My First Time in Key West

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

Several months ago, I received an invitation from the team at the Pier House Resort & Spa in Key West to journey down to Florida last month for a long weekend away. I have to admit, I was initially skeptical, as I didn’t think the Florida Keys were my type of vacation, per se. But, I was open to being pleasantly surprised, and after some research on the property, I made the decision to head down with my boyfriend the first weekend in September.

The Pier House sits at the top of Duval Street, which anyone who has ever visited Key West knows is the primary vein of the island. You’re walking distance to loads of restaurants and nightlife options. One of the other great features of the property is a rare private beach. Key West isn’t necessarily known for its beaches (something I didn’t know until I got there), but thankfully, you can dip your toes in the sand without leaving the property.

Processed with VSCO with m6 preset

The Deluxe Ocean View Suites are the best option at a property like this. You get stunning views, a huge bath tub (win!), and thoughtfully decorated rooms with homey touches. For someone like me, who doesn’t have the luxury of fully unplugging while traveling, these suites offer the perfect balance of a place to escape and get some work done as well. And answering emails is always better done with a view, amiright?!

Processed with VSCO with m6 presetProcessed with VSCO with m6 presetProcessed with VSCO with m6 preset

A quick walk from the property, you’ll find Eaton Street. Here you’ll cast your gaze on some of the most picturesque homes on the entire island. The architecture reminds me a bit of New Orleans, but it still has a dose of tropical charm.

Processed with VSCO with m6 presetProcessed with VSCO with m6 presetProcessed with VSCO with m6 presetProcessed with VSCO with m6 preset

One of our favorite parts of the trip was getting out onto the water. We found a small private charter, called Sunset Sail Key West, and boy am I glad we did. It was a sweet, and salty, escape. And, we counted our lucky stars as the massive sunset charters sailed around us with people packed bow to stern, with music blasting. That is definitely not my idea of a relaxing night on the water. The crew with Sunset Sail Key West was super nice, and even snapped the below picture without us even knowing and sent it to us after. So thankful!

Processed with VSCO with m6 presetProcessed with VSCO with m6 presetProcessed with VSCO with m6 preset

After the evening on the water, we stopped into Half Shell Raw Bar for a casual dinner featuring oysters, shrimp, and a tasty finish of a token slice of key lime pie. If you’re looking to just pull up a picnic bench and crush some raw bar, this the place to do it. Make sure to check out all of the license plates on the wall — I found a few from my home state that made me smile.

Processed with VSCO with m6 presetProcessed with VSCO with m6 preset

Oh, and the plethora of tasty eats continues with our favorite meal of the trip — brunch at Pepe’s, the oldest restaurant on the island. And, they’ve stuck around for good reason! We crushed their specials of the day, and devoured our favorite slice of key lime pie on the trip. The spot is first come, first serve, but totally worth the wait.

Processed with VSCO with m6 presetProcessed with VSCO with m6 preset

The walk back to Pier House is full of little gems like the ones below.

Processed with VSCO with m6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 preset

After a tasty breakfast at Pepe’s, we headed to La Concha, Pier House’s sister resort, to experience a massage at Top Spa. This is the highest building on the entire island, and boasts some pretty impressive views. They have a few cabanas outside to lounge in while you wait for your service, or after you’ve been pampered, and the spa suites are spacious, with couches, and plenty of room for a couple’s massage, which my boyfriend and I love to try to fit in on our trips.

Processed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with m6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 preset

After, we headed to the other side of the island to check out lunch at a new spot: Matt’s Stock Island Kitchen & Bar. Everything on the menu is delicious, but make sure you get the crab beignets; you won’t regret it!

Processed with VSCO with m6 presetProcessed with VSCO with m6 presetProcessed with VSCO with m6 preset

On our final day on the island, we skipped over to a house that is equally photogenic as it is interesting, the Ernest Hemingway Home. It costs $14 a person to get in (a little steep in my opinion, but still worth it). You go for the history and architecture, but you stay for the kitties. The place notoriously has cats everywhere, and they are so relaxed and adorable. If I was having a bad day, I would go here with a handful of kitty treats and just live my best life. We didn’t get to stay here quite as long as I would have wanted to because we had to rush off to the airport, but I would definitely add this stop to your itinerary on your future trip.

Processed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with m6 presetProcessed with VSCO with m6 preset

The day ended with us rushing to the airport, only to be met by a delayed flight notification. My boyfriend notoriously jokes that I have the worst luck with flights. Considering the ratio to delayed and cancelled flights with how many I take a year, he’s not wrong… However, I used my wherewithal to get us rebooked on another airline (for free) out of the island, so we could make a connection back home. Winning!

While we were waiting for our other flight, I had some time to reflect. While Key West is notorious for being a party town, there is definitely a few good opportunities to have a refined vacation on the island. If you’re looking for something a little more low key, don’t rule Key West out.

Big Fun at The Big E

83538ae4-b52b-48d2-96e5-8df0dd4c3c21-e1537452660993.jpg

As a Bostonian, we’re always excited for the re-emergence of Fall. Traditions like picking out pumpkins, grabbing our favorite seasonal morning pick-me-up, and watching the leaves turn on the Commonwealth Ave. Mall just flat out make us smile. One of those time-honored traditions happens to be about two hours west of the city and take place during the last two weeks of September — The Big E.

This past weekend, I hopped in the car and headed to this mecca of fair food, games that involve either climbing ladders, throwing darts or throwing rings, and , of course, music. Fortunately for me, I was hanging with my fellow food, Tiffany of Boston Foodies, so we made a point to go around and try all of the goods!

Stars of the show included a mac ’n’ cheese grilled cheese sandwich, taco balls, and The Big E Bakery eclairs. See below for a quick highlight reel of some of my favorite moments and sights from the day!

Processed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 preset

Labor Day Weekend Packing Guide with The Street at Chestnut Hill

There’s nothing quite like gearing up for a fun long weekend ahead with your friends and family and getting to your closet to pack and thinking, “What the heck am I going to put in this bag?!” In my experience, packing is one of the most fun, time consuming, creative, and frustrating parts about preparing for a trip. I typically try on everything roughly 1,000 times, and then end up packing something that I grab off of the hanger at a store last minute… If you’re the same way, you’re going to love what is coming next.

I teamed up with the folks over at The Street in Chestnut Hill, MA, boasting a high-end fashion experience, and a rotating retail pop-up for the tastefully chic. Below I’m listing some of the key stores that you must stop in while preparing for your weekend away, and a few of my favorite selects from each.

Splendid
If I had to think of one brand that embodies “cozy chic”, there is no question that Splendid would be the first to come to mind. Flowy dresses, effortless jumpsuits, and the most comfortable shoes you will ever abound in this retail valhalla made for gals like me who want to look cute, but could live without the fuss. The below asymmetrical dress, cargo pant, and denim jumpsuit are just a few of my faves!

Vince
If I had a nickel for every time I’ve recommend Vince for travel wear, I’d be a rich woman. Each shade of blue they have in their most recent collection is magical. They’re also featuring a lot of cropped outerwear, which is perfect for unpredictable weather. And, if you’ve never had the pleasure of traveling in the comfort of one of their sweaters, I am telling you now, it’s practically life changing. Vince is the epitome of understated elegance, and every piece can be worn about a hundred ways — perfect for those of you trying to fit everything into one teeny tiny carry on!

J. McLaughlin
The key with packing for a long weekend, and not having to check any luggage or have your friends gawk at your for filling the trunk of your car, is to pack wardrobe staples. A crisp white shirt, patterned shirt dress, structured handbag that can go from day to night, and a wrap that will keep you cozy from beach bonfire to your exit row seat home. Introducing, J.McLaughlin. They have all the essentials any intrepid gal needs.

Portobello Road
Noticeable by the bright blue doors (a nod to Notting Hill, I imagine), Portobello Road is a locally owned boutique that caters to those with a refined, eclectic taste. The reason why this spot is such a gem is their accessories section. Finding a place to buy a great hat, well-made (but not super fancy) jewelry, and a fun bag that doesn’t have a designer label splashed across the front is a rarity in Boston. If you’re looking for all the travel gypsy feels, look no further.

Opening Soon: Copious Row
During my latest visit, I got a sneak peak into the freshest retail opening on the block, Copious Row. This Fall, they’ll be opening their doors, carrying the likes of Victoria Beckham, Brock Collection, Prabal Gurung, Zimmerman, and the list goes on! While I’m pretty notorious for sporting brands like Vince (duh!), Tod’s, Reformation, and Madewell, I’ve slowly been working in higher-end pieces to elevate my style. Looking forward to working with their stylists for a couple of key investment pieces for Fall. Who knows where I’ll be bringing them on my travels next!!

Do you have any long weekend packing must-haves? Leave me a note in the comments below. I’m always looking for an excuse to pack more things 🙂

A Weekend In Chicago

I had the opportunity to fly out last minute to Chicago to visit one of my college friends this past weekend! She just moved out to Chicago, so I was excited to show her some of my favorite spots around the city. Added bonus, my cousin and his wife gave birth to twins the day I flew in, so I did some double duty (pun intended) seeing family and friends on this visit. It was magical! Chicago is a city I lived in briefly when I was traveling with Ben & Jerry’s (see some of those old blog posts here, here, and here). I had the pleasure of going to some of the best restaurants, sights, and events in the city, and I was excited to return and see what has changed, and what hasn’t :). Below, I’ve included a recommended itinerary if you’re flying in on a Friday afternoon/evening, and flying out Sunday afternoon/evening. If you have any added tips, please tell me in the comments section!

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

FRIDAY

I arrive usually around 5PM. It takes roughly an hour or so to navigate to the Uber pick-up location and actually get into the city. Especially if there is any traffic. If you’ve never traveled through O’Hare traffic, always give yourself some extra time for any reservations you might make.

STOP 1: Negroni Slushes at Parson’s Chicken & Fish – see a photo from a previous Chicago post here

STOP 2: The most epic Omakase dinner at Kai Zan. They have a special with uni and toro over a bed of rice topped with raw quail egg yolks. It sounds like it should be $60, but it was only $28. I could have eaten three of these. Last call for Omakase is at 10PM and they usually book up for reservations, so call a few days ahead of time – especially for a weekend. 

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

STOP 3: (Optional) Drinks at The Broken Shaker at the Freehand. Bonus, if you leave room for the most epic plate of fries for “dessert”.

SATURDAY

Wake up early! There’s so much to do in Chicago and you only live once, so rally to see as much as you can.

STOP 1: Early walk along Lake Michigan. Also, if you want to take pictures by Cloud Gate (“the bean”) without tons of people around, go there for sunrise. You can thank me later ;).

STOP 2: Eat a well-earned doughnut from Stan’s. Their chai lattes are also pretty tasty, too!

Processed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 preset

If Stan’s is too crazy for your – Doughnut Vault is another tasty option!

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

STOP 3: Put on your favorite outfit and go check out some of the wall art around the city. Style Charade has an awesome post with all of the wall art in the city, which I used as my guide on this recent trip. 

Processed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 preset

STOP 4: Lunch anywhere in West Loop. If you can snag a coveted reservation at Girl & the Goat, DO IT. Otherwise, there are so many tasty places in the area – like Au Cheval, La Sirena Clandestina, Elske, etc. etc.

STOP 5: Afternoon tea, or aperol spritzes, on a couch at The Allis at Soho House. Their menu is super tasty, too, if you’re looking for snacks. 

Processed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 preset

STOP 6: Head back to your hotel/AirBnB to freshen up for a night out… and maybe take a power nap.

STOP 7: Dinner at Tanta. Such good Peruvian food — make sure to make reservations ahead of your visit because they book up fast!

STOP 8: Head to the third floor at Celeste to have all of your disco dreams come true. Think giant disco balls, light up floors, and dancing galore! It’s one of those places that attracts a lot of bachelorette parties and groups of the sort, but the novelty of it is so fun that it really doesn’t matter.

SUNDAY

Okay, you made it through the longest day ever yesterday. Now, you get to relax with some brunching and a little bit of sight seeing. Make sure you pack up and check your bags at your hotel concierge, so you’re ready to go well in advance of your flight! Sunday afternoons/evenings at O’Hare are a nightmare. If you don’t have TSA pre-check, expect to stand in an hour long security line. You’ve been warned! But, no need to worry about that when there are mimosas to be had!

STOP 1: Brunch at RM Champagne Salon – who recently released brunch to the cheers of foodies everywhere!

STOP 2: (Option 1) Walk down Magnificent Mile. Yes, it’s touristy, but the shopping and views are good.

STOP 2: (Option 2) If shopping isn’t your thing, take an architecture tour. I’m not usually a tour person, I admit. However, people rave about the architecture tours, and for good reason, they’re actually pretty cool.

FINAL STOP BEFORE THE AIRPORT: – Head over to the nearest Jeni’s ice cream for an afternoon treat featuring some of the best ice cream you have ever had. Yes, I know that is a bold statement, but I’m willing to double down on that one! The Frosé Sorbet and Ricotta Toast with Red Berry Geranium Jam are two of my favorite flavors. 

As I mentioned before, give yourself plenty of time before your flight! It can take upwards of 60-90 minutes sometimes in traffic to get from the city center to the airport. Don’t be that guy who has to run through the airport and ask everyone to cut them in the TSA line. Nobody likes that guy.

Categories USA

On Nantucket with philosophy

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

The past few days I have been on Nantucket at the PopSugar house having an absolute blast! On Wednesday, I was introduced to philosophy’s latest line “renewed hope in a jar”, and I am obsessed. For someone who is constantly living out of a suitcase, I am always so happy to find products that make me look like I’m well slept, hydrated, and had hours to get ready! Enter philosophy.

Processed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 preset

Because I am a bit of a beauty noob, I was super thankful they brought an expert in to show me how to use these products properly, and when I should be using them. In the past, I’ve always just thrown together a beauty routine that I can do on the run because I felt like having a “system” or “routine” first thing in the morning, or at night, was too much of a process. With a little education, I feel like an extra five minutes in the morning and at night is super approachable now. Keep reading to see what I’m going to do every morning, even when I’m on the road.

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

STEP ONE
The philosophy renewed hope in a jar renewing dew concentrate is a super hydrating way to start your beauty routine. It feels like water when you place it on to your hands, and the expert shared that you should press it into your skin, not rub!

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

STEP TWO
You can either use this moisturizer with SPF or without — if you are going to go makeup free, I would definitely recommend with! Don’t just apply this moisturizer to your face, but also down your neck, and I even put a little on my ears.

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

STEP THREE (THE FINAL STEP)
If you’ve been looking for eye cream that is specially formulated for the delicate skin around your eyes and the multiple concerns affecting it, look no further. It features a clinically-proven, non-stop skin renewal technology that continuously hydrates, brightens dark circles, reduces puffiness, and smooths the look of fine lines. After just a couple days of using this product, I can see why people rave about it!

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

So, there you have it! Three easy steps and I’m good to go for a day anywhere in the world. Do you have any beauty products that you must travel with?! Comment below because I think I’m finally starting to get a hang of this whole beauty thing, and I want to know what brands and products you guys love!

Lowcountry Living at the Montage Palmetto Bluff

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

Earlier this month, I had the distinct pleasure of heading down to Palmetto Bluff in South Carolina to stay at the Montage. If you are unfamiliar with the property, you aren’t alone. It’s a new development over the last couple of years, but they are sure making a splash in lowcountry luxurious style. It’s nestled between Hilton Head and Savannah, meaning you are ripe with opportunity to go explore outside of the 20,000 acre property. But, there is so much to do that it’s hard to imagine a good reason to leave. Below I’m listing a few of my favorite things to do, and I save the best for last, especially if you’re considering this property for your next getaway!

Processed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 preset

Just Relax
That’s what vacations are meant for, right? Whether you are snoozing on a hammock on one of their private islands deep in the bluff, grabbing a massage or hot sauna session in their beautifully designed spa, or just lounging by their very picturesque pool, you will find yourself saying ‘ahhhh, now this is vacation‘ at every turn. I highly recommend taking advantage of their dry sauna and plunge pool – not a spa amenity you see everywhere!

Processed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 preset

Hang Out with Nature (and the Animals)
Not only does the Montage team take service and experience very seriously, but conservation and nature is also always top of mind. Take a property tour with one of their local experts, who has likely wrested a gator, saved turtles and spent hours upon hours watching the birds. They have a wealth of knowledge not only about the animals that inhabit the property, but plants as well. My mom likes to joke that I’m a girl who “loves nature per se,” but I honestly found this aspect of the property so interesting, and we even got to see a brand new baby bird! I also went horseback riding, and explored their beautiful stables. I wish I could have ridden longer to be honest, but what can I say, I’m a sucker for horses!

IMG_3624Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

Venture into Bluffton
After an afternoon of shooting on their private complex (one of my favorite activities of the whole trip!), you’ll want to clean yourself up for a night on the town! Right down the road, you have the small town of Bluffton, which is picturesque and boasts an active community. On our night in town, we dined a FARM, which was amazingly delicious! There’s loads of eye-catching architecture, and the community is pretty active as well. Lots of barbecues, live music, and people just getting out and socializing.

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

Get in (or on) the Water
One of the best parts of the Montage Palmetto Bluff is its proximity to some on-the-water adventures. If you’re looking to go for a swim, take in the winding waterways while being towed in a tube behind one of their motorboats, or manage to wake up early for a sunrise kayak session to see the dolphins, you can do it all here. The water here is super warm – and salty, meaning you could tread with the sun beaming down on you for hours. Take a break with a reprieve in a hammock or on a boat and then jump off the dock and do it all over again. How can you go wrong?

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

If you’re jonesing to get down to the Montage, you’re in luck. I’ve teamed up with them to make sure that you can have enough time to enjoy all the fun. If you book two nights using the code ‘REGANC‘, you will get your third night free! Talk about #winning! As always, if you have questions about the properties, accommodations, activities – you name it – leave me a note in the comments!

Keeping Your Home Safe While Traveling with Blink

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

Real talk. Living in a city and traveling several months out of the year can have its pitfalls. For my friends in NYC, commute times to the airport (any airport!) can be atrocious. Mailboxes are so small that if you’re gone for an extended period of time, your mail might get returned because it doesn’t fit. Most recently, for me, I had an instance where when I was traveling, someone decided to go through my trash and find old mail and then contact me through social media saying they had my personal information. Eek! The entire ordeal ended in me contacting credit bureaus, cancelling credit cards, and setting up alerts to make sure no one was using my personal information to open new accounts. Needless to say, this was hours and hours of painstaking hold times, phone calls, and even making an in-person trip to a provider’s office. Woof!

In an effort to prevent something like this from happening in the future, or to at least be able to provide proof of someone digging through my trash, I have taken a few steps to protect my home – especially when I’m away. Investing in a shredder, not putting my garbage out until an hour before the city is slated to retrieve it, and also teaming up with Blink to try out their home security system, that I can operate right from an app on my phone.

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

I decided to go with both an indoor security camera (pictured) and weatherproof camera for maximum security – as the size and design (it’s wire free!) lend itself to being a discreet, yet comprehensive system. The great thing about this system is that you don’t need a bunch of fancy equipment to set it up, just your phone. So, how does it work? Blink cameras detect motion in your home and send alerts with HD video and audio right to your smartphone. You can then check back in with live HD video and audio streaming right on your smartphone from any of your up-to 10 Blink cameras per system. They even have an integration with Alexa, so you can provide voice commands to arm or disarm your camera, too! Another bonus, these little guys have two years of battery life on just two AA lithium batteries – meaning you don’t have to worry about the system while you’re away for extended periods of time.

Processed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetFor the frequent traveler who is concerned about their home security while away, I definitely recommend checking this system out. As one of the most affordable options on the market, it makes not having to worry about the safety of my identity and my home even more worth it.

This post is sponsored by Blink. All opinions shared are my own.

What to Pack for Royal Wedding Weekend in England

Royal Wedding Weekend Packing List

I am so excited to share that on Thursday, I will be hopping a plane to jolly ol’ England to be in-country for a moment that the U.K. may not have for decades – the royal wedding! My trip won’t be super traditional, as I will be first heading to Manchester (a new route is launching from BOS – MAN on Virgin Atlantic starting May 23rd), then Liverpool, and finally London. So, of course, with only two days to go, I am still trying to solve one of life’s most persistent questions: what do I pack?! I decided to take a play out of Meghan Markle’s book and stick to the classics, meaning clean lines, versatile pieces, and a wardrobe that is ready for anything. Sounds perfect for the U.K. this time of year, no?

Below, I’ve included some of the staples listed above – and some other options at more approachable price points. If I had a royal budget, you better believe I’d be pulling everything from the collage above, but alas, I’m a mere commoner. But, fear not – the alternatives below will have bystanders doing double takes to determine whether your look was a splurge or a steal!

The Right Outerwear
Jackets are probably my most popular item in my closet as well as in my suitcase. You can never have too many! (Unless, of course, you’re over the luggage weight limit…) If you had to go with a few, my recommendations would be a classic blazer that looks good over almost all of your tops, a suede jacket that can transition from day-to-night with ease, and also, not listed above, the oh-so-crucial rain coat. The Veronica Beard blazers (this is the one I have) boast some stretch, which make them perfect for packing and running around town, but a more affordable version can be found here. And while this Silvie Schimmel suede biker jacket will cost you a pretty penny, the Blank NYC version looks nearly identical.

Chic Denim
Denim does not – and should not – be boring. I recently picked up a denim dress that can be dressed up or dressed down with a change of a heel and bag, and couldn’t be more happy with how versatile of a piece it is. Mine is a belted version from J.Crew (found here), and the best part – I can also wear it as a jacket as the weather cools down at night! The fun with denim doesn’t have to stop there – with so many trends exploring ways to dress your denim up, don’t be afraid to experiment with length, color, and patterns. I recently picked up a Stretch Flood Jean (in Fiji Stripe) from Reformation, and you have to peel these things off of me because I wear them so much!

Statement Accessories
Probably one of my favorite ways to spruce up an outfit while traveling is to pack eye-catching footwear. These metallic sneakers from Tod’s (I have them in white) are a perfect way to make any outfit pop. If you’re more of the pump persuasion, try a mule, which is a bit comfier for romping around town. I’m personally obsessed with the ones from y/project above – and they happen to be on sale! In the mood for something a bit more budget friendly? These may do the trick. In that same vein, a statement handbag is a must. The Marni shoulder bag above (and this faux fur version) is giving me all the heart-eye emoji feels, but this, this, and this are super cute too! I’m also a huge fan of a good statement sunny. I just picked these Fendi frames up from Solstice Sunglasses, and I swear I’ve gotten more compliments on those in the last three weeks than all of my other compliments combined. I highly recommend checking out their sale items, they usually have an amazing selection!

Last but not least, Light Layers
U.K. in the Spring is a fickle maiden and it’s always good to be prepared with the appropriate layers. I’ll be packing a not-so-standard floral from rag + bone, some short sleeve sweaters, which are a serious travel game-changer, and handful of camisoles for layering underneath my jacket selection. As always, you can catch me at any given time traveling with a handful of vintage tees, which are a part of my nearly daily uniform. If you don’t feel like digging through racks and racks of tees, Urban Outfitters has a pretty stacked graphic tee section worth checking out.

So, as you can see, this is not your standard tea with the queen packing list, but I’m not really one for floor length florals (unless with sneakers) or flouncy blouses. Besides, who wants to deal with steaming all of their clothes when they get to the hotel anyway? Stay tuned for my travels in England coming up later this week – I can’t wait to share everything with you!!

Back in Time in Tallinn

Processed with VSCO with hb1 presetOne of the most picturesque city centers I have ever had the pleasure of visiting wasn’t in one of Europe’s most popular destinations, but it certainly is catching the eye of history lovers and photographers alike. On my recent trip to Helsinki, I was presented with an opportunity to do a day trip to Tallin, Estonia – a medieval mecca where the city center boasts some of the most beautifully preserved architecture from the 13th to 16th centuries. The plan is that we would journey there by boat, have the day to explore, and be back in Helsinki in time for a late dinner. Not a bad gig!

So, I expected the ferry to be something similar to what we have here in the states – some semi-comfortable indoor seating, one or two bars/snack shops and that’s about it. Holy crap was I totally off-base!! The ferries over there are like mega cruise ships with a plethora of food options, comfy seating, shopping, and even a business lounge for those who would like a little more space and seclusion! We ended up taking the Megastar: Tallink Line, which got us from Helsinki to Tallin in 2 hours flat, first thing in the morning. By the time we hopped in an Uber to Old Town, we were ready to explore the windy historic streets!

Processed with VSCO with hb1 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 preset

One of the charms of Old Town is that many of the restaurants play to the old-timey feel you get walking through the streets. Initially, I was a little turned off by this because it felt super touristy, but when we sat down to lunch at Olde Hansa and grabbed a refreshing cinnamon beer (the most heavenly beverage of all time), our minds were quickly changed. Walking through the threshold of the restaurant is meant to transport you back to the 15th century; they served game meet like boar, bear, and elk – all which were super tasty by the way- and servers were dressed in period costumes. The service was also amazingly friendly, and they were quick to refill our chalices when the cinnamon beer was looking low. While this wasn’t initially a restaurant that I was particularly excited about, I walked out of there a convert!

Processed with VSCO with hb1 presetProcessed with VSCO with hb1 preset

The other cool thing about Old Town is that there are plenty of lookout points (better known there as “viewing platforms”) where you can really take in the entire city. On a bright sunny day, you may be jockeying for a prime spot to take a photo, but the wait for the perfect shot and views were totally worth it! A few of the popular ones are: Patkuli, Piiskopi, and Kohtuotsa – where the first photo in this post was taken.

Outside of the amazing views, if you find yourself in Tallinn, there are a few things that you have to check off the list before you leave; especially in Old Town:

  • Make it to the Town Hall Square. The colorful buildings and inevitable live music (if the weather is nice) is worth spending some time. There are also a bunch of restaurants there – perfect for people watching.
  • Visit Great Guild Hall. A standard example of medieval European architecture, this massive structure is not to be missed.
  • Feel like royalty in the Danish King’s Garden. Lining the garden are the city walls, which are worth climbing up to catch some views when you’re done perusing the perennials.
  • Tour the Bastion Passages. From the Danish King’s Garden you can go underground and check out tunnels that were used for all sorts of things, like bomb shelters in WWII, a place to move ammunition in the 17th and 18th centuries, and even where punk rockers found reprieve in the 80s.

If you are planning a day trip and looking to see as much as you can in one day, I highly suggest grabbing yourself a Tallinn Card. It gets you into most of the historical sites as well as a few other cool places worth visiting, like the zoo, Kadriorg Palace, and you can even join on a bicycle welcome tour.

Processed with VSCO with hb1 preset

In this post, I hardly scratched the surface of all that Tallinn has to offer, but hopefully this provides a good jumping off point if you’re looking to plan a day trip. Have any other must see spots in Tallinn? Be sure to let me know if the comments below :).

North Island Oasis: Helena Bay Lodge

Processed with VSCO with a6 presetIf you are looking for a truly luxurious escape on New Zealand’s North Island, the incomparable Helena Bay Lodge provides an experience that is sure impress. Tucked away 10 miles down a windy road off of the highway, about three and a half hours north of Auckland, this exclusive lodge offers a one-of-a-kind coastal getaway.

Rooms included the perfect view of a beach shared only with five other sets of patrons at any given time.  Morning walks at low tide while the sun came up were just a hop, skip and a jump away from my Junior Suite, which was incredibly spacious and featured a tub that actually fit my 5’11 frame – winning! While the rooms were incredibly comfortable, and the beds especially hard to get out of in the morning, there was so much to do and see, that not much time was spent in my suite.

Processed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 preset

Another quick walk from the room and you find yourself in The Main House, which is where you are received upon arrival. The space features a collection of artwork that will pique the interest of the eclectic, while also showcasing objects collected from around the world during the owner’s travels. Talk about some serious wanderlust inspo! If you’re nice – they’ll even let you ring the gong ;]. Additionally, this is where you’ll find the main dining room, as well as the breakfast area, where tasty lattes (according to my coffee drinking companions), fresh fruits, and mouth watering pastries await. Once you’ve had your fill, you can make your way to the 25-meter-long heated infinity pool to enjoy some sun and serenity.

Processed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 preset

If you’re looking for more adventure further than a 200m radius of your room, private beach pavilions prove to be the ultimate escape on a lazy Sunday. Touring around the massive property comes with a few perks as well. Packed picnic lunches, rangers for exploring all parts of the property, including getting to swing by and say ‘hi’ to a few of the properties residents: donkeys, alpacas, and even some cows. The views from certain points of the property will honestly take your breath away. Pretty sure I burned through all of my drone batteries trying to capture video of every inch of the property from some of these vantage points. Video coming soon!!

Processed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 preset

If you find yourself taking a trip to the North Island, I highly recommend at least a two-night stay, preferably longer, at this once-in-a-lifetime location. The intersection of nature and luxury make for a memorable experience, and is certainly going to be a highlight on my lifetime travel reel.