato obviously) or people watch by the Fountain of Neptune.

Roman Forum – Home to a plethora of ancient ruins. Give yourself enough time to wander around and take it all in.

 

In all reality you probably need a month to experience all that the Città Eterna has to offer, but if you only have a few days you’ll have a solid itinerary with the above list. Some of the best advice I can give you is to make sure you don’t rush through your time here. At any given moment you could be standing in the same spot where some of the most significant events in our world’s history took place. We’re not talking hundreds of years ago…we’re talking thousands. Take a seat, order some prosciutto and mozzarella, and let that all soak in.

Ciao ciao!

xo, Ashley