Travel: Boise, Idaho

When I tell people we went to Boise, Idaho in Mid-March, I get some funny sideways looks. Yes, it’s true that by reputation, Idaho is more of an outdoor destination (if I were to go back I would spend all my time hiking), but we made the best of our trip by eating and drinking our way through the city and avoiding the not-so-great weather. And hey, when you have to check all 50 states off your bucket list by 2022 you’ll take what you can get!

Time Spent: 2 Days

The Adventure:

On a Wednesday evening my husband and I caught a the short, cheap $100 flight from Sacramento to Boise, and when we landed I couldn’t contain my excitement! There’s something about touching my feet down in new territory that livens my spirit. We decided to rent a car since we’d be driving to Seattle after our Boise excursion, and immediately we drove to 10 Barrel Brewing Company for dinner and some vacation brews. I always like to get a beer flight when trying new breweries, but the best surprise was the delicious falafel that I ate there! We decided to call it a night and head to our lovely Airbnb which was brand new, totally affordable, and super clean!

For our only full day in Boise I had planned to spend morning hiking on some trails nearby. The weather was NOT agreeing with us and our California blood (I know, I know what all of you in Massachusetts are saying about me in your heads). Instead of braving it in the 30 degree sideways rain and wind, we decided to grab a cozy breakfast instead at Big City Coffee and Cafe – it came well recommended and we were not disappointed! The restaurant was super cute and packed with locals (mostly college students from Boise State).

 

The rest of our excursions for the day included walking around the Idaho State Capitol grounds with a delicious cardamom latte from Coffee District House, finding the coolest game store ever and a modern fine gifts shope that I was obsessed with, and had a lovely farm to fork table dinner with Mike’s cousin Kayla at Fork Restaurant.

BUT LET ME JUST TELL YOU ABOUT OUR FAVORITE FIND! 🙂

If you ever find yourself in Boise Idaho, you must visit the Boise Fry Company immediately. It’s funny because at first, I hesitated. We had already eaten so much in one day and had dinner plans approaching. But once I saw how fun it was to customize your french fry order at this place I couldn’t resist. First, you choose your potato type, your french fry “cut”, and THEN your endless options of dipping ketchups – blueberry, chipotle, parmesan truffle, sriracha…the list of options went on and on. Give me anything with truffle oil and I’m down!

For the two of us, my husband and I really appreciated the ability to disconnect for a few days from work and balance our lives. Boise was a fun new place to do it, and I hope some day I can revisit with my hiking boots or ski poles.

 

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Travel: Austin, Texas

Austin, Texas is a culture rich, food mecca that I loved exploring and hope to visit again soon. I’m blessed to travel from time-to-time for work, and I like to take advantage of those opportunities during the evenings after hours to try new things. What makes Austin even better? The friends that I have who live there! Traveling not only opens your eyes to new things, but provides the space to reminisce on the old.

Time Spent: 5 Days

The Adventure:

As I walked down Congress Street from my downtown hotel to Hop Doddy Burger Bar I fell in love with the endless amount of restaurants, coffee shops, and boutique stores that lined the streets. This is one of my favorite parts about Austin – there seems to be endless experiences ready for a foodie like myself! Although I am not a huge meat eater, Hop Doddy was delicious. I’m not even kidding – I ate the best parmesan truffle fries of my life there – we ordered seconds! There was a great happy hour deal on drinks, and I enjoyed the black bean burger that I ordered.

Another great restaurant that I was able to visit was the Austin Beer Garden Brewing Co. My favorite part about it was what we like to call the “vibes.” There was live music, and it seemed like a popular spot for locals to come after work.

BUT HOLD ON FOLKS! Let me just tell you about my favorite restaurant that I went to in Austin. Your guess is probably a southern bbq joint, but nope. On Valentine’s Day a group of my friends from college ate dinner at Thai Fresh – a small, cozy Thai food restaurant where I had the best curry ever. To continue the celebrations, my friends took me to Gourdough’s for a past-time college tradition – donuts. These were not your average donuts! They were massive, and they were loaded. In our case, we got the “Son of a Peach” and the “Black Out” and I could only finish a couple bites of each. Gourdough’s definitely seems like an Austin staple!

I can’t finish this blog post without recognizing a cute little coffee shop that I visited with a friend early one morning before work – Quack’s 43rd Street Bakery. It was so fun to explore the outskirts of downtown because this particular area had an interesting mix of vintage-style businesses and homes.

Austin was almost completely a food and drink adventure for me, but I made sure to visit the flagship store of one of my favorite toxin-free and eco-friendly cosmetic companies – W3ll People. I had my makeup done with a nice little tutorial, bought a few things, and made my way as happy as ever. If you know me, you know organic and healthy beauty products are my fave!

On that note, I’ll end with a sweet little quote I found about Austin to leave you wanting to plan your next vacation there:

“There is a freedom you begin to feel the closer you get to Austin, Texas”

-Willie Nelson

 

Travel: Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

Days Spent: 5

The Adventure:

My trip to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico was a different style of vacation than ones that I usually take. 100% of our time was spent at our all-inclusive resort, and the relaxation was much needed! For the first time, my family and I travelled somewhere tropical for the Christmas holiday. I personally thought it was so fun to break from the norm, especially when the norm was 30 degrees warmer! In addition, we never left the campus and took full advantage of everything that the resort had to offer – from the pool and beach, to the unlimited food and drink, to the fun on-site activities.

Because we didn’t leave our resort, I thought I would take a different approach to this blog and teach you some of the ins and outs of all-inclusive resort life by sharing the top five things you need to know before heading into this style of vacation.

  1. Set your expectations, but roll with the flow. Staying for a week at an all-inclusive resort is much different than your average hotel or airbnb experience. There are many pros and cons, some of which I will share below, but it’s important to remember that you are on vacation and going with the flow will make your experience less stressful.
  2. Clarify how to make dinner reservations with the front desk. This is something that you will want to do upon arrival otherwise risk the chance that you will be eating the same buffet dinner for five days. Normally large resorts have 4-5 different restaurants to dine at during your stay.
  3. Participate in activities galore! One of my favorite aspects about all-inclusive resorts is that there is always a plethora of different activities for you to take part in throughout the day. I’m talking water aerobics at 8AM to theatre performances at 9PM. I’ve stayed at two all-inclusive resorts in the past, and some of my favorite activities have included sand volleyball, pool Olympics, and bingo – of course!
  4. Prepare for the language barrier. Wherever you travel internationally you will want to approach your trip with a few of the local phrases in your back pocket. However, sometimes there’s just nothing you will be able to do! A key thing is not to expect everyone to know English. When we were eating at our resort at a Mexican restaurant one night we ordered three margaritas and our server brought us back three tequila shots. Sometimes, it’s best to laugh in these situations and continue to go with the flow (as I suggested in #1).
  5. Research with the lens of quantity vs quality. I think one of the most interesting things that I have observed visiting all inclusive resorts in Mexico and Jamaica is that often times an extra large resort will mean that the management may have a hard time balancing the quantity of people vs the quality of the experience. When booking your stay, make sure that you understand how big of a resort that you are staying at as well as the price because the cheapest and biggest resort may not be the right fit for you. I felt that the resort we stayed at in Cabo San Lucas was the perfect size, and I would recommend it to those who read this post and pay serious attention to the ins and outs of all-inclusive resort life – expectation setting is everything!

For more information on where we stayed in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico visit the RIU Santa Fe website.

Travel: Zurich

This Fall I had the pleasure of traveling to Switzerland on business, and as all of you know I never pass up an opportunity to see the sights when I travel. Four years ago I visited this beautiful country for the first time, and I was so excited to return. However, this trip signified something very special – my first solo trip internationally! I think about this adventure every day, and for those that follow me on Instagram you know I still have not stopped posting about it.

Days Spent: 5.5 days

The Adventure:

I waited with anticipation for my flight to Zurich from SFO, feeling ready to take on my first solo journey. With only a couple of days to explore on my own before the work portion of my trip began, I made myself a jam packed agenda that included lot’s of walking, tasting, and touring. Before I share some of my favorite parts of my trip, I want to share some insights:

  1. Zurich is a melting pot. Like Switzerland in general, there is a beautiful diversity there – you never knew what language a person would speak when they opened their mouth. Most of the time it was German, but seeing as Switzerland five countries you could never know for sure. Thankfully, everyone spoke English there so communicating was never a problem for me.
  2. Zurich is somewhere I could see myself living. Between the lovely city center, it’s surrounding neighborhoods, and hub for businesses, it seems like the perfect mixture of city and suburb.
  3. Zurich is surrounded by some of the world’s most stunning scenery. From the lakes to the alps to the bright green hills, I was in nature heaven.

When I booked my trip, I looked at the map of Switzerland and immediately began planning a way to check another European country off my list. To my surprise, I noticed a tiny country, the Principality of Lichtenstein, bordering Eastern Switzerland. I had to get there, so I booked a cheap day trip by bus which took me through Rapperswil, the road to the Alps, Vaduz, and Heidiland. A bus trip with other travelers was a great way to spend my time and meet some interesting people, especially since I was traveling alone. We didn’t spend too much time in Lichtenstein, but the journey there was worth the trip!

When I surveyed my friends and family for ideas on what to do and see in Zurich, I was surprised that nobody I knew had spent enough time there to give actual recommendations. Between the few that I did receive, and some extensive research, here are some of my must-do’s when you travel to Zurich:

  1. See Lake Zurich by boat. I found a lovely two hour boat tour around Lake Zurich that circled the lake and the many small towns that line it. I fell in love with each stop, and although I did not get out and explore, I knew that my potential vacation home could be on this lake 😉 It was beautiful!

     

  2. Walk through downtown Zurich & up to Lindhof Hill. Most of my time on this trip was spent wandering through the cobblestone streets, wide eyed and loving my surroundings. Around every corner was something new and beautiful – like a fountain full of roses or a river with white swans. Lindhof Hill had my favorite vantage point of the city, river, and mountains.
  3. Milch Bar. Right off the main shopping avenue, Bahnhofstrasse, was a little coffee shop called Milch Bar that was tucked away in a quiet quiet corner. I remember my feet being so tired from walking, and this was the perfect cozy spot to relax (and Instagram, of course).

    4. Sprungli Cafe. Swizterland is known for it’s chocolate. Have you ever heard of Lindt Chocolate? Well it’s made in a factory located on Lake Zurich! There are plenty of chocolate shops around the city, and I happened to stop into Sprungli one morning and did a little shopping 🙂 I may or may not have spent too much money on chocolate goodies.

The last time that I visited Europe was in 2014, and somehow between then and now I had forgotten what a magical place that it is. Now, after visiting Zurich, I’ll never forget!

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Travel: Portland, OR

Ever since I moved to the West Coast of the United States I have wanted to explore Oregon and visit Portland. After last summer’s trip to the coast, I was anxious to plan my trip to the city. My opportunity was met this Summer after being invited to a wedding in McMinnville, OR which is about an hour outside Portland.

Days Spent: 4 days

The Adventure:

To my surprise, McMinnville, the town in which we stayed for the first two nights was famous for it’s wine trail – there were wineries and tasting rooms on every corner! Between wedding festivities, I had the pleasure of visiting Youngberg Winery, a stunning facility with an incredible vista – perfect for wine tasting. Lucky for me, they had free wine tastings on yelp, and I left happy with a bottle of Pinot Gris in my hand.

One of my favorite parts about the trip to Portland was the hotel at which we stayed in downtown off 3rd – The Society Hotel. I knew I wanted to stay somewhere a little bit eclectic, so we opted for this renovated sailor’s hotel in Old Chinatown. It had welcoming management, a rooftop seating area, views of the city from our room, and the cutest cafe on the 1st floor. We definitely picked the best spot for our first Portland experience!

I’m looking forward to my next trip to Portland so that I can skip the lines. We waited in many lines on this trip to try out all of the hot tourist spots, which wasn’t our favorite in the middle of a heat wave. However, there was one innovative spot that we loved and was worth the wait – Salt & Straw. The flavors were so diverse and delicious – we opted for a lavender & brownie cone + a ice cream flight with flavors such as rose & hopped cider.

A highlight for me was our last day when we visited the International Rose Test Garden, where there are over 7,000 rose plants looking and smelling good! It was so lovely to stroll through the rows of flowers, and take lot’s of photos!

While everything can’t be my favorite, I really enjoyed walking around many different neighborhoods within Portland, and visiting a few breweries like Fat Heads. Another great city checked off the bucket list!

Portland, OR = check!

 

Travel: Nashville, TN

Every time that I visit a new city, my traveler’s soul is filled to the brim with happiness! After this month, I’m one step closer to reaching 50 states before I turn 30, and my husband Mike and I were able to put another pin on our travel map together. Our trip to Nashville has a special place in my heart for so many reasons, and I’m excited to share with you why!

Time Spent: 5 days

The Adventure: Five days was the perfect amount of time to spend in the greater Nashville area. We explored everything the city had to offer, taking part in so many fun activities thanks to our amazing local tour guides, who are friends of ours from our time at Biola University.

Okay, so let’s dig into my favorite activities in Nashville, and why this place needs to be the next city on your bucket list:

  1. The epic bar scene. I had never experienced a social scene quite like Broadway Street in Nashville before. When we were walking through downtown I had a smile on my face as we walked by building after building filled with happy people and live music. Personally, my favorite of each place we visited was Nudie’s Honky Tonk – it was the first bar we went to and in my opinion the music was the best. I’d also give a special shout out to Crazy Town, which had an outdoor area with a nice view of downtown at night.
  2. Girl time at Cheekwood Estate & Gardens. One morning we spent a few hours at Cheekwood walking around the gardens and mansion, finding endless spots for photos and Instagram stories. It was so refreshing to walk the grounds, and experience a classic piece of Nashville history. As we toured the mansion, we learned that the owners founded Maxwell Coffee – a fun surprise!
  3. Slowing down at the Farm. We were lucky enough to spend some time in Franklin, TN, where our friends had a multi-acre farm ready for us to ATV, Dirtbike, and enjoy the outdoors. The ride to the farm took us down country roads with gorgeous lands, homes, and animals. Spending time on the farm was the perfect opportunity to slow down from our non-stop weekend and experience God’s country. We definitely sang a round or two of “God Bless America” while we were there.
  4. The Pedestrian Bridge. The entire time we were in Nashville I was looking for that perfect skyline view, and I found it at the Pedestrian Bridge! Right next to Broadway Street we found a walking bridge where you can see sweeping views of the city, and I was in heaven. I think if I had the option I would have sat on a bench looking at the views for hours! Fun fact: the famous music video “Save a Horse Ride a Cowboy” was filmed on the Pedestrian Bridge.
  5. Southern Culture. Each city across the globe has it’s own personality and culture, and in Nashville I experienced a dose of that southern hospitality. From interacting with the locals, to eating at Loveless Cafe, to learning about this history and importance of music in Tennessee, to driving through all of the neighborhoods (and seeing Carrie Underwoods house), Nashville now has a piece of my heart. Experiencing the southern culture reminded my how different each part of the United States is, and why I love every sub-culture that it has to offer.

Enjoy this short video encapsulating our unforgettable Nashville adventure! 

Travel: Orono, Maine

Although I grew up in New England, my family never quite reached the Maine border when we traveled, always stopping for camping adventures in New Hampshire. When my brother started attending University of Maine in Orono, I finally made a couple treks up north. In May, I flew to the East Coast to attend my brother’s graduation, and spend some good old quality time in his college town! Here are some of my favorites.

Time Spent: 5 days

The Adventure:

Orono Brewing Company & Nest

OBC is an awesome brewing company in downtown Orono that is small, but mighty. We loved our time there drinking a flight of nice brews, and laughing endlessly over one of their retro trivia games. My other favorite location on the main strip in Orono is their coffee shop – Nest. I went there twice! I would definitely be a regular there if I was a UMaine student.

Acadia National Park & Bar Harbor

Acadia National Park – check! Another National Park added to the list, and it didn’t disappoint. We drove a little more than an hour from Orono to see the sweeping views of mountains and the sea, did a quick hike (got to love those classic New England Trails), and spent some time in downtown Bar Harbor. A couple foodie highlights for us were the clam chowder and lobster rolls at the Thirsty Whale, and Black Raspberry ice cream at Ben & Bills Chocolate Emporium.

The Bog Walk

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A favorite excursion of ours during our time in Maine this year was checking out the Bog Walk, which is a one mile wetland trail that is peaceful, uncrowded, and beautiful. It’s perfect for a little day retreat with a friend, or even a solo walk to clear your mind and be in nature.

Our trip to main can be summarized by the notable quote: “Maine. The way life should be.”