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: 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