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: 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.