Travel TBT: Greece

I traveled to Greece during the summer of 2010 with my two older brothers, Sean & Anthony, and one of my best friends, Liz, after having been on a family vacation in Croatia. Since traveling within Europe is so easy, we decided to break off from the old folks and hop on down to our Mediterranean neighbor. Whether it was the rich history, beautiful islands, unbelievable nightlife, amazing company, or just a combination of everything…this trip will go down in history as one of the best of my life. If you go anywhere in Europe, (other than Croatia obviously) GO TO GREECE. I’m going to attempt to put it all into words, but you just have to to see it for yourself.

 

Santorini 

We flew into Santorini after a quick layover in Athens, and were literally speechless from the moment we arrived. This place is like lights out amazing. Game over, send everyone home because the Greeks already won life, amazing. Just WOW. We stayed in Oia, which is where you absolutely need to stay if you ever go to Santorini. It’s a decent drive from the airport so we rented a car and drove to our perfect, amazing, wonderful, insanely surreal little hotel…(I’m going to run out of adjectives to describe this island)

Alexander’s Boutique Hotel of Oia – This hotel isn’t anything crazy or exceptional in terms of amenities, and the rooms can be considered to be a bit outdated (keep in mind I was there seven years ago), but none of that matters even in the slightest because this place is RIDICULOUS. It’s built into the side of the mountain/volcano and overlooks all of Oia and the vast, deep blue Aegean Sea beyond it. Think of the little white houses with blue doors…that is exactly what this hotel is. We stayed in a cave house with a private balcony and were served breakfast on that very same balcony every morning. I kid you not those breakfasts were some of the highlights of our entire trip. Imagine waking up every morning to the most surreal view of the water with a fully set breakfast consisting of Greek yogurt with honey, hard boiled eggs, fresh fruit, chocolate croissants, and Greek coffee. That is what I call paradise. The service was impeccable and the cost of the hotel was incredibly reasonable considering what we got for the price. Please book your stay here and send me pictures of your breakfasts.

Catamaran Trip – We booked a catamaran tour on one of the four days we had in Santorini and it was one of the best days of the trip. It wasn’t cheap, but it was definitely worth it as the trip lasted about eight hours and included all the food and drinks we wanted. There were about 10 other people onboard with us and everyone was pretty much either celebrating their honeymoons or anniversaries…anddd I was with my brothers. But we honestly had a fantastic time and weren’t too upset about having to constantly explain that “no he’s not my husband, he’s my brother.” The catamaran took us all around the island and would stop occasionally for swimming and snorkeling. One of the “highlights” of the tour was supposed to be the hot springs we stopped at. The water was luke warm at best and everyone just slopped mud all over their bodies. If anything it was entertaining.

Food – Since it’s been seven years since I went to Greece, I don’t remember any of the restaurants we ate at. However, I do remember how unbelievable the food was. You can’t go wrong with any restaurant in Oia…just be prepared to let all your inhibitions go because you won’t be able to stop eating. I think I ate a minimum of one gyro per day (sometimes two). They put french fries INSIDE the pita and it takes you straight to the Holy Gates. God Bless you and your food, Greece!

Sunset in Oia – Oia is famous for its beautiful sunsets, and trust me they do not disappoint. After dinner one night make sure to make your way to the top of the village (you won’t be able to miss it, there will be HUNDREDS of people gathered around) to witness the beauty for yourself.

Black Sand Beach – Since our hotel was high up on the cliff, we weren’t able to access the water very easily. Because of this we didn’t spend much time down there, but we did take one day to drive down to one of the black sand beaches. There are several to choose from and are great for laying out and relaxing.

 

Mykonos 

We specifically came to Mykonos to party…and party we did! This island is straight nuts. Plain and simple. It makes Vegas look like a joke (let’s keep it real though, all of Europe’s nightlife does). Looking back, I have no idea how I was able to hang with the rest of the psychos on the island because I was completely sober the entire time. All I need is good music and a dance floor and I can hang with the best of ’em!

Hotel Madalena – After taking a ferry from Santorini to Mykonos, we checked into Hotel Madalena for just one night. We had a short amount of time in Greece and wanted to squeak Mykonos into our itinerary, so when planning our trip we knew that sleep would not be on the agenda for the 24 hours we were there. Almost immediately after arriving, my brothers rented scooters and of course got into an accident. Anthony literally had to be rushed to the hospital (all while I was at the hotel with my friend freaking out) and had to have his face stitched up. He looked like he had gotten into a fight and lost like a chump. Shoutout to universal healthcare though because he didn’t have to pay a dime. (This was also during the Greek bank crisis)

Cavo Paradiso – My brother wasn’t going to let a busted face get in the way of a good time, so he rallied and we went out to Cavo Paradiso, an outdoor club that is home to some of the best DJ’s in the world. We had the time of our lives and danced until the sun came up (9am to be exact).

 

Athens

After not having slept at all the night before, we flew to Athens for the last leg of our trip. My brothers had friends in Athens so they took off with them as soon as we landed, but my friend and I were too exhausted to exist so we made our way to the hotel to crash. I don’t remember the name of the hotel, but I would not recommend it as it ended up being closer to the sketchy part of the city than we had expected. We were hardly ever in the hotel so it wasn’t a huge deal, but I’d recommend doing better research than we did.

Bouzoukia – I missed out on this due to prioritizing my sleep, but my brothers went out to one of these clubs and from what I can tell by the pictures had an amazing time. I’ve heard from several people that these are a must.

Sightseeing – I’m a huge history nerd and was absolutely stoked for this part of our trip. Ancient Greece is literally where it all began and I made sure to drag my hungover brothers to every last spot. We had one day in Athens and hauled ass to see everything. (You really only need one day in Athens to be completely honest) Here are the spots we were able to see:

-Theatre of Dionysos

-The Odeon of Herodes Atticus

-The Acropolis

-The Parthenon

-The Erechtheion

-New Acropolis Museum

-Hadrian’s Arch

-The Temple of Olympian Zeus

-Panathenaic Stadium…the ORIGINAL Olympic Stadium

***Having been a track athlete, this was one of the most surreal moments of my life. Bucket list!

 

…like I said, we hauled ass.

 

I’ve caught myself smiling several times while writing this post because I have incredibly fond memories of both this trip and Greece in general. If you’re looking to plan one of the best summers of your life, make sure Greece is on your list. Whether you’re looking to relax in a romantic setting or dance until your feet fall off, this beautiful country has something for everyone.

xo, Ashley

Travel TBT: Thailand

I traveled to Thailand with two of my best friends in January 2014 and had the time of my life. I had always heard amazing things about Thailand, but it was my first time traveling to Asia so it was definitely a step outside of my comfort zone. Forget all that nonsense though because I never wanted to leave! The country itself is unbelievably gorgeous, the people are so incredibly kind, and the food is to die for. Here are some of the highlights of our trip:

 

Phuket

We started our trip on Phuket, which turned out to be my favorite part because the island is insanely beautiful and there are so many fun things to see and do. After a loooong day of traveling we arrived at our fabulous hotel, Kalima Resort & Spa. At check in they were hilariously apologetic about having to upgrade us to a private villa because the room we originally booked was no longer available. Let me just say, there was NOTHING to apologize about. The grounds of the resort are stunning and the views are even better. 100/100 would recommend.

Sightseeing: We hired a driver to drive us around to the main sights in Phuket one day and it was the best decision we could have made. He was super hospitable and genuinely enjoyed showing us around. The spots we hit were: Big Buddha, Wat Chalong, and Tiger Kingdom. The next day the concierge at our hotel set up an elephant trek for us and we had a blast. I know this topic is controversial among some circles, but at the time it wasn’t really spoken about.

Phi Phi Island – We took a catamaran tour that took us to a few different islands around Phuket, including Phi Phi Island and Maya Beach (where The Beach was filmed). There were probably 20ish other people on the boat and we all had an incredible time. The boat would stop every once in a while for snorkeling and we had more than enough time to explore every island we stopped at. This was one of the highlights of our trip so if you go to Phuket you HAVE to do it.

Bangla Road/Patong Beach – The infamous Bangla Road! This place comes alive once the sun goes down and you better make damn sure you have your party pants on. Just walking down the street is entertaining enough, but if you want to partake in any of the festivities you have plenty of options. Open air bars with dancers flying around on stripper poles line the streets, lady boys strut around in full on character mode, and little Thai men work their asses off convincing tourists to check out the ping pong shows. If you’re feeling like a near death experience to cap off your night, I would suggest taking a tuk tuk ride back to your hotel. Just make sure to pick the right one!

Food – I am kicking myself in the ass as I write this because I cannot for the life of me remember the name of the restaurant I had the best meal of the trip at. My only wish is that you stumble upon it just like we did because the food is unreal. Just in case, here are a few I actually do remember:

Baan Rim Pa Kalim: This restaurant is within walking distance from our hotel and both the food and atmosphere are fantastic. The views are amazing and the Pad Thai is even better. I hope you’re not on a diet while on your trip because I’m also going to recommend that you order the fried rice because it will ROCK YOUR WORLD. It’s not just at this one spot though, something about the fried rice in Thailand is just plain unbelievable. Please do me a favor and order it everywhere you go. Thank you.

Savoey: We came here the night we went to Patong Beach after it was recommended by a local. This restaurant is a Patong staple and the food is super freaking good. You can literally pick out your seafood, that’s how fresh it is. Make sure to order the coconut ice cream!

 

Koh Samui

We flew into Koh Samui from Phuket and stayed at Nora Beach Resort & Spa. The grounds of the resort are nicer than the actual rooms, but we were almost never in the room anyway so it wasn’t a huge deal. What we loved most about this hotel was the crack in a glass watermelon juice they greeted us with upon our arrival. I honestly think we ordered it like three times a day after that. IT’S THAT GOOD. Another highlight was the Thai massages we got almost immediately after checking in. Make sure to get at least one wherever you stay because you’ll be in Heaven. Unfortunately for us the weather wasn’t that great while we were in Koh Samui so we weren’t able to take advantage of the beautiful beaches as much as we would have liked, but we still had a good time.

Spirit House – The ambience of this restaurant is so amazing and the food is on the same level. If you don’t eat anywhere else in Koh Samui you have to go here.

Ladyboy Show – The ultimate Thai nightlife experience. These women are so fierce they burn the house down. This was our favorite night in Koh Samui and is a total must. I’m pretty sure this is the birthplace of AsiaSF. You betta werk, bitch!

 

Bangkok

We saved our last day and half for Bangkok and I kid you not the city announced an official state of emergency an hour after we got there. We were literally in the middle of the 2014 Thai coup d’etat and were freaked the F out. Luckily tourists were safe so we were free to *cautiously* carry on with our touristy agendas. For some reason a lot of people don’t recommend going to Bangkok, but we really loved it. The city atmosphere is definitely a drastic change from the island life we had been living for the past week, but there is so much going on and the culture is so rich that it would honestly be stupid to miss.

Banyan Tree Hotel – We splurged for the last leg of our trip and got a suite at the fabulous Banyan Tree in the heart of the city. Splurging is a bit of an exaggeration because that same hotel anywhere else would be wayyyy more expensive. The rooftop bar/restaurant is the highest in the city and the views are incredible. The food and drinks are equally as incredible, however the proper definition of splurge is suitable in this situation because $$$$$$.

Wat Po – The temple is gorgeous and the Reclining Buddha is enormously impressive. The Palace is within walking distance to the temple, but make sure you don’t go on a Sunday like we did because it it will be closed.

Chatuchak Market – This is the world’s largest weekend market and has everything from jewelry to puppies (literally). You can spend an entire day weaving in and out of the different stalls. Have fun and make sure to put your best bargaining hat on!

 

Thailand still is and will most likely always be one of my favorite countries. The country is so naturally beautiful and you really get the chance to immerse yourself into the culture. I never realized I loved Thai food (and Thai Tea, omg) as much as I did, but my obsession still continues to this day. If you’re on a budget this is the perfect place to travel to as your money will stretch further than you’d expect and you’ll realize you don’t have to break the bank to have an amazing vacation!

 

Khawp khun, kha!

Ashley

Travel TBT: Mexico City

In March 2015, I went to Mexico City with two of my best friends. I’d heard from several people that I was going to fall in love with the city, and they were all right. Mexico City is unlike any other. It has a vibe you can only understand if you experience it. It is a vast city with so much culture…you have to be on constant alert to take it all in. Below are some of my favorite things I did while there. GO!

Food

I hesitate to even write anything here, because so much of the food in Mexico City is insanely good. You can really walk in most places and be happy. My two standouts (other than random street tacos that were incredible and I have no idea how to tell you where they were):

Brunch at Cafebrería el Péndulo: This bookstore also has a great brunch. There are a few locations, but we tried the one in Condesa. It’s visually stunning and really cute to eat in what feels like a library.

Fish Tacos at El Pescadito: There will be a line to order and sit, but it is SO worth it. The fish tacos here are unbelievably good.

Sights

Shopping at Mercado Roma: Mercado Roma is like the Chelsea Market of Mexico City. There are a ton of little shops to buy all sorts of goodies. There are also food stalls there.

Street Art and Galleries: There is street art EVERYWHERE in Mexico City. Be sure to walk around to see. I’d particularly suggest you go to the La Roma neighborhood (same neighborhood Mercado Roma is in) and Condesa neighborhood (where Cafebrería el Péndulo is) and walk the streets. I also really enjoyed the exhibits at Fifty 24MX, a gallery in La Roma.

Historic Center of Mexico City: This is the main square in downtown, where government buildings are. You can put in the Palacio Nacional in maps to get there. If you’re lucky like we were, you will see a lot of traditional dancing and music being performed. Wander the streets here and you’ll see some incredible old restaurants and bars.

The National Museum of Anthropology: This museum is absolutely enormous, but a must see. It goes through the entire history of Mexico and includes some insane artifacts that date back to the Incans and Mayans.

Frida Kahlo’s House/Museum: This is worth the trip. Frida’s house is gorgeous and completely intact. The art is gorgeous and they have a wide array of her clothing on display.

Pulque: Pulque is an alcoholic drink made from fermented agave. There are pulquerias all over city so stumble into any in the afternoon and you’ll find happy hour and people relaxing with friends after work or school.

Stay

Airbnb: We stayed in an Airbnb and it was cheap, easy, super clean and convenient. Look in the “La Roma” and “Condesa” neighborhoods.

Hostel: My friends left a day before me so I stayed one night in a hostel alone. I was a bit terrified, as I’ve never stayed alone in another country before, but it was great! I stayed in Hostel 333 in a communal room, which you can also book on Airbnb. It was perfectly fine. The breakfast was solid!

xoxo,
Truett

Mealprep Monday: Baked Tilapia Salads

This recipe is one of my favorite easy meals. I usually keep tilapia in the freezer. It defrosts super quickly, so this is also great for a quick dinner. 

INGREDIENTS:

COOK:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Spray foil covered baking sheet with coconut oil. Place tilapia evenly across the sheet.

Layer tomato slices on top of tilapia pieces. Spread onions evenly across fish and foil.

Season to your taste, I like to make a thick coating of seasoning over all the layers. Place 1 lemon slice on each piece of fish.

Bake for 25 minutes or until tilapia is baked through and vegetables are slightly caramelized.

ASSEMBLE:

In tupperware: layer 1/2 brown rice, sprinkle on soy sauce.

Add 1.5 pieces of fish and vegetables to each tupperware.

Put a handful of lettuce into a sandwich baggie and place in your tupperware.

When ready to eat: remove lettuce and microwave rice and fish for 1.5 mins (or until warm). Add back lettuce. Add dressing. Cover and shake your tupperware. Eat!

NOTES:

Sandwich bags are my FAVORITE for meal prep. I don’t like my food to touch before I’m ready to eat it (I’m weird).  Plus, I really like to keep things from getting soggy and this makes it so you don’t have to use multiple tupperware if one item needs to be re-warmed. They are also super inexpensive. Get some!!

You can add all sorts of veggies to this when you bake it! In the past, I’ve also done bell peppers. I’ve also sautéed kale separately and eaten this as a dinner instead of having it over lettuce.

Travel TBT: Peru

In October 2014, I traveled to Peru with my fiancé and our friends for a hiking trip through the Andes to Machu Picchu. Although we were exhausted and frozen 90% of the time, we fell in love with this beautiful, culturally rich country and its incredibly kind people. Our trip lasted about eight days (including travel days), and we were on the move the entire time. There is so much of the country that we weren’t able to see, but we took advantage of every day and were able to hit the main spots in the little time we had. Here’s a look at our itinerary while in Peru:

 

Lima

We flew into Lima and spent a day and a half exploring this beautiful coastal city. Every four years, the government bans alcohol for two days throughout the entire country during its national elections. And of course we just so happened to be in Lima for those two days, so that put a bit of a damper on the beginning of our trip (I don’t drink so it didn’t matter to me). However there was plenty to see, do, and EAT to keep us busy.

Foresta Hotel Lima – Located in the San Isidro neighborhood of Lima. The staff was super friendly, the rooms were modern and clean, and the included breakfast was fantastic. The hotel is a decent cab ride away from the heart of the city, so take that into consideration when deciding where you want to stay. We actually enjoyed being in a more quiet part of town as Miraflores is very crowded and busy.

Hanzo – A fantastic Peruvian Japanese fusion restaurant a few blocks away from our hotel. There is a heavy influence of Asian cuisine in Peru that dates back to the late 1800s when Chinese and Japanese workers migrated to the country. The food at Hanzo is delicious, especially the sushi as Lima is right on the Pacific Ocean.

Miraflores – Located right on the water, Miraflores is one of the main tourist attractions in Lima. This is where you’ll find all the best shopping, restaurants, and hotels.

-To Do: Parque Kennedy, Huaca Pucllana, Larcomar, Lovers Park

Plaza de Armas – aka Plaza Mayor. This is Lima’s main square, and it consists of all the main government buildings/palaces. The square boasts beautiful landscaping and fountains and is a great place to hang out and people watch.

 

Cusco

Cusco was definitely our favorite part of the trip, other than Machu Picchu. It really felt like we were able to dive into the culture and get a feel for what Peru was all about. Since our main reason for traveling to Peru was to hike to Machu Picchu, we traveled to Cusco a few days before our excursion took off so we could explore the city and properly acclimate to the altitude (over 11,000 feet). Altitude sickness is no joke and if you plan on doing a similar hike I would HIGHLY recommend getting to Cusco early so you can avoid it. I would also recommend purchasing Dramamine and taking a pill every day you’re in Peru.

Pariwana Hostel – We stayed at this adorable hostel not too far from Plaza de Armas, the main city square. This place is every Pinterest lover’s dream. We got a private room, but there are several other options to choose from. The food was casual but really yummy, and the cafe area was super warm and cozy. I wouldn’t have wanted to stay anywhere else.

Chicha – We came here for lunch on our first day in Cusco and it was a fantastic introduction to the city. Think farm to table Peruvian food. Definitely worth checking out.

Inka Grill – Our favorite restaurant in Cusco. We ate here 2-3 times. My favorite meal was the Lomo Saltado, an authentic Peruvian dish that consists of beef, rice, and potatoes (Peruvians are big on double starches…CARBS!) Make sure you order it at least once while in Peru because it’s fantastic. My fiancé ordered the guinea pig one night just to say he tried it (sad, but it’s a national staple). Luckily he didn’t like it, but if you’re feeling adventurous give it a try.

Mercado Central de San Pedro – a HUGE market on the outskirts of town. You can find anything from fresh flowers to fresh meat, souvenirs, and clothing. A must do.

Cristo Blanco – Hire a cab to take you up to the statue of Christ at the top of Cusco. The views of the city from there are amazing.

Sacred Valley – We took half a day to explore the Sacred Valley and Pisac, the cutest little village about an hour from Cusco. There is an outdoor market with vendors selling “real alpaca fur” merchandise. I put it in quotes because the big joke is that almost 90% of the stuff they say is real is fake. But if you get your hands on the real stuff you’re going to want to buy it! We ate lunch at Pisac Inn and had the most delicious empanadas.

Lares Valley Trek – And now the adventure begins! Before we left for Peru we scheduled our hike through Dos Manos, the most amazing tour guide company that we would 200% recommend for any excursion. Our guide was Daniel and I cannot rave about him enough. He and our sherpas were half the reason our experience was so wonderful. While in Cusco we went to their office to go over the itinerary, and on the morning our hike began they picked us up from our hostel and drove us to the starting point. Most people hike the Inca Trail while in Peru, but we chose Lares Valley for the intimacy. We literally did not see another human being for almost three days and it was so cool because you get to see a part of the earth that is still virtually untouched. Even the people that live in the mountains live with very little means in tiny little stone houses. No electricity. Almost no interaction with anyone outside of their own little world. It’s a great reality check for us spoiled Americans. **Make sure to bring candy with you because if you do run into any little kids while on your hike you’re going to want to have some on hand for them. The views along the trek are surreal. I don’t even know where to begin. Pictures don’t do them justice. You are truly in God’s country while hiking through the Andes. The hike wasn’t excessively hard (Daniel was shocked at how fast our pace was (shoutout to the college track days 💪🏻), but the progressively increasing altitude is what gets you. The highest point of our trek was 15,000 feet, which is no joke. We camped at 14,000 feet and I experienced hypoxia for the first time in my life. My entire body froze up and I couldn’t move. It felt like that tingling sensation you feel in your legs after they fall asleep, but times 100. The bipolar climate is something important to consider when packing for the trip. At different points throughout the hike we were in snow, then torrential downpours, then the hot rain forest. It was so awesome to have experienced all those climates within such a short period of time, but you have to remember to be ready for them. We packed everything from rain jackets, puff jackets, water proof hiking pants, thermals, and thick socks to shorts, tank tops, and T-shitrts. One of the best parts about having chosen Dos Manos was the extent to which they went to ensure that we had a seamless, comfortable experience. We thought we’d be straight backpacking, but the sherpas brought along horses to carry all of our belongings, including all of their equipment. I kid you not these horses were carrying EGGS. Soft, easily broken eggs…through the uneven, rocky, snowy, slick ANDES. It was crazy. The sherpas (who wore sandals to hike in, wtf) set up our camps for us, set out hot water for us every morning to brush our teeth and wash our face with, and set up and cooked in the most awesome little dining tent. I don’t know how they did it, but they were somehow able to cook us gourmet meals in the middle of no where by just bending down in the dirt and working over a little portable stove. Hands down the most impressive people I’ve ever met. Not only that, but they were so kind and helpful. I just can’t gush over them enough.

Aguas Calientes/Machu Picchu – We hiked up until we got to Aguas Calientes, a little river town directly under Machu Picchu. We stayed in a hostel where we were able to have our first real shower in days, and then woke up at 5am the next morning to head up. If you don’t hike the Inca Trail, you have to take a bus up a sketchy hill to Machu Picchu. You want to go early to avoid the massive crowds, but there will still be some tourists even at that time. Once you get to the top you won’t be able to utter a single world. Machu Picchu is worth every single bit of hype. It was and will always be one of the most remarkable places I will have ever been. Make it a life goal of yours to go there one day. And if you do, make sure to schedule a trip up to Wayna Picchu. After exploring the ruins for a few hours, we hiked up Wayna Picchu, the huge mountain directly adjacent to Machu Picchu. Only a certain amount of people are allowed to go up per day, which is why you have to book it in advance because it is so worth it. Soak it all in. Not many people can say they’ve been to one of the Wonders of the World.

 

This was one of those once in a lifetime trips that I will never forget. I hope you have the opportunity of visiting this amazing country one day because you truly will truly never forget it.

 

xo, Ashley

Travel TBT: Vancouver, Canada

I had the incredible opportunity to go to Vancouver, Canada last week for work. We were there to shoot nine commercials in three days, which meant non-stop working. However, we came a day early to explore and it was the BEST decision we could have made. We had enough time for food and some site-seeing and y favorites are below:

Site-Seeing

Lynn Canyon Park + Suspension Bridge: There is a more famous suspension bridge, called Capilano Suspension Bridge that is longer and generally more famous (but costs $40), so we opted to do Lynn Canyon, which is free. It was gorgeous. The hike involves a lot of stairs, but is overall easy and will only take you an hour and a half to two hours. At one side of the hike there is an ADORABLE country store that is an absolute must do, where we got quite a few souvenirs (in my case, Canadian sauces), called The End of the Line General Store (not kidding, it’s SO cute). We did the entire loop on the map, including the Baden Powell trail.

Sea to Sky Highway (Highway 99): My boss and I were told by several friends before this trip that this drive is a MUST DO, and they were SO RIGHT. We simply put Highway 99 into our Google Maps from Downtown and started driving. It is the kind of drive where you have to be careful to not get in an accident because the scenery is SO UNBELIEVABLE. It’s a bit hard to get good pictures, a lot of the shoulder’s where you can stop have trees that block you from getting the entire amazing view in one photo. There is a sea to sky gondola (that we didn’t have time for) that people recommend. Your best bet is to try a few exits that strike your fancy and try to get as close to the water as you can for photos, try Porteau Cove or Lions Bay for some great pictures.

Horseshoe Bay: We were in the middle of Googling “good places to stop on Highway 99” when we approached the exit for Horseshoe Bay, so we decided to go for it. I’m so glad we did. The downtown/waterfront area is an adorable little walk. You can go out to the docks, walk the little town, and get food within an hour or two.

Downtown Waterfront: There is a ton of great food and you can rent bikes and ride along the water for a few miles. Everything in Vancouver is gorgeous and pristine (the lack of trash is insane!), but this is super pretty.

Gastown: We drove through here on our way back and didn’t have time to stop, but I would suggest it if you have time. It feels very old world and had a ton of shopping, bars, and restaurants. (Ashley recommends Ask For Luigi if you’re in the mood for some good Italian!)

Food

In Horseshoe Bay:

Olive and  Anchor: Again, Google was the official sponsor of this trip ;). We googled best fish and chips in Horsehoe Bay and this is what we got. We also ordered their Clam Chowder. Definitely in the top five I’ve ever eaten of either, and I love/know my seafood.

Berry’s Frozen Yogurt: Because you’re allowed to have ice cream on vacation! I got two child’s size scoops so I could try multiple flavors, the salted caramel and coffee were both amazing.

Starbucks: I’m only including this because it’s right on the corner by the bay, is a great place to pee for free, and we parked right across the street for free.

In Downtown Vancouver:

Fanny Bay Oyster BarI wanted Oyster Happy Hour and the internet said this was the best. The internet did not lie. I sat at the bar, where the staff shucked hundreds of oysters flawlessly like machines. The oysters were SUPER fresh and the staff takes great joy in explaining to you the different types so you can explore and really get to know the all the variations. Before I ate here, I really didn’t taste much difference. I also had their baked scallop special (scalloped seared and then rebaked in the shell with mashed potatoes and mushrooms, served with a green bean and artichoke salad with citrus dressing) which was absolutely insane and if they have it when you’re there you MUST get it.

Miku Restaurant: This sushi spot was one of the best meals I’ve had in YEARS. Not only was the service phenomenal and the location insane (it’s right on the water), but the food is absolutely amazing. The place is owned by a Japanese chef who has several locations, including Japan. They do a special style called “Aburi” which you MUST try. It’s hard to explain so I’ll leave that to their amazing staff. Their sashmi was also the most fresh and delicious I’ve ever tasted. The salmon broke apart with just a chopstick. It was surreal. We paired with “Gold Omachi” sake, which was incredible. We then finished with a green tea and matcha dessert that was perfection.

Joe Fortes: This dinner was hosted for our work. It’s got a very old world vibe and is your standard seafood and steak house. Pretty location, solid food. My salmon was really overdone, but everything was otherwise okay. Great for big groups.

Where to Stay

I would vote downtown! We stayed in Hotel Blu, which was a bit expensive for what it is (keep in mind this was a work trip so options were dictated by the company), but centrally located and right by the sports stadiums. But, if you can find an Airbnb in Downtown, it’s a great place to be and still be able to walk or take a super quick cab to a lot of GREAT restaurants and neighborhoods.

Travel TBT: Croatia

I don’t even know where to start. I can give you enough advice to last you an entire summer, but I’ll do my best to narrow it down to just a week or two. My mom was born in Croatia and moved to the states when she was 12. The rest of her family still lives there, so we travel back to visit practically every summer. Over the years, Croatia has become my second home. I want others to love it just as much as I do because I take it personal. This country is unbelievably gorgeous, but it’s so much more than that. The history and culture run incredibly deep, and to get the full experience you need to go all in. Don’t be that yacht week guy/girl. Eat the food, drink the pivo, sit at a cafe all day and get to know the locals. There will never be another place like the old country.

 

My family lives in a small mountain village about an hour outside of Split, so I’m really only qualified to give advice on the southern(ish) part of Croatia as I’ve spent very little time in the north. But like I said before, there’s so much to do that you’re going to have to make multiple trips to really get the full experience. The itinerary I’m giving you will include the cities I visit every summer as they are my favorite places in the world. The only thing I’m not going to include is my family’s village because the mountains are pretty much a no go zone for tourists and you’d probably be looked at like a freak if you somehow ended up there.

 

******Depending on how much traveling around you plan on doing within the country, I would recommend renting a car. There’s not really any public transportation other than those huge tour buses (which are horrible), so just make your life easier and rent a car. Just be careful while driving as the people drive like psychos and other than the new autobahn that doesn’t span the entire length of the country yet (yay developing countries!), your only option will be a two lane road along the coast that might or might not always have guard rails.

 

Makarska:

Fly into Split and drive an hour to Makarska, an adorable little beach town on the Adriatic. I’ve been coming here since I was little, and while people were slowly but surely discovering Croatia, Makarska was able to fly under the radar for a really long time. This is where the people from the mountains take their holidays, but over the last five or so years the tourism industry has taken over. When I’m in Makarska I literally do the same thing every single day for like a week and I freaking love it. I wake up late, head to the beach to bake in the sun for eight hours, go back to my room to take a nap, get ready for a late dinner, and then party all night until the sun comes up. Granted I’m getting older and the party all night thing is becoming more and more rare with every year, but it’s so easy and so fun to just pretend you’re 21 again while in this adorable little town.

Hotel Dalmacija: When I don’t feel like making the 30 minute drive from my grandma’s house to Makarska, I either stay at my aunt’s rental apartment or at Hotel Dalmacija. The hotel is nothing special. Like at all. But it’s cheap, the location is perfect, and you’re never going to be in the room anyway. There are several hotel/apartment options throughout town so you’ll never have any issues finding a place to stay, just make sure you pick a place within walking distance to the beach.

Buba Beach: One part of the super long beach is dedicated to this cool little beach bar that bumps awesome house music all day long. Keep in mind that the beaches in Croatia have rocks, not sand, so it’s totally worth spending the 20ish Kuna (~$4) to rent a lounge chair for the day. When you’re not dancing, drinking, napping, or swimming, take a walk down to the day market on the other side of the beach. The vendors sell a lot of cheesy knick knacks, but there are a lot of good gifts for your friends back home. One thing you should absolutely get is the tanning oil the little old ladies sell along the beach. It’s literally olive oil mixed with lavender, and it will get you the tannest you’ve ever been in your life. I swear by it. (If you’re like Truett and are borderline see through, avoid the oil (and the sun for that matter) and buy the strongest sunscreen you can find)

Cliff Jumping: While on your walk, ask one of the locals where the cliff jumping is. It’s a bit of a hike from the beach, but it’s so much fun and you get some pretty cool views/photo ops. There used to be this awesome little bar with glass floors built into the side of the cliff, but it has since been abandoned. My uncle and the owner used to get hammered together all the time so I’m going to go ahead and assume there was just nothing left for the customers.

Club Deep: Speaking of cliffs, this is where you’re going to want to spend your nights. This club is built into a cliff right across the water from the cliff jumping spot and is just so much fun. It’s not very big but the atmosphere is amazing. Another fun place to dance not too far from Deep is Petar Pan. Remember that in Europe people do not really go out until after midnight, so prepare to stay out until at least 6am. The best part is walking back to your room as the sun comes up just in time for the Pekara (bakery) to open.

 

Dubrovnik:

After spending 2-3 days in Makarska, make the two hour drive along the coast down to Dubrovnik. I fell in love with this city when I was just a little girl, and it’s still my favorite place in the entire world. The wall surrounding Old Town (a UNESCO World Heritage Sight) is intimidatingly beautiful, and the views of the Mediterranean Sea and surrounding mountains are equally as breathtaking. Dubrovnik isn’t just a pretty face though, it’s a history book with hundreds of thousands of pages. The mountains at the top of the city are said to still have mines and shell casings from the war. It’s very easy to be a tourist and appreciate Croatia’s beauty from a surface level perspective, but this country and its people have been through some shit. That very war is why my family came to America. So before I get back to the fun stuff, I just want to ask one thing of you: respect this country, respect the people, and enjoy all that it has to offer. Ok moving on…

Where To Stay: Most of the time I usually just do day trips to Dubrovnik, but on my last visit I decided to stay for a few days and stayed at this Airbnb. The owner is super sweet and the house can be rented as a whole, or you can rent individual rooms that all come with their own bathrooms. No matter where you stay, you want to make sure your hotel or airbnb is in Old Town, which is where you’ll be spending 98% of your time.

Things To Do:

-Walk the wall. Like I said before, the views are amazing. Take note that Croatian summers are HOT. Like hot enough to have given me heatstroke once. So keep water on you at all times. And when you’re at restaurants, don’t be afraid to ask for more ice. Croatians think you’re going to get pneumonia from cold drinks, but just ignore them and get your damn ice.

Game of Thrones Tour: If you’re a GOT fan like me, you’ll know that Old Town Dubrovnik serves as the setting for King’s Landing (where Cersei just recently f’d shit up last season). I’ve never done the tour, but it’s something to do if you feel like nerding out!

Buža Bar: One of the coolest parts of the city. This bar/cafe is built into the rocks on the outside of the wall. You’ll want to spend the better part of one of your days drinking/tanning/swimming/cliff jumping here. You’ll see it while walking along the wall, but It’s pretty hard to actually get to so you’re going to have to ask someone where the little entrance door is.

-Explore the city: walk around the little alleyways, peek into some of the 100+ churches within the city limits, window shop, eat an endless amount of sladoled (ice cream), and do like the Croats do and sit at cafes all day and silently judge tourists/people watch.

Nightlife: If you’re into the club scene, check out Club Revelin. Otherwise there are tons of bars and cafes in Old Town to choose from.

Food:

Avoid eating at any of the restaurants in the main squares as they’re tourist traps with subpar food. The best restaurants will be found within the millions of alleyways. Ragusa 2 is one of my favorites, as well as…

Taj Majal: Great for authentic cuisine. Order the Ćevapi (my favorite Croatian dish) and enjoy!

 

Hvar:

Take a ferry to Hvar from Dubrovnik and give yourself at least three nights here. The island is a dream and perfect for taking a few days to kick back and relax. If you don’t need to relax all day every day, there are tons of fun activities you can partake in both during the day and at night so you’ll get the best of both worlds. Most important of all, Beyonce, Jay-Z, and Blue have been named honorary citizens of Hvar by the mayor himself. While Bey was pregnant with little Blue, the couple (supposedly) came across the Blue Ivy plant while on vacation in Hvar and were inspired to name their daughter after it. Whether it’s true or not, it’s a fact that Queen B and Hov both love Croatia, so you should too.

Amfora Hvar: Other than Dubrovnik (tourist central), Croatia is relatively inexpensive as a whole. Since I spend almost nothing on my trips back to the old country, I always splurge on a few nights at Amfora. The resort has an amazing pool that overlooks the Adriatic (both of which you’ll probably end up spending most of your time at), and is within walking distance to Hvar Town where the harbor and restaurants are located. There are plenty of other options for accommodations on the island if you don’t feel like spending the money, but I wouldn’t know because I choose to treat myself :).

Hvar Fortica Španjola: Wake up early one day and take a hike (more like a brisk walk) up to the fortress at the top of the island. The walk through the city and the alleyways that criss cross through it is fantastic and the views from the fortress are stunning. You’ll get a little history lesson if you actually go inside the castle, but make sure to bring a few Kuna just in case they charge a cover.

Food & Fun:

Divino: My favorite restaurant in Croatia. The setting is beautiful and the food is amazing. Get there just before sunset so you can enjoy the views, and make sure to order at least one dish with black truffles because they’re to die for and are native to Croatia.

Butchery & Wine: Probably the only place in the entire country you can get a real steak (I’m probably lying). The food is delicious and the views of the yachts on the harbor are fantastic.

-Get some gelato after dinner and stroll along the harbor while gawking at all the impressively luxurious yachts you’ll never have the opportunity of stepping on. It’s actually fun…very little sarcasm here. I’m actually serious.

Carpe Diem: One of the tiny islands adjacent to Hvar is home to nothing but Carpe Diem, a beach bar that is accessible only by water taxi. I’ve never been during the day for the beach parties, but I have been to the club at night and to be completely honest it’s either a hit or miss. Remember that nothing good happens before 12am, so keep that in mind if you choose to take the 10ish minute boat ride from Hvar Town. It’s totally possible to have the time of your life here, in which case you can thank me later, but keep in mind that it’s equally as possible you’ll regret going (I sort of warned you). If you want to take the easy route and have a guaranteed good time, hop around the little bars along the harbour in town.

Once your stay in Hvar comes to an end, take the ferry from Hvar to Split instead of heading back to Dubrovnik. The trip is about an hour shorter and you’ll have ended up right where you started. In my opinion, Split isn’t exactly worth exploring (although some people feel differently), but go for it if you have an extra day before your flight leaves.

 

I hope you fall in love with Croatia just as I did so many years ago. If you need advice on any city not listed above, please feel free to reach out! Enjoy!
Xo, Ashley

Travel TBT: Switzerland

I traveled to Switzerland last month with my boyfriend (who became my fiance on the trip!) and we fell head over heels for this beautiful country. Our itinerary was all over the place and we definitely would have done a few things differently had we known better, but now that I do know better I’m basically an expert on what to do and what not to do. We were there for a total of eight days and were able to visit Zermatt, Zurich, Lucerne, and Grindelwald. Something important to note is how insanely expensive Switzerland is. Think of the most expensive place you’ve been to and then times that by ten. We were somewhat prepared for the high costs, but there were definitely a few times where we had to stop and reevaluate our life choices.

 

Zermatt:

After landing in Zurich after a 12 hour flight we made the (not so) wise decision to head straight to the train station for a 3.5 hour ($500 round trip) ride to Zermatt. The train system in Switzerland is super efficient, however we brought a stupid amount of luggage and it turned out to be a pain in the ass so we ended up renting a car for the second half of the trip. Zermatt is a huge tourist destination but totally worth it. Hotels are outrageously priced, but since you’ll never be in your room I’d recommend going with the cheapest option on Bahnhofstrasse, the main road in Zermatt.

Hit the Slopes: We didn’t have enough time to snowboard, but if you have more than a day this is something you MUST do. The Matterhorn serves as the backdrop for every ski slope and the views are incredible.

Hiking: We had perfect weather and started from town and hiked up to and around the mountain range below the Matterhorn. Along the trail we ran into Findlerhof, the coolest restaurant/bar that is a to die for apres ski hot spot and is almost always booked out aka make a reservation way in advance. We stumbled upon this haven that Pinterest wishes it could be before service began, but the waiters were amazing and gave us champagne to toast to our perfect day.

Theodors Stuba: We picked this restaurant for no other reason than we were starving and just happened to walk by, and it turned out to be amazing. We started with fondue and both ordered veal steak for our entrees. 10/10 would recommend.

 

Zurich:

We were both conflicted as to whether or not we should include Zurich on our itinerary as we both heard mixed reviews, but we ended up going and sort of regretted it. There’s just really not much to do here. Old Town Zurich was fun for the two hours it took to see everything, but overall not worth it considering how much there is to see and do throughout the rest of Switzerland. If for some reason you decide to go, here are a few spots to hit:

Sights: Munsterhof Square, Grossmunster Church, Fraumunster Church, Lindenhofplatz, Limmatqui Street, and Bahnhofstrasse for shopping.

Munsterhof – great for lunch while strolling through Old Town. We ran across this place after having visited all of the major sights and had nothing left to do with our day. The sliced veal is crazy good and the restaurant is decorated with original artwork.

Kronenhalle – This place is as iconic as it gets and is an absolute must while in Zurich. Back in the day the likes of Coco Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Picasso, James Joyce, etc could be found posted up at the bar or restaurant. We both ordered wienerschnitzel and rosti, which ended up being one of the best meals of our trip. The only negative part of our experience was the stuffy atmosphere of the restaurant. The dress code is formal and it felt like we were surrounded by a bunch of snobby, jacket wearing, Harvard type yuppies. But if you can get past that and enjoy the meal like we did, make a reservation and go enjoy yourself!

Cafe Sprungli –  Pretty much the only reason we went to Zurich. There are several locations, but you want to make sure you go to this one so you can sit down at the cafe to enjoy dessert and a cup of their famous hot chocolate.

 

Lucerne:

I would recommend skipping Zurich altogether and spending that time in Lucerne instead. We had a day and half here and stayed at Ameron Hotel Flora – a cute, decently priced hotel right in the heart of town. The location was perfect as it was within walking distance of all the main sights and restaurants.

Sights: Chapel Bridge, Old Town, Lion Monument, Lake Lucerne boat cruise, Church of Leodegar

Mt. Pilatus – If you don’t do anything else in Lucerne, you HAVE to do this. Mt. Pilatus is worth every penny as the views from the top are unreal. Block out at least half a day for the trip and treat yourself to some dessert at the hotel at the top of the mountain.

Hotel Villa Honegg – Just about thirty minutes outside of Lucerne is what can only be described as Heaven on Earth. Hotel Villa Honegg will hold a special place in my heart for the rest of my life as not only is it truly one of those once in a lifetime experiences, but the man of my dreams proposed to me during our stay and I could not have imagined a better place for one of the most important moments of our lives. This 5 star hotel is situated at the top of Lake Lucerne and boasts views so breathtaking you almost won’t believe they’re real. We stayed here for two nights and soaked up every single second. The fabulous grounds house just 23 guest rooms, all of which have balconies with views of either the lake or surrounding mountains. The staff is wonderful and you’re treated like royalty throughout your entire stay (little elves run up to your room to turn down your bed and set out your robe and slippers while you’re at dinner). And the pool…the POOL. It is the most luxurious of infinity pools (heated to 80 degrees in the winter) and overlooks Lake Lucerne with beautiful snow capped mountains in the background. After our swims we would snuggle into robes and lounge around the pool under (faux) fur blankets and actually considered canceling the rest of our plans for the trip and extend our stay. I am dying for the day I get to go back and if you ever have the opportunity to visit, take it. You will not regret it.  

 

Grindelwald:

We originally intended on going to Interlaken, but we learned that it is actually just the hub for the mountain towns above it so we decided to skip that and just stay in one of those towns instead. We stayed in a no frills hotel on the main road (the town is so small almost everything is on this one road). Grindelwald is an adorable little village with an endless amount of outdoor activities to choose from. Here are a few that we enjoyed:

Snowshoeing: We took a four hour snowshoeing tour along the base of the Eiger (one of two major peaks in Switzerland, the other being the Matterhorn). We hit perfect weather again and were able to enjoy amazing 360 degree views of both Grindelwald and the surrounding mountains. After our excursion we refueled/warmed up with some fondue and hot chocolate with Baileys at the cozy Bistro Memory.

Jungfrau: aka the Top of Europe. The trip to the top is unreasonably expensive, but it truly is a must do. The lady at the train station failed to tell us that the last train back to town leaves at 4:30pm (it was 1pm and it takes almost an hour to get to the top), so unfortunately we didn’t have the chance to get the full experience. I would recommend going up first thing in the morning because there is SO much to do and you don’t want to miss anything.

 

All in all…go to Switzerland. The whole country looks and feels like you’re in a real life fairytale. Eat fondue every day, enjoy every type of veal preparation that exists, and gorge yourself with Lindt chocolate morning, noon, and night. Treat yourself, don’t cheat yourself! And if you choose to only hit the German part like us, I would recommend you organize your itinerary a little more wisely than we did by starting in Lucerne, followed by a few days at Villa Honegg, then head straight to Interlaken/Grindelwald (maybe even Murren), and then finish your trip in Zermatt before heading back to Zurich to fly out. 

xo, Ashley

Travel TBT: Spain

We hit Spain down and dirty in 9 days in July of 2012: 3 days in Barcelona, 3 days in Ibiza, 3 days in Madrid including travel. It was a lot of moving around, but if you’re in your 20s and up to it, you really can get the highlights checked at most European cities in a couple days if you’re willing to haul ass. Here are some of our favorite things from the trip:

 

Barcelona (Saturday afternoon to Tuesday):

We stayed in a hole in the wall… like we + our suitcases + two twin beds barely fit. But it was on the main tourist street (Las Ramblas) so you know what? Worth it to get things done in 3 days. There are some seriously amazing things to see in Barcelona:

Sagrada Familia: You HAVE to go here. It was designed by Antoni Gaudi and started in 1882 and is STILL not done (supposed to be by about 2028). It will literally blow your mind. Pay to go inside too. The scale of it is just nuts. And you get to see renderings of how it will look when it’s done when you’re inside.

La Boqueria: It’s a huge indoor market where you can get all sorts of fruits, meat, cheese, candy, etc. It’s great to visit for a snack and lunch (or booze!) so go!

Park Guell: Also designed by Antoni Gaudi, this is another must do as the park also has panoramic views of the city. It’s also great to get souvenirs at the shops (in Gaudi’s ceramic tile style) on the way up.

The Waterfront: We walked to the end of Las Ramblas one night and the city has a beautiful waterfront. It’s a great place to go for dinner, here are a few restaurant recommendations.

Palau Guell (Guell Palace): If you’re not already tired of Gaudi at this point (you shouldn’t be!), this is a super cool museum and is located right on Las Ramblas. The rooftop is pretty insane: it’s all the Gaudi mosaic sculpture without the trek all the way to Park Guell.

U.S. Olympic Trials Basketball game: this obviously isn’t going to repeat as the trials for the Olympics just happened to be in Madrid while we were there, but it was super fun (and cheap!) to attend. We would recommend if you’re in an Olympic trials city while they are happening.

 

Ibiza (Tuesday afternoon to Thursday):

We stayed in what we can only assume is a quintessential party hotel in Ibiza, Apartments Bora Bora: no frills, party on the beach the entire day and decent showers/beds. It was cheap (if you didn’t get the trend yet, we were on a budget)… we can’t say you’ll love it.

In Ibiza, we basically lounged on the beach all day (Truett got a lovely sunburn due to Irish genes, Ashley turned annoyingly golden brown due to Croatian genes.. Can you tell who wrote this?). We hit a different club each night.*

1st night club: Amnesia. We were a bit bummed because we initially bought tickets to see Skrillex here (yes people, it was 2012). But Axwell ended up headlining and it ended up being amazing. You don’t realize until you go to a real ass club in Ibiza that clubs can actually DO crazy stuff rather than you just existing in them. This club had amazing waves of cool steam air that surged throughout the entire space every 20 minutes (particularly amazing because people are allowed to smoke inside, plus it’s a million degrees). Then, these light sticks came down from the ceiling in various patterns.. And fire blew of the DJ booth… We were dead sober (Ashley doesn’t drink and I was saving money) and had one of the best dancing nights of our lives.

2nd night club: Pacha. It’s hard to have not seen the Pacha cherries logo in your lifetime… the place is a legend and has other outposts around the world. And you know what, the club was hella fun. We thought the layout was a bit funny in terms of finding a place to actually dance, but we still had a great time.

 

Madrid (Thursday Night to Sunday):

We stayed in the Roommate Hotel Madrid, which we LOVED and would recommend to anyone. It’s a low priced hotel that’s also a chain in Europe. It was adorable, super trendy and surprisingly large and nice for the size. To this day when we get their sales emails we are tempted to immediately book a trip.

We were pretty exhausted at this point from being major tourists in Barcelona and then staying up all night in Ibiza so we took it pretty easy in Madrid.

We can’t lie, we ate in the Tapas bar in the lobby of our hotel twice and have zero shame about it (it was so good). We basically just walked around the city for two days, we know we passed the big palaces and government buildings, but at that point we were on no agenda… which, honestly, is an awesome way to see a city.

The one thing you cannot miss is the churros at Chocolateria San Gines. They are famous for a reason, it’s the type of place that has a picture of every Spanish celebrity you can possibly think of eating there on the walls. Seriously. Go. Binge. Have no shame.

Truett stayed longer than Ashley on Sunday and went to the Rastro Flea Market which was awesome. A flea market is one of the best things to visit in any city.

All in all, go to Spain!! If you’re not already convinced, this Buzzfeed article today has AMAZING photos to prove our points above.

*Don’t forget our club recommendations are now 5 years old. But we’ve heard they both still bump. If you need up to date Ibiza party info, we’d suggest Resident Advisor Ibiza.